Sunday, May 27, 2012

27 May 2012 – Day 3 (Teluk Cempedak Beach, Sin Kee Hung, Singapore)

Today we checked out and depart at 10am. So Mag and I agreed to get up at the same time so that we could go out for breakfast at the nearby coffee shop. I had roti canai that James had been talking about since the first day with a cup of teh halia while Mag had Thosai with a cup of teh terik. When my food came, it looked like roti prata with egg. Both of us were wondering if we had placed the right order.

My breakfast

Took some photos of our food before eating. Then we walked around the area before returning to the hotel’s coffee house where Mag ate a bowl of chicken porridge and I had a cup of fruit punch. Went back to the room, packed up and left to gather at the lobby at 9.50am. Headed to the Teluk Cempedak Beach and were given some time to explore the beach as well as to walk the 300m wooden bridge that leads to another part of the beach. Took some photos at the main beach before attempting to walk the wooden bridge where the front portion was full of the long-tail monkeys. Some tourists were feeding the monkeys when there were sign boards telling them not to.

Mag and I hesitated about walking the bridge at first, then we saw a group of visitors walking and we followed behind them. After we passed the front portion, the rest of the wooden bridge were easy coz there were no monkeys. Took some photos along the way and finally reached the other part of the beach. We took some “rock-climbing” photos and walked on the beach for a while. Surprisingly, this part of the beach which was supposedly more secluded was much dirtier than the main beach. After a while, we headed back and by the time we got to the start of the bridge, we didn’t see any monkeys. Returned to the coach and then we headed for lunch before going to Sin Kee Hung for salted fish.

Some photos from Teluk Cempedak Beach :

The shop also sells koropok and some other snacks so Mag and I bought some each while the rest of the group members bought a lot of salted fish. As we were amongst the first to finish so we packed our purchases into our overnight bags. By the time the rest were done, the whole coach almost smell of salted fish coz of their purchases. They bought bags and bags of salted fish, koropoks and local snacks. Started on the journey back, as it was sunny, I wore my sunglasses inside the coach and plugged on to my mobile phone. Dozed most part of the journey and we made a few toilet stops and at the last stop around 5+pm at Yong Peng, I bought a peanut waffle biscuit to eat while Mag asked for a char siew bun. Continued for another 2 hours or so before having dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

Peanut Butter Waffle Biscuit

After eating, we continued the journey and by the time we got to the Malaysia custom, it was about 8+pm then reached Singapore custom, there was a jam and by the time we cleared custom, it was already 9+pm and we had to spend another hour or so getting back to the clubhouse before we could go back. Initially thought I would cab back, turned out Mag wanted to take train hence followed her to the station and we alighted at Outram station where she headed off to her bus stop and me to mine. Reached home after 11pm and by the time I settled down, used the laptop for a while and hit the hay only past 1am.

Thoughts: If only we get to have more time at the Teluk Cempadak beach. Although it is not as good as the Cherating beach, I would have liked to take more photos of it, especially the lower part of the beach where the waves crash upon. The tide was low so the shore would have been an interesting sight with many holes made by the little crabs.

Overall, the trip was not too bad, something different from what I was used to which was clean and comfy places of interest and hotels. Instead, I went back in time where life was more laid-back and backwards. Will I do another trip like this again? Well… maybe, just maybe.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

26 May 2012 – Day 2 (Sungai Lembing, Charas Cave, Cherating Turtle Sanctuary & Batik Village)

Mag got up at 6.30am while I got up at 7am. Went for breakfast at the hotel coffee house about 7.40am. The spread wasn’t big, so had French toasts, some mini sausages, a bit of fried noodles, a small bowl of lontong and a glass of fruit punch. Mag had similar food but instead of lontong, she ate mee hoon ayam and had tea with milk. The elderly couple shared a table with us and while the husband and Mag went to get food, the wife commented that I looked familiar. Don’t recall seeing her before so replied that I have a common face. She said common face is good, means look kind-hearted. So I just smiled back and just then, the other two came back.

