07 November 2013

Pengerang - Cycling from Sungai Rengit to Tanjung Balau

Date of Exploration : 26 - 28 Oct 2013

Whenever I feel the impulse for a quick getaway that mixes good food, adventure and some serious calories burning, I come to Pengerang for a long-distance cycling tour. A mere hour's boat ride from Singapore, Pengerang offers delicious and fresh seafood (especially lobster) at prices that make the wallet smile and serves as a gateway to enjoy the Malaysian countryside and unspoilt beaches best explored on two wheels.

Having successfully cycled from Sungai Rengit to Desaru in July this year, Siow Har and I came back to Pengerang again to attempt going even further... to Tanjung Balau. The map below shows our bicycle tour route which started from Sungai Rengit (at the bottom) to Tanjung Punggai to Desaru and finally reaching Tanjung Balau. Total distance : 41km one way.

To get to Pengerang, we took a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal and took a cab to Sungai Rengit. Sungai Rengit is the main town of Pengerang.
This is our fourth trip to Pengerang and also my fourth blog post about the place so I won't dive into too much details about the coastal district or how to get there. You can find out more information on Pengerang from my previous entries listed in the 'Posts Listing' section under 'Malaysia'.

While most things remained the same from previous experiences, what's different on this trip was that we didn't go during a public holiday or were super kiasu to arrive very early at Changi Point Ferry Terminal to stake out for a boat. Iinstead of being at the ferry terminal at 7:30am like what we used to do, we met at 9:45am this time round. There wasn't a crowd and we waited only 35 minutes for a boat (compared to the upwards of 2 hours on previous trips). Hence, it may be better to go later instead of earlier for a boat.

Bumboats ply between Changi Ferry Point Terminal and Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal from 7:00am to 4:00pm. There are no fixed departure schedules for the boats and they leave once a boatman has 12 passengers. The other way to get to Sungai Rengit is by bus from Larkin (Johor Bahru).

Instead of our usual 2D1N trips previously, we did a 3D2N this time and here's the itinerary if you wish to follow :

Day 1 - Depart Singapore for Pengerang (Sungai Rengit), have lunch and cycle to Tanjung Balau
Night 1 - Dinner and sleepover at Tanjung Balau
Day 2 - Explore Tanjung Balau, have lunch and cycle back to Sungai Rengit
Night 2 - Dinner and sleepover at Sungai Rengit
Day 3 - Late breakfast, explore Sungai Rengit and depart for Singapore by 2pm

There are two kinds of pain when cycling long distance... the pain of the butt and the pain from being sunburnt. Learning from previous trips, I'm all covered up and invested in a pair of padded cycling tights. Sunblock isn't something to stinge on either and bring along lots of water. I loaded up with two 1.5L bottles of hydration for the long ride.
Uh-oh... buat doh (fell down). Was negotiating a sandy curb while leaving a provision shop and my bike's wheels stalled, causing me to topple. Lesson : Avoid cycling on sandy surfaces!

One of the reasons why I enjoy cycling on the open road is the lack of skyscrapers to crowd out the works of art overhead. I've never seen a cloud formation like this. Awesome!

After riding for about four hours, we reached the roundabout where if we turn right, we will arrive at Desaru. I was tempted to go right since exhaustion had set in and we were clueless about how much further we needed to cycle to reach Tanjung Balau.

But we pushed forth and found out that Tanjung Balau is only another 6km away! ENDURE!!!

Tanjung Balau and Bayu Balau Beach Resort

The stretch of tar from the mouth of Desaru to Tanjung Balau was rather merciful as after a short pedal, it was downslope for about 3km. The 3km no-ride segment leads to a flat road for an easy ride to the beach resort. However, for the return trip on the next day, the slope turned from friend to foe.

Tanjung Balau sits within the jurisdiction of Kota Tinggi and used to be a fishing village until the 1950s when villagers were forced to relocate as a result of communist unrest. Tanjung Balau was deserted with fishermen returning temporarily for seasonal catch before the area was stabilised and developed for tourism in 1985. Since then, the fishing community has been housed in an organised kampong that reinstated their livelihoods while allowing tourists to get a feel of the nelayan (fisherman) spirit.

