NOT growing up in Trengganu
I was sent for a work assignment on a seismic vessel for three weeks starting the 23rd July. In order to go on the ship I had to first take an hour-long fight to Terengganu, West Peninsular Malaysia, and then take a small boat for 12 hours to reach the mother vessel. The small boat was due on Friday morning, so I took the flight on Wednesday so I could get a day of sight seeing in Terengganu.
The last time I visited Terengganu was when I was about 10. Last year I read ‘Growing Up in Trengganu’ by Awang Goneng, a book about the author’s childhood in the state, and I’ve been excited about visiting this place ever since. I arrived at Kerteh Airport at 6 p.m. and took a cab at the hotel which cost me bloody 40 bucks. 40 bucks? That has made me officially one of those dumb tourists who got tricked by the mean local taxi drivers.
That night a few of my guy friends took me out for dinner at Kemaman, about 30 minutes drive from my hotel. The restaurant was called ‘Restaurant Terapung’ or simply translated as the Floating Restaurant. And it really was literally floating. It was right off the main street of Kemaman, but cleverly hidden so you couldn’t find it unless you’re a local and know your way around, and a guy friend of mine was from around so we found it easily.
The food was great, local Malaysian dishes like Ikan Siakap Tiga Rasa (Deep Fried Barramundi in three-flavored sauce, which in case you’re wondering, is supposed to be all sweet, sour and hot), stir fried vegetables, calamari fritters, Tomyam soup and finished off with a tall glass of sour sop juice. The view was fabulous, because the restaurant was floating on a wide saltwater river overlooking the mangrove trees. We then proceeded to have an hour-long conversation of ‘If Animals Have a Facebook Account…’ which would’ve caused Einstein to cry in shame because of the amount of brain cells wasted here.
The next day a good friend of mine who was a local decided to bring me around for a short tour. We went bowling, like a couple of losers with no other friends to socialize with. Then he took me to Kemasik beach, a pretty sandy white beach with small fishermen’s boats floating around the lagoon, bobbing up and down with the waves. We ordered coconut drinks, keropok lekor (local fish chips) and fresh fried fish, which I’ve never tried before. We sat beneath the trees by the beach and talked for hours. Talking to guys has never failed to astound me. They have the strangest perspective in life, don’t they? The ways they look at things are quite never the same as girls. It’s liberating and funny at the same time to hear the talks from their side of the planet.
That late evening after he dropped me back at the hotel, I went to sit alone by the private beach of the hotel. Minus the beach fleas, the sunset was beautiful. In college I’ve always watched sunsets with good friends, but sitting there alone on the white sand of an empty beach is a different affair altogether. No humans in sight, just me, the beach, and the good old beach fleas. The city, the problems, the hyped life of shoes and bags, they all seemed like a million miles away. I felt kind of…happy. Maybe life is supposed to be this simple after all.