First Stop: Perhentian Islands
The countdown was finally over. It was the day before I was due to fly and I had packed and repacked my luggage at least 3 times worrying that I had forgotten something critical. I am not ready to admit that my jittery state was because of the one to many drinks I consumed the night before at my leaving drinks, but there is a high chance it could have been.
Thanks to all those that came by the way and for all my gifts and decorations! It was lovely to see you all one last time before I left for my travels.
Luckily, I managed to drag myself out of my hungover state and perk myself up for a meal at a Chinese restaurant with my family and Stephen (Chinese was a bad choice, I have eaten so much noodles and rice since landing in Malaysia).
Post dinner I decided it was sensible to get an early night as I had to leave for the airport at 6:30am and didn’t want to be feeling groggy. Little did I know I would hardly sleep a wink, I spent most of the night tossing and turning unable to sleep while Stephen laid next to me blissfully sleeping. Isn’t that the most annoying thing in the world? You are desperate to sleep and they are just contently sleeping next to you, urgh the frustration!
My alarm went off at 5:45am and I awoke from what felt like a very short sleep got myself sorted and waved goodbye to my Grandad (I have been living with him for the last few months to save on costs). Stephen was driving me to the airport but my parents were coming along as well to give me a send-off.
It was a very surreal situation, saying goodbye at the airport didn’t really feel like real life. I had that nervous excited feeling you get before you go on a rollercoaster, but with a couple of hugs and lots of waves I left them in departures and went through security.
Due to their being issues with my entertainment in my assigned seat I was moved to a seat next to a toilet and a couple that just could not keep their hands off each other. So, when I wasn’t being lent on by my fellow passengers queuing for the toilet or kicked by a stray leg of the girl next to me who just could not find a comfy spot to lay on her boyfriend (think I was jealous I didn’t have my boyfriend to lay on just a small tray table), I read books and watched movies. I really recommend Girl Missing if anyone is looking for a book to read.
13 hours felt LONG, having never flown long haul I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I hated it. When I finally landed in Kuala Lumpa and made my way to the other terminal I was so happy to see a friendly face. Emily and I had another flight to catch to Kota Bharu, the thought of getting on another flight was not filling me with excitement, but the bus would have taken forever, so off we went.
On landing in Koto Bharu, we shared a taxi with a couple to the ferry town of Kuala Besut, the taxi was around 1 hour and cost approx. 15RM each or £2.70 (4 people). The return ferry was 70RM or £12.60 and also took 1 hour. Though at the ferry port you do have to pay an additional 30RM or £5.40 in taxes to enter the island.
The boat over was pleasant and not to bumpy we were in a fairly large boat so the waves were not an issue and our baggage remained dry. There are various drop offs for the Perhentian islands and we were one of the last at Long Beach (on the small island), when we arrived we were not disappointed, clear blue water, white sand and lots of sun.
YES I thought to myself, finally here! I was essentially a walking Zombie by this point, I had not slept and to me it felt like it should have been the middle of the night but it wasn’t (Malaysia is 7 hours ahead so the day was in full swing).
We clambered across the beach with our backpacks on in search of our accommodation and at that point I regretted chucking in those extra clothes and toiletries and promised myself that I would reduce the load as soon as I could. I should have listened to all the blogs I read online, pack light it said only bring the essentials, at that point it felt like I had bought the kitchen sink, my shoulders were killing and I was sweating a lot! Beautiful I know, I did however realise that I was not wearing my backpack correctly (always wear the middle strap as high as you can, your legs then take the weight rather than your shoulders).
We were on the Perhentian Islands to dive to so we made our way to the Panorama dive centre, a cheap dive centre we had booked before leaving the UK. It cost around £212 for 4 nights’ accommodation and the PADI dive course.
On arrival, we were welcomed by a very friendly girl Maddie, who gave us the relevant forms (you have to sign your life away before you dive) and the keys to our twin room.
Now I am not used to luxury travel by any means, but this was a definite shock. We essentially had a wooden shack, that was bright green a bit grubby with just a bed in it. It also didn’t have electricity between the hours of 8am-7pm, air conditioning and Wi-Fi was out of the question. Talk about throwing myself in at the deep end, but this was what travelling was all about, right?
We dumped our bags, got our swim stuff on and headed straight to the clear blue water. It was such a welcome sight after over 24 hours of travelling and we spent the rest of the day chilling on the beach and enjoying the view.
In the evening, we had a quick shower (dribble it was more a dribble than a shower and stone cold) got sorted and headed to Oh La La’s a restaurant on the beachfront. We had a tiger and a pizza which cost around £6, the food was average and we would later realise pricier than other places nearby. But it was by far the best-looking eatery on the strip near our accommodation and had a good vibe and view.
By about 9 after being awake for over 36 hours my eyes were starting to go cross-eyed, I was exhausted so we headed back to our hut and went I went to sleep. For about half an hour anyway, before Emily woke me up screaming because she thought there was a lizard, rat or super bug in our bed. Her little face petrified looking close to tears I woke up and did a scout about the room, I looked under the bed, in the bed and behind the bed. I couldn’t see anything other than a hole in the bottom of our hut, so I can only assume an animal had been venturing around down there. Maybe one of the many reptiles we say during our stay…
Emily now happy we weren’t going to get eaten during the night, we once again went to bed sweaty and hot ready for our first day of diving starting in the morning.
More on our Perhentian Island experience to follow…
But a summary of key points for anyone considering the Perhentian Islands:
· If you fly into Malaysia via Kuala Lumpa then, catch a flight to Kota Bharu, its much quicker than a bus and doesn’t cost too much
· Book your tax and ferry at the airport and don’t pay more than 85-100RM
· Easiest place to get the ferry from is Kuala Besut, approx. 1 hour from the airport and 1 hour to the island
· Do not expect electricity in daylight hours
· If you want luxuries such as wifi, electricity and aircon you are going to need to pay a lot more
· Panorama dive is close to the jetty, staff are friendly but the accommodation is BASIC
· Oh La La’s has a good vibe, great view, average food and is more expensive than other eateries on the island
· The sea is amazing, the sand is white and the island is stunning