At 1900 hrs, I was scouting for the night stop, 42kms on my odometer. My stomach was on call and I spotted a signboard Riverside Chalet. RM70 a night and I settled in.
It was obvious that this beach is already losing its charm and attraction, slowly but surely. Even RESTORAN SUSAH DILUPAKAN is now "SUDAH DILUPAKAN"!
The beach...yes the dirty beach. Who shall we blame except ourselves.
When I cycled into Kemaman, i.e. into Trengganu I noticed the clean and well maintained road of this town. It gave a sense of orderliness, a much better impression than the memories of Cherating. A photo of my senior in RMC, OP Ismail Said was on the billboard. He is the MP of Kemaman I suppose. No wonder Kemaman is spick and span"g".
I decided to explore Kuala Kemaman, which is off the main road. A signage pointed out to Teluk Mok Nek and I was told the locals call it Monica Bay! As I cycled in to Kuala Kemaman, I can't help but noticed the competitive signboards offering all kinds of local delicacies.
His name is Aziz and he sells satar. So he is AZIZ SATTARBut he also sells my all time favorite - Nasi Putih Lauk Kampung, which is Ikan Tawar campur Budu. Ooh..I salivate during this fasting month thinking of this. Menu for today's buka puasa.
Development abounds in Kuala Kemaman. Reclamation project is under way and I can't help but noticed a row of neatly parked tractors. The military in me reminded me of those "fall in" or "masuk baris" for a parade.
Exiting Kuala Kemaman I progressed into Kijal. Kijal is now off the main road as a result of the bypass. I decided to cycle into Kijal and was rewarded with a group of excited kids. They were attending religious classes and was about to enter class after their break. A photographic opportunity and I took out my EOS. Kids' curiosity - they slowly braved themselves to be photographed. They came nearer and nearer and I regretted not having a wide-angle. I wasn't sure whether the Ustazah wanted to be photographed or showing a little discomfort that I attracted the kids more than she did!
I moved on and then chanced upon a warong. Nasi Dagang, nasi dagang! I stopped to ask. Yes indeed. Time was 1040, still early for lunch but who cares. I reasoned out that I need to do carbo-loading. Some will call it self-justification to avoid that guilty feeling. Who cares.
"Ingat ko Mat Salleh" said the girl manning the warong. Ha..ha...kulit sawo matang macam ni and size of a midget dia ingat Mat Salleh. "Bukang Mat Salleh, Mat Romli" I said in the Teganung slang. I had my fill and on heavy stomach I cycled on, fully satiated.
The notable landmark at Kemasik Beach had to be the huge rock by the sea. It's still there, but adorned with PAS flags, probably the only land that PAS now could lay claim on after losing the last general election.
The gentle breeze of the South China Sea fanned an other wise hot day. I decided to have an afternoon siesta on the bench. What a life. It was 1300 hrs and hot. I felt reluctant to leave. It's lunch hour and more vehicles are stopping by, to lunch at the purpose built complex. A bus load from Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang stopped by, probably on a study tour-cum-shopping (what else)
Gave myself another 10 mins before I pushed off. At 14:10 I was feeling what cyclists called "the bonk" - energy depletion. Tired. Must be the hot weather I told myself. I was also running out of water and Dungun was another 30kms ahead. Found a mosque, a new one in Kg Labuhan"g" and also found a Power Gel in my pannier. Power Gel to cure my bonk.
Another break at a Petronas Station for jagung and 100 plus at 15:30 and I continued on to Dungun, reaching there at 1800 hrs. Scouted for a hotel at Kuala Dungun but finally settled in a RM70 HOTEL IPN in town. I clocked 115kms with average speed of 18.5 km/hr and burned 3112 kcal.
And who says Trengganu had no train? Yes, they don't have train"g" but boast of "kereta lipang". And they are proud of it too!
DAY 3 : WEDNESDAY 5th SEPTEMBER (Dungun - KT - Batu Rakit - Merang)
I left the hotel at the break of dawn to cover as much distance in the cool morning air. Stopped for breakfast in Rantau Abangg, 20 kms outside Dungun. Wan Mamat called and said he's somewhere behind me. Not long after I met Wan Mamat on the road. He and his daughter was on the way to KT, a short 50kms for him but another 2 or 3 hour leisurely ride for me.
Kg Kuala Abang came into sight and in the still cool morning air, the road by the beach was a real pleasure to ride.
School children were on the way to school and I chanced upon a grandfather with two kids.
By 1000 I had done 50kms. I felt the lack of electrolyte in my body and need to put in some salt. 100 plus will be OK. Temptations are aplenty along the road. Even the smell of local delicacies was enough. One stall have the appetizing signage but was too early for business. I can't wait either. So they lost a hungry customer.
By 1100 I was heading to Marang. Marang boasts of a very scenic kuala and I have always enjoyed this view.
Not long after, I was cycling into Rhusila area, the stronghold of Hj Hadi, the PAS Mentri Besar of Trengganu before BN took it back from them. PAS' presence here was very obvious. The green flags were everywhere, along the road-widening construction in progress, which obviously was being upgraded by the BN government in power.
