Jul 29, 2011

Central Market Pasar Seni KL

Central Market or Pasar Seni is one of the popular tourist destination in Kuala Lumpur. It can be reached via the Pasar Seni LRT station. I still remember the time when it was converted from a wet market to its current art and craft market when I was a school boy studying nearby. It is still a draw for tourist now and with many activities and busking giving this place a very lively attraction.

Central Market or Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur
Central Market / Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur

Central Market: Keeping heritage relevant
By Anansa Jacob
29 July 2011

THE Central Market has been a Malaysian cultural focal point for many tourists visiting Kuala Lumpur, but these days, few city folk actually visit the 123-year-old landmark themselves.

In 2004, Central Market was taken over by Kha Seng Group, which also runs other key building projects like Viva Home and the upcoming Kenanga Wholesale City.

Since then, this tourist hub has been revamped, with new facilities and additions to emphasise its status as a showcase for Malaysian arts and handicraft.

The efforts to improve Central Market have paid off with the place earning an Excellence award at the Kuala Lumpur Mayor's Tourism Awards in June.

At a recently organised media tour, Kha Seng Group public relations executive Julia Emmanuel gave a group of journalists and bloggers a firsthand look at the new Central Market.

"One of the most obvious additions is the Kasturi Walk, located next to Central Market," she said. "We built a covered roof over the various kiosks that sell food and souvenirs over the sidewalk, and gave it a local touch with giant wau bulan structures located at both ends."

Kasturi Walk is also a venue for nightly cultural performances, as well as a Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia dance performance every Saturday night.

Within Central Market itself, where tourists can purchase unique souvenirs and traditional handicrafts, it looks as though not much has changed. But upon exploration, the layout of the shops are better organised, with handicrafts from specific cultures organised into 'streets' such as Malay Street, Straits Chinese, Little India, Jonker Street and Blue Mansion.

There are also several new eateries there, most of them selling popular versions of local cuisine. These include Oldtown White Coffee, Ginger Restaurant, Annexe Nasi Kandar and Rainforest Bistro & Restaurant. There is also a food court located on the upper floor for those looking for a more varied F&B experience.

The Central Market Annexe, located behind the main building, has also been revived as a space for the local art scene, with galleries and an area for performances or events.

There is also a daily free Heritage Walk tour, organised by Be Tourist. The tour guides are all volunteers, and they take interested visitors on a leisurely walk through areas in the city that showcase local Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures.

Our tour guide that morning was Connie, who was chirpy despite the wet weather we were having that day. She explained the history of Central Market, telling how it had evolved from its humble origins as a wet market in 1888 to its current incarnation.

After that, she took us on a roundabout trip through parts of old Kuala Lumpur and Masjid Lebuh Ampang. Our first stop was the century-old Masjid Jamek, which overlooked the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers. The historic mosque usually opens its doors to visitors, who are allowed to walk in and take photographs.

Later, we arrived at Little India to visit a chettiar building, one of the last few traditional moneylenders in the city. After that, we were taken through a narrow alley which housed three stalls manned by owners from the three main races in Malaysia. According to Connie, because of this, the place was known as the 1Malaysia Food Street.

We also visited the Sin Sze Ya temple, a Taoist temple that was built by the city founder Kapitan Yap Ah Loy in 1864, and is still visited by those wanting blessings and guidance for themselves or their families.

Throughout the journey, Connie also pointed out several old buildings that had historical value, including the city's oldest pawnshop, as well as a building with a balcony where she said maidens used to choose their husbands by throwing handkerchiefs for prospective suitors to catch.

Sadly, she added, most of these buildings were run down and not well cared for, and like many other historical sites, had been overlooked or sacrificed for the sake of rapid development.

Later, over lunch in Precious Old China, a restaurant serving fusion nyonya cuisine on Central Market's first floor, Julia said that there were more events planned at Central Market to reintroduce it to Malaysians.

"Everyone knows that it is a tourist destination, but we also want Malaysians to come and visit it," she said.

Among the activities planned are a photo contest to capture the essence of Central Market, a postcard-making workshop and a Chinese Opera performance in August. Not to mention the various cultural performances every day.

"We want people to come and visit Central Market and just see how much things have changed over the years," Julia added. "We want them to come and maybe even learn something new about the different cultures in their own country, and by teaching the public, we hope to be able to keep our heritage alive for many generations to come."

Source: thesundaily.my/news/94300
Find out more Info: centralmarket.com.my

It's been a long while since my last visit to Central Market Pasar Seni. Good for revisit for us locals too!