We had a wonderful time at Tasik Kenyir lake with Wheels for Fun in Malaysia's Trengganu state. Our convoy of 8 cars drove from Singapore to Tasik Kenyir via Kuantan, a distance of about 600km.
Departing Singapore on 21 Sep 2019 (Day 1) led by Road Boss Chris of Wheels for Fun, we rendezvous at Kiang Kee Bak Teh near Kota Tinggi.
Whether you are a fan of Kiang Kee's savoury herbal bak kut teh or not, it is the most convenient first stop for the 320km drive between JB and Kuantan, and further up north on the Peninsula east coast.
I like the taste of Kiang Kee's bak kut teh, and appreciate it that the boss is always there at the stall, so we can be sure about the consistency of his food. I also enjoy the unique kampung ambiance and there is always plenty of parking spaces (important when you are travelling in a convoy) at Kiang Kee.
Read more about Kiang Kee 👈 click
The drive took us along the scenic east coast of Johor with the South China Sea on our right as we headed north.
We made a couple of brief stops to stretch our legs, look out to the vast South China Sea in awe and listen to the waves rushing on to the sandy beach.
We reached Kuantan for lunch at Restoran Mexica Garden. It's not Mexican food but old school Cantonese style seafood and zhi char.
When "kong bak bao" appeared as the appetiser for our lunch, I was like sian half already because - kong bak is a hit or miss thing and costs a lot of calories. But, this turned out great. It is actually a piece of fried cod fish marinated with soy sauce. Very nice. More details and other dishes when I get home. (The bluish tint is from the purplish blue light they use in the restaurant 😅 )
Some of Mexica Garden's dishes demonstrated the chef's flamboyance and innovative flare.
We enjoyed all the dishes we had at Mexica Garden, thanks to Chef Yee who is well known among Kuantan townsfolk for his culinary skills and much sought after as a judge in cooking competitions.
There is Ipoh white coffee and then there is Kemaman white coffee. I first tasted this over 20 years ago and always dropped by when I passed this way. It is a unique blend of Nanyang bitter moderated with sweetness from I don't know what. If I have to choose between Ipoh white and Kemaman white, my money goes to Kemaman.
After lunch, Chris brought us to Kemaman Kopitiam for their famous white coffee. I love it - whenever I am in the area, I will not miss a cup of Kemaman white coffee 👍
We checked in at The Zenith Hotel which I like. The room is huge, clean, free of smells and the large bathroom comes with a bath tub. When I come to Kuantan again, The Zenith Hotel will be at the top of my mind for choice of accommodation.
The Zenith Hotel is right beside AEON mall.
We had dinner at Restoran Ping Xiang.
Ping Xiang is a Cantonese style zhi char restaurant. Nice fresh fish and dishes with dried seafood like sea cucumber, fish maw etc which Kuantan is famous for.
I like Restoran Ping Xiang's poached kampung chicken as the meat was tenderly juicy and had nice natural chicky sweetness. The gooey savoury sweet sauce however tended to mask the natural chicken flavours. Next time, I would request them not to slather the sauce over the chicken but serve it separately in a small bowl.
After dinner, we retired for the night at The Zenith Hotel.
After breakfast in the hotel (on Day 2), the convoy set off to Tasik Kenyir, arriving around noon.
At Taksi Kenyir we parked the cars in a secured car park at the jetty and boarded Impiana House Boat (one of about a dozen plying the lake).
Time for lunch on board as our house boat set sail.
All our meals on board were prepared by the friendly house boat crew whose main source of culinary inspiration are their mums 😊
The lunch was simple but any dish with fresh ingredients done home cooked style will please most people (and me for sure).
Not for Instagram food. Unphotogenic Ikan Baung catfish simply cooked kicap pedas. The fresh catfish's tender white meat and belly fat were so.. sweet.. which was well complemented by the savoury spicy sauce. Many of us quickly learned to appreciate this not too good looking dish and went for seconds. They also served a BBQ version with savoury spicy sambal but most of us prefer it with kicap pedas. https://johorkaki.blogspot.com/2019/10/road-trip-from-singapore-to-tasik.html
I love this ugly looking catfish dish simply cooked with soy sauce and fresh cut chili 😋
As our house boat glided on the still water at a leisurely pace, we enjoyed the splendid beauty of the vast lake. Tasik Kenyir is a man made lake created by damming Sungai Kenyir river in 1985. The lake has a water surface area of 260 km² which is ⅓ the size of Singapore (721 km²). The lake has 340 small islands, which were hilltops before the dam flooded the valleys. Tasik Kenyir is teeming with water life including Ikan Kelah (Malayan mahseer or Tor tambroides) which we come to see. (Source: Wikipedia.)
