The Poseidon Adventure... almost

Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Flag of Malaysia  , Terengganu,
Friday, April 2, 2010

A painless - and at times surprisingly luxurious - coach journey saw us arrive in the Cameron Highlands at the crack of dawn on Friday last week (now one week ago as I write). We gave ourselves only two days in the Highlands, so despite our tiredness and the heat - although it was somewhat cooler in the hill station than elsewhere in Malaysia - we immediately set out on a hike. We hiked for about four hours in total, through increasingly dense jungle which was in turn, increasingly tough going. As we passed Robinson Falls near the beginning of the hike, rather a strange sight lay before us. There, quite prostrate on his back with outstretched arms (used thankfully for reading), lay a completely naked Malaysian chap. Moving quickly on (in every sense of those words) we encountered other, more pleasant and expected sights. We must have seen at least fifty types of butterfly, many we'd never seen before, but I must confess we were somewhat relieved when finally the path sloped down to meet the road and signal the end of the hike.

This left us round 13 kilometers from Tanah Rata, our accommodation and starting point. We made our merry way to the road in order to get the bus back. A kind young Malaysian girl informed us that the next bus would be at around 6.30pm (it was 3pm). So we were left with little choice - as we had little energy - but to turn our hands to hitchhiking. Kanan flashed her smile (unlike the chap earlier in the day, who had flashed something rather different indeed) and a thumb at a handyman in a (very) old banger, and he obliged. We settled down happily to share the back seat with an army of ants. He refused payment of any kind and was much happier it seemed, to have a bit of company for the half hour journey Malaysians in general we've found to be very warm, welcoming people. It's been a pretty relaxed beginning to the Southeast Asia leg of our trip.

The next day we signed up to another hike, this time through even denser, more humid jungle, to see the Raffleasia flower. The Raffleasia is the largest flower in the world. As ever with these things, there is a caveat: it's only the largest when judged by weight; either way it was pretty impressive, and we felt lucky to have seen it. Whether my shirt felt quite as lucky at the end of the hike is another matter. We spent the afternoon at a "traditional" village (with only 2 huts), a butterfly and insect farm (very interesting), a Tea Plantation (great views), and a Strawberry Farm (dreadful). We packed up our bags the following morning and headed north east for the Perhentian Islands, having decided that we needed a little Island calm after all the hiking. Calm it was not.

We were bundled into a minivan with six other people - two French, two Dutch and two Germans - and embarked on what was a very scenic journey to Kuala Besut, the port for boats to the Perhentian Islands. There was a bit of a palaver at the jetty involving a government official over whether the journey was safe to make or not, as it looked as though a storm was brewing, but the boatmen all decided to go. In short (we'll recount the rather frightening reality when we get home), the journey by small speedboat over the 21 or so kilometers to get to the Island was absolutely horrendous. The waves (ten feet tall at times tossed our little boat around for around an hour and a half, at the end of which our bags, possessions and witless (for taking the journey in the first place) selves were soaked to the bone. Luckily we'd had the foresight to buy a dry bag (a kind of impregnable rubber tube) for our real valuables a few days previously in Singapore - how thankful we were. We parted ways with our traveling companions at the jetty, all with slightly stunned looks on our faces at what had occurred. We were to meet up later in the week with both the German and French couples, and spend most of the time reminiscing - none too fondly I might add - about the sorry experience.

We spent our time in the Perhentians mostly relaxing. We spent a day on a snorkeling tour of the Islands, the highlight of which was swimming with black-tipped reef sharks (at one point three of them together). I'm working on uploading a picture of us snorkeling with a big greenback turtle and maybe a video too. The weather on the whole took a turn for the better so we also gave into vanity and topped up our tans. On one day we made the trip across to the other side of the Island, a surprisingly short jaunt of around ten minutes to "Long Beach", where Kanan had stayed 10 years previous and done her first diving qualification. She had a great time going back to see her old Dive Instructor and chatting about how much the place had changed. She was delighted too that he remembered her, and more so when he sent a souvenir "welcome back" T-shirt her way. Yesterday we donned our hiking shoes once more and made our way through the Island Jungle to what turned out (for a short time anyway) to be our own private beach. We trekked through jungle infested with six foot monitor lizards - although we only caught glimpses of their three-foot babies - and teeming with birds and butterflies, and then swam in clear waters and snorkeled with rays and cuttlefish. The Perhentians have been a tough place to leave.

We have just braved the return journey though (which was nowhere near as bad), and I write this from Kuala Besut as we await our overnight bus back to Kuala Lumpar. I have a ticket to the Malaysian Grand Prix o Sunday which I'm looking forward to, and Kanan I think, is rather looking forward to a day away from me! On Tuesday we fly to Hanoi in Vietnam which we're both hugely excited about.

Love to everybody

Jo and Kaa X

PS Thanks for all the comments on the blog, we love reading them and sorry if we don't get the chance to respond!
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Chris on

"two French, two Dutch and two Germans" - sounds like the start of a joke... :)

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