Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cycling Terengganu: The Kemaman Loop

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CyclingTerengganu: The Kemaman Loop
Around Kemaman, Terengganu : 9th October 2016
Distance : 70.37 km     Level: Hard.
Time : 7:30am to 2:45pm
Time Taken :  7 hours 15 mins. (including stops for lunch, stops at beaches, hiking up to Telaga Simpul Lighthouse, rest, regroup, and lots of photo ops).

Route Recommendations :
1. The route is relatively flat nearer the coastal area but as one heads inland it becomes quite hilly. Towards the end were a series of dragon-backs. The route also include a bit of off-road cycling on almost completed roads near Teluk Kalong & Telaga Simpul. There is also a nice stretch on walkways along the Kemaman riverside.
    There is some hiking up to the Telaga Simpul Lighthouse for a good panoramic view of the area.
2. Most sections at the coastal area are unshaded, so do cover up. The rural roads at the inland areas do have some shade.
3. Points of Interest:
    - Kijal Beach with it's wide beaches & colourful fishing sampans (GPS: 4.33557, 103.4866).
    - Teluk Kalong Beach with a mix of sandy and rocky beaches, and also views of supply ships moored at the sea. (GPS: 4.28582, 103.48014).
    - Telaga Simpul Beach with a view of the Kemaman & Cukai rivermouths (GPS: 4.2397, 103.45164)
    - The Telaga Simpul Lighthouse has a very panoramic view of the surrounding area. Some hiking (about twenty minutes) up required (GPS: 4.23779, 103.45521).
 4. Food:
     - Lunch was various Nasi Dagang, Nasi Lemak, local kuehs with very good coffee at Hai Peng Coffee-shop (GPS: 4.23469, 103.42184).
     - Dinner nice local Chinese dishes at Tong Cheng Restaurant (GPS: 4.22825, 103.42727).
5. Accommodations:
    We stayed at the Awana Kijal Resort (GPS: 4.38812, 103.45558).


Our buddy Chew had some time sharing apartments at the Awana Kijal Resort, with lots of time-share left. Not wanting to waste the time-share allocated for him, he thoughtfully organised a trip for some of his biker friends (yours truly included) to have a short holiday there which would include some cycling.
On a fine Saturday, ten of us left Kuala Lumpur in a convoy of three cars to head for the East Coast. We travelled along the East Coast Expressway and I was surprised to see how it has extended (all the way to Kuala Terengganu). It was also a nice, wide highway which cut down the driving time to Kemaman (which is actually called Cukai, Kemaman is the surrounding district) to four hours; we actually took six as we made several stops.
Our first stop was at Kemaman, for a lunch at the renown Ah Yan Kembung Fish Noodles in Chinatown. Frankly it was okay only and a bit pricey too.

 Our next stop was a visit to our local buddy, Captain Wong at his house.
Surprise, surprise! Being an avid sailor, he was in the midst of building a catamaran. We chatted and he inundated us with lots of fruits - rambutans, cikus, etc.
After some pleasant time together, we had to quickly leave as the skies were getting dark with rain clouds. Along the way, we stopped at Kak Mah's roadside stall to buy a local favourite - Lemang (bambo sticky rice)!

Checking it at the Awana Kijal Resort (our stay for two nights); some rested while a few went out to do marketing... yes, yes, we guys do know how to market and cook too.
Jason, our "Michelin Chef" cooked a good seafood spaghetti, and we also had super-fresh deep-fried Ikan Kembung (Indian Mackerel).

After dinner, we went down to the beach to relax and ... er... performed some kung fu antics too. The beaches here are so nice - wide, sandy with lots of trees at the edges coupled with lovely sunsets and sunrises. This introduction was to be the start of my love affair with the Terengganu beaches.
Other than the lovely beaches, I have reason to be reasonably excited. See, this will be my first time cycling in Terengganu .... Oh.. Yeah!

(for more photos of Day 1, click here)


The route starts off with visits to some of the lovely beaches of Kemaman and included a hike up a lighthouse. After the beaches, it headed inland through rustic kampungs and later a series of dragon-backs.

After breakfast at our apartments, we kicked off our ride. But first, some stretching exercise by Jason. I think this is a good practice, and perhaps I should adopt it... that is if my old muscles can take that stretching.
Captain Wong has also arrived; he will be leading us on a ride through his "kampong", and perhaps more...

Starting from Awana Kijal Resort, we rode a short stretch along the main road then turned off into the villages. Here the kampong life is serene, locals quietly watch us ride by while we observed them and their quaint wooden houses.

Our first destination - the Kijal Beach really awed us. We had heard much of the beauty of the state's beaches, but seeing it for real was all so much different, so much more exciting. It's one of colourful boats on the beaches sitting quietly while the waves slowly lapped with with a calming resound while a slow breeze blew onto our faces; this together with a background of a blue sky merging into the sea in the horizon just made it picture perfect. If we had the time, we would just laze there, slowly taking all of this in.

See how happy we were!

Our bikes, comfortably parked at a corner, enjoying the sun as it peeked from in between the cloud. Today, the moody blue sky with darker rain clouds just added to our experience. The rain clouds would later provide us with much needed shaded relieve along our route.

Time to leave Kijal and head to our next destination; riding slightly inland and across a couple of hills; not to difficult the slopes, just nice to work up a bit of sweat.

A tall Casuarina greeted us as we rode into the Teluk Kalong Beach.

Here, at a small cove, colourful sampans were moored. But this was not just what Captain wanted to show us.....

