Monday, September 27, 2004

To Die

Death is always a subject that one avoids, fear?

When my grandfather died, I was only about 6 years old. Then I used to follow my grandfather and grandmother in a dugout canoe crossing the wide and fast flowing Pahang River, going up stream for about 1 km and on the other side tied our canoe by the river bank and then going up the bank for about half a km to our padi field over there. Why did we have a padi field over there, I still do not knowthe reason until today. My grandfather had other padi fields on this side of the river. We used to go there every year during the padi planting season. I then stayed with my grandparents, a sort of adopted by them.

On one of these trips, my grandfather was suddenly taken ill, swelling at the ankle and feet. And the nearest place where my grandfather was take to was further up the riverbank, in a village about 1 km away to his half-sister’s house. Another reason was that this grand auntie's house was near to one of the village powerful medicine man’s house. There he was left with his half-sister while my grandmother and I went back by the same canoe to cross the Pahang River, going home. downstream. I remember going up again and again to that grand auntie's house to watch the almost nightly sessions of when the medicine men called jinn (genies) to assist in curing my grandfather of his afflicted disease. The ceremony were always done at night for reasons I still do not know until today. The scenario of the medicine man calling on the genies to cure sick people is indescribable, one must watch it to believe. Its funny, its frightening, and its fascinating what he did and what the village the Malays could believe in those days. And the medicine man was always cloaked with his face unseen whenever he performed the ceremony. Anyway to cut the story short, my grandfather never recovered and died; and I saw later in his death certificate that he died of beriberi.

That was the first death of a close relative (and could be the first close ones) I witnessed close. They brought the body back to our house down and across the river, where they had the body bathed, had it wrapped in white cotton cloth. I remember they made the carriage from some palm stems and base of bamboo, the bamboo trees were plentiful then and now near my grandfather’s house, in which they carried the body to the grave site. I remember the grave they dug, the room they made for the body in the grave and I also remember how they all (people in the village, and my grandfather’s children) carried the body to the grave on their shoulders in the contraption they made before then. I remember them placing my grandfathers body inside the grave, made the body face west (kiblah - towards Mecca) and the filling of the grave with the dug-up soils and then saying prayers and lastly leaving the grave yard. How did I feel? Bewildered. But I still felt secured as I still have all my other close relatives with me, especially my grandmother with whom I was close.

Then when I was at the boarding school, my grandmother died. I was never told of her death as I was then out of town and was about to take a very important exam. I never knew how she died, when she died and what she died of. I only found out that she had already died when I went back to the village during my school term holidays. I only was indicated that she was buried near my grandfather’s grave but the exact spot where she was buried was only shown to me by some villagers only lately. I must have been about 16 years old then when my grandmother died.

The next death that occurred in my family was when I just cane back from studies overseas. My father had always been sickly, he was coughing all the time and I was told later that he had fluid in his lungs. Anyway I was then anxious to get him into a hospital when I arrived back home. I got the family’s permission to take him to KL where I managed to get him admitted into the then old KL General Hospital. I thought he was quite comfortable there, got good treatment; they pumped out the fluid from his lungs. But unfortunately he caught pneumonia and died. And I also failed to do my sonly duty, he died alone in the hospital ward. I failed to visit him as regularly as I should. I was only informed one morning by a Policeman about his death and when I arrived at the KLGH I was led to the mortuary where his body have already been taken to. I felt sick, I just cried uncontrollably. I blamed myself then for not being at his death bedside. I remember well, I just saw him from his feet side and his old ‘songkok’ lying by his side. Luckily then I had a very good friend who supported and held on to me in my sadness. And I had a very supporting Departmental head who allowed the whole Department off for the day to accompany my father’s body back to the village. Not only that, he also allowed the Company’s vehicle to be used to ferry the men and the body. I was very grateful and I am still grateful for what he did. They buried my father the same day, quite late. The feeling of sadness is indescribable, and at same graveyard, the same scenario and the same procedures.

A couple of years later my auntie (my fathers sister died). She was already crippled with stroke when I arrived back from overseas. She had no children. And I was not so sad this time as I was not close to her. She was buried next to my father. And the wife of one of my uncles (my father’s elder brother) also died a few years earlier, I cannot remember when but I was told about it. But soon that uncle remarried.

A couple of years later another uncle (my father’s younger brother) got stroke. He recovered but was struck the second time and he soon died. At that time I was serving in Melaka, and I came back to the village for the funeral. He was also buried in the same graveyard as all my relatives have been buried.

In about 1976, my mother died. She was then staying alone in a community of old ladies, not really an old folks home but a place where they stay together in small huts and where they learn some Muslim religious lessons. She chose to go there as she was not really that healthy then. I was told about her death in the morning and by the time I arrived at the place where she died, they have already buried her, this time in a grave site very close to where she died, about 20 km down river from my village. It was a sad moment for me but as she had already been buried there was nothing I could do. I visit her grave site every year, to cut the overgrown weeds and grass and to clean the place up and probably to tell her, "I love you and will always love you".

And a few years later my other uncle (my father’s elder brother as mentioned earlier) who got married died. I was not very close to him, but I came back to the village to attend his burial. And the other uncle (my father’s younger brother) who died earlier left behind a window and she died in about 1988, struck by a fallen mango tree near her house in the night when she was just about to go to sleep. It was a horrible death. I was then just about to go to Sarawak to serve there, and I attended her funeral in the village.

So now all my relatives have died, at least those older than I and the ones close to me. And when I was serving in Sarawak my father-in-law died of heart attack, followed by a few later by my brother-in-law, my wife’s younger brother, who died of asthma. And that was the first time in my life I ever helped to carry the body when putting it in the grave; I did not go down into the grave but just helped out to carry it from the gasket to the mouth of the grave. A very strange feeling came over me, not frightened but just amazed as to the weight of a dead body. I was one of the few who helped and I felt the weight.

And my best friend died when I came back to serve in KL, from Sarawak; he died after undergoing a half successful kidney transplant. Of all the people who died earlier, I had the closest look at my best friend just before they closed his face forever, in fact I kissed him on his forehead. It was a queer feeling, a cold motionless body whom you have known and had fun with for so many years.

It might sound strange why I should talk about death, but after experiencing being involved with relatives and friends dying one after another, my feeling became a bit numb, and when death occurs I just take it as a natural phenomena and have very little feeling about it. Lately many former work colleague and work mates have also passed away and also old classmates from school days also passed away. I get the news, whenever anyone wishes to inform me and where I can make it I attend their funeral; least I can do is to read them the ‘Yassin’ (a Surah of the Quraan) or some other verses from the Quraan, to help them hopefully in their difficult time ‘on the other side’.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Peace Malaysia Posted by Hello

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Away For Life - a rambling

What prompted me to write this write-up is that in a recent event in Kuala Lumpur (KL) gave me the shudder. The Power that Be in Malaysia know what some of us is doing in life, we are being watched. The Sinners and the Anti-Establishment that some of us are or were have been recorded. We have seen the East and the West and the South and maybe the North. KL recently pride itself in stopping what they call the Skinhead from having ‘fun’. The Mayor of KL stopping Clubs and Restaurants in certain part of KL from opening after 2 am. We have gone through life, maybe not as liberal but when I think about these people who want to stop this and stop that I begin to laugh inside me, thinking on how they mostly try to protect their interest. The Mayor of KL trying to please the Government (he is a Government Servant one must remember) and the Police trying to guard our moral beings (I wonder if the Police is supposed to guard our moral beings though). Anyway what is moral? I have no answer. But the part that I am most fascinated with is the DON’T part of life in Malaysia. I have written about the DON’T in my blog http://consumated.motime/"To obey or not to obey". Its not a protest but just glazed eyes observation about life in Malaysia then and now.

