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Friday, July 9, 2010

Perhentian Islands=Fantasy Island



Snorkeling today at 2 different spots. The entire sea floor of the inlet our beach is on was once coral. It must have been unbelievably beautiful and alive. Most of it is dead now—tourist galore. However, the patches that are alive are incredible--deep, dark purple. There are tons of fish, much like Hawaii. What is different are the sea cucumbers everywhere and giant sea anemones in green and purple--full of clown fish. Also HUGE oyster/clam? shells the size of large sinks—100’s of years old. I’d love to bring one home but they weigh far too much plus it is illegal. Most thrilling was that on my very first evening stroll, I bent down to touch an odd looking shape in the water and a small (about foot long) stingray darted away from my finger.
This morning I was shocked to see 3 small (2 feet) black tipped reef sharks almost immediately on entering the water. They were unlike all the other fish—very timid and fast. And most disturbingly I spotted 3 stonefish amongst the stones beneath us and we were in very shallow water so it was very hard to make sure we didn’t accidentally brush up against them. I got out of the shallows fast. Thanks to Pippi and her obsession with our book (at home) about dangerous sea creatures, I am now an expert on knowing which creatures are poisonous. I can’t believe all of the stonefish just off shore! They are so deadly and so camouflaged. I had to point them out to Peter and he took a long time to spot them, as they look so much like the rock. It is their little toad like faces that alert me flowed by the spines on their backs.
The S. China Sea is bath water and calm. No currents taking me out to sea--relaxing and gorgeous when not in rocky shallows.
Also this morning, we hiked to the other side of the island through the jungle and saw 4 Monitor lizards sliding in and out of a swamp. The largest was over 8 feet in length and Peter thought it was a crocodile. They are shy creatures luckily, as their bite can be deadly because their mouths house horrid bacteria.
A wild, tropical adventure—right out of Tarzan and Jane.
The Perhentian Island Resort is rather posh and so quiet. The entire Island is quite. There is no village on the Island—just small Malay style hut resorts in pockets along the shore. We can walk all over the entire Island and visit other restaurants. There is neither alcohol nor TV on the Island—making it so quiet. Our hut is right on the beach. We walk into the sea and snorkel at two different reef areas. The sea is so calm and warm we can swim any time of the day.
We walk to a restaurant called “Mama’s” run by Mama—an old, chubby Malay woman with arthritis in her legs. She is wonderful—so efficient, clean and organized. Her food is amazing—the best Malay I have tasted. I ordered a plate of cooked veggies last night and they were delicious. Not soaked in oil at all! Peter and I split a banana split and it was very tasty. She understands English quite well—all her workers and young men and she translates our order to them. It is an outdoor restaurant like everywhere on the Island. The only indoor buildings are the sleeping chalets—all on the beach. Everything on the Perhentians is done on a small scale. Guests arrive by small speedboat right on the beach—we are the only resort with a jetty. It is very much fantasy Island--quiet and intimate. Monkeys live high in the trees around the beach but are shy and secretive. I saw one running along a roof with long, dried leaves in its paws—obviously it was in a hurry to finish some construction project it was working on.
Mama spotted us walking the beach with bags of laundry and approached us. “You have laundry? Come.” She weighted our laundry and determined it weighed 5 kgs. 8rr a kg. Mama does it all the old fashioned way –no machines and hangs it to dry. We walk over to pick it up this morning. One cannot help but love Mama. She runs her place with such authority. She works hard yet is very warm and friendly. The owners at Travellers Home recommended Mama’s for her amazing BBQ. Peter had some and it was good. We will head to Mama’s for supper every night. While walking the beach we witnessed an older French couple arriving by boat with heavy backpacks, one of the resort owners who we’d been chatting with on the beach (a Malay man with 3 adorable little kids in tow) announced they were a French couple who had been coming to his resort since 1991. He rushed down the beach with his family to great the French couple. It was wonderful to watch as they all greeted each other so warmly, like family returning and the French woman was delighted to see all the little kids again.
The Europeans are so much more private and cool in general. Especially the Dutch, German and French. The S. Europeans are more open. I really notice the difference in culture. As a N. American I seem to be the loud extrovert.

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