Off Walls Off Pedestals

Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 2: Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Gerik – Baling (Part 1)

Posted in With Friends by tsabri on March 19, 2010

Again_ there are always roads to travel, things to discover and rediscover…

On last 13th February, on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, me, Hanafiah, Naim and Nizam again started for another journey. The journey was actually planned after our first, Kuala Pilah – Segamat – Bandar Muadzam Shah – Pekan, last January. We intended to visit, or rather journey along Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Karak – Baling, on the second trip. Like partly mentioned in earlier entry, the trips or journeys that we took and would be taking on this ‘Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia’, are trials or perhaps segments for developing an art project that was developed some two years ago between the four of us. The art project is developing into a potpourri of stories, documentaries (videos & photographs), interviews, writings, as well as drawings. At the moment we are letting this library of audio, videos, visuals and texts grow within an archiving system we have designed. Now, the Rediscovering Our Malaysia 2: Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Gerik – Baling…

The journey was accompanied by Akhyar and Roslan, friends of Hanafiah who wished to share our interests in getting the whole idea of the project executed. Akhyar carried us in his NAZA Ria mpv and there were plenty of spaces for everybody and everything. We left Kuala Lumpur sometime around 11 pm  (Saturday 13th February 2010), cutting through the night, following the Karak Highway and Lebuhraya Pantai Timur. There were many vehicles on the highway – everybody was for the holidays, the balik kampong season, and it’s the time for the OPS SIKAP (a road or traffic safety operation by the Royal Malaysian Police during festive seasons). Ops Sikap is from the Bahasa Melayu, Operasi Sikap or literally in English, Operation Attitude. Operation Attitude! Just imagine… how we need to have an ATTITUDE to drive around our own country (especially come festive seasons!).

Below quoted news report on Ops Sikap during the Chinese New Year 2010, from;

14 die on Day 9 of Ops Sikap, raising death toll to 136

News 2010-02-16 11:44

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 (Bernama) Fourteen people, 11 of them motorcyclists and pillion riders, were killed in road accidents on the ninth day yesterday of the 21st “Ops Sikap” police operation to reduce road accidents in the country, police said today. Bukit Aman public relations superintendent Supt Rasdi Ramli said in a statement that the death toll for the nine days had risen to 136. Three of the 14 who died yesterday were motorists. Five fatal accidents occurred on federal roads, four on state roads, three on municipal roads and one on a highway, he said. He also said that 302 accidents, the highest number, were reported to have occurred on municipal roads, 294 on federal roads, 170 on state roads, 71 on highways and 48 on other roads, taking the total to 885. Rasdi said 13,014 summonses were issued to traffic offenders yesterday. The 21st “Ops Sikap” operation, being held in conjunction with the Chinese New Year, began on Feb 7 and will end on Feb 21.

Ikan Patin Masak Tempoyak

We stopped at Temerloh R&R for coffee and snacks. It was around 2 am or so. There were many travelers like us stopping for coffee breaks. The many stalls of Ikan Patin (that’s what Temerloh is nowadays – Bandar Ikan Patin) were closed. Only stalls selling fried noodles, nasi lemak, nasi minyak, and drinks were opened. There were tents selling mandarin oranges… (Illustration of Ikan Patin Masak Tempoyak is from

The roads were becoming less busy as we went deeper into the east coast, passing Cherating into Kemaman. Stars were glimmering above the South China Sea. It was about 430 am when we reached Paka. There was the Restoran Nasi Kukus Paka.

‘Can we stop? I’m hungry. I want to have nasi kukus. Nasi kukus ayam goreng berempah here is delicious.’ Said Hanafiah. Akhyar stopped the mpv, ‘You go ahead. I’m… I will try to get some sleep.’ Everybody was sleeping. I joined Hanafiah for a coffee, but not the nasi kukus ayam goreng berempah. Its somewhat exciting to watch Hanafiah ate his nasi kukus ayam goreng berempah in Paka at 445 am in the morning! There were a few people patronizing the 24 hours restaurant that morning. Illustrations of nasi kukus ayam goreng berempah shown here were from

Nasi Kukus

Ayam Goreng Berempah

The Plate

We reached Kuala Trengganu around 6 am, Akhyar drove to the Tanjung Waterfront, parked and started to sleep again. Naim and Nizam took their cameras and videos and tried to capture the morning hours. The wind from South China Sea blew our sleepiness away. There were already some workers cleaning and preparing things for the morning.

‘Lets have Subuh prayers at the Crystal Mosque.’

‘Yes, the Crystal Mosque…’

Crystals in the Dark 1

Crystals in the Dark 2

The Crystal Mosque was hidden by the early morning darkness when we arrived. Both illustrations were my captures: trying to seek for the glitters and glimmers of crystals in the early morning darkness.

‘I thought the mosque will be shining… glimmering in the dark… Are not crystals shine?’

‘It needs electricity!’

