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".


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, September 15, 2007

A typical day in Alor Setar?

Greetings dear readers... This is my first posting at any of my blogspots for the current fasting month of Ramadhan which started two days ago... Just feel like sharing some pictures taken during my trip covering Pahang, Kelantan, Kedah, Perak and Selangor made more than 2 months ago...
These pictures were taken on 18th July 2007 after my first night in Alor Setar for that trip (I've been there a few time mind you)... You could say the story here continues from the Malay one made for the CATATAN SI MERAH SILU blogspot under the title Sekitar Alor Setar terutama di Langgar... written last month... Or you can say it relates to the story Alor Setar at last! made in this blogspot early August. Here goes...

This particular story starts after waking up at a cheap hotel above a Chinese restaurant in the capital of Kedah... See the mess here? That's what happens after one got so tired being on the road since the last 2 weeks...

I woke up and head for the verandah and decide to take some pictures... Facing my right is this view of Alor Setar...

This is the view facing direct ahead...

And this is to the left, a private university... Then I notice something I could use...

Upon closer scrutiny, I'm convinced there is a strategic point for something... I immediately rushed down...

There.... See it? What I saw was a nice place to hang the promotional poster for the "Berpetualang ke Aceh" book series, hehe! :]

That done, I took a shower and started looking out for breakfast... Saw this nice stall which serves rice porridge... Turn out to be quite something so I had two bowls of it...

A view of Alor Setar from the stall I was sitting...

Then I walked to Pekan Rabu and meandered at the bus stop there...

There... A typical sight when a bus arrives... So is this a typical day in Alor Setar? Hehe! :]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Trip to Europe 1995... Walking 50km in Paris before closing the trip in Brussels...

Me posing far in front of a very recognisable monument in Europe...

OK... Today is September 11, a very famous date because of a disaster which happened in New York exactly 6 years ago... The day after tomorrow Muslims (at least in Malaysia) will start fasting for the month of Ramadhan... So let me use this date to make a posting which will close the on-going session of stories made in 1997 based on a hitchiking trip in Europe of 1995... Here is part 10 and the last... Enjoy it... Cheers! :]


“When in Paris, don’t forget to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arch De Triumph, the Louvre and shop at the Champ Elysees,” a friend advised when I said I was going to include Paris in my travel around Europe. I did heed the advise, yes I did but in a manner that only a tourist with two Francs in the pocket can do.

Imagine if you were a stranger coming to Kuala Lumpur for the first time with only RM2 in your pocket. You don’t know the people. And you’ve lost the phone numbers and addresses of the ones you knew. What to do? At least with RM2, you can get three trips on the minibuses or two trips on the Intrakota. In Paris, the two Francs wouldn’t cover even the cheapest bus trip!

What would you do if you were in my shoes… In a country where the people refuse to speak or simply don’t know the language you spoke be it English or Bahasa Malaysia? Check the nearest Malaysian Embassy?

Actually I did think of that. Problem was I didn’t know where it was and wherever it was, it usually has to be somewhere in the city centre, quite a distance from where I was.

You see, I was dropped more than 25 kilometres outside of central Paris. I was lucky enough to get a lift in the morning from a nice middle-aged French lady who took me from Lyon driving 448 kilometres all the way towards Paris. The problem was she was going somewhere else. So I had to get off at Evry on the outskirts of Paris... A bit like being dropped in Kajang when you actually want to get to Puduraya.

As it turned out, this was the start of a walk covering a distance of fifty kilometres in two days. I had no choice!

So there I was walking alone with the heavy backpack trying to get to Paris, the capital of France where many rich Malaysians travel around in rented limousines or luxury coaches. It soon started to rain… I took shelter at an office at a construction site off the highway.

Next was at Ris-Orangis near the river Seine where my last Francs (French currency) was spent for a bottle of cola and three loafs of baguette. After my tea cum lunch, I went northwards passing Orly airport, two kilometres of the distance spent walking underground beneath the runways.

Whenever there’s buses and cars heading to central Paris, I posed a sympathetic look at the drivers, hoping to get a lift. But people rarely give strangers lift on their cars in the city, in fact in any city. Common sense soon told me it’s better to just keep on walking…

Paris had an extensive network of underground train. In London, I used to slip through security barriers at the train stations easily avoiding the train fare but it was a lot tougher in Paris. Each entry point was secured by a turnstile and a steel barrier that only opens when you insert the ticket into the receiver. There were also staffs hanging about watching the flow of customers getting in and out the train platforms not to mention the security cameras observing every nooks and crannies.

