Lemang is a traditional Malay food made of glutinous rice and coconut milk. It is slowly cooked over an open fire in a hollowed bamboo stick lined with banana leaves in order to prevent the rice from sticking to the bamboo.
It may be an annual thing for most of us but over in Kijal, Terengganu you can buy it, eat it on a daily basis. This is certainly another reason to make the East Coast of the Peninsular Malaysia the pdestination of your next motoring trip.
Of course buying lemang isn’t the actual reason for going over there. There are only two major roads to Kuala Terengganu after you exit the new East Coast Highway at Kuantan (this should take about two hours or so from Kuala Lumpur depending on traffic conditions and how fast you are willing to drive).
One is the road through the countryside which can be faster but a little tedious and quiet at times. The other is the scenic coastal road which is certainly more interesting and there are lots of places where you can stop for food, especially the traditional Malay fare.
One of the first stops is the Lemang stalls at Kijal and this is a place where one should stop if you want to get a taste of it even though Hari Raya is over. There are other fabulous stops along the way if you are into keropok (crackers).
Terengganu and Pahang are producers of the normal keropok as well as the slightly different and steamed keropok lekor (or keropok losong which is named after the place it originated from – Losong in Kuala Terengganu). The whole stretch of the coastal road from Kuantan to Terengganu is filled with stalls for you to try.
Even if you’re not into the local food (which is quite unlikely) there are other sights to see. The drive will lead you through the Paka oil refineries (pictured above) and if you pass this area at night you will be greeted by a glorious sight of waste gasses being burnt from tall chimneys.
On my recent trip I passed through Paka during the day and the effect was slightly blunted but still interesting. The road also takes you pass a turtle sanctuary, a whole lot of rivers and tributaries of various sizes and on some parts, the South China Sea is very visible too.
The windy highland corners can be experienced if you're using the Karak Highway - East Coast highway stretch to get to Terengganu and back.
You may find things a little tedious if you’re following a lorry or a slower car on the single carriageway. Some caution should be in order as well as some patience too. But as I mentioned, the scenery makes up for it most of the time. And upon reaching Kuala Terengganu, it becomes a place to feast, look at some pretty good architecture and shop for some batik.
Thus, the occasional drive to Kuala Terengganu is an experience any motoring enthusiast should have.