First I have to tell you: the journey’s done. We’re home.
Zedeck went straight to the Room Where He Writes and churned out story no.82. Me? I am… well, I’m being slow. I’m always slow with the re-entry after going places.
But this is not about that. This is about turtles. In an alley. In Kuala Terengganu. You dig the post title? C’mon it’s great. You know it’s great.
Kuala Terengganu was one of those places that crept up on me and made me fall in love with it in a few short hours.
Something about how the town sat in the landscape – just before the great river meets the South China Sea, it holds a few islands like pearls in a cupped mouth. In fact, something like this:
You see the resemblance? You can never again un-see it.
We were walking around Jalan Kampung Cina when I stumbled across a gap between two buildings. It was no more than 1m wide.
Holy shit! Someone had adopted this gap and filled it with art.
Behold the back entrance of Turtle Alley.
At the other end, which we reached eventually, there’s a giant replica turtle greeting you. I’m glad we discovered it by the back – for the thrill of surprise and discovery, the split-second joy. Yes, you know it. The childhood joy.
Along the walls are illustrated plaques telling the story of the Little Turtle Messenger, which is a picture book written by Dr. Chan Eng Heng and drawn by Tan Yi Sin.
In addition to the story, you get to hunt for a tiny turtle hidden in each picture. I cannot describe how much this place rocks my world.
Wait, it gets better.
As we wandered down the alley looking for hidden turtles, a group of ladies came in. They were loud and chatty and joyful. I have a soft spot for colourful ladies, they make me happy and hopeful for the world. It became clear that one of them was none other than Dr. Chan herself, the maker of Turtle Alley.
She’s a retired professor, award-winning conservationist, and children’s book author. She made many of the mosaics on floor and the walls of Turtle Alley. How could I not go up to her and gushily ask for a picture?
Here she is standing next to me.
She gave me one of the little turtles that she was going to add to the Alley that day. I thought about the space being slowly populated by art turtles, and could just about imagine/dream/hope the same about real turtles in the sea.
I think if I was kid growing up in Kuala Terengganu, Turtle Alley would have been one of my favorite hiding places. I’d probably spend all day there, reading or dreaming.
Prof. Chan, I am your fan-girl.
You. ROCK. Your art ROCKS. You found a gap and filled it with life and beauty. You made a magic art portal in your town. People go in, and they come out again – different.