THE LUDEK WANDERERS

Friday, March 25, 2005

THE HAPPY WANDERER


The 'Umpapa' band leader, a P.O.W called 'Friedr. Wilhelm Moller', returned home to Germany and with his wife Edith, published the words and music of the "The Happy Wanderer".

In 1954 at the 'Welsh Eisteddfod' it was chosen and sung by the 'Orbenkirchen Children's Choir.' It proved an instant hit and was recorded by many leading stars among them were 'The Beverley Sisters' on the Phillips record label, 'The Stargazers' on the Decca label.

Ernest James Seldon's daughter Winifred and his son Frederick both said their father had told them he'd written the words and music, although Winifred's son Francis suspects it might have been more of a collaboration between Ernest James and Wilhelm Moller whilst a P.O.W! Ernest James also stated that both 'Edith and Wilhelm Moller' had written to him offering him 'a piece of the action' in the publishing company for £100, unfortunately Ernest did not have that amount of cash to spare when the offer was made!

It was way back in time in Jasin, Malacca, just before the Ludek's transfer to Kelantan, when Abang Bosa was in std 3 and Abang Kocik std 1 at Government English School Jasin (GESJ) when this song became a favourite piece among 'amateur wanderers' when they trudged back on foot from school with books tied in belts on their back happily whistling this song (the English language was just being grappled with then!), imagining that they were big time wanderers trudging their way up Mt Everest. You know after 1953 everybody wanted to be New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay. It was strange that just after WW11 nobody in Jasin knew that this song was written by a German (read Hitler) then. Otherwise for sure nobody would be 'happy' with this 'enemy's' song.

Listen mp3

Sing Along to the Song

JUNGLE TRAIN

The Sumpitan Emas pulling into Krai Station

[audio available below]


A beautiful scenery which used to be the favourite of olden day Kelantan painters was of the 'Sumpitan Mas / Golden Blowpipe' steaming and smoking as it emerges through a tunnel alongside the swift Sungai Galas during the monsoons. Folks in Kelantan say kohor-kohor, meaning slowly. It is a word that perfectly encapsulates the leisurely lifestyle in the east coast state. In the Kelantan interior, development travels at the pace of the diesel powered local trains. The local train is slow and spartan, a faithful heritage of its steam predecessor.


The rail ride between Gua Musang and Tumpat is a record of sorts somewhat. This section passes through many bridges and tunnels built between 1921 and 1931 to link the many remote villages scattered throughout the hilly region. 7 highland tunnels including the longest in the country, and over 13 iron bridges span wide rivers on which you can see rumah rakits and old mak ciks bathing half clad with timbas on them. The longest iron railway bridge in the country, the Sungai Kusial Bridge, is on this route too.

Some stations have undergone renovation but there are still quite a number which has never seen a coat of repaint since the glorious swinging early fifties. At some areas, a weather worn wooden hut shelters those waiting for the train. At others, like at Ulu Temiang, only a signboard suffice to mark the spot of the station. Strong wooden beams and boards still standing to make up the cafeteria lend an old world charm to the Kuala Krai, Gua Musang, Pasir Mas, and Tanah Merah stations that is all but lost on the west coast. Where there are no stations or platforms, the locals have mastered the art of hauling heavy loads up the high carriage steps and into the train.

The stations along the way between Gua Musang and Tumpat are:
1. Gua Musang 2. Pan Malayan 3. Sungai Koyan 4. Kg. Sungai Sirian 5. Sungai Sirian 6. Limau Kasturi 7. Bertam Baru 8. Bertam 9. Kg. Jerek Bharu 10. Sungai Tasin 11. Sri Bintang 12. Sri Mahligai 13. Sri Jaya 14. Kemubu 15. Dabong 16. Kuala Gris 17. Bukit Abu 18. Kg Baru Bukit Abu 19. Ulu Temiang 20. Kg. Baru Sungai Mengkuang 21. Sungai Mengkuang 22. Manek Urai 23. Pahi 24. Krai 25. Sungai Nal 26. Temangan 27. Kampung Paloh Rawa 28. Tanah Merah 29. Bukit Panau 30. Sungai Keladi 31. To Uban 32. Chica Tinggi 33. Pasir Mas 34. Kg. Machang 35. Bunut Susu 36. Wakaf Bharu 37. Palekbang 38. Kg. Kok Pasir 39. Tumpat

Trains are powerful in the interiors of Kelantan and Pahang. When the train breaks down, the pulse of life stops. Daily activities are planned around the train's time table. School time tables are linked to train schedules. As soon as the train horn is heard, pupils hastily gather their books and pencils to return home, even when classes havent ended.

At various hours throughout the day, six iron horses run from Gua Musang to Tumpat, a distance of over 200 km. For the rural folk who live in the mountainous regions, the local trains are the preferred mode of public transport for reasons of economy, safety and reliability. From an outsider's perspective though, these old trains are a living reminder of the rustic charm of days gone by.

Locals call them Kereto Loka, or M83, M84, M93, M94, M91 and M92. Backpackers call them Jungle Train. School trains usually pull 3 coaches, while the Kereto Ikeen- g or Market Train pulls 5 coaches including one which carries veterinary produce. The school train leaves Tumpat at 0345 and Gua Musang at 0510 while the fish train leaves Tumpat at 0500 and Gemas at 0700. Some passengers still set up a makeshift market on the platform of the station at Gua Musang, in operation between 10am and 12.30 pm daily.

For the Kelantan locals whose lifeline depend on these trains, "early" takes on a deeper meaning. These are people who still take the train to school on the east coast line. Students who live in villages near railway tracks rise before the sun is up to go to school in a neighbouring town. The number has lessened since 2002 when hostels were built to cater to the student commuters. The solution for teachers is not so simple. Mustapha Mahmood, 46, from Pasir Puteh, rises at 2.30 am to catch the 4.54 am train at Kuala Krai to go to work. While his wife teaches in town, Mustapha teaches Bahasa Malaysia in Kemubu, 175 km away. There are six others who ride Train 81.

