Wednesday, January 7, 2009

To the West Side Story

The East Coast between Kota Bharu and Cherating is Malaysia at its most Malay; charming, gentle, generous and always down to earth. From Cherating we drove westward to Kuantan and then Bukit Tinggi (or Berjaya Hills). One of the latest attractions in Bukit Tinggi is the Berjaya Hills Resort, which is styled after the 18th century Colmar Village and a medieval castle in France. We arrived slightly after 2pm. The temperature was hardly cold, despite the resort being 800 metres above sea level.

We ate enormously for breakfast at Mak Cik Dah’s stall in Cherating, and had no inclination to munch lunch just yet. We strolled leisurely along the cobblestone courtyard of the Colmar Square which was bereft of visitors, and watched the 3pm showtime, featuring Malay-looking girls and boys dancing to fast tempo Pop Latino music. Truly a rojak Malaysian ambience: Middle East tourists in abaya watching nubile Malaysians strutting energetically to Iberian rhythms amidst a Western European setting. Due to time constraint, we decided not to take the tram that ferries visitors to the other places of attraction such as the Japanese Village and the Rabbit Park.

We arrived in KL at about 6pm without making prior hotel reservations. Tune Hotel and other hotels in the Golden Triangle were fully booked until the mid week. Fortunately a few snazzy budget hotels in the revitalised Changkat Bukit Bintang/Tengkat Tong Shin area had a few rooms available. We crashed in one of the pre-war shophouses that have been splendidly converted into contemporary, minimalist and sunny lodgings, a walking distance from the effervescent Jalan Alor.
While Papa went out to work that weekend, we followed Mama shopping in Bukit Bintang and Jalan Masjid India. On Sunday, after Papa finished his work, we had dinner at Coliseum Café - a legendary and enduring institution. This almost 90-year old magnificent café still retains its old world charm and is not showing signs of crumbling. The sturdy exterior is characterized by the swinging door and glass panel on each side embossed with letterings similar to that found at any cowboy saloons. The interior is divided into two equal-size areas; one for dining and the other the lounge bar. The décor is retro chic with burgundy lounge chairs and hat hanger for colonial planters to hang their pith helmets and gun belts, but now barely utilised.

Apart from being a popular haunt for planters to enjoy their time for a Tiger while exchanging horror stories on the terror unleashed by the communists, famous authors in the likes of Maugham and Burgess are said to have set foot here. Nowadays, Coliseum Café continues to sizzle new and regular customers with its signature gastronomic delights; classic local dish like the Hainanese seafood fried rice or western cuisine of steak, served by splendidly eccentric geriatric waiters. While my family was enjoying their dinner, I played with the carlsberg coasters in the adjoining bar and attempted to make them stand like a pyramid. Papa only looked for me when he heard me cried … I was bothered by the sound of miaw miaw coming from the lounge bar although the cats were invisible to us.

After dinner we stopped by at Wan Cu’s house in Cheras Jaya for a few cups of Kopi 434. An hour before midnight, Papa drove us back to Kubang Pasu. At Sungai Buluh, Papa handed over the steering to Mama, who drove non-stop to Gurun. Then Mama woke Papa up for him to continue the last leg of the 1-hour drive from Gurun to Kubang Pasu. Before resuming his driving, Papa asked Mama for the large flask containing Kopi 434 which Wan Cu has prepared to keep them awake while driving. Mama told him she had drank it all. We arrived home at about 6am. Papa took a short nap and left home at 8am for a meeting in Auto City, Prai, scheduled at 10am.


Zawi said...

I remember The Coliseum as where Datok Lat the cartoonist used to hangout when he was based in KL.

GUiKP said...

No wonder Lat cartoons adorned the wall in the lounge bar. The cartoons show some of the famous customers of Coliseum.

Any intelligent reports on the P36 from you Sir?