Sunday, March 20, 2011

Going North

I made a whirlwind trip up north with my good friend Zainal of KKB to attend 2 weddings – in Kota Bharu, Kelantan where my old office mate Mahady Ibrahim (better known Pak Chu on the internet) was hosting a kenduri for his daughter’s wedding, and the other one in Kupang, Kedah where my former Executive Officer at RTM Sarawak Ahmad Aziz (better known as “AA”) was holding a wedding reception for his son at his ancestral home in Kampong Hangus.

We left Subang Jaya early at 7 am on Friday 18 March 2011 heading north via the Plus North-South Highway. We did not stop along the way as my wife Jun prepared some sandwiches for breakfast in the car. We entered Tapah before 9 as I wanted to settle my land assessment; the office was deserted at this time of the year and I was the only customer. It was a breeze. Before re-entering the highway we refilled the tank at Tapah town. Zainal took over the wheel and I had a nap.

I got up as the car was descending the Kuala Kangsar interchange, Zainal did not want to reverse as there were some cars at the back. So we missed the road to Grik. I instructed him to exit at Changkat Jering the next exit and proceeded to Padang Rengas and then on the left side of town headed to Lubok Merbau which Zainal has never been. The old winding road was no more. I was surprised of the brand new road that made our journey relaxing as there was no other vehicle along the way. In no time we rejoined the road to Grik and precede our journey according to the original plan on the famous East-West Highway crossing the mountain range that separated Perak and Kelantan.

We refilled the gas at Jeli at 1.30 pm and got some snack to last us till we reach Pak Chu’s abode. We headed toward Machang – the road was crowded as it was the end of school holidays – then we entered Jalan Kuala Krai towards Kota Bharu, reaching Pak Chu’s house at 3 pm. The groom was just arriving and it was crowded. It was a grand occasion as this is the first time Pak Chu is hosting a daughter’s wedding. Previous 4 were all sons. I was happy to meet close friend Tok Ayah, new FB friend Wan Asmadi and a host of others who seem to recognise me from the old TV days of old. We enjoyed the food laid out.

Then we headed to the new in-place in KB, Wakaf Che’ Yeh, and our resting place at Ombak Inn booked by Pak Chu. We had 2 single bed room and very spartan with no window but the bare necessity. As we decided not to roam around KB later we secured a parking space in front of the hotel on the advice of the receptionist and took a well deserve shower and nap, getting up at 7pm. Pak Chu joined us at 9 after the Isya prayer. We toured the huge and crowded night market. We had a light dinner of original Penang Char Kway Teow cooked by the local at one of the stall. Pak Chu briefed us on the place. It belongs to a local entrepreneur who took up the project putting up the buildings. Early in the morning it became the “pasar borong” (wholesale market), later it became the normal market. By late afternoon tents and shades were put up accommodating the night market where we can get all sort of things needed, imported from across the border as well as locals and anything one could think of. We capped it off with the “tarik” at the hotel’s cafe.

We were disappointed at not getting a proper local breakfast in the morning of Saturday 19 March and decided to get it along the road to the E-W highway. It was a big letdown. We found an eating shop at Bukit Bunga, Jeli for breakfast at 11 am. Then we hit the highway at a leisurely pace. Zainal took over the wheel before Banding as I was exhausted due to lack of sleep.

We entered the lovely new Baling Highway heading towards Kupang. It was drizzling. There were so many weddings along the way. We got confused. We missed AA’s house and decided to call him for direction. We didn’t realised we have overshot and our tank was nearly empty. So told AA we would be late as we would be heading for Kuala Ketil to get the tank filled. This time we got the house spot on. The map on the invitation card was misleading as the house was place on the left hand side instead of right.

It was a grand wedding kenduri for the kampong. After a long time apart I was happy to have met Ahmad Aziz, his lovely wife Zee and the wedded couples who are pharmacists. We were treated to a “hidang” of sumptuous lunch. The dessert was local “kueh” and “kueh lapeh” expertly cooked by Zee, Sarawak style. At the same time it was also an engagement ceremony day for their daughter Shikin. After some pleasantry we made our way back to Subang Jaya. AA told us to take the Grik-Kuala Kangsar route rather than the Kulim-Juru to avoid the heavy holiday crowd on the highway. We heed his advice and did not regret. I took the opportunity of exiting to Kampong  Raban to get the “ikan pekasam” (fermented fish) expertly prepared by the locals along the Tasik Cenderoh that Jun wanted so much.

Zainal decided to enter Ipoh for old time sake. I called my old pal Leow Seng Loong (better known as Ah Loong) and he directed us to Canning Garden for some Char Kway Teow. Zainal met him for the first time. We had a short chat as Ah Loong had an appointment at 7.

It was drizzling all the way. Between Bidor-Sungkai- Slim River I saw the brightest of the moon on the left side of the car. I wanted to take a snap of it but the camera was in the boot of the car. Later at home I read Mek Yam’s posting on FB saying that the moon was at its nearest position to the earth. I felt “rugi” not snapping a shot.

Finally we reached home at 9.30 pm. It was really a whirlwind trip up north.


  1. Amran, thanks for narrating this adventure of yours, sort of a marathon driving. I truly enjoy reading it. I did take the same route some years ago and did enjoy the trip. I too was surprise that the road from Grik to Kuala Kangsar was so wide and straighten up.

    I no longer could do this type of a marathon driving and had to ask someone to drive my car now for a long distance trip. I guessed age has caught up on me. I do envy you for this adventure.

    Have a nice day.

  2. Thank you for your nice words Pak Idrus.

    It was a marathon indeed. Frankly I did 1/3 of the driving only, the rest was my great buddy Zainal of KKB, classmate at Anderson Ipoh and was a career teacher. At 74 he just loved driving and we hit it off.

    The roads we took were excellent and in good condition even in the heavy downpour. I feel they have to widen the Plus N-S highway from Slim River all the way to Seberang Jaya in Penang to 3 lanes to make driving less stressful.

    For people using mobile phone with internet facilities the communication was uninterrupted all the way even on the E-W highway on the Main Range. I did access FB in the wild. I noticed they have built communication towers at about 10 km apart along the highway. I feel Pak Idrus must love this.

  3. A Colorful trip .. envy, envy.. a nice post.

  4. Thank you Wan.

    Have a try but not during holidays or weekends - its stressful with plenty of vehicles on the roads - more stressful would be the couldn't careless attitude of some drivers.

  5. Tok Chik,

    You mentioned Mahady Ibrahim in the article. As a Kelantanese I used to hear his name over Radio Malaysia Kota Baru in the 60s and early 70s. There were also names such as Hasnah Mohd and Mohd Hassan. Do you know both of them? Wud appreciate your update on them if possible?

  6. Yes Idris, I know both Hasnah and Mohd Hassan. They were very good broadcasters in their own right.

    Hasnah was my staff when she came to serve Radio Malaysia Penang in the early 70's. If I am not mistaken she hailed from Bachok. She left RTM after getting married to a senior TLDM officer. She is a Datin now. I was told she settled down in Perak.

    Mohd Hassan is a jovial and cheerful personality. He set the record of being the first Kelantanese to be on the air in rtm as well as using the dialect for the local broadcast. He retired in the early 90s, decided to make Taman Ibu Kota, KL his home. We do keep in touch most of the time, and tried our best not to miss the monthly lunch among rtm veteran.

  7. I loved ur posts and wat information that u issued is really very usefull for us .. thanks...............
    Merbau Australia

  8. Mahesh - thank you for your kind words - I must apologise for not writing earlier as I was distracted away from this blog for sometime - It is now that I came back with a change of title - and hopefully I will be more active penning down my memories and thoughts. It is nice indeed to know someone so far away is interested in my writing. Thank you again.