Rediscovering Our Own Malaysia 2: Jerteh – Jeli – Banding – Gerik – Baling (Part 3)
Jeli was still hot when we left. Now it’s the East-West Highway and we were climbing. Small kampongs. Forests. And more forests. Passing Batu Melintang, the ‘mystical mountain’ Gunung Reng… mystical?
…Tapak Gunung Reng ini asalnya sebuah Kampung bernama Kampung Tala yang dibuka oleh Tok Tadoh keturunan Pulang Hari dari Jawa kira-kira 1,400 tahun dahulu. Kononnya, Ketua Kampung Tala telah mengadakan kenduri besar-besaran tujuh hari tujuh malam, cukup dengan berbagai jenis permainan.
Setelah sampai hari ketujuh semua jenis permainan telah dilangsungkan. Untuk upacara penutup, mereka telah bermesyuarat dan bersetuju untuk menyediakan pertandingan memperlaga anjing dan kucing di atas bumbung rumah.
Pada waktu Zohor kedua-dua binatang ini dilagakan di atas bumbung rumah, semasa binatang itu sedang berlaga, berlaku ribut dan taufan berserta hujan yang sangat lebat. Dalam keadaan ribut taufan, seorang perempuan tua bersama dengan seorang cucunya berlari ke kampung yang berhampiran bernama Kampung Gantung untuk mengangkut padi yang dijemur. Setelah selesai memunggah padi yang dijemur, ribut taufan berserta hujan pun berhenti.
Perempuan tua tersebut pergi semula ke Kampung Tala, alangkah terperanjatnya apabila perempuan itu melihat Kampung tala telah ditutup oleh sebuah gunung yang besar dengan melenyapkan Kampung Tala sama sekali.
Gunung yang menutupi Kampung Tala itu dikatakan asalnya terletak di hulu Sungai Reng, kira-kira tiga hari dua malam perjalanan iaitu di sempadan Kelantan/Perak.
Tempat asal gunung ini telah menjadi kolam. Daripada nama sungai ini maka gunung ini dinamakan Gunung Reng. Gunung Reng mempunyai gua-gua yang bercorak bilik-bilik seperti Gua Bedak, Gua Payong, Gua Kaca, Gua Rimau dan Gua Batak. Melalui pintu besar Gunung Reng ini ialah Gua Payong, boleh masuk melalui lorong dalam gua ke bilik-bilik serta ke anjung sehingga ke puncak Gunung Reng. (http://www.mdjeli.gov.my/) (Image of Gunung Reng from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/)
And a note on http://www.virtualmalaysia.com/
Gunung Reng is a mountain linked to the legendary Puteri Saadong. According to the folklore, Puteri Saadong, dismayed the preoccupation the villagers’ preoccupation with cat and dog fighting, hurled a large boulder down Reng Mountain onto the village centre. Only one soul from the village survived the incident, whilst the others perished under the path of the rolling boulder.
Research in and around Reng Mountain has unearthed evidence that the mountain was once inhabited. Today, the limestone caves of Reng mountain has become a tourist attraction.
We drove past a group of Orang Asli, four of them and one of them only wore underpants! But none of us managed to capture them! _ there were turns and climbs the NAZA Ria went. There were quite many vehicles on the highway… ah, the festive season. And soon we felt the cool and refreshing air of the highlands…
The Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East–West_Highway_(Malaysia) noted:
East–West Highway (Malaysia)
East-West Highway, Federal Route (Malay: Lebuhraya Timur-Barat) is a highway constructed by Malaysian Public Works Department (JKR) to shorten the journey from Kota Bharu, Kelantan to northwestern towns and cities of Malaysia such as Alor Star and Penang. Before East-West Highway was built, the journey from Alor Star to Kota Bharu may reach over 1,000 km (– miles), but the highway shortens the distance by about several hundred kilometers. The highway includes Lake Temenggor Bridge which crosses Temenggor Lake, a hydroelectric dam. The East-West Highway is one of the more scenic routes in Peninsular Malaysia, due to its hilly nature. There are even places where road signs are put up to warn motorists of elephants crossing the road.
