Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kukup, Pontian March 2013

Kukup trip report 15-16th March 2013

15 march 2013

10 am, we set off for Tuas, with GPS unit in tow, for Kukup. The traffic to Malaysia was light and it was a smooth ride from Tuas all the way to Malaysia. I am kept entertained as Madam GPS Garmin instructed P to turn this way or that and getting her all hot up under her collar when she needed time to recalculate her options / coordinates.

Clearly, hubby and Madam GPS Garmin had some communication issues but the boss prevailed and Mdm GPS withdrew into sullen silence. I wondered why we even loaned the GPS in the first place.

All to soon, we exited from the NS highway for  Skudai-Pontian Highway 5 at exit 307.  From this point on, we handed the job of locating our first location, Uncle  Lim’s durian farm, back to Madam Garmin. She handed the job like a pro, with instructions to make a U-turn etc.

But hubby has his own ideas about all things concerning the drive. In the struggle for power, hubby drove on technically unchartered ‘forested land’ which left Mdm GPS Garmin helpless. Finally, OCS trained hubby spotted Uncle Lim’s banner, mobile number and all, when we retraced our steps.

Al-freso dining among the durians

You can't believe it's a durian farm durian farm
At the farm, I ordered 2 little durians for teasers. At RM12/ kg for D24 hybrids, it was a good deal. We ate al-fresco, behind the ‘gated compound’ while the fruit seller took respite from the heat and sat to chat with us. I was too busy eating to ask for his name, but we managed to be educated a bit of the farm and uncle Lim’s business.

The farm is a 6 acre farm that provided the stall with durians, mangosteens, jambu and duku. Workers harvest the fruits in the wee hours , which meant that early bird customers like us have the first fruits of the day.

Addictive !
After our late morning carbo-rich snack, we happily parted with RM38 for the 2 durians. We self conducted a farm tour before setting off to Pontian Kechil. Uncle Lim will not see the last of us because I promised to visit him the next day on the way back to Singapore.

Parting shots - I'll be back
We headed towards Pontian, a 10 minute drive that got us past Pekan Nanas and then some more rural roads before we saw the one and golden arches in Pontian Kechil. Giant Hypermart and Hotel  Pontian was beyond the traffic lights, where highway 5 abruptly ended in front of the sea.

Hotel vicinity

The parking facilities at the hotel was coupon typed parking for the office hours and after which will be free, Saturdays and Sundays included. Hotel Pontian had already prepared our room so we gladly checked in ( 12 noon ) so that we could hose ourselves off the heat.

room 1123
Room 1123 was unfortunately one of the worst thought out room in the annals of hotel design. At RM121++ for a standard double ( King ) bed, I would not have expected it to have its windows freely accessible from the public garden outside. It might as well have been a windowless room!

There was the usual complementary wifi coverage, fridge and kettle. My only grouse was  that the toilet had no shower tray , cubicle or bath tub. A moldy shower curtain separated the shower area from the WC and toiletries was 2 tiny capsules of shampoo and soap that melted after a shower. Oh, did I mention that there was not enough hangers for clothes? A tiny shower was enough to flood the entire bathroom. The wet toilet floor was an annoyance that did not go away until housekeeping the next day.

Kukup Laut

Make hay while the sun shines

Courtyard on planks
1pm. We drove out to Kukup proper, southbound. It was a longish drive along a rather quiet stretch of road, hugging the western tip of the Straits of Malacca. Kukup was easy to identify because of the many Singapore registered cars flanking both sides of the seafood restaurants. We parked at a huge parking area ( free ) in front of Wunderland Café and walked towards Kukup Laut Village.

An estimated hundred of such chalet style homes here
Private residential houses and ‘homestay style chalets’ flanked both sides of the cement walkway. The entire village supported by concrete and wooden stilts was worth some 20 minutes walk. There were many chalets that did not have internet presence but offered similar services in spartan but spacious premises, with AC and bunker beds, wifi and food. I almost booked one for ourselves for RM380 but a huge chalet with 3 bedrooms and 20 beds was too big for us.

