Confession: I didn’t want to go to Pulau Ketam. I read enough to know what it would be like; houses on stilts, human waste go straight back to nature, fresh seafood hopefully not bred nor collected from the very same areas. That sounds like Kukup, a fishing village off Pontian in Johor. I’d been to Kukup in my younger days. I don’t particularly want to go back.
Then Joyce who occasionally slaps sense into me said, “YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO PULAU KETAM, HOW DO YOU REALLY KNOW??”
True that. Off we went with friends. Some of us took the KTM from Subang to Port Klang. The return ticket costs RM5.80 and a single trip took nearly an hour. It was my first time on the KTM and I have just one comment: the time schedules were created to mock your waiting self, right?
From Port Klang, you could reach Pulau Ketam via the ferry (RM7 about 30mins) or private speedboat (RM10 about 15mins). Along the way you could see mangrove swamps, boats, fish farms, and eventually Pulau Ketam’s houses on stilts.
Pulau Ketam literally means Crab Island. The story has it that in the late 1800s, Hainanese fisherman from Port Klang arrived at Pulau Ketam where they caught crabs and sold them for a living. Initially they went to and fro every day, which was a long journey because uh, there were no speedboats back then.
After a few months, they built a small house on the swampland so they could stay the night. Eventually the swampland, regarded as an island became populated.
And that was how Pulau Ketam was born, ta-dahhhhh!
Horng and KY, overwhelmed.
What can you do in Pulau Ketam? If you’re on a day trip, you could walk around and pose for photos in strange positions. Rent a bike for RM5, cycle and explore the island, whizzing past people’s homes. Eat fried ice-cream, assorted shaved ice dessert, seafood at the many eateries. Buy local products consisting of dried seafood items.
If you’re staying the night, you could do all these too. When the day-trippers are gone, enjoy the quietness and simplicity of the fishing village. At evening towards night time, the tide rises and the fishermen go to sea. They return by dawn so if you’re an early riser, you could catch all these activities. Most of Pulau Ketam’s harvest are exported so you could see the fishy buggers that go off to say, Hong Kong.
You do know where human waste in Pulau Ketam go, right? Right, I shan’t elaborate then. Just that… well, be prepared for an unmistakable stench in the air should you catch the wind in the wrong direction.
Food in Pulau Ketam was… wait let me rephrase. We learned from experience that food served in Pulau Ketam were not to our palate. Sure the clams are huge and fresh, fishballs springy and fresh, fish was fresh but unfortunately overcooked…
To summarise, they have the fresh goods but not the cooking skills to best deliver them.
Also, we were very disappointed with the crabs. They were supposed to be fresh and I don’t know how to measure freshness of a crab. But the flesh isn’t supposed to disintegrate too easily, right? There was not enough ‘muscle’ in the meat, it wasn’t firm, it wasn’t good.
Apparently that’s how they serve crabs in Pulau Ketam. RM38/kg… inexpensive but I’d happily pay more for Wong Poh in Aman Suria for a fantastic, satisfying crab feast.
The lesson here is: take Pulau Ketam for what it is; a fishing village booming with city day-trippers lured by the promise of fresh seafood, so the locals have to accommodate the best they can. I believe it’s decent income alongside their normal fishing operations. They are friendly people and work hard for their money, good for them.
Should you visit Pulau Ketam? Why not? Go get the experience, support the local folk, expose your kids to how other people live.
And of course happiness is intensified with great company, so bring along some good friends for the ride.