As I cycled back from northcote plaza last night through the warm humid night and down the wide empty streets of Thornbury lined with small shophouses, I was reminded of KL the city I grew up in, or rather the city of that time which was still to hit the double digit growth years of the early nineties.
Earlier that night, SBS news had an article on Saigon, Vietnam and how it was booming. Watching the background of an old slightly decaying cityscape of terrace shopfronts taken over by glitzier modern buildings gave me a pang of nostalgia. Soon, it will look like any other modern city in Asia. Perhaps it would become a Singapore or a Shanghai.
On the whole, I do believe that to be a good thing. Over the years, I’d seen how development in KL has generally increased the material wealth, comfort and opportunities of its inhabitants. However, my childhood memories of a slower pace of life in a town with few cars and many people still calls to me. This forms to a degree the allure of working in a developing country – that it provides an illusionary opportunity to return as an adult to that period, poverty and all.
I remember my uncle many years ago now talking about how he would like to live in Kuching, Sarawak because it was 30 years behind the rest of Malaysia. At that time, it would have situated the town firmly in the fifties. I could not understand why he would want to go back to what was in my eyes such an uncivilized and boring period. I guess I do now.