The construct of a modern city is keeping us safely apart – we’d rather hole up in our comfy condos (read: fancy cages) than speak to our neighbours. But the residents of Jalan Raja Muda Musa cannot seem to stand awkward silence. If you spend enough time lounging at a warung, a friendly face is bound to come up to you and say, ‘ah moi, buat ape?’. Kampung Baru – the last Malay village in the city – is viscous with history, but this street is something else – it’s a verdant land of unmapped eateries, a territory that’s coming to terms with its heritage (authentic Malay wooden houses on stilts) and vague future (Kampung Baru is set to undergo a RM43bil facelift in the next 20 years with hotels, offices and residential towers). It’s a developer’s dream.
Warung owners on Jalan Raja Muda Musa are practically neighbours who know each other’s kids, plants and number of cats. The atmosphere at these family-owned eateries seem almost cloistered and exclusive, like you’re crashing someone’s kenduri, but the owners immediately let their guard down when you show interest in their lives, their culture, their steadfast belief in what makes a nasi biryani Johor authentic. We owe our satisfied tummies to these unsung heroes, whose primary concern could very well just be feeding their families through their humble trade.
The recent sighting of new shops and vaping outlets does give off a terrible undertow of loss that a world built on a vigorous Malay identity is slowing chipping away. The shiny towers in the background, multiplying year after year, dramatically illustrate a portentous outcome: A steamrolled gentrification. So go, explore every quirk and character of this neighbourhood by foot before the iced lattes take over.