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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / san san

Earlier this month I went to yet another island in the East Coast of Malaysia for a little bit of R&R as well as put a bit of time breathing compressed air underwater. For this trip, everything was arranged by my colleague, Rich, I sort of just tag along. A vacation where you don’t have to plan for anything? Sign me up!

Our destination – Pulau Kapas.

Kapas Turtle Valley resort, Pulau Kapas, Terengganu
Kapas Turtle Valley resort, Pulau Kapas, Terengganu

Pulau Kapas is one of the lesser known islands of Terengganu. Located just 6 km or so from Marang Jetty, it is only some 10 minutes on the ferry (every 2 hours), which makes it really accessible even for those who may be prone to sea sickness. Furthermore, with East Coast Expressway in operation, getting there is easier than ever, around 400km on dual lane expressway with another 20 or so KM trunk road.

snorkeling, sand castle, and playing with hermit crab
snorkeling, sand castle, and playing with hermit crab

Kapas Turtle Valley is run by a Dutch couple who called Malaysia home. It is a fairly small resort with capacity of less than 20-30 guests at any one time. It is also located at semi-private sort of beach with other resorts accessible via a short walk across the small hill in 10 minutes, perfect for those who loves a bit of privacy and quiet time.

You’ll be expected to spend close to RM 100 per night per person to stay at KTV, with breakfast inclusive. The bungalows are comfortable, bathrooms are big and quite luxurious for island standard, and you do have electricity around the clock.

food at Kapas Turtle Valley was excellent
food at Kapas Turtle Valley was excellent

What I love most though, is the food prepared by Sylvia. Breakfast usually consists of very good pastry, dutch cheese, egg, and juice, while lunch & dinner is as per order (usually from 3 choices) and priced reasonably. Her dishes are at least on par with some of the better restaurants in town, and that is certainly quite a luxury on an island, with a budget.

kayaking looks a lot easier in photos
kayaking looks a lot easier in photos

Holiday on island is about rest and relax, reading a book, listening to the waves and such, but if you’re restless, or you’re between 3-6, there are still quite a bit to do.

Making sand castle, catching hermit crab, snorkeling at the house reef, kayaking, throwing freebies, or even sailing on a catamaran is an option.

Aqua Sport Divers, the only dive center at Pulau Kapas
Aqua Sport Divers, the only dive center at Pulau Kapas

We spent 5 days and 4 nights at Turtle Kapas Valley, and only decided to put in some diving on 3rd and 4th day.

Aqua Sport Divers is the only dive center on the island, and some 25 minutes walk from where we stay. Fortunately, they are more than happy to ferry us on a small speed boat to & fro from KTV to dive center.

nemo with anemone, always one of my favorite shooting subjects
nemo with anemone, always one of my favorite shooting subjects

As for the dives, underwater visibility at Kapas isn’t exactly stellar, mostly due to the fact that the island is a mere 6 kilometers away from peninsular Malaysia, but they were more than decent.

Over the 3 dives, we spotted moray eel, barracuda, humphead wrasse, clown fish, jelly fish, big puffer, blue spotted stingray, and more. There were even a story about a group getting a glimpse of a whale shark a couple weeks prior.

UW pics taken with Olympus TG-5
UW pics taken with Olympus TG-5

I loaned a couple cameras from Olympus that are fit for underwater purposes. The Olympus TG-Tracker for video, and Olympus TG-5 mainly for stills. They were very convenient, pop the SD cards in and you’re good to go, no meticulous checking of seals or carrying my huge set up of my (now dated) Olympus E-PL3 with underwater housing. The picture quality isn’t as good as a micro 4/3 format for sure, but there were more than acceptable, and of course, carrying a small pouch with 2 cameras is much easier than a whole luggage full of gear for just one.

Overall it was an awesome trip, thanks to Rich & San San for organizing, will look forward to more R&R trips such as this one.

