Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kami pergi ke Pulau Tioman - Part 1



Me and Nidhi decided to make the most of the Singapore National Day long weekend and head out somewhere out of Singapore. We were also joined by Rajiv and Hyacie who were also looking for a similar break. Since all of us loved beach places, we decided on going to Tioman Island. About two weeks before the actual trip, we started working on it, specially trying to get accommodation and after a bit of a struggle, found a package with Sri Paya Tioman Enterprise for two nights stay + food + to-n-fro Jetty from Mersing + one snorkeling trip. We had also packed our hats, sunscreen lotion, insect repellents and loads and loads of beach holiday spirit!! So off we were.

Since we only had accommodation, we did not have any previous arrangement to go from Singapore to Mersing. The direct buses were all booked. So, we decided to cross the Malaysian Border into Johor Bahru by local bus and figure things out. This, in retrospect, was a pretty poor choice. Starting at 5.30 AM from Simei, we got into Malaysia Sultan Iskandar (after immigration clearance) by only about 11.00 AM. The long weekend queues were never ending and the bus infrastructure was just not good enough to handle the mass exodus of Singaporeans heading out for vacations.



Once there, we decided to hire a cab to take us to Mersing, a distance of 134 KMs. This experience was quite pleasant, to say the least. The car was comfortable, the driver was an energetic and pleasant Malay. He enthralled us with his Bollywood love. On one hand, he took the effort to explain why he loved Salman Khan and on the other, he actually enacted the Rajni Kant style. He is the only person on earth I have met yet who is a fan of both Salman and Rajnikant. I thought they served different demographics!



The roads in Malaysia are pleasant. It was just a two lane highway but considering that the traffic was less even on a busy weekend, I guess that was enough. A similar two lane road in India would have been ridden with potholes in India, but not in Malaysia. We could easy overtake when we wanted and maintained a good clip. Both sides of the road was scenic filled with Pineapple, Palm and other plantations.



We reached Mersing an hour before our Ferry booking for 2.30PM and our travel agent met us there. After having a quick lunch, off we were on our ferry to Tioman Islands. There isn't much to see in the ferry (except boring music videos) and so we slept!



Once in Tioman, we were stuck by the beauty of the location. The vegetation was lush green and the beaches were surprisingly clean. The rooms we got, essentially old style wood made chalets, were very close to the jetty and we settled in comfortably. By this point, it was already beyond 6.00 PM and all we had time is to soak in a bit of evening beach. Rajiv did some quick snorkeling.



After dinner, we all gather at our room for a round of drinks and a few games of Rummy. To say the least, this part was most enjoyable.

I would be doing Tioman injustice if I did not tell you that the most shops in Tioman are "duty free" meaning that duty would not have been paid for goods in Malaysian side. This means that everything from Chocolates to Liquor is quite cheap and worth your shopping. (Note: Be careful not to buy any alcohol to bring back to Singapore, since no duty free alcohol is allowed if you come from Malaysia by road/water.)




At some unearthly hour, it was time to catch some sleep and get ourselves ready for Day 2 - which was when we did the real snorkeling. That in my next article.

All photos uploaded to Flickr.

(ps: "Kami pergi ke Pulau Tioman" in Malay means "We went to Tioman Island" in English - just in case you were wondering about the title.)

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