Saturday, 5 March 2011

Jungle Trails and Jungle People

Why do the West think we lived on trees? Do they still think so?

The early Western people who came to study Malaya and other countries of southeast Asia were animal hunters - they were zoo keepers and circus owners. In their search of animals, they had come here, to Malaya (now Malaysia). We had tigers (harimau), elephants (gajah), monkeys (monyet), chimpanzees (beruk), snakes (ular), orang utan and gorillas. Some of these animals are arboreal (living in trees). 

Humans were also known to be living up on trees in Malaya but these were jungle tribes, not us. These jungle tribes had to live up high on the trees to avoid being attacked by wild elephants and tigers. Elephants are known to suddenly run amok. Tigers are known to attack humans even in the dark. Living up on trees was a means for safety. Robinson Crusoe also lived in a tree-top house while his Black slave, Man Friday lived below.


In the early days where roads and cars were limited to big towns, on the west coast of Malaya, foot trails and elephants trails dominated most parts between these big towns and the hinterland of Malaya. One great elephant trail was the one from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu (KL-KB elephant trail). This elephant trail is difficult to find nowadays since nobody knows of the exact GPS coordinates of that trail.

One account that was related to the author was by Matron Chong Nyet Lin @ Mariah, circa 1965. She had narrated about the KL-KB elephant trail. According to Matron Chong, she had travelled with a Malay doctor (Dr Che Lah bin Mohd Joonos) on elephant backs, carrying medicine for the hospital in Kota Bharu (I gather this would have been the Rumah Sakit Besar Kota Bharu; hospital is 'rumah sakit' in Malay). In retrospect, her story would be after the Japanese occupation, 1948 onward, where she had worked at the Bangsar Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

Gajah (elephants). Photo from Penang Museum.

Bangsar Hospital was meant for the Europeans according to Coco (Tan Sri Abdul Majid, second Director-General of Health Malaysia). But later, Malay mothers also delivered their babies at Bangsar Hospital. Arasu's father was a gardener at Bangsar Hospital. I will  need more stories about Bangsar Hospital and life that surrounded that hospital before it was demolished. According to (click) Arasu (in his Facebook), only a few buildings of Bangsar Hospital complex remain today. Please contact Arasu in Facebook for pictures of Bangsar Hospital.