Sparky Travels

October 29, 2009

Kinabatangan

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Kinabatangan
We were picked up in a 4X4 from Sandakan harbour-front at 12pm on the 26th of October. A couple from London were also picked up there and we chatted for the 2.5 hour drive to the Kinabatangan Forest Reserve. The Kinabatangan is apparently the only forested flood plain left in South East Asia and is home to a large number of indigenous species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.
Our camp, the Senbil Jungle B&B was a simple collection of wooden shacks with no running water, the bare minimum amount of electricity and no mod cons. It exactly fitted its jungle setting and budget price.
After meeting the other people staying there - 3 Canadians including one who’d spent the last 24hrs as the solitary guest - and sitting about for a while we went on our first excursion: an afternoon cruise down the River Kinabatangan. Every so often we’d stop along the river to look at wildlife that our guides had spotted. We’d soon seen macaques (cheeky tree dwelling monkeys) and the famous proboscis monkeys (big droopy noses and bloated bellies) lolling about in trees and a few more crossing a rope ‘monkey’ bridge connecting their habitats.

We joined another boat that was filled with tourists all staring at the river bank. We soon saw the objects of their attention. A couple of pygmy elephants were just about visible in the long grass 10 metres from the riverbank. They weren’t really close enough for a good photo but we felt quite excited at seeing such a rare sight. Little did we know what was in store the next day! Returning to the camp just after dusk, we ate dinner and then donned our leech socks and welly boots. It was time for the night walk. With slight trepidation, we turned our torches on, covered ourselves in bug spray and trudged into the surrounding rainforest. It had rained a couple of days earlier so the path was a mudbath at points and our guides had no qualms about leading us straight through the deepest parts. We got to see a number of brightly coloured birds asleep on branches, a squirrel nesting in the trunk of a tree and a couple of people ( not I) got a glimpse of a wildcat. I managed to rid myself of one leech which was crawling up my welly and after an hour or so of trekking we made it back to camp. Everyone was shattered and given the early starts to come we all headed off to bed before 11pm.

I woke up absolutely shattered at 5:10am on the 27th with no idea how good a day it was to become. At 5:30am I got the first text from Mum saying that my big sister Joanna had given birth to my second nephew. Young Jamie William Ruston was born on the 26th of October and I was glad to hear that both baby and mother were doing well. Filled with happy uncle-y thoughts I boarded the boat for our morning cruise down the river. Amazingly, I had an acceptable mobile signal and was able to download a picture message of the new arrival as we motored up stream. 10 minutes later we were watching a couple of wild orangutans climbing about in the trees. As with most of the animals we saw, the view was from afar (20-30 metres) and difficult to photograph using a camera with a broken zoom. Still, they were impressive to watch. Other highlights were a white headed eagle and a rhinoceros hornbill which is a bird that has a rhino-like horn.

After breakfast we went on a2 hour jungle trek which was alright. Given the time of day there were no animals to see but it was fun traipsing along jungle paths . Not long after getting back to camp the local macaque monkeys came to see what the could steal. A few dozen of them invaded the camp and monkeyed about feeding on bread the staff had thrown for them. There were a number of females with babies and we spent a good hour watching them. After lunch and a quick nap we went off on today’s evening river cruise. I regaled an english guy on our boat with stories of seeing the pair of elephants the day before and that they generally see them here once or twice a month if lucky. 5 minutes we rounded the corner and found 10 other boats of tourist staring at the river bank. Their cameras were all clicking away in the direction of over 30 elephants feeding by the water side! The elephants stayed for about an hour and were right up at the bank in short grass giving us a tremendous view of these Borneo Elephants. The rest of the cruise and the night walk were the same as those from the day before. Still fun but shadowed slightly by the elephants. I did manage to have a beer to wet the baby’s head in the evening while watching Anaconda (set in Borneo) with the rest of the guests and staff.

