Rolling with it

He’s touched the 60 mark, but Abu Bakar Taib’s pas­sion to see the world from the con­fines of a car­a­van again is as strong as ever.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@thes­tar.com.my

WHY own a house and live a static life when a car­a­van ac­cords free­dom and the chance to see the world from your own bed­room?

“You eat, sleep, live and travel in the com­fort of home and your bed­room,” said the re­tired gen­eral man­ager of TV3, Abu Bakar Taib.

“Car­a­van­ning was a life­style from the 1970s, which has en­dured to this day and is a form of lux­ury bud­get travel.”

The 60-year-old used to live and travel in a car­a­van dur­ing his stu­dent days abroad. He reck­ons that “it is fun to live and travel in a mo­bile home.”

He is nos­tal­gic about his car­a­van­ning days and has been toy­ing with the idea of hit­ting the road on a car­a­van again. “The itch to travel is eter­nal,” he said.

Abu Bakar got his first car­a­van in the early 1970s when his Aussie friend in Lon­don mooted the idea of liv­ing and trav­el­ling in a car­a­van. Need­less to say, he’s been hooked ever since.

When he came back to Malaysia, he bought three car­a­vans. He has since sold one off.

His re­main­ing two car­a­vans are parked in his mother’s com­pound in Pe­tal­ing Jaya, Se­lan­gor. One is a car­a­vanette and the other is a col­lapsi­ble car­a­van, which once served as a chalet. Old and weather-beaten, they are now re­tained in the name of nos­tal­gia.

He named the two car­a­vans – Jazzy’s Hide­out and Ezzy’s Hide­out – af­ter his two sons.

His el­dest son, Adam Jazzy, 29, used to work in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try in cities in the West Coast of the United States. The younger of the two boys, Alif Ezzy, 26, is a pi­lot.

Car­a­van­ning is an ex­pen­sive past time though, and Abu Bakar knows this first hand. “I need spon­sors if I want to go car­a­van­ning,” he re­vealed. “A car­a­van con­sumes a lot of petrol. But it pays off in the long run as ac­com­mo­da­tion is free,” he said.

He hopes to get tourism and cor­po­rate bod­ies to spon­sor his dream jour­ney when he em­barks on it.

Abu Bakar said: “The Amer­i­can dream is about how im­mi­grants can be­come mil­lion­aires.” Af­ter all, the land of the free has re­alised many an am­bi­tion for those who’ve put their shoul­ders to the wheel.

“My Malaysian dream is to travel in a car­a­van to pro­mote the 1Malaysia con­cept to the whole world. I want to meet as many stu­dents all over the world to share with them that they, too, can see the world in a car­a­van!”

In his stu­dent days, Abu Bakar trav­elled and lived in a car­a­van while in Eng­land and the United States be­fore re­turn­ing to Malaysia to set­tle down to a life of nor­malcy.

Then in his youth, he even re­garded him­self “a dis­ci­plined hip­pie: not the type who smoked dope but one who loved free­dom and peace.”

Abu Bakar re­turned to Malaysia re­cently af­ter be­ing abroad for sev­eral years.

He spent a year in Leeds, Eng­land, ac­com­pa­ny­ing Adam Jazzy, who was there to pur­sue his ed­u­ca­tion in ho­tel man­age­ment.

Af­ter that, they headed to the United States and spent four years there as the elder of his two sons found work in ho­tels in Seat­tle, Los An­ge­les, San Diego and Las Ve­gas.

Abu Bakar was only too will­ing to show his car­a­vanette, and said: “A dou­ble bed can fit in­side this car­a­van. My fam­ily used to travel like this. We even had guests sleep­ing in it.”

He ac­knowl­edges that this is per­haps part of a more Western cul­ture. “In Europe, the US and Eng­land, there are peo­ple who live in car­a­vans be­cause it is too ex­pen­sive to own homes. Once, I met a car­a­van­ning cou­ple, where the 80-year-old hus­band pleaded with me to drive his car­a­van for them. He told me he would keep me all the way,” he added, re­call­ing the funny in­ci­dent.

Play­ground of the rich

In the early 1970s, Abu Bakar stud­ied for three years at the South­west Lon­don Col­lege and got his diploma in mar­ket­ing.

“Ac­tu­ally, in 1972, I was al­ready car­a­van­ning. I bought my first car­a­van (which had a kitch­enette) to­gether with a friend and lived in it. It was so com­fort­able,” he said.

He trav­elled mostly dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­days and af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he was foot­loose for one-and-a-half years.

“We trav­elled all over Eng­land and then Europe,” he said.

“We drove along the Mediter­ranean coast to the Span­ish, French and Ital­ian rivieras.

We parked in front of Prince Rainier’s palace and had fish head curry, which I cooked my­self. I was in a sarong, hav­ing lo­cal cof­fee and had the pic­turesque Mediter­ranean Sea for com­pany. It was fun.”

Life­styles Of The Rich And Fa­mous beck­oned for a mo­ment, but Abu Bakar was firmly at­tached to re­al­ity.

“Be­ing a stu­dent, I didn’t have much money and it is very ex­pen­sive to spend your hol­i­days there. Yet, I was frol­ick­ing in the Mediter­ranean, the play­ground of the rich,” he said with gusto.

His strat­egy was to earn money along the way to fi­nance his trav­els and thank­fully, jobs seemed easy to come by.

He once sold ice cream in Cannes and earned RM7,000 in less than a month. It was easy to make money in the 1970s, ap­par­ently. He would work for a few months and then hit the road again. It was a hip­pie ex­is­tence.

He also worked in lux­ury yachts of the su­per rich in the Mediter­ranean, do­ing odd jobs.

“They paid good money just to keep you go­ing,” he said, reminiscing on those hal­cyon days.

On home­ground

In 1978, Abu Bakar re­turned to Malaysia and worked for Cy­cle and Car­riage as an ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive. A year later, he got mar­ried.

In 1980, he and his wife de­parted for the United States.

A four-year pe­riod from 1980 saw Abu Bakar study­ing at the Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity and sub­se­quently, grad­u­at­ing with a de­gree and Mas­ters in mar­ket­ing.

While in the United States, he bought a car­a­vanette, long­ing to en­joy the free­dom of travel once again.

“Back then, car­a­vans were so cheap. They cost less than RM10,000 a unit in Amer­ica. My ex-wife had no prob­lem liv­ing in a car­a­van. We lived in an apart­ment but moved around in a car­a­van. Ev­ery weekend, we would travel,” he re­called.

“Some­times, I stud­ied in the car­a­van parked in the moun­tains. I had a dif­fer­ent life. Few peo­ple were ex­posed to such a life­style, which I first ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing my Lon­don

days,” he ex­plained.

Car­a­van­ning, he said, of­fered “free­dom, time­less­ness, a bor­der­less en­vi­ron­ment and com­fort with min­i­mal ex­penses”.

His first son, Adam Jazzy, was born in the United States in 1984. Six months later, Abu Bakar re­turned to Malaysia.

Once he was back, he bought his car­a­vans through a lo­cal car dealer who im­ported them in for him.

Hos­pi­tal­ity

Car­a­van­ning aside, Abu Bakar also has a “hide­out” in Tuba Is­land, just off Langkawi.

The hide­out, a kam­pung-style chalet on 0.8ha of land, sits on the only wa­ter­fall in the whole is­land with a pool at its base.

“My guests would stay for months to en­joy the wa­ter­fall and the seren­ity of the en­vi­ron­ment,” he said. He merely re­turned the favour to his kind Euro­pean friends who took him in while he had lit­tle money as a stu­dent.

Many of them who came had his ad­dress since the 1970s.

“Some were hip­pies with beards,” he said laugh­ing and re­call­ing the good old days.

“They stayed at my home for noth­ing and I was pro­mot­ing my coun­try in my own lit­tle way,” rem­i­nisced Abu Bakar.

He chuck­led re­call­ing how they en­joyed dip­ping in the nat­u­ral pool be­low his chalet.

