Saturday, September 22, 2007


6TH SEPT 2007

I have made this a personal goal. Everytime I returned back to Kelantan, I will look up at least one "long lost" relative.

I aborted my final cycling leg to Kota Bharu at Merang. I desired to arrive back to KB earlier, to have an extra time with my mother. When my brother Rahimi arrived to pick me, I suggested to him to go to Kg Guntong and look up some long lost relatives before going back to KB. Good idea, he said. Being the younger brother he was, what else can he say!

So where is this Kg Guntong? It's a village along the main K Trengganu - Kota Bharu road, before Jerteh if one drives from KT. Who are there?

Like a reporter, I drew a Family Tree after all the surprises and pleasantries of meeting after more than 30 years. From the family tree, I know that Mak Su Jah is my Emak Sepupu, best translated as my mother's cousin. Rokiah is her daughter and therefore becomes my second cousin. Halimah is also another second cousin, but from my mother's other cousin, Pak Cik Omar (deceased).
Mak Su Jah and Pak Chik Omar are brother and sister. They were brought by their parents, Tok Chu Som and Tok Chu Hassan (both deceased) in the early 60's to open up the jungle of Kg Guntong. Tok Chu Som was my late Grandmother's sister (Mok Bidah).
Mak Su Jah has some semblance of my late grandmother. Their genes seemed to have been passed on to a daughter (of mine) all the way to Dublin! That means both Mok Su Jah and my late grandmother are highly intelligent but humorous species. (Notice I used the present tense!) Some of the humorous traits must have rubbed on to me too, ha...ha...
Locating the first second-cousin Halimah was easy. About a year ago, she located me, via my handphone. I don't recall having met her before but I recalled that her house is besides the Kg Guntong mosque. She was home when we gave our salam. The husband was in KL so we suggested to her to bring us to the other relative house. We went to Mok Su Jah's house and Rokiah came later. I remembered Rokiah as she was younger than me by several years.
Understandably I faintly remembered her mother, Mok Su Jah.
Mok Su Jah has 5 children - Rokiah, Rohani, Sabariah, Zakiah & Zaki (twins). Rokiah has 12...that's right twelve children. I dared not ask for the other siblings CV's! Rokiah was the eldest and life then must be pretty boring in the Ulu, and most times in darkness without TNB supply, so I guess that explains the massive output.
I was quite prepared for another shock when I asked Halimah. But she meekly held out only 1 hand with 5 outstretched fingers. Phew. Rokiah would need both hands and 2 toes.
Halimah had 4 other siblings, Fariza, Fauziah, Zubaidah and Suhaini. Her 5 children are Suhaimi (Policeman in Klang), Suhairi (immigration officer), Sukri, Hafizah and 1 other which I failed to record the name. Bad reporter!
Recalling my earlier days in the early 70s as an undergraduate in Universiti Malaya, I used to stop at Kg Guntong to visit them. Those were my earlier motorbiking days where as an undergrad, having a motorbike was FREEDOM and it was only a 90cc Suzuki Wolf. I used to travel back and forth KL - Tumpat during the semester breaks on that 90cc motorbike and Kg Guntong was one of my "must stop" stop. Of course I now ride a motorbike with no engine!
Recalling their early days, Mak Su Jah said the family came to Kg Guntong to teroka tanah. They were the new settlers and life was difficult. They opened up jungles to plant rubber and palm oil. Tigers were often seen but never liked humans as their prey. That's probably because there were still plenty of their preys then. Tigers would have changed their diet now but they are extinct there anyway, thanks to development.
Anyway, I was glad I made the trip. I was sure my brother was equally glad though he was still wet behind the ears when I was visiting Kg Guntong in those early years. We stayed for about an hour and went back with a sack of Cempedak and rambutan. The smell of the Cempedak lingered on in the Kelisa for a few days, but the memory of the visit lasts longer.

Friday, September 14, 2007



My travelling flask was in vacuum. It was to be filled up with a trip to Laos, but it turned out "laosy". That's what happened when you rely on others. So, I relied on myself and arranged for something local, a goal that I immediately set after the "laosy" experience. It would be a cycling trip back to Kota Bharu from Kuantan.

