MEMORABLE TRIP: Rawang town tempts visitors with its many splendid meals and a rich history stretching back to the second half of the 19th century
KUALA LUMPUR:: These days when house prices in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Puchong and Cheras are on an upward incline, some people have relocated to Rawang and commute to work in the city via the commuter train.
On such a thought and impulse, two friends and I woke up one early morning and headed for KL Sentral before boarding the 9.50am train to Rawang.
We had earlier planned to leave on the 9.10am train but one of us got caught in the traffic snarl and arrived late. But since time is not of essence, we accepted the unexpected hitch and took it in our stride.
Our train arrived about five minutes later than scheduled but we were happy as clams and almost jogged on board in our three-quarter pants and carrying small backpacks.
It wasn't meant to be a trek across a semi-forest but we liked to believe that it was a bit of an adult adventure that people our age sometimes indulged in out of curiosity and in a spirit of camaraderie.
Within 30 minutes or so, the train duly arrived at the Rawang station. It was a short walk to Rawang town. Unlike a drive along the trunk road from KL or PJ, the train route, walkabout in Rawang, scenery, side-lanes, back-alleys and dusty paths were much more memorable and exciting.
My two friends are seasoned visitors of China's ancient cities, so Rawang doesn't come across exactly as exhilarating as the Silk Route.
Still, I like Rawang's urban personality. However, since I have been a PJ and KL resident practically my entire adult life, I have been unable to distinguish the old mining town and the new Rawang township immediately.
The Rawang railway station is located in the old part of town. Therefore, a first-time visitor will be slightly thrilled to experience "the old flavours" of a place that has its history buried in the second half of the 19th century.
The Battle of Rawang as very few people know was between Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, some Chinese industry captains and at least one native chieftain.
The battle concluded in Kapitan Yap's favour and probably altered the history and future of Rawang. The Battle of Rawang was preceded by the Battle of Ampang which was inter-related.
But that's troubled waters under ancient Malayan bridge. Today, Rawang is experiencing growing pains of rapid development. The old Rawang mines as some old-timers have recounted have been transformed into quarries for producing rocks and other related materials for the housing industry.
Several housing estates have sprung up around Rawang. The notable ones are Bandar Baru Bukit Beruntung, Bandar Tasik Puteri, Kota Emerald, Bandar Perdana and Bandar Country Homes.
Presently, Rawang has eight primary schools, six secondary schools and two colleges. With a population of almost 195,000 (2010 statistics), Rawang folks are now enjoying the air-conditioned interiors of big hypermarkets like Tesco, Aeon and Giant.
On top of the agenda of the Intrepid Trio (my friends and I) were some Chinese restaurants and at least one unnamed back-alley eatery.
We managed to relish the culinary delights of Peng Nam and Bun Heng restaurants. I shall not venture to elaborate on how we managed to stuff so much food into our tummies but those long hours of ambling along old and new roads contributed to a faster metabolism rate.
Peng Nam is my friend's favourite restaurant. Apparently, he fell in love with the place on his maiden visit when he scooped a mouthful of the kitchen's specialities into his mouth.
Since then, he has been a regular visitor to the restaurant. Rumour has it that the restaurant has been operating for more than half a century and is currently in the capable hands of its third-generation owners.
One road away, parallel to Peng Nam, the Bun Heng Restaurant is considered fairly new and has a tagline on its exterior banner that is hauntingly familiar.
It says "Now Everyone Can Eat". That sounds very familiar.
Anyway, Bun Heng has a few surprises of its own as far as its fish signature dishes are concerned. I am a fussy eater but whenever the company is congenial, I am willing to allow the atmosphere rule the occasion.
On previous occasions when I roamed around Rawang in my car, I have cast glances at unfamiliar structures but this time around I have taken notice of the St Jude's Church, Nesan Curry House, Restoran Ali, Sai Jiva Devotees Centre, Moorthy Flour Mill and Pawangam Sun.
Since 2006, Rawang has been on the fast track of a development programme. The town is a major stop on the KTM Intercity route and there is a bigger, newer bus station in the heart of town.
All these new structures and buildings augur well for Rawang which also reaps the benefits of nearby recreation areas like the 500ha Templer Park, Hutan Lipur Sungai Kanching, Commonwealth Forest Park and the Anak Tukun Park.
Our post-lunch coffee break which was at a side-lane eatery was an impromptu pit-stop. Since my friends had a habit of drinking cups of coffee to complete a good lunch, they always preferred to pick a secluded spot.
Our venue turned out to be a tiny hawker-styled ramshackle building facing the Sze Yeah Kong Temple along Jalan Tokong Cina. According to local residents, this Chinese house of worship is the fourth Shi Ye temple in Malaysia. It was built in 1869.
The coffee or kopi-keras was bordering on excellent. Even though our visit was limited to several hours, it was engraved in our memory because of the splendid meals and interesting scenes during our walkabout.