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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kluang: A trip down memory lane

Kluang: A trip down memory lane
by C S Wan

For two friends a day trip helps rekindle their own childhood memories

Look, over there!” My wife called out from the car’s rear seat.
I peered through the windscreen in time to catch a view of a quaint hut standing on a small plot of paddy field. Camera at the ready, I tried to capture the scene, but before I could click the shutter button of the digital camera the LCD screen had displayed a different scene.
“Oh, never mind there are more paddy fields and mangrove swamps after Muar,” I said, trying to console myself.
The morning of 20th October 2011, found four retirees on a country road on the outskirt of Melaka town. Our friends, K. L. Lim and his wife had kindly offered to take my wife and I on a day trip to Lim’s childhood home in Kluang. We decided to take the country road instead of the fast lane of the Federal highway, as we wanted to take a leisurely ride and enjoy the picturesque views along the way. The last time I had taken the country road was more than twenty years ago and I remember how the trip offered stunning vista of verdant paddy fields that stretched towards the distant horizon.
We lamented about today’s young generation who in their haste to reach their destinations often failed to appreciate the beauty of the countryside. Deep in conversation, we were surprised to find ourselves on the bridge that straddled the Muar River. Below us small fishing boats, tied to poles, lined the muddy bank. The sight brought back memory of the time I went with my uncle, Oon, to Pagoh Estate in the mid-sixties. There was no bridge then and we had to cross the river in a small rickety boat.

“That’s the shop where we used to buy our slippers,” Lim said, as we drove past a row of old shop houses. Curious eyes instinctively gravitated towards the directed spot. A shop filled with footwear appeared and disappeared before our eyes.
On the outskirt of Muar town a white building rose majestically before us, its blue roof gilded with the morning sunlight. We were informed that it was the town's new iconic building_the Sultan Ibrahim Jamek mosque.
Sultan Ibrahim Jamek mosque

A few metres down the road we were greeted by a wide expanse of shimmering water. The faint, rhythmic clicks of heels on hard pavement broke the silence of the morning air, as we strolled along the esplanade.
Strolling along the esplanade

 A slight breeze that blew in from the sea caressed our faces and ruffled our hair.

A ferry trailing white foams
Out in the open water, against a backdrop of indistinct buildings, a ferry trailing white foams skimmed the calm water as it headed towards an unknown destination.

One for the album
Yours truly with KL Lim
We could not leave without taking back a fragment of the place, so we posed against the esplanade’s railing and let  
our cameras click, to freeze us in time.
It must be nearly lunch time when we left Muar for my stomach had sounded its initial growl. As we drove along the coastal road leading to Parit Jawa, a number of cars could be seen lining the road shoulder. Lim slowed down the car and guided it onto a hard-beaten earth compound beside a wooden building. A yellow signboard with the words, ’ Restoran Chun Hui’ predominantly displayed on it stood in front of the building.
Restoran Chun Hui

'What shall we order?'
We were soon seated at a table and while others were busy placing their orders I took in the surroundings.

The wooden building with its grey palm-thatched roof and wooden benches provided rustic ambience to the place while two fish traps which adorned two wooden pillars gave it a touch of rustic charm.
Rustic ambience

The sight of the fish traps rekindled memories of my childhood days in Batu Berendam, Melaka. I remember following my friend, Kong Ngee, to a paddy field in front of his house.
Rustic charm

 Trudging ankle-deep in mud we would stop at regular intervals to plunge the traps deep into the mud and pause to check the traps whenever we heard a slight thrashing sound.
A whiff of pungent aroma close to our table snapped me out of my reverie and I glanced up to see a waitress hovering over our table bearing a bowl of asam pedas in her hand. We were soon helping ourselves to the steaming white rice topped generously with the spicy gravy and savouring the other accompanying dishes of fried sweet potato leaves and omelette . Eating the simple fare of traditional kampung cuisine in the rustic ambience not only helped whet our appetite but brought back fond memories to a kampung boy.
With the pungent taste of asam pedas still lingering in our mouth, we dragged our reluctant feet towards the waiting car. Under a sunny, slumberous mid-afternoon sky we continued our journey to Batu Pahat. Lim switched on the CD player to blow away the cobwebs from our eyes and we found ourselves humming and tapping to the rhythmic, rumba beat of ’No More’.

