Kampung Kuala Garing Selatan,Rawang

Living in a metropolitan city, speaking English in the corporate world and in everyday life , it’s easy to forget one’s roots. My roots as a Malaysian-Chinese were never deep; my parents went to English missionary schools and didn’t observe many traditional customs/practices. Heck, I don’t even speak my mother tongue well!

So when I visited a Chinese New Village in the heart of Rawang, it evoked a sense of nostalgia and melancholy that I didn’t know existed within me. I listened to stories of the struggles of my forefathers, many who came to Malaya decades ago on boats in search of a better life, and saw with my own eyes what they had built in spite of persecution and hardship. And I felt.. connected. I’ve never been prouder of my heritage as a Malaysian-Chinese.

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Tucked deep within the suburbs of Rawang is Kampung Kuala Garing Selatan, a Chinese new village. The ‘new’ villages are special because they were all formed during the 1950s under colonial British rule, and there are hundreds of them scattered all across the country.

Malaya was under the threat of Communist insurgents, many of whom brought ideologies from China. Back then, we had a huge overseas Chinese population (this has since dwindled to less than 20% today) and the British were worried that the people would support the communists, who fought guerrilla style in the jungles.

So the  administration segregated the people (mostly Chinese – some 400,000) and placed them in communities called New Villages. These were gated and guarded by patrols, and had a curfew. In this way, they were able to curb the flow of info and the smuggling of essentials to the guerrillas. Even after the Brits left and the communist threat was lifted, the villages remained and became part of the community. Many of these ‘villages’ are now developed and sit surrounded by towns in urban areas.

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Kg Kuala Garing Selatan (named after the nearby Kuala Garing river) is one of these villages. Many of the homes have been rebuilt to resemble modern homes, but there are still some which are made of their original wooden planks and zinc roofing. There is a mini mart out front run by an Indian family which has been around for decades. The road into the village is tarred, single entry only.

A villager tells me that back in the days, there was nothing on this plot of land – everything was built from scratch. The road was a dirt road made by piling sand and earth; there was a water tap outside which everyone had to line up for, while others dug wells in their compound. At night, they used oil lamps as there was no electricity.

I am typing this in my air conditioned room after a hot bath with all the lights on.

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At the village entrance, the villagers have built a shrine for the local Chinese earth deity, or ‘Latuk’.

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One of the older wooden houses that is still well-maintained. There are 60 houses with about 350 people living in the place. Most are Chinese who speak a mix of Hakka, Cantonese and Hokkien dialects.

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The pride of the village is their Fatt Heng Gong temple, dedicated to the Six Deities (Luk Yan Seen Si) in Taoist beliefs. What started off as a wooden hut has transformed into a nicely built, bright yellow building with a large and clean courtyard, as well as adjacent meeting hall.

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The first temple priest was a villager, and the sifu’s picture along with how the original temple looked like can be seen from photos hanging from the walls. They were yellow and peeling with age. The temple grounds keeping has since been passed on to the priest’s wife.

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The community organises a banquet for the deities every year on the 28th day of the 12th month in the Chinese lunar calendar, where they invite a priest from a neighbouring village to come and perform rites. The festivities include food, prayers and blessings.

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At the other end of the village is a ‘clubhouse’ – basically someone’s house which has become a gathering place for the older villagers who come to sit, drink tea and play mahjong. The porch, although cluttered, has a charming, idyllic quality. There are lazy chairs in the back, and paintings of deities and traditional Chinese calligraphy/animals/flowers hanging from wooden beams.

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Had a chat with two villagers – a husband and wife, Mr and Mrs Wong – in their home. Their kids have moved out. They were kind enough to show me around the house and told me many stories of how life was back in the days. They were one of the families who dug a well in their yard, since it was bothersome to line up for water in the mornings and evenings. Wong lamented how everything was green and surrounded by jungle before development encroached; but he is happy that it is very convenient to get essentials now.

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They had this cool old stove which uses charcoal for cooking. They still use it once in awhile to boil soup coz apparently it tastes better. My aunt had one of these really old irons which were super heavy and had a compartment to put charcoal (coz there wasn’t electricity back then).

