B-1402, Kampung Pengkalan Arang, K. Nerus, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

The earliest recorded life events, in my possession, that took place around this venue was 1914, the year my father was born. Then, another event, with a more detailed record, took place at about 4 of the Friday morning, April 20, 1951, the moment I was born.

The place was called Kampung Pengkalan Arang, literally translated as the 'Charcoal Jetty Village', and it was so called because there used to be several charcoal making hearths with a makeshift wooden jetty nearby, belonging to one of my great grandfather, or his close relatives and associates. It was on the eastern bank of Nerus river, a couple of hundreds meters wide, which flow roughly from north-west to south-east, a tributary of even much wider Terengganu river which flows from west to east. The charcoal was transported to the town from the jetty. Charcoal made at other places were also transported via the jetty. To date, the ground that used to be the sites of the hearth are still black, several feet down, charcoal particles are still visible, even to the naked eyes. The land however had changed hand many times, but the last time I remember it was still belonged to a relative of mine. Nonetheless, from that area, my father inherited two coconut trees, one I knew had fallen into the river when I was a very young boy. The second tree stopped bearing the fruits not long before my father passed away, it has then became intolerably high and only several feet away from the bank cliff. In the mid 90's that piece of land was repossessed by the state to be annexed to the then already crowded graveyard next to it, the graveyard in which my father, then my mother seventeen years apart, had been buried, side by side. I asked the consent of all my brothers and sisters for the compensation money amounting to less than a hundred ringgit to be given to my father's youngest brother, Ayah Li, to be donated to whatever religious charity he choose, in the name of my father and my mother.

The kampung was about three kilometers from the mouth of Nerus river, joining the Terengganu river, the estuary of which in turn was only about four kilometers away, its outlet to the South China Sea. Both rivers were the main vein of transportation for the people in both interiors, and also the main life-lines too. Kuala Terengganu, the capital of Terengganu is on the southern bank of the Terengganu river estuary, in some parts about two kilometers wide. The northern bank, diffused along by the northern shore line of the South China Sea was called Seberang Takir, inhabited mostly by fishermen. This shore line, actually was only a small part of the entire coastal area, both to the north in Kelantan, extended to Southern Thailand, and to the south in Pahang and Johor of Peninsular Malaysia, where sea fishing was the way of life, the spirit of which resided very deep in my soul and blood, even as deep as in part of my DNA. I inherited a fisherman blood from my mother lineage and a trader-craftsman blood from my father lineage.

UPDATED 2012: Viewing easwards along Nerus river, the loci is perhaps a hundred times more populated and developed than it was in 1960's.

There was an inhabited island, called Sekati in the Nerus river mouth, probably used to be a delta, long, long time ago. Villages along the southern bank of Terengganu river facing the Nerus estuary were called Losong. A place in that Losong at the rivers junction was connected to a village called Bukit Datu on the eastern bank of Nerus river mouth, about two kilometers apart, by a ferry service, passing in front of Sekati island, operated by Public Works Department. The village, then specifically renamed Losong Feri, was connected on land by a trunk road to Kuala Terengganu, about six kilometers away. On the northern side, from Bukit Datu, the trunk road extended along the eastern side of Nerus river, up to Kota Bharu, Kelantan. In fact in the early days the road was part of the only trunk road spanning the eastern Peninsular Malaysia from Kuantan, Pahang to Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Perhaps the ferry service started a long ago, before I was born, during the British colonial time. The service was stopped in late 60's when new roads and long bridges were built to cross the rivers at many parts to connect places on both sides. These days no one can be called the trunk road, all of them are equally trunk road.

In 1960's life here was very hectic.This picture was taken in 2001 Dec, of what once the ferry dock at Bukit Datu. The Losong dock is on the other side, faintly visible. The mouth of Nerus river is on the right of the picture, hidden by the wooden stilted-house. This place once was part of the only east coast trunk road.
I have a very vividly strong memorabilia, perhaps an anecdote, with the ferry, and the two ends of the ferry line, Bukit Datu and Losong Ferry. I had it with me in my flesh, in my blood, in my heart and in my soul, from its beginning in the early 60's when I began my teenager phase of life down to these days, after my elder children began their exit of teenager phase of life, and in fact this very memorabilia which keeps on ticking non-stop that pinned me down to the seat to press the PC keyboard to biographicalise my journey in this life. If my mother were still alive today, she would know, I know that, that the memorabilia is still soundly alive and in one piece in my heart, because, even though I was the one who spent the least time with her among my brothers and sisters, I was the one who was closest to her at heart. She knew and well-understood many things about what I wanted, and even the way I wanted. My mother read my mind more than my father, and later I realised it was even more than myself, and she read my mind more than she did on my other brothers and sisters. The last time I was with her was about eight o'clock Sunday night of September 3, 1989. I kissed my mother's hand and I hugged her while she was lying on bed, she was very ill indeed. Even though she knew that she was leaving, and perhaps in my absence, she blessed my return to KL, that particular night, consciously or unconsciously, with both eyes closed by tears, the way she blessed my first journey to KL on the Thursday morning of January 19, 1967. I gave her my last kiss on her forehead eleven days later, on the late Thursday morning of September 14, 1989, a moment before her body was prepared for burial. I do not know why, and I do not know what was out of the memorabilia that drove me so mad. Events like this is not uncommon to other people, but it does not haunt them so intensely as it had flooded over, or even tormenting my soul. I simply could not get rid of it, not even after repeated times I forgave it. May be, as I always never know, even how far, that there are many unexpected prepared for me in front of my journey.