 My eyes scanned the fleeting landscape in search of the once familiar paddy fields and mangrove swamps. But, they were no more to be seen. All along the way, new towns had sprung up and stately houses towered above low dilapidated palm-thatched houses. Where paddy fields and mangrove swamps once stood, now only the nostalgic memories of retirees remain.
“That’s where I used to teach,” Lim said as we reached the small town of Semerah on the outskirt of Batu Pahat. Through the gaps between a line of trees a building rushed past us. A row of old shops came into view and I took a quick snapshot of a barber shop from the moving car, as it reminded me of Ah Seng's barber shop of my childhood days.

A barber shop

We arrived at Batu Pahat and Lim was soon calling attention to each approaching landmark in the town. We saw the small corner store where he used to purchase his vinyl records and books; the coffee shop where he and his friends would meet after their badminton games; the Mobil petrol kiosk; and a shop where his laundry shop used to stand.

Where the  record shop used to stand

As we cruised along the town’s wide road, I noticed many new supermarkets that were squeezed between rows of pre-war buildings.  

A pre-war building

Another view of Batu Pahat town

It was late afternoon, just in time for afternoon tea, when we drove into Kluang town and Lim headed for Kluang railway station, as he wanted us to try the original Kluang Rail coffee. 
Kluang railway station

However, we were disappointed to find the shop shuttered and padlocked.
Kluang Rail Coffee

“ We’ll have our tea at another Kluang station,” Lim said, as the car wound its way up a gradient and came to a halt in front of a building with glinting green-coloured glass façade.
Kluang Rail Station

Soon we were sipping steaming coffee and sinking our teeth into crispy toasts that oozed melted butter.
As we emerged from the Kluang Rail Station, the overcast sky had started to spill intermittent showers. Through the foggy windscreen and slashing rain Lim pointed to us the playground of his childhood days. The sight of a river stirred the still sediment of his memory. He remembered those carefree days when he used to play with his brothers and friends on the sandy bank of the Kluang river and swim in its clear, cool water, but what lay before our eyes now was muddy, silt-laden water that
swept past grassy bank.
Murky view of the Kluang River

"That's where we used to stay," he said, pointing to the opposite bank. Through a fine curtain of rain, half obscured by a murky line of trees, a blurry outline of a house with blue roof was discernable.

A camera clicked, as the car jerked to a halt close to the curb.

"Got it," I said, as I handed back the camera to my wife.

"Eh, you have only got the tissue box," she said with a faint laugh.

Just a tissue box

Amidst the stifled laughter, the camera flashed again.

Faded landscape of a distant childhood days

The camera screen displayed a smudgy landscape punctuated with floating bubbles with a solitary coconut tree clearly visible in the foreground.

Though not picture perfect, it was perhaps a fitting depiction of the faded landscape of those distant childhood days. Like the photo, the mental landscape of our childhood may be shrouded with the mist of oblivion but certain images somehow remain vivid in our minds.
A long-forgotten incident jogged Lim’s memory, as we rounded a corner.

“Ah, that’s where one of my classmates used to live. I remember one day she wanted to borrow my Geography notes. So, one evening I approached her house warily, rapped at the door and waited with bated breath. The door creaked open and a voice boomed over me.
Eh, kicik apa mau? (Young man, what do you want?).
I glanced up to see a burly, bearded figure glaring down at me.
Saya,...saya... mau kasi buku ini kepada Jit.” ( I,..I.. just want to hand over this book to Jit) I stammered.
“O…oooh!” he drawled.
I handed the book and beat a hasty retreat.”
“I wonder where she is now ,” Lim mused, as we drove away from the scene.
“And, that’s where my friends and I would buy our satay from the itinerant satay seller."

