Usually when we visit a place we only see the good side of it. After all, who wants to see depressing slums and shanty towns when we can enjoy the modern shopping malls and eat good food in the main tourist areas. But then like a person, every city has the public side that is shown to the whole world, and the unseen side which is hidden from view.

So on my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, I got a chance to visit a public housing estate courtesy of one of our relatives who decided that it was a good idea to bring us to visit a ‘home based’ acupuncturist. I don’t know about you but I am rather skeptical about anyone who isn’t a registered medical professional.

Public housing means different things to people from different countries. In Singapore we are very blessed that our public housing is the envy of the world with some public flats that look like luxury condominiums. For most of the world though, public housing is reserved for the lowest income groups who can’t afford to buy their homes from the open market. Very often, these housing projects are dilapidated and become slums. So it was with the public housing estate that I found myself in.

Drab and devoid of life. The living conditions are a far cry from what we are used to.

It was already evening when we arrived and images of drug addicts shooting themselves up in the dark stairwells flashed through my mind as we approached the unlit lift lobby. The lift itself was one of the old cargo type lifts which looked like it had endured decades of abuse. After a noisy, rumbling ride to the upper floors, we found our way to the acupuncturist’s flat.

Most of the residents were indoors having dinner or watching TV. Judging from the number of satellite TV dishes sprouting all over the building I guess watching TV is the number one activity here.
Numerous satellite dishes sprout from the walls like mushrooms on a decaying tree trunk. All of them aiming skywards for the elusive broadcast signal.
Despite the bleakness there is still the occasional beauty that is hidden like this sunset from the corridor.

It was dark by the time we left and the dimly lit lift suddenly stopped at one of the lower floors. The lift doors opened to a completely pitch dark corridor. The lights had either spoilt from neglect or vandals had stolen the electrical wires to sell for scrap. I half expected some crazed junkie to rush in. But my wild imaginations aside, a family came in and they looked relieved coming into the dimly lit lift after waiting in the pitch dark corridor.

We soon left this often unseen side of Kuala Lumpur and made our way back into our comfort zone of glitzy malls and hotels.

For my visit to glitzy malls in KL, click here.

4 thoughts on “Unseen

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