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10 June 2004

Dark Side of Paradise

Location : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

For the regular readers of this blog, you would know that I have gone on and on about Perhentian Islands in the past, about how great it is, how beautiful, how amazing, how people always come to the island expecting nothing and end up staying weeks, etc. In this post, I will neutralise things by letting you know my bad experiences on the island. Yes, like most things, you always have to taste the bitter to know and appreciate the sweet.

A large part of the time I allocated to travel was spent on the Perhentian Islands. I first went to the islands about 7 or 8 years ago and I have been bewitched by its beauty since. I've been visiting Perhentian Islands on and off to surf and scuba dive since then until I had to leave Malaysia to study and live in England. After being in England for 2.5 years, I returned to Malaysia in January 2003 and I have made about four long-term 'pilgrimages' to the Perhentian Islands because it was the thought of these islands that kept me going throughout the winters of 2000, 2001 and 2002 in England. I made some pretty good friends on the island, mainly Awie and Eddie who are both brothers working and living on the island. Some others that I have met or worked with are also good, funny guys. Like Makmin of Tussy Cafe or Joe of Shake Shack, the boatmen and some others. Besides enjoying the atmosphere on the island, it is also really nice to meet and hangout with these island friends of mine whenever I can. After returning to Malaysia, I made two trips to the islands last year. Then, I stayed away for a year and made another two trips again this year.

1st Trip in 2003 - When I first arrived at the islands fresh from winter in Europe, I was so ecstatic and excited about my impending long stay on the island. I spent the first week getting to know the locals and to look for a job. And in my enthusiasm, I trusted easily. I lent money to someone and till today, that money is now considered bad debt and unrecoverable because I found out later on that the guy I lent to was a drug addict. And I just know that the money is not recoverable. Lost RM300 which was worth(at that time) almost GBP50.

2nd Trip in 2003 - I went to Kuala Lumpur for 2 weeks and then returned to the island. Most of the people who work on the island are not proficient in the English Language and so when travellers meet a guy like me, they tend to end up hanging out with me quite often. It doesn't matter whether I hangout with guys or girls as long as they are cool and not weirdos or self-centred pricks. But to some people on the island, they only see and remember me hanging out with the females. Your eyes see what you want to see. And then your mind goes and fuck it all up. Some form of jealousy grew. Two days before I was meant to leave the island to go surfing in Indonesia, a local guy who already had a couple of drinks put his arm around me pretending to be friendly. But when we stepped outside the restaurant, he and his friends started to hit me. I normally like surprises but that was NOT a nice surprise. I didn't fight back out of respect for his Mom because I knew her personally! And I'm not a fighter....well, I won't finish that sentence because it'd be cliché. I just walked away. There wasn't any physical damage done on me because they were young, emotional, jealous and angry drunkards trying to throw punches and kicks. Like what a friend of mine said - boys who cannot handle their alcohol out to look for a fight. However, mentally, all that good vibe and dreamy ideas I had of Perhentian Islands being paradise on Earth were destroyed. I really, really, hate to fight. I just want to surf and make lots of love. Ok, maybe that was a bit too much detail but you get the picture. In fact, I haven't been in a fight for years because I have long grown past that phase! That is how I put it in words but maybe the truth is I just don't have the testosterone or the emotional charge needed to fight anymore. Argh. Anyway, I left to go surfing and travelling through Indonesia but I was feeling very sad, dismayed and utterly disappointed about that incident because Perhentian Islands was MY escape, my 'drug', somewhere on this planet where I felt free and at peace. The incident was such a stupid dfsjlhoiyrsjkb. That was purposely spelled like that because I have no words to describe it. I honestly thought that guy who hit me was a friend. There was no sign, no grievances or discussions so I never saw it coming. And I never had a chance.

3rd Trip in 2004 - It's been a year of travelling since I last saw Perhentian. It was nice to see my mates Awie and Eddie on the island again. A rat bit through my Macpac backpack. The backpack had been with me to many countries and it was more of a sentimental loss. Still, this is minor compared the other negative incidences.

