Monday, February 26, 2007

CUTI CUTI MALAYSIA 4: June 5, 2006 (Monday)

KB – Pasir Mas, Rantau Panjang, Tanah Merah

I already told everyone the night before that we should be checking out by 1000 if not we were not going to get to do much. The kids of course complaint aloud as they could not go for a swim anymore. Indeed we checked out at 1000 hours. We skipped breakfast at the resort and drove out to find something to eat along the way to KB. Before we head for KB I took them to see the actual PCB that most local would go to. There were a lot of eateries there, however unfortunately, the food on sale would not be palatable to most of the holiday makers from Puchong, Nilai and Bangi.

On the way to KB I finally just stopped at one nondescript eating place that I thought would have a variety suitable for all. It was close enough. Actually that was their first Kelantanese breakfast. I did not know the verdict and I did not ask.

After breakfast, confidently I took them into KB and gambled on the route not relying on the useless map anymore. My gamble did not pay off as we went in circle and got stuck in a morning KB traffic jam. In the end with ego in check I pulled over at a Shell petrol pump and asked. The first attendant that I asked gave me the same answer as the girl at the mamak shop yesterday. ‘Sayo ore baru sini abe. Cubo abe tanyo abe hok tu dio lamo doh sini.’ What? Almost everyone in service industry in KB is from out of town? That reminded me when I was in Qatar when all the people in the service industry were either from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Anyway the other guy indeed knew his way around. He advised me to turn around and head straight passing four traffic lights and then turn right into a round about, across the bridge and follow the sign to Tumpat. I did just that by going through another series of traffic jam.

The main attraction on the way to Pengkalan Kubu was of course the several Buddha monasteries along the way. Each would come complete with one huge statue of either sitting or reclining Buddha. Eventually we arrived at the Tax Free Shopping Zone around 1300 hours and finding space to park was a challenge. Lucky for us we just only had to circle the area once to get a spot. Driving a Ranger in this case was really an advantage as I could just squeezed it at a place where other car could not go. Everyone was ready to go shopping and to spend big there. However, the first shop we entered indicated to me it would not going to be so. The prices were unbelievable. Unbelievably way marked up price that is. I could not imagine something that cost RM10 could be RM20. One thing for sure, all the out towners shopping there that day were all got cheated. I told my family to just buy something that we really know had the right price. With that we actually left the place soon enough with only small things. We were really disappointed and I could not understand how inconsiderate the sellers there.

To ease the disappointment I detoured towards Pantai Seri Tujuh and Tumpat town on the way out. Pantai Seri Tujuh because it was a nice fishing village that became a resort tourist area. Tumpat because of my friend Esa who is a bank manager there. I just got to know that Esa was transferred there recently and he did not know that I was coming.Tumpat is a small coastal town with kampong like building surrounding it. I knew the feeling living in that kind of area just like what I felt when we lived in Rantau Pajnjang. Although I knew finding Maybank in that town would not be a problem I asked a boy for direction anyway.

I saw Esa straight away when I came into the bank and he was busy at his job. I tried not to disturb him but called out at him when he moved across. He was really surprised to see me standing there in front on him and asked me to come in. I told him I have my family in two cars waiting outside. Soon all of us were having lunch at Kedai Makan Nasi Padang. Could you believe that? In Tumpat? For a Johorean married to a Kelantanese Esa now is a full-fledged local. :)) complete with the slang. Actually he married to one our mate’s niece. Talk about all in the family. While having lunch of course we chatted about old times as well as catching up on stories of old friends.Time flies while you having a great time. As much as I wanted to stay longer to talk to Esa I had a tight schedule to meet. So around 1500 we parted company, he back to his office and the rest of us to continue our adventure.I had two options, first to go back towards KB and go to Rantau Panjang via Pasir Mas or second to bypass both to head straight to Rantau Panjang via Meranti. The incentive to go to Pasir Mas was nostalgic in nature. We used to live in Pasir Mas in the early 80’s and I would like to look at the changes. But due to time constraint I took the second option as I thought I could still detour to Pasir Mas on our way to Tanah Merah.

