June 20th, 2012 by Karmun
Having been born and bred in Penang, island holidays have never appealed to me much. Don’t get me wrong, I love the island life. I love the sun on my face, sand in between my toes, and the salty sea air combing through my hair more than anything in the world. It’s just that I’ve gotten my fair share of the beach while growing up so I didn’t see the point of paying to go to yet another island for a holiday.
I have been a blind child. The islands on the East Coast of our country are a far cry from the beaches we have back home. They are all that I’ve only ever read about in magazines and seen on TV – pristine, untouched, virginal. They were the real deal; powdery white sand, crystal clear water and a nice steady breeze that didn’t smell of exhaust fumes. For three days, I was in what heaven must look like. It was literally paradise. I almost didn’t want to come home at the end of our stay.
From KL, the Ninja Rabbit and I took an 8-hour bus ride to Kuala Besut, Terengganu, where we met up with the rest of the gang who were coming from Penang. From there, we would have to take a taxi boat to the island on an approximate hour-long ride.
It was then that we realised we had a little stow-away!
Cheeky little bear wanted to come along on our vacay too hahaha!
I’ve never been to the East Coast before so I was excited as hell about the next three days. Deciding to go on this trip with only my closest friends from back home was the best idea ever.
We stayed at the beautiful Coral View Resort, one that stands at number three on one website’s list of Perhentian’s most recommended places to stay.
Every cent paid for it was worth it. Our rooms were spacious and roomy, complete with air-conditioning and hot water showers, and most importantly, the beds were real beds of solid spring mattresses, not just some pathetic piece of sponge being passed of as a bed. I’m all for vacationing on a budget, but I also believe in decent accomodations because it really affects your rest at the end of the day, which in turn affects how your mood will be for the holiday. So bed = very important on my list of holiday priorities!
From the moment we set foot on the island, there was not a single minute when we regretted the trip. Everything was simply surreal. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a solid month and a half. For it to finally be here, I was adamant about making every second count.
The island definitely did not disappoint. I had thought I knew the sea. I knew nothing.
I was walking on sand that was so fine and light I felt nothing treading across them. I was swimming in water that was so clear, I was fooled by my own brain that it was fresh water until I licked my lips. Everything there is simply so perfect that you find it hard to believe it can still exist at this day and age when everything you know is in some small way tainted.
Being there in paradise with the right people made it all the more meaningful.
With our spirits buoyed by the crashing waves upon the shore before us, we laughed and lazed under swaying palm trees, rising occasionally only to brush sand off our sunscreened limbs.
I fell into this unrecognizable peace with the world, feeling this peculiar wave of gratitude at being young, alive, and simply well enough to be able to experience all this.
I can only guess that everyone else felt exactly the same – the boys turned the place into their own playground, climbing trees and doing backflips on the sand like it was nobody’s business.
I don’t blame them. It was so easy to let everything just melt away and become a child again on the island. Worry existed not there, only the present moment and this warm happiness bubbling deep inside at being in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with some of the people who mattered most.
Snorkelling opened up another whole new world to us, or to me at least.
It looks like a completely different dimension down there under the waves. We island-hopped to three different islands in the duration of our stay, and all three islands had something different to offer us. You’d think fish and corals and underwater sea things would start to look the same after a while. Between first Perhentian, then Redang, followed by Lang Tengah, I was left more and more mesmerized with every trip into the water we made.
I was initially scared as hell about snorkelling to be honest, because I can’t swim. Yes, I grew up on an island, but I can’t swim. Yet, there’s something about how the waters were tremendously clear and blue, and how I was getting a lot more sun than I usually would on a daily basis, that gave me this courage to just do it. When it came time to get into the water, I had no qualms. I jumped right in like I was the most seasoned swimmer around.
I saw wonders in that water that made me feel things I could not identify. On the most part, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by how there’s this whole other world I was not aware of up until this very moment. This other world that had completely different rules of how things work. Here, we are not the kings we are back on land. Here, we play by their rules, that of creatures with gills, scales, and powerful fins that made them stronger, faster, and more powerful than us. Here, we play at these magnificent underwater creatures’ expense.