Our final excursion on the camp was the morning cruise the next day. It was very misty and the only spots of interest were some birds and a crocodile that stuck its head out of the water a few times near the boat. We were picked up after breakfast which was the same meal as ever other one we had there (tasty, filling but repetitive) and driven back to Sandakan. That two hour drive was followed by a two hour wait for a bus back to Kota Kinabalu and a six hour journey. We arrived at the out of town bus station - our third of KK, why can’t they have a bus station in town? - an hour after the last minibus traansfer had stopped. This left us with no choice but to get a taxi and we were joined by another backpacker looking to get into town. We asked a Borneon couple in a passing car how to get in to town and they said they’d give us a lift all 7km to our hostels. The three of us crowded into the back of their Renault Clio sized car with our backpacks on our knees. Arriving at the hostel we thanked them profusely and waved them goodbye. Malaysians are great!

Our previous hostel only had expensive rooms left so we stayed in Xplorer Hostel where the australian owner only informed us that the internet was broken after we’d paid, even though I’d asked beforehand. Dinner was at our favourite street stall where dishes are large, meaty, beautifully presented and garnished even though its only 70p for seafood mee noodles.

Tomorrow we leave Borneo & Malaysia and head to Singapore. Borneo was an amazing experience and there is still so much to do there that I’ll have to return at some stage, maybe for a long holiday.  It seems to cater well for more affluent tourists than backpackers and has such a lot to see. If I didn’t have a flight booked out of here tomorrow I’d easily spend another feww weeks here. But I do, so I can’t.

October 25, 2009

Sandakan

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The 23rd of October 1295, Scotland forms the Auld Alliance with France.  23rd of October 2009, Sparky travels from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan.

The trip was uneventful, involving a 4km walk to the minibus station, 10km minibus to Inanam Bus Terminal, 7 hour bus to Sandakan Town and a 6km taxi to town centre. Our accommodation was Sandakan Backpacker’s Hostel situated by the waterfront of this harbour town. It was cheap, friendly and clean so no complaints there.

Dinner was had at the Harbour Bistro, a relaxed little eatery and drinkery just along from our hostel. Since it was Friday and we had a day of trip booking and town exploring planned for the next day we decided to get a bit pissed. We played cards (gin-rummy & casino) and drank Oranjeboom dutch beer at only 13RM (£2.60) for 3 cans.

Our drinking was cut short due to our hostel’s 12pm curfew and we sauntered back at 11:40pm. Unfortunately the front door was padlocked shut. No amount of yelling or banging roused anyone so we started to contemplate a night on the streets or - heaven forbid - booking in somewhere else for the night. As a last resort I went into the fancy Swiss Lodge hotel and asked if they could phone the hostel. The guy at reception was extremely helpful and even phoned up friends trying to trace the owner of Sandakan Backpackers Hostel or the on-duty member of staff. After 20 minutes of trying he succeeded and soon the apologetic girl came and unlocked our hostel door handing us a key to the padlock in the process so that it wouldn’t happen again.
Sandakan, the capital of North Borneo until the British moved it to Kota Kinabalu, was bombed to cinders during World war II and has only returned to any kind of prominence lately due to tourism. It doesn’t yet have enough tourists to spoil the place but due to the modernity of the buildings it doesn’t lack in facilities.

