Childhood Memories – Part 19


Read the rest of the series here

(My uncle had a second hand white Mitsubishi Lancer and it was the workhorse of the family for many years. Image source: http://carphotos.cardomain.com/)

Last week I attended my niece’s birthday party and as usual, once the cake has been cut and the dinner have started, me and my cousins made our way to the outside of the house, set up a table on the porch, rounded several chairs and started to chit chat over a large bottle of liquor and wine. As usual such chit chat continued until wee hours in the morning.

One of my cousins asked about my younger brother who been missing out on many of the family functions ever since he got married. I could not answer my cousin on the whereabouts of my brother – after all, my brother is not a small kid anymore and he has his own transport and he knows how to come to this function.

Hearing this, my cousin took a gulp of strong liquor and remarked that a long time ago when the whole family – mine and his and other cousins – only had one car belonging to one of my uncle (that was before my Dad got his car), everyone was present and was accounted for at family functions – weddings, birthday party, new year celebrations, “no reason” gatherings, etc. It was a miracle on how we managed to use that one car to do several trips or used alternative mode of transport – bus and motorcycles to reach at our destinations.

But now, almost every of my cousins has a car and most household have 2 – 3 cars but when it comes to weddings, birthday party, new year celebrations, etc, you can hardly see some of these people. No longer can they use the excuse that they don’t have transport and they also know that family gatherings usually take precedent over any other functions, especially notices have been sent many weeks earlier.

That statement from my cousin made a lot of sense and also made me realise that how things have changed.

Major functions are usually held at my grandma’s house, so getting there was not difficult. But sometimes gatherings also held at my uncle’s house – couple kilometres away from my grandma’s house. Getting there was not so easy – there was no public transport. So, what will happen is that announcements would be made that the car is coming over to pick the people up at a particular time. Everyone would dress up and my uncle is given the task of queuing the people for the car – 1st round would be the seniors and key people – my grandma and elder uncle often leaves on the 1st trip. Next round, some of the aunties and final round, the kids and who ever been left behind.

Once the function finishes – then there is another round of queuing but things usually are better on the return trip. Some of the relatives who have car of their own will help out on the transport. Of course, such arrangements only apply for short distant function.

Making trips in the car was one way for me and my cousins could make use of our car driving license. You see, our parents made sure that we pass the car driving test before green light was given for us to take the test for motorcycle license. They were very strict about this although all we want is just a license to ride motorcycles.

So, here we have car license, collecting dust for many months, so having family functions was something we look out for, as we would find our uncle tossing the car key to us and asking us to look after the task of fetching family members whilst he and rest of the uncles get busy with their drinks and chit chat. He knows we have been waiting for the chance to drive the car.

Of course, for those who are unlucky to get the car key, we look out for the next best option – our uncles’ motorbike keys and there is usually 3 – 4 bikes lying around during family functions.

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Childhood Memories – Part 18


Read the rest of the series here

(Toong Fong was one the bus that I took on daily basis when I was still very young. I was not that old to take this model – lane: Chan Sow Lin Road but the Toong Fong logo on the side of the bus remained until it was absorbed into Intrakota. Image source: here)

Remember those days when some of us “used” to take the BUS? Some of you who use the bus for daily commute to work may be wondering what the hell BJ is taking about but I have admit – it has been quite a while since I last took a bus (these days the routes gotten so confusing).

I drive these days and despite the ever increasing toll and petrol prices these days, I have not resorted to taking the bus. Not that I do not want to but there is no bus that goes from my “house front door” to the “office front door”. Besides, it is easier to drive if there is a need to meet with customers. But there was a time when I had nothing to take but the bus to get from Point A to Point B (taxis were too expensive those days).

K.L., Klang & Port Klang (KKPK)

My first encounter with KL, Klang & Port Klang Omnibus was when I was still young – perhaps when I was still a baby. The earliest recollection of the KKPK buses is that their signal lights were shaped in the form of an arrow and they had this huge menacing looking front (having red as the colour of their body did not help much). As a young boy, it was scary to be standing by the roadside as these monsters passes us by.

Unlike these days, we will have a bus conductor whose main job would be to collect the money and pass us the tickets (it was so colourful, me and my siblings used to have the whole collection – ticket pricing more than RM1.00 was rare ones). Conductors had their own styles when issuing tickets – some punch holes, some just tears them. The bus conductor also acted as the 2nd eye for the driver at the back and occasionally steps in for crowd control (no one was more capable to say “masuk dalam, masuk dalam” (go in, go in) and the crowd obeys it without fail).

(It is very difficult to get photo of KKPK buses in it’s original red and white livery. This bus’ livery is after KKPK was absorbed into Cityliner but similar models used to ply the Puchong – Old Klang Road – KL route. Image source:here)

Another thing that caused an interest when I took the bus was the bell to tell the driver that we wanted to get down on the next stop. There were two types of bell that I saw – the single bell with words “Press Once” around it or the long rubber line design when came in much later. The long rubber line design was more efficient because the line ran from back of the back and to the front – the bell rings no matter which part of the black rubber that we touched.

