We are staying at Temple Tree, a Trip Advisor favourite. It is a charming, rustic hideaway just a short 10 minute walk from Cenang Beach. The place is run by an Australian, who has restored eight traditional Malay kampung houses, all 80-100 years old, converting them into stylish hotel rooms. The profits fund her animal rescue centre. With three pools to choose from, the kids are spoilt for choice! It is located at Pantai Cenang, the island’s main beach with plenty of restaurants, hotels, and shops – perfect!
Rental cars are the default means of transportation here, unlike Thai islands where the motorbike is ubiquitous. We enjoyed driving around and exploring the main island, it gave us a quick way to get around and stop where we liked for the day. Although our crusade to find Mahsuri’s tomb, led us to a couple of different tombs, before we found the right one! I have to say it was a bit of a let down once we eventually found it! This island just doesn’t seem to get tourism, or more to the point, general signage. Searching for anything is a bit of potluck and educated guessing, as sign posts are few and far between.
Mahsuri is a bit of a local legend apparently, which is why we were on the hunt for her. The first section of the museum is filled with life size scenes and sculptures of the story of Mahsuri, and how her beauty led her to being condemned on the island and put to death. The exhibitions are a little on the old side, not to mention a little freaky as well!
After all this excitement, our next stop was the beach. We headed to the far North of the island to Pasir Tengorak. This beach is a locals favorite. There weren’t many tourists here because it is relatively far away from the tourist populated areas like Pantai Cenang and Kuah Town. This beach is complete with bathrooms, shower rooms and even prayer rooms for Muslims. Literally translated to Sandy Skull Beach, its rather ominous name is based on legends passed down through the years. Some say it was named after bodies of sailors were found washed up on the beach after a massive storm, while others believe them to be the victims of a local sea monster, while another explanation is that it is the result of being a penal colony for Thai political prisoners in the 1930s. Whichever, it is a lovely remote beach.
Our friendly local laundry man -$8 for 20kg! gave us a great recommendation for dinner at a local out of the way southern Indian place. The main restaurants here specialise in Middle eastern, Indian and of course seafood. Luckily we had the car, there is no way we would have found it otherwise as it was definitely some way from the tourist strip. At $50 including dessert, it certainly isn’t as cheap here to eat as other parts of Asia, but definitely not expensive either.
We only have 2 days here before we head to Penang for the last part of our trip. We decided to fly rather than take the ferry – at $37 AUD each and hours saved, why wouldn’t you.