Melaka and Tioman Island
Our plan to catch the train South to Melaka from Langkawi got off the worst start imaginable. The man in the rail ticket-booth took one look at me and said, "bad news."He then said, "Where you going?"and then, "Train de-railed". And so we had to resort to our old favourite - the Malaysian bus.
This one was as much of a fiasco as all of the others. Due to leave at 10pm for an overnighter, we were still waiting at 11 when the thunderstorm set in for the night. By half past we dared ask where our bus might be, and were told "On it's way."as if we had asked a stupid question, and were wafted back to the platform/river to wait.
The bus arrived at around midnight, but we turned out to have a bus driver with an uncanny resemblance to Graham Norton, only Asian. He seemed determined that, if he was staying up all night, then so should he, and set off singing his own songs at the top of his voice, burping loudly, and stopping every ten minutes with a beep of his horn, turning all the lights on, and jumping out to hold a cackling conversation with random locals at the side of the road. He had a laugh like nothing I have ever heard and never desire to hear again.
We arrived at 7.30am in Melaka, slightly cranky and frozen from the night of arctic aircon. Luckily Melaka is lovely. It is Malaysia's oldest port and so the city has a rich history of the Portugese, Dutch, and finally the British, meaning it's architecture is much more varied and appealing than that of the concrete grids of the other Malaysian cities we have seen. Me and Lauren set straight off to find some breakfast, and I sampled Laksa (a local soup made from coconut milk and red curry with noodles and seafood) which instantly became my favourite food. Lauren tried the local breakfast of rice with egg and dried anchovies and spiced peanuts, and we had chinese herbal ice tea, and overall the food adventure was a massive success. After this we spent the morning exploring the city before heading back to the hostel with a nap in mind. The boys went straight to bed but Lauren and I ended up having a beer with a couple of guys from Melbourne staying in the hostel. This led to an interesting trip to see Mr Li, who we were told sold the cheapest Carlsberg in town from a fridge in his living room. Strolling quite casually through his open front door into a tiny living room and trying to gesticulate Carlsberg to a man who could hardly walk and spoke no English being one of the more surreal moments of the trip!
We lucked out having a great group in the hostel and all set out that evening to the friday night market in Jonker St in Chinatown. Here we tried a lot of interesting food including "raddish cake"(a savoury fried number... ingredients unknown) and some extraodinary street karaoke on a huge stage erected in the market. The chinese love karaoke but they have the wierdest taste in music imaginable. It was quite a spectacle though, involving a lot of swaying, and warbling, and sometimes if we were lucky a full-on dance which mostly resembled the shuffle of an old man.
We headed back to the hostel that night and had a big Hat Party out of nowhere - we had met a great bunch of people and were pretty sad to be leaving in the morning.
Next morning we set off to Mersing, a small fishing village on the East Coast where we were able to catch a ferry to Tioman island. We arrived on the island late afternoon and while we were trying to find somewhere to stay two boys ran off the beach to meet us, who turned out to be (quite unexpectedly) Ed and Pi, two guys we had spent our first couple of days in Sydney with. We spent the next couple of hours lying in the ocean catching up with the boys before food, and bed.
Tioman Island is tiny and laregely unexplored jungle with beaches and spatterings of small strips of beach huts and restaurants. We spent our first day sunbathing and the second day we opted for a full day snorkelling trip at a variety of spots around the surrounding islands, where we saw great coral and fish, but the highlight was snorkelling around a big rock formation in the ocean where we were able to see sharks and fish at much deeper waters. It was a great day, and definitely my least traumatic/hazardous snorkelling experience so far! That evening we had some drinks with the Ed and Pi for for their last evening and watched the football on a temporary big screen propped up on the sand.
The next day, our last full day on the island, we got up at sunrise and set out on an hour or two hike through the jungle to a remote beach called Monkey Bay. When we got there the beach was deserted save for monkey footprints and the sand an incredible golden colour. The sea was also clear so it felt like spending the day in paradise. The only problem was the monkeys who stalked about for a while trying to steal our things, but we held our own and in the end they gave in and let us have the beach for the day. By the end of our stay in Tioman we were all feeling refreshed and (finally) golden brown. We headed to bed early on our final night ready for the long trip to Singapore in the morning.