Monday, March 07, 2011

What I was doing two weeks ago today (2)

Watching highlights of the weekend's football matches from the major European leagues in The Reggae Bar in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown.

Also, I suffered one of my embarrassing episodes of displacing the rogue cartilage in one of my knees, and having to adopt a kowtowing posture on the floor for several minutes in order to pop it back into place and so regain full use of my leg. (Luckily, it is a Muslim country.)

How is it that almost every country in the world has a 'Reggae Bar'? (I came across another one up the coast in Penang a day or two later, but that one didn't lure me in...)

Not that I'm complaining. Jamaicans tend to be a very hospitable people (not sure if the owners of this joint are actually Jamaican, although there was a Jamaican dude manning the DJ station the couple of nights I looked in here). And I like me some reggae. They were playing some very good stuff here, too: the classic sound of the '60s and '70s, with a judicious admixture of reggae cover versions I hadn't heard before (including a surprisingly agreeable take on China's abiding favourite, Hotel California); none of that ragga and dancehall rubbish from more recent decades.

Apart from that, though, the place is lacking in any great charm or character. There's a broad selection of quite decent food, it has the dark and grungy vibe that I tend to like, and the service is OK (actually, pretty stupendous in comparison to China: I love it that they don't take your glass away without asking, and don't ask if you want a refill until at least a few moments after you've finished... such simple things, but they make such a big difference!). But the pool table is dreadful.  And the place is oddly lacking in soul (I suspect it's because of its location in Backpacker Central: I'd guess at least 95% of its custom must be transient; there are few, if any, regulars). Worst of all, the beer prices really bring a tear to the eye. The cheapest offering is on dull-as-ditchwater Carlsberg, which is 10 ringgit per glass; but that's a very small glass (only 250ml, I think). Stella makes a very appealing (and more cost effective!) alternative at just 15 ringgit for a little 330ml bottle - which is about 35 rmb. And these are "happy hour" prices! A stingily brief "happy hour" of 6pm-8pm, at that!  Ordinarily, everything is 30% to 40% more expensive; 30%-40% more than we'd pay on a full tariff just about anywhere in Beijing. And this is supposed to be one of the cheapest bars in Kuala Lumpur?!  Ouch!

It is, however, the only game in town. Or very nearly so. Kuala Lumpur has very, very few bars (Penang was much better, but still not exactly teeming with drinking options). There are a handful of stupidly expensive places around the Bukit Bintang area and in the CBD near the Petronas Towers. But in downtown KL, The Reggae Bar is it. There are a few streetside restaurants that sell beer (usually at 14-16 ringgit for a 650ml bottle); but there are no other bars. Rather sad. Not my kind of place, KL.

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