Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kwai Chai Hong, Chee Cheong Kai and the Chinese settlers

Been wanting to visit Kwai Chai Hong for the longest time (tak long sangat pun as they launched only recently), but I was happy that there would be a media trip here.

Nehh…. The above intro tak cun. Let me start again.

As some of you might know, I simply love meeting a story teller especially if it is about history and stuff. And Zeen is definitely damn good one, her passion and flare at telling a story got me glued. Spellbound. Basically gawking lah…

Many of my Malay friends know Kwai Chai Hong as Kwai Chai Hong, but for me… I understood it as Ghost Boy Lane (literal translation). And today, I get to know why Kwai Chai Hong is called Kwai Chai Hong. According to Zeen, there’s 2 version of this story, the 1st one being this area was once infamous for gangsterism, prostitution, gambling, drugs/opium den and all other vice activities known to mankind back then.

And in Cantonese dialect, all the vice activity folks are colloquially called gambling ghost, opium ghost and pimp ghost. Similar to the Malay language, we always say hantu judi or kaki judi, hantu perempuan and etc. Hence the lane is called Kwai Chai Hong or Little Ghost Lane.

The 2nd version is about Chinese settlers that came to Malaysia in early 1960s. Most of them works in the (starch) flour mill at the end of the street hence the name Chee Cheong Kai, meaning 'Starch Mill Street' also popularly known as Petaling Street or Jalan Petaling. The kids are usually cared by the grandparents, and kids being kids, they prank the elders to keep themselves entertained. Hence the name Kwai Chai Hong, for the kids are often being scolded ‘naughty like a ghost’.

Project Kwai Chai Hong is a ‘5-sekawan passion project’; Ho Yung Wee, Coco Lew, Terence Liew, Javier Chor, and Zeen Chang. Their vision is to not only restore this neglected lane, but most importantly to revive and reflect the early Chinese settlers’ lifestyle and scene during the 1960s.

With its narrow doors and windows, lack of a five-foot walkway and the back door is facing the street (weirdly), Kwai Chai Hong is enveloped by Guangdong Xiguan style buildings that was built during British colonial era between 1884 and 1906.

Challenged by NGOs, Zeen has proven that the maintaining the architectural heritage is her utmost priority, consulted with the heritage subject matter expert, she ensure that the Kwai Chai Hong area is not repainted nor torn down. The display windows and the roof tiles used were recycled from the collapsed roof and worn out windows. The red moon bridge at the entrance was to camouflage the restaurants drainage pipes that happens to face Kwai Chai Hong's walkway.

Cast iron lamp post

To ensure visitors are well informed of its history, QR code are placed at key designated area to hear assumed conversation that took place back in those days.

To take visitor down the memory lane, murals depicting the old school scene can be seen at strategic location (with QR narrating the story) such as an old man playing the erhu, kids playing marbles, a calligrapher writing letters on behalf of illiterate family members (to be send back home), and a fiery prostitute. One can also see an old cast iron lamp post that was estimated to be 100 years old.

There is also a landlady mural that reminded me of Kungfu Hustle movie, within the mezzanine floor one need to search for a ‘merdeka’ clue.

Todate, Kwai Chai Hong has hosted many events and rented its location for movie/advertisement. And from 16-24 November 2019, Kwai Chai Hong hosted Panggung Puisi as part of Urbanscapes 2019 event.

Panggung Puisi at Urbanscapes 2019

Panggung Puisi at Urbanscapes 2019

Operating Hour
Daily : 9am - 12am

Kuala Lumpur For All Fam Trip is in collaboration with VisitKL and all its sponsors with #GayaTravel as media coordinator.

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