Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The East Coast Chronicles: Kuantan

Our first stop on this journey was Kuantan partly because Mie Pak Lah had a job to complete there -- an artist's impression of an old building in Kuantan that was scheduled for restoration.

We also had a contact there by way of Atord and his English wife, owners of Kuantan's most happening restaurant, Crocodile Rock. The restaurant is a converted bungalow near Teluk Cempedak, serving up really good food like pizzas, pastas, etc. From the looks of it, the place is pretty popular. No matter how packed the place was, Atord always welcomed us with food, drinks...and even accommodation! Yes, we put up our nights in Kuantan at his office. To Atord and wife, we thank you so much for your hospitality.
On the second night in Kuantan, we were introduced by Atord's wife to the Tengku Puan of Pahang. It was quite an honour for us to meet her, especially when we learned that she paints, too! I even managed to ask her to draw something in my sketch book!

Overall, Kuantan, I think, is well-placed as the gateway to the East Coast, especially now that the East Coast Expressway has opened, linking Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur within a couple of hours. However, this only leads to a disturbing juxtaposition of old and new in this capital city of Pahang.

On one side, you see the busy, thriving city and its young people chasing after their modern lifetstyle. On another, you see the older generation toiling away on their fishing boats at the nearby rivermouth, doing what they've traditionally done for years before.

On this journey, Mie and I sought out the old places which we feel were much more beautiful than any modern architecture or city could offer. We looked for the quiet spaces where the Kuantan of old still resides. And while these pockets of peace may have been rare and few in urbanised Kuantan, we did manage to find them in places like Pantai Gelora and Tanjung Api...even the names evoke a certain romance and nostalgia, don't you think?

Tanjung Api is a little fishing village where you can still see the fishing boats going in and out to sea at the Kuantan river mouth...all this within a short distance of Kuantan town itself. It was quite a sight to see a thriving, bustling town like Kuantan on one side, and the fishermen and their boats on another. It's a reflection of the see-saw balance between modern and kampung that is essentially Kuantan!

Teluk Cempedak was beautiful, too...tapi sayang, the view from the road leading to it was unceremoniously blocked by two very imposing Western influences, the red-haired clown in yellow overalls and the old guy with white hair...Those two just tipped the balance of Kuantan into ugliness.

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