My breakfast :

Mag looked at my bowl of lontong and commented that she never had that before. I asked her if it was because she didn’t like lontong or never even try before. She said the rice seems weird given that it is compressed. Then I asked if she eats the rice that came with satay and she replied no. Told her to at least try a little before deciding that whether she likes it or not. After trying a very small bowl, she confirmed that she doesn’t like it. As there were still time before departure, we explored the nearby area of the hotel and took some photos. Unlike the day before, it was a very hot and sunny day. We set off at 9am to go to Sungai Lembing which translates to “River Spear” and used to be a tin mining town. Now it was quite a dead town with a tin mining museum on a hill nearby that used to be the bungalow of the tin mining manager. While on the way there, we passed by the Charas Cave, also known as the spiritual cave.

During the journey, James told us that near Sungai Lembing, there is a Bukit Panorama which offers a beautiful sunrise view. Unfortunately, we were not going there though it was stated in the itinerary. James then told us to try the jumping noodles in Sungai Lembing and he explained that it was called jumping noodles coz the maker of the noodles actually jumped on the wooden stick that press the dough. So after we alighted in front of a so-called hawker center which has only a few miserable stalls selling drinks, coffee, tea, noodles and so on, I went to order a bowl of yong tau foo noodle soup to share with Mag. The guy from another extended family told me to try the noodle and the tofu and to eat with clear soup. So I ordered as told and returned to the table.The noodles were indeed different from the normal ones. They were very Q and tasty while the tofu was really very, very soft.

The noodle...

... and the stall.

After we were done eating, we took a slow walk down the street where the coach was waiting for us. While walking, we took some photos. Many shops were either closed or vacant. Got to the end of the street and there was an open field with some tents. James told us that there were some sort of carnivals going on and such events only happen once or twice per year as a form of family gathering. Mag was perspiring like mad and so she bought an angry bird hand fan. Boarded the coach and we passed by the museum, James asked if we would like to visit the museum and some indicated interest. So it was decided that we do the suspension bridge walk first before turning back.

The few shop lots

Petrol kiosk in the middle of the road

Carnival in Sungai Lembing

According to James, the bridge, Jambatan Gantung Kolong Pahat Bridge, was about 200 years old and the cables are still very strong. It spans across the river to another part of the village where the famous Mee Sungai Lembing, the shop that produces the noodles that Mag and I had earlier on, is. It was difficult to balance oneself on the bridge when walking along it with so many other people on it. Got across, found the shop, saw the man who was making the noodles and managed to capture him in action. Besides selling noodles, the shop also sells coconut biscuits and some other local snacks. Was tempted to buy but they came in big packets so decided not to in case no one eats them. The other group members bought a lot of things, from a few packets of noodles to a few packets of biscuits.

Jambatan Gantung Kolong Pahat Bridge

The left view...

The famous Mee Sungai Lembing

... and the right view from the bridge

People making the noodles

Made our way across the bridge again back to where the coach was and headed to the museum where we were given about 20 minutes to explore. It was a bit of a walk up a steep slope to get to the museum so a few of the members chose to stay in the coach. Visitors had to take off shoes to go into the museum and I was so glad that I wore sandals for the trip. Mag and I did some quick exploration around the museum and some quick snaps and then went back to the coach.

Some photos of the Sungai Lembing Museum :

Moved off to the Charas Cave and along the way, we were told that there were about 160 steps to climb, both concrete and iron. The cave is made up of seven adjoining limestone caves. As there are cracks in the caves, water seeps in hence, there are formations of stalactites and stalagmites; and when they join, it becomes a column. Inside the cave were statues of Buddhist Gods, the Taoist Gods and one section of the cave has a Jala Lingam temple while towards the end of the cave is the reclining Buddha. Just before going up the steps to the reclining Buddha, there is a hole right on top where the sunlight can shine in. It was said that any day between 15th of June and 15th of July, the sunlight will shine in and hit the forehead of the Buddha and it makes the Buddha shine. There used to be Thai monks from Thailand station in the cave but now there isn’t any. Got to the destination and we started climbing the steps.