I was awoken unexpectedly at 8am on the 24th of October by my phone ringing. At first I thought it was my alarm but then I realised it was Russell phoning. Him, Craig and Seib were at McDonalds after a night on the lash at 1am Edinburgh time. They hadn’t realised that they were able to call me so easily until then and it was great to speak to the pissed up lads for ten minutes or so. I climbed back into bed but was awoken again ten minutes later. This time it was Susie, Russell’s girlfriend who was hosting a ‘Girly Night’. Cue ten minutes of me being put onto speaker phone and being mentally assaulted by the cackling and cooing of a group of girls from back home. I loved it. Only later did I realise that each minute had cost me the price of a slap up meal and probably cost Fuss and Susie a fair whack too. Ah well, it was worth it.
1st step in our planning was the tourist information office where we’d been informed by some fellow backpackers we’d be able to find the cheapest trips and tours. Unfortunately we only found it to be closed for the weekend. Somehow we randomly found cheapest tour place by walking round and choosing the one with the smallest signage. The woman was very helpful and booked us on a budget Jungle Safari/Camp for the 26th. We’d wanted to go the day before but she said it was booked up and recommended we went to Sepilok Orangutam Sanctuary on our newly spare day tomorrow. She also gave tips on what to do around Sandakan and advice on getting back to Kota Kinabalu.
After I’d had my first haircut of the trip (4 all over) we went for a wee walking tour of the town. We reached Agnes Keith House at the top of the hill overlooking Sandakan. It’s a museum dedicated to some famous writer we’d never heard of. We were all for going in for a look until we saw the prices. 2RM for Malaysians and 15RM for foreigners! I’m happy to pay skin-tax but a 7 times hike in price was a bit much. Agnes Keith can shove it.
The evening was spent with me Skype-ing Mum and Helen skype-ing her family and then dinner at the ever tasty Harbour Bistro.

Sunday the 25th started with a random bumping into people we’d met in Pulau Perhentian and a public bus to Sepilok, the site of the Orangutan Sanctuary and other such attractions. With the oragutan feeding not till 3pm we first headed to the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) which had rave reviews on www.tripadvisor.co.uk. It is pretty much a jungle botanic gardens with a treetop walkway, plant garden and walking trails. It was a bit disappointing, mainly due to a small lizard being the only wildlife we saw but that was probably due to us going during the heat of the day. I got to see some small pitcher plants so it wasn’t a complete waste and it was a pleasant peaceful place.

We left the RDC and walked a couple of kilometres along the road to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary just in time for the afternoon feeding. We’d heard stories of there being vast busloads of tourists with wailing kids at the feedings but there were only 50 of us standing on the big platform 10 metres from the feeding platform. Right on time the the orangutans started to arrive, some climbing up ladders, some swinging towards the platform on ropes. There were 8 apes of various sizes and genders including one mother with baby, a couple of young’uns and a few lazy males. The orangutans ate, played, fought and swung about happily for over an hour while we all clicked away. After being reluctant about the place before going I was surprised by how many and how close our ‘prey’ was. 300 photos later we were ushered out and shared a taxi back to town with a couple of Aussies. It was a great experience to see these extremely human acting beasts and although they are not completely wild, it sure beats tame monkeys in a zoo enclosure.

October 22, 2009

Kota Kinabalu

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 4:26 pm

After almost four months of travel by land and sea today (21st of October) spelt a return to the air: flight AK5460 from Johor Bahru to Kota Kinabalu.

First we had to get up and get to the airport. At 6am this was less than fun, especially when I slipped on the wet pavement and cut my leg on the way to the bus station. We waited for half an hour for the shuttle bus and were the only people on it.  Johor Bahru’s airport is similar in size to Edinburgh’s and has about as much building work going on. The 2.5 hour flight was on time and unexciting. It was my first flight with Air Asia and they seem decent enough, much like any budget carrier.

We landed at 12:30 in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah (AKA Malaysian Borneo) and caught a minibus to the city centre. After a long walk through town we got to the backpacker area and went to compare some of the hostels we’d researched, plumping for Borneo Backpackers. It was among the cheapest and had free wifi and breakfast which was at least something given that accommodation here is twice the price of that on the mainland. I guess thats because its more of a holiday destination and people are eager and willing to pay whatever is charged to be here.

To offset the high price we had a tasty noodle dinner at the harbour-side food stalls and watched the beautiful sunset of which I’ll stick a photo up at some point.  Then we strolled round the market to avoid our first taste of Borneo rain showers. We then spoiled our economising by going for a quick beer in an Irish Bar where each beer cost 14RM, more than both our meals combined. Woops.

The next day (today, 22nd Oct) was spent coping with a quick case of the runs  (I blame the chicken satay I had for desert the night before), arranging our trip and various shopping errands.

