Malaysia // Kuala Lumpur and around //

Pulau Ketam

The moment you set foot aboard ferries to PULAU KETAM (Crab Island) you’re in a kind of parallel universe: this is Chinese day-tripper land, with videos of Chinese karaoke clips or soap operas blaring from the on-board screens. Ketam’s five thousand inhabitants are Teochew and Hokkien Chinese, who traditionally live almost entirely by fishing from their low, flat, mangrove-encrusted island. Every house is built on pilings above the sand, and practically every street is a concrete walkway or boardwalk raised in the same fashion. Aside from the chance to eat tasty, inexpensive seafood, you’d visit mainly for a slightly surreal break from KL’s pace, with a couple of places to stay if you like the quiet.

From the jetty, walk past the mosque and into the village main street, lined with grocers, general stores, and stalls and restaurants selling seafood – including, of course, crab. Beyond a shop selling Buddhist paraphernalia is a sort of central square where you’ll find the Hock Leng Temple, as well as a small grotto containing a representation of Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, looking decidedly Madonna-like with a halo of red electric lights. On from here, you come to a residential area of concrete and wooden houses, nearly all with their front doors left wide open. There’s plenty of refuse littering the mud flats beneath, unfortunately, but more appealingly you’ll also see shrines outside many homes and occasional collections of pans made of netting containing seafood products being left out to dry.

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