Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kampung - Part 1

Every year for Eid al-Fitr we would go back to the man's hometown in Taiping, Perak to visit my in-laws and drive further north the following day up to my dad's hometown in Teluk Kumbar, Penang.

It's always a bittersweet trip for me. On one hand I get to visit the kampung where my dad grew up but on the other hand I get a bit depressed seeing the changes that come with development. I dread seeing apartments and link houses slowly, inevitably taking over what used to be beautiful padi fields, lush jungles and quaint kampung homes.

So, I am grateful my uncle and aunt have continued to live in my great grandparents' house and have taken the best of care so that it still stands handsome for the the 5th generation - my kids - to see and enjoy.

This is the main road leading through the kampung and to my great grandparents' house.

It wasn't always a tar road. It used to be a rugged path hardly wide enough for one car and so full of holes and tree roots we would be bouncing up and down in the car as we made our way to the house in the dark. Back then there were no highways and so what is now a four hour journey from Kuala Lumpur used to take us 8 - 9 hours and we would usually arrive at night.

The road still fits only one car but it's a much smoother ride now.

Above is a painting my dad did of the original house. He was in his teens when he painted this and every time I look at it I can't believe the colours are still brilliant after all these years. My photo doesn't do it justice at all.

My dad is in his early 70s by the way so you can get an idea how old this painting is :) 

Here's what it looks like now. Those windows are my dad's bedroom windows. The best view.

The main house is intact but there have been some renovations as you can see. That extended portion on the right is part of the kitchen and a bathroom. When I was growing up the kitchen was literally a cement floor and a small hole in the wall to allow water to flow out. Electricity was supplied in the early 60s so we were cooking using a stove by then but the kampung didn't get water till much later and we had to wash the the dishes on the floor using water carried from the well nearby.

Now, the kitchen is tiled and fitted with lots of cabinets and a working sink. No more trips to the well. It's not even there anymore  :(
Edited: Found out it's still there but no one uses it anymore

There was also no toilet or bathroom. We had to use an outhouse in the back when we had to go. I remember not bringing enough water once and had to yell for some more. My poor grandma had to hurry over with another pail of water. For baths or for washing clothes we would go to the river although I think it's more like a stream or a brook that runs through two ponds - a large, shallow one where the kampung women and children would bathe and wash the clothes and a smaller, fairly deeper pond further up for the men folk. Sometimes we kids would sneak up to use it too!

Soon, my dad's family had a small "shed" built at the side of the house where the current bathroom now stands. Unfortunately, it was so low we had to bend down and squat to bathe. I hated it not only because of the height but also because there were gaps between the roof and walls and I was sure anyone who passed by could see me bathe. Now there are three large, airy, spacious bathrooms, two of which have attached toilets. Oh. And there's a washing machine now of course.

All this to accommodate the ever growing family.

These steps leading up to that small verandah were also added later on. Up a few more steps on the right is a door to my dad's room.

A window to my dad's bedroom. 

The bars and diamond grills have been there for as long as I remember but the chicken coop fence below was fixed several years ago due to the rampant thieving. Sad. We used to play under the house and look for eggs in the baskets put out for the many chickens my grandparents reared. We had to be careful because most of the time the hens would be sitting on their eggs and some of them were really feisty. It's a bummer the kampung is no longer a safe place. Years ago you could leave the house unlocked and the doors wide open. Now everything has to be barred up and the pretty scallops are rendered not so pretty anymore. 

Under lock and key.

The bicycle on the right belonged to my late grandfather - a fisherman and a farmer of many skills,  highly refined craftsmanship and a fiery temper. Apparently he scolded me once for playing with his bicycle but somehow I can't seem to remember that at all. What I do remember is sitting with him and watching him patiently mend his fishing net with the utmost care. I also remember him always barefoot. According to my uncle he never wore shoes or slippers, not since he was young except for formal occasions. I don't think it was just an eccentricity. My grandfather was truly one with nature. 

Another angle :)


  1. wow. how did i never know that your dad painted?! That explains a lot :) And what a gorgeous house ...