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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Venkova

Travel Notes - Desaru Coast

MAY 2021

Full Lockdown number1372625352810...

State of mind: very close to insanity...

Is it necessary to mention or further explain the three lines above? No!

Am I being a bit too dramatic? Probably yes!

Let's continue with some positivity and a memory of the good old days (2 months ago) when life was still bearable. For the next few paragraphs, I promise you only optimism, complete relaxation and adventure vibes.

Back in April, I was lucky to get out of the city and explore some more of Malaysia. While we are not allowed to leave the state (ever since January 1st), we were able to explore some more of the hidden gems Johor has to offer. Today I will bring you with me on a short trip exploring the beautiful beaches of Desaru Coast. If you'd like to see more of Desaru, check out my travel notes from Desaru Fruit farm, which I shared sometime last year.

Located in the South East of Malaysia, Desaru is a popular attraction for tourists, especially Singaporeans. The location has been much hyped in the 80s with quite a few huge projects aimed at attracting foreign investment and visitors. Today most of those ambitious plans have been abandoned, leaving around 22 kilometres of pale sand beaches and only a few resorts. No fancy restaurants, or crazy nightlife spots. Ever since the pandemic hit us, the place has been a little quiet, with the occasional local visitors on the weekend.

As someone who loves strolling down the endless beaches undisturbed, this was a perfect destination to visit and an excellent one day trip. Don't get me wrong there's still plenty of things to do and see-waterpark, a golf club, a large ostrich farm and a surfing school, to name a few. Of course, you will find authentic Malay restaurants, satisfying all the foodies out there. Despite all that the area carries a spirit of peace and invites you to slow down and, well... chillax.

One architectural attraction on the way to Desaru and one that I simply can not miss to mention is Jambatan Sungai Johor (The Sungai Johor Bridge), an expressway bridge across the Johor River. It offers some spectacular views of the floating fish farms, especially if you catch the sunrise/sunset. It is 1.7 km long and also the longest single plane cable-stayed bridge in Malaysia.

Moving on to the beaches - spreading wide, covered with soft pale sand and hundreds of unique seashells. A smell of barbeque, sticky saltiness in the air and one or two flying kites among the tall coconut palms. What more can one ask for. The only thing I can not praise is the water, personally, I don't find it clean enough for a dip in. There are most definitely better places for swimming or snorkelling in Malaysia.

The best thing about visiting the Desaru Coastline is that you can stop at one pristine beach, walk a bit, then hop in the car, drive to the next beach, walk a bit more and continue. This method of, shall we say, transportation, keeps you away from the heat (which can be a bit much for some, or if you happen to have forgotten your hat and sun cream), as well as conserves your energy. An additional advantage is the road winds along the beaches, leaving you with breathtaking views of the seaside.

When we've had enough of the beaches we decided to explore some of the little towns to the south of Desaru, also in the search for a place to grab a bite. A cool Insta-worthy spot I would recommend is the abandoned jetty at Sungai Rengit (you can find it on the map as Sungai Rengit Secret Attraction Punch). Sungai Rengit is a town located in Kota Tinggi, and mostly consists of fishers villages. Therefore the place gives out strong cultural vibes and a bit of mystery. This hidden gem attracts visitors with its several steel pillars, remnants of an old, abandoned jetty. If you are attracted by ancient relics, you most definitely will enjoy this one. Beware of the Instagrammers!

Driving up Jalan Siakap, you'll see many traditional open-air food establishments (Mamak), as well as fruit and coconut stalls. Here we found a hidden little peer to enjoy a fresh coconut. It is located right next to Kedai Awek Tepi Pantai. A perfect stop to admire the fisher boats while having a bit of a stretch (or a lay down for that matter) from the long drive.

Two minutes up the road and we found ourselves in Yard&Co , a popular beachside café, overlooking the waves of the sea in Pengerang. The interior is minimal, yet charming, with large potted plants, rattan furniture and even a swing. Unfortunately, reservations are not allowed, and the waiting list is endless, but the staff is friendly and the general atmosphere and the food are totally worth the wait. Once again very beloved for its views.

Even though Desaru Coast is looking to the east and a glorious sunset is not on the agenda, the golden hour is something to look out for. The way the last rays of sunlight hit the water, flooding the air with a magical soft glow is truly special and deserves anyone's attention. Typically the afternoon golden hour in Malaysia starts at about 6:50 and lasts until 7:20 pm. A perfect place to catch it was Batu Layar, a beach resort, consisting of small individual colourful bungalows. Lovely!

Turquoise water contrasting with the earthy tones of the rocks. Another popular destination for photos, this time, wedding ones. The gentle rumble of the waves, children laughing in the background, fresh breeze from the sea, a beautiful end of a soul-filling, heartwarming (legs burning) day.


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