Reflections in Juara...

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April 17th 2013
Published: May 2nd 2013
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The next part of our journey was meant to be a quick stopover in Kuala Lumpur then a flight back to the Philippines to enjoy a further 3 weeks there. Sadly while we were in KL we received news that Sophie’s grandfather had passed away at the great age of 98 so plans were quickly adjusted in order to fly home for the funeral. This would mean that we would have to forego our time in the Philippines but it will always be there and we can return at a later date to enjoy more of what this country has to offer.

We’ve been lucky enough to pass through KL on a number of occasions and of all the cities we have been to this would rate as one of our favourites. It’s such an easy place to feel at home in and we never get tired of walking round finding new areas we’ve not seen before. There were even a few of the more famous things we hadn’t got round to doing yet so with our time here in KL extended we opted to tick these off the list. We were left a little in limbo for a few days until the date for the funeral was set, whilst these occasions are never easy to deal with when you are on the road we were grateful that we were in a transport hub like Malaysia so that our return to the UK would be as smooth as possible.

During our time waiting for news we got reacquainted with the city and discovered that a few places had been knocked down for development since 2010, this included our favourite breakfast venue which served the best roti chanai and teh tarik! It didn’t take long for us to discover a new haunt and it was quickly elected as our daily choice for one of our favoured travel dishes. Everything else was much the same and we enjoyed exploring the shopping centres and both agreed that these really are some of the best we have been in, they are so clean and you don’t find any of the gangs of kids hanging around and people looking down on you like you would in the UK so the whole thing is that bit more relaxing. One day we were delighted to find a display of massage chairs in one and spent a good hour trying them all out as were many of the other backpackers.. nothing like a free massage!

With time on our side we opted to visit two of the main attractions we had missed on previous visits. These being the Menara Tower and the Bird Park. Being on a very strict budget in the past we had decided that neither activity would fit into our daily allowance but the purse strings have been slightly looser this time around so we opted to do both during our days in the city.

We knew that KL looks even better at night when it’s all lit up so we waited until later in the day to go up the tower. At 47RM it’s not a cheap activity so we got our money’s worth by waiting up there for 1.5 hours as the day turned to night and we got to see the city in both scenarios while you got a great view of the city in all directions and out towards the highlands surrounding it.

The bird park was a little more interesting, we always enjoy seeing wildlife and the free roaming setting for many of the birds is great as they have so much space to fly around. There did seem to be an awful lot of peacocks there though, perhaps a little too many than was necessary as they seemed to be around every corner! It sounds awful to say but we always find peacocks pretty average; the reason being is that we have a tiny aviary in a Northampton Park which houses a few of them and we can’t help but associate them with Northampton every time we see them. It’s a bit of a shame really as it takes the shine of what would otherwise be a breathtaking bird, especially when they display their feathers which they seemed to like doing here in KL! Aside from the peacocks there are many birds here to see and it takes a good few hours to walk around as the park is deceptively large. We were a little disappointed to see some in small cages and hard to feel feel sorry for the owls, birds of prey and the parrots who all seemed to get the raw end of the deal and were housed in small cages where they couldn’t fly around at leisure like their cousins. We understand that eagles probably won’t mix so well with the other birds but we thought you may as well not have them at all and just show off the birds who are free to roam.

On a previous visit we’d been to the Batu Caves but thought why not go again as it’s free and got us out the city centre for a few hours. Travel there is easy, you can go by bus or train, we took the bus before so thought we’d give the train a whirl and were glad we did. You can get on the train at Sentral or KL station (nearest if you are in Chinatown like us) and it was only 1RM there and 2RM back for a 25 minute journey. The train drops you right at the caves and you get to enjoy the whole journey in air con comfort.. perfect! The caves were just as we remembered including the naughty monkeys which roam around. We did notice the caves smelling quite a lot of urine though which wasn’t so great, we think it’s probably from the festival they had back in February, maybe people can’t wait to use the toilet back down the flight of stairs and choose to use the floor instead.. or maybe it’s bats.. or monkeys… we have no idea but either way it smelt bad.

