a seeker in search of Easter Eggs

The 24-Hr Trip from Loboc (Philippines) to Gambang (Malaysia) Mar 15-16, 2018

The 24-Hr Trip from Loboc (Philippines) to Gambang (Malaysia)

Location: Dhamma Malaya Vipassana Meditation Centre, Gambang (district), Kuantan (city), Pahang (state), Malaysia

Vipassna Meditation Course
With my acceptance into the 10-day Vipassana Meditation course, I had to leave the Philippines one more time and go to Gambang, Malaysia.

Given my 19 months of inactivity with overseas travel, I was careful to cover all my bases before leaving the Philippines - just in case I got rusty. I tried to be as thorough as possible - booked my lodging and plane flight, timed the journey so I don't miss any of the transport transfers, changed my money into Malaysian ringit and US dollar, even had my bookings printed, did the web-checkin, etc. I was confident I got it all covered.

Painless Travel
I left Loboc at 4pm Mar 15 to catch my 10:30pm boat from Tagbilaran to Cebu City (P275, 5.5 hours). I even had ample time to hangout at Country Cafe for last-minute online postings. Because I arrived at 4am in Cebu City, the cab ride to the airport was traffic-free (P240). So far, everything was painless. It was at the airport check-in that shit hit the fan.

The 24-Hr Trip from Loboc (Philippines) to Gambang (Malaysia)
bunking at the ferry from Tagbilaran to Cebu City

Onward Flight Snag
I thought I covered all my bases, but I was mistaken. I had my Cebu-Malaysia and my Malaysia-Kathmandu plane bookings which I showed to the Air Asia counter guy. But what he wanted to see was my return flight back to the Philippines. Oh shit! I didn't have any because I didn't know when I'd be coming back. I explained the situation but the guy would give me any slack. I asked to see his manager, but the manager wasn't there. I didn't have a lot of time left before boarding call, so the pressure was up. What to do? I asked him to book me for a return flight (knowing I would change it anyway), but with a P1500 penalty for changing a booking, it became out of the question. Pressure was building up.

I suddenly remembered this Next Flight website that makes booking reservations for US10. They would expeditiously email the reservation number with flight details which I can then present to Air Asia or immigration. I've used this approach many times before in different countries and it always worked. The thing is, you kiss your US10 goodbye - but that's better than paying a P1500 penalty for a confirmed booking, or worse, missing your flight altogether! Within 20 minutes, I was able to present the email showing my flight reservation. That solved the problem....whew!!!

Travel Tax/Airport Terminal Tax Snag
I thought it was smooth sailing until I told to pay P2500 in travel tax and airport terminal fee. But I only saved enough pesos for the cab ride! I completely forgot about those other charges. Oh shit! Where do I get the money? I had no choice but to change back my dollars into pesos.

Currency Snag
But when I asked where the money changer was, I was told to go outside the check-in area for it. But I didn't have enough time left to go outside and line-up. What to do? I approached 2 Filipinas and explained my situation. I asked them if they would be kind enough to change my dollars into pesos. I was so relieved they said yes. With that, I got my pesos, paid the tax and terminal fee, had barely enough time to board the plane and we took off. Wow...that was a close call.

Sari JapaneseSari, the Japanese Passenger
Inside the plane, I was seated next to a lovely traveler. We talked and I learned she was Japanese who took a 3 month residency in Cebu to learn English. We talked the entire time which made for a pleasant flight. I gave her my contact info but haven't heard from her since. Oh well, that happens a lot when you travel.

Arriving Kuala Lumpur - KLIA2 Airport
As soon as we landed (10:55am, 4 hours), it was a frantic rush to catch all the transfers - I was only minutes from missing one and that would cause a domino effect that would make me late for the course. Upon getting my checkin luggage, I made a dash for the Rapid Transit train (ERL) which would arrive at 11:40am - I got there at 11:30! The train was expensive (MYR38, 32 mins) but it was the fastest means for me to catch the 1pm bus for Kuantan.

KLIA2 Airport - TBS - Gambang
I got off at Bandar Tasik Selatan station, ran to the main terminal - TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan). It was a long line at the ticket booth. I could have booked this online but I wasn't sure what time I'd arrive at TBS. Fortunately, I got the ticket in time for the 1pm bus that took me to Gambang (MYR 24, 3.5 hours) where the meditation center is located.

