Saturday, March 24, 2018

Life In Malaysia: My Neighbourhood

I've been in Malaysia for more than 20 years so I don't really think about how different life is here compared to the West. However, when Stu, a good friend of ours, died a few weeks ago, I realised that visualising those differences can be quite difficult. 

So over the next few weeks I'll write a few posts about daily life in Subang Jaya, Selangor.  It's partly so that our friend's family back in Europe have a better idea of what he was seeing every day, and partly for those of you who say to me, "You live WHERE? Wow, so what's that like?"

So here goes!

I live in Subang Jaya, a suburban area just outside Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. This is my street. My house is hidden under that massive tree.

We are security obsessed.  You have to be vetted and approved at a guard house to get into our housing area.

And if you live in a condo, you have an extra layer of security. This is the guard house at the condo at the end of my street.

The neighbourhood next to ours, SS14, has installed huge metal gates blocking the public road as well as a guard house.

I have no idea if this is legal but it's been that way for years. It certainly makes driving very difficult. You have to know where you're going, and what streets have been blocked off, or you get very lost.

If you're European and used to walking, you'll want to know that in Malaysia we tend to drive. 

First, Malaysia lies almost on the equator so it's pretty hot all day round. By 9AM it's about 34C/93F. It's also super humid, so if you walk more than a kilometer, you'll be very sticky and uncomfortable.

Also, even if you want to, it's not easy to go about on foot.  Apart from all the blocked roads, there are many areas that don't have pavements.

Our neighbourhood is quite rich. Even so, these are the pavements just outside my street - and just outside my mate Stu's condo.

Once you get to the shops, there are pedestrian areas. However, it's not like Europe. Every shop has a different frontage. So you get steps up, steps down, big tiles, little tiles, slippy tiles, grippy tiles. 

These shots were taken outside our favourite fruit shop, pub and 7-11. 

If you look up, there's a chance you fall flat on your face. Mind you, there's also the open drains.

Because we're tropical, we get massive downpours. It's like standing under a heavy duty waterfall. So we have huge open 'storm drains' that carry away the rainwater.

They're great but if like our mate Alan you slip, you may end up falling down a four foot deep open hole like this one. Ouch!

So in the mornings I drive rather than walk to our local market. (We have supermarkets in shopping malls but like most local people, I prefer to buy super fresh early in the morning.) 

This is our market. 

That fence is new. It was put up a month or so ago. I thought crime had gone down but the gossip at the market is that we've had some increases in snatch thieving. This fencing is to stop people from running in and out too easily.

The early morning market (called a 'wet market') starts around 7AM when it's still dark in tropical Malaysia. It finishes around 9AM because by then the sun is up and it's too hot to have stuff lying around.

This is the fruit and veggy lane.

In Kuching, Malacca and Kajang, the towns we lived before, we had live chickens at the market. You'd point at the one you wanted, go buy your fruit, and then come back to collect your dinner. 

(Yes, lots of Western people become vegetarian when they arrive here!)

Subang Jaya is posh so our meat is slaughtered elsewhere. These guys are my favourite chicken butchers. I've been their customer for fifteen years.

 As some Malaysians are muslim, the pork section is set aside in the wet market. As you can see, it's hot already at 7Am so some vendors are topless.

This is Stephen, my favourite pork butcher. I was his mum's customer until she passed away a few years ago. His dad is usually here too, but today he'd nipped out for a minute.

As it's 34C/94F most of the day, buying meat at the market is an early morning thing. When it comes to buying beef and mutton or lamb, we tend to go to cold stores, importers who have frozen goods. These are usually in industrial estates. 

This is our local industrial estate, SS13 Subang Jaya.

It can be quite hard to tell what's what in an industrial estate, so you find out where to go by word of mouth. You would drive past my favourite cold storage, Mr Ravi's, and not know what you're looking at.

You buy frozen meat by the lump (typically several kilos) and it's sliced or diced any way you like by the gentleman who runs the bandsaw. 

My mum who lives in health and safety conscious Europe finds this absolutely terrifying but what I see is a lovely clean man - wearing an apron for God's sake!  I mean, how posh can you get? 

Again, I've been shopping here for fifteen years. It's one of my favourite places.

And finally, after we've done our marketing, we go for breakfast. 

Some people stop at a roadside stall and buy packets of special fried rice or tofu.

I tend to go here, to Kwai Sun, my favourite hawker centre. This is essentially a collection of stalls, each selling a specialty dish.  Those buckets outside are filled with food, and also water for washing dishes.

My fave is the dim sum, little steamed Chinese dumplings. My mate Stu used to buy the big steamed buns, filled with pork and onion. 

It doesn't look like much, especially when you see how people here do the dishes: in the street.

But it tastes amazing. 

Anyway, this is a glimpse of how we live. I'll take a few shots of the other side of Malaysia, the air conditioned malls, next week. 

I hope you found it interesting.

And to finish, here's a picture of Swooner, our youngest cat. 

Because he's handsome.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

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