Sunday, February 26, 2006

PULAU KETAM





*By Wendy*

PULAU KETAM

Pulau Ketam, literally translated, means "crab island". It is a small island located off the coast of Klang. The island is easily accessible from the Port Klang jetty by ferry.

Getting There:

If from KL SENTRAL KTM station, it takes about 1 hours to reach the Port Klang terminal, then you will see the jetty a few meter away. If you are driving from KL, easily use Federal Highway, and follow the sign board to Port Klang (South Port).

Car parks are available at KTM Terminal, in front of the police station and private company's parking lots which charges RM3 for the whole day. Ferry services are available everyday. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

The fare is RM6 for one-way. The first ferry leaves Port Klang at 8:45am; and last ferry leaves the island at 6:00pm on Monday to Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm.

History of the island:

Long time ago, Pulau Ketam was desolated, small island full of "Mangrove Swamps" amd famous for its crabs. Three Hainan fishermen from Bagan Hainan, Port Klang, were the first to arrive at Pulau Ketam catching crabs for their living. At first, they came and returned to Port Klang daily. The journey took almost a day.

A few month later, they built a small house to stay over nights. They rowed back to Port Klang the second day selling crabs and buying daily sundries on return. In 1872, they built a temple named "Chuan Eng Bio" located near Jalan Timur now. after that, they had decided to stay permanently.

Population

Basically, Pulau Ketam are two villages in this island. They are Pulau Ketam village, and Sungai Lima village, separated by forest. No roads are available to link each others. The Main transporation is by boat. The population in Pulau Ketam village reached its peak of about 20 thousends in 1980's.

The villagers consisted of Teochew, Hokkien and some Hainnanse. Currently the population is less than 8,000. This is due to many of the younger generation moving over to the main island to work or starting a business; or to further their education.

Lifestyle:

Majority of the population here are fishermen. If you want to see them unload their daily catch, then stay after 4:00pm as this is the time one can see the fishing trawler coming back one by one.

Day Trip: Saturday 25th.February 2006

After months of my initial promise to bring my friends to this 'House on Stilts' , I've finally made good that promise and away we go on the recent fine sunny Saturday morning. Temperature soaring around 34 degrees Celcius. With me are my old friends from school, eager and excited like the school kids of yesteryears.

Following the highways with the signage of Pulau Selatan (South Port), we reached the ferry terminal just around noon time. Found the uncovered parking lot, just couple of minutes walk away from the terminal.

"Gosh..it's hot"; screams out one of them. "Remember to wear your sunglasses"; says the other.

The parking fees are RM3.00 for the whole day, comparatively cheap on today's living standard.

Looking around the terminal, it shows some signs of 'wear and tear' after the many years of usage. Many small fishing boats are tied on small poles on the murky water. It's low tide at this time of the day so the view around the terminal are not very pleasant to looked at the moment.

The hustle and bustle of the ferry can be seen with the many Indonesian workers and their heavy loads returning to their country. The South Port also caters for passengers to Indonesia besides to Pulau Ketam.

On one side of the passenger's terminal is the container's terminal, long rows of containers are slowly been lifted up by crane to container ships. Port Klang is ideally placed to capitalise on the domestic and international markets.

As we walked towards the boarding platform, we were wondering where to purchase our tickets. We finally realised that the tickets are to be bought on board the ferry. No clear sign to indicate which ferry we are supposed to board.

But no worries just a simple smile and hello will ensure the person standing next to you, will show you on the right ferry to board.

After 10 minutes of waiting, the ferry finally arrives. It resembles more of a long speedboat than the big ferry boat of those that services the Butterworth-Penang Island route.

We found seats on the front end, which is much more cooler since the aircond hole( and I meant a kind of tube hole) are located at the front end of the boat. The lifejackets are hanging on the side panel. There is even television inside the fery to keep the passengers entertain while they wait out the departure time. Too bad, the selection of show at that time was a wrestling match between 'The Undertaker' and 'The Giant' (or something which sound like that).

15 minutes passed with the boat nearly in full capacity, the sound of the roaring engine can be heard and we are off on our way. The windows cannot be open and need some cleaning but the air-conditioning was good as the boat are kept cool. Of course the smell of stale, fishy air is not your everyday perfume and takes some getting used to. Luckily the journey to the island is less than 30 minutes.

As I glanced to the back, I can make out maybe around ten tourists including the four of us. The rest are returning residence with their bags of goods from the main island. Ikea plastic bags can be seen at the front end of the boat. Hmm...looks liked Ikea goods have made their way to this sleepy fishing village.

We passed through some mangrove swamps and the ferry ride was pretty smooth with the occasional bump of the waves. The chattering sound of the passengers are kept on the high to overcome the noisy sound of the engines. Everyone seems to know each other as they talk or should I say shout to each other inside the cabin area. It's hard to make out their conversation as it is a good mix of Mandarin and Teochew.

Before we knew it, just around the corner of the last mangrove swamp....there it was, in the distance which are clearly visible from our small window pane....the village 'house on stilts'.

Fishing trawlers are parked in front of the stilt houses. Some of the fishermen are cleaning their boats while others are repairing their nets. We have not reach Pulau Ketam yet as this is the Sungei Lima village. These two villages are separated by forest. No roads are available to link each and others. The Main transporations is boat.

The next stop is our stop, Pulau Ketam. We are greeted by the long white jetty with blue roof. As we walked up the concrete steps, two rows of bicycles are parked around the area. Bicycle or bicycle equiped with moto called "moto-cycle" locally are the major transports used. The moto-cycles are registered with the registration plate 'PK' (which stands for Pulau Ketam).

