25 Jul - 29 Jul 2011 Chukai

Southeast Asia
Flawed-Democratic Federation of Malaysia
Terengganu Darul Iman
Chukai aka Kemaman Town
Hotel Vista +6098585888
Comfortable twin room, including air-con, homeopathic wifi and ear-shattering noise pollution from the nearby mosque Masjid Jamek Chukai, which cranked up like the whining diff of a car, several times a day, for a stiff MYR 65.- or US$ 21.90 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Vista Hotel in Chukai, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Cutting across country, visiting the predominantly Hakka tin-mining town Sungai Lembing which once was the largest, longest and deepest subterranean tin mine in the world (overall length of underground tunnels aka pengkangs c. 320 km), learning about different tin-mining techniques (panning, dredging, gravel pump, underground and opencast mining), meeting up with our friend Y.C. Liau, a retired tin miner (driller and explosives foreman), and listening to his interesting stories about the heyday of British owned Pahang Consolidated Company Ltd, which was liquidated in 1986 CE due to the fact that tin had lost its lustre and other minerals and synthetic materials replaced its uses.
“Some people read palms to tell your future, but I read hands to tell your past. Each scar makes a story worth telling. Each callused palm, each cracked knuckle is a missed punch or years in a factory.”
(Sarah Kay) 

Stopping at laid-back Cherating, one of the most popular stops along West Malaysia's east coast, a travellers’ kampung complete with budget shacks by the sea and a decent beach, crossing the border between the bilingual state Pahang (Bahasa Malaysia and English) and the bilingual state Terengganu (Bahasa Malaysia and Jawi, an adapted Arabic alphabet for writing the Malay language, which Arab people could read but not understand and which Malay people can not read but would understand) and, later on, feasting on versions of the east coast’s signature delicacy at the famous Warung Otak-Otak Che Wan in Pantai Teluk Mak Nik, Kemaman, +60139873557 - fresh fish and/or seafood wrapped in banana and/or palm leaves and grilled over a flaming charcoal fire: (i) pais ikan (small fish with sambal, grilled in a banana leaf), (ii) otak-otak (rectangles of fish fillet, spiced with chillies, garlic, shallots, turmeric, lemon grass and coconut milk, grilled in a banana/palm leaf) and (iii) pulut panggang (chunks of glutinous rice with spices, coconut and dried shrimp or with a small piece of fish inside the rice, grilled in a banana and/or palm leaf).

Exploring the prosperous river town Chukai (and her nearby non-touristy beaches and fishing hamlets), where our friends Christina & Liau used to live for almost 20 years, a major commercial hub for the region, a bustling fishing port and an important supply base for the oil platforms off the Terengganu coast, thereafter frequenting the nostalgic Hai Peng Coffee Shop +60199150923, located near the town centre, a Chukai landmark which is famous for its hand-roasted coffees since 1940 CE, and, in the evening, walking around the motley collection of innumerous food and clothes stalls at Chukai’s vibrant night market, thus noticing a few peculiar products on offer which we probably would never buy: (i) raw and boiled sea-turtle eggs (four eggs for only MYR 10.-), (ii) white hajj/skull caps for advanced Muslims and (iii) any version of the much-loved/hated Malaysian/Hainanese chicken rice.

Discovering our most delicious ever, so far, (i) curry noodles aka mee kari, cooked in rich coconut cream and served with fishcakes, at Yap Jin Huat’s Kedai Kopi Ah Yap +60172692899 in Taman Chukai Utama (a small bowl for only MYR 3.- and a large bowl for only MYR 5.-), (ii) east-coast laksam, flat rice-flour noodles, rolled up and cut into half-inch segments, in a rich, full-bodied white gravy of boiled fish, coconut milk and spices, at Mok Nab’s Warung Kak Nab +60139986151 in Kampung Geliga (a medium bowl for only MYR 2.-) and (iii) Kemaman’s signature dish, the famous stuffed crabs with kangkong belacan (stir-fried water convolvulus in spicy shrimp paste), at Restoran Tong Juan +6098591346 in Chukai (one stuffed crab for MYR 8.-); yummy yummy!

Watching two well-trained, non-unionised southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) and their shtum but dactylogically very skilled Malay controller Bisu from the fishing village Kijal cooperate in the monkey business and harvest coconuts from up to 15-m high palm trees: the stronger male monkey tears off the ripe coconuts whereas the niftier female monkey uses her hands and feet to twist off the nuts - no "monkey business" at all.
"'Wendy', Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, 'Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.'"

Counting hundreds of ugly swiftlet bunkers for edible-bird's-nest farming along the coastal road (equipped with high-powered roof loudspeakers and a “monkey house” to attract wild birds, an insect barn which produces at least 5 kg of fruit flies a day and a wifi-controlled CCTV camera to monitor the incoming air traffic) and learning that those aphrodisiac bird's nests (“…hand-picked for feathers and foreign artefacts, lah.”) can fetch up to MYR 5,000.- per kg; Pippi Longstocking’s pigtails would have stood on end, ayiah!

Click below for more blog posts about coconuts 
22 Feb - 10 Mar 2013 Pulau Tioman
13 Aug - 16 Aug 2011 Tanjung Karang
01 Jan - 03 Feb 2011 Madiha
25 Oct - 09 Nov 2010 Unawatuna
15 Apr - 07 Jun 2008 Chagos

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res travel photos
Konni & Matt Travel Photos

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