I am being bombarded by a cacophony of construction noises.
There is the sound of hammering, knocking and drilling coming from the back of the house as workers rush to build ‘zero lot’ homes in the empty land behind (don’t even ASK what a zero lot home is – beats me) ……….. There is also the sound of a bulldozer digging the road to repair a burst pipe coming from the front of the house. Aaarrrggghhh! When will it ever stop!
Care to guess where I’m writing from? Yup, you’ve got it right. KL. Oh how I long for the peace and quiet of Mentakab right now.
Then it got me thinking…. how really does rural living fare against urban living, based on our personal experience? For those who are not familiar with us… we have 2 home bases… (a company home in the East and our own home in the West).
We spend a lot of time in Mentakab – a sleepy hollow of a town in Pahang, an eastern state in Peninsular Malaysia…. a direct contrast to metropolitan Kuala Lumpur located in the West of Peninsular Malaysia. You can reach it in just 1 1/2 hours from the Gombak toll, following the East Coast highway.
The main hub of activity centres around 4 or 5 main streets. The heart of it belonging to a 1/2 km stretch along the Mok Hee Kiang road. The road plays host to the daily pasar malam (night market). ‘The Store’, which has the honour of being the largest departmental store in town, is located at the end of this road.
The height of activity is between 7pm to 9pm. You can see people dressed in jeans, shorts, T-shirts, slippers, milling about casually. Dress yourself up in anything more & you might stick out like a sore thumb. So, be warned. Things slow down after 9:30pm and the streets are quiet by 11pm at night. And NO, there is no movie cinema or cineplex in town. Pure torture for a movie buff like me.
There is a decent invasion of American franchises here. 1 KFC outlet, 1 Pizza Hut outlet (where waiters and waitresses can be seen swatting flies, literally & figuratively), 1 McDonalds. For your pharmaceutical needs, 1 Watsons, 1 Guardian but loads of chinese medicine shops. Banks are abundant here – HSBC, Hong Leong, Public Bank, Maybank, CIMB etc … The gravevines tell us that there is a LOT of timber money swirling around! There is no shortage of clinics too. The top dental clinic in town does have a sinister reputation though. I heard the dentist is all too ready to ‘operate’ on any sort of wisdom teeth trouble! On the fashion front, there are multiple stand alone ’boutiques’ selling low range clothing at mid-high range prices, to choose from.
The townspeople are predominantly Chinese i.e. 80% (not official)…. Language Spoken – Mandarin. You speak in Cantonese and they’ll immediately identify you as a KLite.
The economic activity centres around the businesses in town, hence it is an important source of employment. The town is also supported by the Temerloh Industrial Park situated at the fringe of the town along the old Karak trunk road. A lot of people also make a living from logging and concession activities nearby.
That pretty much is the sum total of the town and from the 10 plus years that we have lived there (albeit during weekdays only), we have discovered some of the quirks inherent in rural living….
Everyone knows everyone else in town, so don’t be surprised if someone calls out to you by name … and you don’t know who the heck he or she is.
Everyone knows of everyone else’s whereabouts and… be careful here, ……it gets reported back to their spouses.
You can go to the town’s best Karaoke wearing shorts.
You are probably the only one picking an English song at the Karaoke.
Although some cars crawl at about 40 – 50 km an hour, cars at the back follow patiently behind without honking.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are hell drivers who travel at 100 – 120 km an hour on small roads. Be careful of this group, they treat yellow and red lights as ‘go faster’.
More often than not, as a woman, you’re expected not to think, not to give an opinion and most importantly not be smarter than a man. If you are, you’re very likely to remain single.
Spirit of neighbourliness:
Don’t be surprised if strange old women (who claim to be your neighbours from a few doors away) come into your garden uninvited, with a parang, and starts chopping the ‘jantung pisang’ off your banana tree …. (Trust me on this one… I’ve experienced it firsthand. Shocked me speechless. How do you say NO to a person holding a parang? You tell me.)
Putting busy bodies and the initial culture shock aside, small town living grows on you after awhile. The air’s fresher. Traffic is light. Fat Dragon has the luxury of waking up as late as 8pm in order to go to work by 8:30pm sharp.
Yes, there is a lack of privacy because everyone knows you. But on the other hand, it gives you a sense of belonging. There’s always a warm greeting from your neighbours, the vegetable lady calls out to you heartily if she recognises you in the streets, the jogger at the park never fails to give you an encouraging smile to urge you on. Priceless.
Every amenity, facility and point of entertainment is only 10 – 15 minutes away (maximum). Less time spent traveling equals more time for recreational and sporting activities. More quality time with family & friends. A far cry from the rat race of KL. The place gives you a healthier, more personal, stress free environment for living………not to mention ‘to die for’ and ‘kick ass’ river fish meals for sustenance.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not a pure convert. I admit, the weekend breaks in KL are welcome. I am addicted to the pollution & mess of city living. I miss the crowds and the anonymity. I miss the malls, the cinemas, the bookshops, the company of kindred spirit …….. but then again ……
Small town living is an acquired taste … once you get hooked on it, you will crave for it… just like I crave for the peace and quiet of it now, as I sit in the middle of this din … Krkakkkkakkkakka, ddddrrrrriiidrdriiidridri … Rattatttattttattt ….