"It's HEAVEN!" Top 5 Page for this destination Pulau Perhentian Besar by backpackerbaby

Pulau Perhentian Besar Travel Guide: 217 reviews and 530 photos

In search of a hidden jem…

It was already after mid-night when we arrived at our hostel. It’s a lovely old building right in the heart of Singapore. The elevator was kind of antique – you had to unfold the outer gate manually while the inner door opened automatically. I thought it had become extinct. When Ger and I were waiting for the elevator, I told her that I wanted to be the one to open the gate as it looked so cool. I could hear my heart bounding: I just couldn’t wait for that particular moment. “Ding” – the elevator door opened slowly. To our surprise, there was an ‘elevator manager’ standing in front of the control panel, smiling to us while his hands approaching to unlock the gate. “Oh!” I murmured to myself when he welcomed us. It’s a small confined world inside the elevator. Together with our big backpacks, I felt like inside a can of sardines. I couldn’t imagine how the ‘manager’ could work 12 hours a day in that stuffy little space. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one who wanted to unfold the gate. The “manager” let me open the gate when we arrived on our floor. Embarrassing yet satisfying.

I rushed to the shower to wash away my sweat immediately after unloading my backpack. Neither Ger nor I had the intention of going out as we both wanted to reserve some energy (and cash) for the main part of the trip which would begin the next day. Haven’t I told you that our destination was actually Perhentian Beasar Island, but not Singapore? We were going to take a bus to the Malaysia Border Johor Bahru, then take an overnight train to Tenah Merah in the north, this 12 hour train ride would be followed by a local taxi ride of about 45 minutes heading to Kuala Besut Jetty, at which we would board on a speed boat to get to the island. I admit that it sounded hassling. However, if you found that the price of a return ticket to anywhere in Malaysia was twice of that to Singapore; if you found that it’s much cheaper to get on the train in Johor Bahru than directly in Singapore; if you were cash-poor but time-rich, like me, you’d definitely do the same.

We arrived at the train station in Johor Bahru at 7:30p.m., half an hour before our departure. The lobby was crowded with people: babies, little kids, teenagers, married couples, grandmas and grandpas. The only group missing was backpackers like us. The people were surrounded by lots of stuffs: baggage, shopping bags filled with new clothes, toys and… boxes of moon cakes! I guessed the people were going back to their home towns in the north to celebrate Mid-autumn Festival with their families. Finally, I discovered that giving moon cakes as gifts was no longer the privilege of Chinese people. Standing in the center of the lobby observing the locals, I realized that Malaysians were really lovely and sweet.

The lobby got more and more crowded but the train still didn’t come. It was so hot and so crowded in the lobby, if the station officers still had had no intention to let passengers wait on the platform, I would have passed out.

Finally, we got on our train which was carrying a few passengers from Singapore. I took a lower berth while Ger took the one above mine. This train journey would make a new record in my traveling history as I had never been on the same train for more than 6 hours. After laying my sleeping bag on the bed, I took out my MP3 player and my book. Music and books are always the best travel partners. It’s lovely that the train was installed with reading lamps, how caring!

You can never imagine how strong the vibration the train produces unless you take a ride. With my eyes closed, I felt like lying on a roller coaster. I wasn’t sure if it’s the problem of the bending railway alignment or the train. After being thrown towards the window at one sharp turn, I wished my bed had been installed with a bed-belt!

Apart from the vibration, the speed of the train also annoyed me. It’s always behind schedule whenever it arrived at a station. We had to catch the speed boat at 11:00a.m. but I really doubted if we could make it. I couldn’t fall asleep the whole night.

The Beautiful Jungle Rail

I 'got up' at around 7:00a.m. the next day, what I mean was to change my body position from lying to sitting. The sky was so grey and cloudy, just like my mood but I did appreciate the view. The train drove through a few jungles, came across several large rivers, passed several massive white cliffs and stopped at several small villages. Finally I saw the first batch of locals outside the train at a village. They were construction workers, busy fixing some reinforcement bars on a construction site. I was so happy to see people working in the same field as me in this remote part of Malaysia that I couldn’t help waving to them. All these became the bonus of my train journey.

As the train drove further, the sky became clearer gradually. Who says there is no miracle on earth? The sun finally got out of the cloud and shone on my body through the window. Accompanying the sunshine was the return of my holiday mood, “Yoho, it’s my holiday!”

