Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pulau Redang, The Island of Paradise

"The Plane, the plane, the plane" would be the words of announcement by Tattoo played by Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize when accompanying his boss Mr. Roarke played by Ricardo Montalban in the television series Fantasy Island (1978-1984) to greet their guests who would be arriving by plane to Fantasy Island. In this case there won't be any Mr.Roarke or Tattoo to greet you and the guests don't come by an aquaplane but by a DeHeaviland Dash 7 turboprop instead.
We didn't come to Redang by plane but we drove to Kuala Terengganu on the 17th of August 2008 evening to reach the town at 10.30 PM. We had booked at Kak Chik's (Wani) lodging earlier but had to find alternative accommodation as Kak Chik had confused herself on the date of our arrival. Thanks to that confusion, we managed to have a big enough accommodation at Aimi Homestay belonging to Haji Ayim Che Endut. Our group of 14 adults and 6 kids ranging in age from 5 months to 9 years had comfortable accommodation there even though not all the rooms were provided with air conditioning. The night temperature was cool enough to sleep without it. We couldn't find any vacant hotel room in Kuala Terengganu due to the school holiday season.
Ample parking for three cars and Haji Ayim allowed us to park two of our cars in his house compound for free while we were on the island. (Parking at the Shahbandar's jetty would cost us RM10.00 per day per car and exposed to the salt laden sea breeze).

The toilet was clean which went well with us. Above all the Pasar Chabang Tiga was close by for us to buy breakfast for the next day. The food there were cheap. Inflation is an unknown term in Kuala Terengganu as far as food was concerned. Location wise, the place was perfect as we were not that far away from the Losong Mosque and The Crystal Mosque which could be visible from the jetty at the end of the road.

When we arrived that night, they were testing the lighting in preparation for the Quran Recital Competition. Unfortunately when we reached the Taman Tamaddun at 11.00 PM they had just switched off the light.
That's the number to contact if you need no frill accommodation in Kuala Terengganu.
The package to Pulau Redang was arranged by my daughter in law Yani via Azhar of Wisana Beach Chalet. She had been vacationing at this budget resort since her younger days with her friends and now she has managed to get the husband and family hooked to the picturesque island of Redang with the beautiful underwater life.
Here we are waiting for boarding of the ferry to Pulau Redang at the Shahbandar Jetty. For the uninitiated, the jetty is located along the waterfront near not far from the Express Bus Stand and the Pasar Payang on the other side.
The first stop of the ferry was mid sea in front of this post resort on Long Beach. As the ferry had a deep draft, a shallow draft boat came to fetch the guests to transfer them to the beach.

Our turn to board the transfer boat

Wisana Resort ain't really visible from the sea.

Walking off the transfer boat to shore was easy as the gangway touched dry shore.

The restaurant was the reception area. The resort is really laid back and peaceful.

The restaurant is named the Tupai Restaurant. This rodent known as squirrel in English and tupai in Malay gave the restaurant it's name.
0This was one of the four chalets with a double bed and a single bed and an attached bathroom. The electricity supply was only 12 hrs a day at night so don't expect any air conditioning in the daytime. Anyway you are not supposed to be in your room during the day with this kind of beach at your door step. Since the resort faces east, the beach was shaded in the afternoon.
The beach can be considered as a private beach since it is the only resort there.
While the parents went snorkeling on Pulau Lima, the grandchildren were left for us to mind and they didn't take long to start enjoying themselves on the beach with such fine white sand.
Lis and Az had themselves buried while cousin Irsyad just looked on.

Building sand castles is fun.

After dinner we were taken on an optional boat ride to Long Beach where most of the posh resorts were located. I didn't bring my camera along so I didn't manage to record any night scene from the place. Suffice to say Long Beach looked something out of the world from being an island in Terengganu. Just imagine yourself in Phuket or Koh Samui. Lots of bars with three discos to boogie the night away. One of the bars had a Filipino trio performing. Ahh this is life.
At 11.00 PM we went back to the jetty where our boat was moored. After waiting for half an hour, the reserve boatman started the boat and we left home minus the boat man. However he managed to find his way home the next morning and was ready to take us snorkeling by 10.30 AM the next day despite him having to sleep the night at the jetty.
Food was to our taste at the resort. Our first breakfast at the resort was nasi lemak.

Most of us were happy with it. Anyway there is always a supply of bread and butter for those who are not happy with the food being served for the day. Ingredients for making your drink was always available so you can just fix your own drink to suit to your taste. Cold orange drink is always available throughout the day.
Water supply to the resort is from a spring in the hill behind the resort. Thus the water is free from any salinity or added chemicals. The water is gravity fed so it is free to the resort. This is a priceless asset and should be a selling point for the resort.
With a full stomach we headed for dive center to collect our snorkeling gears. Even the young ones were eager to have a go.
In our case the snorkeling was already within the package otherwise the following rate will apply.
This diving outfit known as Belukur Dive stock some good equipments like Prestige, Sea Pro and Tusa.

