It may seem like business as usual for the famous traditional Chinese biscuit and cake factory in Kampung Baru Bukit Pelanduk, Negri Sembilan.
But Swee Tin Biscuit, which turns 57 this year, has come a long way.
From being the villagers’ favourite biscuit shop, it is now serving tourists as well, while still operating from home.
“We have tourists, especially from Port Dickson, who come to buy our biscuits and cakes,” said 68-year-old E Cho Loi.
E and her husband Lim Yong Hua, 70, have been running the family business for 50 years.
Village chief Lim Chew Moi, 50, said the villagers have talents and skills that could be packaged into interesting tourism products.
For instance, there are housewives of Hock Chew descent here who are experts in traditional dishes with red wine.
Red wine cuisine has become increasingly popular among tourists in predominantly Hock Chew areas such as Sitiawan in Perak and Yong Peng in Johor.
Thanks to social media, many of these best-kept secrets have been discovered or are waiting to be discovered by outsiders, including foreigners.
Kampung Baru Bukit Pelanduk, which is a 30-minute drive from the KL International Airport and KLIA2, is strategically located to benefit from tourism.
Steven Yap Kai Choon, 34, who is proud to be his family’s fourth generation from the village, is confident that tourism can bring big changes.
Yap, also the new village development officer for Port Dickson, said he was looking into having nearby villages team up for tourism development.
“Tourists can take a ferry from the village to Port Dickson and vice versa for food and sightseeing.
“The beautiful natural surroundings and way of life in the village are also selling points for tourism,” he pointed out.
There is a ferry service between Kampung Baru Bukit Pelanduk and Sungai Pelek in Selangor along Sungai Sepang.
Chew Moi said Bukit Pelanduk folk travel to Sungai Pelek regularly because there are more shops, including pharmacies, in Sungai Pelek.
Kampung Baru Bukit Pelanduk history dates back to the 1920s.
There were deer in the area in the old days, hence the name Bukit Pelanduk or Deer Hill in English.
Chew Moi, whose parents were pig farmers, said in the 1960s and 1970s, pig farming was carried out on a large scale after villagers found a way to process pig feed in huge quantities.
But tragedy struck in 1999 after an unknown virus killed more than 100 pig farmers within weeks.
The virus was contained but many of its victims were left with permanent brain damage.
The billion ringgit pig farming industry was also wiped out.
Recalling those dark days, Chew Moi said it happened during Chinese New Year when there was an air of festivity in Kampung Baru Bukit Pelanduk.
At Swee Tin Biscuit, the factory was also busy making wedding biscuits for Yong Hua’s son’s wedding at the end of the first month of the lunar calendar.
“We had already sent out wedding invitations and booked 108 tables for the dinner.
“The entire family was so happy and excited, especially my mother-in-law.
“But the dinner was cancelled because of a death in the family,” recalled E of the passing away of Yong Hua’s pig farmer brother about 10 days before the dinner.
“The family was devastated and we did not know how to break the news to my mother-in-law,” she said.
Chew Moi’s world collapsed as her pig farmer husband died from the viral attack.
“I had to keep reminding myself that I had to live for our two sons who were only 10 and seven years old then,” she recalled.
Her husband’s brother also died from the killer virus, she added.
The virus was identified in the same year in nearby Kampung Baru Sungai Nipah, also a pig farming village, thus its name – Nipah Virus.
Seventeen years later, the pig farms in the village as well as nearby Kampung Baru Sungai Nipah, have been replaced by oil palm plantations.
But what remains are the villagers’ strength and determination to carry on with their lives.
Published at Sat, 29 Jul 2017 01:00:00 +0000