Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Down the Sepat Highway - Part 2

Returning to Kuantan along the Sepat Highway, I decided to get some information about possible overnight stays.  The only two motels that I could find were 'The Saddle' and the 'Palm Suite Homestay'.

The Saddle looks to be an interesting place.  Advertising itself as a Riding Center, Lodge, Camp Site, and Kelapa (Coconut) Shake, it is situated right beside the Sepat Highway and across from the Sepat beach zone, that strip of land that has coconut palms, penaga laut trees, and Casuarina trees.

Horses at The Saddle

The Palm Suite Homestay is a little ways down a small tar road and consists of a beautiful-looking home sitting amongst a small plantation of oil palms.  Both were closed on this public (and religious) holiday, so I will have to make another trip down south to scout them out later.
Palm Suite Sign
Palm Suite Homestay
Like other areas close to Kuantan, the Sepat area has new housing developments going up seemingly in random places.  Some look abandoned, but perhaps the work is only moving along slowly and not completely stopped.
Lembu Korban and New Housing

Also, there are some interesting looking signs indicating small, home-based businesses.  Again, if this had not been a religious holiday, I might have looked in on what these businesses were doing out in the kampung.  Entrepreneurial activity is being strongly promoted amongst rural people so it is interesting to see what is working for those brave souls who have already taken the leap into self-employment.

Small business, home business, near Sepat.

Still, despite the upgrading of housing (from wood to brick), I love the old-style, wooden kampung houses.  They are beautiful and have larger compounds (halaman) in which the owners often take great care to plant flowers and raise small livestock (goats, chickens).  Lumber is quite expensive relative to brick and concrete, but I would not want to see the wooden houses gone from the countryside, these houses define what a kampung should look like.

Down the Sepat Highway : Part 1

Back in October I was invited to the wedding kenduri of a colleague's sister near the royal city of Pekan.  Since I had never been down that stretch of highway before, I decided to take the leisurely route, passing through small Malay kampung along the way as opposed to the highway.  Unfortunately, that day did not go well.  I did get to the kenduri, but the camera battery died, my motorcycle quit three times due to failing carburetor diaphragms, and finally, I ran out of petrol.  Still, I liked what I saw for scenery, and decided it was worth another trip, but this time with no time constraint (no kenduri), full tank of petrol, and a fully-charged camera battery.

Down the Sepat Highway
I chose to go on a rare mid-week vacation day, Hari Raya Korban (aka Hari Raya Haji and Hari Raya Aidl-adha).  No, vacation days are NOT rare in Malaysia (that topic for another time), but having one on a day other than Friday or Monday is rare.  Most families are busy at home preparing for the korban in the morning on this day, thus, traffic was light, except for the usual traffic.

Traffic Along Sepat Highway
The first kampung along the Sepat Highway is Kampung Sungai Soi, where several of my college colleagues live.  Kg. Sg. Soi is home to the Royal Pahang Tenun factory.  Tenun is a special loom-woven textile that integrates gold and silver thread with multi-colored cotton threads.  (Topic for another post.)

Royal Pahang Textile Factory
The distance between Kuantan and Pekan along the Sepat Highway is 51 kilometers.  Kilometer markers, therefore, show both the distance to Pekan (going in that direction) and the distance to Kuantan (on the back side, in the opposite direction).  Thus, once one gets to around Km38-Pekan (Km13-Kuantan), the road swings up next to the beach and parallels the beautiful Pantai Sepat (Sepat Beach) for several kilometres.
Sepat Beach Looking North
Of course, once you are there, at the beach, you have to share with the local "beach bums".

Local Beach Bums
And other, normal folks, were having their breakfast under the majestic penaga laut trees. (See:

Breakfast Time

Penaga Laut
Continuing beyond Kampung Sepat, I came to a fork in the road at Kampung Kuala Penor.  I took the left branch, towards the beach, and continued to the mouth (kuala) of the Penor River, where it meets the ocean.  Just upstream of the mouth was a prawn farm with a sign that indicated I was not to enter.

Do Not Enter - You Will Be Shot

So, instead of getting shot, I looked at monsoon clouds out over the South China Sea instead.  This is a beautiful time of the year for me, a cloud person.

Monsoon Clouds Over South China Sea
Backtracking, I met a man who invited me to the korban (sacrifice) of a lembu.  He had seen me photographing another cow and invited me to the house of a friend.
Berkorban Lembu pd Hari Raya Haji

Children Watching the Day's Entertainment
His friend, named Mat Isa, invited me to stay for tea and cake despite my being an uninvited stranger.  The Malays are one of the most polite and hospitable peoples that I have ever known, and they have time and again proven that hospitality.  We chatted a while over the tea and blueberry cake prepared by his wife and then I took my leave since family members were arriving for their Hari Raya Korban day together.

To Be Continued...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Photo of the Week: Reflection in Spoon

At the birthday party mentioned in the previous post, someone brought in a container of delicious chicken curry. They had a large spoon for serving and with my photo of the curry and spoon, fortuitously caught the birthday lady in its reflection.
Birthday Lady Reflects on Chicken Curry!

Office Birthday Parties

In a college the size of mine, nearly everyday someone has a birthday.  But not all birthdays engender a party.  Parties are basically left up to the boss or the colleagues, and really, few people have birthday parties planned for them. For example, whenever it is my birthday, I usually bring cake in to share around with the colleagues sitting close to me (rather than expecting them to plan a party for me).
February 2009 Birthday Bash (Teak is on the left, out of sight!)
After a while, we discovered that within 20 feet of my cubicle were several people with February (or near-February) birthdays!  Thus began an annual tradition of us all co-hosting The February Birthday Bash (TFBB).  Basically, each brings in food or drink to share.  In the first photo you can see the spread from the year 2009, with chocolate cake, donuts, chicken nuggets and grapes (someone ALWAYS has to bring something healthy, eh?).  I take a photo each year, which we can send to former members of TFBB who have moved on to other locations.  We also found, that by including a colleague with a birthday in March (we call it 32 February) and one from January (-15 February), we get a larger crowd and greater food on offer.
Birthday lady and boss

The parties in my section are inevitably held in the office of a particular colleague, who is extremely generous and friendly.  This month she hosted a party for her young assistant, also of pleasant personality, and a good amount of food was served up with friendly conversation.
Bringing the food
As a foreign observer, and participant, in this office culture, I am both blessed and heavier as a result of this Malay hospitality!