Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Visiting Kuantan: Balok-Cherating-Beserah


Beserah might not be on top of the lists of what’s hot to see in Kuantan in most travel agents’ to do list but in my books it’s one of those place that few people actually know well enough to appreciate until they’ve seen it themselves. Beserah is situated about 25 km from Kuantan town connected by the old coastal road leading to Terengganu. A dual carriageway now connects this fishing village and ensures a smooth ride. Besides the direct excursion to Beserah itself, there are a lot of other detours along the way to keep visitors occupied. It is no secret that all through the journey the entire stretch is prime beach front, whereas Teluk Cempedak and many of the other beaches nearer to town are heavily visited and at times in bad shape, there are exceptional beaches all throughout that one can just stop by and take in the view. Expect to see lots of coconut trees, village houses, cows lazing in the middle of the road and chalet resorts as you travel through.


The most famous of these beach stretches must surely be Pantai Balok which is sited near Club Med Kuantan. Here pristine whitish to yellowish sand grains tickle your soles, water (okay so they are not as blue and pristine as those in Mediterranean islands but still rates high among Malaysian beaches) lapping on your bare feet as you splash along the surf, cool sea breezes tickling your skin and great activities lie in wait. The tree lined coast offers great spots for picnics or for the more adventurous taking a dip in the surrounding waters is safe and refreshing. Budget travelers can be assured of cheap accommodations and food easily found everywhere you look, various chalets and motels have set up businesses throughout the beachfront while eateries are plentiful and serve cheap seafood dishes. Holiday makers with less concern for cash can opt for luxury, various high class hotels such as the Legend, Club Med and Palm Beach Resort serve everything from gourmet spread to activity planners for all your needs.


Batu Hitam (Black Rock) is another known attraction yet today suffers from a combination of vandalism and neglect. The beach is named after the various black volcanic rock formations near the coast where during low tide are revealed. As a kid I used to walk precariously on the flat outcrop, peering into the rock pools in search for strange fishes or other watery denizens; went looking for shells for my collection (a practice I discouraged nowadays) and making sandcastles. Now this is no longer possible as many of the black rocks have been taken by people in the past for their use and now only the large immovable rocks are left in place, greatly diminished from the large stretch previously. Uncontrolled sewage discharge from nearby development also adds pollution to the bay and facilities are run down at the beach. Still you can find families during the weekend enjoying the beach.


If you’re peckish, a recommended diner nearby will be Pak Su’s seafood restaurant. Here you can order various dishes for dinner and seafood prices are quite cheap compared to places like Kl. Their signature dish here is the stuffed crabs, crab filaments cooked in spice and served in their shells with a thin coating of batter. I can attest that it’s worth it and the taste is excellent. All seafood is freshly taken from local fishermen and you can be assured of the taste, sotong (squid), fish and shellfish are particularly good.

Lastly don’t forget to visit Beserah itself, it is just a small village but still quaint. Kampung houses are scattered along the beach and the main occupation of residence here is fishing. Come early in the evening and you can see fishermen returning from a day at sea with their catch, several men lugging the boat ashore where waiting people are ready to snap up the choicest fishes while the rest are shipped to the nearby market. I do not need to tell people that Kuantan’s keropok lekor (a kind of fish cracker) is the best in Malaysia, I swear (don’t forget the rich chili sauce that comes along with it). Keropok and salted fish is a local specialty and often my family and I make it a point to bring a few specimens back to Kl whenever we head down.

A little detour near Beserah will take you to the Satellite transmission center, one of the two earliest satellite transmitters in Malaysia. It’s fenced up so you can’t get too close up for a look but a picture of myself in the past showed that it was not always so and I was actually a few feet from the giant dish, sadly sabotage concerns outweighs all other consideration at present. Not much you can take in from the side of the road but the dishes can still be seen in the distance.

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