Published: September 2nd 2009August 19th 2009
18 August, 2009 - 20 August, 2009
Kuala Besut to Kuala Terengganu by bus (RM10.60)--2 1/2 hours
After spending an extra night on the Perhentian Islands we finally felt ready enough to leave our little piece of paradise (actually, the cash ran dry so we had no choice!). We awoke bright and early and caught the 8am speedboat for the hellish journey back to Kuala Besut. Hellish? But why? After boarding a relatively overloaded boat we had to transfer to an even more overloaded one in the middle of the sea (requiring extreme balancing skills with the backpacks on!). This boat, at a guess, had a maximum capacity of about 16. There were 25 people on board and a ton of baggage...and the sea was relatively rough! Thoughts of being stranded, floating on the open seas, surrounded by sharks, came to mind but thankfully, 30 minutes later we were on dry land again! After grabbing some well deserved breakfast we caught a bus bound for Kuala Terengganu, with taxi drivers at the bus station telling us that there are no buses, we would have to go a kilometer or so to catch one...yeah right, so what
Our bus to Kuala Terengganu
is this bus with "Kuala Teregganu" written on it doing coming towards us??? Damn taxi drivers, at least we had the last laugh there!
After boarding the bus with a flamboyant conductor and fragile looking driver we settled down to a journey we had no idea how long it would take. Midway a police checkpoint loomed and both conductor and driver started to panic, with Mr Conductor pretending to be a passenger. Police didn't end up stopping the bus and as we began to think that the bus had been stolen by a couple of fugitives the conductor explained that the police would have fined him for wearing flip-flops instead of shoes (is this a requirement by conductor law??). We reckoned he didn't have a conductor's license (is this another law??)
After 2 1/2 hours we arrived at Kuala Terengganu and set in search of an ATM--not easy to find in Malaysia sometimes! We walked around in stifling heat looking for both a place to stay and a blasted ATM!! We found neither, until we had to settle for a hotel slightly above budget and Dan set off in search of this elusive ATM! One was found at the
very place we started, at the bus terminal, hidden down a dark alley!
That evening we set upon Chinatown. It's got to be one of the prettiest Chinatown's we've ever come across, with old colonial-style buildings with brightly painted color schemes. It had a very European feel to it. A bite (understatement) at the hawker center (fried rice, satay and 'otak otak'--fish paste steamed in banana leaf) set us up for a good nights sleep....or so we thought, as on returning to our hotel we were confronted by two unexpected guests in the form of cockroaches frolicking on our bed!! After trashing the room trying to grab them they were finally flushed down the pan! Cockroaches are one of 3 critters that rule Asia, the other two being ants and mosquitoes, and none of them are pleasant things to have to share your bed with, but such is life! We just go to bed hoping none of these are swallowed!
Without ingesting any critters (we hope!)--even though Dan woke up once thinking a rat was tickling his back--we woke up late and took a walk to Bukit Puteri (Princess Hill) which is a small old fort used during
the civil war in the 1800's. With a lighthouse, a few cannons and a decent view of the city it made for an interesting, if small, attraction. With pretty much all attractions covered, including the amazing looking mosque, we took the opportunity to relax the day away and plan for our trip further down the coast--mainly to cater for the fact we NEED to find somewhere to catch the European F1 GP along the way!
20 August 2009 - 23 August 2009
Kuala Terengganu to Cherating by bus (RM17.70)--3 hours.
