Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kuala Terengganu Tales v.02 – Get Me Out of Here! (Or How Not to Roam the City)


After finding KT Travellers Inn (yes, that’s how they spelled it), I realized I didn’t want to stay there. Sure, the rooms were adequately furnished, clean and close to being luxurious, but I felt I’ve been had by Lonely Planet. It’s supposed to be the town’s one and only budget hotel with prices in their 40s-50s (ringgit) for AC rooms. They weren’t! I was informed that all the rooms were occupied except for this 3-person room which was worth 99 ringgit ($28.9/PhP1,333) per day! It was 10 AM and check in time was 3 PM; check out at 12. The counter lady asked for 100 ringgit. “Deposit,” she said! A deposit that’s worth the rate of the room. Hilarious! I later learned that the 5 hours I was there was already considered 1 full day – so by 3 PM on the day of my arrival, I shall be charged a total of 200 ringgit (that’s $60 accommodations at a ghost town by the sea)! Hahaha!
And this is Terengganu’s “only budget accommodations” huh, Lonely Planet?

I made my way to my room at the end of the hall – alone. The veiled lady at the counter was busy with her inbox. There was no other activity around and the whole place looked and sounded deserted. I saw 2 unoccupied double rooms. Wait up, wasn't I told they had full occupancy? As it turned out, she had to give me the expensive room available. After all, it’s much easier to occupy the cheaper ones if other tourists turn up later. How clever! I wasn’t amused! I have been in so many rooms around Asia and Europe – rooms that were much more expensive than this one – but here in KT, I didn’t appreciate the element of deceit! Oh well.

My room was nice though: cable TV, ref, slippers, bath robes and towels, split type AC, charming interiors, 2 separate beds – one family-sized and a single bed. I had a window with a view. I threw my bag on the bed and took a 15 minute rest. I tried to take a nap but my mind was restless, I could feel my lids twitching with anticipation. My phantom feet were already at the door; I knew though that I had to leave soon.

I deposited the key at the counter. My 10 kg luggage was 455 kilometers away in KL, so all I had was my backpack. The counter lady offered to call a taxi and ringgits were making ka-ching sounds in my head. No thanks, I can call them myself. Or can I? As I stood outside, waiting for a taxi – or a bus – or anything with wheels on, I realized that Terengganu was in fact not for tourists. At least not the town proper. In retrospect, Irene – my London friend who hails from Terengganu – wrote me and said, “Transportation in town is sooo bad – Terengganu is not a tourist place. Tourists just pass the town on their way to Pulau Redang.” It was drizzling. I had been standing by the roadside for 15 minutes. Few vehicles were plying this road (Jalan Sultan Sulayman), none of them was a taxi. How else can a tourists see the town?

Now I am gradually getting drenched by drizzle in a taxi-less town! Few sighs after, a taxi slowed down towards me. It dawned on me that I didn’t want to stay at my “hotel”, my paid hundred ringgit notwithstanding! Heck, I did not want to stay for a night in this transportation-challenged town! Mobility in Terengganu is fucked up! It puzzles me why Air Asia is actively promoting Terengganu as one of their frequently booked destinations. Terengganu isn't as popular as they say it is; what with half full plane? Wasn't December peak season? Where are the tourists? It’s a virtual ghost town! Where are the taxis and trishaws? Does their industry expect tourists to navigate the town on foot? This was crazy!

“Bus station – for KL!” I emphatically told my taxi driver.

By this time, my stubborn resolve just wanted a bus ticket out of Terengganu. I didn’t care about my return Air Asia flight. It’s just money I can earn back. I didn’t care that I’ve practically paid my 100 ringgit hotel room either. I buy DVD’s 4x that amount in a single shop!

It is like spitting out an unpalatable food. Life is that simple sometimes.

Upon reaching the bus station which turned out to be at the heart of town (Lonely Planet mentions a station quite far from the center), There were a few touts. Most busses departing for KL leave at 11PM so I didn’t have enough time to even buy a fish cracker. I asked around until I found the Transnasional Bus Counter. There was one bus due to leave at 1PM. Every other bus bound for KL leaves in the evening! I paid 25 ringgit for the bus fare. And felt relaxed knowing I’d be out of Terengganu in no time. Irene said, “You should give Terengganu another chance when it is not monsoon time.”

Yes, Irene – once Terengganu acquires public transport facilities for tourists, I will!

Random Expenditures:

Airport Taxi to town center – 25 ringgit

Overnight stay for a room at KT Travellers Inn – 99 ringgit

Basic taxi fare within the city center – 8 ringgit (no meter)

Bus fare for KL – 25 ringgit

KFC 3-piece chicken meal – 12 ringgit

Transnasional Bus Schedule – bound for Kuala Lumpur

Morning bus – 10AM, 10:30AM, 11AM, 1PM
Night Bus – 9PM, 10 PM

My airport taxi ride.

Bus terminal at the heart of town. The second story is a dry market/bazaar.

Transnasional Bus Counter

Left Luggage at the Bus Terminal. It is open from 8AM to 10PM. They charge 2 ringgit per bag/luggage. Call them at 019-9209676 for more information & updates.

Fish crackers. My Terengganu friend Irene says, "They are like any fried crackers that you get from Chinese restaurants right before food is served. You can get them anywhere." Indeed!

My 3-piece KFC chicken meal - original recipe. This variation has rice which is admixed with some spice (and an after-taste) thus its yellowish color.

Lunching wives of oil magnates are said to populate this oil-rich state.

The way to Chinatown and Princess Hill.

Sleepy Sultan Sulayman Street where KT Travellers Inn is. Nearby is Hotel Grand Continental. I waited for my first taxi here. Then much later, I just walked until i reached the Baywalk, then walked further to get to the Bus Terminal. Much of the town center is navigable by foot.

KT Travellers Inn - the delightfully amiable budget accommodation.

Downpour in KT.

Stairs to my double decker bus. It was freezing. Top of the line bus carriers ply Malaysian roads.

Origin of Terengganu

The origin of the name "Terengganu" is unclear, but there are several theories pertaining to it. One theory states that the name actually originated from the Malay term "Terang Anu", which in English means Bright Rainbow. Another theory (originally narrated by the ninth Sultan of Terengganu, Baginda Omar) states that one of the members of a group of hunters from Pahang who were hunting just south of Terengganu, found a big fang on the ground.
One of his fellow hunters asked him which animal the fang belonged to. He simply replied "Taring Anu", which in English means "fang of something". Their return to Pahang impressed their neighbours. When asked where they got their loot, the hunters replied, "From the land of Taring Anu", which later evolved into Terengganu. (Acknowledgment:

Up Next: More Sights in Terengganu

This is the Eye in the Sky!


tunbegia said...

nice travelogue entry,

eye in the sky said...

Thanks. Looking back, it was an experience I don't regret despite...

pamatayhomesick said...

ayos toh!

musta na pards! ngayon nalang ako nakapasyal dito!