马来西亚吉胆岛 螃蟹造就 “小桃源”
Pulau Ketam in Malaysia – A Paradise of Crabs
Written by Woo Keng Jin
Photos by Ang Shiuh and Tai Boon Suat
Chinese poet, Tao Yuan Ming, of the Jin dynasty once wrote : a fisherman from Wulin accidentally discovered a Peach Blossom Spring ‘with orderly houses and criss-crossed roads, dog barking and rooster crowing could be heard. People lived happily there’. The Peach Blossom Spring has since become the synonym for paradise but it was never found again. It left many people kept wondering of its whereabouts.
I unexpectedly chanced upon a place just like the paradise or the peach blossom spring described by Tao Yuan Ming. The place is Pulau Ketam, a Malaysia island not far from Port Klang in the state of Selangor.
Pulau Ketam originates from the word ‘Ketam’ which means crab in the Malay language. More than a century ago, the island was filled with crabs. The uninhabited island attracted many people to sail there to catch crabs. Many people later decided to stay on the island.
Strictly speaking, Pulau Ketam is not an island. The 30 kilometer square site is made up of mangrove swamp. Hard working people built on the shallow swamp stilts and planks to form roads. They also built houses on the high-rise stilts to become their home sweet home.
There are five alleys on Pulau Ketam, namely, the first alley, the second alley, the third alley, the fourth alley and the fifth alley. Currently, residents stay mainly in the Ketam village along the first and fifth alleys or Wu Tiao Gang. The second alley has some aborigines. There are a total of some 6000 to 7000 residents living on the island.
After debarking from the jetty to the fifth alley village or Wu Tiao Gang, one can immediately feel an air of peace and serenity. Houses here are built along bridges about two to three metres wide. Each house has a small courtyard with its door wide open, seemingly welcoming neighbours anytime to come over for a chat.
Here, the pace of life is slower. There are no reasons to rush in this fishing village. Hence, passers-by on the street look relax and easy-going.
The reason for the worry-free atmosphere is simple. About 80% of the local residents are fishermen. Their livelihood depends on the weather. They have a positive outlook in life as they believe that as long as they work hard, they need not worry about their livelihood.
The residents here get around by foot. They would cycle if they want to move around without walking. Bicycles become the only transport here. Hence, there is neither road congestion nor air pollution here. It is a truly ‘clean land’.
Action by all villagers
‘Clean Land’ would also refer to a safe environment. There are only about 300 families here. The residents know each other. In Wu Tiao Gang, there is no crime. There is no policemen and no police station. To the local residents, the word ‘police’ has become obsolete.
The way of fishing here is worth mentioning too. All the village residents will go fishing together. About 70 to 80 boats will set off with whistles blowing, coupled with the sound from the boat engines, it is indeed spectacular.
The fishermen will anchor their boats and cast their nets once they reach their destination. They will spend a week there. Besides fishing and living on the boat, the fishermen will also sun-dry other catches like shrimps and jelly fish. After a week, these fishermen would head home and wait for their next trip. This will go on year after year.
Wu Tiao Gang fishermen are hard working people. They go out to the sea often. Hence, dried shrimps production from Wu Tiao Gang tops the nation. The dried shrimps are well known in Malaysia. It is a popular item for visitors to bring home.
Wu Tiao Gang is sparsely populated. It has only one primary school – XinMing Chinese Primary School. The school has 16 teachers and 160 students.
The school structure is simple and rustic. On the day of my visit, I looked through the classroom windows and realized that black boards and chalks were being used here. Well written calligraphies by students were put up on the wall. Such a scene reminded me of my childhood days 50 years ago. It was a pity no student was around as I visited the school on a public holiday. Neither could we hear students reading in the background.
Wu Tiao Gang residents are happy with their life and work. They have no worries. They do not compete with one another. Isn’t such a life resembles that of the Peach Blossom Spring written by poet Tao Yuan Ming?
Today, there is no need to search high and low for such a Peach Blossom Spring. One only needs to set off from Port Klang in Kuala Lumpur. It takes about an hour’s boat ride before we reach Wu Tiao Gang. However, there is no hotel or motel here. To stay over nite, one needs to go to Pulau Ketam. From Pulau Ketam to Wu Tiao Gang and vice versa, one can only take boat rides.
Compared to Wu Tiao Gang, Pulau Ketam is a more busy place. There are many restaurants and motels here. As more people like to get close to nature these days, it is no wonder during public holidays, as many as 300 peoplewould visit the island.
Wu Tiao Gang – A Tong An village outside China
There are about 600 to 700 residents in Wu Tiao Gang. Of whom, about 99% are descendents of ancestors from the Hokkien Tong An province. Hence, Wu Tiao Gang could be the only Tong An village outside China.
The Tong An residents here have preserved the culture and habits of their ancestors. For example, they speak with a strong Hokkien accent. Each household displays their ancestor’s place of birth like Tai Yuan, Zhi Yun, Yin Chuan and Xihe.
Even the design of their fishing net can be traced back to the ‘seven star’ net used by their ancestors.
During Chinese New Year and the third day of March of the lunar calendar, residents would prepare their traditional food popiah for celebration.
This Tong An village also has a deep relationship with the Tung Ann District Guild in Singapore and their Malaysian counterpart.
In the 1990s, the Tong An Association at Wu Tiao Gang received a donation of $60,000 from their Singapore and Malacca counterparts for refurbishment of their building into a modern premises. Wu Tiao Gang Tong Ann Association in appreciation, has named the premises on the second level of the building after ‘Singapore Tung An District Guild’.
Now, the three-storey building in the town centre of Wu Tiao Gang has not only become the tallest building, it has also become Wu Tiao Gang’s landmark.
Caption : Wu Tiao Gang’s fishermen make frequent fishing trips, hence, their supply of dried shrimps tops the nation and is well known through Malaysia.
Caption : The Tung Ann Friendly Association at Wu Tiao Gang received funds from Singapore Tung An District Guild and Malacca’s Tong An Association. The building has named a level after each association.