A feng shui tour of the Klang Valley #30

When we started our tour of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Raja Laut some weeks ago, we covered a brief history of Batu Road. To recap, this road was named after Batu Village up north near Batu Caves.

This was a prominent road that developed rapidly, thanks to a myriad of businessmen who set up shop here. Back in the 1930s, Bukit Bintang was still somewhere out in the boondocks and Batu Road was the place to be. It was a vibrant area and catered to the inhabitants of Kampung Baru nearby, too. Many of the buildings date back to the pre-war era, with its distinctive design. However, uninspired paintwork as well as unsightly signboards obscure this trait.

After independence, it was renamed Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in honour of our country’s first Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Contrary to popular belief, it was not called “Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman” after our first prime minister. The point is probably moot since the older folks still call it Batu Road while the younger generation refers to it as Jalan “Tar”.

Jalan TAR begins where Jalan Ipoh intersects with Jalan Pahang and Jalan Raja Muda. This is a one-way street that runs parallel with Jalan Raja Laut, which runs in the opposite direction. It is also parallel to the Gombak River which flows southwards until it joins Klang River at Masjid Jamek.
That means, buildings on one side of Jalan TAR face the river (a good configuration) while those on the opposite side have their backs to it (not very ideal).

At the start of Jalan TAR, there is a large Indonesian community who congregate here especially at weekends. Nearby is the infamous Jalan Chow Kit, named after a former tin miner and municipal councillor, Loke Chow Kit.

This area used to be notorious for being a low-end red light district – and we leave it to you, dear readers, to verify if it still is! It is also known as a gathering place for “transwomen” or men who are undergoing procedures to become women.
Chow Kit is also known for its daily wet market. The Chow Kit wet market is the largest of its kind in Kuala Lumpur. This is a strange thing for an urban centre as city-folk are known to favour the convenience and cleanliness of shopping in supermarkets and hypermarkets. It goes to show that old traditions and habits die hard. At night, Jalan Haji Taib becomes a night market as well.
As with the cheap sex offered in the past, “low-cost”, “rock bottom” and “bargain basement” prices are the order of the day at these markets. This is a great place for bargain hunters but they have to beware and avoid getting short changed.
In fact, the late singer, Sudirman, immortalised Chow Kit Road in his hit song of the same name. “Ramai orang berniaga, menjual apa saja, semuanya murah-murah” (Many traders here, selling practically anything cheaply).

If you take a drive down this stretch of Jalan TAR, you will notice that the left side, which faces Gombak River, to be more vibrant and lively than the right. Pedestrians and shoppers seem to prefer one side of the road.

Ironically, the right side of the road is more spacious, with extra wide foot walks, and a monorail station to boot. It would certainly be easier for bazaar operators to set up stalls here and peddle their wares.

Perhaps in the morning, as the sun rises, people prefer to walk on the left side of this street to avoid the glaring sun. However, it could also be due to geomantic forces at work. The side that faces the river tend to do better as they can tap into the pool of gentle homogenous energy that collects near the river.

Energy from the mountain range surrounding Kuala Lumpur moves downward until it hits a large of body water. Since energy is stopped and deflected by water, it bounces off the river, slows down and collects in a pool. This form of energy is attractive to living beings, much like how an oasis attracts people and animals.

If the river is curved in an embrace, the pool is concentrated (think of a parabolic dish). If the river is curved away in a convex, the energy is deflected outward and no pool is formed. Along a straight river, there is a less pronounced pool as the energy simply spreads along the riverbank and rebounds back in the direction it came from.

Where there is too much energy collected, it also has a tendency to collect riff-raffs and lead to social problems such as gangsterism and prostitution. We observed this in other parts of Kuala Lumpur, if you have been following this series.
Nonetheless, buildings that face the river – and the energy pool – will benefit from it while those with their backs against the river would find life more difficult. Success will be a struggle and even if one attains it, it would be difficult to keep it. Business could go through a wild rollercoaster ride.

The success of each “up” is put at risk by the next “down”. The downs could be so crippling that they knock out businesses permanently. Even if the wealth is protected, it could squandered by the first generation that inherits it. It would be better for these people to move out once they achieve some measure of success.

