Off to the islands – After leaving my paradise of rock climbing in Railay Beach, we needed to cross quickly into Malaysia before our visas expired. We stayed one night in the little-to-talk-about Thai border town, and then arranged transport to the Malay border via a few mopeds. I don’t know how the moped driver managed to balance both me and my 20 kilo backpack on his tiny cycle, or how I managed to not topple over and crack my head on the pavement (no helmets provided), but he delivered me safe and sound on the doorstep of Malay Immigration.
Once across the border, we had to bargain hard for a taxi ride to the Kuala Besut jetty where a ferry would whisk us off to the Perhentians, one of Malaysia’s premiere island destinations. After arriving at dockside, we discovered that the slow boat to Pulau Perhentian Kecil was being “repaired.” This gave us a couple of hours to waste and wander around a town that offered nothing but a single gas station and several lonely cows.
Getting to know the locals – I strolled past the fishing docks where the town’s population seemed to be hiding under shaded palm trees. Laughter was coming from somewhere and I ducked into a dusty garage to find a circle of fisherman and taxi drivers playing chess. They shouted a hello before I could escape and offered me a spot near their intense chess game. I was soon presented with a glass of yummy lemony concoction and a conversation about the Chicago Bulls. The kindly old gents proudly pulled out pictures of their children and grandchildren from their shirt pockets and told me about their families. Then I spent a better part of an hour explaining why I wasn’t married. Several of them offered to set me up with their handsome, intelligent sons, but I thanked them and politely declined. When Liz arrived and summoned me to our awaiting ferry, the smallest of the chess players came hobbling up and presented me with a bag full of fruits to take along. He smiled toothlessly and told me that I could always return and marry his son because he would like to have me as a daughter. Sweet man-
Perhentian Kecil – The Perhentian Islands were thriving with beach dwellers, water sport enthusiasts, and chilled out hippies. They were just picture perfect, and the water visibility was incredible. I could see straight down to the sandy bottom as our boat motored to shore.
My buddies and I had to hunt around for an available (affordable) bunk, but we eventually found a beach hut, complete with a family of lizards and some somewhat unhygienic bathrooms. However, our porch offered a wonderful view of the turquoise water and a hammock where we could sway and watch the sunset.
Liz, Billy, and I spent the next several days on Kecil, diving in the early morning hours, snorkeling around the many peaceful coves lining Kecil’s coast, and sitting on the beach during the humid evenings, watching the stars and enjoying the nightly bonfires. Who doesn’t love beach life?
Underwater at Kecil – Jacque Custo’s underwater world was simply fantastic. I swam with lazy sea turtles, sharks, rays, and a vast array of intricate coral and colorful marine life. Our dive company was fun and accommodating too. Between dives, we hung around for hours and hours, drinking tea and chatting with the other divers that were passing through the area.
Sometimes Quite often, I think I could get use to this life as a beach dweller. I could set up my own little dive shop on one of Kecil’s quiet beaches and just watch the world go by (in between diving that is). I wonder if most backpackers have these thoughts as they travel around?