Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year 2013

The Historical Japanese Finds at Palekbang

After we found the remains of the old Palekbang train stop, we ventured to another nearby place near the train bridge. There was a vehicle parked close to a shed just before the bridge. A muddy road formed an underpass for the train bridge. We stopped by the parked vehicle and didn't go onto the muddy track as it would mean a different adventure altogether and we weren't in the right gear for muddy track adventure in the monsoon rain.

Affandi got down to talk to the people at the shed. He discussed for some time while I remained in the car and took photos in heavy rain. Then Affandi emerged and a guy with helmet followed him. They were talking and another man appeared from the underpass, approaching Affandi and the other man. Affandi knew the man who came on the motorcycle (bike). He was the son of Affandi's father's friend who lived in our neighbourhood. The man on the bike greeted Affandi and Affandi asked him whether he worked there on the project.

The project is a historical one, so says the banner at the underpass, just next to a massive brick structure from bygone era. Then the 2 men drove away on the bike through the underpass and to the other side of the train bridge. Affandi then entered the car. I asked him what happened. I asked him whom he talked to. He said the one on the bike who came to pick up the other man, was his friend and they knew each other. The man worked on the project. I asked Affandi "What project?" Affandi said there is an on-going project and pointed to the banner at the underpass. Affandi said right in front of us, the big round brick structure was a Japanese well, left over from the war. He said the Japanese were known to throw humans down this well. I was nauseated when I heard this. I asked him whether these people he talked to knew about the recent discovery of the train tunnel. Affandi said yes. The newly discovered train tunnel is a historical find of the last war. I asked him if we could go and visit that train tunnel. Affandi said it may not be safe in the heavy rain. So we decided to head back to Kota Bharu and stopped over for early lunch at TESCO Kota Bharu. Affandi had laksa Penang and I had nasi goreng kampung (a bit salty). We shared a small cup of hot Milo.

A Dato's 4WD at the train bridge in Palekbang.
A Japanese well from WWII in Palekbang. The banner tells of the on-going historical project.
A nearby shed with some farm animals - itek nila and a beruk.
The train bridge can be seen at left edge of the pic.
A white beef cattle and its fresh cow dung.


Palekbang is Palek-bae in the Kelantanese accent. Palekbang is a small town huddled among expansive paddy fields which are flooded in December, the monsoon season. We visited Palekbang today in heavy downpour. It was scary!

Palekbang once had a small train stop, the most famous during its hey day. Trains stopped here to let down passengers who then took a boat service or ferry across Sg Kelantan to Kota Bharu river bank. The town that docked the boats or ferries for the river crossing service is Penambang.

Palekbang train stop has been abandoned since the more recent one was opened at Wakaf Bharu. When I came to live in Kelantan in May 1969 (after the 13 May incidences), Palekbang was often heard but I had never visited it until today, 43 years later. Palekbang train stop is in ruins today. There are a few columns left standing by the rail track. There is a shed among the jungle thickets where the signpost says 517.75. This means the Palekbang train stop is 517.75 km from where? Gemas? 

From Palekbang the train continues on to Wakaf Bharu, a modern train stop that has shifted from the old site to the more recent site, both sites lay side by side at Wakaf Bharu. Now the new station faces the old station. The new station has a ticket counter, prayer place, toilets, a restaurant and limited seats.

From Palekbang and approaching the Tumpat roundabout.
Follow the signboard to Palekbang
There is a Klinik Kesihatan signboard at the turn-in junction but I didn't see the clinic.
The road ends here in Palekbang. A small post office signpost says POS Palekbang on the left.
Approaching the road end and Palekbang signpost.
The railway track is straight ahead where the road ends.
Initial view of the railway track at Palekbang.
This is not the train stop, which is to the left (not shown in this pic).
Thailand is at left, and Tumpat is at right.
The signboard warns of danger but we took the small road to the old Palekbang train stop after discussing with the man at the Palekbang signpost. He said it was ok. It was not ok since it was raining and the flood water was rising. We went down the tiny road but had to turn back after reaching the old Palekbang train stop. It was scary because the flood water here rose very fast!! We had to reverse for 500m and then quickly make a 3-point turn and exit that tiny road.
Police station at Palekbang at the end of the road, right across from the Palekbang signpost.
Initial view of Palekbang old train stop. A few columns and a shed can be seen.
Dilapidated columns of Palekbang old train stop.
A narrow foot path leads up to the railway track and columns.
Railway shed at the 517.75 km mark.
An old railway quarters still stands in the village nearby. The area is flooded.