Interestingly the KKPK buses were not that “loud” as compared to the old Toong Fong buses (their engines tucked away from the interior).

Toong Fong Omnibus (TFO)

TFO buses ruled the trunk roads to my grandma’s house – so if one needs to go to grandma’s house, we need to either go all the way to Pudu Raya where TFO had several platforms to themselves or go to Salak South Garden where we can hop on the same bus half way the journey. My dad is usually be working on the weekends so normally it is up to my mom to bring us to see grandma – a strong beloved lady who will make the trip herself (on her own) to see us.

(One of the newer Toong Fong buses with a refreshed livery and air-conditioner. Note the bus lane number at the front top – it really shines at night. Image source:here)

One thing I liked about TFO was that they were more innovative than the rest – they bought in newer buses faster than the other bus companies and they had an unique way to display the numbers on the front of the bus – fluorescent display boards which was nice to see at night but pretty useless during the day

When I had to take the TFO bus from my grandma’s house to school in KL, it is a ritual that starts almost at 4 in the morning. Because it is was a long journey from Serdang to KL and the traffic jam that comes along with it, my dad made sure that we took the first bus to KL on the dot, every schooling days. Waking up so early in the morning although was a torture in itself, enabled us to get the best seats in the bus and sleep the whole journey to KL. Seeing us so frequently, the bus conductors soon got close to us and sometimes it helped as the bus waits for us if we are seconds late to the bus stop. Bus conductors also wake us up if we overslept for the journey to KL or from KL.

SJ Kenderaan (SJK)

We call them – Sri Jaya bus. This bus ran from what was known as Klang Bus Stand to Brickfields but this was not the usual ride that I often took to go to school (unless of course, if one is going to Bangsar or Pantai Dalam – SJK buses are the “main” buses to take). Compared to Toong Fong, they were quite bland (including the ticket design) but it had its own unique interior styling – the seat design was a bit different (SJ was using a lot of Isuzu models whilst the rest was using TATA or Hino). I recall once when me and my school mate, Punendran had an argument when it came to SJK and TFO – which bus was the fastest. Needless to say, we both won on our arguments without much evidence.

(Sri Jaya bus with it’s original livery in front of Kota Raya (I think) before it was absorbed into Intrakota.  Notice the different window design which was worked well during rainy days and seating arrangement at the front. Image source: here)

But I will always remember SJK for one thing – this was the bus when I heard great 1980s Tamil song early in the morning when I was going to school. It just happens that the driver is an Indian driver who had a simple radio setup at front and he had nothing but Illayaraja 1980s hit songs. It came to a point where I was willing to miss couple of buses just to pick this particular bus for my trip to school.

Honourable mentions

Of course, other than the above 3 – I had my share of experience travelling in Metrobus, CityLiner, Intrakota, Rapid KL and not forgetting the notorious BMW (Bus Mini Wilayah – where I once travelled from Old Klang Road to down town KL with just one foot on the stairs whilst one hand holding the hand rail. And who can forget the usual shout from the conductor asking us to make 2 lines in the cramped standing area and then the conductor squeezing in the middle to collect the money?). But these came in after I started with college and soon working. I was already itching for other alternative mode of travel – biking.

Read Also

The Madness Called Mini Buses

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Childhood Memories Part 17


Read the rest of the series here

(The start of our journey on the trains, the old train station – Image source: http://spwise.wordpress.com)

These days when I go back to my in-law’s house in Taiping for a well deserved rest, we usually take the North South Highway and it takes us about 3 hours to reach. But there was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when we used travel to Taiping by train during the festivals (very rare Deepavali celebrations in Taiping) or when someone had kicked the bucket or when someone very close was getting married.

Back then, we did not have any cars – so travelling by road to Taiping was off the question. In fact, it was very, very rare that even if someone kicked the bucket or there is a marriage, all of us will go. It was expensive to hire a car too. So, the best choice if we have decided to go as one family would be to go by train (still remember Express Rakyat and Express Senandung Malam?). Of course, we could have taken the bus but my Dad loved trains and he made sure that he made enough (usually working throughout the night) to take the whole family by train. Besides, my Dad being a lorry driver back then did not really liked the idea of taking bus at night and travelling on dangerous trunk roads.

We would pack our things early and will be waiting for Dad to come back from work. He usually comes in at night and confirms whether we are indeed going to Taiping (this is because he will get his monthly pay on the last minute before Deepavali). My Mom will cook something simple so that we don’t have to waste time if we are confirmed leaving to Taiping that very night. This however has not stopped my Dad to cook something special for the night. “There is plenty of time”; he assures us (and Mom).

After a heavy dinner, we would have packed up and then head to the bus stop with my Dad and Mom carrying most of the luggage. There is no prior ticket bookings or online booking those days so in a way, we were taking some risk. We will rush to the train station and my Dad would queue up to buy the tickets whilst we waited anxiously to put our foot on the train platform. As I recall, all those years, we always been lucky – there is always a ticket for all of us except for one particular year (we had to come home when the tickets were sold out – everyone was so disappointed).

