Monday, February 26, 2007

CUTI CUTI MALAYSIA 4: June 6, 2006 (Tuesday)

Tanah Merah – Jeli – Banding – Grik – KK – Bandar Seri Putra Bangi (Home Sweet Home)

As most morning now immediately after I got ready I went out first to start the Ranger. I took it out for a spin but only today I have ultra motives. Since I knew for sure nobody else care to have a Kelantanese breakfast I wanted to do just that at the Pasar. But I stopped at the Maybank first to meet my good friend Kawanku. I was still very early because when I got to the Pasar most of the meks were still opening the shop for the day. I observed but could not take any photos as I left mine at the chalet. Obviously most of the people there knew each other and the people that came for breakfast were also their regular customers. It was just like watching Cheers albeit in a different setting and environment. I enjoyed it very much actually. Life in a small town taking shaped where many years ago on my way home to Pasir Mas on a train I always wondered about when the train stopped at Tanah Merah. Of course It was a totally different life then still it was still different compared to other town in Malaysia. I had nasi dagang and Nescafe tarik at one of the warongs on the second level of the Pasar. Accompanied by the ‘noise’ around me I ate the real nasi dagang and sometimes was amused by the conversation happened around me. Chinese, Malays and even Indian would converse in Kelantanese slang.

It was just slightly after 0800 when I left the place and drove back to the chalet. Most were up already that prompted me to announce that we were checking out. With the trademark photos taken we checked out and drove out into town at around 0900. When I was at the Pasar I noticed one restaurant that I thought would be suitable for the rest I went there to let them to have a proper breakfast. You guess right, with all variety of selection in front of them most just went for the normal diet of roti canai.

We left the restaurant and drove towards Jeli on Federal route 4. I always love to start my long distance drive early in morning, the earlier the better. Although it was not that early when we were on the road it was still early in the morning by our standard. Early was a deception at this time of the year in Malaysia as by 0900 hours the heat was already unbearable to some of us. Cooler in the Ranger but I could feel the heat on the outside especially when I looked at the hood of the Ranger. One good thing about this journey and route was that we would be passing mountain area and it would be a bit cooler. Also, the journey was ultimately a journey home.

My wife kept mentioning a possible shopping place along the way and I knew just what the place was. It is another place, Bukit Bunga, a kampong rather then a town, next to the Thai border. I knew we were not going to get a good bargain as in Rantau Panjang but I stopped anyway when we got there. At least we can check out the place and satisfy few curiosities. I let them walked the length of the bazaar and sat myself under a young garden tree to wait and observe. It didn’t take them long to realize what I knew already and I could see them turning back halfway. We just bought small trinkets and some fruits before we continued our journey.

When we reached the foot of the mountain I floored the accelerator climbing fast maintaining the same speed as before. You should know by now I just loved climbing terrains with my Ranger. That is one of the reasons why we loved the Ranger. Tariq was long gone behind me by then. I left them behind as I knew there was no possible way for him to get lost on that route. I was happy pushing the Ranger climbing and taking corners at decent speed until we reached the peak of the road climb. I immediately noticed a small rest area with scenic viewing platform on my right. I looked at the view mirror to see if there were any cars directly following behind and when I saw none I jammed the break and turned right into the rest area. It was a wide open space enough for 100 cars to stop at once. So that Tareq would not missed us I parked the Ranger in the middle of a small field next to the road. Mar was sleeping so with my camera I disembarked and walked towards the viewing area. The place was not that proper but the view still breathtaking but not as good as the views in the Kinabalu. When the other car arrived at the rest area naturally a photos session took place. We were behind schedule already and left the area around 1230 to start our drive down towards Banding Island – another place where I wanted to stop. What a stop it was.

We crossed the bridge into Banding Island and I noticed the old army post had become some sort of jetty for tourism to go to the other part of the island or lake. I did not think much of it but I saw a big crowd waiting for the boats. Since I mentioned to Tareq that I wanted to stop at the Island it crossed my mind that he might thought that was the place and stop there. He was by then way back behind me again. I was right as we waited for them at the entrance of the Banding Island Resort we received a call that they were there. And that was not all Kak Cik who was on the other end of the line actually said that Mak Su, my sister who were teaching in Kulim, were there as well with her family. Surprise, surprise. I turned back and headed for the jetty.

My sister and her family, minus Ain who is allergic to leaches ha ha ha)) and Nabila who was coaxed to remain behind, were actually on a school camping trip to the other side of the Island. I felt jealous immediately when I heard that. If I had a few more days I would have joined them. All of us just stood there waiting with them. The first group of the school children already left in two boats so they were waiting for the boats to come back for them. We did not wait that long though as by then we were really behind schedule. I said behind schedule because I will be taking the holiday merry makers along a route that I myself have not taken before. So as a buffer I need to make certain schedule and at that time based on my mental calculation we were late already.