From Tanah Merah to Kuala Besut
"Is it Tanah Merah?" I asked the man blocking the exit when the train stopped. "Yes, yes." Ger and I immediately jumped off, we really jumped off, not onto the platform but onto the pebbles lying next to the railway. It's already 10:30a.m. when we got in a taxi and the driver said it would take 45 minutes to get to the jetty. “Oh! Our speed boat!" The driver reassured us that we wouldn’t miss the boat while speeding up, how nice! However, we were still 20 minutes late when we arrived at the jetty. The driver asked a local guy to bring us to the reception office of our resort. I just hoped that the resort staff hadn’t let the speed boat start without us. Luckily, we weren’t the latest. Shortly after our registration, a Danish couple rushed in with their baggage. I was so hungry at that moment. Spending 14 hours (originally 12) in that slow train made me feel like a week had passed. I remembered that I had seen a shop selling ice-cream and snacks near the reception office. Without a second thought, I grabbed Ger to go hunting for food with me. When I paid, the shopkeepers said something that I didn’t understand to me. Oh! They thought I was Malaysian because of my tanned skin. It’s really interesting. When I was in Bangkok, the locals spoke with me in Thai; while when I was in Malaysia, people spoke with me in Malay; some Koreans thought I was one of them; some Europeans thought I was from Japan. Do I really look so universal-Asian?

On the boat
We followed the resort staff to our boat. The weather was glorious, the sky was so blue and the sunshine was so nice. As the boat went further away from the jetty, the water became clearer and clearer, so clear that I could hardly believe my eyes. Perhaps that’s the first time I saw the true colour of sea water.

Be ready for getting wet!!!
I was busy counting the types of fish in the water when we arrived at the resort. Some staff was waiting for us on the floating pier. The pier was simple but lovely: its base was made of several large plastic buckets while its surface was made of wooden planks, all of which were tied together by ropes. I was so excited and couldn’t help jumping happily on the pier. Luckily, I didn’t make anyone lose balance and fall into the water.

The World is so big... ...

Lying on the deserted beach, watching the crystal clear sea, kissing with the gorgeous sun while tasting a free coconut just fell off from the tree, I believed I had found a treasure… a hidden gem in the east coast of Malaysia.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:wonderful underwater world, amazing locals, great to get away from reality...
  • In a nutshell:Heaven on Earth.
  • Last visit to Pulau Perhentian Besar: Oct 2004
  • Intro Updated Sep 3, 2006
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Reviews (27)

Comments (15)

  • Wild_Orchid's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2006 at 6:22 PM

    the sunset pics with two boats is lovely. :-)

  • Linda_T's Profile Photo
    Sep 3, 2006 at 5:34 AM

    You certainly make it sound like heaven, you took me with you when I was reading your page :-)

  • dfactor's Profile Photo
    Sep 24, 2005 at 8:50 AM

    You really had a great time in Perhentian, don't you? Same here. Just got back with sun burn and all. Working on my Perhentian page now. :D

  • moonlighting's Profile Photo
    Jul 11, 2005 at 8:49 PM

    Lovely pics... great inspiration to go there. Would you know how I can travel to Cameron if I will be coming from Perhentian?

  • juliewong's Profile Photo
    May 15, 2005 at 3:54 AM

    Glad to know you've enjoyed your stay and spotted sharks & turtles despite the rain and currents. Will be going there this May 19. Hope the weather will be good. Crossing my fingers!

  • balfor's Profile Photo
    Apr 18, 2005 at 8:56 AM

    Looks like you had a great time on the island! Lots of snorkeling or diving is always fun!

  • sweetie_inc's Profile Photo
    Apr 15, 2005 at 9:57 AM

    great pictures.... was thinking of taking a train to perhentian this aug, but with the delays and such, i think i'll stick to taking the bus there but most probably will take the train back... great info! cheers.

  • dragontml's Profile Photo
    Apr 12, 2005 at 2:07 AM

    a beautiful island indeed !!!!

  • mizzzthanggg's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2005 at 12:14 AM

    you'll have to try the small island next - Pulau Perhentian Kecil! it's even better ;)))

  • vigi's Profile Photo
    Feb 27, 2005 at 6:47 PM

    Hey baby, great page! Am glad you make it to Perhentian. Love your travelogue story :)

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