The boat which will be taking us will be a traditional wooden fishing boat. It maybe old but it served the purpose. After all most of the dive and snorkeling sites are just a short distance away.

The dive and snorkeling sites around the main island of Redang.
The one they are taking us to today is the Redang Marine Park a short boat ride away from the resort.
Of course this is not the boat pilot, just someone pretending to be one.
This is Bahari the guide. Remember we left him on Long Beach last night and yet he came back to take us for snorkeling around Redang Marina Park.

Upon arrival, the guide gave us some instructions about the dos and the don'ts while snorkeling before letting us jump into the sea.

Even the jetty was crowded with people snorkeling blow it and those from the top watches the colourful fishes feeding on the bread crumbs thrown at them. Hey they feed them with only high quality Gardenia Bread! If only we had an underwater camera or a casing for underwater photography. Only later we learnt from the guide that such underwater cameras can be rented from the nearby resort at about RM100 per day. The next time I go there, I will sure rent one. The cost can be splitted among all the members.
I took time to explore the rest of the island.
There is some development going on the island. New pavers were being laid and a few other facilities too. As a reminder, entrance to the marine park costs RM5.00 per head. Don't forget to bring the ticket when going to the park.
By 1.30 PM most of us were feeling hungry and wanted to go back to the resort for lunch.
When the temperature had cooled substantially, we played a game of beach volleyball.

The final night we were there, we served with fried rice, fried mee hoon with grilled fish and squid. Water melon was served for dessert. Since there were two groups at the resort that night and the other group came early for dinner, the delicious grilled squids were finished before some of the late comers from our group could reach the restaurant. The fried rice were finished early too. The moral of the story, never be late when you are served with buffet dinner when there is no guarrantee that more will be replenished later.

The nasi gorengGrilled fish
Mahathir and his wife celebrated their first wedding annivessary at the resort. The Resort management did manage to get a cake for the event.
Tried my best to get a shot of the rising full moon with the point and shoot camera.
This is the best I could muster.
My daughter caught me taking the shot of the moonlit night.
We had a goodnight sleep that night.
Woke up early to catch this view of the rising sun.
How blissful to look at the morning sun rising with not another sould to disturb you.

The high tide that occured the night before made the sand so clean and I cant resist writing the name of my blog and put it on camera. Alas the camera didn't have a wide enough angle to capture all. Duh I miss my Sony Alpha 350.
More pictures of flowers and insects pollinating it.
Other members of my family had an easy time while waiting for the ferry home. Azrin had to feed Ayen before plunging into the sea.
Waiting for the transfer boat to fetch us and send us to the ferry back to the mainland.

Hasan is a qualified electrical engineer and a co owner of the resort with his brother Awi. He is the Dive Master at Belukur Divers. No other life suit him better other than the life at sea since he is a local from Pulau Redang itself. He has found his place in this world at Redang.

The final wave of goodbye to Wisana Beach Resort, Pulau Redang.
I shall return.
Are you interested to go to Wisana Resort? Get more information on their website here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kota Bharu, Here They Come.

Flight MH1396 touched down on time at Kota Bharu Airport on 11th August 2008. Puteri and her huband Douglas with their children Duncan and Denise in tow with two trolleys of baggage were the last to exit from the arrival hall.

They had to hire a taxi just to carry their baggage to Hotel Raudah where I have booked them a room. A family room with two extra beds in a hotel right smack in Kota Bharu seemed to have serve them. If they are not happy I will have to relocate them to another hotel in town.
Due to the death of a distant member of the family by a fatal road accident, I was unable to take them around on the second day. They did some part of the town on their own. They made the mistake od taking an unnecessary taxi ride to The War Museum which cost them RM8.00 (after some bargaining) since it was just a short distance away from where they were. See Puteri's story of their adventure in Kota Bharu here.
I came over the next day and took them to visit the Buddhist temples in Tumpat namely the Sleeping Buddha and the squatting Buddha. Puteri pointed out the influence of the Chinese culture in the later as displayed by the presence of the dragon motif on the pillars and the Chinese God which I wouldn't have noticed while Douglas pointed to the sculptures of the monkeys that depict the famous "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil" principle that we all should adhere to.
On the way back to Kota Bharu my guests wanted to see how akok is made and they saw it somewhere in Wakaf Baru.
We had lunch at Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah in Kota Bharu which many tourists wouldn't have done. Puteri was attracted to a stall with some large cuttlefish on display. The stall was empty so it was convenient for the five of us to sit in. I forgot to warn Puteri that an empty stall during peak hour doesn't reflect well on the food's palatabilty. It was later proven so when the cuttle fish turned out to be leather tough and not as succulent as it looks. Douglas had two packets of laksa Kelantan costing a mere ringgit each which serve him fine for what was to follow uo next.