Many school children live in little villages and take the predawn train to school. Pupils are first seen boarding trains in the mornings at Hulu Temiang to school at Dabong and Kampung Jerek Bharu, where the locals are expecting a Smart School soon. Stations catering to these pupils include Kampung Bukit Abu Bharu, Bukit Abu, Kuala Gris, Seri Jaya, Seri Mahligai, Seri Bintang and Sungai Tasin. [video available below]

When an express mail train going north comes in, the south bound train will have to wait on the sidelines (loopline) till the main line train passes on. A delay caused by one train affects the schedule of all other trains due to the single track system. The locals have learnt to take it all in their stride and chat with each other to while away the time. The locals are friendly, and don't complain much when the trains are delayed, unlike in the west coast.

On the east coast Gemas-Tumpat line, station masters still use tokens to grant train drivers at each passing station the necessary clearance when using the single track railroad system. The token is a metal key held within a leather purse with a heavy steel handle. This painful practice of grabbing the token from a moving train, and can cause red welts appearing at the crook of the elbow, has ceased with the computerisation of the railway system in the west coast. Passing of the token between the engineer and the station master as the train approaches the station is rarely seen nowadays. Here is an exclusive view of the event recorded as the Ekspres Wau approaches Kemubu station. [video available below ]

It is 6.40 on a misty Tuesday morning. The night express train pulls into Dabong. A stout figure dressed smartly in a cerulean blue uniform, greets the sleepy eyed passengers as they tumble into the spartan station. Ibrahim Jusoh is the 50 year old station master. His main responsibility is to oversee the movement of trains between Kuala Gris and Kemubu, the two closest stations to Dabong. Seconds after waving the train off, he returns to his position behind the ticketing counter, a task he manages alongside his official duty. With only one assistant, Ibrahim runs a tight ship at the station which also serves as the hub of Dabong (population 1,000). Selling tickets, providing the train schedule, giving directions, booking local guides for tourists to Gunung Stong, making reservations for accomodation, sweeping the premises and cleaning the toilet, are all part of a day's work.

Old timers recall a bygone era, when, upon seated in the buffet car, steaming hot coffee, warm buttered toast and a half boiled egg would be promptly served. The Hainanese cooks ruled the kitchen then, whipping up colonial favourites such as chicken and lamb chops. Although not KTMB staff, these contract workers were very much part of the railway. Wong Pok Moo, 75, was 28 years old when he first joined the buffet car aboard the Singapore-KL train. He sold Coke and Red Lion bottled drinks for 30 sen each. When the kitchen closed at night, wooden planks would be placed atop the galley table, forming a makeshift bed for four men. These buffet cars are no longer part of the jungle train.

Morning market is active at Wakaf Bharu, Bunut Susu, Kampung Machang, Pasir Mas and Tanah Merah. Market produce frequently originate cheaply from the northern border towns of Tumpat, Pasir Mas and Rantau Panjang. Tok Peraih leaves home strapped only with cash in their money belts. They fill up at stations along the way. Empty spaces between and on seats and in between coaches rapidly get occupied with durian, langsat, duku, jambu, rambutan, etok, beras, buah asam jawa, mangga jeruk, cermai jeruk, kelubi jeruk, keropok goreng, budu, kacang rebus, bawang, lada hidup, pucuk paku, daun kentut, petai, jering, ayam, telur, dapur gas, toto, kangkung, kacang panjang, timun, terung, tembikai, krepet rokok, ikan kering, minuman kotok, laksa, nasi kapit, ketupat, tapai, kerabu, sare, et set teraa et set teraa.

Sales are made on the move, not infrequently by barter trading, and in transit at stations or in bulk volumes at the big stations of Tanah Merah, Kuala Krai, Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis and Jerantut. [ video available below ]. Each Tok Peraih, leaving the children at home early one morning, for example, would make about RM50 clean upon returning home evening the next day. From Tumpat in Kelantan, they may cover the marketing distance as far as Kuala Lipis in Pahang.

During fruiting seasons, durians fill up station platforms to the brim. Baskets of langsats and dukus change trading hands. Mangosteen bunches hang from every hangable point. Vendors ply up and down stationary train sides coveniently pushing up rambutans and steamed maize and kacang rebus to willing hands through train windows. [ video available below ]

Scheduled prayers are timely devoted on train seats, aisles, and in station MUSSALLAs. At the Bukit Abu station, the train makes a 20 min stop to allow Muslims time to perform the Subuh prayers. Village folks share footways, ggateh tracks and spedaar paths with trains on the rail bridge at Kemubu. Elderly women use brooms and sticks to shoo away hens and their broods from rail tracks at Bukit Abu. Roosters scamper away cackling out of the way of approaching engines at Dabong. [ video available below]

Naked slimy bodied young uns wave excitedly at passengers from streams underneath bridges in Tumpat. Tick-stung buffaloes straddled with bangaus, stop ploughing to watch the silvery iron horse snaking through wide padi expanses at Tanah Merah. Sweet-young-things shyly peer from behind window curtains at Pasir Mas, only big round eyes spottable. Middle aged to elderly womanly Tok Peraih heftily drag heavy rice bags from the platform on to coaches at Wakaf Bharu. Wiry grandfathers patiently wait for the apocalypse on station benches with burnt out rokok dauns hanging from dry shrivelled lips at Bertam Bharu. Yellow banners uttering Ambo Nok Ku Li straddle tall coconut trees at Gua Musang. Not so wealthy shopkeepers await their few customers in front of small retails facing rail tracks. The local wakil rakyat makes a much awaited visit to the public school at Limau Kasturi to give a RM23 juto donation for the school field. The adjoining nasi bukkuh and roti cana retailer made a quick kill on that rare day. The ever enthusiastic middle aged local tourist agent eagerly awaits the arrival of an amateur mountain climbing group from Singapore at Dabong.

According to the all-knowing friendly merinyu on M84, the jungle train runs on federal government subsidy as a much appreciated service for the local hinterland folks. It should have been terminated during the 1985 KTM corporatisation exercise. It does not make money. The dilapidated rusty dirty creaky ready-to-fall-apart-any-time coaches are testimony to this. The school children are mercifully charged only RM0.2 sen per ticketless trip. Some Tok Peraih use the train as their sole means of income for the past twenty years, harmlessly evading cuka bako in most of those years. Some used to trade in Golok, the border Thailand town, until KTM authorities terminated the Rantau Panjang Pasir Mas service due to insurmountable petty rice smuggling. No Train, No Trade is the motto of the day. Train trading is cheap and convenient.

Being assigned to Dabong, Limau Kasturi or Kampung Jerek, was capital punishment for new teachers and government officers in the fiftees. The only worthwhile activity of the day was counting trains, they lament. Not any more. The local train community are a happy lot. You dont get to hear sob stories of difficult lifetimes from them. They are a thankful lot to their Maker and Caregiver, Allah Subhaa Nahuu Wa Taalaa.

There is a lot that the Jungle Train can teach you!. Those parts of your lives that you unwittingly or unknowingly sorely missed can be recovered in these trains!!. Go get them!!!.

* JUNGLE TRAIN CD
The entire journey between Gua Musang and Tumpat with associated activities at and in between stations are available on a triple CD set entitled "JEJAK NOSTALGIA", some included in fine digital video and stereo. Kindly get in touch with: Abang Kocik,
dzeds1@hotmail.com , or call 012-3923485

Video Clips from the CD are available on this page:

http://pasirmas05.tripod.com/train/


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THE LUDEK BACKPACKERS

Kelab ini telah ditubuhkan pada awal tahun 1990an dengan adventure pertama ke Pulau Tioman. Ahli ahli pioneer ketika itu ialah Abang Bosar, Teng, Ijoi dan Boi. Selepas itu kelab ini telah dormant untuk seketika apabila Teng dan Ijoi melanjutkan pelajaran di luar negeri, berkahwin dan settle down dengan keluarga.

Setelah 10 tahun kegianan adventure telah melanda kembali, dengan berita pendaratan UFO di Kampung Gobek, Tanah Merah, Kelantan pada 3hb March, 2000. Unit X-Files LHSB telah menghantar anggota backpackers nya dari Abang Bosar, Abang Kocik, Teng dan Ijoi, pada 12hb March, 2000. Apa yang berlaku dalam 24 jam yang berikutnya adalah sebenarnya rediscovery close encounters dengan alam semesta semula jadi dan bukan close encounters dengan makhluk asing. Adventure ke Kampung "Gobek" sebenarnya menjadi adventure "go back" pulang ke nature. He! he! he!……….

"Dear Members of the trip and The Honourable Chief Travelling Officer, Abang Besar, I shall complete the writing of this adventurous novel with the help of everyone, InsyaAllah. Hope you're alright after a safe return from the shortest and most memorable trip I ever had in my entire life. As a matter of fact, I want to share these excitements of our hands-on experience with those who have something in common out there - to discover the nature of life!"….Ijoi.

A Close Encounter Of The Third Kind adalah contact antara makhluk asing dengan makhluk bumi dalam keadaan nyata, dimana kedua nya bertemu mata dan bersentuh tubuh badan. Pertemuan begini amat ditunggu tunggu oleh para para UFO buff dimerata bumi yang yakin alam angkasa yang begitu luas bentangan nya sungguh sungguh membazir kalau hanya dihuni oleh sekelompok kecil makhluk manusia sahaja di planet bumi ini.

Segala nya bermula dengan press release yang telah di mel kan oleh Abang Kocik mengenai pendaratan UFO di Kampong Gobek.

Berita yang diterima ialah penduduk disitu telah nampak sinaran cahaya putih yang amat terang benderang dari langit pada pukul 3.00 pagi Jumaat 3hb March itu. Seorang penduduk, Mohamad Mat Diah, 51 tahun, telah melihat "sinaran cahaya bertalu talu menyerupai sambaran kilat, tapi tidak ada guruh dan tanda tanda nak hujan. Cahaya itu terang benderang menyinari ruang dalam rumah saya." Beliau telah pergi menyelidik dan mendapati mendapan tanah sebesar 15x5 metre berbentuk Y dalam paya sawah sejauh 100 metre dibelakang rumah nya.

Beliau yakin ada benda objek besar dan berat yang telah menyebabkan mendapan tanah itu. Subuh pagi itu beliau telah melapurkan hal ini kepada qariah surau nya. Engineer JPT Tanah Merah melapurkan mendapan tanah itu disebabkan oleh hakisan air empangan yang pecah akibat hujan malam sebelumnya. Walau pun 'Area 51' telah lama menerapkan kaedah saintifik dalam penyiasatan UFO nya, namun masih ramai yang menganggap nya pure fiction.

Sebelum mengikuti adventure ni sila review balik THE NATURE OF UFO'S

1.Hj. Ahmad Hj. Che Din: Pondok Putera Jin - Best article in Malay on Jinn [Genie] from Islamic perspective

2. Chris Line: The Jinn from a Scientific(?) Viewpoint - Best article on Jinn [Genie] from a scientific perspective

3. Gordon Creighton: A Brief Account of the True Nature of the "UFO entities" - Best article on the roots of UFO

THE LANDING SITE 1

"HOOO LAA ...... AMBO NAPOK SUNGGOH .... SENGOTI !!!"


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THE LANDING SITE 11

THE Y-SHAPED DEPRESSION

"Mu tok napok koh ?....kalu tok napok, alamak pendek umoo laa...."


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THE TANAH MERAH NOVEL


BACKPACKER RULES - THE JOURNEY

First to straighten out the 4 players: Ateng / Choteng, Ijoi / Joey, Abang Bosar dan Abang Kocik. And a little bit of history - the first three got together, with another fourth who failed to make the backpacker grade, early 1990 on a trip to the original virgin Tioman before the island was raped. All will remember how sweet virgin territory was at that time. Backpacker Rule 1, ie, Be there before the Others.

When Leonardo de Caprio trudged along Khao Sahn Road with his backpack, he never planned to meet the mental case who gave him the map to Maya Beach on Phi Phi Le, the "BEACH" all backpackers of the world dream of. Similarly, how our Tanah Merah trip started actually fits well into Backpacker Rule 2, ie, Never stick close to an Itinerary.
If the Kereta Api Pasar trip had materialised, all would have missed what they went through in that fabulous 24 hours, well...I wouldn't call it fabulous, I'll call it a power vacation. The truth is I did e-mail Teng that the train trip would be replaced by the UFO one.

"The trip to Kelantan was wonderful amid a tight schedule of within 24 hours! We left KL after midnight on March 12, 2000 after myself and Ateng fetched Abang Besar and Abang Kecik. Ateng was taking the lead to drive his Iswara Ex KL. Finally we were told by the Chief that the mission of the trip was not experiencing the pre-war market-train ride from Gua Musang to Tumpat but rather to visit the site of UFO landing in Kg. Gobek located within Tanah Merah vicinity. Ateng was persuading Abang Besar to consider a quick stop-over in Gua Musang KTM Station just for a quick look-up. It was agreed then should time permit"?.Ijoi.

Night rides ada banyak keuntungan nya if you are short of time, which all of us suffer from. You save on precious daylight hours, no lodging fees, you are fresh from your whole day's sleep although some still manage to sleep throughout the whole night also. Remember to kick out these goats the next trip. Night drives are cooling, so are tempers. Backpacker Rule 3, ie, Always take the first Shift.

"We continued the journey heading for Gua Musang, the place where KULI was born. Along the way we talked on many issues from economy, politics, the UFO stuffs (which was off my interest) and so forth. Basically the road was quite winding a zig-zagging. We noticed little traffic on the road which practically is not lighted at all, unlike the super highways of the west coast. Abang Besar was mentioning something eerie looking about the banana trees along the way, with their leaves coloured dead white hovering in the dark, blown by the wind, struck by the bright shine of the Iswara headlights. Something quite "menggerun kan", looking exactly like 'kain kapan" clad bodies waving to you in the dark of the night!!!. We could not imagine how a driver can pass along this road alone at night."??Ijoi.

Backpacker Rule 4, ie, Explore alternative Routes. We could have taken the normal Raub-Benta-Kuala Lipis safe route, but we changed our minds, thanks to the reliable corporal at the Raub Balai Polis who told us that the alternative route via Bukit Koman to Padang Tunku is not safe at night and forgot to tell us that it could save us one hour of journey. We were disappointed with the police though when we found that the road was smooth, wide and passed through picturesque quaint small towns, well... as much as we could make out in the dark of the night, but none of the wild boar jumping over car roof stuff.

The small shanty kedai makan we stopped by at Bukit Koyan was a welcome sight in the darkness of the night and cold of the morning. It was quite clean, with Hindustani unrated VCD movie thrown in. One can never cease to wonder how Bollywood can still fire imaginations at 2.30 in the serene still morning. The night express buses plying the Kota Bharu KL route has not arrived yet. This makan shop is their chosen transit as the driver will benefit from his quota of free makan here. We noticed big green posters with white central moons around the shop. We did'nt seem to mind them as we found out that the four of us gave a vote each to PAS, Keadilan, DAP and BN. So much for democracy. The small privy at the back of the shop, which was quite popular with the four of us, aptly introduced us to the state of cleanliness in Kelantan high country. More of this later.
We realised that Teng must have taken hot Milo as he later delegated the driver's seat to Abang Kocik at Gua Musang.

We passed two backdoor entry points for Taman Negara along the way. One is Merapoh, near Padang Tunku and the other, Kuala Koh, after Gua Musang. This latter entry point is by river through a cave, according to Abang Kocik. Sounds thrilling, but he was saying this in between long yawns and watery beady eyes. So its authenticity is questionable. Backpacker Rule 6, ie, Know your geography Well.

Merapoh is a small town, about 50km, from Kuala Lipis. Merapoh has jungle trails, caves, waterfalls, animal hideouts and wildlife, river rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing and others. You can trek up Gunung Tahan in 4 days from here, compared to 7 by the Kuala Tahan trail. Merapoh is a beautiful and unspoilt natural wonder.

"We arrived at Gua Musang at approximately 0445 hrs. and made a quick stop-over at Gua Musang KTM station. According to Abang Besar there were not much changes at the station from the last time he was there many many years back. But, unlike then, there were no petty traders seen selling their produce/crops directly to the train commuters at the platform while waiting to board the train and trade their wares right up to Wakaf Bharu, Kelantan. School children still board these morning trains for the nearest school up north at Limau Kasturi, but beginning recently, you don't see anymore farmers, more females than males, plying their farm produce on the trains from Gua Musang to Kota Bharu in the mornings and coming back home on the evening trains with shopping products. According to Abang Besar some more, during the fruits season, each station along the way will be bedecked green with durians, and you will have to carefully step over huge baskets of durians and langsats and rambutans and manggis on the train corridors, amidst the smell of ikan kerings and budus and human sweat and the deafening din of bullish and bearish bargains and friendly chatter and howling children." Ijoi.

Teng was a bit disappointed with the Gua Musang Railway station as he found it not Oldie enough. I agree. But there are others in Kuala Lipis, Jerantut, Limau Kasturi, Manik Urai, Kusial, Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah, Pasir Mas, and Tumpat which are guaranteed Harta Karuns. We will still have a chance to see them, Insya Allah. If we apply Backpacker Rule 7, ie, Never trust Authority, we may still find a relative of the Raub Polis Station corporal at the Gua Musang Railway Station office. We may still have the opportunity to bargain durian and langsat and jambu and rambutan and etak and buah asam jawa and mangga jeruk and jeruk cermai and jeruk kelubi and pucuk paku and daun kentut prices with Mok Cik Nik vendors on the moving local morning trains plying the Gua Musang Tumpat route, which the station master said has been cancelled.

The other attraction of the rail ride between Gua Musang and Tumpat is a record of sorts somewhat. This section passes through 7 highland tunnels including the longest in the country, and over 13 iron bridges spanning wide rivers on which you can see rumah rakits and with luck Teng can observe old mak ciks bathing half clad with timbas on them.

A beautiful scenery used to be the favourite of olden day Kelantan painters was of
the 'Sumpitan Mas / Golden Blowpipe' steaming and smoking its way through a tunnel alongside the swift Sungai Galas during the monsoons. The longest iron railway bridge in the country, the Sungai Kusial Bridge, is on this route too.

We missed the opportunity to have Jumaah Subuh at the big UMNO mosque which is self banned by PAS in Gua Musang as it was still too early in the morning then. At the Gua Musang Railway Station we first met with the istillah MUSSALLA for surau. We were to meet with many more of these signs whereever we went in Kelantan country. So also with the signs calling for Takbir, Tahmid and Tasbih along the roads entering cities in the state. We found out later that MUSSALLA was introduced during the second reign of Tuan Guru's tenure of government. The road to Kuala Krai is wider and smooth now. It used to be pock marked with a lot of holes at one time. Now concrete wakafs have replaced wooden ones along the road. The uninitiated may think that these are bus stops. They are for weary travellers to shade from sun and rain and perform scheduled prayers while in transit. See how rakyat caring the present Kelantan government is. Kudos to Tuan Guru. Night travellers can really feel safe along these roads as military road blocks at strategic points weed out bad hats.

"Out of the blue I realised we had already arrived at Kuala Kerai at about 0600 hrs. and was in time for jumaah Subuh at the first local mosque we arrived at. We thought we could fresh up ourselves there but finally ended up at the bigger and cleaner Mesjid Daerah Kuala Kerai. Along the way I overheard Abang Besar complaining about the hygiene mentality of the Kelantanese people through his personal observation of the 1st mosque's cleanliness level and so forth. The Mesjid Daerah is situated high on a hill, but was submerged to its first floor during the 1984 big floods. The whole of Krai town was submerged then."?..Ijoi.

Remember Backpacker Rule 8, ie, Make sure toiletries are adequate. Abang Kocik had to hunt around for a 7-Eleven to get a toothbrush. Now, backpackers must know the simple rule that toothbrushes cannot be shared, the others can. Furthermore, mana ada 7-Eleven in Krai country.

To correct what Joey said, I was not really complaining about the hygiene mentality of the people of Kelantan as we see them along the way. Backpacker Rule 9, ie, Never ruffle local Feathers. Remember, we are guests. Remember this is Serambi Mekah. I was just making observations. And these observations are not new. The mosque is quite a good place for you to start with. The carpets can do with some vacuuming. The Imam's enclave need sweeping, curtains changed, the windows soaped with water, clean simple chandeliers should be hanging from the ceiling, not sawangs. The mosque is new. And the outside. As you saw, the jawatan of Tukang Kebun is vacant. But that is not the point. No need to mention the privy. The surroundings of the other bigger mosque, Krai's Masjid Jame', is the same. Observe the areas around and below the houses. No doubt these are old wooden kampung houses, but still...Compare with those kampung houses in Melaka, Muar, Mesjid Tanah, or Kuala Pilah...The clothing of the Sufi may be rough, but it is white, white, white. Filth has nothing to do with poverty. As far as cleanliness is concerned, I feel Kelantan is a cultural shock. When Michael Jackson arrived in Africa, he had his fingers on his nose all the time. The Africans were angry.

"By 0800 hrs in the morning we were ready for breakfast. We elected for Nasi Dage'. Abang Besar recommended us to take a historical look at "Bradley Steps" (now known as "Tangga Krai" , a flood marker used during both colonial and present times to monitor the flood situation in Kelantan, before going for breakfast. On the way there we bumped into a charming and colourful vintage, TA 423 (a very old Ford model - couldn't remember it's model name). Ateng took some photos as he likes antique stuff. I always wondered why he didn't marry one of the old ladies (Wans of Negeri Sembilan with few granchildren), since he liked antiques stuff so much."??Ijoi.

Bradley Steps or Tangga Bradley has been renamed Tangga Krai. Kelantan is flood country, and Tangga Krai is testimony to this. Bradley saved a lot of lives with his Steps. There is no harm keeping his name with his Steps. This is one piece of colonialism Kelantanese should be proud of. The Steps are still being used today to warn the whole state of impending flood water level rises. Various marks on the Steps denote the various river water levels that correspond with flooding of particular areas in the state. This gives adequate warnings for evacuations to begin. For keeping such an important function, these Steps are sadly in a state of disrepair and appear derelict. There are no security measures around. One can easily alter the markings of the water levels and you can imagine what chaos this can cause to the whole state during a flood.

"Bradley Steps was found to be untouched by Abang Besar since his last visit. We admired the ambience of the riverside scene with the hope that the place will remain as it is for us and our children to continue enjoying for generations to come."?.Ijoi.

Alongside the Steps is a rumah rakit jetty on which is a canteen. You can reach the rakit across a small single plank connecting the Steps to it. This is one hell of a floating restaurant for us. We thought of taking breakfast at a Nasi Dagang stall in front of the mosque, but then when we saw the rakit bobbing up and down on the waters, the scene is too much for us to bear. Before that we had some pictures taken on various levels of the Steps with the rakit and river in the background.

"As the jetty has a small warung inside, we had our first round of breakfast without nasi dage' over-looking the Kelantan River. The atmosphere was very relaxing and peaceful which everyone of us enjoyed. Abang Besar, as usual "The Man of the Show" started talking to the local folks there, introducing ourselves and so forth. Inevitably the focus of conversation confined to the Kampung Gobek UFO. Apparently the locals do not subscribe much to UFOs and they don't give a damn either. One of them even asked where the landing was. We ended up being their subject of pity that there still are nerds in this world who believe in the existence of ETs interested in planet earth beings. The warong operator had the impression that we were from TV3. This was perhaps from the way of Abang Besar's lines of questioning and the manner of Abang Kecik's Press uniform! I was impressed with them too and they indeed looked like TV reporters. I guessed the Mok Cik noticed it when Abang Kecik was taping some of the conversation using a tiny Sony's tape recorder."….Ijoi.

Over tea, coffee and milo and delicious pulut udang, we watched farmers bringing in their produce from the other bank of the river heading for the local market. A boatman skillfully manouvres his engine across the fast waters to transport students and office workers to and fro - Sunday is working day in Kelantan. We marvelled at his dexterity. The fare is still in sens, not even ringgits. Without insurance, no doubt.

The way Teng stretched his legs on the wooden bangku in the canteen on the rumah rakit alongside the Steps with eyes far across beyond the river margins told us that this is one Yuppie who is really starved of tranquility and inner peace of mind. He does not have to white water raft down Colorado to achieve this. There are things he did later in the day that made us worry more regarding his mental health status. We felt a little bit guilty pulling him away from his seat as we had other projects to cover.

"We were off from Bradley Steps for Nasi Dage' at 0915 hrs. Abang Besar indicated how to get to the place to Ateng, a roadside warong in front of the first mosque en route to Machang. Unfortunately Nasi Dage' was in short supply and we ordered white rice with Nasi Dage's dishes instead. It was still not bad for at least we had half done Nasi Dage' and it was better than nothing. However Abang Kecik had Nasi Kerabu instead. Nasi bungkus for breakfast is the tradition in Kelantan, for the very filling high carbohydrate content is energy giving for muscle work in the fields and farms. Ordering toast with jam or butter is un-Kelantanese. In fact breakfast is not prepared formally in Kelantan homes, as they prefer to buy it at warungs including the morning coffee or tea."..Ijoi.

"Now the BIG task of the day had come. We left Kuala Kerai for Tanah Merah at about 1000 hrs. Throughout the journey Abang Kecik reminded Ateng to buy somes films the moment we arrived Tanah Merah plus the agenda we were to follow when we reach Kg. Gobek, also the people he was going to interview and so on. We arrived at Tanah Merah at about 1100 hrs.
Abang Kecik and Ateng immediately rushed to the photo shop. We also took the apportunity to shop some food stuffs at Pasar Besar Tanah Merah. I managed to grab something for my wife, the 'serunding' and the 'keropok' she requested the night before I left for Kelantan. About 1115 hrs. we were on our way locating Kg. Gobek. Abang Besar and Abang Kecik were far more excited than Ateng and myself."..Ijoi.

At the Tanah Merah market we had a lesson in Kelantan phonetics. We were asking for directions to Kampong Gobek from the lady womanning the keropok stall which was strategically located near the entrance. She told us the kampong is near Ipus. We asked, "Is it near Ipoh?". "Nope," she said, "Ipus!". Sure enough, when we got there, we were going through Kampung Ipoh. Backpacker Rule 10, ie, Be wary of local Lingo.

The last Backpacker Rule 10, ie. Be wary of local Lingo means Etak is etok, the black small smooth shell kerang like edible, packaged like kacang rebus which I decided not to buy after the Kak Nik vendor at the Tanah Merah market translucently confessed that it wont last the journey to Kajang as it would petrify our pod racer interior even though it had been rebussed (boiled). Kelantanese tongue does not respect Baku vowels, their 'Ooo's sound 'Aaa's. That is why etok is spelt etak. This is scriptwriters' freedom of the press.

KAMPUNG GOBEK

Rather than get lost, we followed a hunch. "Ipus" must be the Kelantan mis-phonetics for "Ipoh". We were right. We approached Kampung Ipoh and asked for the landing site. The first reaction was "Is it here?". We asked for Kampung Gobek. The response was more favourable. It's quite a distance really from Kampung Ipoh. Initial objections from Teng faded away quickly as we cruised through beautiful peaceful homestays and across meandering brooks. Buffaloes gave us rapt attention from neglected padi fields. Abang Kocik was raving mad because his 'Sharp' Video camera was still under repairs.

Pisang goreng and keropok colek stalls kept appearing along the way. So did those selling pisang tanduk, pineapples and water melons, and not to forget jeruk cermai, kelubi and mangga...a typical rural Kelantan scene.

Kampung Gobek greeted us with 'tumpok tumpok tahik korbau' up the granite entry road. Teng's brand new Iswara was skilled enough to avoid most of them but a few managed to leave unforgettable ##*!!+&??@# marks in our heads for quite some time afterwards. We managed to find Mohamad Mat Diah's abode. His wife was in but Encik Mohamad was out in the neighbourhood village attending to urgent matters which he was not able to deal with before this as he was swarmed daily with reporters and bounty hunters ever since the landing incident. She was'nt sure whether Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were among the visitors looking for a lost pod racer.

We were being observed then by Mohamad Diah's neighbour, Encik Mat Deraman, who was tending to his goats at the back portion of his house. He approached us, all knowing of our intentions, to our delight. Meanwhile a sizeable gathering of kids around the block had appeared around us from nowhere, some in tattered clothes, some half clad, some needing a lot of soap behind the ears. Well..., none of us were fancily clothed either. We sat down, on the ground, on the grass, on fallen branches, on coconuts, all ears. Mat Deraman repeated what we read in the papers.

This was a sincere and truthful group, with no ulterior motives. Unlike those in Tanjung Sepat, near Banting, before the completion of KLIA, where the whole kampung became a carnival, selling everything including the reports of their sightings. We went into some depth with Encik Deraman as to the philosophies behind UFO visitations. All along, Abang Kocik's Sony faithfully recorded everything that transpired.

There was a gem of a light, hilarious moment though. Not about the Martians that came visiting. But the origins of Kampung Gobek. The kampung was pre-WWII. Tanah Merah was a popular area for Mat Sallehs in Kelantan then to do their thing in return for protection rights against the Siamese. And kampung folk, as usual, liked to follow them around in their activities. Until one occasion, when at their wit's end, the Orang Putih had to shoo away the villagers from their much needed privacy. "Go back....go back...go back..." was what the Orang Putih chanted. And the name remained till today, thanks again to Kelantan mis-phonetics.

THE LANDING SITE

Encik Deraman was obliging enough to bring us to the landing site. It was in paya land behind Mohammad Mat Diah's house, about 500 metres away, through his kebun, kandang kambing and rubber trees. We came to a small brook with clear gurgling waters that bordered Mat Diah's sawah land, where the landing was. Again Abang Kocik was mad with frenzy as there was no video camera available.

