Sunday, August 28, 2005

My hometown

Mention Klang and visions of steaming bowls of bah-kut-teh will spring to mind. As you tuck into the aromatic chunks of pork swimming in its rich brown gravy, be prepared to be serenaded by squawking cacophony from crows perched on tree tops. Some are daring enough to swoop close to human denizens to peck at morsels of food littered by the sidewalk.

That's Klang in a nutshell, at least to Klangites, to Chinese. In this town where bah-kut-teh coffee shops abound like milestones on the NKVE, the crow population is so prolific that the town council has to organise crow-shooting sprees to keep them in check.

Klang's rapid development in recent years leaves me gasping for air. It's like, now you don't see it, now you do. Take the newest private hospital in Klang, Kota Medical Centre. It is nestled somewhere behind the South Klang bus terminal. I did not even know of its existence until a friend's mother was admitted recently to the gleaming new hospital which resembles a four-star hotel. Previously there was only one private hospital, Specialist Medical Centre, now renamed Pantai Klang. To the Hokkiens, it is known as "si-lao" or four-storey building. Now affluent Klangites have more than "four-storeys" of hospital floors to visit when stricken with ill-health.

Then there are the many large shopping complexes which have sprouted up in recent years. Klang Parade with Parkson as its anchor tenant, Bukit Raja Complex housing Jaya Jusco and Shaw Centrepoint with The Store as its main tenant are the "mega-malls" of Klang. This is a far cry from the days when the only supermarkets around were Gama and Great Wall, forcing Klangites to make weekend exodus to KL for shopping sprees.

Where palm oil estates had once stood, new townships such as Bandar Baru Klang have given Klang its own Kenny Hills. Here upmarket eating joints such as Windmill and hip cafes have sprung up. Here telephone and electrical cables are buried underground and no unsightly cables criss-cross at awkward angles overhead.

So far, development has centred around North Klang. South Klang has yet to catch up. However, Bukit Tinggi which is a new township at the periphery of Klang, will be opening its doors to its first denizens soon, paving the way to a more developed future for "southerners".

Where tourism is concerned, Klang is hardly the place to rake in the big bucks. Who visits Klang other than hungering souls hankering after its bah-kut-teh? There's the Keris Semenanjung, Gedung Raja Abdullah and Kota Raja Mahadi, the only touristy attractions in Klang. The Keris is a familiar sight, situated after the Sungai Rasau tollbooth as one enters Klang from Shah Alam. Who could miss the towering, gleaming, steel coloured dagger which was erected in 1985 to commemorate the silver jubilee of the Sultan of Selangor's installation?

Ask the man on the street where is Gedung Raja Abdullah and he may well ask you in return "What gedung? Is it a new shopping centre?" Then you will have to enlighten him that the gedung houses a tin museum.

The Kota Raja Mahadi is a fort built by Raja Mahadi in 1886 to protect his people during the civil war against Raja Abdullah. It is nothing like the A'Formosa in Melaka. At a certain website, this historical attraction is touted as "a contemporary structural wonder, juxtaposing angular and slender round lines that almost bring to mind many famous architectural masterpieces around the world." Hats off to the writer of this "masterpiece".

Then there is the Arked Kota, a row of shops built parallel to the Jambatan Kota over the Klang River. These are supposed to be quaint shops selling touristy souvenirs. The problem with this place is there is no common trading hours where all the shops are opened simultaneously. Some open in the daytime, some at night, some during weekdays, some on weekends only. Strolling along the arcade at night can be hair-raising, as shadows dance eerily along the stretch of closed shops and the cool breeze from the murky Klang River carries unidentifiable scents to your twitching nostrils. This makes it a good place for romancing couples, especially when they have blocked nose courtesy of the flu bug. The latest newspaper report has it that the Arked Kota will be converted into office units.

Located near the Arked Kota, on the southern side of the bridge, an impressive brown squarish building stands diagonal to a clock tower. Stepping into its cool interior with gleaming, speckled-brown marbled floor, one can't help but feel awed by the size of the reception hall which is as big as say, an Olympic size swimming pool. Welcome to M.P.K., Klang's town council. Fronting the building is a circular patch of garden which is bursting with a kaleidoscope of flowers, of vibrant red, yellow, orange and scarlet hues. In fact tourists passing by may mistake it for a tourist attraction.

That is Klang, my hometown, the only town in the whole world which makes me feel as relaxed as if I were in my own living room.

(First published in Against The Grain, an e-zine in 2000).

Note : Gedung Raja Abdullah is now closed and the Arked Kota has been demolished. Here's more on Klang.


the jamie said...

Hi Lydia,
It's an honor to finally found you... ;-) I bought your book about a year ago and I love it. It's a simple read.

Keep on writing!

Lydia Teh said...

Hi The Jamie, good to see you here. Thanks for buying my book. Glad you like it. It always give me a fuzzy feeling to hear from readers, the nice ones that is. Not-so-nice comments I don't mind too, if there's something to be learnt from there. Checked out your blog, your baby's cute.

ninuk said...

I've came across a review of yr book some time back and hv been meaning to buy yr book, but hv not done so :) why ? no particular reason. Now must buy lah , no more execuse. good writing.

i've my modest blog, no professional class, just a simply busy mother :)


Lydia Teh said...

Hi Ninuk. Will drop by your blog later. Yes, busy mothers have lots to blog about, we're in the same boat. Let me know when you've had a chance to read my book.