Saturday, February 28, 2009

KUALA LIPIS: MY HOMETOWN


I love Kuala Lipis because it’s my hometown. This is where I grew up and full of many, many past and unforgettable sweet memories of my childhood and schooling days.

My late father’s shop was ‘Bakauwali Tailor’ (百嘉洋服), a very unique name suggested to him by his Malay and Indian friends. Loh Sow Hiang was a professional cutter and employed 6 -8 tailors in his shop. In 1986, he surrendered back the shop to the owner and together with my late mother, moved to Kuala Lumpur and stayed with my younger brother, Kong Fatt and family. At the time, I had settled my family in Segamat, Johor, since I was then working in Mekassar Estate in Keratong, Pahang. The shop was located on Main Street, No. 63, and since then it had been converted to ‘Low Kuan Restaurant’ operated by Peter Kuan, the son-in-law of the shop owner.

We used to refer Kuala Lipis as small K.L. and as time went by, many Lipisians had settled down in Kuala Lumpur, the big K.L. In our younger days, when we took a bus to Kuala Lumpur, the journey took more than three hours as the road from Raub to the Gap was very winding all the way up and then from the Gap winding all the way down to Kuala Kubu Bahru. I remember my late mother used to ask when she looked over the bus window,” How come there is a road down the hill slope?” The journey continued from there passing through Rawang town before reaching Kuala Lumpur. When my wife travelled the long winding journey for the first time, she vomited several times. Later on, we preferred to travel to K.L. via Bentong way after we owned a car. The journey was less winding than the Gap route.

Many of my friends in Segamat have never heard of hometown. When I told them I came from Kuala Lipis, they always mistook it as Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sembilan. Then I told them to look it up in the map, “Kuala Lipis is actually located right at the center in Peninsular Malaysia”. If you don’t believe me, please make a trip to Kuala Lipis and you will find the “0” milestone near the Post Office.

I also told them that “Kuala Lipis has the biggest ‘Round About’ in the country”. I and my old buddies, especially Tan Jing Ming, a retired headmaster still residing in Kuala Lipis, used to walk around from Main Street(大街 )to Jelai Street(下街)and back to Main Street in circles mainly in the evenings on weekend and we ended up at ‘Charlie’s stall’ along the Cross Street (横街) for drinks.

Kuala Lipis, situated at the confluence of two rivers, namely Lipis River and Jelai River, was the former capital of Pahang for 57 years from 1898 until 27th August 1955, when Kuantan was picked as the new capital. The visitors can still find some grand colonial buildings, such as the imposing District Offices and the Clifford School, the Pahang Club and the British Residency house on top of a hill, now the Kuala Lipis Rest House.

As young boys, we used to take bath in Jelai River, where we learned how to swim the river-type freestyle swimming by turning our heads left and right above the water. Along the river bank of Jelai River, there were many floating houses built on bamboo raft or “rumah rakit”, once the famous landmark of Kuala Lipis. I was told that these “rakit” houses along the river bank had been washed away during the great flood in 2000 and since then had been relocated quite a distance downstream.

In 1953 I started my primary education in Chung Hwa Chinese School (立卑中华小学) located in Batu Kurap, and in June 1955 we moved to the new school building on a hill top when I was in Standard Four. Those days I used to walk more than a mile to school and carried along the text books, exercise books, pencils and ruler etc in a rattan busket as ‘school bag’. Of course, I did not walk alone. Liew Chow Kong who stayed at next door was my usual walking partner. At times we would pop into a bus for a ride so that we would not be late to school. Nonetheless, we would rather save the money, about 10 cents per trip, for a bowl of ‘Ah Chong Ko Men’ (阿章哥麵), the Hakka Mee.

When I joined the Romoved Class in Clifford Secondary School in 1959, my father bought me a bicycle and from then onwards I cycled to school together with other schoolmates. At that time, my English was not good, so was my Malay. My dad had to send me for tuition classes to catch up. My Malay tuitor was Encik Solong, the captain of ‘Balai Bomba’, and he treated me as one of his children. He even taught me how to read some basic Jawi. I completed my Senior Cambridge (Form 5) in 1964. In those days, students of all races (Malays, Chinese and Indians) mixed well in classes and played well in extra curriculum activities. I still kept a photo taken in the studio with my classmates, Nazri Yahya and Muthusamy. I remember Nazri became a teacher and Muthusamy worked in Police Station. Unfortunately, we had lost contact with each other.

