Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Big Family Trip 2009 - Pulau Pemanggil Part 1

big family photo 2009

When organizing the Big Family Reunion, the criterias I have in mind for a place are:

1. can accommodate 60 and above pax of Big Family members.

2. has a place for the Big Family members to gather to chat and have fun.

3. is accessible to the Higher Authorities who are made up of our parents, aunts and uncles (my father's siblings and their spouse).

4. is within our budget which is not much for such a big group.

5. if possible, by the sea. My cousins, brothers and I used to spend one week every year end school holidays in Penang where we had the most glorious and fun time.

Not many places can fulfill all these requirement. A few months ago, when I was at my dentist's clinic, I chanced upon a brochure for Lanting Beach Resort in Pulau Pemanggil. P Pemanggil is off Mersing on the way to Pulau Aur/Dayang where PT and I spent a couple of memorable holidays basking in the sun and swimming in the coral filled sea. I checked with a couple of BNI members who have been to the resort (one even has his photo on the brochure). So I got in touch with Dean who is the proprietor of the resort to discuss booking a family reunion at the resort. Dean assured me that the Higher Authorities will be able to access the rooms, I know the sea around the area is beautiful, the place can accommodate 120 pax and it has a huge dining hall where everyone can gather. Best of all, it was within our budget. Viola! We have a place for our Big Family Trip 2009!

Our journey started at night on Friday, 5 June. The drive to Mersing is very long. We were told to get to Mersing before 5.00am to board the catamaran at high tide. To save anyone from driving, or try to keep up and keep together and have the fun begin as soon as we depart for the island, a bus was chartered for our trip. The KL side filled up a 40-seater bus. The Singapore side went to Mersing on an 11-seater van. We were instructed to arrive at the Mersing port by 4.30am to board a catamaran to P Pemanggil. We got into Mersing port by 3.45am and were the first to get there.

waiting at Mersing jetty We waited for the contact from the resort to arrive so he can sort out our boarding pass. After the Seagull Express incident, the port authorities has become strict with checking that ferries do not exceed the allowed number of passengers. I was relieved to hear that as I really do not want any danger to befall my family members. Unfortunately, our contact did not inform us sufficiently what to expect. The Higher Authorities were getting anxious as more and more people arrive at the port. BTW, the port has only one toilet cubicle each for Ladies and Gents. That will be another post rant.

At 6.15am, we finally boarded the ferry (which was told to be catamaran earlier) to get to P Pemanggil. All of us have been travelling in a bus for hours, waited for hours at the port and now sitting inside a rocking boat. We couldn't use the upstairs which was open air because that section was closed. Everyone was very excited to get to the resort but they also suffered from motion sickness. Mad scramble for plastic bags and sounds of retching later, we arrived at the resort.

The sea around the resort was breathtaking but when I saw the resort from the jetty, my heart sank. The resort did not have a beach. The beach was separated by huge rocks and the rooms were set really high on a hill.

We climbed up the steep steps leading to the dining hall, helping our Higher Authorities up. The resort staff helped carry our bags. Breakfast was to be served shortly. We were all hungry by then. As food was being taken out, Dean went through some house rules. Lots of them were common sense but after the long journey and the rude shock of not having a beach, the list of rules did not go down well with quite a few of the family members. We were not having a good start to the family reunion. We were also allocated our rooms and given our keys then. Our group was allocated rooms nearer to the dining hall. We had to do a bit of reshuffling for the benefit of the Higher Authorities.
cousins outside room cousins outside room2 My brother and I offered to switch our rooms for the seniors but there was not enough bed space for them. By this time, my head was in a cloud yet trying to make the most of the whole situation. I think my cousins were too.

After breakfast, some went on a boat to another beach for snorkelling. Some of us chose to go to a nearby beach which meant walking down many flight of steps and on a huge rock to get to the beach. I wish the beach was kept clean. Such a shame to see such beautiful sea set against a filthy, rubbish strewn beach. The sea was choppy. Kids were squealing and having fun. I was on the alert all the time to make sure none of the kids get pulled out to sea *sigh*

Then we went back to the dining hall for lunch. So far, the best part of the resort was the food. Quite a variety of dishes with lots of vegetable and delicious ulam. The cooking was tasty. After lunch we were given the option to go snorkelling again. Since there wasn't much to do at the resort, a group of us went on the snorkelling trip. We were dropped of at a nearby kampung with a beautiful beach front. Unfortunately, also strewn with rubbish. The sea was crystal clear and calm. Shallow water stretched quite far which made it safe for children to splash about. A few of the cousins who had gone to the island earlier for snorkelling were still there. They were quite upset by then as they've been waiting for the boat to fetch them for hours. It was way past lunch time (3.00pm by then), nobody had told them exactly what time the boat was to arrive to pick them up. The resort brought their lunch when taking us there.

Hearing that, I chose for my kids and I to return to the resort after the group had finished their lunch, having spent only an hour on the beach. Could it get worse than this??!

We chose to ride in the front of the boat to go back to the resort. Short while after leaving, the boat turned back towards the beach. I thought perhaps they forgot to collect something and was going back. Turned out, someone had spotted a small luggage bag floating in the sea. The resort operator and crew fished out the luggage from the sea. They were very excited to know what was in the bag. Popped open the bag and inside was a journal of sorts with pages of notes and drawings. The bag was very neatly packed. It was quite obvious that the bag hadn't been in the sea for long. In the journal was a passport and photos. I thought that's great. They'll be able to hand over the bag to the proper authorities to return to the owner. When ensued was shocking! The boat crew and resort operator pulled out the things one by one, shouting with excitement of their find. They were no different from pirates who pilfered and robbed. I was so sad that my children had to see what they were doing. My cousins and I were so shocked, we didn't know how to react. They rummaged through the bag to look for cash but couldn't find any. Then the resort operator threw the underwear in the sea deliberately. Any wonder why the beaches were strewn with rubbish? Words cannot describe the disappointment and sadness I felt on that boat ride. Laura and Adam were full of questions about what they witnessed on the boat. Asking if that was what is meant by Finders Keeper. It was very disturbing to realize that the beautiful islands, the jewels of our country, are run by barbarians and hooligans who obviously do not know anything about preservation. These islands are their livelihood and should be their pride, yet they chose to rape, exploit and litter. What is the heritage my children are growing up to inherit? I don't even recognize the country I grew up in anymore.

The resort operator collected vintage items in his resort, old telephones, gramaphones, photos, weighing scales, etc. I looked through the photos hanging on the wall. These were photos collected from various junk yards and sales so were not of any particular families. Most of the photos were from the 40s and 50s. What struck me was how similar these photos were to the ones in my family collection. There was no distinction between the races. Malayans dressed in similar fashion and one couldn't tell if they were Malays, Indians, Chinese or whatever crap the politicians have been trying to ram into us.

Most of us took a long nap in the afternoon, after a long night and rough morning. Night time was spent chatting and kids played by themselves. Adam played Congkak for the first time and enjoyed himself tremendously. The children gathered on the dormitory floor to play. One of the kids fell asleep playing!
Big Family Kids

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