Pulau Duyung was one of our unplanned stops in the east coast road trip. For someone who had spent most of her life in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, I found this particular side of the country unfamiliar yet, refreshing.
Pulau is the Malay word for island and Duyung means mermaid. By just looking at the name, and compounded by my ignorance - my initial thought was that we would need to take a boat to get there.
Pulau Duyung is an island actually, a river island, to be specific. Located at the mouth of Sungai Terengganu (Terengganu River), it is accessible via riverboats that can be taken at the jetty of Pasar Payang (the Central Market of Kuala Terengganu).
We did not take a boat there though. Vee drove the Camry through the then newly built Sultan Mahmud Bridge that led us straight to our destination (admittedly, we did lose our way a couple of times before getting there). From the bridge, the place looked less the island and more of a typical Malay riverine village.
Pulau Duyung is the home of the artisan boatmakers of Terengganu. Sadly, due to the increasing cost of timber, traditional boatmaking is fast becoming a declining industry - the legacy continued only by a few craftsmen. The most well known, master craftsman Haji Abdullah, resides there.
The boatmaker's workshop opened up to Sungai Terengganu, where a vast body of water lay sleepy- the waves moving slowly, lazily. I could see a few fishing boats bobbing idly by the riverbank - maybe because it was a Friday, the day off in the east coast.
We looked around. The workshop too, was deserted. I supposed because it was almost noon (not long before the time for the Muslim's Friday prayers). Anyhow, we were able to see everything in the workshop as it did not have any walls, with the exception of a small room painted in blue.
As we maneuvered quietly between pieces of wood and tools, we could see a couple of boats in the making. Outside, slabs of timber were lined criss-crossed next to an old house built in the Terengganu Malay traditional house design.
Beneath the clear blue skies, we were left to explore the handiwork on our own. We marveled at the ingenuity of building seaworthy boats without a single nail, only wood pegs - the engineering and artistry of the traditional boatmakers.
I don't remember the three of us talking much. We stood there, most of the time lost in our thoughts, admiring the handcrafted, beautiful and sturdy boats just biding time to hit the water.
15 glorious days in the sun, in the rain. 15 days of getting to know my country with you.
Traversing busy cities, calm villages and the countryside. Resting by beautiful beaches and waterfalls. Getting soaked in weeping rain forests. Exploring old, sleepy towns with histories older than both our ages combined. Driving in circles and losing our way through small one way streets.
The next time we meet, would we still be the same two?