Saturday, October 16, 2004

Travelling by the ECE

Being a seasoned traveler from Kuantan to Kl of which is a common ritual come every school holiday and special occasions, the opening of the East Coast Expressway (ECE) mark both a beginning and an end.

From the yesteryears of following the old road passing through the towns of which I memorized by heart when I was still a kid on the road; Gambang, Mentakab, Sri Jaya, Temerloh, Lancang, Bentong, Karak, Bukit Tinggi and Genting with other countless small hamlets and villages in between (total journey time, 3 to 4 hours depending on traffic) to the current 2 lane, 110 km, straight ECE which bypasses all these. The first time I got to use the ECE was in September, a few days after Merdeka (coincidentally they decided to begin toll charges on my inaugural drive), heading towards Kl to catch my flight to Kk with my dad by my side. To sum it up, it was a non-event, steer straight ahead and maintain your speed and course for the next 2 hours and at the end be greeted with a toll of RM29. Come to think of it the journey took less time than the jam I was caught in Kl as I made my way to Petaling Jaya.

No doubt it is convenient and fast, I still remember the time my family and I were caught right after the Chinese new year celebrations heading back to Kuantan, fortunately (unfortunately for us) everyone else in the city decided to head for Genting for fun and gambling. This was way back near the early 90’s when there wasn’t the new bypass to Genting and the highland mudslide tragedy hasn’t occurred. We were stuck from Kl to the Genting-Sempah tunnel for 3 hours, even had time to align from the car and take in the cool breeze of the mountains. Even more memorable were the times I was caught behind 3 balak (timber) lorries (which happens a lot), and then played a game of Russian Roulette as I tried to overtake them over the Genting road which at that time was only a single lane.

Come modern highway in the picture, no more following lorries, no risky overtaking tankers and busses, no delays due to bad roads or construction, no traffic lights at towns to hinder your passage, no more trying to guess where the police is setting up the next speed trap but also no more scenic route. I remember looking out of my car window as a kid and kept on bothering my dad with questions on the sights I saw. There were industrial mills and factories, people going about their daily lives in the towns, kids cycling about on the highway, bus drivers congregating at a coffee shop, countless road kill laying pancaked on the road, the rows and rows of palm oil and rubber trees, gigantic mosques, quaint stalls, vegetable planted on steep hillsides, mighty rivers rushing by and mountains lay before like the backbones of some giant animal. I will miss seeing all these, it was more lively and interesting than just a stretch of road bisecting plantations after plantations with a few rest stops in between.

But habits die hard, my dad still prefers the old road, as he said “why the rush, only a difference of an hour or so and you have to pay toll”. I countered “Well we save on the journey as we get there faster, less obstacles and also think about the petrol usage for a shorter distance”. Ha ha in the end he took the old route back, maybe my misgivings that the towns in between the old road will die off was unfounded. I recall how a small detour away from the old Sg Dua village after Karak caused many of the shop owners to relocate and soon it became a ghost town, I savored steamed buns with kaya there. I hope the KFC at Karak won’t suffer, nor the pit stop we often make at Temerloh to empty our bladders, or the various fruits stalls at Kampung New Zealand or even hunting for river rocks some of the smaller streams for our garden. I hope those little towns will live on and last beyond the new life line connecting Kuantan to Kl. Then again the new highway has been plagued with problems such as cross winds and now the ACA probe into shoddy construction work, maybe it is safer to take the old route and more makan places too:)


Anonymous said...

Only 2 hours from KL to Kuantan? Hmm, that's something to think about for a quick getaway. Is that where Adnan and Samy are having a tiff about? (Fishtail)

hyelbaine said...

I've used it once before it was officially open and it certainly saves a lot of travel time indeed ;)

Cheers!!! :D

bayibhyap said...

You win some, you lose some. Unfortunately, we've got to move with the times. With the new highway, time saved will definitely be a plus factor but the picturesque trips will be a thing of the past. The ever popular nasi lemak in Karak should survive. But the town may get ghostlier by the day.