Monday, August 02, 2010

Relaxing, snorkeling, enjoying beaches in Pulau Redang

I'm not really a beach person.... but I had heard some amazing things about the beaches, sealife, and snorkeling in East Malaysia, so I thought I'd go see it firsthand. For our trip to Malaysia, S's sister was able to book a package for Pulau Redang, a common beach resort area, about 1 hr off the coast from Kuala Terengganu.

Most people in the US really don't know about Malaysia as a beach / snorkelling destination, but I was really surprised to see how well known it was by Australian and even European tourists! Pulau Redang is a fairly large island, and there are a number of resorts scattered across the beaches. Interestingly, each resort seems to cater to a different audience. The one that we were at had more Europeans and Chinese-Malaysians there. During one of the snorkelling runs to the marine park, we saw boats from other resorts that catered more for Malays. Very interesting...

S's sister chose the Coral Redang Resort, which was supposedly owned by one of Malaysia's sultans. A little far off from the main jetty, but there were porters to help carry (literally carry...) your bags to the hotel. It was a nice quiet place, with its own pool, beach access, and most importantly, clean rooms with cold air-conditioning. It was literally so cold - that my camera equipment would fog up the next day. Probably not the greenest thing to do....... but a nice break from the tropical heat.

During the day, there were only a few things you could do - lay on the beach, go snorkelling, take diving lesssons. Since we had heard about the amazing coral.. we went snorkelling. It was really amazing - the clearness of the water and the sheer abundance of the coral and fishes really reminded me of the first time snorkelling, in Pulau Tioman, also in Malaysia. But this place was HUGE! Unfortunately, with my vision so bad... I could only make out the large details of the corals, or the small fishes that would approach you. Unfortunately, I didn't find out until much later that there are such things as "powered" snorkel masks, that help correct your vision! Only if I had known earlier...

One of the other places we went to was a protected marine park... unfortunately, ALL of the resorts bring their people there to visit, and not too long after we arrived, it literally became a swimming pool, full of people. Some people even brought some bread to feed the fishes, with one couple literally bring a whole LOAF of bread with them. A German guy we met on the boat mentioned that this was really bad for the fish, that they'd explode after over-eating the bread. Not sure how true it was, but interesting to note...

Resorts are always interesting, because everything is somewhat "contained", including your meals. This place had a half-decent buffet every day, although nothing really special, which was a pity, because there's always so many good Malaysian dishes to eat elsewhere. One of my funniest memories is how S's family tried to cajole the chef into making barbeque lamb the next evening. Malaysians crack me up about how "forward" they can be about expressing what they want. I think it started out like this:

S's dad to staff: "I hear the kanbing (lamb) is really good, do you have it on weekends?"
Staff: "No lah, no lamb this weekend"
Dad: "Oh, but the lamb is really famous... we came all the way to this resort to have kanbing"
Staff: (looking a little indifferent... thinking why does this guy want lamb?)
Staff: "Kanbing is too expensive, have to get it from the ferry..."
Dad: "You see lah, we paid so much money for this resort, why can't you buy lamb?"

Another staff comes by..

Dad: "You're going to make sure we have kanbing tomorrow, right?"
Staff: ??

Sure enough, the next day.. we saw the staff starting up the charcoal bbq. And guess what we had? Lamb! I was personally hoping for a whole lamb roasted on a spit, but no such luck.

The other interesting thing about the resort were the European families that were staying there. We got to know an interesting German-Iranian couple (husband was German, wife was Iranian), who was bringing wife's parents/brother/sister from Iran with them. You really don't see many Iranians in the US, and with all the anti-Iranian rhetoric in the US news, you'd think they would be "scary", anti-West, etc. But the "grandmother and grandfather" were so adorable! We were playing volleyball, and they were watching from the side, so we welcomed them in, including the "grandfather". This is what I really like about Malaysians, they're really inclusive of other people, always inviting others in. After the game, we find out that the "grandfather" used to play volleyball as a child in Iran. The family had been in the resort for over 2 weeks (!! wish I had German vacations!!), and they were going back to Kuala Lumpur. They left the resort the same time as we did, and amazingly, about 1 week later, when S and I were shopping at KLCC, guess who we ran into? The husband/wife, who were shopping at Zara for their daughter! Amazing - the chances of randomly meeting the same person twice?

After a few days in Redang, I think I was ready to get "plugged in" back into a more hectic life. It's really hard for me to lounge around and do nothing.. although it was fun to snorkel, learn some photography tricks from Charles, and generally chit-chat with everybody.

On the way back, the resort had included land transfer from the jetty back to the airport. The problem was, our flight was at 9pm, but we arrived back in KT around 3pm!! And the driver of the mini-bus was prepared to take us back to the airport! So, I saw this Malaysian "bargaining" mindset take hold again. S's family was able to convince the driver to drive us all around KT to visit places (like the Crystal mosque, the market, the Batik factory, etc), and we'd pay him extra for his time, although the fuel was the "company's". Luckily, he had nothing else to do, so we was willing .As they say.. "Malaysia, boleh (possible), Everything else also can" (with money - my addition). Can you imagine that? It was hilarious... I don't think it'd ever cross my mind in the US, to try to negotiate with the bus driver to take me someplace else! I'm glad we did it though, S and I were able to see a few more sites that we missed on the original KT rounds, and we had a chance to stop by the market to go crazy eating durians (ie, the last post)

And a list of what I ate (that was memorable..):

Nasi Lemak, coffee shop inside Kuala Terengganu Airport

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