I grew up romping along the once – pristine beaches of Port Dickson and frolicking in its once – clean waters !

School holidays and week-ends saw us heading for PD on a day or weekend trip or for a longer stay in one of the many government bungalows scattered in-between the coves and lagoons set against towering ru (casuarina equisetifolia) and fragrant tembusu (fagraea fragrans).

The rent was cheap and the facilities basic and we could cram family and friends into the large rooms and onto the sprawling verandas. Besides, the holiday bungalows came with a Hainanese cook if we wanted one. We never grew tired of swimming in the sea, building castles on the sand, chasing tiny crabs scampering sideways into crammy holes, and digging out of the same holes kepah for a soupy meal. The nights were filled with sing-along campfires and gin rummy sessions.

Reading Gerald Durell’s My Family and Other Animals in Form Five in the Seremban Convent (1962) reminded me so much of my own idyllic childhood filled with daylight gay abandon and nightime droning cengkerik (cicadas). Not on the beautiful Greek island of Corfu but in my very own enchanting PD.

Soaked in the sunshine of Corfu, where Gerald Durrell lived as a boy with his “family and other animals, ” this book evocatively chronicles his five-year sojourn on the Greek island. With hilarious yet endearing portraits of his eccentric family and their many unusual hangers-on, My Family and Other Animals also captures the beginnings of Durrell’s lifelong love of animals. In its passionate understanding of Corfu’s natural history, this is an entertaining and enduring memoir.

And in Form Six in KGV (1963-64), Wordsworth dearly inherited from a first love baptised my romantic soul and growing sensitivities with Ode on Intimations of Immortality :

…Though nothing can bring back the hour of

Splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower:

We will grieve not, rather find 

Strength in what remains behind…


I especially remember the times at Ru Lodge, the VIP government bungalow my family and I were privileged to inhabit at the invitation of Uncle Mubin – Mubin Sheppard, the then British Adviser in Negeri Sembilan. We enjoyed the privilege only because my fourth sister Maimunah was betrothed to his adopted son Osman. Uncle Mubin and my father bonded well and grew to have a deep respect for each other despite the fact that they never became in-laws.

It was at Ru Lodge that my siblings and I learned English table manners – how to push scrambled eggs and baked beans against the back of the fork held in the left hand! And how to scoop out soup away from you with a rounded spoon! And how to place it into your mouth without a whisper of delight however delicious it was! All this from my kampung Nyalas-bred mother whom Uncle Mubin fondly called Che Jah.  

I remember the beautiful gazebo on a little islet connected to the garden by a concrete bridge where we had typically English/ Irish afternoon tea of cake and scones served by uniformed houseboys! Uncle Mubin must have been reminded of his charmed life at Cabra Castle (now a hotel) back home in Dublin, Eire and wanted to share it with the Malay natives whom he grew to love.

Cabra Castle Hotel 
Cabra Castle stands on 88 acres of gardens and parkland, with its own nine hole golf course. Cabra Castle boasts a proud history dating as far back as 1760. Treat yourself to a stay in this magnificent Castle. Cabra’s long history lends a mature, cultured air to the Castle which can be felt by one and all as they stroll along the Castle’s impressive hallways and stairwells. Just one and a half hours from Dublin, Cabra Castle is an ideal base from which to discover the mystery and the magic of County Cavan, the Lake Country – a county with an ancient and colourful heritage.

On my not-so-frequent visits to PD now I’m completely disenchanted by what it has become or not become. Ru Lodge and its gazebo have been demolished and the area marked for a private development. Scores of ugly high-rise apartments and hotels were approved along choice stretches of the beach front spanning the Telok Kemang area, many abandoned half way. Most of the quaint government bungalows which gave PD character and preserved its legacy have been replaced by badly designed concrete structures. 

PD which could have been developed into a Malaysian haven and  heaven for local and foreign tourists yearning for a quick get-away from bustling KL missed this chance under the stewardship of Isa Samad, the Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar for 23 years.


If there is one personal grudge that I bear against Isa Samad, the recycled UMNO candidate for the Bagan Pinang by-election next Sunday, it’s his lack of good taste and foresight!

I can’t say I know too much about the  money politicking in UMNO  or the infighting among its grassroots leaders but I do know what I see and don’t see in the Port Dickson of my childhood dreams!



2 Responses to “”

  1. 1 Bakh Affendi
    October 15, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I have never been to PD in more than 20 years Datin!
    To think that PD used to be my family’s only annual break-away time, during the long Chinese New Year holidays…

    I guess a drive up there, one fine day, would be fun!

    On another note, how’ve you been?


  2. 2 ninitalk
    October 15, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Hi Bakh! I’m good!
    Yes you must take the pleasant drive to PD – less than an hour from KL. If you’re planning a weekend trip do book into Avillion Hotel, a very well-designed and friendly place with good facilities. Bali-like atmosphere! Enjoy!

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