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Face to face with the 'Bamboo King'


NATURE’S OWN: The young man who calls himself ‘Raja Rock Tabung Buluh’ sells bamboo coin boxes

KUALA LUMPUR: IT is not every day that one comes across a person who advertises himself as "Raja Rock Tabung Buluh".

It was an unexpected encounter with the unusual, and plainly uncommon, on the fringes of Bukit Rotan.

On the long stretch of Jalan Bukit Rotan lies the village of Assam Jawa, which for many occasional visitors to the hub of seafood restaurants is just another blurry patch of green.

Actually, the purpose of my unscheduled stop in Assam Jawa was not to meet the "Bamboo King" but to sample the famous cendol bakar advertised along the road.

Soon after this particular spot in Jalan Bukit Rotan became a pit-stop for motorists who had heard about the cendol bakar, a young Malay man decided that he too should have a thin slice of the lucrative pie.

The lean young man with a big smile named Amy OKU was nowhere to be seen when I took a look at a series of short vertical bamboo sections.

On closer inspection, they turned out to be ingeniously designed tabung buluh or Nature's own coin boxes.

To be fair, the concept is not new. But, these bamboo coin boxes were longer and sturdier than some that I have seen at handicraft exhibitions.

Before long, jovial Amy walked towards his make-shift stall and asked if I was interested in his products. He happily produced his calling card which printed in bold his unauthorised title: Rock Raja Tabung Buluh -- Amy O.K.U.

Wearing a camouflaged-coloured singlet with a pouch at his waist and a G-Shock style watch on his wrist, Amy looked like guy who was ready to take on the world.

Initially, I was curious about Amy's true identity.

OKU? Was that a reference to a rock bank, I posed the question. My savvy co-navigator reacted with a surprised look and said: "You dodo, that stands for orang kurang upaya (disabled person).

Indeed it was. Amy had a lisp in his speech and one of his legs was partially deformed. But I didn't really pay much heed because he seemed quite normal to me, except for a slight speech impediment.

There were about 15 bamboo savings banks on display. The sign said: "Promosi Hebat". One unit for RM30 and two for RM50.

Earlier on my arrival, another man was seen putting up the sign for Amy. Business hours must have just started for the "Bamboo King".

At first I wasn't interested in acquiring the bamboo coin box but Amy was so enthusiastic in closing the deal that I succumbed to his infectious laughter and huge smile.

The bamboo coin containers were about 76cm long. They come in three shades -- natural bamboo green, sun-dried light brown and deep brown with black rings and a coat of shellac varnish.

But the bargain hunter's instinct in me kicked in. I looked into his eyes and said "Dua puluh lima ringgit!" Without hesitation, Amy replied "Okay".

The quick "yes" took me by surprise. Then the little horned guy in my head whispered that I should have said RM20. But, I shut the door on his face.

Later in the car, my co-navigator highlighted my lack of conscience towards a fellow Malaysian. I was clearly chided.

However, the little-too-late mea culpa on my part was assuaged by the feeling that Amy the Bamboo King was quite delighted that he had made a few bucks on a slow day.

Earlier in a sudden surge of brotherhood feeling and camaraderie, I asked Amy to pose with me for a photograph in front of his row of tabung buluh. His friends who were eating at Warong Bina Ria in front of his bamboo stall made wolf-whistles and teased Amy about being a kampung celebrity.

It was a good moment in "downtown" Assam Jawa where exciting happenings were as rare as an asteroid whizzing pass the open skies.

Still, twentysomething Amy who hails from Kampung Baru Luar, Assam Jawa, has showed that with enthusiasm and perseverance, anything is possible.

Bukit Rotan is one of the least exciting places in Kuala Selangor district. However, on that day when Amy and a Chinese guy concluded a transaction the sky seemed especially bright and the cool breeze that swept through the grassy landscape seemed fresher.

Amy probably has a business partner who stays in the shadows and allows the Bamboo King to step up and close the deal whenever opportunity comes around.

If you seek to add another unique savings bank to your collection of half-filled coin boxes, you may call 010-895-5074 and ask for Amy.

His proper title, I repeat, is "Rock Raja Tabung Buluh". The location is in Jalan Bukit Rotan where the Assam Jawa Drive-Thru Cendol Bakar stall is located.

Amy, the young man in Assam Jawa with the infectious smile

A savings coin box that you can hang on the wall or on the door of your bedroom.

Amy’s bamboo stall is in front of Warong Bina Ria. Pix by Philip Lim

Watch out for the Cendol Bakar Drive-Thru sign in Jalan Bukit Rotan.

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