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!
THE "APONG" MAN
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!
KAMPONG TANJONG DUFF
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.