UMP Stop to Dhamma Malaya
From the bus stop, it was a 2.5km walk to the center. I could have taken the chartered bus from KL (as arranged by the center) but it left too early and charged round-trip to KL. A cab would be too expensive. The only option was to walk. I didn't walk too far yet when I hitched a ride on an SUV that gave me a ride all the way to the center, even if it wasn't really his way...whoa!!! The blessings have arrived.

I arrived at the center 4:10pm. I wasn't late. I had ample time to attend the paperwork, freshen up and be ready for the initial gathering.

Ending Thoughts
Even at the planning stage, I already realized everything would be a rush. It was important for me to write down the chronology of steps together with the time frame in order to stay track and not be rattled when the pressure builds up. I wouldn't have to do any more thinking - I would just follow the steps I've written down. It helped a lot! It really did specially in moments when there was no time to think anymore.

The entire trip took 24 hours (4pm Loboc to 4pm Gambang) which included riding a jeep, tricycle, boat, taxi, airplane, train and bus. This included hitching a ride and walking. That was exhausting but at the same time reassuring for me knowing I was back to my old game again - backpacking!

The highlight was the fast-thinking when things didn't work out as planned. Somehow, the survival instinct kicked-in and saved the day.

After the course, I would be spending time in Kuantan before my flight to Kathmandu - 2 months altogether. But my money now is much less than I thought I could start with. The P5000 I spent for my medical from the failed cliff dive and the P2500 in airport charges took about a month of living expenses from me. After the course, I have to find creative ways to minimize my expenses and make money on the side. This should make the trip more exciting.

--- TheLoneRider
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Reader Comments:

(Mar 28, 2018) I just read your post about getting to Malaysia for your Vipassana sit. I'm leaving tomorrow morning for my own 10 day course. And now I realize I didn't print the customs letter! lol! I hope I have smoother sailing than that. But at least you made it in the end. quite a lot of good happenstance in that story. I guess when there's a will there's a way. This will be my 2nd sit. Wish me luck.

Marie-Claude BouchardMarie-Claude Bouchard
(Mar 27, 2018) Why would they ask for a return flight? Never heard of this. Normally they ask for in/out flight of the country you visit?

(Mar 28, 2018) My speculation is to prevent Filipinos from becoming illegal aliens in other countries in case they decide not to come back. The bigger solution of course is for the government to boost the economy so people don't become economic refugees abroad but that's easier said than done.

