Chow Kit Market

Chow Kit Market

If you know Kuala Lumpur, you may have heard of Chow Kit Market, but if you’re a first time visitor, it might not be on your radar. It’s a market of two halves: the first is home to the city’s Red Light District, and the other part is the most popular local market in Kuala Lumpur.

On my way home to the UK from a trip to visit family in Australia recently, I stopped off in Malaysia to indulge in an uninterrupted week of street food and produce market photography. There is nothing quite like the markets of Asia – the smells I can’t capture or even begin to explain, but the sounds and sights I can, and did, document in great depth. Soon I will be posting a small video about one of the highlights of my time in KL – a visit to Chow Kit Market. In the meantime, here are some of the stills that I captured.

The bazaar is an explosion of colour and excitement: to keep the heat off, walkways are covered with canvas and brightly covered umbrellas. The market is divided into wet and dry sections: the dry section is a lot more comfortably familiar – it’s a labyrinth of stalls filled with fruit, veg, spices, and all the other paraphernalia you’d expect to find in a market. The wet market is much less like something you might find in Europe – the stalls sell a variety of meat and seafood and the smell is oppressive. You’re also very likely to get wet feet if you haven’t got the right shoes, as cold water and ice are used to keep the goods fresh. However, it’s a place where you’re far more likely to find the locals – as the prices are incredibly cheap.

The best part about spending time in Chow Kit Markets was the warm welcome I felt from the traders – they were generally very happy for me to take their picture and shoot their produce. I did feel a little anxious when I when right out the back of the market, where it got particularly smelly and there were many dark corners and broken things. Behind the main trading area and away from the hustle and bustle it was a quieter, and a bit spooky, but it was here I met some of the friendliest people, rather than my doom.

For anyone who wants to enjoy the sights and sounds of a busy authentic bazaar, Chow Kit is a really great insight into Malaysian food culture. There’s an incredible array of sights and smells, most weird and completely wonderful, and some real characters.