Sunday, February 03, 2013

Nostalgic Teluk Intan

It has been about 15 years since I last visited my birth place and home town - Teluk Intan. It was Teluk Anson when I left the place more than 40 years ago. They have since changed the name to Intan. Whatever the name, to me it has always been and will always be TA.

I went back with my family for a brief overnight stay. And how the town has changed. In certain places, it was almost beyond recognition. As we drove around, I relived moments of my childhood. There were the houses that I had lived in (2  are still standing and 2 are gone), the schools I attended, the cinemas that were our main source of entertainment and of course the places I had eaten in. 

The icon of the town is without doubt the leaning clock tower. Standing at 25 meters tall with 8 storeys, this pagoda has majestically overlooked the town since 1885. It used to be a water tower and then the Scouts headquarters. Today it is just an old grandfather. The lean of the tower is distinct when viewed from afar - in the same direction as my picture. And of course my picture was exaggerated. 

This is the Nagarathaar Sri Thendayuthapani Hindu Temple at Jalan Bandar. I remember the yearly Chithirai Pournami festivals in this temple. Devotees from all over the country flock to our town for this festival. Stalls selling food and ornaments sprang up all around the temple and in the opposite play field. On the festival evening, a chariot bearing Lord Muruga paraded through town. Devotees broke coconuts and threw coins as the chariot passed them. I believe the festival is still celebrated today.

I will always remember this big rock. It was put there to honour those who fought in the first world war. I do not know why the town should have such a monument for a war that was fought thousands of miles away. It definitely was a British legacy. There used to be a Malay club in the vicinity. The club is now gone - replaced with shops. The rock now seems lost and out of place in the busy junction of Jalan Maharaja Rela.

This was the official residence of the Raja Muda of Perak. The present Raja Muda does not live in TA. As the result, the building fell into a state of total disrepair. It really is very sad. It was such a majestic palace.

No resident in TA would not know of this rumah hantu - ghost house. Whether or not it was haunted, I haven't the faintest idea. I remember as kids, we were terrified of the place and would not dare go near it. I am surprised it is still standing - especially on a big piece of very valuable land in the heart of the town. Perhaps they are preserving old buildings like this. But I saw holes made on the windows of the house. I fear they might had converted it to attract swallows for bird nests, as they have done on several buildings in town. If indeed it was the case, it would be a real crying shame.

We drove to the eastern side of the town. I remember an old railway bridge across the Sungei Bidor. The trains do not operate into Teluk Intan anymore and I wondered if the bridge was still there. To my surprise, the old bridge was still very much in use. They have not replaced it. It used to be that we could drive across the bridge. Today traffic is only limited to motorbikes. There is a barrier preventing the flow of cars. This bridge is not far from the location where a bull elephant gallantly charged and derailed a train in defence of his herd back in 1894. See story here.

In a lot of ways, Teluk Intan managed to keep its rustic charm. This is Durian Sebatang. The place has not changed an iota since I was a kid. The roads are just as narrow and the pace as laid back.

That evening my old friend YF took us out for dinner. He picked us at our hotel and drove us to the Restoran Tai Chong (海洋家) on Jalan Changkat Jong. I believe this is one of the better Chinese restaurants in town. 

It was pretty quiet there that evening. The restaurant was typically Chinese in decor - red table cloths, red lanterns and all.

YF asked for crabs. They did not have any. They said they had sold out on crabs that day. But that was only 7.00pm. Seemed rather strange that a restaurant that proclaimed "Seafood" in its name did not have any crab. The waitress offered us soft-shell crabs instead. I believe there is only one way to cook soft shell crabs - deep fried. I don't remember eating soft shells in any other manner. We opted the salted egg deep fried. It turned out to be quite good. The flavour of the salted egg was superb on the crabs. A sinful dish.

Next was the mantis prawns. It was also deep fried in a curry flavoured batter with some curry leaves. Another sinful dish. I suspect the mantis were not totally fresh. But the deep frying and curry flavour masked the lack of freshness. As I bit into the mantis flesh, it was kind of soggy.

The steamed fresh water prawns, on the other hand, were super fresh. TA is apparently famed for its fresh water prawns - particularly udang galah, normally caught in the nearby Sungei Bidor. But the prawns we ate were not udang galah. They were steamed in egg white. The prawns were done just right - not the least over-cooked. The meat was juicy and succulent. Unlike udang galah, these prawns had good amount of flesh.

The fish we had was a Senangin or Ma Yau (). It was deep fried and served in a light soya sauce. The fish was huge. It was very well fried. The head, fins and tails were delightfully crispy. Again, I was not sure on the freshness. The meat was definitely not flaky. And again, the deep frying might had masked the lack of freshness. Restaurants don't normally use very fresh fish for deep frying. They are kept for steaming.

The vege dish we had was the chen loong chou (青龙菜). It was lightly stir fried with some bean sprouts (taugeh). It was delicious. This is the first time I have taken chen loong chou with taugeh. And I think it is a very good combination. I have not seen it done like this in KL. The next time we order this green, I am going to ask them to add in the bean sprouts.

It was a very nice dinner. I had a second serving of rice. After dinner, YF drove us to order some chee cheong fun (猪肠粉). That will be another story. From there, we adjourned to the Lower Perak Club where we met up with another friend. We chit-chatted on old times and present times till late into the night. It was indeed a most nostalgic day in good old TA.

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