In my research on the early Malay doctors, Dr Ali Othman Merican (Dr AO Merican) and his family including his 2 sons, Dr Carleel Merican and Dr Ezanee Merican, had used the Palekbang train stop, continuing their journey from Penang to Thailand, and from Thailand to Palekbang, then crossing Sg Kelantan before arriving in Kota Bharu by river boat service.
Dr AO Merican migrated to Kelantan which started the Merican clan in Kelantan. In 1927, Kota Bharu was still largely underdeveloped and had only one row of brick buildings. Road transportation was inadequate as bridges were few and there were many river crossings which depended on bamboo rafts which were maneuvered by long bamboo poles and pulled by ropes using manual labour from men who stood at the river banks and on the rafts. Only the railway was adequately developed, linking Palekbang in Tumpat and Kuala Krai in Kelantan to the Federated Malay States. Annual floods occurred towards the end of the year and continued into the New Year, for a few months before they finally subsided. - From Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.
Ezanee Merican was brought to Kelantan once his mother had completed confinement when he was 40 days old. The train journey from Penang via Thailand to Palekbang in Kelantan took two days. A river boat service on Sungai Kelantan took passengers across from Palekbang to Kota Bharu. The boat service ceased when the Sultan Yahya Petra bridge was built linking Wakaf Bharu (nearby to Palekbang) to Kota Bharu. - From Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.

Da Vinci, Michaelangelo and Pablo Picasso

I watched the Da Vinci Conspiracy on ASTRO History Channel on TV earlier tonight. I read quite a bit about Da Vinci when I was a teenager in secondary school. I was interested in his mechanical drawings. I was not interested in his Mona Lisa painting at all - it didn't attract me as it did many art historians in the past and today. Da Vinci also drew a lot of human musculoskeletal diagrams - these were useful for me as a student.

Later I came to know about Michaelangelo and Pablo Picasso. Michaelangelo's paintings were mentioned to me by my elder sister, Sharifah. She read and knew more about him than I did. It was sufficient for me to know that Michaelangelo painted life-like human figures that occupied ceilings and high walls.

Pablo Picasso to me was someone linked to abstract painting. As a teenager, I tried to understand his paintings but failed to. I couldn't connect with his paintings. Even as a young adult, I could not understand his paintings.

Coming back to Da Vinci, his 2-year hiatus from 1476 to 1478, seems to me he went to learn something else apart from painting. I think he went to learn religion and returned with more paintings of divine scenes, including Virgin Mary, before and after she had her child. Art historians and curators say Da Vinci was the greatest man with the greatest impact on man. I don't think so this is true. The man with the greatest impact on human civilisation is still Prophet Muhammad SAW. No man can ever surpass him, not even Da Vinci or any of the European painters.

Da Vinci drew mechanical drawings of machines. Prophet Muhammad SAW taught the Quran and the Sunah. Of the two, machines are the basis of today's development. How humans should live and abide by rules that let man live in peace were taught by Islam, the divine religion taught by Prophet Muhammad SAW. What art historians and curators failed to say and point out clearly is that Da Vinci showed the technicalities of inventions used in today's war machines. The same with Alfred Nobel with gunpowder and explosives. These men provided knowledge of destructive war machines. On the contrary, Prophet Muhammad SAW taught just the reverse - how to live in peace, and without material greed, hardly destructive war weapons.

