Sometimes you forget that the sweeping beaches of the East coast are just 2-3 hours drive away from busy KL. Last long weekend we wanted to pack the car with spades and buckets and head down to the coast, and shack up somewhere simple.
Simple is an overstatement in Cherating. The village is like a remnant from an era long gone when backpackers flocked the only street and bought Bob Marley t-shirts. And 15 monsoons later, it hasn’t changed – except the backpackers, they are gone. On what was the one of the busiest weekends of the season, most of the restaurants were shuttered closed and none of the shops sold the one item we wanted to buy: hats for kids.
The beach itself, while cannot be compared to the picture perfect island beaches across the sea, is wide and great for crab-hunting and stream digging. In the low tide the sea retreats far away, leaving behind puddles perfect for exploring. The waves are gentle and the sea is shallow. There are no services to speak of, other than the ice-cream seller driving up and down the beach on his moped.
The hill in the far end of the beach has been sliced to make way for a new Royale Chulan resort, we were told. One can only hope that a luxury establishment will inject life in the rest of the town, too.
The monsoon season is great for surfing here, and we actually had planned to take some lessons (read: I had planned for the rest of the family to take lessons leaving me ample time to sit on the beach with my book). Since the low tide made the walk to the surf rather long, it suddenly seemed too much effort so we scrapped the plan. We did however, get on a few river tours and can warmly recommend Hafiz’s tours. We joined him on two occasions, and had a relaxing time on the Cherating river.
On the 1,5 hour mangrove tour we saw snakes curled up in tree branches, monkeys and monitor lizards basking in the evening sun.
The firefly cruise (that started well after the kids’ usual bedtime at 8.30 pm) was fantastic. Just being on the river in the dark was exiting for the kids. Although the high tide kept us away from Hafiz’s best firefly spots, we were impressed how he managed to communicate with them with his torches and lure them away from their trees. Hafiz’s tours have a great conservationist message and he is a very knowledgeable guide.
To escape midday heat we visited the turtle sanctuary. The season for turtles laying eggs and the centre releasing hatchlings only starts in April, but there is lots of information on Malaysian turtles and a few ponds with different sizes of turtles in them.
The large turtles seemed a bit stressed, and the explanation I got on their destiny was not very clear. The centre is free, but you can leave a donation. They also sell ice-cream – a bonus!
Finding quality accommodation in Cherating seems to be a challenge. We stayed at Tanjung Inn’s old chalets that are quite musty, but the new brick villas looked very nice and were fully booked with regular customers. The landscaping is top-notch and upgrading works are on the way.
And they are working on these brand new chalets smack on the beach. I think we’ll be back when they are ready!