PETALING Street, also known as the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur, is a permanent fixture on lists of places for tourists to visit but many locals can also be found in the area, proving its overall popularity for a number of reasons.
Despite its popularity, there have been a number of times in the past when people felt that it had become more of a foreign land than one representing true Malaysian culture and its people.
One recent local visitor to the tourist hotspot said she had encountered a rude foreign trader while trying to purchase a bag.
“I saw a bag that I liked and asked the person manning the stall, whom I can only assume owned it as well. He dropped the price a little immediately after telling me its selling price.
“However, knowing that haggling was the norm, I countered his offer with an even lower price and that was when I got a shock of my life. He started calling me names and even said I only knew how to buy garbage!” the visitor who wanted to remain anonymous said, adding that she quickly left the stall after that.
Such stories crop up every now and then while a quick look at the Internet reveal that roughly equal numbers of visitors liked Petaling Street or think it is nothing special.
Those who were positive seemed to mostly enjoy shopping as they usually talked about getting great buys and actively encouraged haggling to get the best prices.
A small number also expressed their delight at the variety of food and snacks available as well as visits to the few temples located just off the main shopping and food streets.
I went to check out the street shortly after Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor made known his views that locals were allowing foreigners to trade there in exchange for rental per stall of between RM8,000 and RM9,000.
Perhaps it was a bad day or the wrong time but my visit revealed a quiet street, with a number of stalls closed while most of the open ones were run by locals, which could be caused by the minister’s surprise visit.
Wandering the streets slowly, many traders shouted out at me to take a look at their wares, most of which were the same from stall to stall.
A few of the more aggressive ones stood on the street, shoving their wares in my face, but what left me feeling uneasy were the unfathomable and somewhat menacing looks from those who stood quietly by their wares.
My experience was not particularly good but ended on a sweet note, thanks to a Sabahan trader selling T-shirts near the end of the street.
Stepping into the stall where various T-shirts with designs ranging from pop culture icons to abstract designs were on display, I asked the price for one T-shirt and was told it was a flat RM20, already quite cheap in my opinion.
“That is the best price I can offer,” the trader replied, even after I offered to buy more than one T-shirt in the hope of getting a better price.
He left me pretty much to myself to mull over the item. Deciding to go ahead and rack up the experience of buying an item, I told him I would take one new T-shirt with a specific design.
Rummaging through a large bag, he found that he had run out of stock and offered me the item on display, which prompted me to ask for a discount again.
“I will let you check it as much as you want. It is in good condition. It will still be RM20,” he said.
After finding nothing wrong with the T-shirt, I gave him a RM50 note but when he gave me my change, I found he had thrown in an extra RM5.
I told him about the mistake but he waved it off and told me he would give me a special price after all.
Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun said bad hats would always be around the area and that complaints about the traders’ attitudes happen every now and then.
“There is nothing much to be done about it but I do believe those who have interests in the area should join the Kuala Lumpur Hawkers and Petty Traders Association and from there assert some semblance of order in the area,” he said.