Bar/fly: Kuala Lumpur

By Graham Reid

Graham Reid kicks back with those who have kicked the bucket.

At the centre of Kuala Lumpur's historic Kwong Tong cemetery, is a place where you can buy a beer. Illustration / Rod Emmerson
At the centre of Kuala Lumpur's historic Kwong Tong cemetery, is a place where you can buy a beer. Illustration / Rod Emmerson

None of the hundreds of people within walking distance of the bar in Kuala Lumpur, which is my sister's local, ever goes there.

They can't walk. They're dead.

The historic Chinese cemetery of Kwong Tong, near to where she works, rolls out across a couple of hillsides covering about 140ha and, at its centre, is a place where you can buy a beer.

Admittedly, your choice is somewhat limited - only Tiger, actually - but at 14 ringgits ($5) for a large bottle it's cheap enough. And really, you're paying for what we might call "the ambience".

It is run by an elderly couple who speak no English ("and have about six teeth between them", says my wicked but observant sister) and the woman also seems to dispense medicinal products. The man catches and cages birds, caring for them lovingly.

At one end of the shaded but open patio is a flat-screen television and the walls have posters advertising beers you cannot buy and garish Chinese art.

Up the hill, workmen are building a very large columbarium for the ashes of the deceased and, at the other end of the patio from the flat-screen, is a store which sells simple but colourful cardboard settings for urns. Very tasteful.

Because of the works there can be a little banging and hammering echoing over the scattered gravestones, but mostly the cemetery-cum-beer place is an oasis of quiet in the centre of the city, just near Jalan Bellamy if you are looking for it.

It's also a very welcoming little establishment - if we can call it that - where no expense has been considered on the furnishings. Cheap plastic chairs and simple tables, that's your lot.

You can almost guarantee a seat because so few people know about the place, or maybe more do but just don't like the idea of drinking in the company of the dead.

Either way, those locals aren't in a position to tell anyone about it.

So, as you sit there on a humid day beneath the slow-moving rusty fan, that cold beer in hand, you can contemplate the view across the graves, and the temporary nature of life and beer ... and perhaps invert that wise Latin saying: In the midst of Death, we are in Life.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Malaysia Airlines flies six times a week from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur, with return economy tickets available in their "Spring Sensation" deal, on sale between September 1 and 21, 2014.

Graham Reid travelled to Malaysia with assistance from Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines.

- NZ Herald

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