Luck was on our side that day. We spotted a full grown sea turtle making its rounds for food. Maybe it was just as curious as we were, but right about the time we spotted it, it spotted us too. It swam right up to us, until it was right in front of me I could touch it.
It was a very humbling moment. The thing is HUUUUUUUGE, like easily some two metres long. It could have easily hurt us, but it didn’t. It just hung about for a bit before deciding we weren’t very interesting after all and swam away. I will never forget how it made me feel, looking straight at me, waving its flippers as if saying hello without a hint of malice in its old, wise eyes.
So unlike humans they were. There was no arrogance, no judgements. Just the purest form of curiosity at seeing us. Yup, life changing moment right there.
Everything underwater amazed me to no end. It helped me believe that maybe, there’s still some true beauty left in the world. These naturally occuring wonders, how is it that they withstood the test of development and modernization??
I had the most amazing time feeding the fish. I was squealing at first everytime a little body bumped into me, but when more started to show up at the smell of the food we had, I was left mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colours and shapes they made. They were everywhere – above me, below me, all around me. They look so much more glamorous seen this way than from behind a glass pane.
Them fishies sure love their bread! LOL.
I am a very lucky girl. Not only do I get to experience all this, I get to do with my best friends. It came back to me constantly how this was once something I dared to only dream about. Just a few years back, travelling was something completely out of my budget. Here I am doing it now.
I’m not complaining, but how in the world did I get this load of good fortune?
Everything about the trip came up to be more than expected. For the amount we paid, I had expected some dodgy traveller’s lodge where 10-15 of us would have to squeeze into one big hall and we all shower in a communal bathroom. Instead we were let with two beautiful chalets to spend the night among the 7 of us. We each get our own bed, complete with room service!
Spirits were high and moods, great throughout the entire three days, something I was most glad for. Nothing spoils a vacation faster than grumpy friends.
I came with zero expectations, yet had everything measure up.
I’ll say it: Best. Vacation. Ever.
We stayed out in the sun as much as we could. We stealthily got 3 shades darker in our three days there but it didn’t matter. The sea was just too good to pass up.
I never really enjoyed getting wet much. The idea of having to shower and change clothes after all that splashing around very quickly turn me off. That weekend, I couldn’t wait to get into the water every chance I got.
My ideal life would be this, truly. To live by the ocean and wake up to the sound of the waves crashing into shore every morning. To be greeted by dazzling blue water embracing shimmering white sand everytime you step out of your door.
Maybe one day.
And this is one dream I dare wish would come true because if there is any place where dreams do materialize, it would be here.
Good things happen here, you know.
Right before we left, we witnessed a stroke of good luck happen. Fishermen had apparently fished an injured hawk out of the sea. The magnificent bird was shivering and cowering in fear at the commotion that was going about him. They suspect that it was probably an old bird that was too fatigued to hunt, thus fell into the waters which got its wings wet so it couldn’t take off again.
This place is seriously an island of miracles just waiting to happen. I boarded the bus to go home feeling all kinds of inspired.
Now, I count down the days till my next vacation, whenever that may be. This trip was something else altogether. I’d even go as far as to say it kind of changed me. To be made aware of how much more there is to the world we thought we knew, it really puts things into new perspective.
Terengganu, I’ll be back again for sure. You’ve showed me so much in my short three days there. I’ve been back here in the city hardly two days and already I miss the gentle rocking of our boat atop the ocean waves, the way the air smells a different kind of sweet, and the way the water feels on your skin when you first jump in – refreshing, clean, and most of all, awakening.
I came home rejuvenated.
For those of you who have never gone, I beg of you. Go. I’ve never had a holiday affect me like this. It wasn’t just fun. It goes somewhere deeper than that. Maybe I got too much sun, or maybe I swallowed a little too much sea water. But really, there’s something about the place I can’t explain. It sort of… speaks to you. Calms you down. Makes you feel like whatever problems it is you’re facing, there are way bigger things out there that would make your little burden seem childish.
Whatever it is, I had needed it. And trust me, you’ll find that whatever it is you end up discovering there, it’s something you’ve always needed but never knew, too.