Beserah, a fishing village located in the vicinity of Kuantan, the capital of Pahang Darul Makmur, has long held the attractions of visitors for its "quaintness".
It happened to me too. I actually changed my perception of the village, after having lived in Kuantan, from ... boring ...to uniquely intriguing..
Located about 7 km north of Kuantan, in the state of Pahang, the fishing village of Beserah is famous for shellcraft items, batik and crafts made from coconuts.
To the Kuantan locals, Beserah is one of the villages where fresh fish and sea catches, grilled fish and seafood, mee chalong and freshly cooked local seafood crackers like the keropok lekur, can be obtained.
Besides its own attractive and fine sandy beaches, you will find, about a few km north of Beserah, the ever popular Batu Hitam ("Black Stones") beach , and further up on the way to Terengganu, the beautiful beaches of Sungai Karang, Balok, Chendor and Cherating.
My eldest sister, had lived in Kuantan for a few years, and every time I met her, the fishing village of Beserah is mentioned now and then.
So when I decided to come visit and stay with her during the long school holidays (in the early 1970’s while waiting for my secondary school results), the first place I wanted to see was Beserah.
But my perception from the first visit was that it was rather a quiet fishing village with nothing interesting, due perhaps, and no thanks, to my modern city upbringing.
Well, I just felt back then that the place and the going-ons in Beserah are not any different from any other Pahang villages I’ve been to. Nothing peculiar or unique to remember it by..
I remember the houses in Beserah then were simple wooden structures, some dilapidated and worn, with rusted zinc and broken attap roofs.
It looked like the houses would crash down anytime if gushed by a storm.
Except for watching the fishermen going out to the sea, and the white sandy beaches, there was nothing much of excitement there (I felt then).
To paraphrase the maxim, I couldn’t see the sea for the waters. Everything seems so.. oh..boring. The word "quaint" didn’t warrant my description of it then.
But some years later when I lived in Kuantan and sort of intimately grew with the town, I realized my earlier perception was way out of line. You actually have to live in Kuantan to feel and see the difference of Beserah, the village.
After all, life is not all about human activity and actions.
The moving clouds, the swaying trees, the lapping of the waves, the bright blue skies and the rainbow are also part of life.
...Where else in the world can you find buffaloes hauling back catches from the sea?
I found that out when I was alone in my car at the beach in Beserah just watching the sea waves lapping onto the white sandy beach (as was my usual thing to do to relax my mind after a hard day’s work).
I was watching a fishing boat come in from the sea. Then there were a few people crowding it, and then of all things, a buffalo cart, going out to meet the fishing boat!! This is no place for a buffalo cart, I thought.
I knew then that I could be missing something. So I went to the scene, and joined the crowd.
From the fishing boat, the fishermen were putting basketfuls of fishes and other catches of the sea onto the buffalo cart - all kinds of fish, prawns and squids. And then the buffalo pulled the cart slowly to the collection house about 200 yards nearby.
What an extraordinary scene! I never saw anything like it anywhere else. A buffalo cart and not a bullock cart. Maybe I didn’t open my eyes to the world earlier?
I watched, bewitched, as the buffalo pulled the cart slowly and nonchalantly, guided by its keeper.
That was about 30 years ago. This same extraordinary activity is still there.
So just for the record I recently went back to the fishing village of Beserah and took a photo shot of the buffalo when it has its day off!!
Just like the bullock-cart, in the old days the buffalo-cart was a traditional means of commercial transportation for the village folks in Malaysia. But nowadays, although you can still find many bullock-carts in some places in Malaysia, you can’t find buffalo-carts elsewhere, I believe, other than here in Beserah, Pahang.
It is said that buffalo carts were, until the 1970s’, prevalent in Malacca, but it seems you can’t find them there anymore, no thanks to modern transportation.
Buffalo-carts, like the bullock carts, have been replaced by the engines of modern cars and lorries for transportation of goods. Unless the world returns to the environmental goodness of nature, there is no hope for the return of the animals for transportation purpose.
Currently there are left only about three buffalo-carts in Beserah, and are only used by the fishermen to haul the catches brought from the sea.
One buffalo can carry about 3 big baskets full of fish weighing about 9 piculs, and it has to carry the baskets about 200 yards from the beach to the fish collection or ware house fronting the sea.
There, the catches from the sea are sorted out and some are dried out under the sun to be sold as dried or salted fish.
Unlike a bullock cart, you’ll find that the buffalo cart has no roof. That’s the main difference. A healthy buffalo normally can perform the work of pulling the cart for about 5 years before it is too old and weak to do the job.
In the old days the wheels of the buffalo-carts were made of wood with metal coverings, but nowadays they are made from customized rubber wheels.
It won’t be long before modern technology will be used to haul the catches, and when that time comes, well, it’s goodbye to the old days of utilizing nature’s gift, and goodbye too of the unique sights to behold for our children and future generations.
Traditional Malay Massage
And Beserah was also the place where I went to find "old" men who are expert masseurs who can soothingly stroke and massage my tired nerves and lifeless body back into peak health.
At that time, about 25 years ago, I had frequent migraines and other illnesses, perhaps due to smoking but more by lack of exercise. Visits to the doctors provided me with more pills than I could swallow.
So, as a complement to the pills, and with encouragement by friends who had done the traditional massage and were buoyed by it, I decided to get my body massaged back to life. I’ve never had a massage done before, so I thought I should try and experience it.
