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Perhentian

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Perhentian Kecil-ling Out

Perhentian Kecil Long Beach

After spending three full days on overpriced Perhentian Besar (the bigger island), Kecil’s (the smaller island) tiki backpacker vibe was very much welcomed.

Priya and I took the earliest water taxi ride out from Besar (RM10 each) because most of the accommodations on Kecil run on a walk-in basis, and we were afraid of getting stuck with shitty rooms during this peak season. We headed straight for Matahari Chalet on Long Beach because we did some preliminary research, and Priya said they sounded friendly over the phone.

Perhentian Kecil Long Beach
Kecil from afar.
Perhentian Kecil
Kecil upclose. The entire beach looked as if a hurricane had just swept through it.
Perhentian Kecil Long Beach Matahari Chalet
Matahari’s cute little huts! Which were already booked out 🙁

The only room available at that point was a RM150/night air con room with hot shower. It was OK, just a bit bothered by the faint smell of drains that lingered in the room.

Perhentian Kecil Matahari Chalet
Check out the amazing construction-front view the room had.
Matahari dive centre
Seeing that Matahari also had a dive centre attached to it, we caved in to our temptation and booked a dive at D’Lagoon with them for RM75 (slightly cheaper than dive centres on Besar).

The dive was was very relaxing, and as it was a shallow dive, we managed to clock in slightly more than an hour underwater. We only went to about 10m, but saw a blue spotted stingray, a massive Jenkins stingray, box fish, barracuda, angel fish, silver bat fish, a crazy trigger fish that kept darting around, beautiful purple clams, damsel fish, clown fish, parrot fish, and butterfly fish.

Perhnetian kecil Coral Bay
After returning from the dive, we followed the short concrete juncle path that connects Long Beach to Coral Bay. It only took us 10 minutes to arrive at Coral Bay.
Perhnetian kecil Ewans Place
Began our post-dive lunch at Ewan’s Place with a drinks buffet.
Perhentian kecil Ewans Place
What else would a hungry Indian girl have but a massive bowl of curry?
Perhentian kecil Ewan's Place
I had pretty good kway teow with gravy. It was loaded with squid, prawn, carrot, corn, and mushrooms.

Also had their sambal blachan long beans, which I asked them to tone down the spiciness, and it was sedap! The entire meal cost us RM42.5.

With our bellies happy and filled, we went in search for Mira beach, a deserted spot on Kecil that Priya’s colleague stayed at and recommended us to visit.

We asked for directions and was told to head into the jungle trail that starts at Butterfly chalet, which was on the end of Coral Bay.

Perhentian kecil butterfly chalet
Entering the jungle path.
Perhentian kecil jungle path
It was more of a proper path that was surrounded by jungle.
Perhentian kecil Mira beach
After the easy 30 mins walk, we emerged at the blissfully deserted Mira beach.

It was a gorgeous beach with just a handful of people. We originally wanted to stay at Mira Beach Chalet, the only lodging on this beach, but it was all booked out.

The sand was fine and the waters were divinely warm and clear. While wading in the sea, we could see right through to our toes, allowing us to observe — without snorkel masks — the curious fish that were doing figure 8’s around our legs. Absolutely wonderful to float on my back and enjoy the weightlessness and quietness too. We stayed and read for a while, and then headed back reluctantly before it got too dark to navigate the forest.

Perhentian kecil Daniela cafe
Dinner at Daniela cafe, the largest alfresco dining area around our hotel.

The food prices in Kecil are slightly cheaper than Besar. About RM5-8 lesser for seafood dishes. We had the sambal sotong dinner set that came with fries, banana cake, a banana, and a drink, and it only cost RM25! Together with a roti cinai, prawns with chili, and a glass of lemongrass, the total bill came up to RM57.

Perhentian kecil Daniela cafe
The glorious sambal sotong.

We were hoping for a party after dinner, but it was a Sunday night, and the only signs of a party we saw were advertisements that read “Fire show!”, “Live music”, and “Bonfire”. We were one day too late for the beach party.

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Day 2

We checked out of our cheap accommodation bright and early, and made our way on foot to our most atas stay of the trip: Shari-La Island Resort on Coral Bay.