Every time the TV airs a program of some invention by the West, it is inevitably connected to exploration and war. The message I get is aggression of the West through inventions of sophisticated war weapons. I think it is high time that the West opens its eyes and learns to look at how to live in peace. Technological advances are great but we don't need war anywhere on this globe, not when innocent women and children are killed, and homes, schools and buildings are destroyed indiscriminately. Nobody should die and nothing should be destroyed. That's my message, human to human. I'm not talking to heartless machines or wired robots. I'm talking real.

I don't think we should use technology to invent objects for destructive purposes. I think it is better to use technology for useful purposes. Man versus machine, which should we support? I think we should support all efforts and inventions that teach us how to live peacefully. Da Vinci maybe creative and intelligent by standards of the West, but nobody has said that he learned or improved on methods already present in the books of the Golden Era of Islam. Where are those books today? Medieval Europe lived in the Dark Ages. Renaissance (French for rebirth) occurred in Europe with people like Da Vinci learning from other scholars and then extending that knowledge to Europe. Did Da Vinci learn from the great Muslim scholars? Did he operate corpses alone or with an aid who knew where to make incisions and what to excise? Did he go to learn from the Muslim surgeons and then decide to do his own surgical explorations? Wasn't he just reproducing the drawings of the Muslim scholars before him? The theory that claims Da Vinci had a divine visitation from "bright lights" of extra-terrestrial beings in spaceships - I think I would like to trash that. Let's just accept that Da Vinci disappeared and went to learn from the Muslim surgeons and engineers for 2 years and returned rejuvenated or enlightened with the knowledge that the Muslim surgeons and engineers taught him. Then he started researching whatever he had learned. That's Renaissance.

Technical Note - Wikipedia & Wikimedia Commons Image Guidelines

This is the Wikipedia & Wikimedia Commons Image Guidelines. It is good for amateur photographers.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Masjid Kampung Laut

At last we found Masjid Kg Laut. We passed by 2 other mosques before reaching this mosque. This is an old wooden mosque. It is across from the Universiti Malaya (UM) building which is brightly coloured yellow and blue. This mosque was relocated from Kg Laut in Tumpat to Nilam Puri in 1967. It lies in front of the UM female students' hostel. The mosque is the biggest structure and uses wooden and bamboo pegs but no metal nails. Next to it is a wooden tower or minaret. Annexed at the rear are separate ablution areas for males and females. There is one unidentified building annexed to the main mosque building. There is a long highly ornate eating/waiting shed. There are a few wooden wakafs. The mosque is open during the day and visitors can stop here to pray. Night lectures are delivered by ustaz.


From Kubang Kerian, take Jalan Pasir Putih to Pasir Tumboh. At the traffic lights,, turn right and go right down to the end of the road. At the junction, turn left. At the big junction with traffic lights, take left on Jalan Kuala Krai. Go right down the road, past Masjid ar-Rahman (on the right), Masjid Kedai Mulong (on the left) and then a row of shops on the left. Go further up till you see a brightly coloured yellow building on the right which is the UM complex. Opposite the UM complex across the road is Masjid Kg Laut (on the left). It is not so easy to spot Masjid Kg Laut which lies a bit farther in from the main road (Jalan Kuala Krai). It may be easier to spot it if coming from the opposite direction. I didn't see any signboard for Masjid Kg Laut.

Location of Masjid Kg Laut at Jalan Kuala Krai, Nilam Puri.
UM campus at Nilam Puri
All wooden structures. 3-tiered roof of Masjid Kg Laut, Jalan Kuala Krai at Nilam Puri.
Base of the minaret is at left. Carved roof skirting of the shed at right.
Main mosque building. The prayer section has rectangular faded black wooden panels and 3-tiered roof. The 3rd level at the top is the attic. The rear lobby has carved wooden panels, shellac wooden floor boards and 2-tiered roof. A 3-rung wooden staircase leads to the rear lobby.
Long multipurpose shed with fixed tables and benches, mainly for visitors to eat.
It can accommodate 5 families or 50 people.
Front facade of the main mosque building photographed from the Qiblat direction
Wooden minaret set on 3 floors. This is the front of the mosque. The roof is octagonal.
Silhoutte of Masjid Kg Laut at Nilam Puri (close to dusk).
From left: female ablution area, minaret, mosque and shed.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Masjid Mukim Kedai Mulong

This is a brightly painted mosque of the modern era. This is our second time being in the area of the mosque. We were here last time when a relative got married in a house some distance behind this mosque. This is Masjid Mukim Kedai Mulong in Jalan Kuala Krai, Kelantan.