In the end we did stop at the Banding Island Resort rest area to have our lunch. My reason for stopping there was again nostalgic. The first time we were there having lunch and also enjoying the view was middle of October 2003. Mar was just few months old then and now she is already 4 years old. Of course it was already Zohor then but I decided to Jamak our prayers at Grik, a town that we never had really stop before. We left the place way past 1400 hours.

I drove into Grik town proper slowly looking left and right observing. My first impression it was a white washed concrete town with no soul and character. It really was a disappointment really. My sense was telling it was not worth stopping and only to stop to pray. My disappointment grew as I could not see any mosque, Grik main mosque, along the route. So I sped on towards Lenggong. The good condition of the Grik – KK highway persuaded me to allow the Schumacher in me to come out. I was happily speeding until I saw the sign that says Masjid Kg Lawin, I looked up at the rear view mirror and jammed the brake to enter the mosque. Of course we stopped there just to pray and rest a bit but Allah knows best and we got to fulfill our needs. The mosque was built next to a nice cool river and there was a nice step built to the river. An open invitation for the children and I did have any good reason to say no. In fact I joined them to cool off ha ha ha. The water was really nice and I was really tempted just to lay there under the water for a while. Instead I let the children enjoyed the water a little bit more and came out to pray. I was a bit tired and sleepy hence after I said my prayer I dozed off for a few minutes.

I had one more stop to make before Kuala Kangsar (KK) and I was really going to make it. I was not sure if we could but I called out to the children and the rest to get ready to leave. Refreshed and awake we left the Masjid towards Lenggong at around 1515. The Anthropology Museum is somewhere in Lenggong even though I did not know where it was the sign said Lenggong was about 20 kilometres from where we were. Again the road was good and I drove carefully knowing that I needed to be consistent with my speed so that in a worst case scenario we could get to the museum by 1600.

The sign board only lead me to as far as the main junction. I guess Malaysian do not have a clue as to the basic idea of what sign board suppose to do. It was the same in Ganu, Kelantan and Perak almost all the signs were meant for show and decoration, and NOT to show direction. I really did not have a clue when I got to the traffic light. Was I supposed to turn left, right or drive on? I gambled to drive straight on passing through housing estate that did not indicate that a new museum would be there in the vicinity. Again I gambled and drove a bit further up. We were lucky as not long after that there was a sign directing us to the right into a palm plantation. I was skeptical but felt I should trust the sign board as it was pretty decent and new. About 200 metres from the road on our left was the museum and you cannot miss it as it was the only new quite modern complex within a mixed of rubber and palm plantations.

The reason I wanted to stop there so much was three-fold. First I really wanted to learn about Malaysian anthropology, second to inculcate appreciation of museum to my children and third to also make them learn about Malaysian heritage and history. The Perak Man was the main attraction at the Museum. I was glad to see my children enthusiastically went through the exhibits especially at the Perak Man himself. Few questions were raised, good questions, which indicated their understanding of the subject matter. My wife could not stay inside too long as she was not comfortable. We explored the rest of the complex and stayed around at least one hour. As a whole the complex is still very new and a bit secluded. I guess they want to preserve the environment bringing some authenticity to the atmosphere. Also, they do not want to move the Perak Man away too much. Architecturally the complex is not that beautiful as it looks like your usual government training institute. Somehow indicating a rush job. But, in the end I could not avoid feeling that this place would not be having many visitors. What a pity if it was.

We drove towards KK slowly knowing that our holidays and endless journey would end that night. It was not a nice feeling anymore even when we reached KK. We stopped to have, what else, laksa KK at the usual place then went around window shopping at the bazaar. Just to delay the inevitable even more we wandered around KK walking in and out of several shops along the main street. After we got tired doing this we left KK around 1915. While in KK I already decided not to go to the office the next day as I could not delay sending the Ranger in for repair. This meant that I did not have to rush home. Having ridden the highway so many times already it became somewhat routine to me. The feeling in the Ranger was somber so much so everything seems to come to a standstill. It was raining a bit as we passed Ipoh so I drove slower then I used to. The plan was to stop at the Tapah R&R to pray and maybe to have dinner. I said maybe because we had eaten at KK but having children like mine you never know. It was still raining when we reached the rest area which gave me another reason to stay there a bit longer. We prayed and sat down for dinner at one of the food stalls. Again we took our own sweet time there talking; subconsciously all of us just did not want our holidays to end. Of course end it did and we were safely home around 1 am.

When I planned for this journey I planned it to be adventurous and left a lot of rooms for the unexpected as well as flexibility. The Ranger broke down was unexpected because one week before the journey I sent it for servicing. More often then not during the holidays I reacted to situations that we were in and improvised. Flexibility also meant I added few additional things within the itinerary. All in all I think everyone enjoyed the holiday and would want to do it again sometimes. Hey! We are going south next.

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