University’s Colourful Park
I moved to Taman Universiti two months ago when my friend, knowing what sort of person I am, suggested that I should live in an urban area. He said that I would love the hustle and bustle of Taman Universiti. I was like, hey, what do you know about my definition of urbanism? Taman Universiti might just be another criminal town in Johor.
While I was driving to Johor, I kept visualizing Taman Universiti and I can’t help thinking of Kampung Kerinchi in KL – crowded, disorganized and haphazard. When I reached Taman Universiti, I was pleasantly surprised to see a place so full of life. It had never occurred to me that I would be indulged into such a colourful world. I was indeed impressed. The whole area was big enough that the word Taman (park) seems inappropriate. I think the word ‘town’ suits better. Oh yes, Taman Universiti was in fact given a town status in 2002. Perhaps, someone should change its name to Bandar Universiti.
Driving through the roads in Taman Universiti is not that difficult. It is a ‘grounded’ area that whenever you are lost, you will definitely find your way back there. It is like driving through a roundabout. You will see yourself coming back to the place you have left. Curious? Just keep on reading.
My rented house is located in Jalan Penyiaran (Broadcasting). Isn’t it inspiring to see such an interesting word in a road’s name? Maybe I should venture into broadcasting one day. Well, we commonly find roads that adopt names of public figures like Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Tuanku Abdullah or Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (so we would be inspired by their success, right?). However, in Taman Universiti, you will be constantly educated with important concepts like these:
Jalan Kebangsaan (National)
Jalan Kejayaan (Success)
Jalan Kebudayaan (Culture)
Jalan Kemajuan (Progress)
Jalan Kemuliaan (Honour)
Jalan Pertanian (Agriculture)
Jalan Penyiaran (Broadcasting)
Jalan Perubatan (Medical)
Jalan Perdagangan (Trade)
Jalan Pendidikan (Education)
When I learned about these motivating ‘academic’ names, I was grinning because they sounded like a joke to me. The names are so ‘intellectual’ that, at times, I feel like they are mocking an academician like me. Oh, maybe I should remind myself that I am now in a university’s park. The road names should be proper and academic-related, shouldn’t they? Furthermore, there are four primary schools and two secondary schools in town. Plus, there is also a public library for children in Jalan Pendidikan. So, being in tandem with the concept of educational hub, the children and the young here should be continuously reminded about important values in life, shouldn’t they? Wow, the founder of the streets must have thought about this issue so seriously. Well done, man!
By the way, you also should know that the roads here are amusingly arranged. The roads that start with a letter ‘P’ are located on the West side of Jalan Pendidikan (the main road running through Taman Universiti) while the roads that start with a letter ‘K’ are located on the East side of Jalan Pendidikan. I have no idea why the roads are put together in that manner, but, isn’t that an organised system?
Oh, if you have sharp eyes, you will notice that all the road signs here are spelled alternatively in Jawi characters. I am not sure whether the local government here follows what Kelantan is doing in promoting Jawi to the public, but I am duly impressed by such a noble move. Congratulations!
Should you desire to be sweetened into an urban life, you can entertain yourself by walking along Jalan Kebudayaan. I like the makeup of this area which is so planned and customer-friendly. There is enough gap between opposite buildings that provide easy movement for pedestrians and car drivers. You will find a lot of this type of efficient building composition in Singapore (of course).
Oh, be extra careful when parking your car here. You don’t want to get a ticket from authorized agents who always have their quick eyes for street offenders. Just buy a “prepaid” parking coupon and display it on your car dashboard and you will be fine (not fined!). Frankly, I had a mixed feeling about this system. On one hand, it is not really an effective method because, for old-timers, they can always guess when the agents are around. On the other hand, this system teaches the residents to be more cultured and civilized who practice self-discipline, even when the agents are not around! So, take your pick.
Okay, the main attraction here is Jaya Jusco that is a perfect place for shopping. Besides, there is another department store called Pasaraya Bersatu Jaya that was once popular in Kota Baru, Kelantan. It is notable to find this ‘dying’ mall in Taman Universiti. However, I am not really interested in these mainstream malls.
As I am venturing further into Jalan Kebudayaan, I am continuously fascinated by the huge number of amenities provided by the local businessmen. For only RM6, I can get a decent haircut at Dua ‘Z’ Barber. Where in the world could I get such a cheap hairdo? Besides, to my surprise, there are a lot of shop houses selling my favourite Korean CDs which are hardly found in KL. Ops, there are not original. I know. Don’t tell anyone.