The cave was big, there were some constructions within and also some vandalism on the cave walls. There were statues of deities here and there and traces of joss sticks. We saw stalactites, stalagmites and columns. There were water dripping, puddles of water here and there and some parts of the caves were muddy and slippery. Tried to take some photos but the battery went flat. Replaced with spare battery and still didn’t manage to take any good photos coz it was too dark and the pictures turned out to be all black even with flash on. After we were done with the cave, we proceeded to have late lunch about 2+pm and we had curry fish head for one of the dishes. After eating, we traveled to the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary.

Some photos of the Charas Cave :

Visitors had to take off shoes before going into the sanctuary. We were shown a short video before exploring other parts of the sanctuary where we read about information about the four different types of turtles, namely Leatherback Turtle, Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and Olive Ridley Turtle, how they lay eggs, how the sanctuary handle the eggs after that, so on and so forth. There were three ponds where some adult and baby turtles were kept. Took some photos before going out to another area, the Cherating Beach, where the eggs of the Green Turtles were buried till they hatch. According to the sanctuary, only the Green Turtles lay eggs on the Cherating Beach. The sand was very, very fine and that is the reason why the turtles came to the beach to lay eggs coz it is easier for them to dig holes.  The eggs were buried in the sand inside a fenced up area with tags stating the date that the eggs were laid and the number of eggs. Just beside the area was the entrance of Club Med.

Some photos from Cherating Turtle Sanctuary :

Took some photos and we set off to the Batik Village where James explained to us how batiks were made and what the differences between Malaysian batiks and Indonesian batiks are and how to differentiate real and fake batiks. Malaysian batiks feature mainly flora patterns while Indonesian feature both flora and fauna; Malaysian batiks has distinct patterns while Indonesian batiks are more abstract. Real batiks will show the same patterns both sides of the cloth.

There are two ways to make batiks, the block printing method and the free hand drawing method. The first method requires the design to be made into a printing mold, dip into a hot solution of melted resin and wax and print onto the cloth. Then chemical colors will be painted accordingly before soaking the finished product into warm water to melt away the wax if the batik is to be used as material. If it is to be made into a poster, the gold color wax can remain. As for free hand drawing, the painter has to be really creative coz if he or she makes a mistake, he or she has to try to merge that mistake into part of the design. After the demonstration, we were given time to walk around and buy some batik products if we want to.

Some photos from the Batik Village :

Left the Batik Village to Pak Su Restaurant for dinner. Along the way, we stopped by a fruit stall selling watermelons, bananas, mangoes, rambutans and papayas where those uncles and aunties bought some fruits to bring back to the hotel to eat. The restaurant faces the South China Sea but unfortunately all the tables outside were reserved hence we had to sit inside. Went out to take some photos before eating dinner.

 The South China Sea

James said there was a parsam malam near our hotel and asked if we would be interested. A number of us express interest so he suggested that we head back to the hotel to unload some stuff before taking the coach to alight at a point nearest to the start of the parsam malam. So went back to the hotel room, dumped our stuff and just took the necessary. Got to the parsam malam, Mag and I started looking around the food stalls excitedly.

We bumped into the extended family of six, the one where the guy told me to eat the lembing noodle in clear soup with tofu. His mother was buying the bamboo glutinous rice snack and he told us that we should try that too. Also that if we want to know what to try, we should follow his mother. So his mother helped us order a portion of the bamboo glutinous rice snack without the gravy for RM2.00. Zigzagged on both sides of the stalls to check out the various food stalls and we bought a pack of oneh-oneh for RM1.00, a bag of 10 sticks of satay (5 sticks chicken, 5 sticks beef) for RM5.00, a box of bamboo rice cakes for RM3.00 and a bag of dumpling looking things for RM2.00.