I suppose some of us are in our 60s now, having gone through the part of life one may not be proud of and one does not want to write about. One does not proudly tell ones grandchildren that one has done all that then and now and now one tells ones grandchildren not to do it. Where is the fairness in this. One has gone through the ‘good’ life but now one tells them not to go through that path of ‘good life’. Boozing, clubbing, sexual freedom and etc etc etc, were they not good life? Now under the pretext of morality one tells ones grandchildren "Don’t do it"!. What is this? The diabolical part is that one says "Don’t" to the good life but one also say, "I want them to lead the hard life that I have been through". Like in a job for example, "In those days I had to do everything but nowadays these young people expects to be spoon fed in everything". Diabolical (again) isn’t it? I would say let them go through life, bad and good, have the experience so that they will learn. How many now old men really landed up in the drain after having gone through the ‘good life’? Not many I know of, and many I know of have had gone through the ‘good life’. Everyone says to you, "Go to the straight path" but how many really can go through the straight path if one has not known what the crooked path is all about. And Malaysia has that culture of wanting people to go through the straight path, the Malaysian way, whatever that means. Malaysia Bolih (Malaysia Can Do anything and everything - translated literally), so what? Other people also ‘bolih’!. I am not being unpatriotic here but its just that I feel so sad at some of us thinking that we are at the centre of the world, I mean not only Malaysian but most people in this world think that they are at the centre of the world; many want to be the guardian of this world, us to follow their morality and follow their values. To them I will put up my two fingers sign. Each one of us has ones values through experience and what one learn while being brought up. But some of us are not brought up but pulled up. Which is better? One can never tell.

I feel delighted when someone says, "Lets try this" but I feel sad when one says’ "It won’t work" but worse still when one says, "We have tried that before and it did not work". The person who says that may never have thought that what had been tried before may have been under different circumstances, or the facts known then were not enough. I have that said to me too many times and I feel sad at those whoever says such.

Of course life have to have death, without which there is no life, there is no opposite. People grow old and die, one cannot live forever. I sometime feel very funny when I hear some people say, "I want to live for 100 years". To me if you live for 100 years you are already a nuisance to society. Ever seen anyone who live for 100 years not becoming a nuisance to society? They become too independent on society. Funny still, or nuisance still, when certain people have the concept that they can be kept in deep freeze after death to live again when science can make life. I mean OK assuming that science can make life and then give you life, but you will live in another era when almost everyone are strangers to you (you might get to know one or two who may have been in the same circumstances as you). And the way of life will be so strange to you that you would wish to die again. But worse still you will try to fit in into the culture, you may be a nuisance in trying to bring in your ‘old’ ways in a ‘new’ society. You may adapt but at what price to you? And what lonely life you will lead. If If If ever happens.

One of the problems that we in Malaysia are grappling with is illegal immigrants. I suppose all over the world the problem is the same, but I am just focussing my thoughts to Malaysia. Actually its our own making. First we then encouraged the Indonesian to come here in the pretext that they are our closest cousions (at least to the Malays) but when too many of them came we could not cope, neither could we stop the inflow. We wanted them to work for us (the ‘ketuanan’ Melayu is at its best - shall I call it the Malay master race theory) in our plantations, building industry and as our maids. But they came and came and came, our life here is comfortable to them. We gave them everything, our daughters included. Not only the Indon came, but also the Indians, Pakistanis and the Bangladeshi and later the Burmese, not forgetting the Muslim Thais. Now we cannot cope, and we are sending them back to where they came from as fast and as many as possible. And in addition to them becoming our ‘labourers’ they also now become robbers and conmen, the conmen not the Indon but the others mostly from the Middle East and the South America. And we cannot resolve that yet. But again I suspect in all these there are inside players, people who knows what is going on but playing possum, helping the ‘crooks’. Maybe certain individuals or even certain people in authority, people who can make money out of all these chaos.

We are great counterfeiters, not of money but of software's like DVD, VCD and of course the computer software's. We copy everything. And we sell them cheap. Being cheap they are very marketable; everyone is used to have these counterfeits. I suppose even I am guilty of that. Now after the hue and cry by the original owners of these 'software's' the Govt. is clamping on their production. Millions of RM worth of counterfeits are seized and destroyed, but I suppose that is only the tip of the icebergs. They will lie low for a period and then they will resurface again. Then another clampdown by the Government. It will be a cat and mouse game. There is no end to this game, the winner will still be the counterfeiters unless the price of these software's goes down to a more affordable level., affordable to us average buying Malaysian..
We have become very civilised, so we are copying the way of life of civilised people. We have muggers - snatch thefts they call them here in Malaysia. Why the name? Because they mostly snatch women's handbags. But now they have grow into snatching handphones and also computer laptops. So anyone careless enough to leave computer laptops exposed may find that these laptops get snatched by these criminals. Catch them? Many are caught and many more surface.

In a way the Malaysian Government is good, in that its trying to provide affordable houses to all its citizens. In those days it was the low cost houses, RM 25,000 a house which are affordable to many people of the low income group. Then they started to build low cost flats that do not cost more than the low cost houses, perhaps a bit more in certain areas if they add more rooms to them; remember that the first ever flats built by the Government for the lower income groups were 1 room flats which of course became very inconvenient. Then they increased those to 2 rooms and now to three rooms with all the modern amenities. Kuala Lumpur City hall is good in this area, they have built many such flats for the people, to house those who have been living in the squatter areas. These flats are either bought outright by these people or rented out to these people at a very reasonable price, just over RM 100.00 a month pere flat. That is cheap by KL standard. No wonder there is a long Q for such flats. But the bad part of this scheme is that these are misused by some political parties - they place most of their members in these flats, thus assuring themselves that they will get votes in any election. I suppose its just a tactic to be in power, though I think this method stinks. And KL City Hall also built flats which are sold to the public, to those who can afford them. Not many of such flats have been built though.
Rapes and incests are social problems which the Malaysian Government has to tackle, Incest in a way is worrying. It happens, though not that often but still it happens. Why? Once upon a time it was blamed to the small and not many rooms flats being occupied by the lower income group. So in a way it should only happen in the towns and cities. But it also happen in the rural areas, in places where the population density is not high. Probably due to the lack of religious knowledge or even to bad moral behaviour. Its not surprising though as even in the rural areas they do get to see blue films. And can you imagine when the daughter grows up, the father may behave like animals. But again there are fathers or grandfathers who rape those below 10 years old. What do you call these people? In certain cases, not only they rape but they also kill.

The Anwar Ibrahim factor had caused a lot of anxiety in Malaysia, especially in the political circle. Even before he asked to rejoin the Party, the Party had already decided to ban him from joining the Party. Afraid of the shadows they are. Anyway he has said many times that he would not like to rejoin the Party. Anwar Ibrahim was the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia who was jailed 6 years ago for being found guilty after he was accused of being a homosexual and a corrupt person. The main accuser was his former boss, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr M. Recently he was released from prison after countless appeals to all parties, and lastly to the Highest Court in Malaysia. He has just gone for medical treatment in Germany, to operate on his bad back. At the time of writing he has not yet been back in Malaysia.
We Malaysian are funny lot. We tend to be very patriotic and at the same time very authority fearing. What the authority says we always say, "Yes Sir". Why are we like that? Probably because during these years we have had such a good life, we fear loosing that good life. I wonder what will happen if the good life is taken away from us Malaysian? Then we all will become Away For Life.

Recently, the biggest political party in Malaysia had their convention in KL. And I got very disturb by the amount of press coverage that they get. But I suppose it cannot be helped as they hold the trump card in all the press freedom in Malaysia and they own the majority of newspapers and quite a few TV stations in Malaysia. I suppose they even own us in Malaysia right now!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A Sept 04 night in Kuantan, Malaysia Posted by Hello

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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Kuala Tahan, National Park Malaysia Posted by Hello

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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Having A Break At Kuala Tahan, Malaysia

Kuala Tahan, 07/09/2004, a historic day for me. That day was the first time that I arrived at the Malaysian National Park (during the British era it was called King George V National Park) in the interior of West Malaysia up the Pahang River. I have heard so much about the place but had never dared to venture that far to visit it. I have always thought that its the end of the world where civilisation ends. But I found out that it was a contrast. Its a very civilise place, with a 5 star hotel in it.

I went there with my wife and another retired couple, like we are. We stayed at a very nice, clean and comfortable newly built hotel, for 2 nights and had the opportunity to visit some of the more interesting sites at the Park. And we were just a few of the local visitors, many of the visitors were from Europe, and other white mans countries. When we were there must have been about 200 to 300 of these foreign visitors.

We traveled by car all the way, and the road was par excellence, though a few blotches here and there due to lorries carrying logs and palm oil fruits using that road to get to sawmills and palm oil refineries.

A place more than worth a visit.

