Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Do I have a soft spot for KTM Bhd?

Yes I do. More specifically to the Keretapi Tanah Melayu, as it was known in the 60s. If at all Tumpat is known for, it would be because the railway line ends here. So you would have the Sinaran Pagi, the train from Tumpat to Singapore and vice-versa. You would also have the Senandong Malam (?)from Tumpat to Kuala Lumpur. I guess this would be about the only occassion when these two great cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are linked to Tumpat.

The railway provided a life line for the economic activities. My late father was a frequent user. In modern times, you could say that my late father was a valued client of KTM. As a fish dealer, he transported crates of fish in packed ice to the markets in Kuala Lipis and sometimes to Singapore, on daily basis. Daily too, my late grandmother would take the train to Pasir Mas to also sell fish and return by the mail train in the afternoon, together with scores of other ladies. I recalled my father taking me on train trips to Kuala Lipis during school holidays. As a child, the feeling of going to KL (Kuala Lipis) was as exciting as going to the real KL.

During the padi season in Kedah, men and women from Tumpat would take the train to Kedah, via Golok and onwards via South Thailand to Alor Star. I loved listening to these adults with their stories of their several months stay in Kedah. These were happy stories as they came back with cash in their pockets, the reward of their labor toiling in the hot sun of the rice-bowl of Malaysia.

As a child, the railway station was also our playground. During times of mischief, you hide and seek your friends in the “ghrobok”, the coaches. There were many ghroboks at the Tumpat Railway station because the station is the parking lot for these ghroboks. It was supposed to be out of bounds, but there was little or no fencing to keep us rascals out. This was a simple joy in the life of a kampong boy.

As a child, I loved to see the workers going about rearranging the locomotives. Called "shunting", these rearrangements did occupy a lot of time, and at times would also block the crossing to my Kampong Dalam Rhu.

To change the track, the workers used some complicated multi-track changers

or the simple single-track changer

The Tumpat Railway station can probably boast of having the biggest “turntable”, and probably the only one today. In the days of the steam engine, the Kepala Keretapi that pulled the coaches had only 1 engine. So, when it reached Tumpat, this KK must be “turned around” to face the other direction, to pull the coaches back to KL or Singapore. As kids, we sometimes helped to turn around the KK, much to the pleasure of the workers. They relaxed; we worked for no pay and enjoyed doing it. Win-win!

And where else can you find a huge crane if not here.

Next to the station stood a godown. It served many functions before. Known as “Gude Aye”, it must have started as a godown to store chickens, hence called Gudang Ayam. It was in this godown too that my friends and I mastered our skills in badminton. We played almost daily. I became pretty good. I remembered on the first night of my arrival in RMC, dazed and confused, the first question a senior asked me was what game I played. Without hesitation, I told him. And it was the badminton season. They tried me out the next day and then they put me to play single against the Captain of the College team. The game went to rubber set and I almost beat him. Immediately, I became a College player! My seniors didn’t tell me that I was playing against the Captain. Looking back, they did me a favor.

During the Indonesian confrontation, the Gudang Ayam also served as a forward location for the military to guard the coast of Kelantan against invasion. The team of Wataniah was headed by a Sgt Mohd Zain, who became a close friend to us. The Indonesian military did not attack us and the soldiers ended up as our badminton sparring partners. We were good enough to play with the adults. They supplied us free shuttle-cocks and we give them good fights. Win-win!

So Gudang Ayam became a Dewan Badminton and also a military camp. Multi-purpose indeed. There was also this multipurpose field, called “Pade Beng” which I believed belonged to KTM. How it got such a name is a mistery. This was where the Tumpat football league was played yearly. Out of here, I recalled 2 or 3 footballers became state players. The rest remained as estate players!

The sports meet were other big events in the annual calendar. Both the Tumpat district and school sports meet were held in this Padang. It drew large crowds. It had an air of funfare and carnival. Compare that to the school sports of current years!

