A trip to Penyabong (August 2016)

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In August 2016, we had an overnight stay in the SukaLayar Resort in Penyabong (shown above), accompanied by Hanis Harun and her daughter Sofi. The drive up the eastern highway, via Kota Tinggi to Mersing on the east coast of Johor, was a pleasant trip of just over a couple of hours. 

MG Garden Seafood Restaurant

We stopped just before Mersing for a late lunch at the MG Garden Seafood Restaurant.  This is a Chinese banquet restaurant and was completely empty when we arrived. But, do not be put off by the bleakness of the carpark and the emptiness of the large restaurant as the food was delicious; especially the butter prawns and the salted egg squid in a deep fried yam basket. [2019: this restaurant is now closed.] We turned off the highway to drive along the coastal road at Mersing, and stopped at a dried fish shop to buy a variety of fish crackers to test out at home later. Here (below left) is the lovely owner of the shop with Hanis.

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Our next stop was at a deserted beach at Pantai Telok Arong. This beach looked so much better than those closer to Mersing; there are no facilities here, but this was midweek and there was no one else around to enjoy this beautiful space.

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Back on the coastal road, we continued to the SukaLayar Resort in Penyabong. Arriving in the late afternoon, we could enjoy the beautiful deserted beach without the oppressive heat of the noonday sun. There is a range of accommodation at SukaLayar, and we stayed in one of their newer chalets. The beach here was a stunner and the sea is shallow so very safe for swimming, kayaking, and other water-based activities.

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We walked along the shoreline looking for wildlife. There are hundreds of tiny crabs which live just under the sand and produce neat patterns on the surface. In some parts of the beach, these small balls of sand joined up to produce a neat abstract pattern.

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As we walked back along the beach, the sun was setting and the sea was glowing.

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So, we jumped into the car to drive further north to the jetty at Penyabong. At one stage, we drove directly towards a huge orange globe in the sky, so had to rush to the jetty to before the sun set. 

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I played around with my camera settings for a while, and generated the following image of a ’sunset’. The ‘purist’ photographers won’t approve of the washed out area at the top left hand side of the photo, but I like it!

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When you visit these remote coastal kampongs, then finding dinner can be an issue. So, we drove to the nearest big town of Endau and enjoyed our dinner at the Sate King. Then, back at the pitch black of the resort I decided to try and take some photos of the stars. However, the clouds put a stop to that. When my fellow travel companions joined me on the beach, I decided to rope them in to do some light painting. It is hard to convey how much fun it was watching them dance around on the sand, torches or cellphones in hand to generate light trails. The first two photos should say ‘Sofi’ and ‘Hanis’, but we’d have needed a lot more patience to get those right! The photo of the face was a planned photo, taken after a few trial runs. But, the other two photos were completely random and I just love the results, especially the red and white caterpillar.

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After a good night’s sleep, I was up before dawn to record the sunrise; never quite as colourfull as sunsets though.

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At 7:30 am we drove up the road to the next bay to walk amongst the mangroves. The sea only came up to our knees here and the water was pleasantly warm. We could watch hermit crabs scuttling around our feet, and see the mangrove roots sprouting up through the sand. Seeing the mangrove trees growing out of the sea was just extraordinary. On returning towards the car, we came across some fishermen who were sorting their catch and setting up the nets for more. And, sadly the nature of the mangrove is to filter objects from the sea, so much of the beauty of the coastline was spoilt by plastic bags and general rubbish. Quite how a computer monitor ended up on the sand bank I do not know!

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Finally, it was time to leave this little bit of heaven and drive back to Johor Bahru. The SukaLayar Resort is a lovely place to stay, and there is plenty of other holiday accommodation in the area, especially at the more commercial beach area of nearby Air Papan. No grand hotels, but basic chalets and home stays, perfect for a weekend getaway!

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