Sunday, March 09, 2014
Pulau Bidong archipelago consists of Pulau Yu Besar, Pulau Yu Kechil, Pulau Gelok, Pulau Karah, Batu Tengkorak and Pulau Bidong. Pulau Bidong is located about 5 miles south of Pulau Redang, a 30 minutes speedboat ride from Merang jetty. Pulau Bidong was internationally well known as the relocation center for Vietnamese refugees from the middle 70’s until it was closed in the early 90’s. The state government decided not to develop any accommodation facilities instead encourages day trippers to visit the island for recreational purposes such as snorkeling, diving and swimming. Now, all that remains are ruins of the once bustling camp - A collapsed wooden jetty, refugee shacks overwhelmed with secondary jungle, old Vietnamese signboards. The zinc sheeted wooden frame church is, quite remarkably, is still standing with its rows of empty pews. There is a memorial of sorts outside the church. Here, on a mass of cement shaped as a ship's bow, dozens of stone tablets commemorate all those who didn't survive the perilous journey. Next to the church is a Vietnamese temple with the remnants of a Kwan Yin deity outside. These are the stark reminder of what is used to be home to thousands of boat people. There is a new jetty built by the government, a turtle research centre lead by a local university and an underwater gallery that hosts replicas of Inscribed Stone (Batu Bersurat), a Keris, a traditional sampan and betel chewing canisters (tepak sireh) located 15m underwater.
Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and Firefly plies daily or regular flights to Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur. Taxis and car rentals are available at Kuala Terengganu Airport. Head for coastal road north to Merang Jetty which is only 20 minutes driving. There is ample fee parking at the jetty. Speedboat services are available at the jetty. Boat fare is RM100.00 per person return.
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