Friday, May 15, 2015

In which state am I?

Cape (tanjung) or river mouth (kuala)?
Not in a confused state, I hope.

The above photo was taken during one of my unplanned off-the-beaten-track road trips recently. It shows a road distance marker (or milestones as we used to call them in the days before the metric system) where the name of two different states are mentioned. So am I in the state of Selangor or Pahang?

The answer may be quite obvious to some and an additional clue in the pic would confirm it. This milestone is of course, located in Pahang. Kuala Pahang is where the Pahang River meets the South China Sea. The main town in the same vicinity is Pekan. The 'C 101' label at the top of the marker is the road numbering system used by the Public Works Department (JKR) to record all the main federal and state roads in the country. The prefix 'C' is the one used for Pahang, similar to the registration numbering system for vehicles utilised by the Road Transport Department (JPJ).

What all this simply indicate is that there is a place, specifically a cape (tanjung), on the coastline of Pahang, named after Selangor. Tanjung Selangor in Pahang. It would be interesting to find out why or how this came about.

The use of one state's name as a place-name in another state, although peculiar, is not unique to Pahang. In the Pontian district of my home state of Johor, there is place called Parit Selangor. In Kota Tinggi district, there are two kampungs named after other places; Kg Kelantan (near the town itself) and Kg Singapura (further east near Sedili). In the Kelantan capital of Kota Bharu, there is this place called Pulau Melaka, the kampung of the late Tuan Guru Dato Nik Abdul Aziz. In similar vein, there is a river in Rompin, Pahang called Sg Pontian. The famous place in Kuala Selangor to view fireflies is known as Kg Kuantan. I'm sure readers can name other examples.

When it comes to the names of towns and villages, there are many duplicates or commonly-used ones. The place-name of Sungai Buloh is not exclusive to Selangor. There is one in Perak as well... but did you know that there are actually two separate and different places called Sungai Buloh in Selangor? The more well-known one is the area where the prison is located. The lesser-known Sungai Buloh town is located at the downstream end of the river that lends its name, in the district of Kuala Selangor.

Which place-name do you reckon, is the most commonly used in Malaysia? I have my own guess on this one but let's see if readers have other possible answers...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The best udang galah in Malaysia

The town of Kuala Rompin in the state of Pahang is located on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, about 120 kilometres south of Kuantan. The by-election to choose a representative for the parliamentary constituency of Rompin was concluded yesterday, the 5th of May 2105. The ruling party retained the seat which fell vacant when the previous MP, Tan Sri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, met an untimely demise in a helicopter crash early last month.

During the time when I worked at Dungun in Trengganu many years ago, I would occasionally pass by this town on my drive back to Johor Bahru. My more frequent route would be Dungun - Kuantan - Segamat - Yong Peng and then entering the North-South Expressway at Yong Peng to travel down to JB. It meant that I would cross the width of the Peninsula on Federal Route 12, a delightful (but sometimes dangerous) road which cuts across large stretches of palm oil plantations plus whatever is left of our untouched rainforest. Sometimes I would take the alternative coastal route of Dungun - Kuantan - Pekan - Mersing - Kota Tinggi - Johor Bahru. Shorter in distance but longer in travel time due to the poor road condition (those days) and the many small towns along the way.

Kuala Rompin is one of these towns. Sometimes I would stop there for a rest break or petrol refill but I never had the chance to explore the place in greater detail. I had been told by a number of friends that Rompin is well-known for its `udang galah', a species of large freshwater prawns of which I know not of a specific name in English. It was also recommended to me that I should not miss trying to taste them at any of a number of foodstalls there. Fresh, tasty and cheap... those were the normal words I hear.

Unfortunately, my travel from Dungun to JB were almost always in the evenings and it would be late night by the time I reached Rompin and the stalls would already be closed. Hence I never had the chance to try eating those prawns.

But not anymore. In the middle of last month, we attended an event in Kuantan. The drive back to JB required a pit stop in Mersing and this meant that we would travel on the coastal road. An opportune time to drop by Kuala Rompin and check out what some people have been raving about.

