Kuala Gula is a small fishing hamlet in northern Perak, about two hours from Penang. It is located next to Kuala Kurau. This place is famous for the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, where thousands of migratory birds roost in the mangrove swamps between August and December.
It so happened that one of the AsiaExplorers members Member Chew Siewpheng has relatives staying in Kuala Gula and its adjacent kampung Kuala Kurau. So I planned with her and a couple more friends to explore the fishing hamlet. The day we selected turned out to be a very wet Sunday afternoon in April, so there was no chance to see the birds in season. Nevertheless, we were warmly welcomed by Siewpheng's uncles. She has one uncle on her maternal side staying in Kuala Kurau, and another, on the paternal side, staying in Kuala Gula.
Sunset cruise at Kuala Gula. AsiaExplorers members enjoying a ride with Siew Pheng on her uncle's boat
© Timothy Tye using this photo
Exiting the North-South Expressway at Bagan Serai, we first reached Kuala Kurau. It is a riverside hamlet with a predominant Chinese population. There is a free ferryboat ride took us across the river. We picked up Siewpheng's maternal uncle and cousins. After that, there was still a long way on a dirt track before we finally arrived at Kuala Gula.
With her maternal uncle acting as a dropped-in tour guide, we explored a fascinating Chinese temple. I said "fascinating", because in addition to the prayer halls, the temple doubles as an amusement park, complete with grottoes that transport visitors on a walkabout tour of Hades.
After visiting the temple, we proceeded to look for Siewpheng's paternal uncle. And that's the start of a rather amusing incident. Siewpheng has never seen him before, and neither has he her. To make the connection, she had to called her mother at home and asked her to help identify the uncle!
Needless to say, we eventually tracked him down. We then sat down to a great seafood dinner at one of the coffee shops. The specialty of the area is crabs fried with beehoon. It was very tasty indeed!
After filling our empty tummies, we proceeded to explore the coastal village of Kuala Gula. Siewpheng's uncle has a boat, so he took us for a spin around the mangrove swamps famous for its migratory birds. We did see some herons, but not in great abundance, since it is outside the migratory season, and also because of the rain.
By then, the sun was setting, providing us many scenic views of the Straits of Malacca, where fishermen have erected huts over the sea. These huts, I learned, were used as breeding stations for fish, clams and other marine life. In places sea appeared like it has been fenced up.
After the sea excursion, we proceeded to visit another Chinese temple. It appears that the fisherfolks are a rather pious lot, judging from the number of shrines and temples in the area. They have to be, I suppose, since their fortune is at the mercy of the rather unpredictable sea. Both of Siewpheng's uncles are fishermen, the main job available at this riverside community.
The final temple we visited was one with a big statue of the Goddess of Mercy. By then, night has fallen. We bade farewell to Siewpheng's paternal uncle, and adjourned to Siewpheng's maternal uncle's house in Kuala Kurau. This village is famous for its traditional Chinese biscuit, called the "Hiao Pniah". I bought a couple of packets for myself. Siewpheng's uncle then treated us to dinner at the nearby eatery before we started our journey back to Penang.
It was an interesting day well spent.