Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Small Town Pahang, Stesen Keretapi, Holiday and Me, Dec 12-15, 2009 - Day 2

Cycling Alone, Dec 13, 2009

My wife could not cycle so I decided to go on alone. I woke up with a little drizzle but I went down all the same to start to prepare myself. My intended route that morning was Federal Route 2 (Jalan Beserah) going south from Duta Village to Teluk Chempedak (TC to the locals) via Jalan Tengku Muhammad and Alor Akar. There was a little bit of darkness when I rolled out of the Duta Village. As usual I was not bothered with the distance and enough to have at least two major climbs before I’ll get to Teluk Chempedak. I pedaled hard and fast as I was trying to avoid the morning traffic and sun during my climb. The best part of cycling in the east coast or early in the morning in a small town or kampung is that you got to see how life comes alive in the morning. It never failed to provoke the nice feeling in me, at times sense of deja vu. So I was cycling accompanied by that nice feeling through the village, passing Batu Hitam, Sekolah Menangah Kebangsaan Beserah and Pusat Sumber Pendidikan Negeri Pahang on my right until I arrived at my first long climb just after the small Beserah town. I knew I could do it but if you asked any cyclist not a single one of them would say they would like to do climbing alone. I am certainly not one of them as I prefer to maintain my own pace as well as not pressured by the speed of others. My only fear of doing it alone is being too hard on myself and forgetting my limits. On this one I sat a comfortable cadence and not pushing too hard up. The gradient was not steep but long. I was basically already climbing the range making up the whole Bukit Pelindung. When I reached the peak I was still full of energy and came down fast to the main traffic light junction. At the junction I turned left to start to climb towards Alor Akar. Cycling up and along Jalan Tengku Muhammad and Alor Akar area was really nostalgic for me. Especially when I passed the old Alor Akar Field Force Camp where we used to live for a short while before the whole camp moved to the then new Bukit Galing Camp. I was cycling while at the same time tracing back the sweet memories associated with the area. The orphanage opposite the Camp reminded me of my old primary school mates who lived there. I could not even remember any of their names. If I am not mistaken one of them was Adnan, a footballer. At the end of both the Camp and Orphanage started what still known as the school zone or areas, as along the road there were and are at least 4 schools beginning with Sekolah Teknik Alor Akar, followed by Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Alor Akar, both Sekolah Rendah and Menengah Kebangsaan Tengku Afzan, MRSM and Assunta Convent Girl School. My old puppy love went to Assunta.

One other most significant thing was of course the entrance of the climb to Bukit Pelindung. Where the trees and bush started are now filled with rows of exclusive homes. I could not remember how many times I climbed to the top of Bukit Pelindung but one occasion that I can remember clearly was our Scouts trekking exercise to the top. With our uniform drenched from our sweat we scrambled slowly next to the gate of the Telekom tower signified as the peak. I still remember I used to have a black an white photo of that and I do not know where it is now. I continued to cycle dictated by how fast my brain was tracing my memory bank for old stories and images to be superimposed by the new images I was experiencing.

Of course TC has changed. I even made a mistake of entering it wrongly through the McDonald’s drive in. To maintain certain order the authority had transformed the front of the main beach area into a boardwalk environment. So it was a no entry zone for all types of vehicles. Visitors to the beach have to park on the left side and walk to the beach from there. On a bicycle it posed no problem to me as I just swung my bicycle around and jumped onto the curb to cycle between two stalls to be on the beach front. Once on the beach front I cycled slowly to the end until I saw a boardwalk, wide enough for me to cycle on without being a nuisance to others, going over to the other side of TC, really on the other side of Bukit Pelindung. It was a discovery for me as in my many years in Kuantan I have never been to the other side of TC as it was then well known as lovers den. When I got to the other side I found out that the beach was beautiful. Not a lagoon but it was as nice as one. There was a big group of students camping in the beach. It was almost 0800 when I was there and the sun is beginning to take a peep of the world in the horizon. I stayed for awhile enjoying the atmosphere.

Grudgingly I got onto my bike and started cycling back on the boardwalk back to the main beach area. I had to, as I wanted to beat the heat to cycle back to Balok. Nevertheless, I stopped next to the downhill wooden ramp built for the recent Kuantan Enduro Downhill Race. I had to tip my hat off to those participated as looking at the ramp either your have to really know your stuff or your are missing a nut or two from your head to be doing the downhill. One wrong move you’ll smash onto the rocks below.

