Travel Blog – Malaysia 1

20 08 2009

So having got up much earlier than would be the norm for me and checking out we headed to the bus station to get a bus to Mersing, Malaysia, the closest point on the mainland to where we were going. Unfortunately despite being on time there were no more seats so we had to settle for a bus to Johor Bahru just over the border where we were told we would be able to find many buses to continue on our way. Time was of the essence however as the ferries to the island leave at particular times and if you miss them you’ll need to find alternative accommodation and wait for the next morning. Which isn’t exactly part of an ideal Island holiday.

So $10 each, a 1 hour ride and 2 immigration checkpoints later we found ourselves in a hot, humid bus yard filled with the exhaust of a constant stream of buses coming and going. Interestingly despite the dirty conditions and shops selling food seemingly protected from the flies only by a wave of the proprietors hand there was also a 24 hour McDonalds and a Dunkin Donuts. Go figure.

We were pointed in the general direction of the ticketing offices by a not too helpful driver and so with Alyona looking after the bags I went in search of tickets. Luckily there was another Italian couple looking for the same fare so we joined efforts to find a good deal. The whole way along the line of possible ticketing agents there are hawkers trying to sell for the various agencies and one particularly insistent man said that he could get us on a bus leaving in 30min for $15 each (which didn’t seem to bad as it is a 3-4 hour journey compared to just getting over the border). But thanks to the lonely planet it seemed a bit steep and on further inspection he was trying to sell us a ticket for the last stop of the buses route which was a further 6 hours or so. We found the real ticketer for the line we had taken to get to Johor Bahru and was told that the bus left in 15min and would be $5 each … much more reasonable.

Of course this is Malaysia so the ’15min’ bus was really the ’50min’ bus and we were despairing of getting to Mersing in time. But it did eventually arrive and the most surprising thing?It turns out the dick that was trying to rip us off works for the bus company and was helping with the organization of our departure! Well, we made it ok and it turns out there were enough buses delayed that they had pushed back one of the ferries to a later time and so we got to the island alright. The ferry trip was pleasant through flat seas and past little islands that look like they are from the set of some ‘Survivor’ series and we got to Tioman island and settled in before dark.

Ferry to Tioman (f8.0 1/200 24mm)

Ferry to Tioman (f8.0 1/200 24mm)

Pulau Tioman (where pulau means island) is quite famous for having been discovered by Hollywood in the 70s and thus being the set for many a movie. It is off the east coast of Malaysia and one of the more famous tourist destinations. As we were looking for a beach holiday it seemed ideal and so that is where we were heading. But it isn’t just beaches with dozens of dive stations, jungle, monkeys and other wildlife, and small hikes available through the jungle. We were staying in Tekek which is the largest village on the island…

So after a long days traveling we decided to go for a quick dip which is when the fun really started. It was low tide and despite asking if it was suitable to swim directly in front of the chalets we certainly weren’t warned about the giant sea urchins with 20cm long spikes that live on the bottom. Which at low tide is just below the surface. In an unfortunate accident Alyona didn’t see the first of these and stepped backwards onto a small rock housing not 1 but 3 of these bastards and got severly punctured. After carrying her back to shore we asked what the appropriate treatment was and after seeing how bad it was we were taken to the local clinic on the back of a scooter while I rode in a rickety, homemade side car ( it was both feet including the side of one of them and at least 15 punctures on the bottom of one of the feet).

Now it turns out that the ends of each of these spikes is barbed so you can’t use tweezers to get them out, and they are poisonous so one needs to drain the blood surrounding the puncture. The local remedy for this is to beat the effected area with a heavy stick to break up the barbs. This lets them slowly come out of their own accord and creates room so that one can squeeze the blood out. As I’m sure you can all imagine this is hardly a pleasant experience but Alyona was amazing and stayed calm the whole time. We were assured that she would be able to walk again soon so went back to the chalets, had a dinner of prawns and crabs next door at the chinese place then went to bed.

So our first real day on the island dawned and like the sun-starved NZers we were the first thing we did was rush down to the beach to catch some rays. This made for a very pleasant morning moving in and out of the shade and dipping our toes in the water. Unfortunately that which follows sun bathing is sun burn and we did have that in spades but it was still good!

Later in the afternoon we rented a motorbike to go explore the island … not realizing that the road only went 2km. But we did have fun zooming up and down this road and seeing what Tekek had to offer.

Biker (f13 1/20 24mm)

Biker (f13 1/20 24mm)

In the south is the Berjaya resort which is absolutely huge. It is exactly what one might expect from an American orientated resort. Huge restaurants, groomed beaches and palm trees and hundreds of identical little chalet rooms. It did look comfortable but also looked just a tad soulless. In the north the road ended and turned into a set of stairs and a footpath that followed the coast. We couldn’t go too far along this but we did walk to the next bay where there was a small resort and beach-goers enjoying cocktails in the sun. Oh – and 6 foot monitor lizards eating out of garbage bins.

Monitor Lizard (f4.0 1/160 47mm)

Monitor Lizard (f4.0 1/160 47mm)

Other than that, Tekek really is more of a working town with a few small places to stay and lots of locals going about their business. It does mean it isn’t set up for tourists and there aren’t any cocktail bars or beach umbrellas which is a shame if you are a on a beach holiday but it is still a very pleasant area.

View of Tekek (f13 1/50 47mm)

View of Tekek (f13 1/50 47mm)

After dropping the bike back we went for a short walk to explore a bit and look for a good place to watch the sun set. At the local marina we rested for a while and I went and got a couple of beers from the supermarket (interesting tidbit: Tioman is a duty-free zone so while most things are more expensive than the mainland, alcohol is not). We then sat in the plushly manicured grounds of the marina and were joined by the security guard who obviously didn’t mind us being there. She was definitely a local matriarch as almost everyone who passed stopped to say hello and pay their respects.

A new friend (f4.0 1/20 50mm)

A new friend (f4.0 1/20 50mm)

The day ended much more pleasantly than the one before and while the sun doesn’t really set so much as disappear in the haze surrounding the Malaysian mainland it is still very pretty.

Sunset at Tekek (f4.5 1/6 35mm)

Sunset at Tekek (f4.5 1/6 35mm)

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2 responses

21 08 2009
Mum

Firstly, the photo of you two. What a lovely photo (& a handsome couple!! – no bias there of course).

The account sounds like “The Excellent adventures of Nathan and Alyona”. The bus journey is pretty typical for the Far East. But the sea urchin incident is taking things a bit far. That must have been so painful! Glad you guys were able to attend to it okay.

23 08 2009
Alyona

Yeah, it has been a pretty eventful holiday so far with many incidents, good and bad. Nathan gets a little stressed sometimes when things get too adventurous, but later agrees that it makes the travelling more exciting.
Looking forward to catch up and tell you all details in person & thanks for the complement :-)

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