When I talk about the sports meet, I must mention Mr Danapal Naidu, our teacher. He was Mr Tumpat, tall and physically well endowed. In sports, he was not an estate material, not just even a state material. He was Malaysia’s Discuss thrower. He too excelled in the other “throwing” events – Javelin and shot putt. When he threw the javelin, the padang was too small. The javelin landed over the fence into the police compound. Sadly, the padang is now the grazing ground for cows.

As I moved around to photograph the history of the railway, I recalled this light-house. Those days, it was the GPS for the fishermen of Tumpat. It had served well and now stood silently, forgotten. I was glad though that it was still maintained to a certain degree.

There were two other show-pieces. The “belalai gajah” was a reminder of the steam-engine era. The locomotive wheels were indeed great symbols of the railway. Located besides the light-house as a show-piece, they complement the railways’ supporting role in the economy of Tumpat. One served as a guiding light to the fishermen to return, while the other two symbolised the transport for the catch of these fishermen.

One day, I should perhaps relive those 4 years between 1967 - 1970 when the train was my mode of transport returning me home for holidays from RMC.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I go back often to the town of my birthplace – TUMPAT. Childhood memories of growing up in a kampong will always be nostalgic. Most are happy memories. As children, we live life with abundance and little worries. As adults, we are the opposite.

On my recent Hari Raya Haji trip back, I made it a point to capture some of my childhood memories of Tumpat. This was partly a promise I made to a former teacher, Mr Danapal Naidu. DN taught us in the lower secondary school in Tumpat.

Tumpat has never grown much from the time I left it back in 1967. I recalled it was more vibrant pre 1967. Pre 1967, it was the period of the “Japanese invasion”. Lest you think it was the sword-wielding Japanese on their bicycles shouting “Banzai! Banzai!”, it was not so. It was an economic invasion. With this invasion, came job opportunities. With job opportunities, money abounds and spending powers of the locals increased many folds.

The Japanese were in Tumpat to export iron-ore which they mined in Temangan, a town in Kelantan just after Gua Musang. With Tumpat sited facing the South China Sea, it was the shortest route to ship the iron ore to Japan. Coupled with the railway connection from Temangan to Tumpat, it didn’t require an economic genius to figure out why Tumpat was chosen as the port for the export.

Kg Jubakar in Tumpat was where the Japanese ships anchored. Through a series of conveyor belt systems, the iron ore from the railway coaches would be off-loaded in Kg Jubakar and transported into the ships. The presence of the Japanese was so obvious that Kg Jubakar was at one time called “tempat Jepun”.

When there was no more iron ore to mine in Temangan, Tumpat’s main economy turned back to the fishing industry. Today, it would be difficult to single out any particular economic activity that contributes to its economy.

So, as I drove into the town, I was reminded of the only petrol kiosk in town then. It was a Shell station, operated by a friend’s father. True to what it was, the Shell station is now only a “shell”. The building, now painted white covering the Shell logo to hide what it was before.

The town remained laid-back as I made my way for breakfast at the market.

The market is called Pasar Besar Tumpat – “big” relative to the smaller pasar malam.

Passing through the fish stalls, my wife noticed fresh Ikan Ayo (ikan tongkol), the freshness of which she ccould not get at the Pasar Besar Subang Jaya! Ok la, one up for Tumpat. I was very tempted to buy this favorite fish of mine.

We went to the first floor. Quite a good crowd were crowding the two stalls selling Nasi Berlauk. To “tapau” would mean waiting for our turn.

We chose to cramp ourselves at the coffee stall and order our breakfast via the coffee stall owner. It was an established culture that those who do not “tapau” get served first. We enjoyed our Nasi Berlauk and gladly make way for others to eat there.

A common feature of the market place in the East Coast would be the ladies manning the stalls. A common question asked therefore would be, "Where are the men?"

