An unescapable sun, a pungent smelling dorm, a great dive and more night bus adventures to KL.
12.07.2010 - 14.07.2010 95 °F
Today is July 12, 2010 and I am headed off of Tioman Islands. Funny things about small islands is that you see the same people all the time. As I anxiously wait for the 4pm ferry, which is really 4:30pm, I have a chat with the old bloke from last night that gave me this idea. I also sit with two younger blokes from Malaysia and they insist on helping me get on the proper night bus to Perhentians once on the mainland. We endured a very cold, air con blasted ferry ride and were soon walking the streets of Mersing back to the bus station. We had intended on grabbing something to eat together but my mouth got the best of me as I stayed and chatted to a lovely older lady at the bus station. Her name was May and she joked it came right after April. After a bit of a debate on which bus to take, I choose the 11pm night bus but would stop at another station at 5am and have to wait until 8am for the local bus up to the port to head to more islands. Looks like it will be a rough next 12+ hours as the time was only just past 7pm.
Just as I mentioned I would find a wifi place, her son offered to let me hook up to his wifi account at the station for just $4 for the entire next 4 hours. Score! I did want to grab a bit and have a look around first. That sure killed time as it was nearly 930pm when I got back to the station. In the meantime, I managed to pick up a can of tuna and headed to a restaurant to order veggie soup and rice. I do that a lot and just add my tuna after I drain the soup portion. It’s my way of having veggies, rice and a protein. Now the thing about Malaysia and many of these South East Asian countries is they are swarming with wild cats. They follow you around like white on rice and if you have food, well, they want some. I told you I had tuna and that is they favorite. So, as I tried to be discreet in opening my tuna can, draining the juice in the bin and then putting the container in the bin, well, that didn’t happen. The cat’s could smell it from miles away. Before I knew it, there were 5 cats around that bin and each taking turns actually jumping in the bin to get a nibble of what I may have left behind. Hilarious!
After my feed and cat entertainment, I headed back to hop on the internet and pass some time chatting with May’s son. The night bus was here and he helped get my bags on and I tired to rest up the best I could. It’s seemed no more that a blink of an eye that it was 5am and I was now laying on the cement bus station bench, watching the locals and thinking how “if my parents could see me now.” This was part of the journey in route to the Perhentians. Before long, 8am rolled around and I was able to hop on the local bus going to Kuala Besut. There, I would catch another ferry to the islands. It was at the port that I got ripped off for trading money as it was the only place to do it and I had no choice. Supply and demand I guess. The dude took a good $10 from me but I managed to get back ½ after I returned and told him how rude he was being to a tourist on a budget.
I feel like this day was so long already but it was just noon as I arrived at Long Beach on the Perhentians Islands. It’s search time for accommodation again and you know it had to be expensive for me to give in and stay in a 16 person “fart” smelling dorm called the World Café. The bonus, it had air con and I would do it for the experience and the day. 30 bucks for this none the less. Prices were higher than I thought and just to think the other day I had a private beach bungalow. Maybe I should have stayed but I would rather regret coming here that regret NOT checking it out.
I am making the most of this day and tried to catch some sun for 1 hr 20 minutes but that was all I could handle. Remember in my last blog I wondered where the sun was? Well, I found it and A LOT of it. It’s was too darn hot and I felt like I was an egg in a frying pan. Heck, I could probably have fried one in the sand as it was that hot. No where to escape the heat either, unless I wanted to inhale the fart smell of the 16 person dorm. No thank you. I will save that for sleeping. I hit the ocean for some swim time and to cool off a bit. I chatted with a local and then it was back to the World Café for a shower and lounging outside in the shade.
My diving break is over. I came all this way and I really want to go again. I spent a bit of time hitting each one and finding out what dive site is the best if one only chooses to go once. I must watch the budget to some extent as my future is a mystery. I settled on a place for 9am the next morning. Until then, I had my dinner on the beach and became friends with the World Café workers as we created an “internet” café with the 3 of our laptops and use of the next door dive shop’s wifi password. The mosquitoes had a feast on my legs but I was able to do some searching on the Philippines and found out my RCI luxury place was no longer available. Hmmm, that changes things. Here I planned to do the Philippines not as a backpacker but a flash packer. I will sort things out. In the meantime, Alex drew up a plan for me to hit Kuala Lumpur as he lived there for many years.
2am rolled around and he were all tired, plus, I had diving at 9am. To the air con fart smelly room it was for this girl. I can’t complain though as it was the best night sleep I had in ages. I love sleeping in the cold and covering up with heavy blankets. Funny really, seeing how darn hot it actually is outside this pungent smelling room. When it came to that sleep, well, I didn’t care what I had to sacrifice and if my clothes attached the smell, well, that is the price I would pay for a night of childlike sleep.
Let’s go diving! It’s 7/14/10, a hot morning and all is good to see some turtle with 3 legs. Our dive guy was Travis from Melbourne and he was great. I just love being under the water and acting like a mermaid. I actually think I wanted to be a mermaid ever since I saw the movie Splash. We had a great dive, saw lots of life and then it was back to the beach for a 30 minute sun session for me. 29 minutes too long I think. I had to take a cold shower and down heaps of water, and a bit of chocolate to feel alright again. After my discussions with Alex last night, I have decided to keep this trip short and sweet and although I endured great lengths of travel to get here, I will take the 4pm ferry back to the mainland for yet another night bus to Kuala Lumpur, this big city I keep hearing so much about.
