Tuesday, December 28, 2010


"IT IS DIFFICULT ONLY THE FIRST TIME" - That's the affirmation I usually apply whenever I attempt something new. This affirmation has a soothing effect. It frees you from excessive stress. It allows creativity. It encourages experiments. Should you fail, you know that the failure is because it is the first time you do it, hence it is difficult only the first time.

17th Dec 2010 was a special day for the family. It was the day, more specifically the night that my wife and I, and the family hosted a WEDDING RECEPTION. It was a wedding reception for our eldest son, RAFEQ who took NURUL AFRAH as his life-partner. And IT WAS THE FIRST TIME for us.

A concerned gentleman called me up a week before the wedding reception. He was a silent follower of my blog. Seeing no entry for more than a month, he called. I sensed his call was to "check" on my status, if you know what I mean. I appreciated his call. I told him I was just too focussed on preparing a wedding reception. Hence my silence.

We did not employ any wedding planner. We decided that we should be the best planner. Mistakes? Sure there were, but I can accept that. After all, "it is difficult the first time".

What was the biggest mistake? Well, I did not send a card to a very close friend. I chose to SMS him an invitation. He came for the wedding with his beautiful wife, all "dressed up to kill" (I assume). But he came one week earlier!! I gave him the wrong date.

So, Lesson # 1 - SEND the wedding invitation card.

As for the other mistakes, the family will do a post-mortem over dinner tomorrow night.

A few pantuns I gave during my speech.

To the newly wed on their new roles

Memberi menantu kepada ibu-bapa
Menjadi abang & kakak kepada adik-adik yang muda
Menjadi penyeri dalam rumah-tangga
Memberi cucu kepada saya

To my guests I said this

Lafaz akad hanya sekali
Cincin perkahwinan tersorong dijari
Kedatangan tuan-puan kami abadi
Jemputan masa depan, harap datang lagi

I have 3 more children to be married off before my wife and I can relieve ourselves of this parental responsibility. Now that the first one is over with, it is our hope that the first wedding will trigger an avalanche for the three to follow suit FAST.

Thank you all the friends and neighbors who had graced the occasion. One do not say thank-you to one's blood relations who contribute, both time and effort to make the occasion a success. They were part of the show!

And I end the speech with a reminder

Punya isteri mahu dakap sampai mati
Hilang semua gigi, hanya tinggal gusi
Sepanjang hayat kekali abadi
Hanya pemisah cangkul penggali

So Rafeq &  Anne, you are embarking on a new journey. It takes two to Tango, more so in Marriage. Make it permanent!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


This was the homestay we had booked in. The lady to my right is the houseowner. The lady to her left is the daughter, Kak Lah who I called to confirm the booking, and her husband in red.

A simple house with two rooms, one converted for homestay. Dining is in the kitchen, as expected from a typical kampong house. Lunch was "ike singge", "ike goreng" plus BUDU and no veges. By the way, I do not necessarily crave for Budu but once served, and with the right mix of ikan tawar, all hell may broke loose. I grew up with such menus, occassionally with chicken as a delicacy. Fish used to be my staple food, what else if you were a fisherman's son. So, no veges is no problem

Back home in Subang Jaya, my wife has to coax me to take veges, as if I was her kid! And I am not kidding.

After a fulfilling lunch (indeed I was full), we took a short rest by the verandah. The occasional breeze cooled us from the heat generated by the asbestos roof. We decided to let the sun dipped a little before we continued our exploration.

3 main islands are inter-connected - Pulau Suri, Pulau Beluru and Pulau Teluk Renjuna. These are the islands that we cycled through. From Pulau Suri, we had to cross to Pulau Beluru, which is a short distance of under 3kms.

I retained my statement that these islands are still unspoilt, except for 2 spoilers. This was the first. A birds nest building, jutting out of nowhere like a sore thumb - sore thumb to me but cash for the owner. It is my fervent hope that this will be the first and the last, wishful thinking on my part.

Pulau Beluru housed the biggest school with hostel facilities and a fully dedicated jetty for the school children. 

Turning left from the school, a bridge connects Pulau Beluru with Pulau Teluk Renjuna.

Pulau Teluk Renjuna houses the mosque to cater for the surrounding islands.

An arch welcomed us to this kampong. I posed here, not really knowing the significance of the arch. It appeared rustic enough for a shot.

Children, as always, are my favorite subjects, whenever I come across them. No computer games for these kids. They improvised whatever they found.

One boy was proud to display a pet musang. Back in KL, pets are sold in hundreds and even thousands of ringgit. I bet this boy got his for free. And when asked what the musang eats, the boy casually says :"muse make pise". Hm...it rhymes very well. Hj Khailani and I smiled at him. I don't think he understood our smile.

World cup fever is everywhere. Hj Khailani caught this action shot of the island's Ronaldo in blue. His pose and style certainly had the making of a pro footballer. Playing football in this "stadium" certainly requires much more skill than the international pros. Apart from the opponents, these players had also to contend with the coconut trees, the lamp post and the concrete path. A much greater skill certainly required.

I spent several minutes videoing their actions. Somehow, their actions and bravery doubled when they realized they were on video. 

Then, we came the second "spoiler". Out of nowhere, we came across a Taman, something one expects to find only on the mainland of Kota Bharu.

A signboard showed that it was a resettlement, proceeds from the zakat of MAIK. A bank logo indicates probably the source of this zakat funding. With some thought for preservation, the resettlement could have been tastefully done to retain the charms of the village.

We backtracked from Teluk Renjuna to continue to Pulau Seratus. Pulau Seratus is a misnomer. Unlike Pulau Beluru and Pulau Teluk Renjuna where these islands are seperated by a river, there is no distinct seperation. Secondly, why seratus? It is only one kampong.

I shot this lady who was jokingly disproving me taking her shot. "Wat gapo ambek gamba oghe tuo, tok comel" (why take an old lady's picture, not beautiful). I replied "takpo, asa hati comel" (it's ok, as long as the heart is beautiful). I guessed my reply caught her by surprise.

She peeled the lidi for satay sticks for sale. I suggested to her why not sell satay as well. She just smiled and we moved on, heading back to Pulau Suri.

By about 5pm, we had completed our ride around the islands. While sipping our drinks at the warong near the jetty, we realized we had completed our assignments.

Do we need to experience the homestay? We are after all, kampong folks too. We decided to forego our stay but paid the owner the RM100 for 2 pax (a night stay, lunch, dinner and breakfast).

We took the boat back to Kota Bharu. The nice couple of Kak Lah and husband sent us off at the Pantai Suri jetty.

Friday, October 1, 2010


So, where are these islands? Well, if you look at the green patch on the google map above (top most) that's where the islands are. Unfortunately I cannot magnify the google map any nearer to show these islands at closer view. Doing so blurs the view.

The green color tells you that these islands are...well...still green. Compare that with the mainland, you get an idea why you should visit these islands. I must admit though the "blue" of the rivers in the map are misleading. But the greens are real.

Sadly, one can scoop a teh tarek from the river. But that's no fault of the islanders. Development upstream, as far up as Gua Musang have brought the silt down to the Kelantan river mouth. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Pulau Suri is quite serene, something one could expect from a kampong with very limited development. There is a feeling of quietness and silence. The only motorised vehicles are the motorcycles and they are few in number. Occasionally one will hear the sound of the motorboat engines from a distance. You really feel you are in a kampong.

The roads, more accurately, the paths meanders through the villages. At several stretches, the paths are wide concrete which makes cycling easier. At several older stretches, potholes can be expected.

Surprisingly there are several changes in vegetation too, making the ride quite pleasant. We came across narrow paths, both sides flanked with overgrown bushes.

We also rode through a "keladi" route

And there were bridges to cross, some were in good condition

and one require acrobatic skill which neither of us possessed. This one below actually led to a abandoned settlement, hence it was just rotting away.

Overall it was a cool and breezy ride. We could feel the cool breeze on our faces as we stopped for some pose and pictures.

At most places, tall coconut trees provided us shade. These same coconut trees provide sustenance for the villagers.

We were hoping to observe monkeys plucking coconuts, but there wasn't any. I would be recommending this as an attraction for tourists.

We cycled to our first destination, Kg Pantai Bharu which is relatively a new settlement and sparsely populated. From Kak Moh's house, it was roughly 3 kms. We timed our ride very slowly to return for lunch at Kak Moh's house.

While we were exploring, Kak Moh was checking with another homestay nearby. Upon our return, she informed us that we were booked with another homestay roughly 50 metres away. We thanked the couple for the free drinks, picked our bags and headed for the homestay, looking forward for lunch.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


There are several islands off my birthplace in Tumpat. When I was a kid, Pulau Rulah was one island mentioned very often at home. Ustazah Hj Cik Nab hailed from Pulau Rulah. She came to our house weekly to teach  the womenfolks of my kampong. My late mother looked forward to her visit. I looked forward to her visit too. I look forward to the food my mother prepared for her Ustazah, something special which I got to enjoy thereafter!

