The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
After enduring a L-O-N-G minibus ride from Krati down the peninsular we finally arrived at the Thai – Malay border. We were dropped off by the minibus & walked across the border into Malaysia. We befriended an Italian couple, or rather they befriended us, as they had quite bad English & the Thai people’s Italian is pretty weak!! The border was somewhat high-tech in comparison to what we had become accustomed to! It had brick walls, people who ACTUALLY checked your passport, & even an x-ray machine!!… I hadn’t seen such advanced technological for months! Over the border we toddled with our bags weighing us down & sought about a way to get to our next destination… The Perhentian Islands. We were already aware that the most likely transportation would be a fairly expensive taxi ride for 1 and a half hours, so we shared a taxi with our Italian friends & off we went! Half the price before we’d left! Excellent. As we had crossed the border late in the afternoon having travelled all day we were too late to catch a boat to the islands that day so we spent the night on mainland Malaysia, in a town called Kuala Besut. We had dinner with our Italian friends & spoke like children for the evening to try & convey any basic English we thought they might grasp. They were a nice couple though, & we found out through broken English banter that they were actually on their honeymoon!! The next morning we headed to the pier, excited to leave & even more excited to reach the hyped up Perhentian islands. We were taken aback at the pier to discover that the boat we were getting on was built of a more solid substance than wood! Amazing!! Not only that but it had 2 engines as well!!! & I’m not talking about a lawn mower engine with a make-shift propeller attached, we’re talking full on speed boat engines! We were impressed.
Not the greatest first night in Malaysia. Kuala Besut was somewhat reminiscent of our stay in Pak Beng in Northern Laos, the dreaded overnight stop of the slow-boat ride! The hostel was quite pricey so we were expecting something at least half decent. WRONG. It looked more like a prison than a hostel & was situated opposite the public restrooms. The local water supply wasn’t working so the only shower we could take was in the toilets… using a bum-gun!!… which is south-east Asia’s answer to toilet paper!! It was pretty horrific & extremely unsanitary but we’d had a long day travelling & couldn’t condone sleeping before showering… bum gun or not! Mentally scarred, apparently clean, we ventured out for food to discover there was one restaurant providing plastic chairs & a small, non-english menu for our dining pleasure. Salt was sufficiently rubbed into our wide-open wounds!
& the UGLY
We reached the Perhentians pulling up into Long beach bay, the backpacker haven of the islands, offering the only affordable accommodation to Nicky & I. Unfortunately, Malaysia is somewhat more expensive than the countries we had previously visited on our travels. And having been travelling for 2 months on a strict budget already we were in no mood to up our daily budget & start blowing cash willy-nilly. So, we forced ourselves to stay in Rock Garden Chalet, the real budget accommodation. Our room, well,… shack… consisted of 2 single beds pushed together, a wooden shelf & about a foot of floor space between the bed & one wall. It was pretty small & the doors were barely hinged on. We did have a balcony though… BuuuT, we couldn’t sit out there because there were so many god damn mosquitos it just wasn’t worth it!! We quickly dumped our bags & headed to the beach for some well deserved & long overdue relaxation.All our concerns seemed inconsequential though as we lay in the sun, arching up every now & then to gaze around at the breathtaking scenery surrounding us. We were, after all, in the Paradisaic Perhentians!