12 October 2013 – Since we have entered Malaysia I have heard Paul repeatedly talk about three things, Tioman Island, half-roast chicken and steak in Kuala Lumpur. Two of the three, Tioman and the half-roast chicken we were on our way to encounter and Paul could not get there quick enough.
Paul visited Pulau Tioman with Mark [his brother] four years ago and is the sight of the infamous Mark can’t hold it story. I’m not going into that, but if you know us, you’ll know the story. One of two stories, Paul relinquishes at the dinner table the most inappropriate time to tell such stories.
The drive once again was pretty lengthy and we missed the last boat by half an hour so had to hang out in the town of Mersing for the evening. We had to leave the bike behind as there are no roads on the island which was easy enough as the ferry port had lots of parking.
13 October 2013 – We luckily purchased our tickets the evening before as when we arrived at the port it was heaving. The amount of people came as a little bit a surprise as the island is so small it’s a wonder how they all fit. The Malaysian government have added a surprise Marine conservation tax, which you have to pay before you board the crammed little boat that takes you on the near 3 hour journey to Tioman. It made the tickets a little expensive at 190 ringit – nearly £40 for both our return tickets. The additional 50 ringit for the marine welfare was the equivalent to two of the famous half roast chicken dinners for Paul, it made him a little aggravated.
The boat journey got a little choppy towards the end and made us both feel a little sea sick, or perhaps it was the length of the man’s nails sat next to Paul. I have a thing about men with long nails, I find it really creepy.
Anyway, somehow the island absorbs the tourists there are a few stopping points for different ones, most of which are only accessible by boat so once you’re there, you’re kind of stuck there, if like us you don’t have the money to charter a private taxi boat.
The island is what you think of when you think real Tropical Island. Salang, where we stayed is certainly not luxury and is rough around the edges but that is what makes it retain its unspoiled and authentic feeling. Paul noted it has not changed in the four years since he last visited. All the accommodation is run by locals and it mainly consists of hand built wooden huts with the occasional ugly concrete building and concrete pier blighting the otherwise pristine views. No high rises insight. It takes only 20 minutes to walk to one end of the beach to the other which gives some idea of the size of the place. Our first choice of accommodation was fully booked, so we headed for the opposite end of the beach which is pretty remote and not the best part of the beach to Ella’s Place. We spent a night there then headed back to the other end in hope we’d find somewhere. We did, a hut almost right on the best part of the beach. Perfect. We stayed four nights, partly limited by a little lack of preparation. There are no ATM’s on Salang so the amount we had determined how long we could stay.
Just in-case you cared, Paul with his inside knowledge, promptly pre-ordered his half-roast chicken before the cut-off time of 3pm the very first night and then was pretty disappointed when the meal arrived. Yes, it was chicken but it lacked the robust jacket potato and veg he remembered. All important factors in the making of the perfect half-roast chicken meal. Oh well, at least it meant we didn’t have to eat at the same place every night. Yes. Oh no wait we still ate at the same place every night, as the second night he fell in love with steak BBQ at Kahlid’s.
Key attributes in making it a laid back place is the lack of certainty. The take-away beer shack will probably not be open when you expect – open at 9am but not 6pm, nor will the shop be open from 9am-10pm even though it advertises it will and when you rent snorkels and asked to return them by 7pm you probably won’t be able to as she’s closed up shop for the foreseeable future. Sometimes a little frustrating but it also makes the island what it is – care free.
The snorkelling was amazing, the coral was really colourful and so that’s what we spent our time doing. Other than snorkelling you can pass time by searching for monitor lizards, of which we saw a few of wallowing in the swampy river nearby. Other things to spot include miniature cats, an English man camping and hefty Polynesian looking islanders.