Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Sunday Road Trip

I had a great day this past Sunday, when I accompanied my friend Trevor on a bit of a road trip across the bridge on the main land. The plan was to explore the area around Kuala Sepetang and then have a seafood lunch. No maps were involved. We didn't need a map or tour guide, as Trevor is quite the history buff when it comes to the history or Malaysia.

We left Penang island about 9:30am and headed across the bridge to the mainland. It was quite strange, that for a Sunday morning, there was very little traffic. We followed the signs for Taiping and went off the main road looking for our destination. The scenary was beautiful along the quiet country  roads,  dotted by beautiful old Malay style houses. Along the way we could see charcoal factories, which after fishing in the main commerce of the area.There was an abundance of greenery as far as the eye could see. We finally came to what could be called the center of town, which in the late morning seemed to be quite sleepy. But when we left this became the hub of village activity. There was a welcoming old sign designating the area as Port Weld, which was the former name of the old fishing village. This is the only remnant of the old Port

We walked around the town area and then investigated a few of the docks along the river's edge. Small groups of women were busy in the small shops, adjacent to the docks, seperating cockles and clam shells, that were apparently ground up and sold as fertilizer and poultry feed. Looking for a parking space we almost made the mistake of parking in what appeared to be a parking lot, but was actually an area for drying shrimp and different varieties of fish. We noticed many food stalls selling some tempting looking noodle dishes, but we were here for the famous seafood. Port Weld was the site of the first railroad in Malaysia, but the rails are long gone and we forgot to look for the ruins of the old station that remain.

Finally it was time to eat and we had to decide upon a restaurant. The first place we visited seemed to have only a few fish and no customers so we decided to look elsewhere. We noticed a red roofed restaurant with a second floor dining area overlooking the river and gave this a further look. It had a beautiful view of the river and the mangrove swamps and was sheltered from the sun. There was also no one else there, but they did have quite an array of seafood. As we were both hungry and the time was getting late, we ordered and ate. We soon realized that we were a bit early for lunch, when suddenly the restaurant became quite busy.

We had streamed fish, small clams known as lala, crab, deep fried squid and of course beer. I must now apologize for forgetting to take photos of the wonderful meal, but I did take some of the surroundings. Everything was absolutely delicious and not a morsel of food was wasted. The service was great and the owner was very attentive, even giving us a complementary dessert. While we were finishing our meal a number of people came up to us and asked where we were from and welcomed us to town. Apparently not too many Westerners come here as tourists. What a shame! We sat and finished our beers admiring the mangroves, the fishing boats unloading their catches and the many boats carrying logs to the charcoal factories. Suddenly the weather changed with a thunderstorm arriving from upriver giving us torrential rains all the way back to Penang.

There are many well publicized tourist attractions around Malaysia, but the best spots are those less traveled, which are only a short road trip or two from Penang. I would strongly advise you to ditch the  high end touristy destinations and look for where the real people of Malaysia live and work. You will discover a lot of history and great people. If you are interested in visiting Kuala Sepetang and haveing a great lunch or dinner, the name of the restaurant is Makanan Laut Kang Kao, located at No. 151-A3 River Side. Tel. No. 05-8581335. There are also guided boat trips down the river and to the mangrove swamps. Happy motoring.

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