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Published: March 19th 2008
I love this shot because it highlights how gorgeous and underdeveloped the area is. Hannah is snorkeling in the background while her suit and my mask are in the foreground. What a great place!
010 - Malaysia - Perhentian Islands
03/13/08 - 03/19/08
The Perhentian Islands are on the northeast coast of Malaysia and are, quite possibly, paradise. But first, the trip from Ko Phayam (Thailand) to Kota Bharu (Malaysia) to give you an idea of what budget travel is like...
The night before we left Ko Phayam we decided to rent a motor bike so that we could transport our stuff from Ao Yai to the pier (where the boat was leaving). Upon asking around, we rented the cheapest motor bike we could find for only 130 B for 24 hours ($4). Lesson learned: don't rent the absolute cheapest bike you can find! This bike was on its last leg... we managed to get it started and make it back to Ao Yai, but the next day with our bags strapped to the bike, it just wouldn't start. We had four different locals look and try to start it to no avail. The bike was dead. So, we hopped on two motor taxis and went to the pier. I tried to ask for my money back for the bike and the lady started to ask why WE had broken her bike!
Young Malay girls posing for a pic.
Most all of the Muslim Malay women will wear the head scarves.
Needless to say, we left without getting our money back and were glad she didn't try to blame us for her POS equipment! Travel time = 2 hrs.
Next we hopped on a 'slow boat', much cheaper than a regular boat, to the Ranong (on the mainland). Travel time = 4 hours. After that, we hailed a songathew (a dilapitated pick up truck with benches in the back) to get from the pier to the bus station. Travel time = 0.5 hours. Then, we got a bus from Ranong to Hat Yai. Travel time = 12 hours. Arrving at Hat Yai at 3 AM, we waited for another bus to take us to the Thai border town of Sungai Kolok. Travel time = 5 hours. Then we jumped on a motor taxi for a ride to the border and then walked across to Malaysia. Travel time = 2 hours. After, we caught a local (cheaper) bus to Kota Bharu. Travel time = 1 hour. And finally, we walked about 0.5 hours to our guest house.
Total travel time = 27 hours. Cost 900 B/each (about $30). After arriving at our guest house, I passed out and slept for
Eating like the locals!
No really, they eat with their hands (their right hand only). Even stuff like rice with sauce is eaten with the hands.
4 hours in the middle of the day! That night we stayed at Kota Bharu,Malaysia and met three Austrailians - a couple and an independent traveler. For the next week or so, Christy, Troy, and Kamala would be our unofficial travel partners.
A couple of first impressions about Kota Bharu:
- The region has the most conservative Muslims in all of Malaysia.
- They are thee warmest, friendliest locals we've met on our trip
- Most women wear head scarves and the men wear the Islam caps.
- Many places close at various times throughout the day for prayers.
- Almost everything closes on Fridays, their holy day.
- Malaysia consists of three main people groups: Malays, Chinese, and Indians
- Alcohol is forbidden in Islam so you can only buy it at Chinese restaurants and there is a huge tax, so it's pricey! About $4 for a large beer that would cost about $1 in Thailand.
Okay, back to the story about the Perhentains. Beautiful white sand beaches, bright colored coral, an abundance of sea life, and amazing weather make the Perhentians the closest version of paradise I've ever been to. The very insignificant negatives: electricity is sparse, typical mosquitos, and exorbitant
The bumpiest ride EVER!
Troy (c) was being squeezed by Hannah and Christy (r) on every wave!
alcohol prices (lots of alcohol tax in Muslim Malaysia + 'island pricing').
One of the days Hannah and I took a walk to find a deserted beach and found an amazing spot for secluded snorkeling. We also stumbled upon some visitors that were practicing a 'primitive existence' by catching their own fish and cooking it with primitive tools. Oh, and they all walked around mostly naked! It was amazing though, and one of my best impressions of paradise I have found to date.
Another day we went on a snorkeling trip with the Aussies and did some of the best snorkeling I have ever done. We saw white tip reef sharks, turtles, giant clams, a ton of colorful fish, and even more bright coral. I got to free dive with a turtle at about 15 ft of depth and grabbed onto his back as he swam for about 10 feet or so before shaking me off. Awesome! We also went to a light tower on the way back and did some jumping off the top... All in all, an amazing day in paradise!
The next day, Hannah and I went for our first SCUBA dive of the
trip at the 'Temple of the Sea', one of the most famous Perhentian dives. The visibility was decent but not great at 20 ft (still better than San Diego) but the marine life was incredible. We saw a cuttle fish (kind of like a squid), a bamboo shark, a blue spotted sting ray, and at least five different types of clown fish (just like 'Nemo'). And some of the most beautiful coral that I've ever seen. All in all, a successful first dive of our trip.
Thinking we've had our share of island life for a bit, we will venture in to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia's capital city) next...
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