A lifestyle blog bringing you fashion, music, food, and everything else that's just nice about Bristol and beyond!
When I was 12 years old I read ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland. It created such a vivid picture in my mind of South East Asia, Thailand in particular, that ever since I’ve been desperate to go. Recently I got to tick it off my bucket list when I visited Frankie in Malaysia and we escaped here – The Perhentian Islands.
Now I know it’s not 100% accurate, as ‘The Beach’ is set in Thailand and The Perhentian Islands sit to the North East of Malaysia, about an hour’s boat ride from the mainland. But I’m not going to split hairs when you can wake up to a view like this!
We arrived in Malaysia early evening on the Thursday and by Friday afternoon we were zipping across the South East Asian sea in a speed boat. I’d been told by friends who had been before that the speed boat journey over to the islands was something of an experience, and I have to admit after an hour of being thrown around and desperately wondering if the next bump was going to throw my bag, or even worse me, overboard, I was pretty relived when we pulled up here.
Our home for the next five days was Flora Bay Resort, which despite being quite basic and alcohol free, was pretty damn close to paradise. For less than £20 a night we had a comfy bed, plenty of space, an en-suite bathroom, air-con and most importantly – a walk to the beach that took all of three seconds.
After checking in, dumping our bags, and nearly wetting myself with joy when I discovered hammocks slung between the palm trees on the beach, we decided to take a wander down the beach to see what was going on, which as it turns out wasn’t much! But when you’re surrounded by this, how can you complain?!
As I mentioned, getting hold of alcohol at our resort was tricky. As a vastly Muslim country it’s tough to buy booze in a lot of places, and The Perhentians were no exception. However, after checking out all of the beach bars along the mile long stretch of beach we stumbled across B’First Cafe, which over the next few days turned out to be our one stop shop for pretty much everything! After initially being drawn in by the music we were all pretty chuffed to discover they were serving buckets of Tiger Beer on ice, so we settled down to watch the sunset.
The next day, after being woken up by the sound of the waves on the beach (something I could definitely get used to!) we decided to mooch along the beach to find some breakfast. As we came to discover Malaysian’s, in particular those in The Perhentians, work at their own pace, which to someone like me who’s used to running at a million miles an hour is raaaaaather slow, so it was no surprise to find that very few places were open! But lucky for us, it was B’First to the rescue again.
My initial reaction when perusing the menu was “Shit me! This is cheap!” Most breakfast dishes were around 10 Malaysian ringitt, which is about the equivalent of two quid. Main meals were pushing 12-15, and on average our bills came to around 60 ringitt for six of us, which works out at about £12. For six people. Yeah, I know – I pulled that face when I first did the maths too!
The second thing that struck me was this. Roti Canai. Never heard of it? Nope, neither had I. But turns out in Malaysia it’s entirely acceptable, in fact very common, to eat fried flatbreads (Parathas) dipped in curry for breakfast. Now as the girl who will save left over curry to eat for breakfast the next day (much to Will’s disgust) you can imagine how happy this made me. I promptly ordered one.
The rest of the day was spent swimming in the sea (pretending I was a mermaid) and snoozing in a hammock. Hard work, I think you’ll agree!
The Perhentian Islands are world renown for having some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, so the following day after more Roti Canai we hopped on a boat and sped off around the island to put it to the test. Turns out those people who decided The Perhentians were pretty great for snorkeling weren’t making it up. It was absolutely bloody mind-blowing. Not only is the water bath water warm, but it’s crystal clear and quite simply teeming with fish. Over the course of four hours we visited five different dive locations, saw turtles, sharks and got accosted by more fish than I’ve ever seen in my life at the aptly named Fish Garden, and to top it all off I managed to get a sun burnt arse – a very strong look indeed!
That evening we decided to venture across to the ‘Little Island’ of the two, and visit Long Beach. As there are no roads on the islands the only way to get about is by boat, so hopped on a speed boat and bounced around the headland. The Little Island, Long Beach in particular, are known for being more ‘party’ friendly than the Big Island, but the definition of party on The Perhentians vs a party in Bristol are very different. We certainly weren’t expecting clubs, but the extent of the nightlife is a few bars pumping out some very questionable dance music, but when there’s nothing but beach, jungle and sea for miles around there really isn’t any need for anything more. After an amazing dinner of BBQ stingray (which is really meaty!) for less than a fiver and a few more Tiger Beers we decided to skip the party and head back to our island and finish off the bottle of rum we brought with us. Zipping through the South East Asian sea with nothing but moonlight to light the way was pretty bloody surreal, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about sharks the whole time!
The rest of the trip was spent in much the same way. Eating, drinking, swimming in the sea, reading books and dozing in hammocks, which was exactly what I’d dreamed South East Asia would be since the very first time I read ‘The Beach’ all that time ago.
I don’t know why it took me so long, but I can tell you this – I won’t leave it that long before I head back there again!