25 Jul - 29 Jul 2011 Chukai

Southeast Asia
Flawed-Democratic Federation of Malaysia
Terengganu Darul Iman
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:

Visiting the predominantly Hakka tin-mining town of Sungai Lembing which was once the largest, longest and deepest subterranean tin mine in the world (the overall length of the pengkangs, the underground tunnels, is 322 km), learning about tin-mining techniques (panning, dredging, gravel pump, underground and opencast mining) and meeting the retired tin miner (driller and explosives foreman) Y.C. Liau in his home who told us about the heyday of the 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.

Stopping at laid-back Cherating, one of the most popular stops on the E coast, a travellers’ kampung, complete with budget shacks by the sea and a decent beach, crossing the border between the bilingual state of Pahang (Bahasa Malaysia and English) and the bilingual state of 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 feasting on different versions of the east coast’s signature delicacy, fish/seafood which is wrapped in banana/palm leaves and grilled over a flaming charcoal fire, at the famous Warung Otak-Otak Che Wan in Pantai Teluk Mak Nik, Kemaman, +60139873557: (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/palm leaf).

Exploring the prosperous river town of Chukai (and her nearby non-touristy beaches and fishing hamlets), where our friends Christina & Liau lived 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, 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 Malaysian/Hainanese chicken rice.

Discovering our most delicious ever, so far, (i) curry noodles aka mee kari, cooked with a rich coconut cream and served with fishcake sedap, 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 belacan kangkong (water convolvulus stir-fried 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 pig-tailed macaques (Macaca leonina) and their shtum handler Bisu (Homo sapiens) from the fishing village of Kijal cooperate in the monkey business and harvest coconuts from up to 15 m high palm trees: the stronger male monkey was just tearing off the ripe coconuts whereas the niftier female monkey was using her hands and feet to twist off the nuts - no "monkey business" at all.

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 the wild birds, with an insect barn which produces at least 5 kg of fruit flies a day and with a wifi-based 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 

Click below and visit the Konni & Matt photo albums
Photos 2013-04 Tioman 
Photos 2010-14 Sri Lanka I 
Photos 2008-03 Chagos

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