Back To The Islands (doodledoododo de do do de)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End Aug 05, 2011

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Where I stayed
ABC Chalets

Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Sunday, October 10, 2010

After a couple of weeks worth of city/town living, we were looking forward to returning to our lazy beach lives again - though a little apprehensive because everyone kept telling us the monsoon would be coming to the east coast soon ("Storm's a brewin' Dorothy!"). We decided to risk being rained out for 5 days mainly because Mel was very excited about seeing where South Pacific was filmed!

It turned out to be a good decision, as Tioman is spectacular!! The island is covered in dense rainforest, and the village of Air Batang where we stayed hugs the coastline around the jungle.  We walked through the jungle path to get to the main city of Tekek one day and what with the wild flora and fauna, the snakes, monkeys and lizards, well we could have been in the Amazon! Atmospheric is definitely the Tioman buzz word!  The place teems with wildlife even outside of the forest; monkeys and giant monitor lizards come down to the beach to visit on cooler days and bats and birds of all shapes and sizes hang about the trees. We snorkelled out around the edge of the bay and saw sting rays, barracudas, angelfish and the biggest school of fusiliers we have ever seen!! Never managed to spot that elusive turtle that everyone else swore blind they had found! We did manage to swim up to a tiny hidden cove though, which the monkeys were using as their personal playground - very funny!  The place also has more cats that the west end musical - they are everywhere! Mel fell in love withr one called Gingey and he seemed to like her too, climbing up into her lap, curling up and falling asleep! Shame he had fleas!

Another thing we like about Tioman is that they have integrated tourism into local life really well; far better than the Perhentians and Langkawi have managed. The beach hut accommodation lies intertwined with the village and that means you get a great insight into the Malay island life here.  The locals are incredibly friendly and quite happy to see you strolling through their village...though I was always a little surprised to see the school kids heading off to school on their motorbikes - I'm talking about the primary school kids!!!  The island has a very chilled attitude on life and it's easy to slip in to.  We lucked out with our hut too - literally smack bang on the beach...twenty paces from our front step and you're paddling in the sea.

Just down the road there was a cool little beach bar where we spent most of our evenings, listening to a bit of Coldplay followed by Reggae hits!  Friendly place though, with a great atmosphere and beers for a quid, not to mention a perfect view of the stars.  Malaysia is definitely the land of incongruous music - Mel's fish spa was conducted to the strains of the BeeGees, the Chinese Food Court in KL plays Country and Western, there's Melaka trishaws with their 80's hits, the buses seem to be obsessed with Miley Cyrus and Boyzone are the staple diet for shop owners!

So, we knew the monsoon was on the way and were prepared for rain, but actually we were pretty lucky and ignoring the odd night time shower we only had one day of real rain.  On the other hand you could say we were unlucky as this was the day we had agreed to go on a boat trip!! We had met a German chap on the beach, who was clearly the Hamburg answer to Del Boy.  He had sorted hiring a boat with a local for a certain price and wanted a few more people to make it cheaper for him and his family! After a bit of wheeler dealing we got a couple of places we wanted to visit slapped onto the itinerary and agreed to go along. Cue one of the most ridiculous days of our trip so far!

That morning was bright and clear, but when we got on the boat we encountered the first problem- the driver wanted to go the opposite way to our chosen route to save petrol! We then had to bob away on the waves listening to a lengthy conversation translated by one of our shipmates from Malay into German (she is Malay born and married a German) and back again, whilst our friend Del Boy argued the toss, Mel desperately tried to follow events with her school German (not sure her interjection of "my bed is near my window" was particularly useful) and Nic and I sat completely oblivious...watching some ominous black clouds roll towards us!  We got going 45mins later and headed off to Asah to see the waterfall. Our first clue to the fate that was about the befall us was the small typhoon we saw out to sea!!

Still we got there, hiked up the jungle to the falls and happy days - it's an amazing spot.  The falls cascade down the rocky wall into a deep rock pool below and it's surrounded by thick trees and hanging vines.  Ze Germans were straight in; stripped off and into the pool before we could blink and as we followed at a leisurely pace we heard a few screams!!! Yikes - one of our new pals hopped out the water and there we saw a huge brown snake merrily swimming amongst them!  After causing enough consternation, he slithered off down the river with a flick of his tail.  This kind of put Mel and Nic off going in, but I figured our scaly friend hadn't actually eaten anyone so jumped in - ice cold, but very nice after the humid trek up!!

However, Mother Nature had other ideas and tried to ruin this idyllic setting by opening the heavens. It poured.  And hammered. And chucked it down. Cats, dogs, elephants, it what you like, they all must have came out the sky - to the point where Mel and Nic were soaked to the skin even after not getting in the water!  This set the tone for the rest of the day, no let up, just the occasional heavy bout rather than belting down! Oh dear! We all went back to the boat to visit Juara, with our sopping wet clothes and dripping bags.  We passed the iconic island peaks from South Pacific; looking very cool in the rain, shrouded in swirling mist and looming up out of the dark clouds.  I am reliably informed we also had a very South Pacific moment at Juara, where the beach was full of New Zealand Navy soldiers on some kind of training exercise - cue Mel breaking into yet another song from the musical...something about washing hair.  I'm sure her Mom knows what she is on was over my head I'm afraid!

Anyway so we struggled manfully on through the day, stopping at various spots not for the usual beach and dip, but for a hot drink! The rain was getting worse, we'd stopped attempting to dry off and resigned ourselves to being drenched.  On the way back we were against the current and it got to the point where each wave sloshed over the boat and soaked us all - no bad thing, as at least that was warm water! This was getting so silly that we all got the giggles, as Del Boy stoically pretended all was well; standing at the back of the boat in his sunglasses and the water dripped off him into his very fetching sandles. Meanwhile his family were huddled down in the seats; Rodney and Cassandra wearing two life jackets each and Raquel uttering a few choice words every time a wave slapped her in the face. We just found it hilarious...and were debating how far we'd have to swim to reach shore if we capsized.  We finally reached home wet and cold (Del Boy was now arguing with the missus) but it was nothing a hot shower and a pot noodle wouldn't sort out! All fun and games!

That was our Tioman adventure, despite the worst day possible for the rain to hit, we liked the island a just feels tropical! It has a happy and and relaxed atmosphere and the people are fab. I will put up some pictures for you later - the internet connection here isn't good enough!  Now in Singapore and country number 4 seems different again so far...but more on that another day!

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