Kuala Terengganu from Kg Batin on the northern bank. Bukit Besar is at the extreme right. Seberang Takir is at the left, obscured by the docking fishing boats at the jetty. Pasar Payang is seen on top of the cruising boat, with Wisma Darul Iman the background. Duyung just missed, it is immediately on the right of the picture. The Trg River mouth is at the centre of the picture. In the 60's it was very wide, and thus the estuary was very open to the sea, and very deep. It was very windy and wavy. The boat ferrying passenger to-and-fro Seberang Takir were thus very big (like a junk) and used sails. Life were very busy in the estuary.

The passenger motorised-boat which was a vital transportation element in the 'civilisation' evolution in Kuala Terengganu, is still important today; unlike trishaw which has almost faded away. These boats shuttled the people in vein of Terengganu river and Nerus River. Today they still shuttle passengers, nonetheless in one and only left route: Seberang Takir - Pasar Payang route, a ten minutes journey. In my childhood, it was a joy to swim around the docking boats to load and unload passengers and their goodies at the jetty.

The "Perahu Besar" which were coomon giant objects along the river from Losong downstream, now a miniature fossilised into a wooden craft. A skill the Terengganu had lost forever.
Kuala Terengganu can be reached from Seberang Takir by boat services, those days monstrously bulky sailing boats, these days diesel-powered motor boats. Boat service was a major mode of transportation for the people from the northern and western places to the town. It was almost impossible for the people from Seberang Takir and the places towards its north to go to Kuala Terengganu by land, because of the round about way to circle the Terengganu river estuary, to do it. Thus the boat service had survived for so long to these days even though land transport have taken the people virtually everywhere around. There were several islands in the Terengganu river estuary, the prominent were Duyung Besar, Duyung Kecil (trl. Big Mermaid and Small Mermaid) and Pulau Ketam (trl. Crab Island). All were inhabited and reachable from both sides of the river by boats. The life on these islands were as similar as the life on both banks of Trengganu river, the southern one from Losong through to Hiliran, and the northern from Bukit Datu to Seberang Takir, mostly fisherman life. There were a lot of home-made jetties along the bank of the estuary, many were private jetties or domestic jetties, catering not only fishing boats, commuters boats, but also big sailing cargo boats transporting salts from Southern Thailand. Sometimes, ships anchored in the estuary, loading and unloading cargo. Indeed, in the 60's and 70's Kuala Terengganu was a port, and the State of Terengganu actually had its Shah Bandar, to these days. As the time goes by, the estuary became shallow and shallow. There were a lot of development upstream, adding to the changes of water flow. Floods which is a typical natural phenomenon, especially during the annual monsoon season, changed the estuary, and the islands in the estuary. The islands had not only changed their shapes, but some of them disappeared and another appeared. That was how Pulau Kambing (trl. Goat Island), a busy area on the outskirt of Kuala Terengganu, finally became as it is today. I was told that Pulau Kambing was actually an island before, but had joined with the south bank of the estuary. Now, the estuary is really shallow. No ship can anchor in it. The river mouth itself is very shallow and narrow. Even fishing boats have to take a great precaution when leaving to the sea or entering from the sea. Accident and capsize happens from times to time, but miraculously no life has yet lost due to the accident in the mouth of Terengganu river. In early 90's a huge dam was completed in the upstream of Terengganu river, it is called Kenyir Dam. It flooded a large area in the dam, changing the landscape from a jungle into a giant lake with many islands. But the most noticeable change that the dam has brought about was to reduce the water, thus slowed down drastically the flow to the sea. The Terengganu estuary became very shallow, many sand islands began to appear, and the river mouth became narrower. Undoubtedly the estuary would become a lagoon. There are several jetties on the northern bank of the Terengganu estuary, all have since been rebuilt by the State, but only to cater for the motorised fishing boat, not bigger than a hundred-footer. I had one such boat, anchoring at one of the jetties in Kampung Batin, a village on the bank. I go to the sea whenever I had a chance during my break with the family in my birth place, fishing, not for my bread like my maternal ancestors, but for my leisure time.

The district Pengkalan Arang was in was called Kuala Nerus, or more frequently called Nerus, since it covered an area around the mouth of Nerus river, but ironically only area on the eastern bank, even extended along the northern bank of Terengganu river estuary to include Seberang Takir. On the western bank, the district was called Manir, with a village in it also by the same name. The upstream area of Nerus river was called Hulu Nerus, but the area was very remote, not many inhibitants, much of the activities were of nature's routine, so Hulu Nerus was not frequently mentioned. I had been to the area only a few times in my life, although I passed through it many times. The trunk road to Kota Bharu passes this district. Incidently, the center of Nerus is in the vicinity of Pengkalan Arang. The activity center was about half a kilometer off the river, called Batu Enam, and was about ten kilometers from Kuala Terengganu by land, passing the ferry line. There was a well known market there, almost all commodities, necessities, and services were available, including, used to be a makeshift cinema. Batu Enam changes very fast and very often since it is on the trunk road to Kota Bharu. Its market had changed four times in four different location in my time I could remember within the vicinity.

