I am being followed....
I try to run, but there is no escaping them. I try to ignore them, but they won’t stay in the shadows. In the smoky side-streets of KL’s Chinatown, the corridors of overnight trains, on the beaches of picturesque Malaysian tropical islands they wait for me, ready to pounce...
“MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND, YOU WANT INDIAN, MALAYSIAN, CHINESE... ONLY 3 RINGGIT!”
They are mobile, organised and hungry. I am only the latter. I try to resist them, fighting back by feigning indifference; but they can see it in my eyes, they sense I am weak, they know I will break... Homer Simpson may have put his hotdog vendor’s children through college, but I have singlehandedly propelled the families of numerous Malaysian street hawkers from the clutches of poverty to the relative comfort of the lower-middle classes....
Pushy food vendors aside, on returning from Melaka, I boarded the overnight sleeper train from KL to Kota Bharu. My destination: the Perhentian Islands. Widely regarded as some of the most beautiful tropical islands in SE Asia, I was looking forward to one night, maybe two, of relaxation. I ended up staying five.
Anyone who knows
me well is aware that I am not a “beach” person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beach, and can happily spend hours in the water. I just can’t lie there... vegetating. I get bored. I don’t understand how people can spend a holiday lying in one spot.
I should point out that with skin comparable to that of a vampire-albino, my tolerance to sun exposure is low. While others can happily spend an entire day roasting on the beach, turning from back to front and back again, like a rotating rotisserie chicken; my reward for twenty minutes of sun time is to trade milky white skin for something approaching lobster red. My negative attitude may, in part, be motivated by envy.
Anyway, when I arrived on the islands, I was not disappointed. They were simply stunning. I stayed on the smaller of the two, Pulau Kecil. The island consists of a crystal-clear turquoise bay, two clean white sandy beaches, minimal development (only one concrete building), and two large jungle hills. I imagine this is what the Thai islands would have been like twenty five years ago. It was the perfect balance between modernity and nature. There
was internet, a few wooden beach bars, some restaurants, snorkelling, and plenty of backpackers. The island was nicely busy; by no means packed, but not empty either.
In my hostel (i.e. bunk beds in a random building), I met a great group of people: Jenna from Canada, Zinzi from Holland, and Marcus from England. We hung out together for the next few days. The vibe on the island was great with the world cup; and though the night life wasn’t crazy like Koh Phangan, it was fun in a laid back, chilled-out sort of way. I was honorary oranje
for my time there due to Zinzi, and we all ended up staying there until the World Cup Final.
Besides going out, I snorkelled (the islands have some of the best snorkelling around - I even got to see a giant sea turtle), climbed the big hill on the island, slept, read and relaxed. In short, I arsed around.
Oh and initially when I left KL for the islands I was determined to live healthily and detox from fried rice. My hopes were dashed as soon as I arrived. A lady in a boat comes from the mainland
daily with vast quantities of Malay food in all its greasy pan fried goodness.
“MISTER, MISTER, NASI GORENG, ONLY 2 RINGGIT!”
Didn’t even bother putting up a fight.
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