At the end of the jetty is the biggest restaurant of the village, 'Restaurant Lok Hian' and also the Sea Lion Hotel in pink. Bicycles for rent sign are prominently displayed so one need not look far if they are interested to rent one to ride around the village.

After 50 meters away, we have arrived at the 'main street'. So called because because this area is the commercial portion of the village. Restaurants on both sides calling out to us to savour their seafood dishes. Name cards are handled to us as we walked passed them, urging and persuading us to go in to their restaurants.....with the main dish attraction, what else but the live 'crabs'. Another famous dish of the island is the 'O-Chien' or in English we called it fried oyster with eggs. As we had quite a heavy breakfast, we decided to walk around first before going for lunch.

Sudries shops selling basic goods and also fresh vegetables are available here at the 'main street'. A local bank, the Maybank with ATM is set in the middle of the section of the street. There's also a police station( it's hard to imagined the existence of any hardcore criminal in this island with no route to escape except by boat).

The main street is less than 100 meters, so it took us merely a few minutes to walk from the commercial to the private residential area.

The main temple of the island, Hock Leng Keng temple separate the main street from the residential area. There is a stage in front of the temple for opera shows and mini concert during the 28th.of the 4th.Chinese lunar calender month , and also during the 'Hungry Ghost Festival in the 7th.month of the lunar calender.

The temple looks as if it has been recently given a new coat of paint so it looks brand new. The dragon inspired columns are the main design of the temple, plus the waves like roof with dragons and fishes. No doubt these are carefully chosen for it's auspicious meanings to the Chinese. Two big paintings of the 'Men Shen' (literally means 'Door Gods' in Mandarin) are painted on the walls besides the entrance to the temple hall.

Origins of Door Gods
( as stated on wikipedia)

Qin Qiong and Weichi Jingde - Qin Qiong (also known as Qin Shubao) has pale skin, usually carries swords; Weichi Jingde (also known as Weichi Gong) has dark skin and usually carries batons. Qin and Weichi (aka Yuchi Jingde), in a Tang dynasty lengend, were told by the emperor to guard the door because of a ghost harrasing him, thus resulting in sleepless nights. When Qin and Weichi were called, they guarded the emperor's door. Thus, the emperor had a blissful sleep. The next day, the emperor, not wanting to trouble his two generals, called on men to hang portraits of the two men.

A couple of old caretakers selling joss sticks and candles are seen sitting on the temple's bench. While the temple offer us a temporary reprieve from the sun, I could do with a nice cold drink.

The residential part of the village are a good mix of modern and old stilt houses. Some of them are fitted with aircondioning units and built from cements and bricks, while next to it is the timber type of stilt houses.

The houses are quite long and of standard size. At the back portion of the house is where their boats are berth, exactly like our car porch and also the area where they sort out their 'catch', drying them under the sun to be made into dried prawns, salted fish, dried anchovies, scallops etc.

According to the history of the island from their own 'Pulau Ketam webpage', there were two big fire. The first one was in the year 1967 when Pulau Ketam was caught by fire which destroyed more than 80 houses. In 1972 fire stuck again and destroyed more than 100 houses and shop lots.

In conjuction with these tragedies, villagers formed up Pulau Ketam Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1972 to safe guard their own properties.

There is another old temple located at the back of the village, which we chose not to venture further since the weather are too hot and humid for us. We can see it from afar, the temple are similar to one of the timber stilt houses.

One of my friend called out, "look up in the sky", a few eagles were flying just couple of hundreds meters above us. When suddenly, one of them came swooping down, snatching the fish from the water's surface with it's powerful feet. It must be one of our lucky day to be able to watch God's creation at work.

We decided to walked back towards the main street and to look for a place to have our lunch as the heat of the sun is getting too much for us. We decided on the biggest restaurant located at the jetty as it is a much better ventilated place compared to the rest, plus it also offer us a better view of our returning ferry which is scheduled at 3:15pm. We have around 45 minutes for lunch as my watch indicates 2:30pm.

After much deliberation with the owner, we decided on 'catfish', bamboo clams, fishball (locally made) soups and also hot plate tofu with mixed vegetables. The dishes came out in large sizes as we have forgotten to mentioned that we want the smallest size for each dish. So ensure you inform them while ordering or you'll end up liked us, having to waste the food as it is really too much for four of us. I would say that the large sizes are good for 6 persons.

The bill came up to RM57.00 including soft drink and a pot of Chinese tea. I would say that the price is cheap if let's say we have the same meal in Kuala Lumpur, it would at least cost us around RM80.00. Taste wise, eatable but not outstanding. But the seafoods were fresh, so who is complaining after all it's good value for what we had and much more.
For some of you who wish to do a trip to the fishing farm nearby, you can enquire from any of the shops. There is a tour operator which you can book on the spot at the island. There is a homestay programme at the fishing farm with the price of a steamboat dinner included in the package.

To sum up the trip to Pulau Ketam, I would say that it offers the city folk a good weekend break from their busy lifestyle with a chance to spend a different kind of experience with their family.

The short day trip, took us less than 4 hours from the start of our journey from home and back.

All in all, we went back in 'time' to feel rejuvenate again. So instead of spending your weekends at the shopping mall, make a trip to Pulau Ketam....the island with 'houses on stilts', where three Hainanese fishermen first make their living from catching crabs.

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