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This blogspot is a medium to share my thoughts and adventures apart from promoting my books. Below are the books which have been written or authored and published by myself.


"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Mencari Diri dan Erti".

ISBN 983-42031-0-1, Jun 2006


"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Membela Syiar yang Asal"

ISBN 983-42031-1-x, May 2007


"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Sirih Pulang ke Gagang?"

ISBN 978-983-42031-2-2, November 2007


It is interesting to note that while these books were written in Malay it has gained enough attention to merit being part of the collections of the American Library of Congress and National Library of Australia. Look here and here.


While the first three books were published by my own company, the fourth titled "Rumah Azan" was published in April 2009 by a company called Karnadya with the help of the Malaysian national literary body Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. It features beautiful pictures along with stories behind selected mosques which could be related to the history of Islam and the Malays alongside the formation of the Malaysian nation. Look at the article A collaboration of old collegemates - the book "Rumah Azan".


My fifth book "Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and Malay Sultanates", an English translation and adaptation of the Malay book "Ahlul Bait (Keluarga) Rasulullah SAW dan Kesultanan Melayu" authored by Hj Muzaffar Mohamad and Tun Suzana Othman was published early 2010. Look here... My 5th book is out! Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and the Malay Sultanates... . For more information check out my Malay blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU.



Like my fourth book "Rumah Azan", the sixth book "Kereta Api Menuju Destinasi" is also a coffee-table book which is published by the company Karnadya with the cooperation of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (the main Malay literary body in Malaysia). Coming out January 2011 it features pictures and stories on the adventure travelling by train to all of Peninsular Malaysia along with the interesting places which could be reached this way.


My seventh book "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" in turn is a coffee-table book which is written, editted, designed and has pictures taken by me. Coming out of the factory October 2011, this book which combines family history with history of places such as Singapura, Johor, Batu Pahat, Muar and in fact the history of the island of Java and England has been reviewed with me interviewed live in the program Selamat Pagi Malaysia at RTM1. Look at the article Siaran langsung ulasan buku "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" dan temu ramah di Selamat Pagi Malaysia. Some selected contents have been featured in Sneak peek "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah".


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The "Berpetualang ke Aceh" series of novels could be obtained in e-book form. Enter http://www.e-sentral.com/, click general novel and go to page 4. You can also type the word "Aceh" at the search box. Or click straight Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

