A Travellerspoint blog

April 2013

I ve got no idea what's going on...have you?

Shadow puppets in Ubud

Since we began planning our trip (which seems such a long time ago now) I was keen to see a shadow puppet show. As well as being genuinely intrigued by this form of art & culture I think this was partly prompted and sustained by the image on the front of one of our guide books that was our solid companion for many months.

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Now somehow despite travelling in SE Asia for 6 months we had managed to miss every shadow puppet show along the way! I remember being a bit over dramatic and saying to Dan "it was the ONE thing I wanted to do and I ve missed it!" Obviously there were more reasons for our trip than seeing a puppet show but sometimes you lose perspective...maybe due to the heat!

So you can imagine how excited I got when I saw a shadow puppet show advertised in Ubud! We weren't going to miss it this time!

A balinese shadow puppet show is also known as Wayangand this one was being held at Oka Kartini just down the road from the yoga studio and we were able to stroll there after our evening Yin class in time for the performance to begin. We got our ticket outside, I think it was around 70,000 rp which is just under a fiver, and were each given a sheet of paper with the story of that nights show.

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A boy in traditional dress led us to a room around the back where we joined about 9 other tourists sitting on plastic chairs staring as if hypnotised at a flame flickering behind a rice paper screen and waited for the magic to begin.

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We seemed to stay like this for ages, just watching the flame and waiting and finally the music started and the lights went down. We eagerly stared at the screen and nothing happened. The band, puppet master and his assistants were sitting behind the screen playing the music and still setting up all their equipment and we were a bit bemused why this had not been done earlier when they had been sitting around chatting. Now the music was not exactly relaxing and although it was good to hear the traditional instruments when combined with the flickering light got a bit much.

Eventually a man came to the front to introduced the show and the characters so we would recognise them, but as the music played on with clanging cymbals and drums think I missed some of the key descriptions but it was great to finally see the shadow puppets.

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The intricacy of the designs is incredible and they must take a lot of time, patience and concentration to make. Not only do the limbs move on some but also the mouths when they were talking. There is just one main puppet master, known as dalang who performs the show, orchestrating the puppets as well as doing the voices, which is quite impressive when you think sometimes there are several characters on the screen. He is normally a well respected person in the community considered an educator of others by sharing the stories and culture through shadow puppets.

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Now despite the introduction of the characters and having read our story sheet we were lost within minutes of the show beginning as it was performed in Balinese but it was still interesting to watch and every now and then when the comedic characters came on they chucked in some mocking English of interactions with tourists "do you need transport?" which got a few laughs from the 'crowd'.

Now we do have some videos to add but the Internet is so slow where we are that we can't upload them, must remember to update this entry when we have better connection!

It wasn't long though before the already restless audience started to lose interest and gradually half walked out! Now I think this was really rude and even though I found parts of the performance a bit hard to sit through as I had no idea what was going on and it went a bit crazy, I still had to stay
Out of respect for the performers. There were so few of us to start with would have been awful for them to finish to just one persons applause!

Not sure I would go and see another one though!

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 22:19 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Namaste

Learning Yoga in Ubud, Bali

30 °C

Learning yoga was something we had toyed with when thinking about things we could do when we were away and having met Ines on the Kinabatangen river trip and getting a recommendation from her it definitely inspired us to head straight to Ubud and aim to become fully fledged yogi's. Ubud itself is seen as some what of a spiritual home for yoga and many people flock to the area to soak it up before sweating it out on the yoga mat. As we went with Radiantly Alive based on a recommendation I can't tell you what other places are like but we really enjoyed the service and the quality of teaching when we where there. The location was very close to our homestay so we could be there for the morning Vinyasa's in no time. Turning up at the studios I felt like it was going to a good place to be as nearby there was a health food shop and restaurant and coconuts were being sold in abundance. The entrance was very welcoming and we signed up for their introductory week price of 370,000 Rupiah which is £25, a real bargain considering you could go to unlimited classes for a week and when comparing to home, especially London, you wouldn't get one class for £25!!