The East-West Highway was built in the 1967 as a defence-related highway. In the early stages, there was military presence in every kilometre. The road was built to cut off the Communist Party of Malaya from the safe havens in Thailand. During construction, the highway was sabotaged by the Communist terrorists during the Communist insurgency from 1967 to 1980. Many of workers were killed and the buildozers was seriously damaged. The East-West Highway was put under strict security control by Malaysian army when the highway was opened. Motorists were allowed to use the highway at daytime only due to security reasons. The military control of the highway was lifted after the insurgency war was ended in 1989.
The Malaysian Public Works Department (JKR) monument was erected in Pulau Banding near the Lake Temenggor Bridge on 1982 to commemorates those who died during construction of the East-West Highway and lake bridge.
Further surfing landed us at http://stampsofmalaysia.blogspot.com/2008/04/opening-of-east-west-highway.html.
With the opening of the East-West Highway to traffic on 1st July 1982, another milestone in the history of road communication in Peninsular Malaysia was achieved. The construction of the Highway was one of the largest projects undertaken by the Public Works Department and its completion adds to the large mileage of roads in the country providing necessary access to new areas and the infrastructure for development works. The construction of the main Highway was carried out by Public Works Department workers; while the bridges and some of the ancillary works were carried out through contractors.
With the attainment of independence in 1957, the ferry services along a number of roads in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia were replaced with bridges and this reduced travel time. However, road communication between the East Coast and West Coast was through Kuantan. The distance between Kota Bharu and Penang was 1037 km. Due to poor road communication, the vast hinterland in Kelantan and Terengganu with economic potential, was not developed. Thus a road to link the East and West Coasts in the North was found necessary.
In October 1969, the Public Works Department was instructed to commence work on the Highway with immediate effect. In early 1970, work started, simultaneously from Jeli and Gerik even before any detailed design or investigations were carried out. Existing earth moving machines from the various states were initially deployed until new machines for the project were purchased. It was only in early 1973 that the full complement of machines and staff were available for the project to proceed.
Two Base Camps were constructed, one at the Gerik end and the other at the Jeli end. The whole construction staff and their families were housed at these camps. A pilot track was constructed to gain access to the forward areas. This was followed by jungle clearing work by the main earthworks teams. As work progressed and travel time between the work site and Base camp increased, forward camps were set up to house the workers.
There are 5 major bridges along the Highway. Two of the bridges including the longest, the Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge, span arms of the lake formed by the Temenggor Dam Project. The bridges were designed by ENEX (of New Zealand) under the Colombo Plan Aid. Construction of 3 of the bridges were undertaken by a foreign contractor while a joint venture between 2 local firms undertook the construction of the remaining 2 bridges. In addition to the above, there are about 280 culverts constructed mainly by departmental workers.
Constructing the Highway was never plain sailing for the Public Works Department. There were many constraints, which slowed down progress. Some 27.5 million cu meter of earth was required to be cut to construct the Highway, of this over 3.8 million cu meter was rock, which required drilling and blasting operations for its removal. Hill cuts of over 60m and valleys over 100m deep, which required filling was found at many locations. The intensity of the monsoon rains especially in the forward areas reduced time available for construction to 10 months in a year. The East-West Highway is located close to the Malaysian-Thailand border and is situated in a Security Area. As a result several measures had to be taken and procedures adopted to ensure the safety of the workers and the machines. These too contributed to some delay. The 116 km long Highway, which links the East Coast at Jeli, Kelantan with the West Coast at Gerik, Perak cost $396 million. Other details of the project are as follows:
Major Bridges Span
1. Sungei Rui Bridge 256m
2. Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge 880m
3. Sungei Perak Causeway Bridge 640m
4. Upper Sungei Pergau Bridge 159m
5. Lower Sungei Pergau Bridge 158m
Road Design Criteria
Design speed 72 km/hr
Maximum Gradient 7%
Pavement Width 7.2m
Shoulder Width 2.3m
Traveling along the Highway is an exhilarating experience. As one enters the Highway, the Central Mountain Range through which the Highway traverses comes into view in the distant. Traveling along the gentle curves one climbs higher and sees on either side the primary jungle rich with timber. As one proceeds on, the jungle gives way to the huge man-made Temenggor Lake at Banding. Halfway along the Highway the elevation of the road is over 1,100m above sea level and the weather cool and pleasant.
