Cherating: “I am sure it would be great in High Season”

We were very happy with ourselves, on getting to Cherating. After again more research and asking at the bus station office we boarded the 602 local bus from Hentian Bandar to Balok Makmur for a couple of ringgit. At Balok Makmur terminal the 604 local bus was waiting. We boarded asking to be let off at Cherating and intensely watching the map so we could press the buzzer when we got there. The whole journey from Kuantan was painless, air-conditioned and cost us about 6RM each (can’t remember exactly the price). We were dropped off by the bus on the dusty main road behind Cherating. We walked down the road to where the majority of accommodation is. On the way there we were greeted by a man saying hello from his motorbike, so we said hi back. Then he proceeded to ask if we were married, then we are pretty sure he asked Dave if he could buy me and tried to show us his background phone pictures of naked women. Great welcome to town!

There is hardly any accommodation you can book before so we were going off websites such as Wikitravel and old Travelfish pages for where to look. We were expecting it to be quiet but we hardly saw anyone whilst walking through the small town. It felt deserted apart from one small café we walked past. The heat was intense as we were walking around looking for options. Despite it being a ghost town some of the “budget” options were still trying to charge extortionate prices (by SEA and our standards). Eventually, Dave had had enough, overheating so I abandoned him on the side of the road with all our luggage whilst I went in search of some cheaper options.

Arriving at Matahari huts it was also dead but I knew that bungalows were supposed to be cheap here so I waited for a bit in the front communal area where there were a few grimy, dusty sofas. Eventually, an old man in a questionably clean towel walked out and seemed a bit shocked to find me standing here. I asked if he had any rooms where he shuffled around to one of the other bungalows to get one of the long-term Malay guests to translate for him. He showed me a very basic triangle hut with a fan and two small twin beds and then told me the price was 30RM a night which I was very pleased about. Our budget between us was hopefully 50RM. Perfect. After rescuing Dave from the side of the road we settled into our little hot bungalow and tried to cool off slightly on the little balcony that overlooked the communal garden. Matahari huts, like Cherating itself, I imagine is actually very busy in the peak season in December where the conditions are perfect for surfing. Matahari actually has a surf school too, and a communal kitchen, great base for a surfer for the season.

We were hungry and thirsty so we made our way to the one place we had seen that looked open. This was Ombok (meaning waves) café. It was a full-on surf café with surfboards on the wall, adventure sports stickers littering everywhere, rickety old but cool furniture and even a small VW camper seat. The shop actually sold some surf gear too. We cooled ourselves off with an iced coffee (4RM) and read a while before ordering some sandwich toasties for lunch (8RM). We returned to our bungalow shortly after to read some more and then get our washing out whilst it was sunny. Then it rained heavily for a while (luckily the washing was protected by the roof but it was typical)!

The beach was nice but not as spectacular or clean as the one we had found in Kuantan. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend loads of time on the one at Kuantan as we knew we were hopefully going to be spending a few days on the beach here. Despite it being a pleasant beach, unfortunately, we couldn’t really go for a swim as there were loads of Jellyfish on the shores and lots of different sizes/ types of them due to the season. Again, sure it is lovely in the right season! Beach out the picture we walked around the town and tried to get information on the bus for getting out of Cherating to Kuala Terranganu. Old information on the internet had said that at one of the guesthouses they would book bus tickets for you on the bus travelling from Kuantan to KT and then you just stand on the main road getting on as it passes. This was no longer the case though we found out. It may be more of a possibility when it is high season and the travel agency shops are open. When we were there none of these were opened or looked like they were likely to open again. They were, like a lot of the restaurants whilst we were there, just bare bone shacks covered in dirt with shabby signs dangling from them. Anyway, we found out that to get to KT we would have to get a taxi to Chukai, a nearby town. Then get the local bus from there. We could figure that out later though.

