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Friday, April 21, 2006

Offbeat Travelogue: Sunday Road Trip to the East Coast

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Last Sunday, I had to do a day-trip, by road to Kerteh, Terengganu, for a meeting. This is probably one of the reasons for getting sick the last few days, the strain and all. That, and catching a bad flu bug.

The day started early, leaving the homestead at 4:30am. It's nice driving at that time, 'cause you avoid the morons that usually inhabit the motorways during normal waking hours. My route to Kerteh took me across KL, along the Karak Highway, and from there thru the East Coast Highway, which currently is open between Karak and Kuantan.

There's nothing more surreal than having The Cocteau Twins on your CD player, and witnessing this through your windscreen. Goosebumps, I tell ya.

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The East Coast Highway has to be Malaysia's best designed highway. Good gradient management, great visibility (except when it pours heavily, at night). It's also one of the bounciest rides I know of, particularly East-bound towards Kuantan... (more in the full post). Great design, less than great, so-so execution.

A little bit later I came across this. Kevin Costner's movie "Field Of Dreams" came to mind, for obvious reasons.

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If you build it, they will come... or in this case, "if you build it, then hope the surrounding NOTHING gets developed soon, then they will come... maybe".

Malaysia? Boleh.... This is taking contingency and fore-planning a little tad far, methinks.

And, is it just me, or has JKR (Public Works Department) totally lost the skill of building roads properly?

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Yes, our roads are bumpy/bouncy, and boy, are we proud of it! We can't build the damn thing right, but at least we put up signs to warn ya! A side-effect of road privatization in Malaysia, perhaps? I guess putting up signs is easier than actually making the road even. But hey, who am I to criticize? (insert your own cynical snicker here)

Just a little further north from the Bridge to/from Fucking Nowhere, as you approach the Terengganu state line, things just get a little more bizarre. For instance: it's common knowledge that the national trunk road speed limit is 90 km/hour (just over 55 mph). So here I am, merrily cruising at 90, when without warning...

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Burn them brake-shoes, baby! Burn, baby, burn! Actually, truth be told, I just ignored it. Just like every other motorist does when they pass thru this stretch...

As you cross into Terengganu, the first district you pass through is Kemaman, whose administrative center is a town called Chukai (or Cukai, as the new Malay spelling probably calls for). The locals, however, call Chukai Kemaman. So, if one says they are going to Kemaman, they probably mean Chukai. Or it could be somewhere in Kemaman. Which includes Chukai. Confused? So are the locals, apparently, when they came up with this monstrosity, currently under construction.

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WTF is this thing supposed to be? A cow-abducting alien rest stop? Modern art? A clue to unravel the da Vinci Code? A sheer waste of money?

No? I guess I'll find out the next time I'm up there. Or, better yet, if anyone from Kemaman, I mean Chukai... no, wait, Kema... anyone from the area knows what this is, please feel free to leave a comment and enlighten me.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Chukai, or Terengganu. After all, Chukai is the home to the famous Hai Peng Coffee.

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It's one of the few places I've been to where workday-morning rush-hour traffic looks like this. Don't you wish KL were like this?

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And, it's one of the few places I know of with the opportunity to witness this bit of natural coolness... scary, but cool-looking nonetheless.

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Almost like a Tsunami wave-cloud leading-front of torrential rain blowing in from the South China Sea. Actually, it was a Tsunami-like wave-cloud leading-front of torrential rain. Minutes after I took that snapshot, it actually started to pour.

About 20 minutes later, I arrived at my destination, a rather wet Kerteh. And since it was early, and I still had to wait for my colleague to arrive from KL, I decided to have breakfast here

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the first, and probably only, McD's in Terengganu, where I made a new friend

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and where the concept of drive-thru take-away is still pretty novel.

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And just what exactly would a "drive-thru challenge" be anyway? Hey, why don't we ask the guy responsible for the Kemaman Chukai whatchamacalit? Or maybe not.

But hey! Don't let this post stop you from visiting Terengganu! No-siree bob! 2007 is the Visit Terengganu Year. Or is it 2006? Or 2008?

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More confusion? But I guess any year's a good year to visit Terengganu. Arguably, PAS did didley-squat for the state during its 4-year rule over Terengganu, and now the state government is aggressively promoting it as a premier tourist destination.

And Terengganu truly is a wonderful state - beautiful beaches, numerous island resorts (Redang, Kapas, Lang Tengah & Perhentian, to name a few), the Kenyir Lake - just a few of the natural gifts that God's bestowed upon the state. And like the rest of Malaysia, this asylum we lovingly call home, don't let the little oddity here and there deter you...

Until the next Offbeat Travelogue post, just remember that Walski is an equal opportunity nit-picker... no state or oddity unturned!!