I’ve read The Wind in the Willows too many times and the net result is I love messing around in and on boats and water anywhere. Thus I wound up wandering around a small fishing village, Teluk Bahang, on the north west corner of Penang Island off the west coast of the Malay peninsula. 

I’d spent a couple of hours schlepping around jetties and colourful wooden boats, inhaling fishy smells, making friends with scabby dogs and slick cats while exchanging laughs with sinewy boat crews as I tripped over heaps of nets, ropes and unfathomable tackle.

Narrow tidal creeks were bordered with these shaky boards propped above the high water-mark by stanchions cut from saplings. Beside the jetties buckled shacks were propped above the waterline. They housed the families of Teluk Bahang’s tight knit community which, like villages worldwide, revolves around a pattern of a hard working, content lifestyle. 

I came across a car sheltered by a rusting corrugated iron roof which doubled as a hanging space for a family’s weekly wash. I asked a person who was sorting through large laundry baskets and draping wet clothes over anything within reach, if Monday was washday. She laughed and confirmed that was the case.

It also brought to mind that Toad of Toad Hall, in Kenneth Grahame’s tale of riverside life, was once dressed as a washerwoman in order to escape prison. My new friend didn’t look like a prison escapee nor in the least bit like Toad.

I was only an hour’s bus ride from George Town’s historical central area which has its own buzz. The island’s public transport is easy to navigate and the 201 bus gently chugged along, serving about 80 stops along the coastal road which also offered views of expensive resorts.   

Teluk Bahang is perched at the entrance to a national park, in fact the two bob bus trip finishes at the entrance to the park. I chose to wander the other way, towards a large fishing jetty before I sauntered to the smaller creeks. It seemed Monday was also the fishers’ day off, a few were snoozing in worn hammocks, others sitting on shaded cabin steps idly chatting into mobile phones. Definitely a day off.

Story and Pictures © Roger Garwood 2023

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