Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pulau Tioman, Day 1

We returned from Pulau Tioman this afternoon. We were only there two nights (Saturday afternoon to Monday afternoon), but it was great fun and relatively full of incident. Even though it was a vacation on an idyllic tropical island, we were all exhausted when we got home--not surprising, as both B and I are from the "play hard" school. Sitting all day on a beach sipping cocktails is just not my style, appealing as it sounds in theory.
Anyway, Saturday began with me frantically cleaning the house (I have a compulsion about having it tidy before going anywhere) right up until it was time to leave for the airport. We actually cut it too close (this is typical, B likes to live dangerously and usually times his arrival to just before the gate closes), and did not have time to change our Singapore dollars to Malaysian ringgits. We caught the flight though!
Our plane
The plane was a tiny little one, old and funky. Berjaya Air is the only carrier to Tioman, and they only have flights from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia's capital) and Singapore, once or twice a day. It was definitely an amateur operation, and I thought very amusing.
A privately chartered plane: the buildings behind are houses
The airport on Tioman was even more so. The landing strip was just that, a strip of concrete surrounded by a not-very-high fence, right next to the town and beach. The arrival building was mostly open-air (no walls) and terribly inefficiently run (that's how you know you're no longer in Singapore!). It took about an hour to clear "customs" (really just a desk manned by one guy with a passport stamp and one to keep him company), even though the number of people was so few. Luckily no one was in a hurry! We were met by someone from the hotel and guided off to a speedboat.
Photo from the speedboat as we approach the hotel
The hotel I picked (Melina Beach Resort) is only accessible by sea. This did add to the cost some (it's like $13/person for a boat taxi), but also made us feel like Robinson Crusoe or decadent celebrities. Taking the speedboat to come and go, whipping past the hills covered in lush tropical jungle, was definitely a highlight of the trip. They don't have a jetty, so staff met us at the beach and hauled out our luggage, while we sprang into the turquoise water and walked barefoot into reception (I made B carry little R as I am clumsy).
 After check-in, we decided to hike to the nearby kampung (village) of Paya since we'd lunched at the airport. The path is the only land-based link between the kampungs, so the villagers use it regularly. While mostly paved, it was only accessible by human power (no wheeled vehicles), as large sections went up hillsides covered in boulders. Some parts were level, especially along the sea coast...
some parts were paved, and little R could go under her own power...
and some parts were a little less developed, like this tiny tunnel (yes, that's the path!).
View from the path of Paya and its jetty
On the way, we saw several wild monkeys, lizards, squirrels, and birds. After 30 or 40 minutes (lots of it up steep hillsides), we arrived in Paya. We were pretty tired from the hike, so recuperated with some sodas. Then we explored the village and had some beers at a nice bar overlooking the sea. Little R had fun playing with a soccer ball the waitstaff produced from some cubbyhole: really cute but of course I forgot to take photos.
(I am not really hunchbacked; this is the only one of little R looking at the camera)
Then we hiked back and hung out on our hotel's private beach until it was time for dinner, a bath (all of us fit in our suite's tub!), and bed.

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