Remember when the Balik Kampung Journey was Worse?

Yes, travelling during the festive season can be a nightmare, but believe it or not, it was once worse. Automologist LING remembers when journeying across Malaysia is now her description of a nightmare.

1) The journey used to be WAY longer 

My family and I used to travel from Selangor up to Penang every Chinese New Year, and if we were lucky – no traffic jams, no accidents, not too many pee breaks – it would take us EIGHT HOURS at least. This was before the North-South Highway was completed in 1994 to replace the Federal Route 1, and the journey now takes half the time…or less, if you drive fast, because now you can.

Speaking of the old roads…

2) The roads used to be windy and dangerous 

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A regular part of the travel itinerary was throwing up (what fun!), so my mother would keep plastic bags handy. The roads twisted and curved (THAT kind of windy, not the "strong winds" kind) and it was made worse by the two-way highway, which means overtaking entailed swerving into the opposing traffic lane, speeding up to overtake the car in front, then swerving back before you collide head-on with the oncoming vehicle.

3) There weren’t that many lay-bys or reststops, and they didn’t used to be so nice. 

When nature called, we used to do it by the side of the road. Yes, it wasn’t pretty.

Lay-bys with toilets and food stalls were few and far between. Today, some of the reststops are sprawling complexes with plenty of clean, airy toilet cubicles, so you don’t even have to queue, and all sorts of food stalls/outlets. The Tapah one even has a Baskin Robbins outlet (on a hot day, it's heaven!).

4) We didn’t have window tinting 

When it became very sunny, we just had to bear with it. I don’t recall there even being car window sunshades back then. The best we could do was to unwind the window a little, stick a bit of the side of a towel out, and close the window on it, to make a makeshift curtain for the car.

I googled "hot in car" for a picture and found this...will it do?

5) We didn’t have mobile phones 

Once, when our car broke down, my brother was sent off into the unknown to find help, and he returned...

...okay, not like this and it was only two kilometres down the highway to the nearest emergency telephone. He did get a blister, though. Now all we have to do is pick up our mobile phones to call for help.

I suppose none of these will make you feel better when you are stuck in traffic this weekend. After all, 20 years from now, someone else will write an article about how bad we have it now ("They had to drive themselves, their cars couldn't. Imagine that!") Still, think of all the rendang and ketupats waiting for you at the end of the journey, and that should cheer you up! I know it does for me.

Berhati-hati di Jalan Raya dan Selamat Hari Raya, everyone!


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