There is this one hill in the backyard of where I live. To most people, it is unromantically called “Bukit Botak” which literally means “Bald Hill”. My belief is that the hill is named so for its physical features. On a personal level, Bukit Botak is more than just a place known for hiking and sunrise/sunset viewing among the people who dare to mark their footprints on it. I sort of have developed a sense of attachment to the hill. For 14 years, it was a mystery to me. I had my very first glimpse of it when I set foot on a nearby university campus as a student. If a line could be drawn between the hill and my room, it would be a straight line. I remember staring at the hill at different times of the day, wondering what it would be like to be up there. That lone tree on the summit occupied the focal point of my mind. I imagined myself sitting underneath it on a beautiful, breezy day where beyond the bleak skyline there stretched vast solitudes, as Jack London the American novelist once said.
With increased accessibility, Bukit Botak has seen visitors come and go. November 29, 2017 marked the day when I, finally, had my direct encounter with the hill. With some of the happiest-go-lucky people I know from work, I made it to the top of the hill and back. While the activity was quite physically demanding, the experience that I took away from it was largely emotionally. The hill had lost its mystery to me, the mystery that was, if I could put it this way, my silent companion for more than a decade. I said my first hello to that lone tree that painted much serenity to me when everything else moved so fast. With just a step or two as the dividing line between us, I thought it looked different compared to the way it appeared to me from a distance. I suppose sometimes, if not many times, there is a difference between how things appear to be and how they really are.
I must say I was on the side of the hill’s visitors who claimed sunset from the top of the hill was magical. As the sun was dipping below the horizon, I was reminded of what a fellow traveler once said to me ‘’climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world”. Bukit Botak is not a mountain but the implication was no different.