Vierzehn Tage

Some thoughts from my brain machine after spending fourteen days here.

Classes have been much tougher than I’d anticipated. Yes, this is grad school. Yes, it probably doesn’t help that my brain was essentially lying dormant for the past seven months. Yes Toto, we’re not in Tassie Kansas anymore. There’s a lot more math and physics involved. Lectures aren’t recorded, so missing class isn’t really an option anymore. We’re using RStudio again but I’ve always been a bit crappy understanding the script. We’re also using things like Vensim, Stella, and Erdas Imagine, which I’m completely unfamiliar with. Also, it’s customary for students in a class to knock on the tables in a classroom with their knuckles at the end of every class. Why? I have no clue. Apparently it’s like applause, but not.

I’m taking 6 modules (excluding the introduction courses for MSc ES students like myself, and the interdisciplinary stats refresher for Masters students) for this semester, instead of 4, which is the usual case for most Australian universities. Oh, and did I mention that some classes start at 8am, and some run until 8pm? These Germans are hardcore. My timetable, apart from Monday, is pretty packed.

Food at the cafeteria is insanely cheap, at least compared to what I was paying for on-campus f&b at UTAS. You can get soup, a main, a salad, and fruit/dessert for under 3 Euro. Even coffee from the not-as-shitty-as-I-thought vending machine is 90 cents. It doesn’t look like mochas or chai lattes are a thing here.

My studio’s fairly cosy. My couch doubles as a bed, which means I have more space for a desk and closet. My kitchen doesn’t have an extractor hood so the entire apartment smells like food whenever I cook. But my shower cubicle was recently refurbished and the studio’s warm at night (while it’s 1 degree out), and honestly, I’m looking forward to making it as homey as possible. Can’t wait to set up my photo wall 🙂

As far as social life goes, I’ve made a handful of pals in my cohort. There’s Séb, Tash, Bettina, Sooyeon, and Feli. Unfortunately, I feel like my relationships with family and friends have been put on the backburner due to my schedule and the time differences. I haven’t properly talked to my parents/sister in what feels like forever, and not having a stable internet connection at home only makes things worse. That said, I’m signing up for an internet contract tomorrow (but apparently it’ll still take a couple of weeks for everything to be set up).

Life here is good. Uni is being one tough sucker, but I have a lot, and I mean a lot to be grateful for.

Hallo, Trier

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Today is my sixth day in Trier. How has it already been almost a week? How? Life has been fairly hectic since dad and I arrived. From having trouble locating my Airbnb (because there are several buildings located at Zeughausstraße 8), to being utterly taken aback by the language barrier, braving the public transport system solo, attempting to navigate my uni’s campus, encountering problems at the bank due to my lack of a permanent address, looking for a flat to move into, and crying during Skype calls for the first four days here.

Having dad around definitely helped. He left Trier today and is now in a plane headed towards Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. I miss our meals together, but most of all, our quiet walks back to my Airbnb at night. Now I’m properly alone in this new and scary and exciting and beautiful town, and my emotions are all over the place.

I miss home. I miss my parents and my sister. I miss my girls and my bros. I miss my friends from Tassie, and the little family we made for ourselves all those years. I miss eating homecooked food (eating out for a week is making me feel sluggish). But I am warming up to Trier, despite the cold that hits like a slap to the face when I leave my apartment every morning. The autumn colours are stunning, ancient Roman ruins are scattered around town, people are generally friendly (though perhaps not as warm as Australians), there are bakeries everywhere, and the architecture is brilliant. Vineyards are aplenty and wine is cheap — 2€ for a glass at the little pop-up bar in town.

Current hurdles to clear include but are not limited to: sourcing furniture for my flat, adapting to the huge differences between UTAS and Universität Trier, catching up on lecture material that I’ve missed out on, getting an internet contract for my flat, and adapting to the time difference between Trier and KL/Singapore/Perth. I will be okay in due time, I am sure of this. The huge issue though, is not knowing when I will be okay.

That being said, I have an insanely awesome support system. Fama + jie, HP, Jess + Mel + Grace, Evan, Joan + Keefe + Sandy, Fahmi + Amir… You guys are the reason I haven’t lost my marbles. Thanks for listening to me rant via text/Skype/Twitter, and for reminding me time after time that I will be fine.

