I look for any excuse to go on a trip. A promotion on a travelling package? Sure, I’ll go. Your cat got sick? Sure, I’ll visit especially if you live by the beach. A good friend getting married? Hell to the yes!
We went to Terengganu to attend a wedding of a friend, on a weekend in the middle of the monsoon season. Nobody goes to Terengganu during the monsoon season. It rains and pours and floods, the beach is moody and the snorkeling islands are shut down. But the thing is, I like the unconventional. And I like lots of rain. Nothing says adventure quite like traveling down a strange road and finding new things to see that are not too touristy. While getting splashed in the face with acid rain.
We decided to pay a visit to the Islamic Civilization Park. It was the talk of the town because of its controversially high budget, but I’ve also heard some good reviews. Plus it was either that or we’ll have to visit a Batik Factory House, which to be honest, should only be reserved for when you’re 70 with no teeth.
The ticket costs RM15 (what a rip-off!) and once you’re in, you’re allowed to ride the bicycles around the park instead of walking. The park was filled with miniatures of historical mosques around the world, and the built were intricate enough that you almost feel like you’re seeing the real deal. There was the Masjid al-Haram, of course, and al-Aqsa, Grenada mosque, and the Taj Mahal, among others. Each mosque was accompanied with a description on when it was built, why it’s significant etc. If you’re too broke (right I am right now) you should give this park a try. It made me feel inspired to save money and travel again and see the real live mosques. They looked magnificent enough in miniature, so I am sure it’s even better in person.
After that we went to the beach anyway, because a visit to the East coast is never really complete until you visit a beach. That’s like eating an ice cream Sunday without the hot chocolate fudge. The beach was dark and cloudy, and it definitely gave a different nostalgic effect compared to a bright sunny beach. The former reminded me of sharks and Godzilla, while the latter reminded me of…Baywatch. Those hideous red bikinis. Yeesh.
Cycling around the park. At the back is the first mosque in Nigeria, built entirely of clay.
Now doesn't she look like she's in Istanbul? (minus the horrendous plane ride, airport tax, and currency exchange)
Sad, moody beach. It literally started pouring minutes after these pictures were taken.
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.