Tuesday, 7 January 2014

On The Trail of Ancient Kedah - Part 1

Wednesday 6th November 2013. 9.25am – Our bus took off from Matic (Malaysian Tourism Centre) in Ampang Road. Almost one hour late from schedule. Thank God the good people from Santai magazine had arranged for a Police outrider to escort our bus out of the busy Kuala Lumpur downtown.

The journey to Sungai Petani, Kedah took about five hours. After a couple of stopovers at the North South highway’s Rest & Relax areas, we finally reached the spanking new building of MPSPK (Sungai Petani Municipal Council) about 2 hours late. Nevertheless, the friendly staff of the town council warmly welcomed us upon arrival and quickly ushered us to the main conference room. The President of MPSPK, Datuk Haji Ismail Haji Said, chaired the meeting that was attended by the municipality council members and representatives from the various federal agencies in Kedah. A slide presentation on the future development of Sungai Petani was presented to the audience. Special attention on development was given to the historical sites and tourist attractions within the fairly large district.   

Done with the briefing two hours later, we were brought to Semeling Jetty, where we were supposed to rivercruise along the Merbok river to Tanjung Dawai at its rivermouth. All of us were looking forward to the river excursion until about 15 minutes into the journey, when the dark clouds above poured heavy rain on us. The boatmen tried to brave the heavy downpour but after a while we were advised by the Fire and Rescue team that accompanied us in another boat to turn back to avoid any untoward incidents.
The Semeling Jetty. The floating dining hall is on the foreground.
View from the middle of the complex. 
New buildings with a well-kept landscape
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We went back to the jetty with some disappointments but were nevertheless treated to a very informative slide show on mangrove conservation programmes along the Merbok river. The new Semeling Jetty complex, completed about three years ago consists of a theatre hall, an amphitheatre, a gallery, a mini museum, a souvenir shop and a restaurant. Built on stilts, the beautiful and modern complex, packaged with the Merbok rivercruise, is set to become another tourist hotspot in Sungai Petani.

Pantai Merdeka, the only coastal area with sandy beaches in Kedah, was our last destination for the day. We were welcomed by the resort manager of Merdeka Beach Resort, our host for the evening, which treated us with Air Nira (fermented coconut drink) as the welcome drink. The small but cozy resort, located about 26 km from Sungai Petani, lies by the idyllic beach and is a perfect hideaway for city folks. A wide range of watersport activities such as sailing, waterskiing, canoeing and Banana boat rides are available. Island hopping is also in store for those who are looking for some island adventures. Local boatmen will readily ferry visitors with their sampans to the islands of Pulau Bunting, Pulau Song Song and Pulau Bidan for a reasonable fee.

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