三访渔村

海滩上支起的木屋,空气中漂浮的鱼腥味,电单车与人在狭窄的木板道上穿梭,村民排泄物直接排入楼板下的海里……那是1996年,我第一次随公司组织的一日游造访这小渔村时留给我的印象。小渔村独特的生活环境吸引了我带着家人,在2003年和2008年的农历新年期间,两度再次造访了它。

我们住在村民开设的家庭旅社,有空调,挺干净的。我们怀着好奇心到处走动,以一窥村民的生活起居为满足。村民门友善,许多家庭门户洞开,对外来的“不速之客”也不以为意。我对家人说,旅游就是看别人不一样的生活,这比看陈列品似的景点有趣。96年和03年时,村子里最好的吊脚木屋是小学校和庙宇。走进小学校,吊脚屋的柱廊上处处用端正的楷体字写着诸如“勤能补拙”、“尊师重教”之类的古训,让从中原大地来的造访者为中华文化在异国僻壤得到执着的追求感到一点小小的感动。

年初二的夜里,鞭炮声四起。村民点燃了孔明灯,它带着大人的祝福语,在孩子们的欢叫声中,冉冉升空。我还是第一次看到孔明灯,不是在故乡,新奇之余,心里觉得有些小小的惭愧。

今年再访,从新加坡前往的渡轮已停开,据说是新加坡来的游客日减。不得已,只好坐车到新山拉庆,转车到笨珍,再坐德士前往。跟前几年相比,渔村生活格局未变,低潮位时海滩上的垃圾还是同几年前一样多,不过许多美伦美焕、风格各异的住宅已在混凝土支柱上矗立起来,只是同周围的木屋相比,显得有些突兀。

跟村民们聊起来,这一华人渔村系潮州人移民后裔,但现在人人都会讲华语。他们收看新加坡电视剧,对新加坡的电视明星很熟悉。渔村的主要经济活动是奎笼养鱼(一种海上养殖场),然而现在村里年青人已不再从事渔业,跑去城里打工,渔村里只剩下老人和孩子,逢年过节才热闹起来。

次日早晨,涨潮了,赤道的太阳热哄哄地照在的吊脚屋下的海面上,泛起波光,使屋子看起来好像浮在水上一般。大海不仅给她的子民带来了渔获,她还是免费的“清道夫”,趁退潮时把屋下海滩上的排泄物全带走。

这人与大海的交汇点,就是马来西亚柔佛州西海岸的龟咯咸水港渔村。


于二零零八年二月

Triple Visits to Kukup

English translated by Rujia

A breeze of wind wheezed by, stroking the roofs of attap houses (elevated wooden house) that speckled the entire marsh coastal lines, leaving behind an atmosphere reeking of fish stench. Motorcycles and people squeezed past, narrowly missing each other as they went on their ways, crossing one wooden plank after another - those which paved the only route to the living quarters of the village there. Sewage pipes channeled directly into the water that flowed below each and every household, eventually congregating and finally engulfed by the sea that constituted the main source of livelihood there. The year was 1996. I first stepped foot in this small fishing village on a one-day trip with ex-colleagues of Samsung.

It is this unique mode of life here that later warranted my repeated visits during the festive seasons of lunar new year in 2003 and 2008, both times bringing along my family with me.

We lodged at a local family-run inn that was equipped with air-conditioning and was moderately clean. The local people were generally friendly - many left their doors open through the nights, seemingly to welcome foreign guests with open arms. Exploring the place, we filled our curiosities with their way of life, assimilating into the environment and their daily routines. I strongly believe that traveling should be about seeing and experiencing how others live. This is exactly the ideal kind of scenery that attracts my appreciation, rather than those that are placed purposefully for tourists’ eyes. The latter lacks natural appeal and pales in comparison.

On my 1996 and 2003 trips, I remembered that the better quality woods were kept as material for construction of a local primary school and temples. Taking a stroll through the school corridors saw me mesmerized by the well-written calligraphy letters pasted on pillars after pillars. These endorsed words of traditional Chinese values that were clearly core to the local primary education. Seeing all these seemed to stir a chord in me in a manner that would have touched others similarly had they also been there.

The following day was the second night of the Chinese New Year. Crackers chanted cheers of a prosperous year ahead as the celebrative mood continued to fill the atmosphere. With the night sky as a backdrop, a large lantern – a kongming lantern, said to be the first hot air balloon invented by the sage and military strategist Zhuge Liang twenty centuries ago – was lighted. Up, up and away! The children all cheered and waved, as it gradually diminished into the skies and finally disappeared out of sight. As it lifted into the far ends of the skies, it carried the hopes and dreams of those who prayed upon its departure, to promise them a better future. This is the first time that I have ever witnessed the kongming lantern. Astonishment aside, there was also a slight feeling of regret that I have never seen it in my homeland.

This year, I paid a third visit to this fishing village. To my dismay the regular ferry service from Singapore World Trade Centre was discarded due to insufficient passenger demand. No choice but we had to take a bus to Larkin terminal in Johor, transfer another bus to Pontian, and then hired a taxi to cover the rest of the journey. Comparing the past with the present, few changes were observed. Rubbish still piled the shores at low tide. In spite of this, many new and gorgeous-looking buildings of different architectural styles now stand where old wooden houses used to be. Yet, they appear bizarre and out of place among their old cousins.


Chatting with the local inhabitants, I acquired that this Chinese fishing village was built by descendants of Teochew migrants from China. Nowadays, many adopted Mandarin as their main language of command in addition to their Teochew dialect. They were familiar with Singaporean actors and actresses, evident that they were able to receive broadcast albeit being in a different country. The main source of income for this fishing village was the kelong - a type of fishing farm built on the sea near the shores. These days youngsters no longer work on the kelongs anymore – they have long left to craft their own careers elsewhere in the cities. Only the arrival of Chinese New Year brings them back once every year to reunite with the old and young at home.

As the tides creep up the shorelines with the announcement of dawn each day, the sun tans the face of the sea till it shines a golden yellow. The attap houses seem to dance to the rhythm of the waves. It is this water that provides its people with food and then clears their waste with the fall of the tide. It is a place where men and sea intercepts – at Kukup, Pontian in Western Johor, Malaysia.


Feb 2008



Excerpt from Google Map

 

THE VILLAGE 渔村景色


Outside view. Feb 2008


Entrance to the village. Feb 2008


Main road access to the village homes. Feb 2003


Motorcycle is the main transport to the village. Feb 2008


Homehouse-like chalet. 1996


All houses supported by concrete or timber piles penetrating to the seabed. Feb 2008


1996


The fishboat returns home. 1996


Feb 2008


Feb 2008


A Chinese temple

 

Kelong, the fish farm on the sea. 奎笼,一种海上养殖场


 

Primary School 小学校


Feb 2003


Feb 2003


Feb 2003


Feb 2008

 

Nearby Malay Kampong 附近的马来村庄


1996


1996

 

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