29 December 2013

Pengerang - A Christmas Ride to Tanjung Balau

Date of Exploration : 21 - 23 Dec 2013

I didn't realize it but this is my fourth long-distance cycling trip in Pengerang this year. I thought there would be nothing left to blog about since I covered the same trail as my last bike tour from Sungai Rengit to Tanjung Balau but new encounters along the way made for a progressive account of the Malaysian coastal hemline undergoing some pretty major developments.

As I've talked at length about how to get here, things to do at Pengerang and cycling from Sungai Rengit to Desaru and Tanjung Balau, you can find out more by clicking those links. This entry will serve as an addition to the bulk of information and tips that have already been shared. I think I'm becoming a Pengerang junkie. LOL!

And under the influence of the yuletide season, we decided to do something to bring on the festive cheer during our long ride this time round with...

... a Santa Hat! Hahaha... or should I say, Hohoho?
If you are unfamiliar with Pengerang, it is a seaside district in the Malaysian state of Johor that can be reached by an hour's bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal (the same terminal that offers ferries to Pulau Ubin). Sungai Rengit (the main township of Pengerang) is famous for seafood and lobster feasts at lower prices than Singapore and Johor Bahru.

Pengerang / Sungai Rengit is also a popular starting point for long-distance cycling enthusiasts to pedal to Tanjung Punggai, Batu Layar, Desaru, Tanjung Balau, Tanjung Sedili or even all the way to Johor Bahru and taking the Woodlands causeway back to Singapore (a distance of 190km)!

Getting to Pengerang involves taking a boat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal. We took wooden bumboats (S$11) on all previous trips but we were lucky to board an air-conditioned speedboat this time round. It costs more at S$13 but it's worth the extra S$2 for the comfort and speed.

We usually take slightly over an hour to reach Tanjung Pengelih but it took only 40 minutes with the speedboat. Problem is, you cannot choose the boats and it's a matter of luck which boat is next in line to take passengers and there's no knowing what kind of boat is available. The boats don't depart on a fixed schedule and leave port once there are 12 passengers.

Arriving at Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal, we took a 15-minute cab ride to Sungai Rengit. There were usually cabs waiting for passengers at the ferry terminal but this time round, there weren't any. Thankfully, a terminal staff was kind to call us a cab. So if you don't see any cabs at the ferry terminal, approach the staff to help call for one. The cab ride costs RM20 be it free board or called in.

Upon arriving at Sungai Rengit, we saw a replica of the famous Lego wall art from Penang at the side of the town's coach and taxi terminal. This was a new addition as we've not seen it during our last trip on 26 October 2013.

Since Christmas was round the corner, we decided to pimp our ride with some windmills to add a festive spin during the ride. Heh heh.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?

*Having a Rudolph moment*

Something crazy we did was wishing motorists that passed by Merry Christmas! LOL. Many drivers were taken by surprise and some of them toot their horns and waved back.

A few slowed down. My take is that they were wondering if we needed help (bless their kindness) so there's a technique to roadside well wishing to distinguish between a SOS cry and Christmas cheer.

We learnt that waving thumbs-up and peace sign conveyed good tidings while waving with both palms opened up (as in this photo) tend to get drivers to slow down to see if we required assistance.

After a 4.5 hours cycle, we reached Tanjung Balau. We did slightly better than our last timing of 5 hours. Since we stayed at Bayu Balau Resort the last time, we decided to stay with Pelangi Balau Resort on this trip.

Twin room at Pelangi Balau Resort (RM160 per room per night). We didn't make a booking and just walked in for a room. We were lucky to get one as moments later, we saw a "Full House" sign at the reception.

The room was comfortable enough although the hot shower wasn't working. Breakfast was included and although it was a fuss-free minor buffet train of local favourites such as nasi lemak, roti prata, ayam redang and fried noodles, they tasted pretty good. I was addicted to the nasi lemak quickly.