By the time we arrived at Tanjung Balau, the evening parade of colours had started so we decided to spend the night at Bayu Balau Beach Resort. The next morning, we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and checked out the beach as well as the Fishermen Museum nearby.

I wasn't expecting much from Tanjung Balau as many of these minor Malaysian beachside attractions hang on the verge of neglect but it exceeded all impressions I formed before visiting. The beaches at Tanjung Balau are really scenic with one side decorated with organic sheared rock sculptures while the other side spots shallow shores caressed by watery ruffles. It is possibly the best beach to be not too far from Singapore!

Photos : (Top Left) Cycling past the Desaru roundabout leads to the Tanjung Balau roundabout. Right is the way to go to reach the beach resort. (Top Right) Watch out of tapirs crossing the road. Initially, I thought it's an anteater in a panda costume. *feeling dumb* (Bottom Left) Directions for the attractions at Tanjung Balau. (Bottom Right) Entrance to Bayu Balau Beach Resort which we stayed. Just next door is the Pelangi Balau Resort that looks pretty good too. 

Bayu Balau Beach Resort consists of individual chalets built in the style of traditional attap houses. Cost : RM160 per night (weekend) / RM120 (weekday). We didn't book in advance and just walked in to get a room. A RM50 deposit was required during check-in although I wonder what's there to insure against. Check-out time was 12pm but we were allowed to hand in the key at 1pm.

Although the chalets looked pretty good on the outside, the interior was like stepping into Twilight Zone. We stayed in unit no. 18 with a hole on the door leading to the bathroom where half the lights were not working and there's no hot shower. The chalet was very basic but comfortable enough after a long day's ride.

The compound around Bayu Balau was rather well maintained with a children's playground in good condition and this bridge, that still had all its colours, linking to the public beach. I don't mean to be picky but many of the Malaysian attractions I've been to, even the big ones, seem to suffer from the 'god will take care of it' syndrome.
Tanjung Balau Beach

There are two beaches in Tanjung Balau - a small but very scenic craggy crescent fronting Bayu Balau Beach Resort and Pelangi Balau Resort, and a public beach with shallow waters and gregarious rolling waves.

The beach near the resorts is great for photography while the public beach is where all the splash action takes place. The locals seem to prefer Tanjung Balau beach over the nearby Desaru beach. Personally, I find that there are more things to see, do and photograph at Tanjung Balau.

It's a bird... it's a plane... no, it's a super cool Man of Steel kite! Price : RM55.

Public beach at Tanjung Balau.

The shallow shore of Tanjung Balau beach reminded me of Kuta Beach in Bali.

Constant surf washes over the powdery beach. Not ideal for swimming but great for splashing around. 

We weren't prepared for the watery bliss at Tanjung Balau so we didn't get into the water and just camwhored with the waves. I think the core workout sessions with my personal Roy Chan from SAFRA EnergyOne gym is starting to pay off with a flatter tummy *happy!*

While Tanjung Balau's public beach is a wide stretch of sand and sea, the beach in front of Balau Bayu and Pelangi Balau beach resorts is more rocky and home to a jetty. This photo of the jetty during sunset was taken when we first arrived at 6.15pm on the first night. The pastel backdrop was so bewitching, we were drawn towards the jetty to start snapping photos before even searching for accommodation.

Beach at the right side of the jetty.

Beach on the left side of the jetty.

To swim in these wild waves and jagged teeth of rocks is a suicide mission.

As we scoured the beach by torchlight at night, we saw a lot of hermit carbs going about their business and this monster... It is the biggest hermit crab I've ever seen so far! The resort beach as well as public beach at Tanjung Balau are littered with pretty shells especially near the rocky outcrops. I didn't pick any of them home, preferring to leave them where they are.

Dinner choices at Balau Bayu Beach Resort weren't many. There's a diner within the resort that serves food and doubles as a karaoke 'pub' (only Malay songs though and no alcohol is served) at night. Near the entrance of the jetty are two small stalls selling Malay stir-fry and burger at the. I had an ayam (chicken) burger for RM3.

But walking towards the entrance of the road leading to Balau Bayu Beach Resort, there were a few stalls selling BBQ seafood, drinks and cooked food.

