On 16-18 May 2015, the Cooperatives Commission of Malaysia (SKM), in collaboration with Gaya Travel Magazine, organised a familiarisation trip to Johor called Jom Jelajah Koperasi (Let’s Explore the Cooperatives) Johor 2015. The participants of the trip, comprising 25 representatives of various local media organisations and SKM officials, visited selected cooperative companies in Johor as part of SKM’s efforts to increase awareness towards their distinct product and services among the public.
Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong Masai Bhd
Once we arrived in Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong, Puan Salbiah Haji Yahya, Eco Tourism Manager of Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong Masai Bhd and her team welcomed us. We then headed for the boat cruise, led by our tour guide Puan Normallah.
The boat cruise is one of the attractions at Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong, used by locals and tourists to enjoy the area’s scenery. Both sides of the river are flanked with mangroves trees, which the students from the University Putra Malaysia (UPM) collaborate in conserving and conducting research on them. Since our cruise coincided with high tide, we were unable to try our hands on netting fish; however, we witnessed how prawns are caught using nets by Puan Normallah. The nets used are 100% locally made and possess special features to catch prawns and fish easily. Among the types of fish that can be caught here are ikan merah (red snapper), ikan kerapu (grouper) and ikan tamban (sardine).
Besides fish, Sungai Latoh Konkong is well-known for its snails. Sungai Latoh Konkong got its name from the conch snail, which are abundant in the area. The snail is originally called gonggong, which then morphed into Kongkong later. Since the cruise was followed by a hearty lunch at Rumah Rakit, we managed to try the steamed conch snail while others savoured prawns, caramelised mussels and fresh fish cooked in black pepper gravy. We washed down the food with Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong’s signature refreshing beverage, which was coconut mixed with gula Melaka (red sugar).
After lunch, we grabbed the chance to observe the local fishermen separating their catches of the day. The small fish that were caught in their net were shredded into smaller pieces to become baits (called umpan tamban) for catching larger fish for the next day. The king crab (belangkas) are also caged at Rumah Rakit for hawking purposes. We then returned to the cooperative office. Along the way, we passed under the Sungai Johor Bridge that looks similar to the Penang Bridge, which connects Senai to Desaru, cutting the journey from two hours to 45 minutes.
After the boat cruise experience, we headed for some honey-tasting, also in Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong. For many of us, it was the first time that we tasted honey directly from bee hives using straws. The type of honey bee called kelulut or trigona produces honey that tastes sweet with a tinge of sourness. With the hives, the bees also produce bee bread (pollen) that can cure asthma, gout and a few non-serious health problems. Kelulut is expensive in the markets: the price can go up to RM100 for just one medium-sized bottle! In Islam, honey is one of the food preferred by The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Muslims are recommended to consume it.
The day ended with the Opening Ceremony of Jom Jelajah Koperasi Johor programme at Restoran Warisan Asam Pedas & Seafood operated by Koperasi Warisan Kampung Senibong Johor Bahru Sdn Bhd. Once again, we were fed with seafood dinner by the sea. The area where the restaurant is located, Kampung Senibong, is already established as one of the main seafood hubs frequented by not only Johoreans but also Singaporeans! We feted on crabs, mussels, grilled fish, fish cooked in sauce and gravy, caramelised chicken and refreshing beverages. While enjoying the food and taking the breeze from the Strait of Johor, we were serenaded by a live band that performed traditional numbers, which was the perfect ending to our first day.
Koperasi Pemandu-Pemandu Teksi Bandaraya Johor Bahru Bhd
As early as eight in the morning, we were greeted by five red taxis parked in front of the hotel to take us to our next stop: Koperasi Pemandu-Pemandu Teksi Bandaraya Johor Bahru Sdn Bhd. The ride was interesting: all of the taxis are well-equipped with user-friendly tablets displaying information about places and services. What makes taxis in Johor different from those in Klang Valley is that they use radio taxi service called Mawar Radio Taxi – customers just need to dial +6 07 235 2020 and they will be assisted by 304 operating taxis all over Johor. The fares are charged using the taximeter for destinations in Johor. Tourists who choose the taxi service to enter Singapore only need to pay RM25 per person.
We then proceeded to Koperasi Pekebun Kecil Wilayah Johor Selatan Bhd, located two hours away from Johor Bahru, to get up close and personal with cows, chickens and goats in the farm. We were served creamy fresh cow’s milk and juicy fresh cow’s meat cooked in curry sauce for lunch before touring the farms. We then visited the chicken farm and learned the process of rearing poultry. We also tasted kelulut honey for the second time at a location half a kilometre away from the farm. Compared to the first kelulut, which was sweet and sour, the kelulut at the farm tasted rather tangy.
We moved to Homestay Kampung Parit Bugis Muar Bhd later in the evening and were given the opportunity to stay with foster families to learn about local culture. Interestingly, many residents of Kampung Parit Bugis are of Javanese descent (top photo), thus the structure of their houses follows Javanese custom such as larger kitchen and plenty of rooms because they live as extended families and hold cultural ceremonies. Most of the houses in Kampung Parit Bugis take part in the homestay programme because the locals enjoy having tourists and guests. The packages are not that expensive and tourists will be well-fed with Javanese cuisine all day long!
Our entertainment for the night was spooky yet humorous at the same time. We were presented with tarian kuda kepang (dance depicting horsemen performed by beautiful girls) and tarian barongan (dance of a mythical hybrid creature performed by agile male dancers who adorned large peacock feathers on their heads). We were told that the barongan performed that night was a normal one that did not involve the invocations of spirits but remained spectacular nonetheless. We then returned to our respective foster families’ homes to chat and rest.
Koperasi Homestay Kampung Parit Bugis Muar Bhd
Breakfast was served right after subuh (dawn) prayers by our foster parents. Some of them took the participants for a tour around the area, climbed coconut trees and demonstrated the handmade crafts at home.
As the day commenced, we boarded a tram – which looked more like a string of traditional buggies – for a tour around the village. We then disembarked and taken to a field where traditional folk games were held. It was such joyous experience mingling with the villagers and getting to know them better.
Our stay at Kampung Parit Bugis – as well as the JJK Johor trip – ended with a closing ceremony and farewell from the foster parents, who endearingly reminded the participants to come back and visit them, before we departed back to Kuala Lumpur.
From eating conch snails at Kampung Sungai Latoh Kongkong to staying with foster families at Kampung Parit Bugis Muar, the participants of JJK Johor accumulated the valuable experience in bonding with the locals; learning about Johor’s grassroots communities; understanding the impact of real economy to the locals; and assisted the local cooperatives by making the public more aware of their products. All in all, the entire JJK Johor experience was not only enriching, but also fulfilling.