The megalithic stones of Pengkalan Kempas

OK, let me start this story by venting out a bit of frustration. I was supposed to start this piece last night at my favourite Cyber-Cafe in Kajang when my pen-drive was attacked by virus. The computer I was using went through some trouble and I switched to another one only to see more serious problems popping up.
Realising that any attempt to make new updates on my blogspots were then futile, I just hoped that something could be done to at least cure the virus affecting my pen-drive which contains some 1,000 pictures taken on travels made over the last 2 months or so. That is mainly the one covering the 8 main districts (or 9 if you consider Tangkak a full district) of Johor and then another up north covering parts of Kedah and Perak.
The person in-charge of the CC assured me that he could sweep away the virus using the main computer at the counter. What's sure it managed to detect the virus where-else the computer I last used that night couldn't. But his computer could only recognised the threat but not cure it. The best it could do was move the affected files to a vault which the guy did.
The problem is, the next thing I know, the main folders marked "Johor" (containing the Johor pictures of course), "Kedah" and "Perak" were gone. A check using the anti-virus programme shows all the pictures are still inside the pen-drive but just couldn't recalled, what more to be viewed and used! The guy just smiled. He said, he does have the software to recover the files but it was at home. So he told me to come again the next day (today) . I asked what time, he said 7pm and above, his working hours.
Now, I actuallly planned to spend only one night in Kajang (which is last night) before returning to Kuala Lumpur. But what happened forced me to spend a night more here as I couldn't return late to my auntie's place in Ampang where I'm currently staying at, officially that is... And so today in the afternoon, I walked some 2km to the town centre to get to the CC... I went on the Net and waited till past 7pm only to find out the guy is on leave today? What? I almost lost my temper!
I've got 1,000 pictures taken on my travelling which needs recovering and I need to make some postings as soon as possible. Now this guy stood me up? I nearly lost my temper and almost kick the furnitures at the CC... Luckily my better judgement kicked in and I decided to walk away.
Anyway, I managed to solve the problem at another shop but it cost me RM20...
Never mind, what's done is done... What's important is the pictures are safe. So continuing from the article Tangkak, the textile town! (not Views from on top of Muar town... ya as chronologically, Tangkak came later)...
I left Tangkak via Melaka and made a snap decision to go to Pengkalan Kampas near Linggi, Negeri Sembilan... Here's a certain place I've never visited before but should have done long ago due to its high historical value.
Since I'm still slightly fuming over the fact that I nearly lost my 1,000 pictures to a computer virus problem plus the CC guys mistake (it would have been easier to recover if he hadn't moved the affected files which are actually folders), sometime I feel I could tell the story just fine, sometimes I feel not in the mood. So let me just copy and paste something from the Net to introduce the subject...
Anyone with a fetish for monoliths and ancient graves, Pengkalan Kempas is the place to head for.
It's a little place just 60km away from Melaka with a small, predominantly Chinese population of 1000people. A town that can be easily mistaken for a lay-by with a total of 26 shops of which only 10 are still operating, a small primary school, an abandoned petrol station, a government health centre and a police station make up the structure of the town. Set just a short distance away on an oil palm plantation, is a little known place called the Pengkalan Kempas Historical Complex. Within the vicinity is a large grave purportedly the final resting place of Sheikh Ahmad Majnum, a holy man who came to Melaka in the 14th century. Sheikh Ahmad was slain during a battle with Sultan Mansor Shah's army. (Sultan Mansor Shah reigned over Melaka from 1457 to 1477). Sheikh Ahmad was buried here in 1467 and his grave is reported to be the oldest known Muslim grave in Malaysia.
There are a number of megalithic stones strewn around the area. Some fully carved and others left unfinished. 3 strangely shaped stones were named "rudder", "spoon" and "sword" by the locals attributing to their shapes and are believed to be carved during the 2nd or 3rd century. Some of them have Arab and Sumatran scripts carved onto them but there is no evidence that the inscriptions were chiselled onto the stones later. The locals believe that these stones have special powers, which allow them to grow.
A headstone-like structure with a hole in the middle is believed to have been an ancient form of 'lie-detector'. The accused would put his arm through the hole and each time false answers to questions were given, the hole would constrict, tightening round the arm until the truth was told!

Now that this is done, I could get on to my own visit there using minimum words ya... Come!

The signboard showing the way to the complex...


The complex...


The information board here says the complex houses the tomb of a certain Syeikh Ahmad Majnun said to have lived sometime in the 15th century... And besides it are a few megalithic stones...


The complex' main building...


Inside is the tomb of Syeikh Ahmad Majnun...


Some of the megalithic stones...


One stone, if not mistaken known as "batu bintang" or the star stone. No prize for guessing why...


The more attractive ones especially one known as the sword stone on the right...



Inscribed on it are the Arabic spelling for Allah, the name of God!


The stone with a hole said to be some sort of ancient "lie detector"... It is situated at the head of Syeikh Ahmad Majnun's tomb...


A look after turning 90 degrees...


Another 90 degrees...


A further 90 degrees...


A hut where one can conduct prayers and rest...


On its side is a smaller hut...


A smaller hut housing one singular meghalitic stone...


When I passed the hut where one can rest, I saw these 2 guys taking a nap... Soon enough they woke up and we got to know each other... They then showed me 2 interesting places... In fact they sent me by bike to the small town of Linggi some 5km away where it should be easier to get a bus to Seremban. Once in Seremban, it's very easy to get back to Kuala Lumpur where I've set an appointment to met someone the next day, a Wednesday...

