2/25/11 - 3/6/11
After Penang, I was ready for a relief from the hustle and bustle of city life. Unfortunately, the beautiful beach I desired was on the other side of the country, and until Malaysia introduces financially viable teleportation into their public transit, a journey like this involves a sleeper bus.
The trip would begin with a 9 hour overnight bus from the west coast of Malaysia to the east coast. Memo to Asian bus companies: The people on the bus don't want you to blast crappy pop music at 1 a.m while we're trying to sleep. Nor do we want a Stephen Seagal movie pumping through the speakers. During the day, hell yeah, hit me with some all-american Seagal action. But when the bus is labeled a sleeper bus, Mr. Seagal's affinity for martial arts and weaponry can make him quite the bugaboo.
We would finally arrive in Kota Bahru, where we needed to wait 2 hours for our bus to the shore. We played a game here we lovingly called "How many taxi drivers will lie about when the bus will come to get us to take their overpriced taxi service." The exchanges would usually go like this:
"Hello friend, where you go??"
"We are catching the bus to Koala Besut"
"Oh no, that bus not come till 6 o clock. You come with me now. Great price."
"No thanks, we'll wait for the bus" (Side note, a sign with big bold letters right on the wall stated, in english, that our bus was coming at 8 am, about 45 minutes)
"It is Holiday today, bus not running till tomorrow. Come. Come now." ( literally had just said 6 o clock in his last remark)
This exchange, or one similar, took place about 37 times in the 2 hours. Often, it would even be the same person trying a different sales pitch.
We would finally catch our bus, then we would catch a boat to the island. As we approached the Island, the decision to make the journey across the country was immediately validated.
A standard day would be wake up, eat, snorkle, lie on the beach, eat, nap, eat, beach bar. Some days we would be energetic, and walk to some of the other beaches on the island. Being male, I would also need to go on some kind of foolhardy adventure.
Four of us decided we would attempt to pilot two moderately seaworthy canoes around the island. We were told the trial would take about 6 hours. Don't kid yourself into thinking I'm in shape for this.
In one canoe, two german fellows that I met on the bus to the shore. Joining me would be Tom, a British fellow who I met in the Cameron Highlands and randomly ran into on the island. It was a pretty standard run-in. I saw a guy walking a monkey on a leash. It was Tom.
We would set off around noon, guns blazing. Tom and I flew out of the gate, shouting random German phrases at the opposition. "Schnell! Schnell!" Between the German shouting, and my rousing renditions of both the National Anthem and "God Bless the USA," Tom and I would mutter expletives to ourselves in regards to how difficult the paddling was becoming. About 30 minutes in we would take a break at Petini beach. We were tired, they had hammocks. It was inevitable.
Refreshed, we would forge on, our eyes fixed squarely on the proverbial prize.
The sea was angry that day my friends, and Mother Nature would see to it that on this day she would not be conquered. With about 75% of the trip complete, the sea began to get very choppy. Battling the winds and the sea would prove to be too much for the Germans, as they began to sink. As the waves crashed into the rocks on the shore, Tom and I put our Revolutionary War disdains on hold, and worked together to save the adrift Germans. Luckily, a powerboat rode by, and relieved Tom and I of our canoe saving duties. With the Germans out of the equation, and the surf building, Tom and I retreated back the way we came, knowing that calm waters awaited us on that side of the island. Nature had won this round.
In the following days we would put our battle against the sea on hold, and focus more on regaining our strength through a strict regiment of fresh grilled fish, napping, and a mediocre but charming booze affectionately dubbed Monkey Juice. Like fisherman describing the one that got away, the grandeur of our adventure would grow with each telling.
The Team. Me, Sophie, Karen, Thomas (German #1), Tom, Andreas (German #2)
In what seems to be a common theme this trip, my projected 4-5 night trip turned into nine nights. As the days and nights slipped away, I could see why so many of the locals were imports from other parts of the world. They were stranded by beauty, marooned in paradise.
Lounging away my days on the beach would be oh so easy, but the trip must go on. Time to replace the sand with concrete, shade myself with skyscrapers rather than palm trees, and sacrifice the sunsets for rousing nightlife. Fasten your seatbelts, next stop, Bangkok.