As our group was comprised of mostly youths and youngsters, some of whom happened to be school children from the sleepy hollow of Kapar town, Selangor, the organizers of the group which comprised myself, as the Chief Organiser, and my friend Mr. Chee, essentially faced numerous problems.
After securing Selangor Education Office’s approval, we were informed that, as we were scheduled to going on an educational visit to the Pearl of the Orient, Pulau Pinang, our group was passing the states of Perak and Kedah as well. So accordingly, we had to inform the education offices of the above two states of our intended visit.
The above requirement was necessary, as in any eventuality, both these two states would be able to render any assistance that was deemed necessary.
Right from the beginning, the organisers of the group realized, the success of our educational visit to Penang, rests solely upon our bus drivers. As our group was on a 5 days 4 nights visit, our schedule or itinerary was fairly packed, albeit hectic. Our bus drivers therefore were fairly knowledgeable of Penang Island.
The places we were visiting varied and located in all parts of Penang. We had very little time. Our programme was tight. Every hour whilst we were on the island counted. We could not afford any delays.
We were lucky therefore to be able to locate 2 very good and capable drivers. The air-con bus we chartered for the trip cost us a sum of nearly RM1000. And our drivers were Encik Raman and his Chinese co-driver, a Mr. Kah Yong, from Jalan Bukit Kuda, Klang. And the new bus belonged to Kuala Selangor Omnibus Company, whose office was located at Jalan Kapar, Klang.
Considering that the trip to Penang was to cost the organizers a rather large sum of money, it was decided by the organizers that we try to secure a sponsor to cut down the costs of our expenses.
With this in mind, the organizers therefore approached Bata Shoes manufacturers, to request them to sponsor us. In return, the organizers were to put banners advertising “Bata” shoes on the sides of our bus.
As a matter of fact, the advertising department of Bata could see the impact of our bus advertising their product as our group’s bus were passing through central Malaysia and into Perak, Kedah and finally into Penang.
Unfortunately for our group, Bata had exhausted its fund for advertising that particular year. It was therefore unable to sponsor us in the real sense of the word.
Bata however counter offered with their proposal whereby the company were to give each participant of our group 2 pairs of Bata shoes and 3 pieces of T-shirts.
On top of that, refreshments at any Bata outlets throughout Perak and Kedah, where we were passing through would be accorded to our group. All in all, although in reality no sponsorship were available from Bata, the entire benefits which Bata shoes factory agreed to provide us came to a sum of few thousand ringgit.
Besides the question of transport, the problem of lodging in Penang too became a major headache to the organizers of our group of 52 participants and 2 drivers of our bus. 54 people in all! Where do you find lodging for such a big group of people?
With the above constantly in mind, the organizers, myself, being the Chief Organiser, wrote and successfully received approval from the Penang Education Department to permit us to use the former Science Teacher’s College, located at nearby Greenlane Avenue, Penang.
The month of December, being a long holiday season for teachers, the above college was free and our group could therefore stay at its premises. That solved our lodging problems.
The only drawback was we heard, the Science College was situated on top a hill, which was in the 2nd World War in 1945, was reputed to be a former Japanese Army headquarters. It was reported to be haunted.
The members of our group, many of whom were young girls of 16 0r 17, knew about the place where they were to reside to be haunted. This added mystery and intrigue into our stay at Pulau Pinang. It was interesting and yet exciting.
Having settled our problem regarding lodging in Penang, the organizers then faced another difficult obstacle. This time around, it was the problem regarding food. How do you settle the problem of feeding 52 people, participants and bus drivers in all?
Fortunately for the organizers, we had a former colleague, a teacher, Mr. Mui Siew Hock, a Penang baba, who was then staying in Bricklin Road, Penang. He had been posted back to the island.
Contacting and pleading Mr. Mui to help us, we finally got him to arrange our makan or food problem for our group in Penang. Mr. Mui in fact, managed to arrange for us to have our lunch and dinner meals at one of cheaper, but good Penang restaurant at I think, Transfer Road.
I still remember very vividly having meals with fish ball soup, assorted vegetable dishes, ample amount of rice to one’s desire, fish and meat dishes. All for approximately less than RM2 per head.
We, the organizers of the group, including all participants, could not have asked for a better menu which Mr. Mui arranged us. I don’t remember ever conveying our thanks to Mr. Mui for his help rendered us 35 years ago.
It’s now 2010, nearly 35 years have since elapsed. Mr. Mui, if he is still around today, should be at least 68 to 70 years old. It is too late to extend our thanks and appreciation to Mr. Mui? They say, it’s better late than never!
So here goes, Mr. Mui, wherever you may be, myself and Mr. Chee H.C. convey our thanks you to you for all your help and assistance you gave us many, many years ago.
By the way, our group enjoyed tremendously the meals you arranged for us at Transfer Road, Penang, was back in 1975. How are you today, if I may ask?
I have yet to talk about the places and interesting things our group did during our trip to the Pearl of Orient, Penang. And talking about the preparations regarding lodging and food problem alone has already taken some 3 – 4 pages.
But do tarry a while. And rest assured I will soon talk about the itinerary or programme itself. If readers read Part 1 and Part 2 regarding our visit to Penang, you would have learnt that our programme was suggested by Penang Perspective columnist and writer, Mr. Khor Cheang Kee, who unfortunately has since passed away a few years ago.
In appreciation to the above writer’s assistance, it should be revealed that our group followed an itinerary so closely to what Mr. Khor had suggested.
Visit the marine industry at River Road Penang, the columnist suggested. That’s what the group did. We did in fact visit the sardine factory there. And what an experience it was especially for myself.
For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to enter the cold room of the factory, experiencing a temperature inside which measured -35 degree Celsius. I remember a young participant who refused to heed advice not to wear watches as we entered the cold room, found his watch dead. In fact, the glass of his watch cracked as a result of the cold.
Those who led us around the interesting factory told us sardine fish or tuna were caught off the coast of South America and Africa. Those tuna fish were dragged in the ocean to Malaysia, finally landing at the vicinity of the River Road factory in Penang.
After being boiled and cut up, it was finally canned. These sardines were exported to Japan, where Japanese people fancy eating them.
Another interesting place we visited during our educational visit to Penang was the batik factory in Telok Bahang. If not mistaken, I will recall the factory being called Craft Batik Malaysia. There, our group was shown, first hand, how batik was developed.
What we saw and learnt during our visit to this batik factory, no amount of money can buy. It was as the saying goes, priceless. Speaking for myself, I don’t think I ever regretted making that visit to this factory. I’m sure all other participants of our group felt the same way too.
Before continuing to relate to readers about other interesting places which we visited during our stay in Penang, it is important that we relate to you regarding our stay at the vicinity of the Science Teacher’s College.
After our visit to interesting places in Penang Island, the group will then retire back to the above college at 12:00 midnight. That’s when our problem for the night begins!
As you know, this college was reputed or well known as being haunted. Unless you have forgotten, half of the members of our group were females. These young girls between the age of 16 and 17 were scared. They had earlier listened to me, the organizer and co-organiser, Mr. Chee, relating hair raising stories regarding the place where they were to reside for the night.
I remember my wife, who was acting as the group’s chaperon for the girls and Cik Faezah, a young Malay girl of about 24 yours old, herding all the girls in one large room. All doors to their room were locked tightly and beds huddled together in the middle of the room. Doors were then stacked up with cupboards to prevent any intrusion by intruders and possibly even ghostly apparitions which the group has heard so much about.
Our only problem was, the girls of our group were afraid even to go to the toilets, when nature came a calling!
Anyway, it was fun all the same. These incidents are things we would always remember as long as we live. And because of that, the fact that we’re still talking about it even after 35 years have gone by, goes to show that we still cherish these instances.
This article now has gone into 6 7- pages. Once again, as usual, I feel it is now appropriate to terminate the article here. Many episodes have yet to be touched upon. Amongst them include our group visit to the beautiful and well known beaches of Penang, the Batu Ferringhi and the Tanjung Bungah beaches.
Our visit to the famous Esplanade (a famous resort) where young and old Penang folks gather, one beautiful night, is amongst some interesting things I will relate to you.
How our group paid a visit and interviewed Mr. Khor Cheang Kee, the Strait Times sub-editor at his small office in MaCallum Street, Penang are but some interesting things readers should know about. We also visited the famous and well known Chinese temple of Goddess Kwan Yin at Kek Lok Si in Air Itam. Not forgetting also our group’s visit to the well known Snake Temple.
Finally, this blog will go on also to relate to you our group’s visit to the Penang Expo site held at Sungai Pinang Road, Penang. Read about how the group ended up buying 50 pair of jeans at special discount prices! And also about how the members of our group purchasing more than 50 Kodak Polaroid instant cameras at the above expo.
This blog will also go on to relate to you how the group finally ascended the well known and famous tourist attraction in Penang – the hill resort of Penang Hill and how cold it was up there. And how our having Penang laksa with my wife at the chilly summit up there. All interesting episodes, I’m certain you would like to read about.
And another interesting tale about how our group managed to cross the Penang customs check point using the charms of our young co-organiser and leader of our group Cik Faezah. We had in fact possess no money to pay taxes for jeans and Kodak cameras we bought in Penang during our interesting visit to the island.