Raja Chulan Raja Ahmad Tajuddin writes about the joy of the kampung durian. [Praises be to Allah that we have seen the 100,000th visitor for SembangKuala. Thanks to all of you, we hope that SembangKuala will be able to go from strength to strength. -RC]
One of the SembangKuala editors recently returned to Kuala Kangsar and Taiping, perhaps not so much as a down-memory-lane trip but more along the lines of the Malay proverb “bagai belut pulang ke lumpur”, the trip of which was succinctly documented in his blog. For the sons and daughters of Kuala who hadn’t been back for a while, one cannot really discover the pleasures of Kuala’s cendol, pau and laksa by merely reading about it. Least to say the smell and taste of kampung durian when it seasons in Bukit Gantang.
And what better way to reach Bukit Gantang than to cycle your way through the old road of Bukit Berapit? During my days at Clifford, it was a challenge for us teenagers. I remembered cycling there with YM Ku Pa (YM Raja Muzaffar Raja Shahar) and a few others. The Sunday picnic ride would begin from Kuala Kangsar which would take us through Padang Rengas before hitting the long climbing narrow road of Bukit Berapit. As we approached the railway crossing of Padang Rengas the view was panoramic. On both sides of the road were green luscious padi fields which stretched to the foot of the hills. And our lungs were filled with fresh mountain air as we stopped at the railway gate to watch the freight train chugged by. We could even hear the gurgling fresh mountain stream as it flowed by the padi bunds.
Being carefree teenagers, we waved to the few cars that queued at the railway crossing and made our climb up Bukit Berapit. The two lane road was narrow with boulders and wild bushes all along the way. With only a few timber lorries that occasionally disturbed the peace, the rushing mountain streams on both sides of the road was music to the ears. The water of these mountain streams was crystal clear, fresh and very cool at any time of the day. As the road got steeper, the sweet pungent smell of durian filled our nostrils, opening our eyes for the first pondok durian in Bukit Gantang. It was a thrill to eat durian at the roadside pondok durian which was located on the low bank of the mountain stream fringing the dusun (orchard). Built with thatched rumbia leaves, the pondok was further cooled by thick foliage of forest trees, where we sat cross-legged on the bamboo pangkin to enjoy our durian treat.
We could eat as much durian as we like because it was much cheaper then and we paid for them with the savings from our duit poket (school allowance). As we ate, we could hear ripe durians fell, making a splash into the rushing stream.
Having savoured our fresh season-opening durians, we hastened to cycle back to Kuala. We must leave Bukit Berapit before the sun sets, lest the ‘curse’ of Bukit Berapit befall us! The tales of slained Japanese soldiers and communist guerillas is revered here. Ghosts of road accidents were said to have waved down motorists for a lift and the most unthinkable would be to have a wailing banshee (pontianak) riding pillion on our bicycles!
Padang Rengas itself was well known for the Madrasah Gunung Pondok, an Islamic educational centre in the style of the traditional pondok pengajian, originally started in Kelantan which earned this east coast Malaysian state the reputation as ‘Serambi Mekah’. And here too is the Gunong Pondok with its many mysterious caves, some of which were home to bats. One of the caves even became a retreat for spiritual scholars who went there to meditate (bertapa).