Little India doesn’t get the (human) traffic of tacky tourist spots in KL such as Chinatown, but for me it’s a far more interesting and far more real place. I don’t want to use the A-word (authentic) but it is…the above picture is a roundabout. Because nothing says India like elephants. Look - here are some cars!
I was meant to go on a (free) guided tour of Little India courtesy of the Malaysian Tourist Centre, except it never materialised. Clearly, every Saturday doesn’t mean every Saturday. But for the price of £9 (about 20MB of data charges when roaming) I took myself off on a tour around the sticky sweaty streets around KL Sentral.
I started with the Vivekenanda Ashram, built in 1904. Swami Vivekenanda was a spiritual leader who visited Malaya in 1893 on his way to Chicago.
That’s a statue of him out the front. I started peeping around the sides and the back of the building used for cultural and religious activities. This is what I saw from the road, looking to the back of the property.
Nice enough. Then I did a 360.
I mean, really Malaysia? You think KL needs more condominiums? No wonder she looks so fed up.
Oh no wait. She was waiting for her kid, who was at karate practice. It might be judo. It was definitely some sort of martial art. It was very cute, although not if you got your moves wrong. Then, a teacher would hit you with a belt.
I went out the side gate, which led me on to a series of neat terraces known as the 100 Quarters, so-called because they were the pre-war digs for government servants exported by the British from India during the colonial era. The houses straddle three streets - Lorong Chan Ah Tong, Jalan Chan Ah Tong and Jalan Rozario.
Oh sure, they look cute from that perspective. And then…
It’s those pesky condominiums again. Staying where I have been - out of town, around 12 minutes on the LRT - you get to see an aerial view of the poorer neighbourhoods in KL as you head towards the gleaming towers. Tourists are so busy looking up, they forget to look down sometimes.
I swoop back on to the main road - Jalan Tun Sambanthan - and someone has gone crazy with a paintbrush. Little India is bright, busy and fragrant - everything the subcontinent is famous for. It reminded me of a steamy and tropical version of Southall.
Along Jalan Berhala is a Buddhist temple - Maha Vihara.
It was founded by the Sinhalese community in 1894.
I tried to get a close-up of these two monks, who were sitting in a swing. In the end I just asked if I could take their picture, they didn’t look too thrilled.
There aren’t that many resident monks so, looking at the website, I’m guessing that these two chaps are Ven. Siridhamma and Ven. Gnanadhamma (who looks like he’s put a bit of weight on).
After pottering about the temple, I followed the street and took a right down an alley to find two dinky but divine locations.
Taking my steer from Malaysia Traveller the larger oneis a Chinese temple, Seng Hong Yokong, while the smaller one is the Shri Krishna Shrine.
A little further along, on Jalan Scott, is the Sri Sakthi Vinaygar Temple.
Little India is hardly off the beaten track. But I didn’t see that many tourists there. There were more locals going about their business, which I like about the area. True, the main parade has been thwacked about the face with paint and gaudy light fixtures but there are still plenty of streets that look like this for example:
It’s hot, there’s no AC, the sidewalks are uneven and occasionally you get the whiff of an open sewer but hey! That’s Truly Asia, Malaysia.
I have a thing about signs and I’ve been photographing ones that tickle my fancy.
A bold claim, methinks.
I did stop off here for some chapatis, tadka daahl and nimbu pani . Cost? Rm 10.40. That’s just over £2. Really tasty. And yes, really authentic…It is indeed a hut.
Almost adjacent to Aston Villa (ha ha) is the glorious Sri Kandaswamy Temple
a South Indian style temple that has been gracing Malaysia for the past 107 years. Sri Kandaswamy Kovil appears elegant and graceful with lofty towers, beautiful vimanasbearing golden domes, well decorated halls, elegant and majestic pillars, mind inspiring architecture and sculptural works to instill devotion in one’s mind.
The temple has a sacred pond, a sacred tree and a sacred garden. It also has a pair of peacocks.
So that was my little jaunt around Little India. I enjoyed it because it felt like a normal, lived-in part of a city that sometimes seems to be very one-dimensional. I like that people are maintaining thousands of years of tradition, in spite of the high rise towers springing up around them, retaining a distinct culture and religious identity.