Island paradise?

Trip Start May 03, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, September 9, 2006

Friday 8th Sept '06
(Diary) '...Up and out and waited with three surly german girls outside the hostel for the mini-van. Van arrived twenty minutes late - time enough to slurp on a can of cold coffee purchased at the Seven Eleven shop across the way. Hour through flat rural land, arriving at the small, gritty port of Kuala Besut. A few of the hedonistic brigade swanning around - but all fairly low key. Climbed aboard a twin-engined speedboat and guessing we might be in for a fast bumpy ride opted to seat as far back as possible. After slowly cruising out of the harbour the skipper threw down the throttle, the front end lifted and soon we were quite literally hossing it out to sea. Although it was fairly calm - the front end, as I suspected banged up and down - at times quite violently - it was very much of case of hanging on for thirty odd minutes.

Flying along on the blue sea was quite exhilirating - I sported a big cheesy grin for most of the journey, this was what it was all about surely? The islands came into view - the two main ones named Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil, most folk stay on the small one - Kecil - which is what I opted to do. Only snag was where to be dropped off - we stopped at various coves, smaller speedboats came to pick up any drop-offs. After a brief chat with some german girl who seemed to know her way around I decided to get off on Long Beach - possibly mistake - since it was probably the main 'resort' beach, however I figured it may have more in the terms of facilities.

The islands are pretty much everything one expects from a tropical paradise island, green jungle interior, a few intersting rocky headlands, white strips of sand and incredibly clear water. Transferred to a smaller boat we beached up, I took off my shoes and socks got my kit, jumped into the water and staggered up acorss the soft sand. No idea where to go - I headed to some bungalows and enquired about cost - waaay to expensive and so it was back to the beach and another trudge. Had to get my straps out on my bag - this was one place where my wheels conceded defeat! An oriental chap had been trailing me since the boat, he caught up with me asking what my plan was - I shrugged and pointed to the far end of the beach - we both walked together and the end found some cheapish bungalows (Lemon Grass) and shared one - quite a convenient arrangment - cutting the costs down. My room - mate was Korean by the name of Han - decent geezer who spoke much better english than I did Korean.

The bungalow was basic, very basic - a couple of beds and a fan, there was probably about twenty such huts all sharing bathroom facilities - a corrugated shed. It was mid - morning, we had a bite to eat at the restaurant, very disappointing and at an inflated cost. Han went off to do something or other - I had decided to beach it, but first needed to swop some reading material after finishing a very interesting Michael Houellebecq book that Paul had very kindly exchanged for a rather tatty John Le Carre I had had in my Possession back in Hua Hin. I went to a nearby shop and eventually found another Paul Theroux book - 'Chicago Loop' and Agatha Christie's 'Death Comes At The End' - some money grabbing local wanted an unreasonable amount as well as the book I had to offer, I argued for while - even resorting to pointing out the thickness of the books involved and their state - I got some reduction in the end. I also stupidly chucked in some laundry - again at a price.

Rest of the day I lazed on a secluded beach , tucked into 'Chicago Loop' which I thought to be a bit dark, swam and just soaked in the scene. I found the beach by wading out in the shallow water and walking 50 odd yards round a headland with all my beach kit held above my head. Lemon Grass Bungalows didn't provide beach towels - infact they didn't provide any towels, or sheets, or soap or even bog-paper the miserable swines. I asked the Prop's wife for beach towel - and pointed out one that looked suitable hanging on a nearby line, she said it was her husbands - I got her to ask him if I could borrow it - she shouted across the busy restaurant my request - his response was priceless - but unfortunately a negative one. So I ended up lolling about on the beach all afternoon - sand getting everywhere!

There I was sitting on the perfect beach, on the perfect island - surrounded by a perfect warm sea - and yet I was getting increasingly irritated by things, infact I was plain bored. I was bored of the scene, bored with the other 'tourists', annoyed at the cost of things and started seeing the creaks in such a place when tourism develops too fast. I waded back and met up with Han - he was going on about how he wanted 'BBQ' for dinner - sounded like a good idea. I freshened up, praying that I wouldn't pick up some nasty fungal infection from the shower and then we headed off for 'BBQ'. Good meal actually, I scoffed it down - grilled fish, potato, rice, a few veggies - spot-on - at a price though. Han was interesting enough - he'd been all over China and other parts of SE Asia - gave me some very useful tips. He was also was pretty hardcore with his travelling - one night stay - move on, another night somewhere else - move on, I thought it must be prety exhausting after six or seven months!! Anyways - he was moving on tomorrow - but not before a snorkelling trip - and so laundry depending - I decided to get the hell off this island.

Back to the hut where we drank our supplies we brought over from the mainland (due to the expense of the islands it's advised to carry over a few necessities) I had brought a couple of cans of beer, Han likewise. He legged it off to the restuarant and returned with some cups and ice - good move Han! He told me a little about Korea - and what they eat, pretty much rice for every meal of the day - all interesting stuff. A monitor lizard emerged from under the hut (it's on stilts) and crept up the path into darkness - a huge great thing - 3-4 ft long. Bats flew inbetween the alley of bungalows - I looked down the short distance to the beach and the moon reflecting on the sea. A background noise of pop music and drunken voices could just about be heard from the beach bar a little way off. Tommorrow, hopefully I leave...'

Sat 9th Sept '06
(Diary) '...Up and out - whacked in ear plugs in the night, the Korean fella must have kept half the resort awake with his snores - thankfully the plugs worked a treat. Legged it down to the shop, laundry was ready - nice one. Said goodbye to Han - he was leaving his kit at reception and going off for a half day snorkelling trip and then on to god know's where on the mainland - fair play to him, too many sharks around for yours truly though - and to be perfectly honest - I'm not really an underwater fan. Waited at the restaurant for an hour or so before my boat came in - I was hacked off - hacked off with paying a stupid amount for my laundry that looked like it had been splattered with mud, hacked off with paying too much for a coffee and hacked off with the staff who's idea of customer service was swaying in hammocks smoking cigarettes whilst paying no attention to their diners. Eventually I was pointed to the beach - I marched off across the sands, huffed and puffed my way through a few rows of pasty sunbathers and hopped into a small pitching boat which took me to the main speedboat. I climbed aboard and was then stung for the transfer - I looked at the geezer in amazement at the request - pulled out a few coins, shouted some obscenity and flung them in the water! No - not really - I just passed him over a few bills and sat down feeling a bit worn out by it all. Soon we sped off - past floating rafts of stinking rubbish - which looked like they hadn't been cleared in weeks - past beautiful little coves, past the odd diving boat - and before long the islands were behind us and the mainland came into site.

So that was the Perhentian islands - nice enough place - recommend it for sure - sooner rather later though. I guess I was just bit bored with it all. I'm sure I'll look back one grey winter's day in the future and regret not giving the place a bit more time - but heh-ho that's just the way it is!

Plan was to head for the Cameron Highlands, first of all I had to get back to Khota Bahru and then hopefully get a bus down to Ipot or ideally all the way in the one day - a fair old way. Got stuck at the port for a couple of hours waiting for a non-existent bus, in the end a returning taxi offered to take me for a good price so I jumped in and slept all the way in the cooling a/c. On arrival and at the bus station i was informed there was some sort of holiday on in Malaysia and all buses to Ipot were fully booked for at least 24hrs - I was resigned to staying another night in Khota Bahru. I checked back into the same backpackers lodge from the other night and bought a 'package' to the highlands for the following morning, same procedure - mini-van leaving 8ish.

Evening meal was taken at some food court - I went for the thai dish - Tom Yam soup - it was very hot, so hot it was burning my lips, chilli hot that is. I struggled throught it - sweating like crazy. A foreign couple sat nearby and logged my red face and dripping face with some amusement, I wasn't too happy at be stared at but just got on with the job - it was in fact a very tasty meal. To my great delight they too both ordered the soup and so I stuck around for a while to see how they'd handle the firey broth. The lady had one slurp and I'm sure I saw tears fill her eyes, her partner choked from his tentative spoonful - I smiled and walked out. Strolling back I passed the chinese restaurant that served beer, they had a big screen TV and the football was on - not any old match, but Everton Vs Liverpool and it had kust kicked off - what an incredible timing I thought as I pulled up a pew, I sat back and watched us beat the reds 3-1 - nice one!!...
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