Malaysia keeps surprising me. This neighbour to my home country has more to offer than petty memories and unfounded hearsay that evoke images of a dangerous land. Of course, it would be folly for one to disregard safety when travelling in a third world foreign destination but I have learnt from my journey to the world’s (supposed) 17th most dangerous country last year that things are not always as bad as portrayed. The only way to truly know is to be there and experience.

A chance encounter brought me to Kuantan, the state capital of Pahang in Malaysia. I have never heard of this place prior to my plans to visit, and I was pleasantly surprised to know that my grandmother had visited at least twice. One day before my departure, mum told me that grandma visited Kuantan to watch turtles lay eggs. Considering that must have happened in the 80s or 90s, travelling from Singapore to Kuantan sounds like an adventure! Was it by rail or bus? Mum could not remember. Nevertheless, precious memories like this were rarely shared, and I was grateful to be reminded of grandma’s love for travel when she was alive. Perhaps it’s genetic.

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While the turtle sanctuary remained, I did not have time to retrace grandma’s footsteps. I had less than 24 hours to explore Kuantan city, and was quite pleased with my discovery. To travel between places of interest, I used GrabCar (it’s cheaper than Uber) and had fun, sometimes insightful, conversations with the drivers. Most of these drivers have a full time job, and are driving during the weekend to make ends meet.

As a solo female traveller in Kuantan, I did not feel threatened or unsafe at anytime. On the contrary, people were friendly and nice, and often surprised when they learnt that I am 1) not local 2) travelling alone. If you are planning a trip to Kuantan, Pahang, here’s sharing some travel tips:

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Travel tips and information about Kuantan, Pahang 

1. There are direct flights from the following cities:

  • Singapore to Kuantan by Firefly airline (1 hour)
  • Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan by various airlines (40 minutes)

2. Firefly airline is a Malaysian boutique airline (not budget!) with very good service!

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Firefly Airline’s awesome in-flight magazine and snacks

3. There are also bus services from Singapore / Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan. From Kuala Lumpur to downtown Kuantan, the bus ride takes ~3hours.

4. Distance from Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport to downtown Kuantan takes ~30 minutes by car. There is only a cafe and a small shop at the airport.

5. Stay connected by getting a Malaysia SIM card upon arrival (unfortunately, there was no vendor at the airport during my visit).

6. For mobile provider in Malaysia, I recommend HotLink (4G network) because one gets free data upon SIM activation and app download. There are also free bonus data on weekends!

7. Travel using apps like GrabCar or Uber. Based on a few tries, the former is way cheaper!

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GrabCar is cheaper than Uber. *Check star ratings of driver for peace of mind.

8. I usually like to explore destinations on foot but this can be challenging in Kuantan. Some routes are not even marked in Google Maps! To travel, check point 6 again.

9. How many days would be ideal for a vacation in Kuantan? Two days are sufficient, unless you are planning a beach retreat (which would be to your preference then)

10. Nearby towns such as Sungei Lembing (an hour ride away) are worth exploring and you can make Kuantan your base or split your stay.

11. Creature comfort such as your favourite toiletries, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, etc. are available at East Coast Mall, Berjaya Mall, etc. that are in the city center.

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12. If you are heading for the beach, know that Malaysia is an Islamic country and modesty is highly valued. Sunbathing may not be wise, unless it is a private beach of the hotel. In any case, always look around you or ask if unsure.

Last but not least, here’s sharing my article on things to do in Kuantan (as published on Trip101):

Weekend in Kuantan, Pahang: More than Beaches and Mosques

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Located near the mouth of Kuantan River and facing the South China Sea, Kuantan, the capital of Pahang is the largest state in Peninsular Malaysia with more than ¾ of its population being Malay. It is no wonder that potential travellers often visualise this bustling city as a destination of abundant beaches and mosques!

Regardless, did you know Kuantan used to be a popular destination for turtle-watching during the hatching season some two to three decades ago? While the turtle sanctuary has passed its hey days, there are more to this city that stays under the radar.

Imagine setting off on a sunset cruise to check out fireflies, tantalising your taste buds with rich, local food or literally walking through a dragon to find dinosaurs and moral teachings! [Read more]

PS: Feel free to leave me a question or comments at the below boxes if you have any. Happy travels! 

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