The Happy Wanderer

On Friday morning, a nondescript parcel was delivered to the Ipoh Echo office. Within its recesses, was a book and nothing else. No note with instructions. No indication of expectations. Just a book. Confronted with this conundrum, I proceeded to unravel this Gordian Knot of a mystery in a most devious manner; I… read the book. Astonishing, I know. Who could have thought to do such a thing as reading a book in this day and age of streaming videos and social media?

The Happy Wanderer by Dr. S. K. Teoh. Like the book itself, what I have to say about it is concise. This is not a travel guide, but rather, a collection of the doctor’s musings at the time that he had visited each locale, interspersed with excerpts of song lyrics relating to the location being reminisced on.

It’s an easy read and is effectively a physical version of Instagram or Twitter. It doesn’t necessarily describe each location visited in detail nor is it written with historical context. But rather, he describes the background and impressions during the visit itself.

For instance, he would talk about how he would take advantage of international medical conferences to tour around. About how he had driven to Ipoh as a houseman (doctor in training) to visit his then girlfriend, who was a student nurse in Tanjung Rambutan, which was infamous for its mental institution facilities. Or how one time, he encountered a tour guide who looked and sounded like James Earl Jones.

The book touched on the time his luggage got stolen in London, the ‘window shopping’ in Amsterdam’s red light district and how at the end of an Agatha Christie murder-mystery stageplay, the actor implored the audience not to divulge who the murderer was.

The “stories” are not delved into in fine detail. They read like excerpts. Like, dare I say, social media posts. But that’s what makes the book an easy and actually rather unique read. Personally, I find the book evokes a sense of nostalgia as it nonchalantly tosses out facts like how smoking was allowed back in the day but the smokers were kept at the back of the plane. It feels so taboo to talk about smoking as if it was just a casual thing, in this day and age. But that’s how it really was back then. I spent many weekend evenings of my childhood, watching my father and his friends play snooker while drinking beer in a room filled with cigarette (and the occasional cigar) smoke. In retrospect, we were in a fire death trap. Ah, those were the days.

So, would I recommend The Happy Wanderer? Certainly. It’s an easy read that doesn’t just tell you about places you could visit, but may inspire you to embark on a journey yourself, as it focuses more on the feelings and experiences that can be acquired if you do. For myself, what I enjoy the most about this book are the feelings of nostalgia it evokes. I’m not an adventurer, but even I have gone on trips, either on family holidays as a child or for work-related purposes as an adult. The feelings are the same and this book brings back those feelings.

Dr. Teoh Soong Kee is an obstetrician & gynaecologist with over 5 decades of experience. If his name sounds familiar to our dear Ipoh Echo readers, it might be from our write up of his previous book, A Doc’s Life.

‘The Happy Wanderer’ is presently available at Dr Teoh’s clinic at Ipoh Specialist Hospital, Ipoh. Those keen on getting a copy can call Teoh at 012 530 1515 or email him at: Priced at RM20 a copy, proceeds will be donated to charity.

by KT Leong

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