Tomorrow we head to Sandakan on the east coast. The plan there is to see some probiscus monkeys and do a jungle safari & camping. We might go and see the orangutans but its meant to be quite disappointing so unless its included in a tour we’ll probably give it a miss.

October 20, 2009

Tioman to Johor Bahru

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So, last you heard I was in an internet cafe on Tioman. Thus I will begin there. After a hectic hour trying to get all the info onto and out of the internet we headed off for some dinner (BBQ’d tuna) and then some drinks with Gary and Lynne from Southend.

Our final day in Tioman (19th Oct) had sneaked up on us a bit so we made sure that we did something of note. We rented snorkels from our guesthouse and had a flipper (flip?) around the bay. There were lots of spiky black sea urchins (Diadema antillarum) that we had to avoid for fear of DEATH, or possibly just a nasty jab, either way we avoided them. The most notable sighting was of a couple of rays but we missed the turtles that apparently inhabit the area.

For lunch we were joined by a particularly cheeky kitten. The little fuzzball spent the whole meal attempting to jump on our table and steal our food while we spent the whole time dumping him on the floor and shooing him away. I’d say we claimed a narrow victory at the cost of our patience.

Before dinner we returned to our favourite beach bar where we played gin rummy and chatted to an Englishman who has been travelling for 7 years. My dinner of chicken wings was again interrupted by a mischievous cat though this one learnt to keep his distance.

We had only just got into the swing of boozing it up again but with a 7:30am ferry awaiting us we called it a night and watched some more of The Wire. Tioman has been a lovely place and I could have done with a bit of a longer stay and a real night of getting pissed up. Air Batam is nicely laid out with a concrete path along the bay boarded by the beach on one side and the chaklets on the other. The chalets all back out onto the jungle and we got to see monitor lizards, jungle squirrels and some monkeys all within 50 yards of ours. I’m not surprised Tioman was recommended by a number of people we met in Malaysia and it was busier than I expected given that its coming up for monsoon season.

After getting up at 6am and waiting at the jetty with all the other bleary-eyed holiday escapees we boarded the ferry back to Mersing. We had an hour or so wait at the bus station before our bus to Johor Bahru so I managed to grab a breakfast of Nasi Lemak, a local dish of rice, sardines in chilli and cucumber. Its what all the cool Malaysians have for brekky. Our two and a half hour bus took us to the bus station on the outskirts of Johor Bahru and then a local bus took us to the centre. We didn’t realise we were in the centre though so we had to jump off when we realised we were heading out into the suburbs. Luckily we hopped off beside one of the few roads we’d put on our hastily scrawled map. This should have made it easy to find our hostel but it took us almost 2 hours to finally track it down. It turns out that finding a place is easier if it hasn’t moved from its listed address and if anyone knows where it is. We’d been looking for Footloose Homestay but it turned out that it had closed or moved or reopened or multiplied. Either way we finally got directions and ended up at the house of a nice Malaysian guy called Jomo. He runs the house as a homestay with a couple of rooms for rent and had a wee son who seems to enjoy having new western ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ to play with. It was a bit weird staying in somebodies house but he was very welcoming and it was a pleasant change from hostels, chalets and guesthouses.
Our flight from Johor Bahru to Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) was at 9:35 the next morning (21st Oct) so after a quick stroll into town for dinner we hit the hay. i.e. watched more of The Wire.

Johor Bahru seems like a nice enough place, mainly used as a transport hub or by Singaporeans as a cheap place to buy stuff (its joined to Singapore by a causeway). Apparently they even go on trips to Johor Bahru just to go to the cinema because the cost of a bus to JB, a cinema ticket and the bus back is cheaper than going to the cinema in Singapore! Imagine going to another country to go to the cinema. There are lots of shopping centres and not much else it seems. The state zoo would have been nice to see and there are the usual state museums etc but I’m not really disappointed that we only had 1 night there.