My wife and I started off from Kuantan whilst the other couple started from KL, we have arranged to meet at the Temerloh Toll of the Karak/Kuantan Highway. We met right on time, that was about 10.30 am. But we did not start moving to the National Park until about past 12.00 noon as my wife had to attend to some family business. We meanwhile went to my wife’s uncle’s house in the nearby kampong and waited there. We were entertained to some refreshment and the couple getting to know my wife’s uncle who happened to be the brother of the couple’s husbands second cousion late husband. Quite a coincident that, rather a complicated truly amazing relationship find.

My wife having finished her business, we departed from my wife’s uncle’s house, by my car; the other couple’s car left garaged at my wife’s uncle’s garage for safe keeping. And we traveled to Jerantut, a small town about 30 km away towards the National Park. And the road to Jerantut is as good as any road in any part of the world and it took us only about half an hour or so to reach Jerantut Town, where we had lunch. And Jerantut Town is a progressive town, like any in Malaysia today, with new shop houses having been built and a beautiful mosque just built on the approach to the town. My friends, the couple, who had not been there for over 20 years then was very impressed with the changes for the better of Jerantut Town. And we had a very nice lunch at a Malay restaurant in the newer part of the Town, when after lunch we wet straight to cross the bridge over the Pahang River, just off Jerantut Town, to the entrance of the road that would take us to the National Park. Pahang River is a big river in Pahang State and the bridge span about 100 meters across the rive, high enough so that flood water will not inundate it. Pahang River normally floods during the Monsoon Season of Nov. to Jan each year.
The road to the National Park is just after the Jerantut Bridge, turning left. Its a good wide road, a bit windy at places with pot holes here and there in the second half of the about 60 km distance. Not too bad considering the torture the road has to endure due to logging and palm oil fruit heavy lorries using it. Along the way there are a few FELDA scheme villages and a few original Malay villages, nothing to talk about really. And off course when you have these then you will see a lot of palm oil trees and here and there durian and fruit orchards. But we did not meet any wild animal along the way, except for domesticated cows and buffaloes, their dungs on the road now and then. And after about 60 km of driving, lo and behold you reach Kuala Tahan village (town?) after coming out of a couple of hills into a valley. Basically its a Malay village really, but comparatively modern with modern amenities such as good road, water supply, electricity supply and fixed telephones lines. But be aware that at the time when we were there you still cannot get signals for handphones, so our handphones are quite useless. But who wants handphones when you are in the ‘ulu’ having a holiday.

Arriving at the end of the road, you are at the very edge of the Tembeling River/Tahan River junction, these rivers being the upper reaches of the Pahang River. The Tembeling River is the main river, a river of about 50m wide. The shop houses are really shanty in away but there is a new brick built school just built in the town. And here and there a few lodging houses, ‘A’ shaped huts some of them. But looking down to the Tembeling River from the river bank you see boats plying about taking tourists everywhere, up and down river and across the river. Because across the river is the 5 star hotel, in the trees, big mango trees and other jungle trees. And as I said, the hotel facilities is almost a complete 5 star facilities. To get across you only pay RM 0.50 per person per trip to the boatmen. And on this side of the river bank, just below you are house boats, these are restaurants where you can get good cheap food. And the food varies, from Malay, to Thai and from Indian to European. Good enough for your 1 or 2 days stay in the town. And also on this side of the river, there are good hotels (other than the lodging houses and ‘A’ shaped huts), within affordable price, clean and comfortable. You can either book earlier before you leave ‘civilisation’ or you may ask around when you arrive there. But if you are unlucky you may find that most of the hotels are fully booked, especially during week ends and school holidays.

What do you do when you are there? Depending really on what you want to do. Forget the activities that you get in KL or any big city/town. The place gives you something very different. For a basic, you may like to take a longboat ride up or down the river, or any of the tributaries. These boats are outboard driven elongated boats and they are quite pleasant to ride in. And the boatmen, they are very professional, very safety conscious and you can trust them to almost 100 %. They are plain honest people making a living out of the tourist industry. Young and energetic and very entuthiasm in performing their work. You can go upriver, climb up rapid by these boats, a water fall further up, and then you can float from there down river by rubber ‘tyre’ floats - follow the river flow and these activities are quite safe as long as you can swim and putting your life jacket on. And in another river, which has crystal clear water, upstream you will find a fish sanctuary, where they breed river fish, and further up a natural water swimming pool, just below a rapid - fun to swim and not dangerous. And probably you may go to the canopy walk, the longest in Malaysia I think, must be about 1 km of it or so, very high up the trees (about 100 to 150 feet most of the way in my estimate) in the virgin jungle. Not for the weak hearted (or those with vertigo) though, the climb to the canopy walk entrance from the river is enough to make you go faint. And once you are up the canopy walk there is no turning back, you have to go the distance and the height all the way through. But to participate in any activity in the National Park you will need a permit from the Wildlife Department, they have an office in the 5-star hotel compound. And of course if you want to do nothing while you are in Kuala Tahan then you can just sit somewhere and read books. Its a complete peace if you do not want to do anything.

Of course at such places, nice that it may be but here is always room for improvement. Malaysia being Malaysia, and especially in the ‘ulu’, and the out back, there is a lot of room for improvement - in cleanliness, in aesthetic, in landscaping; and probably a master plan for the whole town and its surrounding area will be needed to be done. A master plan should prevent ‘spotted’ development, which will result in chaos. Every land owner now wants to develop his land, to reap the most benefit from the influx of tourist. The people also have to be taught proper hygiene, proper service habits and how to maintain and keep tourist coming. And aesthetically, the grass have to be cut, flower plants planted and maintained, some sort of glimmer of lights placed at strategic locations in town (they do not really want bright street lights, not to spoil the nature of the place) so that people can move about safely (not from thieves and robbers going place to place, especially at the river bank where many people go in and out, up and down to the floating restaurants. With all these proposed improvement, it will really make the place a pleasant stay for tourist (and those on holiday), especially with all the present natural beauty and tourist facilities at the place. And of course being a place that attract foreigners, there must be a sort of order maintained, a good Police Station, a good Bomba organisations and a good medical facilities. Accidents do happen unfortunately, maybe a few in between but when it happens it must be attended to properly, quickly and professionally. The nearest medical facility now may be in Jerantut Town (I presume), which is about 1 hours drive by road or 2 hours by boat down river.

I mentioned getting here by road. But many tourists like to take the boat ride from Kuala Tembeling, which is about 3 hours boat ride upriver to Kuala Tahan and a two hour boat ride back down river. The boats are larger longboats, outboard motor driven, that take about 20 passengers per boat, all sitting two astride facing forward of the boat. The boat ride is pretty safe.

In short I would say that having break at Kuala Tahan i.e. at the National Park is a welcome break for anyone, especially those town folks who are always hassled by he busyness in the city/town. Its a get away place.

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Friday, September 03, 2004

Food For Thoughts - Part Three

Many restaurants that I have been to in the East Coast, I cannot remember the names of. But that is where the fun is. You have to locate those restaurants yourself. Like treasures, you have to search for them. I will only give you the clues.

I am now going into unfamiliar grounds. Restaurants in KT (a loving name for Kuala Trengganu) and KB (a loving name for Kota Baru) will be described here based mostly on my trips, not long ago, to these places. Again I shall try to concentrate on good, cheap, hygienic and not posh places.

When you enter KT, the first thing you notice is how unkempt the place is. Not dirty but unkempt. You would say to yourself how come nobody bothers or is it that nobody notices. I suppose as then say ‘familiarity breed contempt’ or in Malay "Alah bisa teggal biasa". Anyway we want to talk about eating places and not how unkempt the town is.

The restaurant that give me a lasting impression in KT is small restaurant at a corner shop just across the road from the Payam (spelling?) Market. Its a simple restaurant (I cannot recall the name of) just across the road where they sell all the Muslim religious stuff and the Koraan. Simply decorated with old fashioned tables, furniture crowdedly placed but the place is clean and presentable. What caught my attention was its simple food, a different kind of food from that I am used to, and its simple unassuming atmosphere. People go in and out, order food and these are efficiently provided, packed and sold. One dish was this fried meat in big slices bathed in starchy sort of gravy, and the concoction was very tasty. That is new to me. I have had the Javanaese 'deng-deng' but not this kind of dressing put on it. Of course there are other familiar Malay dishes but this dish was special. Can I call it Trengganu cooking? I don't know.