Hey, the people here really know how to socialize. Physically, they can gather at Dewan Raya Taman Universiti where business and personal gatherings are held. This multi-purpose hall is located at the further end of Jalan Kebudayaan. Virtually, they can “get together” at http://www.taman-u.com where “everything in one place”. Through this portal, they can interact with each other through various transactions and forum discussions, thanks to the Singaporean website developer who brought the portal to life. Hmmm, isn’t that a smart society?
God of Heavenly Food
Talking about eating places, I am happy to announce that there are more than five 24-hour mamak restaurants in Taman Universiti! The existence of these restaurants just validates the metropolitan ‘taste’ of Taman Universiti residents. There is also a food court in the middle of this area called Medan Selera Taman Universiti which sells my favourite Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Lemak Kukus. In the late afternoons, many young men and women will flock around Green Jade Republic to savour their high teas.
In front of Jaya Jusco, SDS Cafeteria sells my favourite cheese tart. I just love taking breakfast there while sitting down and reading newspaper next to its ‘raining’ glass panel. It is such a therapeutic setting.
On top of that, there are many other ‘happening’ Malay, Chinese or Indian restaurants scattered all around the town. Restoran Nasi Campur Aras Ledang, Restoran Mesra Pak Ali and Delima Bistro are famous among university students for its affordable price. Kafeteria Noor and Mama Lynn’s are favourite hangout places for early birds in the mornings.
My most preferred restaurant is Restoran Shahab that serves the best Nasi Beriyani Gam in town. In addition, Restoran Tunku Impian offers one of the finest Thai cuisines. Price? Don’t worry, if you look like me – cute and petite – they will treat you like a university student and give you an attractive discount. So, just act like one, okay.
If you want to be mesmerized by the kampung side of Taman Universiti, you should explore behind Pasar Awam Taman Universiti. There are open-air stalls selling pisang goreng, cendawan goreng, ais kacang and all sorts of local delicacies. Enjoying the sweet ais kacang while chatting leisurely with close friends in the open will put you into such a kampung atmosphere.
Next to this wet market, there is a bus station that looks so worn out and exhausted. You could also observe various stalls run by Malay and Chinese sellers exhibiting all sorts of local fruits. I don’t think these stalls are illegal because the police station is located just right behind them.
I found the setting around this wet market truly unique. It adds the classic charm to the highly-urbanized Taman Universiti. More importantly, this ‘third-class’ environment always reminds me of my own rustic hometown, Pasir Mas. For that ironic reason, I love coming here every afternoon because it brings back all the nostalgia that unconsciously teleports me to my own root.
Sweet Melting Pot
As an avid swimmer, I found a perfect place to exercise my skill – Taman Universiti Sports & Recreation Club. Although it is a bit aging and abandoned, the management is still able to attract loyal customers especially among Chinese. I can say this is a Chinese-concentrated club because there is a fancy Chinese restaurant located inside the club called Restoran Mei Du Ying Bin. Working in a Malay-dominated university, this club brings a totally different environment for me.
The swimming pool and gymnasium are positioned just in front of the pork-free restaurant. The changing room, which is just next to the restaurant, is so stinky that I always change my swimming suit as immediately as possible. I wonder whether the customers in the restaurant could enjoy the ‘aromatic scent’ too.
For only RM30 per month, I am not in the position to complain too much. The water in the pool is not so clean, but I keep telling myself that, at least, this pool is still cleaner compared to the poisonous Lido Beach. So, I usually content myself with the facilities here.
What is so exceptional about this club is its neighbourhood. Being a Chinese-dominated club, one would not expect to see a Hindu temple located just opposite the club’s entrance. On any given days, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple will be as crowded as the Sports and Recreation Club.
While I am swimming, I can always listen to azan (prayer’s calling) so clearly from the swimming pool. Besides, there is always a clash of azan coming from two different mosques. The nearest mosque is just behind the club.
A temple on my left.
A mosque on my right.
A Chinese restaurant in front of me.
Isn’t that a unique environment?
Oh, there is another one. Besides Taman Universiti Sports and Recreation Club, I can find the same harmonious concoction of cultures at a night market held every Friday night in Jalan Kemuliaan. This long-winded market is located right in front of the big and beautiful Masjid Jamek Tan Sri Ainuddin Wahid.
For me, this night market is one of its kinds because it combines all the colourful elements that I could find in typical Malay and Chinese night markets in KL. The traders from the two races co-exist harmoniously without prejudice. Oh, even the Indian traders try their lucks here. Again, isn’t this a pleasant sight? Unity is apparently reflected in its every nook and corner. If I were the ‘mayor’ of Taman Universiti, I should name this market Pasar Malam Rakyat.
What else should I say about Taman Universiti? I am loving it.