Masjid ar-Rahman

We were searching for Masjid Kg Laut and came across this masjid. This is not Masjid Kg Laut. This is Masjid ar-Rahman in Jalan Kuala Krai.

Man vs Machine

I wrote a post about the Tanjung Kupang airplane tragedy. This post is about another airplane tragedy, as bad as that at Tanjung Kupang. Tanjung Kupang was an air-land crash. This one is an air-river crash, the worst in modern aviation history. This was the tragic SilkAir Flight 185 from Jakarta to Singapore on 19 December 1997. It has been 15 years now. Eyewitnesses are 15 years older since that crash date. Children who witnessed the crash are teenagers and adults today. In this aircrash, all died. Victim's families mourned endlessly. Investigations were troublesome and long-winded. No aircrash investigation is easy. The cause of many such aircrash remains unknown. There can never be a single cause. Most point to a multitude of probable causes. In this case, investigators gave many causes such as pilot suicide, indicating heavy financial losses of one pilot and a predated purchase of a life insurance as glaring evidence for his committing suicide. Other investigations brought up the rudder mechanism as being at fault for the airplane's yaw or roll (as 2 other planes had experienced the same). The airplane went down in a river near a village in Palembang, midway between Jakarta and Singapore.

Mayday - SilkAir 185 - Pilot Suicide
More details

I met Mr Champika Wijayatunga, a senior IT trainer and specialist based in Queensland, Australia. We met at the IPv6 Forum on 15-16 March 2007 at dinner in Putrajaya (refer to Research on the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore, page 63). I sat next to him and we started talking about IT applications in various fields. We hopped from hospitals to airplanes. Both Champika and I loved the IT applications for the airplane cockpit. He loved video game airplane simulations; I don't. We discussed about autopilot and whether there was any safety when things are flying on autopilot. Champika said a lot of things about autopilot. A haunting feeling I had was WHAT IF pilots died in their seats and passengers were to fly an autopilot airplane. Would they know how to read and comprehend the dials, buttons and levers? We laughed. But an eerie feeling ran through me. WHAT IF an autopilot driven airplane had mechanical problems? It was no joke when passenger safety is at risk in an aircraft that's flying on autopilot. We were both silent. Anyway, Champika wished me luck for completing my book on The Early Malay Doctors.

Many years ago, I had a female medical student who asked me if there is a new field that she could take up after graduation. I proposed to her the topic of emergency air medicine and told her how to go about it. It would require a basic medical training (as for a doctor, plus postgraduate A&E training), a basic mechanical & electrical engineering training (as for engineers) and a good training in faith (as in Islam). You see, in any emergency involving a machine (in this case an aircraft that rolled to the right and flew upside down before it crashed), sometimes we can still bring things under control. However, in many emergencies, there is a point where we cannot change things happening right in front of our eyes, and have to accept the inevitable - in this case, aircrash.

Despite many investigations that follow after any aircrash, it is the people that matter. People who made the aeroplane parts are responsible for inspecting that these mechanical parts are of quality and have passed strict inspection tests. Technicians cannot just shut one eye and pass an object that is defective. A corrected mechanical defect is fine if it passes inspection and tests (the defect becomes history). A pilot's mental health is of utmost importance as he flies the airplane. One wrong move by the captain can bring down an entire 6-ton airplane and jeopardise or end the lives of hundreds on board. It is not a joke.

We all must be very careful with the duties entrusted to us. We cannot pass something that is defective or wrong. There is a limit to bring personal problems to the work space. There is a limit to bring domestic problems to the work scene. It is difficult to separate a person from his pressing problems but this is the greatest challenge that employers face today. The other challenges are employee honesty and trust.

I am troubled every time I hear of an aircrash. It makes me wonder, with all the IT that we have today, we still cannot control even the airplanes that we fly. It simply tells us a message that there is a bigger power that controls us. It should make us contemplate on our lives and the lives of others.

On 29 December 2012, Ustaz Pahroi said on Radio IKIM that we read doa before using any transport as we cannot fully control the transport.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Muzium Kelantan

We visited Muzium Kelantan today after we last set foot here. We entered the main office and asked for Encik Sabki Ibrahim, Muzium Kelantan's famed photographer. But the receptionist said he was busy. A lady approached us to assist. We told her we wanted to see Sabki. She said he was busy in the back office photocopying stuff for a meeting in the afternoon. She asked us to see another person instead. I took her photo before she disappeared. I don't have her name.

Receptionist at Muzium Kelantan, 27 December 2012

We were asked to see another officer, Haji Abustarim bin Yaacob. He is Penolong Pengarah (Kurator), Konservasi & Penyelidikan. I didn't see his name on his doorplate which was set high above his office door (above the door frame). I managed to quickly glimpse the doorplate above my head as we walked into his room. I only saw the word Yaacob on the doorplate. Affandi said his name is "Abu or something". We forgot to ask for his business card. We were warmly invited in and asked to be seated. Affandi salam and we both sat down to talk. Affandi gave Haji Abustarim my 2 books, and said thanks for Muzium Kelantan's help with the old photos that went into my books.

Muzium Kelantan was very helpful. It kept a lot of photos of British Kelantan and willingly assisted me from the outset of my research on The Early Malay Doctors. When I first approached Muzium Kelantan, it was a cold welcome but that slowly became good over time. I was not used to working with the Muzium and my language style had to be fine tuned to match the fine Malay language used at Muzium Kelantan. The staff were courteous and they spoke very softly, unlike the noisy staff I am used to at my workplace.

Haji Abu was very happy to receive us. Affandi did all the talking and I butted in once in a while. I took 2 photos of Haji Abu. He said nobody had written about the Malays and more so on doctors. He said my effort in writing on the early Malay doctors was a worthwhile effort in the right direction in helping to increase knowledge about the Malay people. He was very happy. He said people should be happy about the 2 books I wrote. I told him that whatever I wrote was to the best of my ability, given the published materials which I used as reference. I told him there were limited information on Kelantan for my reference. He mentioned there is Sejarah Kelantan which was written in English. He also mentioned Dr Gimlette. I reiterated Dr John Gimlette who wrote Malay Poisons and Charm Cures, and he instantly recalled that book.

I told Haji Abu that I had faced problems when trying to identify people in some of the photos as either I knew them but only as a child or I had never heard of them and did not know them by face and name. I said to him to let me know if he spots inconsistencies and mistakes. I could correct them in future, insyaAllah.

He said now that the 2 books are available, people can now read and if they find errors, they can make note of them and let me know. I said they can email me. He said it was unfair if critics bombard me after my hard work in trying to publish the 2 books; they should appreciate that the books are published. He said I must have spent a great amount of time to write the books and got them published. He said it was a great contribution to the Malay world. He was pleased that I had done a good job of publishing my 2 books. I thanked him and felt blessed. Alhamdulillah.

I said to Haji Abustarim that I hoped Muzium Kelantan would continue to assist me in my future book writing activities, insyaAllah. He agreed that Muzium Kelantan would be happy to assist me. It made me very happy to know that Muzium Kelantan is agreeable to assist me. Alhamdulillah. I took some photos while the men were talking. We then left to catch up with Encik Sabki on our way out.