Our eyes followed his finger. Through a veil of light rain a row of hazy shops was visible.

" Each of us would order two or three sticks of satay and the grilled satay would be dipped into a common container of peanut sauce. We would stand along the five-foot way to relish and dwell on the savoury morsels." 

A light rain veiled the five-foot way

We drove past railway tracks and the sight evoked memories of Lim's schooldays. He remembered the time when he and his schoolmates used to crawl through an opening in the fencing and cut across the railway lines as a short cut to school.

The once familiar railway tracks

"That's where I studied."

A modern brick building bordered by sturdy brick walls came into view.

Lim's Alma Mater
"During my schooldays whenever we were late we would scale the embankment and creep stealthily through a gap in the chain fencing while keeping a wary eye on the principal who would station himself at the main entrance."
Dusk had set in and the rain had abated when we left Kluang Town and made our way to Yong Peng. However, as we drove into Yong Peng town we were greeted by the rumble of rolling thunder and flashes of forked lighting that lit the distant sky. Raindrops had started to pelt the car’s windscreen. Sheltering under partially opened umbrellas, we scurried across the road to the nearby Or Hu Restaurant. While the food was being prepared, we busied ourselves with the usual ritual of twirling small plastic bowls in simmering water and wiping the chopsticks with tissue paper. A young, smiling girl appeared with a big plate, piled high with Hock Chiew mee and this was followed immediately with the restaurant's signature dish, egg soup, and a vegetable dish. We were soon engaged in ploughing and picking strands of the delectable fried noodles with our chopsticks. The proprietor who had the appearance of a Chinese sage emerged from the kitchen and from beneath his wispy, white beard, I noticed the satisfied smile.
Dusk had edged into night when we left the restaurant. As nothing much could be seen in the deepening darkness, we took the Federal Highway. Soon we were chasing the tail -lights of fast moving cars that led us further away from Lim's childhood hometown and brought us closer to home. As I settled back into the comfort of the seat, Lim pressed the car's audio button and we started to hum along with Dean Martin's in reminiscing 'about the things we used to do'. Yes, while the youngs are full of hopes and dreams, for us retirees, 'memories are all we have to cling to' .

For Lim and I the trip to Kluang had provided the right recipe for savouring the fond memories of our childhood days. In our golden years we should take every opportunity to go on a day trip, outing or a simple get-together as they not only help to rekindle old memories but create new ones; renew old friendship and strengthen existing ones.

Isla Grant and Daniel O'Donnell sings "Down Memory
Lane" on Youtube


          Related article:
          Click below link

          Ever wondered what has become of your childhood home?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Away in Baltimore

From Singapore to Baltimore

by C S Wan

Lulled by the gentle sway of the rocking cradle and cosily wrapped in the warmth of her blanket, our newborn granddaughter, Audrey, was fast asleep. Diagnosed with a defect in a blood vessel leading from her heart, she was due to undergo corrective surgery. My wife kept a close watch over her while I tried to catch up on my sleep after having taken care of her earlier in the night. Our son, Andrew, who had celebrated his birthday that evening and his wife had already retired to their bedroom as they had to take care of their newborn in the morning. Outside, except for the yellow glow of the street lights, all was dark and quiet as it was well past mid-night and most of the residents at Toh Yi Drive were already deep in slumber. However, in the living room of a house in Block B a light still glowed and the television was still airing CNN news on muted mode. My wife would cast occasional glances at the flickering screen to keep her awake. Then something caught her attention. A plane had crashed into a high-rise building. Was the network promoting another Hollywood blockbuster? Then the words “Breaking News” was splashed on the screen. Sensing something terrible had happened, she woke me up. We learned that a hijacked plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. We were overwhelmed with sadness and worry. Sad because so many innocent lives were lost in the tragedy and we were deeply concerned because in the midst of this tragic event and terrorist threat our son, Andrew, was due to leave for Baltimore. In October, with a heavy heart he bade farewell to his wife and baby girl who was still recuperating from a heart surgery and took a flight to the U.S. where he would spend two years at John Hopkins, Baltimore to do his post doctorate .
On a bleak winter night he sat all alone in his apartment and gazed at the snow-covered roof tops of the neighbouring houses. Perhaps in a moment of nostalgia, he penned this poem.

