Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Journey to Tioman

Was a tad difficult to say the least. Even tho it was further from Taman Nagara than the Perhentian Islands we decided to go there because it was said to be quite beautiful, with both forest and good beaches, coral you can swim to from the beach, and best of all has cheap alcohol!

Tioman has duty free areas where you can buy beer and spirits cheaper than we saw it anywhere else in Malaysia. Some of the bars in the resort we chose (ABC) had happy hours from around 5 til 7pm with three beers for 10 Ringitts. so I think it was the right decision to go there.

So we set off on the early morning bus from Kuala Tahan and arrived in Jerantut three hours later and waited for around an hour for the next bus , not to Temerloh as we had been told but to Kuantan. From there we were told you can catch a bus to Mersing, which is where the ferry to Tioman goes. So eventually we got to Kuantan. I waited with the bags while Ju and Fi went upstairs to the ticket office. After about 10 or 15 minutes they came down looking pissed off. The buses were all full as it was the first day of Tet holiday. It was Fi's birthday and we really wanted to get to the island so we could celebrate it properly. While they were gone a taxi driver's man had approached me offering me a taxi to Mersing for 180 Ringitts. So after getting him down to 150 R we took it. We were all totally exhausted by now and didn't care about the money. It was between 3 and 4 hours to Mersing, the driver spoke no English, so we all just took it easy and tried not to get angry with each other. There was also an undercurrent that we were worried there would be nowhere to stay on the island as it was Tet. We had tried to ring them with Skype from the forest but had not managed to book anywhere.

Around 5.30pm we got to Mersing. We stopped at a ferry before Mersing which if running would have left at around the right time, but it was low season and wasn't running. So on we went to Mersing, stopping at the jetty. "Is there a ferry to Tioman?" we asked. "No, not tonight!" was the disheartening reply. But there is one at 5am tomorrow! "But it is full", they said. "Totally full?" We implored. "Well, maybe we can get one or two on", they said. So luckily, they squeezed us on. So we went and looked for a guest house in Mersing and stayed the night at a 45 R hotel with AC, balcony and hot shower! They put a mattress on the floor for Julian, which he was ok with, as we were only going to be there a few hours. So we celebrated Fi's birthday, not on Tioman, but not far away, and at least we had tickets and knew we would get there. Early the next morning but not 5am (more like 6am) we set off for Tioman.

The fast ferry took 90ish minutes to the island, stopped at three places before ABC resort and off we got onto the jetty. On Skype we had managed to talk to the boss of South Pacific Resort, the friendly Tony. He said he would bear us in mind but had heard it many times before and people rarely turned up. So we set off from the jetty to look for Tony with a worrying feeling that everywhere might be full. But fortunately, Tony had a chalet for us at 35 Ringitts, with cold shower and fan and a nice balcony overlooking the sea. It was a bit rough and ready, and when the tap was blown off by the power of the water in the bathroom, Tony eventually tied it on with string and and said his "brother" would come and fix it properly, but he never did. But we had 4 nights there and really enjoyed it. Tony was friendly and helpful and it was well positioned. When we wanted a snorkel, we asked Tony and instead of charging us 10 R a day like most places, he gave us his for the duration of our stay. It was that sort of place.

So we enjoyed the island, walking everywhere, as no motorbikes are available to rent. There is a path used by the locals on motorbikes, but not for foreigners. When you get to our end there are steps anyway which would have been difficult if not impossible to negotiate on a bike.

We walked to Monkey Bay which was a long 2 hour walk through forest, but very enjoyable, with a stop at a totally deserted beach on the way, with hermit crabs and snorkelling. Monkey Bay was even better, with two swings on the beach, but no people so we had the beach all to ourselves again. We climbed rocks, seeing the macaques playing in the trees, snorkelled over coral and generally had a good time on the lovely golden sands and pure, clean water, before eventually walking back.

Another day we went snorkelling around an island off the coast, catching a boat for 65 R each, including snorkels, fishing (which we had asked for but in the end never bothered with) and a trip to Salang for lunch, where we saw huge monitor lizards swimming in an inlet and after lunch the boat took us to the next bay to Monkey Bay, which was another good area for snorkelling. So altogether a good day and well worth the money. A Malaysian couple took underwater pictures of us snorkelling which would have been great to see. I gave them my email addy, but haven't seen the pics in my box yet, unfortunately.

The next day Ju and Fi went sea fishing but I didn't fancy any more time on a boat so stayed at the beach. They caught a good catch of around a dozen fish and brought them home to be barbecued for dinner, which was nice. We shared dinner with the Taiwanese (I think) couple who were also on the fishing trip. So a good time was had by all.

We tried to walk to the Southern part of the island and walked for several hours, but the track (and our energy ran out) and we caught a free resort bus back to Teket jetty and walked back from there to our resort. The Northern part of the island is better and less developed we found, anyway. There is a huge resort, with golf course, and all those things that go with a luxury resort, including pollution and vast quantities of rubbish hidden away in the South. So we were happy with our location choice and even Tony's shacks, lol

After one more night we caught the ferry back to the mainland and had to go our separate ways. Me to Singapore for a couple of days before returning to HCM and Fi and Ju back to KL and onto Hanoi.

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