We moved on to buy keropoks and sambal daging. These are the two must-buy items whenever we balek kampong. At times, I spoiled myself with dried fish. And with such added extras, eating at home became a challenge, i.e. a challenge to stop eating!


I must write about this Apong Man. As long as I could recall, he was selling his apongs since I was in school. And he is still in this trade, TODAY! There were two other apong stalls, but his was the most crowded, even with its 10 sen premium over the other stalls. Amazing.

It was a joy to watch him going about pouring the mix on the 5 hot plates. It was an art, fine-tuned over years and years of routine.

Next, he would scoop just the right amount of sugar to sprinkle on the mix. At times, he would repeat the process of scooping the sugar, i.e. when he did not scoop the right amount. Then, he would turn and moved the hot plates between the burners, until it was time to remove them.

I bought just 2 pieces and I had to wait almost 20 minutes. Till today, I did not know his name. He was too engrossed in his art and I certainly did not want to contribute to a burnt apong by asking his name!

We left the market and I drove to KG TANJONG DUFF. “Duff” is certainly not Malay. That's the spelling I knew growing up. It must have been a colonial name. Mr Duff must have been a prominent expatriate in Tumpat at one time before. I have not been to this kampong for a long time and I drove to the end of the kampong, to the river’s edge. There were many more houses than there were those days, and that would be expected. Two buildings attracted my attention. One was the surau and the other was a house. One could easily guess the political inclination of these two buildings.

I also stopped at the river. There was a jetty and a passenger boat just arrived. The boatman told me the boat ferried passengers to and from Pulau Toke @ RM3.50 one way.

Time was not on my side to explore the islands around Tumpat. Another trip, another time.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


We Fireflyed back to Kota Bharu for Hari Raya Haji or Hari Raya Qurban. In tow with me and wife were my 2 sons, Rafeq and Raqim. Our daughter Ila had to work outstation in Perlis, filming a "komedi hantu". My youngest girl is of-course too far to fly home for Raya Haji.

My mother didn't expect to see her 2 adult grandsons to come a visiting. My mom also had her youngest daughter (my youngest sister) home from K.K. So, she was all smiles.

The family qurban was arranged on Day 2 of Raya Haji. I arrived at the slaughter late, only to see an already slaughtered cow, I assumed expertly slaughtered unlike the slaughter in Kelana Jaya back in 2007.

My brother, Mahmood and my 3 bro-in-laws were all there, including their spouses and kids. It was to be a family slaughter-cum-family raya gathering. First, let me introduce them, not necessarily in their order of age seniority.Hj Suhaimi, married to my younger sister, is a teacher. I called him the "butcher". He arrived with a sharp knife and went straight to do his business. He had practised his butchering skill a day earlier too.

This is Aziz, married to my youngest sister. Worked in Lembaga Koko in Kota Kinabalu. Can't rate him as a butcher, a food taster perhaps. As a food-taster, he made sure he handles the best part of the beef. A good tennis player but was not able to win any set off me during my tennis playing days. We loved KK and visited his family often and my youngest sister is a great cook too. When Aziz sleeps, we all will be wide awake!!

It's not often I take pictures with my siblings. This is with my youngest sister, Cik Gu Rokiah or Su (sebab dia yang bongsu). Notice I was opening my wallet. Got to pay for my bahagian of the slaughtered cow la.

This is my younger brother Mahmood. At the rate he is resting, we may not get to distribute the meat on the same day! Like me, he cycles too. Unlike me, he consumes the sweet Kelantanese food daily and the outcome showed. Me, I had my Johore wife to dampen my sweet tooth eons ago.

In the midst of the adults, we had the nephews and nieces and also grand-nephews and grand nieces. Adnin, on the left and Afikah on the right are my two nieces (Mahmood's daughters) while Nana in the middle is my grand-niece. So while some will address me as Ayah Cik, some will address me as Tok Chik. But they ALL address my wife as Aunty Muna. Jealous...jealous....

