Kampong Trippin’ (Final part in Malaysia’s East Coast Series)

I did not want to take that wiggling bridge again we took entering the docks I wrote about in Pt 3 of this series. In little boy’s excitement I did cross it once and that was more than enough!

Still blown away of the ‘National Geographic’ walk we saw the main entrance and walked out, casually, as if it is the most normal thing to do – leaving a fish auction as a white man living in Malaysia with his wife. I’m not sure when the last time was a woman set foot on those docks! I just smiled and waved at occasionally surprised faces.

It wouldn’t take long before it was dark so we slowly headed back to the car. Whilst walking around the complex to come to the road we saw the neighborhood again we passed when we walked to the docks. Somehow it felt ‘American’; luxurious beach houses with a Mercedes  in front of the door while 3 houses down the road a little neglected house was standing. Both houses made sense and complemented each other.

At some point we passed an open field. There were some neglected looking houses in the background. Typical houses on poles, so if the water was high during the monsoon all would still be dry inside. The paint was hardened by the tough sun, it was cracking and the colors were fading away. There weren’t any fences, ‘beach sand’ all the way till the entrances of the houses and there were some random coconut trees and other bushes that could grow there. Somehow it looked idyllic, but I also knew that life would be hard and that people lived on bare minimum.

There was a path leading to those houses and we saw some kids playing with a bigger kid who was looking out for the other 4. At least, from a distance she looked like a big kid, someone in her teen years, fragile, slim, and looking bored between classes or not allowed to see friends to have fun. When we started talking to them, she was, in fact, the mother of the youngest twin and already way past 20 years old… ups!

I was sincerely happy to actually talk to people. As in I’m the one talking as she spoke English very well! Usually people speak Malay. Either they don’t speak English good enough to be confident talking to me directly or no English at all and then Hadie is translating. Lucky me! Not this time!

The conversation was brief as it became quite personal quite fast without a proper introduction. I learned that she wasn’t from around here but that she moved in with her husband after marriage (yes, in Malaysia among the Malays that still widely happens, first marry then move in with each other) to take care of her children. Her husband works in the tourist industry and is away from home for a long time. Before she moved in here she did have a job and a career. I think I was right in the observation that she was bored.

She only gave one story out from the many homes, in the many kampongs spread over the east coast. I so was burning to see more! Where do these people live, how different is it from the west coast where we live, how do the houses look like more, where do they work, can they live their lives in a good health or are they surviving on nothing at all?

The next day we took our car out for a drive, from our hotel to Kuala Terrenganu (which is the city as the state also is called Terrenganu) which is 100km down south. We didn’t go over main roads though, we went through the kampongs instead, to see the houses, looking and observing trying to connect the dots.

The weather was magnificent, it was warm, dry, blue skies with some scattered clouds from time to time high in the sky. Here on the west coast are those big highways and toll-roads, but, not there. There the roads are narrower and when you go into the kampongs it’s basically single lane only.

Randomly we turned left and right and stopped regularly with the windows open. We listened to the sounds of the nearby ocean, to the breeze, to the birds and other animals. We were driving through a movie set, entered another Bubble a different world, an east cost village world. Life seems to be at a slow pace, no movement, no people talking, no unexpected sounds except a rooster chasing its chicks from time to time. Where are the actors and cameras and action? None of that. Just this quietness and peace.

Just like the kampong of that mother we talked to, also here there were no fences around the houses. No clear line where one property started and where the other ended, with the same sandy soil all the way to the front door.

All looked so peaceful, at rest, dormant, also a little bit sad maybe. Where are all the people? Are the men on sea and the women cleaning fish? Where are the children and the elders?

In fact, some places were abandoned. No people at all, nature taking over, bushes ‘eating’ the houses and some houses looked they were burned… That was sad to see..

But generally, I was so happy driving from kampong to kampong, I was so happy to see this kind of life, how people also can live. A snapshot in time, seemingly a different time than 2018, a picture, a painting, an experience.

Coming closer to the city these kind of kampongs stopped. Now there were food stalls near the road, little restaurants that only open at meal times, there were single stall markets trying to sell squid caught that same morning. There was a little girl waving a squid around in the air trying to attract people buying there.

We stopped the car a few times more and in our good mood we sat on some random beach swings making selfies (OMG the sun is so sharp!). So carelessly, so free, no stress, no obligations, totally free flow driving, looking around and simply enjoying this simple day. What more do you want?

We walked over some random beaches, through some small kampung harbors, seeing these smaller fishing boats from up close. Simple wooden boats with an engine hanging on the back. Just like the bigger fishing boats, these too were painted in the nicest colors!

On the back ground some men were observing us, smoking a cigarette, expecting us to go dive in the ocean. Sorry guys, not this time! That was yesterday, not again! And we moved on again to enter the city.

Do you know that feeling when you are excited about something and that your excitement is fulfilled? That kind of satisfaction? That kind of peace? That kind of relaxation? Even though it is sitting in a car, driving from one village to the other just seeing houses, homes and imagining life?

That satisfaction we felt when we arrived in Terrenganu. There we went to the ‘Floating Mosque’ and in all peace and quietness we were amazed by that building. Its architecture, its allure, authority, beauty, and especially its location.

That was the last stop and in the afternoon we drove back to the hotel again to go home the next day. We have had a good road trip, we have seen a very different life and different people. We saw different buildings, experienced a different atmosphere, ate different food (too sweet lah), and we also discovered something.

We found out that no matter how good this trip has been, neither of us were attracted to it. Neither of us had the impression we could live there. I cannot really explain why, there wasn’t that ‘click’ that is needed to feel at home as we both feel here at the west coast.

Satisfied we drove back, drove over the mountains again and at the other side of the jungle we crossed the state border with Perak, then Kedah, we looked at each other and said: “yes, we are home again”.

Hereby I conclude the final chapter and series how we experienced Malaysian’s East Coast! I hope you enjoyed the other parts as well and keep on following me for more and different stories!



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