Next stop: Satipatthana Sutta Vipassana

Google Map

Kuantan (city), Pahang (state), Malaysia

important places in Kuantan ESSENTIAL LANDMARKS
  • Terminal Sentral Kuantan Terminal Sentral Kuantan - main bus terminal in Kuantan for trips to Kuala Lumpur and other provincial destinations. To get to Kuantan proper, take the Rapid Kuantan 303 bus to Hentian Bandar station.
  • Hentian Bandar bus terminal Hentian Bandar bus terminal - the local Rapid Kuantan bus terminal for destinations within Kuantan (MYR2)
  • Stadium Darul Makmur Stadium Darul Makmur - multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 40,000 people used largely for football matches
  • Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah - Pahang's state mosque, inspired by Ottoman-Moorish style architecture
tourist attractions in Kuantan TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
  • Stadium Darul Makmur Taman Esplanade (riverside park) - walking distance from Kuantan's main hub, 1 kilometer long, wide promenade, fishing, playground, fitness facilities
  • River Cruise River Cruise - leisurely cruise along the Kuantan River
  • Mini Zoo Park Teruntum Mini Zoo Park Teruntum - free admission, near Teluk Cempedak
  • Teluk Cempedak Teluk Cempedak (beach) - Kuantan's most popular beach, Rapid Kuantan #200
  • Durian store Global Max Trading (durian store) - durian during season starts at MYR15/k, Musang King at MYR55/k
  • Tanjung Lumpur Tanjung Lumpur - fishing village and seafood eating place
hotels in Kuantan HOTEL
  • Kuantan Backpackers Kuantan Backpackers - MYR 30/day, clean, wifi, a/c, central location, all-day toast/coffee, common kitchen/fridge, walk to bus terminal
    No 39, 1st Floor, Jalan Tun Ismail, Kuantan City
restaurant in Kuantan RESTAURANTS
  • Hoi Yin Restaurant (Curry Noodles) Hoi Yin Restaurant - Curry Noodles, No. 31, Jalan Teluk Cempedak, Kuantan
    Operatings Hours: 7am-2pm (or until sold out), closed alternate Mondays
  • Kedai Kopi Ah Soon (Nasi Lemak) Kedai Kopi Ah Soon - Nasi Lemak | Lorong Kubang Buaya 21, off Jalan Kubang Buaya, Kuantan
    Operating Hours: 7.30am-12pm (or until sold out), daily
  • New Capital Chicken Rice Restaurant (Chicken Rice) New Capital Chicken Rice Restaurant - Chicken Rice | 59, Jalan Bukit Ubi, Kuantan
    Opening Hours: 8am-3pm, daily with unfixed closed days
  • Terminal Satay Zul (sate) Terminal Satay Zul - Sate | No. A 2600, Jalan Alor Akar, Kuantan
    Operating Hours: 6pm-12.30am, closed alternate Mondays
  • Alor Akar Seafood Restaurant (seafood) Alor Akar Seafood Restaurant - spicy sweet sour tilapia fish, herbal beggar chicken, spicy pineapple crabs, pork and fruits in yam cake and hot pot tofu, homemade sugarcane juice | Lot 7695 & 7696, Jalan Kubang Buaya, Kuantan
    Operating Hours: 6pm-12am, daily
  • Ana Ikan Bakar Petai 3 (Ikan Bakar) Ana Ikan Bakar Petai 3 - Ikan Bakar | Kampung Tanjung Lumpur, Kuantan
    Operating Hours: 5.30pm-12am, daily
  • Restoran Zaman (Nasi Lemak) Restoran Zaman - Nasi Lemak | Lot 1-3811, KM14 Jalan Gambang, Kuantan
    Opening Times: 6am-2pm, daily
  • Mustafa Cendol (Cendol and Rojak) Mustafa Cendol - Cendol and Rojak | Jalan Teluk Sisek, Kuantan (near the Shell gas station)
    Operating Times: 11.30am-7pm, daily
Pak Soh Corner (Keropok Lekor) Pak Soh Corner - Keropok Lekor | Cherating Tanjung Tengah, Sungai Karang (Balok)
    Operating Hours: About 12pm-6pm, daily
  • Jess Cafe (Yong Tau Fu) Jess Cafe - Yong Tau Fu | No. A15, Jalan Seri Kuantan 80, Kuantan
    Operating Hours: 9am-6pm, daily, closed Mondays
  • Globalmax Trading (durian) Globalmax Trading - durian | Jalan Dato Lim Hoe Lek, Taman Pacific, 25200 Kuantan
    +60 10-933 1079
  • Lai Yien (Mee Kari) Lai Yien - Mee Kari (fav of Lee Boon Tai) | Lorong Seri Kuantan 25
meditation in Kuantan MEDITATION

Travel Tips for Kuantan

  1. Hentian Bandar bus terminal Hentian Bandar Bus terminal
    if you plan on using the local public bus, rapidKuantan, in exploring Kuantan, you'd be better off checking-in near the Hentian Bandar station. You get immediate access to all the buses plying the essential destinations in and around Kuantan.
  2. Kuantan Backpackers Kuantan Backpackers
    and if you decide to stay near the Hentian Bandar station and you are a backpacker, I recommend Kuantan Backpackers. I stayed there almost 3 weeks. For the money (MYR 30/night), you get wifi, all-day bread/coffee/tea, a common kitchen where you can cook your meals, common fridge and recreation area, tv, computer, a/c in the dorm room, strong water pressure, adequate toilets/showers. It's also clean and walking distance to the malls and river.