Abu Bakar oc­ca­sion­ally goes back to his is­land re­treat for some re­lax­ation.

“I med­i­tate when I’m there as it’s so serene,” said the re­tiree. Th­ese days, he would some­times ran­sack his house to find books he bought but never touched, and also in­dulge in some writ­ing on the val­ues of life – some­thing to leave be­hind for his sons.

Golf­ing days

“My late fa­ther, Mohd Taib Ab­dul Rah­man, a TNB engi­neer and avid golfer, in­tro­duced me to golf in 1969 at Subang Golf Club and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m still a mem­ber of the club. In my hey­day, I was play­ing to a sin­gle hand­i­cap,” shared Abu Bakar proudly.

“My dad and I would go on golf­ing sprees dur­ing my stu­dent and car­a­van­ning days in Eng­land and Amer­ica.”

In Los An­ge­les, Abu Bakar used to work part time at the Ran­cho Park Golf Club run by Jerry Bar­ber (a PGA cham­pion in the 1980s).

“That’s where I got to meet (the late Amer­i­can ac­tor) Telly Savalas (famed for his ti­tle role in 1970s crime drama Ko­jak), who fre­quented the club. I also met Seve (the late Severiano “Seve” Balles­teros Sota, a Span­ish pro­fes­sional golfer) and Jack Nick­laus (an Amer­i­can pro­fes­sional golfer) sev­eral times at the PGA cham­pi­onships, where I reg­u­larly fol­lowed the sport and was a part-time caddy,” he re­vealed.

Good old days

Abu Bakar feels “for­tu­nate” to have spent his teenage life dur­ing the “flower peo­ple” era.

“It was fun – I trea­sure those mem­o­ries to this day,” he said.

“Those were the days of love, peace and har­mony. Life val­ues were also so dif­fer­ent then. And, I still prac­tise the good deed of re­cip­ro­cat­ing kind­ness un­til to­day.”

He also cher­ishes the fond mem­o­ries of the birth of his el­dest son, who was born in Hol­ly­wood.

“The Malays be­lieve that if you bury the child’s pla­centa with pen­cil and eraser, he would be­come a scholar. I broke my golf iron and buried it with a golf ball and my son’s pla­centa in a golf course in Los An­ge­les, hop­ing that some­day he would be a pro golfer. That was crazy,” he said.

In the late 1990s, he was the gen­eral man­ager of a bank. “Like a rebel, I rode a Har­ley (David­son mo­tor­cy­cle) into KL Hil­ton’s Nir­vana Ball­room with my sec­re­tary for the an­nual din­ner,” said Abu Bakar, pre­vi­ously an avid biker of 12 years, who also loved an­tique Tri­umph mo­tor­cy­cles. Once a mem­ber of a bik­ers’ club, he trav­elled through­out Malaysia and even rode up to Phuket, Thai­land. He gave up mo­tor­cy­cling when he went over­seas sev­eral years ago.

When­ever Abu Bakar gets dreamy, he thinks of Wil­lie Nel­son’s song, On The Road

Again, a tune etched in the re­cesses of his mind. And as the song goes, Abu Bakar “can’t wait to get on the road again.”

“Hit­ting the road again is a dream I’ve had since my younger days. I want to go on that nos­tal­gic route again in Asia and Europe,” he con­cluded.

For that, he may just get a new car­a­van.

Photo: SAM THAM/The Star

Park and ride: abu bakar longs to em­bark on a road trip by car­a­van again, like he did back in the good old days when he parked his mo­bile home and en­joyed the sights.

abu bakar was for­tu­nate to rub shoul­ders with Hol­ly­wood lu­mi­nar­ies, like Telly Savalas, while pur­su­ing his golf in­ter­est.

The trail­ers also came in handy for camp­ing adventures while his two sons (adam Jazzy, left) were grow­ing up, as this pic­ture from 1992 de­picts.

abu bakar Taib (right) and his son adam Jazzy, now all grown up, both en­joy car­a­vans, like the one be­hind them, which has been con­verted into a chalet, com­plete with roof and at­tap-dressed walls.

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