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A Trip to Singapore
Often one regrets that Malayan boys do not take advantage of the holidays to see more of the land in which they live. The spirit of adventure which creates Empires is not in them. When their holidays come they usually remain at home or if they do go away they, like over-civilized men, prefer the ease and comfort of the train, car or steamer to the use of bicycles or of their legs.
I have always been fascinated by the thrilling adventures of great explorers, among them Scott, Amundsen, Nansen, Livingstone, Fawcett, and Peary. I longed to see and know more of Malaya and at an early age I set out to fulfil my desire. I had already cycled to Singapore, Penang and Bentong, hiked up Maxwell's Hill, been up Fraser's Hill on a bicycle, motored to Cameron Highlands, made the journey between Penang and Singapore in a steamer, and visited every place of interest in Selangor.
Once again, filled with the desire to see more of Malaya, I decided to cycle to Singapore during the last holidays. This time I had great difficulty in getting a companion. At last Yap Pow Meng agreed to accompany me, but only as far as Tampin where we would part, and he would cycle on to Malacca. And so on a misty morning we set out on our trip.
At first the going was good, there being few hills and the roads fair as Malayan standards go. After cycling for a couple of hours the Mantin Hills loomed ahead of us and we had a tough time negotiating the Pass. Shortly we arrived at Seremban where we spent an hour in looking for a friend. By this time the sun was well up in the sky and we were like drooping reeds, but later when the rains came we stiffened up once again and chattered away merrily. It is strange how rain and cold can suddenly put life into you.
The journey would have been monotonous had we not enlivened it by singing the latest song hits and cracking jokes. Unfortunately my companion's disposition tended more to conversation and we touched on a variety of subjects as only two boys under those circumstances could.
As we approached Tampin we were caught in a rain shower but it ceased when we arrived at the town. Here we parted, for Yap's destination was Malacca while I had planned to stop at Gemas. I wondered how such a bookish person like him, who would strike one as being of the scholarly type a hundred yards away, should have readily agreed to cycle with me for nearly a hundred miles at a stretch. Before this he had not cycled further afield than Kajang and Port Swettenham. After our parting at Tampin, as he told me later, he was caught in a storm which raged intermittently for most of the way and was drenched to the skin, but he arrived at Malacca none the worse for the long trek and the thunderstorm.
From Tampin to Singapore I had to cycle alone. For a time the road was good and the weather fine but all of a sudden it turned gloomy. The rain came down in torrents and the winds howled around me. To make matters worse I had to cycle along a road which was full of ruts and bumps. The road from Tampin to Gemas is undoubtedly one of the worst I have come across in Malaya. It is high time, I think, for the authorities concerned to improve it. I took shelter in a hut. Among those sheltering with me were several wood cutters who looked like a pirate crew. One reminded me of Long John Silver, only he had the use of both his legs. The whole crew stared at me strangely and, I thought, evilly. It was with mixed feelings that I left them. Like Yap, I was wet through when I reached Gemas, where I put up for the night. I met one Mr. Yong Kwi Fong who kindly provided me with food and shelter.
Early next morning I set out for Kluang which is nearly ninety miles from Gemas. The ride to Kluang was pleasant though I had to travel under the blazing sun for the greater part of the way. I relieved the monotony of the journey by singing camp fire songs. At Kluang I was welcomed by Mr. Abdul Manan whom I had met at Batu Pahat four years ago during a trip to Singapore. He showed me around the town and took me to the Malay Club. Although Kluang is not bigger than Pudu yet its streets are always crowded at night with miners and estate workers from the surrounding districts.
The last lap to Singapore was completed without mishap. At Reggam I met two ex-soldiers of the Johore Military Force who accompanied me as far as Johore Bharu. They were both past fifty, yet a journey of more than sixty miles under the tropical sun did not have any ill effects on them. And there are some boys who say that they cannot stand the strain of cycling even twenty or thirty miles.
I spent one enjoyable week at Singapore. Every evening I would go out for long rides along the coast. During the day I looked into all the places of interest and I think I never missed one. It was with a heavy heart that I left the city for home.
On the return joumey I decided to cover new ground. So, instead of taking the northern route, I hugged the coast and arrived at Batu Pahat via Pontian Kechil, Benut and Senggarang. Parts of the road from Pontian Kecliil to Batu Pahat are no better than the stretch from Tampin to Gemas. With this possible exception, the roads in Johore are certainly the best in Malaya.
At Batu Pahat I stayed in the house of Abdul Manan who had come from Kluang to receive me. I had intended to leave Batu Pahat for Malacca early the next day, but as it rained the whole morning it was past noon when I started, and even then I had to travel in a drizzle. At Malacca, Yap Pow Meng joined me and together we cycled back to Kuala Lumpur.
I had spent a fortnight away from Kuala Lumpur and during that time I had cycled no less than seven hundred miles. In the course of the trip I had passed through every kind of country to be found in Malaya, rubber estates, pineapple and fruit plantations, tea and coffee gardens, mining country, jungles, forest reserves, and padi fields. I had seen life in a village and in a city, endured the hardships of village life and tasted the comforts of civilzation.
My only regret is that I did not meet with exciting adventures. I experienced no mirage, nor met any wild animal. I did not meet with even a single sakai. The nearest approach to anything exciting was when I took shelter in the little hut while on my way to Gemas. But this regret is followed by a sigh of relief for if I had met any of them I might not have lived to chronicle the trip.
Machinery as a dominating force
In modern life machinery is becoming more and more a dominating force. The things we wear, the things we eat, the journeys we make and even the games we play, all depend upon machinery. Our homes are made by machinery, our food is prepared to an increasing extent by machinery, our roads and public buildings, banks, temples and churches are erected by means of machinery, and it is difficult to find any sphere of life into which machinery does not enter.
Even writers use machinery in producing their literary works for, instead of writing them with pen in ink as Shakespeare, Keats and Dickens did, they print them by means of a typewriter. Even when they correct the proofs they use a fountain pen.
None of us can get away from the machine today. If, in travelling, we decide not to ride in a machine, whether it be a train or a motor car, and set out walking, we have constantly to look out for machines in the forms of motor cars and cycles so that they do not knock us over. The character of the machinery that is used dominates the style of a factory building, the shape of a car, and the outline of a boat.
The domination exercised by the machine is equally shown on land where, owing to the invasion of motor transport, roads and bridges that have stood for centuries and have been capable of carrying all the traffic that has passed over them have had to be rebuilt more strongly in order to support heavy modern vehicles.
The typewriter is making good handwriting a lost art. Even cheques are now signed by an ingenious machine in large establishments. In the banks clerks no longer add up long columns of figures till they become expert at their work. This is all now done mechanically by adding machines.
In the homes the housewife beats up the egg for cooking with a machine. No home, in fact, is without machinery of some kind today. Our furniture, our clothes, and also our boots are all made by ingenious machinery, almost human in their operation. In fact, we live in a machine-ridden age, from which none of us can escape.
Last update on 28 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng