Call it Petaling Street or China Town, but this part of KL is not worth visiting unless you feel like walking past stall after stall offering knock-off hand bags, cheap clothes and getting harassed.
Getting here was easy enough on the monorail (Maharajalala is the stop) and the approach to the really touristy bit is quite pleasant. In fact it had a feeling of earnest and respectable commerce. However, one you walk through the dragon bedecked arches, this rapidly disappears.
We thought we would check out one vendor's wares and so entered his little emporium crammed with knock-off handbags. Naturally it is mutually understood that the wares are knock-offs, but it seems that it is a matter of pride that not all knock-off handbags are created equal. My wife was actually in the market for a handbag (she later bought a genuine one from a department store) so she picked out a couple.
These, we were assured, were real leather. These were good knock-offs. I'll grant that they looked quite nice and only RM 300 for two. Thinking that our reticence to purchase was because we doubted the quality of the workmanship, the proprietor, pulled out his lighter, held it close the bags and wave the flame along them to prove they were leather.
Now, I am not an industrial chemist, but assume that the flashpoint of PVC is not that low. The way he held the lighter meant that little heat actually concentrated on the bag. Later I tried the same technique on my hand and found that my hand must be genuine leather, as must the piece of paper I also tried it on. In other words it was a scam. As was the line that we were his first customers of the day.
Leaving that aside we then walked past at least 30 similar stalls. Each with a salesman more aggressive than the last. We have travelled a fair bit and it doesn't really bother you a great deal, after all these people are just trying to make a living, but it isn't fun.
Add to these they guys flogging dodgy DVDs from wallets in the middle of the street and the souvenir shops selling wonky Petronas towers and we couldn't get out of their fast enough. I feel sorry for the DVD guys. Previously people would have bought their wares since they couldn't get movies as cheaply anywhere else. I assume that the type of person who used to patronise these vendors now just downloads it for free. And to think that the movie companies complain. They don't have a wife and 11 kids to feed.
One highlight was the restaurant we found when we were looking for lunch that made the trip almost worthwhile. Look for the Old China Cafe - great food and ambience.
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