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26 March 2006

Pulau Perhentian Kecil

Surfing, sharks and Shipwrecks

I left the dangers of the jungle and took a nine hour jungle train from Jerantut all the way to Kota Bahru [which translated from Malay is New Castle!]

that was probably the most spectacular journey i've taken so far in Asia. The train was cool - you could sit in the doorways and smoke or just chill in the seats and people came around selling food and whatnot. We went through really dense jungle - to mountains and limestone peaks - through villages and across vast rivers - and caught an amazing sunset on the way. It was great. Funnily enough, I met an English couple on the way who turned out to be best friends with my cousin in Sheffield!

Who would have thought it, eh?

So they were pretty cool and I decided to hang out with them for a bit. We were all heading to the lush island of Perhentian Kecil on the North-East Coast of Malaysia [nowt like Hartlepool].

When we got to the island, the weather wasn't so great but that made for massive waves on the beach.

I finally got to go surfing - yay!

Only it was quite difficult and I kept getting smashed up by big waves - good though.

Then we decided that it was a bit too busy and noisy there so we packd up and moved to the opposite side of the island [reeeaaaally quiet].

After a few days of doing nothing, and after a few too many thunderstorms, I wanted to do something to keep me occupied.

I had heard that Perhentian has some of the best diving in Malaysia so I checked out one of the places and signed meself up for a few days of underwater adventure.

I had't actually done any diving since my Birthday in Thailand so now was definitely the time.

The first dive I did was at a place called Tokong Laut "the Temple of the sea" which is the most famous place to dive. An 18m pinnacle with more coral than you can shake a snorkel at. Only thing is that it was a bit crowded. If they could, i'm sure they would have had a souvenir shop down there too.

Nonetheless, I saw lots of pretty fish and some nasty ones too like Lionfish and scorpionfish and some baby bamboo sharks. We also saw plenty of blue spotted rays doing what they do best - swimming.

the next day, I signed up for an advanced Wreck Dive. I haven't done my advanced course yet so I had to do some homework and stuff and now i'm one step closer to being an advanced diver.

It was spooky. they call it the "Sugar wreck" and it's a 70m long cargo ship that sank in 2000 during a monsoon storm. It's halfway back to the mainland at 20m deep and there are some pretty heavy currents there. this meant that visibility was only about 8m but that made the whole experience even more authentic.

We swam under masts and between ropes and through lifeboats and got to see some pretty cool underwater type stuff [giant pufferfish and other nasty stinging fish]. No skeletons though [shame] and no treasure [bah!]

all in all that was a really great dive and i'm so pleased that I did it just for the experience.

The last day, I was supposd to do another coral dive but just decided to do some free snorkelling instead at the same site. this turned out to be a real treat because me and an Icelandic guy ended up seeing a couple of big [1.5m] black tip shark just knocking about. I was really excited and surprised at myself. I always thought that if I saw a big shark then I would kak my pants but instead we just tried to chase after them a bit and see what they were up to - not scary at all [don't worry mam].

they could swim faster than us though and we never caught them.

All in all, a great time underwater and the only slight disappointment was that I didn't get to see any turtles [which live there in abundance].

I left the island today and made my way back to Kota Bahru and tomorrow i'm flying back to KL to have a meeting with an MD for an Ad firm - then back off to Penang for bit to decide my future.

Either i'm off to Borneo in a couple of weeks or [fingers crossed, I may well be back in London for a short while - and then off to Borneo].

All will be revealed in time...

Sharks that looked nowt like this

Sharks that looked nowt like this

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19 March 2006

Ruff in the jungle

Unfortunately, the Lion doesn't sleep here tonight

Yay, I finally left Kuala Lumpur [and my jetlag] and headed for Taman Negara National park. The largest and oldest stretch of primary rainforest IN THE WORLD!

Now, they say oldest and by that they mean only about 130 million years.

I’m not one to argue with that.

Because of it’s geographical position, the area has managed in that time to remain unscathed by the plight of various ice-ages and natural disasters. There have been no earthquakes, volcanoes or anything else of the sort [only now it’s slowly being ruined by the worst parasite on the planet – human tourists].

Anyway, I took a boat ride three hours up the mighty Tembelling river to the park headquarters and checked in to my little shack at the Kampung Kuala Tahan. It’s really peaceful here, with only the sounds of a billion animals and insects incessantly singing away to each other twenty four seven.

I had to pay 1 Ringgit [17p] for my park permit and 5 Ringgits to carry a camera. No hardship there.

From there I decided to have some adventures and luckily for me I found some mates to have them with. The first few days [with my new Canadian mates] involved taking a 3 hour hike uphill to a place called Bukit Teresek which turned out to be nothing more than a big hill with not a very good view at the top. Nevermind, at least I got to do some exercise.

The thing with hiking in the jungle is that it’s about 35 degrees all the time and 100% humidity – ALL THE TIME. That means super sweaty every step of the way. It’s not like normal super sweatiness either. I’m talking every bit of clothing completely soaked through and actually dripping onto the floor. So you have to drink a lot of water - or you die.

After the hill walk, we went to the Canopy walkway. That was a bit sketchy to be honest – but good fun. It’s 500 metres of string, netting and regular stepladders just all stuck together and hoisted 100 feet up into the trees. Then what you have to do is simply walk through it. There are strict rules about only one person on each section at a time and no pushing people over the edges – fair enough. That was good but because of all the noise that these idiot tourists make, there’s not much chance of seeing any wildlife at all.

Next day, I had a stroll along the southern boundary of the park and took a boat ride up the river to a little beach – which was nice. I spet the rest of that day in the swimming pool of the Canadians luxury hotel – ha!