When I had problems getting a bus to Seremban from Linggi, they sent me to Rantau some 20km further. They even waited at the bus -stop to make sure I got a ride. Otherwise, they intend to sent me to Seremban which is another 20km away. Thank you guys...

Sorry, I couldn't elaborate more on the megalithic stones and the tomb of Syeikh Ahmad Majnun. As I've said earlier, nearly losing 1,000 hard-earned pictures does affect my mood. So I just want to get this done as soon as possible ya...

Afterwards I will do stories on the 2 places visited as shown by these guys near Linggi. Have a look at the blogspot SENI LAMA MELAYU (MALAY OLDEN ART) later. Cheers! :]



Friday, February 22, 2008

Views from on top of Muar town...

Greetings their readers! In my haste to close the stories about the travels in Johor, I forgot about a set of pictures with stories to be told too, pictures taken on the very day before going to Gunung Ledang... So let me present this pictorial story ya... For the sake of proper chronological order, please bear in mind this story should be slotted here before the article A quick trip up Gunung Ledang... and Tangkak, the textile town! . Here goes...

This is the 12-storey high Umno Pagoh building in the town of Muar... At least that's what the authorities said... 12-storey high but I'm sure I've counted the floors to be more than 13. Whatever, for a long time, since 1982 if I remember correctly, it is the highest building in Muar. So every once in a while, I would take the opportunity to sneak up until the very top floor, the rooftop in fact... Not just that but also on top of the hut housing the elevator machine just to get an awesome view of the town and Muar and the surroundings.

Now, it has been a while since I went up on top. On the very day I set up to go to Gunung Ledang, I had a drink at a stall not far from the building and just can't help going up. So here are the pictures...


Too bad, the door leading up the rooftop is locked. And nowadays, one is not as free as before to venture inside the building as it is now a private hotel. Nevertheless I took the risk of going up and thank God, I went in unnoticed. This is the first view I took from the highest floor inside the building, the estuary of the Muar river...


Muar's second main mosque just across the river...


The other side of the estuary... On a clear day, one might actually see the taller buildings in the city of Melaka some 40km away at the far end of the left horizon...


The old Muar bridge...


The bridge along with the town of Muar...


The town itself... Do not mind the circle seen in the picture as it is something that came out of my cheap digital camera... It seems there's some sort of particle inside the lense which would move around once in while... Or perhaps in this case, it moved to create the circle because God wanted to point out to something in the horizon? Not impossible...


And lastly a picture with Muar's current tallest building in the background, if I'm not mistaken, an apartment building almost 20-storey high. In the middle horizon is Bukit Mor, a hill with its own history right beside the small town of Parit Jawa.

God willing, after this I will write a story featuring the hill among others for the blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU . Oh, and come the time, God willing too I will write a pictorial story here featuring some nice pictures taken from the 100 plus metre high telecommunication tower in Alor Setar, Kedah. Cheers! :]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tangkak, the textile town!

Continuing from A quick trip up Gunung Ledang... I got out of the jungles of the mountain and reached the main road way after 6pm. This means, there's no chance of me getting a bus to Tangkak.
So there I was waiting at the sides, waving my thumb in the air once in a while in the hope of getting a hitchike from the quite a number of vehicles plying the route from Segamat... No luck, they just wouldn't stop...

Luckily a taxi came and stopped. I had to pay a bit of course but not much. The main thing is I reached Tangkak before dusk...


This means I have enough time and light to catch fairly good pictures with the cheap digital camera I got. The interesting (and rather strange for me!) thing about Tangkak is the amount of textile it got...


A look towards Gunung Ledang...

Otherwise, what features are the textile shops...


One after another...


More and more...

