Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kuantan In Passing

The two little boys groaned with mock horror as their turreted sandcastle, in all its lopsided glory, crumbled into nothingness with the onslaught of the evening tide.

Their young mother, heavy with yet another child, looked on indulgently, fingers interlocked under her bulging belly, supporting the heaviness within.

I remembered the scene well as I stood on the wooden walkway leading to the stony outcrop at the far end of Kuantan's Teluk Cempedak Saturday, to catch the morning sun and indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

It was as though I had walked right into a page from the past - Kuantan in the late 1970s - when the sandy stretches of Teluk Cempedak, Beserah and Cherating were familiar playgrounds for my growing family.

With the exception of the walkway, which was built long after I left Kuantan in 1980, and the prolification of shops, stalls, tents and huts congesting the strip, things looked pretty much the same, especially further afield at the rock-strewn cove.

Kuantan was a treasure trove of memory for me for it was our first local posting after London. I was 24, with 2 kids in tow and another on the way, and a husband who was away more often than he was around.

Apart from a kindly neighbour with an equally absent spouse, a DARA (Lembaga Kemajuan Pahang Tenggara) officer then involved in the development of Bandar Muazzam Shah in the Pahang interior, I knew not a single soul.

If at all there was any consolation about being transferred to the Kuantan bureau office fresh from London, it was that my hometown Dungun, where my grandparents resided, was well within reach.

A two-hour drive was all it took, meandering through quaint villages and hamlets, and dodging placid cows bent on chewing their cuds whilst parked in the middle of the road, to get to Pah & Tok Ayah's charming, rustic kampung dwelling surrounded by squat kemunting (berry) bushes on one side and slender coconut trees on the other.

Adjusting to the incredibly laidback lifestyle of a provincial town after the hustle and bustle of swinging London wasn't easy. Kuantan was comatose at best. Even the river was sluggish. Time had indeed stood still here..

It was a leisurely drive to Kuantan on Friday. We had earlier wanted to take the more scenic route i.e. the old trunk road, even if that would mean adding two extra hours quite easily to the journey. But thoughts of slow-moving traffic put paid to that.

I would not have minded the extended travelling time. It was the anticipated traffic crawl that put me off. Bearing in mind the school holiday season, I knew we would probably end up 10-car deep for miles behind a lumbering trailer or any of those 16-wheeled behemoths.

It was thus the highway for us, with one pit stop at the Temerloh R & R for lunch. We were now in 'ikan patin country', thus lunch was without a question ikan patin masak tempoyak with rice.

As expected, The R&R was bustling with travellers, local or otherwise. I spied two tourist coaches parked alongside a layby, a Korean family and a couple of Caucasians chattering away as they checked out the foodstalls.

Our bed for the night was a spacious room on the executive floor of the Grand Continental, courtesy of Datin Nurul Huda (aka blogger Mamasita) who would not take 'no' for an answer. Thank you Mamasita for your hospitality, not to mention generosity.

We met the good Datin at Xanax Karaoke & Bistro in Kompleks Teruntum later in the evening. She had meant every word she said about bringing a not-to-be-trifled-with 'Pahang karaoke contingent' to match her KL guests.

Maula and Nabil were powerhouses with awesome vocals whilst Huda's youngest daughter Banun could reach the high notes with ease.

With the reputation of the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory (or at the very least the Royal Lake Club) at stake (ha ha ha), I had no choice but to give my all, and then some!

Thankfully, Pak Abu chose not to be adventurous with his choice of songs. In the light of such a challenge, he wisely stuck to his tried-and-tested repertoire of Broery's, Michael Learned To Rock and Deep Purple.

Yes folks, Pak Abu, despite his Haji status and shock of silver hair, had never been averse to strumming an imaginary guitar to the mind-blowing tunes of Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, to name but a few.

Sufficiently exhausted (my voice actually broke at the, we called it a day at midnight whilst the young 'uns remained in Xanax until 2am, before moving on to a warung for teh tarik, finally trudging home at 4am, according to Mamasita.

It was a benign Saturday morning for the Abus. Mamasita joined us for breakfast at the coffeehouse, bringing nasi lemak kukus and sambal kerang to complement the hotel fare.

We said our goodbyes after breakfast; she had errands to run whilst we had wanted to poke around a bit, in particular the house I used to live in behind MARA Junior Science College, before attending the wedding kenduri (our real reason for the trip) at noon.

