The Perhentian Islands (Pulau Perhentian) consist of a larger (Besar) and smaller (Kecil) island. The smaller is more populated, it is the site of the Perhentian Village where many of the locals live and also is the island where most of the backpacking crew prefer – especially Long Beach which is about the only place you can find a beach party.

Quiet life

We stayed on Perhentian Besar since Jane and I were looking for a quiet escape from work rather than a miniature Full Moon Party. We chose Tuna Bay Resort, one of the only ones which seemed to have decent service when I tried calling numerous operations from England. Most of them asked me for an email address to sound all hi-tech and then didn’t bother emailing me. Others such as the highly rated (but Aussie run) Petani Beach resort were full for months ahead of our 1-week ahead last minute trip.

Unspoilt beauty, not really

On arrival it struck me that this is not really what I would call unspoilt beauty, not when I compare it to the South Seas. It is however exceedingly beautiful and offers a good level of comfort to pamper Western needs – all for a premium of Ringits though. These islands are not cheap at all, a beer is £2, fish is “market price” which should read as “white man saw you coming price”.

Tuna Bay seems very popular with The Dutch, couples and families came in their droves and kept the bar and beach beds lively round the clock. Although Tuna is in a prime location on the main beach of Besar, if you take a walk left out of the resort (heading north) to the tip of the island at Shark Point, there is a much nicer beach which you can usually have to yourself. The sunsets here are the best and there is a charming cafe which serves good Tom Yam noodles.

It is also possible to buy a camping permit (10RM/night; £2) and there are washing facilities provided – just no aircon and fan! It would be an incredibly beautiful place to camp. Shark point is so-called due to the abundance of black tipped reef shark in the turquoise ocean. We also saw huge stingray by the rocks.

Kota Bharu

Right now we are in Kota Bharu, Jane describes it as the Derby of Malaysia meaning it’s an average-Joe town. Not offensive, not impressive. Actually, Jane finds the number of rats on the streets and open festering sewers quite offensive, I quite like it.

It’s a real developing world town, people can be watched going about their funny business all day. Selling plantains on the market, ferrying water around in dirty plastic containers on a Honda moped with DIY sidecar. I like it, but only for a day or so.

Next step, the much hyped Penang. That is, via KL – the transport is dreadful in this country, nowhere is interlinked apart from by bad roads.