I had always also caught a glimpse of a very catchy signboard everytime I passed this Kg Rhusila. The "Mak Chik Gemok" signboard had always been there for as long as I could remember. Must be a real fat lady and you know why of-course.....too much carbonated drink!
I hope one day she'll set a goal to wear all those lovely and colorful dresses on sale along this road.
Entering Kuala Trengganu I had also admired another beautiful estuary. The Quratta, a Japanese sounding resort is sited along this estuary. This was where I overnighted on my Road to 55, two years ago together with the mini entourage of Kutu Fraternity of Cyclists (the late Zoob and Doc Olmo) and my nephews and brother. Brought back memories of a great time with close friends. And I can't forget late Zoob as I cycled through.
1200 hrs I arrived Batu Burok. I rested while waiting for my two classmates from Tumpat. I had met Wan Mamat in KETENGAH during my Road to 55 ride two years ago. I've also met Alwi Hassan about 4 years ago, after a lapse of about 35 years.
After lunch and all the old-time talk, said goodbye to Alwi. Alwi is seated on my left. Wan Mamat is across the table. My next destination was Batu Rakit. Wan Mamat will meet me at Batu Rakit. As I cycled across the famous KT bridge, I had to stop and photograph the new symbol of Kuala Trengganu - a spanking new floating mosque. I wondered how much it costs the state government.
One of my reasons for making this East Coast ride was to visit Al-Manar at Kg Pengkalan Maras in Batu Rakit. A participant in my training program had informed me of Al-Manar, an academic institution providing free tuition classes to the children of Batu Rakit. Tn Haji Hassan Abd Karim, a retired corporate gentleman chose to return to his home state Trengganu and lived out his retirement days there. The wife, from Selangor followed the husband to return home to the husband's kampong, an act of love and sacrifice.
AK as he was fondly known during his corporate days with a giant oil company is now 72, still strong and hearty. His career had brought him to work in UK. The local blood in him I guess was just too strong, even to settle in KL after retirement.
When I arrived, he was there in the compound of his nice bungalow, a property that will be the envy of many. The property stretched right to the beach, cleverly sheltered from strong winds of the South China Sea by tall casuarinas which he planted years ago. This double-storey property is what one would call a retreat. A seperate guest wing was made ready for me to settle in for the night. I immediately felt very guilty (and later regret).
My itinerary was to overnight in Merang, about 20kms ahead, and nearer to Kota Bharu for tomorrow's final ride. I had to politely refuse the invitation but was quick to gulp in the cold coconut water offered. The weather had remained hot. Wan Mamat later arrived. Then the keropok lekor arrived - my favorite. Honestly, this keropok lekor was the best I had ever tasted and in between me and Wan Mamat, we polished off the plate very fast. We also had a fill with the sweet langsat. Now I know where I will get my keropok lekor from.
Al-Manar was set up by Tn Hj Hassan for the children of the village. It wasn't without challenges he said. He tutored for free. Every year he took in students from Form 1 and tutored them English, Mathematics and Science until Form 3. By Form 3, most of his students would have found places in the boarding schools, arising from the excellent academic results they garnered, thanks to Pak Cik Hassan as he chose to be called.
I toured around the purpose-built Al-Manar. There were 2 classrooms, a library, a room that housed some computers, a small kitchen and bathing and toilet facilities. While there is no accomodation, students do come for group or self-study there at nights and stayed on. The wife will always ensure there are extra food for these kids
This man is leaving a legacy behind. As we walked around Al-Manar and later around his house compound, I can read fulfilment and satisfaction in his face. He did all this with the hope his children will emulate him. As he continued talking, he looked up to the sky. I know why. I had been in similar situation before. Tried as he had, Pak Cik Hassan cannot stop tears rolling down his cheek. My eyes turned blurry too!
Some of his students had graduated form Universities and working. Some are still in institutions of higher learning. ALL are indebted to Pak Cik Hassan.
I stayed for 3 hours. It was a great experience. The living hall of the house was full of great pictures of the family and the grandchildren. He too is an avid photographer. I saw a near antique golf set and Pak Chik Hassan proudly showed me his Hole-In-One Trophy. We do have something in common there. He had a nice library on the second floor, overlooking the sea. I suggested to Pak Chik Hassan to write. Please do Sir!
I bade farewell reluctantly. I had to continue my journey. Said "goodbye" to the guest room and said good-bye to the lovely couple. Insyallah, I will be back. Good bye Al-Manar for now. Till we meet again.
DAY 4 : MERANG (By car back to Kota Bharu)
I made a decision to stop the cycling trip at Merang. If I continued on, I will reach K Bharu by evening and will have only 1 day to be with my mother. I had to fly back on Day 6 early morning for the cheaper Air Asia flight. My brother was supposed to come from KB early morning, to be sent by his wife and cycled back with me. I told him of my changed plan and instead asked him to pick me up in Merang. A wise decision indeed.
On the way back to Kota Bharu, we detoured to Kg Guntong, to meet relatives we had not met for a good 30 plus years. That's a story for another blog.