Monday, July 23, 2007

The not-so-glamorous life of a budget traveller

Since we last wrote, it's been raining, and we've been travelling through lots of small and unimpressive towns along the East coast of Malaysia. We had hoped to find some windsurfing for Dan, he asked around about it, and was directed to talk to"a long haired man"on the beach. We eventually tracked him down only to find out that he had lent his kit to his mate, and that had been the only board in the whole town (not quite the windsurfing mecca made out in the Lonely Planet)! The other option involved lots of buses to nearby villages in the hope of finding some other man who might have bought some equipment in the mid 80's. In the end we decided not to bother.

Also, we had two 7cm (3 inch) long cockroaches in our bathroom the other day. Having had them in our room made me all jumpy for ages, they were so disgusting! Dan did everything he could to block their entry holes (by trying to fix the gaps around the bathroom sink with toilet paper- the places here are all full of insect-sized holes), but it didn't work. They were just too attracted to us, they found away in again. Dan was very brave (he's dictating this next to me) and caught them both and finally got rid of them both outside. Oooh, he's so courageous!

So we haven't really done very much, we've mainly been staying in some very grotty hotel rooms in various towns along the way. Some of the highlights apart from the quest for windsurfing kit include waking up to 5am call to prayer (accompanied by local dogs who decided to join in), and taking a ferry out of Kuala Terengganu to see this "traditional boat carving" that our Lonely Planet thought was a must see (when we finally got there, the bemused men allowed us to stay and watch them do some hammering - they didn't seem to think it was very exciting, and it wasn't!). We weren't sure Lonely Planet had actually gone there.

We are still having a nice time, and eating lots of nice food. Now we've made our way to Mersing, and we're off to Pulau Tioman-island tomorrow, where you can get duty free beer. Let's hope it's stopped raining by the time we get there!

Lots of love, we'll write again soon and maybe even put some new photos up.
Jenni and Dan

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's been a long time!

Hi it's Jenni! It's been so long since the last time we wrote I don't know where to start! After leaving Penang where we wrote the last blog, we've been to Kota Bahru, and some lovely islands off the east coast (Pulau Perentians and Pulau Lang Tengah), and to some pretty odd little places in between.

Kota Bharu was a very traditional Islamic place, with some cool cultural displays, we'll put some photos up once we find a computer that knows what a "camera" is... A reoccurring problem... Basically we saw some top spinning, traditional martial arts, and drumming. Sounds a bit dull, but it was really good to see! The performers were both young people as well as oldies, and it was all free to go and see, and there was loads of locals hanging about and enjoying it too, which gave it all a good feel - it didn't feel like it was put on especially for tourists, which was brilliant!

After all that culture we headed down the East coast of Malaysia to the Perenthian Islands. We went to the small one (Kecil). It had really beautiful white beaches and gorgeous turquoise water with some really good snorkeling, but we felt it was starting to get a bit overcrowded, and there's a lot of development happening (= noisy building work). That said, we did stay for 10 days and had a really great time... We had a brilliant snorkeling trip where we saw a few turtles and a couple of sharks, how cool is that! They have them living just off the coasts, so the boat just drops you in the water and off you go in search of them. We stayed at Panorama Chalets (in case any of you are going) which showed a film every night at their restaurant - pure luxury for us TV deprived folk!

After we decided we had to pull ourselves out of the island (on our way to the next island of course), we ended up spending a night in a town called Merang. We caught a local bus there, and to catch it we were told to stand near this bridge, and there would be a bus at 2 o'clock or after 2. Sure enough, it was after 2, but we only waited for 45 minutes, which was really very good for us. We then got dropped off at our destination, Merang. We thought we had arrived at just a junction near the town itself (this was a proper place on the map) and started started walking with our backpacks in hope of finding somewhere to stay. It finally turned out that the junction had been the town. That was ok, but the problem we had was that there wasn't really anywhere to get a meal. We were given instructions to walk out of the "village" and past the school, and eventually we did find a place that served us a meal - the only problem came with ordering, so we ordered whatever limited food related words we could read out of our guide book. Smooth travellers, that's us.

So the next morning we were off to our next island, Pulau Lang Tengah. This is a truly minuscule island, where the only way to get to was to book a very expensive 2 night full board package holiday. We discovered that we were the only western people there, which definitely gave the place a different feel to the previous touristy island we had been to. Our whole time was time tabled, so we had scheduled times for introduction speech, lunch, snorkeling trips, tea&cake break, evening meal, and our absolute favourite, "free and easy". This was because Malays love to have their time planned for them so they don't have to make decisions about what to do and when, the peak of which was that we were told when we could have time off, and go to the beach etc. Brilliant! Other hilarious things were the evening entertainment (karaoke, which is a national love of the Malaysians), and the breakfasts, which saw me and Dan in front of buffets full of things we really could not name, or eat for that matter! It was all full of fun in Lang Tengah though, and we really enjoyed our first time-tabled activities since god knows when.

The snorkeling on the island was about the best thing that has happened to us in Malaysia so far. Because the island is quite expensive and hard to get to (you have to be on a package holiday to get there) and therefore doesn't get huge crowds of visitors, the marine life is unspoilt and just spectacular. We stayed in this beautiful bay with powder soft white sand, no rubbish anywhere, crystal clear water, and we snorkeled just off the beach to these fantastic coral reefs, which had black tip reef sharks (they breed there, so we had shark babies feeding in the shallow waters just off the beach!), turtles, puffer fish, white eyed moray eels, giant clams etc etc etc. It was so beautiful and felt so special to be there, it was a shame we could only afford to be there for 2 days. If you want to go, we stayed in a great resort called Redang Lang Beach Resort, and really recommend it. Just a bit more about the baby sharks, there was these big schools of anchovies fishes swimming just off the beach, and when we came back from one of our snorkel trips around the bay we just noticed these about half a metre long sharks swimming around us and under our bodies in water about 30cm deep! I guess they were too young to know they're meant to be afraid of humans. That's something we'll never forget, they were so beautiful.

We're in a town called Kuala Terengghanu at the moment, because we had to get to a town big enough to see a pharmacist. You see I've had this really ugly thing happen to me where these blisters have started to appear first on my arms, then all over my back and chest, then down my tummy, and now both my legs are covered in blisters as well (sorry if that's a bit grose). They're not sore, but a bit annoying and itchy, plus I worry about losing all my skin and being left with scars all over my body! The pharmacist gave me some antihistamine, so cross your fingers for me it works! Also, Dan's got an ear infection from all our time in the water, but we'll both soon be on the mend ;)

We're off to a place called Cherating next, Dan thinks there might be some windsurfing there, and he's been getting so excited, bless him! I've even promised him that if it's good conditions (= sunny and warm) and not too windy (= scary) I'll get a windsurfing lesson or two. I'm just scared that it'll start him again on planning the family windsurfing board he wants to buy in the future so our whole family can use the same board...

We'll keep you posted!

Lots of love to all, and thank you for the comments!!!
Jenni & Dan