Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
18.06.2010 - 23.06.2010 36 °C
I had a shit day, a terrible day actually. First, there was a miscommunication over my bus to Perhentions. The Discovery Guest House in Malacca, (I think that is what they were called) told me they had booked me a seat on the 8.30pm overnight bus. By the time I actually got ticket in hand this somehow changed into a seat on an 8pm bus and Miss Dimwit here failed to double check the time on the ticket. So after much confusion at the bus station I ended up on a later overnight bus to some random town, Terengannu, nearish to somewhere i might be able to catch a bus to catch a ferry to the Perhentian Islands or something or other.... Oh i don’t know, I just got on the bus, tried to sleep, then at about 4am got kicked off the bus at some random place middle of nowhere, disorientated and I didn’t have a blimmin clue what I was doing. I actually nearly checked into a hotel to sleep for a few hours was feeling that crap, but instead somehow ended up on a 4 hour local bus journey ie. Squished in to within an inch of my life, being suffocated by my own backpack, desperately needing a widdle, stuck next to some sweaty giggling schoolboys, stopping every 5 minutes to let more people on, sweltering heat, you know the kind of thing... Thrown out at the final stop, praise the lord for that, to join the speedboat ride FROM HELL. Oh what have I done to deserve this?? Travel karma finally run out? Did I kill just one too many cockroach? Please someone tell me....
I was heading to Perhentian islands for a bit of a beach break as I found myself with a week spare before my flight to Myanmar. There are two main islands that make up the Perhentians, Besar (big island) and Kecil (small island) located about 30 miles off the east coast of peninsula Malaysia. They are described as paradise islands, beautiful white sandy beaches, very low key development, fantastic scuba diving. Sounds good eh? Lets go then.... The only mode of transport to get there are these tiny tiny uncovered speed boats then to be met by an even smaller boat to take you to the beach through the shallows. This was pretty much standard procedure on Thai islands too so i was pretty used to lugging my backpack between boats and then wading through the sea with all my luggage. This bit was fine. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the crazy reckless deathwish of a race that the speedboat drivers seemed to delight in. There was me, a few asian tourists, japanese i think, and some scary Australian backpacker girls, 5 of them, all with extremely hairy legs, pits and who knows what else. No life jackets, nope, off we go lets make this as painful as possible. As`we hit maximum speed, the little uncovered boat jolted REAL HARD against the waves sending us flying off our seats, our backpacks flying off the seats, the vacant seats themselves were flying into the air. Especially after all that bus travel and no sleep I really thought i was going to be sick. The hairy aussie girls were squealing loudly in delight!!! Oh gawd......
Very relieved to arrive alive (i think) and maybe this had put me in a bad enough mood but I instantly disliked this place. The sea and sand were a nice colour, was quite a pretty place, but by now I had seen a lot of these kind of places, spoilt yes maybe, but really this place did not have a good vibe for me. Headed straight for a bar to recover from the speedboat before hunting down somewhere to sleep and first person i meet is Helena, originally from Italy but now living in China. Even through my grumpiness I felt like had met someone I could spend some time with. I am finding like-minded souls everywhere, people that I feel really happy and comfortable with real quickly. Sometimes it is a chance encounter, only spend a few hours chatting in a bar, sometimes days meeting up here and there. It is amazing the people you meet. Anyway, Helena was certainly one of these special people who make it a bit easier to be so far from friends and family.
I thought i would stay in one of the bungalows near to Helena so a bit of a trek up the hill and yes they had a room available, basic and shared bathroom but that will do. What I didn’t really register through my tiredness and desperation for a bed was all the construction work going on around the bungalow. Noisy yes but even worse, to get to the very mingingly unclean toilets and showers I needed to trek through the construction site. Any feeling of being clean after a shower quickly disapeer when you immediately get covered in dust and have to walk through mud to get back to your room. Even worse, electricity on this island comes on and off for a few hours here and there. Fine, i got used to that in the Philippines. But here, the construction site were constantly burning stuff outside my room. Fan goes off, 35 degrees heat with no breeze and i get the heat from the fire blasting into my room. Afternoon nap to get my mojo back? You are having a laugh right..
Anyway, first thing next morning checked out for a better bungalow but still way overpriced and not particularly great. So, Perhentians is pricey that is one thing. What else? Well I was attracted to this place from the ‘undeveloped paradise’ description. Undeveloped yes, no roads atall, no proper paths, limited electricity. All fine by me. No electricity means no ATMs and limited internet access, OK still fine. Many many tourists attracted by this ‘up and coming’ paradise but with no infrastructure very limited accommodation with no way of booking in advance = you are bloody lucky to get a bed for the night = beds are expensive and accommodation crap. No roads + many tourists = heaps of crap piled everywhere, near to my bungalow there was an open sewer niiiiiiiiiice (not). So, in response, what to do? Lets charge a conservation fee, about $4USD I think, so we can clear up the rubbish and keep it clean. So they have a scheme where the kids can gather bags full of rubbish and trade for free beer but what happens to the bags of rubbish? I am guessing they end up in that open sewer as there is so much crap lying around and you don’t see many boats leaving with rubbish, they are too busy bringing in the tourists. This place is seriously a disaster waiting to happen.
Saying that, i did have some nice moments here. Fresh fish dinners and cocktails on the beach with Helena, watching the world cup, swimming, chilling, snorkelling with black tip reef sharks and turtles. Actually the snorkelling was a bit scary. There were 6 of us on the snorkel boat, good group of people, and a guide who was trying to find us some sharks to swim with. When he spotted some, we all dived in and frantically swam towards where he had seen the shark. Man, it was shallow when the shark appeared from nowhere, so close and so scary. To make it worse, the shark had a baby with it too so i was just a bit worried about there being quite a group of us in the shallows very close to a mother and baby shark yikes!! All OK though and quite a nice experience, the corals here were reasonable, for now anyway..... So, I wasn’t too impressed with this place, didn’t really feel anything for it. I stayed for 5 days anyhow just to get some beach chilling but wasn’t too sad to leave on the scary speedboat ride back and an over the day bus this time, to Kuala Lumpur....