This traditional and cute boat is a treasure for the people of Kuala Terengganu. In the Terengganu dialect, the locals pronounced it as “bot nambang”. Penambang Boat has existed since the 1970s in Kuala Terengganu. The boat is located at the Seberang Takir Jetty and Pasar Kedai Payang Jetty. The route the boat goes through is between the two places. The boat is a symbol of tradition in the community as it used to be the main transport here in Seberang Takir before the era of modernization. Not only it is a faster option, but the fare is also very cheap which is just RM2.00 for a two-way trip. The boat also caters to the needs of people. They use the boat for various purposes such as trading, buying fresh food, sightseeing, and even going to school. It brings people of all ages and classes together.
Penambang boat in the era of modernization
These communities who are once able to survive are no longer able to cope with the fast phase of urban city lives. Penambang boat become less popular when Sultan Mahmud Bridge was opened in the year 1990, as the distance between Kuala Terengganu and Seberang Takir become even nearer and faster to reach by car but the new and modern Terengganu Drawbridge that was opened in August 2019 has remarked the ending of the Penambang Boat era, because people would come by car and going through the bridge, in addition, can enjoy the scenery of Kuala Terengganu from the bridge.
The Covid-19 virus that hit not only Malaysia but also the rest of the world, has reduced the number of passengers that came to ride the Penambang Boat. Before the virus came, the lack of passengers can be covered by the number of tourists that came to visit Terengganu. However, the pandemic has seriously affected the boatmen as the restriction to travel that resulted in little to no tourist.
Financial crisis for the boatmen
Other than the lack of tourists, the boatmen also face competition with the other boat businesses. Although the boatmen have suffered financially and mentally, but for some of them, they did not want to shut the business down. The main reason is because the boat has been passed down to them generation by generation. Closing the business would mean losing a part of themselves. Despite the lack of passengers and income, they still feel proud for being able to carry the tradition and planning to give the boat to their son as the next generation one day.
Penambang Boat maybe just another mode of transport for some people but not for these boatmen. Penambang Boat is their life, and they love their job. There used to be thousands of Penambang Boat at the jetty during its era but now only around 20 boats are available. Because of the lack of income, the boatmen would share the income with each other because even though they are not families but because they carry out the same job that they are proud of, they treat each other as families. They also are dependent on the subsidies given by the government towards the working class. For them, even getting a total of five passengers each person is a huge success. They would wait at the Pasar Kedai Payang, a tourist attraction that sells fresh food, batik clothes, traditional kueh, and more. Upon seeing people, they will try to attract them to ride the Penambang Boat as their lives depend on it.
Some locals still prefer penambang boat
Nowadays, most people go to their destination by car and the connecting bridge that was built is an easier and faster option for people. However, some locals still ride the Penambang Boat to go to Pasar Kedai Payang for daily necessities. They prefer the boat because they wanted to avoid the traffic and because they remember when they used to ride the boat with their parents when they were children. However, it is not enough to cover the salary for the boatmen that also have their own family to feed. Unlike before, they no longer can rely on their business. The Penambang Boat is still around but will it still be around in the next five years?
Its existence has given an impact on people and contribute to the history of Kuala Terengganu. Apart from connecting the lands and the seas, it also strengthens family relationships and bonds between people. Upon mentioning Penambang Boat, people would reminiscence the time when they go on a ride on Penambang Boat for fun and going to school with their friends or remember the time they spend with their family, experiencing Kuala Terengganu on the boat. The boat also is a symbol of warmth and peace. It is away from the business of the city and closer to nature. Whether or not the Penambang Boat will still be here in the distant future, it cannot be denied that the boat is a part of Kuala Terengganu’s identity, and it will never be forgotten.