Affandi with Haji Abustarim bin Yaacob, Muzium Kelantan, 27 December 2012

Encik Sabki bin Ibrahim (Pembantu Muzium, Muzium Negeri). He is the muzium photographer, He remembered us and was happy to know that the books are ready. He said he would take a look at the books later as he had a meeting to attend to. I took a photo of him with Affandi. He then asked us to see Muzium Kelantan's current display - The Red Warriors! I thought he was joking but he was not. He led us to the display section and then had to leave for his meeting. We went round to see all the displayed items including a photo of Apek, a lot of red jerseys, a lot of gigantic trophies, a wall of newspaper clippings, photos of football coaches, including Boyan Hodak! There were personal paraphenalia & memorabilia belonging to Dali Omar and Hisham ... (can't recall his name). I still marvel at the trophies - I would love to hold one up high - for what? I don't know. The 2 big trophies I saw had intricate designs and relief, that I think they must have been made by Kelantanese craftsmen or some British counterparts. I don't know where they make such huge trophies - I could put my head in the 2 large trophies! Awesome!

                                                            GOMO KLATE GOMO!!

Affandi with En Sabki bin Ibrahim (Muzium Kelantan photographer), 27 December 2012

External links

Drinking Water

In our history, many Malay households used well water for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing, watering, etc. Others used the river for the same purposes if their homes were close to rivers. Rivers were clean and there was no problem of contaminated rivers then.

A few British government homes had piped water where lead (plumbum, Pb) was used to make the metal pipes. 55 years after independence, these lead pipes are rusty and give us rusty water that stain our white school blouses a rusty colour.

There is one source of clean drinking water that the Malays used to obtain hygienic clean drinking water and that is the hollowed granite potable water. I had seen one at the Cheng Ho Expo in November 2010. I saw one outside Muzium Kelantan today.


A traditional Malay water-filtration system outside Muzium Kelantan, 27 December 2012

It makes me wonder, did the Ming Chinese introduce clean drinking water to the Malays well before the British introduced lead pipes which rusted easily? Did the Malays use hygienically doubly filtered sand-filtered granite-filtered drinking water? If they did, then the Malays had a good water filtration system well before the British colonials arrived in Malaya. Another question is, did the British colonials learn about water filtration from the Malays in Malaya during British Malaya? Did they then bring the idea back home to England and then tried making a similar system that worked?


A Chinese water filtration system, similar to that of the Malays, Cheng Ho Expo, 23 November 2010
A display board at Cheng Ho Expo, 23 Novermber 2010


Back in the mid-1970s, I was in my grandfather's kitchen while he wanted to show me his new British water filtration system. It was a dull clay colored earthen cylindrical column with a few removable parts. There was a column, a lid and some inside parts I am unable to recall. The water filter system should still be in his house in Penang. I have not seen it since he died. A similar water filter can be seen at this website:

Bazar Tuan Padang

We were in front of the new Bazar Tuan Padang today. I saw it from a distance before but this is the first time that we were close to it. I managed to get some photos from across the busy main street while we were at Muzium Kelantan.

Who was Tuan Padang? Accounts say he was a great man, an ustaz from Terengganu who was well-known in Kelantan. I don't have the complete story on him yet. Affandi said Tuan Padang's son is also an ustaz, and often appears on Malaysian TV9.

The bazaar is a new place and is named after this great ustaz. I saw people selling kain tudung here but I haven't been inside. There is a surau within the bazaar.

Bazar Tuan Padang

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Lorong Minyak Gas

We couldn't locate Lorong Minyak Gas (literally kerosone street) in the vicinity of Lorong Gajah Mati. This road was named after a shop that sold kerosene for use in kerosene stoves for cooking purposes. Long long ago, Malay homes used either charcoal or kerosene stoves. Many homes chose kerosene stoves over charcoal stoves. My home in Malacca used a big homemade charcoal stove while my Malacca aunt used a commercial kerosene stove.

We stopped at an old squatting WC (jamban cangkung) that was roughly 2 feet above ground. I took a close look at the interior - I didn't like the sight of it. We were starring at the masterpiece when a lady called from behind us. I turned to look at her - she had false front teeth.  She asked us what we were doing in the area. Affandi asked her for the direction to Lorong Minyak Gas. She said we were in the wrong place and to go back to where we came from the main road, and to go the opposite direction.