Away in Baltimore

By Andrew Wan

Bleary images of my loved ones

Waving behind a film of tears

As they recede into the flowing crowd

Streaming away, away from me

I-Chun _ a friend, wife and often more

Baby Audrey _ a new being

Just setting off from shore

Now miles and miles from Baltimore

I turned away the strength to find

In the noble cause I stay behind

For all the blessings come to me

I must return to humanity

So I move myself, trudge back to work

Even on weekends

though the loneliness bites

At times I meet a friend or two

And they help to put me right

You could say the saving grace

In my life was wrought

In the form of newfound friends

Whom I had never thought

Could be the torches to illuminate

the darker, rolling terrain of life


Friday, October 28, 2011

I had a dream

A decision had to be made; it had to be fast. The letter that arrived that November morning was succinct. It read:‘If we do not receive your reply within a week, your name will be struck off the list’Weeks earlier another letter had arrived - a letter that would have been greeted with much joy by successful applicants. The letter informed the recipient that he had been offered a place at a Teachers’ Training College in England. Like the other successful applicants, his initial reaction too was one of excitement and jubilation. But his joy was short-lived. As memories from the past came flooding back and the reality of the situation dawned on him, his hope and dream collapsed like a house of cards. He sank into a dismal mood.

He remembered that day, long ago, when his father had passed away suddenly. His grieving mother, a homemaker, was left with the daunting task of raising eight school-going children. Untitled to any pension, except for a meagre gratuity, his mother had to eke out a living. The hardship she had to endure was beginning to take its toll on her health. As soon as he and his brother had completed their secondary education, they quickly sought employment as their father’s gratuity money was fast depleting and they knew the little that they earned would go a long way in alleviating the family’s financial burden.
Now, as he stared at the letter, he realised that if he accepted the offer the family would have to rely mostly on his brother’s income and his brother would have to make a lot of personal sacrifices. Not wanting to add further anguish to his mother’s frail health, he kept the news to himself. The letter was neatly folded, slipped into the official brown envelope and stuck at the bottom of a cabinet drawer.
The unexpected arrival of the final reminder that November morning left him in a dilemma. Should he tell his mother about the offer? After debating the question in his mind he finally decided to inform her.
“Well, it’s up to you to decide,” she answered noncommittally. She paused for a moment, lost in thought, and then continued, “Maybe, you should accept it. You know your late father always wanted his children to acquire an overseas education. Perhaps, you’ll be able to fulfil his lifelong wish.” They were encouraging words, but beneath the calm and brave front he noticed the pain and sadness in her eyes.

On a December morning in 1958, with his mother’s blessing, he joined 119 other students on board a flight to England.

Boarding a plane

With so much college work and social activities, there was little time for him to think about home. Occasionally, he would receive a postcard or an aerogram from home assuring him that everything was fine at home. However, on cold and dreary winter days as he sat by the window and gazed forlornly at the the winter birds pecking at the scraps of food on the frozen college ground he would be stricken with  nostalgia and his thoughts would stray to his family.He wondered how they were faring in his absence.

He gazed at the winter birds

With the advent of spring, the winter blues were quickly wiped away and college life resumed with renewed vigour.

Art lesson

Tutorial group

Teaching practice


Summer found him vacationing in Europe with his new-found friends. 

Summer vacation

The years rolled by unnoticed and he found that his two years stay in England had come to an end. On his return to Malaya he was posted to a remote school. Although distance separated him from his family, the thought of being able to contribute something to the family’s coffer provided some consolation.

Forty nine years on. 
On a stage, against a backdrop emblazoned with the words‘KIRKBY REUNION 2010' the college golden nightingales, the ‘Dreamgirls’, are belting out their opening number, ‘I have a dream’.


As the sentimental strains drift to the table where I am seated with my wife and old college friends, the song strikes a chord with me.

Among friends

I sit in a quiet reverie and let my mind wanders to a morning in 1958 when I had to make a momentous decision in order to pursue a dream, a dream that was only made possible by the encouragement of a loving and understanding mother and the support and sacrifice of a brother. Although mother is no longer with us , to her and my elder brother I wish to say a big thank you for letting me have that dream.

By C.S. Wan

                      "I have a dream" sung by ABBA on Youtube


Writer's notes: My sincere thanks to Lean Aing, Johnny, Ooi Tee and others who have taken the trouble to forward photos for this article.

Friday, October 14, 2011

In search of our root

In search of our root How it began
The bedroom door flew open and a little girl burst breathlessly through the room and plopped herself onto the pillow beside me.
“Kong kong, can you tell me a story about grandpa?’
The interrupted siesta was soon occupied in regaling her with interesting moments in her grandpa’s life. Moment after she had left the room, I was left alone to reflect about my paternal grandpa who had passed away long before I was born. I remember that long -ago days when as a teenager I used to listen to the many interesting stories my parents would tell about grandpa. Feeling inspired by the interest shown by my granddaughter towards her grandpa, I decided to write something about my own grandpa. Then it dawned on me I did not even know his name. Other then knowing that he had emigrated from China, I had no information about his place of origin in China. Suddenly I remembered about a small green notebook.
One morning, when I was in secondary school mother asked me to take out the old chocolate box from a cupboard’s drawer. Inside the tin I found a green notebook and birth certificates secured with red ribbon. I was told to copy the details in the birth certificates into the green note book. Years passed. Mother had passed away and the green notebook too became a forgotten item. Could I find the information I was looking for in the notebook?

That afternoon I rummaged through the dressing cabinet’s drawer. Under a pile of files and worn envelopes I found the small notebook. Its cover was slightly frayed and its green colour had paled. As I flipped through the pages now stained yellow with age, I found my parent’s and all their eight children’s names and dates of birth written in my cursive handwriting. And on one of the pages I discovered grandpa’s name and his place of origin. It read:
Wan Cheng Liew
Place of origin
District: Yongchun
Village: Au Yeon
The Green Notebook
That day I realised that although mother was illiterate she had foresight and knew all these information would come in handy one day. Armed with the little information, I wrote a short account about grandpa. My wife read the story and she said. “This is interesting. Why don’ you let the children and their cousins read it.”
So, one festival day I brought the draft to our ancestral home and let my nephews and nieces read it. Although the story was not much of a literary work it did generate an interest, an interest that was almost contagious. My sisters were soon providing additional anecdotes on grandpa. My niece, Joon volunteered to find out her great grandpa’s birth date. So one Cheng Beng’s morning, toting a camera, she followed her father to her great grandpa’s grave in Bukit Rambai to snap photo of his resting place. On a worn and moss-covered tombstone she managed to make out the faded numbers : 1863-1932
My son, Lenny, bought a new PC and printer for me to write out and print the story. My son, Andrew said, “One day we should visit Yong Chun and see how great grandpa’s village looks like.” Busy with his work and family the years flew by and the trip remained a dream. Then one night my wife rang him and inquired whether he would like to join her on a package tour of Xiamen and Fujien.

