As customers prowl into the fish market, the vendors call them out in creative ways while yelling competitive price for their seafood products. Once satisfied with the freshness of the seafood, the customers stop to fill the plate provided with the seafood to be weighed and paid for. The others would wade through the puddles in search for the best catch on sale for the day. Either way, the whole process involves a lot of shouting and bargaining. Such is a typical scene from fish markets in West Malaysia.
Interestingly, up north two fish markets by the Muda river have different stories. Recently, I managed to visit Kompleks Pasar Bisik Kuala Muda with my mother and sister. My mother surprised me with her relax approach as we left home in Kulim slightly after 10.45am. My mother is usually the one who insists on shopping groceries as early as the sun rises. Isn’t it too late to go for a fish market, I asked her.
We used the Waze navigation for Kompleks Pasar Bisik Kuala Muda. As we neared Kuala Muda, there are sufficient signboards leading to “Pasar Bisik”. Pasar Bisik can be literally translated into the whispering market. It gets its name from the mode the customers used to bid for the fishes put on auction. By whispering their bargains!
There are two Pasar Bisik which are located across the river from one another. To the locals, they are differentiated by Pasar Bisik Kedah or Pasar Bisik Penang as both situate in different states. For the sake of our little exploration, we went to both Pasar Bisik.
If you follow the Waze navigation to Kompleks Pasar Bisik Kuala Muda, you will reach Pasar Bisik Kedah. After paying the RM2 parking fee, we walked to a four pillared open-air small building with a roof. We arrived at 12 pm, the right timing as the fishermen had just docked with baskets of their catch. There were already a dozen or so people swarming the area, hanging around in wait for the fishmongers to bring in square plastics filled with varieties of seafood.
On the floor, the auctioneer put plastic of large size prawns. During the Chinese New Year festive season, the price of prawns fluctuates to triple the normal price. In just a few seconds, the aggressive bidder came forward and whispered his price to the auctioneer’s ear. Few more bidders approached the auctioneer for higher price. The bidding became more intense as the aggressive bidder offered the highest price for him to feast on the prawns.
We also bought some prawns for RM55 and crabs for RM40. The fresh seafood tasted sweet as we feasted on crab soup the day after. Since we could not choose the quality of seafood put on auction, we resorted to buying from the small set-up at one of the corners at Kompleks Pasar Bisik Kuala Muda.
The road leading to Kompleks Pasar Bisik Kuala Muda on Kedah side passed through a fishing village. It is common to see fishes being dried within the compound of the local house. We saw a couple stopped by and bought some dried fishes home. So we stopped at the local house and let my mother picked her favourite ikan kering.
All for RM5.
The tsunami monument in Kota Kuala Muda was built to commemorate the tsunami that hit Kuala Muda on 26th December 2004. During the tragic tsunami, Kuala Muda was the worst hit coastal area in Malaysia. The monument was made of 26 boats that damaged during the tragedy and the figure 26 is to match the unfortunate date in which the tsunami occurred.
There is also a museum near the entrance to the Pasar Bisik you can visit. Also nearby is the famous, Pantai Merdeka – made popular by Jinbara’s Cinta Pantai Merdeka. Perhaps, that is where the love is!
I find going to Pasar Bisik Penang quite tricky as there was no Waze navigation available at the time of writing. Our source of information was merely a confusion over the signboard to turn to the left when Waze directed us to the right. We just back-tracked from Pasar Bisik Kedah to find the lead from the junction.
Pasar Bisik Penang is modern with proper parking area and row of shop houses. However, the auction area was of the same size to that of Kompleks Pasar Bisik Kuala Muda. More fishing boats docked by the shore. The auction area was a tad bit more busy then the Kedah one. The auction went so fast with more people whispering their bargain. I was amused to see how offer and acceptance were made here.
My mother successfully bid for a variety of prawns, crabs and fishes for RM40. If you are wondering, she did not whisper as the main whisperers and the auctioneer were all male. The variety of seafood turned out to be our shellout dinner later that night.
My mother also bought RM10 worth of ikan kembong directly from the fishing boat. We brought back approximately 40 small size ikan kembong home. The fresh ikan kembong when fried were tasty!
In order to bid successfully, you need to know roughly the market price for each type of the seafood and estimate the quantity for the said market price. Be bold and whisper your bargain!
Bring your own plastic bag or ice box to store the fishes because you will be charged RM0.30 for one plastic bag and RM0.50 for the ice.
Have you ever visited any interesting fish market during your travel?
And lastly, the dinner for the night. 🙂