I’ve just returned from a three week vacation in West Malaysia, or three weeks of something anyway. Calling it a vacation is a bit of a stretch. It went from the “are we there yet?” phase to the “when can we go home?” phase in no time flat. From the relay-race style vomiting of the first week to the tag-team measles of the third, it was the kind of vacation that will make you stay home next year. The plan was simple: rent a van, pile aboard, and spend three weeks going from relative’s house to beach to more relatives’ houses all around the peninsula. We had scarcely left the airport before we knew that plan was no longer tenable. Instead, we wound up with nearly three weeks grounded at Kampung Sungai Balai Darat, Bagan Datoh, dealing with fevers, 2nd degree burns, and rivers of loose motions, vomit and tears.
It wasn’t all bad though. Really. We did manage one brief excursion to Pulau Pangkor, Perak’s own island getaway. I’d visited on day trips several times before since it’s not that far from Bagan Datoh and is also close to my mother-in-law’s kampung of origin near Lumut. We did a few things differently this time though: We brought along my nephew San(one of my 22 nieces and nephews on my wife’s side), we stayed a few nights, and I sprung for a boat trip off from the main beach.
That last one was well worth it. As gorgeous as the Teluk Nipah beach is, the island in the bay is way nicer. Pulau Giam or Coral Island was spectacular: live coral visible swaying under the clear water, a white sand beach of shells and dry coral bits, more breeze… After an hour or so, the other groups left and we had almost the whole place to ourselves. KakNgah went looking for coral and sea shells and found a star fish; well, not quite: it’s a star-shaped peice of plastic debris. It was her favorite find nonetheless.
The sun continued to climb till it was directly overhead. The tide went out, placing the shore far away from any shade. It was too much for Andak, who took a nap in a sarong suspended from a peice of driftwood. Really useful, those sarongs. We snacked on stale muruku from raya that my mother-in-law brought along till the boat came to pick us up at one. Malaysia truly has some amazing places. I can’t wait till the kids are old enough to do some real adventuring.
There’s never an excuse to neglect your salat when vacationing in Malaysia. Across the street from the beach, between restaurants and hotels, there is a tiny musallah. It is even less exciting on the inside, but it has all the necessities, including spare sarongs for those who show up in their swim trunks. A little advice to anyone thinking to visit Pangkor: don’t go during Malaysian school vacation times and don’t go on the weekend. Prices are nearly double during the peak times for most things, and the crowds dissappear Sunday afternoon. We saw the difference since we came on a Saturday and on Tuesday returned to Bagan Datoh.
Little did I know that in the two years since we last visited, our sleepy little backwater had itself become a tourist destination! I’ll fill you in on the details in the next installment.