Laurie Winters – Laurie Winters in Asia – Malaysia 5

I returned this weekend from three days on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, to Rompin, on the east coast, near the island of Tioman. Our group of 60 middle school students stayed in an old hotel that looked like something from “Out of Africa”, with huge pillars, a great wooden bar, an entirely open veranda with ceiling fans, rattan furniture placed on the tile/or marble? floors. You could imagine another era easily, and lots of gin and tonics being served. The beach was beautiful, white sand. Waves were medium-sized . We didn’t swim in the sea, though we did in the large pool, but the kids were drawn to the beach, and walked up and down, and cavorted in the shallow waves.

Our first night, we went on a firefly cruise on the Rompin River. After working out lifejacket availability to our satisfaction, we set out for an hour or so of cruising along the darkened shore. Our first sighting was all in one small tree, just loaded with fireflies; it was a dead ringer for a Christmas tree, perfectly shaped in the night. Later, we saw other fireflies spaced more sporadically in tall trees.

The second day, we took boats out to a kelong, or fish platform, to see this native fishing structure and method. It was built generally in a square or slight rectangle, with saplings, or small trunks of trees lashed together to create a flat platform that stands above the sea about 20-30 feet; it was shallow there and just off an island, . Fishers were casting from the fenced platform, and bait fish (and an octopus) swam in a child’s swimming pool. Thatched roofs covered structures on the platform designed for sleeping. The enigmatic sight of a satellite dish and TV caught our cameras’ attention.

In the middle of the kelong was an open area taken up by a net stretched at its four corners and attached to pulley systems and round logs upon which the rope that holds the corners could be wound. Two men were in the water replacing a couple of the many vertical timbers in the structure. It looked like fairly painless work, knowing the warm temperature of the water. They held on to a rope attached to a floating container as their “life jacket”. In the net were many small fish, already, though it didn’t seem that fishing was going on very seriously that day. Off the platform, there were thousands of small fish swimming. Many had yellow and black stripes on a white background. Others were brown and white with a sharp spine. One of our local guides showed us how to hold the fish away from the spines in order not to get poked while removing hooks. We threw all our caught fish back, as well as inadvertantly returning a small octopus to its source; turns out it was to have been bait later in the day. The kids felt like heroes, saving all those lives!

Posted from Malaysia:

posted Monday September 2007