Picking from the previous post, I was on a week-long holiday, driving the east coast with The Girlfriend. It'll be my 2nd year doing this, while Girlfriend's doing a driving vacation like this for the first time.
I guess by driving, I'm combining my passion for travel, driving, the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and photography all rolled into a single holiday. Not to forget, Girlfriend is coming along too. =)
We bid farewell to the charming Cherating / Chendor area early in the morning, immediately after breakfast to avoid the expected traffic, and to hopefully maximize our short time on the island. The roads have definately improved from last year, when many road works made the drive a little difficult at some stretches. This year, it's a lot better, but there are still roadworks along the way.
The long drive to Kuala Besut, which is just before the Kelantan border, took me nearly 5 hours from Cherating. We reached just before lunch, and caught our tour operator by surprise - he was still out of town at the bank - thank goodness he didn't keep us waiting for long !
After a quick tea with our tour operator at the new, make-shift jetty at Kuala Besut (the real jetty is under renovation), we took the speed boat to Perhentian Besar. The boat ride was great, and took just under 30 minutes.
Perhentian Besar is the larger of the two Perhentian islands. The resorts here are more family oriented, and it's quieter and generally, more expensive. On Perhentian Kecil, the resorts cater more to a backpacker crowd and is cheaper, but has a more vibrant nightlife.
I knew some chalet owners on Perhentian Besar, and got a good deal - basic non a/c chalet with attached bathroom at RM 80 per night. My only complaint is that the bed can be a little better, and there are signs of termite infestation at the chalet already. Anyways, it was good enough for our short stay.
I won't bore you guys with too much details, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
Weather wise, our trip was somewhat wrecked by unusual morning of rain, and the threat of a storm (which isn't expected at this season). It cancelled our snorkelling plans. I really wanted to take Girlfriend out for a snorkel, but well, we can plan, but we don't control the weather, you know. =(
Instead, Girlfriend and I went around the island taking photos and snorkelling around the near-shore coral reefs. Photos taken after the rain were somewhat flat. =(
Sad news is - the coral deterioration from my last year's visit is amazingly rapid. By my own reckoning, in some areas, mostly the ones where snorkellers are being dumped by the dozen by tour operators, the coral is 50% less than what it was last year.
However, there is some good news - in some reefs just a little further away from where the operators dump tourists by the boat load, I see signs of new coral life. So, it's not all lost. Hopefully, the operators will keep away from these reefs. At the same time, there are now marked areas which are off limits to boats. This should keep some operators from getting too close to some corals. =)
In any case, snorkelling is immense fun. Girlfriend, who has snorkelled in many a great places, found the fish life to be varied and colorful. At the same time, the incredible amount of soft corals and the general variety of corals we encountered made this trip worthwhile. In some places, there are so many reef fishes swimming around us, it actually freaked us out for a bit !
The soft, powdery sand in Perhentian Besar was mesmerizing. We spent some time just lying on the soft sand ... it was that good. Girlfriend even exfoliated with the sand ... the things girls do for beauty ...
We've decided next year, we won't be travelling to Perhentian again, but I'm sure we'll be back sometime, and I hope the coral life would have survived, even thrived when we return in the future. I hope tourists and tour operators will be more educated and will do their part to protect the corals and marine life in the area.
One of the highlights of this trip was food - Girlfriend enjoyed the food very much. Check out the restaurant at Watercolours Resort - they serve the best food around.
And of course, I enjoyed every bit of my vacation on Perhentian Besar, even if the weather spoiled some of the fun.
Next Stop: Kuala Terengganu to see some terrapins. And Kuantan to wrap it all up !