Each fortnight, when I sit down to write my The Bangsar Boy column, I often think about all the things I used to do as a kid. I know that the column is really about a young city boy growing up in Kuala Lumpur, but still, I tend to gravitate towards Bangsar not because of the name of my column, but because I have lived here for 30 years (short of a couple of years studying in Australia).
So, recently, I decided to take a drive around Bangsar and see what comes to mind. It was a random drive – besides one location, which I will reveal later – I had no plans on where I would stop to take pictures. In just that one hour, I was awashed with so many memories – good ones, mind you.
Needless to say, it justified my resolute opinion that Kuala Lumpur – and Bangsar, in particular – is my favourite place in the world to live in.
Let me share some of the photos I took with you, and some of my memories that went along with it. Many of you might not know what I am referring to, unless you too have memories of Bangsar, but join me on this trip down memory lane, won’t you?
I suppose it is apt that this first shot I chose has a slight sepia feel to it. It wasn’t a camera effect, just the weather really.
Still, it captured a venue that was one of the highlight’s of my teenage life. When I was in Form 2 or Form 3, I befriended some of my sisters friends who were hockey players (she was too). One of them, Rizal, lived in that house in the picture which is now Carat Club. Rizal had two brothers – Razali and Rozhan. The latter was my age.
All of us, including one such JJ from Hitz.fm and my teenage best friend Paul, would gather with the three brothers and other friends almost every evening for a game of hockey. The front of the house used to be grass but Mr Razman, their late father, had cemented the grounds around the same time that hockey turfs started becoming popular, so that we would be able to get as close a feel to the real thing as possible.
My school didn’t have a hockey team the first few years I was there, so this was the place where I could play hockey frequently, and be part of a team. It was also a gathering of sorts of for a whole lot of Bangsar Boys all of whom came from different race and religions (and mix race too!). Oh, by the way, Rizal is now my brother-in-law.
I’m not even sure if many people remember Bangsar Village as having only one wing but this goes back way into the mid-1990s when the second shopping centre to open in Bangsar was Hankyu Jaya. The shopping centre was very different from Bangsar Shopping Centre (which had an elitist feel) – Hankyu Jaya had a more open concept.
I’m not 100% sure but I wouldn’t be surprised if that pink walls on the right side of the picture above are the same from when the older shopping centre was first built.
We did not have a huge retail outlet in Bangsar back then – BSC had small stores selling different items – so it was nice to walk into a shopping centre which had everything. It wasn’t very big – only two floors if I remember correctly – but it was in the heart of Bangsar Baru which made it very convenient.
My friend Paul, who went to school in VI, would meet me after school at the bus stop along Jalan Bangsar (I came from PJ, where I was studying) and we would often make stops together there and just walk around and, umm, lepak. I think I might still have the pencil box that I bought from there!
Until today, not many people know of the existence of the Bangsar Sports Complex – the original BSC (as opposed to Bangsar Shopping Centre). Although I live near the shopping centre, I practically grew up in this part of Bangsar because of my babysitter. I spent most of my childhood at her home, and even as I grew older and went to secondary school, I’d still drop by each day after school for meals and such.
In the evenings, while waiting for mum and dad to pick me up after work, I would cross the street to the sports complex. The complex had tennis and badminton courts, a swimming pool and a table tennis area as well as a playground behind.
The playground was my favourite area – me and some of the other kids Aunty Nelly was looking after would spend the evenings there running around and playing fantasy games. As I grew older, I used to take my hockey stick over there (remember, this was when I didn’t have a team) and just hit around.
Today, there is a handball court and a futsal court where the empty patch of grass used to be. I think this is great because this means that the kids around the neighbourhood now have proper places to play at, instead of just on bad patches of grass or on the road like I did. See, progress can be good.
Even I am having problems trying to remember what it was like because I was so young but this Maybank building and the rows of shops below it was not always there. What stood in it’s place was essentially – nothing. I remember there being a row of hawkers there where my family would go out to eat every night.
One particular hawker that I remember vividly was Pak Wan. It was our favourite stop (well, for me it came second to McDonald’s which is directly opposite it and still remains today) and dad loved the Mee Rebus, if I remember correctly. Another stall that I recall is Mr Ong’s coconut water – we used to nickname him Coconong (coconut + ong … geddit?).
I don’t know if any of those stalls had license to operate from there but eventually, a hawker centre was built down the road (taking up part of the empty lot) that we would come to know as Jolly Green Giant. This hawker centre now remains (although it was massively renovated some years back) but most of the original stalls are gone.
Oh well, at least the memories remain.
It’s a beautiful playground, isn’t it? I love it and these days, I always either start or end my usual runs around the nighbourhood there. This playground is located on Jalan Rumpai, just a few minutes walk from my house. Except that it wasn’t there when I was younger.
In fact, all there was on this empty plot of land was grass and, well, lots of lalang. Occasionally, the authorities would come in and clean in up (to get rid of the eye sore and I suppose, dengue risks). It was at that time that me and my friend Faiz, along with some kids from the neighbourhood, would head over and have the time of our lives.
Faiz and his sister Shikin were really good golfers and participated in junior tournaments. Occasionally, I’d go with them to their games at golf clubs. After a while, I too took up the game and started heading over to the driving range. However, on days when the grass wasn’t so long, the gang would drag our golf clubs to this empty plot of land and have a game or two of golf. We’d dig out own holes, cordon off certain areas as the water hazards, and sand traps and viola – we had a four to five hole course.
The empty piece of land also means we had access to a forest-like area right beside it. Being the adventurous kids we were, we’d go in there – sometimes with bicycles in tow – and once discovered that a route that took us out to Damansara. The route no longer exist; the access point has now been fenced up.
As kids, I guess we were resourceful and creative enough to create our own playground with an empty piece of land. Still, I’m glad for the kids around my neighbourhood who have access to swings, a jogging track and basketball court – things I never did have access to as a kid (well, not so nearby anyway).
I thought I’d save my second home for last. I call this my second home because it is literally a couple of minutes walk from my home and I spent a lot of time there as a kid. I don’t recall what it was before the shopping centre was built – I’m assuming it was a piece of empty land – but my memories of the space go back way to the time when they were building it.
Remember what I said about having access to play areas? And about being resourceful? Well, me and some of the kids from the neighbourhood turned the construction area into our playground. The carpark ramps were great for cycling, and the pieces of wood lying around made great makeshift ramps for skateboarding.
Then when the old shopping centre (the unrenovated, first phase) was ready, it was the only place my parents would trust me to be alone at. I suppose it was nearby and full of neighbours anyway. Both my sisters had at some point of their lives worked there and I didn’t want to be left out.
So during school holidays, I’d spend a few hours there each there chatting with the ladies behind the cashier at Cold Storage and play bag boy. That was also the place where I earned my first Ringgit – I remember a caucasian lady tipping me for helping her. I was so excited!
Eventually, the shopping centre expanded and we’d have cinemas, a bowling alley and what I thought was the most amazing food court. None of these excist anymore but I still frequent there often – for food, banking and well, of course, shopping. It remains my favourite shopping centre to date.
10.53pm Malaysian time (+8 GMT)