July 17, 2011

Bukit Kutu ... interesting story from an Englishman

Bukit Kutu is one of the favourite mountains on our trekking list … a very nice natural trail as well as a clear river to enjoy a cool dip after a long tiring trek. Since we started trekking at Bukit Kutu, we have visited this mountain almost every month.

On 25th JUNE 2011, Steven, Keat, GT Lim, Leong and I decided to trek Bukit Kutu again … we thought it would be as usual … trekking up to the peak and down and then hopefully find some good durians in the jungle. It turned out to be a little more meaningful than we thought. When we reached the base we saw a group of people already getting ready to trek up the mountain. As we were getting our gears ready, we struck up a conversation the group, among them a “Mat Salleh” (westerner). I later found out that his name is Tony Wright. The conversation was fairly general and we then started to trek into the jungle together.

After trekking for a while I asked Tony where he is from and he told me that he is from Plymouth, England. And knowing that he is an Englishman, I told him that he will surely love this mountain because at the peak of the mountain there are remnants of an old colonial bungalow. Then the surprise came … Tony said he knew about the old bungalow at the peak and he has photos of his grandparent (taken back in the 1920s) staying at the bungalow. Now, that is really something ... imagine coming from England to see the place (or what is left of it) where your grandparent once stood. I told Tony that I would be very glad if he can show me the photos when we reach the peak. I have always try to find out more about the remnants of the old bungalow but there isn’t much information I could get from on the internet or other sources.

We continued trekking and I was really looking forward to look at the photos that Tony brought along. About two and a half hours later, I reached the peak together with Leong. We spent some time at the peak and waited for the rest of my group as well as Tony’s group to reach the peak. I soon found out that the other three from my group are not trekking up to the peak and I was not sure how long Tony’s group will take to reach the peak, so, Leong and I decided to trek down. Just about 5 minutes into the descent we met with Tony and his group on the way up. I asked Tony if he could show me the photos he talked about and he quickly took the photos out to show me. Tony took time to explain to me the story behind each photo and what he knew of his grandparent and the old bungalow. I then ask Tony if he could send me a copy of the photos and he promised he will. We exchanged emails and soon parted ways.
The next day I received an email from Tony with photos attached and more information. The black and white photos below were contributed by Tony.

 Photo of the bungalow with Tony's grandfather sitting in front ... see the steps going into the bungalow and see below the same steps as they remain today at the peak of Bukit Kutu.
(Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright) 

Remnants of the steps at the main entrance of the bungalow.

This is the fireplace (chimney) of the bungalow as it was in the 1920s ... this is the iconic picture as today this chimney still remain standing at the peak of Bukit Kutu.
(Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright)

The chimney of the bungalow still standing as it is today. This structure has become the setting of many group photos of people visiting the peak of Bukit Kutu today.

The chimney and the main entrance steps.

 Another old photo of the bungalow seen from behind of the big rock at the peak of the Bukit Kutu.
(Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright)

From his own research, Tony managed to piece together bits and pieces … besides the bungalow, there was also a sanatorium at the peak of Bukit Kutu. Tony has no pictures of the sanatorium but members of the sanatorium were friends of his grandparent and he has a photo of a Sister Sutton and his grandmother taken at the vicinity of the bungalow. Tony told me that the British built rest houses and holiday bungalows all around Malaysia so that government servants like Tony’s (maternal) grandfather can book them for rest and relaxation during holidays and weekends. Tony’s grandfather, Mr Tom Sargent, was a railway construction engineer for FMSR (Federated Malay States Railways) later known as KTMB from 1908 till 1935 when he retired and went back to England. The above photos were taken back in 1921 … 90 years ago! The iconic photo must be the photo of the fireplace and chimney as it still remain standing today and has become the setting for group photo of trekkers visiting the peak of Bukit Kutu.

Photo of Tony's grandmother (sitting) with Sister Sutton (who was working at the sanatorium). You can still find these two big rocks among the overgrown vegetation at the peak of Bukit Kutu.
(Photo contributed by Mr Tony Wright)

 Mr Tony Wright (second from right) showing photos to other trekkers at the peak of Bukit Kutu. The old photos of the bungalow created massive interest among the trekkers.

Apart from Bukit Kutu, Tony travelled to KL, Tanjung Malim, Seremban, JB, Mersing, Melaka, Penang … visiting and matching his grandfather's pictures of places where they either lived or visited during their long stay here many years ago. One can imagine what a wonderful experience this is, in a country which Tony has been visiting since 1988. It has deepened his love, knowledge and understanding immeasurably through this photographic journey to the past.

I am really glad to have met Tony … if not, I would not have learned so much more about Bukit Kutu and about his meaningful journey in Malaysia … thank you very much Tony for the photos and a little bit of history of Bukit Kutu

July 01, 2011

Of alcohol, foie gras and a big fat liver

My last job was in the wines & spirits industry … for a few years I was marketing a popular brand of whisky. The job was fun … entertainments, night clubs, grand events, fine dining, overseas trips and of course, plenty of alcohol. I must say I did enjoy the few good years and when I left the industry, some of my friends were quite surprised why I gave up a good job. Well, there were many reasons … it is a long story so to speak. But I can tell you one of the many reasons was my health.

You see, I used to be a person who tends to over indulge … to me whatever worth doing is always worth over doing. And working in the wines & spirits industry, I frequently went across the line, over indulging myself in alcohol. When I start to drink, somehow I just cannot stop … really, I only have myself to blame for not being able to exert strict control on my drinking habits. Away from work, I always kept myself active in competitive racket games, swimming, running as well as other outdoor sports.  I used to run 12 to 15km non-stop easily … but at that point of time, I could barely do 3km. My physical fitness was affected and my health began to deteriorate … slowly I felt that I was not as fit as I want to be.

Something was wrong … a medical check-up soon showed that apart from losing my stamina and experiencing sporadic irregular heartbeat, I also have an enlarged liver … a lot larger than it should. Somehow it reminds me of an article I read about foie gras … the fat juicy liver, a gourmet cuisine that melts in your mouth. Hey, do you know that people in this business force-feed the geese with high carbohydrate feed and cramp them in cages so that their livers swell up with fat, growing to a few times its normal size? The liver is then harvested and expensively served in fine dining. To many it is a delicacy but really it is just basically a disease-damaged organ called fatty liver (just like my liver at that time). Though I was not cruelly force fed but high alcohol consumption was the main culprit of my enlarged liver. You probably read about it before … something called alcoholic fatty liver disease.  

I knew I have to get back in shape … I have already lost capacity of one of my lungs (smoked one of my lungs away) and the injurious effects of alcohol started affecting my liver. I had another good reason to quit the wines & spirits industry … and I did. It has been more three years now and a recent medical screening showed that my liver is working just fine now without the alcohol (well not totally without alcohol … occasionally a couple of beers) and my lungs capacity increased. I am glad I am physically better now to be actively playing competitive badminton, trekking and other outdoor activities. This old car may have a few loose screws here and there after running for almost half a century but overall, (after a bit of overhauling) the major parts of the engine are performing just fine.