I cycled to the nearest stall to buy a drink as when I was on the boardwalk I realised I left my water behind. Trying to relax a bit I took a few shots of the place and while pushing my bike I thought I should capture myself for the record. I was lucky when I was there a saw a guy walking with his wife carrying a camera bag holding a Nikon. I requested him to take my photo with the Trek. I found out he was a MTB rider of sort as well and came from Shah Alam. After the ‘photo session’ I thanked the guy and cycled back, and the journey to Balok was no fun. The sun was already up by then and I had to do two major climbs immediately before I could cruise home. Just after the Pusat Sumber Pendidikan Pahang I crossed the road to cycled through Batu Hitam beach area instead of climbing through on the main road. It was around 0904 by then and I could not delay anymore or I would be trapped under the hot sun. Pushing hard ten minutes later I was already at the resort. I saw my water bottle sitting pretty on the back fender of the Ranger.

On my way to TC I saw a stall at Beserah selling variety of kueh and other foods so as soon I I had packed the bike inside the Ranger I drove out towards Kuantan again to buy some breakfast. When I was back at the room on Mar was interested in eating. Well, nowadays she always interested in eating. She is the girl version of Baqir growing up.

Mar and I were back in the pool again after we had breakfast and just like yesterday the pool was packed with holiday makers. Even the second pool was quite packed and kids jumping in. They’d never learn apparently that jumping could be dangerous, if not for them, for others in the pool. We just find our own space. I did a couple of strokes before I decided to just stand at the edge of the pool to watch on Mar. While standing there I got a muscle cramp on my right leg and I was mad with myself. Painful and I just could not move but to stand there until my muscles relaxed for me to be able to move slowly out of the water. The cycling before must have taken loads of salts from my system. I let Mar enjoyed the pool a little bit longer until I called for us to leave.

Lunch, dinner and the rest of the day were nothing to shout about. In fact we spent most of our times exploring the new mall.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Small Town Pahang, Stesen Keretapi, Holiday and Me, Dec 12-15, 2009

It was the weekend when we supposed to be at Yan, Kedah for Mamat’s wedding. But the injury to the bride in an accident changed the whole thing. The wedding was postponed to 2010. With so many vacation days left I applied for an extra two days over the weekend and decided to use part of my vacation points at Duta Village Kuantan. We have been to Kuantan so many times already and it was even frequent when Kakak started to enroll at UiTM KT. The plan in Kuantan was just to hit the pool and be beach bump. Just to make sure I would have a good time I brought along both the Trek and the Bianchi.

Along and Baqir decided to miss this one as they preferred to play futsal everyday and night. Everyone else was dreading the journey to Kuantan and I could understand why. So I announced to them that I would be taking the back road and would depart early in the morning. With that rough plan we set out on the early morning of Dec 12, 2009.

Departure

As usual I was up at 0600. As soon as I’d said my Suboh prayers I yelled everyone up to get ready. I already loaded both the Trek and Bianchi the night before so I just needed to make sure everything else was in place. I did not want to miss anything now and spoilt my already potentially boring holiday. I directed the Ranger towards Semenyih with ease in the early Saturday morning. With no intention to stop for breakfast I steered left outside of Semenyih towards Broga. As we approached Broga I mentioned to my wife about the now walkers and climbers most visited Broga Hill. Sam was amazed to see so many cars already parked by the roadside so early in the morning. I told her they were there early to watch the first daybreak. Of course I talked about our Broga mountain bike trail as well. Soon we passed Ulu Lenggeng and cruised nicely to Kuala Klawang via Lenggeng Forest Reserve and Bukit Tangga. I spoke about the route that we were taking was a popular route for road bikers on Saturday. Indeed we met two groups of roadies along the way to Kuala Klawang. I suggested to Sam that we should do it on our mountain bikes one day. Of course my wife thought I got one or two screws loose up inside my head.

Jelebu, Simpang Pertang, Serting Ulu

Bukit Tangga Waterfall was at the end of the descend and I thought of stopping but when I asked aloud I received no answer and to my dismay I knew why. The girls were soundly asleep at the back. That prompted me to press hard on the pedal and zigzagged through Kuala Klawang town and the rest of Jelebu to turn towards Kuala Pilah at Simpang Pertang around 0900. My planned route was to turn left at Kg Serting to pass Serting Ulu and come out at the Ayer Hitam junction to turn left upwards towards Temerloh. I did not share all these with the rest as I wanted to amuse them with the things that they were not familiar about. So after Simpang Pertang knowing the tarmac would be decent and straight I floored the accelerator. Once I turned into Serting it was a new experience for me as well as I have never taken the route before. Now we were basically passing through ‘tanah rancangan’ most of the time which means the road would be small, straight and undulating according to the contour of the hills. Apart from overtaking lorries laden with either rubber or palm it was a smooth fast drive.