The last one-foot of once Bukit Tunggal (2001 Dec), a hill, a landmark of the area. It took about forty years to flatten this hill.
There were many other villages in Nerus district, mostly small villages, with scattered houses those days, very much less dense than in Kuala Terengganu. Population wise, the district was as demographic as any other districts. A place called Bukit Tunggal (trl. Single Hill) was probably in the middle of the district, separated from Pengkalan Arang by another village called Tebauk. It has a primary school, the school I went to, about four kilometers to the south-east of Pengkalan Arang along the trunk road. The place was so called because near the school there was a well defined 'bukit', a single hill a few hundreds meters high, the highest ground in the district. In the 80' a secondary school was built, preceded by one in Seberang Takir. Bukit Datu was just another two or three kilometers away. Another primary school was in Tok Jiring, about six kilometers to the north, but the road to it was much less populated. In Tok Jiring too there was a private religious school, called Pondok Haji Abbas. It was an alternative school for those who chose not to go to the secular school. I went to this school too, when I was about nine or ten, but only for one year, then I quit. In the 70's this school was taken over by the Ministry of Education and turned into a Religious Secondary School, but the private religious teaching still being continued to today, for the adults in the nearby 'surau' on serial 'ceramah' basis. There was only one mosque in the district, obviously called PA Mosque, a high on-stilt-structure, and it was very near my house, a two-minutes walk away. I learned many things and was taught many lessons by growing up around the mosque. People from as far as Bukit Tunggal to the south and Tok Jiring to the north came to pray at the mosque on every Friday afternoon. Initially the mosque was built from a strong wooden blocks and planks, probably by the villagers themselves with the fund raised by donation. Later when I was about ten, it was rebuilt with concrete. I remember giving my helping hand in moving the earth from a nearby plot to cover to floor area to be raised to about three feet. We work at night, after Isyak prayer, since many people went to work during the day, until mid-night, in many nights. There was no motorised machine at all that helped us, and not much fund available either, the most modern piece of equipment was probably wheel-barrows, but there were not enough wheel barrows by the too many volunteers. Some had to carry the earth in the buckets, and on their heads.

Nerus river viewed on the bridge eastward. The jetty on the left bank is "pengkalan arang".
The eastern bank and the western bank of Nerus river was not connected physically by whatever means. People moved to and fro both banks by passengers rowing boat, and at many different home-made jetties along the banks. Some boat owners were actually making a living by taking the people across the river. There were pupil living in Tanjung Bunut who went to school in Bukit Tunggal. They had to crossed the river twice a day to do that. I had many primary school mate who came from this area, and I even had relatives too. In monsoon season by end of each year, the river current was very strong, and moving people across such a wide river, swollen like being filled with the downfall from all the sky, in a rowing boat took a great courage by the boat owner and a great risk by the passengers. Some commuters carried their bicycles along into the boats. Miraculously, accidents were very rare, and unheard of among the commuters. Many of the people living on both banks did not know each other, some of them had not even seen each other throughout their life even though they were only a few hundreds meters apart. The deep water of the river prevented them to getting otherwise. The village opposite PA on the western bank was called Buluh Gading. I had many relatives living on both sides of the river. I had to cross it sometimes, by whatever means, my father insisted. Most of the river banks inhabitants, young or adult, male or female, could swim. They were made to learn to swim. The river was part of their life. Kids as young as ten could swim across the river, firstly by the aid of a floater like the 'nipah' leaf stalk, or even dry coconuts. I spent many hours a day in the river when I was a kid. My house was only about two hundreds meters away from the river, in the second layer. I swam across the river, I remember, twice to-and-fro, when I was about ten or eleven, once with the help of a 'nipah' floater, and the second time unaided one way, but had to find a floater on the return trip because I felt very tired. The river was the source of water for the people on the banks, in dry season it was for drinking water too because it was very clean and clear. In the rainy season the people resorted to the wells for their drinking water because the river water was cloudy due to heavy downfall carried from upstream. Throughout the year, rainy or dry season they did their washing in the river because it was very convenient. Most river bank dwellers took the bath in the river throughout their life. My father was one of them. He took his bath in the river in all his life, to his last second. He passed away in the river on the early Saturday morning March 22, 1972, accidentally drowned.

