Tuesday, April 20, 2010

East Coast Islands

If you get the opportunity to get away from Kuala Lumpur for a couple of nights there are quite a few options.
I would highly recommend a trip to the Islands in the North on the East Coast.
Choose from;
Redang Island, Perhentian Besar, Perhentian Kecil or Lang Tengah or even Tioman, further South.
They're all pretty much the same....
If you've never seen a tropical island before, you will be spellbound and even if you have, it's still great.
There are however a few things to bear in mind.
1. Getting to them is slow and tedious and involves either a coach (12 hours ) or flight (1 hour) to Kuala Terengganu or Kota Baru then a hour-long taxi/minibus ride to the jetty on the coast and then a 45minute speedboat ride.
So,even if you fly it can take7 or 8 hours,including all the waiting.
2. It's expensive for what you get-Islands in Thailand offer much better value-for-money.
3. The accommodation ranges from "expensive and shoddy" to "really expensive and really shoddy".
4. The food is pretty average at best.
5. There's nothing to do at night.
In my experience,Malaysia doesn't seem to be able to offer or even want to offer good beach holidays.There are no 'centres" just ribbon developments all looking pretty much the same.
What they call a resort is usually a few poorly maintained dark and dingy chalets with a restaurant offering poorly prepared and tasteless food.
If there is a picture of a few pebbles behind the reception desk they call it a "spa".
But...and it's a big BUT

6.The Beach is usually fantastic!
And that's why we put-up with the substandard amenities and service.
7. Most of the coral is dead or dying.
In the last few years it's quite noticeable how much this is happening and on most islands you've got to either get a boat trip away from the main island or if you're really lucky there may be a small remnant of coral hanging on at the tip of a headland on the island.
Places I've enjoyed staying include;
Redang Reef Resort, Redang-Very friendly and lively and I saw some huge Bumphead Parrot fish at the top of bay (almost as big as a cow!)
BuBu Resort, Perhentian Kecil-Has a nice bar area and slightly better rooms then most.
Places to avoid include;
Perhentian Island Resort, Perhentian Besar-The absolute worst place I have ever stayed. NEVER, EVER stay here unless you want smelly rooms, blocked toilets, indifferent staff, food that was going rotten, dirty sheets and a half-drained swimming pool covered in algae (but it's on the best,best beach ever)
Coral View Island Resort, Perhentain Besar, shares the same beach, is still dark and dingy but a bit cheaper.
Lang Tengah Island-they tell you it's "surrounded by it's own coral garden" but what they don't tell you is that it's all dead coral.

The Marine Park itself,on Redang is a bit farcical with more tourists than there are fish and it can get very crowded with orange life-vests bumping into each other.But there is a Giant Grouper that lives under the pier.

Tioman Island, all right, it has cheap duty-free beer but when I was there the place was filthy- dirty with litter strewn everywhere. I didn't like it at all.

Most packages to the islands include all food but believe me when I say that you'll be happy to escape your "resort"and move from restaurant to restaurant along the beach-some are quite good and they can be found dotted along the main beaches of most islands.
It's easy to get a beer,about Rm 8 for a can.
I've also heard that you get better customer service if you go early in the season(May-July)
and that later in the season, staff quit, are not replaced, the remaining staff get overworked, wages may be delayed etc etc. Except for the dive staff that is,they are always friendly and helpful wherever you go.
Also, I've never ever found a comfortable chair to sit on,all those wooden slats can get very uncomfortable.
Don't get me wrong, I just love the beaches and snorkeling and have encounted all manner of reef fish including Parrot fish, the huge aforementioned Bumpheads, Clown fish,Sting Rays, Sharks up to about 4ft in length,Giant Grouper and turtles.
On a good day, visibility can be about 30-35ft down.
But be prepared for some discomfort on land.
And yes, The sand really is that white and the sea really is that blue!

1 comment:

  1. You should take a trip up to Cenang Beach in Langkawi. I generally share all your views on "resorts" and hospitality in Malaysia, but Cenang Beach represents - and I am not kiddin' - the ONLY positive surprise I have ever had in Malaysia and it is the only place I ever been outside KL that actually has got some night life. Few pointers to Langkawi:

    1. Avoid the resorts - they are exactly as described above and they are all in the middle of nowhere so it's impossible to get out of there.

    2. Stay at any place along Cenang Beach!

    3. The water is not fantastic as east coast BUT Cenang Beach itself is quite OK - almost at the same level as Phuket for example.

    4. Nightlife on Cenang Beach is surprisingly good. There's at least 3-5 places along the beach serving dirt cheap beer and having live blues music until late.

    5. Renting motorcycles/scooters is dirt cheap too (think it was 20 Ringgit for a day) - so rent one and drive around the island. Driving License for car seems to be sufficient but the don't really check.

    Two places come recommended from me: Grand Beach Motel of you want to go CHEAP - RM 50 - 100 a night. Right next to that there's a German owned hotel (forgot the name) that is way more expensive (200++) but they serve a GREAT breakfast and it looks considerable nicer than the Motel.