When we were young kids, going to old ‘Paradise Theater” to watch cinema movies was a big event for us. It was initially located in Jelai Street and later it was shifted to its new building just outside the town before crossing the railway line, opposite the old ‘Home Guard House’.

Unlike the kids today playing computer games, our childhood games were playing marbles, throwing a tennis ball to knock down a standing brick from a distance, jumping on blocks drawn on cement floor, catching ‘fighting’ spiders usually kept inside a match box, catching ‘fighting’ fishes in small streams, catching grasshoppers to feed the black and white bird known as ‘Oriental magpie Robin’ kept in cage, so on and so forth.

The last trip I went back to my hometown was in 2003 when I was visiting plantations in Sri Jaya. Taking the opportunity, I left early on a Sunday morning with two estate managers, Khoo Wan Hoo and Tan Guang Hui, taking a short cut route to Jerantut from the back exit of the plantation. Then we took the new road to Kuala Lipis via Mela. Once in the town, I met up and shaked hand with so many old faces including old friends of my late father. After all, Kuala Lipis was a small town and somehow everybody knew each other though might not be well acquainted. On the way back we followed Ng Swee Pen to his plantation, Budu Estate, and later we had durians in Benta before we returned to Sri Jaya via Jerantut.

Perhaps I will be able to write more tales of Kuala Lipis when I make a trip back in near future.

Click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6MW_C9ldis & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id_95xprGIk & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAYBHzj3hnE to watch and listen to Paul Anka singing 'MY HOMETOWN' in YouTube.

19 comments:

jmtan2007.blogspot.com said...

At long last, you wrote something of your beloved hometown Kuala Lipis. Thanks for the nostalgic journey down memory lane.

Small KL as K.Lipis was fondly referred to by us youngsters during the good old days when life was simple, the atmosphere was clean and the people friendly. We would always walk around the big roundabout, i.e. the town, during the nights and talked about everything from gals to sports to politics. And then ended up in Ah Kow's stall for drinks of iced milk and chow kuey teow along Cross Street. Those days, we didn't have TVs or VCDs, we only have radios for home entertainment. That's why our past time was to walk around the town and talk till midnight. Not only we youngsters walked, but the older folks also did the same. It's a trend those days among the town dwellers bc there's nothing else to do.

Nowadays, with TV, DVD and Astro, people do not walk around the town anymore. They prefer to be couch potatoes in front of the idiot box enjoying TV dramas and live telecasts. The town look deserted after 9pm.

The days of the Paradise Cinema is long gone. In its place is a row of new shophouses. So is the children's playground where we used to go in the evening to play or watch basketball matches. In its place is the Lipis Centrepoint Complex.

Now the opposite bank of Jelai River is connected by a new concrete bridge to the new town and housing estate. The new market and bus station are also sited there. There are also a Mara Junior Sains College and a Teachers Training Institute in Lipis.

If one is to go around Lipis and snap photos, Lipis looks very scenic and picturesque, but actually it's a very boring place with not many interesting places to see or do. I spend most of my time at home watching Astro and DVDs after some housework. What else can one do in small KL?

Anonymous said...

Are there any good walks close to the town in Kuala Lipis - I am visiting in June (from New Zealand) staying just 24 hours so not enough time to go to Kenong Rimba Park. Also, what about hotels - I've emailled Centrepoint but got no reply.

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Anonymous said...

hello my old friend Kong Peng. Iam Swee Kee. My niece told me about yr blog. I am now in Lipis.You should make another trip to up date our small KL. Quite a lot of changes. Shall keep in touch with you via email later. Take care

KP LOH said...

Swee Kee, I am so glad that you'd visited my blog and we are able to get connected again. Have a good stay in Kuala Lipis. Jing Ming has invited me to make a trip to my hometown again and I hope to do so in near future. Perhaps we can make an appointment to meet up in Kuala Lipis together with our old friends such as Ong Kong Soon, Ong Pang Huat, Wong Futt Wee and Michael Loh, Liew Chow Kong, Lee Kiew Poh, etc. My email address: maxloh2005@gmail.com and my HP no: 013 7537580

Anonymous said...

Hi Max Loh. I studied in Clifford High School till Form 4 before leaving for my Form 5 to KL.

I am looking for my classmates of 1967 - Peter Kuan, Rosie Ong's younger sister (I think her name was Irene), Adnan (he was the class monitor) & Zaleha. Do you have any idea where these people now?

