Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Village of the Beautiful

I grew up in a house in the prime Bukit Timah area. It was a great house - big - huge garden - lots of "wildlife" - snakes, monkeys and such and a dark history to boot.

It was a long way from the main Dunearn Road. To get there you either had to drive or walk along Binjai Park and pass the homes of millionaires or take the other road called Jalan Kampong Chantek.

To me Jalan Kampong Chantek was just a name. The translation from Malay means - Road to the Village of the Beautiful - or something like that (my Malay still stinks). It didn't strike me as anything significant until much later when I began hearing the stories ...

At the very end of Jalan Kampong Chantek is a small Malay village - a kampong with about 200 people staying in atap houses. Our driver Dollah was the local village bomoh/witchdoctor/sharman - whatever you call him - he probably was the one that came out with these stories in the first place.

So anyway - as the story goes - the beautiful people refers to the ever-popular Pontianak - she appears as a beautiful young woman who then changes into a horrible old decrepit lady ghost (like some of my primary school teachers I guess).

Now Jalan Kampong Chantek is a long and winding road - over a mile long much of it cutting through jungle. Hitchhiking was common back then. People didn't think twice to stop their car and offer a lift to some poor soul walking the long road. There is a sharp bend in the road before you get to a hill.

This bend is Pontianak territory. You have to slow down at night - it's almost a 90 degree bend - and that's when - if you are unlucky - you will see a young woman trying to flag down your car (Ghosts like the rest of us probably hate walking too).

So a cute girl - late at nite looking for a lift - okay so you oblige. You stop the car, she gets in. Of course she wants to go to the kampong at the very end of the road. When you get there, you turn to her and she's gone - disappeared. Sometimes there's a sweet sickly smell in the air, sometimes just leaves are left on the seat.

And so you freak out - drive like a bat out of hell and swear never to stop for another hitchhiker no matter how good she looks.

Are these stories true? I have no idea. Taxi drivers avoid the area like the plague. But I did come across a woman at that bend late one night sometime in the mid-80s. I'm not sure if she was thumbing for a lift or just minding her own business as she walked home. Still the sight of her with the instant reply of Pontianak tales in my head, did give me a fright. Of course I didn't stop - my mother didn't raise no fool!

The area has changed now. The jungle is largely gone replaced by bungalows. The name of the road still remains along with that infamous bend - I wonder if the people who live there today are aware of the area's unique ... errm .... history?

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