Two years in Trier. Here we go.

T-24 hours

It is 2345. In 24 hours, I’ll be in a Boeing 787-900 operated by British Airways headed to Heathrow Airport in London. The flight will take approximately 13 hours and 20 minutes, and judging by the seat map, it’s pretty full. I’m scheduled to arrive in London at 0530h local time and I have 3 hours until my next flight to Luxembourg, which should take slightly over an hour. Following that, I have an hour-long bus ride to Trier. I should arrive in Trier no later than 1500 local time.

I’m terrified. Not as terrified as I was over the past week, but still terrified. Now I’m mostly sad. Sad about saying goodbye to my family and friends. Sad about leaving my comfort zone. Sad about no longer having tasty homecooked food, or even mamak, for that matter. Sad about not being able to ring up my friends and plan meetups. Sad about the impending 6-hour time difference that will inevitably affect my relationships to some extent. Sad about being so goddamn far from home (why am I doing this again?). Sad about potentially not making it home in time, should something horrible happen to any of my loved ones. Sad about causing other people’s sadness in seeing me leave.

Over the past seven (almost eight) months, I’ve been fortunate enough to say goodbye to my grandfather, witness a dear cousin tie the knot, spend time with extended family on both sides, share the joy in the births of three babies, attend a friend’s wedding, learn how to drive and dive (though not simultaneously), breathe life back into old friendships, and strengthen existing ones. I am immensely grateful for the memories I’ve made in my not-so-short stint at home, and I look forward to making new ones in Trier, albeit with some trepidation.

Here goes nothing.

SG… Again

So! Singapore, for the third time this year. The #zoocrew reunion, also known as #gagmaskbenderSG 😂  It started off with a 4-way Skype call the night before, each of us giddy with anticipation. Joan landed in Singapore about an hour before I arrived via coach. Upon disembarking the bus, I recklessly dumped my backpack on the ground, smack bang in the middle of a road, simply because I’d waited a month for a hug from a particular person. Kinda glad only a handful of people know who I am on the island. Shortly after, I nearly got bowled over by Joan in Bugis – I swear, for someone so small, she packs a punch. Friday night consisted of super, super haram conversations at Tomo Izakaya, followed by drinks at a little bar in Chinatown.

For some reason, my mind can’t remember what happened on Saturday morning and arvo apart from HP and I eating roti canai at a hawker centre in Clementi. Well done, Rae! =.= We met with the gang for dinner at East Coast Lagoon Food Village and watched the sunset from Bedok Jetty before calling it an early night. On Sunday, we woke up hella early and headed over to USS, where we took the bloody Cylon rollercoaster three times HAHAH! The first two times were terrifying, but we all eased up the third time around. Forking out the extra $$ for our express passes proved to be well worth it as we spent no longer than 20 minutes waiting for our turn at each ride! We ended up going on all the rides, and we repeated a few of them (like the mummy ride). The Sesame Street ride was surprisingly fun; I felt like a kid all over again when I saw Big Bird, Telly Monster, Grover, Cookie Monster, and the other usual suspects. We ran out of steam by the end of the day, so we settled for a simple but tasty meal at a hawker centre a few minutes away from Sandy’s place in Kallang!

Monday consisted of an early trip to the airport to see Joan off with Sandy. Keefe had KOed the night before, so he didn’t show up 😂  Some much-needed downtime at the aquarium followed, and the day ended with some really good beer at Freehouse and a weepy MRT trip to Ang Mo Kio. Again, I’m happy I’m not a local. The next morning, HP and I grabbed a slightly late but hella scrumptious breakkie at Forty Hands. I. Love. Poached. Eggs.The end. The ensuing bus ride up to Seremban was interesting to say the least, but I won’t get into that.

Honestly, this is a very poorly written post. It’s mostly because I found out last Tuesday (my final day in Singapore) that my student visa had been granted, literally 4 weeks after I’d submitted my application at the embassy in KL. Naturally, everything’s a bit of a mess right now because I’m trying to come to terms with leaving home after 7 months and I’m looking for a place to live (beyond my first two weeks in Trier). Aaah. Leaving home never gets any easier. More updates to come (probably).