The Manir bridge(left) and its little sister Buluh Gading Bridge (right), built at about the same time in the 60's had brought revolutionery changes to the life about them.
In early 60's a new trunk road was built detouring far off western of the Losong-Bukit Datu ferry route, but still passing my place. It started from Cabang Tiga to Manir, then Kubang Jela and Buluh Gading to rejoin the old trunk road at Batu Enam. Two bridges were consequently built, one at Manir to cross the Terengganu River and another one at Buluh Gading to cross the Nerus River. The latter bridge was very near to my place. The ferry service at Losong-Bukit Datu was thus closed, but private motorised boat service took over for some times. The life at the Nerus river mouth slowed down to mostly of private nature. I was then at the beginning of my hostel life on the other side of Kuala Terengganu. I slowly distanced Bukit Datu by land until eventually the place disappeared from my routine to reside in my memory archive. But Losong Ferry, even though on the other side of the river, in fact over the two rivers, remained close to my heart for the next ten years, then the destiny took me physically away from it. However, its traces remain alive in my heart to today. I could not recall the last time I passed Bukit Datu by land, but I recorded my last presence in Losong Feri. It was Monday afternoon, March 17, 1969. Since then I dare not go near the place again. But by water ways, I had never left both rivers, especially around the Nerus river mouth, and I do not want to leave both of them. I strolled many times along both rivers in boat, and I could do it as many times as I want in my own fishing boat. I would stroll along the river as far as the depth of the water would allow the boat to pass through, only shallow water would prevent it. Upstream Nerus river however, it would be as far as the Buluh Gading bridge, at which the hundred-footer fishing boat is to high to pass below the bridge, even during low tide. Upstream Terengganu river it would be as far as Manir bridge, after which the water is too shallow to safely navigate the boat for non-commoners in the area.

The Buluh Gading bridge brought a lot of changes to many people. It created and resumed relationships, cherished, united and reunited many people and families on both side of the river. Many people could do many more things when they could cross the river by the bridge on foot, or in a vehicles, even on a bicycle, and much more and many different things can be moved or carried across the river. I imagined the same thing happened to the people on both sides of the Manir bridge, and in fact Manir bridge and Buluh Gading bridge contributed to each other's changing function. I have many relatives I had known living on the western side of Nerus river, and I came to know more after the Buluh Gading bridge was opened. Immediately northward from Buluh Gading, was a village called Paya Datu, a village later became part of my very existence, not only because later I discovered that there were many relatives lived there, but I was destined to start my own family from there, with a girl my mother had considered the most fit for me. Through Paya Datu, passing Kampung Tengah I went to Banggol Donas, a village full of my relatives, particularly my father's elder sister, Mak Ngah whose uniqueness of almost a virtual reality I would probably never found a duplicate in her kindness and care for me, my family members, and in fact all the people she knew. I became more agile, not only among my relatives, but also among my newly won friends, since then had expanded beyond the boundary of my birth place, from different loci due to different reasons as I went on my phases of life. Unfortunately, I missed to fully witness and undergo the evolutionary changes that took place around my place because by January 1964 I went to stay in the school hostel, then in January 1967 I went to school as far as in KL. Since then I slowly transmuted myself to become a stranger in my own birth place. The transmutation completed in 1983 when I joined the staff rank of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia after going to England twice, once in 1974 for two years, the other in 1979 for three and half years, with a well growing family. In 1983, I settled down in Bangi where I earned my living as a lecturer in the Chemistry Department of UKM.

Batu 6, the round about and the market place in 2001 Dec. Forty years ago this market place was just open space below hugh and tall trees, and the road was just pebbled and foot-path. I grew up to a boy in this area, a boy later known to every inhibitant in this place. My mother eventually found a nich in this market, unfortunately towards the end of her life.
In the 80's another new trunk road was built. This one started at Hiliran then transformed into a super-modern bridge flying straight northwesterly over Duyung island joining diffusely the old road at Bukit Tunggal, turning Batu Enam into a busier and busier junction. For the first time Duyung was reachable by land. Car and motocycle belonging to the inhabitants now can be parked right in front of their houses. Previously the vehicles were parked either in Kuala Terengganu or somewhere on the northern bank villages, Kampung Batin and Pengkalan Batu. I have been to Duyung residential area only once, in 1967, with Othman, a teenage classmate-close friend, visiting his father. He was then staying with his mother in Paloh. The place was rather packed, like in Hiliran, a place where I used to have many relatives. Duyung was very famous for its boat making craftsmanship, sailing boats, cargo boats, big boats and small boats. This skill is not available anywhere else in Malaysia to these days. Pulau Ketam, Pengkalan Batu, and Kampung Batin were its associated peripherals. The feature craftsmanship, according to a an academic studies from a local University, apparently a mixture of Arabs and European design, especially the characteristic design for the high sea, or even for the ocean goers. These days, Duyung had changed a lot, unfortunately promoted into a tourism destination, not necessarily for the benefit of the local inhabitants. Its famous boat-making, thus dwindled because the boat-makers' children needed money faster than they could get from making the boats in order to keep pace with the fast invading material development brought to Kuala Terengganu. Nonetheless, there are still sporadic boat making works, a specific job. I had seen one in Kampung Batin, where a specially designed boat was being made for a Swiss. There are some works on making the boats for deep-sea fisihing. But since land in Duyung became scarce with the population booming since the last forty years, the works were transferred to somewhere else, to the mainland, as far as in my birth place.

I have not been to Duyung since the bridge was built, and I wonder how they managed their vehicles with the already packed area. Unfortunately the bridge was built with a cost born by the people. It was tolled, right in the middle of it, right between Duyung and Pengkalan Batu. When it was first opened in the mid 80's, the toll fees, fifty sen, was put only on the south-bound vehicles, thus giving the privilege to Duyung inhabitants a free pass to and from their place. In the mid 90's, in the middle of toll rise season everywhere in the country, both ways were equally tolled.

