Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The adventurous second honeymoon

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Surah 114
An-Nas, the second of the two cries for refuge and protection, takes its name from a recurring word which marks the rhythm in the Arabic. In this case protection is sought especially from the evil in a man's own heart in the hearts of other men.
An early Meccan revelation

Revealed at Mecca

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
1. Say; I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,
2. The King of mankind,
3. The God of mankind,
4. From the evil of the sneaking whisperer,
5. Who whispereth in the hearts of mankind,
6. Of the jinn of mankind. (The Meaning of the GLORIOUS QUR'AN, The Final Revelation, An Explanaory Translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall)

MY eldest child is 22 years old while the youngest of the five siblings is 9 years old. I thought the children could cope with life independently for a few days; the older ones could look after their younger brothers and sister; so during the recent school holidays (12-20th March), my wife and I made an 'adventurous journey' - the two of us jumped into our old faithful, a 1998 Iswara sedan to fulfill a long time wish to travel around the country; mind you only the two of us!

After buying and stocking food in the fridge for the children's needs, on that fateful morning of 14th March we were on the North South expressway traveling from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur. In the city we headed for KL Sentral. I thought how nice it would be if we could catch the 'romantic express' train to Hatyai, Thailand. Imagine the two of us, laying lazily in the comfort of the cabin, looking through the windows at beautiful landscapes and sceneries as the train passes the countryside. Alas, at the KTMB counter, the girl in charge said express train to Hatyai operates only on Saturday. Since that day was Monday, Plan A had to be cancelled.

We moved on to Plan B; I thought perhaps its nice to have a holiday in Kuching. We went to MAS office on the ground floor of the KL Sentral building. Since our holiday was not planed, gate crashing for the ticket proved that it was not worth it. The return ticket was RM908 per person. The air fares and accommodation bills could easily amount to a few thousands of ringgit. It was not worth while for a short holiday, so we abandoned the idea.

We needed time to think about our journey but by that time it was already evening. I remembered a recently opened new budget hotel in front of my office in Pekeliling Business Centre, named Hotel Ibiz. Why not try a night there? We were fortunate to have a room for RM63 as all other rooms were fully booked, claimed the girl at the receptionist counter.

The next morning we jumped again into our old faithful. "To the north or east?" asked my wife. "To the east coast," I replied, "The road there is toll free." Actually the journey was not 100 percent toll free, we had to pay some ringgits at the Gombak-Bentong stretch of highway. We exited at Bentong interchange and were on our way to Kota Bharu by using the federal route passing towns such as Bentong, Raub, Kuala Lipis, Gua Musang and Kuala Krai.

After leaving Bentong, when we passed a roadside sign which read Kota Bharu 340 km, I was nervous and scared, could this old car stand the long and arduous journey and what about the trip back? But like a ‘true gentleman’ I did not show my nervousness to my wife; I put on a calm face.

We stopped at Kuala Lipis town to say our prayers and after a quick lunch, were back on the Merapoh-Gua Musang road. I noticed the Bentong-Raub-Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang federal road, especially after Merapoh had small potholes here and there. Some potholes were big enough to pose danger to motorists especially when they were hard to be recognized when they were full of water during rainy days.

Perhaps the road would be in good shape if there is a by-election as the authorities concerned would push all their resources in the said area. The ride on the federal road between Gua Musang and Kuala Krai too was not smooth as there were potholes. Perhaps this hinterland road from Kuala Lipis to Kuala Krai was exposed to wear and tear because it was frequented by timber lorries.

We reached Gua Musang at about 5.00pm and in town, we stopped for a while at its famous immortal train station which is situated near a limestone hill which had a cave entrance facing the station.

This station reminded me one of my close friend’s late father who had worked here until he retired in the 1990s. Imagine his father’s great sacrifice; working and living here alone while his whole family members resided in Melaka. I was close to this honourable man who had passed away several months ago.

Gua Musang also reminded me about a famous Malay film, ‘Pontianak Gua Musang’. I had seen the black and white film several times on TV. Gua Musang is located about 300 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, just north of the Kelantan-Pahang border. It lies some 180 kilometers south of Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan, making it the southernmost town, cum the southern gateway, of the state.

In the Gua Musang train station I saw about 30 passengers waiting for the train. Many of them were elderly women; some with baskets and plastic bags full of goodies, perhaps they had done their shopping in Gua Musang town and heading back to their hometowns along the railway line such as Kampung Bertam Bharu, Kemubu and Dabong.

I was made to understand the train service in Gua Musang district is very important to the people there; it is the main form of transport to the outside world. Many people from Merapoh in Pahang up to Kuala Krai in Kelantan depended on the train as the main mode of transportation. There are several local trains’ service running between Tumpat (in Kelantan) to Gua Musang and between Tumpat and Kuala Lipis.

Some ‘kampung folks’ brought along with them vegetables including ‘petai’ and local fruits to be sold on the grounds of the Gua Musang train station.

The federal road from Gua Musang to Kuala Krai is wider compared to the Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang road. But as the previous road, this road too was not free from potholes and uneven path that could pose danger to motorists.

I have a suggestion here; why not the authorities concerned start cracking ideas to build a super highway in this interior part of the peninsular, perhaps connecting the Bentong section of the East Coat Highway to Kuala Lipis and then to Gua Musang and straight to Kuala Krai and Kota Bharu.

Please do away with politics but think about the benefit to the rakyat especially for the integration of the people from the West and East Coast!

Before reaching Kuala Krai town, it was turning dark and I too was exhausted. We looked for cheap hotel or home stay to stay for the night and we were lucky enough to spot Damai Inn which we had a double type of room for only RM50. Wow, it was really cheap; the room was clean while the facilities in good condition. After dinner, we had a good night sleep, waking up early the next day full of energy!

In the morning after saying our ‘subuh’ (dawn) prayers at Masjid Al-Ridha near a road intersection to Kota Bharu and Kuala Krai, we took the opportunity to have a warming up session in Taman Bandaran Kuala Krai which was not far away from the masjid. We parked our car at the main entrance which was in front of a small lake and then walked up a small hill to a bird park.

From there we walked and jogged on the walkway which is built around the lake. Near a school compound, a white and black spot kitten followed us. We had a good time playing with the cute kitten; it followed us everywhere we went. Playing with the animal was a kind of therapy for us.

During that treasured moments I felt relaxed, calmed and as I looked at my wife pressing and stroking her hands on the kitchen and it meowed softly, I thought what a great holiday (second honeymoon?) we had!

In that early morning, to me there seemed to be only ‘the three of us’ – my wife, I and the kitten. Mind you, only the three of us; we and a cat...Comel (Cute). But after sometime, we had a real problem. ‘Cute’ kept on following us as we were about to enter a main road. We were afraid the kitten would be run down by cars moving fast on that road. So, we had to ‘get rid’ off the kitten before we moved to the main road.

We saw a construction site and ran to it. The kitten followed. I pushed the kitten inside a gap which I knew the animal could easily jumped out to free itself. But surely it needed time to do it; so we took that spilt second opportunity to ‘free’ ourselves.

We ran as fast as we could, leaving the animal, meowing aloud. I laughed, my wife laughed too. We had a good laugh, perhaps the best laugh during our married life!

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