Of course it’s “only” Desaru and there isn’t much adventure here, but for a short getaway, it makes perfect sense. We got up and left home at about 0600. It was still dark and the trains were not crowded yet. The queue at Kranji MRT station was also pretty short. Nevertheless, we did encounter some form of congestion at Woodlands Checkpoint. Fleets of bas pekerjar making the return trip to JB piled up at the boarding area, resulting in much congestion and confusion even though human traffic was light.
Thankfully, things were much smoother on the Malaysian side. We managed to step into City Square a little past 8 in the morning. Breakfast was according to plan at our favourite prata place. Mediocre prata and drinks would cost the 3 of us about $12 in Singapore. The superb prata in JB with drinks cost us only RM12.90.
Once our stomachs were loaded up, it was time to load up my SIM card. It took me quite a while to find kiosk that was open before 1000. Once that was settled, we went to McDonald’s at City Square to kill off about 30mins. We then took a bus to KSL, did some shopping and fixed a couple of old phones and tablets there.
We had lunch, complete with an icy, creamy dessert upon which my No. 2 insisted. Of course No. 1 liked it too. It was about 1400 when we left the restaurant. Good timing. I Grabbed a car for Desaru, about 58km away. Traffic on the new highway was smooth as silk. The trip only cost us RM90, toll charges included and it took us less than 1 hour to reach Desaru – hardly enough time for forty winks, but my No. 2 snored for at least half an hour anyway.
We arrived a few minutes before the official check-in time, but the reception was OK with it. At first glance, the $100+ a night at Tunamaya seemed like a steal. The place had a nice pool, a gym and was just a stone’s throw from the beach. The staff was also friendly and helpful. But we soon realised why it was so cheap. Many of the fixtures in this old resort were literally falling apart. The sink was leaking, tiles on the balcony were popping out. Most of the rooms next to ours were also closed for renovation. There was much hammering, sawing and drilling throughout the day. The sea breeze was laced with the odour of thinner.
Fortunately, the boys didn’t complain. We rested in our room, endured the pounding next door till the heat of the day steamed off. We then went for a swim in the pool. As a beach, Desaru is not particularly impressive, but the long stretch of white sand and soothing rhythm of the breaking waves can take much of the stress out of the daily grind.
From this image captured from Google Earth, you can see the setup of this resort. There is one restaurant/dining area for breakfast and other meals. There is also a Thai restaurant just beyond the car park. It’s call the Aroi Thai – “aroi” meaning delicious in Thai. We checked that out in the evening. The dishes were quite tasty, but the portions were extremely small. I asked the manager where the nearest convenience store was. He said that it was 5km away. We should have bought our drinks and snacks in JB.
You’ll need to be quite a sloth to spend 4 days and 3 nights at the resort without going anywhere. The resort holds you captive with its restaurant dangling char kway teow at a ridiculous RM23. I planned to visit the crocodile farm, the ostrich farm and the fruit farm, but I had no car with me. I explored my options after dinner. I first checked with the car rental counter and discovered that their minibuses could take 8 people and were rather pricey. I thought about it and decided to try a different approach. After breakfast the next morning, I made a fruitless attempt with Grab. There were no available drivers in the vicinity of the resort. I figured that there wouldn’t be any near the farms we were visiting too.
I slept on the thought and at first light the next morning, I brought the boys out for a walk on the beach. Sunrise was beautiful as expected. We returned to the resort for breakfast and I thought of a solution.
I decided to take the cheapest ride that the hotel could provide – RM30 to Bandar Penawar bus terminal. As you can see from the map below, Bandar Penawar lies pretty coast to Desaru beach. It is actually the administrative centre of the area, a sleepy town where there is really nothing much to administer.
There are buses plying between Bandar Penawar, JB and Kota Tinggi here. There is also a taxi stand here. You will find the drivers lounging at one corner. I approached the driver and after some friendly negotiation, I managed to get some very reasonable fares to the ostrich farm. I also took taxi driver Wahid’s name card and my transport was secured.