We head down for breakfast at 9ish, a Malaysian/Continental buffet affair. I was bemused by the "oven toaster" a small microwave-style box in which you just laid the bread on an oven tray then two electric bar heaters turn bread into toast. It was presumably bemused by me not quite figuring that you have to turn the timer knob to make it work.
First job, over the road to the Ping Anchorage Travel and Tours on the ground floor of the Ping Anchorage backpackers. It looked swisher than our hotel. Ho hum. We waited for a while before a small skinny (ie. average looking) chap appeared but with an amazing falsetto voice, almost as though someone had his manhood in a tight grip and he'd gotten used to it. Anyway, he showered us with scraps of information which were useful but only in parts. The Perhentian islands like to operate 3 day/2 night packages with snorkelling but they do list room rates with no board. We have a phone number from another source so shuffle off to find a dismal array of public phone booths none of which want to phone international. We head back to the room where we use the mobile to find out that Helen's bank have been aggravating her to call over a direct debit cancellation and that our [diving] liveaboard option isn't available until the 20th.
We check out, leaving our bags and head towards the bus station. One thing we have discovered is that we should be in Kuala Besut, 80 odd km north. On the way we find an Internet cafe where we try to chase down Malaysian liveaboards but the options are few on the 'Net. A quick glance at my email reveals that my young nephew, Davie, had had a brain haemorrage a week or more ago to add to his complicated six month life. It sounds like he's better but not escaped hospital yet. We walk up to the line of ticket counters at the bus station but no mention of Kuala Besut. A counter clerk informs us we should be at the other bus station. Right.
We collect our bags and hoddle off to the other bus station. Luckily not too far, unluckily there are no express services (well, not at this kiosk anyway) and the next local bus is in 75 minutes and will take 3.5 hours. No chance of catching the last ferry. They suggest an RM40 taxi ride which we accept -- it's hardly going to break the bank -- and so a few minutes later we're rolling through more coastal scenery. Which is mostly palm trees. There's a limit to how much interest you can pay in these things so having scoffed most of a packet of biscuits as an interim lunch I dozed off. The absence of air con didn't prove a problem once we were moving and with my eyes closed I couldn't see all the hair raising overtaking manoeuvers.
An hour and a half later we arrived in Kuala Besut and were dropped off at the Jeti (Bahasa -- or Malaysian as I've been incorrectly calling it -- has a certain predisposition to use phonetic versions of many English words: klinik, polis, sentral, farmasi; it makes you wonder how they coped before) where we were beckoned into the ferry ticket shop then told the waves were too big for the last (fast) ferry, we'd have to stay the night. What?! He wasn't shifting, so we and a Norwegian couple that had been waiting before us and been told after us, followed an impatient young man on his moped a few streets away to the Nan Hotel where Helen and I blew out on an air con room for RM55. It's half three and there's not much to do but enjoy the air con and rest.
We headed out about six to see what's what and followed the harbour round to the beach. I was struck by the oddity of the geography. The flat of town became the flat of the beach which abruptly fell away between one and five feet to a sloping beach which the waves of the South China Sea were crashing up. As we watched large chunks of the sandy sea wall were falling into the waves below. But how could this be? This rate of erosion could (surely?) only last a few weeks. The only thing I can offer are a large new groyne/harbour entrance wall projecting into the sea and that there appeared to be an effective sand bank out to just beyond the end of this wall. Hmm, the ramshackle huts a few hundred yards back from the shoreline don't look too safe to me anymore.
At the town end of the wall were some new brick outdoor/open restaurants and we took our evening repast at one. Nasi goreng at RM3 was a sample charge. We wandered back through town where there was a busy food hawker market. Its popularity made me wonder if everyone ate out. We were heading back though to rest ready for the 7:45 breakfast (perhaps we shouldn't have agreed) and the 9:30 slow ferry. We note a few more tourists around and about.
Copyright 2003 Ian Fitchet. All rights reserved.