I realised that blogging about your travels is best done while the memory and emotions are fresh. I have several trips I would really like to share on my blog but as time passes, so does the emotive appeal in writing such that it comes down to more mundane matters of what I saw and did.
I spent the long weekend, courtesy of National Day, in Desaru which is located in the southeast corner of Peninsula Malaysia. It is a short 45 minute ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal or a 1 hour drive up from Johor Bahru town. I have been planning to go there for several years but it was my husband who finally made the booking for Pulai Springs Beach Resort, one of the more popular establishments located along the 22km stretch of beach.
A short review of the resort itself – if you’re hoping to find a modern, luxurious beach destination, look again. Pulai Springs is an old hotel and looks like it hasn’t been very well taken care of. Our deluxe room is spacious, well-equipped and offers a beautiful view of the pool and sea but with a handles and taps coming loose and some stains on the carpet and sofa, you get the idea that it is prime time for a makeover.
However I was quite surprised to see throngs of Singapore cars already parked with several more arriving in groups as we completed our check-in. Apparently the long weekend brought in the whole bunch of holiday makers ranging from extended families, fellow workers and university students. In fact the resort was fully booked out for the weekend. I suppose there must be something charming about the location which brings people back despite its appearances.
Over the two nights spent at the resort, I realised that Pulai Springs offers many activities and a very laid back atmosphere suitable for groups of family and friends looking for a place to chill out. It is also child-friendly since it isn’t a very prim and proper location to begin with. My children were happy to spend time in the Kid’s Club room which is furnished like a childcare center, splash about in the pool which has a slide for the thrill seekers and build sand castles on the pristine beach.
The sea which is the main draw of the location actually surpassed my expectations. Having been to Kuantan, much further north of Desaru, and left sorely disappointed, I was not pinning huge hopes on this beach being any different. However I was amazed at the cleanliness of the beach and the inviting cool waters of the South China Sea. The sea is a blend of turquoise and emerald green and is clear enough to see the sea bed.
We wasted no time to jump in and enjoy the surfs and dig our hands into the sand. Do take note that the undercurrents are quite strong and the descent is rather steep. There are several sea sports available for the more adventurous foremost of which is canoeing and jet skiiing.
Do note that Desaru is not a very accessible location and there are not much eating or shopping establishments in the area. The only way to get around if you intend to leave the resort is to have your own vehicle, which itself could also be quite the hassle since the eastern coast of Malaysia is serviced by single lane roads that are more often than not hogged by truckloads of oil palm. The closest towns to find life is 50km north to Kota Tinggi or 40km south to Sungei Rengit where you can find seafood restaurants offering good food at cheap prices.
One thing about travelling with toddlers. They can be really demanding travel companions! My 2 year old daughter was whining and throwing tantrums just about over every other reason and both my hubby and I were worn out from trying to control our temper. At times like this, you really wonder about the rationale of bringing children with you on your trips. However on our second night, we tagged along one of the organised tours to see fireflies. The bus we trailed brought us through a small road cutting through an oil palm plantation in complete darkness for several nervy minutes.
We finally emerged onto a lighted wooden hut built along the riverside of Sungei Lebam. The mangroves have undergone conservation and this has allowed the fireflies population to thrive. Instead of a trek through a forest, I was quite relieved that it was actually a boat ride through the serene waters of the river. However when I saw the rickety boat that would be taking us into the pitch darkness, images of crocodile attacks loomed into my mind.
We boarded the boat and my daughter started to cry when she didn’t get to wear the life vest. I was afraid that her cries would irritate the rest of the passengers or worse scare off the fireflies. As we slowly made our way, it wasn’t long before her cries quietened and when we first gazed upon the swarms of fireflies flitting among the mangroves and across the river, I heard her wowing in fascination. The further we continued downstream, the darker it became until we were totally enveloped in darkness. My fears of being in the dark slowly dissipated as wonder of the star-filled skies took reign.
Yes it was the ‘fireflies’ in the moonless skies that held me captive. In cosmopolitan Singapore where everything is litted all night long, it is difficult to find a place to get mesmerised by the constellations and the vastness of the universe. It really makes one feel so small. And there I was, with my children sitting on my lap, enjoying nature’s embrace as wild as it could get. And I was glad that I could share this moment with them, hoping that it would imprint in them a love for nature and respect for God’s creation.