Friday, December 14, 2007
The Sungei Wang Jinjang
If you're not in the habit of tuning in to Radio Young Hong Kong, you're in no danger of ever turning into a Sungei Wang Jinjang.
For the uninitiated, 'Jinjang' is a more polite variation of 'ching-chong' (as in Ching-Chong Chinaman). Jinjang also happens to be a district just beyond the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur: a not-particularly-picturesque agglomeration of small factories and not-so-new villages giving way grudgingly to nondescript housing estates. The area was once notorious as a spawning ground for kidnappers, bank robbers, and secret society members. Later the term 'Jinjang Joe' came into common use as a description for someone desperately trying to be fashionable (especially if he had the misfortune to be a Chinese primary school drop-out and had nothing to look forward to except a lifetime of nightshifts in 24-hour coffee shops or life imprisonment in Simpang Renggam*).
Sungei Wang (literally, River of Money) is a mammoth shopping complex built over the legendary B.B. Park where, in the good old days, people could go for a little cheap cabaret - $2 dancing girls and all - or pig out at the open-air steamboat stalls. There was even a tiny cinema called the Rialto which was the closest we've come to having an 'art film' outlet (I saw Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail there in 1972!)
Anyway, all that's gone now - but folks still flock to the bright lights of Sungei Wang and the adjoining Bukit Bintang Plaza (probably because the two connected complexes offer the greatest strolling area in town that's centrally air-conditioned); in fact, Bukit Bintang Plaza and Sungei Wang are so intimately connected the only way you can tell which one you're in is by studying the floor tiles - red means you're in Sungei Wang, green means B.B. Plaza.
On weekends the gaudily decked out 'River of Money' is invariably inundated with young Chinese boys and girls - also gaudily decked out in the latest styles dictated by the Hong Kong 'New Wave' magazines. And that means a bit of bleach and lots of gel on the hair; floppy, oversized shirts; and amazingly voluminous 180-pleat pants. If the Heavy Metal Kutus with their stretch jeans are our die-hard Rockers, then the Sungei Wang Jinjangs have to be our New Generation Mods.
Hong Kong is undoubtedly the Jinjang's Mecca, the Hollywood of the East - and it's no surprise that the city's largest and most ostentatious disco (or Dance Factory, as it is billed) was at one time called Hollywood East. Saturday nights and the eves of public holidays, the Jinjangs used to take their girls to Canton where they'd disco all night to Alan Tam hits spun by Cantonese-speaking DJs (though these days you're more likely to hear a lot of Canto rap).
A good number of Jinjangs are probably school drop-outs - which accounts for the fact that the underground carpark levels at Sungei Wang are marked with pictures of exotic animals instead of letters. Nevertheless, the Jinjang enjoys far greater career opportunities these days. He can get nice respectable jobs in McDonald's or 7-Eleven; he can work in video rental shops or (to bring this account up to date) sell pirate VCDs and DVDs; manage an amusement arcade or internet cafe; or (if he doesn't mind a dash of the gay lifestyle) he can enrol in a hairdressing institute and dream of meeting a sugar daddy and becoming a partner in some swank unisex salon.
The more privileged Jinjang might have a businessman uncle or two who could offer him a study loan to Canada or Australia; in a few years he'd be back with a business degree and work his way to eventual ownership of a shopping complex like... well, Sungei Wang or the more upmarket Yow Chuan Plaza. And if that doesn't work out, he can always befriend the Chief of Police and fall back on kidnapping, bank robbery, and syndicated vice.
*Simpang Renggam is where a detention facility has been built for hardcore criminals, especially members of secret societies without a well-connected patron and protector in the Home ministry.