I was tempted to take the risk to go through the barriers and hop on a train relieving me the torture of walking for miles and miles. But the thought of the time spent in a police lock-up in Lyon two days before plus the fact that my name was probably in the police list advised against this.

What can I say… It’s walk, walk and walk again. By the time the sun sets (it was after 9pm, after all it was summer!), I was at … (sorry, couldn’t catch the name of the place as the hardcopy for this story had a cigarette burn hole at this point), a few more kilometres to go to Paris. I stopped there for a short nap on a bench.

An hour later I arrived at Port D’ Italie on the fringe of the city of Paris. The entrance of a botanical garden nearby became the sleeping spot for the night…

Paris on foot was not a bad idea. From Port D’ Italie, I went pass Les Gobelins and Port Royal to Jardin Luxembourg where the Palais de Luxembourg lies, a palace which was once a prison for politicians and writers during the French Revolution. This was where Georges Danton, one of the founders of Republique of France was detained before he lost his head to the guillotine (the authentic French head-cutting machine).

From the palace, I walked across the river Seine to an island where the Palais de Justice, the local high court is situated. It was not far from the world-famous Louvre which houses some priceless paintings including some by world-famous turtles – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. But I contented myself with just posing among the monuments and gardens surrounding the Louvre.

There was also the Grand Palais and the Petite Palais (big palace and small palace. Now that’s two too much palaces in Paris, isn’t it?).I also went to the Eiffel Tower, a must-go place for all tourists to Paris. My brief sojourn was spent under the Eiffel Tower right in the middle between the four main pillars of the structure.

Then there was the Trocadero, a square with cannon fountains, the Arch de Triumph, a world-famous archway and the Champ Elysees, the city’s main shopping street with its restaurants, boutiques and departmental stores ready to suck the tourists out of their hard-earned cash.

I concluded my tour of Paris at the Monmarte, the district known for its artistic population as I passed through a gathering of philatelist exchanging stamps on the benches in front of a park nearby the famous Marie Du Nord church with its erotic pointed towers. At a patrol station off St Denis, fifteen kilometres out of Paris, I got a lift from a Parissian heading for Denmark. That brought me to Brussels, capital of Belgium where Van Damme and his stupid accent was spawned.

By this time, I was running out of steam. The original plan was to get back to Amsterdam where I first started out my European tour. But I was tired, so tired… And I had totally ran out of food and money.

Brussels was also known for its chocolates, Belgian chocolates… My favourite since I discovered Thornton’s ( a chocolate brand) in London. But I can only look at those little creamy pieces and dream at the pleasure it has to offer… Arrgghh!!

So that night, 17th September 1995, using my crumpled London-Amsterdam round-trip ticket, I took a bus back to London ending 31 days of walking and hitchiking through eleven countries on 180 Pounds (Actually 130 Pounds as 50 was spent for the London-Amsterdam round-trip bus ticket).

I was glad to finish this journey. Travelling over 4,000 kilometres on the road on several different vehicles and 200 kilometres on foot was trying physically but satisfying mentally and spiritually. So was sleeping at various different God-forsaken places.

It was a lesson in survival, people skills and how to deal with danger and diffuse hostile situations. It gave me a bit of understanding of different ways of life, of why things are the way they are… Everybody whether thieves, muggers, prostitutes or executives, bankers and models can teach you something about life.

Thank you everybody for enriching my life. Adios…

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Trip to Europe 1995... Locked-up in Lyon!

Me again looking most unkempt, somewhere off the southern mountains of France. That's what you get after a few days staying unwashed and sleeping on the streets...