In the evening we tried to go to the Chinese restaurant that was nearby and recommended to us ended but it ended up being closed that night so we headed back to the main street. There were a couple of basic local places open. We walked along the beach as there were two/ three beachfront restaurant/ bars open. These ended up being way outside our budget so we ended up at Nabil a local restaurant in the town. It was busy with quite a few of the plastic tables and chairs occupied and an extensive menu. We tried some noodle dishes that we hadn’t had before- Badiang, which turned out to be very soupy (5.50RM) and Malay noodles, very tomatoey (5.50RM). Although there were a few bars we didn’t have the money to spend really on a few drinks so instead, we headed back after dinner and watched a movie.

As we knew the beach wasn’t really an option we spent our second day entirely in Ombok café making the most of somewhere with a cool atmosphere being open and it having wifi. We started with breakfast- coffee (4RM) and scrambled eggs (8RM) for me, Dave had pancakes and syrup (8RM). We spent time reading, editing photos, backing up our pictures/ videos and writing blogs. When we felt hunger setting in again we had lunch- chicken sandwich and chips (12RM) and hot dog and tortilla crisps (10RM). In the late afternoon so we weren’t completely taking the mick we also ordered refreshing lemonade (4RM). The food/ drinks weren’t amazing but they were decent enough and the guy working there was super friendly as well as happy to let us hang around for the day. Exactly what you would expect from a surfer café. In there we also talked to a girl that happened to be staying in the bungalow next door, Rhiannon from Wales. She had been there a few days and was equally unsure how to get out of the town without it costing a fortune as she was on her own. We were all unsure due to it coming up to the Hari Raya celebration period, where transportation shuts down on the east coast if buses would even still be running. We agreed to share a cab with her in the morning to try to keep costs down and then we could get the bus together. In the evening we found the Chinese restaurant to be open so we ate some more noodle dishes there, which were very underwhelming and slightly more expensive. We also saw no fireflies on the river as suggested we might do if we ate there…disappointing all around. We spent the evening looking into Kuala Terranganu and booking a place so that we would have somewhere to stay at the start of Hari Raya festivities. Unfortunately during this process dates got mixed up and I managed to book the wrong dates, booking the place starting from the day we were already on! After emailing and them calling us back they were able to move the dates for us thankfully but were unsure if we would be charged…annoying!

We packed up our possessions in the morning and waited in the communal area at the agreed time to meet Rhiannon. After a few minutes we ended up knocking on her door…turns out she thought we had already left without her. 15 minutes later she was all packed. We initially attempted to get a ‘grab’ but they aren’t really available in Cherating. Luckily we asked the lady at our place to order us a taxi to Chukai bus terminal. We had to clarify that we wanted the terminal in the town for the local buses as there is a terminal outside of town that services buses to Kuala Lumpur. The lady’s sister pulls up in her boy racer car and she chats to us about our travels, takes Rhiannon to several ATMs to try to get money out (a lot nearby don’t have money in them) and then drops us off at the terminal in Chukai for 40RM (split between 3 of us). The terminal consisted of two small ticket office counters surrounded by signs of where and what time the buses go as well as a couple of benches for people to wait. We arrived slightly before 10 but unfortunately, that bus was already full. The lady serving us was very helpful and had decent English. She booked tickets for us to Kuala Terranganu for 14.60RM each on the 12pm bus (they go every couple of hours). We were starving so asked her where we could get some food where she directed us down the street from the bus station to a small local supermarket. We all picked up a load of snacks for breakfast as well as for later in the day. We ate, chatted and waited by the riverfront, not the cleanest place but slightly nicer than the bus station for a couple of hours. When the bus arrived the lady called over to us, we loaded our stuff into the under locker and sat in our allocated seats. Three hours later we arrived in Kuala Terranganu after a painless journey to its large central terminal. Rhiannon was trying to head up to Kota Bharu for the Perhentian islands that same day. She wandered off looking a bit lost and confused about where to start on how to get there so we stuck around, talked to a few of the ticket counters and eventually she found the time/ place of the local bus up there which meant we could head to our hotel.

Our time in Cherating was a nice break but we would like to go back when it is not Ramadan, and when it is slightly more peak season because it had a very interesting, laidback vibe which would be perfect when there is a bit more life and a few more places open.

Alex

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