Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Perhentian Islands, or The Banana Milkshake That Changed Everything

In our first week of travel, we rode in seven buses, six cabs, six boats, four subways, two sky trains, two truck buses, and one tuk tuk. We slept in six different locations. 

Each place and vehicle was a unique experience and a chance to observe the culture around me, however I was beginning to get a little worn out. Okay, a lot worn out. The amount of literal travel combined with the heat and the new (sometimes delicious, sometimes disgusting) smells all around me had me questioning what I had gotten myself into with this whole six-months-of-travel thing.

We had experienced one amazing day at the Andaman Islands in Thailand, but we soon realized that most of the Thai island resorts which Brad was so excited to show me were either closed for the season or had become way too commercialized to feel authentic. I was initially excited that we didn't have a planned-out itinerary to guide our trip, but now I was wondering if we had made a huge mistake by not even planning out our first month.

We were desperate to get to a beach and Brad had read good things about the Perhentian Islands, so we headed to Malaysia. We never would have thought we'd be out of Thailand within the first week of our trip, but that's what happens when you don't have a set itinerary!

After a night in Hat Yai, a really long bus ride through southern Thailand, a night in Su-Ngai Kolok, a walk across the Malaysian border, another couple bus rides and the bumpiest, fastest speedboat I've ever been on, we finally we arrived on Kecil Island off the Northeastern shore of Malaysia. 

This place was truly an island paradise. Aside the crystal blue waters, soft white-sand beaches, and lush jungle forestry, there were charming, hand-painted signs all over the beach for just about everything including snorkel excursions, nightly fire shows, coconut shakes, and water taxis. People walked around casually, enjoying themselves and the sunshine. The food was delicious. The accommodations were cheap. The vibe was mellow and welcoming. 

But what sold me on the island? A banana milkshake. 

On our first morning, I had just consumed a breakfast of fried rice and despite my morning dip in the ocean to cool myself off, I still felt hot! So I ordered a banana milkshake. 

That banana milkshake changed everything. That banana milkshake embodied everything wonderful and amazing and pleasant about travel. It seems ridiculous that one two-dollar drink could make such an impact, but I immediately slipped into my happy place.

After that banana milkshake, my attitude changed from doubt to optimism and my energy changed from drained to re-charged. We set out for adventuring and exploring and didn't stop until we were bronzed, bitten, (sometimes burned), and completely water-logged. 

We stayed on Long Beach (pictured above), but we visited Coral Bay just about everyday which was a quick 10-minute walk through the island's bottleneck middle.

While most island visitors preferred to relax and let water taxis do the exploring for them, Brad and I opted to explore most of the island on foot. There were a lot of roughly-worn jungle trails as well as some nicely paved paths to guide us to some really remote beaches. 

On our first full day, we trekked to Petani Beach and pretty much just followed a routine of "dip, dry, repeat". 

The real adventure came on Wednesday when we decided to venture a little further to D'Lagoon Beach for some great snorkeling. When we reached a high vantage point of the D'Lagoon, we thought it looked more fun to hike along the coastline rather than follow the signs and go through the jungle. 

What we didn't anticipate was the deep, steep inlets that existed between our starting point and destination point, requiring us to either swim across or hike high above. It took way longer than we had anticipated, we ended up with a few more cuts and bruises than we would have liked, and we arrived to D'Lagoon wet, soggy, and ragged. But we were happy. And the snorkeling there was great. 

After such a big adventure, we finished the day with two delicious burgers each and took the liberty of completely chilling out on a beach the next day, doing absolutely nothing. It was glorious. 

Our last full day was filled with a snorkeling tour where we saw black-tip sharks (about 5-6 feet) and the biggest sea turtles we'd ever seen! That night, we decided to splurge and spent the equivalent of $8 USD each on an "as much as you like" buffet where we selected our own meat from a large bed of ice and then they immediately grilled it to perfection and brought it to our table. It was a great way to end such a memorable trip. 

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