Ultra SG

When one of your cousins scores free tickets to Ultra Singapore, you go. No questions asked. Just book return bus tickets to and from the little red dot, figure out accommodation, and get stoked as hell to see your family. That’s literally what happened two weekends ago. Chin che ~acquired~ a bunch of tickets for Ultra SG, told jie, and before I knew what was happening, I was in a bus headed down south at 10:30 am on a rainy Friday morning. I think I can safely say that this year, I’ve hit a new record with #YOLO-ing.

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The bus ride was supposed to take just over 4 hours, but due to the holdup at Singapore’s customs, it took about 6 hours. Gah. Though I will say, the journey was pretty smooth on the whole. I had so much leg room! And it was nice to listen to ‘Sweater Weather’ by The Neighbourhood during actual sweater weather for once, since it rained the whole way down.

After hastily checking into G4 Station in Little India, the first order of business was to stop by the Cat Museum with Hai Ping. Because cats!

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The kitten room was fairly populated, not with kittens, but with little kids – which made it a little hard to squeeze in any contact time with the felines, but we managed to give a few of the adults on the other floors of the museum a quick pat. There was this one really fluffy and nua ginger cat that purred like I’ve never heard a cat purr before, though.. I got to give him some chin scritches, which seemed to please him. After trying (and failing) to navigate the MRT, we eventually made our way to Mandarin Gallery, where we had dinner at Sacha & Sons! The latkes with pastrami and hollandaise were so damn tasty.

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If you’re a fan of Scrubs, you’d get the deli reference 😛 We adjourned to Chinatown for beer at Smith Street Taps, which was frankly, a bit of a bitch to locate. Thankfully, the beer more than made up for the long walk we took to find the joint. We called it a night after that, and my first night at the backpacker’s was interesting, to say the least. I slept in an 8-bed mixed room, where 3 of the other occupants were, um, snoring quite loudly. I barely got any sleep, but hey, this is what roughing it out is all about! I’d never stayed at a backpacker’s before. Frankly, I’d do it all over again, sleep disruption and all. 😀

The following day, Hai Ping and I grabbed lunch at Bugis before heading over to Bayfront Avenue, right by Marina Bay Sands, for day numero uno of Ultra SG! We got in fairly quickly since it was still pretty early (just after 2pm, when DubVision were spinning). We walked around a little and checked out the stages that had been set up, as well as the f&b options. It had been 3 years since my last rave, and I’d forgotten how stupidly expensive f&b costs at events like these. SGD 12 for a Carlsberg? Ouch. If I were Australian, I’d say “Oi mate, yeah nah, get fucked.” Probably.

Anyway, it took quite some time for the festival grounds to fill up, partially due to the congestion at the entrance of the venue. My sister, cousin, and their friends were held up in line for over an hour! After everyone had made it in safely, we parked our butts at a sweet little spot not too close to the stage (it was muddy as hell up front), and not too far back either. It was humid, searing hot, crowded, but my God, it was fun. We got to watch W&W, Alesso, Afrojack, DJ Snake, and deadmau5!

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4 out of the 5 Suans in the Ong family 😀 This was taken while Afrojack was spinning! Chin che had bought a VIP ticket for herself, which meant she had access to unlimited drinks – throughout the evening, she brought us Cokes, bottles of coconut water, and water, which would have cost us… a lot of money otherwise. Hahah! Thank goodness for that, truly, because it was so hot out. We’d heard about several patrons passing out from dehydration 😦 Water stations should have been set up across the venue instead of charging patrons 8 dollars for a bottle of Evian; hopefully next year’s festival will take its patrons wellbeing more seriously!

DJ Snake’s set proved to be less than enjoyable, so HP and I went to check out Gryffin, who was performing at the stage at the opposite end of the venue. It wasn’t super crowded, so we actually got to sit down and enjoy his set, which turned out to be far better than I’d ever expected! Once Gryffin wrapped up, we made our way back to the main stage to catch deadmau5. I was surprised to see lots of attendees walking in the opposite direction, though. Maybe a more mainstream act to close the first night would have been a better decision on the organisers’ part, I reckon if they’d swapped Afrojack or Alesso’s spot for deadmau5’s, the crowd would have stayed until the very end.

