I don’t know a thing about K-pop group GOT7 other than they have seven members and they are very new (I believe the technical term is “rookie”). So imagine my surprise when I came across their new video only to recognise what looked like my city, no matter how hard they tried to make it look like a generic urban wonderland. And then I vaguely recalled that GOT7 trended on twitter not to long ago and this must’ve been why.
I was tickled! And I whenever I’m tickled, I seize the moment and try to be productive.
So welcome to my brief introduction to life in Kuala Lumpur through the lens of GOT7’s ‘A’ MV.
Expect to discover a side of KL you’ll never see in our Malaysia Truly Asia ads.
First, some basics:
- Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. On a world map, we are located North of Singapore and South of Thailand.
- Kuala Lumpur is shortened to KL colloquially. No one ever says ‘Kuala Lumpur’, unless you’re a tourist or a news broadcaster reading the news.
- KL is also a catchall phrase to refer to the capital and it’s surrounding areas known as the Klang Valley, which includes the cities of Petaling Jaya (popularly known as PJ), Klang, Shah Alam etc. Think Metro Manila which encompasses a sprawl of enclaves such as Makati, Quezon City, Pasig, etc etc.
- Wikipedia tells me the population of KL (and I mean the Klang Valley) is approximately 7 million–roughly the same as Hong Kong, but far less dense.
As an aside, people in KL tend to think that KL is the centre of the universe, as does anyone who lives in capital cities all over the world.
Now technically, from what I can see and what google tells me, GOT7 never shot anything in KL proper as they were all in Shah Alam. So the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, but also not quite because catchall, remember?
So let’s begin.
Let’s start where the boys shot what I think is their album cover.
This is a lorong, or back alley in Malay. As far as lorong go, this one isn’t so bad. It looks like one of the cleanest lorong I’ve seen. But you won’t find many people who’d hang round a lorong like GOT7. Most people park their cars in the lorong and get out quickly.
Speaking of cars, that is a Perodua Kancil. Did you know Malaysia makes cars? Yes we do. This one’s made by our second carmaker (we have not one but TWO carmakers!) and it’s considered a starter car because it’s cheap (sort of) and cheerful. Come to KL and you’ll see Kancils everywhere.
There are more cars than there are places to park them, hence the parking crisis that leads to cars being thrown places they shouldn’t such as lorong. Double-parking is also way of life.
Transportation is a sore subject for Malaysians, but that is post for another day and probably another blog.
The other thing you’ll see in lorong, apart from cars and trashcans, is air-conditioning vents. That’s coz it’s very hot here in KL.
If the lorong is the back-end of what we call ‘shoplots’, this is the front:
This is a corner lot cafe in Seksyen 13, Shah Alam.
Shah Alam, as I mentioned, is the state capital of Selangor, and my experience of it is through its government buildings, universities and it’s famous Blue mosque. Apart from that, it’s leafy and suburban and famously alcohol-free (sort of). It used to be that if you wanted a cocktail, the only place you could get one was at the bar in the Concord hotel. I don’t know if that’s changed or not.
And my hubs tells me that the best char siew (roast pork) he’s ever had is in Shah Alam.
See these colourful posters and graffiti? This is set dressing.
More commonly you’ll find flyers for ah longs or loan sharks–a burgeoning business during these days of tightening credit and soaring prices–and ubat kuat lelaki (aphrodisiacs for men).
I’ve never been to this cafe but from what I can read it offers a typical mix of Western and local dishes very common to many cafes.
Which leads me to…
A subject near and dear to my heart.
Yes, we have Burger King here. This BK is huge! Look at the size of that car park. This one is also in Shah Alam, I believe.
Fast food chains are everywhere in KL. If you’re too squirmish to try local food, don’t worry, you’ll never be far from an American fast food outlet. I once met someone whose first meal in the country was at McDonald’s because he wanted to have his first ever halal hamburger :).
And no, you won’t find Korean boys dancing in front of what look like classic American cars in car parks here. In fact, apart from the Beetle, I’ve never seen cars like these on the roads.
But you will find blue skies 🙂
Let’s turn to local food. This restaurant caters to Cita Rasa Utara aka Northern tastes, of which laksa (a spicy, fishy noodle dish–yummeh!) and keoy teow kerang (fried rice noodles with cockles–to die for!) are favourites. Mee hoon sup is thin, rice noodles (vermicelli) in a chicken-based soup.
See what Yugyeom is drinking here? If you buy drinks from a street vendor or a coffee shop, it’ll be served in plastic bags like this. I think this is limau ais (iced lime juice), my drink of choice.
If you’re planning on coming here, be prepared: Malaysians are passionate about food and we feed visitors to death.
Next we move on to an important facet of modern KL life: grocery shopping in a hypermarket.
This looks like a Tesco, the UK-chain. These monstrosities are relatively new. Growing up, we bought our groceries from the market and the neighbourhood sundry shop. Supermarkets weren’t mammoth warehouses the size of football fields.
And no, you won’t find Korean boys whizzing by in shopping carts if you shop in a hypermart. You’ll find regular people, families with kids.
There’s another quick option. See in that upper right hand corner–a pasar mini aka minimart chain called 99 Speedmart that’s quickly becoming as ubiquitous as hypermarkets.
Competitive prices–it’s where I get my supply of Shin ramyun.
Shopping, or more accurately, mall-crawling, is a time-honoured weekend pastime in KL. Mostly because we need to escape the heat.
If you’re going to shop here you’ll need to know some basic Malay. Like Korean, many words in Malay are simply phonetic equivalents of English–farmasi is pharmacy; kordial is cordial; aiskrim is…guess?
Makanan laut is sea food, and promosi hebat is “awesome promotion” aka “great deal”.
If you want to say thank you in Malay, it’s terima kasih which translated literally means, receive love. Isn’t that lovely?
We are multi-cultural country and we also home to a sizeable community of foreigners, including white expats, Koreans, and most recently, Africans who come here to study in our burgeoning private education scene. There’s a growing community of Africans (mainly Nigerians I believe) who manage to thrive despite facing a lot of racism and discrimination here. (I’m going to assume that the extras I see here are from these communities.)
African eateries are sprouting up too and I had my first taste of fufu and jollof recently–spicy and delicious!
And thus concludes our tour! Please exit safely to your left and don’t leave any belongings behind ;P
P/S Some additional footage here: