Looking around me I see the bigger pictures. And I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A mansion in a kampung

I cannot remember exactly when a few years ago I was driven to a remote Malay kampung quite close to my kampung in Temerloh, Pahang, Malaysia where I was shown an abandoned mansion, overgrown with climbers and creepers. I remembered that the building was situated at the bank of a padi field. A beautiful location I thought, and what a waste. I was told that the building was built by a European who married a local Malay lady. The mansion was never finished when they moved to the big City, leaving the building or should I say abandoning the unfinished building. What caused them to leave is still a mystery.

After that I passed that way on other occasions in my evening drive when I am back in my kampung but I took little notice. I was interested but there was no one to ask and I dared not go into the building for fear of being accused to trespassing.

People said that the European built the mansion for the love of his wife, and they probably intended to stay there. The land area where the mansion is built, I am told, is about 2 acres. I am not sure how many rooms it has upstairs but I know that it has a hall downstairs, I found this out very much later. Near the downstairs hall are the servants rooms, the local folks says these were rooms underground. In the hall is a sort of ventilation hole, going up a chimney like structure, and the local call that ventilation hole as the fire place. The chimney like structure comes out of the roof like a proper chimney. Look closely at the photo and one can see the small chimney on top of the roof in the middle if the building.

And on both sides of the building there are arches, which the local say are for horse stable; but I believe that these are architectural beautifying structures which would look very beautiful if creepers are planted on them. Anyway the owner then never finished the building (or lived in it) so we can only speculate what those arches are for. And all the windows and pillars structures are in the form of arches.

As time goes by I forgot altogether about that building. Until about 1 month ago I was told that it was bought over by a young couple at a very low price. Low in the sense that it was well architectured and built and the building materials are of high quality. It being situated in a rural setting, in a kampung, was probably why it was sold for a quite a low price. But considering that its by the road side with all amenities available and on 2 acre of plot land, in my opinion its real bargain.

During the 2007 Chinese New Year holiday period in mid-February I decided to make a visit to the mansion, now that I have been told it has a new owner. I found that the owner has turned the building into a high quality furniture assembling and refurbishing workshop,

though he kept the main building intact, using its large hall downstairs as a storage space

and then building other storage buildings at the back or away from the main building.
These are where he stored all his material to be assembled and/or refurbished. He had taken the risk of buying over all the unassembled and unfurbished wooden furniture from a rubber wood furniture manufacturing factory in the industrial estate about 10 km away, buying over the whole stock and transferring all that into this new mansions premises and also into the storage spaces he built.

These specially made furniture are actually designed furniture which were originally for the export market.

On the closure of the manufacturing plant a couple of years ago, these furniture were then allowed to be sold locally. He now has only to assemble and refurbish these furniture and marketing them. That will be the new vision of the his young entrepreneur.

When I visited him he was busy planning for the marketing of these furniture. In addition he is also adding new product lines to complement what he already has. He has the people to help him and to date he says that he has got interested parties to purchase his products.

And as for the maintenance of the abandoned mansion which he has bought over, he has plans but this may not materialise unless he can market his products.

The mansion has a long history and this I shall make more research and will write more about it at a later date when I get all the facts in place.

What is of interest here is not the furniture assembling and refurbishing work but the mansion itself. Looking at the building, its all seems to be very symmetrical, whichever way you look at it. From left, from right, from front and from the back.

At a particular angle, one can see triangles and a pyramid.

Fascinating. I have not enough photographs here to show all these shapes, but if one cares to visit the site one can see how the builder played with the the symmetry of the building.

Why is it necessary for a building in the tropic to have chimney? Maybe the designer had something else in mind but since the building was never finished or never been lived in it by the designer we shall never know. Maybe just a ventilation hole.

The red coloured (or is it pink?) structure is the chimney which leads to the top of the roof.

And the hall at the basement of the building looks so grand. And the staircase connecting the back of the building to the upstairs, and also to and from the main hall, its beyond belief at the futuristic outlook of the designer.

The porch, was it meant to put cars in them or was it something else?

The arches on the two sides of the building, why were they built? We can only speculate, as I said above. And why all the arches all over the building?

The waterfall in the garden is simply made, probably on second thought. Its a give way, its not in symmetry with the building, its a foreign element from the design. Why was it created in the first place?

Coming back to the real world, the mansion is now owned, as far as I know, by En Mohamad Awik (hp 6019-9890468) who trades as M Tech Cabinet Centre and also as Gerbang Magna Enterprise. As I said earlier, he has bought over lock, stock and barrel of manufactured but not furbished or assembled chairs and table parts from a Company who used to operate a manufacturing plant at the nearby Songsang Industrial Estate. He says, on receiving orders he will furbish and assemble these furniture and transport them to any of his customer. He is also trading in other special wooden furniture, mostly hand made, and also in wooden wall paneling and wooden flooring. He has high hope for his business.

If Batu Gajah in Perak has Kelly's Castle, why can't Temerloh in Pahang have similar?.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Temerloh menu

Sunday 18th Feb. 2007, I drove to Temerloh from Kuala Lumpur thinking that the 'pekan sari' (Sunday morning people's market) at Temerloh would be there; what a disappointment, it wasn't there; it seemed that because 18th Feb. 2007 was the Chinese New Year Day, they have brought forward the 'pekan sari' to Saturday, that is the day before. Anyway, I went to the spot where the 'pekan sari' is usually held on a Sunday morning. And I saw that I was not the only one disappointed, there were also others from outstaion who were there expecting the 'pekan sari' to be held that Sunday morning.

But instead of worrying about the 'pekan sari' not available, I decided to explore a bit of that area of Temerloh town where 'pekan sari' is usually held.

The first place that caught my attention was the newly finished stalls where smack right in the middle was a sort of symbol, a sort of but I don't really understand what that symbol was. Perhaps someday someone can tell me.

Then my attention was caught by the jetty with strainless steel railings and the viewing platform also with stainless steel railings. These were quite low but enough to view the activities of the Pahang River (http://why360.blogspot.com/2007/02/sungei-pahang-pahang-river.html) and its tributory the Semantan River.

That place is historic, its where where Dato' Bahaman ( a Malay worrier revolted against the British when the British was trying to get a foothold in Pahang in late 19th Century. He lost the war though he won in some of the battles. He fled to Thailand and never came back (I stand corrected there)). Anyway the scene from the viewing platform is quite interesting. Across the river one can see a sand extractin plant, and a pile of sand.

And an obsecure jetty with passenger boats, one can watch boats crossing the Pahang River at the spot, carrying those who want to cross the Pahang River, either out of necessity or just for a pleasure ride. Looking upriver one can see a few structure, these are mostly jetty and in some where they rear river fish, ikan patin (a species fresh water catfish) fish famous in Temerloh town, and also talapia fish.

Looking downriver one can see the Temerloh Bridge, the new one being higher than the old bridge. The old bridge was built quite low and during one of the flood seasons it got swept away by the flood water, when heavy debris collected at the upriver side of the bridge and the 'weight' was too much form the bridge to hold and so it gave away. One can see the ends of the old bridge on both banks. And what of the sand bank downriver after the bridge? It has become a permanent feature, an island. The sandbank split the river and the river meets again after the sand bank island to become one stream again.

Looking nearer the scene of the viewing platform (and the jetty) one can see that its a beautiful structure.

and a scenery on the road,

Nice flowers on the river bank, and a closer view of the boat.

But the whole place seems to be not so well maintained.

Actually its the dirty habits of the people that makes it worse.

And one can see a floating platform , 'rakit' they call them, left high and dry.

But those on the water (they are at the mouth of Sungei Semantan) seemed peaceful enough. In those days, in the 1940s and the 1950s, there was a row of such 'rakit' on the river, where people actually lived in them.

Just to while away the time that morning, I drove along where the 'pakan sari' is supposed to be. I was plaesed to see a small 'futsal' court just built in an open ground and in it was a hive of activities even in such a morning. I am told that over the weekend and at night the indoor court is fully booked.

And further on is the Temerloh padang (public field) there they have built a sort of mini stadium.

And in the area of the 'pekan sari' is a row of eating stalls. Looked a bit dim to me, but these eating stalls are very popular amongs the locals.

And by the Sungei Pahang bank is a special tree, of fig family known locally as 'ara' tree.

The fruits when young are green bunches and not soft but when ripe it turns red and soft. Its tasteless, but when the fruits drop into the river water, they are the favourite food of the river fish. Under these trees one may be able to detect big fish eating the fig fruits that have dropped into the water. That probably why one may see people fishing.

After going about frustrated with no 'pekan sari' on that day, and also my favourite eating shop nearby closed for the day (it was a public holiday), I went into the old Temerloh town and had lunch at a resturant over there. Suprisingly the lunch of rice and fish in chilli hot cooked cocconut sauce was very pleasant and satisfying.

I drove back into my kanmpung after all that, a frustrating day at the beginning but became a very useful experience.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sungei Pahang (Pahang River)

When talking about Sungei Pahang or Pahang River, one can find all that one needs to know in the sites as shown.




However I wish to relate my own experience with THAT River, an experience which is valueless to me. Though such experience will no longer materialise in the future, and for our future generations but I do wish that maybe someday the River may once again be a source of pleasure for the people of Pahang.

The River was the only 'highway' that we ever had in going from the kampung where I was born to the town, the nearest being Temerloh. When I was a small boy growing up in a riverine kampong, at the bank of Pahang River, about 12 miles upriver, the first time I traveled out by public transport, was on an outboard engined boat which could take about 20 passengers. It took about 2 hours to reach Temerloh Town, the down river 'big' riverine town. The boat then had inverted V-shaped attap roof, and later on as time progresses the roof became flat and made of flattened galvanised zinc sheets. On that first trip, having to get up early in the morning to catch the boat, waiting on a logged floated wooden platform jetty in the cool misty morning. The boat came, we waived and the boat neared the 'jetty', stopped; half-full with upriver people, and laden in the middle portion with chicken or/and dried rubber sheets to be marketed in the down river big town. Along the big river bank the scene were all peaceful Malay villages, and in that period of the Emergency you could even see houses that had been burnt and coconut trees dying due to them being torched by the what the Government at that time called Communist terrorist. You don't actually see these terrorists but they existed and it was their kind that probably burnt those houses, Malay houses they were. Other than that the river was very peaceful and the banks were filled with beautiful scenery of swaying coconut palm trees and areca nut palms, and big tall trees either wild or fruit trees and people bathing or washing clothes in them, and some in small enclosures on these log 'jetties' doing their "business". Occasionally you may see water buffaloes, cooling themselves in the shallower portions of the river. The scenery was beautiful, of peaceful Malay riverine villages, and they were there almost all along the way.

In those days there were many people living in houses built on wooden log rafts in the river bank just below the Temerloh town (Http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v616/mylias/Pahang/pahangphotoes028.jpg), and most of these people were migrants from Kelantan. And when the boat neared and being tied to these wooden 'jetty' rakit houses), there were always hives of activities, mostly involving Chinese coolies, some grabbing the chicken to buy and most negotiating to take the rubber sheets to their designated towkeys whose shops were just up the bank of the river. These Chinese coolies were really strong, they could pick up rubber sheets almost equal to their own body weight or maybe more, put these on their shoulders, carry them up the river bank to their designated rubber dealer towkay. And the weighing instruments they used to weigh the rubber sheets were something old fashioned, spring supported, levers using heavy solid cast iron counter weight. How accurate were they? Difficult to tell as in those days as enforcement were not really that visible. I expect that they must have made a lot of profit from the inaccuraciesof these weighing instruments. Anyway in those days nobody really cared as rubber price were then very high, it was the period just after the big wars and about to begin the Korean War. And the kampong people were really enjoying the rubber price boom, buying furniture and jewelry most of them, when they earn their big money. Saving? Nobody really saved in those days.

When do these town goers return after their trip by boats to the town? They reached Temerloh by about 8.30 to 9.00 o'clock And they finish their selling by about 1 hour later, after which they begin their buying. What do they buy? Menfolks buy mostly furniture and some items of clothings but women folks bought mostly jeweleries and plenty of clothings/haberdasheries. But business people buy items to sell back in the kampongs, like dried fish, condensed milk, flour, sugar, sweets, bottled drinks and such likes. By 12 o'clock they all have to rush back to the 'jetty' to be on the boats for the return journey. The return journey is always tiresome, boat going upriver in a slower pace, in the heat of the day and boat full of items just bought. The middle of the boat is usually full of the 'business' men's items, you can hardly put your leg in those areas. So you are squeezed. Safety? There was no lifejacket, no nothing. If the boat sinks, then you either sink or swim. In those days, almost everyone could swim. And when you reach your home, you are almost dead, tired because of the journey and probably with the excitement of going to town.

Slow, but it was all we had in those days. At least the boats had outboard engines. What about in earlier times when there was no outboard engine, only paddles and long poles to push the boats upriver or down river. And yet they managed to sometimes go up river from Pekan, at the mouth of Pahang River up to Kuala Lipis, almost the uppermost point of the Pahang River, and maybe back after a few days. How long did it take? In those days time was never a factor to be considered. .

In this modern day and age, the River is no longer the only 'highway'; and there is more jetty of floating logs (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v616/mylias/Pahang/Newrumahrakit1.jpg) or (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v616/mylias/Pahang/Newrumahrakit.jpg), instead now we have good roads criss-cross Pahang and one get easily get from places to places by cars in Pahang. Now when travelling along the Kuantan - KL road, via the old road, you reach the Temerloh Bridge, you look down down river from the Temerloh bridge, from you vehicle, you can still see the island formed by the sand bank, all overgrown with tall grass, weeds and some 'ara' (fig family) trees. But when you look upriver, you do not see the flotilla of those motorboats anymore, you do not see the bigger diesel-engine driven big boats, and you do not see the Sultan's Houseboat (this boat was used by the late HH Sultan of Pahang as his 'hotel' for his annual visit to the people -his subjects - of Temerloh District, ferrying him and probably occasionally, his joget girls) being anchored next to the jetty down river of the Temerloh Town anymore. You may however see 1 or 2 old fashioned flat-roofed passenger outboard motor boat crossing the Pahang River,

(photo curtsey of interestgrouppahang.wetpaint.com) ferrying people from the other side of the Pahang River to Temerloh Town. They are most busy on Sundays, when Temerloh Town has its market day or Pekan Sahari (http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/2006/01/daytrippin_teme.html). Those days of passenger ferrying outboard motor boats on Pahang River are gone. Time has passed us by. Anyway the Pahang River has now become too shallow to safely maneuver these outboard motor boats, the river has silted and the deeper parts of the river are few in between. And motorcars, buses and lorries have taken over the tasks of ferrying people and carriage of goods in Pahang.

I have related some of my expereince with the River in some of my other blogs.

Pahang River was everything to me then. The river was our sewer, or in the local language then our 'jamban'. Actually its like a floating jetty with 2 or 3 logs secured together. In those days logs were not so expensive so it was easy to get floating logs of say 15 foot long. Secure them together, float them in the river, have wooden board on top, secure them from floating down river by steel ropes, have a enclosure at the downstream of the jetty and you have a toilet. And the floating jetty as whole is where you stand while bathing, if you do not jump into the river, or where women used to wash their clothes, or as a jetty where boat stop for you to get into them to go the Temerloh. And when you do your business, everyone knows you are there but no one disturbs you, not even when people going upriver by dugout canoes passing your 'jamban'. And the river fish normally have a field day when you do your business, especially 'ikan lampang'. And after that you go and fish for these fish, or sometimes you throw cast net over them, after you stuff have long left the 'jamban' already floated down river. Its a vicious food cycle. And we also have to use the river to bathe in and we took the river water to drink. Even the crocodiles in the River knew us, no one got killed by those crocodiles, and we knew that there were quite a number of them in there. We were used to the River and drinking its water then had no ill effect on us.

I think I have share with you this joke, its not funny now but then it seemed funny to uss. One day the Sultan of Pahang was in his house boat (the house boat was like a hotel to the Sultan then, he used it when he visited all the villages along the Pahang River bank) doing his business, as usual at his 'jamban' downstream end of the house boat. And one of the Sultan's bodyguard saw upstream in another 'jamban' someone was also doing business. The body guard shouted. "Hey you there , stop doing your business upstream to where the Sultan is doing his business". And the upstream man replied, :"Why should I? I always walk behind the Sultan so now my stuff can float after the Sultan's stuff". See Pahang people are quite polite, bright and clever really.

But the Pahang river is still as peaceful as ever, now that there is no more passenger boats criss crossing on its waters.

These recent photoes were taken from the new bridge at Kampong Sanggang in Temerloh, on the new Karak(KL) - Kuantan Highway. One showing looking up river,

you can see the spec of blue mountain in the far distant and another showing the downriver scene,

you can see the turbulent water and the big tree at the distance.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

CNY is here again.

You know when Chinese New Year (CNY) is coming. This year it’s the golden pig year.

The lantern.

The sales of Chinese oranges.

The small gold lemon trees.

And the sticks.

And the raid by our Malaysian Police on distributors/sellers for fire crackers. These are banned items in Malaysia for one reason or another.

Fireworks ban still on

PUTRAJAYA: Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow has reminded the public that all firecrackers and fireworks are banned except for “Pop-Pop”, “Happy Boom” and “Magic Pop.”

He said in a statement that the ban had been in effect since 1995.

In a Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court yesterday, a medicine shop operator was charged with possession of fireworks.

Ng Choi Nen, 48, admitted having the banned fireworks at his shop in Jalan Prima Setapak 7, Off Jalan Genting Klang, on Tuesday.

He will be sentenced on March 20.

And of course the lion dance on the actual CNY day itself, and followed by a week or so after that.


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