Fields of green and gold greet those who visit the village of Sekinchan. Located in the Sabak Bernam district of Selangor (about 90 minutes’ drive north of Kuala Lumpur), it’s one of the main rice producers in Malaysia. Hence, the vast padi fields.
But for the locals there, this should not come as a complete surprise. After all, the Mandarin pronunciation of Sekinchan – shi geng zhuang – means a “village suitable for farming”. And the place certainly lives up to its name – providing a beautiful landscape for that lazy Sunday drive beside fertile soils.
On a drive this writer took last month with some friends, the fields were certainly a deep green. This despite the long period of scorching temperatures with nary a drop of rain. I discovered that the padi farmers here take pains to irrigate the fields, as we passed by gushing pumps that were inundating the bunds with much-needed water.
Of course, if you come during the planting season, you can also catch the farmers hunched over the “padi ponds”, planting the young padi stalks. And during harvesting, the machines cutting up the padi would also be a sight for photography enthusiasts.
With gorgeous vistas of blue skies and lush vegetation, photography is certainly one of the must-do activities when in Sekinchan. If you’re lucky, you might even see couples in their wedding garments running across the field while a photographer snaps away.
Our group of four “Sekinchan virgins”, while heading to the PLS Padi Processing Factory, had to pass vast padi fields first. When we arrived, many tour buses were already there but we managed to find parking nearby. Like most tourist stops, they too have their in-house store where you can purchase rice bags, noodles, crackers, snacks and – would you believe it – ice-cream popsicles (they have unique flavours and proved popular with many because of the scorching hot weather). Their Pearl Rice is very popular. Opposite the factory is another shop selling the same items, with keropok or crackers (raw and fried), with prawn, fish and yam flavours – we all liked the prawn crackers.
In the factory is a museum (you need to purchase a ticket to enter) that basically shows how padi is planted, harvested and processed until you get every Asian’s favourite staple – rice!
You can pay for a buggy ride that goes around the padi fields.
We stopped over at a house about five minutes’ drive away that doubled as a shop – Mango King – selling mainly mangoes, and some fresh vegetables and the usual crackers and snacks found in every shop here.
All of us were itching to take pictures of the green vistas and we knew we could do that at the nearby Nan Tian Temple in the centre of the padi fields. Devoted to the Nine Emperor Gods, the Chinese temple celebrates the birthday of the deities every first to ninth of the ninth month of the Lunar Calendar. During this period, it is a hive of activity for devotees.
There was a tour bus there, and outside the temple were about 10 stalls selling the “usual suspects” but also fresh juices like asam boi (sour plum), calamansi and aloe vera. They proved quite popular with visitors.
Of course, the main attraction is the padi fields. There was a queue to clamber across the drainage path to take the best pictures.
That aside, a trip to Sekinchan would not be complete without sampling the seafood. After all, this is also a fishing village. Many who have been there will testify that the meals are fresher and cheaper compared to those in the city. The smell of tantalising cooking wafts from the row of restaurants opposite the fishing jetties.
Don’t be intimidated by the diverse options of eateries, though. Chances are you will be able to find decent dishes cooked in the Teochew style at one of the many restaurants.
We opted for a restaurant that had received rave reviews, Jian Chyi. It specialises in shark and spicy dishes, so they claim. Shark is not a fish that the Chinese normally prepare, it is more an Indian dish and specifically a fish the Ceylonese love to cook. So I was intrigued by how theirs would turn out. It was a bit disappointing (an opinion shared by our group), though we all agreed the best dish was a dry-fried shredded shark meat (very much a Ceylonese-style sura varrai).
It was also not surprising to find a few shops selling fish balls! Were they crowded? Without a doubt.
Our final destination was Bagan, five minutes away. It is the main fishing section in the village, and your best bet for the freshest catch of the day. You’ll find a cornucopia of seafood – ranging from red snappers to stingrays – at a bargain. Just remember to pack an ice box for your trip.
There’s also a little beach called Pantai Redang.The beach is OK, and has some rocky bits near the jetty. Most visitors come here to catch a glimpse of scenes featured in the Hong Kong TVB drama Outbound Love. A few days after our visit, famous Taiwanese game show host Jacky Wu Zong Xian filmed an episode of Mr Player there.
The beach is dotted with numerous stalls selling all kinds of food and they are very creative in terms of how they prepare their stalls.
At the beach is also another small temple. What makes it stand out is the tree outside. It’s filled with red cloth hanging from its branches. It apparently is a wish-granting tree – you throw the streamers into the air and if they fall on the branches, your wish will be granted.
Well, we didn’t attempt it, but if you do, it’s quite a nice way to end your visit to Sekinchan.
Now for the most important question: When’s the best time to visit? Sekinchan has double crops of padi, hence the high yield. So if you want to see fields of green, the best time to go is mid-March to May, and mid-September to mid-November. For the golden glow, head there in mid-May to June, and mid-November to December.
Additional reporting by Chester Chin.