A favourite restaurant in KT is Restoran Syafinas. Its near the Old Palace in the centre of KT town and close to a Mosque (which is behind the Old Palace). Its a Minang sort of restaurant, which I remember were very popular in KL when I was very young. What they do, when you enter the restaurant, you sit at a table and they will bring all the dishes to your table, many many dishes full to the brim with the cooked food. You eat, but you pay only for the food that you touch. Those dishes on the table that you do not touch you do not pay for. Of course all these dishes (called 'lauk') go with boiled rice. I am told that they still practice this sort of serving in Sumatra. And they do that in this Restoran Syafinas. The risk however is that if you have children with you, they will touch every dish. You can tell the owner that you do not touch the dishes concerned, you only touch those that he sees as being touched, and you pay for those. But you must remember that what your children touch are already contaminated. And the next person having that dish on his/her table will be eating 'contaminated' food. The first time I went there I enjoyed seeing all the dishes full of food on my table. But on thinking of the 'contaminated' dishes, the next time I went there I did not want the 'treatment', I just told the owner I would choose the food myself. And if you want good and cheap food you have it 'campor' or mixed. They will put the food on a plastic covered brown paper, fold it and put all that you ordered inside; the owner then will mix with some other gravy to make the mixture tasty and he folds it with the food inside and squeezed it to make the food really mixed. I enjoy food mixed like that. The food is reasonably priced, service is good, food tasty. On hygiene? Well if you do not choose to have all the dishes on your table, they are quite hygienic, to an acceptable standard. But if you chose to have all the food on your table then I would rate it as unhygienic.

There is another good restaurant on the way to TNB Office from the centre of the town. Cannot remember its name, but I remember that its on the right side of the road (going to the TNB office) and it serves a sort of Malay-Indian food. It is of acceptable hygienic standard, reasonably priced food and good service. But sometimes the service is too good, it becomes an obtrusion. Before you can sit yourself down properly they ask you for you order. Menu? Well you read them on the walls. Or they expect you to already know what you want.

Now you move further up north to KB. I must share a joke about food in KB. Years ago when the Islamic Government (PAS) took over the ruling of the state, it was announced in the local press that people in Kelantan were starving due to the lack of foodstuff. So people visiting Kelantan, KB especially, from out of Kelantan State used to bring their own food - rice, meat, fish and some tinned stuff. The idea was that these food were for their consumption and to be shared with any relative or friend in KB. In the end the food they brought were never consumed as there were more food to be had in KB then than they could ever imagine. They found that all the market places, night stalls and roadside stalls were full with food being sold so cheaply that not many resident of KB need to cook at home. Today the situation is still like that in KB. Food, glorious food everywhere. Cheap. Hygienic? Its a matter of taste.

Just like KT, KB seems so unkempt to an outsider like me. Rubbish everywhere (almost) and trees, shrubs and grass in town not cut. I suppose they are used to that. But one thing I admire about KB, its full of people trading and be about doing business day and night. They even build resting places in the centre of the town where you can sit down or even lie down to chat. But of course the places for the men and the ladies are separated, but not necessarily veiled. In fact both sexes mixed very well without even the tension as described in the local press as being a strongly Islamic state. And ladies smile at you without the slightest reservation.

There are two kind of strange Kelantan originated food which are quite well known outside Kelantan. One is "Gulai Kawah" and the other is "Gearbox Soup". The former you have to go to Kelantan to enjoy it but the latter is well publicised in the mass media, has got imitation, the well known one being in the Temerloh/Maran border area next to the TNB Kg. Awah Substation. In fact "Gulai Kawah" now has got immitations.

What is "Gulai Kawah"? I cannot really describe it, its a sort curried large cut meat/bone mixture cooked in coconut milk, using spices just like what you get when you go to a Malay wedding feast. Not exactly but nearly. Why "kawah"?. Because its cooked slowly in a "kawah", a sort of cast iron wok the diameter of which may be above 1 meter, slowly over wood fire. "Gulai"? Its a Malay word used quite extensively in the East Coast to describe almost anything spicy food cooked in coconut milk. So the name "Gulai Kawah". The original one, I was told, that went into commercial being was in the padi field just out of Pasir Putih town, on the Pasir Putih/KB road. It is served with white boiled rice, salt fish, some ‘ulam’ and ‘sambal belacan’. Mostly these are served at lunch time. Delicious and cheap. Now many of the "Gulai Kawah" places have mushroomed in Kelantan itself, in Trengganu and even in Pahang.

Now what is "Gearbox Soup"? Its a spicy soup of boiled leg bones of cows/bulls, especially the moving joints part where I suppose how it is associated with gearbox. Of buffaloes? I have not heard of such but I am not really sure. I suppose it can be done. Sheep/Lamb? Never heard of it. Now you see the connection with gearbox. You strip off the skin, cut away the good meat from the bones and make soup out of the rest. You break and cut the bone of course. Your soup is cooked either in "kwali" (a sort of a wok or a small "kawah") or a big "kawah" or in large Aluminium pots, it does not really matter as long as you get a good drinkable/edible soup/bone spicy mixture. How do you eat the soup? In a large bowl of course, liquid soup and the broken legs bones in it. Sounds weird but that is how its done. To enjoy it further, you are provided with a knife and a straw (probably a fork to pick up the cut meat/fat, a spoon to spoon the soup with; but you can always drink the soup using your straw or out of a small bowl like what they do in Japan), to cut away the meat, the fat and the straw to suck the bone marrow after you fill the broken bone hollow with your soup liquid. Strange but its true. Savage? Not when you are used to it. After all I have seen on TV how the Arabs eat a whole sheep by tearing them into pieces with bare hands and just mouthing/biting those pieces. Have I tried this "Gearbox Soup"? Of course I have, but beware. It very high in cholesterol. I tried it not in Kelantan though but at a house of a Kelantanese friend in Pahang. I still have to find out where I can get this "Gearbox Soup" in Kelantan.

In reality food so common in a Kelantanese life that food is found everywhere and easily in KB. One habit I observe about those people in KB, they buy takeaways for dinner. And the food are delicious and sweet. I suppose just like the ladies from Kelantan, they are very sweet looking. They called the ladies over there (and in Trengganu) as "Mek". Lucky those who are married to them. Now back to restaurants. A few I can mention here are the ones that I have really been to, once at least. Four especially are in my mind.

1. Yati Ayam Percik. This place serves very delicious Kelantanese food. Its on the Jalan Pekeliling somewhere near the main KB Bomba (Fire Services) building. You will not miss it if you turn off right at a traffic light just out of town after the New Pacific Hotel on the KB/Pengkalan Chepa Airport road. Its only about 500 meters from that junction. The food is heavenly, the service prompt, hygiene acceptable but price a bit pricey though. When you have come all the way to KB, why worry about the price. Its cheaper than KL anyway. What is their specialty? "Ayam percik", "gulai daging", "ayam kampong panggang" and "daging panggang". One special drink that they serve is "peraga juice". What are these? Find out for yourself when you are there. The owner is a sweet oldish Kelantan lady whose husband I was told has a school for young and upcoming soccer players. What a combination. A bit of extra information, you can also buy packed "ayam percik" from that restaurant.

2. Four Season. Sound Chinese? Yes, its a Chinese halal restaurant in KB. Its very popular in KB, well patronised by many KBrian. The food is cooked in Chinese style, good, comparatively cheap, and no complaint on hygiene. Who serve? Chinese and Malay men and girls. In KB you say, can that happen? The answer is yes, in KB the races mixes so well that its only us from outside KB who do not understand them.

3. The other restaurant which I must mention here is a small Chinese run restaurant which sells Malay food. Its only open at lunch time. Which street in KB? I am not sure but I can still find it when I am there the next time. Its on a small back street in KB town somewhere off tangent between the TNB office and the Diamond Putri Hotel (The Hotel has now changed its name and under a new management team). What made me notice the place was on how the food was served. They are served as "nasi campor" in a plastic covered squared brown paper. No ceramic plate is used. You Q-up, ask for whatever you want from the cooked food choice all placed in containers in front of you, the server will put all these on the plastic covered brown paper, fold it, you pay up and away you go. You can either eat there in that restaurant or take the food as a takeaway and eat somewhere else. If you eat there, there are tables and chairs and long benches. You make your choice. A lady will ask you for your drink, you order, eat your food (and pay for the drink), fold the leftover on your paper "plate" and off you go. Its easy. The food is cheap, not much variety, service prompt and hygiene acceptable. But if you are the fussy type the place is very crowded and the furniture old.