October 18, 2009

Pulau Tioman

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After a few fitful naps and much staring out of windows we arrived at Mersing at 4am on the 16th of October, 6.5hours after we left Kuala Terengganu. We got dropped off at a random roundabout and stood trying to figure out how to find the jetty. At this point a couple of old guys standing outside a dilapidated cafe called us over and pointed us in the dirsction of the jetty, saying that the ferry to Pulua Tioman was at 6:30am and that we should have a coffee in the cafe while we waited. We headed off to the jetty with promises to return and one of the old guys led us ‘pied-piper stylee’ on his moped. It turned out that he is a ticket seller for the ferry and spends his nights waiting for people on buses from Kota Bharu, Singapore and the likes to get dumped at the roundabout so he can take them to the jetty and sell them tickets. After returning to the cafe for a drink and a chat with the ticket-man (in between him jumping on his moped and leading other strays to the jetty) we joined the other 60 or so people boarding the ferry to Tioman.
We got off the ferry two hours - and more fitful napping - later at Air Batam Bay aka ABC on the west of the island. We had place in mind to stay at but finding it closed we plumped for the place with the cheapest chalets on that side of the beach and went to sleep. After exploring the rest of the bay we found some places that were cheaper, busier, nicer and closer to the beach. So the next night, the 17th, we eloped to ‘My Friend’s Place’ where the chalets were not only bigger but had a toilet that flushed. That day was spent sunbathing, typing up my blog, and eating. In the evening we went to the local bar for drinks. Tioman is a duty-free island so beer is actually a reasonable price compared to the rest of Malaysia. The general happy hour offer is 3 beers for 10RM (£2) so drinking is back on the agenda. It being a Saturday night there was football on so I got to watch the Man Utd v Bolton game with a couple of Man Utd fans from Southend. The only other thing of note was what I assume is the whole Malaysia Navy congregating a mile or so off our beach. A dozen or so large ships were sailing about the area all day probably conducting some sort of exercise. Good photographic material if my camera had had a zoom that worked.
Today, the 18th of October, our penultimate full day on Tioman (time flies and all that) was devoted again to the beach and finishing off Gulliver’s Travels. The expensive and apparently very slow internet cafe is the next port of call which, if your reading this, has been successful.

October 16, 2009

Kuala Terengganu

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We arrived in Kuala Terengganu around 5pm on the 13th of October and with some help from a friendly local at the bus station found our way to Ping Anchorage Guesthouse. The hostel is situated above the travel agency of the same name, situated in the centre of the town which is the provincial capital of Terengganu state. We managed to get there just as they were pulling down the shutters and got checked in for the night. One of the flyers we got from the woman at the desk had a map of the town with a walking tour route detailed in it. We followed the path around town and familiarised ourselves with the layout, facilities and attractions it had to offer. The ‘tour’ ended at chinatown where we went to a chinese food court for dinner. As always the food was cheap and tasty, even if we had little idea what we were ordering. My curry noodle claypot was chock-full of various dumplings, tofu savouries and a mass of chillies.The evening was finished off with ice-cream, beer and some more episodes of The Wire.
The next day was our designated planning day. Unfortunately, after asking at the ambivalently unhelpful tourist information office ( in complete contrast to the one in Kota Bharu) we discovered that the only wifi in town was at McDonalds so we headed there for lunch. Almost two hours later we had reconnected to the online world (email,facebook etc) , planned our trip to Tioman and stuffed chicken sandwiches down our gullets. The rest of the day was a number of unsuccessful circuits round the town trying to get suntan lotion, DEET bugspray and the likes. The main point of interest was the high number of mangy cats with parts of their fur ripped off or guts hanging out their arses.
We also failed to climb Princess Hill, an old hill fort overlooking the port, because we got there too late. The evening was a carbon copy of the previous one except without the beer and ice cream.
We checked out of our hostel on the 16th ready to head to Mersing for the ferry to Pulau Tioman. For no good reason we’d hadn’t booked the tickets the day before which turned out to be a problem given that all the buses were full. Fortunately, we managed to get the ‘last 2 seats’ on a night bus leaving KT at 21:30 that headed in the right direction (towards Singapore) and we should ask the driver to drop us off as we pass through Mersing. We got charged a bit more than it should have been but this was a pittance and we were saving on a night’s accommodation anyway by being on the night bus.
Another trip to McDonalds (not for lunch thankfully, only drinks and icecream) allowed us to use the internet to try and plan what to do after Tioman. We narrowed our choices down to Sabah (Borneo), Indonesia, Melaka and Singapore. After checking timings, prices and things to do we plumped for Sabah. The flights there cost £50 return but we get to see orangutans and turtles so it should be excellent. Helen booked her connecting flight to Australia and I had a look at what to do next in Asia. Another few circuits of the town resulted in the purchase of suntan lotion and a new shirt for me along with a real weariness brought on by travesing the same streets a dozen times in 48 hours. We did manage to climb Princess Hill though half the climb was via escalator up through a shopping mall. The hill and the views were almost exactly worth the 1RM (20p) entrance fee.
After dinner on the rooftop cafe of our hostel and a couple of games of CongKak (AKA Mancala AKA Bantumi) we picked up our bags and got on our modern and comfortable bus to Mersing. We’d been warned that he Malaysian coaches have aircon on maximum and thankfully so. Our extra tops and trousers barely kept us above freezing as we headed southwards into the night.