Two months ago, from the 1st to the 7th January, Haze and I traveled to the Philippines for a dive trip at Anilao. The week long trip includes two nights at Manila and four nights at Anilao, Batangas. In this entry I’m going to talk a bit about the journey and Arthur’s Place, the resort we stayed while at Anilao.

map of Anilao, the Philippines

Anilao is a pretty popular diving destination in the Philippines due to its proximity from Manila, as well as the myriad of underwater creatures the various dive sites has to offer. If you love macro (those small stuff like nudibranch, crabs, shrimps, etc), you will love Anilao.

I’ll be posting plenty of underwater photos on subsequent posts.

we drove from Manila to Anilao, took about 2 hours
all smiles, driving to Anilao took about two hours

We flew Cebu Pacific and spent New Year’s day at Rich, my ex-colleague’s place at Manila.

On the next day, we drove about 2 hours to Anilao on a journey that’s about 75% highway and 25% slow moving busy town-roads. Our destination was Arthur’s Place where we will meet up with Dave, Caterina and others diving buddies (we dove together at Similan Islands and Tenggol Island)

Arthur's place, love the lawn
Arthur’s place, love the lawn and the gazebo

Arthur’s Place has about a dozen rooms facing a lawn with a gazebo in the middle. The restaurant is located “upstairs”, while the dive center is half a level down, right next to the beach. It isn’t exactly luxury, but the rooms are clean, and comes with hot water and air conditioning.

Once we have our equipments set up for the first day, the helpers at the resort made sure we had fresh tanks of air for every dive, and transferring of equipment from boat to dive center’s usually taken care of as well. The level of service is excellent.

Arthur's Place at Anilao
Dive center at Arthur’s Place

Our dive guide was Richard, the guy knows practically everything about dive sites at Anilao. All we had to do was telling him what we wanted to see, and he’ll know exactly which dive side and be able to locate that particular frog fish that’s only 2cm across, or the one sea fan with pygmy seahorse out of the hundreds of sea fans underwater.

If you are going to Arthur’s Place, I highly recommend getting Richard as your dive guide.

the pebble beach, not real sandy, but not too bad
the pebble beach, not real sandy, but still a lovely view

The beach in front of Arthur’s Place isn’t exactly superb. The beach is made of broken corals, pebbles, and sand. A pair of booty is very useful if you want to take a stroll by the seaside. This is typical of beaches around Anilao and not limited to this stretch at Arthur’s Place.

Water is generally clear and you can snorkel or dive right from here.

awesome sunset everyday at Arthur's Place
awesome sunset everyday at Arthur’s Place

Arthur’s place faces west, which means post-card worthy sunset view every evening. We had the privilege of enjoying four golden sunsets here, and each time it takes your breath away.

some of the food we had, plenty of choices to last a week
some of the food we had, plenty of choices to last a week

Everything here is ala-carte basis, and that includes room, diving (per dive depending on number of divers, distance of dive sites), and best of all – food. The restaurant at Arthur’s Place carries a pretty decent menu offering traditional dishes such as steamed fish, chicken adobo, bangus (milk fish for breakfast), to Western entries such as their very delicious bacon cheese burger.

The prices are from around 80 to 200 Philippines Peso per dish, while on a slightly high side for Philippines, we had no qualms about how they tastes and looked forward to every meal.

KY, Haze, and Rich, partner in compressed air breathing
KY, Haze, and Rich, partner in compressed air breathing

Over all we spent about RM 2,500 for 4 nights of accommodation, food, and around 20 dives for myself and Haze. It was money well spent and the trip was only made better by the excellent hospitality by Rich and San San.

Looking forward to doing this again. Underwater photos coming soon.

Time to continue my second Tenggol dive trip post.  I intend to use this blog as sort of a dive log so just in case I lose the precious book, at least the information would be here. What a concept, right?

In case you missed the first post, it is here – Tenggol Island dive trip – redux

With the help of my latest toy – the Bamboo touch & pen, I now present you my very first awesomesauce drawing of Pulau Tenggol dive map, something I shamelessly copied from Tenggol Island Beach Resort website.

