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A Mini Guide to Perhentian Kecil

For many, the Perhentian Islands are paradise. Located just off the north-eastern coast of Malaysia, they offer the clearest blue water, white sandy beaches, endless snorkelling and diving possibilities, fresh seafood and lively beach bars.

But as with every paradise, it doesn’t always fit into the backpacker lifestyle or budget. Here’s a few tips I picked up whilst there that may help you decide whether this particular paradise should be a stop on your itinerary too.

Getting There:

Getting to the Perhentian Islands is slightly more complicated – and expensive – than it may first appear. Initially you have to make your way to the jetty at Kuala Besut and purchase return tickets to the islands, which usually cost around 70RM ($23) each for the fast boat, but can sometimes be bartered down to 60RM ($20) with the agents. Then just before you board your boat you will be required to pay a conservation charge of 5RM ($1.60) each which apparently aids with the conservation of the marine parks and coral reefs. If you are staying on Long Beach, once you have completed your hopefully non-scary boat ride, you will be required to then pay 2RM ($0.70) each for a water taxi to take you right up to the edge of the sand (and even then, you may have to be prepared to wade through the ankle-deep water with your bags). This involves transferring people and bags across from the larger fast boat to the smaller water taxi….slightly unnerving when you have all your worldy possessions and electronics with you, but the only choice unless you want to try and swim ashore with your backpack or suitcase above your head. It’s this kind of situation where a budgeting app that would track and convert would be handy, as financial management is crucial when you have numerous small expenses that add up.

Mexico: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

travelling in mexico

Let me preface this post by saying that I really struggled to think of anything bad about Mexico, which is why you’ll find that section below looking very sparse indeed.

Honestly, I even asked Scott to rack his brains and think of anything that really bugged us and got under our skin about the country during the three months we were there and he could think of nothing. That’s pretty unusual.

If you want a country that has it all, then Mexico should definitely be top of your list. It ticked every box for us in terms of cost, accommodation, beaches, history, food and weather. At times I would find myself annoyed by the heat, the smells, the noise…but then I left and I now miss it all. A lot.

I particularly miss the amazing markets and availability of fresh, delicious food. Sure, everywhere has markets and fresh produce, but they don’t have it at Mexico’s prices or offer the spiciness and complexity of Mexico’s street food. I now find myself wandering the supermarket aisles and balking at the price of vegetables. Such is life in Europe.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my take on my time in Mexico. FYI – I’m not mentioning the food in the “good” category because I think it goes without saying that the food is great. You don’t need me to tell you that.

Good

Bus Travel

This came as a big surprise. I didn’t expect bus travel in Mexico to be any better than Asian standards but boy, was I wrong. Most of the buses for travel between towns and cities are first class buses, meaning that they come fitted with toilets, DVD players and comfy seats as standard. And the standard only goes up from there. For some overnight buses (and depending on company) you will get large leather reclining seats, a goodie bag filled with drink and snacks and in-bus entertainment. I kid you not. There was only once we had to take a second class bus when we were heading from Holbox to Valladolid and even then, it wasn’t a totally bad experience. But overall, for the majority of journeys you will need to take around the country, you’ll be travelling in style and comfort.

Friendliness

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Mexican people are extremely friendly. The first day we were in the country, the chain on Scott’s bike broke and a guy came running across the street immediately to help us. Locals would stop and offer us directions (not always with great results – see below) and even offer tips or recommendations on what foods to eat at certain food stalls.

beach in tulum mexico

Beaches

Who needs the Caribbean or Central America when there are so many amazing beaches in Mexico? Particularly in the Yucatan, the waters are blue and the sand is picture-postcard white. Every beach is Mexico is public, meaning that even if there is a hotel built on it, you can still take full advantage of it without being a guest. I love how Mexico allows everyone to be a part of its country and culture like this, just like they do with their music, fiestas and wedding processions. Nothing is withheld from anybody and everyone can join in the fun.

Backpacking Asia: It’s A Love/Hate Kinda Thing

rickshaws in penang
On my first visit to Sri Lanka back in 2008, I was shocked by the chaos, the dirtiness and the poverty on display in the majority of the country.

Granted, this may have been heightened by the fact that the country was still trying to get back on its feet after the tsunami, but it was still a shock to the senses. Before that I had only ever visited much more developed and Westernised countries and was somewhat unprepared. The travel brochures show you the gorgeous sandy beaches and the hypnotising temples; what they don’t show you is everything else.

Something about how foreign and exotic the place felt made further thoughts of Asia quickly creep into my subconscious. Which was why, two years later, when faced with several decisions on where to take my first solo backpacking trip, Vietnam was the only place that truly captured my imagination. That time, however, I was more prepared for what would await me when I arrived.

I now find myself back in Asia – Malaysia to be exact – and the same conflicting feelings from my first two experiences have resurfaced. If you have ever travelled around parts of Asia you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say I love it and hate it in equal measure.

Malaysia: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I spent a total of almost seven weeks in Malaysia (yeah, it came as a surprise to me, too) and I actually miss it. A lot. It kind of crept up on me in a away I never expected and often left me surprised and intrigued by the people and places I found there. 

After the intensity of Hong Kong I wanted to relax somewhere for a few weeks and Malaysia just seemed to be the perfect fit, hence why I found myself calling Melaka, a small UNESCO city, my home for several of those seven weeks.
Now I have left I can look back on what were the highlights and the not-so-great elements about this diverse country. And I have to tell you, I struggled to find much that was bad, as you will see…

The Good

The people

Malaysia houses a diverse mix of Indian, Malay and Chinese cultures and I cannot think of one occasion where I met someone who wasn’t willing to help, give directions or generally offer a smile. The fact that so many different cultures and religions reside here seem to make it much more tolerant of travellers and their own customs.

The food

When you take two of my favourite Asian cuisines (Chinese and Indian) and throw some spicy Malay fare into the mix, I was never going to be disappointed. I also discovered some interesting and unusual dishes that quickly became my favourites, such as Mexican coffee bread, nyonya laksa and every type of steamed bun (pau) imaginable.

malaysia laksa