I HAD purposely planned to arrive a few hours ahead of the much anticipated talk by Dr John Robertson at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel to have a little excursion around Penang.
For this trip, I decided to use Queensbay Mall as a focal point on my GPS device to get to my destination.
Arriving ahead of the mall’s opening time, I was glad that there were only a handful of vehicles at the open-air car park. This place was ideal as I only had to walk a few metres towards the coast and admire the nearby Pulau Jerejak from a distance, separated only by a narrow strip of water.
Then I realised that I was not alone. I was pleasantly surprised to see anglers, both on my right and left, sitting patiently by the beach waiting for a bite. Some of them looked up and stole curious glances at me.
“Where is your fishing rod?” their questioning eyes seemed to ask. Realising that I was not a fellow angler, the feeling of brotherhood vapourised almost immediately, banishing me from their close-knit group.
Pulau Jerejak, sets amidst the shimmering emerald sea, at first glance looks just like any other tropical forest-clad islands that dot our nation’s coast.
It’s idyllic, peaceful and looks every bit like a place where I’d want to be if I were ever shipwrecked on a deserted island. But then looks can be deceiving. I could hardly believe that this serene island right in front of me used to be the country’s very own Alcatraz.
From the early days right up to the 1990s, this was THE place where criminals as well as patients with tuberculosis and leprosy were sent to live out the rest of their lives, far from the eyes of society.
Legend had it that Francis Light actually landed on Pulau Jerejak first before he set foot on Penang Island! History would have been changed permanently if Light had decided back then to make Pulau Jerejak his administrative centre instead of George Town.
Thinking about the latter, I quickly glanced at the watch and realised that it’s time for me to make my move back to the Grand Dame of the East.
As I drove away, I made a mental note to return at the next available opportunity, take a boat across the narrow channel and explore Pulau Jerejak.