Perhentian Islands Part 2
Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
88Trip End Jan 28, 2005
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The sky cleared at 6.30am. I was bored of sitting still, so I cleared some litter off the beach then took some photos as the sun appeared on the horizon.
The people leaving caught the 8am boat, enabling us to move into our tiny A frame wooden bungalow (hut). It's a tired, run down, broken hovel and it's debateable if its a step up from the beach. My rucksack just covers the hole in the floor and the palm leaf thatched roof is full of holes. All the bungalows here are in a similar condition, the whole place needs a major overhaul. Worst of al the toilet / shower block is disgusting, everything is cracked, broken and filthy. It's never a good sign when you have to hold your breath and close your eyes to go to the toilet. It was minging, and there was no need for it to be. It sounds like we're being precious, but I can assure you we're not, this place was way below the standard of anywhere else we've been. In fact having checked out all the accomodation on Long Beach when we first arived, the state of Symfonys bungalows was more the rule than the exception.
We came here to snorkel, and we've booked on a 10.30 trip that takes us to five different snorkelling spots. A fin fitting on the beach, and a twenty minute, hold on to your hats, scream if you want to go faster, eyes watering speed boat ride has us at our first spot at the southern tip of Beasr. As well as the driver/guide, Rene and I are joined by two Malaysian ladies. One very large, one petite.
The boat stpping causes the temperature to rise 20C and we start putting our gear on. We are moored to a buoy about 30m from the rocky coast, this is open water, the South China Sea and we're expecting a bit of a safety talk. Along the lines of, don't touch htis, that, or the other, stay within a certain distance of the boat, etc, etc. All he said in broken English, whil pointing into the sea in case we weren't sure where they lived was, "see sharks, ignore, they ignore". Great.
The larger lady spoke good English, so was able to translate questions to our guide, which after hearing the word 'shark' were coming thick and fast. He was, as we'd thought, talking about reef sharks, which are fairly non aggressive and no real threat, usually.
Being a full practising Muslim, the larger lady is wearing a snorkelling outfit consisting of long trousers, a thin jumper, and her jilbab (head scarf) over the top of which she puts her mask and snorkel. She has on, along with her friend (who was wearing shorts and a T Shirt), a life jacket. This is because neither of them can swim. Not only that, but the petite lady, who is sat rigid, is scared of the sea. What in the name of Allah possessed them to take an open sea snorkel trip before they'd had a go from the beech we'll never know.
Rene and I jump in, there's quite a swell, and it's about 15m deep. The visibility is superb with fish everywhere, and huge rocks to swim between, all the time though with our eyes fixed on the dark blue distance and the music from Jaws playing in our heads.
We didn't wait long, it emerged from the gloom like a cruise missile, fast and straight, feeding along the sea bed. With maximum muscle and minimum movement it was gone again. We saw two more, before we returned to the boat, as the swell was causing Rene to feel sea sick. The larger lady was in the water, with the guide, being pulled about by her life jacket. We all tried to help the other lady into the water, but she was petrified and was having none of it.
The second stop was only five minutes away, Rene and I again jumped in, but very soon Rene was once more feeling queasy. The guide was also starting to feel sick so he took us to a beach to change boat and driver.
The 10 minute break on shore did Rene good, and at the next bay we were lucky enough to see a large Green Turtle, it sat on the sandy sea bed with only a small parasite fish for company, then in apparent slow motion swam to the surface for a gulp of air before descending gracefully back to the bottom.
Our fourth snorkel stop saw the largest concentration of fish, it was like swimming in an overcrowded acquarium, with an equally colourful coral backdrop.
When the poor petite lady, who'd been looking unwell, could no longer hold on to her breakfast, there was a rainbow coloured fish blizzard of a frenzy under the boat. We were nearby at the time, it was incredible, they were going mad for it.
After a lot of persuasion, the driver agreed to take the poor girl back to Long Beach. Sea sickness is horrible, and she was green. In fact leaning overboard to be sick was the closest she'd been to the water.
We did one more snorkel after the ladies were dropped off and then returned to Long Beach. Despite the too-ing and fro-ing we had a superb days snorkelling, which fully justified our decision to sleep on the beach.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach, Rene reading while I masked (snorkelling without fins or snorkel).
Over a meal we decide to head to Singapore tomorrow. The waters around the Perhentian Islands are world class, but on our budget, at this time of year, the accommodation is woeful, so having done what we came for, we're moving on.
There's a white bellied fish eagle that sits all day on the beach. He's magnificent, but noone seems to know, why he's there. He must be injured in some way, although he appears fine.
Despite our mangy hovel, we had no problem sleeping.
Expenses (Malay ringit 7/pound): snorkelling 80, accom 30, lunch 2.50 drinks 10.50 laundry 16, book and pcards 8, beer 28, dinner 20.50
Mon July 26 - Day 85
A refreshing early morning swim and some breakfast invigorates us for the day of travel ahead.
Living out of a rucksack quickly loses its initial novelty value, particularly when moving from place to place every few days. It's not so bad for me, being so untidy anyway, but Rene's finding it tough. We're not digging for sympathy here, just telling you how it is. The majority of people travelling are straight out of university, and have therefore spent 3 years living like backpackers. We haven't and have moments where we yearn for a home comfort or two. Not including family, friends, pets and our gorgeous home, here's a list of yearners. (It was making Rene sad thinking of things she missed, so most of them are mine).In no particular order:-
3. Fish, chip and mushy peas
5. Jacket pototoe with tuna, cheese and coleslaw for lunch
2. Hot, powerful shower
4. Granite worktop
5. My van
6. Fish, chips and peas
8. Malt whisky
9. Lezayre tea rooms
10.Sky sports news
11. Talk sport radio
12.Sky sports 1, 2 and 3
13. Radio 4LW cricket commentary
14. Big bath towel
15. Cooking a meal.
There, we're now cleansed of our yearnings.
The sandflies from sleeping on the beech have given my feet chicken pox. They are burning with the need to be itched, but itching can cause infection, so I mustn't, hopping while gritting my teeth helps a little, but an ice cold bucket of salty water would be heaven (another yearning).
Our sleeper train to Singapore leaves Wakaf Baharu at 7.15pm. After the ferry back to Kuala Besut we share a 1 1/2, oven roast, 1970's leather seated Mercedes taxi to Kota Bharu, where, after a wander round and some lunch we board a local bus to take us the hour long ride to Wakaf Bharu.
The Malaysian Railways train is very clean, comfortable and bang on time. Unfortunately our sleeper bunks are right at the end of the carriage, where the door is continuously being opened and left open, and the noise made by the junction of the two carriages is deafening. Neither of us slept well.
Expenses: boat taxi 4, taxi 14, lunch 50, yoghurt 2.50, toilets 2, train 98.