Malaysia’s Pulau Ketam or Crab Island is not the archetypal tropical paradise with swaying coconut palms and sandy beaches. However, the rustic atmosphere of its villages that are devoid of vehicles, restaurants serving scrumptious seafood, crimson sunsets, interesting aquaculture farms and lush mangrove swamps where colourful mudskippers and succulent crabs lurk are the perpetual draws that have made this island a popular weekend destination for folks in the Klang Valley.
Pulau Ketam is nestled in the mouth of the Klang River in Selangor State, and is home to Pulau Ketam Village and Sungai Lima Village, which are separated by primacy forest. The former is the focal point of the island, where zinc-roofed houses standing on stilts is home to more than six thousand residents who are mainly of the Teochew dialect.
Motorcycles and bicycles are the only traffic on the ironwood boardwalks that link the houses. Jalan Besar, the main thoroughfare, springs to life in the early morning with the hoarse roar of seafood traders, the clang of spatula against pans in coffee-shops, the salty smell of dried seafood, the whirr of machines packing seafood into plastic bags and the aroma of stir-fried oyster omelette wafting in the air. The jetty at Koperasi Herr Ming should not be missed as there is a lot of activity with the loading and unloading of seafood destined for home kitchens and restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and other major towns. The wet market is also a good spot to start one’s tour of the settlement.
Two temples worth visiting are the Nan Thiam Keng Temple and Hock Leng Keng Temple, where wall paintings and sculptured dragons adorn their interiors. On the 28th day of the fourth lunar month, the ear-deafening clash of cymbals, the staccato thump of drums and colourful costumes greet devotees to the Hock Leng Keng Temple as the deity’s birthday is celebrated with prayers and opera performances. Come the sixth day of the sixth lunar month, the main attention focuses on the Nan Thiam Keng Temple as devotees honour the deity with supplications, mini concert and Chinese opera shows. The celebrations at both temples last 14 days, and see throngs of worshippers from the mainland as well.
The dozen or so seafood restaurants at Pulau Ketam Village can excite even the most discerning gourmet. Dishes such as crunchy deep-fried squids, kam heong crabs, tom yam steamed grouper and drunken prawns have turned many dieters into gluttons. Take your pick from one of the following list of famous restaurants: Restaurant Ping Heong, Restaurant Mei Sek, Restaurant Seng Tian, Restaurant Kuai Lok Hian, Nan Heng Seafood Restaurant, Kim Hoe Seafood Restaurant and Restaurant Seafood Kia Hiong Haun. For tea, many coffee shops have stalls serving oyster omelet, cockle omelet, fried anchovies, anchovy fritters and shrimp fritters.
Adventurous visitors can visit an aquaculture farm off the seas of the island. The fishes thrash vigorously in the waters when food is scattered to them. Why not buy some live fish and have them cooked at any restaurant on the island?
For an adrenalin rush, take a speedboat ride round the island with a stopover at Sungei Lima Village. During your journey, the speedboat may need to refill in a floating petrol station in the turquoise sea! In the evening, take a stroll to Couple’s Bridge to watch a burgundy sun descend down the horizon. This bridge is so named as it is a popular spot for courting couples to relax.
For good buys before goodbye, many shops catering to tourists can be found in Pulau Ketam Village, offering high quality satay fish, deep fried cuttlefish, mui heong saltfish, dried shrimps, dried sea cucumber, fish balls and fish rolls.
Traveling to the island from Kuala Lumpur is a breeze. First, get to Port Kelang (Southport) which is only one hour’s drive away, and take a 30-minute ferry ride to the island. Ferry services are available everyday at 45-minute intervals from 8:45am to 6:30pm. From Pulau Ketam to Port Kelang, services are between 7:45am to 5:30pm.