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Kg Baru at dusk. The under-construction building at the bottom right was where the writer used to live. PIC BY IZWAN ISMAIL
Kg Baru at dusk. The under-construction building at the bottom right was where the writer used to live. PIC BY IZWAN ISMAIL

I WAS born and raised in Kg Baru. My family and close relatives lived on a one-acre piece of land from the 1950s to 1970s. There were five houses built on the property.

It was a different Kg Baru then. Our house in Jalan Raja Ali was located at the edge of Sungai Klang, which separated the commercial buildings in Kuala Lumpur and the Malay settlement.

Today, it’s the site for an under-construction high-rise condominium project besides the Ampang Ulu Kelang Elevated Highway (AKLEH), opposite the Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery.

I remember a small pedestrian bridge that linked the village and the cemetery. Every time someone died in the village, the funeral procession would pass by my house and over the bridge to the cemetery.

It was a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood then. While my father was from Rembau, my mother was a Kg Baru native, who used to cycle to school at St Mary’s, located not far from our house. It was located at the present site of St Mary Residence and E&O Residence at Jalan Tengah, just behind MUI Plaza.

She would pass through the cemetery into Jalan Ampang and then to Jalan Sultan Ismail, which would take about 20 minutes. The school was relocated to Selayang in 1995 to make way for development.

Sungai Klang was just a few metres away from our house. In the evening, my late father would take me and my sister for a leisurely stroll along the riverbank.

It was a joy to be out in the open, surrounded by many trees.

Today, the greenery that I used to see from the riverbank has turned into a concrete jungle. The only tall buildings at that time were Merlin Hotel (now Concorde Hotel) and Hilton Hotel (now demolished) along Jalan Sultan Ismail.

The Chow Kit market, the biggest wet market in Kuala Lumpur at that time, was about 400m from my house.

I still remember accompanying my late grandmother there for her grocery shopping every weekend.

Kg Baru (left) and Kuala Lumpur city centre are separated by the AKLEH highway and Sungai Klang. PIC BY IZWAN ISMAIL
Kg Baru (left) and Kuala Lumpur city centre are separated by the AKLEH highway and Sungai Klang. PIC BY IZWAN ISMAIL

Grandma loved to chew betel leaves and an Indian shop at the Chow Kit market was where she always got her supplies. I remember how the betel leaves were so nicely arranged into a tall spiral form at the shop.

There was a coffee shop at the front entrance of the market which my late grandfather used to patronise. I would have my monthly haircut at the bar-bershop next to it.

Jalan Raja Muda Musa, where the famous Nasi Lemak Wanjo and Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa are located today, is situated just behind my house, connected by Jalan Raja Mahadi. The nasi lemak outlets have been operating since I was small.

Kg Baru was the first in the city to have a pasar malam (night market). It was called pasar minggu (Sunday market) and opened until night, selling all sorts of stuff, from food to handicraft.

My grandmother used to take me here every weekend, not to shop but just for fun, and to get some snacks. There was a stall that sold huge coloured keropok the size of a vinyl record, a favourite of mine, and grandma would always make sure she bought one for me before we walked back home.

Sadly, the iconic market had to make way for another high-rise residential project.

Both my parents were Telekom Malaysia (previously Jabatan Telekom) staff. My father was a clerk at Telekom Bukit Mahkamah opposite Bukit Nanas, while my mother was a phone operator at the now Telekom Museum building. As they had to work full-time, I was sent to Fatima Kindergarten nearby, beside the Bukit Nanas church and St John’s Institution.

There used to be a cable-car service at the Bukit Nanas forest reserve in the 1970s as a tourist attraction, but it was discontinued in the 1980s.

Floods were a frequent occurrence in Kg Baru in the 1970s after downpours. That was why many of the original houses there were built on tall wooden stilts with concrete stairs to the front door. Every time there was a flood, the water would rise to the waist on the ground level, but it would never reach the raised floors.

One of the original houses with wooden stilts still exists today, and it’s located right in front of the Nasi Lemak Wanjo restaurant in Jalan Raja Muda Musa.

As much as my family and I loved Kg Baru, we had to leave after a major fire involving all the five houses on the lot in the mid-1970s. I was 7 years old then. The land was sold, and my parents as well as relatives moved to Keramat to start a new life in a modern housing area, called AU2.

Today, whenever I go for my nasi lemak fix at Kg Baru, I would make it a point to stop at the lane leading up to my old house, just to relive the fond memories of growing up there decades ago.

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