Something old, something new
A trip to Pulau Duyong turns into a rush through history for ALAN TEH LEAM SENG as he hops from a 90-year-old fort to traditional boatmakers and a modern marina resort.
If walls could talk, who knows what wonderful stories about Pulau Duyong’s past will be revealed?
External view of a duplex chalet at theHeritage Bay Club Marina and Resort
Beautiful blooms add character to the chalets
DRIVING along Sultan Mahmud Bridge was a breeze despite the hot tropical heat. Traffic was heavy but smooth flowing.
I soon came up to a sign directing me to turn towards my destination, Pulau Duyong or Mermaid Island, one of Terengganu’s most happening tourist destinations today, thanks to the annual international sailing event, the Monsoon Cup.This year’s competition starts tomorrow, and already my mind has vivid pictures of sail boats taking to the raging South China Sea fronting the island.
My first stop was the Duyong Old Fort which showcased traditional Terengganu architecture. Along the way, I passed several houses that still had wells near the steps leading up to their homes.Some 50 years ago, most of the villagers in Pulau Duyong depended on wells and the Terengganu River for their daily water supply.
Curiosity got the better of me and I took a peek inside one well. What a pleasant surprise it was to find water in it still!Just then, an elderly man in a sarong came up and threw in a bucket to draw water. His toothless grin was friendly. After washing his feet, he went up the staircase and entered what must be his home. The metal bucket that he left hanging by the side of the house looked aged and was badly dented. “It must have served him well through the years,” I thought.
Fort Without Fortifications?
Duyong Old Fort was just a short distance away.
At first glance, it looked like a traditional Malay palace. I was especially attracted to the intricately carved woodwork and layout. The imposing structure, sheltered by nine roofs, is said to resemble the designs of several types of traditional Terengganu homes like Bujang Berpeleh, Lima Bungkus and Potong Belanda.
Although the name conjures up an image of strong fortifications and ramparts, the primary objective for building the fort was not to ward off marauding invaders. Built some 90 years ago during a period of peace and prosperity, the fort was erected to showcase Terengganu’s rich architectural heritage.Strong Corinthian and Egyptian influences add to its artistic allure. A few historians are of the opinion that the person responsible for the building, Datuk Biji Sura, was so influenced by visiting tradesmen to Kuala Terengganu that he decided to incorporate their art into his design of the fort.
Despite its age, the white walls hardly showed any sign of wear. Perhaps this was due to the innovative use of clay, sand, eggs, honey and lime (from cockle shells) for construction at the time by the rich and famous. I remember once reading with scepticism, in Noel Barber’s Tanamera, about the use of this technique to produce plaster that was as smooth and strong as marble. Perhaps there was some truth to the tale after all.Datuk Biji Sura was the cousin of Terengganu’s first Menteri Besar. He was well educated and began his career as a clerk at the Terengganu Court. He was later appointed a member of the Royal Council with additional duties as chief Syariah Court judge and commissioner of Religious Affairs.Boat Builders After soaking in the illustrious history of the island’s past, I made my way to see an industry that had become synonymous with Pulau Duyong.
No visit to the island would be complete without a visit to its renowned shipyards. The island has gained worldwide recognition as a centre for traditional boat making. The boats are built without the use of blueprints or plans!I watched in awe as the local craftsmen went about their task. Everything was done by hand and surprisingly, there were few modern equipment used. I approached several builders taking a break nearby.What they told me was simply amazing. It’s true indeed that they don’t use a single blueprint or plan to build a vessel, be it a giant trawler or a luxury yacht destined for foreign shores!
All a master craftsman needs to know is the type and size of vessel. He then draws on his vast experience and photographic memory to begin his work. Even in this day and age, well-worn traditional tools like axe, saw, plane and hammer are the main tools of the trade.Before returning to their work after the short break, one of the craftsmen pointed in the direction Kuala Terengganu and said “Monsoon Cup”.
