Tag Archives: South Asia

Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia

A week ago I had never even heard of the Perhentian islands now I’d like to move there and open up a beach bar. There are two Perhentian islands, Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar, we were drawn to Kecil as it’s a better fit for backpackers as opposed to families and honeymooners.

The island has two key spots, Long Beach and Coral Bay separated by about a 1 km walk. Long Beach has stretches of alabaster sands with azure, gentle waves perfect if you are an “ocean bobber” not so great if you like to go mano-a-mano with a killer riptide. Coral Bay is a calm bay with lots of coral (the clue really is in the title) and all marine life that accompanies it. The bay is so still you can swim laps in it and is as clear as glass, perfect for snorkeling.


Finding accommodation appeared challenging at first but turned out to be rather simple, when looking online there are approximately four options available, do not be fooled by this, there are closer to twenty they just don’t have an online presence. Your best bet is to get a ferry from Kuala Besuit (60RM return) and find somewhere when you land. I can highly recommend Senja Bay Resort on Coral Bay 70RM per night for a beach front chalet, the room is basic but perfect for this island. From your front deck you have an uninterrupted view of the bay and it’s many inhabitants.*

The marine life is striking, plentiful and in one case quite belligerent.

Countless species of damselfish are spotted gliding around the bay getting on with whatever it is fish get on with however, the bowtie damsel upon sighting you locks eyes, takes a swim up and repeatedly body slams or nips you as hard as it can. This is not particularly painful but is slightly unnerving, similar to being mauled by a Teacup Chihuahua.


The easiest way of spotting where these fish are in the bay is to look for other people hurriedly swimming backwards with a bewildered look on their face.


Wanting to explore more than coral bay we booked ourselves on a full day snorkeling trip and for the princely sum of 30 RM where we were taken to six different areas around both islands  – coral garden, shark point, turtle bay, romantic beach, the lighthouse and the fisherman village.

As with coral bay shark point and turtle bay were very aptly named, shark point yielded a small, 1 metre shark, a stingray and some large cuttlefish. Turtle bay was the big win of the day, as we pulled up in the boat a 1 1/2 meter green turtle was grazing on sea grass, shortly joined by another three smaller turtles.
Fun fact – a group of turtles is referred to as: a bale of turtles a dule of turtles a nest of turtles or a turn of turtles.

Good reference site to help identify the marine life you will most likely see Common Coral Reef Fish

Here are a few do’s and don’ts for the island.


  1. Do take cash! Imagine, if you can, a long gone era where MasterCard and Visa didn’t exist that is what it is like on Perhentian Kecil. There is not a single ATM on the island and we only found two places that accept card, watching the pitying look of a vendor as you attempt to pay by Visa for two beers from a cooler on the beach is not fun. We did manage to find one place that would exchange money however their exchange rate was from over a year ago so it was a ferry ride back to the mainland for us.
  2. Do stock up on water, snacks and alcohol before you leave the mainland. Most of the bottled water is treated tap water and alcohol is relatively expensive, 10RM a 330ml beer, 28RM a cocktail, 28RM a glass of wine and 20RM for a whiskey soda making it quite easy to plough through cash – see point 1
  3. Do try the beach BBQ from Mama’s Restaurant on Coral Bay, 18 RM for a huge fresh fillet of fish (ranging from kingfish, tuna, barracuda to lobster), side, fruit and dessert. Service moves at a glacial speed but hey where else do you have to be
  4. Do go on a snorkeling trip, every second place on both beaches advertise 25RM for a short trip and 30RM for a long one.
  5. Try and take a backpack, both landing points are jetties that turn into beaches, wheels and sand don’t mix very well


  1. Don’t wander more than 300 meters away from the beach without mosquito repellent. The island has a lot of jungle containing stealth bomber mosquitoes that should not be underestimated in their blood thirsty sneakiness
  2. Don’t plan your trip during monsoon season (November – March) this isn’t like other parts of the world with a large variety of things to do, if you don’t have the beach you don’t have anything here. In addition to which pretty much all hotels, restaurants etc. close for about three months and a tent on the beach won’t last five minutes once a storm there gets on its dancing shoes

*Other animal sightings include large monitor lizards, squirrels with red tipped tails and pet cats pouncing on the front deck to regale you with their days adventures.