Ayer Hitam, Kemayan and Triang

From the digital map that I studied for this trip I would be coming out at Ayer Hitam to take Route 10 to Temerloh. Also at Ayer Hitam would be the first small train station in Pahang from Gemas. I planned to be there and all the train stations along the route. My nostalgic fool juice was working overtime by then. Apart from capturing and experiencing all the small towns that we would be passing through in Pahang I would also like to relive my childhood experience taking and being on the train home. But now experiencing it from the other side in broad daylight. I planned to stop at every station along the way to absorb the atmosphere as well as taking a lot of photographs.

When we arrived at Ayer Hitam I was anxious looking for a sign of a railway station but as I entered route 10 thinking the station would be somewhere further ahead. I did not see any and I knew I missed it totally. Since we were moving further out of Ayer Hitam already and in quiet a heavy traffic I decided not to turn back but to continue towards Kemayan where I knew would be another station. To my dismay when I looked back inside the Ranger the girls were still soundly sleeping. So when we cruised into Kemayan town I pull over at the first gas station that I saw and walked out to the restroom to ease myself. I also knew based on experience whenever I stop and the Ranger not moving the girls would be awake. I was right again as I walked back to the Ranger I saw the three of them were awake and Mar asked me where we were. I said there should look around and find out for themselves. The gas station was next to the Ubuddiah Mosque which architecturally was from an old design. With my camera I walked over and took few shots. While I was shooting off the main road I realized that the actual town was actually a bit further in across the road. I walked back to the Ranger and turned it around to enter the town. As I was driving in my dear wife remarked on the sign stating Kemayan Railway Station on our left. I stopped the Ranger nearby, got out and walked over to the railway station with my camera. My family knew the drill already.

I have never realized that the Kemayan station was also a crossing station. In my days on the train plying the route, even at the early hour in the morning, I did not see those tracks. That day I did and there were three tracks for freight train to wait and other trains to cross each other. I spent some times admiring and looking around at the station. So nostalgic and so wonderful. How do I describe how I felt? It was like if you were at a place that you connected most and absorbing the atmosphere. That’s was how I felt.
After I was satisfied I walked back to the Ranger. Thinking about it now I should have stayed longer.

Using the zoom lens I stood at the edge of the town and started to capture what I like. Through my view finder my eyes darted all over trying to find a good shot and while doing that I somehow could feel how living in a small town like Kemayan would be like. One street town was my life while we were living at Rantau Panjang, Bertam Ulu, Telemong and Tras. I guess with that experiences gave me certain authority to make that assessment. I could see one of the pulses of the town would be the railway station. The other would be one major sundry shop and one mamak eating place. Kemayan is more an agricultural town and you could see the terrain and the ecology of the town was a blend of the open space, green uniform formation of trees and certain gait of being laid back. I would be contented living in places like Kemayan. I stood with my camera ready to shoot long enough but I was not able to find my ‘great’ shot of the town.

I cruised through the town and entered the main road towards Triang. Triang was always a town that I associated with my friend Awie and I have never been to the town before. The strong pull to be there was not so much of it being historical or of any prominent but just because I have seen it in the darkness of early morning on every trip back home from the train. Each time Awie disembarked at the Triang railway station another layer was embedded to my permanent interest to be there and know more about the town. I knew Triang was not that far away from Kemayan so I drove cautiously. Within half an hour the sign indicated that we were approaching Triang already. I turned left at a junction and I saw the roofs of Triang town straight away. The first stop before the town for me was the traffic light. I waited patiently and as the light turned green I instinctively turned right into, what I guess as, Triang town. I was right. The buildings were as old as the buildings in the old Raub town. Nothing exciting to see immediately but it was enough to spark my interest even more. However, a business of gastronomy in nature had to be the first order of our day in Triang. We had not had our proper breakfast yet so my first objective was to find a place to eat. I saw a sign of gerai makan at the Pasar Triang but on closer look most of the proprietors were Chinese. I swung the truck around and proceeded further out and immediately saw a kedai mamak. It was a sure and safe bet so we went there. Where ever you go mamak is still the same mamak so we ordered our favourite. For me two chapattis ha ha ha. We sat there enjoying our food and couldn’t careless what time we should be leaving. While eating I had decided to backtrack and explore the town properly and one of the things that I must do was to be at Triang train station.

Since we were in need of a couple of RMs I drove in to find ‘My Friend’. As we drove in before I saw the yellow tiger sign somewhere near the wet market so I headed there. After I withdrew some money I walked along the corridor where I met a young man to ask the direction to the train station and was told not that far from where we stood. With the information I headed back to the Ranger and drove towards the direction. My wife remarked ‘ dah jumpa dah?’ referring to my search for the railway station. Smiling at myself I said yes.

