Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cherating Beach

(visited July 2011).

Cherating is not the nicest beach on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia, but Tanjung Inn is one of the more nicely laid out budget resorts.
Cherating has for a long time been a popular stop-off for travellers moving between the Tioman and Perhentian islands locations. In more recent years surfers and windsurfers have discovered that monsoon season, particularly the months Nov and Dec, provide pretty decent conditions for Malaysia. The more recent completion of an expressway which hits the coast about 30km south had brought KL within a 3 hour drive and had seen a boom in local weekenders and holiday-makers.
On my previous 1999 visit I enjoyed the special travellers' vibe Cherating has long been noted for. Strangely there were not many budget travellers this latest trip - more western families and couples, plus a few Malaysian holidaying families in this non weekend period. I arrived on a Monday and the place was very very quiet - a fellow guest told me the weekend was busy with Malaysian visitors.

Convenient location - about midway between Tioman and the Perhentians. Kuantan maybe 40km away has the closest airport (modified Google Earth image).

The coast kinks eastwards at Cherating which can be confusing. I've always thought the left road down from the coastal highway is the southern access road whereas in fact it is really the western. However I'll continue calling it the southern one and the right hand one the northern as per the general direction of the coastal highway. There are highway bus stops at/near the start of each access road.

Most of Cherating Beach's accommodation is on the U made by these access roads and the beachfront road.
On the northern access you have a number of mid-range places like Residence Inn, Cherating Bay Resort and Eastana Resort plus the funky budget joint The Shadow of the Moon.
Where the road turns left at the beach are some flashpacker places right on/next to the sand like Cherating Inn Beach View and Dayung Chalets (with the nicely positioned Duyong Restaurant adjacent).
Across the section parallel to the beach are lots of restaurants, shops etc with quite a few chalet places located behind, mostly on the inland side.
The southern access road has more budget/flashpacker places - some of those on the left boast riverside views.
The single road which leads of the bottom left of the U contains mostly more recent developments although Tanjung Inn was there in '99. On both sides of Tanjung are similar inexpensive joints but as you push further west you have some newish midrangers like Compleks Budaya and Cherating Bayview .
Unusually for a place like this I could see no banks or ATMs.

There are several beaches out of frame to the north with midrange or better places. Club Med Malaysia is one. In my research I noticed a budget place called Ruby's has set up on the same beach as Club Med. On my '99 visit I rode a bicycle the 4km or so up to this beach - it is pretty nice. Note the security goon on Club Med's gate wouldn't let me in to have a look around. Fair enough, I wouldn't let a reprobate like me in either.

The beach south of Cherating continues in a gentle sweep for about 10-15km and there are periodic midrange places along here. The highway closely parallels the coast so that these places are not difficult to access.

Cherating Beach is not fabulous. It suffers the low tide blues and the water is not the crystal clear stuff you get at Redang, Kapas, Perhentians, Tioman - maybe because the river drains into the sea about 800m behind camera.

The place looks better at high tide. Like a dummy I didn't take my camera exactly to the same position as the previous shot. This is taken in front of Tanjung Inn - there is a vacant block of about 30m to Tanjung's nicely landscaped grounds. Because of the kink in the coastline the sun rises behind the far headland - I live on an east coast and expect the sun to rise over the sea. Shot may look better if you click to expand.

This lifeguard tower suggests the joint gets a fair few weekend and public holiday visitors. No-one on duty here on a slow Monday (and dry season sea conditions typically benign) - I climbed the stairs in hope of a killer shot but found it was gated-off. This tower is in front of a car-park to the west of Tanjung Inn - there is a similar tower closer to town.

Want a flashpacker chalet literally right on the sand? Cherating Inn Beach View close to the eastern end of the beach can do it. I understand budget travellers may get a deal when things are slow.
Or how about an overwater chalet? These are the aircon family jobs at Tanjung Inn. This place has all its 15 or 20 chalets spaced around two ponds, backed by a spacious and carefully tended lawn area. Aircon family: rm200 in July 1011 - Aircon 2 person rm150, fan 3 person rm85, fan 2 person rm70. All with bathroom. Beach is maybe 150m away.

This is the view from the veranda of my 2 person fan chalet. Just after I took this shot a fairly big monitor lizard wandered across the grass and slid into the water. Monitors when they swim look like small crocs (some not so small), much to the delight of the kids sitting on the far veranda rails.
I returned from dinner one night and there was a lot of splashing going on in the pool. One of the staff was in there up to his waist hauling out overgrown water lillies etc. Strewth - that's a job I'd leave 'til next morning..

