Left hotel around 10.30am after an eventful check out. Apparently the hotel receptionist has been trying to chase payment from the booking agent since we arrived to no avail. So today she wanted us to make payment but the amount has already been charged to my credit card! Thank God we were able to surf the net with Theo’s phone and then retrieve the contact number in KL which then provided us with the updated contact in their Penang HQ. Within a few minutes the issue was settled. Sheesh… Malaysia boleh!
Our last leg of adventure starts now as we trudge south towards the sultanate town of Pekan and then inland towards Chini. Hopefully we don’t lose our way. An observation about the locals, mostly Malay and relatively conservative (they kinda gawk when they saw me wearing a bare shoulder dress) and keep to themselves. No one bothered to chat with us but they were not unfriendly and offered to open doors for us. However the attitude of the receptionist underscore the typical service mindset of not going the extra mile for the customer.
Take the route 3 from Kuantan town to Pekan 52km and JB 333km away. The well-maintained road to Pekan is a flat 2 lane road flanked by low trees and shrubs. There is a low volume of traffic. The reason for the well-maintained road is because it is a new road. Along the way we saw people paving new roads to extend the current single lane into a two lane road.
Pictures of the old sultan and his relatively young beautiful wife adorn the streets as you enter Pekan. I wonder why Malaysia still pays tribute to the sultanates when the government is the one doing the main job of running the country. The same goes for countries with still a surviving monarchy.
On the outskirts of Pekan are several car manufacturers. We didn’t pass into town as the road to Tasik Chini brings us into small single lane road following the Pahang river, cutting through kampungs and small agricultural plots. It is a 69km journey in the torrential rain, reducing visibility drastically.
It was quite a hair raising drive especially since I was worried that we might miss our turn and go on the wrong way. The road map dated 2003 however has been fairly accurate even though the roads do not put up signs until near the exit. From Kg Taloh Hinai, we turned left onto route 12 heading to Segamat and then after passing the town of Taloh Hinai we saw with much relief the sign to Chini (2484) and then to Tasik Chini (36km) and also a Petronas petrol station as our fuel tank was running dangerously low.
Throughout the 36km we passed by entire areas of palm plantation on both sides of the road, this being part of the FELDA project, something I studied in Geography in secondary school days. We even passed a palm oil processing factory releasing plumes of black smoke into the air.
About 30 minutes later we arrived at the Lake Chini Resort which certainly looked like it was still under renovation and no sign that it will be completed soon. We parked our car precariously near the edge of a muddy slope and trekked down to the lake. On our way while driving, we saw the sudden break in the palm plantation and tropical trees taking over so the anticipation to see the lake was mounting.
However when I first set my eyes on the lake, it was actually a bit disappointing because it looked so untouched that it didn’t seem like a tourist hotspot at all. But then that’s exactly the point – visiting a place of raw unspoilt beauty. Other than a small jetty with parked motorised sampans there didn’t seem to be anything else to do.
So I looked up Lonely Planet which suggested calling Rajan Jones, a veteran who has been staying around the area for 20 years and operates a guest house. He gave us directions to get to his place.
We trekked back about 2-3km where there was a sign indicating Sekolah Kebasan Tasik Chini and turned into it. We reached a small kampung surrounding the school and finally spotted his humble abode signposted by wooden signs nailed to a tree. Rajan’s guest house is as minimal as it can get.
Built out of wooden planks and zinc slates for roof, separate water tank and bathrooms made out of equally basic materials. I guess it really is for those roughing it out for 25 RM a night full board. I mused about how much Singapore has modernised that it will be quite difficult for us to appreciate living in these poor conditions again.
We met Rajan who is a small built Indian who seems hard of hearing and sight but otherwise friendly. He told us he was busy setting up his place for a group of students coming down for a 4 day camp during which he organises trekking and boating trips for them. Apparently he gets students all the way from Australia and even England. Wow! Maybe I could suggest this for a geography field trip especially since it passes the FELDA as well. Took more pictures of the lake and then headed back out to road to Segamat around 3pm.
Other than the bumpiness and occasional adrenaline rush trying to overtake the logging trucks in front of us, we were pretty keen to get back to the highway at Yong Peng. Palm plantations line the roads all the way back and stretch as far as the eye can see. How is it that Malaysia grows so much of palm? This I need to read up more. Each plot of land is owned by one of the big property developers – Sime Darby, IOI.
Segamat is a pretty large town but more run down than Kuantan. I recall coming here to visit a durian plantation when I was young so have the distinct impression that this is the place to buy fruits. We did pass some fruit stalls but Theo didn’t want to stop so otherwise pretty boring place. From here route 12 turned into route 1 towards Yong Peng. We finally got back to the highway close to 3hrs later. No wonder the highway is such a blessing.