Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Malacca and the ‘Eye on Malaysia’

                                                                           Attribution: Capt (RMN) Tajudin Yahya
Image: Hank's autograph diligently kept by Tajudin
(Thadj) all these years alluding to the sojourn in Singapore

There were some ‘hiccups’ relating to the ‘Eye on Malaysia’ in Malacca. The 60m Ferris wheel (located at the estuary of the Malacca River at Taman Kota Laksamana) was brought to Malacca to help boost tourism in the state. It had dominated the local skyline and was very popular with the crowd. However, only a few days ago, on Jan 07, its services had been stopped, owing to some disputes on its running.

What a shame. We were in Malacca barely 3 weeks ago during the school holidays. It was a long vacation period and Malacca offered a variety of ancient and modern, old and new, a balance uniquely absent in the other states. The kids (read: grandchildren) had an enjoyable time, but what a shame and we felt bad about it.

They could not get to go on the Eye on Malaysia, that’s why. They were beaten to it. A bus-load of ‘local’ tourists made it before us and there was a crowd building up.

I had a hard time persuading them with a ‘we’ll ride on it the next time’. I reasoned with a ‘it would not go anywhere and we are here in K.L. barely a few hours away’ kind of answer. I’m really not so sure now.

I remember many years ago when we were at the Circus World in Tampa, Florida the Ferris wheel was a much bigger one. It was early December and sunny Florida was pleasant. We were early and there was no crowd. The kids (read: children) made a bee-line for it.

It was a great ride. We had the added privilege of being right at the top when it stopped. Apparently it was made to stop for a few minutes for us to take the view, - what a breath-taking view it was!

Shadah, my wife sitting beside me, just shut her eyes. It was pretty cold up there. We were seated but we were just dangling. Adura and Hafidz in the seat in front were waving happily to us both when it stopped. Shadah kept shouting ‘look in front, look in front, stop waving!' She was concerned, their seat was swinging. I could only murmur ‘brr….brr…’ in the cold even though it was sunny ( Shadah had opened her eyes eventually). The skyline up there was just fantastic and she had to see it. The panorama, all around was as far as the eye could see, bluish in the distance and glaringly bright in front.

Malacca had changed very much though. The old road from Seremban winding through Alor Gajah to Malacca Town (now a city) is now not recognizable anymore. Instead, it is now a smooth highway (two-lanes on each side) smooth, if not for the 17? traffic light junctions we have to go through before we reach the city.

I remembered it well because I had to go to Paya Rumput along that old Alor Gajah road. It was way back in December ’62. We had just sat for our OSC/FMC exam (equivalent to the present SPM). I had to look for OP Tajudin (aka Thadj) in Malacca. A chance meeting with OP Hamdan just before I boarded the bus at the Kuala Pilah bus station saved the day. OP Hamdan told me ‘you go to Paya Rumput, that’s where he stays’

(OP Hamdan currently has a restaurant in Taman Tun Dr Ismail - it is the
Nutri Saji Caterer Enterprise at No. 25, Lorong Dato Sulaiman 7, TTDI 60000, KL. Check 

it out Hamdan 014-338 4331)

Before leaving the College (RMC) back to our hometown for the school holidays, we both had broached the idea about hitch-hiking to S’pore but there were no details discussed. We agreed on the date for one thing but could not meet before we left for home (we were left with no phone numbers nor our addresses) I had to look for Thadj and see whether it was still on. Those were the care-free days of teen-agers, brash and rash without any thoughts of danger and pain.

I told my late Dad before I left for Malacca that ‘if I don’t go I’ll be back tonight otherwise I’ll be in Spore’. I took the bus, told the conductor to press the bell when we reach Paya Rumput, got down, knocked on the door of the nearest house and was told Thadj’s house was barely 50 yards up the road.

I was very, very lucky indeed. Thadj could have been anywhere in Jasin or Merlimau or Durian Daun or whatever. And there was no mobile phone to talk of ! We took so much risks when we were young. I just wonder how my late Dad took it.

In any case, his worries were cushioned by the fact that we RMC ‘budak boys’ were not anywhere at home most of the time during our ‘term breaks’. We normally partake in many ‘expeditions’ all independently organized by certain groups of like-minded boys. There may be a few at one time. One may be in a group up ‘climbing Gunung Tahan’, another ‘white water rafting’ down river (I was in both the Perak River ( here) and Kelantan River (here) expeditions) or at Annual Camps somewhere or a cultural visit to the East Coast or just trudging along with Thadj to S’pore, anywhere else but home. (the following year in '63 I was hiking with Jamaludin to Penang)

We had a few advantages other school boys didn’t have. Training and logistics. Thrown anywhere in the Malaysian jungle, we could survive through military warfare and map-reading skills for which we were trained.

