Island Paradise and Jungle Fever

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September 20th 2005
Published: September 20th 2005
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Paradise - Small island KecilParadise - Small island KecilParadise - Small island Kecil

Big island Besar in the backgound
We must apologise for the lack of communication over the last two weeks but Internet has not been easy to come by and has been slow and expensive when we have managed to track a cafe down. It took 2 days of travelling from the Western coast of Thailand to get to the beautiful Perhentian Islands in Malaysia. We walked over the border in to Malaysia in the stinking heat, caught a taxi to Kuala Besut and then a speed boat to the island of Kecil. We managed to talk two Norwegian students into going to the Perhentians so we could share the taxi cost. They turned out to be a bit aloof and snooty but at least we scored a cheap ride. We arrived there late in the afternoon to find that there were only 2 rooms left on the beach! So we didn't have much choice in terms of accommodation, but found a very basic hut at Lemon Grass chalets with a share bathroom. The chalets are set on a hill rolling down to the beach and we came across monitor lizards several times whilst taking a walk to the shared bathroom!

Our first day on the island
Giant Shake at Lemon GrassGiant Shake at Lemon GrassGiant Shake at Lemon Grass

These kept us going through the hot days and nights. Long Beach in the background.
was spent enjoying the crystal clear water and lazing under an umbrella. The heat was immense and reflected off the squeaky, white sand. We spent most of the day trying to stay in the shade of the umbrella and applying several layers of sun block. The water is an amazing aquamarine colour and you could spend hours floating about in it. The island has such a laid back feel about it and the local Malaysian people are really friendly. We had some great meals on the island and spent most evenings playing volleyball on the beach when it cooled down. We met lots of people from all over the world and had some great evenings having fish barbecues on the beach. Lemon Grass made the most amazing iced coffees which tower in a spiral in your glass and you have to drink it really quickly before it melts and slides down the side of the glass! We took the advice of our dive instructor in Ko Tao and signed up with Spice Divers to do 2 fun dives. The first was to the Temple of the Sea where we saw loads of colourful fish and amazing coral. The currents were
How sweetHow sweetHow sweet

Relying on the auto-timer before making any friends!
really strong around the pinnacle so we had a hard time fighting against it. The second dive was to Iron Cape, which we really enjoyed, even thought the sea was really rough and Keith was very close to being sick off the side of the boat (nothing to do with the previous nights party which ended at 4am). Zai was our Malaysian dive master, and was really good. He also joined us playing volleyball in the evenings. One evening, there was a beach party, candles in the sand, palm leaves and lots of travellers just sitting round in circles and later dancing to the crazy tunes of the DJ on the beach until all hours. We met Bryan from the USA, Mike and Robbie from NZ, Carolin from Germany and Ralph from Amsterdam.

Snorkeling was really good, and we spent one late afternoon just floating along the coral on the edge of Long beach and admiring all the colourful parrot fish and sea life. You can see why people get stuck on the island.... We stayed 6 nights and decided we had better set off for the jungle before we got too comfortable.

Bryan was also heading for
New friendsNew friendsNew friends

Nick, Bryan, Robbie, Keith, Lisa, Mike, Nancy and Ralf
Taman Negarra, so we travelled together on a minibus which took all of 8 hours to get us in to the jungle. The first night there we all shared a three bed room, and splashed out on air con, which was useless anyway as there was a power cut until 4 am the next morning! Taman Negarra is quite different from anywhere we have ever been. The restaurants are simple and float on the river. You have to balance along wobbly planks to get to the restaurants. Just as well they don't serve any booze. On our first evening there we were approached by a crazy guy called "Mun" who said he had been guiding in the jungle for 9 years. He works alone and isn't affiliated to any tour operators. Keith and Bryan were very keen to do a 3 day, 2 night trek in the jungle. Lisa was less convinced and had to be bribed a little, with promises from Mun that he would cook vegetarian food for her so she wouldn't starve! Next morning we dropped our packs off for safe keeping and met Mun for the trek. He gave us some mangy looking sleeping bags and
Sun rises over BesarSun rises over BesarSun rises over Besar