I have written about Triang Railway station before and its significance with my life. Being there in broad daylight gave me a better perspective of the place from seeing it from the train in the darkness of very early morning. I was amazed at the size of the station and how well kept it was. In the end it made sense as the station is one of the main stations and major stops along the east coast line. I picked my shots carefully and walked around to make sure I had enough. When I stood looking around the place I just could not pinpoint my exact feeling for the place. One thing for sure I fulfilled my wish to be there during the day and not on a train. I was glad that the station remained as it was from the days I used to pass by on my way home or back to school during my school days. I dreaded to think what would going to happen to it in the future. Knowing KTMB I would not be surprised if they demolish the structure to build a new one. For once I wish KTMB would not progress. Satisfied with myself I walked back to my family waiting in the Ranger. Then a slow drive out of Triang.

After Triang was the town of Bera by then the rest of the journey was just another journey for me as I had passed by recently on the way to my wife’s nephew’s engagement. My intention was to just fly by and to get onto the Kuantan highway as soon as possible. But then my wife reminded me of another station that I thought I had captured before. When I saw the sign Mengkarak Station at a junction on my left I swung the Ranger left straight away and pushed in as fast as I could anticipating just a small place. I was surprised to be greeted by quite a big town and residential area. As we approached the small town I could see and imagine the kind of people living there. Most of them were planters and palm oil estate workers. Just inside the town we crossed the railway track and only then I realised the station was really a small one where it used to be a small wooden station that now was a container cabin makeshift transformed to be a station. I could guess the station was hardly used and probably mostly be used for crossing as well as freight train to stop. Nevertheless it was a good learning experience for me. Now I understand about the place even more. In the old days the station must be an important hub and gathering place for the people as well as a mean to transport their farm products out. Still I went through the same routine that I did for the past two stations.

Temerloh and Kuantan

The route taking us to Temerloh town was a coastal road along the bank of Pahang river. Along the way we could see several entrepreneurial locals selling fish like patin, keli and talapia. It was obvious to us that these fish came from their own caged fish farm along the Pahang river. A normal sight to me maybe but if you a first time I recommend you to drive slowly to enjoy the scenery a little bit. For me that day unless I see and of the roadside stalls selling cendol I would not stop.

Once we entered Temerloh our main objective became to reach Kuantan as soon as possible. I floored the accelerator and entered the East Coast highway. At around 1330 I entered the Kuantan tol plaza and cruised into Kuantan. I took the usual route to Beserah and at 1410 arrived at the usual medan selara as you entered Beserah for lunch. As if everyone was waiting for the main event lunch was just another activity to accomplish for the day. The truth was we have been doing similar thing for at least three times in our lives already and the whole thing was just another motion for us. Being in Kuantan that day was just a destination to doing nothing. For me especially the journey itself was the main event. Reaching Kuantan and staying at the same place we have stayed couple of times before was one event in the whole sequence. I got three days in Kuantan and the first two at Duta Village and the third a bonus for any possibility. As in any longer trip we had our bikes with us and we intended to cycle in Kuantan.

We checked in as soon as we arrived at Duta Village and the order of the day for me and Mar was to hit the pool. As it was in the middle of a long school holidays the place was fully booked and being the usual late with my planning me I only managed to secure a studio room. It was not too bad. The pool was also almost at capacity where we were only saved by the strict attire ruling for the second pool. The only thing was I forgot to bring my goggle and I was limited in what I could do. Nevertheless both Mar and I enjoyed our swim in the pool. We tried the beach later but we did not like it so we retreated to the pool.

Except for my dear wife, who was on a personal record breaking attempt to finish three novels in two days, the rest of the party was fast asleep when we got back to the room. I announced that I was going to a take a short nap and then go out for dinner or whatever. After asking the rest I realised eating options slowly were limited for us in Kuantan. The variety of food and taste actually were the two main limiting factors. As the easiest was for me to go to Tg Lumpur we ended just having a simple seafood dinner there.

Some of the photos are here

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On The Train, Mar 18, 2010

No I have not stop blogging. In fact I am writing four pieces of travelogue at the moment. Getting to finish one of them is really a challenge to me now. Ideas simply stopped flowing and making my writing to be straight forward and monotonous. Today while writing I sense a happy mood on the train. Everybody seems to be happy with something which was a change from yesterday when everyone of us could not help to feel like a crushed ikan sadin. Indeed it is a school holidays but most of the commuters were not of school going age group. One of my friends said by next year the train service would improve. I said, ‘ahmm lets see.’