“boleh cakap bahasa malaysia?” i asked the girl behind the counter. she looked malay, had a t-shirt with the malaysian flag on it and was serving rendang daging, sambal ikan bilis and an assortment of other traditional malay dishes.
“sikit sikit” she giggled. “i have a broad australian accent.”
I told her I had one too and she laughed, not believing me.
A few minutes before that, I’d bought a pawpaw salad from a thai hawker stall, a stuffed chicken wing from a filipino run stall and walked past a group of cantonese speakers gathered behind a steaming vats of laksa stock.
This was Parap market at 9 in the morning.
To my relief it had not changed. Most of the stallholders were still there and the anglo crepe stall owner looked a little lost amongst the plethora of south-east asian stall owners. Sure, the trinkets and vegetables were mostly sold by anglo-australians but the cluster of food stalls makes the heart of the market for me. Under the tropical greenary, it looks, smells and tastes like every outdoor food market I’d grown up with in Malaysia.
Sure, Melbourne has more asian people but it has a big city feel and the weather does not allow for outdoor markets and so much of living in south east asia and maybe even being south east asian is about being outdoors and of course, eating. Darwin is that australian anomaly of being a small Australian town with a sizeable and very diverse and visible (in the Parap and Rapid Creek markets anyway) south east asian population.
I can only hope that this will continue, the population will expand but looking at the rest of the town, even discounting the tourists, it is beginning to look more and more like any coastal holiday town with its ideal clearly modelled on places like Noosa.