The 'pasar malam' and what millennials are missing

AUGUST 3 ― First of all, most millennials don’t even know what in WhatsApp hell I’m talking about.

They watch Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets and they go Ooh! and Aah! over the “Big Market” scene, without realising there’s a real super big-a** market barely a few hundred yards from their doorsteps.

Better yet, these local “big markets” can be experienced sans annoying virtual goggles and don’t require flying a few thousand light-years through space.

Second, millennials must understand that pasar malam isn’t merely a market, it’s basically a street-shopping supernova. You get to buy everyday items like RM15 Rolexes, “original” DVDs and CDs and, on occasion, even bet money on a shell game with some dudes who carry their own walkie-talkies because, you know, they just enjoy a good conversation.

Exciting and dangerous? You have no idea.

That’s why whenever people go to the pasar malam and get right into the thick of the action, WhatsApp will seem as intriguing as RTM2.

On the left there are coloured baby chicks (in blue, pink, green, etc.) begging you take to them home, on the right there are a 2.6 billion varieties of crab-sticks, kuih-muih and fruits from the Klang Valley and beyond.

There may be some guy selling assam laksa so good people are willing to queue up for it or another guy who fries kueh kak in a cauldron the size of Lake Toba with the fire blasting so severely you just know we’re seconds away from a super-volcano eruption.

It’s too much and not enough at the same time.

A ‘kueh kak’ (fried carrot cake) seller working his magic at the night market. ― Pictures by SK Yeong
A ‘kueh kak’ (fried carrot cake) seller working his magic at the night market. ― Pictures by SK Yeong

But what exactly is the difference between a night market and morning one? Only the fact that after 5pm both buyers and sellers have more testosterone and endrogen, and all the dogs, cats and birds are cheering everybody towards a higher and more spiritual form of street capitalism.

It’s like, the proximity of the appearance of the moon has that effect. That and the reduced heat from the sun adds that little extra to life, to eating four sets of popiah at one go, to grabbing and sticking warehouse-loads of lok-lok goodies into the boiling water before baptising them all with peanut and chilli sauce until even the angels envy you.

Third, the pasar malam is also a great alternative to all those boring workout routines. Because ― as I’ve been saying very clearly ― given how popular and cosmically significant the institution is (see [1]), I’m sorry but parking is a b****.

Kindly do not make the mistake of driving into the streets where the vendors have set up shop ― only the vendors themselves and people with a death wish will do that.

Bottom line: You’ll need to walk. A lot. Your feet will be given the adventure of their lives and your FitBit device thingy is gonna imagine you’re Anthony Bourdain in a new city.

This is also why there is a drinks vendor every three steps.

Variety galore at the night market (which opens as early as 5pm), too much and not enough at the same time.
Variety galore at the night market (which opens as early as 5pm), too much and not enough at the same time.

So, totalling everything up: Good food, exotic sights, fresh air and a kick-ass workout.

Now you know why the General Elections are usually held in the weekends and, hopefully, are over by the evening. It’s not because we need the whole night to count the votes. It’s because people need to go to pasar malam (with the best ones being on weekdays).

Can we choose not to go? Hmm. You must be new here.

[1]: Make no mistake, the pasar malam is one of Malaysia’s foremost institutions. Don’t let nobody tell you it’s “just” a night market.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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