Then there was also Pulau Kundor. As kids, my father did bring us in his fishing boat to visit my mother's relatives.  There were many other islands, including "Teluk Jjuno", as spoken in local dialect for Pulau Teluk Renjuna. There is also Pulau Beluru and Pulau "Toke" (Tokang). All in, there are 13 islands, big and small within the Tumpat district, a fact I recently discovered.

This discovery was as recent as 3 days ago. My co-author Hj Khailani and I flew in to Kota Bharu to discover some of these islands. As part of our book project, we plan to cycle within the islands off Malaysia and write about the journeys. We did Crab Island (Pulau Ketam) last month. I was looking forward to this trip as I had harbored the thought of visiting these islands for quite sometimes.

So, with borrowed bikes from my brother and his wife (also two ardent cyclists), we rode the short distance from Kg Baung in Pengkalan Chepa, passing through Kg Banggol to Kuala Besar where we took the passenger boat across to the first destination, Pulau Suri.

Kuala Besar, branches off from the main road heading for Pantai Cahaya Bulan (formerly Pantai Cinta Berahi). Kuala Besar is a big rivermouth and is the take-off point to the islands. The other take-off point to the islands is Pengkalan Kok Majid in Sungai Pinang.

 The fare is RM1 one way. I paid RM5 for both of us plus 2 bikes. It was a short boat ride of under 15mins to the jetty at Pulau Suri. We chose Pulau Suri as it is connected to several other islands by bridge. Pulau Suri also provides homestay facilities, something we also recently discovered.

Houses offering homestay facilities have this logo displayed.

The lady passenger in the boat was quite chatty. When asked, she was quick to tell us about the islands and the routes we can take on our bicycles. Disembarking, we headed towards the direction pointed out to us. We were not sure which homestay we were supposed to stay the night though we had the mobile number of the contact person - Kak Lah.

When we chanced upon the first house displaying the logo, we stopped to enquire whether we have arrived at our booked homestay. The owner, known as Abe Li (abang Ramli - and what a coincidence) and his wife Kak Moh welcomed us in. Actually I should be calling him adek Li and his wife adek Moh. A bit "ke'kok" though.

Very hospitable couple. They casually said it did not matter whether we have booking and invited us into the house. A laptop caught my attention, with internet connection.

Over several glasses of cold iced orange drink, we discovered there are more than 20 homestays. The couple are the designated leaders. I found Kak Moh quite forward thinking for someone staying in a village, so deserving of the leadership role she played. She talked about the challenges in this homestay ventures amongst the fishing folks. She talked about the subsidy mentality and the desire for immediate gains. She said it was initially challenging to get the participating houseowners to spruce up their homes, their facilities and their compounds. They expected streams of visitors and to see money rolling in first. She therefore took the lead to invest in their assets and arranged for gotong-royong to make the island hospitable.

The laptop belonged to the daughter, who managed the operations. She had set up a blogsite at www.homestaynelayan.blogspot.com . I checked out the site upon my return. A good start.

The 20 homestay facilities are mostly one-bedroom, owner occupied and have basic facilities. I see potential in the venture for foreign tourists.

Apart from Pulau Suri, we planned to explore the other islands connected by bridges. These are Pulau Beluru and Pulau Teluk Renjuna. Abe Li suggested we explore Pantai Bharu first and then return for lunch. Meantime Kak Moh will check which homestay we were booked in, otherwise we could check in at their homes. That was fine with us.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I had always wanted to do the Crab Island, just off Pt Klang. My co-author (we are writing a book) suggested we do Crab Island on Merdeka day. Sounds like an excellent idea. The saddle had been under-utilized during Ramadan and a short ride before buka puasa sounds like the right thing to do. Sacrificing the afternoon nap, we agreed to be at the ferry point in Pt Klang at 3pm on Merdeka Day. On the KESAS highway, the sky poured and we wondered whether it would be a wet ride. But the sun smiled back as we arrived the south port and boarded the ferry, RM7 one way in air-cond comfort, in a boat found mostly in the Rejang waters of Sarawak. Our two bikes were tightly secured to the side of the boat.