I knew immediately that he was referring to the Heritage Bay Club Marina and Resort, which incidentally was my final stop for the day.Home of the Monsoon CupLeaving Duyong Old Fort and the traditional boat builders, I drove towards the Heritage Bay Club Marina & Resort with its spanking new clubhouse, chalets and state of the art yachting facilities.Along the way, I had the strangest feeling of being in a time capsule with the entire history of Pulau Duyong moving fast forward at lightning speed.
I was now heading back to the future!The Heritage Bay Club Marina & Resort was established in conjunction with the inaugural Monsoon Cup in 2005 to promote Terengganu as a world acclaimed yachting venue.
It offers water related activities like river cruises, sail tours and regattas and conducts training for community groups, corporate organisations and the general public.I headed for the Ulek Mayang Restaurant to quench my thirst and get a chance to rest my travel weary feet. Here, I enjoyed stunning views of Kuala Terengganu town and the South China Sea from its ultra modern dining area.
Even the partitions separating each table were shaped like sails!The food had interesting local names like Pulau Redang Special (foot-long chicken sausage bun), Heritage Bay Club Lekor Fried Rice with fried fish cake, Monsoon Laksa and Nasi Lemak Traditional Seberang Takir.Fed, rehydrated and rested, I went to the marina, hoping to catch a glimpse of the prize-winning boats to be used in the Monsoon Cup competition. I was not disappointed. There they were, a pair of boats inscribed “Richard Mille”, bobbing gently by the pontoon.With great satisfaction, I bade farewell to Pulau Duyong.
By then, the evening sky was a picture-perfect backdrop for the island which embodied both Terengganu’s illustrious past as well as the promise of a bright future.Getting ThereBy Air: Pulau Duyong lies a short distance from Kuala Terengganu, the capital and largest town in the State.
The opening of the Sultan Mahmud Bridge in 1990 not only allowed easy access to the island but also spurred its growth from a sleepy fishing village to a tourist destination. Kuala Terengganu is about 50 minutes by air from Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia make several daily flights to Kuala Terengganu.
Pulau Duyong is about 20 minutes from the airport.By road: Travellers from Kuala Lumpur can head east towards Kuantan via the Karak Highway. It takes about three hours to reach Kuantan. From there, the smooth driving and scenic coastal route will lead straight to Kuala Terengganu.
Those from the north, including Penang, should take the East-West Highway and head towards Kota Baru. From here, take the coastal road and you’d be in Kuala Terengganu in no time at all. From the south, including Johor and Singapore, drive along the North-South Expressway and exit at Yong Peng. From there, travel along the main thoroughfare to Labis and Segamat. Just follow the road signs from Segamat to Kuantan.
From there, it is smooth driving all the way to Kuala Terengganu.
Those intending to approach Pulau Duyong by sea should note that its position is Lat 05° 20.3´ N Long. 103° 085´ E. The Pulau Duyong Light Beacon flashes green (3s) while the Kuala Terengganu Light Beacon flashes quick white. Communication is via VHF listening on Ch. 16 and Single Side Band (SSB) on frequency 8124.00 KHz.
The Heritage Bay Club Marina and Resort offers comfortable chalet-style accommodation. There are three categories of chalets: Cemara (duplex), Teratak (executive suite) and Serambi (deluxe room). Guests have a choice of dining either at the Mayang Sari Restaurant or at the Terengganu House poolside lounge.
For further information and reservation, contact The Heritage Bay Club Marina & Resort, Pulau Duyong, 21300 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu. Tel: 09-627 7888 Fax: 09-622 9903. E-mail: email@example.com.
Interesting sights are best appreciated on foot.
Bring ample drinking water and wear comfortable walking shoes. Wide brimmed hats will offer a respite from the tropical sun.In the village, watch the villagers go about their daily activities including drawing water from ancient wells. Then visit the Duyong Old Fort. Look out for its exquisite woodcarvings especially on the veranda. The boat building workshops are a must visit.Walk around the marina to see the racing boats on display. Along the way, stop and enjoy the bracing sea breeze and stunning views of Kuala Terengganu town across the Terengganu River. Pictures by ALAN TEH LEAM SENG