There were a few cars parked in front of the mosque. We bathed, prayed and rested ourselves whilst waiting for the morning sun. ‘I saw some cracks… there. Small ones though… they painted the cracks over…’  ‘Thats ordinary cracks…’ ‘Ordinary cracks?’ We suddenly remembered the collapsed Terengganu State Stadium…

Collapsed 1

Collapsed 2

Collapsed 3

Images shown here: Collapsed 1 from, Collapsed 2 from, Collapsed 3 from

We started for Jerteh, some 100 km from Kuala Terengganu, at about 7 am. Kampongs, small forests, perhaps tanah terbiar, rubber plantation, passing Belara, palm oil plantation, passing Sungai Tong, forests, more kampongs, small towns – Permaisuri, Tok Dor, Jabi, padi fields, people … and finally, Jerteh, the commercial town of Besut district. My hometown!

We took a round the town drive and headed to my brother’s house in Kampong Gong Kemuntong, on the Jalan Jerteh – Kampong Raja, about a kilometer away. But alas! Nobody’s home! I should have called earlier – my brother who is living and taking care of the family’s property, was away visiting his in-laws in Kuantan! I say_ it’s the holidays! I saw only my teenage-pasts around the rambutan trees – and the studio-workshop where I sculpted the Teleng Series and many other things were no more a workplace. It is a store for all sorts of things. And bushes and dead trees… Poor me – must find time to be here often and look at things again.

I must mention here that I didn’t use much of my camera during the journey except at certain places in Kelantan and Kedah (Baling). I used instead here, images picked from online resources to illustrate some of my concerns that was experienced. Perhaps someday I will get relevant images from Nizam and Hanafiah who captured the stills, to be published here as an addendum of photographic references. I chose not to take photographs (during most parts of the journey) as I wanted to be free from capturing scenes or objects whatsoever; I wanted to drift along with memories of my youth – traveling from Jerteh, through the federal trunk road, passing through Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Temerloh, Karak, and the swirling Bukit Bentong to reach Kuala Lumpur on the night express. Changes of directions – roads, highways, cross-overs, landscapes: but the smells and breezes of the South China Sea were always there , so did the glimmering stars in the eastern sky! (what a romantic!). The weatherman said: tomorrow would be hot; some 35 to 38 degrees centigrade!

We then drove back to Jerteh. I managed to see myself rocking around with my teenage friends in the park – a playground to be exact, playing pieces like Temple of the King, Child in Time, When the Blind Man Cries and Stairway to Heaven. Good old days. We landed ourselves at my old friend’s (Badrul Shah) eating stall, filling ourselves with nasi dagang, nasi berlauk, nasi lemak, laksam, or the kuehs. Hanafiah, who some hours ago already had his nasi kukus ayam goreng berempah, helped himself again with a bungkus of nasi dagang!

Jerteh was not that busy as usual (usual? when was the last I was here?) that mid morning. It was Chinese New Year. We stopped at now what it is Masjid Hadhari Jerteh, then Masjid Bandar Jerteh – where as I boy, I frequented for Friday and Hari Raya prayers, and the cemetery some scores of meters behind it.

Masjid Hadhari Jerteh

Image of Masjid Hadhari Jerteh from

‘Here. There are cracks. Like we saw at the Masjid Kristal.’ Said Akhyar. He is a builder, a contractor of sorts.

‘But I supposed these are considered as minors – minor cracks? See, they painted over with coats of paint.’

‘Yes. These are minors.’

The Masjid Hadhari Jerteh, I knew it as Masjid Jerteh. Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, a native of Jerteh, who became the Terengganu’s Menteri Besar (2004 – 2008) during Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s premiership, initiated the building of the Masjid Hadhari Jerteh or rather the transformation from the Masjid Bandar Jerteh, through designs ‘based on the middle- eastern and Turkish architecture with its prominent domes and minarets‘ ( ‘Islam Hadhari’ is yet another interesting topic to rediscover… on how it affected the Malays (muslims) as well as Malaysians socially and culturally. defined Islam Hadhari: Islam Hadhari (Arabic الإسلام الحضاري) or “Civilizational Islam” is a theory of government based on the principles of Islam as derived from the Qur’an. It was originally founded by Tunku Abdul Rahman (the first Malaysian Prime Minister) in 1957 (but under a different name) and has been promoted by the former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

I spent my teenage years in Jerteh. Together with friends we explored the nearby small forest, made ourselves a sort of a hut for lepak, playing guitar and talking and singing and all those sorts: and the town’s detective – he one day burned down our hut – accusing us of using the place for taking ganja and all the stuffs. I used to lepak under Gertak Jerteh (the Jerteh’s Bridge) when it was just completed by some South Korean workers, and went through my General Science, History and Geography short-notes – preparing for my LCE exams in 1976… And the western pictures, with occasional Hindi movies at the Rex Cinema (now gone).

‘Lets take a break. Lets go to Pantai Air Tawar. Have some rests before we started for Jeli.’ Said Hanafiah and took over the NAZA Ria wheels. The day was getting hotter.

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