And it worked. With the blood arteries, nerves and organs put back in their proper place and the body muscles soothed and revitalized, body massages are definitely wonderful rejuvenators of the body.
As they say, the body needs to be serviced and overhauled, like cars too, once in a while. So as quaint as the village of Beserah was, it was where the expert masseurs in Malay traditional massages also lived. Just an hour of the invigorating massage applied with a mixture of herbal oils, soon revitalised the body and relaxed the nerves and body.
And to cut the story short, of the few men I went for the traditional Malay massage, I liked Tok Ungku best. He lived near the main road of Beserah at that time. Tok Ungku was also very knowledgeable on old traditional methods of healing.
And folks who broke or sprained their hands or legs or other body parts also come to see him. His remedy methods incorporated the spiritual realm where he recites special verses while massaging or when making the traditional concoctions from herbal plants for his clients.
My dear wife, encouraged too by the health benefits of a traditional massage, used the services of Tok Ungku’s wonderful wife, who was similarly skilled in traditional Malay massages for women, including for those who had just given birth.
The Malay traditional massage is a mixture of kneading, stroking, knocking, pulling and mostly pressing, with the hands, and sometimes elbows, and the massage covers every part of the body, from the head, face, abdomen, body to the toes of the feet. It’s comprehensive.
It is done while one is lying down. The massage strokes are done sometimes gently and sometimes hard, depending on the masseur's judgement of one’s body needs, and selected natural plants or herbal oils are applied during the massage.
However, although there are still traditional Malay massage practitioners in Beserah, we can now find traditional massages being offered and carried out at the modern shoplots and malls in Kuantan. They are good, but to me not as good as Tok Ungku or the ones in the past as they combined physical massage with their own special verses of spiritual upliftment.
Nowadays, when I feel like having a good massage, I go see Pok Su, who lives at Tanah Putih Baru.
The place is just before the bridge to Kuantan town. And his wife is also skilled in massages for women.
Well, then, after that wonderful body massages, rejuvenating the bodies and making us healthy...
..LET’S NOW VISIT ANOTHER SIDE OF BESERAH...
Ground Satellite Station Base
Beserah - quaint and traditional, yet advanced and modern. Why?... Well..
Beserah is the location for Malaysia's first ground satellite station for telecommunications and radio broadcasting.
When it was first established and launched by the Prime Minister about 30 years ago, I remember it was a very grand and proud affair then for the country. It was also I think the first ground satellite station in the South-east Asian region.
In fact, being an avid stamp collector during my younger days, I remember buying the Malaysian commemorative postal stamps issued on the occasion of the launch event.
To locate the satellite station, it is on the left of the main Beserah road and after the traffic lights if you come from Kuantan. There’s a signboard to the place, and if you’re there, look at the hills nearby and on top of the hills you can see big satellite dishes facing skywards, majestically.
There was only one satellite dish initially, but today with the country's development, you can see new, bigger and more advanced satellite dishes there. They are used for Malaysia's telecommunications networks telephones, etc. as well as for television and radio broadcasting.
Actually I never knew what actually is inside a ground satellite station - until in the early 1980s (still during my bachelor days) and I happened to have a room-mate who had a good friend -- a U.S. qualified telecommunications engineer-- working at the Beserah satellite station.
This engineer friend also became a good friend of mine since he would come over to our house often and we would all normally go out together for food and other sports and recreational activities.
I remember a time when we spent nearly two weeks every night to watch LIVE the 1980 (I think it was) European Cup football (or soccer) final rounds.
All of us, being soccer crazy, every night we would be sort of camped in the room at the station, which had several television screens on. We would be watching live soccer matches being played, some simultaneously.
And we would be rooting for our favorite teams. At that time, Holland, Germany and Italy were the favorite teams to win. I remember I was rooting for Holland at that time, while my room-mate was for Italy. And every morning we would get to the office late - and definitely sleepy at work!!
But then nobody else in the office or our other friends were supposed to know that we were watching the soccer matches live - it had to be a secret as plenty of other friends would want to join us if they knew. If too many joined us, that would definitely be bad for my friend, as the place is a strict security area and not opened to the public.
If anything else, this story shows the advantage or privilege you get by having a friend working at the right place, and you learn a thing or two about the place you never knew previously.(Smile).
END OF SIDE-NOTE
With the establishment of a ground satellite station of its own, Malaysia moved forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with the advanced nations of the world at that time.
This was one of the initial initiatives to make Malaysia a fast growing developing nation...
... and BESERAH , the quaint fishing village off Kuantan, Pahang, played its role and entered the Malaysian history books as the site of the first ground satellite station in the country.
Well, that’s the story of Beserah, a quaint but intriguing fishing village in Pahang with a modern history.
If you visit Beserah now, you can see new concrete buildings and property developments, and new brick houses and residential estates replacing the old wooden houses, especially near the Pelindung beach area.
There is now a big government community polyclinic (Poliklinik Kesihatan Kerajaan) where aerobic exercises are normally held in the morning during the weekends for those interested, especially the ladies in the area.
And afterwards you can probably see them at the nearby mee calong stalls to whet their thirst and hunger!
Beserah is moving ahead, like all villages of Malaysia, but, if you can see the beach, the waters and the deep blue sea there, then you’ll know that it still retains its quaint fishing traditions and culture.
Follow me again to other destinations of delight in the wonderful state of Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia.
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