It was a dream come true for him. After getting the necessary leave from his employer and consent from his family he agreed to join the trip. True to his profession he was soon busy researching the background of the early Chinese immigrants in Melaka; their place of settlements; economic activities; their place of origin in China and he even had his colleague send a map of Yong Chun.Map of Yong Chun

Trip to Xiamen and Fujien 4th June 2011 - 11th June 2011 as narrated by my wife, Siew Leng and son, Andrew
On the road to KLIA
The morning of 4th June dawned bright and clear. After our luggage was loaded into the trunk of Lenny’s car we headed for the nearby Straits Meridian Hotel. A small group of fellow travellers, filled with a flurry of excitement, had already congregated in front of the hotel as they waited anxiously for the coach that would take us to KLIAOur Tour Group

After all the luggage had been loaded into the coach and all the passengers accounted for the coach began its journey towards KLIA via the Alor Gajah toll plaza. On arrival at the Seremban rest area the coach stopped for about half an hour to allow the group to go the toilet or stretch their legs before proceeding for KLIA.
We arrived at KLIA at 3pm and as the flight to Xiamen was only scheduled to take off at 4.55 pm we while away the time window shopping at the many brightly-lit shops in the terminal building.

Xiamen: night's view from the coach
At exactly 4.55 pm Xiamen Air took off and after being air-borne for about four hours a voice from the cockpit announced that we were about to land at Xiamen airport. We were met on arrival by a smiling tour guide. Xiamen’s airport was not as bustling as KLIA and only a few people could be be seen at this late hour. We boarded a waiting coach and soon it was humming its way towards a seafood restaurant.Our tour coach: BTW the driver is in the coach

As I gazed at the fleeting landscape from the coach window I could only make out the murky outlines of houses and trees in the deepening darkness, but as we neared the city the facades of a few high-rise buildings glowed brightly with flickering neon lights.

Trip to Quanzhou : city of temples, pagodas and museum
Dawn the next morning found us on the road to Quanzhou.All around us were signs of development. In the city centre, high rise buildings were mushrooming and in the countryside new four storey brick buildings stood on barren land. In front of the twin pagodaAt the Marititime Museum

In Quanzhou, we visited Laujun Rock, the Twin Pagodas and the Maritime Museum. On display at the museum was a boat named 'Sinbad' and that left us wondering whether Sinbad of the famous Arabian Nights had hailed from Quanzhou.
Exhausted with the day’s outing we were glad when we finally arrived at Zaiton Hotel for a good night’s rest.

Meixhou Island: bithplace of Matsu, the goddess of seafarers It was a bright and sunny morning when we made the sea crossing to the island of Meixhou, on board a ferry filled to capacity with a seething mass of humanity.
The crowded ferry

Standing at the starboard I watched the shoreline of the mainland fade away in the distance while Meixhou island loomed ahead of us.Meixhou Island loomed ahead

As we approached the island, we could make out the statue of the goddess Matsu, the guardian of seafarers, standing in serene splendour on top of a hill.Matsu, the goddess of seafarers

She had guided us safely across the sea and was waiting to welcome us to her birth place. Buggies ferried us to the base of the temple and from there we made the slow ascent up the hundred or more steps to the temple. It was an exhaustive climb, but on reaching the top the sense of tranquillity and reverence that pervaded the atmosphere View from the hill top

made it a worthwhile climb.

Yong Chun City : a bustling city
After a quick lunch we headed for the mainland and was soon on our way to Yong Chun. We made a brief stop over at the Dongguan Bridge, a covered bridge which also housed a small shrine and a few benches. According to the local guide the bridge was about eight hundred years old and had since been repaired and given a facelift by a The Donggan Bridge

Tan Sri from Malaysia. Yong Chun is now a modern, bustling city with wide roads teeming with people and packed with vehicles that streamed endlessly from both directions. Crossing the road we found out was a risky undertaking as the drivers seemed oblivious to the presence of the pedestrian crossing and so we sought security among the small group of local pedestrians as they weaved their way bravely between the customary throngs of cars, buses, bikes and bicycles.