This Chinese looking Hanafi is Mahmood's youngest son. Very energetic as any boys his age would be.
A recent cycling addict below is Fifi, another nephew. He had lost many kgs since he got hooked to cycling. So, he is allowed to wallop the entire cow's head since he can burn his calories with his regular cycling.
Must not neglect all the Makchiks who came to "siang" the daging. Actually only one of them on extreme left will "siang" the daging. She's Mahmood's other half, hailed from K Trengganu, my sis-in-law la. The tall lady of-course is the Johor lady I was refering to earlier. She's my boss. Next to her is my immediate younger sister Zainun and extreme right is the bongsuest sister of mine.

When it was time to pay attention to the slaughtered cow, almost everyone played their awkward roles. We see here Mahmood starting with the simplest of the job - holding a dead cow's leg. Who can't?
Of-course he progressed to skinning. But it was too close for comfort if Suhaimi decided to release some "air".
So everybody was helping out.
And I was helping myself too!

The ladies did their part to cut the meat into smaller pieces and packing them in 1kg plastic bags for distribution.

Everything was over by noon and a well deserved lunch awaited us. There would be meat dishes of various varieties, including the sup ekor and sup tulang. Over the next few days, visits to the rehabilitation centre was necessary due to meat overdose. Some would chose to go to Elbow Hut Clinic.

But for some of my siblings who delved too much on tulang, MOHAMMAD FAUZIE was a happy man indeed!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I was going through my old GMails, dating back to 2005. I plan to delete them. I chanced upon this email from my dear friend, the late Zubir Zainal Abidin, or popularly known as Zoob. His untimely death on 22nd July, 2007, just a day after my 57th birthday had left a big dent in the comradeship of our KUTUKINGDOM. The Kutus are the batchmates of students from RMC who enrolled into the College in 1967. We were the Class of 67.

Zoob had always lived life to the fullest. His zest for adventure and challenges became his trademark. In almost all the Kutu activities, he would take the lead, whether it was just a simple Teh Tarek session, a cycling trip, participating in the dualthons or leading the Kutu climb of Mount Kinabalu.

What other better way to remember this great man than immortalising this email he sent out to fellow kutus on occassion of my ROAD TO 55 challenge.

Very soon ARZ will get on his saddle in Perlis and take up what is to be his biggest challenge in his lifetime. Speaking as a truly converted cyclist, it is great fun to ride weekends. However, to ride for 20 days, 100km per day and eating up 2000 odd km is another ball game altogether. The body will ache after the first day of cycling. The skin will burn after three days. The body carbo will be depleted after 5 days. Mentally, you will be sick of the bike after 7 days.

However, our comrade Kutu ARZ have fixed his mind for this ordeal. He had put in a lot of training. Fellow kutus like Pujangga have given him encouragement in form of a brand new Proton mountain bike. He has a deep personal reason to take this challenge and its ok by us if he has yet to reveal it. I got the hint that it is along some spiritual lane.

The other reason which is of no lesser importance and already disclosed is what we must admire. He will end his journey in a home he grew up that have now been converted to an Orphanage. (Allah bless this man). This is where we can join in as fellow Kutus. Lets chip in towards the Orphanage and make this 'ARZ's Road to 55" more memorable. More meaningful not to just ARZ but also to us.

The idea of giving to an Orphanage is noble in the eyes of any religious belief. Its a Universal cause. So lets rally amongst ourselves to make a donation. Please write your cheques to : YAYASAN ANAK-ANAK YATIM KELANTAN. Donations are Tax Exemptable. Receipts will be made available after the ride.