We ordered seafood tom yum soup (RM15) and BBQ fish (RM25) at the makeshift open-air 'food court'. The soup tasted rather weird as instead of using prawns, fish and squid, the broth was cooked with cockles, mussels and a small flower crab. The fish was fresh and quite big with thick flesh but unfortunately, it was over-cooked so the meat became rather tough. But the spicy sauce it was coated with was sedap! Total bill : RM43.
Must-Do at Tanjung Balau : Watch the Sunrise

Before coming to Tanjung Balau, we didn't know that the sunrise here is a stunner. From the direction of last evening's sunset, we figured that the beach resort is east-facing and decided to wake up for the sunrise even though we were so tired from cycling long distance.

We were very glad we didn't sleep in...

Woke up at 6am to do the morning routine and walk over to the jetty. This photo was shot at 6.30am.

The risen yolk framed between the pillars of the jetty.

Dawn hues at Tanjung Balau resort beach.

Foliage to the left of the jetty created an interesting frame for the sunrise.

There were quite a lot of photogs crawling along the shore and perched on rocks to shoot the sunrise with tripods and DSLRs. Felt so inadequate shooting with only my mobile phone as we wanted to travel light for the long bike ride.

Shot taken at 6:56am... A new day has dawned.

Walking along the shoreline in the direction of the public beach, we came across a pebbled bay with some mangroves and the artful remnants of a tree. Here I was trying to capture the beauty of decay.

The dead tree seemed to have split at the lower trunk to form two natural sculptures high on drama.

The tree makes a really nice subject on its own or as an organic prop to 拍写真集 or for wedding photography.

More awesome backdrop for abovementioned photography. This slice of stone is known as the 'sail rock'.
Tanjung Balau Muzium Nelayan (Fishermen Museum)

Done with watching sunrise and checking out the beaches at Tanjung Balau, we walked over to the Fishermen Museum which showcases the history and developments of the area. For a small town museum, this has to be the best one I've seen. We were so impressed with the quality of information, exhibits and staging.

The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm (Mon - Thurs), 9am to 12pm and 2.45 to 6pm (Fri), and 9am to 6pm (weekends and public holidays). Entrance fee costs only RM2 so don't miss checking out this charming museum when in Tanjung Balau.

We thought the museum would be a small unkept gallery that could be covered within 30 minutes. But we were wrong. We spent almost an hour and had to leave because we needed to check out from our resortel. Else, we would've stayed longer.

A pair of colourful Perahu Payang (big fishing boat) greeted visitors to the Fishermen Museum. A characteristic of these intricately decorated boats used by fishermen in Terengganu is the Bangau (the horizontal protrusion from the bow). 'Bangau' means Cattle Egret (those birds usually found on the back of buffalos) but to fishermen and boat makers in the East Coast of Malaysia, Bangau means the horizontal ornament at the front of the boat. They can take the form of a fish's head (sekochi), bird's head (kolek kue) or designs of shadow puppets. 

Photos : (Left) Entrance to the Fishermen Museum. (Top Right) Within the reception of the museum sat a cute two-seater canoe with the head of a bird. (Bottom Right) Entry ticket is purchased not at the reception but a small shelter further in.

The museum has a total of 5 galleries : Main, Geology, Boat Collection, Sea Safety and Ship Collection, Desaru Shipwreck, and Special Exhibition. The directory listed a Fish Aquarium although we didn't see any.

Staging of an traditional fishing kampong scene within the main gallery. The air-conditioned museum was clean and well-maintained with the exhibits in generally good condition.

The Geology Gallery divulges information about the area's geological profile as well as identifying the types of stones and minerals found there.

The Boat Collection brings together traditional fishing canoes and crafts used in bygone eras before speedboats took over. If I were a fisherman, I think I will sink this purse lips raft! Watch out for the low beams at this exhibition area though. I knock my head really hard on one of them and got a nasty ba-loo-ku (swell on the head).

Other than the Fishermen Museum, the public beach compound has ample carparks, children's playgrounds, a gift shop, toilets with showers, and a food court (only 3 stalls were opened during my visit).
Tanjung Balau was a surprisingly delightful seaside attraction to explore that's close to Singapore. The coastal development is very small so all amenities and sights are mere minutes on foot from each other.

I didn't see any buses coming here so it's either you cycle like we did (approx. 4.5hrs at a leisurely pace from Sungai Rengit), drive, or take a cab at Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal or Sungai Rengit (Pengerang).

