Leafing through Growing Up in Trengganu any reader will be struck by the lucid beauty of Awang Goneng’s writing. The author evokes a time, perhaps not so long ago, of gentleness and simplicity of this unique east coast state. He conjures up places, faces, an almost enchanting way of life, and binds them all together with a sense of nostalgia and history.


I enjoyed this memoir by delving into it at my leisure rather than reading from start to finish. Open this volume at random and you’ll behold the mausoleum of Tok Pelam, turn another page and you’ll feast on satay for breakfast, flip again and you’ll meet the Chinese al-Yunani family whose members hail from Guandong. The topics are as diverse and as interesting as food at a hawker stall beside a windswept sea.

Through it all there is the charming Trengganuspeak which you’ll soon discover is very different from standard Malay. How I wish I could hear phrases like Isy pe el budok ninh hudoh ssungoh being spoken. Comparing it to what west coast Malaysians are used to, it would be like another language. Fortunately, there is a glossary to aid our navigation.

Awang Goneng’s obvious love for his state is infectious. You’ll feel as though you too grew up amongst its coffee shops and kueh stalls, sipped a combination of Milo, Horlicks and coffee conjured by a particularly creative drinks vendor, avoided the sorry old man who graffitied the town with a bucket of white paint, and. heart beating hard, cycled up that road lurked by a tiger. The author has opened up that ketupat to another world far from Malaysia’s car-jammed cities of glass and steel.

I was in Kuala Trengganu once. As a chambering student, I attended its court only to find out the flights back to KL were full. So I spent 3 memorable days wandering around the quiet roads and desolate beaches photographing fishermen and quaint Malay villages. My mother was there too as a mid wife in KT and Kemaman half a century ago. So she too would have tasted the balmy hanyir Trengganu air which almost fills your nostrils as you meander through this volume.

Growing Up in Trengganu is a nostalgic journey which is beautifully written. Monsoon books have also done a wonderful job in its production. The typesetting, quality of paper, design, combined with the old black and white photographs, make this volume a real joy.

This book or blook started life as Awang Goneng’s blog and this transition into hard print may be a first for Malaysia.