Monday, 24 January 2011

Chilling in Cherating

It's off season on the East coast of peninsular Malaysia, at the tail end of the monsoon season – the weather is dull most of the time, but I don't really mind. After almost 2 months on the road, I just want to chill.

Cherating is a tiny town – one street – sandwiched between the sea and a mangrove-lined river. There are about a dozen budget guesthouses, mostly rather run down, and a couple of mid-range places. The Club Med is a 40 minute walk along the coast.

Don't expect wifi or hot water in your budget chalet, but you should be able to land one with a big veranda, for sitting and reading, drinking a cold beer, or just listening to the wind and the crickets.

Matahari Chalets, enjoying a sun-beam

The town boasts one convenience store, one internet cafe (with the fatest and most reliable connection in town), and 3 open front cafes/restaurants (what the Indonesians call warungs and the Vietnamese call Street Kitchens) serving inexpensive rice and noodle dishes. They won't win any awards for the food, but they will fill the hole, with a big plate setting you back about 4 RM (note, there's no ATM in town, so bring enough cash).

There are a couple of sit-down restaurants that cater to tourists – dodgy pancakes, pizzas – and old guys with dreadlocks and tie-dyed shirts hanging about all day. This seems to be where old hippies go to retire in Malaysia.

Swim, my pretties...

What do you do in town?

Walk along the beach. Swim. Surf during the monsoon season. Watch the monkeys jumping about the trees. Hire a kayak or take an organised boat trip along the river to see the mangroves in the day, or the fireflies at night. Walk or cycle to the turtle sanctuary next to the Club Med, and feel superior that you're enjoying the almost-deserted beach next to theirs for free. Sit and have a delicious watermelon shake in Cherating's only beach bar.

It's not for everyone. The "party" options are limited, the beach (while perfectly acceptable) isn't the most beautiful in Malaysia, and the standards of food and accommodation in the town won't please the fastidiously picky. But it's friendly, and quiet, and I enjoyed it.

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