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Salted fish and a jackfruit bay

I've been offline for a few days so I'm catching up on my blog posts...

You know those days when you are feeling sick and all you want to do is sleep. This was one of those days. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to sleep in as we had a flight to catch.

The alarm clock woke me up at 6am and we struggled to get awake, packed and out of the hotel. Fortunately, KL Sentral Station hosts a Malaysia Airlines check-in counter, so long as your flight is more than 2 hours away. We just made it.

Relieved of our checked luggage, we could now take a leisurely ride on the KLIA Ekspres train to the airport. At 28 minutes long, the journey is fast and comfortable, despite the distance of the airport from the city.

We wandered around the clean and airy combined domestic and international terminal for a while, had a breakfast of too expensive nasi lemak and mee goreng at Asia Kitchen before I finally convinced B that we had to go to the gate.

The nice security guards allowed us to take a sleeping Alex through the metal detector in his stroller rather than x-ray it.

Malaysia Airlines carried us on my second flight overseas and I vowed never to fly with them again. It had been two awful flights that threatened to put me off overseas travel forever. Today was very different.

We pushed the stroller all the way to the airbridge, at which point it was taken away by the attendants. The cabin of the Boeing 737-400 was bright and colourful, the flight attendants friendly and helpful. The aircraft looked in better condition than the Qantas 737-400's I had been flying to Canberra in, despite the new upholstery of the latter.

The flight to Kuantan was to be similarly short to those frequent Canberra trips. We taxied out to the quiet runway and were soon up in the air over the palm plantations around the airport. The Kiwi-sounding captain was talkative and we were each handed a bag of peanuts and a choice of guava or orange juice. It was a smooth flight above the clouds, jungles, plantations and the scars of developments that define the Malaysian landscape.

Before long we began our descent and landed at Sultan Ahmad Shah airport outside of Kuantan. It was just a small airport and we had to use stairs to leave the aircraft and then walk across the tarmac. The stroller was left at the base of the stairs. As we walked to the terminal building we could see a Royal Malaysian Air Force MiG-29 doing circuits above.

Rather than rely on taxis we decided to hire a car. Checking over the internet had revealed that Hertz could supply baby seats, so we went with them. Only afterwards did we see a baby seat on display at the adjacent Hawk Rentals. No matter, we got a brand new Hyundai Elantra at a very good rate.

B had vowed never to try driving in Malaysia - more about that in the next post - but the roads were pretty quiet. We missed one turn off, but managed to somehow find our way to the right spot. Alex enjoyed being back in a baby seat and happily played in the supercool airconditioning.

We had booked a room in the Hyatt Regency Resort at Teluk Chempedak (Jackfruit Bay). The resort, and our room looking outwards to the beach, were very nice, but B wanted to explore now that she had a car. So we headed back out north towards Cherating beach.

The road took us past run down kampongs (Malay villages) and many roadside stalls selling fruits or advertising keropok lekor, whatever that was. Most were closed. There were chickens, buffalo and goats wandering around the roadside or crossing the road itself. Further out was the petrochemical industrial estates, gas flames burning brightly against the grey sky.

Cherating was tiny, more of a locality than a town. It had a beachside hippy feel to it and much of the accomodation consisted of kampong huts. We wandered down past one large collection to eat at the Duyong Restaurant.

The restaurant overlooked Cherating Beach and, due to the late hour, the patrons were outnumbered by the thin cats that ate the scraps and rubbed against our legs. We had a wonderful meal of crispy butter prawns, ginger chicken, veges and rice while gazing outwards to the beach.

On the way back we stopped at a shop selling salted and dried seafoods. B purchased some big salted fish and some uncooked prawn and fish crackers. The area is famous for its dried seafood and crackers. A little further on we stopped again at a tiny roadside stall for me to try pulut panggang, spicy fish paste grilled in banana leaves (it's not otak-otak).

After a swim in the pool, letting Alex splash away, we returned to our room until the dusk. Then we wandered around the beach area looking for food.

We ignored the big drive through McDonalds and KFC outlets and tried to find local food. The problem was that most places were closed. It's Ramadan right now, which means that muslims are supposed to fast from sunrise to sunset. As this is a predominantly muslim area that means that many shops don't seem to open at all.

Eventually we had a small meal at the Restoran Timur, then walked around the souvenir shops further back before calling it a day. It was very disappointing to find that my dreams of Malaysian meals taken lazily by the local beach have largely been dashed.


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