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Seeing deadmau5 had been on my bucket list for the past five or six years, and now I can gladly cross it off! He played a really, really good set with some oldies like Avaritia, Strobe, and Ghosts N Stuff, along with a couple of tracks that I didn’t recognise. Rumour has it that he’ll be releasing a new album at some point! It was a huge pity that the signature Ultra symbol wasn’t lit up the entire night, supposedly due to a power trip.

After a whole day of standing around, some supper was definitely in order by the end of the night. After wolfing down some chicken rice and fried rice from the coffee shop opposite G4 Station, I managed to score a couple of hours of sleep – once again, the snoring from my roomies kept me awake for most of the night. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as the first night. I should probably also mention that staying at that hostel was my first experience in sleeping on a bunk bed! Gosh. #shelteredaf but hey, I’ve unlocked a new achievement, and for once, I’m happy I’m not taller, because I wouldn’t have been able to sit up comfortably in bed without my head touching the ceiling.

The following day, I ventured over to Orchard Road, where I met Sandy for brekkie!

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We had a very tasty brekkie at Providore in Mandarin Gallery! I loved the decor there. I tried kombucha for the first time (another achievement unlocked), which basically just tasted like diluted apple cider vinegar. Always a grand old time seeing Sandy; belly laughs are guaranteed. The best part is, I’ll be seeing her (along with Keefe and Joan) in just under almost two weeks again!

After brekkie, I nipped back to the hostel to change clothes before HP and I made our way to Bayfront for day two of Ultra. The organisers had taken note of the negative feedback from the event’s patrons (and there was lots), and as a result, there appeared to be more staff present, the queues to enter the venue were better managed as were the f&b queues, and payment processes at the f&b and merch stalls were running smoothly.

The lineup for day 2 that we managed to catch consisted of Jauz, Marshmello, Carnage, Kygo, Above & Beyond, and Axwell ^ Ingrosso. Jauz wasn’t super memorable, but I do recall having a very d’oh moment where I made the connection between the animated sharks on the huge screens and his name… Sharks… Jaws… Jauz… Geddit? HAHAH. Marshmello and Carnage exceeded expectations, but the real fun started from Kygo onwards. It happened to be Kygo’s 25th birthday (what am I doing with my life, foreal), and his set was a nice mellow change from all the untz-untz we’d been listening to. Yay for tropical house!

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The Suans during Kygo’s set 🙂 Just like the evening before, Chin che saved the day (and our wallets) by bringing us drinks – but this evening, we got to have some Moët, on top of water, coconut water, and cider! That said, I stupidly thought I could hold the cup in my mouth steadily to free up my hands, because I needed to take something out of my bag – so of course, I ended up spilling expensive booze on my top. Of course. =_=

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As night fell, Above & Beyond took to the stage. Up until that point, I’d never listened to their music, but the two hours that followed were just incredible. Their entire set was such a pleasant surprise, and Suan Yean and I couldn’t get over how much fun we were having. They didn’t speak to the audience once, instead communicating with us through heartfelt and uplifting (read: cheesy) messages on the giant screens. It was utterly refreshing. And there were none of those horrible countdowns or “Everybody make it bounce!” samples that practically every DJ had included in their sets prior to Above & Beyond.. just solid music. I’m not sure if it was because this was the first taste I’ve had of their music or if it was the atmosphere or the combination of both, but Above & Beyond’s set made me feel something I hadn’t felt before. Truly one of a kind, these Brits.

After a whole day of waiting for my favourite acts to close the festival, Axwell (sans Ingrosso, who had an ear infection) started his set just after 9pm. It was incredible! Despite his sidekick being AWOL, Axwell held the fort. I nearly lost it when he played ‘Barricade’, I was ecstatic when he teased us with oldies like ‘Greyhound’, ‘One’, and ‘Antidote’, I danced my heart out when he played ‘Sun Is Shining’ and ‘Something New’. He even played ‘Levels’ by Avicii at one point, which was definitely a crowd-pleaser. I hadn’t danced (flailed, really) like that in ages! My only regret is not recording more videos on my phone because I was dancing so much. Well, there was that, and my phone was running out of space. Don’t get a 16GB phone, guys! The music, thumping bass, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and excitement from the crowd made for an incredible sensory experience. Words don’t do it justice!

