Kuala Terengganu - Imagine going scuba diving and seeing, besides a variety of marine life, things like a keris, traditional Malay headgear and the famous Batu Bersurat.
This is now possible with the construction of an underwater gallery, off Pulau Bidong, that displays giant replicas of objects with historical and traditional significance.
Anchored in waters some 15 metres deep, divers will swim through an arch welcoming them to the gallery.
Giant replicas of a traditional fishing boat called the Perahu Payang, the famous Batu Bersurat, a tepak sirih, a tengkolok (a traditional Malay headgear) and a kris, among others, await divers.
"Pulau Bidong was chosen as the site for the underwater gallery because it has a history of its own.
It was once home to more than 150,000 Vitenamese boat people (in the 1970s)," said Datuk Mohamad Awang Tera, the state industrial development and tourism committee chairman.
He said the clear water off the island and its popularity as a dive-site also makes Pulau Bidong the ideal location for the gallery.
"We are providing an alternative diving spot for all divers. The depth is safe even for new divers."
While welcoming divers to explore the underwater gallery and the rich coral reefs, Mohamad said the dive site would be open for day-trippers only.
"They can stay on the mainland or on the resort islands such as Pulau Redang. The dive site is just 45 minutes away from the mainland and 30 minutes from Pulau Redang," he said.
Asked if there would be other new attractions at Pulau Bidong, Mohamad said the government would be restoring "little Saigon", the small town which was once the centre of activity for the Vietnamese boat people.
"We will not disturb the environment. No chalets or resorts will be allowed on the island. As you can see, the forest on the island is growing back.
"However, we will restore the buildings and monuments left by the Vietnamese boat people."
Source: http://www.nst.com.my (20 Juni 2007)