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Published: December 15th 2010
After an impressively long night's sleep, we rose to find that Mersing still wasn't Paris, though it was warm, extremely laid back, and turned out to be quite a pleasant little fishing town. First things first: breakfast. Mehraneh was a bit disappointed to discover that breakfast in Asia is often very similar to every other meal of the day; she adapted.
After checking out of the hotel, changing money, and walking down to a restaurant near the ferry port, we assumed that we’d be able to effortlessly find transportation to Tioman Island after filling our bellies. Our waiter, however, informed us that it might not be so simple. As we were cleaning our plates, Marina, a Russian woman who we’d end up spending the next few days with wandered by and confirmed this news: the only boat of the day had left a few hours ago.
Marina joined us at our table, and eventually we also collected a few German travelers that were walking by and a rascally Frenchman, all of whom were also hoping to get to Tioman that day. As our numbers grew, so did our expectations that someone in Mersing would agree to take us to
the island for a reasonable price.
And the taking-us-to-the-island part they did agree upon.
It was the reasonable price part that didn’t happen. The exorbitant rates that we were quoted turned me into an outraged Luke Skywalker “…we could almost by our own ship for that!” Actually, I just thought of that right now, but it’s fitting of the moment.
And so it was to be a long, lazy day in Mersing: sunshine, Malaysian food, and spotting the occasional massive monitor lizard, which Mehraneh insisted on referring to as “timsahlar” (alligators). Alarm clock set for an early morning ferry.
The ferry was packed. We were wedged into tiny seats designed for passengers much shorter than me.
Tioman turned out to be even bigger than we expected. We stepped off the boat at Kampung Salang, the northernmost and final option. Literally about three minutes later, the sky opened up and heavy monsoon rains sent us running for cover (it’s all fun and games until somebody gets a wet passport). We did so with Marina and her boyfriend, Jean Batist, who we had just met. We ran to a tiny shelter nearby, just big enough for us
first hour on Tioman Island
dry as we got off the boat, torrential by the time we walked the short length of the pier.
and a picnic table. It sounds like the set up for a joke: “An American, an Iranian, a Russian, and a Frenchman caught in a Malaysian rainstorm (posts are certainly welcome if you can finish it)…”
We spent two days on Tioman, which is not nearly enough time to ever spend on a tropical island. As tourist season was over, the place was more or less deserted, except for a bunch of film students from Singapore (mostly French) making a short film, a process that apparently causes one to be quite thirsty by the evening.
There was one friendly little restaurant open in Salang, with a large television playing badminton games (I had never really thought of it before as a sport worth televising) and some sport similar to volleyball (except you can only use your feet). They also had some lousy movies playing.
Apart from our first hour or so on the island, the weather mercifully held out for the most part. We ate lots of food (got to know the one waiter – he always sat down at our table to take our order, which struck us as funny), wandered a little bit around Salang,
Jean Batist & Marina
shelter from the storm
lazed in hammocks, swam, and did little else.
Mehraneh was a bit apprehensive about the density of wildlife on the island, which, fair enough, can be quite overwhelming if you’ve not spent much time in a jungle before. The chickens managed to get into some impressively weird places for flightless birds (on the tops of bungalows, etc.), and the cats were of the typical funny-looking-Southeast-Asian-half-tail variety, but they weren’t really too much of an adjustment. Even the massive monitor lizards tended to keep their distance from us (I thought we should try to get a better look each time we passed some, but this suggestion always fell upon deaf ears).
The monkeys were a different story. Our one real hike through the jungle was abruptly cut short when far more monkeys than we could see in the surrounding treetops seemed to be discussing our presence in their ‘hood. Our proximity to them was clearly something that we had no say over, which Mehraneh found rather alarming. Out of the forest and back to the beach (I don’t care much for monkeys in the wild either, to tell you the truth).
The sounds at night also proved to
be a bit wilder than what she was expecting, though I assured her nothing was really that interested in causing us any harm.
We took the really early (and only) ferry back to the mainland after two nights and left Mersing by early afternoon.
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