Part 3 - The Journey
Setiu Travel Blog› entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
I should have listened to my instincts, just 24 hours prior to leaving for my first solo holiday. All the signs were there:
Two days before I took off for Setiu, Terengganu, I was at work where I picked up a copy of the local paper that carried a travel section on Tuesdays. As I flipped the pages, I came across this short article about Penarik beach, where I was going to spending three days enjoying sand, sun and sea. The article (and the photos) were truly shocking. Apparently, the beach has lost its former glory. According to the writer, it was no longer as clean and gleaming under the sun. Some of the coconut trees that grew wild and free were chopped for the fruit and the palms by unscrupulous and totally irresponsible people.
Could this have been a sign to change to another location before I regretted my decision? What to do?? The pics that I had of Penarik Beach were a few years old. But the ones that appeared alongside that article were supposedly new ones, and looked like the sight of the beach today. Well, I told myself, I wasn't going to back down now. I made up my mind about going there, and that's where I intended to be on April 17, as planned.
So on the morning of April 17, I said goodbye to my dad who dropped me off at the bus stop, where I took a bus to the nearest train station, and then caught a train to the bus station to wait for my bus to Kuala Terengganu, capital city of Terengganu state.
Finally the bus arrives, and I board it with my backpack, and head for seat no. 4C. It leaves at 11am exactly, and the ride was an interesting one. I love road trips on Malaysian highways, as all you see to your left and right are acres of tropical forest, alternating with palm oil estates (palm oil is a major local export).
Although I was fully aware of the length of time it would take to arrive, I'd begun to get antsy from sitting for too long and couldn't wait to arrive. It began to feel like forever before we'd reach our destination, but I relaxed the moment I realised that bus was on the coastal road to the last stop. I could see the ocean!! And boy, was it a beauty. I felt like jumping off the bus then, still about 60 miles from where I was headed, because the sea was so inviting! It could be that I was born under a water sign, that the sight of big blue ocean draws me to her like a magnet. I don't know if I'd mentioned before, about not being able to swim, but I do know that if I was going to die, I'd rather drown in the sea that I am so love with... sigh...
Coming back to the bus ride, it was heavenly, just being able to see as much of the sea from inside the bus. It made me a lot more restless in wanting to get to the city soon, so that I make my way to Penarik Beach. Eventually, I arrived. Then panic struck! I noticed, as the bus pulled up to the platform, that there were no taxis in sight! Oh no! Where were they? How on earth was I going to get to Penarik if I couldn't get a cab?? I decided to wait for about ten minutes at the bus station before panicking about the lack of taxis. As my ten-minute time limit was about to expire, I noticed a cab pull up by entrance of the station, and quickly made my way towards it. Thank God! My prayers were answered. After haggling the price of the fare with the driver (RM50, which is about USD18) for the drive up north, I happily hopped into the taxi, relieved that I was on the final leg of my journey. It was 30 minutes into my journey that I realised then, just how far I was going to get a bit of sun, sand and sea! Crazy! After 45 minutes, I'd arrived. Entering the premises gingerly, the driver dropped me off in front of the reception, which was a small, wooden building, located just next to the Inn's cafe, shaded by a cashew tree - both rooms looking no bigger than the chalets on the property.
It was so quiet, the only thing I could hear apart from the crickets, were faint sounds of the ocean waves. There didn't seem to be anyone around, although the lights in the office were on. I started calling out, and calling out for someone, but no one was around. Maybe they're in the washroom, I assumed, and waited for a couple of minutes before calling out for someone again. It was then that I remembered I had the cell phone number of the co-owner and called him, but he wasn't picking up. After ten agonising minutes, a car pulls up in the premises, and it is Yan, the co-owner of Penarik Inn, who pulls up and apologises for not being around when I arrived. He explained that he was at the grocery store, getting some essential items.
After a quick check-in (writing my name, cellphone no. and address in the ledger), Yan gets a bath towel and two mini bar-soaps and asked me where I wanted to sleep ( I had my pick from the 11 out of 12 rooms unoccupied) and I say, Put Me As Close to Your Office as Possible! he leads me to my chalet, which is next to another guest (the only other one there, besides me) and takes his leave. It was then that I asked about dinner, as I noticed that there was no diner or restaurant within close proximity that would allow me to venture out for a bite to eat. Yan offered to whip up some seafood fried rice and asked me if 8.30pm was good for me (it was 7.50pm at this point). I happily agreed, then, making my way up the wooden steps, I put my key in the conventional lock that was used to lock up the room, which was hanging on a latch of a wooden door that looked like it had seen better days, removed the lock from the latch, pulled the latch away to open the door, and then reached in to look for the light switch, and switched on both the room light and the one for the little "balcony" that I had (complete with two plastic chairs and a small, old wooden table), and I entered the room.
The first to welcome me to my room were a few mosquitoes flying near my feet, as I sat at the foot of the bed, where a small table was located with a small box fan on top and a wastepaper basket underneath, next to a mosquito coil in a teacup saucer. After lighting up the coil, I walk towards the bathroom door, where I switch on the light and open the door, to find three wooden steps leading into the bathroom. It was then that I was greeted by a cricket. I run back in my room to grab my shoe and headed back down to the bathroom to end its life (I hate crickets!!). At this point, I'm sweaty, tired and beginning to wonder if I was going to regret my stay here.
I then start unpacking, just to get my pajamas and toiletries out and return to the bathroom for a shower. I've never had such a quick shower than the one I had that night. Made of wood and bamboo, there were crevices in that bathroom that made me uncomfortable taking a bath, especially the thought that someone could actually be peeping in, made it very uncomfortable.
After my shower, I tried to relax and not worry so much about the bugs and the geckos on the wall (hey, they were helping me get rid of the mosquitoes!), then got dressed and headed to the white sand cafe to have dinner.
I sat down by the old and raggerty dining table as Yan got dinner ready. As I waited, I was startled by a fallen cashew fruit, which initially I assumed was due to the wind, then got spooked when I thought I saw a pair of red luminescent eyes look back at me from atop the tree. That had better been a cat (oh Lord, please let it be a CAT!), I thought, as dinner was served and I ate as fast as I could while trying to enjoy each mouthful. Thankfully I was done by the time something else fell from the tree, that I quickly moved my plate and glass of water to the cafe counter before walking back to my room.
Normally, geckos and the sounds of crickets don't scare me, but hearing other types of sounds that were unrecognisable were enough to see me flying out the door, but what was I to do?? I was determined not to let nature spook me so easily (I was a brownie back in school, after all!) and made myself comfortable on the bed, then called my friend who was in New Jersey, to keep me company until I fell asleep. Alas, I didn't even sleep soundly, as I kept waking up every few mins or an hour, I don't know. The little box fan that reminded me of the Little Engine That Could, by dawn had me reaching for a blanket, it was freezing! But I woke up just in time to enjoy the sunrise.