Certainly, it didn't took me as much anxiety as it would if I was to tag along blindly with a bunch of ignorant 2o year old daredevils on a boat trip to Penang Bridge and back. Following a group who's experienced and organised was definitely more soothing. I was surprise by the calmness in my head when I was preparing for this trip with AsiaExplorers (AE). I know it's not a big trip and all, but cut me some slack here. This is my first time I ever managed to convince mom to pay for a trip and go along with me!
I've been a member of AE since 2003, I think and I have never been in any of the their outings at all. The closest one I ever get to was when AE decided to go on a hike to the Penang Waterfalls. Unfortunately, it rained heavily the day before and over-protective dad called it off, saying that it'd be much too dangerous for me to go along considering I am was still a kid. So you couldn't count that as participation. Other than that, I've never been anywhere closer to an AE outing, whether it was held in cosy hometown Penang or neighbouring countries. Well, not till today, that I'm proud to call myself an AE member.
I received an email about this trip about a month ago before the designated date and was thrilled by the moment I read it! I forwarded the email to mom in her office about a month later after much hesitation. She was happy with the idea and we were set to go. Dad arrived at the venue and dropped us off, saying, "Take care guys. Matt, watch out for mom." I got off the car, rolled my eye, saying, "Yeah, sure. Bye dad!" slamming the door behind me. We waved as he drove off. The Chew Jetty was literally a jetty. I'm not sure what comes into your mind when the word 'jetty' is mentioned, but picture this : houses built, entirely of wood, arranged closely together, suspended a few feet above water by wood that's buried deep beneath the depth of the seas and a whole community working as fishermen.
It's the tiny part of Penang that I've never been before, despite all those years of growing up in the old and broken Georgetown. I was amazed to see how these people are able to live their lives like this. Almost as surprised as the community itself, with peering heads, popping out of the doors miraculously as mom and me walked by each house to get to the end of the jetty where the facilitator lived to get our life jacket. Not that it's bad or anything - most of them had the incospicuous Astro satellite dish poking out of their roofs - but it's just surprising to see them still able to live in such a condition in the 21st century - living just a few feet above badly polluted water which gave out a horrible stench, due to the rubbish and in houses so tiny that it almost had me believeing that I was Alice in Wonderland.
I mean, when I stand up, I'm usually looking down from a fairly reasonable height above into their little houses, eyeing them enthusiastically. Even the people looked smaller when I'm standing on the pathway made off pieces of thick plank arranged closely together, that separated the houses in between and which creaked heavily under my weight everytime I make a movement. It was scary at first to be walking along the pathway with the sploshing of muddy sea water visible beneath your feet, but it's alright after you realise that the community has been walking like that since... forever? By the looks of it, it wasn't exactly a model house that one can easily call a home and I wouldn't recommend it also as it doesn't exactly provide the freshest air from the sea. If the muddy foul water beneath was treated and the rubbish cleared, I'd reconsider. Still, the number of people living there (with the surname Chew) remains unchanged since 6 generations ago! It was a fact, however, which I learnt from the facilitator of the trip, Chew Siew Pheng.
Whem mom and me reached the end of the jetty, where Siew Pheng's house was situated at, we were greeted by an arousing number of people who were already there. I spotted Tim immediately, the founder/creator of AE, approached him, shook his hand and introduced myself and mom. He was such a warm and jovial person and it was kind of unexpected that the voice that greeted me back was high pitched and shrilled. No offence, but it's sounds similar to a cartoon character. Yet, he never misses a smile when he speaks to people. It was really nice to finally meet the person behind all the AE website and all those emails about exploring different parts of Asia.
Our arival was considered late cause majority of the crowd was already getting ready to board the traditional fishing sampans being held together by ropes, with experienced fishermen (I think) doodling around the ropes and arranging the sampans for the conveniences of us to hop on it. Mom and I collected payed for our life jackets and put them on immediately. I was busy fiddling with my camera (gotta get it out all the time for potential good shots) and mom had to meddle with the buckles on the life jacket for me. We got ushered by Siew Pheng's mom (a skilled fisherman also. I could tell by the way she handles the boats and took control of the situation) into one of the few remaining sampans together with Tim. It's just pure luck that we got in the same boat with Tim, cause that's all that matters and he knows more stuff than any of us. We were also lucky to get the only sampan with a shed as mom was beginning to complain about the blazing sun and about how she should've brought her umbrella along. That made her shut up.
To be continued...