90 glorious minutes later, Axwell ended his set, there was a mad rush to leave the venue. The hold-up was massive; like a tin of sardines, if you will. Apparently 30000 (or 45000, depending on the source) people turned up, so you can picture the amount of human traffic involved. We were all squished up against each other for what felt like eternity, when in actual fact it was probably just ten minutes or so. A lot of patrons were audibly unhappy with the security present, shouting about how they were inept at their job, but hey! They were doing they best they could under the circumstances. In any case, most of us split off once we’d exited the venue as we were heading to different parts of the island. Hai Ping and I headed to the little coffee shop opposite my hostel, where I managed to meet up with an old pal from SSI, Zaky!

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He’d just returned to JB after graduating from the University of Melbourne not long ago, but he was in the area because he had a date with a chick 😛 We both look horribly tired and unglam here, but we’d both had a really long day! The last time I saw Zaky was by sheer chance in KLIA before we both boarded the same flight to Seoul about 3 years ago, so it was really quite lovely to see him and hang out with him briefly before he had to catch the last train and bus home.

Side note: the top three most played songs throughout Ultra SG were, in no particular order, ‘No Money’ by Galantis, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ by Calvin Harris and Disciples, and ‘This Is What You Came For’ by Calvin Harris and Rihanna (plus TSwizzle). I’ll admit, hearing the same three tunes in almost every act’s set was a bit annoying after a while.

Fast forward a few hours to my last full day in Singapore 😦 The original plan was for us to do the TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie Reservoir, but I was dead tired from the weekend and it was raining in the morning – so we decided to spend the day at the ArtScience Museum instead! But first, food. Pancakes, to be exact. With this happy goon 🙂

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Our little adventure to the museum was heaps of fun! We found a nifty little slide which was surprisingly fun to zoom down, failed at art (refer to our crappy turtle below), and I touched way too many things that I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to touch (fml).

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Overall, it was swell! I enjoy visiting museums in foreign countries whenever I can – but I haven’t even paid a visit to Malaysia’s national museum in KL, hahahahah. Fail! I met with sis for dinner at JiBiru, followed by my very first taste of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (super late to the party, I know I know, don’t remind me), and a glass of riesling at Wine Connection on Cuppage Rd. Not a bad way to spend my last night in Singapore, I reckon! 🙂

That brings us to my final day of the whirlwind trip! Hai Ping and I met up for brekkie, and we wandered around Haji Lane in search of a joint that was open. We didn’t find very many options, but we did grab some iced coffee from CAD Café!

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In the end, we settled for some hella tasty shawarma from House of Kebab along Arab St. The portions were huge and I couldn’t finish mine so I doggy bagged it for the bus ride home. The journey up north was largely uneventful and the bus wasn’t even half full – but it was nice to have some downtime after spending almost every waking hour around people!

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Cheers to you, Singapore, for one hell of a weekend. I couldn’t have asked for more – family, friends, food, and a couple of nice surprises thrown in. I’ll be back in 15 days! 😀

Perhentian Kecil pt. 3

Here we go, the final post on the Perhentian trip, covering days 5-7 🙂

It was Thursday on the island and our final session at TBD was a bit later in the morning, so sis and I decided to laze around on the beach before we headed in. While we were happily bumming around, two men approached us and began talking to us using some poorly-concocted excuse (“We’re starting a radio station here on the island and we want to know what Malaysians know and think about Arabic countries and culture”). The conversation went on for far longer than I’d have liked, with the two of us lying about which area of KL we came from (Bukit Bintang, hahah!).

One of the gents was doing all the talking, while the other was speaking to the first guy entirely in Arabic and lazily smoking a cigarette. We squinted up at them from the sand, making it very obvious that a) we weren’t interested in keeping up the conversation, and b) we knew that they were blatantly lying to us. Eventually they took the hint and excused themselves, moving to lurk behind some bushes (sorry, I tried to make this sound as uncreepy as possible but they really did do that).

Needless to say, sis and I were both pretty rattled by that experience, and we kept looking over our shoulders to see if the men were still hanging around (they were) but at least they didn’t come back a second time. Regardless, it was a very calm albeit slightly overcast morning, and we soon spotted Carel and May-Lee along the beach.