Last day in paradise
mats which he told us later hadn't been washed in 9 years... The first few hours were spent at an Aborigine village - the Oran Alsi are the original people who still live in the jungle. They arrived around 50 000 years ago. They showed us how to make a fire from twigs and we took turns shooting poison arrows from their blow pipes. Lisa was the only one to hit the bull's eye from 20 metres. After that we set off with our packs - we had to take enough water for 4 of us, which meant carrying 6 litres each (bloody heavy). The heat was stifling and accompanied with the humidity and the leeches and bugs, it was hard going. The route we chose meant spending one night up on a mountain and then the second night in a cave. The mountain route had not been done in 4 months so was really overgrown and we had to hack our way through bamboo and vines and climb over fallen trees. Lunch was soup noodles which Mun prepared for us whilst recuperating next to a the stream. The next 3 hours were spent climbing uphill, literally pulling ourselves up
Breakfast at a floating restaurantBreakfast at a floating restaurantBreakfast at a floating restaurant

Lisa and Brayn from Atlanta, Georgia
the mountain side. It is really steep and tough going and took us most of the day to do 8 KM. We finished three bottles of water doing this and were sopping wet with sweat. When we finally reached the top of the mountain we all collapsed for an hour until sunset. Keith and Bryan then set up camp whilst Lisa and Mun made dinner. Funny enough, Mun's food was some of the best we have eaten! We watched an amazing sunset and also saw a rainbow over the valley. It was quiet scary knowing we were the only people for miles around in this part of the jungle. Luckily a huge rain storm just missed our camp although the rain would have been a relief to our sticky bodies.

Mun, aged 49, told us stories of how he had been a drug smuggler in Amsterdam and how he considers himself a playboy! He finishes each sentence with "this and that" and a laugh, and we had to laugh about it, until we wondered whether we should have entrusted him with our lives in the middle of the jungle. He spent time in a Dutch prison before being deported back to Malaysia and having his passport confiscated. He assured us that he kicked his 20 year heroin addiction in 1998 and now only smokes cannabis. Anyway it was too late to ponder on those thoughts and so Bryan, Keith and I tried to get some sleep on the hard mats without thinking of the bed bugs or whatever else might be in Mun's sleeping bags. The next 2 days were really tough and by the third day of hiking we all had "jungle fever" and were quite ready to get back to civilization. It is strange how we became so aware of the things we take for granted everyday - like fresh water, a soft bed to sleep on and somewhere soft to sit. By the middle of the second day we had run out of water and so had to boil water from the river. This tasted pretty much like ash and wood smoke and was a brownish colour. We learnt to drink it whilst blocking our noses and taking a big gulp. The after taste was like that of an ash tray.... The cave we slept in was huge and we spent most of the second night
Setting up campSetting up campSetting up camp

First night in jungle spent on a hill top where vegetation is sparse. Had an awesome sunset.
trying to scare away the rats who wanted our food. The elephants in the jungle use these caves as shelters but we were assured they would not come in with the scent of humans and fires in the air. We were a little disappointed to not see more wildlife. We were woken each morning by the mournful calls of the Gibbon monkeys but could not get close to any wildlife as they jungle is too dense and they animals can hear us coming from a long way off. Mun has been trekking for 9 years and has seen tigers twice and elephants on four occasions. The rest of the big cats and wildlife are mainly nocturnal so we had zilch chances of spotting them.

We are now spending a couple of nights in Cherating a small beach resort town on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is very low key and has a good feel to it. We are staying at Panjong Chalets which are cheap and very clean and comfortable. Just a bed, a fan, mosquito net and our own bathroom - amazing how such simple things mean so much now. We haven't had a hot shower
Trekking in World's oldest JungleTrekking in World's oldest JungleTrekking in World's oldest Jungle

130 million years. Bamboo flattened by elephants
since we left London! They are all cold showers. We spent the day travelling on local buses yesterday to get here from the jungle and then spent the evening washing our very muddy gear. We also handed in about 5 kg of dirty laundry which will hopefully be dry by this evening. We plan to catch a bus early tomorrow morning on our way south to Mersing. From there we will catch a ferry to Tioman Island which we have heard is beautiful. Not sure when next we will be able to update the blog but will probably be another 10 days until we get to Kuala Lumpur. So long.

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


Lisa getting the round of Milo readyLisa getting the round of Milo ready
Lisa getting the round of Milo ready

Second night spent in the cave. Not much sleep with Mun's snoring, rats attacking and extremely hard ground.
Dirty Boy!Dirty Boy!
Dirty Boy!

Checking out a cave with millions of bats and cockroaches. Only 4kms to go!

A very relaxed spot. Time to get some r&r and catch up on cleaning and blogs.

20th September 2005

ugh! Especially when you are sweaty and gross , those bugs attach themselves to you permanently and take a free ride!
21st September 2005

Wow, you guys are turning out to be gung-ho brave travellers. It sounded hair-raising, so glad it wasnt me! Keep on having a great time!

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