After a few days in the city we managed to book our flights back to the UK. We had just over a week to go until we had to return and needed something to fill our time so decided on Tioman Island. We had always planned to visit here but originally had it pencilled in for when we got back from the Philippines but now seemed a good time to go.

Mursing is the jumping off point for Tioman, buses to Mersing now go from the super new TBS bus station just outside KL centre which serves for most of the travel to Southern destinations. We were thankful that things had changed as we remember the old Puduraya bus station as being an intimidating place where people shouted in your face asking for your destination so they could push you to their ticket office.. TBS is nothing like this! The ticket counters are well arranged, all counters sell tickets for all the bus companies so you immediately get to choose the best time & price without having to walk from counter to counter. There is a big board displaying departures & arrivals just like an airport and the whole place reeks of organisation.. Sophie was in love! It’s very easy to get to from the city centre by LRT, train or a shuttle bus from just outside the Puduraya station, initially we were a little hesitant on how convenient this would be but you get dropped right at the TBS terminal and it’s all very slick.

Mersing is a 6 hour (30RM) ride away and it flies by when you are on a super comfortable bus which arrives ahead of schedule and drops you right where you think you’ll be dropped! We were in no real rush to get over to Tioman so opted to stay one night in Mersing. It’s not the most interesting of towns but the people are very friendly and we enjoyed watching HBO for the night after eating a Chinese fish feast and meeting some of the locals…cats! This town has thousands of them, most of which Sophie had to pet as she walked past and cutest one was a tiny kitten who was asleep on a napkin in the middle of the restaurant we had breakfast in. If you want to adopt a cat come here, they are all so tame and love a bit of fuss!

Boats over to Tioman are another organised affair (30RM each way), there aren’t many roads on the island so you really have to choose which beach you want to stay on from the mainland. We had got good advice from Dennis about where he usually likes to spend his time so we’d decided to go for the only beach on the east side of the island which is Juara. To get to Juara you have to get off the boat on the 3rd boat stop at Tekek, from here you need to get over to the other side of the island and you have two options.. walk or 4x4. It was a pretty hot day and we had brought our big bags with us so 4x4 was our mode of choice, it’s another 35RM each to get over there from the port so it’s not cheap but we were so glad we'd chosen this option as soon as we were partway though the journey. It
Batu CavesBatu CavesBatu Caves

These stairs are lethal as they are all different sizes and quite steep.
is literally up and over the island and is very steep in places, to the point that we weren’t sure if our aged 4x4 would make it but it did and we got to Juara after about ½ hour of travel.

We can’t really say what the other beaches would be like as we didn’t visit them, from what we read ABC and Salang seems to be the most popular and developed but Juara was definitely the right choice for us. It’s very laid back with the majority of accommodation right on the beach and a few low key restaurants dotted in between, the sweeping beach is lovely with clear water to swim in and we couldn’t have asked for more. We stayed in the Rainbow Chalets at 40RM a night which was a steal and we were glad that we’d have a whole week in this idyllic place.

No one is in a rush here as there isn’t much to do.. you can snorkel, swim, kayak or surf if the waves are right, we did a bit of everything but mostly enjoyed the beautiful beach scene and getting to relax in such a nice place before our
Hairdressers outside out hostel - KLHairdressers outside out hostel - KLHairdressers outside out hostel - KL

We found out this has been operational for 70 years passed down though the family.
big round trip. Juara is split up into two long beaches, most of the accommodation is on the North side with the South side housing a few places to stay as well as a surf shack which hosts a competition during the monsoon season when the waves are biggest. The two beaches are split up by a set of big boulders which you can climb across if the tide is out or you can walk along the road at the back which links the two.