Being land lubbers, we shyyed away from negotiating the brook, even though it was only 3 feet deep. Mat Deraman smiled in comprehension. We had to be satisfied with a long shot of the landing site. We only saw a huge depression in the distance, filled with water. It appeared more like a kubang korbau, 15 feet in length and 10 feet across. Curious onlookers dotted the area in the sawah around, knee deep in mud. A few were bathing in the depression, the water in it having been given instant powers of healing all ilnesses ever since the landing. A heated debate emanated from Teng as to the folly of their doings. Strangely enough, up till now no one has offered to bottle up the miracle water for multilevel marketing.

Mat Deraman's theory of the landing was more plausible. He dived in on the first morning of the landing and discovered that the sides of the depression were deeply vertical straight down to about 10 feet, thus discounting the local JKR Engineer's explanation that the depression was due to flooding from upstream as it had been raining cats and dogs for the past few days. Mat Deraman deserved an honorary recognition.

Opposite to where we stood was a small hill overlooking the landing site. We thought it a good idea to explore as it could give a nice bird's eye view of what happened. Mat Deraman quickly pointed out we may be disappointed as it was then already past a week since the landing. A lot of the initial contour had been washed out. But, he whispered, army UFO personnel from the Jeli camp had visited the place twice, taking measurements and making drawings of the landing location, after realising that there were no known flights of either commercial or military aircraft over the area. We thought we should pay a visit to the army camp on our way back.

After some extensive manouvres of the Iswara and intensive geoastronomic calculations, we found the hill. We had to fumble through a rubber estate though from the road. We circled quite some way out just to make sure that there were no other sister landing sites that the villagers could have missed. Every open flat space was forayed into, eyes intently searching for depressions in the ground, or burnt out grass, or broken twigs which could be Martian induced. Ijoi was very cynically happy when Abang Kocik and myself drew blank.

The view from the top of the hill was panoramic. And as Mat Deraman cautioned, we only perceived patches of waterlogged areas in the sawah below. Nothing of the Y-shaped depression and three holes of landing gear that the papers described. Nevertheless Teng took photos at various angles to make the landing site look as if a flying saucer had just been half submerged there. Teng also surmised that a Y shaped depression with three holes at its axis could be due to the MAS wau bulan logo created by Spielberg's Dreamworks being dropped there after its tenure of office, or even by Kelantan's big Burung Petalawati making a soft landing to lay eggs there recently. Ijoi thought 20 buffaloes high on weeds having a big Saturday night kubang bash could do the same thing. Well, the others tended not to disagree in order to keep the peace.

Before finally leaving Kampung Gobek, we stopped at a warong selling pisang goreng at the fringes of the village, tended by a young housewife and her baby. Even though it was noon and hardly lunch time yet, the warong nestled under coconut trees was too inviting to pass by. Our thoughts went to the baby. Would the young thing grow to adulthood selling pisang goreng like her mother, or become the next Governor of Bank Negara.

THE SHOWER OF NATURE AT PERGAU

Half way to Jeli we found the army camp. This was stationed here as part of the security measures along the East West Highway. The high barbed wire fences around the area were daunting. The stern grimacing face of the lone security sentry at the gate changed our intention to give him a greeting. And a picture of a guard shooting a trespasser on the signboard next to the guard-house made us decide to give this place a pass. Maybe we should try Zakariya's help at MINDEF to get those line drawings of the landing site. That is, if representatives from X-Files and Area 51 or SETI and Misteri Nusantara has not got to them yet !!.

Dzohor time came when we arrived at a small one street town along the way. We failed to find an old heritage wooden surau, and had to make do with the new UMNO mosque there. Lunch was quick, followed by a small bargain of RM15 for a Thai track suit at the many bundle stalls there. Abang Bosa's confusion, as to whether the border town of Betong was any where near and needed a transit, was cleared when reminded that we were still in Kelantan.

Driving after lunch in the afternoon was indeed a sleepy affair, so nobody really noticed that we passed by Putri Saadong's cave by Sungai Pergau on the highway. Except for Abang Bosa, the others were not much history buffs. Anyway a small warung selling drinks perched on top of a hillock overlooking the Pergau river caught our beady half open eyes. Aahh.. what a cool invigorating respite. A really good excuse to transit stop. Sliding into the wooden benches we heard the swollen Pergau gushing hurriedly over stones and falls way down below. Whistling winds rushed pass swaying bamboo shoots up above. Definitely this beats Genting. Warm Starbuck aroma wafted from the kitchen. We had a reason to stay awhile. It was as if time stood still.

A local joined us at our table. He was on his way to pick petai but decided to stay awhile with us upon realising that we were long distance strangers. This must be camradeire at its best. Abang Bosa's put on of his half baked Kelantan dialect struck pleasant surprise in him and conversation flowed from buying real estate along the highway to Ibrahim Ali's and Stopa's chances in the next general elections.

We did'nt really know how we managed to get up and leave this Shangrila, but leave we did. The TNB dam over the Pergau was just a few kilometers up along the way. But then we noticed that a small gate at its foot was ajar and unmanned. The familiar 'Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted' signboard was there. But then, this opportunity was really Allah-sent, and the height of folly to pass by. It was 3.30 pm and dark clouds were beginning to gather. The Iswara backed up, and as if by itself steered towards the gate and we drove through. Seeing that the gate had no padlock, we closed it selfishly, just to make sure others did not get our same ideas.

The drive up was steep but enough challenge for us to continue. Right at the road's end at the top was the huge dam. We noted several spots around the waters for a return camping and fishing trip. It was quiet and lonely. We had the feeling that all of this scenery was ours to cherish and to have and to hold. We knew from previous knowledge that the dam was fed by many small intake rivers upstream. And if they were from the sources, they must pass over waterfalls !!!. On the way up we saw offshoot roads that led further up circuiting the dam. We took one of these.

