End of story

Share
Kuala Lumpur

THERE'S FIVE of us sitting at a pavement cafe in Chinatown getting some authentic local nosh down our necks. We've been holed up in a five-star hotel for the past four days and it's our first opportunity to get out and about and have a gander at the downtrodden poor. There are five of us - excepting myself, all media types, I'm afraid: a freelance photographer with a reversed baseball cap, a magazine editor with square glasses, a PR bloke with a skinhead haircut, and an unbelievably attractive young lady wearing a tiny black dress who writes for a glossy fashion magazine.

We have decided to patronise an establishment called Fuk Poo. At the Fuk Poo you sit on red plastic stools at round plastic tables beneath grubby parasols in the middle of the street and the food is fantastic. Punters sit elbow to elbow, back to back, shoving noodles into their gobs with chopsticks; bicycles and mopeds inch their way between tables; and grubby young waiters shove about, bearing pails of beer bottles and paper plates piled up with delicious food. Our man wears a worn-out T-shirt that bears the logo Bum International.

It's sultry. Sticky. Sweat trickles down my body, filling my belly button. And I can feel my inferiority complex peeping through, as it does when I'm socialising with people who know exactly who they are, and where they are going professionally, and who have a precise and often surprisingly uniform set of moral values. But, apart from that, it's all going swimmingly. Either I think it, or someone says it, but the general feeling is that, in the authenticity stakes, we really have the jackpot.

It starts to spot with rain. We lean forward under the parasol to escape the drips. This is even more authentic. I'm already rehearsing telling people how we ate delicious Chinese food outside in the street and it was raining. We finish our food and I get out a cigar. I don't have a match so I dive under an adjacent umbrella (it is raining considerably harder now) to beg a light from three Malaysian men. Before I am offered one I have to answer some important questions. Am I Australian? How much did my cigar cost? Is it a Havana cigar? Do I normally smoke cigars? Do people in Australia normally smoke cigars? To his last I say that it is not only normal but it is compulsory; they smile disbelievingly.

Then it begins to rain harder than I have ever seen it rain before. Taking our little red stools with us we bolt for refuge under the eaves of the cafe. Some diehards stick it out under other parasols, but the water is already swirling around their ankles. We place our stools in relative comfort in a row, cross our legs and watch the incredible spectacle of a tropical downpour. The noise is tremendous and conversation is out of the question, so we just sit and smoke and marvel at the thundering torrent.

As we watch we are lit by flashes of lightening and simultaneous crashes of thunder apparently right overhead. The diehards under the parasols admit defeat and sprint for cover. The road becomes a raging torrent and some of the red plastic stools and the vacated tables turn upside-down and float gently down the road, revolving, until somebody draws Mrs Fuk Poo's attention to them and she starts shouting and waving her arms about.

And then the rats start emerging from the drains beside our feet. Black rats. Rattus rattus. The ones responsible, so we are told, for spreading bubonic plague. First one, then another, then scores of them, soaked to the skin and looking sorry for themselves. There is indeed something rather abject about a half-drowned rat. They neither dart nor scamper, but trudge among us, bemused, miserable, as inconvenienced as we are.

And hard on the heels of the rats are the cockroaches - big sods - hundreds of them, occupying the vacant spaces between the black rats and our sandalled feet.

Uncongenial as all this sounds, I find the experience of standing in a doorway with my fellow diners, silently contemplating the restaurant furniture floating down the road, with black rats and brown cockroaches running between my feet, exhilarating.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'