Published: July 24th 2010June 23rd 2010
Outside our window, Perhentian Island.
Malaysia. We didn't know much about this place except that travelling via here was the cheapest way to get to India. Having spent the last 3 months locked in linguistic battle with the Chinese, it was nice to get off the plane and be directed to the terminal in English. Sigh.
We had landed at the aptly named LCC (low-cost carriers) airport outside Kula Lumpur and jumped on a frigidly air-conditioned bus to the city, where we met our couchsurfing host - Nazrul. Stepping out of the bus station, the arctic bus didn't seem so bad after all. It was 10pm and around 30°c. We drove to an outdoor restaurant, sampled our first malaysian food (noodles and satay - everything dripping in peanut sauce) as we tried to acclimatise and chatted with our new friend. Nazrul was pretty cool, as was his flatmate Ari. We slept for about 14 hours and spent the next few days sorting out our Indian visa, sightseeing and taking many cold showers. A modern 'international' city, KL doesn't have the charm of rural China, (where we'd spent the last month) and we didn't stray far into rural Malaysia either. Instead we had planned a week-long
Our favourite low cost airline (and Asia's apparently).
beach break at the Perhentian Islands
- one of Malaysia's tropical paradii and a popular spot for diving and (on our level) snorkelling.
Stepping on our 10pm bus was a bit of a shock. We were accustomed to rusty shells-on-wheels, exposed seat springs and rattly windows. What stretched before us was a plushly carpeted aisle, on either side of which were wide, padded, reclinable seats with ample legroom and a distinct 'luxury' feel. The trip would doubtless be amazing. We would sleep like babies and wake up refreshed on a strip of untouched white sand, toes being lapped by glassy, turqoise wavelets which kissed the beach under a clear blue sky.
Not so. As nice as it was, the bus also suffered the apparently Malaysian problem of being overly air-conned. We put on socks, wrapped ourselves in bath towels and chattered our way through the long, sleepless night. We arrived at Kuala Beset
just before dawn. From here we'd catch a 30 minute speed boat to the island but not for a few hours yet. At the edge of the carpark was a local restaurant, with a few plastic tables out the front. We had some Nescafe and
The entrance. You gotta be fit.
, a Malaysian speciality of greasy flatbread served with curry sauce. We fell in love and most breakfasts on the island were Roti Cannai from then on.
Gradually, the light increased and a couple of other busses arrived bearing more tourists, who we chatted with. Sunrise came and brought with it a spectacular exlosion of light. Looking out over the harbour the sky was streaked with fiery oranges and yellows, contrasting with the darkness of distant hills and a lone canoe bobbing on the rippled waters.
An hour later we were skimming across the open water on a speedboat headed to Perhentian small island
, so named because it is smaller than the aptly named Perhentian big island
. As we rounded the island to our destination of 'long beach' the water started to take on that paradisical turquise colour that such places tend to possess. It was a hot day (though still only 9:30) and the clear, calm water was a welcome on our feet as we sloshed the last few metres onto the white sand of Long beach. After being dicked around on accomodation we found a room that 'would do' for the night, settled in and
View of Petronas towers at night.
headed back to the beach - a journey of about 15 metres. The day passed, we burned slightly despite sitting in the shade for most of the afternoon and had food and a few bonfire-side drinks with some other travellers from our boat.
It was 11am before the oven-like heat drove us out of bed, nursing tender heads and wishing for cooler climes. It wasn't too be. The day was hot, and it was steamy. It serves us right. More important than our hangovers though, was our need for a better room. We trekked the 10 minutes to the other side of the island (it is indeed a small island) to Coral bay
- a smaller beach with - as the name suggests - plenty of coral lying under the waters just offshore. We strolled along the beach until the end, where we found a relatively amazing little beach hut going for just a bit more than our mosquito-ridden den on Longbeach. We took it and spent the next 4 nights enjoying spectacular sunsets from our waterfront balcony and relaxing ocean sounds at night.
There's only so much lounging one can do on a tropical island before one
Waiting for the boat to Perhentian (no, thats not it).
tends to tire of such inactivity, so we made our own adventure by paddling around the coast in a rented kayak, and snorkelling in and around the amazing coral formations that seemed to crop up everywhere. On our last day we took an organized trip to some snorkelling hotspots - we chased little sharks at shark point
, swam amongst huge schools of little tropical fish at fish point
and watched the turtles at... well we forget the name, but probably something like turtle point
. It was a fun day out, even if we couldn't keep up with the sharks, got nibbled on by the little fishes and found the turtles a bit dull.
Our time on the island at an end, we bid farewell to our little shack and took the morning boat back to the mainland, where the bus was (literally) waiting for us. 9 hours later - back in KL, where our Indian visa was finalised following a mad taxi ride into the city and getting to the office just 20 minutes before it closed for the weekend. Why the rush? Our flight was in about 8 hours...
So for our last night we (ok mostly
Testing our snorkells, moments before the underwater camera packed it in.
K) cooked up a bit of a feast for our hosts and a few of their friends. They'd never really had 'mediterranean' food before but seemed to take to it, even if they were unable to face a pure vegetarian meal and brought along a BBQ and a few pounds of raw flesh...
The hour of our departure drew near and Nazrul drove us out to the airport. Not to be outdone on friendliness, Ari came along for the ride to see us off, even though it was 3am and no one had been to sleep that night. The rest is boring, we said goodbye, they offered for us to stay next time we come through, we did the airport thing and were shortly winging our way up to Trivandrum
, just above India's southern tip.
There are more photos below