Thanks a lot. I will come back to your blog soon.

Maxloh said...

I think Peter Kuan is still in Kuala Lipis, looking after his shop "Lo Kuan Restaurant" at 63, Main Street. That was previously my late father's tailor shop known as "Bakauwali Tailor".

As for Irene One, her husband was a Felda planter from Bentong.

As for Adnan and Zaleha, I have no idea where they are are. Perhaps my old friend, Tan Jing Ming, can help you. He retired in Kuala Lipis, one year my senior, and elder brother of late JP Tan. His youngest brother, Tan Jing Seng, took over their late father's shop, "Overseas Bookstore". Check the Telephone Book and give him a call and may be you can find out from him.

You could be same class or one year senior to my brother, Loh Kong Fatt. Do you know him? He is now staying in Damansara Jaya.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maxloh,

Thank you so much for your prompt reply.

This is my email Max. I now live abroad. (roses2804@hotmail.com)

Do you also know the Ah Meng brothers (there were 3 of them - Ah Wan was my classmate).

More on hearing from you at my email.

anliong said...

good to see k.l. after about 20 years.good on you max.i am very much jing yong and jing ling year.jing meng please hi to them if you read this short note.hey max,how is one of your dad's employee who used to go to mela every sunday?may visit small k.l. sometime in the near future.regards.a.n.liong

Maxloh said...

Hi Leong. Thanks for ur comment. That's my 2nd cousin brother who used to go the Mela. He has retired long ago and now stays in KL. My eldest cousin brother who later operated a tailor shop in Jerantut had passed away many years ago. He used to go to Budu.

Francis said...

Nice write-up. I am from Mentakab. Maybe one day I will start to write something about my hometown.

sherry said...

Hi Max, I will be going Tmn Negara mid of May and on the way back to K.L. would like to drop by Kuala Lipis for lunch, eating famous river fish and perhaps some nice local kopi. Could you please recommend restaurants or places that serve delicious food and famous kopi.

apamahubuat said...

I stumbled upon this site and wish to say I also have fond memeories of Kuala Lipis. I finished my Form 5 at Clifford School in 1961. The headmaster then was Mr Nayagam and my English teacher was Mrs Santa Singh who came from England.Anyone recalls this period?

Maxloh said...

I was in Form 2 in 1961. Yes. Mr. Nayagam was our Headmaster then. Mrs. Santa Singh was our English teacher too. Mr. Santa Singh taught us English when I joined Remove Class in 1959.

apamahubuat said...

My dad was the State surveyor and he used to go to your dad's shop to tailor his pants because they use to converse in Hakka.Do you recall some of my contemporaries. The head boy was Mohd Che Nor. Cheam Tat Ong was from the Cheam See Loo business. Han Liang Fong's family used to manage the Rest House. I continued to Form 6 in VI. Havent been back to Lipis since 1961. I now live in Melbourne. Have been here for 35 years. I hope some of my class mates read this blog and contact me.

Maxloh said...

Wow! 35 years in Melbourne. I do hope some of your classmates will contact you after reading this blog. By the way, can you let us know your real name. I wonder whether ypu know Alex Chin Cheng Kow? He is also our senior and stay in Kajang now.

apamahubuat said...

Hi, Max, My name is Yoong Meow Shin
Dont recall Alex Chin. Although Lipis was a small town, I liked it as I had good times with my classmates from Clifford School.

MNeeNg said...

Thanks, Max for introducing me to your blog. It is a very good and comprehensive write-out of our our beloved hometown.

With JM's nostalgic walk down the memory lane, it brings back so many fond momeries of our carefree childhood days in Lipis.

In my Primary school days, I remember my cousins and friends (all town dwellers) used to swim in the Jelai River and play hide-and-seek with friends who stayed in the "rakit" house. We will jumped from rakit to rakit passing thru' house owners's kitchen , hall, even rooms but the friendly folks of the house would just gave us encouraing smiles. We were all girls but behaved like tomboys....

Talking about Lipis Centre Point. Do you all remeber - those days we had a basket ball court there and every 7th month of the Chinese Lunar Calender, there will Cantonese OR Hokkien Opera Shows held there. I was an avid fun of these traditional shows. My friends and I would carry our own chairs to get the best seating location to watch the show long before it started.

apamahubuat said...

Hi, Max

apamahubuat's name is Yoong Meow Shin
I think Alex Chin was one year my jnr