Jalan TAR - the road that comes alive during Ramadan

The rows of Ramadan stalls along Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

YOU would no doubt be aware of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur. The road, known previously as Batu Road, is a stretch of road in the capital well known for its boutiques and shopping arcades.

Named after our first Yang di-Pertuan Agong (not our first Prime Minister, mind you), this piece of road has yet to be consumed entirely by modernisation. The skyscrapers that dot the other major roads in the city have yet to take root in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman; its buildings have yet to look like lifeless cages of steel and glass. Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman still retains many of the charms of the Kuala Lumpur of yore.

It is one of the busiest roads in the city, nonetheless. Get caught in it at the wrong time and you will find yourself stuck in a mind-numbing traffic jam, with very little side roads for escape. It gets worse during the festive seasons (or when Sogo has a sale), when shoppers throng the area for their festive needs.

But the road, unlike other roads in the city, sleeps early. By 10pm, its shops are closed. There are spots in the surrounding area where you can probably get a late night teh tarik, but for the most part, you will be better off going to other areas in the city.

Unless you visit the place during Ramadan. The closer you are to Aidilfitri, the busier it gets. The hustle and bustle of the road and the surrounding areas do not end as they would on normal days. During Ramadan, the nights teem with life on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

This writer will never forgo the opportunity to visit Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and the surrounding area at night during the fasting month. Not necessarily to shop, although the writer is not adverse to purchasing a decent baju Melayu if one is chanced upon, but more to experience the night bazaar that covers Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman to Jalan Masjid India. Shopping at the many air-conditioned complexes in the city may be more comfortable, but if you want to feel the heartbeat of Kuala Lumpur, you must sample the night bazaar in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Rows and rows of canopied stalls along the many pedestrian streets. Bodies of people, shoulder-to-shoulder, filling up the enclosed and sometimes suffocating spaces between the stalls. The great din of the environment, with Raya songs and vendors shouting to attract attention to their respective stalls and shoppers talking as they peruse the wares on display. It is chaotic, but it is organised chaos.

What do you need for Aidilfitri? The latest baju Melayu fashion, although if you are looking for the authentic baju Melayu Aaron Aziz, you cannot find one there. How do you want the collar, cekak musang or teluk belaga? Are you looking for a songkok? The question is not whether you will find one, but how tall do you want the songkok to be. The taller the songkok, the higher the price. Or how about buttons for your baju Melayu. Or hijab from bawal to gelama. Baju kurung? Which style, what colours, modern or traditional?  Or maybe you want to decorate your house? There are curtains, cushions and flowers. Or how about kuih raya of many shapes and sizes, to serve to those who come during Aidilfitri.

As the Malay saying goes, tepuk dada tanya selara. Seek and you shall find. When you have found, bargain to your heart’s desire until you are satisfied that you have the right price. No price is set in the night bazaar, this is not your Megamall or Suria. The price tag is merely an invitation to open negotiations.

Do not miss the opportunity to visit Lorong Bunus and enjoy a big glass of teh tarik besides the Klang River. Or you can try the famous roti canai with an egg, flooded with curry and dhal. While you are there, observe those around you. These are the people of Kuala Lumpur, a momentary reprieve from the rat race known as life.

Kuala Lumpur is not only the twin towers. Not only the Golden Triangle and the superficial no-homeless zone. Kuala Lumpur is not only Kampung Baru, Jalan Tun Razak or Jalan Sultan Ismail. Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman too is Kuala Lumpur.

Sometimes, we must see Kuala Lumpur not only from behind our windscreen or through the windows of our offices. Sometimes, we must walk through Kuala Lumpur. What better time to do so, what better place to do so, then Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman at night during Ramadan?

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