The entire village is built in stilts. 
Mr G goes Kukup. He declines a swim in the dirty river mouth.
Plank walkway,  most in a state of disrepair.
The village would have been a  quaint little place had it not been for the plastic bags and Styrofoam floating around the stilts and waterways.  

Tracing back our steps to the main thoroughfare, we settled lunch at High King Restoran. By then it was 2.30pm but our lunch was spoiled by the durian we had earlier. A modest lunch of fried mee, cereal prawn, sambal curry, 2 coconuts came up to RM38, reasonable by Singapore standards. But I was less than satisfied because the food was not exceptional and the service staff forgetful. The only saving grace was the scenic view of Pulau Kukup and kelongs at the seafront dining  area.

After dinner, we bought dried seafood  ( fish powder, crackers, ikan bilis ) for about RM40. I could have bought them back in Singapore but we were on holiday and it would not be complete to return home empty handed.

Cafe Wunderland @ Kukup - shaved ice shop
Back to where we parked the car, we  had shaved ice and iced coffee in aircon comfort at Wunderland Café ( RM 5.30 ). I highly recommend it because the place was airconditioned and the food way cheaper than the tourist traps 100 m down the pier.

At 4pm, we made a leisurely drive northbound to Pontian. We checked out Eonsave and Giant but found nothing useful and opted to cool off back in our room.

Beach front near our hotel

Huge satay place without the crowd


6pm, we headed towards the bus terminal area where we confirmed that Pontian was indeed a sleepy town. We found Pontian Garden hotel ,  a small sea front hotel with al fresco stalls selling satay. Now nearing sunset, P and I shot away hundreds of sunset scenes with the mud flats making patterns in the last light of the day. The humble shores of Pontian offered a spectacular sunset which I will remember for a long time.

7.30pm.  We decided to have the last meal of the day at Restoran SF. We opted for a seafront table under the street lamps and gorged ourselves with seaweed seafood soup, prawn paste chicken wings, spring rolls, kalian and oldenlandia drinks for RM38 + RM 5. It was a steal because the food was superb, the portions generous and service efficient. It was a much better deal than the meal at Kukup.

We retired early, just as the town did, so that we could be recharged and ready for the road trip home tomorrow.    

16 March 2013 , Saturday

Hotel Pontian’s breakfast was a total disappointment and a rude awakening to a new day. The spread at Café Josaphine was congealed porridge with peanuts for condiments, bread with options of margarine or watery jam and spongy chicken frankfurters, scrambled eggs , baked beans and pickled lettuce ( huh ? ). The watered down tea and coffee did not inspire much  either.

Market Day!

As checkout was 12 noon, we visited the nearby Pontian wholesale fish market at 9.30 am, only to see the last of the fish sellers clearing their auction tables and loading bags of fishes to trucks. Still, the market scene offered a microcosm to a domestic life of a Pontianite.   Here, fish was auctioned off, animals slaughtered on the spot and anything in between purchased and brought over to the zichar shop across the alley to be skinned, cooked and packed for home. I managed to buy some exotic food no longer found in Singapore – century quail’s egg and angle gourds.

Vegetables fresh from the farm

At the market square, we were the  mee cheng guay seller’s last customer of the day peddling from her cart.  The food  was nothing to shout about and at RM2, was a pricey piece of snack by Pontian standards.

The market folks were very friendly and unused to P’s huge DSLR aiming at them. Most were shy but very obliging to pose for a shot.

It was scorching hot by 10.30 am and we retreated to the cool air conditioned comfort of the hotel room. It was too early for lunch and so was at a loss how to spend our time. We decided to locate one of the two famous wanton noodle stalls, Heng Heng noodle shop, in   town which is some distance away from our hotel. Hopefully,  a little tour round the town will meaningfully while away our time.
Heng Heng Wanton

Old school wanton noodles

According to google maps, it was off the Pontian hospital and along a major arterial road. Unfortunately the data was not accurate and we made 2 false turns before ending up touring some very ‘kampong’ section of the Pontian suburb.  Just when we were about to give up, we stopped along some shops along Jln Anggerrik ( which Madm Garmin indicated ) to ask for directions . Lo and behold ! Heng Heng noodle was just beside us and we ended up happy that our mission was accidentally accomplished. The act of getting lost and then found again meant that it was just the right time for an early lunch at 11 am.

