Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ramblings of a 'Hot' Woman

Bukit Besi train station, circa 1950s (this was during the era of steam engines). Iron ore from the hills were transported to Dungun in wagons. The ore would then be offloaded onto barges offshore and ferried to waiting Japanese ships anchored far out at sea.

Roundabout near the bungalows where the expat community and government officials lived. I am wondering about the car in the picture. We had no private vehicles in Bukit Besi because the red-earth roads were meant for jeeps and heavy-duty vehicles.

This is the train (called 'keretapi lipang' i.e. the centipede train, in colloquial lingo) that connected Bukit Besi with the outside world. There was no overland route to Bukit Besi until the late '60s. VIPs usually arrived via helicopter. Check out the ore-carrying wagons in front. The last few coaches were meant for passengers; the open-air ones for workers and residents while the very last coach (enclosed and with cushioned seats) was for mine officers and the expats.

Ramblings of A 'Hot' Woman

The days are getting hotter. Even the nights are not spared. Air-conditioning notwithstanding, I am being tormented by heat-induced headaches and pounding migraine all over again.

I had often thought that highrise dwellers would fare slightly better during a heatwave. If the current swelter is of any indication, then I am dead wrong. It is mind-numbingly hot up here on the 10th floor, with nary a breeze, however slight, to chill the air.

The pool looks very inviting. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a bother to take a dip, especially if you are tudung-clad and self-conscious to boot. There are lots of kids in there anyway, happily splashing away.

Ever since the temperature climb, I have not been taking chances for fear of heatstroke. There were brief forays in the mornings to run errands and such; that was just about it.

Confined indoors, I take comfort in strolling down the winding lane of memory to serene Bukit Besi, my place of birth in interior Terengganu.

Because of its location up in the hills, this erstwhile mining town was also a favourite hill station for the expatriate 'Tuans' and 'Mems' working in the East Coast.

Whilst not exactly in the same league as Cameron Highlands*, the air of Bukit Besi of yesteryears was pleasingly cool to the touch, chilly enough to merit the wearing of sweater**, especially in the early mornings and late evenings.

*[Even Cameron Highlands is no longer what it used to be, I heard. The temperature has risen a notch or two; is this true?]

**[I knitted my own sweaters and scarves, taught by Grandma who picked up the skill from the foreign Mems (wives of geologists and engineers working the mine, many from Scandinavia and Australia) through their WI (Women's Institute) gatherings.

To say the air of Bukit Besi was rarefied wouldn't be so far off the mark, despite its mining activities high up in the hills (Bukit Besi at the time operated the largest open-cast iron ore mine in the world).

For decades the town had no cars nor public transport. The only motorised vehicles were jeeps, lorries, excavators, bulldozers, trucks and such used by the mining company. And yes, there was one red fire engine too.

To travel out, we had to take a ride in wooden coaches hitched to the ore-carrying wagon train. To travel within, we either went by foot or cycle.

As befit a hill station, Bukit Besi's terrain was undulating, thus we climbed as much as we walked. I don't really remember when private transport finally came to town, but I think it was in the late '60s.

During the monsoon season, Bukit Besi received as much rain as anywhere else in the East Coast. But the water drained off fast. There was hardly any flooding compared to the coastal town of Dungun and the rest of Terengganu.

I loved the monsoon season. I revelled in the torrential downpours and the deluges that followed. I am wilting fast under this heat. Give me hujan (rain) anytime, but I'll take a raincheck on the air boh (floods)....

PS: With regards the middle photograph, I now remember precisely where this particular part of town was. The building next to the car was the fire station whilst the building on the extreme left was "The Store", where expats did their grocery. The road up 12 o'clock led to the railway station, passing by, among others, the police station, the post office and the town's only cinema.


AWANG said...

Klasik betul gambar-gambar tu, kalu ada lagi letakla Kak Kama, btw nok tanya betul ke kalu musim banjir ada air tenggelamkan landasan (kawasan tu sekarang ialah kawasan berpaya di kiri dan kanan dan tengah-tengahnya adalah jalan raya, kawasan ni kalau dari bandar Dungun ialah selepas simpang 3 Dungun-Jerangau-Bukit Besi). Dek kerana landasan tenggelam, keretapi berhenti dan ramai orang akan ngarung air tu-macam pesta...

mamasita said...

