26.05.2010 - 03.06.2010 39 °C
We’re in Malaysia’s Pulau Perhentian Islands and it’s paradise. We booked the mini bus at our hostel in Penang, we were picked up at 5am and it still always surprises me how they fit all our bags in the back of the bus. The journey took 5 hours to get to Kuala Besut which is the gateway to the islands. We then took a speed boat to Small Island which was going to be our home for the next 7 days. We had not booked accommodation on the island, but Karl assured me this would be easy – “you just rock up!” – little did we know it was a Malaysian public holiday and accommodation was very scarce.
As we stepped off the boat into the turquoise water onto the white sands our first priority was to find a hostel. The first ‘resort’ had one room left but did not fill us full of confidence as it looked like a shanty town and the bed was collapsed, so we swiftly moved on. Now Karl being the gentleman that he is offers to look for a room while I wait with the bags at the second hostel, which was lovely but fully booked. A few minutes later he comes back drenched in sweat saying he has found us a beach hut for the first 2 nights. Great! At this moment, I was just so glad to get sorted and take my backpack off in the 40 degree heat. So we struggle along the beach burning our feet and dripping with sweat to be faced with a lovely green swamp, a plank of wood acting as a bridge to a range of beach huts. The ‘resort’ was called Chempaka Chalets and the lonely planet describes Chempaka as getting ‘extra points for cleanliness and its beach bum vibe’. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Firstly, the beach huts were very unstable and rotten. As I climb up the stairs (while some are missing), things get worse as the fan doesn’t work, the sheets look like someone had died in them, there was no mossie net and wait for it...piles of rat droppings in the corner of the room. I turn to Karl, he smiles sweetly and says ‘I told you it was basic’. I draw the line at having rats for neighbours and we upgrade to a slightly bigger room and stay for only one night. The new room however came with an ‘en-suite’ but this didn’t mean much as the outdoor facilities were cleaner. Our toilet was lopsided, not even connected to the pipe work, and there was a huge bucket of dirty water which is meant for flushing your business away. The last straw was after we had outdoor cold showers, I was brushing my hair next to the swamp and two GIANT black creatures literally jump out of the swamp and chase one another into the trees. As it was dark, we never had any idea what they could have been and concluded they must be nasty, disease ridden and dangerous. Needless to say I felt rather uneasy going to bed that night and couldn’t wait for check-out.
In the morning we woke bright and early and checked into a really nice place called Bintang. This beach chalet is owned and operated by an Irish lady and her Malaysian husband who strived to create a hostel which is clean, chilled and offers a great balance of Western and Malaysian food. Bintang is truly a hidden gem and really should be listed in the Lonely Planet. It was so clean, the beach huts are great and it just had a great relaxed atmosphere. I could tell I was going to love spending a week here. The funny thing was our cabin was a magnet for strange creatures of the forest. On our first night, we had to deal with a huge hairy spider which I told Karl to get rid of it and couldn’t help but smile hearing his screams trying to catch it. We also made close acquaintances with ‘Harry’ a rather big lizard who often tried to crawl into our bed and spent most of his time on our balcony which overlooked the ocean. We also bumped into many GIANT black creatures which turned out to be monitor lizards which I still have no idea whether they are dangerous our not, but we thought it was best to avoid them as they looked like they could easily hack one of your legs off.
The rest of our time was spent enjoying Long Beach which is the islands most popular backpacker congregation spot. Long Beach was stunning with its white sands, turquoise waters and jungle. During the day all you can do is eat, drink, sunbake and dive. At night the beach becomes alive with bbq’s, fire throwers, live music and partying. This all sounds like paradise (which it was) but we quickly realised that there was a growing problem with stealing on the island and unfortunately we were victims of this. We had our bag stolen with BOTH our cameras in it, but thankfully we lost very few pictures. This was really disappointing as petty theft seems to be rising on the island and we would have liked to have been warned.
To put a smile back on our faces we arranged two dives which were just brilliant. The Perhentain Islands are said to have some of South East Asia’s best scuba diving and it was easy to see why. The seabed water temperature was 32 degrees, the visibility was great and the marine life was really diverse. We went with a company called Quiver which is run by a Scottish guy and they really made us feel at home. During our dives, we saw bamboo sharks, various types of stingrays’, loads of nemos and beds and beds of fish... the list is really that long. It was without a doubt some of the best dives I have ever done. For our final few days on the island we just relaxed, but it was slightly hard as I was upset about losing our cameras but life goes on. On the upside, we met this really nice English couple called Kerion and Donny who kindly let us borrow their very expensive camera to take pictures, which we took full advantage off. Their kindness and trust made me realise the up’s and downs that go along with travelling and how can you cant let stuff like that ruin your trip. Trying to enjoy the Perhentian Islands really wasn’t hard though as it is paradise and was prefect in helping us revitalise for our next trip to Vietnam in less than one weeks time....
Kecil Island, Pulau Perhentian