4. And lastly, you have not been to KB if you have not visited the White House. Its not that White House. This White House is White House Coffee stall, very close to the Sultan Mahmud Mosque Kota Bahru, close to the "gerbang" (the Gate). Its a ‘kopitiam’ shop selling one of the best coffee in KB. It serve "roti bakar" the old style with butter or "kaya", which ever that you prefer. Its a very old fashioned stall, small, quaint and quite clean. Its owned by an old Chinaman but I can assure you that what they serve are all halal. They also sell ‘nasi lemak’, ‘nasi dagang’ and a few local "kuih" (local sweets usually of flour). But the coffee stall does not open all the time, it is only open a short time in the day time and later after the Isya prayer. Even then, there is always a long Q. If you want to have their coffee, you have to be prepared to wait or be in the Q.

Now as I mentioned earlier, food in KB is plentiful. You choose and you get. At night time, at the Padang Garong night market, next to the TNB office, they have night stalls every night selling food such as ‘satay’ and other types of Malaysian food. And if you are a bit westernised you can go to MacD, KFC, Pizza Hut and such places where franchised food are sold.

Well, "food, glorious food" as they say. Who said that? Was it Charles Dickens in David Copperfield? I cannot remember now. Some of you may. If I am wrong correct me. I am still learning.

East Coast is fun to be in, and better still if you know where to find good food. I shall end here, as I have said enough. Probably I will meet some of you in anyone of the restaurants that I have mentioned. Bon appertif.

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Food For Thoughts - Part Two

In this series, I am mostly talking about where you can get ready cooked food.. But you can also get many places where they serve food cooked on the spot, especially those like ‘nasi goring’, ‘mee goring’, ‘tom-yam’ soup, local burgers etc. And if you drive at night (I am referring only to the East Coast) you may find that some of the eating places I described above/and previously may be closed but instead you may find road side cafes. You can easily identify them by their bright multicoloured lights, especially those using coloured fluorescent lamps. And of course at night you will not be able to really see the surroundings, whether they are environmentally friendly and whether they maintain good hygiene.

Leaving Kuantan, lets travel up north to Kuala Trengganu and further. And while traveling you have to eat some time.

On the way up there, there are many hotels on the beach front. They all serve good food, highly priced, good atmosphere, reasonable service and in most cases good hygiene. Now we do not want to eat in these hotels. We would like to eat in places where locals can eat good food in comfortable/hygenic surroundings.

When you enter Cukai/Kemaman Town, you will see the difference from those towns in Pahang. Here the hedges are well trimmed and meticulous maintained. But the drainage system are poorly maintained, resulting in some places where you stop to eat and which serve good food, smells of the dirty drain. A very unpleasant odour.

There are a few restaurants here which I specially like.

1. As you drive towards the Kemaman Hospital, at the Kemaman New Town there is a restaurant on the right called 'Briani'. Yes, they serve ‘briani’ rice, reasonably priced but not the ‘briani’ I call authentic. It looks like ‘briani’, taste quite like ‘briani’ but somehow has a long way to be called ‘briani’. You may stop there to have ‘briani’ though.

2. Just after the Kemaman Sultan Ahmad mosque, about 100 meter, on your right (on the other side of the road) there is the Restoran Siti Meryam. But they do not open until 12.30 pm, just in time for lunch. They serve the best fish curry that I have ever tasted anywhere. And the food are all good, the 'lauk' all excellent. And their 'sotong' sauce is also better than that I have tasted anywhere. Looks like a favourite place for PETRONAS staff, they come all the way from Kerteh (or are they on the way back to Kerteh and just stopping there for lunch?) To Trengganu people PETRONAS = wealth. But I heard someone from the Trengganu interior said a couple of years back, "Negeri kaya, rakyat miskin" (The State is rich, the people are poor). Maybe he was right. Back to the restaurant, the restaurant is simply furnished and very clean. You can either be self serviced or wait for the staff to serve you (which I observe are rarely done as most customers prefer to be self serviced.) The order for the drinks are taken separately and the drinks arrive quite quickly as well. The servers are all girls, well mannered and attend to their work very consciously. A family business I presume. With an open arranged atmosphere, in a coastal town like Kemaman where the wind blows 'bersepoi-sepoi' (as the Malay saying goes - it means cool intermitent gust of wind), eating there is heavenly (except when the smell of the Town clogged drains become overbearing). The price of food is very reasonable.

3. If you go further up, on you left (about 100 meters on), there is another restaurant that serve good ‘nasi minyak’ (translated as oiled rice, rice cook in oil added with aromatic ingredients). Now this is what I call good food,close to ‘briani’ rice but here it is better (once upon a time they served better 'nasi minyak', and since the cook died - so I am told, they turned to rice close to ‘briani’ rice). They open early and you can have breakfast there of ‘roti canai’ and ready packed 'nasi lemak'. At lunch time its quite full, people taking ‘briani’/’nasi minyak’ with 'kari daging' (curried beef) or 'kari kambing' (curried lamb) or fried chicken or 'ayam dalam'. What is 'ayam dalam'? Its the chicken cooked in the ‘briani’ rice. And they have the ‘dalca’, the ‘timun acar’ and the ‘papadam’ all ready. I like best their 'kari kambing'. Acceptably clean (though may need some improvement in their kitchen) and the service is excellent. The servers are mostly local boys, who are quite jovial among themselves. The price? More reasonable than Restoran Siti Meryam.

4. Now in Cukai/Kemaman Town I must mention about two other good eating places. One is the 'stuff crab' restaurant on the main road, further in (proximity to) the Town Market, in front of the old Rest House which has since been demolished. But if you do not have more than RM50.00 in your pocket, do not eat there. The place is quite pricey. But the service is excellent and the surrounding is quite hygienic. And another place is the Hai Peng Coffee House (an old ‘kopi tiam’ place which has now grown into a very modern standard, serving almost the best coffee anywhere in the East Coast). Its on the turning right of the traffic light, Ayer Putih junction just after the Kemaman Hospital. You won’t miss it, its a white brick building clearly marked Hai Peng Coffee House. Don't worry, its a halal place, serving the old style 'roti bakar' with butter or ‘kaya’ (sugar added egg beaten and cooked with coconut). You can order other snack and sandwiches as well if you like. Very clean (though the toilet is very close to the eating place but you need not sit near the toilet), excellent service and reasonably priced food and drinks.

As you move further north from Cukai/Kemaman you come to Kerteh, the oil town of Trengganu. You know what oil-town means..........wealth!. When you are in Kerteh, and most of us have experienced the place, you will find some reasonably good resturants, which I shall mention a few here. But most of these restaurants are quite small establishment, probably family run.

1. The restaurant I like most for lunch is the nasi minyak stall close to the main (I call it PETRONAS) mosque and Post Office. Good service, well priced and reasonably clean and comfortable surrounding. You can even take visitors there for a good stall food lunch.

2. But don't forget, just next to it is a Malay stall that serve 'nasi campor' (mixed rice translated literally). Its not the 'nasi campor' that I go for, its the 'rojak ayam' (vege with pieces of grilled chicken served in hot - as in chilli- peanut source/gravy). Its cheap, very tasty, enough and served in warm gravy. That is good and as compared to many places that I go to for 'rojak' where the gravy is not even warm. Try it when you are there.

3. There are two other restaurants in Kerteh Town that I frequent, but I do not really favour them. One is in town, close to the BSN (Bank Simpanan Nasional - I call it the local folks Bank). The food is good, service prompt but I find it very dirty with flies flying around inside and outside the building most of the time. I visited its kitchen to see how they prepare the food, and I will not do it again. Its dirty. But sometimes I eat there when some friends ask me to do so, just being polite. Another restaurant is at the back, within sight of the PETRONAS petrol station, near the old wet market (quite close to the new wet market). The food is good, quite cheap and they serve very good and tasty 'soup tulang' (literally translated as bone soup, but with pieces of craggy meat attached). But the surrounding is too 'natural' - you can see a few patches of cow dungs just outside the open walled restaurant. I find it uneasy to eat there.