Yes so I just noticed..we got in from Kuantan today..keluar pagi tadi, just got back to KD..the weather is really blazing hot..Shah Alam lagi panas..so Kuantan jugak lah best!!Breezy hot!

Pi Bani said...


Eh, apasal ada wolf whistle pulak ni? Oh, there's a hot woman here rupanya. :D

kay_leeda said...

Dear Kak Puteri,

YES, Shah Alam lagi panas. Betul kata Mamasita tu. I hv been going in out splashing and cooling off in the pool over the CNY break. Refreshing when you are in the pool, but once you are out, fuhhh....tersangat lah panas nye!!

Swimware for muslimah dah ader sekarang. Nampak bersih lagi suci je bila pakai..heh..heh.

Kama said...

awang - salam awang. masa tu, kalau naik air pun, dekat cek lijah sebab ada sungai. tempat lain rasanya takder. memang betul kena mengarung lalu ikut bukit tebuk ke nibong kalu ada boh. di bukit besi sendiri air tak naik, hujan aja,, dengan guruh petir sabung menyabung..

mamasita - that's the difference between KL and Kuantan; di Kuantan ada laut dan ada sea breeze.. oohh, I love Kuantan..teringat zaman duduk di Kubang Buaya .. petang2 bawak the boys gi playground tepi laut dekat Teluk Cempedak.

pi - wanita kepanasan.. hehehe..

kay - I saw that muslimah swimwear thingy kat One Utama, tapi tak terbukak pulak hati nak beli..:-)

NanaDJ said...


When I saw the headline, I was all prepared to read Uncle Lee's type of narration (with all the saucy bits thrown in), what an anti climax! Our lady is actually feeling the heat from the current hot spell.
Yes, I too am closeted in my room watching the Winter Olympics and imagining myself there among the crowds and snow. And my daughter is going through the snowstorm in New York amidst the Fshion Week.
Love the old pics!

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Aunty Puteri,
Is the "Taman Tasik" still operational? purrr...meow!

Kama said...

Nana - I envy your daughter.. the cold, the snow.. just my kind of thing.. hehe

Cat - the tasik is where the mine used to be. I am not a fan of the tasik.. its murky depths scare me.. :(

Patricia said...

I enjoyed this post! Both the nostalgia and your feeling hot!

Yes it is sweltering these day, isn't it? Sigh. I try to tell myself that the humidity is better for my skin than dry air would be, but it just doesn't seem to do the trick!!

I'm confined indoors, too. And I so get what you're saying about being tempted to take a dip, but. . . . HAHAHAH!

Anonymous said...

Kama! There will be a gathering in Bukit Besi this coming Saturday morning (27th Feb). Cikgu Ding has promised to come. A few former students of SK Bukit Besi i.e standard 6 1966-69 batches will be there. I heard it was organised by Zubir Embong and his brother Musa. Probably Yusof Ahamd may also come all the way from Putrajaya. Hope to see u there.

Kama said...

Alamak anon.. saturday tak mugkin dapat pergi.. tergesa2 sangat... kat Bukit Besi pulak tu, kalu kat beloh KL/Selangor ni mungkinlah buleh.. why so bidan terjun wan? bila they all decide nok buat ni? kalu ambe tau awa2, say one month ahead, mungkin la buleh plan. besnya kalau dapat jumpa Usop balik..hehehe.. the last time we met masa tamat primary school in 1966..

Ramasamy Perumal said...

Yes, true enough the lovely days of Bukit Besi. I was studying at National type english school till 1967. then pindah ke Dungun English sec school till 1971. Lps tu pindah ke Sabah, Now kt Sarawak.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

ramasamy, those were the good old days kan? bukit besi folks were such a hodge-podge of race & nationality yet we existed a-ok. sekarang tengoklah, perkauman sana sini..so sad..