The logistics in terms of transport and equipment were all there for the asking. Military 3-tonners (lorries) transported us to Chenderoh Dam for the start of the Perak River expedition. OP Zubir through his father's efforts, picked us up with a chartered bus at Teluk Anson (Teluk Intan now) 7 days after and dropped us at the railway station. We were issued warrant tickets (train tickets to and fro) to Manek Urai, somewhere in the ulu, for the start of the Kelantan River expedition and picked up at Kota Bahru at the end of it, 8 days after.)

In all instances before proceeding on any expeditions, we were issued through the Quartermaster, (the Q), the packed rations. These were the same military rations of rice, tinned food, biscuits etc, a ‘poncho’ each,which doubles as a tent and rain-coat, a dhurry ( a thick and colourful 2.5 ftx7 ft sleep-ons, haversacks, water bottles and pills ( one, an anti malarial ‘paludrine’ to be taken every day and the other, to neutralize river water to make it palatable in taste and safe to drink) Sure enough, our Dads were not unduly worried. We were prepared and well equipped.

My late Dad was confident and I was also, especially in the river expeditions as I was a Bronze medallion life-saver (there was a life threatening episode which I’ll relate in a later posting)

So much for the digression. Now back to Thadj.

I walked up the road, knocked on the door, and Thadj was there, smiling widely. ‘It is on, right? I asked. A very decisive ‘yes!’ was the reply.

A little bit of rest, a little bit of snacks and off we went. ‘ Don’t forget to visit your sister, in S’pore,’ his mother reminded us, ‘and send our regards!’ That was good advice. We had no where else to stay otherwise, anyway.

With haversacks on our backs, with a little bit of cash ( I don’t remember how much) and an address in Clementi Estate, Pasir Panjang, S’pore, we walked out from Thadj’s house. It was mid-morning and pretty hot as we happily trudged along.

We had covered quite a fair distance and sweating. We were on the road towards Muar. I did not verbalise to Thaj but my thoughts then were, ‘would any one pick us up? Not in this heat. And we, teen-agers, fit and healthy would sweat like nobody’s business.’

While lost in thoughts we just leisurely plod on. Suddenly a red open-top sports-car screeched to a halt nearly hitting us.(was it a Triumph Spitfire?) Driven by a young Caucasian/European, it was just God-sent - he offered us a lift. I squeezed into the narrow backseat. It was so narrow that I had to face only one direction ,to the right, without much free movements. Thadj was ok. He was in the front passenger seat.

We were just plain lucky. A sports car. A million to one chance. The wind just swept over us and we were sweaty no more, plainly not offensive to the driver. I later asked Thadj ‘how come the European knew we wanted a lift’. Thadj said, ‘I don’t know. I just raised my right hand to cool off my armpit and he stopped.’ He said something to that effect in not so many words. I didn’t want to argue with that, it was too good for us, anyway.

The European took us right through to S’pore. There was no passport necessary then, no immigration, it was a breeze. ( I wonder if anyone would stop for hitch-hikers these days)

We arrived in S’pore sometime late in the evening. I remember we stayed at Thadj’s sister’s house. I’m a bit hazy now on what we did in S’pore. I remember for a fact though that we went to Abdullah’s house for lunch one day.

I met Abdullah when we attended the Outward Bound School (OBS) in Lumut the previous year. We both obtained 'Merit Awards' as all others (Incidentally OP Ling Leong Sik is the only budak boy to have obtained an 'Honours Award' in the history of the OBS)

Abdullah was one of 2 cadets from S’pore. His pretty elder sister was such wonderful company then, and she suggested many places for us to visit. Her husband, Ungku, a talented footballer, (who kept goal for the state of Johore team?) was also there.

Abdullah was initially in the S'pore Armed forces but later switched and joined our Malaysian army and rose to the rank of a Major-General that came with a Datukship. OP Tajudin became a naval officer and rose to the rank of an RMN Captain.


abdulhalimshah said...

Dear Hank,
Your flow of events really made an interesting reading, especially of the " Budak Boy" adventure. My salutation for a fine piece of effort. keep on writing.

kaykuala said...

Dear Hal
Wildo, tks buddy.