On a whim to explore more of the east coast beaches of Terengganu, my family, along with two other families, decided to take the three-hour drive up for a brief weekend trip and booked a stay in Resorts World Kijal, formerly Awana Kijal.
Mostly visited by locals and companies for excursions, Resort World is a massive structure in the midst of a sleepy coastal town. Brimming with activities such as swimming, surfing, golf, tennis, spa and beach sports, it is a fun, simple weekend get-away, especially if you are looking to spend time with the kids whilst on a shoestring budget. Expect nothing fancy here, just basic accommodation and restaurants with down-home local fare – but do expect to have a rugged good time.
Upon arrival and a quick check-in the five boys, ranging in age from five to twelve years, immediately raced to the impressive swimming pools. From the lap pool to the jacuzzi to the kiddie pool containing slides, water cannons and hanging ropes, the kids spent hours splashing around this mini water park.
As the afternoon sun slowly set and turned into a citrus glow, we moved to the beach hut restaurant and bar where the men chugged ice-cold beers (the only alcohol available) sat and talked. We watched the long, rolling, waves lapping against the shore, listened to the gentle breeze and watched as the casuarina trees lining the beach swayed, while hotel guests and locals frolicked in the water.
The next day, after buffet breakfast, the boys got in their cars and drove out for some surfing. In and around the coastline of Cherating and Kijal, are a number of surf spots known by the locals. Apparently, surfing in Malaysia has “undergone a boom in the last ten years and mainly occurs during the monsoon season from November to March,” said one of my fanatic surfer friends. He then proceeded to swear me to secrecy on his favorite secret surf spot.
We spent the day hopping from one spot to another, from a place of high swells for the big boys to softer waves for the little ones, including my son who got his first lesson in riding the waves. The waters tend to be chillier during this time of the year so remember to pack wet suits.
The boys also took breaks in between surfing by getting their fishing rods out and taking a chance at a catch. My son was so excited to go fishing but finally gave up within minutes of not catching anything.
One of the highlights of Terengganu is dining out in local seafood restaurants. We were lucky as the resort was a mere ten minute walk to one of the best ones. We feasted on fresh, giant tiger prawns, meaty and succulent, stir-fried in sweet chili sauce, deep fried salted egg squid with chili flakes, marmite chicken, steamed cod drenched in ginger sauce, and shiny green, baby kailan, and broccoli. The food was all so fresh and cooked to perfection by the restaurant owners themselves. Prices of local food are much cheaper than KL so that made the meal more satisfying. It was a perfect way to end the day.
The next day, we decided to practice our golf swing at the resort’s driving range, well known among those who have been coming here since the resort was still called Awana Kijal. We could not pass up the chance, as golf is another of my son’s keen interests. Seasoned golfers will not be disappointed with the sprawling beach side golf course, well groomed and maintained.
According to the more experienced golfers, the first 9 holes are easier, making the course suitable for players of different levels.
After that, we explored some of the smaller in-roads carved through the jungle and mangrove areas and watched the monkeys playing in their habitat. It’s nice to know there is still abundant areas of green vegetation to connect with nature and go exploring.
Tanned and a suitably tired from all the activity, we headed back. As our car rolled out of the parking lot, I thought of the many other sights we did not get to see in Terengganu and was glad that Resort World Kijal was easily accessible and not too costly to make a return trip. I sat back as my husband drove home and glanced behind to see my son sleeping soundly in the backseat. I smiled as I remembered him boogie-surfing through his first wave and landing gently on the sand with the biggest grin on his face.