My room was spacious, clean but getting a bit worn around the edges, had wardrobe, a big comfy bed, no mozzie net but pretty good screens. Okay bathroom with good water supply but mirror was in main room which is not great for shaving. Very quiet area - plus my fan was a quiet one.
Breafast is included in the tariff - a pretty simple job of coffee/tea, toast and an egg dish served up in the reception area near the road. The coffee machine gives you a good variety. Staff are cheerful and obliging. The resort does not do other meals but there are several restaurants within 5 minutes walk.

I'd already stayed at Tanjung Inn my previous trip. I found the accommodation places in the U road area tended to have their chalets jambed together and many were pretty scruffy -they were heavily booked too so I grabbed one for the first night but took off next morning for something better. Tanjung's spacious grounds were a big contrast. I took an outside-bathroom bungalow at some ridiculously low price - these were not pond-side and no longer exist.

You can see Tanjung Inn's ponds and spacious grounds at left. Further left is the Intan Seafood Restaurant. This had nice food at budget prices and sold beer. To right is the Third Point Beach Bar although I think I have the place-marker in the wrong place - it should be in that beachside clearing under the half way mark of the scale line. It takes me about 30 minutes to do one of these maps so I aint changing it.
At the crossroads top of image is a cluster of shops including a 7/11 type joint and restaurants. Some accommodation places backing onto the river are located 0n both arms of the junction.

This is the Third Point Beach Bar, about 100-150m east of Tanjung Inn. This tends to be a magnet for travellers, couples, local beach boys with the lazy eyes etc each late afternoon - place plays some pretty good music, can do meals (expensive but seemed pretty substantial size-wise). Beers are the average rm12 which aint cheap.
"Point" in surfer terminology is a headland - I'm assuming this joint is named after some legendary wax-head's spot because the nearest headland is 600m away. Bet it packs a crowd in Nov-Dec prime surfing/windsurfing time.

This is the funky The Shadow of the Moon budget chalet joint on the eastern side of the northern access road from the highway - only 100-150m from the corner. Has attractive looking chalets built up the heavily wooded hillside and an atmospheric restaurant up high just out of frame to the right. Along with Tanjung Inn, seemed to be one of the few places over 50% on a Monday/Tuesday. But restaurant was not doing dinner - did have beer and good conversation.

I called in here for a meal in '99 and thought I'd stay next visit. However my borrowed Rough Guide made no mention of it when I was researching this latest trip so I assumed it had been bought out by one of the nearby mid-rangers. So I headed straight off the bus for Tanjung Inn.

This catch-your-own fishing place was immediately across the road from the southern highway bus stop - you can see it adjacent the NORTH symbol on the second map this page. Cherating also offers river mangrove trips and similar touristy stuff like viewing turtle egg-laying on adjacent beaches in the right season. Travel agents and most chalet places can arrange onward bus tickets and transfers/accommodation at the islands, Taman Negara national park etc.

Travellers from Tioman usually catch an express bus from Mersing to Kuantan and then a share taxi or local bus the 40-45km to Cherating. Fewer express buses go Mersing right thru to Kota Bharu allowing you to jump off at Cherating - you will not use about 40% of your fare but express buses are very inexpensive in Malaysia.

From the Perhentians you need to get up to the highway and grab an express bus from Kota Bharu to Kuantan (or Mersing) - plenty of small agents on the islands will be able to facilitate this for you.

From Redang and Kapas get an express bus from Kuala Terannganu bus station for Kuantan or Mersing/Johor Bahru. I came down to Cherating from Kapas: fortunately my bungalow was going to Kuala Terennganu the day before on a food run and got me an express bus ticket, meaning I could jump on the bus in Kapas' mainland pier town of Marang 20km the Cherating side of Kuala Terennganu. It seems you can't buy an express ticket in Marang itself these days.

The nearest airport to Cherating is Kuantan about 40-45km away. For budget travellers plenty of express buses run KL to Kuantan.

If you are heading south you can jump on one of the express buses from Kota Bahru or Kuala Terenngaunu - but you will pay the full KB/KT to Kuantan or Mersing/Johor Bahru for a relatively small part of the journey. It is more cost effective to jump a local bus or share a taxi to Kuantan bus station.

Heading north you will only pay for an unused 40km or so if the bus starts in Kuantan, so simply jump on a northward heading express bus once you have booked a seat.

In both directions it is best to have a ticket - these buses can be heavily booked. There are several small travel agents in Cherating who can do this for a small premium - ask your accommodation; a lot of these agents will come to your place.

I took this shot on the local rattler from Cherating into Kuantan. Few passengers in Cherating/packed to the rafters well before Kuantan. Top speed 55kmh - stopped every 800m - took 2 hours+ to do the 40-45km. But local buses are a great experience.




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