So what's the deal with Tangkak being a textile town? Frankly I have no idea... I remember the times I went past the town to get to Gunung Ledang just after my school days more than 20 years ago and it was not like this... I remember plying the same route a few times after graduating from London and returned to Malaysia in 1995 and I'm sure I don't notice any development related to textiles.

Perhaps I missed the fact as often my eyes are set on just the beautiful peaks of Gunung Ledang whenever around. All I know is, I was already working as a journalist with The New Straits Times ( I started in 1996) when I came across newspaper articles saying Tangkak is the TEXTILE CAPITAL OF MALAYSIA! And when I mentioned this to some friends, they were already hatching plans on making a day trip to Tangkak for some shopping. Apparently they've known about this for some time...

What? How did this came around? What did I miss? Furthermore, how did Tangkak turned out like that? As far as I'm concerned, except for it's vicinity to Gunung Ledang, Tangkak is in the middle of nowhere.... There's no ports around, no textile factories, so how did it become the main textile retail centre in the whole of Malaysia? How did it manage to sell textiles from as far as China and India, even Europe at an unbeatably cheap price? How?

I tried to google old articles on the matter. Apparently there's many kept and refered to (I'm not sure which is the correct spelling, refered or referred as both have millions of listings when googled...) by some Websites but too bad, they're incomplete because the full articles are lost within the eletronic archives of the newspapers, accesible perhaps only to its staff. The only bits I could find repeat the same gist: "The town of Tangkak is known as the ‘Textile Town’ of Malaysia, offering prices that are substantially lower than those in other cities. The range of fabrics and upholstery are endless, with some being produced locally while others being imported from Asian countries and Europe." I guess that should speak volumes by itself.


Whatever, I decided to spend the night in Tangkak. This is a picture of Gunung Ledang (again?) from the reasonably cheap hotel I stayed at...



I checked out at noon and walked around. A look at the police station...


The main road leading to Muar, aptly known as Jalan Muar, of course...


The older parts of Tangkak. I always find such wooden shops alluring...


Who says wooden shop don't have style... I like this shop selling religious books and such...


And finally, a look along the five-foot walk of the wooden shoprow.

Soon enough, I walked out towards the bus station and immediately got a bus to Melaka which was on its way out. I guess this ends the Johor stories. A reflection on what happened from Segamat to Muar and including a thought or two on the trips to Gunung Ledang and Tangkak will be made later in blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU . Go enjoy life... Cheers!

p/s: This should be my 155th posting in this blogspot.... Yeay!!!

A quick trip up Gunung Ledang...

Greetings dear readers. In my last posting here From Segamat to Muar, a stop around the village of Tenang made yesterday, I did mention that stories regarding what happened after leaving Tenang and entering the district of Muar would be posted for the blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU . Well I already did one last night followed by another one today and would add one more. But first I think I should post stories on a quick trip up Gunung Ledang and a look at the town of Tangkak today.
Now, the Johor trip which covers the main 8 districts of Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian, Johor Bahru, Kota Tinggi, Mersing, Kluang and Segamat is practically closed when I returned to Muar. But I haven't visited the famous Gunung Ledang also known as Mount Ophir for more than a year, perhaps two years! After all, it is situated within the district of Muar and just about 50km away from the town of Muar... And as it is some 10km or so from Tangkak, the closest entry point into the North-South Highway and thus on the way to Kuala Lumpur too, I thought I might as well pay a visit and then share the pictures with you dear readers...
Oh... Now I remember, someone told me Tangkak is now a separate district from Muar. So I did a quick check on the Net and sure, Tangkak now has its own District council. So perhaps visits to Tangkak and Gunung Ledang are after all needed to complete the Johor trip. Here goes...

7th January 2008, after resting for a few days in Muar, it's time to return to Kuala Lumpur. If I remember correctly, the day was a Monday. Express buses to KL from Muar do head for Tangkak but turn away just a few kilometres shy to enter the North-South highway.

