In the weeks leading up to Chinese New Years, I’d heard a lot of rumours about what Singapore was going to be like over the weekend. Everything from downtown being so crazy, you can barely move around to the entire city shutting down because everyone will be at home with his or her family. Neither wanting to get trampled to death (something I would have only taken as acceptable during the running of the bulls) or starve not being able to buy food, some fellow Ryersonians and I decided it was about time we travelled outside of Singapore anyways. Since it was our first excursion out of the country, we decided to start with somewhere close, Tioman Island in Malaysia.
Tioman is part of the largest group of island volcanoes in Malaysia, but if you believe the legends, the island of Tioman is actually a dragon princess who fell in love with the gorgeous South China Sea waters and decided to turn herself into an island so she could live in the waves. While I agree that the waves were pretty awesome, I don’t think they’re worth giving up being a dragon for – I mean, come on, breathing fire!? Flying!? Even just looking super hardcore!?
Either way, the island is now made up of 8 small villages and a huge nature reserve set up to preserve the local rainforest and marine life. The island is such an adventure, even just getting there was a trek. We began our journey at about 4am on Saturday, heading by taxi to the north end of Singapore. From there, we took a bus to the Singapore – Malaysia customs to get passports stamps.
From there, it was back on a bus to Larkin, then a taxi from Larkin to Mersing. Although I was passed out for the majority of the taxi ride (I had just pulled an all-nighter), I woke up several times to some major swerving, follow by the driver muttering things like “too fast to slow down” or “that boar came out of nowhere”. Looking back, I’m actually kind of glad I was too exhausted to be afraid!
When we finally made it to Mersing (all in one piece somehow), we were meant to board a ferry soon after arriving, however, the ferry company decided to oversell their tickets, so even though we bought ours in advance AND showed up early, we still weren’t able to get on our scheduled boat. Since it was Chinese New Years, and everyone in South East Asia seemed to be travelling, there were several other tourists in the same scenario. Now, we were kind of upset we didn’t get our seats, but compared to some of these people, it looked like we asked for a later boat. There were people screaming at tour guides, boat captains, security officers (basically anyone within shouting distance) and when that didn’t work, cell phones got pulled out and several “you lied to me, I’ll SUE YOU” conversations happened. Eventually, the tantrums actually got something done, and another ferry was called to arrive about an hour and half after the one we missed.
After a gorgeous boat ride through crystal blue waters that I managed to sleep through most of, we were finally in Tioman!! A truck had been arranged to pick us up from the Tektek ferry dock, so after a quick stop at the duty free for alcohol and sunscreen, we were finally on to the last leg of our journey.
Since we were sharing the truck with another group of hotel guests, our group opted to sit in the back. Getting into it, we definitely did not realise how much of an adventurous decision that was. The road from TekTek to Juara runs up and down the steepest range of hills I have ever seen in my life (and I’ve seen quite a few hills)! I have to say, going down a steep, rainforest incline on a road that’s only semi-paved in the back of a pick up truck is a moment when you definitely feel truly alive. I get this type of moment from time to time (like speeding towards Cascade Mountain on a bike in Banff) and they always remind me why I’m so in love with travelling. It’s an addicting feeling and I am definitely hooked!
After a total of about 8.5h of travel time, we finally arrived at the Juara Mutiara hotel. I took full advantage of the beach-y paradise and passed out under a coconut tree.