We had a very early morning bus to catch, but R somehow convinced me that we had time to squeeze in a quick thosai breakfast at the amazing Indian restaurant we found the day before. It was worth the early morning rush.
We caught a bus to Mersing on the east coast, the jumping off point to visit Pualu Tioman. Our guidebook says all the usual nice things about Tioman: laid back atmosphere, flowers, palms, little beach bungalows, stuff like that, but we still didn’t know what we were in for. There are at least a dozen separate tourist beaches that host an array of accommodations between them. There are big, fancy private resorts, the gritty backpacker area, and everything in between. We opted for the last stop on the ferry, Salang, where our guidebook promised us affordable bungalows and a decent stretch of beach, unsullied by hippy backpackers (we’re fancy backpackers). Even though it was raining when we got there, we still got a little giddy. The bungalows are all strung out along a little cement walkway and there were plenty of tropical flowers and palm trees, as promised. But the whole of it was so tropical, so beautiful, it was like… paradise.
View from the ferry
We got a pretty bare-bones room with a bathroom that would be considered prison-worthy in some circles (like prisons), but we spent so little time in the room that it didn’t bother us too much. We only had two days on the island, but there wasn’t really a whole lot to do, so our time was relaxed. There were a few diving outfitters but we didn’t have enough time for R to get certified and I hemmed and hawed about going to do a fun dive by myself so much that I missed my opportunity. Our first day on the island consisted of rotating amongst hammocks as to avoid the rain when it came and reading books all day long. And all night long, too. We took an evening stroll during a break from the rain and saw the local beach boys playing takraw, which is always impressive. Other sights included two monitor lizard sightings (they are really big!) and that’s about it. The whole ‘town’ can’t be more than 500m long and about 2/3 of that is just made up of hotels. There really isn’t much to do, but that’s part of the charm of the place.
Hotel on stilts
Hard to leave
Sadly, the water was not so inviting for most of our time at the island. We got in a little afternoon splashing on the second day, but it was on the morning that we left that the sun awoke and showed the island in all its glory. The water was so clear that you could see fish swimming off into the horizon. The swimmable beach is pretty small (the water in front of most of the hotels is full of chunky volcanic rock which is interesting, but not so friendly for swimming). R almost had to drag me onto the boat (‘Can’t we stay just one more day?’ ‘How hard can it be to change our tickets?’), but we had a bus to catch. The whirlwind pace of our last two stops was a little frustrating, since we liked both places so much, but it was also kind of nice that we left wanting more. When you have all the time in the world, you can become jaded- you can stay in one place long enough to get used to it or for the charm to wear off. For us, moving faster than usual through a country made us enjoy the stops that we did have more. We made the most of the time we spent in Melaka and on Tioman and we left both places on a high note. We caught the first ferry out on that glorious sunny day and made it all the way to Singapore by bus that same night. It was quite a clash of experiences, but we were already looking forward to Indonesia.
Takraw: a SEA blend of volleyball, soccer, and flying
I could totally do that
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