We headed back to the main road (Lorong Gajah Mati). There we met with an elderly lady named Nab (could be short for Zainab). She asked who we were and Affandi explained we were looking for Lorong Minyak Gas. Affandi described who he was - son of Yah, daughter of Esah, Yah sister of Nik Kob. It is rather strange that in the Kelantanese language, names are usually simplified to a single syllable and relationships are remembered. Nab knows Yah and they were friends, they are possibly of the same age. Nab appeared very happy talking to us. He asked Affandi where he worked and Affandi replied at USM. Nab interrupted and asked, "Doktor ke"? Nab said Yah had mentioned one of her children is a doctor! OMG! Nab turned to me and asked what I do. Affandi replied I teach, which is correct. We didn't bother to specify what our occupations are in order to keep the conversation lively and not to surprise Nab. Then it was time to go. I don't have a photo of Nab as my camera ran out of battery. Will try to bring Yah to see Nab next time, insyaAllah.

Malay House

While Affandi was talking to some villagers of Lorong Gajah Mati, I searched the area. I came across an interesting building. I went back to asked the villagers about the building. A boy said that it was the house of Wae Deng (Wan Din) who was a skilled house builder. I asked the boy where was he. The boy replied he died long ago. The house seemed vacant. I took some shots to show you what a Malay house looks like on the exterior. I can't tell which was the front and back. You decide.

External links:
Hijjas bin Kasturi

Lorong Gajah Mati

The sultan's office in Kota Bharu is at Istana Balai Besar, and was once surrounded by big bamboo poles. Once is a while these bamboo poles would make a bursting sound in the dry season. Thus, the area is called Pintu Pong and the road named Jalan Pintu Pong.

Istana Balai Besar is not far from a Malay village which is sited at Jalan Gajah Mati. We asked the villagers (2 boys and an elderly lady in her late 70s) why the place was named Jalan Gajah Mati. One boy said a white elephant that had 6 legs died in the village long ago. The lady informed us nobody remembers the story of the white elephant that had died here and the village named after it.

From my reading, a white baby elephant had escaped from the palace and the villagers gave chase to recapture it. It ran in the direction of a Malay village by Sg Kelantan. However, the villagers' huts huddled close together and there was only a narrow path in that village. This baby elephant ran and entered this narrow path. Because it could not pass through the narrow path it got stuck and then died at this village. The lane was thus name Lorong Gajah Mati after the white royal elephant that died while trying to escape. Whatever the true story of how this village derived its name, nobody remembers anymore.

We went to look at the house where Affandi grew up and where we met his mother, 17 years after mother and son were separated. It took us a month to search for his mother's location. We knocked on every door and asked everyone we met on the way to the old house. We found her! It was a tearful meeting after that long.

Map of Jalan Gajah Mati and nearby areas

Path to Affandi's old rented house by Sg Kelantan
Affandi's feels happy to be back in his village
Yellow steps leading up to the old rented house where Affandi lived for the first 6 years of his life. He was born at home here. His bathroom was Sg Kelantan behind the house (where children are playing in the river).

Masjid To' Mesir

We visited an old mosque in Kota Bharu. This is Masjid To' Mesir. We don't know about the background of To' Mesir. The mosque was recently renovated in 2010. A narrow broken bitumen path leads to the mosque from Jalan Gajah Mati entrance. Corrugated zinc sheets were used as fence by the villagers for privacy. They can be a problem as some parts of the zinc fences were rusty and jutting out. There were no fences when we visited the area in the early 1980s. It was a madrasah (Kelantan malasoh) from 1963 to 2009. Its status was upgraded to masjid on 31 January 2010.

Lorong Gajah Mati entrance in Kota Bharu
Affandi showing the way to the mosque which lies in his village

Masjid To' Mesir
Renovation plaque