Friday, 4 June 2010

The journey from KL to Penang was vastly more comfortable than most previous coach journeys. The bus was indeed VIP - big cushy seats that had foot rests. Even if the coach interior was green enough to make you think you were drowning in a sea of.... well something VERY green. A short bus ride and an even shorter boat ride later we were on the much complimented island of Penang. Apparently famous for its culture and food - with this we went in search of a hostel (me nearly getting run over in the process). We found a place that was slightly expensive but had air conditioning that could freeze water in the bottle, so we took it naturally. Only downside was the toilet and bathroom was down 2 flights of stairs. Anyhoo, we settled in and started to plan our route around the stifling town. It was then that something from KL came back to haunt me - wether it was the chicken noodle soup or the watermelon shake I had, I soon got into the rhythm of dashing down the 2 flights of stairs every half hour in a mad rush for the toilet. Through the evening and well into the night, the toilet rushes continued, preventing me from being anywhere outside a 100m radius of the nearest toilet. This followed nicely into the next day, when we went to see the Fort Cornwallice.

The fort was built on the land first colonised by the British. Originally built out of palm trunks, it was soon constructed in brick in a rough star shape to serve as the islands main wall of defence against attackes. For whatever reason (maybe they couldnt be assed to shlap from the mainland or maybe just because it was simply to hot), there never were any invaders, no battle ever occured in the fort and all the canons decorating the edges of the fort were rarely, if ever fired. Good times. After we wanders round the fort a bit, stroked a kitten, read some plaques, alec got shat on by a bird and we left back to the hotel where i had a date with the toilet.

Penang was a bit of a disaster. I would maybe feel different about it if I managed to do what i wanted but given the tummy situation, I did not want to risk being out of toilet sight. O well, Perhentian Island bound. A minibus journey that should have taken 6 hours took only 3, as the driver floored it over roads bumpy enough to throw us a good metre out our seats. Despite getting up at 6am to catch this bus, scraping and knocking various exposed screws and beams in the bus, ensured no sleep was to be had by any of us. We eventually arrived in Kuala Besut. From here we caught a speedboat to the island. The sky leaving the mainland was grey and depressingly overcast, but as we left mainland behind, and the perhentians came into view, the sky turned blue once again. With this, the waters turned clear and well before we reached the island, the tinges of white beaches decorating the islands base could be seen.

The boat dropped us off at long beach (the main beach). Failing to book ahead, we hadnt taken into account that it was one of malaysias MANY bank holidays. With this, after an hour of wandering up and down the beach in the midday sun, the only place with space available was a quaint little place in the dingey corner of the beach surrounded by a swamp. It consisted of 15 rotten garden sheds - with the insects to match. Mattresses were holey and again, full of insects and the mosquito nets were ripped to shreds. Holes in the floor were big enough to lose a foot down, and many of the huts had stairs missing leading up to the front door. And the less said about the showers (a tap high up on the wall) and the toilet (with no toilet seats) the better. We planned to stay on the island for a week, much to our frustrationg - and also much to the frustration of everyone else who too only staye dhere because no where else had room. 7am the next morning we got in a taxi (boat) and sped to coarl beach on the other side of the island where we managed to secure a vastly superior room for a fraction of the price. The articulate and ever optimistic british lady running the check in said we were 'FUCKING lucky to get it, very FUCKING lucky... we dont normally do 3 people rooms.... FUCKING lucky'. So we were very fucking lucky to get the room. A stones throw from the perfect water, perfect sand, palm trees and restraunts - a scene could not get much better.

Life on the island moved pretty slowly. I went for a walk on the path that led round the island and saw even more remote beaches, with nothing but short patches of isolated white sand and water clearer than a swimming pool. One beach had a tent on it but that was about it. Other activities included snorkelling, whcih the perhentians are apparently famous for. We boarded the boat early, me with my life jacket on looking like a little Belisha Beacon, and we were off. First stop was to shark point where we got to see......SHARKS!! Small and baby sharks but sharks none the less. The next stop was the turtle stop. We were shouted to jump out the boat into the water, where we proceeeded to stalk a turtle about more than 1 metre in length, as it swam indifferently at the bottom of the sea. Around 10metres deep, the bottom could still be clrealy seen. The best stop of the day though was the coral garden. We jumped out of the bottom oblivious to what was around us. It was only when we dipped our head under water we saw the thousands of coloured fish, swimming and weaving around us. Blues, yellows, silver pink and green clusters swimming unafraid as we flopped around in the water. The snorkelling guids then threw us some bread to feed the fish. They swarmed to the food, and in seconds whole pieces of bread were gone. Was like nothing I have ever seen before. Looking beneath the water to see nothing but the glittery fish and the light reflected off them - a perfect scene. Just a shame my camera had decided to finally give up the life. After 2 weeks of struggling with water damage, it died on me R.I.P.

We left the pure paradise of the perhentian islands at midday to catch the boat back to mainland. After a 7 hour wait in a nothing town called Jerteh (at the same time trying to rid ourselves of any remaining ringets), we boarded the bus - singapore bound.

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