As you may notice while driving down this stretch of road, the left side has many old establishments that stood the test of time. We can see textile store, Kamdar, and Batu Road Supermarket holding court here. The very fact that the supermarket has retained its Batu Road moniker goes to show how old it is.

On the opposite side of Jalan TAR, many shops seem shuttered or dormant. Did they close shop because pedestrian traffic is bad or is pedestrian traffic bad because the shops are closed? A chicken-and-egg situation, it seems. It would appear that our observations continue to validate our understanding of geomantic principles.

There are several banks operating on the right side of the road. Sceptics may argue, how can poor landform of a branch affect the performance of large banks since they are headquartered elsewhere and possibly have many other branches that are in conducive locations?

The impact may not directly affect the entire banking group. It could affect the particular branch in terms of bad accounts, difficult clients, bad loans and so forth. Although the overall group may perform well, it could do better if some of its branches are ideally oriented.

Of course, the bank’s management can always blame a branch’s poor performance on bad managers and under-motivated, non-performing staff. I am sure in such cases, there would be several attempts to replace the managers and staff, in the hopes of turning things around. Likewise, I am reasonably certain that they would find such measures to be frustratingly ineffective.

As for the poor managers and staff who are replaced, it just proves our point – working conditions here are certainly not very conducive!

Let us not forget that some banks do go out of business or disappear. In the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the government decided that there were too many small (hence weak) local banks. In the ensuing consolidation exercises, many banks disappeared as they are absorbed by – excuse me, we meant “merged with” – bigger, stronger ones.

Bank Bumiputra has a branch here at Jalan TAR – on the right side of the road – and today, the entire bank is a part of CIMB Bank. OCBC has an address here but the main bank is now located at Menara OCBC in Jalan Tun Perak. In an earlier article, we did mention that the Menara is quite well orientated feng shui-wise.

Cycle & Carriage used to have its main office along Jalan TAR – on the right side. Though the company remains successful and well-known for its automobile business, it is no longer controlled by the founders’ family.
The company started in 1899 as Federal Stores by the Chua brothers, Cheng Bok and Cheng Liat. It was a haberdashery that sold a variety of goods. The company was renamed Cycle & Carriage Company in 1918, to reflect its shift towards selling bicycles and cars, and repairing carriages. This made the brothers very wealthy.

Cheng Bok courted the daughter of Towkay Choo Kia Peng, who looked down on him for being a bicycle seller. In response, the self-made tycoon built a mansion in 1929 directly opposite the Towkay’s house along Jalan Ampang.
Bok House, as it came to be known, did the trick and Cheng Bok won his future father-in-law over. The house became well known for its Renaissance-style architecture. The front half of the house was converted into the Le Coq D’or restaurant.

Cheng Bok left the house in the hands of trustees with instructions to preserve the house for his widow until 40 years after her death. Thereafter, it was to be used to provide education for poor Chinese children.
Mrs Chua lived until the 1960s. Apparently, she bequeathed the house to her servants, who also operated the restaurant. As long as they were willing to operate the restaurant, it would remain theirs. When the 40 years were up, the servants apparently did not wish to continue.

So, in December 2006, the building was demolished. There was some controversy surrounding the demolition as Badan Warisan Malaysia attempted to get it declared a heritage site but failed. What a pity. It is a sad ending to our own version of the Taj Mahal, a monument of love.

Ironically, another Cheng Bok legacy, the Coliseum cinema was declared a heritage building and there was even an attempt by the government to convert it into a cultural centre.

During its heydays, the Chua brothers managed to secure exclusive distributorship rights for Mercedes-Benz in 1951. Cycle & Carriage imported some of the first cars to Malaysia. The company became Cycle & Carriage Bintang with the arrival of additional shareholders. Today, its majority and controlling shareholder is Jardine Cycle & Carriage, created in 2002 when Hong Kong’s Jardine Matheson conglomerate took over Singapore’s Cycle & Carriage.

Was the loss of controlling interest in the successful Cycle & Carriage purely due to boardroom manoeuvres and intrigue, or was it inevitable due to the landform of its early headquarters? We leave the answer to you.
Next, we look at the second half of Jalan TAR.


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