After over 3 hours sailing on the placid lake, we arrived and moored at Pulau Petang Resort.
Petang Island Resort was temporarily closed when we were there (it opens for conference or seminar bookings).
While moored at Petang Island Resort, we played in the lake.
At night, we sang, played games and just drank the night away.
It's quite cold at night on the lake, so do bring along a jacket/ sweater, blanket or long pants for sleeping. We brought along insect repellent but didn't really need it this time. Still, I would bring along as a precaution next time.
Sunrise at Petang Island Resort (on Day 3). The lake was shrouded in seasonal haze from plantation fires set in Indonesia.
We set off for the Kelah Fish Sanctuary in the morning, eating breakfast as the house boat sailed on the lake. Fortunately, the haze from Indonesia abated a little and the air was slightly fresher.
After a quick safety brief at the Kelah Fish Sanctuary office, we boarded small motor boats for the 5 minute transfer to the fish sanctuary itself.
Arriving at the sanctuary, it's a short, easy 30 plus minute trek to the fishes.
The trek took us through varied terrain, some steps, some inclines with leafy greens all around us - generally an easy trek.
Always loved walking among trees. It felt refreshing and uplifting, adding a little spring to our steps.
Wooden suspension bridge over a small river.
Looking down from the suspension bridge. It's the dry season and low tide. The waters are still in the meandering river.
A small stream on the way to the fishes.
Finally, the fishes. It took quite a bit of effort by car, boat and foot to get here but it was all worth it once we got into the water with the fishes 😄😄😄🐟🐟🐟
Absolutely no one can resist getting into the water and
Bathing with the fishes was the highlight of our trip and
Ikan Kelah also known by its Hindi name Manseer is a species of the Cyprinidae or carp family. It is an omnivore which feed on algae, frogs, insects, small fish and fruits that fall into the water. Ikan Kelah is a prized food fish. (Source: Wikipedia).
Don't worry, Kelah fish are toothless - their bite felt like smooching with no pain and do not cut our skin. It just felt a little ticklish. You can hear loud smooching, sucking along with the thrashing sound of frenzied fish - is that gross or not? 😂 It's fun lah 😁
But, if you already come with an open sore, I would strongly advise not letting the fish chew on them.
After fun with the fishes, we back tracked to the little motor boats to take us back to Kelah Sanctuary office (where our house boat was moored).
After the Kelah Fish Sanctuary, our next destination was Sungai Saok waterfall - one of 14 waterfalls along rivers feeding into Tasik Kenyir lake.
Not the biggest waterfall in the area but the water was cool and clean.
It's really fun perching on the rocks and let the refreshing falling water splash on us - getting a water massage like in a natural jacuzzi.
We were moored at the waterfall for the night. Time for more dipping in the water and games. I learnt a new game call Rummy-O. It's quite fun and easy to pick up.
BBQ lamb, fish and chicken for dinner.
We arrived back at the jetty soon after breakfast (on Day 4). It's time for the 600km journey home.
Arrived back in Kuantan in time for lunch. We went back to Restoran Mexica Garden where we enjoyed our first night here and wanted to try more of their dishes. We had geoduck, soon hock fish, la la clams, etc. All the dishes were tasty and nicely done with fresh ingredients.
After lunch before pushing on to Singapore, we stopped briefly at Sin Kee Hung for dried seafood like fish maw, sea cucumber, scallops, salted fish and also bird nest. Kuantan dried seafood is known for its quality and competitive pricing.
From Kuantan we took a different route back to Singapore - instead of the coastal road, we took the route via Segamat and Yong Peng to join the North South Highway.
We stopped at Yong Peng for dinner. Everyone agreed to have a small, simple bite at Yuan Yean Fishball Eating House before pushing on to Singapore. We had fish ball noodles and yong tau foo.
We cleared Singapore immigration at about 10pm.
We had a great time with Wheels for Fun. The trip was well organised.
Though the journey is over 1,200km round trip plus 2 days of boat ride, the pace was leisurely with plenty of time to enjoy the places, food, and friends.
So many fish want to kiss
Dates: 21 - 24 Sep 2019