Going Native: Kerachut beach and Monkey beach, Penang

January 28, 2014
What sets 'best friends' apart from 'good friends' is that best friends love you despite and for all your flaws, the ones that make you absolutely intolerable to everyone else but yet are a source of endearment (and frustration) to them. While a normal friend would smile politely through the pain, a best friend plays your game and beats you at it. Like Sheena-chan for example! Last week I stayed with her and David in Penang, and without Michiekins to help her manage me, Sheena had to devise a way to keep me under control. Her exact words were: "Oh God...Jasiminne is well rested and didn't bring her iPad, her Mac, or a book...she's going to be a handful. I know! We'll take her to the beach and let her run around to exhaust herself!" You know how the best way to stop a bored, hyperactive puppy from destroying your house is to take it for a long walk so that it sleeps like an angel when it gets home? Same theory.

Sheena-chan and David suggested we go to Kerachut beach and Monkey beach. We could have done what Sroop and Drew did and hiked through the rainforest of Penang National Park to reach the beach, but let's be realistic; Sheena-chan is a dainty Korean puteri lilin, and my resemblance to Disney Princess falls short of walking through the woods. I will sing to hamsters and stray cats, but that's it. So we left Sroop and Drew to make their way through the jungle, fending off sun bears and God knows what, while we cheated and took a boat to Kerachut beach.

Apparently a scarf print silk dress, cat eye makeup, carefully styled hair and beaded sandals is not what you wear for a boat ride on waves so choppy that every wave nearly flips the boat over. We were splashed with blasts of saltwater in our eyes, mouth, face, and everywhere else. Everything was drenched. Thank God I left my Chanel handbag at home.

What I should have looked like. This photo was from a different day and after that horrendous boat ride I bore no resemblance to this fresh-faced, doe-eyed creature. In reality I looked like a drowned rat. In a dress.

Spot the 'turtle head' rock.

And the 'upside down turtle head' rock. Hahaha, it looks like a turtle that got flipped over on his back exposing his flat delicate belly to the world. Poor thing.

Kerachut beach is stunning, undisturbed, and isolated but deadly. Swimming in the sea nearby is now prohibited because of all the fatal accidents that happen when people get pulled out to sea by strong currents. A tragedy happened recently when three people drowned. It's so horrible. A solemn reminder of how Nature is a beautiful, but unpredictable and cruel mistress.

Kerachut beach has a turtle sanctuary. 

Turtle eggs are scooped up from the sand and the babies are raised in the sanctuary safe from poachers and predators. When they are deemed old and big enough to take their chances against the world, they're released back into the wild.

Baby turtles! Little ones jostling to sun bathe in this corner. Part of the tank is shaded to keep them cool and stop them from overheating in the blazing tropical sun.

This turtle was a little bit older and he had a whole tank to himself. While the babies were more frenzied and climbing all over each other he swanned gracefully through the water with this 'I'm above all of this' air. Or maybe he was just being an emo teenager turtle.

The baby turtles that don't survive are preserved and displayed as part of the turtle museum. It's a little sad but heartening that even in death this little baby will serve to educate generations on his species, and in turn create awareness about their plight leading to more saved lives in the future?

We respectfully bade farewell to Kerachut beach and thanked it for all its lessons, and left for calmer shores.

We took the boat around the islands and were dropped off at the much less scenic, smaller, and infinitely more crowded Monkey beach.

Compared to the vast, unspoilt beauty of Kerachut beach, this place was not much to look at.

But we made the most of it, and found ways to keep ourselves amused.

The boys failed to climb to the top of the slippery rock...

...so reinforcements were brought in.

Team work makes the dream work.

Sroop kept poking me in the back with that stick (but that's nothing compared to her favourite habit of jabbing her fingers forcefully on my bruises) and David shoved a handful of sand down the back of my bottoms. Do you see what I mean about how best friends go above and beyond? Sheena-chan did nothing to stop them which makes her just as guilty. 

I bought a lilo with every intention of floating serenely out to sea.

David undertook the arduous task of inflating it manually with a hand pump while we watch on and refuse to help, because we are such wonderful friends. "When I'm done with this lilo none of you losers are going to get to lie on it!"

Of course the moment it was inflated Sheena-chan hopped on it and refused to get off.

And then Drew decided to go exploring.

This sohai paddled off down a stream into the great unknown jungle with just a makeshift oar to protect him from God knows what. He disappears for half an hour...and then more...he doesn't come back. Everyone solemnly says, to borrow a phrase from The Hangover 3 "I'm afraid Penang's got him now." Some say he was accosted by cannibals, others say he ran into a herd of angry Pygmy hippos. Wilson! WIL-SOOON! No, the truth is he made it back muttering "I'm not the same person I am when I entered the jungle...I've seen things...I'm a different man."

Still, I got my lilo back so it was all good.

I wished I was as adventurous. 

In anticipation of our little beach trip I had declared that I would find a rock in the sea, close to the beach, and perch on it like Ariel. It would be the new and improved version of that time I sat on a rock in the middle of a swimming pool and sang "Part Of Your World". This dugong has finally evolved into a mermaid!

And I found the most perfect rock!

The waves around it were so choppy, so moody, and so violent that I daren't wade out to the rock. But think of how dramatic they would have been splashing around me, forming a great foamy halo!

My rock.


Sigh, I am full of regret. I wanna be...where the people are...part of that world!

At least one person did live out his mermaid fantasies.

Made in Penang!

That night I slept like a baby thanks to Sheena's cunning plan.

But to this day I still regret not climbing out onto that rock.


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