City life may have its positive attributes, but once in a while, we all need a break to reinvigorate ourselves.
When we feel weary of the hustle and bustle of city life, we need a respite. So take a short holiday whenever the opportunity arises.
My friends and I headed for a small multiracial village, Kampung Sungai Serai in Kuang, Selangor, a 40-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur.
A two-day sojourn in this hamlet provided a refreshing hiatus for us. We stayed in a cosy homestay run by Nordin, a Mara retiree, and his family. It cost us RM100 per day for a room – definitely value for money.
Steeped in the past, the architecture of Bala’s house is typical of those of most kampong houses in the 1960s – a rarity these days.
A fine-looking garden, planted with a variety of flowering plants and vegetables, encircles Bala’s house.
In awe, I gazed at the flora in the garden, as I always marvel at any house flanked by greenery. This passion stems from my concern about the environment and climate change, as any form of foliage soaks up carbon dioxide.
Nestled amid the highways, this rural community maintains the norms of a modern-day kampong. Most of the houses are similar to those found in urban areas, except for a few like the one owned by my friend Bala.
After spending some time in Bala’s house, we headed for Bestari Jaya (formerly Batang Berjuntai). Along the way, we spotted monkeys on both sides of the road. They looked as if they were suffering from a loss of their natural habitat as development has encroached on their domain.
During my days in Rawang (1986-91), I frequently travelled to Batang Berjuntai, but the entire stretch has now undergone massive development. Most of the old familiar landmarks are no longer around – a sad facet of our model of development, which has taken its toll on our historical landscape.
We drove up to Ijok, about eight kilometres from Bestari Jaya, for lunch. Little has changed in Ijok, which is a basically a village. But the Chinese cuisine here is mouth-watering and much cheaper than in KL. A five-course lunch for the five of us cost only RM125. A similar meal in KL would have cost over RM200!
On the road again after lunch, we headed to Kundang, which borders Kuang. Mining companies opened up the area in the early 20th Century, and the largest mining operator in town was the British-owned Kundang Tin company. Many Chinese settlers arrived in Kundang and its vicinity because of its tin mining activity.
Mining and agriculture were once the mainstay of Kundang’s economy, but with the collapse of the tin industry in the 1980s, the town’s importance declined.
Since then, Kundang has remained relatively quiet, as it lacks attractions to draw tourists. The most famous landmark here is Tasik Biru Seri Kundang, a discarded mining pool and remnant of its once prominent past.
Still, Kundang’s landscape has been transformed with property firms starting projects. Many retail businesses and a few industrial projects are now located here. Like Rawang, Kundang and its vicinity have changed beyond recognition – a far cry from when I used to frequent this place.
Early the next morning, my friends and I strolled along Kampung Sungai Serai, but after a kilometre, the weather grew unkind to us, as a drizzle cut short our morning exercise.
But all was not lost: we took refuge at a small Malay snack shop, where we had a light breakfast. Again, what a bargain – three glasses of tea, one packet of nasi lemak and a few kueh cost just RM7!
Returning to our homestay, we refreshed ourselves and were invited to Bala’s house for another tasty breakfast: palappam and coconut milk – a morning favourite among Indians. Bala’s wife Parvathy, known for her culinary skills, also prepared a Kerala-style chicken curry.
After breakfast, we visited a small carpentry workshop down the road run by Bala’s friend Azlan. Customers from as far as KL come here seeking the variety of services Azlan offers, as they are much cheaper than in the city. Our visit to Azlan’s factory concluded our short but memorable visit to the suburbs of KL.
Located on the fringes of KL, the vicinity of Kampung Sungai Serai has not been spared the onslaught of development: we noticed several construction projects taking place in the locality.
With the rapid pace of ‘progress’ everywhere, many aesthetic rural areas in Malaysia may one day vanish or see their topography marred. It would be sad if the younger generation are unable to take a walk down memory lane.
For those of my generation, visiting such a village filled us with nostalgia. Not only were we fortunate to see such wooden kampong houses again, we were also able to experience life in harmony with nature.
So we must count our blessings that we can still relish these little splendours of life that evoke fond memories of our childhood days.