We finally bid Kuantan adieu at 2pm, again taking the boring, characterless (but quicker) route with its uninspiring view of oil palm, rubber trees and receding jungle. It was 5pm when Genting Sempah came into view; 30 minutes later we were home, safe and sound.

I know we'll be back soon enough, hopefully with the children too; after all Joe and Ann were born in Kuantan and together with Naj had spent their pre-school years in this quaint little corner of Pahang....


Wan Sharif said...

Nostalgic nyer.. I believe in the west,.. the walkway you are referring to would be called "the boardwalk" connected to shops etc. should there be enough people /traffic in the area..
Hope that Mamasita is getting better..

mamasita said...

Ahh and Pak Abu made me and my entourage so happy. Thank you for your delightful companionship!
It was an unforgettable karaoke night for us too..hehehe
And never ever forget..I am always at your service and the pleasure is mine.
p.s. Wan, I am very okay and hope you are too..hello!!

Tommy Yewfigure said...

This is so well written Puteri, transported me back into my very own 'kampong'too, but it's the people that we missed that we holds dear to our heart.

So what's the outcome of the karaoke? Knowing the both of u, let's call it a draw, ok?...hehehe

Oldstock said...

Kak Kama,

Memang Kuantan best... if I have a choice, I'd probably want to retire there... but then retire seems like a foreign word, hehehe..

Wah.. mamasita belanja karaoke ye.. jeles, jeles...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

wan - you could be right about 'boardwalk' ayohwang.. tapi this one in teluk cempedak seemed so precariouslah, with some of the planks missing too..

mamasita - what else can i say but thank you from the botom of my heart for your kindness...

tommy - you're spot on there,tommy; it's the people whom we cherish the most.. the karaoke outcome? let's just say we squared off nicely.. hehehe

oldstock - aah, finally you're out of hibernation. welcome back oldstock! you're too young to retire.. you hv a lot of good years in you yet, my friend.. yes, she belanja-ed us bigtime.. mudah2an murah rezeki dia ..

kay_leeda said...

You bring back memories of one of my art lessons held at TC. Topic was the sea. We sat in a row trying our best to come up with our master piece. Then there was the weekend outing to town, makan burger ohh sedap sungguh!!

You know, Zul was in Grand Cont that night too. Was supposed to join him, but work kept me in KL. Else boleh join you guys lalala (err...bukan terrer pun..)

pakmat said...

..salam, lady..awang goneng once wrote that the laughters and tears of time past did not really disappear,but instead echoed and spiraled through time, like wafting mist..waiting just for that particular that morning in Teluk Chempedak..when you stepped on the sand..for we are all time travellers..bringing along a lil bit of the past in our wake..cheers..
p.s. karaoke-joint in Bachok..but would love to hear Pak Abu's rendition of Deep Purple When a Blind Man Cries..

jooli said...

I was born and bred in Kuantan... orang kampung, according to a friend from Raub (Raub's closer to KL, that's why!).LOL

Miss Love said...

Kuantan is my home state capital.
Didnt know you were coming.
Or you could have squatted at my parent's place in Bukit Ubi.


Hai kak.Hope you doing well.
Please, please start blogging.
Really missed your writings.
You sounded your exuberant and happy self.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

kay - had we known he was in town and staying at the same hotel pulak tu, we would hv asked him out for coffee..

pakmat - i'm a true-blue east coast semek who melts the moment her feet sinks into the sands off south china sea..

jooli - pak abu was born in pahang too, kuala krau, temerloh. but he grew up in kuala selangor; his parents moved there when he was only two.

ML - that was mighty kind of you, ML.. thank you. insyaallah one fine day we'll meet in kuantan..:D

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Aunty Puteri,
Lain kali kan, ajaklah kita. Dah lama tak pergi Kuantan (like 5 months?) hehehe.... purrr....meow!

Mamasita, tak rindu kat kita ke?

Kama At-Tarawis said...

cat - where hv you been hiding? senyap sunyi! wheneveryr mama's in town, ask her to call me la, we can always go makan & sembang2..

MF said...

Short and sharp...reminds me of hemingway.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

MF - waah, it's more hemming and hawing aimlessly than the mighty hemmingway.. :D