Our Story – Love and Hate in the Perhentians, Malaysia

Many things have been said, rumoured, discussed and recommended in the Perhentian Islands. They were even top a top-of-the-bucket-list destination for Charlotte and her friend Gemma for years – her being quite upset when we revealed we would be visiting without her. All we had heard had been shrouded in glory and the promise of an untouched paradise. We boarded the boat from Kuala Besut to Perhentian Kecil with wonder in our eyes and a big picture in our hearts….

And we arrived to….well….sorry to ruin the dream guys but it was not quite the dream island we had imagined.

Now even as true English pessimists, what we are about to say would be backed up, were sure, by the majority of travellers looking for the same thing we were…and indeed it was by a few people we met.

Long beach is hailed as the main beach on the ‘small’ island but where to begin. We were actually ashamed to see how this, we’re sure, once paradise has been well and truly ruined by the littering and ignorant nature of both Westerners/backpackers and locals alike. Glistening turquoise sea and white’ish’ sand yes…however this pales in insignificance when you have to first walk through what appears to now be the local tip. By the time we made the beach we were already disappointed and so perhaps this clouded our judgement. However, for three quarters of the beach you cannot see the sand for the dive shops, touristy cafes and boats sprawled across it. We tried not to despair so walked through the mayhem and found a quieter spot further down the beach. As long as we laid looking out to the blue sea it was not so bad.

Anyway, enough about Long Beach…If you want to go there just be warned it may not live up to expectations and certainly doesn’t look like the pictures on Google!

Onwards and upwards and back to the beginning. Our boat, for 50MYR return each took us directly into the Coral Beach jetty (a bit of an eye-sore but you can look past it). We mentioned our German friend previously and she was seemingly an incredibly good tour guide/tipstress. Her friends had previously stayed at Butterfly Chalets at the very southern tip of Coral Beach so we decided to head straight there and take a chance on finding somewhere.

We got lucky. Very lucky. Butterfly is a cool, rustic, run-down village of slightly dilapidated (just like the owner) chalets with three right on the sea-front with balconies and hammocks pretty much touching the sea. This would be our haven for the next 8 days as we explored all the rest that Perhentian Kecil had to offer…minus Long Beach which we we didn’t set foot on again.

The next day we woke up early and headed down to Coral Beach which we could see was fairly quiet from our balcony. We pitched up under the two big palm trees jutting out over the sand and didn’t leave all day save dips in the sea, swimming out to the pontoon and hiding in the shade from the scorching sun (Josh the sun-worshipper was finally happy!). As the afternoon came we felt all sunned out and so decided to take a walk through the jungle and round the island to see what we could find. The very well signposted (almost too-well it was comical) Rainforest Beach took about twenty minutes to reach passing a few half-built chalets and jumpy monitor lizards on the way. But, just over a few more steps from here we found what we had been searching for!! We had become obsessed with a certain picture in the guide book that became synonymous with the Perhentian Islands. (How stupid we were to think that the picture was from Long Beach!) Mira beach, our beach, ‘the beach’….we weren’t going to tell you but travellers code prevailed, just make sure you don’t drop any litter! Seriously!

Disregarding the rest of the island the next few days were spent between our secret paradise and seemingly the only restaurant on Kecil worth visiting (to us anyway) Ewan’s Cafe. Great portion size, cheaper than others, best wifi and stupidly angry waitresses that amused us greatly. Yes, it really took our fancy and we sadly went there every night for dinner…

We’d become so comfortable and relaxed we didn’t even know what day it was and then disaster strikes!!! We had headed off dreamy and probably a little sunburnt for another day in paradise only to be confronted half way along the path by one angry looking monkey. Taking a few more steps about ten more emerged from the forest, running and circling us wildly. We swiftly turned around…Josh pushing ahead and running as fast as he could, pink towel in hand and panic strewn across his face…what a warrior! Hearts in our throats we retreated tails between our legs, but, aha! Monkeys cannot kayak…we can…Monkeys 1 – Charlotte and Josh 1. 30MYR for the kayak for the day we actually enjoyed powering through the sea on our lovingly named Green Karaoke Kayak – good job we were out at sea saving peoples ears from our One D renditions! We stopped at a couple of secluded beaches throughout the day and ended by swinging in the hammock watching the sunset…perfection!

The days had passed quickly and despite a fight with what we convinced ourselves was a highly poisonous lizard (turns out just a friendly gecko) had been much spent basking in the sun and sunset chasing. So, on what would be our last day and with the hoards of weekend visitors gone, or so we thought we jumped on a snorkelling trip to end our 8 days in style. Apart from a lot of people bobbing around in life jackets standing on the coral, much to our dismay and waving of hands, we had a great time swimming with turtles, sharks and a vast array of multi coloured fish. Epic.

One farewell meal at Ewan’s and running through a huge rainstorm later it was peace out Perhentians. We were quick to judge but in the end it left a soft spot in our hearts!

Next stop, Palau Kapas.

C & J

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