4. I must also mention of two other places which are worth mentioning. One is the 'roti canai' place after the traffic light at the PETRONAS/ Airport junction, on the right side of the Kerteh/KT road. This used to be very popular in the morning. Good 'roti canai (is the place still there?). And the other place is the 'roti tempayan' place, before the Kerteh Town junction, on the left of the road (about half a km before the ‘roti canai’place). Its still there. But they only open after 4.00 pm, so you can only go there after the office hours,. They have very crispy 'roti nan' and very tasty 'kari ayam' and 'kari kambing'. Either choice is excellent to go with the 'roti nan'.

5. If you go further on towards Paka, into Labohan village, there is an excellent 'nasi ayam' (chicken rice) place. Its on the right as you enter the Labohan village.You must try this 'nasi ayam', its worth the wait at lunch time when it is pretty crowded. Cheap, kampong surrounding, real natural and good service. (Labohan is the Malay village just before the big PETRONAS PetroChemical Comples).

Leaving Kerteh and Paka, you move on north until you reach Dungun town. The only place to eat that I like in Dungun is at the UiTM hotel. Its a hotel training place for UiTM students, a bit way off the main road but excellently placed very close to a golf course and by the beach. Here the food is reasonably good, tasty, varied and not pricey. The hygiene is not to be argued and the surrounding most becoming. You cannot find a better place to have lunch in Dungun.

After reading the two parts of my write up, maybe some of us would like to mention of some good eating places in the East Coast that I have missed, until now and till Dungun. Or if anyone would like to share their experience on good eating places in the North or South or even in Selangor/KL area, I am sure most of us would like to hear about them.

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Food For Thoughts - Part One

There are times in our lives when we have to travel outstation. Most of us will know which hotel to stay in. When we were working we would stay at the most expensive hotels, but within our entitlement. But when we retire (or jobless) we will either choose to stay with someone you know (on very rare occasions, - ‘jarang jarang’ as P Ramlee said) or with a relative (sometimes - ‘kadang-kadang’ as P Ramlee said) or in a cheaper hotel within our means -if we are mean that is. Or if we travel with the wife/wives or children then we may chose a reasonably priced hotel where the wife/wives will not complain. Its easy to locate these hotels or even to book them as these hotels are always advertised in the Yellow Pages or even in some rubbishy circulars sent to our homes, or even in the newsprints. Or you can ask a friend, he/she will gladly (and sometimes proudly) tell you which are the reasonably priced hotels and in which town.

However we will always find it a problem to locate which are the reasonably price restaurants and in which town. And which of these restaurants serve the food that we like, tasty and in clean and hygienic surroundings/environment with friendly staff to serve you. If you have a combination or even a permutation of these then I am confident that you will be happy to pay even a higher price. Of course you can eat at the hotel where you are staying, but hotel food price are sometimes most unreasonably priced. And they may not even be to our taste. In some pricy hotels, Muslims are not even sure if the food is Halal or not, for example steam fish are normally cooked using Chinese wine as one of the ingredients. And in most towns, we have the so called Indian Restaurants. Good food but be careful, they could be yesterdays food. And when after having the food, check the price as most of the time they will say them in Urdu or some foreign language and says to you "Dua Puluh Ringgit" (RM 20.00). You are not even sure if that is the real or right price. Try asking them for detail on what you have eaten and a new price will be quoted. Now itemised the food that you have eaten and a new price will then be quoted. And in some places that I have been to, we have nothing else but Tom-Yam restaurants. These are also problematic, the food may not be to our taste, at least not to mine. I had this experience in Dungun about a year ago. And in real so called Thai Restaurants, we do not even know what we have eaten (they write them in Romanised Thai), and when we receive the bills we will have the feeling of 'pedas' (hot under the collar) to pay the bill.

I want to share with you my experience of some good restaurants (some are food stalls really but for the sake of this article I will call them restaurants) that I have been to in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. These restaurants are to my expectations, food, hygiene and service wise. You may have your own experience that you wish to share with us, not necessarily in the East Coast but anywhere else in the country; not outside so that we may restrict ourselves by choice only to Malaysia only.

If you travel from KL to Kuantan, you may stop for a break at the restaurants at the Genting Sempah, after the tunnel. Most of them serve good Malay (halal) food. They are controlled, so the price and hygiene is passable. They are mostly self service. And at the MacDonald you may break for a toilet run. Reasonably clean toilet it has. And of course the standard Malaysian MacDonald food.

You pass on until you reach the Temerloh Bridge. (Note that now that the Karak/Kuantan Highway is opened, most travellers will not pass this way anymore). Before the Temerloh Bridge, you will see on your right a row of stalls. Many people have asked me "How do I get to the stalls?". And if you park by the road side to reach those stalls, its a dangerous practice, you may get run over when you try to cross the road. To reach them, its quite a roundabout way. You turn left before those stalls, curve and turn right, another left and curve right again, under the Temerloh Bridge and right again at the traffic light. Once at the stalls there are plenty of parking space. Which is the best stall? All are identical, most of them serve authentic Pahang food - ikan ‘patin’ in ‘tempoyak’, fried river fish, ulam etc etc. For those who do not take river fish there are chicken, meat and ‘ikan kembong’. Try them and you will surely come again. Price? A bit steep but worth the effort. My favourite restaurant is Restaurant Abang, where Tengku Azlan (a politician of Pahang royal blood) even book a table there sometimes. But another favourite of mine is the stall at the end of Restaurant Abang row, facing the KL/Kuantan road. Good tasty food, hygienically acceptable and friendly service. You may serve yourself or have them serve you. Nice ‘sambal tempoyak’, ‘jeruk maman’, ‘ulam peraga’ they have.

Now don’t forget, Temerloh has a twin town about 10 km away, just off the Temerloh/Mentakab bypass road. Its the Mentakab town. A small not so well kept town. But if you were to explore the town and reach the Malay restaurants behind The Store Supermarket you will find very good Malay restaurants serving very good Malay food and very reasonably priced as well. Its usually packed with the locals during lunch time. Its worth the visit.
I have rarely stopped anywhere after Temerloh until I reach Kuantan. Reason being that the food served along the way is not to my taste and the hygiene not to my acceptance.

In Kuantan the food can be very varied, from Pahang taste to Kelantan-Trengganu-Pahang mixture. The good restaurants, I will list them out, not necessary in that order of ‘best’ though.

1. Wak Suffian. Its on the Jalan Besar. They serve very tasty Sumatran cuisine. Worthwhile visiting and tasting the very delicious food. Reasonable priced, good hygiene (try entering it from the back and see how clean the kitchen/cooking is). A bit difficult to park if you are new to Kuantan town, but if you are an old Kuantan timer like me, I can easily find good parking space very close to the restaurant. (Now they are constructing a shopping complex at the back of the restaurant, so you cannot park at the back anymore). You may park at a distance and just walk a bit. KLites are used to that sort of distance parking.

2. R & R. This is an authentic Pahang Malay restaurant. Just a few doors away from Wak Suffian. Same standard as Wak Suffian but different style of cooking. By the way, you can buy very good Nasi Lemak, Pulut Kuning, Rendang etc etc and other local breakfast items from both Wak Suffian and R & R.

3. The Taj chain of restaurants. These are the so called Indian Restaurants. There is one at the Jalan Tun Ismail that opens 24 hours a day serving briani, chicken tikka, nan etc etc. A branch that serves very good fish curry and ‘roti canai’ is behind the MAS Office. Its not opened 24 hours a day but at breakfast and lunch time its very crowded.

4. A restaurant that is worthwhile mentioning is a Kelantan-Pahang mixture restaurant, I cannot remember the name: its behind the TNB Office, at the end of the new row of shops houses where Poslaju has its office. Other than the normal Malay food, its specialty is ‘bubur’. It has all sorts of ‘bubur’, you name it they have it but all very sweet. Good food but hygienically questionable. I would rate it as acceptable.

5. Those restaurants by the Kuantan River bank used to be very popular, especially during the ‘udang galah’ (big river prawns) and ‘telur ikan’ (fish roe) seasons. They still serve good food. But I do not like the surroundings, it’s a bit dirty. Hygienically acceptable but can be improved.

6. Now lets go to another kind of restaurants. Those are those serving western food. There are stalls very close to the Main Kuantan Police Station, behind the row of shop houses that serve very good and cheap steak. These are run by very enterprising young boys/men who also serves all kinds of drinks, ‘ice kacang’ to rainbow. But they only open at night.