Duncan can put up a sweet smile while Denise who is hidden behind Duncan enjoyed her piece of chicken. Puteri looked at her seemingly delicious cuttlefish which proved to be not so succulent.
After the lunch I showed Douglas and Puteri the most often photographed central part of the Pasar and they took a couple of shots with their camera.
Next we went over to the fruit section on the ground floor where Douglas showed every passerby how a durian loving American eat the durian batang mas from Thailand. The same durian would have cost them dearly if taken in California. Durians are exported in the frozen form from Thailand. The earlier laksa lunch was fine for Douglas as it leaves him with enough space to finish off the whole durian with Puteri. Me? I can't take any durian and just enjoyed the sight of them eating them while taking pictures of them with my old camera. How I miss my Alpha 350 which is still under repair.

Puteri admiring his man for being able to eat durian like the locals do.

Duncan need to pee. I took him to the public toilet and he readily posed for a photograph with a smile while holding back his urge to pee.

Compared to the toilet near the fish market in Labuan, this toilet isn't very ceria at all. Anyway Duncan managed to do it this time which he couldn't at the other toilet on the other side of the pasar. Anyway they refunded his payment for entrance when I told the keeper that the toilet wasn't clean enough for him. Being a child, the lady keeper had to believe him.

It was the night for the gathering with Kelantan bloggers at Yati Ayam Percik in Jalan Long Yunus. I went there early to book tables for 20 people set at 8.00 PM. Pakpayne of A Clear Blue Sky and Bakpo and family came to the Raudah Hote Hotel first since he didn't know the location of the place we were holding the gathering. Pakpayne doesn't look his gae and Lil looked resplendent too. After doing their maghrib's prayers, Pakpayne and family followed us in a convoy from Hotel Raudah to the place and so he had no problem. Captain Yusof of the Ancient Mariner had checked the place out during the day time so he thought he could find the place easily. I had to ask the others to start eating while I went to search for Captain Yusof with his group of NGO friends. He told me he was waiting infront of a small mosque at the junction of Jalan Bayam and Jalan Dusun Muda. He missed the bigger landmark of the 13 storey Wisma Persekutuan and The Sutera Inn across the road whose only signboard faces the other side of the road. The mosques was definitely too small as a lorry parked infront of it hid it from my sight.
When we reached Yati Ayam Percik, the other members including the latest arrival Awin of Little Dewa and her kid Dani were almost done with their dinner. Our own dinner was served soon after.
Wan Aziz of was the last to arrive as he had to send his wife off to Perak.

Pakpayne' family is at the ened of the table. Will have to ask Pakpayne for a picture of his other half.
Captain Yusof explained to me the function of his NGO, The Friends of Kelana Jaya. The association also help them to find an excuse to be away from home. I must set up a similar association in Pasir Mas too. I definitely need an excuse to be away from home sometimes.

The five of them above are from the NGO. The nearest to the camera is of course Captain Yusof, Syed Khalid on his left, Nusa hidden behind Syed Khalid, Yap hidden behind Captain Yusof and Gabriel beside yours truly. Let us see if others have more frontal picture so that I can replace this picture.
It seemed that nobody brought their kain batik lepas and Puteri brought along a kain batikSarawak since she didn't know what a kain batik lepas is. The five pieces that I brought along was of course not enough to give everyone each. After writing our names and blogsite on the kain batik lepas with a fabric marker which Puteri brought out from her bag after seeing me brought only a permanent marker which wouldn't last, we wore the cloth as a semutar for the photography session.

Kamal showed Douglas how to wear the semutar while Captain Yusof looked on.

The group photograph. From left to right: Awin, Pak Zawi, Pakpayne, Kamal, Wan Aziz, Douglas, Captain Yusof and Puteri.
The kids: Duncan, Luqman and Dani.
It was at about 10.30 PM that we called the day off. How I wish we could stay longer with such friends but knowing everybody has had a long day, breaking off early is definitely a wiser action. Let the event be short and sweet.
Finally I would like to record a word of thanks to those who contributed financially to the event especially the one from KL who contributed but knowing full well that she couldn't attend. To Syana, you were with us though not physically. To those who attended, you were our guests and we definitely enjoyed your company.
Today 14th August, Puteri, Douglas, Duncan and Denise has left Kelantan for a night stay in KL before flying off to California USA tomorrow. We wish you a safe journey home.