A wise person once told me that the transportation is part of the overall experience. Okay, maybe I just made that up but you do see so much while taking multiple forms of transport. In my case, it serves to be very true in the time that I have been in Malaysia. I must say that I am no longer that girl that fears public transportation or sharing space. I have changed and what started as a 2 month holiday in Australia with my own private camper, well, I would never in a million years have guessed that it would bring me to this free-spirited traveler that I am today. No private toilet, no private shower, it’s all good. I am making myself do things that I would never have thought and it is making me stronger and more appreciative of the things that I have back in the US, the people that I have in my life and the people I will make more time for in my life. There was a time when I had to live alone because I needed my own space and my own bathroom. I will be happy to just have my own bed someday. Things sure do change.
On that note, I will leave you with the time that I arrived back to the mainland in Kuala Besut. On the ferry ride in, I met a great couple from England that were traveling for 2 years together. They told me about the Philippines and how I must go. One thing I have learned in traveling couples is that they either break up along the way or build a stronger, unbreakable, bond. This couple was an inspiration as I could see the love in them and that they would go the distance for sure. One of the great things of life on the road is meeting people, good or bad, they are people and they do make for interesting conversations.
Good bye to island life and hello to the big city. Tomorrow I will wake up in Kuala Lumpur (KL) but until then, what is this girl to do with 4 hours on the mainland before my night bus? Immediately after my arrival to the mainland I headed to the bus station to buy my night ticket for KL. It was there that I met Lynn, a very nice Malaysian woman who informed me of some public showers and that is when the idea popped in my head. I will make use of some time and do a bit of a jog around town and shower after. I will wear myself out so I can be lazy and try to sleep on the new double decker bus into KL. I changed my clothes in her office, left my belongings there locked up as she took a 2 hour break and off I went. First up, some internet access next door. My how things just fall into place. It is there that I realized the first season of Survivor was filmed on a small island off of the Borneo side of Malaysia. Wow! I just made a rough plan. I came into Malaysia super blind and didn’t really know what this girl was to do. I did quite a bit of bus travel already and I was over that entirely. It was time to find a few areas of interest and the rest would fall into place.
Here goes, I will go to KL then head to Kuching on the Borneo side where I will stay at this Hilton Longhouse for a bit, then up to Kota Kinabalu to hike and to Pulau Tiga to check out where Survivor all began. I was tickled pink that I figured this all out and I was now ready for a run around town. As I may have written in the past, locals find it very humorous as one tries to exercise. No gym makes up for an interesting work out but fun and sightseeing none the less. After my 45 minute jog I landed myself by the water for some concrete block lifting and some cardio kicks. That always gets the locals in a laughing state. Someone told me this is a ghetto version of a work out but whatever gets your heart pumping and sweat falling is good by me. I say it’s better than doing nothing at all.
This girl was a bit hungry and now had 30 minutes to wait for Lynn to get back to the office where I could gather my things for a much needed shower. You really can’t beat it when the cost of the toilet is roughly 50 cents American and the shower is just $1. Score! I will say it was one of the best showers in ages too. I took my time and it was back to the bus station to await this night journey into the city. Lynn and I were chatting and she even had me try some local drink, non alcoholic of course. I love how they use baggies for so many things. Yes, they just stick a straw on the top of the bag with a rubber band and you drink from there. It makes for an interesting way to eat soup though I will say that.
Productive evening on my part and it is time to catch this night bus. I was floored at the cleanliness and new car smell of it all. I was on the bottom with just a few others and many empty seats. Little did I know how darn cold the air con would make and that this would actually be one of the most uncomfortable night bus rides to date. Guess there comes the old saying where what you see is not always what you get. In writing this now I am getting cold chills running down my spine as I remember that oh so cold feeling that I endured for a good 10 hours. Forget my seat, I managed to find 3 blankets (thinner than the average sheet really) to create a dog-like bed on the floor in front of a set of unoccupied seats. Where is a “snuggie” when you need one is what I thought. Just as I would fall asleep in the most strange position, the bus would stop for a break. It was a restless night but we made it and just in time before my nose grew icicles. I may have lost feeling in my legs for a few minutes actually. It was so darn cold!!
It’s nearly 6am now and we have arrived at the bus station in Kuala Lumpur. I chatted with a family and another girl from Australia. The family had been going for over 4 months and it was the parents and their only child, their 12 year old daughter. What an experience to travel with your parents like a backpacker at that age, and it wasn’t her first. It brought back memories of myself on vacation with my family but for some reason I felt Disney World was far more exciting than life on the road at age 12 and I think that is quite normal for me to feel that way. I just can’t see mom, dad, Ryan, Troy and myself doing that without killing one another in the process. I am thankful for my Disney World experiences. Even the one that we took the camper down and had to park on a hill one night due to someone stealing our spot as we were enjoying the night parade with all the characters.
Okay, back on track. It’s early and lack of sleep beginning to creak in on us. Milly, the Australian girl, and myself hopped on the shuttle to get to KL Sentral and then over to Butik Bintang. Thanks to Alex from the World Café in the Perhentians and his ever so trusty email he gave me, all is good. I know of a central accommodation and Milly is headed that way as well. In the midst of our early morning conversations on the shuttles we ended up going too far twice to hit the correct stops but that was fine. Guest houses were usually not opened to check in for hours anyway. We had to laugh that we kept getting off the monorail and back on to head back in the other direction. Finally, we arrived at the Butik Bintang stop and set out to find her old accommodation to store her luggage and the Green Hut for me to find a room. Just when I thought all was easy, I was getting turned away left and right due to no vacancies. Milly left at this point as she was just passing time before her noon flight back to Melbourne. I longed for a bed to crash for a few hours but that wasn’t the case. Instead, I came across a lovely man at one of the guest houses where I could leave my things until a room opened. What to do with the next 4 hours of my time, right? Stay tuned.
The dish is out