To avoid exercising plagiarism to the fullest, I added a little smiling clown fish to the dive map for that extra cheerful factor. Sweet isn’t it?

diving at pulau tenggol, nudibranch, blue spotted stingray
Nembrotha kubaryana (nudibranch), blue spotted sting ray

  • dive #3 – Amazing Grace
  • date/time – 27/03/2010 4:59pm
  • depth – 18.5 meter
  • duration – 46 mins
  • visibility – 10-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

After the relatively deep dive two, we took the boat to Amazing Grace for our final dive for the day, a dive site located near the southern end of the neighboring island closest to Tenggol.

lion fish, seaweed, giant green turtle
seaweeds and giant Sea Turtle

Like other sites at Tenggol, there were more nudibranchs to be found. I spotted this very colorful nembrotha kubaryana crawling up on a coral, while it resembles land slugs more than other nudi, you’ll be hard pressed to find something of this color above ground.

There’s a mild current at this location and we did a very relaxing drift dive, a perfect end to the day. Spotted a giant turtle that turns out to be the only one we saw in the entire trip.

party at Tenggol
KY, Rich, San San, Joe, Terence, Jonathan with ze Whisky

After dinner, the six of us spent quite a few hours talking quite a lot of crap with the aid of a bottle of whisky so thoughtfully brought to the island by Jonathan (Joe brought another bottle for the next night too).

With no TV, restaurant, or let a lone a pub, it is imperative to BYOB to this island.

Tokong Laut dive site, Pulau Tenggol
swimming under boulder at Tokong Laut, bat fish

  • dive #4 – Tokong Laut
  • date/time – 28/03/2010 9:31 am
  • depth – 34.2 meter
  • duration – 43 mins
  • visibility – 15-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

Tokong Laut is one of the more challenging dive sites at Tenggol. With swift current at entrance, you have to descent pretty quickly to avoid getting swept away by the moving water.

It is also the very same dive site we had to abandon almost 6 years ago when Terence did exactly that, swept away by current.

soft coral, nudibranch
anemone, Pteraeolidia ianthina (purple nudi) chromodoris coi (white nudi)

We did concure Tokong Laut this time around, and boy it was some rewarding experience! There were plenty of big size bat fish all over, and we particularly enjoyed those “swim throughs”. When Charlie the dive lead talked about swim throughs on land, I thought it was about finning through uninteresting places, little did I know that we got to swim through openings beneath huge boulders. The experience was exhilarating, almost but not entirely unlike cave dives.

Of course, there were more nudis at this site too.

awesome lunch at Tenggol Beach Resort
exceedingly good lunch!

I must give two thumbs up for the food at Tenggol Beach Resort, all our meals were really good. The collage above was from one of our lunch/dinner session. WIth fish, prawns, chicken, and vegetable to go with rice, it was out of our expectations. My previous dive trips usually accompanied by lousy foods.

Lost World, Pulau Tenggol, giant sea fan
can you spot the tiny white shrimps on the top right pic?

  • dive #5 – Lost World
  • date/time – 28/03/10 12:03 pm
  • depth – 31.3 meter
  • duration – 45 mins
  • visibility – 15-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

Lost World, Pulau Tenggol, giant sea fan
KY, Rich, and San San. Hypselodoris apolegma (purple nudi)

Dive #5 was another pretty deep dive at Lost World, which isn’t on the map above (can’t exactly remember where it is located). We spotted some tiny white shrimps, more nudi, as well as angel fish, among others. The feature of this site though, must be the sea fans. They were plenty of white sea fans making up the very beautiful seascape.

BBQ lunch on the beach
BBQ by PDRM Terengganu

After the 2nd dive, we were treated by the local PDRM who happened to be at Tenggol for an excellent BBQ lunch. The grilled cuttle fish with kunyit and BBQ ikan kembung were excellent! So were the curry and they even had rice too, it was amazing. Who said cops aren’t friendly?

There were 3 more dives at Tenggol that I shall post soon, and hopefully with some videos too.