The Tourist Visa: A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery Hidden Inside an Embassy

So lets start where everyone, at some point, has to start – the dreaded visa. For the last seven years I have wielded the almighty power of the British passport so I tend to forget that once in a while a country might demand a tourist visa. However, prior to that I had a South African passport which is hardly the ticket to the world so I am well versed in having to get visas to go absolutely anywhere and everywhere.

It just so happens that our first destination , Sri Lanka, is one of the countries that requires a visa and I must be honest so far the process has been painless. Sri Lankan passport control have implemented an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) system http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US which consists of a simple online form  that requires your personal, passport, flight and  accommodation details. After paying the standard $30 I received an email stating they were processing my application and within five minutes (I’m not exaggerating, I double checked the times) I received an ETA approval email. When I get to the airport I need to produce my passport together with return air ticket (we have onward tickets to India) and proof of sufficient funds. From reading other online discussions sufficient funds can be proven with a credit card of cash to the value of $30 a day, some are saying $15 a day but most people seem to think $30 to be safe. Interestingly enough most discussions are saying that they have never been asked to show proof of funds so we’ll see how that goes.

This has got me thinking about other country requirements so I have taken our prospective list of countries and done some poking around on embassy websites, it looks like a few of the countries don’t require tourist visas or they can be purchased at the airport but some visas will need to be acquired before prior to arrival.

I have summarised the results below for anyone that’s interested.

Please note: This is based on having a British passport, make sure you check with the countries embassy before you travel as there is always the chance they change their laws.

Country Fees Notes
Myanmar (Burma) £14 You will need to get a visa before you travel. You should apply at the nearest Burmese Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travelling. Or Myanmar Visa has an online service www.myanmarvisa.com. You can stay for 4 weeks from date of arrival, extendable by 2 weeks = $36, 4 weeks = $72. If you enter Burma via the Muse (Burma Shan State) or Tamu (Burma Chin State) border crossings you must exit at the crossing from which you entered.
Thailand N/A  British passport holders arriving by air can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa. If you’re arriving at an overland crossing, you’ll only be given visa free entry valid for 15 days.
Vietnam £75 From embassy, you can apply for Visa in person or by post. A 90-day, tourist, multiple-entry visa fee cost £95
Philippines  N/A You can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days. You can also get a tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy before you travel, which will allow an initial 59 day stay
Laos $35  You can get a visa on arrival. If you are in the region, you can get a long-stay visa from the Laos Embassy in Bangkok or Hanoi. If you are in the UK the nearest Laos Embassy is in Paris.
Cambodia $20 You can get a visa on arrival at most ports of entry.
The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs operates an electronic visa (e-Visa) which costs US $20 for 1 month, can be extended for only 1 extra month.
Payment is in $US only. You will need to bring 2 passport photos.
Hong Kong N/A You can visit Hong Kong for up to 6 months without a visa. If you are travelling to mainland China via Hong Kong you must get a Chinese visa before arrival at the border.
Malaysia N/A British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Malaysia. You will normally be given permission to stay for 3 months on arrival.
Bali, Indonesia $25 British nationals need a visa to enter Indonesia. You can get a 30-day visa on arrival
Singapore N/A You don’t normally need a visa to enter Singapore for stays of up to 30 days for tourism
China British nationals need a visa to enter mainland China, you must get a visa prior to arrival, including for Hainan Island.
India £92.20 You must get a visa before travelling to India. Up to 6 months
Sri Lanka $30 You will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can get a short stay visa through an online visa application process http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US
Nepal $25 – $100 You will need a visa to travel to Nepal. Visas are available on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and at some land borders. You can pay in pounds sterling at the airport. Bring two passport-sized photos with you.
15 days=$25, 30 days=$40, 90 days=$100