Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tioman Island in Malaysia: Explored and Conquered (Part I)

The celebration of the Chinese New Year paved the way for a trip in the name of love-for-the-outdoors. My friend and I had always wanted a getaway to anywhere distant from anything synonymous to work. Malaysia became a clear top choice, accessibility and budget-wise, and Tioman Island (or Pulau Tioman), our impression was that it could satiate our islander souls.

We planned it to be a come-what-may experience and thought less planning would make it all the more exciting -- kind of used to cramming new experiences. In the end, it proved to be worth the impromptu itinerary changes from version A to B, C and then to D.

Getting to Malaysia, we took SBS Bus 170 from Kranji MRT at 7:50AM, the 3rd of February. We arrived shortly at the Singapore checkpoint in Woodlands, got off the bus, queued for immigration clearance , and then waited for the next SBS Bus 170 that’s headed to the other end of the Johor-Singapore Causeway. We got off again at the Malaysian checkpoint to clear immigration – filled in the white card at the counter to the right of the entrance and queued. It took us within 15 minutes before getting cleared. The immigration officers didn’t spend too much time questioning us. At 8:16AM, we hopped on the next SBS Bus 170 to Larkin Bus Terminal, which would take around 10 minutes.

The hardest part was getting a ticket to Mersing, the gateway to Tioman. Bus tickets to Mersing were already sold out. There were later schedules on the morning, but we just couldn’t wait any longer. So to quell itinerary version A, we moved on to version B and, instead, took the next bus going to Kota Tinggi. We departed Larkin at 8:50AM and arrived at the Kota Tinggi bus terminal 1 hour later. From that ride, I realized I was back to the countryside, and it just pumped up my excitement.

After an hour-long wait for the next bus to Mersing, the bus finally hit the road at 11:00AM. Exactly two hours later, we were already in Mersing.

As luck would have it, the day just couldn’t get any better as we were literally STUCK! The sea wasn’t navigable, perfect timing! It was a low tide, thus, no boat to Tioman! So version C came into picture. We could’ve opted for other places in lieu of Tioman, but we stuck to it, remaining faithful to a perfect getaway to Tioman, we thought.

We spent the whole afternoon at the park and coast before tiring ourselves to staying the night at a hotel for 60 ringgit. At first, we thought our tent would be enough for the night but nah.

At 6:00AM the next day, we left the hotel, headed to the ferry terminal and bought the tickets for 70 ringgit per person (two-way fare via Blue Water Express speedboat) and paid 5 ringgit for the Marine Park Conservation fee. Most of the people in the company were Caucasians and locals.

At 8:00AM, we were already speeding off to the island. There are actually drop-off points in Tioman Island depending on where you would be staying. The boat docked first at the Tekek jetty at 9:53AM, then headed north to Marine Park Centre, Air Batang, and, finally, Salang jetty at 10:25AM.

We briefly explored Salang, the northernmost kampong (village) of Tioman, took pictures at their white-sand beach and had our lunch at a restaurant. Then we moved up to the mountain to find the trail to Panuba Bay, which would later become part of a 3-hour trek. Going up and down the mountain was rather tricky; you have to keep an eye on the power cable to serve as your guide besides the trail posts. But alas, after seeing a troop of monkeys hooting loudly, and hearing a distracting human voice that seemed to be just near from where we were, we lost the trail and were led to a small beach at 12:40PM. Soon we realized that that voice was from one of those people on a boat far off the beach.

The said beach is actually part of Monkey Bay and is detached from the greater part of the bay by a large rock. Unlike Salang, Monkey Bay is an undeveloped area. There were probably attempts at developing it, as evidenced by an abandoned house and a tire swing hanging out to the sea. We continued trekking, crashed the waters this time and climbed up to the mountain only to be greeted by thorn-bearing plants, making our way unbearable. So we raced down again from the mountain to yet another beach, the Monkey Beach, at 2:14PM, found the trail back telling us that there were 42 more posts to Panuba, and 2 foreigners joined us along the way.

We held our feet to the fire to keep on walking, until Panuba Bay came to view at 3:05PM. We threw our bags and tent on the beach, sundried our shirts soaked in sweat, shoes, and socks, expended our energy bars and water, and rested for 25 minutes. That’s what 3 hours of trekking could do. Besides, we’d have to do a little jungle trekking once again.

We arrived in Air Batang (commonly called ABC) 20 minutes later. ABC was chockfull of backpackers who were either reading a book at their chalets or bicycling, and, wow, villagers love the game of football.

Next to the village is the Marine Park Centre, which is excellent for snorkeling. It was already 4:10PM when we arrived there. We grabbed some burgers and Coke, and rested again.

We’re back on the road at 5:45PM, and I have to say Tioman has a nice esplanade stretching along the Centre. We passed by Tioman Airport before finally arriving in Tekek at 6:30PM. 

What an exhausting day, but the day’s sweat was all worth it! We spent the night at a beachfront chalet for 70 ringgit.

Salang + Jungle Trek 1
Salang jetty

the beach

where we had our lunch

banana split, anyone?

that's my name. ha ha!
my trademark pose. ha ha!

Monkey Bay + Jungle Trek 2
that "small" beach
Monkey Bay
it's a fist

they made it hard for us
we better hit back to the beach

Monkey Beach + Jungle Trek 3
Monkey Beach
finally the trail
two Europeans
almost there!

Panuba Bay
at last!
Panuba Inn Resort 

Air Batang (ABC)
football field, goal made of wood

Marine Park Centre
Marine Park Centre jetty
love the Tioman esplanade
young coconut

Tioman Airport
the runway


the village
it's a map!
Duty-free shop
where we stayed


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