With the completion of the East-West Highway the previous distance between Kota Bharu and Butterworth (through Kuantan) of 1037 km is reduced to 363 km with considerable savings in travel time. The completion of the Highway will reduce transport costs and with this the State of Kelantan can expect its tempo of development to be heightened, new towns and industrial areas will be developed. The Highway will provide the access for the extraction of timber from the jungles along the road and help boost tourism among Malaysians as well as foreigners.
The successful completion of the East-West Highway is the result of the sacrifice of workers who had to carry out their jobs under difficult and trying conditions. The public Works Department wishes to record its deep appreciation to them and to the Security Forces who have all made some personal sacrifices for the development and prosperity of the country.
It is interesting to note that the Wikipedia quoted the highway is related to the terrors of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) whilst the blog, stampsofmalaysia, though offered interesting historical facts, didn’t even mentioned CPM except the sentences which I underlined and made them bold in both references above – situated in a Security Area & the Security Forces.
… And The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM); (http://wapedia.mobi/en/Malayan_Communist_Party#1.)
Communism was first introduced into South-East Asia by Dutch radicals, and given impetus by the rise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1922 the CCP opened an clandestine office in Singapore which sowed the seed for the South Seas Communist Party (or Nanyang Communist Party). This party was mainly active in the Dutch East Indies and French Indo-China  In Singapore its work centred on the trades unions. After their 1925 uprising failed, many Indonesian Communists took refuge in Singapore, and engaged in political work there under the auspices of the Third Communist International. 
In April 1930 the South Seas Communist Party was dissolved and was replaced by the Communist Party of Malaya.  While its primary responsibility was Malaya and Singapore, the party was also active in Thailand and the Dutch East Indies, which did not then have their own Communist parties.
CPM was founded by Yuen Ai Guo (later he changed his name to Ho Chi Ming the father of modern Vietname) a North Vietnamese in Singapore in 1935. After the formation of CPM he went back to Vietnam and left his assistant called Loi Tek to be in charge of the CPM. Loi Tek became the Secretary-General of CPM… During the war Loi Tek, the Secretary-General of CPM, was a double agent. In order to consolidate his control of the CPM Loi Tek informed the Japanese on the upcoming meeting of top senior Communists in Batu Cave near Kuala Lumpur on 31 August-1 September 1942. During the meeting the Japanese surrounded the cave. Chin Peng and Loi Tek were present in the meeting. The Japanese killed almost all the senior executive officers (most of them were Hakkas) of the CPM. Chin Peng, Loi Tek and a few other communists escaped.
After the war, many senior members of the CPM suspected that Loi Tek betrayed the Batu Cave Conference to the Japanese. The Central Committee planned to meet on 6 March 1947. Loi Tek did not turn up in the meeting because he had already disappeared with the CPM’s fund. The disappearance of Loi Tek gave the CPM a great blow. Later the CPM Central Committee elected Chin Peng as the new Secretary-General of CPM…
And notes from http://en.wikipedia.org/: The Communist guerrilla force, with a strength of about 500, continued to subsist on either side of the Thailand border. Meanwhile Chin Peng and other cadre in China had limited contact with the jungle bases. From 1969 they launched a radio station in Hunan called “Suara Revolusi Malaya” (Voice of the Malayan Revolution), broadcasting to supporters in Malaysia and Singapore. This was shut down in 1981 at the request of Deng Xiao Ping.
Also in 1969, in response to the intensification of the Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution in China, the party stepped armed struggle. In 1970, however, the bases in Thailand were convulsed by the trials and executions of supposed spies. Two breakaway factions formed which condemned the purge. Chin Peng subsequently denied involvement and rehabilitated his accused comrades.
In 1989 the CPM finally laid down its arms On December 2 at the town of Had Yai in Southern Thailand, Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin, and Abdullah C. D. met with representatives of the Malaysian and Thailand governments. Separate peace agreements were signed between the CPM and both governments.
I noted the CPM here, as the East-West Highway and the interiors of Kelantan, Perak, Kedah, (and Southern Thailand) were all the areas where CPM had operated. Most of the CPM members illustrated here have wrote their autobiographies, except for Kamaruzzaman Teh’s, which was a biography. Photographs of Chin Peng and some of the CPM’s 10th Regiment leaders illustrated here were from http://jameswongwingon-online.blogspot.com/, except for Shamsiah Fakeh’s, which was from http://akhienaim.blogspot.com.