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Each time you went to a class you were given a stone with Chinese writing. Nice touch!

Our timing was out of sync with the beginning of the week and so on the Thursday we decided to ease ourselves in with an introduction to a different form of yoga which I wasn't aware of called Yin. Our teacher was Sarah who was from America and by the end of the week both Sarah and I enjoyed her classes over some of the others. I think it was because she explained things very well and although she was more invested into the spiritual side of yoga than perhaps we were she still was able to simplify things so that you could relax your mind and enjoy the poses. We were "exactly where you are supposed to be in this moment, there is no judgement, just be open to your own awareness".

Yin is described as the opposite to the main yoga styles which emphasise dynamic muscle movement. Its purpose is to target the connective tissues within the body, providing a deeper stretch through holding the poses up to 10 minutes in length. It meant that we had a more relaxing type of yoga which perhaps was a good thing because we were not fully accustomed to the poses and by limbering up a bit with a Yin I think it helped get our muscles more aware of what was to come and also allowed us to focus on our breathing too. Holding some of the poses for so long was quite challenging but you felt good afterwards.

After that lesson in the morning we started what would be our daily ritual of walking back to home stay, finding food and then waiting for the afternoon lesson. For the first day our afternoon lesson was 'flying yoga', which we had decided to attend after Sarah had offered it out to all of us who attended Yin. It turned out to be really fun and quite unusual. The idea behind this class is working together as a group to position people in poses they may or may not be able to do. The lesson started out with everybody introducing themselves and telling the group what animal they would like to be and why, there were some interesting answers like a dragonfly and snow leopard and then we did some breathing excerices before all trying to work together to stand up in a circle at the same time whilst holding hands. Its harder than you think! Then we walked around the room, stopping once someone else stopped and looking straight into the eyes of the person nearest to you in silence until we were told to move again, it was hard for all of us to keep straight faces doing this. All these activities were helping us to break the ice and get to know each other before tackling the poses.

One of the first poses we did was in pairs and it was essentially a back stretch that one person gave to the other. Sarah was paired with a big fella and she managed to lift him off the ground! You stand back to back and positon your back with your partners bum so that they can arch their back over yours as you bend over. Sarah was chuffed that she was able to lift this guy who was easily twice the size. We then were shown how to get someone in a flying position, then the seated postion as well as the headstand, all of which are performed in pairs with a third person as a spot in case of any topples. You really had to work as a group and put your complete trust in the people you were flying with that they would hold you. It was all fun and challenging, especially lifting someone off the ground so that they can sit in a chair position with their bum on the soles of your feet and the soles of their feet on your hands and you fully extend your legs and arms. Try to imagine it....we couldn't exactly photo it during.

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Here's an example of the flying position. A good back stretcher.

The next day we knew we had to get involved with the more rigorous type of yoga that is Vinyasa. The lesson we chose, mainly due to not getting up earlier for the first one was with a lady called Noga. I had a little chuckle to myself because I thought that her name was very typical of a yoga person and the sketch from Friends (where else) when Ross and Rachel are choosing baby names and Rachel suggests the name Rain and Ross vito's it due to it being one of those names that you think they have to be in to spiritual things and eating raw food. Noga is a very friendly and knowledgable women who credit to her was doing all the yoga positions whilst being heavily pregnant! Very impressive! This lesson was certainly the hardest one we had attempted and after the hour session we were pretty spent, but eager to try it again to improve the poses. I think we both were in to it from that point.

In the afternoon we chose to try out Hatha. Hatha Yoga is commonly translated as the yoga that brings union "of the pairs of opposites." Flowing sequences are combined with poses that are held for longer periods to encourage both alignment awareness and freedom of movement. It gave us a chance to work a little more on the poses and work different parts of the body but it still was a challenge.

We ended the day with another Yin class to stretch out those over worked muscles. Sarah found some of these slower classes to be quite emotional and in one inexplicably was in tears whilst doing some of the moves. Apparently this can be normal particularly when working around the hip area which is where we store undealt with issues like grief and trauma, now she's not normally one to buy into that kind of stuff but given all the problems Sarah has had with her hips maybe there is some truth to it given her reaction?

Our next lesson was with Nazareno, a Spanish guy who we both found quite funny only because the way he would count in Spanish when we were holding the poses Uno, Dos, Tres, quaaarrrrrtrrro etc. I think it really is a joke for Sarah and me but we enjoyed the enthusiasm he bought to the lessons!

The next two days followed the same pattern as we finally got ourselves to the Radiantly Alive Vinyasa's in the morning which were the larger classes and more challenging. We really got our money's worth in these lessons and I was amazed to find out just how much I could sweat!

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The last day of our introductory week we had arranged to visit a charity animal clinic which is part of BAWA with the intention of volunteering (more on this to come) so we had to miss the morning classes. Before we went to our afternoon classes we had the pleasure of meeting up with one of Sarah's friends from her Elephant conservation trip to Nambia. Manda, fortunately was travelling to Ubud with her new boss and was taking yoga classes at Radiantly Alive so we were able to have lunch with her at the nearby health food restaurant which Sarah was so pleased about especially as it had been almost 7 months since she last saw her. Manda had also been inspiration for Sarah to try out Yoga given that she would wake up to see Manda doing yoga in the desert most mornings so it was fitting for us to meet her here. She was really helpful when talking about her home country of Singapore and even offered to show us around a bit when we get there.

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Shovel buddies reunited!

After lunch we headed to RA and had our last Vinyasa with Noga which was really good as it was a small class and she helped us a lot individually with getting the poses right, and we finally managed to get a handle on The Crow.

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The last class we attended was called Restorative Yoga but should of been called 'For the Kid inside you', as we had to use Hanging belts to get into poses and literally hang like bats from the ceiling at times! I had great fun but Sarah couldn't join in as it put too much pressure on her hips. Maybe I should join cirque du soleil!

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All in all our first week in Ubud was well spent we thought and we had really found a new hobby that we both could get involved with together, and are now proud owners of our own yoga mats. We had done other things during that week which I will leave for Sarah to explain in the next blog, but it was nice to really slow things down and be part of something for a while. Staying in a Ubud really helps you get in the mind set of some the Yoga aspects and it was an easy decision to stay in Ubud for another week whilst volunteering as we really like it here.

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 03:29 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Beautiful Bali

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What a great first impression! Within minutes of landing at the airport we were fascinated by this new place which felt so different but was so welcoming it was like visiting a long lost friend.

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We had decided that we wanted to head straight to Ubud in central Bali as we had had plenty of beach time recently. Ines who we had met in Borneo had recommended a homestay in Ubud and we were met at the airport by the owner Wena who had come to pick us up. He was all beaming smiles and was wearing the traditional headdress and sarong as were most of the Balinese men we saw. Denpasar airport was really busy as most of the flights seemed to arrive at the same time, fortunately as we had our visa organised already we got through immigration quickly. We trotted after Wena who weaved in an out of the crowds with the ease of a slalom skier. Finding the car was a bit more tricky as they all looked the same, turns out ours had been parked in by another car, and the driver had kindly left the handbrake off so Wena could push it out of the way so we could get out of the parking spot. It was interesting to see that most of the cars had bamboo offerings tied to the front or hanging from the wing mirrors. They are also on the dashboard to help appease spirits for a safe journey.

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It took us about an hour and half to get to Ubud we passed through areas famous for stone carving, wood work and art which was interesting to see.

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Unbeknownst to us we had arrived in Bali at the climax of the Galungan celebrations. As we drove into ubud there were several times when we had to drive very slowly as the streets were full of children performing Barong Ngelawang which I believe is unique to Ubud area. This is where children go from house to house performing Barong dances in the street, collecting donations.

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The children use a Barong-barongan (toy Barong) whereas men will use the sacred Barong from the temple. This is similar to the Chinese dragon dancers we have seen with two people making up the front and the back, although not as energetic.

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Local businesses will invite Barong Ngelawang to perform outside their premises in the hope that this ritual will bring more customers in the future.

