Chicken Gizzards, Genuine Fakes and Mad Hatters
A night out at Asia's crossroads

from : Room K3, Kameleon guesthouse. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We had just been watching an unusual (to us) ceremony at the Hindu temple a few doors down from our guesthouse. Perhaps because I like Kung Fu than Bollywood, the rituals of India have long seemed far more exotic and foreign than those in China. The faithful were lined up in a bucket brigade to the inner sanctum where a statue of Sri Ganesh, the Elephant headed diety, sat surrounded by food and addorned with flowers. Instead of water the buckets contained coconut milk and gallon after gallon was poured onto the image by the shirtless Brahmin with painted bodies. After rinsing this off, it was repeated with what looked like thick yellow curry sauce. One of the priests tenderly wiped the muck from the statues eyes and so naturally we began to get hungry and wandered over to Chinatown for a bite.

Turning onto Chinatowns main thourouhfare you are immediatly assaulted by color. The noen signs, the hanging fowl, the plastic servingware and tables. You are also assaultedby menu wielding touts who while aggresive thankfully haven't lost thier sense of fun. It might be for tier good nature that you find yourself grabbing little bamboo sticks of chicken gizzards and pigs intestines at RM1.20 or a couple of quail eggs and pork balls at RM1.50, taking them back to your table where a boiling pot of oil bubbles to cook and eat them. If this is the case, you are probably having a Chinese Fondue or 'steamboat' as it is called here. This is exactly what we did. Perhaps thirty little trays of raw food of varying degrees of palatability sit on a little cart where you simply help yourself to what you want (or avoid what you don't which is probably more likely) and pay at the end based on how many greasy sticks lie scattered about the tabletop. The shrimp is fantastic if only for the novelty of watching it turn from sickly grey to mouthwatering pink at your whim.

A movie followed. A giant theatre where the 9 of us had the 1000+ seats to ourselves.

Into the market on Jalang xxxx to do battle with the hucksters selling fake cologne ("Lasts as long and givees no problems!") to copy watches ("You want Rolex? Good price for you, just take a look. For fun!") to DVDs of movies that haven't even reached the theatres here yet (thses fellows do such a brisk business they have no time to collar people of the street).
"How much for that Patek Phillipe?"
"For you?....350 Ringitt."
"Ok, Ok. Just joking price. What is your budget?"
"Ha Ha Ha, you're just joking young man. This below my cost, very funny, now how about . . ." And so it goes on, almost for as long as you like. I have no patience for this type of thing and invariably make the mistake of assuming they will appreciatte a quick deal. I simply quote the most I will possily pay right up front, disregarding each and every time everything I have learned about the 'art; of haggling after 7 months in Asia, so I almost invariebly leave empty handed and frustrated. If I really want something I'll usually persuade Julie, the more patient more reasonably one, who understands the sport of it all, to go back for me. Why is it that I can persuade her to do my bidding but not those creeps?

The Hindu temple is bustling already this morning. The faithful alternate between serenly praying and violently smashing coconuts. The damp morning air is creamy with thier smell but I don't stop because I am heeding a siren call - an all nighter always calls for an early morning fill up at the McDonalds.

Nothing lines the stomach walls like a greasy egg McMuffin with sausage. Nothing makes you feel more normal than the crowd that gather there early on a Saturday morning. On my left is a middle aged Malay woman with a Leonardo De Caprio Titanic bag made from that odd synthetic that I suppose is an approximation of leather. Nothing wrong with that. Titanic memeorabilia is the most normal thing in the world out here. Thing is, she has three or four ziplock bags full of smalll coins that must weigh 10 pounds each. She is packing, unpacking and repacking all these bags frantically, pushing her graying hair out of her face and mumbling. She has definitely lost something. I just don't think she'll find it in that bag.

On my right is a Chinese woman with a brutal bob cut and jaundiced skin who appears to have found a cellphone while rooting around in the garbage this morning. No doubt dropped by a drunk yuppie some time last night. She stabs at the number pad with her dirty fingers but when it doesn't respond with "Fur Elise" or "The Final Countdown" she begins rubbing it affectionately like Aladdin with his lamp. Then she stabs at it stubbornly again, chin thrust out under glaring eyes. Oh yeah, neither of these women has actually bought anything. They have just wandered in off the street. It is reassuring to know that whether in Madison Wisconsin, London England or Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, you always know what stone to turn over if you're looking for the mad-hatters.

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