Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OF STRANGELY HUED SEAS AND ARCHITECTURE OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Growing up, I spent about two thirds of the first 12 years of my life in a somewhat quiet coastal town called Port Dickson, then famous for it's pretty much undeveloped but still rather dirty stretch of beaches. It was so close to the sea that according to an old student the primary school that I had studied in was once under attack by a school of swordfish during high tide one day, long before they had reclaimed the land behind the school.

Over the past two weeks, my sister and I had discussed the options on going for short one day road trips locally because we have never had the opportunity to travel much in our own country, or anywhere else for that matter when younger (long story), and now with a gps unit at our disposal, getting lost will be a non-issue. Taking advantage of the extended weekend the public holiday in conjunction with Eid provided us, we decided to head over to Tanjung Tuan, a seaside point of interest near the place we once called home on Monday.


The journey: Clouds hovering low over the mountain range

It takes about an hour and a half of driving at reasonable speeds on a not so busy road through half of two states to reach the destination from where we started. We were in a small group of 4 half excited *'city kids' with backpacks and food for a picnic which we imagined having on a mat on white sands as the waves rolled in peacefully. Finally with the assistance of the gps lady (who now speaks with a so-called British accent - but I beg to differ), we reached the spot where everywhere you turned, you'd see the words "Tanjung Tuan" or "Cape Rachado" - it's original name. A little walk down a dirt road led us to a beach and slight disappointment as the whole area was swarming with other people who wanted a piece of white sanded beach and waves rolling. And they were terribly noisy as well. We walked along the shore (on grass no less, as the area had a very small sand area and some parts were actually walled) looking for a nice spot for our picnic. After crossing a precarious 'bridge' and walking for a few minutes, we finally found a spot secluded enough for our picnic as we gazed into the sea.

The Quickest Picnic in the Short History of The World

As we set our picnic mat and started preparing our sandwiches, my sister exclaimed that she had felt a drop of water. A glance at the sky proved that at some point, rain would be inevitable, but we somehow managed to convince ourselves that it wouldn't happen then. Barely two or three bites into the healthy pita sandwich (the number of bites actually depends on if you were the first or the last to prepare your sandwich) rain pelted down on us as we hurriedly packed our stuff into their bags and made a run for the nearest shade, where in the process we almost threw a carton of chips away and lost the wooden handle of my aunt's food bag. The shelter was full of people, but we managed to find some standing place there and burst out laughing at how ridiculous the whole situation was. Here we were, after driving over more than a hundred kilometres with a clear blue sky overhead, and within minutes we have dark clouds gather overhead and pour over us for a good half hour.


The Lighthouse Chronicles

Now, Cape Rachado is steeped in history. According to certain sources, the lighthouse that stands there was built somewhere in the 16th century after the Portuguese set foot in what was then known as Malacca and still remains to date with certain changes along the way, of course (definitely a few coats of paint over the years and a Measat radar of all things. It kills me that M had somehow disappeared and only "easat" can be seen revolving)

The lighthouse

People who had been standing up on the hill/lighthouse would have witnessed the Battle of Cape Rachado when it happened. To go up there, we had to enter what was once a gazetted reserve forest (degazetted since it was opened to public - well, you lose some and win some, I guess) The hike was pretty alright as the road was paved (but kind of steep, nevertheless) We saw some cars going up despite the fact that it was stated at the entrance that vehicles are not allowed in, but I suppose people are just like that... idiots at best, and since there were no enforcement people around they took advantage of the situation and drove up. It's their loss, though... they missed the opportunity to walk and admire the sounds and surroundings, especially on the way down as the sun had come out from behind the clouds at that point and we could witness the process of water evaporation right in front of our eyes!


The view from one of the windows of the lighthouse. 

Standing against the afternoon sun, it's rather new coat of paint gleaming white was the lighthouse. It wasn't as huge as I thought it would be (I kind of imagined lighthouses to be extremely tall buildings) As we were walking up the flight of stairs leading up to the lighthouse compound, a man (with his family) who were coming down told us that we could enter the lighthouse if we called the guy who was taking care of it and asked him if we could get in. After all it seems like such a waste to go all the way and not see the inside of a lighthouse. So after taking a walk around the lighthouse and admiring the beautiful green sea in that area (this part is probably - and hopefully - less polluted) we went back to the lighthouse to see if we could get the attention of the person in charge.

