No Pictures

on Friday, May 25, 2007

I still remember the two blue buildings sitting on a small hill. They were my Uncle's company's holiday bungalows and my cousins and I would spend many childhood holidays here. They were called bungalows but really they were both small wooden structures on stilts, built like a village or kampong house. Each building had two bedrooms with bathrooms attached, a common hall and a kitchen. For safety and practical reasons, the bathrooms and the kitchen were not on stilts and had a cement floor.

On the side of the right building was a swing and sitting there in the cool of the evening was a popular activity. As the buildings were literally on the top of the small rise, sitting on the swing was like being king of the hill. In front of us, our kingdom extended some 300 m as the land sloped away. This was a great place for kids to be kids and let their imaginations run wild. The land was undulating and was primarily full of tall, swaying coconut palms. There were also patches of long grasses and here and there tiny pools of water when it had been raining. This was our playground, our jungle, our battlefields and our undiscovered lands.

Beyond that, was the coastal road and beyond that, beautiful soft sand and clear, warm waters of the Straits of Malacca. Behind us was a fisherman's village practicing an authentic rural lifestyle. It was like a world apart for city kids like me.

The beach was unspoilt and the sea great, complete with a small island just offshore that you could walk to at low tide. A great place to build sandcastles, to laze under the shade of coconut palms, to collect shells or to organise hermit crab fights. All around was serenity when you wanted it, nature to investigate and to be enthralled by and adventures to be savoured.

It was here that I learned how the fishermen would catch worms by spitting chewed bread on the sand near the waterline or dig for them in the mud near the mangroves. It was here that I learned to fish, learned how to build traps for crabs and had hysterical fun shrimping at night. It was here that I first fell in love with kayaking. It was here, I learned to love nature.

I had to leave this wonderland behind when I went away to do my studies and then I was distracted when I first started to work. When I finally had time to revisit it, I found that so much had changed and so much had been lost to time and progress.

The waters there today are so polluted that people risk infected sores if they swim in the sea with any wounds or scratches. The crabs, shrimp and fish are all gone too. The beach is littered with plastics and briken glass. The coconut trees have given way to buildings, roads and car-parks.

The two bungalows have also gone as has the village behind them, replaced now with high rise condominiums and holiday units. I don't see kids playing on the beach and there are no more fields to stir their imaginations. Instead, every one now comes and swim in the swimming pool which overlooks the now almost lifeless sea.

I have no photos to post tonight because the place that I remember and which brought me so much joy in my youth no longer exists and like many places in Malaysia, unfortunately, my memories lie buried under concrete and asphalt.


Janice Thomson said...

Gosh what a paradise you lived in LGS! You presented such fabulous images for us to savor. What a shame it is all gone now...and all for the sake of high rises. Yes, man truly has come a long ways in technology...even to the point of destroying nature as your last line attests to so poignantly. My heart just aches when I see this kind of thing.

daysgoby said...

I have places like that in my memory banks too - too bad my kids will never get to experience things like I did.

LGS, you made me cry today (at my desk, no less! Try explaining that to your co-workers!) thinking of some of my childhood haunts.

Anonymous said...

No pictures! Well then I'm not commenting!

oh, crap I just did

Anonymous said...


Becky Wolfe said...

Ate least they live on vividly in your memory. What a beautiful word picture you painted. Too bad they no longer exist :(

islandgrovepress said...

Sad story, LGS.

Especially when it comes to the richness of your childhood memories, when the water was fecund with life.
Same thing with out Great Lakes in Canada. We have stopped befouling them but we were so late.
This is the year of the environmentalist...Yet he never looks into his own back yard.
Always some nebulous thing like the Kyoto Accord.
While the politicians keep building garbage incinerators and the dumps belong to orgazinzed crime. "Tony fix" and hardly anybody cares how."
Of a dozen once lovely beaches along Lake Ontario in Toronto, only three are fit to swim in in summer.
Tony fix.


patterns of ink said...

This is beautifully told. You used a phrase I've never heard before and I wanted to point it out for when you right a short story in this setting. "laze under the shade of coconut palms" I have never seen laze used as a verb, but it conveys its meaning perfectly. This is a setting waiting for a story and something tells me you have them. Then the ending that shows how it is all gone would be like one of those great "kid-plot" movies like "The Summer of '42" or "Brighten Beach Memoirs." I want to read the story book that begins with this post.

Josie said...

LGS, when you first started talking about your holiday location, I wanted to go there. Right now. But to hear what it has turned into made me sad. Because it seems to be a global problem, doesn it? "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." It's criminal.

It still lives in your memories, though, doesn't it? And you shared it with us.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

In the words of the song, "you don't know what you got till its gone."

Sorry for being selfish here but I consider making you cry a great compliment to my writing skills. Okay, count to 20. *ego deflates*

Alright, sorry I made you cry.

I can't match your newly created worlds kind-of - photos.

Concrete and asphalt is VERY tough! :)

Thanks. I was trying to see if I could describe the place in words.

You are so right. We try to ignore the problems or close and eye and hopes it goes away. Unfortunately, meetings and half-baked solutions get us nowhere except nature is really going away.

Thanks for the encouragement. Actually, I've been trying to write stories for a while but can hardly get past how I want to start. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll mull it over.

It was great, although I get excited when you describe your childhood haunts too. They sound just as wonderful. I do wish I had photos from that time and that place. When I tell kids today that the water was clear enough that they could see the bottom, they just don't believe me. That is sad.

evalinn said...

I can just picture it from your post!

geewits said...

That is so sad. My favorite beach that I have such fond memories of (in North Carolina) is not polluted or anything, but has totally lost it's flavor from the 70's. It's hard to even figure out where things were. That must have broken your heart to see the environmental damage. At least the old beach will always live in your heart and memory.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I'm glad. That was what I had hoped for.

I do feel a great sense of loss. The first time I went back and saw the damage, I just sat down for half an hour is silence, grieving.

meggie said...

Oh LGS, this was a wonderful bittersweet post! I could see your lost paradise, & also see the new version. How sad it has had to end that way. The same thing has happened to the lands by the sea from my childhood too, & I mourn the passing. And think of what the chidlren of today miss.

...Kat said...

a beautiful memory vividly intact that you have and have shared in a fine fashion...thank you

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