Unbeknownst to me, I packed vacation garb that matched Pelangi Balau Resort's yellow visage. I even found a yellow towel in my room to complete the dirty Superman look! Muahahaha...

We reached Tanjung Balau at around 5.30pm just in time for sunset.

The thing that says Tanjung Balau is the distinctive jetty with four pyramid shaped shelters.

Our arrival coincided with low tide that released its grip of a rocky coastline.

I was awed by the endless blanket of rocks and peddles that were visible after the waters have retreated. It's like a curtain of the seabed had been pulled back.

As the beach was east facing, the sunset displayed its colours inland.

I followed the sunset hues that brought me to an outback lane opposite the resort developments. I didn't have my bike with me so I didn't follow this path to see where it leads or it could bring me closer to the setting sun.

Dinner was at the entrance to Tanjung Balau kampong where three Malay stalls (stir-fry, bakar and drinks) at a carpark made up an unlikely open-air restaurant. We had sotong goreng, assam ikan, fried kalian and mee goreng for RM31. Good price after the SGD-Ringgit exchange rate but taste while palatable, was lackluster.

Supper was an ayam burger (RM3.00) under the influence of Ramly and thick but exceedingly sweet iced Milo at the entrance to Tanjung Balau jetty.

6.41am : As Tanjung Balau faces the east, catching the sunrise here is a must!

The morning was thick with clouds and just when we confirmed that we won't see the iridescent yellow disc ascending the horizon, golden rays broke free of the shadowy shroud. With the high waves returning for the tide and the shine of hope, the momentary light show though fleeting, was immensely uplifting.

Watching sunrise at Tanjung Balau is very scenic. Too bad the golden lights at the top left of this photo aren't obvious after my phone cam aggregated the scene's foreground and background lighting differences. 

A tiny swamp nearby contains a sparse collection of mangroves struggling against the vigorous waves. The stoic and expressive woods make for some pretty beautiful shots.

A decaying trunk we saw in October was lost to the waves by December. So thankful that I got a shot before the wooded spouses got separated eternally.

Tanjung Balau conquered yet again!

After spending a night at Pelangi Balau Resort, we set off on our ride back to Sungai Rengit.

The weather had just the right amount of sun and gloom that made for a comfortable long haul ride to enjoy the Malaysian countryside.

Along the way, we took a Zen break to pose with this striking tree at the entrance to Punngai Beach Resort.

Carpets of endless lalang fields accompanied our ride.

Contrasting with the green were a mushroom of construction sites lining the highway. We snuck into one to camwhore. Shh... don't tell the builders. LOL.

A train of drainage slabs got lined up like the backbone of a new housing estate.

After a 4-hour ride, we arrived back in Sungai Rengit to spend the night. We tried Straits View Seafood Restaurant, a new eat in the town for dinner. It is definitely a strong contender to dethrone Jade Garden Seafood Corner, the most popular seafood restaurant at Sungai Rengit currently.

We tried Kam Hiong Lobster, the delightful Ginger Wine Egg Soup, Lotus Root in Salted Egg Yolk Sauce and Gung Bao Wild Boar meat. They were all yummers and the bill came up to an affordable RM111.60 (S$44.30).

Straits View Seafood Restaurant had the most different styles of cooking lobster compared to the other restaurants who bank on four popular styles - in superior sauce, steamed, buttered, or with salted egg yolk. We tried Kam Hiong style at Straits View which was basically lobster stir-fried in dry sambal sauce with dried shrimp. It's not bad, but the spices overpowered the lobster meat's freshness.

This quick pre-Christmas cycling trip had been yet another great eat-and-burn vacation. With this funny photo (wacky hat and sleeping uncle), I wish you and your love ones a healthy and fun-filled yuletide and coming new year!
Related Posts :

A cycling Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru

2nd Attempt at Bicycle Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru

Cycling from Sungai Rengit to Tanjung Balau
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