Island in the sun – Perhentian Kecil, Part 1: Long Beach

Written by Frank on August 10th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

Pasir Panjang was our first goal, it means simply “Long Beach” in Bahasa Malay. It is located on Perhentian Kecil, the smaller of the Perhentian islands in Malaysia. In order to get there, one has to travel to the ferryport of  Kuala Besut. From there you can take the speed boat. The jetty is on the bus route from Kota Bharu and the cheaper slow boats from Tok Bali left already for the day. Clouds approached at a frightening speed from the Malaysian mainland and we were eager to get to the islands quick. Twin outboards cared for speed, as we were fleeing the rain storm eastbound into the South China Sea. It was a very choppy ride, but the skipper handled his craft well and the twin 200 HP powered engines roared their deafening song.

We arrived at Long Beach after a 40 minute speed-run, here the “ferry” dumps passengers into smaller boats, called taxiboats. These completed the journey on the water for 2 RM (Malaysian Ringgit) per person. The ferry boat sped off to drop other guests at various locations. The ferry deal here is, you get taken to your resort or beach by them.

Having been here before various times, we chose Long Beach as our first destination. Cheaper accommodations by the score were here in abundance and much less expensive, than on the big island Perhentian Besil.

I had the task to sit and relax at a beach side restaurant, watching supplies being brought in by boat to this island, which is completely free of motor traffic other than the engines on the boats. Melona and her sister were scouting around for possible accommodations, all I had to do is watch the luggage. A recent brain stroke had left my right half paralyzed temporarily and moving around with a tripod cane was surely no fun in the fine sand. We had booked the flight south prior to my mishap and I saw it as a part of my rehabilitation to go anyhow.

Chalets and bungalows are plentiful here, but so are travelers occupying them. Ranges start from 35 RM per night, but they are very basic with hardly any amenities. Power for a small light may be available after dark for a couple of hours, thats it! The generators here feed the bars and restaurants, but not the simple huts. Trying to find an outlet to recharge camera batteries or the cell phone or laptop is quite a task on the Perhentians. The beach is the main traffic route here, no roads at all, very few walkways to the bungalows further away from the beach.

Every small hut rents out snorkel gear and offers snorkel trips as there are many reefs and snorkel spots plus diving sites surrounding the Perhentians. Charges for renting  snorkelgear are cheap, for 3 RM you end up with a mask and snorkel or fins. Tourism has picked up somewhat, but we are sure glad that the hordes haven’t discovered this yet. Things will change soon and the infrastructural improvements are either in the process of being built or in place already. Surprisingly, 3G coverage for cellphones on Long Beach is very good, as Malaysia is several years ahead of Thailand, bring your UMTS sticks for the laptop, internet cafes charge high fees.

Every boat is over equipped with engine power, a common sight in Malaysia. Divers come and go all day, going on dive trips to the reefs nearby. No Marine Park Charges here and no overpriced services in sight. At least for now as the Perhentians are still a backpackers paradise, much like Phuket was in the 70’s and Samui in the 80’s. Technically, their diving equipment here appears of a higher standard than in most Asian diving locations. I did participate in the past actively, but with the handicap it is impossible. My little niece did’t mind at all, as I was able to dedicate a lot of time to her now.

Sunbathing, swimming, ocean-kayaking, diving or snorkeling are the main things to do, the beach is very well kept at all times and the water quality is hard to match.

We’re at the center of the beach here, above picture faces southwest and below photo shows the eastern part of Long Beach.

There is only some natural small driftwood at the waters edge to be found, other than that everything appears to be very tidy and clean. Local gigolos watch the bikini-clad and occasional topless females eagerly. This is Malaysia and the strict muslim sharijah-law does not seem to be enforced at all.

Watersport is restricted to banana boat rides, absolutely no jetskis allowed here. Swimmers and snorklers like it that way too. Noise pollution is kept to a minimum here. Some areas are safe for non-swimmers in the ocean near the beach, they are marked and no boat traffic bothers the kids playing there. Great looking beach umbrellas made from natural materials can be found oin the center of the beach. The colored variety is in some places available, but most visitors come here for a tan. Nobody really misses the masses of beach umbrellas and sun loungers, as rented out by the beach mafias on Phukets beaches. 2 RM per day sounds alright to me for the folks here per day of usage.

From here, one can see the bigger Perhentian Besil island. It looks like one could amost swim there, but it is at least 2 km away. Note the perfect clear water!

Pattaya would dream about this.

Taxi boats are an expensive way to travel here. But at least it is somewhat reasonable, if compared to island-tuktuks elsewhere. A 10 RM ride to the other side of the island may let you see some fish or turtles. Prices are per person and it compares to roughly 10 Baht = 1 RM

The footpath to the other side was a free option, we walked it before and it took us 20 minutes or so. With all economical accommodation here gone or too close to techno beach bars for us, we decided to move to Coral Bay from the 2nd night on. My handicap was bothering me much, as all muscles in my right arm, leg and foot were on strike. It was a task and I wanted to take it, we had plenty of time. The first couple of hundred meters were easy, I just took the tripod cane and dragged the leg in the soft sand. But then I faced this challenge:

The footpath was overgrown with roots, which made me trip twice probably every meter! This was then open season on me for all the mosquitos this interior jungle features, but despite quite a number of falls, I made it after several hour of ordeal. That was a typical case of over estimating my own abilities. Thanks to Melona, my sis-in-law and a lot of insect repellent. I felt good that it was accomplished, but no marker will tell the tale of a stupid dude, that came half paralyzed to a place like this and conquered the interior hill on the rough footpath from beach to beach.

Despite all hassles, we never regretted to have ventured here again. When Coral Bay did spread out in front of us, all was forgotten quickly an we were looking forward to almost a week long vacation on this paradise-like island. This part one deals with Long Beach (and my long walk), part two will show you the place and pleasures on the beaches of Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil.


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