A typical coastal fisherman village along the beach up to Merang and Penarik. It has been like this since I was a child, not much change to this date, except that the houses those days were made from material gathered, rather than material purchased.
The northeastern district next to Nerus was grossly called Batu Rakit. It continued from Seberang Takir along the coast line to the north, through to Ketapang, Telaga Batin, Tanjung Gelam, Mengabang Telipot, Pengkalan Maras, Mengabang Telung, Batu Rakit itself, Mengabang Lekor, Mengabang Panjang, Ru Tapai up as far as Merang, and Penarik, then bordered with Setiu in north Terengganu. In the 60's this district was virtually separated from Nerus by a thick short-treed forest with patches of swampy area in their wilderness. The transport vein was a walking track no one would be brave enough to pass through alone. Wild boars were abundant, and sometimes tigers were encountered by the passer by. The proper road was via Seberang Takir, around the south, or via Maras around the north, but they were four or five times as far. A once a day bus service carried passengers from Kuala Terengganu to Batu Rakit via Maras, previously using the ferry route, then the Manir route. There was a bus sub-station in Batu Rakit, providing services, not more than twice daily along a southern coastal route to Seberang Takir, and another northern route to Penarik. Batu Rakit was so-called from a rock structure off the beach visible as a raft throughout all season, with Redang and Bidong on the sea background. Perhentian islands are off to the left with a diffused visibility from Batu Rakit. The rock structure was an imposing danger in fact to many boats, but fortunately too close to the shore that it was way out of the ships or sailing junks lane. Batu Rakit was a prosperous fishing village. One could see it, and even could smell it. It was fish, fish products, fishing gears and equipments, and fishing culture everywhere. Interestingly the landing spot chosen by the fishermen was a beach confronting exactly the raft-shape rock. Apparently the rock served to break the South China Sea waves which sometimes may reach five meters high in monsoon season.

The South China Sea coast of Terengganu; from Kemaman, Dungun, in particular Kuala Terengganu, from Seberang Takir to Batu Rakit, Merang, through to Penarik in Setiu up to Semerak in Pasir Putih, Kelantan.
The wild area between Nerus and Batu Rakit was simply called as 'The Forest' by the surrounding inhabitants. It was nonetheless a feeding ground for many of them. Cultivation did not give much produce, because the land was rather sandy and arid in dry season. Natural pest were uncontrollable. Reasonable crops were obtainable only after a hard works and in area nearer to the swamps and closer to the residential areas. They went to the forest to gather natural produce such as small woods like 'janggut keli' and 'anak kuat' to furnish houses, 'rotan' to make household articles, crawling stems of certain plants like pitcher plant to make rope, wild fruits like 'kemunting', even cashews, shoots of certain plants like 'cemperai', leaves for the goat like 'sisip puyu', and even firewoods. From swampy areas they gathered fish especially big and black 'keli pulut', 'keli panjang' and 'haruan'. Some of them reared cows for feeding in the Forest, on the daily basis. I joined the folks into the Forest, in the early 60's, in an attempt to make a living, doing all the jobs, when I was about to end my primary schooling. I started by following a few relatives as an enjoyment to see what they and their elders were doing, then I started having my own reason to go there such as growing vegetables. All were with the blessing of my mother. She even prepared my meal for the day, at very early morning, and every morning. I enjoyed it very much, and at one time I thought I would grow up together with them and become an adult like one of them. Again, the destiny took me away, and very far away from it, and obviously for a much, much better way of life and living.

The serenity near Wakaf Baru in 1976 (left); the precursor to what is known today Taman Salwa and many more small housing "tamans". Middle - Wakaf Baru in 2001 Dec; Right - some 'pure breed' of the area that survived, the kind I had my frolics with in the 60's.
Through the Forest there was a short cut to Tanjung Gelam, and on up to Batu Rakit. Fish supply for the Batu Enam market was transported from that fish landing spots through the Forest, either by bicycles, or as I was told, on foot in the old days. The fish landed in the afternoon reached Batu Enam market at sun set, and sold at night. That is why Batu Enam market got its tradition of operating in the evening, not in the morning like other markets. Nowadays, when the supply comes from everywhere, it operates from the morning, in fact the whole day, like other markets, even on Friday, whereas Friday is the weekend in Terengganu. A place about two kilometers along the track from Batu Enam was called Wakaf Baru. It has a well-built wooden shed. There was a well as well with crystal clear water. This was a favourite spot for travellers to stop for a sip of fresh water from the well to quench the thurst, some people even went on for a bath and pray when the time was in. From Wakaf Baru there was a junction, of similar track, to a further place called Tanjung Jaafar. This area was more resourceful because not many people went there because it was considered far. Rearers often took their cows to this place for grazing around the much more swampy area where the grass was greener.