So guys. ARZ is going to burn his legs (and arse) for twenty days. Our role is much easier. Just to pen a few words on the cheque. To the unfortunate orphans, every cent means future to them but I am sure Kutus are capable of Ringgits. Big Ringgits?? The day will come when we will all meet our creator. We appear in front of him with pride that we have been a good worshipper. Have done what He told us to do. Have avoided what He prohibits. But when He asks what we have done to help those that He had made less fortunate than us.....it can get embarassing, right?? So...please chip in and 'make the difference'. Salaam.

Semoga roh mu sentiasa dicucuri rahmat, kawanku Zoob. Amin

Sunday, December 14, 2008


SUN 14th DEC 2009

I have three other outstanding blogs in draft. This now takes precedent, just to report a find. The title of this blog is itself a giveaway.

It's the usual 30 odd km Sunday morning ride with the Rubbermen group, riding into the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) from Bukit Jelutong. Why its called the Rubbermen Group would be a story for the future. 8 of us braved the threatening morning drizzle. Mission was clear, and certainly not impossible. Two groups splitted at the Paya Jaras Exit. The hungrier ones, me included, chose to head straight to Kuang.

We passed this place before, but always gave it a miss. The signage was bold and bright but somehow, none of us chose to stop, i.e. until 2 weeks ago. Now it's "the" destination. It's MOK SU NASI DAGANG in Kuang. Other menus included Nasi Lemak, a must have in Selangor and Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Berlauk. To top it, there was Pulut Nise for dessert. Note that I spelt it as "Nasi Dagang" and not "Nasi Dage" as Mok Su sells the Trengganu variety, with Ikang Aye. Guess I need to call the dessert as Pulut Nisang! So, calory count flew out the window. I recalled my son telling me that I ride to eat! I have no qualms about that. If one burns the calories, one can therefore enjoys food!

There was no time to let up. Destination arrived and now to complete the Mission Possible.

In the above pic is Jaja (iron lady), my name sake Liburg slightly hidden, Uncle, I mean Abang Shahruddin and Pedro (Rubberman). Shah didn't ride today, but in his younger days in early 60's, he was Malaysia's top cyclist.

He's 69 and that means he's 11 years my senior. Today, he's happy to meet us for the first time. He talked about cycling with passion. While I lived and eat Nasi Dagang, he lived and talk nothing but cycling. Guess if I want to ride through 69 years old, I got to eat and live bicycle too! Shah was also an Olympian, qualifying for the olympics. He now operates a bicycle shop in Shah Alam. So Abang Shah, see you in your shop soon.

Several photo shoots later, we were off for the ride home, fully satisfied. I decided to peloton with Kadri (Cokeman), Fazil (Chief Kutu) and Jaja (Ironlady). We were drafting at quite a reasonable pace, each taking turn to lead the peloton.

The rest decided to ride easy, rightfully so, on full stomach. Nearing the Elmina R&R, tragedy struck. Jaja was leading the peloton. Chief Kutu Fadzil was next. Chief Kutu's right wheel clipped Jaja's rear (I mean rear wheel) and he took a nasty tumble. Cokeman Kadri was only inches behind and Cokeman ran over Chief Kutu. Yours truly had no time to avoid and my Giant ran over Cokeman's bike and I too took a nasty tumble.

My left leg immediately cramped up. By now, the rest of the cyclists caught up and was helping us. The helmet prevented any head injury. My glove padding saved me from injuring my palm. Chief Kutu had skin abbrasions but with gentle hands to help clean the wound, the wound would be healing very fast!

Cokeman had quite a fall but his worst pain was to see the sole of his cycling shoe stuck to the pedal! Well Cokeman, a good reason to get a new one.

Cokeman still managed to take a picture with the man he cycled over, Chief Kutu. CK is on the right.

CK's rear derailleur was slightly bent and misaligned. We struggled to bend it back but could just barely made it, but enough for him to slowly cycled back to Bukit Jelutong.

Cokeman, anyway was happy to see a fellow cyclist, a doctor who carried Coke as an emergency drink. Goodbye Gatorade or 100 Plus.

....and Happy Birthday Jaja!