Malaysia: Perhentian Islands

After sleeping like a log post-rapids experience in Taman Negara, we were up fairly early to eat brekkie, pack up Goldy and Doris (the bikes, of course) and head to the next destination on our Malaysian motorbike adventure. Owen and Liam met an older Aussie guy in Indonesia who lives in Malaysia, so we were next off to a little beach town called Cherating to see Ian – and to break up the journey north. Despite the lovely beach, Cherating isn’t a huge tourist destination which made it a relaxing stop-off point. The main draw for backpackers is surfing, but there aren’t really hostels – there are either higher end hotels or beach hut-style accommodation like Matahari and Puyong.

The journey from the national park to Cherating was roughly the same time and distance as our KL to Kuala Tahan leg, so with a few stretching and refreshment breaks we arrived around lunchtime. We were staying in some little huts about 200m back from the beach, surrounding a lovely green garden of grass and palms. We checked in, dumped our bags and headed down to the beach for a cooling swim – the Kevlar trousers and jacket, whilst obviously very important for safety, are bloody hot in Malaysian heat and humidity! We had a swim and a walk along the beach before setting up camp at Kam’s Surf Shack for some beers with Ian, who then took us to a great little local place called Nabil’s Café for dinner.

The following morning was another bright and early one to move on further north: we were heading for the Perhentian Islands. Annoyingly I wasn’t feeling too hot, I had a really sore throat and a bit of a dodgy stomach. The drive from Cherating to Kuala Besut, the port town to get the boat over to the islands, was another 3-4 hours. When we arrived, Liam and Jess headed over to the islands as she had less time, but Owen and I decided to stay a night in Kuala Besut so I could rest up and hopefully feel a little better before braving what could be a very choppy boat journey. The Perhentians are largely closed until late March due to the weather that side of the peninsula from December-March, so check it out before heading there if you’re in Malaysia early in the year. At the beginning of the season the weather can be unpredictable and the boat crossings still pretty rough, so have travel sickness tablets at the ready if you get seasick!

Sadly I was still feeling quite ropey the next morning but I was keen to go and see the Perhentians rather than fester in a room in Kuala Besut, so after a pharmacy run, we headed for the port. The boat journey over to the islands isn’t a ferry but a series of much smaller speed boats – you can buy tickets from a number of vendors along the arcade on the jetty. Don’t pay more than 70RM return. We clambered on and had about a 45-minute trip over to Long Beach, the bay we were staying in on Perhentian Kecil – the ‘small island’. Besut (the ‘big island’) is more of a family resort destination, whilst Kecil does have a couple of higher end places, but has overall more of a backpacker beach hut vibe. We managed to disembark the rocking boat in one piece with bags intact, and went to find a café for some breakfast. We then wandered to the end of the beach and found some little ‘chalets’ for our stay at D’Rock Garden Resort. They were fairly basic little huts with fans but they had decks with a lovely view overlooking the sea – which is just as well, as I sadly spent the next 48 hours more or less in bed with horrible tonsillitis.

The Perhentians are famous for snorkelling, diving, beach music and the sheer white sand-crystal sea beauty, but I didn’t get to explore this much thanks to the size of my tonsils. There are a number of different dive shops, tours and boat trips, with the chance to see turtles and black tip reef sharks, amongst other wildlife. Shop around along Long Beach for some different prices. There are also several water taxi services available for accessing the other bays on the island. I managed to leave the room a few times but not for very long which I was sad about, as the islands were the place I’d most been looking forward to on this leg of Malaysia. Just bad luck, I suppose.

We ended up leaving the island a day earlier than planned and doing a long 7-hour bike ride back to Kuala Lumpur so I could go and see a doctor ahead of my flight out. For my last couple of nights in Asia we treated ourselves to a hotel rather than a hostel, for some more comfortable recovery space. We spent a couple of days relaxing, wandering round the nearby flea markets and getting our fill of the great KL food – when I was recovered enough to be able to swallow! The Merchant’s Lane Café is near Petaling Street but is hidden away from the tourist trail – it’s definitely worth a visit for some amazing and interesting food.

It was a really good week – seeing the country from the back of a motorbike is so different to how I’ve been travelling so far and whilst the boys have got a long way to go, I can definitely see the appeal. Staying in places most other tourists don’t go and having the flexibility to stop en route at different viewpoints etc. was really great. I’m just so disappointed I didn’t get to enjoy the Perhentians – but now I’ve got an excuse to go back to Malaysia for the fourth time!

Until next time,

Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today: technically 0, thanks to not being able to speak.
Interaction was: a series of hand gestures to make myself understood whenever interaction was required.

One Woman and her Backpack x

Follow me on Instagram @ellielfield

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