We did get a bit of exercise in our time here so it wasn’t all lazing around! Dale did a bit of surfing along with Sage from Japan on one day, the waves weren’t great but he got a bit more practice in. We also hired out a canoe for a few hours on another occasion and paddled up one of the mangrove rivers which leads out onto the beach. We were really hoping we’d see some of the wildlife that lives on the island; monkeys, various species of snakes, slow loris, deer and porcupines can all be found here but as we had expected we didn't manage to spot any of these although we did spot a few huge monitors cruising in the water and a big crab below us! It was a little eerie at times as the river was almost completely covered by the tree branches in parts so it was quite dark, Dale likened it to a scene from Predator and got quite excited whereas Sophie just hoped that nothing dropped down from the trees as she didn’t fancy falling into the murky water!

We really enjoyed our time on Tioman, for us Juara still retains that raw feel and even at the weekend when we were there you could still have parts of the beach completely to yourself. We aren’t so sure you would get that on the other side of the island as it is very popular with weekend trips from KL and Singapore. The only downside to this beach is that it does have sandflies which is a shame as it can be offputting to the point that we abandoned the beach in the afternoon and opted to sit on our terrace or in the water to avoid them. We were a little sad that we hadn’t brought our hiking boots with us as there are lots of opportunities to trek though the jungle and undoubtedly spot some of the elusive wildlife. We found the island very reasonable on price, probably because it enjoys being duty free and for somewhere so undeveloped the food on the east side was really good, especially the BBQ night served up at Bushmans so check that out if you are lucky enough to visit!

After a lovely week here we had to venture back to KL to catch our flight home, something we weren’t really looking forward to as you’d expect. We had one more night in Mursing and were glad we’d planned for this as buses the following day (Monday) were very busy and the first few were sold out so we booked a lunchtime departure which got us back into KL in the early evening. It was just one more night in KL to visit our favourite Chinese stall and then an early start the following morning to get our bus to KLIA ready for our 28,000 mile 4 day round trip to the UK.

Additional photos below
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2nd May 2013

Sorry to hear about the passing of your grandfather...
at 98 he certainly had a full life.
18th May 2013

Thank you
Yes at 98 he lived life to the full, if we can be half as active as him at that age we will be very happy :)
3rd May 2013

What a beautiful location
Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time. We are glad you could alter your plans and be with your family. Your beach hut looked great. The Philippines will be waiting for you.
3rd May 2013

Sorry to hear about your grandfather Sophie. It must have been a bittersweet return home...
18th May 2013

Thanks guys
for your kind words x
3rd May 2013
Juara Beach - Tioman Island

Don't mind spending at least a week here ! :)
4th May 2013

I'm sorry about your grandfather Sophie, 98 is a very long life indeed...I hope you're ok and can still enjoying your trip xx
18th May 2013

Thank you
Thank you for your kind words. x
6th May 2013

sorry to hear about Sophie's grandfather. i was in KL almost the same time as you :) although i think my experience with the place wasn't as good, but i'm pretty much willing to give it another try. safe travels. x
18th May 2013

Oh no!
Sorry we missed you Tinnie, we were also meant to meet up with Shane but things were a bit difficult so it wasn't to be. It's a shame you didn't enjoy it so much, I think it's a bit like Bangkok that it needs to grow on you a little, admittedly it doesn't have as much character though... perhaps a place you either love or hate? Hopefully one day we will get to say hi as we seem to keep missing each other! :)
11th May 2013

Tioman is the best
Hey guys, just read this entry about Pulau Tioman - spent a week there during my trip and loved it just as much as you did. Also liked Malaka (your next blog entry) and then spent about three month just down the road from Malaka. Finally, I so agree with your views of KL and it feeling quite homely, couldnt have expressed it any different...
18th May 2013

Thanks Ben
Always good to hear from you. We really did love Tioman and would recommend it to anyone, a little bit out there still which is nice. We hope you are great as always, not long until we return home now!

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