Kuala Rompin today, is a very much developed town from the days of my earlier journeys. We spotted a restaurant at one of the new block of shophouses along the main road and made a random choice to stop there. It has a catchy name - Udang Galah King Restaurant. They serve the prawns in a variety of ways, cooked to order. Choices include `masak lemak cili api', `masak sweet sour' and `goreng black pepper'. My selection? Udang galah goreng telur masin...

What else can I say? Exquisite. Best udang galah I've tasted in Malaysia.

Tastes as good as it looks
The king is here..

Footnote : This post is my contribution to the collective blogger revival effort set for today 6 May 2015 and spearheaded by Kak Teh. May my other blogger-friends succeed in posting something too. But if you don't, then not to worry... just take your time, as long as you need.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tujuh petala langit

In the Holy Al-Quran, there are a number of verses which mention the numerical value of heaven. The heaven referred to here is the sky (the Malay translation `langit') as opposed to paradise (`syurga'). It could well be seven separate and distinct heavens or seven layers of the same heaven. No definitive answer on that yet.

In Surah Nooh (71st surah), the 15th verse is translated as such : "Do you not consider how Allah has created seven heavens in layers."

Some Islamic writers have connected this concept of 7 heavens to the scientific findings that the Earth's atmosphere is made up of seven layers, thereby using recent fact to reinforce the miracle of the Quran that was revealed 1,400 years ago.I believe this is over-simplifying it somewhat. If we are to read other verses referring to this particular subject, it is quite clear that the heavens refer to a larger universe rather than just the atmosphere encircling our planet.

"And He completed them as seven heavens within two days and inspired in each heaven its command. And We adorned the nearest heaven with lamps (stars) and as protection. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing." (Surah Fussilat 41:12).

I do not think the present scholars and researchers have fully established what the 7 heavens mentioned in those verses actually refer to. It remains as one of the many hidden secrets contained within the Holy Book for future generations to discover. Indeed, Allah swt is All-Knowing.

Before I delve further on the title of this horrendously long overdue post, I must make a quick mention of the effort being spearheaded by veteran blogger Kak Teh aka Zaharah Othman and her friend Ailin Abdullah, to get dormant blogs (such as this one) to be revived and rejuvenated as in the days before Facebook and Twitter came into being. Quite a number of blogger-friends are being encouraged to get out of their slumber and simultaneously publish a new post on 6 May 2015. I am cheating a bit by putting up this one before the target date because I need to do it in this month of April (somewhat like submitting our income tax returns by the deadline). But fear not... I promise to join the spirit of mass blogger revival by writing another post for that particular day.

Ok then... April 2015 marks the 7th year of cyberspace existence for Just Observations...

My first post was made on 8 April 2008. In April of every year since then, I would write something to mark the occasion. Except for last year, that is. When my blogging mindset was entirely somewhere else.

Thank you to all readers and friends for the delightful company over the years. With this new impulse, I hope to rekindle the warm friendship with you all again.God-willing.

Early morning sun at Teluk Iskandar in Mersing, Johor

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Which day is your weekend?

Yes, it has been too long since the last post. Indeed, the thought of ceasing to blog has crossed my mind... sometimes other stuff take too much of your time; at other times the interest just isn't there. But then, you inadvertently come across some pearls of wisdom from other writers which makes you realise that more often than not, you are only making things hard for yourself.

`Only he who gives up is defeated. Everyone else is victorious.'

Which made me think that it is time to get off my butt and start writing again. It is now already 2014... and that means I'm almost entering the 7th year of this blogging experience.

To start off this new year, I'll touch on a subject that can be a sensitive issue to some.

Today is the first Sunday of 2014 AD. For civil servants in the state of Johor, that means it is a working day. The state government has switched the weekend back to Friday, which was what it originally used to be back in 1994 and earlier. This change of weekend also applies to schools.

The other states in Malaysia that already have Friday as its weekend are Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu. To understand why these states have a different weekend to that of other states and also the federal government, we have to go back in history... which I do not wish to delve into here. Just that is has something to do with the status of Unfederated Malays States during the time of British colonial rule.

Anyway, what many people outside of Johor fail to realise is that the weekend implementation system here is not exactly the same as that practiced in the other three states. It is this slight difference which makes it a problem for many local residents. Allow me to elaborate...

In Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu, the Friday off-day applies across the board, i.e. to both public and private sectors. In other words, generally everybody has a rest day on Friday, whether you are a government servant, a student or a bank officer. In Johor, there exists this peculiarity of the Friday off-day being applicable only to the civil service and government schools. The banks, lawyers, private doctors and nearly all other private sector services still have their weekend on a Sunday. This was the case even during the pre-1994 era. And therein lies the double-edged sword; if you work in the private sector, you are able to carry out any government related matters on a Sunday, thereby saving you the need to take a day off from work. Similarly, if you are a civil servant, you can take advantage of the Friday to go to the bank or send your car for servicing at the workshop.

But here's the cruncher... let's say you work with the government while your spouse works in the private sector. Or perhaps this more common scenario of you working in the private sector but still have school-going children? There goes your common weekend. Bummer...

The Johor Menteri Besar's office in Nusajaya

Monday, August 26, 2013

Terengganu kita...

I really do have to apologise to some of my regular readers for not keeping to my word. In the previous post, I had promised to write in greater detail about my trip to Jordan. However, hectic time at work plus a number of days out due to ill-health caused this blog to be stagnant for nearly two months.

I will make good on that promise, God willing... but in the mean time, here's another short post while on the road. We are in Kuala Terengganu at the moment, the main intention being to source for that beautifully woven classic textile known as the `songket samping', used by Malay men as part of the complete attire of the traditional `baju Melayu'.

My present piece of samping is more than 15 years old. Nothing wrong with it; it still looks good. Not surprising, of course, since I only wear it maybe once a year, during Hari Raya Aidilfitri. I am one of those guys who tries his best to avoid attending formal functions.

This time though, I thought that a new piece of the hand-woven fabric is about due to be added to my wardrobe... because a special occasion is coming up soon. But is it really necessary for me to drive all the way up to Terengganu just to buy the cloth? Of course not. I could have purchased songket in Johor Bahru or Kuala Lumpur, albeit at slightly higher prices. On pure economic terms, it is more costly for me to travel to the east-coast for this objective alone but having worked and lived in this state before, any small reason is good enough for me to find the time to come here.

Indeed, with this multiple objective in mind, after completing the shopping I set about to look for a person and fellow blogger whom I have admired and respected for some time through the reading of his blog entries. Pakcik Hassan of the Al-Manar blog, is a personality who I have previously only interacted with in blogosphere. He comments regularly in this blog of mine and I visit his blog quite often too, although I must admit I do not comment as much... and this is simply because I am almost always in awe of what he wrote and can't seem to think of anything better to add. Drop by his blog at the link highlighted above (or on the blogroll on the left) and you'll probably understand what I mean.

I did not announce to Pakcik Hassan that I was coming. I do not exactly know where his house is located. I do not have his telephone number. I wasn't even sure he would be at home. In my typical style of just trying my luck, I set forth.

Based on his blog postings, I remember the mention of an orphanage located not far from where he lives. I also remember him writing about his house by the sea. Googling the name of the orphanage gave me the location of Batu Rakit, somewhere north of KT town. Another search on Google maps showed me a kampung road running parallel to the coast. That must be it, I thought.

Batu Rakit is located about 20km from Kuala Terengganu but in the heavy after-office traffic, it took me more than 30 minutes to reach. I discovered the orphanage easily enough and after doubling back on the same road, I came upon a house that looks most likely to be that belonging to a distinguished gentleman.

It was very quiet on the outside. I rang the doorbell on the left pillar of the sliding gate. After a few minutes, the front door opens and a senior citizen steps out. I give my salam, `Assalamualaikum Pakcik!' which the old man promptly reply.

By the will of Allah, two strangers who crossed paths in the virtual world have now met in real life. Pakcik graciously invited me and my family into his house and what transpired afterwards was an enlightening conversation with a very kind man that I'll treasure for a long time.

To Pakcik Hassan, again I wish to apologise for dropping by on you unannounced. Thank you so much for indulging us. May the Almighty grant us the time to meet again some time...

The primary objective of the trip to Terengganu
The secondary objective also successful. Pakcik Hassan and me.