Monday, May 11, 2015

Tour of East Coast - Part 2

Stage 1: Kota Bharu - Kuala Besut

Our plane took off from the Subang Skypark at 01:20pm. 
It was a full flight with holiday makers enroute to Kelantan's state capital. We can see some young folks, clad only with tank tops and bikinis underneath them in the flight.
Michelle and I sat at the rear section of the aircraft and it took more than an hour to land at the Sultan Ismail Petra airport in Kota Bharu.
At this point in time, my hope was for the bikes to arrive intact.

An aerial view of Kota Bharu
The Firefly ATR 72-500 aircraft with our boxed bikes near it's cargo bay
Setting up the bikes
The box traveled from Taiwan to KL and eventually met it's end in Kelantan..
Setting up and rolling out..

I was surprised to find our boxes to be first luggage to roll out from the conveyor belt at the luggage recovery area.
So, having seen that everything had checked out allright, I moved the boxes onto a trolley, piled up all the gear (we packed at set of panniers with all the sharp stuff onto a duffel bag) and pushed it out.
It was mid-day and I was pretty hungry and to my shock, a bottle of 500ml mineral water costs RM4.80 at the airport.
I didn't bother with that and went on to set up the bikes. 
Michelle's Road Warrior was first on the list and as predicted, it took about 45-minutes to install the fenders and wheels on both bikes before we could roll out.
I took the used boxes and discarded them at a dump which is about 800-meters away from the terminal.
From the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, it was a 10km ride to town.
Our destination was the Bintang Indah hotel at Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra. 

Kota Bharu bound..
Dinner at Haji Noor seafood restaurant 
Steamed squid with lime sauce - a "must try"
Day Zero, a rather uneventful day..

We rode into town and took a while to locate the hotel. It turned out that hotel Bintang Indah was a refurbished motel owned by a Chinese family.
The rate goes at RM90 a nite and it was fully-booked.
I complemented the owner that his rooms were cleaned, but spoke too soon as Michelle noticed a large cockroach on the bed's wooden panel. 
Later in the day, we walked out to a seafood restaurant near a five-star hotel and had dinner there. The dishes at Haji Noor seafood restaurant are pretty decent except for the pathetic looking and tasting omelette.
After buying some drinking water from a local supermarket, we walked back to the motel and called it a night.

Destination: Kuala Besut

Our alarm clocks was set for 05:00am. 
This gave us ample time to pack up, scan the room if we left anything behind and roll out to enjoy the cool morning before daybreak.
We supposed to roll out at 06:00am, but was delayed a bit.
Nevertheless, we were out of Kota Bharu before the Sun was up.

Getting the bikes ready for the journey to Kuala Besut
The breakfast crowd

Meat on the grill

We rode about five kilometers out of Kota Bharu and found a roadside stall selling breakfast. There was a steady line of people queuing up for their food, so, this better be good!
After parking the bikes, I lined up with the rest of the folks there and ordered two packs of rice and drinks. The bill came up to RM9.20 and it tasted really good. I was surprised to see grilled lamb on the menu and people here in Kelantan take their breakfast rather seriously.
With the carbo-loading done, I checked my Garmin EDGE800 GPS. A route was plotted for Bachok and later, to Kuala Besut in Terengganu.

A Thai Buddhist temple near Bachok
A large clam from a roadside stall near Cheran Ruku

Fresh seafood! 

Kandis fishing village
Entering Terengganu
With the Sun still far in the horizon, we rode out towards Bachok.
Once we were near the district, I saw a large statue of Buddha. It was Vesak day and this was rather meaningful for us.
As I was taking snapshots, Michelle pointed out a peloton of road cyclists zooming past. By the time we could put of a fix on them, they were long gone.
At Bachok, we made a pit-stop and were greeted by a few cyclists.
"Gi mana bang?," (where are you headed brother?) one of them asked.
I told them we were headed to Kuala Besut in Terengganu.
From Bachok, we rode past Kandis, which reminded me about a Batak village in Sumatera, Indonesia that has the same name.
The next town after Kandis was Tok Bali in the Pasir Putih district. By this time of the day, it got hotter and hotter.
We pulled over at a stall near Tok Bali and helped ourselves to some coconut water. This traditional beverage is good for cooling down the body.

Surprise! Surprise!

From Tok Bali, we made our way down to Cherang Ruku, a village before crossing the state border.
Right down the road, I spotted the border sign and told Michelle to pull over so that we could do our customary "we were here" photo shoot.
And while we were at it, a stranger with a camera walked up to us.
After pulling focus on the guy, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a fellow cyclist from Kuala Lumpur. 
I met Alvin Shen a couple of times, but never really rode with him. He was with a group of cyclists headed towards Jerteh on a bikepacking adventure.
Later, the whole group came up and took a photo with us. They continued their journey while we pushed on towards Kuala Besut.

Our lunch at Kuala Besut

Taking a breather

Coconut trees in Kg Air Tawar

Dessert
The famous Zul ikan bakar in Kuala Besut
A decent seafood dinner
We checked-in at a hotel near Kg Air Tawar across the Kuala Besut bridge.
The rates are okay, our room was spacious and clean. But the entire compound of the hotel looked pretty run down. I was told by a staff there that the owner couldn't really be bothered on renting out rooms and that the facility was more than enough to cater for their own staff. It's owned by a plastic factory. 
After leaving the panniers in our room, we rode back to Kuala Besut for lunch. The entire town was packed with tourists and we managed to find a Chinese coffeeshop not too far away. 
There, it was chaotic. We sat down next to a group of young people who had just taken a holiday in Pulau Perhentian. 
I struck a conversation with one of the guys and he said there is a "cyclist friend" in their midst.
One of them said: "You are Samosaurus right?".
I was dumbfounded. Never expect to meet people whom I barely know. But it was a blessing to realize that people do follow my work.
After a good fill, we rode back to the hotel, did our laundry. 
Later in the day, we walked along the beach in Air Tawar and had more coconut water.
Dinner was in the next agenda and we rode towards an ikan bakar stall across the road.
The food outlet was not lit and I realized that there were people seating in the dark.
It opens from 08:00pm - 02:00am and once the lights came on, there was a feeding-frenzy.
The place in question was Zul ikan bakar.
We ordered some crabs, squids and a table-sized garoupa.
After waiting for nearly an hour, our food was served. And the bill came up to RM85. Pretty steep for a Malay stall, but it was a good experience. 
When we were done with dinner, it was time to head back to the hotel to catch some "Zzzzs".
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