Perhentian: The Malaysian Maui?

Or the Malaysian Sanibel? 

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So, as I hinted at early (don’t worry I was not being cryptic on purpose, the wifi situation was really dire) I spent my first Malaysian weekend on an island.

There are 12 ISEP students in Malaysia and I met a group of them at about 4 in the afternoon, and they were already planning on leaving for Perhentian at 8PM on an overnight train. I thank god that I abandoned the promise of a heavenly bed after a long night of traveling for a 8 hour bus ride and a restless night in a semi-sitting position, because this was by far the best way to start out the semester in Malaysia.

These people are awesome. 

There are 7 Americans, 2 English, 1 Canadian, 1 Dutch, and 1 Swedish. That adds up right? Our trip also included 3 students who had been here for a semester already: A South Korean and 2 Namibians (thats a South African country, I didn’t know). Is is starting to sound like a sitcom yet? Or maybe the beginning of a horror movie. Both are appropriate. Though, it may be more like a reality show where strangers from across the globe are put through an 8 hour bus ride, a 2 hour wait, and an insanely bumpy boat ride (which was actually the funnest part of the traveling). Then we get to the tropics.

The island is inhabited by a collect of rambling shacks made of slabs of wood, held up by trees, bits of concrete and various other building paraphernalia that gives the impression that the whole civilization is constantly blown over by monsoon winds and re-built (which I think actually happened). I heard rumor there had just been a monsoon, which would explain the amount of garbage and debris on the beach, but sadly I think that was just the lack of care that was paid to the beaches, which were beautiful, save for the occasional plastic bag floating in the ocean.

We expected bad weather, as apple weather predicted, but of course it was not. It was partially cloudy the first day. We got off the ferry and then set up shop in the cheapest rooms in the island (that would be the shared 8-person bunk bed rooms for 30 ringgit a night. For those who aren’t that great at math, that is 10 US dollars a night). Then we set off for Long Beach, inducing a long winded story from myself about how Long Beach is a place in California near where I live and blah blah blah, I miss California and Taquerias and Chapman. (Just kidding, it was not that melodramatic, come on, I was pretty exhausted at this point). Then we all spent close to an hour swimming in the ocean.

And I nearly drowned. 

Okay, slight exaggeration, but the waves were huge and at one point I got away from where I could touch and could not make it back. I was swimming really hard and I’m a decent swimmer but I was getting no where. It was pretty terrifying. Of course, I finally found the ground again, but that was the end of my swimming for that day. Unfortunately, the next thing I did was take a lie out on the beach. Allow me to remind you that it was cloudy at this point, but we all still managed to get terribly burned. I was not the worst. Celeste (from Wisconsin) is quite literally lobster red. The majority of my pain went to my face, and my lips which are quite crispy.

More hilarity on the island came from the fact that the hotel we were at had a new manager, his name was Ray and he had been there only a few days trying to make the hotel run better. Let me tell you, he had his work cut out for him. Let me just say that the health and cleanliness standards aren’t exactly up to code in Perhentian (or really anywhere in Malaysia, remind me to blog about the grossness of the room. One word: cockroaches). I’m getting off track. Ray decided we were the VIPs for the weekend, a fact I find quite ironic considering we were buying the cheapest rooms in the whole hotel. He saved us the front row couches for the nightly movie-viewing (when you’re Muslim on vacation there is no bar, just movies, ah liberties). We watched Captain Phillips, which I would comment on if this was a movie reviewing blog, but alas it is a travel blog and so I will talk more about travel.

Day 2 was for snorkeling. This was a 5 stop snorkeling trip for 30 ringgit a person. The first stop had sharks! Alright, I didn’t actually get to see a shark, or more than some tricks of light through foggy water, but a few people did swim with the sharks! I was content with the fish and the coral and it was so awesome. However, at stop number 3 I got to swim with a sea turtle! This was probably one of the most exciting things ever. It was like Finding Nemo. Yes, someone got a picture underwater so I can possibly get that soon. Stop number 4 was a big structurally unstable concrete structure in the middle of the ocean, which was inappropriately (in my opinion) called a light house. It was about 40 feet off the ground, and the few acrobats who could pull themselves up to the top and balance on the edge, dove off (clearing a good couple feet of protruding concrete, I should add). This was terrifying to watch. The day was amazing though.

That night was much more exciting. For me, primarily because the night before I passed out after the movie finished. Ray built us a bonfire and we met a bunch of other foreigners. I spoke for a bit about Paris with some french girls, of course pretending I knew more than I did and attempting to pronounce words in french. I found an Italian and listened in on an Italian conversation, feeling utterly upset that I couldn’t understand everything (mental note: keep up on my Italian, dang it). It was a night of camaraderie and just general tom foolery.

The moral of the weekend wasn’t exactly what I did. It was hanging out with all these really cool people. I have to sleep, but I will add more stories. There is something about a person that would end them in Malaysia. It’s a bit of random chance, but also fate. I think.

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