After a bit of drama (after all, paranoia runs in the family and we assured ourselves that we had long umbrellas as weapons if anything not so nice should happen) the gates finally opened and we were let in. A spiral stairway led us right up to the tower, but there was a bit of a step ladder to climb on to reach the very top, which for some reason we never climbed. Regretting it incredibly now. However, as we were walking up the spiral stairway quietly, it occured to me that I was actually ascending steps to a building that was full of history and I was immensely glad to have been there at that very moment. Getting out of the lighthouse compound was another drama altogether which I do not wish to recount at the moment. Another regret we had was not taking another hike down from the lighthouse to the beach below where apparently Hang Tuah stepped on, which of course was not mentioned on the information board there, they only had some information about migratory birds of prey that could be seen there around March. Hang Tuah is a very important person in the long and interesting history of Malacca.

According to my dad who visited the place over 50 years ago when he was a kid, they had to reach the lighthouse from the beach, wading during the low tide. So much more adventurous and interesting, I'd say - but a bit creepy too. If you got down during high tide, you'd have to wait till low tide or take a boat to the mainland.


Beachcombing

Besides paranoia, another thing that might run in some members of the family is the inability to swim. After lunch and an unfortunate need to find a place to pee (where the hell are the public facilities?????) we headed down to the Blue Lagoon beach, once famed for it's beauty as a beach. We were there during low tide, so there was a lot of beach area for beachcombing. The water was around ankle high and warm - the sun had pretty much gone behind the clouds again, but did not show any indication of rain. There were rocks, mud and according to one excited lady who ran holding a cup, a jellyfish which she showed to her daughter. There was also what looked very much like mangrove plants. The sand was brown in colour, but as you dug your toes in, it looked very grey. We, as a group probably creeped out a single clawed crab which hid under the sand as we tried to take it's video. I wonder how the poor thing lost it (the claw)in the first place... Overall, the beach was much nicer than the first one we went too, but was sadly littered with snack food plastic wrappers that would suddenly come and cling against your ankle and give you a slight shock. Nevertheless, despite the crowd and the noise, being at the beach was pretty calming on it's own.

Revisiting Old Spots

The trouble with visiting the old place you lived in with your parents means only one thing... You'd be obliged to go with them to all your relatives houses that you can visit in that one short visit, which sadly means that you will not be able to go and see whom or where you want to see. As this plan was a last minute, impromptu one, I had not been able to plan whom I could catch up with, but we did try to visit one of our old houses, which had pretty good childhood memories, and also our old primary school which looks completely different now before we embarked on our journey back home. We also passed by another old Chinese school which is now a row of shops, and my dad's old working place.

*We're not exactly dwellers of a big city like Kuala Lumpur, but live near enough to be on the receiving end of some of the influence and currently live in a fast paced competitive environment, besides, my sister and I started our life's journey in a small town which did not even have a single traffic light right until 1993. And despite all of us being legal adults, I had made use of the word kids because it sounds so much nicer than 'city adults'

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great trip in spite of the rain.

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  2. You know this reminds me of some of the wonderful stuff some people who visited and worked there told me about your neck of the woods. This discussion was actually at a post Rosh Hashnnah gathering. They loved Malaysia urged me to visit if I had the chance.

    Swim Terra!! You must SWIM!!!

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  3. That sounds like one hell of a trip:-

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  4. PD is a nice little place. I spent 4 years of my childhood there and have fond memories of the place :D

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  5. Ricardo: Well, it's warm and nice most of the time... so it could be a good place to escape to during winter, LOL. Anyway, I do want to visit New York... (someday) :)

    Ramblinreed: Yeah, it was...

    Nick: It is indeed... However, other than the beach there is nothing much else to do. Now I know why I picked reading as my hobby! :)

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  6. whoa. it's like reading a story book :P full of information and i like the way you bold it like a new title for the next elaboration :)

    i've been to PD once and is it true that the sea is polluted by the pig's waste? i doubt.

    i have been into a lighthouse once and it's tiring to climb over LOL.

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  7. LOL, I know.. it's a long post. Which is why I used bold font for the sub-topics so that you all who read it wont get lost in the sea of words ;)

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  8. Ah your trip sounds lovely :) The places look beautiful. I wish I could visit.

    What makes me sad about visiting the places of my childhood is witnessing how much they've changed. I tell myself, change is a constant, no need to fuss... but it's not the same when you revisit the caspian sea only to find the beach lined with condos that weren't even there ten years ago.

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  9. I could see the changes where I went to as well... the school I went to had the old colonial style building knocked down. That was a historical building, and I'm appalled that they did such a thing...

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