October 15, 2009

Where next?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:23 am

At the end of October I’ll be sitting in Singapore with nowhere to go. I’d like to see a bit more of Asia before I head to Australia but I’m not sure where.

This is where you come in. Does anyone have any recommendations on where I should head for the next 3 or so weeks?

So far I’ve done Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam,  Laos and Malaysia.

I’m not too bothered about Indonesia unless someone can recommend places there. The Phillipines was on my list but I wonder if much of Manila has dried out? China? Nepal? Mongolia? Fiji? HongKong?

This could be your chance to send me to the most inhospitable hellhole in the world or cause me to cry with delight at the wonders you’ve shown me.

Cheers.

Kuala Terengganu

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 7:15 am

I’m in Kuala Terengganu. I’ll update this with what I’ve done there when I’m back from another Island. This time its Pulau Tioman which is apparently one of the 10 most beautiful Islands in the world. We’ll see.

October 13, 2009

Pulau Perhentian Kesil cont.

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The last few days of our time in the Perentian Islands were spent in much the same vein as the first few. We watched Wall-E (which I’d downloaded onto my PC in Kota Bharu along with Inglourius Basterds) one night during the daily downpour. Not a bad film but a bit simple and lacking in something, maybe laughs or emotion. Very watchable though.
On the 11th we hired snorkels and walked 20metres from our chalets to the coral where we saw a multitude of fish and a 3ft long shark. There were some really stunning fish swimming about including catfish, rainbow coloured ones, ones with mascara on, transparent ones and bitey ones. These bitey fish were black with a pale spot on them and loved nothing better than herding us out of their territory with a nip to the legs. To celebrate our active day we went to the pub for a couple of beers, and I really mean a couple. At 10RM (£2) a can it was too expensive to have any more. The nightlife leaves a lot to be desired, mainly due to it being the very end of the season and just prior to monsoon time. Fortunately we had many episodes of The Wire to watch thanks to Nick’s hard-drive. The only power in the chalets was at reception though so every time we watched an episode or I did anything on my PC I had to take the laptop to the front desk and leave it there to charge.