In early 60's Wakaf Padang looked like this, viewed towards the coastal area, Kubang Badak, while sitting on the shed under the 'sepetir' tree. Near the shed there was a deep well for the travelers to quench their thirst and more often to wash to pray. The ground was filled with long round grass called 'rumput bedil' (literally translated 'gun grass', because when it is on fire, it gives rattling sound like gun fire). The 'road' from this place to Kubang Badak, then Tanjung Gelam, and along the beach to Mengabang Telipot, Pengkalan Maras, Mengabang Telung, Batu Rakit, through to Mengabang Panjang, Ru Tapir, and Merang, are tracks like this. On the beach however, they were lined by coconut trees, not savannah like this.
A similar place like Wakaf Baru, but much further up to Tanjung Gelam, was called Wakaf Padang. It has, in addition, one very big and tall 'sepetir' tree, a land mark for the place and visible from a far distance. It was used as a navigational guide for the people while in the Forest but off the track. From Wakaf Padang there was another track, to the left which took cyclist direct to Wakaf Tengah, the interior of Mengabang Telipot. No one would dare to walk on this track because of fear of encountering with the tigers since this track was very close to the foot of a hilly area, unpioneered, rather like a jungle. Kubang Badak was a few kilometers away from Wakaf Padang. Once one reached Kubang Badak, he could consider himself as has reached the coastal area. Houses would be visible, and one could begin to smell the sea breeze and the fish product aroma of 'keropok', the most famous delicacy in Terengganu coastal area. In the mid 60's a tarmac road was built across the Forest. A similar road was also built from Wakaf Baru to Telaga Batin, then had already been developed to hold an airport, the Terengganu Airport. The passengers were handled to and from Kuala Terengganu via Seberang Takir before the Duyung Bridge was built.

Tuan Chilik, one of the oldest elders in Bt 6. He watched every single evolution that had turned Bt 6, from the gravel path to the very busy motor vehicle tarmac; (pic: 2006 Jun 6 Tue)

Today, the Forest had changed, and had undergone the changes, with its extensiveness no one at all expected and ever imagined. From a place where no one was brave enough to go alone, the Forest had changed to a place every one wanted a site to reside. It started with a factory in mid 70's, a plywood-veneer factory. Wakaf Baru had been razed to the ground, it became the sites for Technical School, Science School, Mosque, and rows of shops lots and surrounded by many residential parks. Wakaf Padang became the site of Religoius College, another mosque, and rows of SMI factories, and of course residential parks. Kubang Badak became the site of a University College. The airport was enlarged to cater for at least Boeing 737. Janjung Jaafar became the site for Terengganu sport center. 'The Forest' now become a suburb, and the most expensive area in the outskirt of Kuala Terengganu, and Kuala Terengganu municipality has since been extended to include Batu Rakit. The whole area is now called Gong Badak. Wakaf Baru was renamed as Wakaf Tembusu, a name for a place previously much closer to Batu Enam. And commodities in Batu Enam market became the most expensive commodities in the whole Kuala Terengganu. In short the fast changing Batu Enam had raised the cost of living phenomenally, but not necessarily the standard of living though.

Changes along the trunk road from Batu Enam to Kota Bharu were rather slow because these were among the early settlement areas. It was padi field on both sides of the road up to a small village town called Tepoh. There was a police station in Tepoh, a second police station after the first in Seberang Takir in Nerus district. Nerus district has only two police stations. My birth was registered at this police station, so did virtually all other birth in my time. Giving birth in the hospital was unheard of, except for cases with severe complications. Before reaching Tepoh there was an area called Padang Air (trl. Water Field) because those days, one could see only padi fields, and in monsoon season it would looked like but fields of water. At Tepoh there is a road to the eastern interiors inhabited mostly by farmers and the road lead to Batu Rakit, passing another small village town called Maras. The trunk road runs into the western interiors, into the Hulu Nerus district, with farmers and animal rearers up to Gemuruh, fifteen kilometers away, then it was a vast virgin jungle which I had not have a chance or reason to go when I was a kid. But I was told that there is a hilly area, 'full' of the hills called Bukit Jong. Apparently there was a quarry in Bukit Jong. Stones and pebbles for the road making were taken from this quarry.

In Tepoh market, farmers congregate to trade their produces, and they came from the vicinity. Interestingly the market operated on Monday and Thursday only. Another interesting thing about Tepoh market was that it became the meeting place to exchange goods of sea produce and land produce since the traders were both from the interiors as far as Gemuruh with all kinds of fruits and land produce, and from the coastal area as far as Mengabang Telipot and Batu Rakit with their sea produce, and the places in between like Maras, Padang Nenas, Padang Kemunting, Bukit Titi, Bukit Wan, Darat Batu Rakit, Pecah Rotan, Linga, Sungai Ikan, Bukit Guntung, Leret, and Padang Hangus. There was a past mid-night bus service to transport traders from the coastal area to Tepoh, and obviously twice a week, so that they could start trading when the sun rise. Tepoh market was a very familiar place to my father. He knew many people in Tepoh and many people knew him. In his young days Tepoh was a very favourite place for him. He preferred being and buying goodies in Tepoh, four kilometers away than being and buying sundries in Batu Enam, four minutes cycling away. My elder brother and I had the same opportunity when we were small. In fact Tepoh had played a key role in my growing up, in harnessing the relationship between my father's family and my mother's family. My father had many relatives living in the western interiors, and they were farmers. Apart from my mother's relatives who came from Batu Rakit and Mengabang Telipot to trade their produce, my father had many friends, customers and colleagues coming to Tepoh twice a week.

