This time around, (our 3rd visit to Ayer Baloi after so long), I was determined to visit Kukup and savour Ah Lai's sweet and sour crab dipped with bread/bun. We planned to have our dinner the first day we arrived but we were too knackered to move a limb! This was all because we had to do our grocery shopping in Pontian Kechil (15 minutes' drive from Ayer Baloi) plus getting new pillows and blankets for the house as well as bicycles for the younger two, when we arrived, sans kids. The last time I went shopping in Pontian Kechil was possibly 30 years ago! Pontian Kechil used to be a cowboy town with shops lined on either side of the road. Not anymore when we went; there are shops running along at least three roads parallell to the main road (on either side)! There is also Pontian Besar which is just before Pontian Kechil. It's an irony of names....Pontian Besar being small in size and vice versa.
While exploring Pontian Kechil with wifey, we bumped into a baking supplies store which is quite a biggie for a small town like Pontian Kechil. I actually asked whetehr there were baking activities in Pointian Kechil and the owner said "you'd be surprised!"; I WAS indeed! Wifey, needless to say, went beserk! That's her craze now! She's been using the oven in the last two months more than she had used it for during the tenure of our married life! My persuasion (for her to bake) for the past umpteen years, finally showed excellent results!
Anyway, wifey bought some baking wares and ingredients (as if we could not get them in KL)! I must admit they were a lot cheaper! If you happen to be in Pontian Kechil, it's located along Jalan Taib! We had to go back the following day (after our Kukup visit) to buy some cake boxes and ramekins!
Whilst looking for pillows and blankets, we chanced upon an old wooden building with about 4 lots of shops selling stuff from China. That's where we bought kapok pillows (which cost RM6/each), white cotton pillowcases (RM9 for a twin pack), pyjamas bottoms (RM13/a pair), pagoda t-shirts etc etc! The Chinese shop owners thought we were Singaporeans! They charged us less when we said we came from Ayer Baloi!
We were introduced, after a phone call to my parents, to Waslee (a supermarket) where we bought lamb (for the barbie), fruits and such! There I was shocked to see that they sold passion fruits- one of my favourites! A tray of three passion fruits only cost, on average, RM3! I have been buying them for RM1.95/fruit from Just Life at Ikano Power Centre! A passion fruit would cost about RM4 from Hock Choon opposite my office! Unfortunate for me, there were only 3 trays left! I took them all!
Back to Ah Lai's crabs - we drove all the way to Kukup (about 15 minutes from Pontian) for lunch on the second day. The last time I ate Ah Lai's crabs was when I was 7 or 8. My parents would bring us for our monthly (? can't verify this) fixes of seafood to Kukup as then (when we lived in Benut, a pekan about 12km north of Ayer Baloi, until 1976), there was only Ah Lai's! I remember one visit in particular when my mom asked my brother what he wanted for his drink and answered without a blink of an eye - "Anchor Beer!". Everyone just broke into a frenzy of laughter, including my parents' friends who were with us. That was the exposure of Singapore TV to us - all those beer commercials! Ah..those were the days.....! Ah Lai's shop has a different name now...for the life of me it somehow has slipped my mind (a telltale of old age). Drive through the road to the jetty/immigration, it's the last restaurant on the right.
I was quite surprised that there are a lot of things to do in Kukup. For one, there is Tanjung Piai (the most southern tip of South East Asia) boasting a National Park (which we did not have time to visit), there are also boat cruises to the kelong, mangrove forest etc. And if you are adventurous enough, bring your passport and travel to nearby Pulau Karimon, which I have not visited but Khadijah and Yusof have (where we still have relatives there), where you can tailor make curtains for a few hours at ridiculously pasar malam prices. For golfers, there is a golf resort nearby! Wifey has also written about our food folly in Kukup here.
I can't seem to be bored writing about our Ayer Baloi trip. May be, one last posting after this!