Monday, August 25th, 2014
Wow. I’d heard a lot about these two islands off the East coast of Malaysia and our visit definitely didn’t disappoint. We stayed on Kecil (small) island which is more popular with backpackers while Besar (big) island has more of a family feel to it. There’s not much on these islands other than the hotels. There is one small village, but no roads and no cars. Getting around is mostly by boat. To get there, we flew to Kota Bharu near the Thai border, took a 1 hour taxi ride to Kuala Besut and then a 30 minute speedboat ride. Not the quickest of journeys but well worth it. We stayed at Bubu villa on Long Beach. The accommodation here is expensive and we paid a lot to be sure of AC and hot water, especially as our options were limited as were booking only a few days in advance to visit in high season. On checking in to our hotel, we were reminded of something I’d forgotten from the booking details – we were entitled to two free cocktails each between 5pm and 6pm each day. We arrived at 5.30pm – perfect timing to get our stay on the island off to a good start.
On our first evening we checked out the nightlife on the beach. We could see that these islands might be how Koh Samui and Koh Phangan were 20 years ago. Most of the accommodation was bungalows along the beach front with some of the hotels having bars spilling out onto the beach. There were fire shows, bottles of spirits and a very chilled out vibe. As the predominantly Muslim restaurants didn’t serve alcohol, there were a few guys with coolers of beers for sale that you could take to your table.
The next day we hired snorkels, walked to the end of Long beach into the clearest water I’ve ever seen for our first look at the underwater life here. WOW. After disappointing snorkelling experiences in Hawaii last year and Thailand, it was clear this would not be a let down. Being able to see this much straight from the beach with no boats involved was great.
After lunch we took a walk to Coral Bay on the other side of the island. This is the second most popular beach for accommodation on the island, although it’s not so good for swimming, and there’s a short path through the jungle. On this walk we saw quite a few massive lizards that I wouldn’t like to get any closer too!
After a couple of hours relaxation, we headed to our hotel restaurant for our free cocktails and some dinner. While we were eating, a massive storm started which left us thinking we might be stuck there all night, but after a while, the rain let up and with a couple of hotel brollies we headed back down the beach. We went to a bar called monkey bar which we had discovered the night before and bought ourselves a bottle of the local rum, nicknamed monkey juice. It was not too strong and tasted fine mixed with some sprite.
The next day, we took a taxi boat across to the other island. We had heard that just outside the Perhentian Island Resort was a good place to spot turtles. From the beach we swam out about 50m to where a few tour boats were stopped and soon realised why there were so many people in that spot – TURTLE!! It was feeding on algae on the sea bed. It was much bigger than I expected and at one point came right up to the surface which made people move out the way pretty sharpish!
After getting my turtle fix we headed down to the end of the beach to snorkel in the shallower water where we saw a few different fish than the previous day. Dean started to tire of the snorkelling as the fish kept nibbling on him for some reason, but as he was walking back to the beach, he spotted a reef shark which I managed to swim after to get a pic of! (Reef sharks are fairly small and harmless)
That evening, we sat and watched one of the fireshows while enjoying some more monkey juice. Having seen quite a few on Koh Phangan, we decided that Perhentian fire artists are much better than those on Phangan. They were doing some pretty crazy tricks and were much slicker!
The next day was time to say goodbye to the Perhentians. I’m so glad we went, it’s been a definite highlight of our trip so far. After snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, I’d assumed that I’d ruined all future snorkelling locations but here, it was amazing in a completely different way. To anyone going to Malaysia in the future, I would say you have to go here!
On the way back, we spent one night in Kota Bharu to break up the travelling. This is a more traditional town which actually turned out to be not as interesting as we’d hoped. The markets weren’t as lively as the guide had implied, the museums were closing just as we found them and there was not a drop of alcohol in sight, even in the hotel. We therefore ordered room service and watched a film called Now You See Me which I was quite enjoying but still managed to fall asleep and miss the end! Here are a few pics from our walk around the city…..