Eastwards to Kuantan

A family road trip with just Theo, myself and our 1.5 month old baby Benjamin. A little crazy to bring the babe along but the mother needed a break and the baby couldn’t do without the breast.

Prior to our trip east, we had spent a night in Melaka and two in KL with our relatives. Melaka has changed little since my trip last year although more real estate developments are evident.

In KL, the topic of discussion was the cost of living in KL which has skyrocketed and how an average earner could not hope to make a living here.

Today we start our adventure into unfamiliar territory, driving 250km on the east coast highway to Kuantan. Along the way out of KL, we passed the exit for the zoo and the orang asli museum. Left KL city around 11am through the MRR and then onto the highway proper.

Impressive karst formation greeted us and our poor Aveo had to labor through the initial 20km uphill to Genting Highlands. Then it was quite an exhilarating ride downhill at quite breakneck speed which Theo had to brake all the way. I don’t think I will be able to cycle through this kind of roads.

After passing the central mountain range, we descended into more mundane terrain not unlike the North south highway. After a few kilometres the landscape opened out to a flat expanse of palm plantations. Hectares after hectares of palm lay out before us. From young palms to baby shoots to adults palms and even to burnt up land, we witnessed the entire agricultural cycle. I really think schools should consider arranging plantation visits for geography students. Nothing beats learning hands on.

Near the Temerloh exit, which is the halfway mark between KL and Kuantan, we crossed the Sg Pahang, which probably spanned about 300m. We also saw the exit for Tasik Chini is at Sri Jaya Belimbing (827), about 60km from Kuantan. Reaching Kuantan the weather seemed to cool down as we ascended the gentle sloping hills. Thought we were supposed to be heading to the coast? We arrived at the Kuantan toll at 1.25pm after an uneventful but pleasant drive.

We reached the hotel without much problem at 2.20pm. The external facade looked welcoming but upon entering the lobby what struck me was how deserted the place is. In fact through our stay in the hotel we barely saw more than 10 guests at a time. How does this place survive or maybe it is because it is still the off peak season.

The room was surprisingly big with a king sized bed and beautiful pool views. The hotel kindly provided us with a cot as well. Unfortunately as my nose is sensitive, it detected the dust in the room and I couldn’t stop sneezing till the aircon kicked in it. The water heater was also inconsistent in provision of hot water but once you got the hang of the rhythm, it was ok.

After putting down our things, we went to the cafe for lunch. Food was delicious but prices quite inflated. As the pool looked really inviting and the weather was good for a tan, we wasted no time to check it out. Alas while the pool looked good we were quite shocked to see broken tiles, dead leaves and insects in the water which by the way tasty salty.

I went in to take a dip anyway while Theo had a sun tan. For the less fussy, the touted largest lagoon pool of east coast Malaysia is a good place to swim and relax. But after awhile it just gets too eeky. The pump is not turned on and it seems as if no one has cleaned the pool for weeks.

As a saving grace the hotel has a functioning medium sized pool with depths ranging from 3 – 9 feet. The beach was also disappointing. We expected to see sea sports activities instead locals plied the flat beach expanse flying kites and riding their scooters. The water was also too choppy for swimming.

After washing up, we decided to head to somewhere more happening so I suggested Cherating which is about 30km away northwards. Enroute we passed an industrial park (which I later found out could be oil and gas related) which seemed not only out of character from the serene kampung surrounding it but also rather like an Area 51 alien feeling.

At Cherating we veered right off the main road and into a small kampung that was alive with activity. This felt more like a beach resort although the scene is rather minimal. We had our dinner at restaurant Duyong situated on stilts along the beach front. There is also a travel agency offering trips to Lake Chini for 178 RM per person so we decided to go there ourselves instead. On our trip back we were amazed by the stars that span the night sky.

As the TV channels in our room was limited to only four channels, Theo joined the rest of the guests in the lobby to catch the Man U Liverpool match. I am particularly curious about how it is like to live in a kampung. Buy a piece of land, build your own one storey house and gather with neighbors to chit chat around a common compound and shop in the pasar seni (minimart) and eat at family run warung with only two to three tables, serving the local small community. Seems idyllic yah?

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