On the 12th we decided to do some more snorkeling. This time we hired flippers too so that we could zoom about the water faster and with more ease. A few more sharks were seen, some wee fluorescent blue fish, some black spikey anemones and more bitey fish (one of which took a bite out of Helen’s calf). That night, being our last night on the island, I ordered lobster for dinner which was delicious and even though it was the most expensive thing on the menu it was only 18RM (£3.50) for 2 lobsters with rice, baked potato, coleslaw, melon, salad and banana bread. The only rival in terms of culinary delights was my dinner from the previous two days, Fried chicken breast in batter with potato wedges and coleslaw AKA Mama’s Special. That combination alone is enough to give me happy face but the sauce the chicken came in was a creamy and buttery white sauce, the likes of which I haven’t had in Asia. Yummy.
At midday on the 13th we reluctantly left Coral Bay and got the ferry back to Kuala Besut. Our next destination was Kuala Terengganu(KT) for a quick bit of civilization before heading to our next island destination of Pulau Tioman. The original plan had been to see more towns and villages on the east coast but advice and experience has shown us that there is not that much to see or do in these places and that they are all very similar. Everyone (including the buses at the bus station) leaving the Perhentian Islands via Kuala Besut seems to go north to Kota Bharu but for us that would be a 120km detour in the wrong direction. We wanted to go south so were pointed off to a t-junction where a yellow bus should pass on the way to Kuala Terengganu(KT). The expected time for that bus was 14:00, 14:30, 16:00 or 16:30 depending on who we asked. So we had no choice but to walk over a road bridge in the direction we thought KT was, plonk our bags by the side of the dual-carriageway and wait for the phantom bus to arrive. Not long after half two (40mins of waiting) our big yellow S.P.Bumi bus went tearing past us as I waved frantically for it to stop. Fortunately the driver was just finding a more convenient place to stop than the junction to the industrial estate where we had pitched ourselves. 10RM each got us the 150km or so into the centre of Kuala Terengganu.

October 10, 2009

Pulau Perhentian Kecil

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 12:42 pm

We woke up later than planned on the 7th of October and made our way to the Central bus station in Khota Bharu. We’d received advice from the Tourist Information centre the previous day that we should get the number 69 (snigger) bus straight to the jetty at Kuala Besut. Upon reaching the bus station the guy at the ticket office said that it was a 2 hour wait for the No.69 (snigger) and that we should get the No.3 to some town and then the No.96 to Kuala Besut. Sensing a more adventurous (true), faster (marginally) and cheaper (false) route we agreed and headed off on the No.3. 2 and a half hours later we were dropped off at a ticket office in Kuala Besut, booked our tickets and grabbed lunch before our speedboat to island paradise-ness. I had Pattaya rice which is rice, vegetables and a smidgeon of chicken wrapped in omelette. Its very tasty with chilli sauce although I wish restaurants would put a bit more meat in it.
Our research had told us that the smaller Perhentian Island, Perhentian Kecil (translation: Small island) was cheaper and more backpackery and that Coral Bay was the quieter and less developed beach on the island. Since that was about the sum total of our useful research we told our speedboat driver (captain?) to drop us there. After checking out a couple of choices for accommodation we plumped for Fatimah’s Chalets mainly due to price and waited for our room (the last one available) to be cleaned. This will be our first en-suite bathroom since Koh Samui almost a month ago and only because they only have en-suite. Needless luxury.
The rest of that day and the next couple of days (8t and 9th) can be summed up with the following: sat on beach, played cards, ate reasonable food, drank coke, smoked cigarettes, no electricity during the day, splashed in the sea, one torrential thunderstorm a day, mosquitoes love me.

The island is beautiful, with no roads only a jungle path that leads from Coral Bay to the slightly busier Long Beach. Prices are understandably hiigher than the mainland and its a bit couple-y. Everything is laid back and the snorkelling is apparently good so a few more days here wont do any harm.

Last night, the 9th we went to Long Beach for food and drinks, the 10 minute jungle path was no problem on the way but on the way back it was infested with huge ants which liked nothing more than chomping on our flipflopped feet as we ran through them. War has been declared on ants!

Today was another lazy day with nothing to report other than the Perhentian Challenge was on which seemed to be a duathlon or triathlon around the islands. It went right past our chalet so it was fun to watch the competitors racing round and then, a few hours later, the stragglers huff and puff round.

I guess we’ll spend another couple of days here before getting back on the road. laters.

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