Cruising Through Malaysia

September 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Nature

Many towns in Malaysia were founded at the mouths of rivers as they were an important means of transport. Today, these rivers provide an alternative means of taking in the sights of a town as well as the plant and animal life along their banks. Tourists should try one of the the several leisurely river safaris available in East Malaysia.

Photo credits - Chang'r

Photo credits - Chang'r

Malacca River Cruise

Top of the picks is a river cruise that has been made famous by the Hollywood movie called “Entrapment” shot in 1998. It is none other than the Malacca river cruise. From the jetty at Dutch Square, the boat proceeds upriver and passes under Tan Boon Seng Bridge. This bridge has historical significance as its capture by the Portuguese in 1511 divided Sultan Mahmud’s Shah’s forces, weakening them. As a result, the Portuguese were able to capture the town.

Soon, old shophouses come into view on the left and right banks. The next bridge that the boat passes under is the Chan Boon Cheng Bridge. It was originally built in 1908 and replaced by its present structure in 1963. During World War II, (1942-45), the Kempetai (Japanese Military Army) displayed the beheaded heads of resistance forces at the foot of the bridge to serve as a warning to the community. After another five minutes of wind, a footbridge by the eerie name of Ghost Bridge passes overhead. The origins of the name is a mystery today. Then, the boat passes under the Old Market Bridge that links Kampong Hulu and the former Central Market. Fishing boats still berth here to unload their catches which are transported to the new Central Market.

Photo credits - Shutterhack

Photo credits - Shutterhack

Kuala Trengganu

Kuala Trengganu, off the coast of Malaysia offers a river cruise with several interesting stops. From the Shah Bandar jetty near the Central Market (locally referred as Pasar Payang), the tour boat departs upriver along the Trengganu River to Pulau Duyung (Mermaid Island), the first stop. A boat-building industry thrives on this island, which is also linked to the mainland by a bridge. Here, both luxury yachts and fishing boats are constructed by craftsmen without any blueprint, a skill inherited from their forefathers.

The riverine tour continues to Jeram River, with a stop at Kampung Jeram that holds a surprising sight. Amidst the traditional wooden Malay houses stands a Chinese temple with its red roof. According to legend, Admiral Cheng Ho of the Ming Dynasty sailed through the locality in 1414, and made a stop for supplies. His ship ran aground in the shallow waters of the river, and he came on land, spending several days with the villagers. In 1943, the Terengganu Chinese Cultural Association built a temple to honour the admiral. Called the Sam Poh Kong Temple, it comes alive during Chinese New Year and other festive days when devotees come to pray.

The next stop is the Pura Tanjung Sabtu Cultural Center, which has ten traditional houses. The centre belongs to the family of Tengku Ismail Tengku Su, a Terengganu prince, whose aim is to preserve the architectural heritage of his state. Finally the ship takes passengers back to the estuary of the Terengganu River to the State Museum Complex in Bukit Losong. The largest in the country, it consists of a Main Museum, Maritime Museum, Fisheries Museum, four traditional houses and herbs and botanic gardens.

Photo credits - nadi0

Photo credits - nadi0

Kampong Kuantan

For nature lovers, a highly recommend river cruise is down the Sungai Selangor (Selangor River) at Kampong Kuantan to see the rhythmic flashing of lights produced by thousands of fireflies resting on mangrove trees. The phenomenon resembles the twinkling lights of Christmas trees and is truly spectacular. Locals call these fireflies kelip-kelip but they are actually beetles of the Lampyride family. On average each firefly measures six millimetres long. The males produce flashing lights in their thorax thrice every second. At the jetty at Kampung Kuantan, boat operators take their passengers (minimum two persons) upriver for about 40 minutes and turn back, allowing them the opportunity to observe this mating ritual of the insects.

Photo credits - BlueDolphin_Stefania

Photo credits - BlueDolphin_Stefania

Kuching

Nestled on the banks of the Kuching River, the capital of Sarawak, Kuching, has an interesting boat ride that begins from the waterfront in Main Bazaar. The narrow bustling streets near the river are chock-a-block with colourful temples, raucous markets, historic building and Chinese shophouses selling handicrafts of all manner. Admire the Astana, built by Charles Brooke in 1869 on the opposite bank. Today, it is the official home of the Governor of Sarawak. Further ahead, there is Fort Margherita that dates back to 1879. The fort resembles and English castle, and now serves as the Police Museum. It was named after the wife of Charles Brooke. As the boat slides eastward, the cheery colours of the wooden houses of Kampong Boyan, Kampong, Gersik and Kampong Sourabaya Ulu greet you. Finally, you are deposited on the east side of the city centre. What a joyful ride for a song.

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About the Author. Ewe Paik Leong. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Ewe Paik Leong has almost 20 years’ experience as a writer/editor. He has held editorial positions in publications ranging from lifestyle, medical, building, travel and business to motoring. He won second prize in the Her World Short Story Competition 1980, and was listed in the Malaysia Book of Records (1st and 2nd editions) as “the writer with the most short stories published on a freelance basis.”