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Monday, January 8, 2018

A trip to Machap Baru and Masjid Lama, Melaka: Reliving memories

   A trip to Machap Baru and Masjid Lama:        

   Reliving Memories 


‘Enche Seng free on Sat morning to go to Machap’

The message triggered a memory, memory of days long ago when we used to follow our late mother to Masjid Lama, Machap in Melaka which was located about 20km from our village in Batu Berendam. She would usually make the annual trip to a sacred site to bayar niat ( offering made for wish that had been granted). The offering which usually consisted of nasi kunyit with sambal udang placed on banana leaves and complemented with bunch of bananas, were prepared by our Muslim neighbours. Days before the trip we had to abstain from consuming pork and observe certain religious abstinence. I remember we would take the rickety Batang Bus and as the bus hummed and bounced its way towards our destination, our young curious eyes surveyed the fleeting view. The relatively flat land with cluster of wooden houses with palm -thatched roofs soon gave way to hilly terrain.  The forest-clad hills were interspersed with rubber plantation with long rows of neatly planted rubber trees. In the valley below us, the rising hills offered us stunning vista of verdant paddy fields that stretched towards the distant horizon. At the edge of the fields, running parallel to the road, we could make out the remains of a railway tracks, as Melaka had a train service before World War Two. Along the way we passed through Durian Tunggal Town which consisted of a single, narrow road flanked by a short row of double -storey wooden shop houses.  As we traversed the lonely stretch of road we did not encounter a single motor vehicle. The bus finally came to a halt at the foot of a hill and we climbed the short flight of steps to  Masjid Lama.  I remember just before the mosque there was a medium- sized, oval shaped ‘wishing stone’. It was said that visitors could make a wish and if it was granted then they could lift the stone without much effort, but if their wish was denied they would not be able to lift the stone.

Saturday morning the 30th of December 2017 dawned dry with an overcast sky threatening rain.  My brother and our niece, Joon ,arrived promptly at the appointed time to fetch us for our day trip to Machap.

From  Lto R: Chwee Guan, Joon and the writer

 As the car cruised silently passed Bukit Beruang, Jelutong and Batu Berendam toward our destination, I noticed the rapid development that had taken place. Where vegetable farms, paddy fields and wooden huts once stood, modern brick buildings now stand in its place and the tranquility and silence has been replaced by the incessant drones of motor vehicles. 

What used to be vegetable farms are occupied with brick buildings

As we passed the Batu Berendam airport and caught sight of the old control tower, it brought back memories of my schooldays when we used to play soccer with my brother, cousins and village friends near the airport. 

Theopen ground outside the Batu Berendam airport

Mr Tan ,the airport manager, was also our soccer team manager so we were able to make use of an open ground outside the fenced runway for our soccer game. One of our friends, Ah Kee used to work at the airport, so sometimes after our games we would adjourn to his house and join him and his brother, Ah Leong for a drink. On our way home we would stop at Ah Hong’s house to pluck mangosteens from the many trees in the front compound of his house.
I was still reminiscing about the past, when we came to a roundabout and Joon slowed down to look at a signboard directing motorists to Krubong, Ayer Keroh and Durian Tunggal. 

 Based on the clock position, Joon took the twelve o’clock direction and it was not very long before we arrived at Durian Tunggal Town.  We peered through the car's windscreen and noticed the town was occupied with modern brick buildings, except for a few wooden shop houses, redolent of its past.  

A view of Durian Tunggal Town

Wooden shop houses at Durian Tunggal

After a short drive we arrived at the junction leading to Belimbing Dalam.

As we made our way along the well -paved road we noticed it was flanked by neat orchards and oil palm plantations.

We came to an intersection with a prominent signboard showing Machap Umboo to the left and Machap Baru to the right. 

 Joon took the road leading to Machap Baru and we soon found ourselves in Machap Baru New Village. I remember following my friend, Sunny Poh, to this village in the early 1960s when he visited his grandma. I can still remember the wooden house with its living room generously  adorned with calendars and the tea plants in her front garden. Like his grandma's house, the other houses in the village were mostly wooden houses with zinc or palm-thatched roofs. During the Emergency from 1948 to 1960  the New Village was surrounded by barbed wire fence and its entrance was manned by security guards. One school holidays, Sunny said, he went to visit his grandma and brought her some food. At the entrance to the village he was detained by the guards and brought to the office for questioning before being released. As an innocent schoolboy, he was unaware that it was illegal to bring food into the village without permission. 