Huyang: search for a Fan’s family
We woke up the next morning to find sunlight streaming through the hotel’s window with a promise of yet another bright and sunny day. The much awaited day and the highlight of our trip had finally arrived. At the hotel lobby we could feel the sense of excitement as our friends in the tour group waited anxiously for their relatives to pick them up while others waited for the transport that would take them to their relatives houses in the nearby district. As for Andrew and I we did not know of any relatives in Huyang and so we were content to see for ourselves the physical landscape of Andrew’s great grandfather’s childhood place and any chance encounter with a Fan’s family we knew would be a bonus. At about the appointed time the pre-arranged cab arrived to pick us up for our trip to Huyang or Au Yeon or commonly referred to as Oh Yeoh or Ore Yew by the local Hokkien community. Accompanied by our tour guide and the local tour guide we soon found ourselves cruising along a wide and well-paved road that led to Huyang .The well-paved road

We passed through Dong Guan tunnel and at intervals we caught glimpses of the Nan An river, with hazy, blue mountains providing a perfect background to the rustic scene. We were informed that in the old days ships were able to sail downstream as far as Quanzhou and upstream as far as Fuzhou.View of Nan An river
The cab came to a fork in the road with a signboard with the words Huyang 13 km, Jiaowei 63km displayed boldly on it.The road to Huyang

The driver took the road leading to Huyang and after half an hour drive we were pleasantly surprise to find ourselves in Huyang‘s village. The cab driver pulled up in front of a two-storey brick building which accommodated three houses. We stepped out of the cab and took in our surroundings.
The rustic scene

There was a sense of familiarity about the place. We had the uncanny feeling of having seen or been to this place before. A middle-aged lady emerged from the first house and the cab driver inquired if she knew of anyone with the surname of Fan A lady emerged from the first house

in the village.

“ I’m a Low, but my husband’s surname is Fan,” she replied.
We were both excited and happy to learn that there was a Fan’s family in Huyang. We could not believe our luck when we later found out that there were only two families with the surname Fan in Huyang. The other eighteen families who had once settled in this village had since migrated. Like the other rural areas in China, only the women and children still stayed in the village while the men had left for the bigger towns and cities to find better paying jobs. The many untended farmlands were a clear

An untended farmland: Where has all the farmers gone?

testimony of the rural -urban migration.The lady of the house invited us in and informed us her husband was working in another town and would be back only in the late evening. She provided the cab driver with her husband’s phone number. Using his mobile phone the cab driver was soon engaged in deep conversation with the husband at the other end of the line. He would pause occasionally to relay the The interior of the Fan's house

relevant information to us. According to the lady’s husband the Fans had originally come from Nan An or Hu Lan. Her husband’s grandfather and his four siblings too were from Nan An, but when they migrated to Hu Yang three of them were sold to the Low’s family while another two were sold to another family. One of the brothers managed to run back to Nan An but was eventually brought back to Hu Yang. He however escaped a second time without a trace. Could he have emigrated to Malaya? With the question lingering in our minds we bade farewell to Mrs. Fan and made our way to Yong Chun city.
Back in Yong Chun, we took a leisurely stroll along the esplanade and took in the sight of the many scenic spots on both sides of the river. After window shopping at the many apparel shops that lined both sides of the road and at the ubiquitous stalls we returned to the hotel.

Trip to Baizhang Rock : scenic but.....
The fifth day of the tour found us on a coach heading for Baizhang Rock which is located at the highest peak of the mountain. As the coach made its slow ascent up the narrow and precipitous road, I took a peep at the view below us. Down in the deep ravine , pine trees with verdant canopy stretched towards the distant mountains which were shrouded with low -lying clouds.Pine trees and distant mountains

