2008 album. For various reasons I didn't go back for 2 years, which is probably the longest time I have been away from Cherating.
My next visit was Sept 2010. I went with high hopes that the place would look smart and attractive after its big redevelopment project. I went 2 weeks after Raya and was worried the place might be full.
I arrived on a weekend to find a shabby, rundown, and totally quiet village. I couldn't believe what a sorry state everything was in. And a total lack of tourists, only a handful of Westerners. I was quite shocked, and very disappointed. I checked into a guest house and soon realised I was the only one staying.
In the 1970-80s Cherating started to become THE backpackers place in Malaysia. In the 1990s it was booming. All the backpackers rooms were constantly full, and the place was alive. But in the last 5+ years the Western tourists started avoiding Cherating, for various reasons, and Cherating became more popular with locals. Now most of the visitors are locals going for weekends or day trips. The character has totally changed - for the worst in my opinion.
For more than a decade, the local gov't has been pumping in money, and doing "beautifications" etc, but nothing actually worked or lasted. New trees 2008, now gone -
One of the very first projects was the Budaya Centre, the Cherating Cultural Complex. This was a white elephant from the very start. The restaurant and art centre closed down soon after opening. The main centre is rarely used except when busloads of students etc are sent in for a function.
Cultural centre 2010
In more recent times, vast sums of money were spent on the road, widening it, making fancy pavements and ornate lamp posts. This was done a couple of times, as the first time the drainage was wrong. Strange cobbles -
A new tourist office was built by the main road a couple of years ago. It has a huge, empty carpark, is surrounded by waste land and looks very uninviting.
In 2008 the village underwent what looked like a major transformation. That was when I last saw it, until my current trip.
The place is a mess. Old buildings have been left abandoned, many shops and restaurants are closed. One problem is the lack of staff, locals don't want to work, and it is expensive to legally hire foreign labour. So places just closed. The shops that are open all seem to be selling the same Tshirts. Amidst all the mess, some people are building, maybe they think they can succeed where others have failed. Some places are up for sale. Main street 2007 -
There is no sign of any new buildings along the road. The only new building, which is definitely the smartest building in town is the new toilet block on the beach!! However I didn't risk checking it from the inside. 2007 view -
Other new structures are the 2 rescue watchtowers on the beach. However I never saw these manned, even though I was there at a weekend. Watchtower & restaurant 2007 -
I found it strange that there seems to be an obsession to build things in Balinese style. This seems totally unnecessary in a Malay kampung.
Walking around there is no life or activity. Night time it has become almost a ghost village. Compare that to the heydays when the whole strip was bustling, there were many bars, cafes, music everywhere, and sometimes nowhere to park. Remember when Pop Inn was totally crowded.
One good thing was that the beach was relatively litter free. Probably due to the lack of visitors. However there are vast expanses of muddy areas and there is a lot of green weed thriving on these areas. I wonder if this weed was surviving due to abundance of food in the water - sewage??? The other bad thing about the beach is there are so many bricks and tiles and wooden blocks half buried in the sand. I guess they are left over from construction, and people have taken them to the beach to use as a base for BBQ, and of course just leave them. They present a real hazard to bare feet.
Cherating used to be famous for the local beachbums. Even these have moved on in these quiet times. The few that remain have become internet bums and are hanging around the 2 or 3 internet places.
I used to have several friends living in the village, some had been there as long as 25 years. But every one of them has gone, moved on, having abandoned the sinking ship. Even the beach dogs seem to have gone. And the horses at the stable near Duyong are no longer there. But I was happy to see that the hornbills are still flying around, and there are still macaques and dusky langurs.
Despite the lack of backpackers, there are still thefts occuring, and 2 separate incidents have been reported in Sept. There has always been a police station at Cherating, but now a larger station is being built on the main road towards Legend Hotel.
Despite the fact that Cherating is only a 3 hour drive from KL, compared to 5 hours before the highway was built, I won't be in a hurry to return.
The Tourism Minister Yen Yen should go to Cherating and learn what not to do in a tourist resort!
Bye bye Cherating
© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission