This booklet is a compilation of photographs from a motorcycle trip traversing the old road between Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan on 5 – 9 October 2020. The guiding principle for the journey and photographs is to ‘melihat tanah air’, meaning to look at one’s own country. The idea of looking here is loosely defined to include observing the mundane, exploring unfamiliar places, and making an effort to understand different cultures in person.
To understand Malaysia we must look at it plainly, without preconceptions or prejudice. It was also an opportunity to observe conditions in small towns without the heavy traffic of people moving between the east and west coast of peninsular Malaysia.
In the past, travelling from one coast to the other was a perilous journey. You had to be mentally and physically prepared for the long strenuous hours of travel and uncertainty. There was a multitude of reasons why it could take up to an entire day to complete the journey: wild animals, landslides, winding roads, accidents or just stuck behind a trailer for hours.
The completion of the East Coast Expressway (LPT E8) in 2004* reduced travel time significantly from seven hours down to about two and a half. This new road offered a mind-numbingly straight journey on a multi-lane highway, with views of vast oil palm plantations punctuated by copy-paste design rest stops (R&R).
The old historic towns of Bentong, Mentakab, Temerloh, Maran, Gambang and so forth that were a mainstay of traveller’s tales are now little more than numbers on exit signs. The completion of the highway also had the effect of funnelling urban capital, sensibilities and culture from the west to the east.
*The East Coast Expressway (433km) was opened in stages between 2003 – 2015. It begins from the eastern end of the Kuala Lumpur – Karak Expressway at Karak, and runs through Lanchang, Mentakab, Temerloh, Chenor, Maran, Sri Jaya, Gambang, Kuantan, Jabur, Chukai, Kijal, Kerteh, Paka, Dungun, Bukit Besi, Ajil, and finally Kuala Nerus in Terengganu. The Karak – Jabur section was completed in 2004, while the Jabur – Kuala Nerus was completed in 2015.