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The Beach of Passionate Love
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“The Beach of Passionate Love” sounds like some outgrowth of the Internet pornography industry. That's not the case: it's the name given to a beach in the state of Kelantan, on the East Coast of West Malaysia. There's little evidence of passion there.

For a number of reasons, this beach has played a central rôle in my life. This page will go into some of the details. If you're looking for something sexy, don't bother: it's all pretty down to Earth.

What's in a name?

The beach has been called by many names. The oldest name appears to be Pantai Semut Api, the beach of the fire ants. It's not clear whether the name was changed to attract tourists, but there was very little tourism at the time. In any case, it appears to have happened some time in the 1950s. “Pantai Chinta Berahi” really does mean “beach of passionate love”. After the unification of Malay and Indonesian spelling (the “ejaan baru”) in the 70s, the spelling became “Pantai Cinta Berahi”, which had no effect on the pronounciation.

Kelantan is a profoundly religious state, ruled by an Islamic Government. Over the last few years they have systematically attacked blasphemous behaviour. Dancing, cinemas and graven images are practically prohibited, the consumption of alcohol is frowned upon, despite a sizeable Chinese population pork is impossible to find. It's understandable that a place name like “Pantai Cinta Berahi” would cause offence, so it was changed to “Pantai Cahaya Bulan”, the beach of the clear moon. People often refer to place names by their initial letters, so it was important to maintain the initials PCB.

My connection with the PCB

I first went to Malaya (the Western part of what is now Malaysia) with my parents in 1954. We lived in Kota Baharu, the capital of Kelantan, where my father was state architect and one of the founders of the Rotary Club of Kota Baharu, whose web site (once http://www.kbrotary.com/) appears no longer functional.

Every Thursday afternoon (the weekend in Kelantan is Thursday and Friday) we went to the beach, at Pantai Semut Api. The part of the beach was about one mile South-East along the beach from the end of the road. I'm not sure why we went so far; I don't recall the beach being any better there. At the time there was a little restaurant, more a shack, at the end of the road. Possibly we found it too crowded there, while we had Semut Api to ourselves. I've never seen a fire ant there.

The idea of a motel

We made many friends in Kelantan, and after leaving we returned often. We lived in Kuala Lumpur between 1959 and 1972, and during that time we must have made the 650 km road journey about 6 or 7 times. We also visited other beaches in the world, and wondered how it could be that the PCB was still unknown. My father was an architect, and while on a holiday in Europe in the early 60s we had the idea of opening a beach motel on the PCB. When my father got back to Malaysia, he contacted some friends, and they discussed it for a few years.

Glaskin's Book

In the meantime, in England I found a book by G. M. Glaskin entitled “The Beach of Passionate Love”. To my delight it really was about the Pantai Cinta Berahi, apparently written in about 1958 or 1959, but published in 1961. In my diary I wrote:

Monday, 27 April 1964

After that, I read “The beach of Passionate love” by G. M. Glaskin, about Pantai Chinta Berahi. It is exceptionally good, and he even mentions the Odeon [cinema], which belongs to Pui Tiong Yeong, and was designed by Dad, twice.

The name Pui Tiong Yeong was crossed out and replaced by “Dr. Arulampulam”. This was obviously after my parents had corrected me. Pui Tiong Yeong lived just round the corner (he runs the Ford dealership), but had nothing to do with the cinema, which now has been closed down by the state government.

The Resort PCB

My father and his friends finally got round to building the motel, called the Resort PCB. It was opened in February 1972 by none less than the Queen of England: some time earlier the Sultan of Kelantan had awarded my mother a birthday honour, the “Seri Mahkota Kelantan”. It seems that she couldn't just accept it: as a British subject she had to get the permission of the Queen, who of course gave her permission to her. The visit in Kelantan was apparently as a result of this honour.

My mother was in fact quite involved with the resort, being the first manager and running it for about two years before moving to Singapore. After that, the Nachiappan family took over direct or indirect management, and we all went to Kelantan less often.

Yvonne

On 25 July 1982, in Germany, I met a girl, Yvonne Ködderitzsch, whom I quite liked. I told her I had spent my childhood in Malaysia. Her first question was “Have you been to Kélantan?”. I explained to her how to pronounce the name, and then discovered that she was currently reading Glaskin's book, translated into German as „Der rätselhafte Mr. Lee“. I still find that an extraordinary coincidence, especially since I later got married to Yvonne.

My father goes home

My father retired to Bendigo in Victoria in 1974, but was never really happy in retirement. He spent some time after that working in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In about 1992 he moved back to Kota Baharu, which always seems to have been home to him: every single reference I can find for Norman Lehey or Norman George Lehey at Google refers to Kelantan. He lived at the Pantai Cinta Berahi until 2000. He died on 8 April 2009, but to this day we maintain a strong connection with the Pantai Cinta Berahi.


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