IT was 11 years ago when I first became intimately acquainted with the town called Setapak, which is a stone’s throw away from my very own native Sentul.
Although I had frequented the neighbourhood with my family, it was not until I joined the Tunku Abdul Rahman College that I really got to know Setapak.
Each morning, my mother would drop me off along the busy Jalan Genting Klang to catch the college bus at 7.15am.
As I waited for the bus, I would observe the scene before me.
People stuck in cars, eating a bun bought from the aunty near the Genting Klang market and students dashing across the road to catch the bus.
Once I got to college, I would be greeted by a bunch of my closest mates, most of whom spent their entire lives in Setapak.
Everyday, during the break, we would pile into two cars and head out to discover “their” Setapak.
The boys would have a number of activities to do during our excursions but having girls in the group made it a little harder.
So we opted for activities for the whole group, Daytona.
We would head out to Alpha Angle, Wangsa Maju, the closest mall back then for Setapakians, for the family entertainment centre before scouring for lunch.
Now lunch was an adventure for most parts, but chicken rice was always a staple for some of us and a welcome treat for other friends.
There was this old-school kopitiam called Ganda Dua in Danau Kota where we would get our chicken rice fix.
Years later, however, another set of friends introduced an alternative restaurant called Soon Hiong Chicken Rice along Jalan Genting Klang.
Today, Soon Hiong has moved into an unassuming old shoplot in Jalan Perusahaan Ringan but the taste of their aromatic rice and roasted chicken has not changed.
Apart from chicken rice, Setapak has earned a well-deserved reputation as a food haven.
What I love most is the many restaurants with little stalls selling a variety of food for families with different tastes.
It was great to be able to sit together with my friends and share our favourites dishes.
Sharing was both economical for college students and a great way to have so many dishes in one sitting.
Setapak is also a suburb that never sleeps and finding food at odd hours is a breeze.
You could have a dinner party, run out of food at 2am and still come home with a full-fledged meal and cendol for dessert.
Speaking of cendol, Setapak is also well-known for their Yo Yo ice trucks. These trucks are easily found in front of the Danau Kota market as well as the Air Panas market.
After a busy marketing session on a Saturday morning, many families would stop for cooling ice desserts with mango or red bean toppings.
Parks and playgrounds in Danau Kota also hold a special place in my heart.
I remember sitting with my friends in their neighbourhood park, chatting and snacking while passing the time.
We were never afraid of being mugged or accosted because it was home to my friends.
Another thing I miss about Setapak is its accessibility.
I remember taking two buses and two LRTs to get back home after classes everyday.
The journey was long, especially since I lived in Sentul, the neighbouring town, but there were no direct buses and the LRT ride was more enjoyable.
Of course, I had my trustworthy friends who would occasionally drop me off at home.
There were many short cuts through the housing estates, which were as enjoyable as the train ride. It was fun watching people going about their daily activities and children playing by the road.
Things then were more relaxed, developments were staggered and green lungs were everywhere. However, a drive through Setapak today paints a different picture.
Jalan Genting Klang has a number of new developments, one development sprouted up over the course of a year.
There is the new KL Festival City Mall now complete with a movie theatre.
The old rustic coffee shops with a variety of food still has a place in the neighbourhoods but newer eateries have mushroomed overnight, drawing large crowds.
Despite the overwhelming development in Setapak, I am glad the place still has some of the things I loved best, like the groups of senior citizens gathering at local coffee shops, good infrastructure and most importantly, great food.