Spent a night in the small town of Kota Bharu, went to the night market for dinner and had been tipped off by the guesthouse owner to try the bar-be-qued chicken...we did and it was delicious! In the morning it was off to Kuala besut to catch the boat to the perhentian islands. The boat only took 30 mins but it was like a rollercoaster ride! there were only 4 of us on the boat so it was really light and practically flew across the water! Transferred onto a tiny boat to get dropped on the beach....we had to reverse in because the waves were so big and narrowly avoided getting a soaking! I headed down to moshin chalets as i had heard they had a cheap dorm but when i saw it it wasnt that appealing. was heading to look around another guesthouse when i bumped into 3 girls, two from the uk..both called laura and anett from norway. they had walked up and down the beach and looked in every guesthouse and said moshin was the best so decided to share a room with anett. after we had settled in we headed down to the beach and the clear warm water...it was so amazingly clear!!!!
Had a couple of days relaxing and one day we took a snorkelling trip around the island. We saw black tip sharks, so many tropical fish, colourful coral and my favourite- green turtles. They are so graceful to watch as they swim up to the surface to breathe and dive back to the bottom to feast on the seagrasses. it was amazing to see them in the wild, and there were quite a lot of them, quietly wandering around the seabed! such a privilege to swim with them.
did lots of reading, swimming, eating (great fish bar-be-ques on the beach!). there was one bar on the beach and they set up a big bonfire every night that every sat around with some people doing fire juggling and eating! its such a relaxed place, and the moon was full so the nights were so light!
i'd had such a good time on the first snorkelling trip i went on another one! we went to the same places as before but this time there were lots of baby turtles, only days old. The eggs are collected from the beach and hatched away from the water. when they are small their shells are very soft and they have a little hole in their bellies which attracts predators so they have to wait till that closes up before they are released into the sea, it gives them a much higher survival rate. we were allowed to pick them up and hold them, they were so tiny but feisty at the same time, they were raring to go!!! we also stopped at a coral with so many fish you could barely see the water!! as soon as we got into the water we were surrounded by hundreds of fish!!! it didnt help that the snorkelling guide was chucking bits of bread at my head (these fish loved to eat bread) so it was turning into a feeding frenzy, i felt like i was in a piranha tank! there were also lots of jellyfish at this stop which i wasnt too keen on!!
We kept changing our bus tickets so we could stay one more day, then another but we (anett and i) eventually dragged ourselves away and caught the bus to the Cameron Highlands, 5000ft above sea level it is the highest point in mainland Malaysia. the cool climate is ideal for growing strawberries, tea and lots of other vegetable crops.
We checked into fathers guesthouse and settled into the dorm which was in an old Nissan hut, felt like we were in army barracks!! I was so excited to get out my jumper, scarf and jacket...it was worth carrying them for 6 months just to wear them up here!! at the moment its the rainy season so its nice in the morning but at about 12.30 the rain starts and doesnt stop for the rest of the day.
we took a tour which took us up to gunung brinchang the highest peak in the area, 6,666ft, it was quite misty but we had a lovely view over the tea plantations. then we headed to the mossy forest...we were thinking a nice wander through the forest, on no, it turned into a muddy, scramble on all fours up and down and up and down a big steep muddy, mossy...did i mention muddy? forest! it was a bit of a surprise but we soon got into the spirit and were throwing ourselves around the tree roots and over the boot sucking mud.
next stop was the Sungai Palas tea plantation...the nice clean tea factory...and us looking like we had been dragged through a hedge backwards (well it was quite close to the truth actually!!)
the Boh plantations were founded in 1929 by scottish businessman J.A Russel, he visited the Cameron highlands and realised their tea growing potential. the company is still run by the same family and some of the tea bushes are nearly 100 years old and still producing tea. we did a tour of the factory and discovered the drying and rolling processes are still the same, still using some of the original machinery but the plucking process is now done using shears and machinery rather than plucking by hand.
we then visited a strawberry farm, had some strawberry ice cream!! then dont plant the strawberry plants in the ground here though, they are in raised grobags so not quite like being back in Tiptree. the strawberries are lovely though, nice and sweet. they even manage to grow 'self plucking' (aka, pick your own) strawberries here!!
spent the next few days exploring Tanah rata (the town we are staying in) and taking advantage of the jam and scones!!
had an indian meal one night...choosing the mildest curry possible, it was very nice...no plates though- we ate off banana leaves...think they were trying to save on the washing up!
heading to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, will be sad to leave the cold weather, even enjoyed the rain -when i've been inside, nice and warm rather than out in it!!
have put some pics on flickr...dont get too jealous over the perhentian ones!!!