Kwai Chai Hong is a small back lane in Lorong Panggung, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur which has had 10 old historical shophouses renovated and some beautiful wall murals drawn on the walls. The area features some wonderful old architecture plus the oldest lamppost in Kuala Lumpur.
Lorong Panggung is alternately known as Kwai Chai Hong in the Cantonese dialect and translates quite literally as “Ghost Lane” or “Little Demon Alley.”
Zeen Chang, managing partner of space management company Bai Chuan Management Sdn Bhd which is behind the Kwai Chai Hong project, pointed out the thoughtful touches given to the laneway during its launch yesterday.
Visitors to Kwai Chai Hong are greeted by an arch that sports the Mandarin characters of “Kwai Chai Hong” written by a well-known Chinese calligrapher, while a wheelchair-friendly red bridge leads into the hidden laneway; it is made of reclaimed wood salvaged from the shoplots during restoration work.
The spot where the arch and bridge stands was previously occupied by Ho Kow Hainan Kopitiam, a coffeeshop established in 1956; it moved out last May and later relocated to a nearby shoplot just down the street.
Inside the laneway are six murals depicting the daily activities of early Chinese settlers in the area during the 1960s.
This includes Chinese calligraphers who write auspicious sayings and help settlers write letters home.
One of the murals which might be slightly controversial is a nod to the past when there were vice activities in Kwai Chai Hong.
The murals were painted by five local artists: Khek Shin Nam, Chan Kok Sing, Chok Fook Yong, Chew Weng Yeow and Wong Leck Min, with Chang noting that their different painting styles and brushstrokes reflected the diversity of the Chinese community itself.
The rejuvenated space in Kwai Chai Hong feels like a love letter to this part of downtown Kuala Lumpur, with one of its murals even sporting depictions of the historically-significant Yan Keng Benevolent Dramatic Association building and Chin Woo Stadium in the neighbourhood if you look closely enough.
Those who remember the bygone era where barbers carried out their business in the open air, or who remember enterprising businesses using baskets and pulleys to bring goods from the first floor down to customers, or even wooden blinds featuring painted-on advertisements may spot such details in the murals.
Kwai Chai Hong also features a century-old lamp post believed to be the only one surviving from the first set of lampposts installed in Kuala Lumpur when electricity arrived in the early 1900s, as well as displays of the original wooden windows that are no longer fit for use.
While taking great pains to retain bits and pieces of history, the project also incorporated modern technology where visitors can use their smartphones to scan the QR codes on the walls for an interactive and immersive experience.
Wanting to bring out the full flavour of the stories that each character in the murals has to tell, Chang said professional voice artists who had recorded drama shows for radio were hired to do the voice clips for each mural.
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