Coral Bay (Pulau Perhentian Kecil), Malaysia
Living the life of luxury one day, showering in a rusting, corrugated steel shed the next—what a wild lifestyle.
Much like the Cameron Highlands, I feel like I've arrived in the Perhentians about 20 years too late. But then again, I feel exceptionally fortunate that I'm here now, instead of 20 years from now. It saddens me to think what these places will look like two or three decades, and what those future travelers will see.
Already the Perhentians exhibit signs of excessive commercialism. Many are upset with the sight of a floating construction yard in Pulau Kecil, whose purpose is to erect a pair of docks in Long Beach and Coral Bay, funded by Chinese resort investors. More than a handful of hotels and businesses have power 24-hours/day, and it will only be a matter of time before the Malaysian power company lays a line to the islands. And once that happens, the shoddy sea-side chalets and A-frames will be torn down and replaced with structures 100-times their rental price. By the time I turn 50, little of the Perhentian lifestyle I know today will exist.
But I'm here today, and although I'm barely eating because the price of living on the islands is nearly three-times that of the mainland, I'm happy to be here, playing in the clear, aquamarine surf.
Pulau Kecil, Today
I don't have much information about this place—only a photo taken of someones guidebook back in the Cameron Highlands—but I've explored the island as best I can, within the confines of my budget. I explore to satisfy my own curiosity, as well as figure out the best location for my return here with my friend Lindsey, in a few weeks time.
The quality of sand and water at Long Beach is the best I've seen on the island, but the beach is lined with bars, restaurants, diving outfits, and hotel/chalets—totally turning me off from staying on this part of Kecil. From my passing fast-boat, Fisherman's Village (Perhentian Village) looks like an actual town, with at least two multi-story hotels jarring into the sky.
The water is an opaque-blue at Coral Bay, and there isn't much beach to lay on, but the atmosphere is quieter and less built up than Long Beach (which is more in line with what I'm looking for). D'lagoon, at the northern end of the island is totally isolated, and might actually be enjoyable to stay at if the shores of all the accessible beaches weren't covered in coral—pretty to look at though.
There are no vehicle sounds, as there are no roads, but in many places you can hear the repetitive chugging of gas-powered generators. A quick, five-minute jungle trail links Coral Bay with Long Beach, which makes sunning yourself at Long Beach during the day and retiring for the evening at Coral Bay effortless.
Internet access has hit the island, but it's going for an outrageous price (that people seem willing to pay). An hour of Internet costs about the same price as my chalet for the night. Interestingly, I discovered that the restaurant at the Senja Resort has an unencrypted WiFi signal, making e-mails free for me.
I was noticing a lot of attractive, young travelers in the Cameron Highlands, and I can't help but notice a similar crowd here on this island. You get all body types, but there is certainly a lean towards the eye candy side of the spectrum.
I'm still a bit at loss as to where all the sweet (fresh) water is coming from here. I've been showering in it, which surprises me somewhat. Garbage doesn't seem to be a problem either—I think someone is boating it all back to the mainland.
This will be my fourth and final night on the island; I've got to boogie on up to Bangkok to meet up with my old friend, Aaron. I'm looking forward to snorkeling, and maybe a little scuba diving on my next pass though this place, though. …and of course some more beach time.