Budget Paradise in The Perhentian Islands

One of the great things about being in a tropical country is the consistent warmth. It’s fab getting to wear your summer clothes ALL THE TIME and never having to think about putting on a jumper unless the air con is particularly chilly. One of the not so great things? The rain. Ho-ly shiattt does it rain. And rain it did consistently from our 2nd day in KL. Desperate for the sunshine that we’d traversed hemispheres to find, we sat and made a plan with some friends we’d met the previous night. The next morning we woke up, piled into Lincoln’s car, drove 7 hours across Malaysia, jumped on a 50 MYR ferry at Kuala Besut Jetty and ended up here:

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Now who said it’s bad to get in a stranger’s car? (Yes, I know stranger danger is a v real thing plz don’t be cross Dad).

The Perhetian Islands are a little slice of heaven off the eastern coast of mainland Malaysia. With an average yearly temperature that never dips below 25 degrees celsius, the whitest sand you’ve ever seen and a plethora of diverse marine life below the crystal surface, it’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway. You’ll end up staying longer than a weekend though, trust. It’s genuinely astounding how beautiful this place is. On docking at Long Beach, Perhentian Kecil, we were met by a man with a tractor- the only motorised vehicle on the island- to carry us and our bags across the sun-scorched sand to our hotel.

Where To Stay (or not to stay)

D’Rock Garden Lodge

Double room with ensuite, AC and balcony=MYR 100 per night/ £18 ish

Okay, I know this is supposed to be the £10 Traveller, but everything on the Perhentians was a leeeettle bit more expen, so we splashed out slightly. And anyway, it’s my blog and I can write what I want to.

The rooms at D’Rock are in probably the most sought-after location on the island. Built on wooden stilts, the huts containing the rooms look through the palm trees and out to the ocean. The view is stunning and, when you get in after a busy day of doing nothing, you can sit out on the balcony with a beer in hand and watch the  sky turn sumptuous shades of pink and purple.

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Unfortunately, inside the room was pretty grim. The bed sheet was covered in holes having been bitten through by God knows what, the room itself looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks, and when we turned the shower what can only be described as Aragog’s younger sibling crawled out of the uncovered drain. So we spent 3 nights wrapped head-to-toe in our mozzie nets and showering with the bin over the plug for ultimate arachnid protection. At a staggering 100 MYR/night, the rooms were not budget-friendly and for what we paid, we at least expected clean sheets! 3/10

Don’t let this put you off, though! There are looooads of places to stay on the islands suited to all budgets, and you’ll 100% find somewhere fab to stay. We can’t wait to try somewhere new next time we go.

Where to Eat

Food on the islands is pretty basic. That said everything- food, water, beer, Baby Shark-themed sandals- is brought over from the mainland on the ubiquitous fishing boats, so they’re limited on what they can do. There are food stalls all along Long Beach but the best place is a white tent with blue tables set back about halfway down the beach. The woman there cooks delicious vegetable fried rice topped with crispy, salty fried anchovies and a side of curried chicken and peppers. If, like we did, you return from sunset on a private island having consumed a few too many G&Ts, it’s the perfect thing to sink your teeth into before boogying under the stars on the beach. The western food along the front of the beach, although in abundance, is pretty average, but Crocodile Rock Bistro do a really good chicken burger for a fiver. Some of the stalls are even open super early so you can get your Roti Canai fix for breakfast after watching the sunrise, too.

Henry’s Bar

Tiger beer= 8 MYR per can/ £1.60

Start at the D’Rock end of Long Beach ad walk about 1/3rd of the way down to where the umbrellas are laid out on the sand and you’ll see Henry’s bar. I say bar, but really it’s a thatched roof with a wooden counter, some stools and a cooler full of beer. Despite its simplicity, it’s the best place to kick back with a cold one, listen to some Reggae tunes and watch the world go by.

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What To Do

Snorkelling

MYR 30-40= £6-£8

The Perhentian Islands are part of the Pulau Redang Marine Park, a highly respected and protected area of the South China Sea. The conservation efforts that go into the maintenance of the Perhentians means that the turquoise depths of the waters off the islands are teeming with beautiful marine life. Just take your pick of any of the snorkelling trips offered along the beach, grab a mask and be prepared to see a real life version of the ‘Under The Sea’ chorus from The Little Mermaid. We swam with reef sharks, Green Turtles, Nemos and a whole rainbow of tropical fish. The boats take you to all the best snorkelling spots and lunch is included, so you have a whole day out at sea. Diving is available too if you want to take your PADI, and if you want to dive I’d recommend booking with Seahorse Diver as you can stay in the dorm for free if you dive with them. From what we heard the accommodation wasn’t the best but the amazing dives more than make up for it!

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Sunset

So, maybe we cheated a bit here and I’m not 100% sure this is an option available to everyone BUT it’s worth a try. Go to Henry’s bar and tell him you’d like to go and see the sunset. If you’re lucky he’ll be able to help you out with a boat and a driver (we also had a crate of beers and a bottle of gin but it helps to have friends in high places) who will take you around the other side of Perhentian Kecil to a locals-only spot. Here you can enjoy the peace and quiet of no tourists whilst you watch the sky melt over the glassy water. It’ll cost  you about £8 each, which is a tad steep, but totally worth it for the view.

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Fire Show and Beach Party

Free

I don’t know if it’s because we were there at at the end of the season, or if everyone at the fancy resorts was too busy enjoying their infinity pools, but Long Beach is surprisingly quiet during the day. As soon as the sun begins to set, however, the food shacks put candle-lit tables and fire blankets out on the sand, and the boogying begins. Grab a beer, find a spot and watch the nightly fire show as the red moon rises.

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So whether you’re midway through your travels and are in desperate need of some island time, you want to escape the fast-paced city life and slow down for a while or you just want to go to a bloody beautiful beach, The Perhentian Islands are your place. They’re off-limits November to March due to rainy season but, trust me, they’re worth the wait.

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