Heng Heng noodle was seriously popular for a stall located in a quiet neighbourhood. While we enjoyed our al-dente egg noodles drenched in mainly ketchup sauce and silken wanton wrapped with pockets of meat flavored with grilled flat fish, we saw orders coming in non stop. Takeaway orders within that 15 minutes was more than 50 packets of noodles! I would have loved the sauce to be stronger in taste but that must be the way the Pontian people love it – full of sweet ketchup. The major draw was its crunchy noodles, freshly made and its meat wanton that tasted of yesteryear. At RM4.50 for an ‘upsized portion’, I wondered if we can eat our fill with a regular portion of RM3.50.

Our next stop was Uncle Lim’s durian farm. Just before we turned off to J5, we stopped by the river to capture rustic river scenes on film ( or rather, digitally ) and get awed by a mean looking iguana swimming near the river bank. It was a strong and aweful looking creature that lashed the water with its powerful tail of about half a meter long and snapping at something in the water with its strong jaws, its forked tongue flicking like a fly swatter. It gave me the chills and I hate to think what will happen if a child should chose to swim in the river.

Pontian Bessar

We followed the scent of freshly baked Matisu or puff crackers with malt syrup wafting from the confectionary near our car. The scene of a team of bakers kneading the dough and making the crackers behind the retail section of the shop was reason enough for me to purchase 10 crackers (  RM 8.50 )

I can just drive in from Singapore just for this addictives munchies!

Biscuit place in Pontian Besar

Near the mouth of the river, we saw weather beaten fishing boats moored to makeshift piers made of half rotted planks. It was a quaint scenery of rustic wooden houses and wooden boats just steps off the bustling motorway.

Now fully stocked, we set off for the 20 km drive towards the farm, enroute to Singapore.  We helped ourselves to 3 durians  ( MR12/kg ) and a bag of jambu for RM60 and bade our last farewell to Uncle Lim and his help.

We made our way from the west side of the NS highway to the east side, bound for Bkt Indah. Our next destination was Aeon mall where we hoped to buy some T shirts and maybe have our tea break.

We reached Aeon Indah at 1 pm and were surprised at how busy the mall was and the parking area filled with many Singapore registered cars.  P had fish and chips for ‘tea’ while I enjoyed a macadamia chocolate cake at Secret Recipe for RM35, coffee included. It was an excessive tea break but we excused ourselves because the portion of the wanton noodles were meager , if we should say so.

We checked out F.O.S. and bought 3 cute T shirts for RM45. Now in frugal mode, we were more tight wad but managed to haul back a bag of buns from Lavender for RM9.50. This was meant as a sort of peace offering to H who by now should have finished her overnight camp in school and headed to church for choir practice in Singapore.

Jusco supermarket had nothing much to offer but I bought some fresh Malaysian mushrooms meant for dinner to give a ‘meaningful conclusion’  to the shopping trip.  

We left the mall at 3.30pm and from there on, was an easy drive back to Singapore. Our last pit stop was at the Shell petrol kiosk before hitting the Malaysian toll plaza. We jostled with the rest of the Singaporean registered cars, refilled our petrol before we were home bound. I have forgotten that it was the start of the school holidays and found myself staring at a rare scene – a long, horrendous queue at the 2nd Link Malaysian immigration. The same scenario repeated at the Singapore side of the immigration.

Pontian and Kukup has nothing much to offer in terms of recreation except for some romping among floating chalets and feasting. Because the town has absolutely no place for amusement, it makes for an ideal place to relax ( literally ! ) Perhaps the only thing worth talking about for days was the awesome sunset, which makes the trip all worthwhile!