7. A good western food restaurant that I can recommend is called East Grill. Its off Jalan Beserah, behind some shop houses where the office of Maxis is. You enter after the pedestrian bridge by the left slip road. They serve authentic western food, just like, if not better, than Victoria Station, but the price is only half of Victoria Station. Good service, good hygiene and friendly atmosphere. Its owned by a Chinese lady from KL.

8. Another good Western food restaurant just opened is The Sherwood. Its at Jalan Telok Sisek, attached to the Kampong Selamat Supermarket. It serves very reasonably priced good Western cookings. But I must admit that its good food and pleasant atmosphere is spoilt by its bad service. Their staff is not so well trained and many can hardly speak English. You will fint it difficult to make yourself understood when you speak in English when you order your dishes.

9. Chinese restaurant?. I do not know of many except those in hotels such as in MS Garden and Hyatt. MS Garden has a large Chinese Restaurant that serve very good Steamboat. Cheap, at RM 25.00 per head (then). Some of us have been there. They also have private function rooms if you want privacy.

10. And (I would say that) at the top of the range is at Hyatt Hotel where they have very good
restaurants, international class and probably of higher standard than some of those in KL. A good location, easy parking, a family type of atmosphere. I often go there for meals with my family. Very reasonably priced, good service, friendly staff and of course first class hygiene. One of the most satisfying places that I have been to.

11. Why don't I mention seafood? After all Kuantan is by the coast and should have a lot of sea food. In Kuantan when one talk of sea food one goes to either Tanjung Lumpur (across the Kuantan River Bridge), or to Beserah. I never mention Tanjung Lumpur because I think the hygiene over there is pathetic. The food can/or may be good, reasonably priced but try going there in the day time. And if you go there again at the evening/night time to have your sea food, you may not even be able to swallow what you have ordered, after what you see during the day time. You have to have a very strong stomach to enjoy your food. Of course the locals are used to it, so they don't care. But in Beserah there is one restaurant that I can recommend. Its Pak Su. At the 10th miles stone by the Beserah beach on the way to Kuala Trengganu. Good food, reasonably priced, passable atmosphere, acceptable hygiene. Its owned by a Chinese and they serve Chinese style of sea food. They also sell liquor. One of their famous dish is stuffed crab.

The other places for sea food I have not been.

Note that I have not mentioned anything about the food at the Karak/Kuantan Highway. The R&R buildings are already there during the time of writing this article but the food are not sold yet.

I am choosy, I do not want to be and eat at places where there is too much 'nature'.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Pahang Re-visited

Earlier I wrote an article about Pahang (one of the sultanates in Malaysia) when there was a by-election at Sanggang, in the Temerloh District of the State. But things have changed since then (since about 2 years ago?), a General Election took place about 6 months ago and since then they have also opened the Karak/Kuantan Highway (on 1st August 2004) and they also had the Malaysian National Day Celebration held in Kuantan at the recent 31 August 2004. Pahang is now better known and the Central Government has now appreciated the contribution made by Pahang in the overall development of Malaysia. Maybe its because of the change in the Malaysian leadership or maybe because the Pahang State Government is more honest with themselves and is being more proactive in its dealings with the Federal Government or maybe because the state infrastructure has improved. Or maybe a combination of all the above factors.

Pahang is the biggest state in Malaya but is slow in its development, or maybe slow in reaping the profit of its development. Most underdeveloped areas had been given to FELDA (the Malaysia Federal Development Authority) to develop towards new settlements and agricultural developments with rubber and palm oil being the most tress planted. And these are slow producing crops and when developed the earnings are thinly spread and realised over a long period. So wealth does not seem so obvious. And also Pahang tried to develop its southern part through DARA, the South Pahang Development Authority. DARA and FELDA have in a way been successfully in developing the area but again wealth is slow to be realised. And Pahang used to depend a lot on timber in its forest for its wealth but its not that widespread among the people and only a few people got really that rich, the Royal and the Politicians earned the most money from timber. But the funny thing is that even these Politicians and the Royal do not that ‘much’ money, its the other people who work on these timber concessions who earn the ‘most’ money. Your guess is a good as mine. Oil is not found in Pahang. Its industrial estates give employments to Pahang people but the Pahang Government does not benefit directly from the industries in these industrial estates. Its the Companies like PETRONAS and the other Petchem Companies that benefit the most, financial wise.

The State used to have an arrogant MB (he is the MB now) but he is very quiet now. (MB = Menteri Besar or Chief Minister, an elected political head). Many MB's have been the political and Administrative Heads in Pahang, with names like Sir Mahmud, Tengku Abdullah, Tun Razak, Tan Sri Yahya, Wan Aziz, Mohd Yusof, and the innocent youthful Dato' Najib (the son of the late Tun Razak), who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, some colourful and some mild and some 'meninggalkan jasa' (leaving a deed behind) and some 'memakan jasa' (eating away the deeds of others). Whichever way one looks at it, Pahang had changed since the fifties and since Merdeka but with a smaller pace than expected even with its rich resources and cheap labour. Yes Pahang has got many State and Federal Corporations such as DARA (which is now defunct), Jengka (a Corporation that takes away almost 1/3 of the State) and of course not forgetting LKNP (now with its subsidiaries such as PASDEC and PASCORP?), LKPP, Felda, Felcra, Kumipa, KOSMA and what other else acronym one can think of.

Pahang is a Sultanate, as mentioned. "Beta berkenan" (I like that), "Itu hak beta" (that is my right) - those are the common language heard from the late 19th Century to late 20th Century, and probably to now. What does that mean in real terms, I do not know, that is the politest way I can put it. Daulat Tuanku!.

Pahang State is well known for its riverine towns such as Kuala Lipis (in local language they call it Lepih - where the current famous Malay girl singer comes from), Temerloh (sometimes spelt with Temerluh - where a former/late Sudirman Hj Arshad, a famous Malay male singer this time comes from), Pekan (a town resided by most Pahang royal decent situated at the mouth of the Pahang Rives, and the interior towns such as Bentong (just about 40 km away from KL off the Karak Highway), Raub (used to be a prosperous town when gold was discovered there but no more gold now). Of the more civilised towns are Kuala Lipis which used to be the capital of the State, Temerloh where all the brave people of Pahang comes from (I should say came from, as most people in Temerloh now are just mere buffaloes, able to be dragged by the nose) and Pekan where the royalty lives (or shall I say should live, they now choose to live in Kuantan, which is the Capital of the State and whose progress is beyond expectations). Other towns are mostly occupied by "orang asli", (son of the soil or in modern terms Bumiputra), with probably many Chinese shopkeepers. But Kuantan (Kuantang in local slang) a town full of ‘foreigners’ from Kelantan and Trengganu and managed by these ‘foreigners’, these people being more diligent than the original "natives" have developed the town into a thriving community which had taken over Kuala Lipis role as the Capital of Pahang, since the late 50s. How come? Lets us be frank about it, these ‘foreigners’ have even occupied all the Felda schemes, and now the ‘foreigners’ are joined by those from Kedah as well to take over the State (at least in most Felda schemes and in the former DARA area). Strange I thought that Kedah people are so contented in Kedah that I am told many times by the former PM that they do not migrate to other States. But again Pahang people also migrate, they migrate to the Big City of Kuala Lumpur, to the bright lights and never to return to Pahang ever. Kooala Lumpoo they say. And they breed and die there

Pahang glorious past is now past and gone, beyond recovery, beyond rehabilitation, beyond maintenance, beyond a turnaround, beyond anything that is humanly possible; in those days Pahang had "braves" in Bahaman, Tok Gajah, Mat Kilau, Cik Gu Jantan and Pawang Nong. Now Pahang people are either UMNO or PAS "braves" (in those days Parti Rakyat braves as well) but now no more of the brave "braves', they are just "contented people", people who live from day to day hoping for Government handouts and subsidies such as bonus issues from KOSMA, profit from Felcra and Felda schemes. What is to become of Pahang people? They are now a new tribe altogether, the tribe called Subsidy People and slaves to those handouts.

'Apa yang masih bertahan di Pahang selain dari Gunung Tahan dan Kuala Tahan?' ( What are there that survive and withstand in Pahang other than Gunung Tahan and Kuala Tahan - 'tahan' means being able to withstand).

Pahang suffers from a dearse of culture. Other than the Turtle Dance for which it is "famous" and the late Pak Zek and Pak Sako, Pahang had not produced "cultured" people. Maybe famous singers like the late Sudirman (I mentioned above) and now the acclaimed Siti Nurhaliza (also mentioned above). But their base is Kuala Lumpur and not Pahang. Do they come to Pahang? Yes, occasionally if the fees are of the right amount. How are the fees charged? I am told per song not per show as used to be. Of course they can say they will sing so many songs per show and so they charge accordingly. Just my speculation. Of the turtle dance? Not heard much about it anymore.

Is there a famous theatre, a famous museum, a famous art gallery in Pahang? Maybe in Kuantan but those are not so famous anyway. There is one museums in Kuantan Town. Where are the theatres? What theatre? Pahang people only heard of cinemas and not theatres, they may even show you the cineplex at the Berjaya Mall if you were to ask them to show you a theatre. But at least there are cineplexes in Pahang, that is a bit of culture. There is also a museum is in Pekan and an art gallery in Hyatt Hotel, not really an Art gallery but a workshop where a painter shows his paintings for sale. Why not have official theatre (where people can perform on stage), museums and art galleries in all major towns in Pahang?. Anyone ever thought about them other than thinking about which timber concession one must get, and when is the next dividend from Felcra and KOSMA?

Anyone ask why I talk about Pahang? I love the State. Its just that the State does not seem to know who loves it and who sucks it. Pahang's dilemma is that its people are too entrenched in their traditional ways of life, its Pekan Sehari (the most famous is in Temerloh), its beaches, its rivers and its jungle. Not that these in themselves are bad but when all factors combined it seems to pull development (both material wise as well as spiritual wise) away from Pahang. Should Pahang develops material wise only and open up stalls for 4 digits, encourage gambling, drinking, womanizing etc etc and call itself Pahang Darul Las Vegas instead of Pahang Darul Makmur. At night one can see almost all over town in Kuantan some people selling the 4 digit results for the day. But Pahang is no stranger to all these, especially to gambling; in the old days after the 'menuba ikan' (they poison a certain part of the Pahang River with 'tuba' Poison to stun the fish, its like a fiesta when the riverine people collected those stunned fish) then the next session was "berjoget dan berjudi" (dance and gambling). And today Kuantan Town (I know about this as I sometimes stay in Kuantan for a week or so in a month) has many 4-digit shops (I do not know how 4 digit betting is all about, the only thing I know is that they gamble on numbers, which happens to consist of 4 digits) and everyone seems to enjoy betting on these 4 digits, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I wonder what the Pahang Muslim Religion Department is doing about this gambling by the Muslims, (Muslims are not supposed to gamble, there is notice in every 4 digit shop about this, and if you go to the Casino in Getting Highland you will find that Muslims are forbidden from entering the Casino - they cannot even play the one arm bandits - so rich Muslim Malaysians go to Perth to gamble in Casinos). The Pahang Muslim Religion Department seems to be so strict on unmarried people staying together, on religious talks and on other petty Muslim religious matters. And the increasing number of prostitutes and transvestite in Kuantan town is beyond comprehension. I am told that many are from Kelantan and Trengganu where Muslim religion enforcement are more strict. In Kuantan they even become the local tourist attractions nowadays. They even carry on their trade very openly.

Where does Pahang State play its part at the Federal level? It used to play a very active role at the Federal level, especially when the late Tun Abd Razak was the Prime Minister of Malaysia. And the Sultan of Pahang became the Agung for 4 years (as tradition would have it) about 15 years ago. Today Pahang is at the backwaters of the Federal Government. Federal Government officials only visit Pahang just before the General Election or else Pahang is only a place for them to take their family for a weekend holiday at the beach. Do they bring real development to Pahang? Not much to be seen, the Federal Government considers Pahang as a "safe place" for UMNO (one of the ruling political parties at the Federal level) even a monkey contesting a political seat in Pahang would win a seat if under the "dacing" (balance) banner, the banner for the current ruling parties, which today forms the Government of the day at the Federal level. But it is expected that Pahang will now develop at a faster pace after the recent opening of the Karak/Kuantan Highway, opened since 1 Aug. 2004. And I must record here that at the recent 31 August 2004 Malaysian National Day, the official Celebration (and Parade) was held in Kuantan town. That is something, after 47 years (of Independence) of being in the back waters.
What sort of development that can be seen in Pahang? Jengka Triangle and DARA used to be the main development areas. But with the defunct of DARA it only leaves the Jengka Corporation which runs the development in Jengka Triangle to carry on the burden. The Government at Federal level (I think) tried to form the Lembaga Kemajuan Pahang Barat, but it killed itself even before birth. They tried to bring tourism to Pahang, I would say with a bit of success. But can that success be sustained? Especially so after the 9/11 incident. But I would expect, after the opening of the Karak/Kuantan Highway, more tourists now will come this way, especially the local tourists. They will not be spending much in Kuantan as compared to foreign tourists but they will bring volume which in real terms will come to quite a big sum spent in Kuantan town. But the other towns in Pahang are not developing as fast as they should to cater for the tourist industry or any industry for that matter. The same old town and the same old buildings in most of the towns, (except Kuantan), some even still with wooden shop houses which should have been torn down years ago. See Lanchang, Karak, Kerdau, Kuala Krau, Triang (strange names to some readers and strange still if you happen to visit them), even Pekan and some part of Kuantan. Who cares anyway, most people from Pahang prefers to live in KL. Yes there is the Karak Highway and now the Karak/Kuantan Highway. But the Highway bypass most of these ‘other’ towns so I expect the same rate of growth will prevail..

Then though Sabaruddin Chik was (now he is retired) the MP for Temerloh for a long time and very close to the "TOP", and yet he could not a get highway to Temerloh built earlier. And what of Najib (now Deputy PM of Malaysia), Khalil (now appointed the Governor of Melaka), Jamaluddin Jarjis (now the Minister of Technology in the Malaysian Cabinet), Fauzi (now retired?) and Zaharah (now retired?), could not they get a highway to Kuantan much earlier while sitting at their Federal pots (posts)? But now the Highway is there. Regardless, Pahang has developed in other areas; it has got Petro-Chemical Complex at Gebeng, near Kuantan. Mentakab seems to have its own industrial complex as well so does Bentung, though both seem to progress very slowly as compared to places like in Selangor and Perak. What more Penang, Melaka and Johore, they have gone far ahead over a long time now.

In education Pahang has been left too far for a long time. But it now can boast of a medical teaching hospital in Kuantan for the International Islamic University. It also has got a University in Kuantan in the form of KUKTEM (correct?) in the former MEC complex near Gambang, about 20 km east of Kuantan town on the way to KL (don’t ask me what KUKTEM stands for but its a University) And IKIP in Kuantan with ITM Branch in Jengka and the Tengku Abdul Rahman College in some shop houses in Karak. So now Pahang people will be "educated".

By the way have you observed some of the mosques in the rural areas in Pahang? They are the most ugly structures ever built. They all look alike everywhere except for those in Kuantan and the other older mosques, and those ugly mass produced mosques are made of wood and painted black (then) with funny "Malaca like" roofs. Some are now painted white, after a deliberation I suppose. And no minaret at that, how does one tell that they are mosques? Don't Pahang Muslim Religious Department has some sense of esthetic? Compare to those in Trengganu, Pahang is far cry backward in their mosque building technology. I blame that to poor imagination of the people concerned with the approval of the design of the mosques. or even no imagination at all.

Looking far ahead, in years to come, Pahang has got the potential of being progressive, provided,
1. The Pahang State Government maintains good rapport with the Federal Govt.
2. The Pahang MB maintains his moderate stature.
3. The people of Pahang wake up from deep slumber and create changes in their
political outlook and shift their paradigm to be more action orientated instead
of the subsidy mentality.
4. The Federal Govt. respects the need for accelerated development in Pahang and
not left it like an old first wife.
5. The Pahang ruling classes should understand the needs of the overall Pahang
people and not just a section of these people.

I wonder how many Pahang people have access to the Internet? In Kuantan now they have the broad band services, Streamyx. Or how many Pahang people want to have access to the Internet? Or can they afford to have access to the Internet?

I pray hard that Pahang State will progress and catch up with those States in the West of West Malaysia in the coming years.

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