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.

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