During this time every household puts up a really tall decorated bamboo pole called a Penjor outside their home. This is a symbol of victory against the evil spirit. The Penjor is decorated with food such as rice and vegtables as an offering and the top section is curved as if bowing to show respect.

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This is Goutama street where we would end up living for the next 2 weeks! Love walking down this road so much character.

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We were really pleased with our room at Wenas and the area around it was beautiful.

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And to top it off it came with one of these... Noki!

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Settled in we headed out to find Radiantly Alive, the yoga studio Ines had recommended. It was only 10 mins down the road and we took them up on their introductory offer of unlimited classes for a week for about £25! Bargain!

With that sorted we found a Warung (small restaurant) by the river and shared our first Balinese meal, Nasi Campur, which was delicious!

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Tomorrow we would find out how bendy we are!

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 02:26 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Back in KL

Somehow despite all the downtime we d had recently we still hadn't really planned what we were going to do in Indonesia. Where would we start, where would we go, and we needed to go there soon to make the most of our 60 day visa before popping to Singapore and ending up in Australia in June. To be fair this wasn't helped by the fact that when we arrived on Perhentian Kecil an owner of one of the bungalows I checked out told me that there was no Internet on the whole island as someone had stolen all the cable, so we relaxed easily without the constant draw to the Internet and outside world, only to discover the day before we left that the Internet was working on the otherside of the island!!

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Having decided that we needed to head back to KL to sort out what we were going to do next, this discovery of internet was a godsend as we were concerned about availability of accomodation as the Malaysian Grand Prix was happening that weekend when we would be there. Having stayed in Chow Kit last time we wanted to be a bit more central and found a good deal at Victory 2 hotel in Imbi area, walking distance from the hustle and bustle of Bukit Bintang.

Back in the city we jumped on the LRT to get to the Imbi area and on realising that we didn't know which way we would need to walk to get to the hotel we opted for a taxi...turns out he wasn't too clued up either, despite using his sat nav. After pulling over and asking a few people I suddenly spotted the hotel to my right as we were turning left! Thankfully I d seen a photo of the signage online otherwise I wouldn't have noticed it and we would probably still be going round in circles!

Now we learnt a long time ago to take trip advisor with a pinch of salt and this is another example where we had low expectations due to other people's comments and so were pleasantly surprised when our room was a decent size, nicely decorated, TV, aircon etc. Maybe we were lucky and got one of the better rooms, maybe we have stayed in some really basic places so anything that's clean is luxury, but seriously sometimes I am amazed at what people complain about! Also another bonus was that there was a dominoes pizza right opposite...

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...I mean it would've been rude not to!

Most of our time was spent researching what we wanted to do and what we could fit in with the time and budget we had left taking into consideration we would need some funds in the bank to set us up in Australia whilst we find work! Still can't believe that now that seems only around the corner rather than on the other side of the world!

Our initial plan was to try and fit in Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Lombok, Gilli Islands, Komodo & Flores in 2 months. Looking into it though we felt this would be rushing through rather than really seeing anywhere properly so we decided to cut it down a bit. We already knew that we wanted to go to Ubud in Bali to try yoga after a recommendation from Ines, diving was going to be another big factor but being expensive we needed to narrow down the dive sites, and we also felt we wanted to do some kind of volunteering a be part of a place for a while rather than just go from one landmark to the next.

So a rough plan soon developed start off in Bali for yoga, beach time and check out the liberty wreck dive site, go to Lombok & Gilli islands for some more diving and then continue heading east to Flores for some liveaboard diving in Komodo marine park and to also spot some Komodo dragons! We were struggling to find volunteer projects online that weren't going to cost hundreds of pounds to be part off which was really frustrating as we have the time to help but not the budget, we would just have to keep an eye out for things as we went along.

We decided it would be fun to find a bar to watch the Grand Prix and soak up some of the atmosphere. We had debated actually going to watch from the stands but tickets were more than we wanted to spend and its also located out of town by the airport and we d heard transport particularly getting back into town could be a bit of a nightmare.