I will definitely come back again.

Hello Sungai Rengit... Again

Although we went further on this trip and were tired, we weren't as exhausted as the previous trips, which just goes to show that we are getting better with practice! We rode a total distance of 82km to and fro between Sungai Rengit and Tanjung Balau and we are talking about going even further the next time to Tanjung Sedili. Or maybe we shouldn't be so ambitious? Then again, if not now, when?

Back in Sungai Rengit, we discovered that one of the famous seafood restaurants we dined at during our first trip has been burnt to the ground. Shocking. Ironically, the toasted restaurant was called Good Luck.

On this fourth stay in Sungai Rengit, we tried another hotel (Sin Hin) and a different seafood restaurant (You Kee) for dinner to compare.

Always so happy to see this sign. It means we've made it back!

While on the cab from Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal to Sungai Rengit, the cab driver told us that Good Luck Seafood Restaurant and a house next to it were burnt down about two months ago. Actually seeing the wrecked site was unnerving. Not so Good Luck after all.

Only the front signage of the restaurant was left. The tree that witnessed the fire didn't survive the blaze unscathed. I hope there were no human casualties.

A hole has been left in Sungai Rengit's culinary landscape but a couple more seafood restaurants have already emerged in the small town.

We spent the night at Sin Hin Hotel which cost RM60 for a twin room per night. The hotel is right above S.H.H. Motor where we rented our bicycles at RM15 per bike per day.

The room is functional but the blankets (kept in the cupboard) were really thin. A peculiar thing is the TV. It requires a password to be turned on. We weren't informed when checking in and tried our luck with '0000' for the password. It worked! Sin Hin Hotel comes with free Wifi but the connection sucked big time. We couldn't get online most of the time.

Instead of Sin Kong Restaurant which we had grown rather fond of, we decided to try You Kee Restaurant which is just diagonally across.

We ordered Salted Vegetable Soup, Stir-Fried Broccoli, Gungbao Ostrich Meat, and the star... Lobsters Fried with Salted Egg Yolk. The soup and broccoli were decent but the ostrich meat was rather tough. Total bill : RM147.

It was the first time we tried Lobster Fried with Salted Egg Yolk and it's super delish! This cooking style wasn't listed on the menu but the lady who took our order recommended it after sensing our deliberation over the three standard cooking styles - steamed, buttered, and in superior sauce. This salted egg yolk version is my current favourite. Not sure if the other restaurants have this style of cooking lobsters.
The next day, we had a late fried chicken breakfast at Mary Brown's because the town's only fast food restaurant is air-conditioned and has free Wifi before heading to Tanjung Pengelih to wait for a ferry back to Singapore at 2pm. It was the first time we were going back on a Monday so we were a little unsure if we can get a boat as there wasn't a fixed departure schedule. Just like coming here from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, the boatmen leaves once he gets 12 passengers.

Thankfully, a boat was available and we didn't have to wait very long (less than 30 minutes) for it to depart even though there were only seven passengers. The boatman must be in a hurry to get over to Singapore.

Despite falling down and the head bump, this trip had been a blessed one with short waiting time for the boats and two glorious days of sunshine!

Related Posts :

A Cycling Tour From Sungai Rengit to Desaru

2nd Attempt at Bicycle Tour from Sungai Rengit to Desaru

Pengerang by Accident


  1. Thank you so much for taking me on this journey with you. I love everything about it down to the hole in the door for the ensuite.

    This is the best kind of holiday - cycle long long, eat plenty plenty and don't get fat fat. LOVE IT!!!!

  2. Good Review. Thanks for the information.. Appreciated. Will be visiting with my friends soon.

  3. Nice article. How long was the boat ride ?

    1. Hi Melvin... thanks for visiting. the bum boat ride from singapore changi point ferry terminal to pengerang tanjung pengelih ferry terminal is approximately 1 hour. you can check out my other posts on pengerang for more info.

  4. Happened to stumble upon your blog, thank you for sharing, i love your photography, i feel as if i am there ! thanks !

    1. Hi Patrick... thank you for dropping by my blog and glad there's something that you enjoyed. My photography still has a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully the info shared is useful to u :)

      Thanks again... Darren


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