Star2 Monthly Challenge: Travel with me to my hometown (or neighbourhood)


These megaliths planted on Taman Putra Perdanas Megalith Park were excavated at Tampin. Photo: Filepic

What do you do when you travel? Do you keep a journal for each of the journeys you undertake and top it up with loads of images to help you remember those journeys? Or do you just make do with the pictures only?

How much do you actually know about your own neck of the woods – the place where you live or your beloved hometown?

If you have been following the Star2 Monthly Challenge, you would have noticed that, so far, our challenges have included getting readers to go without shampoo for a month and making the change from being a couch potato to climbing a mountain. And now, it’s time for the Travel desk to issue its challenge.

We want you, our dear readers, to craft a readable story (about 700 to 900 words) about your hometown or the place you currently live in, based on your travel journal and/or those wonderful pictures you took.

Now, it might seem like a lot of words but, believe me, part of the challenge will be to stop yourself from writing more. I’ve always had to tell our readers, when they write in, to keep it shorter, not longer!

Of course, travel stories without pictures just won’t do. So please send in at least seven to 10 images separately, each at least 1MB in size, with detailed captions.

Tampin's pastel-coloured shop fronts lend themselves to the casual pace of the town. Note the signboard on the left denoting the border. Photo: SAM THAM/The Star
Tampin's pastel-coloured shop fronts lend themselves to the casual pace of the town. Note the signboard on the left denoting the border. Photo: SAM THAM/The Star

Please also provide your full name, IC number, mailing address and phone number (preferably your mobile number).

Contributors whose stories are published will be paid for their own original stories and pictures.

Now this is the real challenge – the story that you write about should not be about the usual sights to visit, eateries that are already popular with tourists, or well-known history or folklore. We want your local insider expertise to point out to visitors and tourists something that only a local resident would know. Share about those special places and stories with your fellow readers. Something that, if you visited another town or city which you have been to before, you would like to know about or be clued in on.

So if it’s about Kota Kinabalu, there’s no need to go on about Gaya Street Sunday Market, the islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park or Mount Kinabalu. Tease us with something more unfamiliar.

Or if you’re writing about Taiping, the wonderful scenic Lake Gardens and the Taiping Zoo might be too familiar to our readers. Go off the beaten path and help us navigate this laid-back town through your “expert” eyes.

I can’t claim to have a hometown because, as some statuses in Facebook note, “it’s complicated”. One of the towns I grew up in, though, was Tampin, Negri Sembilan. When I was there in the 1970s and 80s, it was a bustling town, so much so it got a big mention in legendary local band Blues Gang’s anthemic song (in the Nogori dialect), Apo Nak Di Kato.

Sawah leba kobau banyak

Air pigi sojuk sekali

Sunyi sopi takdo oghang

Apo nak dikato

Kalau boleh nak bising-bising

Macam pokan Tampin

To summarise the above, it talks about padi fields with buffaloes, cold water from wells, and quiet lonely places but if possible let’s have a noisy atmosphere, like what you can find in Tampin.

It used to be busy with traffic, with everyone going through Tampin to get to Malacca and stopping over to get clothes and textiles from the many shops lining the main street. Later, the North-South Highway became the popular route to Malacca.

Tampin also has a railway station and there was a branch off to Malacca at one point from the station but that service was discontinued a long time ago. The funny thing is the station is located on the Malacca side of the town.

That’s the quaint thing about my old stomping ground – it’s a border town. Almost half the town is sliced in half and the Malacca side actually has a different name – Pulau Sebang, which comes under the Alor Gajah local authority. Residents, though, go about their daily lives without paying much heed to that.

An undated picture of the Tampin railway station, showing the branch off the main line to Malacca at the far right end. Recopy from the KTM exhibition in conjunction with the 50th Merdeka celebrations in 2007. Filepic
An undated picture of the Tampin railway station, showing the branch off the main line to Malacca at the far right end. Recopy from the KTM exhibition in conjunction with the 50th Merdeka celebrations in 2007. Photo: Filepic

That’s the weird thing about this area, it has places that bear names beginning with Pulau (island) or Tanjung (promontory) although we are nowhere near the sea!

This slicing of the town has brought about some interesting jokes. For instance, the sports field of the school I attended, Tunku Besar Secondary School, was also intersected by the boundary lines. So those who used to play football there used to joke that they were playing interstate football.

The one that takes the prize is this claim from a resident who said that the boundary split his toilet in half, so whenever he was on the commode, he had one leg in Malacca and the other leg in Negri Sembilan. And he wondered, which state did his “deposit” go to?

There was even a border stone stating where the boundary was. Sometime back, it went missing but there has been a story floating around that one of the residents had removed it and placed it in front of his house.

Speaking of stones, there was a cluster of mysterious-looking giant stones, known as megaliths, just out of town heading towards Kuala Pilah. The locals ascribed all kinds of power to them.

At some point, they all suddenly disappeared. It was years later that I saw them in Kuala Lumpur – in the centre of the roundabout that was next to the old KTM Railway Station. They have since been moved to the Megalith Park in Taman Putra Perdana, Putrajaya.

A few notable people have emerged from Tampin, including a former Youth and Sports Minister who was our MP who murdered the then Gemencheh state assemblyman in 1982. In 1992, he received a royal pardon.

Miss Malaysia/Asia Pacific 1984 Betty Ann Brohier (right) in this 1998 file pic, hanging out with her fellow beauty queens (from left) Arianna Teoh, Miss World Malaysia 1997, and Lina Teoh, Miss World Malaysia 1998 and Miss World 1998 second-runner-up. - Filepic
Miss Malaysia/Asia Pacific 1984 Betty Ann Brohier (right) in this 1998 file pic, hanging out with her fellow beauty queens (from left) Arianna Teoh, Miss World Malaysia 1997, and Lina Teoh, Miss World Malaysia 1998 and Miss World 1998 second-runner-up. Photo: Filepic

And there’s Miss Malaysia Asia Pacific 1984 Betty Ann Brohier who happened to be my classmate’s sister!

So there you go, you never know what interesting things you might find about your hometown.

A few of our own writers are undertaking this challenge, too: Chester Chin will be writing about his little town of Puncak Alam in Selangor; Angelin Yeoh about Puchong (yes, Puchong); Vincent Tan about Malacca; and Christina Chin about Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

They may have a headstart, being writers, but as you can see from our Travel Share column, many readers also have a knack for writing. So it’s time to flex those fingers and give them some exercise on your keyboard and deliver to us some “travel symphonies”.


Send your entries to star2travel@thestar.com.my under “Star2 Monthly Challenge”.

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