We wanted to indulge a little for our last night, so we took this standard room for 2 which cost RM250/night. It was just slightly better than the budget accommodation. Not very worth it, I must say.

Went for a 6-stop snorkeling trip (at an incredibly low price of RM30 each) to pass the afternoon. It was, of course, nothing compared to diving, but it was one of the best snorkelling experiences I’ve had.

And we’ve got these lousy underwater shots from a disposable camera to do it injustice.

Perhentian snorkeling

Perhentian snorkeling barracuda
A lone baby Barracuda.

Perhentian snorkeling

We also stopped by Turtle Bay (off Perhentian Island Resort’s beach on Besar) and saw a solitary turtle. The wonder and excitement of seeing a turtle in the wild quickly turned into disgust as it was terrifying to see all the tourists hovering over it while it fed on the sea bed. And when it was swimming towards the surface to catch a breath, a few tourists even dove down to touch its shell.

It was a horrible sight, and I felt nothing but anger towards people’s ignorance and sadness for the lonely celebrity turtle. All I want to say is: “LEAVE TURTLE ALONE!!!”

Perhentian
Lunch was at, you know, just a regular Perhentian beach.
Perhentian snorkeling lunch stop
Our casual lunch stop.
Perhentian kittie
This clever kitty kept using his paw to gently tap my legs to beg for food.
Perhentian tourists with kitty
Ate with our snorkel boat buddies, an Italian couple who was as crazy about cats.
Perhentian snorkeling
Continued with the snorkelling at a lighthouse stop, which had strong currents.
Perhentian snorkeling coral
Pretty blue clam

Perhentian snorkeling

Perhentian snorkeling

Perhentian kecil Romantic beach
Wrapped up the trip on Romantic beach, which had lovely white powdery sand.

Things were going so nicely on the last day…

Until the expensive hotel room decided to ruin it. Being the cheapskate that I am, I expected nothing less than what I paid for. So you can imagine how furious I was when the water ran out while I was showering.

I was still soapy, so Priya had to get help for me. The room’s phone had no dial tone for her to call the reception, so she went out to inform some of the staff. They took so fucking long that I gave up and resorted to filling a pail with the alternative water source (cold water, but thank god for it) and rinsing off with a plastic water scoop.

I’m not a princess. I don’t mind bathing with cold water from a pail. Just not when I have paid good money for something better. I was so fucking pissed off that I went to the reception to throw a bitch fit. They just looked sorry and apologised, and when I pushed on, they didn’t even offer to compensate.

Damn you Shari-La.

But let’s not end this on a sour note!

Perhentian
This is what I’ll remember of Perhentian 🙂

 

5D6N Perhentian trip cost breakdown

Flight: SGD114
Scuba diving: SGD 314 (for 5 dives)
Accommodation: SGD148
Food and misc:  approx SGD 224
                                                                              
Total trip cost: approx SGD800

Diving into the waters of Perhentian Besar

Perhentian Besar beach In episode 2 of Diving Dykes (hop over to our Tioman adventure for the pilot episode), Priya and I head to Perhentian islands! Plural because it’s made up of 2 creatively-named islands, Besar and Kecil (big and small in Malay). While it’s a destination that’s quite talked about amongst Caucasian expats, it surprised me to find out that some Singaporeans still haven’t heard of it.

perhentian_map Even though we flew, it took us some time to get there. We chose a flight over a 10-hour overnight bus because the price difference wasn’t that much. The AirAsia flight to Terengganu airport cost $114, and only took 1.5h. BUT the cab to Kuala Besut ferry terminal took another 1.5h and cost RM120. It would’ve been OK if it was split 4 ways, but it was just Priya and I, and we felt the pinch.

Kuala Besut durian
Had a RM3 durian while waiting for the ferry to Perhentian (RM70 return open date ticket).
Kuala Besut cat
One of the many lethargic beings we came across at the ferry terminal.

