Burgessians (for such we are, said Dr. Rob) have to eat. First stop, breakfast at the Tapah service station. While globalisation leads to a distressing homogenization of the world, and fast food franchises looking the same the world over, at least the local branch of Dunkin' Donuts is bold enough to initiate a new variety.
is Yut Loy restaurant, famous for possibly the best pau (steamed buns with a range of fillings) in Malaysia, and also as a smokers' haven for the Malay College boys, allowed out to town on Saturdays. They congregate in the room upstairs as they have for decades. And no doubt the friendly proprietor tips them off when a prefect or teacher approaches. Ah, tradition!
Boolicious has discovered.)
The dish that was invented for British and Aussie servicemen stationed in the town after the war and during the emergency when they couldn't afford beef steak. It consists of two runny yolked fried eggs, dowsed in a gravy made of dilute Worcestershire sauce, enriched with tinned processed peas, and served with thick slices of toast. Of such stuff are gourmet dreams made.
It feels like a place where time has stood still. These pictures of Kuala Kangsar in the floods date from 1967.
as Burgess said irreverently in Time for a Tiger. We also pointed out to Rob and Elaine the Sultan's Palace, Istana Iskandariah (left):
... designed by a Los Angeles architect ...
asplenium nidus bent on world domination in the branches of an ancient rain tree on Bukit Chandan.
An old house (right) I loved to cycle to when I lived in Kuala Kangsar had burned down and only the blackened frame remains. Really this breaks my heart. I remember exploring inside the house, being careful of the broken floorboards ... and finding two thrones in an otherwise empty upstairs room! The house became the hang-out of drug addicts and I guess that's how the fire started. Clearly, it was yet another palace on a hill of palaces and I guess that no-one really cared enough to try to preserve it.
was one of the seven year olds he describes in his autobiography Little Wilson and Big God, crying themselves to sleep at night and pissing off the balcony (which Abu says isn't true, but as Rob says, if Burgess were given the choice between the truth and a better story, he'd go with the latter). This is also where Burgess' protagonist Victor Crabbe lived in the alternate universe's Kuala Hantu.
Time for a Tiger, Burgess rechristened it the Iblis Club. Iblis, of course, means Devil. All these cheeky renamings of Malaysian towns and landmarks would have passed the books foreign readers by. My theory - Burgess wanted to share a joke with his Malay speaking readers (to whom the book is dedicated) and not let the others in on it. (He didn't even fully explain the joke in his autobiography).
I used to be a member of the club. (Actually this is where I brought Abu on our first date!) To quote Burgess in Earthly Powers:
It was in Kuala Kangsar, if you will forgive the novelettish circumlocution, that I met the love of my life.But now the Idris Club seems a very sad, rundown place and the people running the place seemed more than a little suspicious of us.
Of course, our trip culminated in a visit to Malay College, where the author taught. The school features prominently in Time for a Tiger.
On our trip home, we stopped off in Ipoh and christened the trip with Tiger Beer and tea. The 101 year old FMS bar is faced with closure, and many of the old shophouses seemed to be boarded up. More heritage buildings about to be lost?
I did a sterling job of pointing out other landmarks that make their way into Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain ("That's a cave temple over there") and Preeta Samarasan's forthcoming Evening is the Whole Day. Am thinking of taking up bibliotourism for a living.
If you'd like more on Burgess in Kuala Kangsar, I think you will find this extract from the first volume of his autobiography, quite fascinating ... particularly on the topic of Malay ghosts and the affair he carried on with a coffee-shop waitress called Rahimah.