Published: July 11th 2007July 11th 2007
Hey there, and thank you so much for all my birthday messages, internet is super expensive here (as is everything) so I prepared this blog from the comfort of my room and will email you all back as soon as we get to the mainland, or in fact to Indonesia, where we'll be next week...
I am sitting on the balcony of a wooden chalet up in the trees, surrounded by large geckos, above a pristine white beach as the sun sets. I just saw a yacht sail by not too far away, and in the distance are the few hilly islands surrounding this one. We have the French windows open and bob is studying for his dive exam tomorrow so that after then, we can dive together freely and look at all the little fishes. We splashed out on this room for my birthday, though to be fair, in these parts it’s still expensive for what it is but it beats the other offerings nearby. The first day we arrived on Pulau Kecil we ended up staying in the worst place we have ever stayed, and paid the highest amount we’ve ever paid for accommodation. It was awful, there
was barely any light even when the electricity was on, there was a generator behind the room, the doors didn’t shut, the whole place was dirty, the sheets looked and smelt filthy and the mattress was entirely made of springs covered in a piece of cloth. I couldn’t bear the thought of spending my 30th there so we made a valiant effort to find something a little more akin to paradise and I believe we did it.
We had been told that the Perhentian islands were gorgeous, and that the diving was exceedingly cheap, but when we first arrived, after a long overnight bus journey, a 3 hour wait from 4.30am in a tiny harbour, and the bumpiest water taxi in the world (which didn’t do any favours for my bad back…) we were brought ashore to a tiny bay with loads of sales people on it, a couple of either expensive or crappy places to stay, and some great huge monstrosity in the middle which must be the beginnings of a jetty, with cranes and everything. I was pretty disappointed that out of everywhere in the world I could have chosen for my 30th, I’d possibly picked the
worst. Bob was pretty happy though so maybe I’ve just been very lucky in the past!
After first impressions, and the first night’s stay, I really wasn’t holding out much hope, plus so much of the services around here are abysmal, the water taxis are generally grumpy, the waiters and restaurant staff would rather not help you than do any work, and it’s pretty awful in that respect. But then we heard about Impiani, and made our way over here. I’m so glad we found it, it’s stunning, set in a beautiful bay, the staff are truly fantastic and I had the best 30th I could have hoped for. We snorkelled all day and saw cuttlefish and sharks (till I got sunburn which I didn’t realise until later, oops) and then had barbequed lobster, calamari and fish. Because it was a special occasion, the staff arranged for our table to be off towards the end of the beach, away from the rest of the diners and with candle light as we ate amid the stars. Then when we’d finished, I saw a huge line of people heading towards us, singing. All the staff were on their way over with
a muffin decorated with candles and flowers, and singing happy birthday as they made their way across the sand. Then they all shook my hand and wished me many happy returns. It was such a warm, open hearted evening, I’m so glad we persevered!
So now we’re doing dives. Bob’s doing his last day of his open water course tomorrow and I’ve arranged to go on his last dive too as otherwise we hardly see each other all day. Today I did a refresher as it’s been a couple of years, and then went on another dive in the afternoon. I saw all sorts of exciting things like a whole school of bump headed parrot fish which are absolutely massive and have teeth like horses though they only eat coral. We swam with them for ages, and they’re quite intimidating as they seem to be almost the same size as us! I also saw huge puffer fish and sting rays and even got attacked by a damsel fish while I was waiting at the bottom for the other divers to descend. It didn’t really hurt though I do have quite a mark on my knee. I’m excited about tomorrow
morning's dive, there’s not too much coral apparently but tonnes of schools of fish so it should be good, and then the day after, I’m planning a night dive, and I think bob may be coming with me as he’s getting more excited the more he does, plus, you’re supposed to be able to get better photos at night!
An add-on... I saw puffed up puffer fish this morning at 18 metres below the surface, wow, that's pretty rare! Unfortunately my underwater photography skills lack finesse just yet so although I captured it, it really just looks like a dirty squished ball of spikes surrounded by blueness. I really had fantastic dives today, this afternoon we were swimming under and around huge rocks, through tight spots, and I was thinking, wow, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this overland, but somehow, here I am with a huge tank on my back, swimming effortlessly through dark spaces pretty far below the ocean surface! Ah, this is what I wanted for my birthday! ooh, I still feel like I'm on a boat!