4th Trip in 2004 - This was the most recent trip. I wanted to go surfing in Thailand but I missed my train so I ended up in Perhentian again. This time around, at least RM200 and 60 EUROs was stolen from my wallet. Lost a total of about RM500 or almost GBP80. Yes, I could have made a better effort to keep my money safe by putting it in a safe deposit box or bury it at a secret location. Don't get me wrong - I don't think I am a clumsy, careless dude. In all my travels, I am in "ultra defensive" mode which means I trust no one, no mouse, no room, no hotel receptionist, no tuk-tuk driver, no traveller, etc. But when I'm with friends, all my defences are down. I feel that keeping my wallet in my backpack does not mean that I slacked in keeping my finances safe. I didn't leave it on a restaurant table or somewhere visible to the naked eye. The cash just disappeared from my a virgin on prom night. The wallet was still in my backpack, but some Ringgit and Euro was missing.

Time and time again I ask myself, what was I doing wrong? This can't be karma because I didn't steal anything! Or was it something that I didn't do? How could I have been so naive and trusted so easily? I followed all the rules. I respected and acknowledged everyone on the island. I continued smiling at people who don't smile back or people who looked through me as though I was invisible. Why did this thief have to steal from me? What does he have against me? (I suspect the thief is someone I know on the island). I have not lived with this kind of narrow-minded thinking for a long time and I wish I didn't have to deal with it. Imagine living everyday among enemies who are pretending to be your mates. I don't think I can. I wish people were more open with each other, spoke their mind and dealt with issues instead of harbouring ill feelings, allowing them to accumulate and explode someday.

When I meet someone for the first time, I do not automatically think that person is a bad person. To me, he/she is good until proven bad. He is ok until he starts behaving like an asshole. She is not a bitch until she barks like one. At least that person is given a chance no matter what his/her past may be. Does that mean I trust too easily?

I have met many travellers on the islands who have had their belongings stolen. Lately, there has been a spate of thefts. The travellers get drunk, leave their things on the beach and go skinny dipping. It's almost like a ritual with the Scandinavians that travel through the islands. Now, THAT is asking for trouble. The prevailing mentality seems to be that if you allow your things to be stolen, they ought to be stolen and it is your fault. Whatever happened to stealing is wrong? As for me, how was I to expect stealing among friends? When these skinny dippers return, well what do you know....where are my thongs? My clothes? My bag? In that last trip alone, I met 4 different groups of travellers who had things missing. Sometimes, it is the other travellers themselves who are doing the stealing or cheekily removing the belongings and putting them elsewhere.

After speaking my mind out and letting you know the 'inside' story of the island, let me remind you that Long Beach on Perhentian Island is still very, very, very beautiful. If you ever get a chance to come to the island, it will be one of the most beautiful places you have ever seen on Earth. Well, at least to most people it is. Eddie says he first saw the island 16 years ago and he has been stuck there ever since. There is only one other place I have seen where the beauty can be compared. It is in Mawun, Lombok Island, in Indonesia(View the Photo Album). There are just certain bad elements lingering around on Long Beach that I hope you never have to experience it the way I did.

Posted by Ripcord at June 10, 2004 08:11 PM


Yo bro i tot you were on a train to PHU-KET??

what happened???

Posted by: brains at June 11, 2004 03:37 PM

I am sorry that you have encountered bad things in a beatiful place. Atleast you're not complaining or anything. I want to go to there it looks good.

Posted by: jess at June 12, 2004 01:23 AM

I think I needed to hear that. Ever since I left the island perhentian has been my picture of paradise. I can't enjoy beeing back in sweden, because all I do is dream my way back to perhentian. Now that I know bad things happen there as well, maybe I can daydream about it less and acctually enjoy sweden, which is very beautiful summertime..
You're welcome to come and see me whenevere you want..

Posted by: anna at June 13, 2004 05:30 PM

anna : paradise comes with a price.... thanks for the invitation. i probably will come to sweden once i am back in europe.

Posted by: Ripcord at June 14, 2004 05:06 AM