A day trip to the southwestern tip of Malaysia (Kukup)

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It’s Tuesday 18th August 2015, and we decide to drive off to Pontian Kechil on the southwest coast of Johor state. Our map says there is a Fishing Village near here, so it looks like a suitable place for lunch. Our SatNav machine didn’t even recognise the name Pontian Kechil, so that was a good start.  At least Google Maps could give us directions, so off we went. Drove through palm tree-lined roads, of varying conditions, and arrived at Pontian Kechil. Decided soon this was not the place to stop, so drove north to find the fishing village or nearby town of Pontian Besar. Could not see the former and the latter not worth stopping in. Perhaps if we were better able to read the Malay signposts, we might have been tempted to stop.

So, we turned around and headed much further south to Kukup as our map highlighted Seafood Restaurants and a Fishing Village! Figuring out where to park is still a challenge, so we stopped at a carpark which seemed to be associated with a seafood restaurant, at least judging from the huge ageing red prawn statue at the entrance! When we got out of our car, a man handed us a ticket and directed us into his minivan. Were we being kidnapped? No idea what was happening, but carried on nevertheless. Otherwise, what’s the point of being on an adventure?

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After a few minutes, we were dropped off in front of the Kukup International Ferry Terminal. Here’s the view from inside the ferry terminal, allowing travel to Singapore and Indonesia. We forget how close we are to Indonesia here, so will have to think about exploring in that direction.

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We could see a few restaurants and shops nearby, but nothing of great interest. Then, this lady waved at us and encouraged us to walk through the building site to the restaurant behind. So, we followed her as what else would we do?

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To our relief, we ended up in a Chinese seafood restaurant with a young waitress with enough English to make things easy.  Just like some of the restaurants in Sai Kung (Hong Kong), the menu is presented as a choice of fish, squid, crab, clams, prawns, with recommended cooking styles. So, we chose sweet and sour seabass, nestum prawns, deep fried baby squid, pak choy, bean sprouts, and white rice. It was all delicious accompanied by passion fruit or lime soda. As it was quite late (~2 pm) the restaurant was not busy, so lunch was peaceful with a great view over the sea at the fish farms. Lawrence did try out some Malay on the waitress shown below but she just giggled! She clearly had no idea what he was saying (he was asking formally for the bill).

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The main reason for coming to Kukup appears to be to visit the Pulau Kukup Johor National Park (shown below). This is a large expanse of mangroves, accessed by a short boat ride. Perhaps we will go there next time when we have visitors, as we will certainly return to the High King Seafood restaurant.

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I think you can tell from these photos that everything here is a bit run down? It looks like they are doing a lot of building around here to smarten things up, but we haven’t had any problems re hygiene conditions or general facilities.  Things work here in their own way, so you just have to figure out what that is. A smile goes a very long way here, so that is our currency.

After lunch, we headed back to the main street thinking we’d have to walk back to the car park. But then the same lady waved at us pointing out our minivan. So we piled in with others and were returned to our car!  This is Park-and-Ride, Malaysian style.

According to our map, a slight diversion on the way home would take us to Orchid Valley, one of the largest collections of orchids in the world. Alas, we could not find it and our SatNav and Google Maps kept making us drive into building sites! Did find lots of new housing estates though so I reckon the orchids lost out here. It was now 5 pm and time to really head home to avoid rush hour in JB (Johor Bahru). Made one last stop at the roadside to buy some lychees (still attached to their branches). Roadside stalls for fruit were plentiful around here; perhaps I should make some lychee jam?


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