OK. There were about 20 of us who came from Malaysia joined by 10 or so of Kak Ann's staff. By the way, Kak Ann, a Malaysian staying in Aceh was our host...
Suzana has been writing a number of books concerning the genealogy of Malay rulers and their relations with the Ahlul Bait, family of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. Her own research has lead to the discovery that a main ancestor, the venerable Bendahara Tun Sri Lanang (a major 17th century Malay palace official, writer of the famous Malay treatise Sulalatus Salatin, known also as the Malay Annals) flourished and died here after being transported from Johor to Aceh. A grandaughter (or so) of Tun Sri Lanang married a certain Sayyid (a descendant of the prophet) resulting in progenies who became later Bendaharas of Johor.
When the infamous Sultan Mahmud of Johor was murdered while being carried on the pedestal in 1699, he left no heir. So custom dictates that the Bendahara should be elevated to the throne and that's the start of the Bendahara dysnasty who ruled over Johor, Pahang, Riau, in fact wide expanses of land which used to form the glorious Melaka empire of the 15th century AD. Colonialists intervention soon saw the break-up of the empire. Suffice to say these resulted in the modern states of Johor, Pahang and Terengganu having monarchs who originated from the Bendahara line, which in turn originated from the Sayyid and Tun Sri Lanang who flourished in Aceh.
While Suzana and Muzaffar whose movement are currently constrained due to having a small child were harbouring dreams of visiting this land sometime in the near future, they never dreamt it would happen so soon. Who would have thought, because of their association with little old me, coupled with the fact that they wrote the very succesful Malay book "Ahlul Bait dan Raja-raja Melayu" (which I've translated to English. See My 5th book is out! Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and the Malay Sultanates... ) they got invited by Kak Ann with all expenses paid?
So there they were husband and wife trying to contain their delight in all civility while savouring the food and view at the restaurant. And they were only a few kilometres away after arrival from the airport. All they have seen so far were just little samples of the wonderful historical land which is Aceh.
While Suzana was rather composed, Muzafar reached a staged where he almost cried. "My God," he quipped."These paddy fields reminded me of my growing years staying with my Nenek (grandmother) back in Kedah more than 30 years ago!". Which is exactly my sentiments. I might be 5 years younger than him but I still remember the paddy fields which used to cool my eyes besides the stretch of road from Muar up to Negeri Sembilan.
Here in Aceh, I also found scenes from 30 years ago being enacted again with people still farming the old way, man and woman walking in the mud and such. Muzafar went one step further by declaring all the food we had tasted of the good old years of the 1960s to 1970s, a period where Malay villages were still largely undefiled.
"How come the food here tastes so good?" he asked. I answered, apart from the clean air and refreshing scenery (Aceh has no big industry with factories to pollute the air) the food were freshly taken or plucked from its sources. No sir, they hardly use preservatives here. As far as I know and have tasted, whatever you eat are taken from a close-enough locality in amounts which are sufficient for the day's need. So sir, we don't need to use artificial preservatives nor we store our fish and meat in ice for months and on. Nor do we have to pretend these are fresh when thawed or served with microwave...
While industralisation has made people progress in a certain materialistic direction, it has also made them less-sensitive to nature, in fact more oblivous to their actual natural needs. Consumerism has created artificial longing for goods that we don't really need. The same goes for the body. It is consumerim which has made food taste less natural in Malaysia then it was, say 30 years ago.
So why did I use the words "... before Western colonialists spoiled everything?" in the title of this article? Well go figure. At the risk of sounding very insular, I dare say it is the Western colonialists who brought consumerism and its whole artifical demand thing into our once nature-centred population. Everything is spoiled since then...
p/s: Do excuse me for the poor quality of pictures. What happened was, the night before we flew to Aceh I've just found out my Olympus camera charger was condemned beyond simple obvious repair. I had no time to find replacement. Thus I had to proceed with a camera with less than 5 per cent power still on.
Luckily a friend brought a videocam and asked me to record our trip. It is a fairly good model and you can see the results in the latest postings at my Malay blogspot BERPETUALANG KE ACEH. However the snaps made using its camera mood leaves a lot to be desired. Either that or I don't know it well enough to operate it properly hence the pictures you see...
To Kak Zanina of The New Straits Times' Travel Times section, if you happen to read this, I suggest you go straight to the collection of articles listed under the post The Aceh trip stories... in order from ground zero until the end... . The links point to all the relevant articles posted in all my three blogspots, hence you have those in Malay, English and bi-lingual bundled together for easy reference and continous flow of understanding. That should give you some idea what sort of articles I can produce or reproduce if you decide to have some for Travel Times. Mind you all the pictures have been down-sized to 10 per cent while the original ones at 3 megapixels should be good enough for paper print.
I have more pictures in store, those I did not publish in my blogspots. Besides the Aceh trip referred to was the 8-day trip made June 2009. Since then I have been to Aceh again twice, in January and February and now I'm just starting to relate the later. Cheers! :]