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 . 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,'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!