And to complete today's streak of postings, part 9 of the European trip of 1995. Part 10 which is the last will appear whenever I feel like it. Cheers! :]


Guess what… I was thrown into a lock-up in a police station in Lyon, the second largest city in France, Some gits thought I might be a Muslim terrorist hell-bent on bombing the city down!
It all started when three Frenchman gave me a lift in their car from Grenoble to Lyon. They dropped me at the city centre near a bridge crossing a river where a tunnel lies ahead burrowing through the hill that divided Lyon into its eastern and western parts.
Not wanting to climb the stairs up the hills, I walked through the tunnel. Big mistake! After walking for about a kilometre, a police car pulled beside me. Out came three French policemen asking me questions in French. They asked for my passport. My visa had expired! And on top of that, my first name is Mohamad, a Muslim name which immediately aroused their suspicions.
It was bombing season in Lyon and Paris, a time when religious fanatics mostly Algerians blow bombs all over the cities (at least that’s what the French claimed). They took me with them citing national security as the reason… Huh?
During the trip to the police station, the policemen at first tried to intimidate me by shouting questions (more like abuses) at me. The one that sat with me in the backseat looked quite eager to beat up somebody judging by the way he was tapping his baton.
At the station I was asked to sit next to a couple of men, most of them Middle-Eastern looking, some speaking in French, some in Arabic. One was handcuffed behind. Another man handcuffed on the front was moving his hands up and down, left and right quickly making the signs of a cross. He looked scared, his mouth uttering something repetitively, maybe a prayer…
I tried to reason with the officers to let me go but none of them understood me. Instead I was ushered into a room where I had to strip my clothings leaving me naked with the pong of several days of unwashed clothes and unwashed body smell spreading into the air.
My belongings were turned upside down as they searched for God knows what. I remembered the police cataloguing my goods which included a loaf of bread, bottle of tap water, a London-Kuala Lumpur flight ticket, two Francs and an assortment of coins in different currencies. Altogether, whatever money I was left with was equivalent to about two Pounds (RM 8) at the most.
Then I saw a sight which made my heartbeat race… One policeman put on a pair of rubber gloves… Oh… Oh,,, Déjà vu… I’ve seen this in the movies. They use gloves to look for items hidden in certain cracks and crevices… Oh no!
And he put his fingers up a crevice… Ouch! Of my jeans and jacket. Phew! Thank God for sparing me the torture…
I was allowed to wear my jeans and t-shirt and then I was put in a cell. Inside the locked room with glass windows I tried to get to sleep. But the room was chilly and I had only a layer of clothes. Coupled with the screaming and singing of other inmates, it was impossible to get a wink.
As time passed, I became restless and started banging the glass window. The guard shouted at me telling me to shut up (in French, le shut up monsieur or something like that…). I went on drumming some beats at the glass while singing doggerels and wailing the blues.
Later, I felt my kidneys straining. I banged the glass hard for attention for someone to let me go to the toilet. Again the stupid guard couldn’t understand me.
I pissed across the room. That the guard understood.
He banged on the glass asking me to stop but I continued letting out all the unnecessary fluid out of me, ignoring the angry guard.
In the morning , two policemen came in, one looking exactly like Freddie Mercury of the pop rock group The Queens! I was handcuffed and led into a room where a superior officer was waiting with a language translator behind him.
Although it was terrible to be detained by the police in a foreign country, I was confident nothing will go wrong. Sure, my visa had expired but two weeks earlier, an agreement allowing Malaysians to enter France without visa was enforced. It was in the New Straits Times (read in Malaysia Hall, London).
Through the translator, I asked the officer to contact the Malaysian embassy explaining to him Malaysians do not need to have a visa to enter France anymore. He refused… I asked him to call the French consulate. He refused again…
“Call your bloody consulate and ask them to verify my claim,” I said. After some deliberations, he did that.
I saw a kind of blush on his face, like that of someone who have just made a mistake. But despite that, he didn’t even tried to say sorry, all in the name of national security huh?
As I collected my things making sure everything was there, some policemen shouted at me asking me to get out fast. We exchanged verbal abuses as I made my way out of the station.
Not only did they not apologise for detaining me, they didn’t return my bottle of tap water and shooed me away!s Then I had to walk three kilometres to get to the city centre from the police station.
Lyon was actually a beautiful city but the way the policemen treated me left a bitter impression on me. Maybe I came to Lyon at the wrong hour. Maybe I should have spent more time at the small French towns that I came across between Nice and Lyon.
Puget Theinier in the French Pyrenes was one. Athough the town was no more than four blocks big, it can calm the most restless spirit. The sight of the locals especially elders playing Payton, a game like playing marbles but with black iron balls the size of lightbulbs somehow stirred the romantic bones in me.
Then there was Entrevaux, a town sandwiched between two hills with a river rapid cutting and curving across. The ancient town was walled with windows dotted on it meant for sentries and archers of old to observe enemies from outside.
High on the cliffs was a chateau, looking down the town observing every activity there. The ancient façade reminded me of movies about medieval times where peasants walked the cobbled streets while the ruler up in the chateau chanted magic mantras conjuring demons out of the deepest parts of hell.
Sisteron was another walled citadel town but with most of the ancient walls torned down. I spent the night there under an ancient bridge on a slope with my feet pushing against a tree, body balanced on a flat rock with a lake waiting to engulf me 10 metres below. A heavy rain soon forced me to sleep inside a road tunnel ignoring the vehicles passing to and fro just a 2-3 metres from my head...
I also remembered the villages of Laragne and Eyquaine where I walked for miles occasionally plucking the apples that grew in the orchards along the way to appease my growling stomach. Grenoble, the main city in the French Alps surrounded by hills and small mountains with the looming presence of the highest section of the Alps including Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe just overlooking the city was also a better place to visit than Lyon.
Any of these places were better than the lock-up in Lyon. Well, what’s done is done. Time to move on…

Trip to Europe 1995... Gangsters of Genoa...

A very shaggy-looking me posing in front of the replica of Columbus's ship in Genoa, Italy, after a night laden with thieves trying to "skin-off" people...

And without further ado, part 8...


“To go or not to go, that is the question…”
Here on the highway at the outskirts of Milan, I was confronted with a conflict of choice. Shall I go visit the city, head for Rome or make my way to Genoa?
Hitchiking was never easy. At times, a lift is swift, at other times it took a whole day and night, And not all cars that stopped will take you to your destination.
After some thought, I decided to head for Genoa. With only 20 Pounds left and two weeks to go – I have to get back to London to catch the flight back to Malaysia – it was the natural choice.
But Genoa proved to be too dangerous for me. First there were gangsters trying to bully me…
I was walking in front of a row of shophouses when a group of middle-eastern youngsters followed from behind. One tried to kick my legs. I swerved aside. Then he showed me some Kung Fu moves…
“You do Kung Fu?” he asked.
I just smiled and maintained my pace. A few minutes later, they left me alone.
Are you wondering what’s happening here? Well, what they tried to do was to intimidate me. It’s an old street tactic. When you want to mug someone, you got to size him up, see whether you can beat him easily or not.
They can’t figure me out so they might as well not take the chance.
Again that night, there was trouble…
I tried to sleep on a bench in front of the main train station. There were suspicious-looking Arab youngsters hanging around.
Once, I closed my eyes trying to catch a wink but was immediately woken up by vibrations coming from the rucksack used as a pillow. Right enough, on the next bench were two youngsters pretending to tie their shoes. And the rucksack’s zippers were half-open. Hmm…
I stared at the two. They smiled at me trying to feign innocence and later moved away to join their friends on another bench.
Shifting the rucksack to make sure the zippers faced the top, I snuggled back into the sleeping bag. But a guy sleeping on another bench was not so lucky. He was lying face down obviously out for the count. One of the Arabs picked out the guy’s wallet. He saw me and grinned. I ignored him and tried to get back to sleep. But I can’t, not under the scrutiny of those thieves.
As the night goes on, it became harder and harder to stay awake. And I was sure they would strip my things the moment I fell asleep. The only option was to go some place else.
When I put the sleeping bag into the rucksack, the leader of the youngsters approached me. He tried to persuade me to stay. “Sleep here, we won’t disturb you, we are friends!” he said. Yeah sure… After what happened in Prague, I won’t take any chances.
So that night I slept at the theatre by the coast, a bit far away but at least secluded and safe.
Genoa was the biggest port city in Italy, proud as the birth-place of Columbus. Off a pier near the theatre and a museum was the replica of the ship which brought Columbus to America… Like the one in Bandar Hilir, Melaka but larger and covered in golden coloured ornaments projecting an aura of grandiosity fit for a conqueror of the oceans.
But it was also a port for Middle-Eastern criminals making their way into mainland Europe. I was walking along some shophouses facing the sea when I came across the slump parts, dirty and unkempt like some sort of low-class crime-ridden ghetto.
