Friday, March 21, 2008

Tondong Mee Kolok: Stuck in Time

Every morning without fail, I would pick up the paper on the porch like any other normal man, looking forward to the latest headlines. But on Friday morning, it was different.

On the Friday, I didn't give a hoot about what was happening in the political arena. That morning was a PUBLIC HOLIDAY. And that in turn translated into a road trip to somewhere in Sarawak.

It a very liberating feeling, cruising down the winding roads of Sarawak, with no worries & nothing else except for the wind blowing into our faces... from the car aircond.

For a moment, I almost believed I was an Easy Rider cruising down the highway.

I was almost Arnold Swarzeneggar riding the big bike in Terminator 2. B-B-B-Bad.

But hey, I said almost.

In reality, we were more like a pair of Beng & Lien, in a normal car, with cheap & ridiculous looking sunnies, & would die if there was no air-conditioning. And if nature called, at any point in the trip, Nee would have wanted to go home to her golden toilet.

It's very strange, to drive all the way out of Kuching, to get away from it all, & when you get far enough, you realise that there are some things which you can't get away from.

Hey everybody, look! It's Uncle Ting Pek Khing's

Fruit Orchard - Ming Khiong Garden!

I've always said that Ting Pek Khing is everywhere in Kuching. There's Wisma Ting Pek Khing, Ting Pek Khing's flyover, Tong Pek Khing's hotel coming up soon, Ting Pek Khing's airport, Ting Pek Khing's Terminal 2 & of course, his orchard. I had a feeling that if we drove up to Sabah's border, it would have been Ming Khiong's Garden all the way.

But we were not going there. We were heading to a small town called Tondong for breakfast, which was in the vicinity of Bau (about an hour's drive from Kuching).

When we finally got there, it felt like we just drove back through a time warp to Smallville. The town basically consisted of a Town Hall...

And the whole place can be summed up as two rows of shophouses on the right...

And another two rows of shophouses on the left...

We basically did the whole town tour in two seconds - look left & then look right. Done. The place looked suspiciously like a ghost town straight out from a cowboy movie.

When the lone gunman arrives on his horse, rolling with the dust into this small cowboy town, it's apparent that a gunfight will ensue, here in the empty streets.

The town people, or what's left of it, have already gone inside, hiding away & minding their own business, peeking from the balcony windows upstairs.

Sorry for being carried away. I'm currently watching 3:10 To Yuma. The influence is obvious.

Well, a lot of things weren't happening that morning, cos it was a public holiday. This was the only kopitiam opened, & it was supposedly to have one of the best mee kolok around, according to our tour leader CK.

It's rare to find shops like this nowadays, where the whole gamut of operations centred around one thing only - the only stall with only one product to sell - mee kolok.

It's a joy to be in a place like Tondong. It certainly brought back memories of long ago when we were still kids, & we'd go for breakfast every Sunday with our family in shops like this in Kuching.

I think time stopped in the 80s here. I could still remember that time when every household had that giant wristwatch hanging on their walls of their living room.

It was a wierd feeling being there in that small little shop, in that small little town. We felt like we were a part of it, & reciprocally, it being a part of our lives from a long time ago, and yet now, we felt like outside folks, strangers from the big city. Whatever it was, one thing's for sure, we stuck out like sore toes.

Maybe it's the way we carried our cameras around, shooting everything in sight. Blogging has certainly help added thick, bullet-proof layers of skin cells onto our face.

Oh, here's how the traditional stuck-in-time mee kolok looked like.

The original dry version.

And the fried version with soya sauce.

Being in a place like this is no longer just about the food. It's about taking in the whole experience of realising how fast the environment that we are living in has changed & is still changing, & how much we have lost & in turn, how much we have also gained. It's a bittersweet feeling.


Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

i thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful post! i felt like i went back in time too. tt giant watch-clock never caught on here. the shop houses r incredulously well-kept, and the streets so clean! or did you pick up the trash for them? but hey, how was the mee?

Greg Wee said...

Yeah, I didn't realise that. You're right. The streets are REALLY clean! I guess the local Municipal Council has an easy task since it looks like a one street town.

Oh, you know what, in a small place like this in the middle of nowhere, anything good will taste great. So I can't be too sure about the mee, but I did enjoy them.

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