01 June 2008

My Great Malaysia Journey

I have a week long to time to kill, what should I do? It has been a long time since I have taken a drive around Malaysia. I have been travelling overseas for the past one and a half years and even holidays with my family is going overseas (the last trip was to Bangkok in December 2007).

Taking a week off, I planned to travel by driving to the east coast to Kuantan, and then work myself up north to Kota Bharu. I took another challenge to drive across the East-West highway. All this was planned out within 2 days.

I am travelling alone this time around because my wife and daughters are busy with their work and studies. My son is very impatient when travelling in a car. I offered him to join me and he declined my offer.

For accommodation, I managed to get a free night at Renaissance Hotel in Kota Bharu from the points that I collected for my Marriot rewards. I did not make any accommodation bookings in Kuantan (where I planned to stay for the night) because I was not sure whether to stay in the town or the beach.

So I started my journey on Saturday morning (31 May) heading to Kuantan. I was in for a surprise. It has been almost 7 years since I step foot in Kuantan. My last trips there were during the 1990 when I doing audit of the Kuantan branch and my last trip there was with my family to beach resort in 2002. The East Coast highway has been completed and the road was good. I managed to speed along the highway at an average speed of about 150km/hr where some stretches I managed to go as high as 180 km/hr. The trip from KL to Kuantan last time took about 3.5 to 4 hours, took me just under 1.5 hours this time.

I was very disappointed when I was in Kuantan, it was a Saturday and the town was like deserted. There were not many people and cars around town around. Even when I went to the beach area, there were not people too.

So I decided to travel along the shore to hunt down some beach resort. All beach resorts were packed due to the school holidays.

Not so many people at the beach at Kuantan

Passing pass all the beach resorts, I decided to have lunch at Cukai, Kemaman for the famous stuffed crab at Tong Juan Restaurant. I reached there right smack during lunch time where all the table were packed. Luckily for me, I managed to get a table for myself. I ordered a stuffed crab, kangkong with belacan and a lemon chicken. I noticed that the size of the stuffing in the stuffed crab have shrunk and it does not taste as good as the last time I took it. All three dishes plus a drink cost me RM24.00. Reasonable? Well, looking at the rising cost of food, I would say that the price was rather on the high side for a lunch at this place but then again, this is a famous restaurant.

Tong Juan Restaurant at Cukai. Famous for its stuffed crab

Beach at Kemaman

After lunch I thought of traveling up to Kuala Trengganu where maybe along the way I may stop over to stay at any of the beach chalets along the way. However, to my disappointment, most of the beach chalets were not to my liking other than the Awana Kijal, but I know that that it has been fully booking.

I have left with no choice but to carry on my journey to Kuala Trengganu hoping that I stay in a hotel at the town. However, I faced another problem. Kuala Trengganu is the host for SUKMA or Sukan Malaysia where it is the nation’s “Olympics”. Before reaching Kuala Trengganu, I was caught a long traffic jam from Marang. I first thought that the jam was caused by the road works that were being done. The traffic jam carried on from Marang to Kuala Trengganu which is about 25 km long. Reaching Kuala Trengganu, I found out that the jam was caused by the high volume of traffic that was in Kuala Trengganu for SUKMA. All hotels were all booked up and there were no rooms in town.

I am frustrated because there were no rooms for me to stay for the night and I was caught in the long traffic jam for more than 1.5 hours. So what to do next, it was already 5.30 p. and it is getting dark soon. I decided to call the Renaissance Hotel in Kota Bharu to check with them whether there are any vacant rooms for the night. The Reservation told me that the hotel was also fully booked for the night. Why? It is the school holidays and it is a weekend and there were many Malay weddings where the relatives of the couples came by the bus loads and took up all the rooms.

My only choice now is to sleep in the car if I fail to get a room. So I decided to drive another 150 km from Kuala Trengganu to Kota Bharu hoping to get a hotel room there. I stopped over for fuel and the attendant told me that there were no rooms in Kuala Trengganu since Friday and many people were also caught in the same situation as I was. I then asked where is the nearest place I can get a room before reaching Kota Bharu. She said I could try to get a room in Besut.

After filling up my tank (I have travelled more than 500 km on my first full tank) and it has already turned dark, I drove north to Kota Bharu. The road was dark but it was a thrill to drive in the dark. I reached Besut district where the town where there could have hotel rooms is at Jerteh.

Guess what? All rooms in Jerteh were also taken up.. all because of the Malay weddings that were going on. I stopped over at Kentucky shop to have my dinner before carrying on my journey to Kota Bharu.

I reached Kota Bharu at almost 10.00 p.m., I decided not to look for accommodation for the night and decided to sleep in my car. The next question is where can I safely park my car and sleep? I saw the sign, “Pantai Cahaya Bulan(PCB)” ( Moonlight beach) in Kota Bharu and though maybe I could park my car on the beach and sleep in my car. When I reached PCB, I was in for a surprise, there were so many food stalls just next to the beach. The beach was separated from the stalls by a long granite boulder wall. I can find a place to park my car, but it is definitely not a place to sleep because there are so many people around.

I decided to park and sleep at the basement of the Renaissance Hotel. At least, it would be safer place and I would not be disturbed. I brought along two pillow where I managed to pull down my driver seat and sleep. Sleeping at the basement was not too comfortable, it was stuffy and hot because I did wind down the car windows and the basement was warm too. So I need to turn on the car air-cond to cool down before switching it off to sleep. I think I did this for about 4 times. Luckily I managed to get some deserving sleep.

I was awaken at about 7.30 a.m. in the morning due to a bang at my car door. At first I thought it was the security guard who did that but it turned out to be the owner of the car next to mine opened his car door which knocked into my car door.

I got up and went to the reception desk to ask when I can check-in to my room. I was told that I could only check-in at 2.00 p.m.. So, I took my car and drove around Kota Bharu to have my breakfast at White House. White House served the best half boiled eggs in town and at the same time, I wanted to eat Nasi Dagang. I managed to find the place and had the stuff that I wanted with a cup of coffee where all cost me RM4.30, reasonable price.

I could not wait till 2.00 p.m. to check-in to the room so I went back to the reception before noon and asked whether I can have a room. Luckily, there was a room available and I managed to check-in. The first thing I did was to have a nice shower and after that write down all this events before I forget about it.

So there are more to come of my journey.. stay tune!!

View of Kota Bharu from my room


threekings said...

Brother..u should have called me and could have brought my Peugeot

Chan Kok Kuen said...

Big risk to bring along a Peugeot. Might break down along the way!!!