A typical view in the bone-shaker in the 1960's from Tepoh to Maras. Dec 2001, the dead Tepoh shops and the market, and the rebuilt Police Station on the raised ground.
Unfortunately Tepoh died when Gong Badak was born. The traders preferred to take their produce to Batu Enam, or straight to Kuala Terengganu where they would get a better price and many more buyers. By then the transport was not a major problem, even if one do not have one. The police station still exist, and not much was changed apart from added constables. Nonetheless, a substation was established in Batu Enam, the more active area. By then Batu Enam was no longer a place I would call a home. With many people around, more and more activities popped up, including all sorts of social problems. But the prime reason for the establishment of the police sub-station in Batu Enam in late 70's was the sudden, unexplained birth of drugs addiction.

My father was a known and favourite carpenter, building wooden houses. But he was a farmer too. He grew padi, sweet potatoes and other annual crops himself, more than sufficient for his family year around staple food. My mother helped him. Normally he turned farmer during monsoon season, like every body else, when the rain comes. During this season he fished as well in the fields, and sometimes in the river. He inherited from his father a padi field in a place called Titian Hj Ahmad, a place just after Pak Katak, the village opposite to Pengkalan Arang. Actually Titian Haji Ahmad was a wooden bridge about fifty meters long across a swamp from Pak Katak to Gong Kijang, and it was named after his father, Haji Ahmad, perhaps for a large portion of fund from him to build the bridge. I remember helping my father in that field and in other people's fields where in some years he rented them.

2007 Oct 4 Thu Update. In the late evening, a revisit to a beyond Pak Katak where my grandfather had built a foot-bridge for the farmers surrounding its vicinity to reach their "sawah". The bridge was named "Titian Haji Ahmad", and his sawah was along it. I had sometimes when I was a little boy helping my father to grow padi there. The place dislocated from my locus when I became a hostel boarder in 1964. As of today, the bridge was marked into the reserve for the road. So, in a few years time, Titian Haji Ahmad would become a tarmac road passable by motorised vehicle including cars.
It used to be padi in its season and nothing else on both side of the bridge because the sawah was deep. It actually joined Pak Katak and Gong Kijang, a place as wild as the "forest". Pak Hasan who stayed at end of the titian was a good friend of my father. He lived by making coconut sugar.

The southern and western part of Kuala Terengganu were foreign lands to me when I was below ten. My father and my mother had many known relatives as far as Pahang to the south, and Kuala Berang to the west, but in my kiddy years we had never been to the area. Kuala Berang is to the west, about forty kilometers away. But I had been only up to Bukit Payung, fourteen kilometers from Kuala Terengganu. I remember my father took me once to Pak Madah, two kilometers off Bukit Payung, to visit his one and only maternal auntie, and it was a feast time, wedding or something. Bukit Payung only became very familiar to me in 1965 and 1966 when I was in Secondary School in Padang Midin, about four kilometers before Bukit Payung on the main road. Within that two years the area became my new loci, then already well connected with tarmac roads, including in the area off the trunk road such as Paloh, Durian Burung, Kuala Bekah, Pulau Musang, Sungai Rengas, and Pengadang Baru, through into the interior between the two rivers including Manir itself, Teluk Pasu, Tebakan, Pulau Bahagia (previous name, Pulau Babi), Batu Hampar, Telemong, Kesom, Beladau Kolam, Beladau Selat, and Jeram. By then I had added more friends, from the school. My first arrival at Kuala Berang was in 1973, with a fellow-state friend I met at the University, Jamaludin, who asked me to accompany him, apparently to visit his girlfriend. In my adult years, I went to or passed by this western areas more than the northern areas. In fact I practically abandoned the northern areas, even if I went to Kelantan, or comming from Kelantan I would use the coastal route, connecting Batu Rakit, Merang, Penarik, Setiu, Semerak to Pasir Putih.

The lagoon of Ibai river, and the beach of Chendering in late 1960's. The former less frequently and the latter more frequently and popularly visited by "outsiders" for leisure time on the weekends.
The first noticeable place along the southward trunk road is called Batu Buruk, shortly after one leave Kuala Terengganu, a beach resort by the local standard. It was not a fisherman landing site because just further up is the Sultan's residential palace, surrounded by the state official quarters. After the palace, the place is called Kuala Ibai, and famous in Terengganu for its Colonial English School, the Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School, or more popularly spoken as SS. To the people in Terengganu SS those days was like MCKK to the federal scholars, or TKC, except that it was not a full board school. Kuala Ibai was a full flash fishing village, very much similar to Batu Rakit. In Kuala Ibai there is a river, Sungai Ibai, but very much smaller than even Nerus river. Its estuary is used as a 'harbour' for the fisherman to anchor their boats, especially during monsoon. There is a large lagoon in the Ibai estuary. When I was in SS, I was tempted many times to go to play in the lagoon, but the hostel regulation prevented me to do so. Many years later I became an ever-lasting friend to classmate, Mohd Embong, who lived beside the lagoon, but then I was very far away from the lagoon, and I was of an age no longer fit to play in the lagoon. Had I known it, I would have befriended him much earlier and have taken a home weekend to his place and got my temptation fullfilled. Perhaps one day, if the Kenyir Dam does not collapse, Terengganu estuary too will become a lagoon like the one in Kuala Ibai. Chendering, four kilometers from Kuala Ibai, is a replicate, and another replicate, Marang, fifteen kilometers down south. I had not been to this places, not until I had a chance for a short time to become a pupil of that famous school.

