Kuantan- empty town but also deserted beach

We pulled off the main highway after 3 hours from Jerantut arriving to a large fairly modern building in the late afternoon. Terminal Sentral, is a few miles outside of Kuantan so this meant finding a way to get to the centre. Like normal, there were taxis waiting about but I read that if we went downstairs there is a local bus that takes you into the city centre for only a couple of ringgit. Going downstairs we found a group of local people hovering around what looked very much like a city bus although its lights weren’t on and the driver was sat in a seat on his phone. After waiting for a few minutes another bus pulled in and everyone formed an orderly queue to get on the bus. We were pleasantly surprised to find the bus, and all of the extensive bus transport in Kuantan very modern with numbers of buses on the outside with places they are going, very cheap fares, aircon and spacious interiors. We climbed on board the 303 bus to Hentian Bandar (the main terminal in the city centre) for only 2RM each. From this terminal, we walked the 10 minutes or so to the hotel we had booked. Hotel Elmark was a clean, generic hotel. Our room was modern enough, small and with a small bathroom they had built into the room and put some glass around (I don’t know why they always like to use glass no one wants to see you on the toilet!!). The hotel did also claim to be the ‘King of Fans’ as well though and it had some very large nicely crafted fans (something I didn’t think I would ever comment on from an aesthetic view).

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On our way from Terminal Sentral, the bus had taken us through what looked like a huge Ramadan Bazaar night market close to Hentian Bandar. So after a few minutes sorting ourselves out, we ventured out to it. It was however too late when we got there and all the stalls seemed to be closed or closing and no one wants the last bits of food from a night market. So instead we walked to East Coast Mall in the hope they would have a food court. Kuantan is full of large malls, perfect if you like your shopping and East Coast is one of the larger, better ones. We ended up taking a roundabout way to get there and it took us much longer than expected. When we finally arrived the place was huge and we were hopeful for a cheap food court. Alas, our plans were thwarted and after a good half an hour of searching we could not find one. With our stomachs growling and both getting annoyed at each other as we both just wanted food we found some restaurants on the ground level hidden on the outside of the mall. We ate at a generic restaurant having sweet and sour and meemak noodles for about 10RM each. It was pleasant enough but not night market food like we had hoped for. We found yet another Uniqlo in the mall where Dave bought some more underwear (you can never have too many underwear –D) and I found a great pair of 3 quarter length trousers that were airy and baggy. Kuantan, like most of the other cities on the east coast, is very Muslim so I wanted to be comfortable in the heat as well as comfortable that people weren’t going to stare and also just be respectful within their community (I am so glad I bought them I have worn them so much now on this trip!).
After a fairly decent lay in, we found the local 7/11 where we bought a packet of cheap cereal and a small drink size carton of milk each. We took these back to the room to eat our cereal and milk in our travel cups and have a hot coffee with the little kettle. We did this each morning as we hadn’t found many restaurants near us to actual get breakfast from and this was a cheap, easy option. Then we set out to actual explore Kuantan for the day. The original plan was to make our way to where the tourist office was pinned on maps.me to get some info about buses to take us to some local sights out of town. On the way, we stopped in the parade centre (a much more local mall/bazaar). As we walked we were hit with the delicious smell of baking bread/ cakes. It was here we discovered Mexico buns (also known as rottiboy), which are sweet buns with a butter filling and glazed with a topping- we went for coffee. Sweet and slightly crunchy/chewy on the outside, doughy and buttery on the inside, as well as warm straight from the oven. Super cheap sweet snack too. After getting sidetracked by this we headed to the tourist information, which unfortunately was long since shut- bolted doors, windowed panelled over and piles of dusty leaflets strewn across the floor. We did later see a new tourist information office on our way towards the malls near to the Little India, Chinatown and Malay malls that are all in a row.

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So instead we explored around the sights of Kuantan. This took about 40 minutes at most. The streets were empty and lots of the shops/ restaurants were shut due to it being Ramadan. We walked along the riverfront where they have a reasonably nice boardwalk looking out on the mangroves the other side of the river. Then we headed to see the Sultan Ahmad Shah State Mosque the only real “sight” in Kuantan. It was very pretty and impressive in size but we took a few pictures and then we were at a loss of what to do with our day as we had seen most of what there was to see. We were hungry and thirsty so naturally, we checked out TripAdvisor to see if there were any decent coffee shops around in this big city. There were about three on the whole list. One we like the look of as it said it did waffles too but it was in a completely different area of town about an hour walk away. But with nothing to do and a want for coffee we set out for a long, incredibly hot walk in the sun. We walked through various different areas- city parts, residential parts, alongside main roads and eventually found 90 degrees art and café, very grateful that they had aircon. The walk was worth it though when our iced cappuccinos, complete with ice cream (10 RM) and our peanut butter and chocolate waffles (15), also complete with ice cream, turned up. We love our healthy lunches! It was all delicious if not a little bit too sweet and we were completely stuffed. Thankfully we had spotted a bus stop just across from the café and checking Google we found we could get the 601 bus back to the Hentian Bandar terminal (even though we probably should have walked off the waffles). We did a few admin bits in our room, too stuffed to again get to the night market as it shuts by about 7ish. When we did get hungry there was not much open so we ended up in KFC (truly unhealthy day!).

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After much research and talking to the people at the bus station we waited at the bus terminal to go on a day out to Teluk Cempeadek Beach. We found that often the buses do not display their numbers whilst they are stationed in the bus station and they are also not in the corresponding bays as the maps there would suggest. After waiting for a few minutes and checking all the buses that were leaving we boarded the 200 bus where the final stop is Teluk Cempeadek beachfront (2RM each, each way). We walked from the bus stop through the deserted beachfront shop/ restaurant area complete with Starbucks, KFC, McDonald’s, subway and AW (it has a real local vibe!). When we got to the beach we found the golden yellow sands that stretched for ages to be spotlessly clean, empty and have accompanying lovely blue sea. There are actually two beaches and to get to the second you walk along the beach to the left and around a metal boardwalk along the cliff front. This is covered in jungle and a lot of naughty macaques, which we avoided and carried on walking. As well as monkeys we also saw quite a big monitor lizard and lots of cats! The other beach was small but equally as beautiful. I believe when it is high season/ not Ramadan these beaches must get packed with the second one being slightly quieter. After a nice walk and lots of photos, we returned to the main stretch of beach and went for a swim. The water was instantly deep, lovely and cool but not cold and we had all of it to ourselves for the majority of the time. There was one other family that came onto the beach whilst we were there. When we had dried off a bit we headed to the Starbucks for some cold brew coffee (12RM), reading on their upstairs terrace and looking out over the sea view. As we only had chain options for lunch we opted for a slightly healthy Subway (12RM) but then ruined it by having a McDonalds ice cream (2.50RM) before waiting for the bus to head back to Kuantan. Definitely one of the most beautiful and the cleanest beaches we have been to the whole of our trip. In the afternoon we worked on blogs and put up public trips on Couchsurfing for Malaysia. We ended up actually heading to the night market in the evening which was a very decent size with lots of stalls. We grabbed some Murtabak (4RM), satay chicken skewers (5 for 3.50RM), some pancake type things (3RM) and Kuey Teuy noodles (2RM) and ate our feast back in the hotel room.

The next morning we found our way to Cherating on the local buses.

Alex

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