It was a really eye opening trip, and for the villagers I spoke to, I’m sure it was a trip down memory lane to simpler times. Sure, there aren’t skyscrapers or attractions in their village, but to them, this is home – that hopefully will not be forgotten or lost with the passage of time.

The Sekinchan Wishing Tree & Redang Beach

It’s been such a long time since our last family trip, so even though I had to wake up really early on a Sunday morning, it was worth it 🙂

Anyway, the fam and I went on a daytrip to Sekinchan, a small agricultural and fishing village on the far reaches of Selangor. It has become very popular among local tourists in recent years for its beautiful paddy fields. The village is a 1 1/2 hour drive from KL, and is only accessible by trunk roads. Although the trip is long, the scenic views of quaint Malay villages and small towns along the way make up for it.

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One of the attractions in the area is the Sekinchan Wishing Tree at Redang Beach. The place was featured in a Hong Kong TVB drama and has since become THE place for tourists to take photos. The tree itself is a beautiful sight, with hundreds, if not thousands of wishes written on red strips of cloth weighted down with two coins, then thrown over the branches.

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Just next to it is a simple wooden temple painted red,  where visitors can say prayers and get the wishing knots (or whatever you call them, idk). I’m guessing there’s a small donation to get the knot, but we didn’t get any coz it seemed like a waste of money lol.

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While you’re at it, snap a photo at the ‘I Love Sekinchan’ placard at the base of the tree.

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So many wishes and hopes. I’m sure a few of them have come true. 🙂 What would you wish for if you could throw a wish onto the Sekinchan Wishing Tree?

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Next to the big red tree are a couple of smaller ones and swings, made out of old chairs. I chill for a bit in a hammock underneath the shade. It was cool and breezy; I could have fallen asleep.

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Hammock view.

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Redang Beach is not pretty, if you compare it to places like Ya Nui Beach in Phuket. It’s small but there’s a certain, rustic charm about it. There was a man picking up discarded litter and rubbish from the beach. “Wasn’t that much before the tourists started pouring in,” he lamented when we went to pick shells. People, please, please be more responsible with your trash! A beach is not a garbage dump. If you want to visit a place, leave only footprints and take only memories (and photos).

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Speaking of shells, the beach is littered with them. They’re mostly white and grey, but there were a couple of really pretty ones.

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A rickety treehouse facing the beach.

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For those wanting some cheap produce, there are a few stalls here selling all manner of dried seafood, fermented pastes and snacks like prawn crackers.

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We left the beach to go hunt for food. On the way out, we passed by this congested dock, lined on both sides with wooden village houses.

 

 

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On the suggestion of a local, we stopped by a place called Cha Po Tion. It’s next to a Thai restaurant and can be hard to find coz the signboard is obscured by a tree. The restaurant was packed with customers even though it was only 11am, so we were expecting some good food…

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We were sadly disappointed. We initially wanted squid, but were told that they had run out (at 11am?).  Service was very slow, and we waited a good 45 minutes for food to come.

Mi got so pissed off she started eating plain rice because her gastric was giving her problems. When the food finally arrived, they messed up our order (gave us Kam Heong Shrimp instead of Oyster Sauce Shrimp) and completely forgot another dish (Kam Heong Lala). We were famished by then so we just dug in with no objections. Who knows how long it would take for them to cook up a fresh batch ?

The Hung Joe (red snapper) (RM30) was almost tasteless and the meat was not fresh. Good fish should have a smooth texture that falls off with each spoonful, but this was flaky and felt dry on the tongue, even with all that sauce. You know you’re in deep shit when the fish you serve at a seafood restaurant in a fishing village isn’t fresh.

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The Kam Heong Shrimp (RM16) was slightly better, but they were very stingy on the shrimps, which were miniscule in size, and the dish was mostly stir-fried onions and tomatoes. I would not recommend coming here, despite what the locals say…. or maybe we were just unlucky that we were there on a busy weekend and quality control went down. There are many reviews online which swear by this place.

There is another restaurant further down which is endorsed by a famous celebrity food show host but the prices are more expensive.

CHA PO TION

Jalan Besar Bagan,

Bagan, Sekinchan, 45400, Sekinchan,

Selangor, Malaysia

Opens at 8am

More of Sekinchan to come!