How to get to Kuantan from Kuala Lumpur

  1. take the local train from KL to TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan)
  2. at TBS, go to the ticket counter (there are over 50 of them) and book a bus for Kuantan (3 hours, 40 mins/MYR ~24). You can also view the jumbotron for bus schedules, but the counter staff can advise you about bus schedule for Kuantan.
  3. you will be getting off at the main bus terminal in Kuantan, TSK (Terminal Sentral Kuantan). Take the local Rapid Kuantan 303 bus (to Hentian Bandar, MR 2.00) to get to the city proper
  4. Hentian Bandar station is the main local bus hub of Kuantan with buses taking you to essential destinations in Kuantan, MR 2.00

How to get to KLIA2 Airport from Kuantan

  1. go to Hentian Bandar bus terminal - Hentian Bandar station is also the main local bus terminal (303). Any local bus usually takes you to that station (MYR 2).
  2. Hentian Bandar bus terminal to TSK (Terminal Sentral Kuantan) - first trip is 6am and last trip from Hentian Bandar is 11pm (MYR 2, 20 mins). TSK is the provincial bus terminal in Kuantan.
  3. TSK (Terminal Sentral Kuantan) to TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) - earliest trip from TSK is 12:30am but the next one is already 7:30am. TBS is one of the main bus terminals in Kuala Lumpur (MYR 24, 3 hours, 40 mins)
    to purchase tickets online from TSK:
  4. TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) to KLIA2 Airport - earliest bus leaves TBS at 3am (1 hour, MYR 12)
    to purchase tickets online from TBS:
Malaysia Blogs

    Cameron Highlands

  1. Cool Climate of Cameron Highlands June 19-23, 2016
  2. Kluang

  3. Overnight in Kluang, Malaysia Aug 13-14, 2016
  4. Kuala Lumpur

  5. Funky Flow Yoga with Lora Lorenzo at YogaOneThatIWant Studios July 27, 2016
  6. Deja Vu Kuala Lumpur with Karine July 21-26, 2016
  7. Layover in Kuala Lumpur June 22, 2016
  8. The Kuala Lumpur Experience Jan 21 - Feb 20, 2015
  9. Police Harassment in Kuala Lumpur Feb 17, 2015
  10. Visiting Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur Feb 18, 2015
  11. Walking Tour of China Town Feb 5, 2015
  12. Breaking New Ground in Kuala Lumpur Jan 21, 2015
  13. Kuantan

  14. Goodbye and Thank You Kuantan Apr 13, 2018
  15. Visiting the Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah Mosque Apr 10, 2018
  16. Visiting the Pahang Art Museum Apr 3, 2018
  17. Beach Fun at Teluk Cempedak April 1, 2018
  18. Visiting the Kuantan Mini Zoo April 1, 2018
  19. High Intensity Interval Training Apr 1, 2018
  20. Fitness in Kuantan Mar 29, 2018
  21. Exploring Kuantan, Malaysia Mar 25-, 2018
  22. Hanging-Out in Kuantan with the Guangzhou 5 Mar 25-26, 2018
  23. Satipatthana Sutta Vipassana Mar 16-25, 2018
  24. The 24-Hr Trip from Loboc (Philippines) to Gambang (Malaysia) Mar 15-16, 2018
  25. Malacca

  26. A First-Timer in Malacca July 28-Aug 8, 2016
  27. Art Scene of Malacca August 6, 2016
  28. The River Charm of Malacca August 5, 2016
  29. About Malacca July 28, 2016
  30. Penang

  31. Penang (Malaysia) Immersion May 27-Jun 19, 2016
  32. Exploring the Emergent Cafe Culture of Penang Jun 18, 2016
  33. Encounters with the Guru-Types of Penang Jun 17, 2016
  34. Overnight Camping at Turtle Beach Jun 10, 2016
  35. Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation in Penang Jun 10, 2016
  36. Daytrip to Batu Ferringhi Jun 9, 2016
  37. Savouring the Food of Penang May 27 - Jun 6, 2016
  38. Surreal Glow-in-the-Dark 3D World at Dark Mansion June 3, 2016
  39. The Animated Street Art of Penang Jun 3, 2016
  40. Exploring the Lush Greenery of Botanic Gardens May 29, 2016
  41. Up up and Away to Penang Hill May 28, 2016
  42. About Penang May 27, 2016
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