This will mostly be pictures, but first, an introduction to Palau Tioman. This is the largest island on Malaysia’s east coast, and it’s dotted by a handful of small towns and big hotels along the coast and a large unruly jungle forms the interior.
I took a bus to Mersing, the port town, from Kuala Lumpur. My bus was mainly whiteys, including a group of 10, yes 10 douchy young British guys. Who travels in groups of 10 in eastern Malaysia? This isn’t Vegas.
Tioman is mainly a couples place, as it turned out, so it wasn’t a very social excursion for me. I didn’t want to be a third wheel, and I certainly didn’t want to hang out with 10 gap-year dudes. This means I mainly talked to middle-aged people, this one French dude who didn’t seem to own a shirt, and of course bartenders. I became something of a fixture at the first bar I stopped at, which was right by my bungalow. The bartender handed out fresh calamari that he fried up, lobster, and other, um, herbal extras, all for free.
The highlight of the trip was probably my punishing jungle slog. Tioman has one town on it’s east coast, Juara, and to get requires overpaying a taxi or boat, or walking through 7 kilometers of jungle. Monkeys in the jungle, it turns out, are kind of terrifying. When I passed near a group of them, they would scream at me. At one point, I swear I heard vicious barking. Somehow, some random monkey sounded like Cujo. Once I made it to Juara, I was rewarded with something more precious than gold on Tioman – a restaurant with free wifi.
On the boat back to the mainland, I saw a lot of the same random weirdos that I’d been running into all week. A couple of the Brits (I guess their group of 10 disbanded), a lonely old Aussie, and the group of Norwegian girls that were staying at my hotel, one of whom wore long pants, a sweater, and a stocking cap at all times despite the fact that it was a million degrees.
My favorite bar. It’s empty because this was at 9 a.m. or so. Malaysia isn’t a morning cocktail kind of place.
I saw quite a few monitor lizards around. By my bungalow, I saw one that was probably 6 feet long.
The town of Mersing, where the boats and buses connect. Lonely Planet and other sources describe it as a sleepy fishing village, because international writing law demands that fishing village must always be preceded by the adjective “sleepy.”