My suspicions proved correct. There were a bunch of rowdy-looking guys heading my way. I walked on trying to remain unaffected. We crossed path.
They looked Middle-Eastern blabbing something like “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” (they all sounded the same). One of them had a big chopping knife tainted with blood while the others ushered him away as if running from a crime scene. And right enough, three police cars came to a nearby alley filled with people.
I didn’t see what’s going on and neither did I really want to. I went hastily out of Genoa, my impression of it tainted like the knife with the blood on it.
My next stop Arenzano was about ten kilometres away. It looked more welcoming with the streets lined by palm trees and shophouses with architecture not unlike Chinese shophouse in Melaka. The blue Mediterranean sea was alluring convincing me to take a plunge.
From Arenzano I got a lift to Savona, another to Andora and the last hike for the day to San Ramos, thirty kilometres to the French border. A pine tree behind the toll plaza was my snoozing spot having failed to get any more lift for the night.
The next day’s hiking attempt was at first terrible. I was refused lift from every vehicle starting morning till afternoon until 2.30pm when a Frenchman heading for France took me in his car.
We struck a conversation. He was about sixty, balding with a large beer-belly and very opinionated…
“I was a banker in Singapore during the 50s,” he claimed. We discussed some economic issues.
He said Malaysia’s current economic bull-run was phenomenal but it was still a third-world country.
“Malaysia don’t have a social welfare system like in Europe,” he argued.
I was infuriarated.
“Yeah… But it was the social welfare system that creates so many underclassed like in Britain,” I retorted. For a ‘developed’ country, Britain had a large number of homeless, beggars and the likes. Each week they would collect their ‘alms’ from local welfare officers before stopping at the next pub for a pint of lager.
We had some polite disagreements over some other issues before he decided to take me on a spin to Monaco, the gamblers’ capital of Europe.
Monaco the state and Monte Carlo the city are often confused. With a size of 1.6 square kilometres, there is hardly a need to make distinctions.
The Grimaldi family which ruled the principality is much admired. It was their policies that ensure Monaco to be continously rich while receiving protection from powerful France.
My hour-long trip in Monaco was done mainly from inside the car. With the beautiful clean streets, video cameras at every corner and high-class looking people with latest-fashion clothes adorning the expensive boutiques, I must admit I was quite intimidated to walk out there.
For a gambling capital of the world, it was a surprise to find out it had only one casino. But it was no common casino. This solitary business premise can sustain the economy of Monaco on its own!
After exhausting the streets of high-rise buildings and coastline cliffs overlooking huge yatches and water marinas, we went of to Nice, one of the main cities on the French Riviera. I bid farewell to the Frenchman before going on a shopping spree spending my last few pounds on food.
I deserved it I thought after living on a loaf of bread for the last few days. And that night, I had the best sleeping spot so far on my trip… On a beach with the smooth waves like a lullaby putting me through a most rewarding sleep.

