Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The last leg of our road trip - 20-21 Aug 2015

We didn't want to leave Perhentian Island! It's unanimous. We're talking about coming back again, hopefully next year. We've a short walkabout at the villages nearby Kuala Besut before we continued our journey on the East-West Highway. Kuala Besut used to be a thriving fishing village, but now it's more well-known as a transit point to the East Coast islands.

'Keropok lekor & losong' - the local delicacies you will see in every street and corner. You must eat it when it's hot, together with the local chilli sauce!

A common backyard industry - fish crackers. Tis local snack is popular here, like what potato chips are to the Westerners.

The villagers were very friendly and they're not in a hurry to finish off their work, always have time to entertain our curiosity and questions.

Traditional boat-building in progress

Using simple tools and machine, the locals made the boats by hands, with the knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

Bending the hardwood.

The boat uses the Chengal wood, and very hardy to withstand even the rough sea during the monsoon periods.

It was raining cats and dogs at the beginning of our journey from Kuala Besut to Ipoh via the East-West Highway. I would not recommend it unless you start early of the day (there's not much roadway lighting at night). We left Kuala Besut town after 3pm, and though it's a highway, it's mostly 2-lane highway and winding. Most memorable was a stop at a petrol kiosk to stock up on snacks and junks to last us through the rainy weather. We really have to stay positive throughout.

One of the gems along the highway was a stop at the Titiwangsa Range Lookout Point. It's very windy and cold but the view was breathtaking. We're at the highest point of the Titiwangsa Range, overlooking the valleys and Belum National Park. The elevation of the road is over 1,100m above sea level. Along the way, we also passed by Lake Temenggor Bridge which crosses Lake Temenggor, a hydro-dam near Belum forest and Pulau Banding, a man-made island. The East-West highway is a very scenic route due to its hilly nature. It passes through 2 main mountain ranges, ie the Bintang Range and the Titiwangsa Range.

A complete loop of our holidays, we covered 1,300 km in mileage. A really, very ambitious attempt.

We reached Ipoh before 9pm and have a satisfying bean sprout chicken rice for dinner. We didn't want to end our holidays too abruptly after Perhentian, so we stayed a night in Ipoh. We've a great time feasting like the locals and shopping at our favourite Ching Han Guan biscuit shop before we headed home. 

Quote: "Be willing to step outside your comfort zone once in a while; take the risks in life that seem worth taking. The ride might not be as predictable if you'd just planted your feet and stayed put, but it will be a lot more interesting."

Rainforest Camping Perhentian - 17-20 Aug 2015

This was our family's 1st camping trip in tents together! 1st trip for the boys to the East Coast island. We have booked a few tents for camping at the newly opened Rainforest Camping at Pulau Perhentian Kecil.

We arrived at the Kuala Besut jetty late, at almost 4pm. We parked our car with SafePark Holidays cos they offered us a covered, secure parking lot. Boat tickets to the Perhentian island is RM70 (return) per pax and RM5 each for Marine Park fee.

 We're anxious to get to the campsite before any change in weather. The sky was more cloudy by then and a bit overcast (let's hope they got the weather forecast wrong).

First sight of the Campsite, with its own private beach against the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky.

The front of the campsite. The huge tent was occupied by the staff and volunteer workers.

Our tents. We have 3 tents, and they're all on platforms, in the rainforest. The tent comes with two airbed mattresses and pillows each.

Checking out the toilets and open shower.

This was the slope leading to our tents from the toilets. I lost count of how many times we walked up and down a day!

We usually spent our day relaxing in the hammocks cos it's too hot to go inside the tents.

It's Bliss we could pop in and out of the beach at anytime of the day. The water is very clear and the colours of the sea were amazing.

The older boys learned snorkeling for the first time. Brandon was more cautious and only observed us in the beginning.

Wei, Sam and I went snorkeling around the big and small islands the next day. The beaches were so pristine and beautiful. There're so many foreign tourists especially on the Long Beach.

Snorkeling spots at turtle point, shark point, fish garden and the best was, Blue Lagoon. The fishes swam to you even at ankle-deep water! It's such a sad state that there's no control in the number of boats ferrying the snorkelers and they're allowed to wear fins during snorkeling, which could easily damage the corals.