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Unfortunately we got the timing a bit wrong and as we sat down to order a drink we heard "......has crossed the finish line and won the Malaysian Grand Prix..." Woops! To be fair there wasn't much of an atmosphere that we missed but I guess its not the same as watching a big football/rugby match.

We also needed to do some shopping and took advantage of the shopping malls with aircon. After 7 months traveling some of our clothes were a bit threadbare and also for me after being ill no longer fitted! If you wanna lose weight ladies just lug a backpack around for months on end, get several travel bugs and climb the odd mountain!

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The mall also sheltered us from the rain as it was tipping down. We had some of the largest thunderstorms I ve experienced whilst in KL and the thunder was so loud with the sound getting amplified bouncing off all the buildings. You could almost feel it going through you! It was almost guaranteed that by 4pm everyday the sky would turn dark and the heavens would open.

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When I found this it gave me a great idea that when we get married we both should change our name so we could be the 'Cool'bergs :)

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After our Grand Prix fail we had more luck finding a bar to watch the rugby, Harlequins vs Saracens. With Dan being a Harlequins fan, he took it quite seriously...

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Whilst watching the game Dan shouted out, "There's Jen" and there was her face on the TV. For those who don't know Jen she's a physio for Saracens and one of my dearest friends, so it was great to see her face on the TV and I paid more attention to the game after that. Jumping up and shouting "Jen" anytime the camera passed her, I think other people in the bar thought I was a bit mental.

With Easter just around the corner we started thinking about Easter Eggs and chocolate. Finding decent chocolate in Malaysia is a bit difficult and even when you do it has probably melted and reset so many times that it tastes yuk and you feel cheated. So you can imagine how excited we were when we found some cadburys creme eggs!! Yum yum!

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Thanks KL you made our day! I wonder what gems we ll find in Indonesia....

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 18:43 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

We found heaven!

Long Beach, Perhentian Island

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As we hopped off the boat to make our way onto the beach we were hit with a release of excitement as we really felt as if we had found a real gem. The water was crystal clear as the sun rose in the distance gleaming across the water and the white sand of the beach was as a good as any I had set foot upon. However we still had to find the right place to stay and so the air of excitement had to simmer as we walked the beach asking for prices. We started on the east side of Long Beach and found that it was a little too much and so continue west to the larger pocket of accommadation and restaurants. Realising that the sun was going to be stronger soon we collectively decided that one of us should stay with the bags and the other should look for a room. Lugging big bags and trying to be smart about your choice of room do not always go hand in hand. I graciously allowed Sarah to take on the task as she had been so good at it back in Luang Prabang. It gave me a opportunity to take a couple of photos to set the scene for our arrival. Who wouldn't mind this view at your breakfast table!

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To Sarah's credit she came up trumps as she found a cheap place that was off the beach and had a good view. The downside was that it was a few steps up the hillside which wasn't ideal when carrying bags in the heat but it made no matter after because it allowed us to have a break from the bars on the beach in the evening. After making it to our room and floping for a moment we regrouped and set off to the beach. By this time the sun was out in full and we really got to capture the quality of this area and the views we had.

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After taking in the sights and sounds we walked to find some breakfast happy as larry with our decision to head east and find some inspiration. To top off a great morning I found museli on the menu where we had breakfast, which in the grand scheme of things isn't a big deal. However when you only get to choose between egg and toast/rice/noodles/ for breakfast having a change is always welcome, plus it wasn't the crappy kind that has been on offer, it was like Alpen which I really enjoy.

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After that little joy you can pretty much guess what we did.......tan fest!!!

Buying a pitch with an umbrella from a local on the beach for £2 a day and then interspersing sunning with a dip in the crystal clear waters whilst reading our books (I'm currently on the third book of Game of thrones! Its ace!) was a perfect way to unwind.

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Later that day we decided that we should try out the bar that played movies which would end up being a recurring theme for us. Looking back on it now and remembered watching the film 'The Beach' and DiCaprio's character talks of seeing tourists going abroad but doing the same thing! And this was to a backdrop of people watching a film, and I thought its very true however when you travel for a long period you sometimes need just something easy like watching a film to pass the time. We hadn't really got into boozing whist travelling so this was a perfect solution for us while having dinner. So sod you Leo!

