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The Perhentian Islands

Finally, kids to play with!

semi-overcast 35 °C
View Get Out The Map on The Rymans's travel map.

Well, after many weeks of complaining about the sewers, bathrooms, bus rides and bad hotels, I’ve got nothing but glowing (and therefore probably boring!) reviews about our week here in the Perhentian islands.

The Perhentians are two tiny islands off the northeast coast of Malaysia. Their names are Kecil and Besar, but they’re better known locally as Small Island and Big Island, respectively. Small Island has a reputation for being a busier, somewhat scruffier backpacker haven with more lively night life and cheaper beach huts, so we’ve ensconced ourselves on Big Island. According to our guide book, “the older generation” heads here. At first we were not really sure what generation we should consider ourselves to belong to, or what the guidebook meant by “older,” but as it turns out there are a number of families with kids of all ages here, so it seems to have been a good choice.

We left our hotel booking a bit late, so had no choice but to stay in a higher end place (so sad!) somewhat out of our budget for the first two nights. That coincided with Mark’s 40th birthday, though, so it worked out well. But we started scouting around immediately for somewhere else to move to, since we intended to settle ourselves here for a good 8-9 days. From the afternoon of our arrival, it was clear that the place to be was a spot named Abdul’s, about four places down from our place, Cozy Chalets. Abdul’s has the best beachfront, cute little huts right on the sand for as little as $20, coconut trees perfect for stringing up hammocks, and a family-run restaurant that serves the best fresh lime juice I’ve ever tasted and which turns a TV on early every morning for the kids. On top of all that, there were already two families staying there with boys Ciaran’s age. Unfortunately….we tried everything to get ourselves a spot there, but it was (and still is) fully booked for the rest of the week.

Regardless, Ciaran lost no time whatsoever making friends with the boys who were staying there. We hadn’t even been on the island two hours when he spotted Sam, a 7-year-old from Australia who was kicking a soccer ball around. Sam had already met Finn, another Australian boy who was 9 and staying in the next hut. It seemed to take no time at all for the three of them to turn into a little roving posse of the sort Ciaran loves to be a part of at home. An hour after the first soccer game began, Ciaran was asking if he could run back to our room to get his Pokemon cards for trading. Chloe accompanied him while I waited on the beach, and the next thing I knew, both kids were sitting in Finn’s parents room engaged in a giant Pokemon trading session (which, sure enough, devolved into a wrestling session and ended with the boys jumping all over both beds and getting sand all over everyone’s sheets).

Of course the next morning the first thing Ciaran wanted to do was go back to Abdul’s to see what his new pals were up to, so once again we spent the day hanging out there. By the end of the afternoon, Ciaran had invited both Sam and Finn’s families out for dinner with us.

Yesterday we went back for yet one more full day in front of Abdul’s, but we had also found a new place to stay quite a bit further down the island at a place called The Reef Resort, only accessible by water taxi or a 15-minute scramble through the jungle, so I think we’ll be seeing a bit less of our new friends. Sam and his family are leaving this morning anyway; maybe we’ll make one more trek over to Abdul’s this afternoon before Finn and company leave on Saturday.

The new place, while not convenient to the scene in front of Abdul’s, is actually quite spectacular in its own way. We lucked into a two-bedroom bungalow with spacious rooms, A/C, hot water, a ceiling fan, a large tiled deck out front and a really pretty sea view. We’re about 20 feet from the water’s edge, and through the front window my view is of bamboo curtains, palm fronds and ocean. The water directly in front of us is a bit shallow for swimming, but five minutes away there is a huge sweep of white sand with waves rolling in, perfect for body surfing and playing.

Really the only eventful thing here so far has been the weather. We seem to get an impressive thunderstorm every afternoon. I’m not sure if that’s the norm for here, or if it’s because monsoon season is approaching; apparently these islands close down completely for the monsoon season between late October and March. Yesterday’s storm was the most dramatic we’ve seen so far, and we wondered if we were getting the side effects of Typhoon Ketsana. A massive tree at our resort actually broke in half about 25 feet up, and the chunk that broke off crashed through a nearby bungalow, coming right down into the bathroom. Two cabins were similarly wrecked by fallen trees two resorts down from us, and many places all over the island have been busy repairing roof tiles and sweeping up debris. These crashing trees are a bit worrying given that the forecast is for thunderstorms every afternoon for the next week, but I’m guessing the odds are in our favour—what are the chances of a second tree coming down in the very same resort? I guess we’ll see…So far, we’ve been lucky, dodging an earthquake in Bali, a tsunami warning for Malaysia and then the worst of this typhoon.

I had a funny experience with coffee the other morning. There’s no restaurant at our bunch of bungalows, so I walked to the next guesthouse down and asked for two coffees “to take away.” I waited patiently, imagining myself sipping my hot, strong Malaysian coffee from the deck of my bungalow while the waves lapped the beach. Then the waitress waved me over and and handed me….a plastic bag containing two other plastic bags of coffees, tied up with elastics, and two straws. Hot coffee in a plastic sip-sac with straws! What a just plain BAD idea. I couldn’t believe it. I guess I’ll be taking my coffee at the restaurant in person from now on.

Posted by The Rymans 21:39 Archived in Malaysia Tagged family_travel

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Great to hear from you guys. I was scanning my map at work on Friday to try to guesstimate if the Perhentian Islands were safely distant from Padang. Glad all is well and the kids are having fun with new friends. Happy belated birthday Mark!

by Rosie

Sounds like you are having a relaxing time on the Big Island. Glad to hear you are safe and sound:)

Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure:)


by Natalie Ramsden

We're enjoying your travels vicariously. Keep up the great updates! Happy Birthday to the "Old Man".
We missed Chloe at Zoe's birthday today!
Take care

by Todd

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