The ferry towards Perhentian was insane. Firstly, we were packed onto the speedboat with three mainland Chinese families (the first of many, many more to come), and when the boat picked up speed and tore through the currents, the lady beside me started yelling “救命啊! 救命啊!” (help! help!) right into my ear. She did have reason to call for help because the ride was a series of ass-assaulting bumps that gave me a throbbing backache after. It was kinda fun though. Haha. When we arrived at Coral Bay on Besar island, I was quite disappointed because I expected the same turquoise waters as Redang (a nearby island that I visited some years back), but the waters here were more green than blue.

Perhentian besar Coral View resort (
Towards our hilltop room at Coral View resort.

We took a dive package with Pro Diver’s World for RM667 each, which included 4 fun dives and 3 nights accommodation with Coral View resort. Works out to be RM152/night for the room, and around RM85/dive. (Check out their dive packages here.) Loved our cosy hilltop room, especially the indoor porch area. The only downside was that it was quite a climb up, and there was no hot shower. Which really bring us tough dykes down.

DAY 1 was spent exploring the beaches near our resort on foot.

Perhentian besar prata
But first, a snack stop at Paradise restaurant! Had this hot, oily, yummy roti cinai.
Perhentian besar coral beach
Our resort’s beach wasn’t very photogenic, but the waters were so, so clear and unpolluted.
Perhentian besar
Very amused that fake rocks were still necessary for the resort’s landscaping despite it being surrounded by natural boulders.
Perhentian besar jungle trek
This dodgy hut marked the beginning of a wild jungle path towards Tuna Bay.
Perhentian besar Cozy Chalet view
Emerged at Cozy Chalet, and was greeted by this lovely view!

Walked further down Tuna Bay beach, which was far from crowded although it was peak season, and arrived at some really gorgeous waters.

We ventured passed Abdul’s Chalet, went around the bend via a stone walkway, emerged at an abandoned place named JD Palace, and arrived at an even more deserted beach. I believe it’s called K.K. Beach.

According to all the accommodations’ room rates, July is apparently Perhentian’s “super peak season”. We Singaporeans definitely have a very different understanding of what peak seasons mean! Very surprised and appreciative of this wonderfully peaceful peak period.

Perhentian besar K.K. Beach
We had this beautiful stretch of beach all to ourselves for hours.
Perhentian besar K.K. Beach
The natural swimming pool.

Headed back to Abdul’s Chalet for dinner as they have seafood at lower prices. As it was Ramadan, we had to wait for the staff to break fast, and they only started serving at 8pm.

Dinner consisted of kailan ikan masin (way too salty), salted fish fried rice (fabulous), butter garlic crayfish (had lovely garlic bits in it), and some drinks. Total bill: RM55. P.S: Don’t expect “Malaysian prices” on Perhentian.

It was way too dark to go back the way we came (through the bushes), so we had to take a RM16 water taxi back. The tide at our resort was comically low, so the boat started to scrape the seabed when we were about 200m away from the beach. And when our boatman could push the boat to further, we had to hop off and make our painful way across the rocky seabed towards our resort. DAYS 2 & 3 were spent diving, eating, and bumming at the beach.

Perhentian besar flying lemur
Was greeted one morning by a very drowsy and zen flying lemur that was hanging out right by our balcony.
Perhentian Besar Pro Diver's World
The usual drill at Pro Diver’s World is to check your equipment, and then carry it a short way out to the beach and onto a tiny motorboat.

Apologise for the lack of photos because I’m still not in possession of the pricey GoPro camera. But here’s a lowdown on the 4 dives that we did with Pro Diver’s World, and I beg you to put those imagination brain cells to good use for the time being.

TIGER ROCK tiger rockThe name Tiger Rock is derived from tiga (3 in malay), which indicated the 3 rocks that jut out above the surface of the sea. Pretty good visibility, but the dive experience was hampered by my foggy mask. Followed the local dive master through a tiny hole between the rocks. Quite scary and exciting at the same time because you have to swim into darkness and simply follow the person in front.

Spotted: The adorable yellow boxfish, and some scorpionfish crawling on the sea bed.

