Friday, February 22, 2008

Perhentian Islands - Pulua Besar

02/14/08 - Happy Valentines Day! Wow, we've been here on Pulau Besar in the Perhentian Islands for nearly 5 days already. So strange - no cars, very few restaurants, hardly anyone wears shoes, intermittent hot water, but here we have high-speed internet. The Perhentians are off the northern coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea - whoever thought I'd be swimming in the South China Sea!!?? The islands off the east coast close down during the monsoon which typically lasts November through January, through February in some places. We took a "ferry" (which was truthfully a bone-crushing speed boat ride) from Kuala Besut after a 30-minute taxi from Kota Bahru, the last large town we overnighted in. We landed on Pulau Besar and Joe parked himself in an open air cafe while Mia and I tramped the beach searching for just the right accomodations. The places to stay run the spectrum from high dollar "resort" all -inclusive to camper shack with outdoor toilets. We decided on New Cocohut, two wonderful small chalets right on the beach. They have an amazing restaurant where we choose our fish or squid or chicken or gigantic prawn which they grill over open coals. Delicious calamari and Joe's giant grouper - toasted garlic sauce with butter - yum! We hiked the island over and back, along jungle trails, instigating beach volley ball games along the way. My rubber knees made it through just one game - no sense injuring myself just to prove that I can, so I'm the water girl and head cheerleader. Joe and Mia are great at meeting people, both locals and Westerners and drawing them into volleyball or conversation. We've all read for hours and played gin rummy or Chinese checkers, especially over meals - seems we've always got a game going. The hikes along the jungle tracks from end to end and beach to beach have been adventurous, always ending in the ocean which is great for cooling off! The water is warm but not too warm and crystal clear, greens and blue, almost white when there's only sand below. Mia and Joe went scuba diving two days in a row, encountering various fishes, reef sharks, and a rather aggressive triggerfish. Other island fun included swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and we saw 2 giant sea turtles, close enough to touch, so Joe did!

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