You have probably gathered by now that I am not a rock’n’roll kind of guy. Not in the air, not in my music. Yet here we are staying the the Hard Rock Hotel in Desaru Beach in Malaysia.
With me feeling better after a good sleep we roll out of bed and rock up to Joo Chiat Road looking for breakfast. Most places aren’t open yet, but we find the Al Falah Barakah kopitiam and order some roti, dosai and Milo ais. The roti is okay, but not chewy enough. Still, the atmosphere was just right, the open side eating area, the colourful old shop houses.
Despite filling our stomachs, B somehow manages to eat a bowl of bak kuh teh at a Chinese restaurant further up. And we buy kuih from the Peranakan place behind the Roxy.
By now we have to check out and wait for our ride to the next destination. The choices to get to the Hard Rock Cafe were to hire a car, catch a ferry and a shuttle service, or just pay for a private ride. Surprisingly the private car hire works out much the same as the others (expensive), so we go with that for simplicity’s sake.
The friendly driver flashes his Hard Rock Cafe sign and we clamber into the minibus. We drive along the motorway, past our next Singapore hotel in the Downtown area and across to the geographically more distant Tuas border crossing, past factories and warehouses.
This is probably the only land border that we’ve ever crossed by car and it is a slow, painful process. Masses of Singaporeans heading across to Malaysia for the weekend, it takes us probably an hour to cross in total.
On the Singapore side our passports are handed over through the driver’s side window. Once over the bridge (not the one I thought when flying in) the driver recommends we go via the bus and taxi route into Malaysia and avoid the long line of cars.
This means we have to get out and join the queue of people at the Malaysian immigration checkpoint. Already the facilities look older and more run down than on the Singaporean side, but it works alright, once we can sort out which queue to stand in as the booths randomly close.
After rejoining the minibus on the other side it’s now a race along the motorway, past endless palm plantations and the odd fruit farm, past new developments and old kampongs, tropical clouds towering over the landscape. Alex notices how much poorer the country looks here.
We get stuck behind trucks, our driver tailgating, quickly overtaking. After three hours we finally make it up to the new white buildings of the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru.
The staff greet us warmly and frequently and we are soon in our colourful rock music themed room. The Samsung television is especially impressive, with lots of connectivity enabled, plus the minibar is free (none alcoholic drinks only supplied).
Hungry again, long past lunch, we have a disappointing meal in the Sessions Restaurant. B’s ayam pedas and Alex’s Assam laksa were disappointing, though I really enjoyed my nasi lemak.
We should have eated at the new and very quiet tourist village behind the hotel. Though most buildings are empty, there are local dishes available for a third of the hotel prices.
There’s time for a swim in the infinity pool where music is played under the water. It was warm, not too deep, and we all have fun cooling down. I spot today’s QF81 flying the same route as I did.
After that it is dinner time already. B wants to go to distant seafood restaurants, but is convinced by the front staff to go to Nelayan. Transport is limited, so we decide to walk after the hotel golf cart takes us as far as the roundabout.
It’s two and a half kilometres along the side of a road without a proper footpath, past jungle. Along the way we stop at the Desaru Public Beach, where an American working for the water sports hire place greets us and monkeys scramble across the road.
No taxis, no transport he tells us.
The nice thing about a resort is getting away from it all. The bad thing about a resort is being far away from it all and usually being stuck eating expensive resort food.
We continue walking. Then we see a hotel minivan driving towards us. It indicates and pulls over.
Salman, who we’d discussed getting to the restaurant with from the hotel, greets us and tells us to climb in. He’s got the keys back and drives us to the restaurant, telling us he’ll pick us up on the way back.
Great service, going out of his way to look after us guests! Rock on!
The Nelayan is a big open sided seafood restaurant located right by the beach. A chef cooks satay out the front, inside are tanks of live seafood.
We order, and while we wait I head down towards the beach to take a look.
Out to sea is a dark grey cloud with rain showers drifting down.
I look closer.
There’s a waterspout forming! I can see the funnel winding down.
It’s the first I’ve ever seen! I call Alex over to look, B stays at the table.
Lightning flashes ominously. I’m glad we’ve got an indoors table now, especially when it starts to rain.
We splurge and order sambal kangkong belachan (water convolvus vegetable with chilli and belachan sauce), crab with salted egg sauce and steamed teo chew style ocean bass. I enjoy the curry leaves in the crab’s sauce, always associating it with beachside seafood, while we all like the flavoursome fish. Alex struggles to get over the fact that he’s had fresher, tastier crab in Japan, his sharp tastebuds proving difficult sometimes.
The storm mostly holds off with only some brief rain, but I enjoy the fireworks show of lightning. I’d love to be watching it from the hotel room, but we are facing the wrong way.
Also the other side of the hotel is a big waterpark. Tickets to that tomorrow!