A few weeks ago, I posted a couple of short stories I wrote about my trip to Malaysia in the summer of 2010. This is the last of these posts, a short about my arrival at the gorgeous Perhentian Islands. Enjoy!
Forty-eight hours on the road and counting. Sixteen hours on a no-frills flight from London. A four hour stop over in Sri Lanka, the airport deserted at 2am. A bad nights sleep in a dingy hostel followed by a day traipsing through Kuala Lumpur’s muggy streets. Twelve hours overnight on a packed bus: alone in staying wide-awake for the entire journey.
It’s 8am and five minutes ago I was trembling with exhaustion. Now we’re bouncing light as air over glittering topaz towards paradise. There’s nothing quite like an early morning sea breeze for re-invigoration. Silhouetted against a pink-chalk sunrise, the two Perhentian islands grow bigger and bigger. The boat stops for pictures. A flurry of motion; people scrabbling with bags and lens-caps. We’re all wide awake now, and impatient.
When we approach the beach the sun is already up, lighting the film-set perfection of the smaller island, Kecil. The Malay name Perhentian means ‘place to stop’, and after two days of hellish travel I cannot agree more. I’ve seen no better place in the world to rest. The soft white sand is visible through five feet of clear water. The Malaysian sun, humid and oppressive behind Kuala Lumpur’s clouds, lights everything with a glittering radiance here. The island is a small rock of dense green jungle, trimmed with ice-white sandy beaches. Colours that have been lifted straight from a travel magazine burn into my retinas to never be forgotten. Nothing seems quite real.
The air tastes of sea-salt and warmth. I drop my arms into the silky coolness of the sparkling water and cannot wait to sink my whole self into it. With the heat sticking to my skin, the clear blue water is more than inviting. I can barely resist.
The last leg of the journey is completed on foot. We jump down from the motorboat and drag our luggage wearily towards the nearest hostel. Wooden garden sheds with air-conditioning stand at the end of winding garden paths, their backs to the jungle. The glass-less windows open onto a wall of green. Two feet away, a monitor lizard eyes me warily. After a stand-off of long minutes, it still refuses to move and prove itself real.
Back on the beach, I lie down and close my eyes. The laughs and screams of other tourists, the growl of boat motors, the shouts of fishermen, are all tuned out so that only the mesmerising sound of wind and wave are left. The sun is warm on my tired skin, the breeze cool. I look up, and drink in the expanse of vivid blue stretching above me. After days of motion, ugly and exhausting, I finally stop.