Many years ago I visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with some colleagues. We had dinner at a food court. It was basically a few stalls and some tables set up in an open space. I remember there was a night market (bazaar) nearby. It was a busy weekend and we waited a while for an empty table.
I went around the food court to see what to order. The food stalls sold different types of street food such as fried noodles, chicken rice, and cendol. When I made my order from one of the stalls, the stall owner asked me where I was seated. I pointed to the table where my colleagues were seated. He shook his head. Initially I thought it was because the table was some distance away, so I told him I would take the food over the table myself. Then he explained (not in a nice tone) that his food could not be brought over to that area. It was then I realized there was a turf and boundary issue at that food court. Simply put, the tables near each stall belong to the particular stall owner and customers seated at those tables can only order from that stall. I had no choice but to return to that table where my colleagues were, and ordered from the stall owner of that table.
It was a similar situation when I visited Gurney Drive Hawker Centre in Penang. The tables near each stall belong to the particular stall owner. On some tables, there was a note to say that table was meant for customers of a particular stall. The difference is customers seated at those tables are allowed to order food from other stalls, on the unwritten condition that they have ordered something from the stall owner of that table.
To be honest, I am not offended by such unwritten rules. After all the hawkers are only trying to make a living. I am not sure if things have improved over the years, or whether such rules still exist.
#malaysia #kl #kualalumpur #penang #gurney #foodcourt