It was getting dark. The time was about 715 pm. Jungles. The coolness of the highlands…We arrived Temenggor Lake. A the jetty to Pulau Banding, there were cars and people… The http://northern.malaysianaturalheritage.com/ noted;
History: Temengor Lake is the second largest manmade reservoir in Peninsular Malaysia built along the East-West Highway. Banding Island now owned by Emkay Berhad is a mountainous island surrounded by Temengor Lake. The deepest part of the lake is about the height of a 75-storey building. Banding Island is linked to the mainland by the bridge over Temengor Lake. Banding Island is the entry point to the natural heritage Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex. The entire ensemble includes water bodies and virgin tropical rainforests dating back some 130 million years ago. Banding Island, in the wilderness of the mighty Titiwangsa Range, opened up when the East-West Highway was built between 1970 and 1982. It took 12 years to build the 214km road through the mountainous terrains crossing Perak and Kelantan. The area was infiltrated with communists during the Emergency period from 1948 to 1960. The insurgency continued to stall the project after the emergency. A memorial was erected at a spot where three of Public Works Department workers died and many more were hurt or maimed in communist attacks on Aug 27, 1974. It was at this same spot that 63 bulldozers were bombed by the communists in May 1974.
‘Let’s find a place to stop for the night. Have a good rest. We have been on the road for over twenty hours…’
‘Let’s go to Gerik. It’s about some 40 km up. The chalets and rooms here are fully occupied anyway…’
Naim took the wheels. Jungles. More jungles. Cars’ front=lights. The climbs_up, down, left, right, turns and turns. Dark. More jungles. A page from BERNAMA, http://www.bernama.com/,
Lelaki Dilapor Hilang Di Lebuh Raya Timur Barat
IPOH, 5 Nov (Bernama) — Seorang lelaki dilapor hilang di kawasan hutan Lebuh Raya Timur-Barat, berhampiran Gerik selepas dikatakan membuang air di tepi lebuh raya itu Rabu malam. Kejadian dilapor berlaku pada kira-kira pukul 10 malam di Km82 Lebuhraya Timur-Barat, kira-kira 180 kilometer dari sini. Ketua Polis Daerah Gerik Supt Mahad Nor Abdullah berkata lelaki yang dilapor hilang itu dikenali sebagai N.Thalagaratnam, 48, berasal dari Lahat, Ipoh. Beliau berkata lelaki itu bersama seorang lagi rakannya dikatakan dalam perjalanan dari Ipoh ke Jeli, Kelantan apabila dia meminta rakannya memberhentikan kereta di tepi jalan kerana ingin membuang air besar. Rakannya M. Manibalan, 47, yang menunggu dalam kereta mengesyaki sesuatu apabila Thalagaratnam tidak muncul selama sejam, katanya ketika dihubungi di sini hari ini. Mahad berkata Manibalan menunggu rakannya itu sehingga pukul 7.30 pagi sebelum membuat laporan polis di Balai Polis Gerik. Sehubungan itu, polis dengan bantuan Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat serta Rela melancarkan operasi mencari dan sehingga petang ini lelaki itu belum ditemui, katanya. Beliau berkata kawasan lelaki itu dilapor hilang adalah hutan tebal yang berbukit dan curam serta mempunyai banyak binatang buas. Sementara itu, Manibalan ketika dihubungi berkata beliau dan rakannya dalam perjalanan ke Jeli untuk membeli bekalan barangan perniagaan mereka dan semasa dalam perjalanan, Thalagaratnam memintanya memberhentikan kereta kerana dia sakit perut. ”Saya berhenti di tepi jalan lebuh raya. Saya hanya tunggu dalam kereta dan dia bergegas keluar mencari tempat untuk buang air besar…selepas itu saya tunggu agak lama tetapi dia tidak datang balik ke kereta,” katanya. Manibalan berkata ketika itu hujan renyai dan beliau takut untuk keluar mencari rakannya itu kerana kawasan berkenaan gelap dan bimbang terdapat binatang buas. ”Saya tunggu dalam kereta hingga pukul 7.30 pagi sebelum berpatah balik ke Gerik untuk membuat laporan polis. Saya bimbang dia tergelincir jatuh ke dalam hutan kerana tepi jalan itu sangat curam,” katanya. – BERNAMA
We arrived Gerik about 40 minutes later.