Travel isn’t always sandy beaches and perfect sunsets

So many travel blogs, Instagram posts and Facebook statuses bragging about their epic and unique adventures.  They aren’t always so quick to share the exhausting journeys, dirty rooms, bad food, and missed connections.

Here’s a picture from breakfast at our hotel on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  But I can’t say the trip was worth it.


We took the overnight bus leaving at 8:00pm and arriving in Kota Baru at 5:00am.  Comfortable enough, except for the 16ºC air con, which made it impossible to sleep.  Our early arrival meant we had to wait a few hours at the docks before we could continue on.  7-11 provided water and snacks.

7:00am Boat from Kota Baru to Perhentian Islands

At 7:00am we boarded a small speedboat to the islands.  The previous day’s storm meant the trip was rough and wet.  Our captain drove fast, and the small boat crashed against the huge waves, hosteling it’s passengers.  Especially not fun for my motion sick-prone travel partner.

The boat dumped us off at the shore, and we dragged our luggage through the sand to our hotel.  After check-in we dragged those bags up a few flights of uneven and unstable stairs.  Neither of those burdens are worth complaining because we are about to be in our room  where we can relax.

The room smells like mold.  There are gaps between the floorboards, so bugs are sneaking in, and our neighbor’s laundry is hanging on our balcony.  The relaxing shower I was dreaming of is spoiled by dead bugs in the sink and dirt on the floor.  To exacerbate the experience, the wifi doesn’t work!

The best thing to eat at the best restaurant is a fried egg sandwich.  There were only a handful of dinning establishments, our choices being moderately priced and greasy or expensive and tasteless.  Beans on pale toast with coffee flavored water constituted our breakfast.

Did the weather save the trip?  Nope.  The storm caused rough water, so we couldn’t canoe.  It also rained and left us stranded with no wifi and so we were forced to converse and play checkers.

We did have a nice snorkel trip for a reasonable price.  For 40 MYR ($12.60 CAD) we had a day of snorkeling.  Our trip stopped at the Fish Cove, where we saw plenty ‘o fish; Shark Cove, where we saw black-tipped reef sharks; Turtle Cove, where we indeed saw a sea turtle; Coral Reef, which was full of coral; and Adam and Eve where we looked for clown fish (Nemo!).

Leaving the islands, we took the first boat to the mainland, and missed the bus to Kuala Lumpur by 15 minutes.  We had to wait 4 hours for the next bus.  For the next 10-hour bus ride to KL.  The bus terminal only had one working bathroom (the three others were locked), and I mean “working”.  It was so gross, I couldn’t go inside.  And I have gotten pretty tough when it comes to toilet quality.  There was a busy market right at the bus terminal, where we bought some tasty snacks and saved the fresh and dried fish for another time.

In the end, it wasn’t even one of the worst trips I had been on.  But it wasn’t relaxing and was only a little fun.  When we finally reached KL we were exhausted and hungry and ready for a vacation.

If you’re are interested in visiting the Perhentian Islands, I suggest staying on the mainland and take a day trip by boat.


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