Depending on the amount of cash he has, my Dad sometimes book for us the sleepers – which has comfortable beds. Otherwise, it is the standard economy seat for us until we reach Taiping and in those days, the seats were not exactly comfortable for long journey. For this reason, we usually end up walking about the cabin when our backs started to give indications of pain and stiffness. Sometimes we walk all the way to the luxury class – just to see how the rich people are travelling in comfort. We will get excited and imagine ourselves travelling in one of those luxury classes.

(I still get excited when see a train passing by and the sound of the cabin passing on the track. Image source: http://www.trainweb.org)

My Mom usually packed something for us to eat during our journey – although there is a meal cabin and food sellers usually walk about the train cabins selling food and drinks, we usually opt not to buy them. The reason is simple – we could not afford to spend money on those items (most of the money already been spent on the tickets and for future use once we reached Taiping, sigh). But when we stop over at certain stations and it will take say couple of minutes before the train “takes off”, my Dad would go down and quickly pack some food and drink from the station cafeteria. Of course this is a big risk because the train could move before my Dad comes back with the food, so what he does is that he will inform the KTM officials (the one holding the flag) stationed at the platform that he is going down to buy some food – so he usually makes it back on time.

But there was a close call once.

My Dad went down the platform as we were peering out the window, watching him running towards the shop and after a moment, we lost sight of him (it was not easy to look for people at night). Suddenly the train started to move and my Dad was no where to be seen. Being kids, we started to panic but my Mom remained relax. She said that at the worst case scenario – Dad can always take the next train to Taiping. The train moved and soon it was on cruising speed. We actually thought we had left Dad stranded at the platform when suddenly he walked towards us from another cabin. He had entered the train from another door and the official had noted this before giving the green flag.

(The Taiping train station – it still looks the same even now after all these years – image source: http://www.preetamrai.com)

Travelling by train is very tiring mainly due to the low quality of its seats and also because we are travelling at night, we can’t see much on the outside (nothing to distract us from the boredom in the inside). So, when we are about to reach Taiping, everyone looked very relieved. When we reached Taiping, it will be on wee-hours (as I recall 3 – 4 in the morning) but there will be a lot of people on the train station (which is Malaysia’s first train station) waiting for their trains.

Sometimes one of our relatives will be waiting for us with a bicycle to carry the bags and us, the kids, back to the house. But most of the time, we had to carry the bags ourselves. The good thing is when we reach the relative’s house (despite the wee hours); they will still be awake, waiting for us. So, it is not a big surprise to see the adults to continue to stay up to chit chat until the sun rises on the horizon whilst we kids are swiftly sent to our beds to have a proper sleep.

The return journey back to KL however is smoother and more comfortable – our relatives will book for us the tickets upfront and usually with better seats (and they get angry when Dad tries to pay them back). For the journey back, we get even more food items packed for us kids and because we travel back during the day, we usually end up sitting by the window, watching the scenery and the happenings on the small towns and villages that we pass by.

It has been years since I took train back to Taiping but it is in my future travel plans especially when my son have not experienced a train ride yet…

Childhood Memories Part 15


Please read the rest of the series here

Still remember the time when Formula 1 was unknown and a distant away? All we had back then was Rothmans Honda, Lucky Strike Suzuki and Marlboro Yamaha. I still remember entering my uncle’s room one day and there on the wall, was a large poster of Kevin Schwantz taking a corner on his Lucky Strike Suzuki.

Me and my cousins used to get excited whenever we see replicas of the Rothmans Honda, Lucky Strike Suzuki or Marlboro Yamaha on Malaysia roads (although it is not of the same model). The Motorcycle Grand Prix came in 3 classes – 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc. One needs to agree that the most intensive competition lies in the 125 cc class but at the end of the day, the juicy stuff lies in the 500 cc class.

Rothmans Honda

Freddie Spencer / Wayne Gardner and Rothmans Honda

One of the most outstanding achievement by Freddie is being the 250cc and 500cc World Champion on the same year. I still recall watching Fast Freddie way up in the front, riding rather casually whilst the nearest competitors fighting off for the second place. Wayne Gardner continued carrying the Rothmans Honda challenge thereafter to be the first World Champion from Australia (way before Mick Doohan came into the picture)

Malboro Yamaha

Eddie Lawson and Marlboro Yamaha

The 4 times world champion and was the one who everyone else would try to outrun. Steady Eddie was Kenny Roberts’ partner before taking helm at the team.

Lucky Strike Suzuki

Kevin Schwantz and Lucky Strike Suzuki

Kevin Schwantz was a blast with the corners – he introduces the sliding when taking corners. This way he was able to catch up with the front runners when they slowed down for the corners. He was battling with Wayne Rainey for the championship and managed to be one in 1993.

Whilst the riders are the main focus when we were watching the Grand Prix on the television, the colourful bikes was the focus especially on the colour of the tire rims as the riders were taking the corners.