The temperature went down lower and lower. Grass and weeds looked fresher and greener. Abang Kocik took out his Sony to capture crisp and clear bird audio. Teng and Ijoi were bragging about familiar cool sensations when they were in the Alps. Abang Bosa suddenly remembered the cool lyrics of the "Matterhorn" cigarettes Pearl and Dean advertisement at Odeon cinema Kota Bharu in the heydays of the 60's. Abang Kocik remembered nothing. Of course the Iswara engine had to be shut up to saviour the whole scene. We noticed piles of what we initially thought were buffalo shit. But on second thoughts they looked bigger and coarser, and did not smell. And sawah buffaloes seldom reach up this far in elevation !!!. From a distant we heard a low roar, an oomphy grunt rather. Wild elephants !!!.

True to the backpacker spirit nobody panicked. Everyone waited for the prehistoric mammooth to appear with menacing tusks. Someone murmured, in forced relief, "...maybe its distant thunder". Anyway we cut down the short extravehicular activity savouring the fresh crisp mountain air. One mind even thought of bottling up this fresh Matterhorn air and direct sell it to carbon choked KLites, just like what they do to mineral water.

A few meters down the decline, something flashed past on the Iswara's right. It was'nt the elephant or a huge pile of its shit, or a tiger, or mountain buffalo. When the Iswara 'gostan' (go astern), lo and behold, it was a small neat waterfall with clear white waters rushing down smooth stones and puddling in eddies of swift jacuzzies, about 5 or 6 of them, enough for each one of us without fighting. Do you know about Paradise with a river passing beneath it?. Well, we found one under the road.

The slope down the road was muddy and slippery with tall weeds. After a quick look around, and total privacy secured, off came slippers and shoes and stockings, trousers and shirts and T shirts. As usual only Abang Bosa had a towel, so the others went down towards the waters birthday style, with bare naked upper torsos exposed above the tall weeds. At the water's edge, everybody quickly slipped in, and Abang Bosa's towel finally came off. Finally everyone was safe and secured in heavenly bliss. At this point in time, typed words cannot describe the utter joy this splendour in the waters everyone was in.

Suddenly every soul regressed to the age of 7 or 8. Except Abang Bosa who maintained at 10. Well, someone senior has to mind the pack, and keep an eye on the road above for trespassers. You could see Tarzans thumping their chests hoarsely announcing to the world this recent discovery and colonisation of a new territory, much jealously guarded against would be captors. Each jacuzzi is personal real estate. As long as your bottom torso is well underwater you dont have to worry. Abang Bosa reassured everyone that in MCKK there was a bathing colony they called "Miami Beach", where everyone washed themselves always skin bare, of course when Prefects were on vacation. So why should anyone worry in this private personal waterfall perched high above the world which looked so small and far far below.

This happy world then was now. Again time stood still. The evening sun was low now in the foothills of heaven, but enough brightness still shone to shimmer and glitter up a few droplets of sky juice which quickly became a small downpour raining down on the Adams below. Laser sharp silvery ultra violet rays pierced through the gathering clouds giving a jaw dropping heavenly backdrop to this "Shower of Nature". Yes...yes...the Creator is at work again and again. His wonders never cease. You really feel close to Him.

Suddenly everybody realised Asar time was almost over. Everyone was made to solemnly declare and swear that no one else in this world is to know about the location of this paradise. If anyone did, he will be disqualified from future backpacker activities. Everybody gave their scout's promise.

THE FISHERMEN OF BANDING

At the eastern end of Tasik Banding, marking the boundary between Kelantan and Perak, was an aquaculture farm built by Jabatan Orang Asli for their life members. Wooden platforms or pelantars with huts on them were floated around open nets serving as cages or nurturing areas for the breeding of fresh fish. It was already dusky when we arrived. A small wooden plank bobbing up and down in the swift waters connected the parking bay with the farm. We thought of taking our dinner at this floating restaurant, but changed our minds when we realized that the whole operation was run by Orang Aslis. In fact that evening the whole community up river were congregated there for their favourite P. Ramlee offering on Astro, and nobody was really interested whether we were hungry or not.

We had a tough time though before succeeding in persuading a sturdy young boy to dive into the cages for one or two big jelawats. After some fair amount of struggle and coaxing from us, he managed to catch three big ones. They were promptly weighed and the rest were neatly handled by the cashier.

We could have entered the kitchen, cleaned up the fish and cook them ourselves. But second thoughts told us that there would be many warong Tom Yams along the way to Grik that could easily handle our requests. We did stop at a few, each one politely told us that this was not normal procedure. It was only at the final junction to Kuala Kangsar from Grik town that we managed to get a stall which was brave enough to meet our request. By then whoever refused yet again our needs would have been mortally dealt with.

We didn't mind the bit of a long wait for the sweet and sour gourmet to be finally on our table, because Liverpool and Arsenal were just 10 minutes into their first round then.

Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

WANDERER LINKS



NATURE WATCH

1. http://www.mns.org.my/

EARTHQUAKE WATCH

1. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/

EROSION WATCH

1. http://ewarns.com.my/home.php

TRAINS

1. The Malayan Railway
2. Tourist Railroads and Museums
3. Tourist Trains Worldwide
4. Tourist Trains
5. Virtual Reality Railway Tours
6. Rail Links

PLANES

1. http://www.planecrashinfo.com

2. http://www.airshows.com/

3. http://www.deltaweb.co.uk/asgcal/


PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Photography Tips and Techniques
2. Digital Camera Review
3. Free Foto com: http://www.freefoto.com/index.jsp


BACKPACKING

1. Backpack Tips and Advices
2. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
3. Smart Tips for Camping Enthusiasts:
[ http://thestar.com.my/services/printerfriendly.asp?file=/2005/4/2/features/9863049.asp&sec=features ]
4. Backpacker.Com Asia: http://www.backpackers.com/Asia/


4WD ADVENTURE

1. Petronas Adventure Team
2. Rainforest Challenge
3. Landrover Owners' Club
4. Mudtrekker Online

TRAVEL

1. Malaysia Sawadee Com
2. http://www.virtualtourist.com/
3. http://www.phuket.com/
4. http://www.bali.com/
5. Travel Notes: http://www.travelnotes.org/

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