 

BATU LAYAR batu layarGreat viz, and teeming with marine life. Had a good mask this time around. Saw tall reefs that were densely populated by healthy corals. My favourite view while diving is when you look up and see the sun shining through the water, and can admire how the dancing light creates mesmerising backlighting against the corals’ silhouette. Enough words. Here’s a nice video taken at the site.

Spotted: Stingrays, huge puffer fish, Indian Ocean walkman, lion fish, massive corals, parrotfish, colourful triggerfish, school of baby barracudas, angel fish

 

SUGAR WRECK sugarwreckWas so absolutely stoked about diving at a shipwreck. This 90m x 12m ship used to transport sugar, but was sunk in the monsoon period of 2000.  We first descended into murky silt-filled waters. It somehow added to the mysterious scene surrounding the sunken ship, which is tilted towards its starboard (right side). There were huge sea urchins all around and I had to take extra care when navigating under the masts. As we approached its stern, Titanic’s Celine Dion theme song started playing in my head. The feeling of floating above this massive submerged structure was incredible, and the sight that opened up before us as we went around to the ship’s port (left side) was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The waters on this side were crystal clear, and you could see the entire hull, right down into the ocean depths. This is where the real peak season is: massive schools of different varieties of fish either hovering above the hull, or criss crossing each other at aquatic traffic junctions. I simply couldn’t get enough of this National Geographic moment.

Spotted: Lion fish, giant pufferfish, baby barracudas, leopard shark (a baby one resting in a crevice), many many many other miscellaneous fishies

 

TANJUNG BUTUNG tanjung butungWe made the mistake of not booking a day in advance, and the rest of the day’s dives were fully booked. But Stan, one of the dive masters, was kind enough to fit us in with a private dive with a French family. There were less varieties of fish at this site, but it had enormous rocks and loads of corals. Started to really appreciate the beauty of alien-looking hard and soft corals at this site. But I was extremely annoyed at the bad manners that a couple of the family members displayed. They wandered off on their own, kept shoving the GoPro camera into the fish’s face, and was more occupied with getting to wherever the dive master pointed out to first and getting the best shot than enjoying the environment slowly and peacefully.

Spotted: Clownfish, boxfish, Giant purple clams, and loads of other corals

(Phew! I need to build my underwater vocabulary!)

 Aside from the wondrous views underwater, here’s what we saw on land…

Perhentian Island Resort beach
The waters near the expensive Perhentian Island Resort were unbelievably blue.
Perhentian Island Resort beach
The extreme end of Perhentian Island Resort’s beach.
Perhentian Island Resort beach
Hijacked the posh resort’s beach chairs, and thiswas our magnificent view.

What you can’t experience from these gorgeous photos are the Chinese families on the beach, who made their presence heard loud and clear to all the other beach goers. I wouldn’t say it’s music to my ears.

We also had some amazing seafood!!! Not cheap, but still very affordable if you earn in SGD.

Perhentian besar Mama's Chalet
Mama’s Chalet

At the very homely, kampung-like Mama’s Chalet, we had fresh grilled fish and fried noodles. I’m not a fan of the texture of grilled fish without gravy, but Priya really enjoyed it. I preferred the fried noodles, which was bursting with flavours and at just the right level of oiliness. But I was really shocked when the bill came up to RM58.80. It’s the kind of price that I’ve never encountered for seafood in Malaysia. The fish itself was RM45. Yikes! We did go back the next night, however, because I wanted to try their fried squid.

Perhentian besar Mama's Chalet food
It didn’t disappoint!

I didn’t like how the staff tried to work his way around the orders so that we’d pay more and get less. After some negotiations, we got our squid, a small dish of veggies, omelette, and drinks for a total of RM57. After that incident, I felt extra stingy, and decided to scrutinise the hotel bill. There was some confusion because even though we bought a dive+accommodation package, we had to pay the bills separately. And it’s only when I pointed out to the hotel staff that there was an extra RM140 boat fee for a boat transfer we didn’t take, that they removed it from the bill. Hmmmpf! Not appreciating these deceitful doings. But I will focus on the good memories… After four amazing days on Perhentian Besar, we island hopped onto Perhentian Kecil for the second part of our holiday.

Perhentian besar to kecil
Off to the smaller, more backpacker-style island!

 

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