Crabs and crazy kids

The last time we visited Pulua Ketam, or Crab Island as it translates in English, we were holding B’s cousin’s baby. This time he held ours. The other difference was that this time we caught the ferry rather than a sampan. I think the sampan was more fun, skimming the water at high speed, slamming into solid waves, the wind hitting our faces. I’m not certain the rusty ferry was any safer.

B’s cousin picked us up at the hotel and took us out to Petaling Jaya for a breakfast of roti dosai and roti canai, served up on banana leaves, with the obligatory drinks of Milo ais and tariq. It was a lovely outdoor tropical setting in an out of the way place.

We then drove out to Port Klang, Kuala Lumpur’s port. The waterfront is run down and industrial in nature and I would never have guessed by myself where the ferry terminal was. The ferry, not unusually, was running late, so we had plenty of time to watch life on the murky brown waters. Mudskippers and crabs bounced and scuttled along the mudflats. Small motorised sampans stopped to carry locals across to the islands and fish farms. A number of times groups of Indians, some daubed with white face paint, board boats from our jetty, carry ashes to be scattered somewhere out on the waters. B and her cousin chatted to an old Chinese guy with four years worth of long whispy beard on his chin.

Our long and low ferry boat eventually arrived and we stepped across, somehow carrying Alex across. Inside the narrow cabin a television screened a Chinese karaoke VCD. The the powerful motors roared into life and we sped outwards into the estuary.

We passed ships waiting quietly in the waters around the container docks. Then into channels between mangrove covered low islands before emerging at Pulua Ketam. The mud island is covered by a village built on stilts. The inhabitants make their living fishing and supporting the tourist trade. Some work in the fish farms that dot the channels.

There are no cars on the island. Instead, the locals ride bikes along the narrow walkways that connect the houses and sheds. The entrance to the town from the ferry terminal runs under a sheltered path of restaurants and shops, before continuing on past ornate fishing houses. The tide was low and the mudflats were strewn with the rubbish of a town and city that treats the ocean as a garbage bin.

Pulau Ketam houses a pretty temple with an interesting goldfish pond built around a sculpture of a dragon wound around a mountain dotted with miniature pagodas.

We had a most wonderful lunch of sweet and sour crab (forget the bright red sweet and sour sauces of Chinese takeaways in Australia, this was something else entirely), curried fish, razor clams and vegetables while sitting under the open sided awning of the restaurant. Fortunately there were fans, because the air was still, hot and suffocatingly humid outside.

On our return trip it began to rain, but the drops were a relief rather than an a annoyance.

We had offered to take some items with us back to Australia to give to the cousin’s family there, so we drove into Klang, where many of the streets were lined with small market stalls. We bought a bag for one of his daughters, then ate ice kacang, flavoured “snow” at a small roadside stall.

B grew up in SS2 in Petaling Jaya. On our way back to there we stopped by her old school for a few photos. SS2 itself was a lot quieter without the pasar malam in the centre, although the traffic was still busy. Near one carpark was a couple of stalls selling fruits.

It was there I discovered that 9 month old babies do not have a fully developed sense of taste or smell. B fed Alex durian and he liked it. I’m just lucky that it wasn’t a little earlier in the year when the whole area was full of durian stores. I couldn’t have breathed due to the stench. It’s obvious that our son has Malaysian blood in him.

Better was that he also enjoyed the juice and the flesh of the baby coconuts that we were drinking from. Fed him a little lengkuat, a small fruit that tastes like sweet grapefruit.

Alex was a happy boy today, so much more cheerful than any other time during this trip. He vocalised constantly, enjoyed playing with B’s cousin, who in turn doted on him. He found the red liquid in a soft drink bottle endlessly amusing.

This trip is partly about exposing Alex to his Malaysian heritage. In addition to showing him her school, her house, her local area, durian, B also managed to introduce him to her reclusive uncle whom she has not seen for 20 years.

We capped off the trip down memory lane by taking dinner at H&H restaurant. She is one of the H’s, taken from her middle name, as it was once owned and operated by her parents. The restaurant has now moved and the ownership has changed, but they still serve the same dishes. We ate curry kapitan chicken, fish head curry, kangkong belacan (a green water vegetable served with femented prawn flavoured paste) and fried sotong (calamari). It was capped off by chendol, another ice dessert with green “worms”.

So ends the trip down memory lane. Next we fly out for Kuantan and Teluk Chempedak. I only ever got one swim in the hotel’s magnificent pool, and that was a short swim. Now it looks like we will need to drive back to Kuala Lumpur and then return to Kuantan on Friday. All thanks to the stupid bank. I am still looking for a relaxing holiday. Haven’t found it yet. I even had to send off work emails today. I hope it’s quiet at the beach.

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