MY romance with the East Coast roads of West Malaysia began as early as the mid-70s when, as a student, my friends and I drove all the way up to Kota Baru.
It was both fun and challenging to manoeuvre the treacherous and tortuous U-pin tracks in Bentong, followed by a struggle to overtake slow and heavy vehicles to get to Kuantan.
After Kuantan, once past a tedious bend bypassing Kuantan town, it was a smooth and pleasant ride along the beautiful beach side roads, lined with pleasant palm trees all the way to Kuala Terengganu.
The journey was often an exciting drive with many straight tracks, with literally the same scenic kampung view.
There were usually very few vehicles to worry about, and overtaking was easy. Few then would complain about the Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu stretch.
After Kuala Terengganu, it became relatively unpleasant northwards towards Kota Baru, as the ride became bumpy, with undulating stretches, and plenty of potholes, endangering both motorists and motorcyclists.
Certainly, it required much greater concentration from the tired driver, especially during dusk or at night.
A major breakthrough came for East Coast dwellers when Tun Abdul Razak became Prime Minister and directed the Karak highway to be built. The Jeli East West Highway was also realised then.
I then worked for a few years in Terengganu, having married a damsel from Batu Burok, Kuala Terengganu.
Even after moving back to Kuala Lumpur, the twice-a-year trip was still necessary, if not obligatory, with most journeys averaging between eight and 10 hours, not too difficult in one’s youth.
In recent years, the completion of the highway to Kuantan made the travel to Kuantan very much easier.
Finally, this is what I am driving at, in this literary journey of mine.
What was once a pleasant East Coast leg of the journey has now become the stressful link in the drive homewards.
When will we see the East Coast Highway fully materialise?
Good roads, especially good three-lane highways, are necessary for smooth travel within a country, and should be a basic infrastructure development.
Why does this vital link to the East Coast take so long to complete? This project has taken literally ages to be realised.
This is an appeal to the Government: “Please build the highway all the way to Kota Baru urgently. It is long overdue.”