IF ONE does not mind the crowd, noise and heat at morning markets, the new Chow Kit bazaar and Raja Bot market in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur may be just the place to explore and witness the everyday life of locals.
Located in Chow Kit off Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, these markets are an ideal place for foreign visitors to immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur and maybe learn a little about its people.
Chow Kit is an old part of the city and in the 1980s, it was considered the prime area where people from different states gathered for trade.
Jalan Chow Kit was named after Penang-born tycoon and public official Loke Chow Kit, who was involved in many businesses ranging from farming to tin mining and shipping.
Later, the street and its vicinity gained notoriety as a place of vice where drug pushers and prostitutes gathered.
As development took place, these activities retreated to the back lanes.
There has been many changes in the Chow Kit area over the past four years. The recent facelift of the Raja Bot market with a modern layout has brought an increase in the number of tourists and local visitors.
The fresh layout segregates traders according to their businesses, making it easier for shoppers to find the type of goods they are looking for.
After visiting the market, I went to the first floor where a small and simple food court is located.
A plate of chee cheong fun here with three pieces of yong tau foo and a cup of cham peng (iced coffee-and-tea mixed drink) only cost me RM6.30.
A typical morning scene in the area consists of traffic congestion with motorists weaving in and out of the area towards the city centre while traders arrive with their goods and get ready to set up their stalls.
The Chow Kit new bazaar consists of several rows of petty traders selling fruits, food, drinks, clothes, handmade products and accessories. Some traders even occupy the walkway.
Among the things to look out for is the wide selection of silk products offered at a bargain.
Scarves, dresses and skirts are aplenty.
Traders shouting and customers haggling for a better offer is a common scene at these markets.
Both markets are surrounded by shoplots selling groceries and other daily necessities.
Besides the goods they hold within, these old shoplots are also a treasure trove for photography enthusiasts who will love the building facade that is full of character.
The increasing number of foreign tourist arrivals has resulted in budget hotels and eateries mushrooming in the area.
Driving there is not advisable as there is a lack of parking space.
Just take the monorail to the Chow Kit station.
The new Chow Kit bazaar and Raja Bot market are about a five-minute walk from there.