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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Chilling with Otters in Cherating

MALAYSIA | Monday, 1 March 2010 | Views [1258]

Cherating was always one of our favourite beach spots in Malaysia, but since discovering how cheap and easy it is to get to Langkawi, we hadn’t been for a while. So, another long weekend in Malaysia saw us heading off to the east coast to chill from the stress of work (well Emma anyway) for a couple of days.

The bus journey over the highlands on the Friday morning was pretty quick and uneventful and we arrived in Kuantan by lunch time. We decided to have a bite to eat before heading on to Cherating, big mistake! Nipped into the nasi kandar restaurant next to the bus station and had the worst rice and curry in the whole of Malaysia; bland, greasy and cold. To top it all they shut all the shutters while we were eating and over charged us, won’t be going there again. We opted for a taxi as we were in a hurry to get on the beach and was pleasantly surprised to find that the fare for the 40 odd km trip had gone down to RM55. The bus is only RM7 but it can take an hour and a half so we were happy to arrive in Cherating in about 45 minutes. The scenery on the way up the coast from Kuantan is lovely, and in fact, the east coast reminds us a lot of Sri Lanka. It’s very laid back and people seem happy with their modest lifestyle compared to the ‘I must have the most expensive car possible’ brigade that lives in Bangsar.

We headed straight for our favourite guesthouse, Payung and were surprised to see the owner Trish there. Last time we saw her she had gone back to Scotland to have a kid and it must have been a while as said sprog was almost as big as Emma, ok that’s not saying much but she must have been 3! They had a room and we soon settled in to our wood hut. Now this is a backpacker place (again the price seemed to have gone down to RM 40!), but the huts are clean and set in a lovely garden so it fits the bill. After leaving most of our dinner (lunch to non-northerners), we were still peckish and set off in search of food. Now, we love Cherating for its laid back Kampung vibe, but getting something to eat can be a chore. A lot of our old haunts had closed down since our last visit so we tried a few other gaffs without getting any response. Finally, we managed to wake someone up at a Chinese place and they eventually got granddad to make a plate of noodles. A dusky langur even popped along in the tree above us so Emma was happy. Finally sated (no we didn’t eat the monkey), we headed down to the beach. We were pleased to see that despite being a public holiday the beach was very quiet. Even so, it is a huge expanse of clean, white sand and it is easy to find a quiet spot. We found a small cove at the far end of beach and settled down for the afternoon. We went for a couple of dips in the clean and calm sea which meant a sponsored hike as the sea was further out than Southport. The idea was to cool off, but the water was boiling, literary like a warm bath, not that I’ve had one of those for a number of years! In the off season this is the main place in Malaysia for surfers, not quite Hawaii methinks. We decided to go for a ‘banker’ for our evening meal, Duyung Thai restaurant which is set on stilts over the beach (not sea) and has been there for years, it always does consistent and tasty Thai food and they even put the chillies in despite being ‘farang’. The staff are Thai and Emma even manages to order off menu to get what she wants – a result. Early bath.

After a lazy morning of balcony brews and roti we enquired about river trips. Yes, most people come to Cherating for the beach, but there is a great river that runs through mangrove and has loads of wildlife. They said we could go now instead of part of the scheduled 9 am/4 pm tours – why not? Now we have done this trip numerous times but it is always fantastic, and as yet we hadn’t seen the otters on the trip. We were lucky once to see Emma’s favourite animal on the river just behind the guesthouse, but I think they only turned up that time because Emma’s mum, Joan, was with us; Joan being a lucky charm when it comes to wildlife spotting. So off we went up the river, it only takes a minute or so to be out of the village and into deep mangrove. The boatman went very slowly and it was great to float along through the mangrove forest. He spotted several mangrove snakes for us and a small monitor but alas no otters. I’m sure he went further down the river than usual and he even tried a small tributary, never mind, we were just enjoying the trip and it was very pleasant to have the boat to ourselves. On the way back he motored a bit but had to come to a sudden stop as an otter was staring at us from the middle of the river. We couldn’t believe it! Then 2 more appeared and we had the pleasure of watching  and following them along the river for about 15 minutes as they swam, caught fish and finally went up the bank and dried themselves before heading into the mangrove. A really amazing experience and how can you not like otters? That will keep Emma happy for days (you may have noticed that my life is dedicated to keeping Emma happy, ha ha!).

Another lazy afternoon at our cove, however, we did go for a wander around the village and we saw monitors, macaque monkeys and hornbills. Food that night was back to Duyung, most reliable place to town and was very good again. The challenge of the night was to find a place with beer and Astro TV for the Chelsea v City game. We tried all the places we had watched footy in before but it seems that no one had paid their bills. We were finally directed to a new beach bar and they had it and even a big if slight wonky screen. We settled in and they changed it over from the local news and even put the commentary on when we pointed out that we were the only patrons in the place! Another group of westerners came in and a few were interested in the game. Turned out they were a group of teachers from The British School in KL which is a new international school. Apart from a couple of the group, most looked like they should be students not teachers! Everyone is getting younger these days hey. Anyway, amazingly City won at Stamford Bridge for the first time since time began, so a good night was had by all.

Another chilled late start before heading back to Kuantan by bus, which amazingly came after 1 minute of waiting, this is more unlikely than City winning at Chelsea. Back to KL without a hitch, and the end of another great weekend. I’m sure there will be more.

Travel Information

KL to kuantan by Transnasional bus from Puda Raya station ( 4 hrs, RM18)

Taxi from Kuantan to cherating (RM 55, 45 mins)

Paying Guesthouse – Great place to stay ( RM40 a hut)

http://www.backpackingmalaysia.com/hostel/payung-guest-house/cherating

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