We don't usually go on group tours, you know the type, "round them up, load them up" where you feel conversing with words like "Mooo." But we were not keeping busy with anything else so we said why not join the day tour arranged by the Rally organizers! We weren't even sure what the tour included.
So we were loaded on the bus as we kept a close watch for the cattle prods and off we went. The driver managed to get lost twice before finding the first stop which was for some quick "brekkie". In a small seaside town where the residents were a strange ethnic mix of Chinese, East Indian, and Malaysian and most evidently of the Muslim persuasion, we had a chance to sample the locals' typical breakfast.
We watched a woman swirl around her dough to make home-made roti at her sidewalk stand and decided to join the breakfast lineup. Simple and tasty!
The next stop was at a 40-hectare fruit farm (100 acres) promoting eco-agriculture. A guide walked us all through the farm pointing out the different fruits and herbs, some we had never heard of before. We later were treated to a colourful and large buffet of all the fruits from the farm along with cold lime juice and hot tea made with the herb called Cat Whiskers.
Cat Whiskers herb
A list of some of the fruits, vegetables, and spices grown: Basil, breadfruit, cocoa (to make chocolate), curry leaf, daun belalai (claims to be an anti cancer agent), dragon fruit, gourd, Hawaii papaya (NOT from Hawaii - just the name of this type of papaya), jackfruit, jambu, lemongrass, mango, mangosteen, mulberry (the leaves of which are favoured by the silk worm), noni and durian (both of which are stinky), pamelo (similar to grapefruit), pandan (to get rid of cockroaches), passion fruit (I wonder what it claims to do?), pink guava...
At a point in the walking tour, we stopped for an exotic drink made fresh from their fruits. As a first for us, we tried the one made from the Rosella fruit and really enjoyed it.
We saw hives of small black stingless bees. Normally I am quite frightened of bees but these tiny fly-like bees were great in their busy bee business.
There are many, many types of bananas throughout the world and here they had several. One very unusual type had a stalk of very teeny tiny bananas growing solid on a stem over 2 metres high...
1,000 Fingers Banana
Another oddity was the poisonous banana. How can one tell? The flower is purple and is unique in that it grows pointing UP. So be forewarned for your next marauding foray.
Purple means poison
There was also a mini zoo at the fruit farm that had ostrich, monkeys, tortoise, python, pygmy chicken, rooster, many goats, and the cutest rabbits! I couldn't resist holding and feeding carrots to this little one...
Next we attended a short lecture on a variety of honeys and their associated properties and qualities, with lots to purchase for those in need of sweetening.
Another stop was at a palm oil factory where we were hit with an earthy, fetid odour from the culled compost pile. Unripe fruit clusters cannot be processed and are made into compost so there is no waste product. This factory at Felda Semenchu produces about 100 tonnes of oil per day.
Palm oil production
Next up was lunch where we watched a few traditional dancers, drummers, and a mock wedding while we feasted on a delicious vegetarian meal except for 1 chicken dish. Weddings in Malaysia are very costly for the families, easily running in the 5-figure sums. When guests leave, they are given a hard-boiled egg signifying new life (then the egg would be part of their next morning's breakfast).
Another stop was at Kota Johor Lama historical site on the banks of one of Malaysia's largest rivers. In the mini-museum, we learned that this was the site of the Old Johor fort built in 1540 by a Sultan who was driven out of the north by the Portuguese. But it came to ruin in 1587 when the Portuguese sacked and burned it. The museum contains recent archaeological finds including weaponry and artifacts of daily life.
Final stop: again on the river banks, a privately owned crocodile farm (Taman Buaya) with over 1,000 crocs. Evidently, there roam the escaped crocs that now skulk the rivers and estuaries of southern Malaysia.
"Hmmm, why are so many sailboat dirty bottoms around here not cleaned?" News too little too late for Jordan. He had been diving to clean Sea Turtle's prop!
Crocodiles are cold blooded reptiles and can live to be 200 years old and one here is 155. There were some impressive specimens laying about in a petrified stance. Our guide would yell loud in Malaysian and bang on the wall to get the attention of the reptiles before a feeding.
At the den of the larger ones, he would toss frozen chickens onto the dry concrete area where the big crocs would depart from their still pose to advance slowly, mouths agape before snapping up the morsels. What type of chickens did they use? Stupid ones. The smart ones we saw were running around just outside the dens.
You snooze, you lose
In the den of the juveniles, they were all gathered in the shallows like a listless bunch at the mall. They wouldn't listen to their moms who would say "Get a job or you are going to end up as a purse!" But all hell broke loose as the guide heaved in a shovel load of chicken pieces!
As well as older and larger crocodiles, there were also tiny ones and deformed ones. These had a variety of abnormalities like missing or deformed tails or limbs, kept separate no doubt to protect their self image. The baby crocs were kept separate in a "kindergarten" away from their cannibal elders.
These crocodiles were farmed for food and products like belts and purses. How do they taste? We were told "like the other white meat" but Jordan and I won't be sampling!
In the shadows