Gunung Ledang on the other hand is some 15km further north-east towards Segamat. I weighted my options. I could go to Gunung Ledang and then to Segamat where I could always take the train to KL and I like taking the train. But I then I also haven't stopped in Tangkak for a while. There could be a bus service from there to Melaka and from Melaka, I can choose various ways of going back to KL. So I opted for the Muar to Segamat non-express bus which made a stop in Tangkak but only went down at the junction to Gunung Ledang....


From the junction, it's about 2km walk to the foot of Gunung Ledang. I can handle that... At least I still got enough energy to go although I'm still quite tired from the 2 weeks or so travelling around Johor...


There... This resort marks the foot of Gunung Ledang...


Beside it is a stream clear and good enough for a nice dip but why dip here when there's much better places to go inside the jungle...


The point marking the entry to the wilderness. The cafetaria on the left is the last place you can buy food and drinks before going any further... To the left lies the rangers' office. Under the current regulations, everyone must register and get a permit before they could climb up the mountain. But I'm not about to make a climb, am I? Hehe! :]


On the wall next to the cafetaria are some information on climbing Gunung Ledang. At 1276 metres high (about 4,187 feet or so) it might no be the tallest mountain around. I know for sure that Fraser's Hill in Pahang and Bukit (the hill of) Larut are both higher by at least 100 metres and I've been on top of both.

Still it is the highest mountain in Johor and that is already enough reason to climb. But Gunung Ledang is much more well-known because of the legends surrounding it.... One of it is that the mountain is the ancient Mount Ophir said to have been mentioned in some Biblical accounts... The mountain where King Solomon hid his gold or something... And talking about legends, I'm proud to say that Gunung Ledang is higher by tens of metres than Gunung Jerai, another legendary mountain, the highest in Kedah.

Most Malaysians, Malays in particular however know Gunung Ledang because of the legendary mythical princess, Puteri Gunung Ledang who is said to reside on top until this day. Here, let me copy and paste Wikipedia's take on the mountain... Hmm, have to edit the format a bit for better reading here...

The Legend revolves around a princess that allegedly lived on Mount Ophir in Johor, Malaysia. The Sultan had heard of her beauty and wanted to marry her but she set seven impossible conditions for him. The conditions were:

A golden bridge for her to walk to Malacca from the mountain,
A silver bridge for her to return from Malacca to the mountain,
Seven jars of virgin's tears,
Seven bowls of betel nut juice,
Seven trays filled with hearts of germs,
Seven trays filled with hearts of mosquitoes, and
A bowl of the blood of the Sultan's young son.

Some versions of the legend say that the Sultan was not able to fulfill any of these requests, while others say that he was able to fulfill the first six requests (thus causing the ruin of the Malacca Sultanate) but could not fulfill the final request which would have required him to kill his son. The point of the story is that the Sultan was either too proud or too blind to realise that the conditions were the Puteri's way of turning his proposal down.
Some say that remnants of the gold and silver bridge still exist, but have been reclaimed by the forest.
Further legend has it that the princess eventually married one Nakhoda Ragam, a hero whose name unfailingly struck terror into the hearts of those who had dared to oppose him. However, this hero was later to die at the hands of his princess-wife. Ragam was fond of tickling the Princess’s ribs. One day, in an uncontrollable burst of anger, the Princess stabbed her husband in the breast with a needle she was handling. Thereafter, the Princess returned to Mount Ophir and vowed never to set her eyes on another man. Ragam’s boat, not long after, was crushed during a storm and legend has it that the debris of the wreck was transformed into the present six islands off Malacca. It was claimed that the boat’s kitchen became Pulau Hanyut, the cake-tray Pulau Nangka, the water-jar Pulau Undan, the incense-burner Pulau Serimbun, the hen-coop Pulau Burong, and the honeymoon cabin of Ragam and the Princess became Pulau Besar.

