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Published: June 18th 2012
As the palm fronds swayed in the gentle breeze, at times allowing the bright sun to momentarily pierce my closed eyelids as though they were little more than tissue paper, the sounds of African Grace filtered through the earphones of my ipod, accompanied by the background percussion of ocean - a two-fold tone of waves breaking, followed by the gentle hiss of seawater rushing over sand.
Warmed by the sun, lulled into a state of semi-consciousness, time became a forgotten concept - left behind at the ferry terminal in Kuala Besut.
Having recently experienced a summer which, well, never actually happened, this haven of sun, sand and enticing ocean was exactly what I'd been in search of. This was precisely why I had headed north-east for a few days post TravelBlog 10th birthday celebrations in KL
. "The truly stunning Perhentian Islands, with their coral reefs and refreshing lack of roads and other infrastructure......" was all I needed to read, other locations rapidly slipping off the research radar. This side trip was about taking it easy, although it was to take me around ten hours travelling time just to get to my 'stopping point' (the English translation of the Malay 'Perhentian'😉.
I knew it would not disappoint.
"The new king is decided on a rotational basis isn't he
?" I enquired of the small group of locals keenly watching the live broadcast, as I sat down at the neighbouring table. After confirming this, they followed up with further snippets of information, more than willing to enlighten the visitor. As we watched sultans from other Malay provinces take their place in proceedings, I learned that although duties passed from one to the next on a rotational basis, this was provisional on a vote among the upper level as to the capabilities of the successor-to-be.
"And they have to be married
", one was quick to inform me.
"Do any of them marry just before their turn comes around
?" was met with a burst of laughter and nodding heads.
When the Sultan of Perak appeared on screen, conversation turned to the off-white colour of the clothing he wore indicating a state of mourning, his son having died only two weeks earlier.
Minutes later I was informed that the other members of my snorkelling group were now ready, so thanking my cheerful companions I left them to watch the remainder
of the ceremonial proceedings, and headed out to the beach.
"Mask, fins, go!
It didn't take long to learn this meant "turtle
!". But despite the impromptu exits from the boat, the closest I got to one was observing it dive away from us into the depths and beyond sight. Following the direction of the driver's pointing arm, one of the snorkellers had dived off the boat and I watched as he gave chase for around ten seconds, only to return to the surface and report disappointedly that it was "just a small one
The memory of a brief, yet far more enjoyable than expected introduction to snorkelling in Thailand three years earlier had never left - and was the reason I wanted to explore some of Malaysia's marine attractions. But I was to be disappointed, bitterly disappointed. Not in what I saw in that playground below the surface of the ocean, but in what I saw when I picked up my photos after rushing them in to be developed a couple of hours after landing back in Auckland. It might have proved I was there, but that's the last disposable camera I'll ever purchase!
Waves reaching ever closer to my toes as I sit lazing under the shade of an umbrella, soaking up my last hours of island warmth. Whiling the morning away doing little more than gaze out at the rainbow of blues created by the ocean and sky, and working my way through a couple of iced coffees.
I could stay here longer.....easily.....very easily.....
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