Should one wants to go to Pasar Seni but is shy to ask for directions, just have a look at the Prasarana public transportation network for the Klang Valley, and you will find a station called Pasar Seni.
Not to complicate things, it is the next station after main station of KL Sentral.
And when you disembarked at the Pasar Seni station, located less than hundred (100) metres away is Pasar Seni itself, the tourist attraction that lends its name to the station.
Pasar Seni is loosely translated as (The) Cultural Market and first came into being as Central Market, back in 1888.
It houses outlets offering the best of local batik (printed and hand drawn), songket, local themed souvenirs, trinkets, and even jewellery and pearls.
But do not be surprised that Pasar Seni also houses second-hand book stores, traditional medicine outlets, mini galleries, as well as the usual complement of eateries.
But before Pasar Seni became Pasar Seni the Cultural Market, Pasar Seni was known as Central Market, the Wet Market.
An interesting and unique story in itself, one that the younger generation may have read about but did not have the opportunity to experience.
Central Market, as Pasar Seni was known then, was a wet market located in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Housewives and restaurant owners would often head there very early in the morning, in order to get or place orders for their daily or weekly supply of vegetables, fish, fresh meat and poultry, from the many and different stalls available at the Central Market.
Surprising? I mean, who would have thought that that would be the case, considering the volume of traffic in the areas surrounding today.
It is a fact that Kuala Lumpur has always been busy. It has never been known to sleep, even back then. But it was not as busy as it is today.
Back then people would still be able to take the bus and get off at the Old Klang Bus Terminal nearby before making their way to the Central Market for their daily shopping.
The saying that the early bird catches the best worm really applies as the early morning shoppers would get the best of whats on offer.
Business would start very early in the morning, so early that even the sun has yet to make its appearance on the horizon.
Suppliers and transporters from far and wide would park their lorries by the side of the Central Market to drop off their shipment of vegetables, fish, poultry, all fresh as they can be, whilst the stall owners make preparations for the start of the day’s business.
Potholes would litter the roads around the Central Market, despite it being filled as fast the then municipal council could possibly manage.
These shallow potholes would normally be filled with water most of the time, from the many shipments of fish and vegetables to the Central Market.
The Central Market’s place in the cultural and economic scene of Kuala Lumpur was so established that when it was announced that Central Market would be closed for refurbishment and later, to be reopened as Pasar Seni, with all economic activities to be relocated elsewhere, there was strong opposition to the proposed plan, so much so that even politicians entered the fray.
Today, what was known as Central Market has been fully transformed into Pasar Seni.
Economic activities still take place within the walls of Pasar Seni, but instead of fish, poultry and vegetables being the main items, the focus is now on the arts and culture.
A different type of business activity altogether compared to the days of the old Central Market.
Pasar Seni itself has been refurbished several times and is today known as one of the centres of tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, so much so, on any given day, you will find tourists and locals hanging out in or around Pasar Seni.
One of the key attractions of Pasar Seni is what I personally call the Painters’ Row.
It houses many a talented painter artist as well as a ‘mini studio’ cum gallery.
Painters’ Row is also where you can get a portrait of yourself done, be it from a chosen photograph or on the spot sketch.
It sometimes amazes me to see the results of these sketches, for they are very, very good indeed. Good enough, in fact, to have adorn some of the corporate board rooms and art galleries around Kuala Lumpur.
A visit to Pasar Seni would not be complete, for me at least, if I did not sit myself at one of those eateries and help myself to a serving of local cakes and food.
It may not be as good as your mother’s or your wife’s cooking, but it is still good enough especially if it still has a semblance of the original taste and appearance.
A good and fitting way to end your visit to Pasar Seni, I would say.
Date : 25 July 2017