Pulau Tenggol was where it all got started back in 2004, I got my PADI Open Water & Advance Open Water diving license together with Terence and Saint.

When my colleague Richard (he was at xmas eve party 2009) told me about this diving trip, the memory from 6 years back found it’s way from my secondary storage and told me I had to go back there, and Terence agreed too. This despite having just came back from Sipadan less than 2 months ago.

Dungun, on the way to Tenggol island
breakfast at some Malay restaurant at Dungun

Together with Richard, San San, Jonathan, Joe, and Terence, we packed our gears and drove up to Dungun last Friday. Spent a night at some cheap hotel, and headed to the Jetty after the excellent breakfast with nasi minyak, roti canai, and nasi lemak at some Malay restaurant by a junction (there aren’t many junctions at Dungun).


Tenggol Island Resort, precisely where we were back in 2004!

Some 45 minutes on pretty choppy water later, we arrived at Tenggol island, and as fate had it, we checked into precisely where we did some 6 years back.

The island still looked exactly like it did when we first got here. It was still relatively untouched, with virgin jungle embracing the sandy bay that has 4 very small resorts housing not more than a few dozen divers at any one time. It is nice to see that the place doesn’t turn to another over commercialized island.

Charlie Lee, the dive master/instructor
this is Charlie, our resort operator & dive leader

We got our room keys, unpacked, and immediately suit up for the first dive. Our resort operator and dive leader, Charlie Lee, and I share a similar talent in drawing. While I draw maps to food, he excel in underwater topography, and drew maps of every dive sites before we visit them.

The maps come with depth, underwater geological features, path, and so on. Very impressive!

diving at tenggol, turtle point
Ahh, being underwater, I miss it already

Our first dive was at Turtle Point, located at the Southern end of the bay, it is protected from the sometimes vicious current at Tenggol. With a maximum depth of 18 meter, the site is usually chosen for check-out dives.

My log book told me that it is also the place where I had my very first dive, though at that time we only went to the relatively safe depth of 9 meter.

Joe and Terence diving, mini barracudas
Joe busy working, baby barracudas, Terence, blue coral fish

  • dive #1: Turtle Point
  • date/time: 27/3/2010 11:26 am
  • depth: 17.6 meter
  • duration: 43 mins
  • visibility: 10-20 meters
  • temp: 29c

Four out of six of us brought cameras with casing fit for underwater usage, which makes for plenty of photos. You can check out the photos I took at this FB album

sea cucumber, tang fish, crown of thorns star fish
giant sea cucumber, tang fish, evil crown of thorns star fish

It was nice to get underwater again, Turtle Point was very stress free. We saw a school of baby barracudas, and unlike their grown up counter parts, they looked so cute when they’re at only 1-2 feet in size.

Sea cucumber, tang fish, and various other coral dwelling fishes were spotted too. There’s also the crown of thorns star fish that actually eats coral.

Phyllidia varicosa, dive computer, moray eel
Phyllidia varicosa (scrambled egg nudi), Suunto D6, moray eel

We went on shore and had a very good lunch of curry chicken, vegetable, and rice. Usually lousy food is expected at dive resorts, but the meals we had with Charlie were all rather good, way beyond expectation.

Shortly after that it was our second dive of the day. We were pumped!

  • dive #2: Tangjung Gemuk
  • date/time: 27/3/2010 2:20 pm
  • depth: 26.9 meter
  • duration: 44 mins
  • visibility: 10-15 meters
  • temp: 29c

nemo and friends, puffer fish
Nemo and cousins, skinny puffer fish

Tanjung Gemuk is located a bit further away and had a bit of current going on. We took advantage of the current and did a very enjoyable and relaxing drift dive for the most part. Spotted puffer fish, two different types of clown fish, the “scrambled egg” nudi branch (sea slug), and more.

We probably covered 4-500 meters in 44 minutes. It was another excellent dive on just the first day.

There are 6 more dives on this trip, and I shall continue on the coming posts. For now, time to sleep!