Chukai & Kemaman
Terengganu has a beautiful coastal road that takes you through most of the fishing ports and towns in the state. The Kemaman district developed tremendously during the mid-90's economic boom, when housing projects mushroomed overnight. Modern shops replaced the quaint old wooden shops and roads were widened to accommodate increased traffic. But, the slowdown in the economy has left an obvious mark on the towns. Apart from a stopover to refuel and for some food, Kemaman has little to offer. Kemaman Port is the main port where large oil tankers anchor and not too far away, the Star Cruises dock at their private jetty close to the Awana Kijal Resort. Star Cruise is a luxury liner that sails frequently along the coasts of Terengganu on the way to Phuket, Thailand.
The first excise and customs department on the east cost was set up at Chukai because of the busy port at the estuary. Chukai means 'tax' in Malay. However, the beauty of Chukai's old town has been reduced to a few landmarks here and there but not impressive enough to make one stay.
Just on the outskirts of town, along the river sits a little fishing village little known to outsiders. The tiny river jetty is often crowded with colourful Terengganu fishing boats. Noises from fishermen sailing in after a day's catch can be heard from afar, blown in with the sea breeze. During the hot afternoons, the fishermen are seen mending their nets and traps under the shady trees nearby.
It is not surprising therefore that there are quite a number of seafood restaurants in the centre of town. A good restaurant in town, facing the river called 'Malaysia coffeeshop', serves great baked crabs and has a reasonable selection of seafood, for a reasonable price. The restaurant can get quite busy at times but no worries as there are others to choose from on the same row of shops.
The other flavour to look out for is Chukai's famous Malaysian Coffee. Kedai kopi Hai Peng, a local popular coffee shop has packed coffee grains for sale. The coconut jam and toast is lovely and the ice blended coffee is to die for at only RM4.50, the cost of a house brew in KL! Open during the day, Kedai Kopi Hai Peng is housed in a 3 storey white indiscript modern building, just across the road from KFC.