At 0930 I was on the bus in Shah Alam heading for Kuantan, my trusted bike in the bus stomach with handle straightened and front tyre removed to accomodate storage. I settled in for the 5 hours journey, made comfortable by the new East Coast highway. By the time the Konsortium Bus Express rolled into the Kuantan bus station, it was past 1600 hrs, late by an hour. It took me another 30 mins to fix the bike before I was ready to roll out. Weather was threatening, an early start to some minor adventure.

I had no definite stop plan except for one, in Kg Pengkalan Maras at Batu Rakit. That's in Trengganu. This would be on Day 3 of my ride. So, today's stop would be somewhere in Cherating about 50kms outside Kuantan.
The drizzle came. Out came the water-proofing cover for my panniers. I normally chose to go wet in the rain, soak it in and enjoy the coolness (at times coldness). Feel the gentle splatter of rain on your face....ah refreshing, just like those years as a child. That's half a century ago! With some narrow roads under construction and uphill stretches, the ride became exciting. At one instance, I had to pedal hard on an uphill stretch under construction, to keep a safe distance with an oncoming oil tanker. I managed to reach the top in time to allow it to overtake - defensive cycling I called it.

I cycled past a new township and its called BANDAR DAMANSARA. A "Damansara" in Kuantan? The Pahang folks must be running out of names. Of course Bandar Mat Kilau (a Pahang warrior) would not sell! Perhaps a Bandar Tun Teja (a Pahang princess lured by Hang Tuah to Melaka) may slightly outsell Mat Kilau.

The drizzle had stopped by the time I passed Damansara. Should I therefore see Kepong next?No. I was soon on a newly constructed highway, offering a nice view of the hills that I still got to crank before reaching Cherating.

First stop before Cherating was Kg Sg Ular. My last stop here was about 20 years ago. I recalled Sg Ular, a small meandering river which offered a scenic opportunity to capture sampans at its moorings and some scattered kampong houses. The village had developed, albeit slowly. But the sampans and the swaying coconut trees had withstood progress.

At 1900 hrs, I was scouting for the night stop, 42kms on my odometer. My stomach was on call and I spotted a signboard Riverside Chalet. RM70 a night and I settled in.


Left Riverside 0700hrs on empty stomach. Reminded myself to buy bananas as temporary energy top-up in the morning prior to breakfast at any warong found along the way. Nasi Dagang was on my brain menu. Nothing except nasi dagang. 10kms after, I turned in into Cherating beach, the "happening" beach as I recalled those early years. What happened now? A sad sight.

2008 is to be Visit Pahang year. The entrance signage had been sucked out of life by the weather. You could hardly see the picture of the beach on the huge signboard. Perhaps because there is no more beach, I told myself as I pedalled in.

It was obvious that this beach is already losing its charm and attraction, slowly but surely. Even RESTORAN SUSAH DILUPAKAN is now "SUDAH DILUPAKAN"!

The beach...yes the dirty beach. Who shall we blame except ourselves.

When I cycled into Kemaman, i.e. into Trengganu I noticed the clean and well maintained road of this town. It gave a sense of orderliness, a much better impression than the memories of Cherating. A photo of my senior in RMC, OP Ismail Said was on the billboard. He is the MP of Kemaman I suppose. No wonder Kemaman is spick and span"g".

I decided to explore Kuala Kemaman, which is off the main road. A signage pointed out to Teluk Mok Nek and I was told the locals call it Monica Bay! As I cycled in to Kuala Kemaman, I can't help but noticed the competitive signboards offering all kinds of local delicacies.

His name is Aziz and he sells satar. So he is AZIZ SATTAR

But he also sells my all time favorite - Nasi Putih Lauk Kampung, which is Ikan Tawar campur Budu. Ooh..I salivate during this fasting month thinking of this. Menu for today's buka puasa.

Development abounds in Kuala Kemaman. Reclamation project is under way and I can't help but noticed a row of neatly parked tractors. The military in me reminded me of those "fall in" or "masuk baris" for a parade.

Exiting Kuala Kemaman I progressed into Kijal. Kijal is now off the main road as a result of the bypass. I decided to cycle into Kijal and was rewarded with a group of excited kids. They were attending religious classes and was about to enter class after their break. A photographic opportunity and I took out my EOS. Kids' curiosity - they slowly braved themselves to be photographed. They came nearer and nearer and I regretted not having a wide-angle. I wasn't sure whether the Ustazah wanted to be photographed or showing a little discomfort that I attracted the kids more than she did!

