Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A glimpse of Malay life in Kuantan

Our trip to Ho Chi Minh City was broken by a short stop in Kuantan, Malaya. We were fortunate to have an erudite guide, who has won an award from the President. Many Brits were in Malaya mining tin or bauxite or managing rubber plantations pre and post war. Our friend in Singapore was actually born in Malaya, to Scottish parents; his dad managed a tin mine. He was sent back to Scotland when he was nine, to be educated. Since the invention of synthetics, rubber isn't quite as important. Around the port we could see huge mounds of the reddish bauxite being loaded on to Chinese freighters to be taken to China for processing.

Malaya's population is comprised of Malay Chinese, Muslims and Hindus. Malaya has been in an economic decline for the past twenty years but they are hoping that it becomes a developed country by 2020. As we drove along we could see many teak trees. Our guide pointed out a neem tree. Here the leaves are collected and put under the mattress of someone with a temperature to draw out the heat. I have used neem oil for aches and pains and I was hoping that I could buy some neem oil but unfortunately they don't process it into oil. I didn't see any leaves under the giant trees that I could pick up. Many herbal medicines such as quinine come from trees. The Malays drink coconut water every day as it purifies the system. Their diet is very healthy, with six meals a day and of course lots of rice.

We stopped at a very colourful Hindu temple. It was quite funny to see one of the priests chasing after a woman who had not removed her shoes before entry. Some of the Hindu figures were quite fearsome.

Next we stopped at a small market in the centre of town. It was a popular place with lots of stalls giving feet massages and one a back massage. I was a little envious and would like to have stayed longer and had a massage. Other vendors were selling leather goods and homemade medicinal remedies.

The market was located at one side of the panga or the big green area. The first thing the British did when they moved into an area was set up the cricket pitch. The pitch is long gone and the space is used more as parkland today. At the time of Ramadam the Muslims come here for picnics and barbecues as they break the day's fast. At one end of the green area was a huge mosque and behind it a Christian church, while at the other end was a gurdwaras or Sikh temple. This is a good place to be if you are working because there are so many religions there are 31 official holidays a year.

Our last stop was a lovely old fishing village with three different sizes of boats, all made of local wood. It was quite a busy spot with boats coming and going. Naturally, the larger boats can stay out at sea longer. People still lived in very run down wooden shacks.

On our way back to the ship we passed several pristine sand beaches and some mangrove swamps. We made one more stop to see batik making. Kuantan is a lovely little spot and would be perfect for an inexpensive holiday.




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