Saturday, April 14, 2012


I've got a weekish left in Malaysia and then i'm back in Japan.

I was in Khoto Bharu waiting for a Saturday night and a game of football at the city stadium but it turned out that the local team was playing in Borneo that day so i never got to sample the delights of top flight Malaysian professional football. The next day i went to an island just off the east coast called Pulau Perhentian. My guidebook, and almost everybody else i'd met who'd been there, told me that it was a tropical paradise so i hopped on a bus and then a boat and headed out to the island.

The boat was a small speed boat thing with a small roof driven by a large man with a big grin and just two other passengers. Speeding out of the harbour and over the sea we could see the island looming large on the horizon. Unfortunately there was a storm just behind it heading towards us and the horizon turned a dark grey colour, the wind picked up and the rain started lashing down so hard i could actually taste it. It looked like we were sailing into the apocalypse. Waves splattered into the boat and we all got completely sodden. We arrived at the jetty and i wandered down the beach in the rain and found a place to stay.

I set out at finding paradise. It was raining hard. I was wet. The guesthouse didn't have electric during the day. The two main beaches were packed with little guesthouses and restaurants that had bright plastic tables and chairs covering the upper part of the sand. Everybody else seemed to be a fat hairy European, a kid, a loud Chinese man, a JCB digger or a suntanned, long-haired, hippy-looking diving instructor. I sat on the beach between rainstorms drawing looks from complete strangers with my lobsters-for-arms fax-machine-paper-for-a-body t-shirt suntan. Paradise.

The guesthouse was owned by Muslims so they didn't serve beer. I watched Man United get a lucky win. Horrid karaoke drifted down the beach after sun set from one of the resorts as everybody sat on plastic chairs eating burnt bbq fish and getting attacked by mosquitoes. Yeah, paradise. But i did find some nicer parts to the place, went for a swim, read two books, did bugger all and managed sunburn other parts of my body other than my forearms so it could've been worse.

After the beach i went to the jungle. A train from Koto Bharu took me through the dense green of the north east which was occasionally peppered with the odd corrugated iron shack or colourful town. I stayed a couple of nights near Taman Nagara rain forest which is the oldest in the world at 1.3M years. I met a couple of people on their holidays and travels and went on a canopy walkway during the day and a night hike after dark within the jungle itself where we saw more weird insects than you could imagine, deer, a mouse deer (i'm still not sure what that was) and, amazingly, a wild elephant. Good fun.

As hiring a guide and hiking through more of the jungle was about the same price as a second hand car, i got a bus to Melaka yesterday instead. I wondered around this morning to see a China town and Indian restaurants and cheap bars and a market and pollution and beepbeeping taxis and all the other stuff that comes with humid, busy, south east Asian cities. Paradise.

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