Ancient history points to the mountain being the site of rich gold deposits, luring traders from as far as Greece and China. In the 14th Century, the Chinese seafarers plying the Straits of Melaka called it ‘Kim Sua’ meaning the ‘Golden Mountain’. The mountain was named ‘Gunung Ledang’, which means ‘mount from afar’, during the period of the Majapahit empire.


Anyway, it's time to walk into the jungle... At the lower points the path is clear as it is often frequented by tourists...

As we get deeper, the surrounding is not as clear...


This big boulder marks a camping area. Casual visitors hardly go above this point...


As we go further on, the path starts to get difficult. I would say, out of 10 who comes, perhaps 7 would turn away upon seeing steps like this. Then again you can't blame them... Most came to take a dip bringing family, children and old folks along. There's enough spots down there good enough for a satisfying dip. No need to get rigorous or act the macho man...


Still, once you've conquered you apprehension at climbing such steps, you learn that it is not really steep climbing all the way...


At times the way is smooth, at times you do have to climb as after all you are walking up a mountain. Just remember that!


Ah... At last, the best waterfall within reach for those who dare to take the distance but don't have the time to climb all the way up the mountain is in sight...


Then again you can't enjoy it's total majesty before being grilled a bit...


Half the majesty is already within sight. But still one have to climb further or the effort is wasted...


A look down from the steps. Got the idea how high, dangerous (and exciting too) the waterfall is?


At last a signboard saying you have arrived at Kolam Puteri, literally translated as the Princess' Pool.. No prizes for guessing which princess is meant...

At this juncture, you could say you have climbed up to 1,000 feet from the sea level. Then again there's still more than 3,000 feet to go in height before you can reach the mountain top and the actual distance to be covered is much much more and the steps (no more concrete ones after this) more gruelling as you have to go up and down a few segregated hills that form the body of Gunung Ledang...



There, the pool itself. Here is a place you should take a dip at...


But I just can't help aiming at what better pools available up there. After all, I've been up this way quite a few times... It's just I haven't been here for over a year or so...


I climbed just a bit further up. Too bad the way is blocked by fences with signboards giving out warning saying the area above Kolam Puteri is off-limits. And I'm just too tired trying to make my way through/up/around the wire fences... Not with the big rucksack on my back and the kind of sandals I'm wearing then. Not with the tiredness of having travelled across Johor for more 2 two weeks still on, not when the clock is past 5pm and I'm in the jungle alone.

Not that I'm afraid to be stuck. After all, I've been there and done that... I've experienced getting lost alone without any camping equipment or food ration for 19 hours on the way down from the almost 5,000 feet high Gunung Nuang in Selangor about 4 years ago. I was lost inside the jungles of Gunung Ledang with a friend about 20 years ago and then I was about 3 times much deeper inside than this. We managed to get out by 8pm... That was then. Now I have an appointment to honour in KL on Wednesday...

Whatever, I had a nice dip at Kolam Puteri... With nobody else around, I could do what I enjoy most, skinny dipping that is, hehe! :]


Afterwards, I checked out this gate next to Kolam Puteri... I can't remember if it existed the last time I was here about a year ago. What is for sure, the authorities have decided to fence the area... And the gate is locked...


The notice says, all activities climbing up the mountain at all routes are stopped temporarily. So the gate closed up the main route up the mountain. There are other routes albeit not as smooth and clear cut. But as the notice says activities at ALL ROUTES are closed...

Then I learnt, this prohibition has been in place for more than 3 months. It seems some climbers went missing and their whereabouts are still unknown till today... Not that it hasn't happened before. In fact it has happened many times, sometimes at the cost of lives! After all Gunung Ledang is notorious for the amount of people lost in it's wilderness, many say it happens because of the mysterious mythical creatures inhabiting it.

Whatever, I was actually considering spending the night at Gunung Ledang, perhaps at the foot. But after going down, I changed my mind. Let's see what's in Tangkak. The story will come next...