Sad to leave this island, you know

Trip Start Aug 29, 2004
Trip End Sep 12, 2004

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, September 9, 2004

A wobbly train ride through the night, missing out on what would undoubtedly be fantastic vistas of the Malaysian countryside during the day, took me from Kuala Lumpur to Wakaf Baharu. At the station in Wakaf Baharu, I was met by quite an obtrusive taxi driver, who'd take me to the jetty at Kuala Besut. During the hour it took to get there, Mohammed proved to be a nice man, who confided me in his personal (the howabouts of his marriage that gave him six children - photo to prove on dashboard) and working life (he saw a wealthy future through buying into a firm dealing in toiletries - products to prove in glove compartment) and allowed me some insights in what it requires to be a good Muslim in Malaysia.

A hair raising (literally, it was a rather nice to feel some wind actually) speed boat ride took me to what I later got to know as Shark Point, where I jumped into a smaller boat that dropped me off at the beach that was the very goal of this holiday: Teluk Dalam.
It was different, but better than I could have hoped for. At Teluk Dalam, there simply isn't much going on. And that's precisely its charm. People come here to dive, eat and sleep. Maybe get a tan. Especially with the diving taken out, I could imagine it getting a tad boring, but colleague Rikkert who happened to drop by, seemed to enjoy himself regardless. Of course I can't judge, but I have been told that even during high season the place is far from bustling with activity. The start of the low (and monsoon) season, when I arrived on 1 September, was marked by its being absolutely dead quiet. Admittedly, it took me a day and a half to slow down and appreciate this peacefulness, but once I had, I was sold! It even took me a couple of days to explore the entire (i.e. a stretch of what? one kilometer of) beach. Story goes it took someone 5 weeks to do so. Does that paint you a picture? A place so comfortable you simply don't feel the urge to explore beyond?

My first stop was the Alu Alu dive center, where I had "e-booked" my open water course. I was met by a few members of staff (Tristan, Nicola, Cam), who put on a perfect show of laid-backness. It set the tone! Still, Tristan informed me that there was another girl signed up for the open water course, and after lunch we would get the first theory out of the way. I wondered if I'd even be able to keep my eyes open, especially after Ena at Wanderer's Inn -where upon suggestion, I sat down for some lunch- cast me a pitiful glance and asked me if I was planning on getting any sleep. Remember, jet lag, lack of sleep on the wobbly train... I think I can be excused for not feeling the fittest. Still, we got through the theoretical stuff OK. "The other girl" turned out to be Jorinda (another Dutchie) and she proved to be a good laugh.

With that out of the way, I was heading for a nap, but got drawn into a conversation with Pjud (not really his name, but this is what stuck), a Singaporean who'd spent weeks at Ocean Blue bungalows already. Later that week he kept me glued to his video camera for what must have been an hour and a half of watching his underwater adventures - oh joy! Our talk lasted until it was time for dinner, which was had at Wanderer's. Just like any other meal during my time spent on the island, apart from the Sunday, when they were closed and I was somewhat at loss. It may have had something to do with a stick-to-what-ya-know attitude, but I'd like to argue it had more to do with the food (tasty!), the people (Oya, Ena and Harris were so nice!), and the place (simply lovely). Other regulars at Wanderer's included, apart from the Alu Alu crew, an Amsterdam couple, Esther and Ivar, who were on the island having their three-week holiday at the end of their one-year journey around Asia. It seemed their holiday consisted of Esther rock solidly sunbathing during the day and the two of them playing cards for hours on end at night. Still, they were nice people!

After two nights in the garden (pretty rich to call that a garden!) view bungalow of Ocean Blue, I moved my stuff to a nice beach front bungalow next door, at Samudra's. What can beat the sound of breaking waves when you're lying in bed? (Or the view of the beach & sea from your balcony for that matter?) With Alu Alu's Nic and Billy as my neighbours to the right, and Jorinda and Willem to the left, this holiday was clearly about diving. And the diving was great! I enjoyed it so much, that after Jorinda and I finally (I mentioned the laid-back atmosphere, didn't I?) received our PADI open water certificates (which we were going to celebrate with beers, that never quite made their appearance), I happily decided to extend my stay on the island to do the advanced open water course as well. I could bore you here with details on all the dives, but I won't (how nice of me...)

All in all, I spent nine days on the island and didn't get up to much apart from diving. I didn't even finish reading The life of Pi, a very popular read amongst travellers it seemed, as it was also spotted on Willem and Emur, a girl from Dublin who seemed to have lost it a bit along the way (or way before she started roaming the world). I did traverse the forest with Willem, Jorinda and Rikkert to look for turtles whilst snorkelling on the other side of the island (one was spotted), did lie on the beach for a whole 20 minutes and filled the remainder of time talking with the aforementioned people.

And didn't we laugh when we saw a couple of Malaysian women snorkelling in knee-deep water with their life jackets on?! Or when hearing about Japanese tourists keen on getting diving certificates but barred from doing so because of inability to swim or fear of fish?!
And weren't we lucky with the weather? No more than 15 minutes of heavy rain, and one grey-ish, but still comfortable day during what supposedly was (the start of) the monsoon season.

(Just as a side step, I managed to have one whole can (33ml) of Tiger beer during my stay!)
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