Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Jalan Jalan Cari Makan In Kuala Terengganu" - I

(This Hari Raya (Malay New Year which fell on 13 and 14 October), 5 of us decided to take our chances with the traffic to drive to Kuala Terengganu which is approximately 500 Km (300 miles) from Klang. "Jalan Jalan Cari Makan literally translates as Traveling, Looking For Food.")

“What time should we start our journey?”

“4 a.m.”

“Can we do it at 5?”

I was glad we agreed to an hour later. (4 a.m. is when my brain is at deep sleep mode.) I was magnetically bound to the bed but struggled up at 4.30 am and had hardly done the necessary when the car was already at the gate. Punctual. I liked that. Oops. Forgot I had not done the “big business” – that will have to wait. Hope nature won’t come calling when we are traveling above 100km/hour on the highway “without a farm house near”.

Flashback - “What are you doing this Hari Raya?”

“Driving to Kuala Terengganu.”

“You must be crazy! Vying with all those cars on the road. Half the Malaysian population on the go – going home “balik kampung” and you’ve to add one more. Repent or Regret”

Ah. We were not as crazy as he thought. We were not mad dogs that went out on the mid-day sun. Firstly, we did not really choose the dates – the dates chose us. It was not easy to get leaves for the five of us, the public holidays helped. Secondly, we had a formula – see. We are leaving at an ungodly hour when all but the zombies and crazies are at peaceful slumber. We are not going on Thursday – that would be disastrous. We are not leaving on the eve either to avoid the stragglers. We are leaving on the big day itself when all who were supposed to leave had left and we should have the road to ourselves, we hope. Who said the best of plans can go awry? Choy! Touch wood, that won’t happen to us. We have those good luck charms from various temples for good measures. Sure to work or money back guarantee, the man sold me with a wink.

Starting our journey from Klang, we reached the majestic limestone outcrop “Batu Caves” by 5.55 am and reached the Gombak toll at 6.00 am. So far so good, there were few cars on the road and it was smooth sailing. Looked like our aim was straight.

At 6.30 am we stopped at the Petronas Petrol Station to do our “small business” and I had my “first” breakfast – a hot curry puff and cold milo in tetra-pack. We saw some fellow travelers sleeping in the cars under the bright light of the Petronas shop. Not a bad idea. When you are weary and need a rest before you go on, it is much safer in a large petrol station than in one of the rest area. We have already bought enough snacks and drinks to open a sundry shop but we bought some more. When we are not yakking, we will be snacking - creating music, “Yak Concerto in C Major”.

It was still dark when we left the station but light was beginning to impose itself. White mists billowed down intermittently obscuring the road that can only be made out by the dark looming shapes of trees and the limited range of our headlight. “With some imagination, we could be driving in Switzerland.” Everyone took warmly to the idea and we tried transporting ourselves to another realm with different level of success.

6.38 am. Not a good picture – not enough light and the car was vibrating but gave you an idea of how it looked like. Never knew white clouds can looked so threatening in the dark. They swirled and descended on you suddenly blocking your vision. But they were also beautiful.

But when the clouds lifted, you can see what a difference it made. Yes, morning has broken and you can see angels’ wings. Would you believe that the difference between the first and this picture was only 11 minutes apart?

3 minutes later, we were back in Switzerland under mist cover where the scenery was like a painting – mysterious and enchanting. Phua, the driver who traveled this road quite regularly said the heavy mist was abnormal.

How beautiful the highway was without cars. We were “king of the road”. Sitting in front, I easily imagined being an easy rider. “I’m an easy rider, easy and free. The wind behind me, the road in front. I go where the road leads, and leave my love behind. For I must stay - easy and free.” Then I thought of “Wild Hogs” which reminded that easy riding is for the young and crazy, not for the not-so-young and crazy.

Maran and 8.00 am is approaching but the mist lingered on.

As we were going to Kuantan, the state capital of Pahang; we took the exit at Gambang. If you just follow the sign on the highway you will be traveling north of Kuantan and then turned back costing you more petrol and toll money.

As we approached Kuantan, we saw the Malay folks in their best traditional clothing going to the mosque and the cemetery. I really liked this custom of theirs – going to cemetery on their New Year day to remember their dearly departed. There is a sense of poignancy and tenderness remembering the dead on that day of rejoice and celebration. It was difficult for me to capture a decent shot with the car traveling. I would love to show you a picture. Keep reading and next year, I will try to get you a picture. Promise with a wink.

We stopped in this Western sounding Chinese coffee shop “Leo Star” for Kuantan’s famous wantan noodles for my “second” breakfast. It was certainly popular with almost all the tables taken up this early on a public holiday and customers kept streaming in. I did not fell in love with the noodles. I felt it was too oily. The noodles was too thick and the texture too chewy for me. The wantan noodles I liked are thinner, elastic but having a “short” bite (clean cut by the teeth). It was just okay so was a disappointment. I understood that just a block down the same road, is a beef noodles shop that is quit good. I would have loved to try that but since some of my companions are Buddhists, beef is taboo. The coffee and noodles had now filled any remaining corners left in my stomach.

This is the price list of the Kuantan Coffee, Hotel and Restaurant Association which fixes the prices of the various drinks - RM0.90 for a cup of Kopi-O (black coffee) and RM1.00 for a cup of Kopi Susu (coffee with condensed milk). These are not Starbuck prices. After my second breakfast, we hit the road again. We only stopped to eat and shit (if necessary). Otherwise, we were always on the go. We were road warriors. If you are not impressed, wait till you hear about our third breakfast! Bet you couldn't do that - not on a full stomach. But Pantai Teluk Cempedak (Beach) coming up next.

To be continued...


chris said...

hey this write up of your bring back old memory of me and wife during our journey west coast way back in the early nineties.
pls continue your posting I m sure will rekindle our journey ahead.

iGhosts said...

Thank you. It is so nice to hear that the post helped you recall the sweet memories of yesteryears. Sometimes when the writing seems a bit too much like work, there is no greater encouragement than to hear they affects someone. :-)

chris said...

hey this write up of your bring back old memory of me and wife during our journey west coast way back in the early nineties.
pls continue your posting I m sure will rekindle our journey ahead.

chris said...

hey this write up of your bring back old memory of me and wife during our journey west coast way back in the early nineties.
pls continue your posting I m sure will rekindle our journey ahead.