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Street Art @ Kwai Chai Hong (鬼仔巷), Petaling Street : A Step Into The Past
But at the other side of Petaling Street, towards the other end of Jalan Sultan, another face of Chinatown is slowly cropping up. This area bound by Jalan Sultan, Petaling Street, Bulatan Merdeka and Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, is slowly but surely becoming a chic area with signature cafes, and shops selling Chinese cakes and paraphernalia. I like this section better as it is a busy, yet quieter corner; less touristy but with booming businesses minus the noisy brouhaha of street vendors.
Of late, a new addition will bring more of the Chinatown charm to this locality, it's called Kwai Chai Hong and is located at Lorong Panggung. The name itself has a bit of eeriness as its Cantonese meaning is "Ghost Lane" or "Little Demon Alley". The origin of the name however is less scary, perhaps it referred to the little children who used to round noisily around the area like little imps.
(... read more of the origin and development of Kwai Chai Hong in this Malay Mail article)
Step below an entrance archway and cross a timber arch bridge with bright red railings into this little alley, with it's hidden charms of nice lovely street art that depicts the colourful past of this locality. To the left, Mandarin characters 鬼仔巷 spells out the areas name - Kwai Chai Hong.
Before this area was re-developed, this entrance was occupied by the Ho Kow Hainan Kopitiam, established in 1956. An screen-capture from Google street view still showed this coffee-shop. It was an odd location for a coffee-shop, right smack on, and claiming rights to the side lane. But these things happen in Chinatown.
Mid-span across the bridge, a young couple sits on the railing, a cheap yet romantic way of courting.
On the left wall, bright blue louvered window panels hang on the wall, but they open to no windows. What's their significance?
These windows were the original ones of the left-hand side building, and have been taken down and replaced by new ones. See the screen-capture from Google Street View above.
One of the shops, (I think, the one with the red lanterns at its doorway) used to house a lion dance troupe, I do hope they have found new accommodation nearby - their culture just fit right into Chinatown.
The bridge leads to a restored back-alley, it's a short one - perhaps only 100 metres long. Several murals line the walls of this alley and at one side, a staircase leads up to a mezzanine floor.
The right side is a shorter lane.
View of the whole lane from the mezzanine platform. It's not a very long lane, but hopefully this together with the ten shop-lots fronting it will form another nucleus for the further re-emergence of Chinatown.
Ok. Let's have a look at the wall murals themselves. These murals were done by five local artists: Khek Shin Nam, Chan Kok Sing, Chok Fook Yong, Chew Weng Yeow and Wong Leck Min; each of them having his/her distinct style. The paintings depicts life in the early days of Chinatown itself, perhaps drawn from the artist's own experience in growing up within such an environment:
Old Man Playing a Er-Hu. He's dressed in simple dark trousers and the signature white Pagoda T-Shirt worn by generations of Chinese men (including me, the AhPek Biker, heh heh!).
Next to each artwork is a bar-code; scan this an an audio presentation is given.
A little girl peering out of the window to watch two boys playing marbles.
Often the exposed walls are just touched up with some mortar, the original windows/grilles cleaned up and left in place.
A Chinese charm writer; these calligraphers will write charms (based on a person's birth date and time) onto red papers, which are then burnt at the respective place to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Often these charm writers are also letter writers to early immigrants, many of whom are illiterate.
A painting of a cabaret girl points towards this area's seedy past.
A ficus creeper clings onto a wall has been left in place to add some green to the lane. My buddy cyclist lends some blue to add to the colour of this scene.
Presently, a solitary stall sell snacks, drinks and souvenirs. Perhaps later on, the shops will open their back doors to this lane. Behind it, beyond the far end, right side of the lane, some construction seems to be going on. Will this be an extension of the lane?
We return to the left end of the lane. A solitary stairs lead up to an open first-floor balcony. Below it, old recovered timber planks have formed a wall leading to a small room behind.
Up above, murals have been painted to the gable wall of the adjacent building.
A closer look at the gable-end mural shows that it depicts more activities of gone-by-days of Chinatown.
Go up to the first floor and appreciate the detailing of the wall mural together with live props of a barber chair and a rattan basket hanging down on a string from the first floor. It shows a typical street scene, with street vendors on bicycles; clothes on bamboo poles hung up to dry at the first floor, clothes hanging unabashedly above pedestrians below.
To the left, from a French balcony a woman, with her hair in curlers and a cigarette sticking out prominently from her lips, looks down to the scene below.
Hey! She looks familiar! Yes, she's is the rough-ish land-lady played by veteran actress Qiu Yuen in the Stephen Chow's movie Kungfu Hustle.
Above her is a painting of a Shanghainese Shuyan lady, with typical hair-do from the early 1900s. These ladies in colourful cheong-sams are often featured on the cover of boxes selling Chinese talcum and facial creams.
A street barber. Up to a few years ago, there were several barbers with their barber chairs lining up a side lane (GPS: 3.14338, 101.69854) opposite the KL Commercial Book Store along Jalan Sultan. Is this one of their chairs?
See that basket hanging form a string; back then, during pre-Internet days, this was the delivery system to people on the first floor. One shout to a shop below for some order and it's delivered via this basket on the pulley string up to the first floor!
Oops... that's me on the barber chair; forgetting to take off my cap to a stumped barber.
To the right were children playing skip rope in front of a typical Hainanese Kopitiam.
Their skip rope is not a rope though; following the tradition of those days, it's made of colourful rubber bands loop-knotted together.
We took leave of Kwai Chai Hong, crossing the bridge that transcends us from a history lesson, and got back to the present day.
But our art appreciation walk was not over. We took a short walk on the lane opposite Kwai Chai Hong entrance, on the right wall at the far-end junction (GPS: 3.14161, 101.69713) with Jalan Panggung is the "Old Goldsmith" it's one of many Volchkova Street Art by Julia Volchkova. Click here for a Google Street View of this Old Goldsmith.
A giant young girl peering over the top of the Bubble Bee shop (GPS: 3.14168, 101.69789) at Petaling Street. This is one of the shops with a backdoor to Kwai Chai Hong.
The colourful vimana at the entrance to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple at Jalan Jalan Tun H.S. Lee.
Large wall mural poster of Lady Dulang Washers in the customary dark blue dresses and wearing Asian conical hats at the side wall of Wisma Maran (GPS: 3.14771, 101.69575) at Medan Pasar. These dulang washers were aplenty during Malaysia's tin mining heydays. Click here for a Google Street View.
(Note: this mural poster has been taken down, pity)
KWAI CHAI HONG
Off Lorong Panggung, Chinatown, Petaling Street, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm (Everyday)
Entry charges: FREE!
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm (Everyday)
Entry charges: FREE!
GPS & Direction Map : 3.14149, 101.69759
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