Tag Archives: island

Lots of visitors, invited and not….Tioman Island, Malaysia

After a four hour bus ride from the west coast of Malaysia to the east coast, we bought boat tickets for the next ferry to Tioman Island. We still had a few hours to spare and we spent them buying supplies and enjoying the air-conditioning and free wifi at the local KFC (perhaps my first KFC encounter ever). We eventually boarded the ferry, after a chaotic check-in and completely confusing process (no queueing here). We spent the next two hours in the frigid boat hold, so cold the windows were completely fogged on the outside.

Luckily, the end justifies the means, and we arrived on Salang Beach just before dark. Having called ahead, we found our beach front bungalow to be simple, but just our style. This being the “party beach” we were at the end and it was pretty quiet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Napping on our porch

We spent the next few days before our friends arrived reading, swimming and relaxing in the hammocks along the sand. Cats are everywhere on the island, and our place had particularly friendly and well cared for kittens. Great fun watching them attempt to climb palm trees and run around in the sand (aka giant litter box). We also glimpsed a giant black squirrel, which I have been hunting since Penang and some monkeys clamoring along the shoreline.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The elusive giant black squirrel
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hiding in the tree
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Giant black squirrel about the same size as the cats on our beach

We hung out with some people from our hotel and went to a “party” where Riki sang Taylor Swift with some German girls. The party scene was pretty low-key, though on the weekend, people from Singapore flocked to the island. And so did our friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our beach
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sunset
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
High tide
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Salang beach
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Rocks on the Beach
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Salang Beach
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Rocks on the Beach

We were delighted to meet up with our New Orleans friends, this being the first time we’ve had visitors, though really we were crashing their family vacation. Same, same. Tioman Island is duty-free, so the alcohol and chocolate are relatively cheap. Duty-free makes it sound fancy, but I don’t think there was even an ATM on our beach, there was no cell service and wifi was only available in a few spots. Rustic, right?

We went on a snorkeling trip with our friends, and 20 other tourists. On a boat made for 12 (there was a sign). We made a few stops and saw some beautiful coral. And lots of colorful fish. I managed not to get burnt, courtesy of snorkeling in my t-shirt, though if I were like most on our boat, I could have just worn a life jacket for sun protection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tioman from the boat
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Drawing out the clownfish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Clownfish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Anemone and clown fish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Parrotfish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Swarming the bread
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Riki showing off

For lunch, we stopped at a white sand beach, where we were discarded while the captain drove off to fix the engine. Shortly after our arrival, three giant monitor lizards must have smelled our food and came to harass us from the forest. They must get fed here regularly, as they were not afraid of us and our guide threw chicken bones and sausage at them. Same guide who was feeding the fish loaves of bread. It’s not something I like to see. I’d rather the wildlife stay wild.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
White sand beach
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Riki & Co.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Monitor lizard a bit too close for comfort
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Monitor lizard getting friendly
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lunch spot
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Coming out of the forest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Looks a bit like the proboscis monkey (pictures to come)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next day we all boarded the ferry back to Mersing, where we caught the bus to Singapore and the others went back west for a day before meeting up with us again.

Secret Agent Island….Phang Nga, Thailand

Our last stop in southern Thailand is Phang Nga, not to be confused with the locale of the Vietnamese caves we so greatly admired – Phong Nha.

It was a torturous 86 kms from Krabi to Phang Nga. In the States, that could probably be done in about an hour, with smooth roads the whole way. Not so here. We first had to take a minibus to a travel agent’s station, where we were dumped in with a hundred other tourists going to a dozen different locations. And waited for an indeterminate amount of time. Everyone else had stickers on their shirts, but not us. As we were the only ones headed to Phang Nga, we were eventually squashed into a very hot and cramped minibus with others going past Phang Nga to Phuket. Riki’s prickly heat was not amused. We stopped after 30 minutes so the crazy driver, who sped up around turns, could eat lunch. No one else ate. Then we were back on the road and deposited at the local bus station after almost 3 hours.

Phang Nga is not known for hosting many tourists. And it shows. Our air-conditioned hotel was not really up to the standards for its Bangkok price of over $15. We opted for a/c to cool the prickly heat and planned on a luxurious few days in the chill enjoying our hot water, mini fridge and TV. Well, the hot water didn’t work, the fridge was less than luke warm and the TV only had a two channels in English (Nat Geo – which only has fishing shows and a strange movie channel with an intense delay between picture and sound). But we weren’t here for the hotel room.

We were here to take a whole day boat trip to see some amazing and gorgeous islands, that have been inhabited for thousands of years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Very old cave paintings

Our boat trip was a bit dampered by three rambunctious boys in our boat, but the scenery more than made up for their antics. To sum it up: Rule #1 of parenthood should be: never buy your children noise makers (especially on a 10 passenger boat).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our boat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We visited the James Bond Island, where The Man With the Golden Gun was shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Classic pose
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Another classic pose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the end, we stopped at a village where the only thing on dry ground is the mosque and the cemetary. The rest is unfortunately, tourist shops and a cool floating “stadium.” They also had massive cats, no dogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Floating stadium
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Just think about trying to learn a bike when this is your only road, 20 feet above water/mud with no railing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also discovered sticky rice with mango, coconut milk and little seeds. Why I never tried this before is beyond me. I ate as many as I could. We also discovered a million dollar idea – popsicles dipped in unflavored gellatin to keep them from melting. Genius. And delicious.

We visited the Heaven and Hell cave, which has some gory scenes outside and an awesome dragon walkway/entrance. Unfortunately, the lights weren’t on and we couldn’t go into the cave very far.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Screw threw her belly – definitely not a heaven image

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the same location is a nice view of the area, or so we heard. Our ascent to the viewpoint was hindered by a horde (flock, gaggle, herd, etc) of mean monkeys, who bite, or so we were told. I had to leave my little bag of snacks at the entrance, or risk being bitten by these aggressive guys. Riki was too afraid to take out his camera and attract their attention, but we were 30 feet from the top with a Thai man and his sister, when we realized there would be no passing these red-faced creatures. Riki’s fear of heights kicked in, and rightfully so, as the concrete stair seemed unsupported with a rather short guardrail. We raced back down, single file, with me practically stepping on Riki’s feet trying to avoid the monkey who was at my elbow. We did get a photo at the bottom, before collecting my bag and walking back to town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Calm little guy after chasing us down the steps
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
One of these is real. And mean.

Other news – our last day was the Princess’ birthday. Everyone was wearing purple (her birthday color) and we heard there were blood donor centers and free haircuts. Riki got a free haircut, but it was using my second grader scissors in our bathroom where the sink drains to the floor and the drain is across the room, so every time you walk in, you step in toothpaste. Genius.

Next stop: Phuket Airport for a quick flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.