Drinking a beer, hanging out with the overseas Chinese.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia- Drinking in Malaysia puts you in one of two completely opposite social environments. Either you are with the upper-ish classes — the rich, the white collar-ers, the young, internationalized sect or you’re drinking with the dregs of society — people who, for whatever reason, find themselves on the outside of their society’s parameters…or are Chinese.
In both cases, the experience is bound to produce some interesting results— or at least some quotable conversations.
I work from 4am to 2pm each day that I’m not visiting a site or doing interviews. I work after 2pm as well, but this is a more imformal kind of work. I blog or do video or set up site visits. I do most of this from my phone while drinking beer at some hole in the wall.
The beer spewing holes in the wall in Malaysia tend to be Chinese. They are not just restaurant/bars but are community social centers. These places tend to be pretty disgusting establishments that spew out onto the sidewalk, but they are probably one of the best places to watch cultures function here.
Kuala Lumpur has masacred itself with highways. Many of the streets are cultural dead zones. It is more often than not impossible for you to walk where you want to go. I don’t know of another big city like it. The place was made as if cars, rather than people, were the dominant life form.
To find the humans you have to go out to the liminal zones.
That’s where I’m staying — somewhere between KL and Putra/Cyberjaya. Across the street is a Chinese restaurant that is disgusting and spews out onto the sidewalk.
The people running the place smile at you though. They giggle when I speak to them in Mandarin and point me out to people who walk in. There are no other foreigners out here. They’d have to be morons to hang out here.
The Chinese people here are generally either from Guangzhou or Fujian provinces — with a huge percentage being from Quanzhou or Xiamen.
I had a base of operations in Xiamen for the better part of two years, so there is some point of conection, even though the place is totally different now than when their grandfathers left during the last quarter of the 19th/first quarter of the 20th centuries.
She charged me 16 ringgit for a giant Tiger beer — roughly $4. If I was FOB here I’d think she was hosing me, but I know that Malaysia pretty much charges a 100% tax on alcohol, making it twice as expensive as everywhere else in Asia.
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