While on the way to parsam malam, Mag saw Secret Recipe in one of the shops nearby and said she wanted to get a slice of the chocolate banana cake. So after we were done with the parsam malam (which we were only interested with the food), we went on to get the cake for RM7.40 before heading to the 7-11 in the nearby shopping mall to get two bottles of 1.5l of water for RM5.40. Made a stop at the Starbucks to use the Wi-Fi but I couldn’t get a connection while Mag managed to connect using her iTouch.

Got back to the hotel room, laid the food on the table and took some photos before feasting. I found that the bamboo glutinous rice tasted a bit savory while Mag said it was sweet. I prefer to eat it with the satay sauce while she prefers it plain. The bamboo rice cakes were nice coz it was my favorite. The dumpling looking thing turned out to be otah otah where instead of the usual orange color, they were grey in color of fish paste with grated coconut and very spicy.

Food from the Parsam Malam

Oneh-oneh was a let-down coz the skin was very thick and the gula melaka wasn’t very fragrant. Then we started on the cake but I only ate a little bit coz most of it was cream. Mag said that her colleagues told her the cakes from Secret Recipe in Malaysia were tastier but she felt that the cake wasn’t as smooth and fine compared to the ones in Singapore. Also the bananas in the cake were in chunks while those in Singapore ones were in slices. After eating, Mag went to take her shower while I rested before taking mine. And finally slept about 11+pm.

Thoughts: It would have been nice if we had gone to Bukit Panorama to see the sunrise and given more time to explore Sungai Lembing. The old shop lots there would have made very nice photo shots. A pity I didn’t know how to take good dark shots otherwise I would have been able to take more photos of the interior of the Charas Cave. Cherating beach is indeed very nice, if only we had spent more time there or walk on the beach. Parsam malam food were mainly kuehs, fried chicken, satay, grilled meat or seafood, colorful fruit drinks, coconut shakes and so on. Different from the Singapore kind of parsam malam food.

Friday, May 25, 2012

25 May 2012 – Day 1 (Singapore, Yong Peng, Segamat, Lake Chini & Kuantan Town)

Signed up for this 3D2N Kuantan trip a month ago with Mag. Unlike my other trips, I didn’t feel particularly excited and didn’t start my packing till the night before. It felt a bit unreal coz I only filled up half an overnight bag worth of stuff. Anyway, got up about 5.10am and saw the ground was wet. It could have rained during the night. While I was washing up, Mag messaged me that she had already reached the Clubhouse so quickly finished up what I needed to do before calling for a cab.

Got to the clubhouse slightly after 6am and some of the people were already there. Stood with Mag and chatted. Came 6.15am, a lady from the clubhouse took attendance and it was then I realized that the group is about 40 people, mostly aunties and uncles and in big families. There were two big families of three generations, an elderly couple, a 30+year’s old couple, a pair of mother and daughter, a pair of aunt and nephew, a group of aunties and uncles who are either related or friends/colleagues and Mag and me. The tour leader was Linda; the Singapore coach drove off at 6.30am from the clubhouse and reached Tuas 2nd Link at 7.10am.

Clearing the Singapore custom was very fast and after another 10 minutes, we reached the Malaysia custom and it took a while to clear the custom coz it was done manually. Then we got on to another coach where we met with our Indian tour guide, James. Mag chose to sit on the left hand side of the coach towards the end. The seat number happened to be 29/30 and I asked her if she chose those seats on purpose coz in the earlier coach, we sat at the same number. She said it was a coincident.

After leaving the Malaysia custom, we arrived at Gelang Patah which translates to “Broken Bracelet” for breakfast at 8am. Mag had yong tau foo bee hoon soup which cost about RM9.00 while I had Sarawak Kolo Mee which cost me only RM4.50. The noodle was rather Q and though it looked a bit plain, it was actually quite spicy. We set off at 8.45am on a 1+ hour journey to Yong Peng which means “Everlasting Peace” where majority of the population are Chinese, for a 20 minutes toilet stop at a petrol station. While traveling, it rained rather heavily. Fortunately, the petrol station was sheltered so we didn’t have to take umbrellas or windbreakers.