There was another English school in KT, but less well spoken about, the Tengku Bariah Secondary School, or TB for short. Until 1964 there were no secondary school for Malay medium instruction, even though such school system had already been established since 1960. Schools in other parts of Terengganu were also English school. There was Dungun English School (DES), and Sultan Ismail School in Kemaman (SIS). The first Malay medium secondary school in Terengganu was opened in October, 1964 in a then remote area called Padang Midin, about ten kilometers westward to Kuala Berang. Before the opening, all students were put temporarily in the established English schools. By 1965, all Malay medium secondary school students congregated in Padang Midin, from Besut in North Terengganu to Kemaman in the south. I went to Malay medium school because my mother could not afford the monthly fees, about six ringgit. In the new Malay medium school the fees were only six ringgit a year. I went to the Malay medium school for this very reason, and not any other reason, and especially not because my Standard Six Examination results could not make it. I got an A grade in that exam, with another boy, Ismail Embong, out of all the standard six pupil in my school, and with that A ticket I won a Federal Minor Scholarship that took me through to the secondary school, alas a Malay medium School. I in fact had a chance to go to English primary school in 1962 when I passed the Special Malay Exam in Standard Four in 1961. It would have been to the Sultan Sulaiman Primary School in Batas Baru, the Primary equivalent of SSSS. But it was entirely unimagined of, since how much tears it would take my mother to make the sufficient money was one thing, to commute to the school from my home was another. My classmate Ambak who lived in Bukit Tunggal went to the English primary school after Std Four, but he did not make through after Standard Six. My other A-mate Standard Six classmate went to TB, but he too did not make it through to the end.

My wife went to TB for her secondary school, of course I knew this after I married her. Her father was a clerk, thus much richer than my father, he could afford to send his daughter, his first child to the English School. Her place, not her home, became my locus only after the Buluh Gading bridge was opened. I was on the bicycle to my aunt's house in Banggol Donas, further up. Later, when I was about eleven or twelve I cycled through her village selling bread, which I bought in Pulau Kambing, shared with my elder brother, during Ramadan. I did notice the house which later destined to become my in-law's house, but its inhabitants did not attract me at all, my future wife was then only seven or eight years old and I did not remember seeing her around, and while I was myself very poorly dressed, she perhaps still needed help to get well-dressed. None of them had ever bought the bread I sold anyway. Ironically, the house before her house (Tok Ngah Tok Kik) and another house after her house (Pak Teh Mat) along the road, less than fifty meters apart between each other, were my father's close relatives house which I often visited. There was a primary school in Kampung Tengah, the school my wife went to during her primary, and the school her father too went to. My father and my mother did not go to school, both were illiterate all their life, but both were very fluent Quran readers and they were Quran teachers. My father was very much older than my wife's father.

As I grew bigger and older my loci became larger and larger, and largest among my brothers and sisters. The destiny took me from a place to another, and then another. We do things in one place to prepare ourselves for the next clueless place. I was taken by the destiny to different places that I previously had no idea at all, and do things which I had not dreamt of before to do it. Things that I wanted to happen and done sometimes did not happen and undone because they are not included in my destiny. That because our mind are actually independent of our fate. We wish with our mind, but they are fulfilled by our destiny. Nonetheless, sometimes they happened and get done in different ways, in different places and in different times. A life itself, such as my life repeated itself over and over again in many different ways, different places and different times. I believed some where in some times there was, or are, or even are going to be another life like my life in many ways.

I was born in 1951 in Kampung Pengkalan Arang, Kuala Nerus. Nowadays I am a stranger in my own birth place, a stranger to the contemporary inhabitants, but I was and I am a very dear friend to the places that used to be my loci. I was thirteen in 1964 when I first parted with my birth place, apparently southward in my own trial of life. Since then I returned home only four or five times a year. I began my transmutation to become a stranger in 1967 when I left Terengganu for Kuala Lumpur, and further away to England in 1974. The transmutation completed in 1983 when I returned to Malaysia and signed to become a teaching staff at a local University in Bangi, Selangor, a township built in the late 70's. I settled down in my own home with my own family in the new land in 1987, in Sungai Merab, the birth loci of my children, near my feeding ground. The changes brought about by the development in my birth place had brought along new people, strangers not only to myself but also to my fellow folks, who I then rarely met when I returned home because like myself they are also on the move in their own trial of life. My father passed away in 1972 and my mother in 1989 in the place where they brought me up, but they left me with thousands of relatives, close and distant, and some of them among the strangers, who built my feeling never more at home than with them. I married a girl from a village not very far from my birth place, a distant relative, in 1976 when I was twenty five. She had not only given me herself, but also her parents, her brothers and sisters, and her relatives, thus swollen my birth place with relatives. She gave birth to my first child in 1978, a daughter, when we were in Kuala Lumpur. The house in which I was born, even though had since became my youngest sisters', had undergone changes many times, by the fund mostly of my contribution, but it is still at the same site, the site of my father's father home. It was then unchanged since my mother passed away, and it was the house with the feeling that my mother and my father are still in waiting to welcome me home every time I return to visit them that bonded me strongly to my birth place to this day. If I can choose, I want to choose to go back to my birth place and to my relatives, my soul, my flesh and my blood for one would know his or her path ahead.

Edition dated: Mac 2003.