The animated conversation that had preceded the trip suddenly fell into hushed silence. I wondered whether our fellow travellers were enjoying the breath-taking view or engaged in silent prayers. As Andrew took in the view, he smiled to himself. He recalled an incident while traversing a mountainous terrain in New Zealand. The coach driver, noticing the look of concern on some of the passengers’ faces had announced, “ I know the scene below you are frightening. If you’re scared just close your eyes, just like what I’m doing now.”
His quiet reverie was interrupted by a shout that emanated from the coach rear’s seat. At every turn and twist of the sharp corners, the sound of ‘Oh’ and ‘Ah’ could be heard. Someone was obviously having a ride of his life.
Most of us heaved a big sigh of relief when we finally arrived at the foot of a temple dedicated to the lady deity, Masi Chengsen. Dragging tired feet, we slowly climbed the steep flight of steps to the temple and as we strolled round the temple complex with cameras clicking, the harrowing trip up the mountain was soon forgotten. After we had filled our growling stomachs with local fruits it was time for us to make the heart-thumping trip down the mountain.
When the coach finally screeched to a halt at Yong Chun a burst of applause greeted the driver. We all wanted to show our appreciation and gratitude for his skilful handling of the bus and for bringing us safely home.

Jimei : educational complex and garden
On the way back to Xiamen we stopped at Jimei, a town well known for its educational complex which was set up by the renown educator and philanthropist, The educational complex

Tan Kah Kee.
A visit to Jimei would not be complete without paying due respect to the man who had contributed generously to education and society and and so we made our way to see his garden, memorial park and his humble house. A stroll in the parkTan Kah Kee's memorial

Egret Island : home of the white egrets
Back in Xiamen we were taken on a tour of the large and scenic recreational park on Egret Island. It was a welcome break from the heat of the afternoon sun as we were able to walk under the cool shade of the stately trees and feel the caress of the gentle A view of the lake Hi, the statue is in the background

Can you spot the egret?

breeze that blew in from the lake. One of the main attractions in the park was a stone statue of a maiden grooming her flowing tresses. A white egret which was perched on her left shoulder was unperturbed by the hive of activity below it.

Gulangyu Island: waves 'drumming' on reefs
On the morning of the seventh day we left the bustling city of Xiamen on board a ferry heading for Gulangyu island or ’Drum Waves Islet’ so-called because of the sound generated by the waves as they lashed against the reefs.At the jetty

That morning the sea was calm and so there was no drumming except for the sound of rolling waves breaking against the side of the ferry. Gulangyu is renowned for its beautiful beaches, winding lanes and varied architecture, but owing to time constraint we only managed to visit the Piano House, admire the European-style villas and then spend the better part of the morning browsing and shopping for souvenirs at the many shops and stalls that lined the narrow lanes.Statue on top of a steep outcropA view of the beachEnjoying the viewHouses in Gulangyu

Overseas Chinese Museum, Xiamen: moment of nostalgia
Back at Xiamen we were taken to the Overseas Chinese Museum which housed a comprehensive exhibits of ancient artefacts, Chinese potteries, as well as photos and paintings that highlighted the history of the Overseas Chinese. Overseas Chinese Moseum

There were photos and paintings depicting the squalid condition on board a junk; under-nourished labourers with look of anguish on their faces and photos of old The squalid condition in the junkThe look of anguish

buildings in the Straits Settlements.
As we gazed at the photos, we were stricken with nostalgia and felt a tinge of sadness for they reminded us of own forefathers who had brave the hazardous sea journey to reach the shore of Nanyang. We realised they were men of fortitude who through their own sweat and toil and frugal living had made a better lives for themselves and ensured that their descendants would have a brighter future.
We followed a knot of tourists and our steps took us to the façade of a peranakan house with its typical elaborately carved wooden door flanked by windows fitted with The facade of a Fan's house

iron grills.
We could not believe our eyes when we took a closer look at the house. Just above the door, written in bold Chinese characters, we could make out the word 'Fan'.
Just the beginning not the end
We had set out on the trip to see for ourselves the physical landscape of Huyang where Andrew’s great grandpa had lived as a child and to enjoy the scenic beauty of the tourist spots. Little did we know that the trip would hold small surprises for us. We had managed to see a Fan’s household in Huyang and view the facade of a Fan's house in the very heart of Xiamen. Maybe, the trip is another milestone on a journey in search of our root.