From L to R: The writer, Tiam Swee, Sunny Poh

 As we cruised through the maze of roads in the village in search of a temple, I noticed many huge bungalows _  a sign of the village progress and growing affluence. Joon guided the car along a dirt track flanked by rubber trees and on top of a high ground we saw a temple with a statue of the Goddess Kuan Yin.

 It was not the temple my brother was looking for, so we returned to the village. Joon stopped at one of the houses and inquired from a lady the direction to the temple they were seeking.

“ Sini, mana ada tokong atas bukit?”

“Ada dua tokong. Dua dua pun atas bukit.”

“ Tokong ini boleh tengok nasib.”

“ Dua dua tokong pun boleh tengok nasib.”

“Ada bapa dan anak jaga tokong ini.”

“Oooh, itu tokong sebelah bawah”

Following the direction provided by the lady, Joon managed to find the temple.  The overcast sky had ripped open and drizzle greeted us the moment we stepped out of the car and made our way carefully up the slippery steps. My brother had gone to the temple to consult the feng shui master on his horoscope predictions for 2018. We found out from the feng shui master, Mr Chu, that the temple was started by his grandfather. It was then, just a small wooden hut but over the years has transformed into a brick building with tiled roof.

Mr Chu, an affable person, made his predictions based on the Chinese Zodiacs and during the session he would often pause to entertain us with interesting anecdotes. From curious onlookers we ended up with having our horoscopes read. 

Mr Chu making his horoscope predictions

By the time the reading session ended, I could feel the slight rumble in my stomach  and so we headed to the nearby eateries for our lunch. Although only three eateries were opened for business during the day, at night the place would be magically transformed into a food paradise where  food connoisseurs with a penchant for exotic game food  can indulge in their culinary delights. 

After we had our fill of char hor fun and fried noodles and bought take-away of spring rolls and rojak for tea time, we proceeded to Masjid Lama, Machap. The car glided down the gentle gradient towards our destination and we soon arrived at a signboard with the words 'Masjid Lama Machap'. 

As Joon guided the car along the narrow road, through the line of rubber trees and tangled mass of vegetation, we could see part of the Durian Tunggal Lake. The fringes of the lake was blanketed with broad expanses of lush, lotus foliage; their pink and red blossoms still not clearly visible under an overcast sky.

The sight of a latex cup that was strapped to the trunk of a rubber tree suddenly evoke memories of the Japanese Occupation, memories of years of hardship when even a latex cup would become our prized possession.

Click below link on " A bag of memories "

A bag of memories

As the car proceeded further the vegetation became more sparse and to our left we had a better view of the lake.

 Then as the car rounded a corner, above a raised ground we caught sight of Masjid Lama.  

The car came to a halt at our destination. A sign posted on the gate informed visitors that the site was opened from 5am to 5pm. As Joon had already described about the place during her last visit ,I was content to take a leisurely walk and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the place. 

Click the below link on " A day trip to Masjid Lama Machap, Melaka"

A day trip to Masjid Lama Machap, Melaka

 The mosque and its surroundings were well maintained and many seats were placed at strategic locations for visitors to rest their weary legs and take in the picturesque view.   

Siew Leng enjoying the view 

I sat at a wooden bench and gazed at the  wide expanse of water that shimmered in the morning sunlight, while on the opposite bank the distant hills were still shrouded with low-lying rain-bearing clouds. The sight brought back another memory, memory of a trip to grandpa's orchard in Macap Umboo with my cousin, Tiam Swee.  Somewhere in Machap Umboo, beneath the water of a lake, there lies an orchard and its submerged dreams.

Click below link " Lost Orchard"

Lost Orchard   

Reading the plaque about the Masjid

The sun was already high up in the sky when we left Masjid Lamaand headed for my sis, Cheng Neo's, house at Bukit Beruang. Whenwe arrived at her place we were told she had already prepared meesiam and apam balik durian for our tea and with the rojak and popiah which Joon had ta pau at Machap Baru there was more than ample food for tea. We went there for tea, but left her place with mee siam and ayam buah keluak for our dinner.

The day trip not only provided us with new experience and  an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature, but helped me to rekindle some long dormant memories.


1 comment:

  1. The author has mastered the art of seamlessly transitioning between the present and the past, where the memories are just as vivid and the joy, just as real.