Category: Travelogue

Craving for old favourites

By Sim Bak Heng

WHAT helps you remember a place? For me, it is the food and places of interest.

For some, a road map will be helpful to discover a town or city, like what I did when venturing to many “off the beaten track” places in Indonesia and southern Thailand in the past few years.

However, I will always add value to my map by marking a cross on famous eateries and interesting spots, and make sure to cover all these places during my tour.

When the Muar Subdistricts Coordinating Committee under Chris Lee came up with three different maps last year, I knew they have done the right thing in promoting Muar as a tourist town.

Such tourist-friendly maps are a beacon to a tourist like me.

Such a map is not too new to me, as some countries have been doing it for years for the benefit of tourists, especially backpackers.

This effort should be lauded, more so as Lee will come up with another series on eco-tourism.

After missing Muar for many years, I am back in the town again, not much as a tourist this time, but to assist in the general election coverage.

I told myself I will revisit the eatery that I had been to before, and stroll down several lanes to refresh my memory about the town.

My first night was to hunt for the sour pear juice sold at two fruit stalls near the clock tower. I had a glass of the thirst-quencher after my dinner of Teochew-style stewed duck rice at Avenue 4. I savoured every sip of the drink.

The second night was a slight disappointment, as I could not find the kacang putih seller at Jalan Ali.

The trader would stir the groundnuts in a heated wok full with coarse sand.

His traditional way of preparation was indeed a cultural heritage. I interviewed him about five years ago at his home not far away from the town centre.

Every evening, he would push his specially-fitted tricycle to the town centre and sell his groundnuts under the glowing kerosene lamp.

His groundnuts, priced at 50 sen per packet then, was always aromatic.

I brought my colleague Sarah, to the exact place where he sold his groundnut but could not find him.

After asking around, someone told me he had stopped his business for about two years.

I was disappointed when I could not satisfy my craving for this groundnuts. I also felt a sense of loss… a loss of cultural heritage, something which will never come back again.

When I was a young boy, my parents would bring me to the Sarawak Museum in Kuching at night.

Surrounding the museum were petty traders selling kacang putih wrapped in paper cone. They also sold candy there.

The only light they used were little candles placed on tables there.

I can’t remember exactly why my parents brought me there as the museum closed at 5pm.

Maybe they were trying to rekindle some old memory. I also enjoyed the kacang putih they bought for me.

Such night scenes are no more just like the missing link in the Muar tourist maps because of the disappearance of the kacang putih seller.

Read more: Craving for old favourites – Johor – New Straits Times

Category: Travelogue