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This photo also makes me wonder if my left thigh is longer than my right?? Oh God.

The four of us made our way to TBD, where Azwan briefed us on what was going to be our last dive. This time, we’d be going to Shark Point, a short 10-minute boat ride away from Long Beach. It was supposed to be our deepest dive (18 m) but none of us got that deep – we only touched 14-16 m at best.

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Me, sis, and Carel setting up our dive gear before loading it onto the boat. We were extremely loose rashers that day, and instead of fitting snugly, it kind of felt like we were wearing nightgowns while we were diving.

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Mighty morphin’ Power Rangers! Yeah nah, we got to use some super pricey Suunto dive computers for our last dive and they were absolutely massive, as well as fun to play with.

For this dive, instead of hopping off the boat like we usually did, we used the back roll entry method. Basically, you chuck on your gear and make sure everything’s in place while you’re still on the boat, scoot your butt to the boat’s edge with your oxygen tank hanging off, and hold your mask, regulator, and weight belt in place (fyi, a Herculean task for someone with minuscule hands, ie. me) before flipping backwards into the water. It’s exhilarating, especially when your instructor is counting down as you sit there. 10/10 would do over and over again, but I’m bummed that it’s impossible to yell “Wheeeee!!” as I flip over because of the regulator in my mouth.

Visibility wasn’t great for the first 10 minutes of the dive, and we failed to see any sharks… 😦 BUT we did see another hawksbill turtle, crown-of-thorns starfish (I’m so happy I got to see one after learning about them at uni!), cushion sea star, black-spotted porcupinefish, banded boxer shrimp, triggerfish, giant clams, blue-ringed angelfish, butterflyfish, clownfish, longfin bannerfish, and a couple of indian ocean walkmen. We surfaced 50 minutes later, before debriefing at TBD. Thus endeth the OWD course!

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The four of us with Azwan, our instructor!

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Taking derpy photos together since 1992. Love u, seester!

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May-Lee got a bit hyper as we were taking photos and proceeded to imitate some marine life. Here she is, pretending to be a turtle. I honestly think what makes this photo great is the lady behind us.

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With the course done and dusted, we had lunch at Kak Yah’s (surprise, surprise), then we walked to the northern end of Long Beach and camped out under a couple of umbrellas for a few solid hours. We went back and forth between cooling off in the ocean and drying off/tanning under the brolly – so lovely. Eventually we moved south and treated ourselves to rum and coke, with rum that May-Lee and Carel had brought over from the mainland.

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After dinner, we’d hoped to catch the fire show, but the clouds overhead started to look a bit gnarly. Although it only rained for a short while, sis and I were a bit lazy to head back down to the beach especially as we were squeaky-clean and saltwater-free after our showers. That said, the lightning was pretty intense and the power went out at our accommodation for about 10 minutes. Not all the chalets lost power, though – only those higher up on the hill.

Now, here’s where Steve rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, Steve/Stevie the gecko from before. Steve had been chilling on the wall before we lost power. When the electricity was restored, we moved back indoors from the balcony and I noticed that Steve had left a little ~present~ on my side of the bed. To be fair, he could’ve been scared shitless (literally) from the power outage, but I was pretty peeved. I gave him a stern talking-to along the lines of “Steve, you little shit!”/”I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”/”We give you food and shelter from the elements, but this is how you repay us!?” =_= Grr. Thanks, Steve.

Despite the poop, the rest of the night was nice and chilly from the rain – but our noisy neighbours really pulled out all the stops and woke me up more times than I could count. Why can’t people be considerate ;____;

The following morning on our last full day on the island, we attempted to walk through the jungle all the way up to the abandoned wind turbines but the track was poorly defined and very rocky. Rather than risk it, we went with our gut feeling and chose to stay on the beach, where we basically stayed for the rest of the day. Brolly hire was RM10 for as long as you wanted, so it was a proper deal.

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I unintentionally made Nessie! Didn’t realise until sis pointed it out.

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RM 6 (or 7?) coconut ice cream topped with roasted peanuts. Artificially flavoured, which in hindsight shouldn’t have been surprising, but it was super refreshing and helped us cool off a bit.