..... round the corner was a rocky beach; and far out were supply sips dotting the sea in a perfect line.

High above, the sun, in between the dark moody, puffy clouds, cast a nice reflection on a turquoise blue sea. It's so beautiful here, I am starting to fall in love.

The puffy clouds followed us as we headed on to our third destination...

This is the Telaga Simpul which is located at Pantai Marina. Water from the hill spring fill up a well here and locals would collect it's water for ceremonies. Legend has it that Abdullah Munshi and his sailors would stopped here to get water during their seafaring journeys. On leaving, they would pluck mengkuang (pandanus) leaves and knot it there. If they failed to do so disaster would befall them. This was recorded in his book, "Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah Munshi ke Kelantan".

While the beaches here were also beautiful, the kicker was taking a hike up to the Telaga Simpul Lighthouse located on a hill behind the well. Steps nearby to the well led up to it, and it's a twenty to thirty minutes hike up. And this should not be missed as the panoramic view from there is grand; even halfway up, the the beautiful bay with the Kemaman River (on the left) and Cukai River feeding into the bay can be seen clearly.

An another must.... climbing up the fifty-foot tall lighthouse right at the top for an even more beautiful view!

Here's the beautiful view.... Oops.... these are my friends down at the foot of the lighthouse... yes, they are beautiful too, really beautiful people inside and outside.

And here's the beautiful scenery of the bay, with a rocky out-bank on one side, the river cove on the other.

On another side, a rock bund projected outwards into the sea; and far away supply ships (waiting for their turn to enter the Kemaman Supply Base) dotted the sea. The supply base provide supplies for the many oil rigs located off the coast of Terengganu. At the horizon, the sky blurred and seemed to merge with the sea.

We head for Cukai town via some off-road riding on almost completed roads. Many new roads are being built here to provide good infrastructure for industries springing up to complement the oil & gas industry.

And then it was a stint up the bridge over the Cukai River.

Below, a colourful scene of a different kind - red and orange tug boats and equally colourful pilots' boats.

Just after the bridge, we turned left into narrower kampong roads. Here, it was quiet with cars passing buy every now and then only. Kampong houses lined the road and the villagers can hang out at their local coffee joint - a road-side stall selling imported brews. How nice, to just sit around below the trees, sipping coffee while high above coconut trees sway in the breeze.

But we were having a different coffee, local brewed Hainainese coffee at Kemaman's famous coffee shop, Hai Peng. We accessed it from the rear, through orange coloured walkways that led straight to it.
The coffee here is the best in the East Coast, earthy with a strong oomph! It's brunch time and we complemented the good coffee with Nasi Dagang (which is renown in this state), Nasi Lemak and various local kuehs (cakes).

A short sting at the walkway along the Kemaman River riverside and into the town before we headed inland.

Inland it was along rustic roads leading through serene rural scenes. And then further in.... the roads started getting steeper and steeper.

The sky was getting moodier too with more rain clouds forming; we prayed that the rain will hold until we finish our ride.

The last third section of the route were through a series of killer dragon-backs that ran through the rolling hills of Kemaman's hinterland. Captian was showing us that Terengganu was not just about beautiful beaches only; they have "lovely" hills too!
2:45pm - We ended our ride just in the nick of time before it started raining. It was a ride of beautiful beaches, nice coffee AND also challenging hills that had some of us suffering from cramps. Well it's NO PAIN, NO GAIN; and despite the tough ending we will always remember this ride fondly. Many thanks to you Captain Wong for showing us your "kampung".

In the evening we rewarded ourselves to a good dinner at Tong Cheng Restaurant in town. The served were good home-cooked style dishes, among which was this sweet and sour prawns and fried rice.
(Read more of Tong Cheng's Food)
(For more photos of the day 2 Click Here)

The following day we headed back home but not before making a couple of shopping stops. One was at a kampung house to buy ikan bilis (sun-dried anchovies) and the other was to buy Lemang from Kak Mah's roadside stall (she's at stall no. C9 and contact numbers are +6013-9796554 * +6014-8470496)

(For more photos of the day 3 Click Here)

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Ah Mah House Sekinchan
When in Sekinchan, don't just visit the paddies and seafood shops; drop by this place and have memories stirred of a past by-gone era and childhood days.

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  1. Very nice write up. I used to live in Kemaman as a kid when I was about 5 years old. Its my mother's home town. The town has a lot of old stories. Too bad it has changed too much over the years. I still ride annually from Dungun to Singapore passing Kemaman. Too much to see, to little time.

    1. Kemamaan is still a very nice place when compared to the busy large cities.

  2. Hi Zen. Saw this blog and realised that to do this loop the ideal hotel would be awana kijal. I stayed at Kemaman Sands near kg geliga. The Kuantan Kemaman Dungun highway looked pretty dangerous when I drove to inspect. Monsoon season was indescribable! I drove and conclude that the coastal roads along telok kalong and pantai marina are fine. Question. Are there good eats past mini zoo and the last leg back to kijal? I ended up with a short cycling from kampung geliga to the pahang border. Many thanks for showing us the loop! Marcus;)

    1. Glad you like the loop and did some extension on your own.

      Yes, starting from Awana Kijal would be ideal. Startinf from Sands is doable, only have to be careful at the initial stretch near town. Alternatively, can be adventurous and see whether any boats can ferry over the Kemaman river.

      As for the last leg, other than the odd small road-side stalls, not much to eat. Perhaps some new shops have sprung open since the time we did the loop?