They say, of all the books in the world, the most exciting stories are found between passport pages, and without a second thought I can assure you it’s true! This trip is one of my most exhilarating, thrilling and exciting ones that I’ve been on. It was the first time Payal and I were travelling on our own; navigating our way through highways and untouched beaches. Ever since I landed in Malaysia, we’ve been anticipating and planning these four days and, honestly, it’s been worth every second. Imagine two girls filled with adventure, on a fairly empty island, jumping off massive boulders and swimming with fluorescent fish! Breathtaking, right? So, here goes an incredible travel story…
We departed Kuala Lumpur from the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) bus station, just before dawn. The bus ticket to Lumut Jetty is about 27 ringgits for one way. It’s pretty cheap considering the air-conditioned luxury that these buses provide, and the time. Although I slept for most part of the bus journey, I woke up to see flat, never-ending landscapes of lush green grasslands and attractive mountain ridges on either side. Of course, the Malaysian skies never failed to hypnotize me and I; I let them take me where they pleased! After an easy three-hour road trip, we reached the Lumut bus station, which is the gateway town to Pangkor Island. We bought a 28-ringgit return ferry ticket to Pangkor Island from the Lumut jetty. The ferry ride lasts only about 30 minutes so we relaxed and mentally geared up for what was going to be the best two days of my stay in Malaysia! On the ferry, we bumped into fellow Indians living in Malaysia, who often visited Pangkor and they were kind enough to give us a few tips and suggestions for our stay in Pangkor. Meeting helpful and generous people in a foreign land is a genuinely comforting feeling. We knew who to call in case of an emergency.
We had to take a cab from the jetty to our hotel and our thoughtful friends from the ferry made sure we bargained the cab prices before we hopped onto cute, pink colored taxi vans that read “Pulau Pangkor”. Excited was an understatement!
We stayed at the luxurious Pangkor Sandy Beach Resort that overlooked the pastel blue waters of the ocean. That day we spent walking around town, spent some time on Nipah Beach watching the sunset and hunted down places to eat. As it was the off-season time, a lot of restaurants and shacks were shut and the few that were open were not quite worth the food or ambience.
The next day, we rented out a private boat to go island hopping around the main land. Now, one would think that it isn’t the safest option for two young girls to set off with a random boatman but I guess I’d argue that if you don’t fully trust and believe your intuition, you’d never know. So, we set off post a heavy breakfast with a bag full of snacks, drinks, a bedsheet, lots of sunscreen and our swimwear! The boat ride was fast and bumpy. I watched the oh-so blue ocean surround us, and the main land slowly disappear into the horizon. Payal looked at me with so much excitement, and it filled my heart! She loves the sea and sand; it’s her happy place. Her energy poured over into me and we were like two little excited puppies. Our boatman was a genuine guy. He introduced himself, offered us bread to feed the fish and took care of us. We sailed to the beautiful Marina Island, Coral Bay Island, Pulau Mentagor, Pulau Giam, Pangkor Laut Island, Monkey Island and Paradise Beach while he told us stories about each island and why they were named the names they have. Unconsciously, I knew most of them were myths and stories that circulated in town but with the excitement and humor that he added, I listened with utmost concentration.
Finally, he took as to an unnamed, untouched and newly discovered isle that floated in the middle of the ocean. It was so small that I could literally take a walk around the periphery of the island. There was only but one small shack made up of 2 bed sheets, a couple wooden planks and coconut tree leaves. The golden sand shined under the sun and the water was a crystal clear blue. I was awestruck, mesmerized and shaken by how absolutely beautiful this virgin island sparkled under the sky, surrounded by the vast ocean. I simply could not believe the existence of that islet. My faith in Mother Earth rose up and I imagined that there were many more places like these, born out of her loins, that remain untouched by man.
We spent the entire day on this gorgeous island, snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing and clicking a thousand pictures. I spent uncounted hours floating around in the ocean, looking at the water and the sky. Studying each wave, different from the last. Seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep of it all, and letting it take me. The sea. I noticed how perfectly quiet it is underwater. A silence I can’t wait to hear again. The fish swam around me but I didn’t feel a single one touch me. It was so beautiful that when I walked out of the water, I didn’t want to talk or move; I wanted to just be. My conscience took me by surprise. I felt at peace.
We returned to the mainland that night; stuffed ourselves with local food and fell asleep at dusk. We woke up the next morning to an overwhelming sunrise. The sky turned from pink to a hundred shades of orange and I stood there watching the horizon drawing itself in the sky. Close to the hotel, our boatman owned a water sports company. He insisted that we try them, and Payal convinced me to do at least one with her; so, I did. It was fun! A different kind of adventure, and something I hadn’t done before. You guessed right, we didn’t just do one, we did them all! It was quite an eventful day- I did watersports for the first time, Payal’s phone stopped working and we couldn’t find good places to eat! So, we stayed in all day, went into the pool for sometime and then sat at the beach watching the sun set and starlit sky.
Here’s to a trip that taught me more than any textbook, school or teacher did. To a friend who is forever, to fears and joys that can exist symbiotically, and to a life so simple and precious.