We ended up getting pretty toasted with all the sunlight we were exposed to. It. Was. So. Good. Carel and May-Lee joined us after their fun dive at the Pinnacle and we hung out for a bit before grabbing dinner. No prizes for guessing what I had…. Nasi goreng kampung. Hahah! Plus a telur mata, because everything’s better with eggs.

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Our last night on the island warranted one final visit to Babbalas for a few drinks. We grabbed a table and Remi chucked a mosquito coil by our feet, bless his heart.

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A few cocktails later, we wandered over to the other bars where the fire show had started. It was about as gimmicky and touristy as you’d expect — a bunch of locals and a random white guy twirling sticks with the ends lit on fire, a token cute chick doing a variation of the same thing, and horrible electro house mix blasting in the background. But my God, it was mesmerising. We sat on the sand with dozens of other people, completely enthralled like a bunch of numpties. I don’t even know how long we were there for because my sense of time was warped as hell from being on the island.

Sis and I excused ourselves close to 11pm as we had to head home and pack up. It wasn’t until we took our showers when we realised just how charred we were from the >7 hours of sun exposure. And we had used liberal amounts of sunscreen! I can’t even imagine how much worse our skin would have been if we’d skipped sunscreen altogether.

Okay, here it is. Last day on the island. We got up, walked down for one last brekkie at Linda Café, and walked back up to finish packing. After spending some time waiting for our towels to dry on our balcony, we grabbed our bags and bid adieu to our ratchet room. We soon found out that the reception desk of our accommodation didn’t have a credit card machine, so we went to the beach where sis settled the payment at TBD. We shared one last plate of nasi goreng tomyam at Kak Yah’s, which had the tastiest food on the island by a long shot.

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We met with Carel and May-Lee at their brolly after lunch. They were doing what sis and I had done the day before: vegging out on the beach, alternating between the brolly and the water. Had to take one last group shot!

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Sis and I hopped on a water taxi and just like that, we left Perhentian Kecil. Goodbye, soft and at times scalding hot sand. Goodbye, lovely water. Goodbye, waterfront cafés with questionable wait times. Goodbye, little hut. And goodbye, Stev(i)e.

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Upon arriving at Kuala Besut jetty, we took a van to the airport with a bunch of other travellers, all of whom dozed off during the hour-long drive to the airport. We couldn’t check into our flight upon arrival at the airport because we were just a bit too early, so we grabbed our first non-nasi/mee goreng meal in a week: KFC. Hahah! Those cheesy wedges were so damn tasty. #deprived

I also got to see a very dear friend, Fikri! He drove to the airport just so we could hang out for a little while, something I greatly appreciate. We met when we were 17 at the ISM YAA Nationals (it’s somewhere in this blog’s archives) and became fast friends. We hadn’t seen each other since that competition, so it was really, really good to be able to reunite after 7 years! Fikri had just returned to Kota Bharu after graduating with a Master’s degree in electrical engineering. The timing couldn’t have been better. Although… the first thing he said when he saw me was, “Wow, you’re super tanned!” =_= Before he reached the airport, he texted to ask if I’d ever tried kuih akok before. I hadn’t. And he very kindly gave me a huge tupperware of the stuff! It’s a sweet, custard-like kuih made with gula melaka and coconut cream – particularly popular in Kelantan and Terengganu, which is why I’d never seen it around in the Klang Valley all these years.

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It was really great to see him and chat about where we’re both headed in life — and of course we reminisced about simpler times, back when the SPM was all we ever needed to worry about. Adulting is difficult, guys. :\ Anyhow, I’m grateful for people like Fikri who make time to see me, even if it isn’t for very long at all. I don’t know when I’ll be seeing him again, but we did joke about meeting up 7 years from now. Hopefully it won’t be nearly that long!
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The flight back to Seremban was largely uneventful, but when dad picked us up at the arrivals gate, he was shocked by how tanned we were (are?). I think mum was pretty taken aback by how two burnt strips of bacon to turn up at the door for dinner.. Oops!

And that brings us to the end of the Perhentian series of posts. I kinda got sidetracked with a lot of other stuff before completing this final part, but hey, life has a way of doing that. I should probably blog about attending Ultra Music Festival in Singapore last weekend before a month flies by and I’ve forgotten most of what happened during that trip.