We woke up bright and early--in fact we woke up when the mosque next door seemed to increase the volume on its tanoy system--to catch a bus to Cherating. We had yet more problems finding breakfast and had to settle for Nasi Lemak (rice, boiled egg, anchovies, nuts and fish in chilli sauce). Fish for breakfast isn't the most satisfying but we had to make do. We boarded our bus and as soon as we set off, nature kicked in and we were in desperate need of a toilet break (Malaysian buses don't have one!). After 3 hours we finally stopped for a lunch and rest
Entrance to Chinatown
break (only down the road from our Cherating stop!). The bus dropped us off later down the road and we began our 1km walk to the village of Cherating. We checked into Payung Guesthouse--recommended by alot of travel material and we weren't disappointed. We had a walk across the road to Cherating's visually stunning beach--a huge swathe of white sand, made even wider at low tide when sand banks pop up and reach out as far as the eye can see. It feels even more isolated due to the fact that the village is empty! We spent the rest of the day and evening at Payung Cafe next door drinking ice-coffees, tasty pizzas, great music and chatting to the flamboyant and mega-friendly owners and staff. The setting is great, situated right next to the river.
What did we do the next day? Well we sat in Payung Cafe again all day, and why not! There's not actually that much to do in Cherating, and as Ramadan approached, most places to eat were shut up and we couldn't resist the hospitality at Payung Cafe! We rented a kayak and explored the river and mangroves for a couple of hours before
European-looking street in Chinatown
just lounging around, playing cards and having one hell of a relaxation session! Sadly no pictures of the kayaking as we didn't want to lose another camera to the water.
So our time in Cherating is up. We have to thank Poe, Noor and Lio for their generosity and hospitality and these are some people we will not be forgetting in a hurry! They made Cherating the most relaxing place on earth!!
23 August 2009 - 24 August 2009
We decided to head to the nearest big town, Kuantan, about an hour away to catch the Grand Prix at a sports bar that was mentioned in Lonely Planet. We were going to take the bus and were actually waiting for one when a passing car offered us a lift there. Lio was coming with us as she wanted to catch a movie with us later in the day and so we jumped into the car and headed to Kuantan. Everything in SE Asia is a business opportunity and both sides were happy--We got a quicker, more comfortable ride and the driver made a bit of cash. We checked into a small hotel with a triple room
(Lio decided to stay with us) and headed out to check if this sports bar actually existed. Guess what? It didn't! Resigned to the fact that we weren't going to watch the Grand Prix we headed off to the cinema via a KFC. As Ramadan was underway we took it back to our hotel room (mainly so Lio could eat!). We spent the next couple of hours after in a cinema that felt like a freezer and watched District 9 (an interesting South African movie) and decided afterward to see if we can just about catch the Grand Prix somewhere...anywhere! We did find one in a nightclub in some mall and the friendly guy said we could watch it there even though the club wasn't open yet. We bought a couple of beers as way of politeness which cost us RM37. That was until the manager decided to kick us out when he wanted to watch West Ham v Tottenham....I mean comon, who watches them anyway!! So much for Kuantan!!
24 August 2009 - 25 August 2009
Kuantan to Mersing by bus (RM16.60)--3 hours
We said goodbye to Lio in the morning and headed to the
View from our hotel
bus station just out of town to catch the bus to Mersing. We got there without booking in advance and realised the next bus was at 3pm. We were at midday so we waited around for the 3 hours. We hadn't had breakfast as per usual and quickly remembered that since it was Ramadan we were going to go without any lunch also. Nowhere was open except for small shops so we ended up snacking on anything we could find...biscuits, crisps etc. Amy managed to buy a pot of instant Maggi noodles and scoff it down in some isolated corner and Dan decided he was half-fasting on water and cheese biscuits. We reached Mersing 3 hours after 3pm (which would make it 6pm). Not a great time to be on a bus as the bus driver was in a hurry to get to his final destination by the time the breaking of the fast came at 7:15! This meant some crazy overtaking manoeuvers. Only problem was that everyone else on the road had the same sort of idea and at one point we were overtaking a petrol tanker who was overtaking a fully-laden logging truck! We're not sure if it
KT's Central Mosque
counts as skillfull driving but we made it to Mersing alive and on time.
We booked our boat tickets to Tioman for the following morning as well as our bus tickets to Singapore on the 30th. We then hotfooted it to a restaurant by the pier called Port Cafe to break our fast! What we needed was a good steak and we got!! With our bellies full we hit the sack early and looked forward to our early morning trip to Tioman Island.
There are more photos below