As soon as we reached at the Meranti, Rantau Panjang junction we swung left and hit the accelerator hard as I definitely would want to reach Rantau Panjang with still enough daylight to romp. I thought at first the route would take us through Repek but I was wrong I mistakenly took the other way. On hind side it was better as it was shorter. An hour after we left Tumpat we were at the outskirt of Rantau Panjang already and stopped at the immediate gas station to Jamak our prayers. Actually somebody wanted to pee and we found out that the gas station had a decent surau so we decided to pray there.Of course after 28 years Rantau Panajang was different. Not completely different but different to me nevertheless. The police station and the flat where we used to live were now no where in sight. Even the old rented house in town also was inconclusive to my sight. What left of Rantau Panjang for us was a place to shop for Thai’s goods and shop we did. Now, in Rantau Panjang you are getting the price that you suppose to get and there are still rooms for ‘tawar menawar’, bargaining. If you have been to Rantau Panjang bazaar then you know that as soon you walk under the canopy you would be either lost in the maze of shops without knowing where to come out or you would be happily handing out your not so endless RM to the mek Kelantans and Siams selling there. Do not fret if you found out you have already ran out cash you can have all the opportunity you need to replenish at all the banks strategically located nearby. They are doing their best to ensure you spend and go back cashless or in our term pokai. Luckily most of the shops do not accept plastic if not you could continue to indulge yourself. Well on the bright side your buying spree could be controlled as you are mostly limited to imitations. Since the World Cup was just around the corner you can get all possible jerseys of all your favourite teams. Comparatively, though, the other goods that women go crazy for, like Corningware, Corelle and the like, were a little bit pricy compared to Langkawi.

To be fair to Kelantan Tourism Board we played tourist as well as shoppers equally well when we toured the town and stopped at one restaurant for tea. One thing for sure, we had fun. Come to think of it now I knew I should have taken everyone to the river bank to see how close we were to Golok. Thailand. One missed opportunity – hei!, could be another good reason to go back there again soon.

After we had rejuvenated ourselves we tried to go back to shopping but only barely managed. Which was a good thing for me. So around 1830 we left Rantau Panjang via Rantau Panjang Pasir Mas main road. My intention was still to go to Tanah Merah via Pasir Mas. As we drove leaving Rantau Panjang behind us I kept trying to locate the old police station and failed. Even the old primary school was gone. Instead I reminisced the few months that I got to live there. The road to Pasir Mas was of course thousand times better then it was used to. I think I bored my children to death by saying this so many times. When we were almost approaching Repek we came to a junction pointing towards Tanah Merah. I knew that route is shorter but I was not sure how short as there wasn’t any indication to how far it was. At least I did not see any sign. I knew as well Pasir Mas was just few kilometers ahead. Looking at the time and since we have not booked any place to sleep for the night in Tanah Merah I decided there and then to forget about Pasir Mas and turned right towards Tanah Merah. The road was smooth with hardly any vehicles and was good for speeding. An open invitation for me to floor the accelerator.

We drove into Tanah Merah town at 1915. I alerted everyone in the Ranger to be on the lookout for any sign that says Chalet or Motels. We did not see any until we were really in town already and as on cue somebody needed to use the bathroom. I swung into Shell petrol station and while waiting I started to dig in into my laptop to find if I could get an address or phone number. After I failed to get any I got down and walked into the station to ask and I was informed there was one nearby.

I have seen the name Sri Chalet mentioned and written in one website before and I was expecting the worse. Actually the chalet was not too bad so I went to the reception to ask. Thanks to Allah and lucky us there were rooms, or chalet rather, for us. I picked the nearest to the car park which was basically next to the reception building. The price for the two chalets was RM150 that I had to pay cash. Since it was Maghrib already we immediately unloaded our things and got ready to go out for dinner. However, we could not get ready fast enough because there were eleven of us trying to use two small bathrooms. That was not all as the other contributor to us being late was when we discovered that one of the bathrooms was a home for at least two frogs. The resident frogs refused to go away completely and since some of us are ‘allergic’ (read scared) to frog rendered one bathroom to be useless most of the time. Another contributor is what I called as ‘I want to parade my shoppings’. As soon as everyone unpacked their luggage, you should know by now that every one carried one at least, they took out their shopping and tried them all. I mean the kind of shopping that we did you could imagine the time we took. Not only to parade them but, just like the AF thing, to accept comments and complaint as well.

While the rest were getting ready I went out to the reception to ask for a good place to have our dinner. I was recommended to go to the night hawker style eateries beside the main traffic light in town. That’s where we were at around 2045 and having fun testing all the food around us. No, let me correct myself the brave souls had fun testing most of the food there. It was just beyond my comprehension when some people who actually had to travel long distance and came to visit places they never had been before when dinner time came all they could ask was ‘nasi goreng cina’?

Funny thing is most of the major eating places there actually sell ‘nasi lemak’. I knew that Kelantanese like to eat nasi but nasi lemak at night and it was not one shop but most of them? I tried to ask what was the history behind it but nobody seems to know or care to answer. So I left it like that. After dinner we took a drive to explore the rest of Tanah Merah. Since I ran out of underwear already I stop at one of the major shopping complex there and bought me a box. I thought I was the only one interested in buying things. The whole bunch came out of the car to have a look and window shopped. I think someone actually bought something at Hari Hari ha ha ha. Our night in Tanah Merah ended at around 2300. Good as well as I wanted to start a bit early the next day.

Sleep came easy for me naturally and it was peaceful enough.

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