KUALA LUMPUR: Next month, local initiative Project Future Malaysia invites you to view Malaysia’s capital city in a way you may never have imagined before: through the eyes of its migrant communities.
Its latest project, the Kembara Stories and Food Trail Tour, combines the excitement of a walking tour through Kuala Lumpur with the delight of tasting migrant cuisine from local restaurants.
Participants can discover hidden gems close to the heart of migrant communities in the city, while listening to first-hand anecdotes of their experiences.
Project coordinator Kevin Bathman said: “Our aim is to breathe new life into downtown Kuala Lumpur, bringing out its cultural richness. Through this adventure, we also wanted to bring attention to the untold stories of the migrant community, giving them an opportunity to share their experiences within a Malaysian setting.”
This initiative celebrates the culinary heritage of migrant communities from Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
There will be a food tour each Saturday in September dedicated to a particular community, open to 15 participants only.
The first hour will consist of a walking tour of the city, led by a local migrant guide. The second hour is lunch from the guide’s community, catered from a migrant restaurant here.
This initiative is presented by Project Future Malaysia, through a team comprised of Bathman, and Dr David Tneh and Dr Swagata Roy of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. It is supported by the Downtown Kuala Lumpur Grants Programme by Think City.
Bathman said crafting the programme involved multiple walks through the city with their featured guides, to establish meaningful connections between the narratives and the locations.
His team inquired about places where the guides connected with their own communities, shared meals, and shopped. Through these conversations, they uncovered deeper experiences and insights.
The Kembara Stories and Food Trail Tour kicks off with a Nepal food trail on Sep 2 by 44-year Manoj, a Nepali migrant who has lived here since 2006.
Among other places, Manoj will take participants to the River of Life area around Jalan Benteng, a frequent hangout spot for Nepali migrants, as well as the former Think City building on Jalan Hang Kasturi, where he volunteered in 2019 to provide free health checks for migrants.
“We will also be going to Pasar Seni. That’s where I had my first date with my wife. I hope you will enjoy listening to my stories along our walk,” Manoj said with a smile.
The following week, Sept 9, will see participants shown a Filipino migrant’s eye view of the capital city, led by the bubbly Ana Liza, who hails from Makati City in Manila.
Ana Liza, who has been here for 12 years, will share stories about her experiences here as a domestic helper.
Her trail starts outside Mabuhay Laguna Restaurant near St John’s Cathedral. This is a popular spot for Filipino domestic helpers, who usually have a day off on Sundays: many of them come here for church, and then spend the day with their friends.
“Life in a new country can be difficult. But all of this was so I could get a better life for myself and my family. Through my time here, I’ve learnt many life lessons that helped me to be a stronger person,” said Ana Liza, 48.
Sept 16 and Sept 23 will see food tours for Indonesia and Bangladesh, led by guides Amirah and Nadia respectively.
The programme has been received positively so far: some of the trails have already sold out. Not to worry, Bathman said more sessions have been planned for October, November and beyond.
“Our aim is for participants to recognise the shared hopes and aspirations that connect them with the migrant community. Despite playing crucial roles in ‘3D jobs’ – tasks deemed dirty, difficult, and dangerous – the contributions of migrant communities here remain largely unnoticed,” Bathman said.
“Our goal is to change that narrative, by providing them the platform to share their experiences and become visible in the country they’ve embraced as home over the years.”
Kembara Stories and Food Trail Tour
RM60 for tour + lunch
Saturdays in September from 10.30am-12.30pm