In order to get to Pulau Tioman, I had to first get a bus to Mersing.The ride to Mersing was painful, painful in the sense that I was hoping to fall asleep to a DVD but instead was kept awake by the WWF be played on the telly.The Malaysian guys on the bus, men of 35+, where as eager for the 'sport' as I was at the age of 10.Hooting and clapping at the screen; it was a painful journey.I was supposed to arrive in Mersing at 8.30am, in time for the ferry at 9.30am.But, for what I believe was the first time this trip, I arrived early; four hours early in fact.It was lashing with rain in Mersing and there was nowt I could do, as you'd expect in a small Malaysian harbour town in the early hours.
The sound of the rain beating down onto the steel roof above, gave a soothing sound and feel to the bus shelter.When I read that that last part back, it does come across as an oxymoron; 'soothing' and 'bus shelter' in the same sentence.But after securing my backpack to my leg, I led back on the solid lumpy seats and fell into a semi-conscious state.Only coming back round when a stray dog licked my hand and arm and when my alarm went off in time for the ferry.The ferry arrived at 10.30am, on I clambered looking rough and smelling worse, got down to the café and had a beautiful chapatti and coffee.Probably the best coffee to touch my lips since Laos.So to kill the rest of the journey, I swung my feet round, rested my head against the window and crashed out again.I woke up to some children's laughter and small faces smiling straight at me.As I sometimes do when I'm shattered, I'd drooled all over myself and had a beautiful damp patch on my t-shirt.That must have been what the laughter was about.There were heavy grey skies hanging over the island but due to monsoon arriving in a few weeks, that was to be expected.
I wanted to check out the ABC hostel, it had rave reviews in 'The Rough Guide' and was cheap.Fortunately in was offered a lift on a moped by a woman that happened to be the owner, must've been an omen.It was a good looking hostel and for only RM25 a night for my own beachside chalet, a bargain.I had a quick needed shower and then decided to take on the 8km trek to Juara beach.Supposedly the most beautiful beach on the island, Juara is on the opposite side of the island to where I was staying.It can only be reached by an expensive boat trip or the 8km trek through the jungle in the heart of the island (there's no road linking the two sides).So off I set, bottle of water, some gum and the Ipod in tow.The walk was a strain, up a very steep hill into the heart of the jungle and down it's even steeper Eastern face.The sweat was pouring out of me, stinging my eyes and resulting in me looking like a drowned rat.But after two hours I'd reached the beach and it was certainly worth the effort.
Juara beach was stunning in every way possible.The beach itself was laden with golden yellow sand, framed by its palm ridden shoreline and crystal clear, Evian-like sea.With the jungle separating myself from the majority of the islands population, I had almost 2km of beach entirely to myself. I had a quick dip in the ocean and sat back on the beach.Listening to some music, I couldn't believe that such tranquil paradise still existed.It soon won't for behind me construction work had already started on a new resort and as I would later find out, a further two resorts have just been granted planning permission.Can't help but think that in a few more years, yet another beautiful island will become a package tour destination, swapping its green jungle for a concrete jungle and maybe even a Starbucks……another Koh Samui?Unfortunately, this is the trend for a lot of these destinations with unspoilt paradise.The locals want the money and who can blame them but at what future detriment?I realised that nightfall was drawing in fast and I didn't want to be taking on the jungle trek in darkness.It was hard enough work in daylight, tackling the ultra-slippy mud path at dark with flip-flops on wouldn't be enjoyable.So I darted back and fortunately, made it to the hostel just in time for sunset.
I grabbed a cold beer (heaven after the sweaty trek), put on the Ipod and chilled in a hammock on the beach.Just watching the sky's evening colours evaporate into darkness.The sunset was by far the best I'd seen yet, all that was missing was that special someone to see it with me.Reds, oranges, yellows; all shades of which bounced off the sea below.The colours were only broken by dispersed cloud, framing the sunset and the colours it produced.It's obviously a regular occurrence, as locals were watching this English lad deeply staring at the night's sky, all with expressions on their faces of 'what is he looking at?'.The evening was spent at a bar 10m's down the beach from my hostel, it doesn't have a name (or maybe I just don't know it) but its owner and goat are famous on the island.The goat constantly clambering on tables, wearing its necklace made from pull, rings…….ghetto star!I got talking to a few people, a couple called Aimie and Rich and a woman from Ukraine whose name escapes me.The Ukrainian girl (well woman) went to school during times of the Soviet Union and had some bewildering tales to tell.The one I do remember is that by the age of 14 she could dismantle, re-mantle, lock and load an AK47 in 45 seconds……blindfolded.Something she calmly said 'well, we were taught it in school'.
The following day was spent at Monkey Beach, a secluded bay famous for the amount of monkeys that run riot there.It was an easy trek, about 30mins, of plenty of e\decent sights along the way, particularly the massive lizards that roam the paths.I unstrapped my wrist and went for an easy snorkel, the clarity of the water was awesome.I may be exaggerating the truth by saying you could see for 200m but it was a long way.Sea urchins a rife on the ocean bed and some of the most beautifully coloured fish I've ever seen.I looked back to my gear on the beach, to see four monkeys having a sniff around.I ran back and got rid of the little sods.The last thing happening was some monkeys stealing my bag with my passport, wallet and flight tickets inside.After some lounging around on the beach I headed back to the hostel.I could've easily stayed on the beach for another couple of hours but I'd just finished my book, the Ipod was dieing fast and I was left with little else to do.I got back in time for a corking game of beach footy with the locals.The game lasted well over an hour, finishing at just the right time; my stomach was beginning to rumble.I stayed up to watch the Mighties and thankfully this time I was rewarded, we battered Besiktas 8-0.
The next couple of days were pretty laid back, island life was rubbing off.I rented a bike and headed to Salang beach.'Just follow the coast, you'll know when you're there' were the directions I was given.Sure enough I did, after an hour's cycle a sign reading 'Welcome to Salang Beach' told me I was in the right place.Yet again the entire beach was mine.That was until four local boys came over to listen to the music I was playing and I was ordered to turn it up.They introduced themselves but found it hilarious that I couldn't remember nor repeat their 15 syllable names.So I was told to all them Beckham, Gerrard, James and Harry, easy enough to remember.Then they began their break dancing to The Fratellis and Kooks, both bands seemed to have expanded their global fan base that day.They were in their element and before long I was involved a long jump competition with them.As superb day that was very unexpected.
The next day was nowt to report on, spent with the woman from Ukraine, a fantastic curry for dinner, a walk to the duty free and a few beers in the evening.The day after was my last full day on the island, I booked my boat back to Mersing and headed over to Juara again.Yet again the beach was min and mine only, I knew it was low season but having three large stretches of beach to myself on three consecutive days, was a bit much.Te evening was a heavy one but fortunately not out of my pocket at all, due to me letting people know the previous evening that tonight was my last night.I was greeted at the bar by 2 shots of absinthe, a shot of vodka and some other things.And that's how the night floated, I spend about 3 pound and got obliterated courtesy of those at the bar.
Goodbye Pulau Tioman and thank you.