I moved on and then chanced upon a warong. Nasi Dagang, nasi dagang! I stopped to ask. Yes indeed. Time was 1040, still early for lunch but who cares. I reasoned out that I need to do carbo-loading. Some will call it self-justification to avoid that guilty feeling. Who cares.

"Ingat ko Mat Salleh" said the girl manning the warong. Ha..ha...kulit sawo matang macam ni and size of a midget dia ingat Mat Salleh. "Bukang Mat Salleh, Mat Romli" I said in the Teganung slang. I had my fill and on heavy stomach I cycled on, fully satiated.

12.10 Kemasik Beach came into view. I had always stopped at Kemasik Beach everytime I travelled back and forth KL - KB during those years when going to KL from Kota Bharu was only via Trengganu and Pahang. It's still there. The beach remained beautiful and splendour just like those years. The sea remained blue and the clouds were marvellous.

The notable landmark at Kemasik Beach had to be the huge rock by the sea. It's still there, but adorned with PAS flags, probably the only land that PAS now could lay claim on after losing the last general election.

The gentle breeze of the South China Sea fanned an other wise hot day. I decided to have an afternoon siesta on the bench. What a life. It was 1300 hrs and hot. I felt reluctant to leave. It's lunch hour and more vehicles are stopping by, to lunch at the purpose built complex. A bus load from Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang stopped by, probably on a study tour-cum-shopping (what else)

Gave myself another 10 mins before I pushed off. At 14:10 I was feeling what cyclists called "the bonk" - energy depletion. Tired. Must be the hot weather I told myself. I was also running out of water and Dungun was another 30kms ahead. Found a mosque, a new one in Kg Labuhan"g" and also found a Power Gel in my pannier. Power Gel to cure my bonk.

Another break at a Petronas Station for jagung and 100 plus at 15:30 and I continued on to Dungun, reaching there at 1800 hrs. Scouted for a hotel at Kuala Dungun but finally settled in a RM70 HOTEL IPN in town. I clocked 115kms with average speed of 18.5 km/hr and burned 3112 kcal.

SMSd a former classmate Wan Mamat, a recently retired Officer in KETENGAH and we promised to meet up in Kuala Trengganu for lunch the following day.

And who says Trengganu had no train? Yes, they don't have train"g" but boast of "kereta lipang". And they are proud of it too!

DAY 3 : WEDNESDAY 5th SEPTEMBER (Dungun - KT - Batu Rakit - Merang)

I left the hotel at the break of dawn to cover as much distance in the cool morning air. Stopped for breakfast in Rantau Abangg, 20 kms outside Dungun. Wan Mamat called and said he's somewhere behind me. Not long after I met Wan Mamat on the road. He and his daughter was on the way to KT, a short 50kms for him but another 2 or 3 hour leisurely ride for me.

Kg Kuala Abang came into sight and in the still cool morning air, the road by the beach was a real pleasure to ride.

School children were on the way to school and I chanced upon a grandfather with two kids.

By 1000 I had done 50kms. I felt the lack of electrolyte in my body and need to put in some salt. 100 plus will be OK. Temptations are aplenty along the road. Even the smell of local delicacies was enough. One stall have the appetizing signage but was too early for business. I can't wait either. So they lost a hungry customer.

By 1100 I was heading to Marang. Marang boasts of a very scenic kuala and I have always enjoyed this view.

Not long after, I was cycling into Rhusila area, the stronghold of Hj Hadi, the PAS Mentri Besar of Trengganu before BN took it back from them. PAS' presence here was very obvious. The green flags were everywhere, along the road-widening construction in progress, which obviously was being upgraded by the BN government in power.


I had always also caught a glimpse of a very catchy signboard everytime I passed this Kg Rhusila. The "Mak Chik Gemok" signboard had always been there for as long as I could remember. Must be a real fat lady and you know why of-course.....too much carbonated drink!

I hope one day she'll set a goal to wear all those lovely and colorful dresses on sale along this road.

Entering Kuala Trengganu I had also admired another beautiful estuary. The Quratta, a Japanese sounding resort is sited along this estuary. This was where I overnighted on my Road to 55, two years ago together with the mini entourage of Kutu Fraternity of Cyclists (the late Zoob and Doc Olmo) and my nephews and brother. Brought back memories of a great time with close friends. And I can't forget late Zoob as I cycled through.

