The price of Island Paradise

Trip Start May 15, 2003
Trip End Apr 24, 2004

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

It took a lot of luck to get here but it was worth it. The overnight bus was a bit of a disaster. We booked a bus and boat combo ticket at the station in Penang. The guy said we would arrive at Kulala Besut (the port town) at 7:30 a.m. and catch the boat at 8:00 a.m. As it turned out. The bus dropped us off at 4:00 a.m. in a town 15 miles from Kuala Besut. We had to decide whether to stay at the bus station with the dodgy looking characters on the benches or take our chances with a "taxi" driver (really just a guy with his car hanging out at the bus station waiting for foreigners). The taxi guy said he knew the people at the travel agency and they would be expecting us. He said they would be open. We had our doubts that a travel agency would be open at 4:00 a.m. but we decided to take the taxi with another Malay man and hoped for the best. He took us to Kuala Besut which was dark and quiet as most towns are in the middle of the night. He banged on the shutters of the travel agency and a sleepy man opened it. They spoke and then the taxi driver told us to go in and sit on the sofa. As our eyes adjusted to the dark, we could see men sleeping on the chairs, sofas and floor of the shop. We sat in complete silence and didn't move - we just stared at the clock for 45 minutes. Finally I heard a car and then I heard Scotish accents and finally the door opened and four other travellers came in. I was so releaved I wanted to hug them. We then waited together until sunrise when the men woke up and opened the travel agency. We ended up having to wait until 10:00 a.m. for our boat but at least we were safe.

Once we got to the island, we found a very small and cheap ($4/night) hut to stay in. We lounged on the beach and booked a snorkel trip for the next day. The food at all the little restaurants was fantastic.

On day two, we had a fantastic day snorkeling with giant sea turtles, millions of fish and even reef sharks! Andy got within two meters of reef sharks and I swam directly above a sea turtle. Very surreal. Such a great place to see and so quiet compared to the beaches in Thailand. Definitely the closest thing to paradise I have ever seen! On our third day, we lounged on the beaches and swam in the sea. We didn't want to leave but we thought we should head to Ko Pha Ngan if we wanted to catch a famous full moom party.
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