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.


Father Sez said...

This must have been a really nostalgic journey. I felt the same way when I first went back to my roots. I mean serious roots...back to Usilangulam, Tamil Nadu.

When I took my wife and kids there a few years ago, I though they would be captivated by the trip. Instead they asked for Astro and wanted to go home! The only thing they enjoyed (I think) was the bullock cart ride.

ARZ said...


Yours would even be more nostalgic. Of course your mem and kids can't relate to the place. Just like my kids!
Muna to a certain extent, could relate. After all, she followed me home all the time since we got married. No choice maa!!

Anonymous said...

apong man is Deng Apong.
2 weeks ago I was at the market , my wife told me he is not there.

Duff from William Duff owner of Duff estates in Ulu Kelantan, had a banglo at hujung tanjung Duff. Org kg panggil Tue daf. I think Duff is still traded in KLSE.

Tumpat Jugok

ARZ said...


Hey thanks for the info on the Apong Man and the history behind Tue Daf.

If there's any historical part of Tupat I need, guess I can rely on you.

Anonymous said...

the original petrol station was actually further outwards than the present building (always been Shell), and it used to be own by this lady called Mek Etong. If you must know, there used to be a cinema opposite the petrol station at the junction.
thank you for putting these pictures of Tumpat, the place i where was born, educated(primary/lower secondary) and where all my childhood life was spent.

ARZ said...

Dear Anonymous,
You are correct about the original location of the Shell station. As for the owner, I could only recall the person who ran the kiosk, ie my friend's father. Who it belongs to I did not know. To us kids, the one who operates the kiosk is the owner. We were after all, simple kids !

Of course I recalled the Panggung Buruk and the Panggung Baru (Ruby) owned by the late Philip Wee. Her daughter Linda was my classmate and we are still in touch.

Anonymous said...

I think Panggung Buruk belonged to BoPeng. Philip Wee was my neighbor a few doors away when we used to live at this row of shop houses opposite the kedai market. My grandfather used to own this tailor shop at one of the shop houses and we are the only Malay family there. Linda Wee was my geography teacher at Tumpat Primary English School, she was then a temporary teacher I think.

ARZ said...

I used to have a classmate who lived in the same row of shophouses. Her name was Siti Kamariah Md Nor. You wouldn't be the son/daughter of her or one of her siblings would you?

I do recall BoPeng. But I guessed we kids prefer to call it Panggung Buruk. It is self-decscripive, especially when one compares it with Panggung Baru (Ruby). Must apologize to BoPeng !!

Thanks for dropping in.

Anonymous said...

According to a retired District Officer in Kelantan the original shell station was built in 1925originally of wood designed in England with tall pumps much like the one we see in old English(or American) movies. It was about the earliest station in Kelantan as Tumpat was a (port?. Wonder, if any one could post a picture of it.

Anonymous said...

According to a retired District Officer the original shell station was built in 1925 and was among the first in Kelantan. It was built of wood and was designed in England with tall pumps. It looked like one of those seen in old movies. Anyone has a photo?

HAH said...

The wife of Bo Peng had the only hair beauty saloon in town and she was called by the name of Mek Comel cos she was beautiful and also very friendly.

ARZ said...

Dear HAH,

Too bad Mek Comel skipped my memory. However, I recalled Mek Etong, the suave lady who used to drive the sportscar Ford Capri. We kids would always "ooh" and "aah" whenever the Capri passed us!

I believe one of our Malaysian Judge is the son of Mek Etong

Anonymous said...

Good old Tumpat. Thanks for the memories and the wonderful childhood and friends I have the pleasure of acquiantance.

Anonymous said...

Must not forget the Kedai Nasi Sumatera and Muji ; )

- Mohe.

ARZ said...


Yes I recalled Kedai Sumatera and Muji. Only on special occasion we get treats from my late father, mostly to bungkus back the chicken soup.
Several years ago, I did stop for lunch at Kedai Sumatera.They have relocated from the original corner lot to a shop besides the TNB office.
When was the last time you went back?

MYR said...

ARZ...u must Ramli from Dlm Rhu...i m Usop from Tg Che Mas...Mohd Yusoff Ramli...nice writeup...Mek Etong was loaded n his son Kang Wee Gee was the first lawyer n High Court judge..I go back frequently n still able to meet old friends at the coffee shop in front of the Pasar to savour the nasi berlauk n koleh.As u know I was in the first batch GEST 1954 n Tumpat will always be part of me...thanks brother

ARZ said...

Salam Sdr Yusof Ramli. Yes, on the spot. I'm Ramli Zakaria. I believe you'll be the one I recently befriended on FB. I used to blog a fair bit but this FB thingy makes one lazy to blog, which I admit is a shame.
FB posting though efficient and offers immediate posting, stifles writing skills.

Unknown said...

Bo Peng .... his name was yelled out by the patrons whenever Panggung Buruk was blacked out or the operator missed que the film reel.

ARZ said...

Yesss I was a regular patron of both panggungs. What else to do anyway