While living in Singapore, I wanted to take advantage of everything I could see and do in Southeast Asia. The first few weeks I spent exploring the different neighbourhoods around Singapore but it doesn’t take too long to go through Singapore. I finally got my Student Pass and was allowed to leave the country – coming just in time for the Chinese New Year holiday. I was considering staying in the country for the New Year celebrations but decided to take off anyways. With a few friends, I set out to Pulau Tioman, Malaysia.
For this first trip outside of Singapore, we decided we didn’t want to do anything too crazy/adventurous/intense/what have you. We thought that it would be best to have a relaxing long weekend on a beach somewhere. A friend was told that Tioman Island isn’t too far and just the kind of thing we were looking for.
Tioman Island is easily accessible from Singapore through a few types of public transportation. Starting at 6:30 on campus, we took a bus to the MRT, MRT to another stop, got on a bus to take us across the boarder, once at the bus station in Johor Bahru, Malaysia grab a taxi to Mersing, and finally ferry it over to the island… Okay so, it’s a very long process but it’s still fairly easy. Especially considering the alternative flight to the island was $300. They actually journey was fun. I was with great people and enjoyed just talking to them the whole time. Somehow, we ended up making fake identities for the trip. I was officially Joey Cruz, from Jacksonville Florida, for my time on Tioman.
Not booking a place to stay in advance, that was the first thing we needed to do on the island. We researched a few names/prices so we had an idea where to look. After 30 minutes or so of wandering up and down the beach, asking different places their prices and availability, we settled on Double Aces. Since it essentially took us the whole day to get there and find a place to stay, we got some food and took it easy for the night. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized how beautiful this little bungalow’s view really was…
If this was my view, I was optimistic about what the rest of the island had to offer. We all met up for breakfast; joined by an adorable little guy we named Mufasa. He ended up joining us for our exploratory walk around the island until finding a comfy spot in the shade to sleep and we continued down the beach hoping to see our little friend when we return. We spent the rest of the day wondering the island, stopping for a swim and grabbing absolutely delicious food. I think I will need to create a separate blog post just to express how amazing Malaysia food is. Took the long walk back to our part of the island and spent the rest of the night at a little beach bar.
At this point, I would like to introduce you to Captain Jack Sparrow. A crazy and bizarre, yet completely harmless, man who would only respond to the question, “What’s your name?” with Captain Jack. I’m not sure whether one of us talked to him first or he just joined us on the bench and struck up a conversation – probably the latter. He had long hair, a long beard, and a couple missing teeth. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was cracking really terrible jokes every minute, I may have been incredibly creeped out by him. Though I was still much more comfortable using my alternative identity with him than my real identity. He entertained us for the night with some of the strangest stories that I don’t believe for a second but he swears is true. This won’t be our only encounter with the Captain.
Our second full day in Tioman, we actually wanted to do something other than wander. We decided on snorkelling. It was absolutely picturesque. This was the first time in my life where I actually got to see water so clear it looks like the boat was float. Watching fish dart in and out of coral, spotting an eel, and swimming beside a blacktip reef shark – it was turning out to be a perfect day. Southeast Asia was letting me be the mermaid I was always hoping to turn into.
Of course it couldn’t be an actual perfect day. When does that ever happen while traveling? Remember Captain Jack? He was out on ‘his ship’ I guess and ended up commandeering our boat… TWICE! This wasn’t actually a problem. It just added a lot of hilarity to the situation. Like I said, he’s crazy but completely harmless. Though disaster did strike when we pulled up to a beach to get some lunch. While trying to slide off the boat in the shallow water, my bikini bottom decided it would be awesome to hook onto a handle on the boat – ripping horizontally right across my whole bum. Thankfully this happened at the time it did so, after eating lunch with nothing but a towel wrapped around my bottom, I bought some boarding shorts to wear for the rest of the day. After a few more snorkeling spots with my cool new shorts, I was starting to feel seasick. Motion sickness has always been a terrible infliction I’ve dealt with my whole life. Again, it struck at good timing since we were done and heading back to land.
This was it. We were at the final night. After a friend getting a little drunk and falling over half the seats arranged on the beach much to my amusement, I needed to get to bed early. My shoulders got a bit of a burn while snorkeling and catching a ferry back to the mainland at 6:30am was not appealing. To get back to Singapore we basically did the exact same method we did to get there in reverse.
Once aboard the ferry I knew things were not going to go down as smooth as it was getting to the island. The water was VERY rough which was bad news for my seasick tendencies. I figured I would just sleep through it. If I’m asleep, I don’t feel anything and won’t get sick. I was tired anyways and went right to sleep. I woke up almost an hour later to find the boat still at the second dock. We had been sitting in one place rocking this whole time. Unfortunately, I was wide-awake now and couldn’t fall back asleep if my life depended on it. About half way through the actually ferry journey, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I woke up my friend and asked her to grab me one of the little black bags hanging on the wall. BOOM! Full fledge seasickness… Kind of. Since we had to leave so early, there wasn’t any restaurant or store open to get food so I was really just dry heaving the whole time. Getting on land didn’t make it any better since the roads between Mersing and Johor Bahru are winding up and down. We decided to stop for something to eat before boarding the bus to take us across the boarder but instead of getting Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonalds like the others, I opted for plain crackers and water. Needless to say, I was glad to arrive back in my dorm.
Despite the rough journey home, this is still one of my favourite trips. It’s really about the people. They are the ones that make it worth it. When I think of my time on Pulau Tioman, I will think of my friends I traveled there with, Captain Jack, the family that ran Double Aces… I may even include little Mufasa in there as well. It was the best Chinese New Years I could have hoped for.