Sarawak Kolo Mee

We set off again about 10.30am for another 1+ hour journey towards Segamat and the rain stopped. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Seong Hai Kee and sat together with an extended family of five, the elderly couple and the pair of mother and daughter. It was an eight-course lunch which consisted of fried egg, sweet sour fish, soup, vegetables, chicken, tofu and so on plus dessert was only so-so. James told us that the economy in Segamat is good such that there are many branches of banks there. The timber industry is very good in Segamat coz the quality of the timber is very good. Like Yong Peng, majority of the population in Segamat are Chinese.

Some photos inside the restaurant :

After lunch, we continued our journey towards Kuantan, along the way making a couple more toilet stops every 2 hours or so. During the journey, we passed by a lot of oil palm estate and James told us that Kuantan is also known as palm town due to the many oil palm trees. There are about four types of oil palm trees and they called the oil palm seeds as FFB which stands for fresh fruit bunch. Finally we reached Lake Chini, Malaysia’s second largest natural lake, at about 4+pm. James told us that the lake used to have many pink and white lotus flowers but due to the developments around the lake such as a National Service school and other constructions, the ecosystem of the lake is altered so it is very difficult for the lotus flowers to grow. Instead, there are many cattails growth in the lake. The numbers of species of fishes found in the lake are also greatly reduced.

There is a long bridge connecting the main building to the jetty and we were told that it used to be made of wood but after a serious flood, the wooden bridge collapsed and so the government replaced it with a concrete one. Got to the jetty and we were divided into groups of 6 or 7 to get into a boat to tour the lake. Once on the boat, we had to put on a life jacket. Took some photos while touring the lake which didn’t have much to offer and then all the boats came to a stop at a particular spot. Upon closer examination, we spotted a single pink lotus flower which, unfortunately, seemed to be withering.

Some photos of Lake Chini :

The boat I was on was some distance away from the flower so I didn’t get a good shot at it. Another boat made it way to another spot not too far away for its passengers to take photos of a couple of lotus flower buds which were about to bloom. I was looking around and happened to spot a small lotus bud right beside my side of the boat and quickly made a quick snap of it. I was so happy with the shot.

The convoy of boats then started moving and after a while, we reached the Orang Asli settlement where there was a demonstration of the blowpipe. The blowpipe was very long, made of wood with aluminum interior and used to blow poison darts during hunting. The poison is extracted from the leaves of the Ipoh tree. James said in the past, the whole blowpipe is made of solid wood. We were also told that the children of the settlement do go to school. They had to take the boat to the main jetty and then travel another 30km to get to school. The water tank in the village is a new addition, so is the modern toilet which the government insists on building to cater for the tourists.

Blowpipe demostration

Children of the Orang Asli settlement

We took some photos of the kampong before getting onto the boat again to return to the main jetty to head to Kuantan town. James got on the same boat as us and explained that during the monsoon season from November to January, the water level of the lake could get very high and then the boat can only take two passengers each. There was a bad jam during the journey and we were stuck for about 45 minutes before finally reaching the Grand Hotel Continental. We left our luggage at the lobby and went to the Swan Restaurant just behind the hotel for late dinner around 8pm. By the time we were done, Mag and I had no room for the tandoori chicken that James was telling us about down the street.

We were allocated room 818 and we returned to the hotel after getting the room key from James. The censor of the card slot was loose so Mag went to get the maintenance guy to come and tighten it. While I was unpacking, Mag went to the lobby to try the Wi-Fi but returned with the news that the server was down. Bathed, watched tv and went to bed about 10+pm.

Thoughts: During the journey, James told us a lot of history and information about Johor, Gelang Petah, Yong Peng, Kuantan, Pahang and other parts of the Malaysia which much of it I can’t remember now coz there were simply too much to digest. Only remember him saying Kuantan is the state capital of Pahang, it is an Indonesian name coz the early settlement came from Kampong Kuantan in Indonesia. There are many beaches in Kuantan and there is also a water theme park.