Trip to Europe 1995... Alpine frolicking in Switzerland

Me somewhere in Zurich...

OK... After 10 days or so of not making any postings, here is part 7 of the story on the European trip made in 1995... About some experience in Switzerland... Here goes... :]


“ Yo… Yo… Yo…” That’s the way Marussia said “Yes… Yes… Yes…: to show her agreement. Her Swiss accented English and slightly quivering voice was still fresh on my mind along with her school-teacher looks and the sweet serene smile.
For a sixty-four-year-old lady, she was one tough mama. When I came across her at the highway off Rosenheim in Germany, she was on her way from Vienna to Widnau, driving a distance of more than 600km alone! She was brave enough to give me a lift when many others were intimidated by my torn jeans, leather jacket and necklaces fit for a witch-doctor.
However she was a lonely woman and mother. Her three kids were all living with their spouses and seldom came to visit. The eldest son was a mountain climbing instructor who liked to travel.
I guess that’s why she took me to her place in Widnau, Switzerland… Because I reminded her of the son. The bungalow shared with two refugees of Indian origin was most welcoming although the Indians were a bit weird.
I’ve talked to one of the Indians once. He claimed his father, a politician was murdered in India. The killer was still looking for him. That’s why he’s in Switzerland, to seek political asylum. He promised he will go back to India when the time is right to exact his revenge. Did I hear Bollywood in my head?
Marussia’s place offered me the bath, meal and sleep I haven’t had for the last several days living on the street like a beggar. I remembered bonking oops… Bunking at secluded corners of buildings and streets totally at the mercy of the elements. A loaf of bread dipped with a choice of half a bottle of choc spread and half a bottle of mayonaise was meant to last for a week – for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner.
Ah… What a refreshing break to be at Marussia’s.
The next day, she brought me to Walzenhausen, 700m above sea level where the alpine scenery unfolded, awe-inspiring and spirit uplifting. The fresh air, cool almost mint-like seeped through the nostrils. The sound of cowbells chiming as the cows grazed the grass was hypnotic. The rolling farmland on hillsides, patches of alpine forest tattered across the landscape, lake Bodensee spread across the horizon bordered by Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the view was simply breathtaking.
We stopped at the Canzanis’ place where Marussia attended to them. The husband and wife both aged over ninety years-old were gracious hosts. The man had to walk with a walking stick while the wife stuck on a wheelchair needed Marussia to help her move around.
Despite that, they managed to guide me around the huge house. A bungalow three-storeys high with yard big enough to hold a football match, it used to be a barn for farm animals.
The next three days were spent around Widnau riding Marussia’s bicycle at times venturing into the surrounding towns of Lachen, Arbon, Rosharch and St Gallen while she attended to the Canzanis. I remembered cycling up the alpines once to the Canzanis’.
The steep winding road passing through forest and vineyards was really testing. Most of the time, I ended up pushing the bicycle up the slopes.
Thank God, fountains and taps lined up the road quenching my thirst with fresh cool mineral water courtesy of mother nature.
The trip downhill was like a roller-coaster ride, only better! With gravity’s assistance, it was physically effortless but mentally demanding as I watched out for curves and obstacles. Why, I nearly rammed into a tree and narrowly missed falling down a ravine!
Fun and frolicks aside, it was soon time to move on…
On 7th September 1995, I decided to make my move to other parts of Switzerland before heading southwards to Italy.
Marussia being the kind lady she was offered to drive me around. She took me along the river Reine passing by proud alpine mountains standing tall like invicible guardians before stopping at Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.
Vaduz was small, smaller than Muar, maybe the size of Parit Jawa. It was not surprising considering the size of Liechtenstein which was smaller than Labuan. Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, the country was so small it didn’t have its own currency, relying on Swiss money instead.
She then took me westwards passing by more mountains, one with a white streak cutting vertically across. It looked odd at first but upon closer inspection, the moving streak turned out to be a waterfall.
Wow! It must be a sheer fall of 1,000 metres striking down like a piling machine banging on the poles at a construction site.
Marussia showed me lake Walensee with its green coloured waters, calm, narrow but long looking deep as if hiding some ancient secret inside. A few hours or so later, we arrived at Immensee.
At an old folks home I met Dr Josef Niederman, Marussia’s foster-father. He was in his nineties.
Quite recently he got struck by an illness leaving him stuck in a wheelchair, absent-minded worsened by a speech problem. Despite that, we had a decent conversation as he lapsed between speaking in German and English, at times lost, not able to recount what was said…
We helped him into Marussia’s car and off we went to Rigi Kulm, a mountain 1,700 metres tall but feeble by alpine standard. It was a heartwarming trip as I observed the two, Marussia and Dr. Niederman reliving old times amidst smiles and laughters.
Later after sending Dr. Niederman to the old folks home, we drove to Zurich, the banking capital of Switzerland. En-route, Marussia took me to Luzern, famous for its covered wooden bridge passing beside a castle on a lake…
It was soon time to part ways. At 9pm, we arrived in Zurich.
Saying goodbye was never easy. “Good bye Radzi, I hope you will find what you’re looking for. Don’t forget to write,” she said, her voice quivering with a tinge of sadness. I could almost see her tears as she drove off, as if letting her own son go.
Switzerland was certainly beautiful. I remembered the meeting point of lakes Luzernsee and Unersee, two lakes perpendicular to each other, flanked by mountains on all sides.
The setting sun casting its rays on the water, reflected like so many scattered gold coins was a most wondrous sight. The beauty of the alps covering all of the country goes without saying.
But it was the kind people I met that puts Switzerland in a special place in my heart. Marussia, Mr and Mrs Canzani, Dr Niederman, I shall never forget all of you, your warmth, kindness and humanity…