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Perhentian Islands, Malaysia


I know it’s a thing to do Throwback Thursdays, but I seem to get in the mood to reminisce on Fridays. Maybe it’s in anticipation for the weekend, wondering what Pat and I will be getting up to. We took our niece, who has been staying with us this week, to Tramore Beach last evening and two of my sisters-in-law are currently on vacation in The Algarve, so with those things in mind and this lovely weather we’re having in Waterford, I’ve been feeling a bit beachy. It got me thinking of my travels and, in particular, my favourite beaches.

There were some gorgeous ones in Thailand, Indonesia – even the East Coast of Canada has a few greats – but my all-time favourite beach is found in Malaysia. In the Northeast corner of the country, you’ll find two very small islands known as The Perhentians. The bigger island is called Perhentian Besar and the smaller island is known as Perhentian Cecil.

Tea in a bag, Jerantut, Malaysia (at the railway station)

Tea in a bag, Jerantut, Malaysia (at the railway station)

Roti Canai in action, Kota Bharu Daytime Market

Roti Canai in action, Kota Bharu Daytime Market

A few years ago, Patrick and I took a train from Teman Negara National Park in the centre of the country to the city of Kota Bharu. We spent some time in the city – it was actually really cool, with night bazaars and daytime markets. I stuffed my face every morning with freshly made roti canai, which is a flatbread (like a chapati) that comes with a side of light curry sauce for dipping. Aside from the delicious food, though, we were feeling disenchanted with Malaysia after spending a month in crazy, tear-your-hair-out, exciting Indonesia. We were staying on budget, sure, but we weren’t blown away with Malaysia like we were with Indonesia.

With that in mind, I was feeling burnt out and wanted some beach time. We decided to take a small boat to The Perhentians, as some of our friends had been there and enjoyed themselves. At the time, there were no ATM’s on the island (Perhentian Cecil) so we had to take enough cash to last for the several days we’d be spending there. Fine.

Threatening skies upon our arrival...

Threatening skies upon our arrival…

I was already feeling cranky when I found out how much boat tickets to the island would cost. It was more than our daily budget, which was $20.00 and I was sure it was a rip off. However, I just really wanted to get to the beach, so we paid and off we went.

The boat journey took about 30 minutes from Kuala Besut on the mainland to Perhentian Cecil. It stopped en route to let people off at Perhentian Besar, as well. Besar has nicer, more expensive accommodation while backpackers tend to flock to Cecil to stay on budget.

By the time we got to Perhentian Cecil, the heavens had opened and the thunder and lightning started. My mood worsened. We had left the covered speedboat to take a smaller, uncovered boat to shore. I was upset because I didn’t want to be in open water during a thunder and lightning storm, plus with the downpour our backpacks (and we) were soaked through. Then we had to pay additional fare to have our bags moved from the boat. I never do this, but I actually complained at this point. I was so upset! The man in charge told me I could always swim to shore with my bags. I responded that the bags and I were already soaked so it wouldn’t make much difference either way. I was well prepared to hate The Perhentians.

Not a happy camper.

Not a happy camper.

We took cover in a restaurant on the beach and had some tea and more roti canai while waiting for the weather to abate. When the sun came out about 20 minutes later I was already feeling a bit better. We took a hike to the other side of the beach (we stayed on Long Beach; Coral Beach is also very nice) and found little huts dotted along the hillside. They were very reasonably priced (mostly because they were just huts with a bed and mosquito netting – nothing more) at about $8.00 CAN a night. It wasn’t the most glamorous place to sleep, but the view from our little veranda was worth it. I think we had the prettiest view on the whole island.

The view from our little hut

The view from our little hut

The next few days were spent lounging on the beach, drying out our very wet belongings (and saying goodbye to my trusty mp3 player, which kicked the bucket during the downpour), eating and drinking at night with Patrick’s fellow scuba divers. Liquor was difficult to come by and; therefore, expensive and I seem to remember the power went out every night at a certain time. Despite this, I had an amazing stay and, in the end, didn’t want to leave. We even had a “little” pet that we could hear lurking under our chalet every night. I didn’t know what it was until, one afternoon, I was out on the veranda enjoying the view when a massive monitor lizard came out from under the hut. It must have been 6-7 feet long from snout to tail. Mystery solved!

Beach perfection.

Beach perfection.

Everything was bigger on this island - even the geckos!

Everything was bigger on this island – even the geckos!

We left after a few days, feeling refreshed by the gorgeous beach and much less bitter about our time in Malaysia. I even discovered that what I thought was a really expensive boat ticket also included the return trip. D’oh.

I can’t wait to return to this place. It. Is. Paradise.

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