Growing Up In Trengganu

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Growing In Trengganu

When I was still a weedy lad, trying to grow up, a chengal tree was quietly growing old in the forests of Trengganu. The chengal, or the Neobalanocarpus heimii, is a hefty, resistant, hardwood tree that grows in Malaysia as well as in India, Malaysia's biggest chengal tree.Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and is a much revered tree in Terengganu where it is used in house-construction and boat-making.

The Trengganu chengal, believed to be 1,300 years old, is in the district of Dungun, and now ranks with the Jomon Sugi in Japan and the Giant Sequoia in California as one of the giant wonders of nature. It stands 65m tall; requiring 13 people linking hands spread out if the state of Terengganu (as it is now spelt) were to pass a law requiring citizens to be thankful and proud and go and hug this tree daily. They'd also be under the watchful eyes of the guards of the Pasir Raja Forest Reserve who now think that this is undoubtedly the biggest chengal tree in Malaysia if not the world. The forest reserve is located in the romantically named Gunung Mandi Angin — Mountain Bathed by the Wind — in Terengganu. The tree was discovered by forester Omar Mohammad in 1999.

"This is a big tree, "he said," rubbing his aching neck, "if this were to be felled, it'd require 27 lorries to transport the timber, and it'd be worth RM1 million."

But perish the thought, because that's not what he's got, for our old chengal tree.

Giant Terengganu Alocasia, biggest in the peninsula. Source:, while everything else was still and quiet, and the old chengal tree was dozing dreamily, came a great flapping noise from the forest of the Mountain bathed in the Windy-dee-dee. It's the flapping noise of elephants' ears, no a tree, also called Elephant's Ears, or the Giant Alocasia of Terengganu (as it is now spelt).

Another Forestry officer spotted something so big and quickly informed the Museum Board (strange people they answer to, these foresters of Terengganu) who soon sent not one but 150 researchers to examine these great, big flapping leaves of Gunung Mandi Angin.

Soon a pronouncement was made, and Terengganu (as it now is) was well on the way again to another record. The biggest Alocasia plants in the Malaysian peninsula.

"I've not seen the Alocasia grow this tall," said Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohammad of Malaysia's National University. "They're normally about 1m high."

The Terengganu Alocasias are more than 2.4 m tall, a growth attributed to the fertile soil of the Mount of the Windy-dee-dee.

September 7, 2004


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