In the evening, I went on a night safari. There were supposed to be some others going too but they never turned up so it was me, the driver and his brother – and one of his mates. That was great! We just drove offroad in a 4WD jeep with a massive spotlight and basically chased animals through the palm oil plantations. It was actually quite eventful. We saw Savannah nightjars, some kind of owl, a slow loris [a stupid monkey that moves really slowly],flying squirrels and two types of wild cats. One was a Civet Cat and the others were Leopard Cats. Hehe…they looked just like leopards in every way – only they were the same size and shape as a normal cat that you would kick in the street. So that was fun.

What I really wanted though, was to risk my life a bit and give myself a bit of punishment.

So the next day I booked a bed in the Bumbung Kumbang saltlick hide and decided to take a trip in to the heart of darkness. A saltlick hide is nothing more that an observation shed in the middle of the jungle where you sit all night and wait for animals to come and lick the salt off the floor.

There were two routes to take and, needless to say I took the most difficult one to get there. As I was by myself, the park ranger was a bit dubious about me going, but all he said was ‘you are only one person? You are a crazy man’. I did it anyway.

Basically, it was a 7 hour hike through the thickest jungle I’ve ever seen with a full backpack weighing almost 10 kilos. It was nice at first, strolling through the forest, seeing monkeys and giant Monitor Lizards minding their own business. Then after about 4 hours and not seeing any signs and half the time the trail disappearing, I started to think that maybe I was crazy being here by myself. I had lots of water and some cheese sarnies but not much else and as my clothes were soaked and my body aching, I kept thinking about how I was going to set up in a tree for the night.

Luckily for me, after about 6 hours I came to a river crossing [this I knew was part of the trail] so I waded through it at waist height with my pack on my head. The cool water was nice and I was feeling pretty good until as I climbed up the bank I realized I had leeches attached to my feet and ankles. Now I’ve seen a lot but I don’t think there’s anything quite as nasty as having leeches sucking on your skin – especially when you’re close to wits end and in partial delirium after hours of lonely jungle hiking.

I burned them off, put my shoes back on and kept on going. About 40 minutes later I saw a sign to the hide and shouted at the top of my voice ‘Get in, you fukken twat!.’ Only after did I notice three kids sitting down a few metres further – oops! These kids had taken a 30 minute boat ride from the same place I set off and they were all fresh faced and a bit shocked at seeing me all staggering and soaked to the bone.

They were to be my shed buddies for the night. As it happened they turned out pretty cool. Two Danish kids and a Canadian.

We set up our stuff in the shed and it wasn’t long until we realised that the shed was infested with GIANT rats. Eeeuuww…they were pretty nasty cos they kept coming for our food and they were relentless, no matter how many times we hit them with a broom. So the sun went down and already we were sick of the place – it was only 8pm and we had to stay there all night – aaarrrrr!

At about 9.30, to relieve the boredom, we went out for a walk, back the way I came. That was actually really nice in the pitch black with only torches to guide us. Crossing the streams weren’t so good though.

Anyhoos, back in the hide we each took turns to sit at the window and wait for the animals to arrive [which we never honestly expected to see anyway].

At 2am, I got a tap on the head from the Danish guy [Emille] and he said he could hear something. When we switched on the torch there were three giant Seladang [wild Buffalo] licking the salt and we were chuffed. About half an hour later, two more and a calf turned up and we were chuffed again. It’s great, the way to spot them is to shine the torch and catch their eyes – so to see eyes shining and moving deep in the forest is pretty cool – and a bit spooky.

After not much sleep at all, the sun came up and we decided to head back. We took the [supposedly] easier route back and hiked for about 2 and a half hours before the trail just vanished. Then we spent the next hour or so wandering aimlessly through thick jungle and got all scratched up and tired of being alive. That was pretty sketchy cos we really had no idea where we were going but luckily I had a compass [which didn’t really help us] but made people feel a bit better.

Eventually, we decided we weren’t getting anywhere so we agreed to head back to the shed and take an alternative route to the river and hope we would get picked up. Another two hour trek back to the shed and then another hour or so to the river. By this time we were almost all out of water and pretty knackered [we were walking in the heat of day].

A few boats passed by and while we were jumping and shouting for help, the people in the boats just smiled and waved back at us – hmmm. Luckily, one boat stopped and took us back for a meagre fee and everyone was happy.


Today I went to some cave somewhere and tomorrow I’m off the Perhentian island for some well deserved rest and rehydration.

Saved by man and boat...

Saved by man and boat...

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11 March 2006


Mostly asleep in Kuala Lumpur

Zzz...Yay, I'm back in Malaysia.

It's hot and sweaty.

I've spent two days in bed already and plan to spend the next two days there aswell.

Jetlag...Just can't seem to function...properly...without...nodding...off...z..z...z

Arms weakening...eyes closing, must...stay...a..w..a..k..e...


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6 March 2006


-6 Degrees in the sun...

Aiiiyah! Me fingers are knacking.

Welcome to Hartlepool in March when it's minus six degrees and snowing.

If you go to the sea front then it's probably about minus fifteen degrees - what with that lovely fresssshhh North Sea breeze.

Aiiiyah! Me nose is knacking too.

Brrrr...Back to Malaysia soon where cold means I have to take my face away from the fan and switch it down to 9.


Super cold - can't handle it, me

Super cold - can't handle it, me

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2 March 2006

State of Emergency

Flew back to UK to see me mam

I'm back in the UK now.

Came back yesterday and am on me way to Hartlepool to see me mam.

Only for a week though and i'm flying back into KL on Wednesday 8th March where I will pick up from where I left off.

That means the East Coast of Malaysia with jungles, beaches and [hopefully] no McDonalds's.

West Coast Malaysia is just like a really hot and sweaty version of the Western world.

So until then it's hats n' scarves all the way for me as i'm [literally] chillen me beans.


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