The film on the reels that night was The Rum Diaries with Johnny Depp which I was interested in because it was coming from the same Hunter S Thompson crazyness that was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It wasn't as good as fear and loathing but it sufficed. It was quite funny after the film because Sarah had ordered a pizza and realised she wasn't that hungry and these two young guys sitting next to us had been eyeing it up. It wasn't till Sarah realised and offered it that they eagerly took the plate and wolfed it down as if they hadn't eaten for months.!!

The next day was really did much of same as the day before with the additon of a bat and ball and trying to play in the shallows of the sea was fun. Our game was trying to get a high score of hitting the ball back and forth and we joked around quoting the Friends episode when they throw a ball all day. (Monica "no don't throw to him! He's a dropper!). We enjoyed the movie night so much that we went back to Panorama and watched America Pie: The Reunion and luckily the Monkey bar out front was putting on some live music after and we were treated to a Canadian girl who I think was just passing through and she teamed up with the barman who was a virtuoso bass player. They combined to play some cool covers and we watched them for an hour before heading back to our room. Another day well spent!

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Our third day we decided we should mix it up and so outside of sunbathing Perhentian islands offer snorkelling. There are plenty of makeshift businesses offering a trip and we decided on the short one mainly due to not being exposed to the sun all day. It was a good choice as we ending up meeting a friendly couple from Spain and two girls from UK who we later met up with for ... You guessed it... A movie night at Panarama! This time it was Hangover 2!!

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The snorkel trip was cool!

As we had seen Turtles up close and personal from diving seeing one little one in the 'Turtle bay' wasn't really exciting but fun enough. However, we did end up seeing one of these!!!

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Swimming around together Sarah and I broke off from the group and suddenly a reef shark appeared which I missed and I saw Sarah look a bit in shock! We swam quickly to try and see it again but it went away. We kept swimming around and out of nowhere two of these fellas were swimming in unison, each about a metre and a half long and we tracked them from behind, keeping our distance as we didn't know much about them. It was incredible!!

After that little encounter we headed off to the fisherman village for lunch and this was where we made friends with the Spanish couple and the two girls from UK who we would later watch the movie with. We all had had enough after the movie and the others were heading off the island the next morning so we said our goodbyes and wished them well. In our minds we had said we would leave after the next day but the idea of leaving we hard to take because it was so good here.

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The last full day was spent doing what we had done so well the last few days which was beaching, playing games and reading books. We did however make our way over to the other side of the island having been told the sunset was good by the girls we met the night before. Unfortunately the clouds were against us but we decided to stay on the other side and have dinner at a different place, seeing as we had become a bit of a regular at Panorama. This time this place showed the movie Serendipity, a rom-com but a no brainer. Before chilling out I had checked the Internet and read that the Spanish couple had had there room broken into and camera stolen amongst other things on the night we said goodbye. A bit disconcerting as they were staying at the same place we were! With this in mind I ran back across the island (about 5 mins) then up to our room hoping I would get there before dark to collect our valuables and take them with us to dinner. I made it in good time but suddenly thought perhaps leaving the next day might be a good time to go as it felt a bit like a sign.

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Next morning was an early start to catch the small boats out to the slightly larger boats a bit further out to shore before being ferried back to a Kuala Besut. At first it was a confusing situation because the boat company our hotel booked with were not there, and we thought that actually he probably never called them, so we had to hang on the word of a kind lady who had the mobile to call them and it ended up that we jumped onboard with another company's boat, not ideal but you get use to it (sometimes). Once we were off it was not a long time before we were back on the mainland and a short walk to the bus stop we waited for a bus to KL.

Heading onto the Perhentian Island was the best decision we could have made as we really felt like we had taken on the travellers ethos and found our way to paradise. Perhentian actually means Meeting point and I guess in some way it was are kind of meeting point with discovering our trip again.

Smiles all round!

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Stay tuned for more tales...

Dan

Posted by doyledan 03:11 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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