While it was comfy in the air-cond enclosure, I was wondering of the possible dangers if the boat capsized. No, I was not being negative. Being cooped in also meant  that we would miss the opportunity to capture the sceneries as the boat sped through the port area, the kelongs, the wetlands and the stilt houses by the river's edge.

The boat was full, more than half I guessed were local tourists taking advantage of the Merdeka holidays. An Indian family seated across the aisle was making their first visit there too. So were many others. 45mins in the boat, we reached Crab Island. It was low-tide.

Malaysians love to double-park, whether on land or at sea! I had some jittery moments carrying my bike from the bullet boat across onto another boat before I reached solid ground. The small waves created rocked the boat and I almost lost my balance. AND I WAS A SON OF A FISHERMAN!

Man, Crab Island is cycling country....I mean a cycling island. That's the mode of transport, apart from walking.

Little wonder I saw no fat Crab Islanders, in spite of the numerous Fatty Crab restaurants! So, its clean living, no cars and no motorcycles. But trash, hmm...it's still aplenty. I caught one boatman throwing the styrofoam lunchbox in the water, biasa-biasa aje! Just like those on the mainland, we often left the dirty job to Alam Flora. It was similar here. Instead of garbage trucks, Alam Flora used garbage boats.

For RM5, one can rent a bike for a whole day. For those who come "bikeless", this would be an excellent idea to tour the island.

A hotel and a sea-food restaurant (what else) greeted our arrival. We were there for neither the hotel nor the sea-food. It would be a "before buka puasa" ride and no accommodation was required. And we would only "see food". So off we cycled, passing by the main area where you see more hotels and more sea-food outlets and numerous kedai-runcit and stalls selling anything from dried fish to souvenirs.

I was expecting a "classic" Crab Island, with wooden planks as the walk-cum-cycling paths with rows and rows of wooden houses. The wooden houses are still there. The wooden paths were remnants of days gone by. Concrete replaced timber, for obvious reason.

We cycled on, often carefully negotiating the narrow paths with other oncoming cyclists. If you accidentally got your wheel off the path, you and your bike will plunge down a metre (at least) on the muddy ground below. You would hope that the bike would not land on you. Either way and both ways, it would hurt - both the ego and the body!

An elderly couple caught my attention as I made my way past rows of dwellings. They could probably be the first generation of this island. The houses are generally small but enjoyed piped water and electricity. Bicycles are common fixtures of every house but Astro disks are not yet common.

A pink house also caught my attention. Most houses are not gaily painted though and the design is simple. Every house has a terrace before the main hall. The terrace acts as the socialising point as it is open and airy. The main hall comprises the living rooms with the kitchen at the rear.

Since the bicycle is the main mode of transport, I could not help noticing the ingenious ways the locals used discarded items as the "bakul basikal". Very practical and very cheap!

Within about 5 minutes in any direction we took, we would reach the end of the path. So it was almost like a zig-zag ride, a u-turning ride and the occasional stop-for-picture ride. For photographers, there are many excellent photographic opportunities.

Boats (obviously) are pretty good subjects. Here are some samples. Pictures would have been more dramatic in the fading sunlight or early morning. Serious photographers should spend the night on the island to get the best of the scenes.

My cycling buddy, Hj Khailani, being a principal of a school must surely pose in front of a school. Kira tak sah lah kalau tak bergambar depan sekolah. So, for me what will be "sah"? An old folks home????? NO MEH!!!!!

We posed at the Balai Polis. We posed everywhere. Kira posing aje lah. We completed our tour within about an hour and headed back to the jetty. We had decided we would take the open-air boat back to the mainland, scheduled to leave at 5pm to be in time to rush home for breaking fast. This is a disguised tour boat, I supposed as a way to bend the rule and compete with the fast passenger boats. The fare is similar at RM7 and you will enjoy fresh air and enjoy the sceneries as the boat chugged its way to the mainland.

We got a good deal. An excellent view of the river and what it had to offer. Numerous kelongs dotted the river. That by itself is worth an experience, if one is a keen angler.

There were also the anglers who sat patiently on a fishing boat waiting for their big bites. We often hear stories from them about "the big one that got away". Though son of a fisherman, fishing is never my hobby. I cannot play the waiting game too long. But I suppose every hobby has its attraction.

We could capture the bakau wetlands on both sides of the river. Pray that the bakaus will not fall prey to development.

Time was getting a little wee late as we approached the port. The sun was fading fast as we bade farewell to the Crab Island and its populace.

Selamat menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan!