Oct 7, 2021 • 5M

Couchfish Day 269: Awi’s Yellow House

A shack by the water

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Stuart McDonald
The Couchfish podcast. Following a day by day itinerary through Southeast Asia—for all those people stranded on their couch.
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You may recall the other day I mentioned that someone had recommended I check out Empire on Teluk Dalam. It turned out to not be great advice, but it takes a few bits of bad advice to ignore all something someone has told me. This is lucky. Another tip they gave me was for Kuala Terengganu (KT among friends).

“Go to Awi’s,” they said, “it isn’t for everyone one, but I think you’ve got the right kind of mind for it.”

I’ve got the right kind of mind for this. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Not exactly a rousing recommendation, but, well, KT isn’t known for a great backpacker scene, so why not? The first challenge though was finding it.

The boat to the mainland and the bus south were no brainers, but alighting in KT, I realised my phone was flat. Invariably one’s phone dies at the most inopportune moment and this was no exception. All I had was the name of the place and that it was on the far side of the river. The easiest way to get there was “by boat”, but I had no where. No “where from” and no “where to”. If you look at Kuala Terengganu on Google Maps, you’ll see there is plenty of river to go around.

Having been in the city before, I knew the rough lay of the town, and that Chinatown backed onto the river. Start there I thought.

A natural TV. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

KT’s Chinatown is tiny but packs a punch. The main road is perhaps 500 metres long and along both sides of it are well-maintained shopfronts. This is where you’ll find Chinese food (duh) and cold beer. There are also a few moderately priced guesthouses, but I wanted Awi’s.

Behind Chinatown runs the southern bank of the Terengganu River. Back in the day, the shopfronts emptied right into the river, but then modernity came. A reclamation project added a road and park area that never really came to much save some neon lights and more cement. The houses, some of which were demolished, lost their water frontage forever.

Walking along the river I can’t find any sign of a public boat, so back in Chinatown, I pop into a cafe and ask there. They seem to know Awi’s and tell me to get a taxi. I ask about the boat. No, no, no, get a taxi they say.

No shortage of spots to pick up a book and lose a day. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

My dreams of a floating approach dashed, I take them up on their offer to call me one. Twenty minutes later, my taxi pulls up out front of Awi’s. The driver pauses and pivots in his seat to look at me.

“You want me to wait?” he asks.

I tell him no it is ok, I’m staying here, but he doesn’t seem convinced and lingers as I make my way into the place. A short dirt path leads to an aged sign reading “Welcome” and below it “Artists Residency at Awi’s Yellow House”

Best to build around nature—though do watch those railings! Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Awi’s Yellow House is a series of wooden bungalows and houses elevated over a gap in the mangroves. They’re interconnected by wooden walkways and there are potted plants and palms everywhere. There are also piers that go nowhere, decks with seating, a shared kitchen of sorts. Despite being fairly compact it is a bit of a maze and it takes me a while to find Awi.

As with the taxi driver he’s a bit surprised I want to stay, but after a shrug, he ushers me into one of the waterfront bungalows. “Fifteen ringgit,” he says. I’ll take it, I reply, and toss my bags onto the bed.

Only once he’s wandered off do I check out the room closer. It is a peculiar set-up and feels like it could collapse into the river in a stiff breeze. When I go to try the balcony I realise half of it houses a grotty cold water bathroom with corrugated iron walls. This is unfortunate as the views are good, but there is plenty of other river-watching real estate elsewhere within the grounds.

Rainy day, time to stay inside. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Emerging for a bit of a chat with the owner, he’s vanished and I have the place to myself. I make a coffee, grab a book, and put my feet up by the river—I figure he’ll be back later. The place is relaxing and strikes me as a good place to lose some time.

Not long after, another guest shows up and we get chatting. They ask me if I like the spot and I find myself repeating what the guy on the Perhentians said, I say:

“If you’ve got the right mind for it, it is pretty good.”

They nod, then mention they’ve been staying there since February.

It is November.


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