It was (and hope it still is) one of the most serene and beautiful places on Penang Island – The Air Itam Dam and Reservoir.
In the early 1980s, it was one of the favourite places that my GF (and now wife) and I loved to go there early on weekends, admiring the scenery (and each other) while soaking in the twin morning glories of fresh cool air and cozy gentle sunshine. Oh ! What A Feeling ! Those were most cherishable memories.
On most occasions, we drove via a small road through Air Itam village up to the Kek Lok Si Temple carpark, and then went on foot up the rather winding road to the dam.
After 1984, we only went back there once – in 2014. We were glad that much of the old scenery was still intact.
Make it yellow, sticky and lemak. And don’t forget the Curry Chicken, please. Folks, remember the Nasi Kunyit of old?
Long before pathetic western cakes became incomprehensibly (to me, at least) fashionable, the successful completion of the first month on Earth for a baby was celebrated with the preparation and serving of Nasi Kunyit – which is steamed glutinous rice, laced with santan and colored with turmeric, and stuffed with some pepper corns.
When eaten with thick Chicken Curry ( I preferred to add a little fine sugar), it was scrumptiously yummy yum yum! Of course at that time carbophobia was not yet invented, so no one was worried nor had any guilt-hangovers!
I remember that Nasi Kunyit was also a favorite serving on other festive occasions – as and when there was reason to get “high” other than Full Moons.
Once Upon A Time in Penang before the construction of deep-water wharves in Butterworth , the harbor waters were teeming with tugboats, each with one or two or even three “tongkangs” in tow.
These formed a vital sector of the marine transportation industry and was an iconic feature of life in Pulau Pinang in those days.
A crossing of the channel onboard a ferry would see me peering out of the windows, to watch intently how the poor little tugs labored in a gentle rock-and-roll fashion against wind and water, with black smoke spewing from their funnels as they hauled the bigger unpowered vessels.
These days, such a scene is quite rare; and when I come across one, it never fails to tug at my heartstrings.
My much beloved and most favored means of transportation during my kiddo days was the Penang trishaw.
Back then, Penang Road was the go-to place, and the journey from Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda would cost my late mum a grand 30 sen ! By comparison, the fare on the rickety City Council buses was only 10 sen (kids traveled free). But thrifty mum could not persuade me to opt for the economy plan.
Alas, I had a very bad habit of leaving things (mum’s shopping trophies) behind on these trishaws — maybe the rides were so enchanting that I forgot everything else.
Well, human rides were also practised in other towns. But Penang’s are the best — the customers come first, whereas in other places customers are cast aside (oops, I mean they ride on the side).