1200 hrs I arrived Batu Burok. I rested while waiting for my two classmates from Tumpat. I had met Wan Mamat in KETENGAH during my Road to 55 ride two years ago. I've also met Alwi Hassan about 4 years ago, after a lapse of about 35 years.

After lunch and all the old-time talk, said goodbye to Alwi. Alwi is seated on my left. Wan Mamat is across the table. My next destination was Batu Rakit. Wan Mamat will meet me at Batu Rakit. As I cycled across the famous KT bridge, I had to stop and photograph the new symbol of Kuala Trengganu - a spanking new floating mosque. I wondered how much it costs the state government.


One of my reasons for making this East Coast ride was to visit Al-Manar at Kg Pengkalan Maras in Batu Rakit. A participant in my training program had informed me of Al-Manar, an academic institution providing free tuition classes to the children of Batu Rakit. Tn Haji Hassan Abd Karim, a retired corporate gentleman chose to return to his home state Trengganu and lived out his retirement days there. The wife, from Selangor followed the husband to return home to the husband's kampong, an act of love and sacrifice.

AK as he was fondly known during his corporate days with a giant oil company is now 72, still strong and hearty. His career had brought him to work in UK. The local blood in him I guess was just too strong, even to settle in KL after retirement.

When I arrived, he was there in the compound of his nice bungalow, a property that will be the envy of many. The property stretched right to the beach, cleverly sheltered from strong winds of the South China Sea by tall casuarinas which he planted years ago. This double-storey property is what one would call a retreat. A seperate guest wing was made ready for me to settle in for the night. I immediately felt very guilty (and later regret).

My itinerary was to overnight in Merang, about 20kms ahead, and nearer to Kota Bharu for tomorrow's final ride. I had to politely refuse the invitation but was quick to gulp in the cold coconut water offered. The weather had remained hot. Wan Mamat later arrived. Then the keropok lekor arrived - my favorite. Honestly, this keropok lekor was the best I had ever tasted and in between me and Wan Mamat, we polished off the plate very fast. We also had a fill with the sweet langsat. Now I know where I will get my keropok lekor from.

Al-Manar Centre

Al-Manar was set up by Tn Hj Hassan for the children of the village. It wasn't without challenges he said. He tutored for free. Every year he took in students from Form 1 and tutored them English, Mathematics and Science until Form 3. By Form 3, most of his students would have found places in the boarding schools, arising from the excellent academic results they garnered, thanks to Pak Cik Hassan as he chose to be called.

I toured around the purpose-built Al-Manar. There were 2 classrooms, a library, a room that housed some computers, a small kitchen and bathing and toilet facilities. While there is no accomodation, students do come for group or self-study there at nights and stayed on. The wife will always ensure there are extra food for these kids

This man is leaving a legacy behind. As we walked around Al-Manar and later around his house compound, I can read fulfilment and satisfaction in his face. He did all this with the hope his children will emulate him. As he continued talking, he looked up to the sky. I know why. I had been in similar situation before. Tried as he had, Pak Cik Hassan cannot stop tears rolling down his cheek. My eyes turned blurry too!

Some of his students had graduated form Universities and working. Some are still in institutions of higher learning. ALL are indebted to Pak Cik Hassan.

I stayed for 3 hours. It was a great experience. The living hall of the house was full of great pictures of the family and the grandchildren. He too is an avid photographer. I saw a near antique golf set and Pak Chik Hassan proudly showed me his Hole-In-One Trophy. We do have something in common there. He had a nice library on the second floor, overlooking the sea. I suggested to Pak Chik Hassan to write. Please do Sir!

I bade farewell reluctantly. I had to continue my journey. Said "goodbye" to the guest room and said good-bye to the lovely couple. Insyallah, I will be back. Good bye Al-Manar for now. Till we meet again.

DAY 4 : MERANG (By car back to Kota Bharu)

I made a decision to stop the cycling trip at Merang. If I continued on, I will reach K Bharu by evening and will have only 1 day to be with my mother. I had to fly back on Day 6 early morning for the cheaper Air Asia flight. My brother was supposed to come from KB early morning, to be sent by his wife and cycled back with me. I told him of my changed plan and instead asked him to pick me up in Merang. A wise decision indeed.

On the way back to Kota Bharu, we detoured to Kg Guntong, to meet relatives we had not met for a good 30 plus years. That's a story for another blog.

Till we meet again on another journey