It's not large and, by 10am on a Sunday, it's half-deserted. But we find spanking fresh fish, tiny clams of the sort that seem never to show up in Kuala Lumpur's markets, mounds of thick-stemmed paku (ferns) sporting tightly coiled fiddleheads, and lots of petai, or stink beans. Bidor is almost synonomous with this aptly named (but delicious) vegetable - bunches of whole pods are everywhere. (This photo was actually taken on the pavement in front of Pun Chun.)
Small though it is, this market's a good one, because in its aisles can be found new-to-us ingredients. Like this wild vegetable sold by each of two elderly Chinese ladies who've staked out squares of market floor directly across from each other. They call it - as near as we can understand - kong ji xin, and tell us it's added to curries.
The stiff green leaves remind us of lemongrass, as do the concentric layers of woody flesh revealed when one of the scarlet bulbs is sliced open crosswise. On the tongue, there's astringency reminiscent of torch ginger flower plus a bitter punch that brings to mind arugala gone to seed. It seems more a Malay than a Chinese ingredient, but none of the market's Malay vendors know its name.
This morning the market holds other treasures too.
We stop at a stall to inspect a particularly enticing bundle of paku and end up chatting with a motorcycle-helmeted customer. Where're you from? he asks, and we go through the usual sequence of answers and follow-up questions: we're from America (say 'US' and most people don't know what you're talking about - in Asia, the United States is 'America') but we live in Kuala Lumpur we've been here a little over two years how do we like Malaysia? well we love it.
I like American music, he says. I play trombone. My brother-in-law, he's from the Philippines but he's dead now, he played saxaphone. We had a band, played in Kuala Lumpur. Long, long time ago.
Do you know 'Blue Moon'?
He brings one hand - the hand not burdened by a bulging bag of vegetables - up in front of his face, cradling a trombone only he can see. And begins to play, moving his fingers up and down, manipulating the keys.
Dah.... dah dah dah dah dah.... dah dah dah...
Softly half-huming, half-dah dah dahing 'Blue Moon', he hits every note pitch perfect. He's on stage with his Filipino brother-in-law, in a smoky club in mid-twentieth century Kuala Lumpur.
He draws out the end of the song long and sweet.
Wonderful!! we say. And mean it.
He's a little bit nutty, the vendor seems to want to tell us. We're not so sure.
We'll be looking for him, next time we're in Bidor.