Free play at the campsite beach.

View of the forest from our hammocks. 

It's very relaxing to watch nature, birds singing, colourful lizards from our hammocks. Zzzzzz......

This was our favourite hangout - the cafe. Breakfast is provided, ie 2 slices of toast with butter and jam and a hot drink. We could order our lunch or snacks, and Brandon gave full marks for their Glamping sandwiches. Dinner is at RM15nett per head, usually rice, vege, meat, salad and a dessert.

The day to day business at the campsite and cafe is run by a group of foreign volunteers. It's like a mini United Nations with volunteers from Spain, UK, Europe, South America, etc and we're the only Chinese family there. They take turns to cook at the cafe, so you get to taste different flavours and style every day though you may have the same food. Honestly, it felt like you're in a foreign land here.

A purple heron at the beach. There're plenty of small fishes at the shallow water to attract many birds here.

Jungle trekking to Coral Bay beach. The trail was not well-maintained, it's pretty secluded and with many fallen trees blocking the way. There're many Saga trees on this part of the island, and we have even collected a full jar of the red Saga seeds.

Beach view of Coral Bay. Clear water but more sharp corals lying just below the surface of the water.

The sea cucumber squirted water from their anus as though it's pee-ing, but instead it's the water it had absorbed!

The barnacle is a hardy animal!

Ripley's Believe it Or Not!

Brandon - finally - floating on shallow water! He has a breakthrough after the camp ie. he overcame his fear of water.

Beach soccer siesta time!

Brandon was very attached to a family of cats here and went the extra mile to give it a Feline Spa Sand-rapy!

Sunset by the sea. 
Our campsite is on the west coast so we couldn't see the sunrise. 

Have a ball at the beach, not dictated by time clocks.

The tranquility of the forest at night....disturbed by the strange noise, snapping twigs and kicking branches and the sigh of wind against the trees, but the loudest thing in the woods by far is the snoring of a human being!

Between sunset and twilight

Skylight just before nightfall.

We've really fine weather throughout our stay. The first night, there was a brief rainfall when we're asleep. On our last night there, we saw this rapid fire rainbow phenomena, something like a dispersed rainbow at the background of the sunset. That night, just when we're in the tents in the forest, there was a 15-minute strong winds, followed by a terrible thunderstorm. It's very scary, some water came into our tents. The whole beachfront was a mess the next morning. There's no harm done, except for a damaged boat.  And we have a new experience which made this camping trip so memorable and unforgettable.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Pit stop at HaiPeng Coffeeshop, Chukai 17 Aug 2015

I'm writing as a form of therapy to escape the overload of bad news on the state of our nation and my incessant cough that's aggravated by the haze. I missed the blue skies and fresh air at Perhentian Island. Is it only 3 weeks ago we're holidaying at Perhentian? Feel like so much longer.

We haven't been to the East Coast like for more than 7 years. And we almost didn't make it last month. The weather forecast was very discouraging and there're a few ferocious tropical storms in the region.

We picked up Samantha, my sister at 6am and the journey to Kuala Besut jetty took us almost 9 hours! Honestly, I thought that it's really a bad idea to cram 6 people in a car with so many baggage. I am one who didn't like to do things outside my comfort zone. A nervous freak. And when I stretch myself, I always gain much, much more...

Pit stop at Hai Peng coffeeshop @ Chukai, Kemaman

One of the few remaining coffeeshops run by the Hainanese Wong family since 1940. A very popular joint not just for locals but road travellers and tourists enroute to Kuala Terengganu or other east coast towns.

The iced coffee is excellent. It's now run by the youngest daughter of the founder Wong. She's proud of her blend of Arabica coffee, which is also a specialty of the place. Also popular are the roti bakar, nasi kerabu and nasi dagang (if you come after 11am, probably you won't see the packet rice anymore) and other kuih muih / local snacks.

Filling our stomach before we continue the long journey to Kuala Besut.

Weather was good. Hot, blue sky and very scenic driving along the beaches on the East Coast. If we've more time, we should stop by the beaches during tea time to enjoy the delicious local treats.

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