Just a Bit Gorgeous and Gobbets of Phlegm

Tioman Travel Blog

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The beach and Jetty at Juara. Skegness it aint.

Pulau Tioman isn't paradise, but it's a lovely spot to do nowt nonetheless. Yeah, yeah, I know I was in Fiji less than a week ago, but 3 days on the beach just wasn't enough time to fully relax, unpack and unwind. So after slipping away from Singapore in the rain and crossing the Malay border with no worries, I caught a bus to Mersing, the gateway to Tioman island. Mersing is a sleepy seaside town notable for little apart from dodgy pavements and cheap internet. I managed to crunch and spit my way through a plate of bony chicken noodles from the local Indian place, and also grabbed the opportunity to savour the wonder that is Grass Jelly Drink (see below).

Rush hour on the section of beach in front of Paradise Point.

After spending a stifling night under attack by a squadron of mozzies at the basic but cheap Omar's Guesthouse, I joined three other backpackers to make the 3 hour ferry crossing to Tioman. S'funny how these things work but sometimes it's just easy to go with the drift so long as it's in your general direction. So I tagged along with Lee and Lex, an early 30s Anglo-Aussie couple whiling away some time in Asia on their way to live in Australia, and Bill the Cockernee plumber, touring SE Asia in search of beautiful scenery, cheap beer and 'big' women. 

Our first destination was Air Batang or ABC as it's known to all and sundry.

The Paradise Point Chalets.
 The place is ok, there are reasonable strips of beach, a few bars, a troop of little monkeys, a few large monitor lizards, a diving school and not a whole lot else. Bill did however find a sizeable spider under the bog seat in our chalet - apparently it slipped into the bowl and was unceremoniously flushed. I'll be checking every time from now on before seating myself on the throne. 

After a couple of days and a booze shopping expedition to the duty free shops of Tekek (Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum for me) to beat the expensive bar prices, we headed on a shiny black 4x4 truck to the beach at Juara on the other side of the island using the, as yet incomplete, paved road.

Lee, Lex and Bill on the Jetty at Juara, waiting for sunrise. Not Photoshopped I might add.
2 swift tips on this: firstly, bargain the drivers down; we heard of prices as much as RM40, we paid RM25 each (4 people) and you may be able to get lower. Second, don't accept a price of RM50 per night for staying at the Rainbow Chalets. The 4x4 drivers automatically drop you off there and receive a hefty commission for each person that stays - so you pay double and they pocket the difference.     

Juara is just a bit gorgeous. It's a broad 2km crescent of deserted tawny beach, bisected by a jetty and reclining between bath-warm turqouise shallows to the front and a mass of tropical forest behind. The settlement is small and, although there are plenty of places to stay, as it was the shoulder season, we had not only our guesthouse but also the majority of the beach to ourselves.

Bill and Lee savouring a fag and Happy hour Chang at a beach bar in ABC.

After a swift trawl up and down on the burning afternoon sand, we eventually elected to stay at a place named Paradise Point under the stewardship of the quiet but friendly Yen. Bill and I ended up sharing a chalet for RM 25 a night, 12.50 each (about USD4.20) which is just fine for this kind of place. The chalets aren't special but they're clean enough and have decent mozzie nets. More importantly, the beach is about 5 yards from your door and the food that Yen, his missus and kids whip up at their restaurant is excellent.

And so I spent the next five days and nights sleeping, reading, eating, snorkelling and swigging down the odd Captain and Coke. It was all splendid. Bill kept me thoroughly entertained with stories of his plumbing days featuring haunted houses, rat infestations, dodgy neighbourhoods, lusty old tarts and other assorted mentalists.

A beaming Lex and, in the background, Jim the Villa fan and his beautiful Finnish wife.
Meanwhile, Lex was forced to swallow a daily cocktail of prescription drugs trying to kill off three stubborn worms that had somehow found a way under the skin of her back in Northern Malaysia. No booze for her then, poor thing. Lee however was allowed to join us for a tipple, regaling us with tales of travel in Sumatra, giving me food for thought in terms of a new destination on my itinerary.                                 

After our fifth humid Juaran night, we tore ourself reluctantly from our sandy haven, packed up and headed back to the mainland. People reckon that, once the paved road to Juara is finished, this lovely place will end up being conquered by the concrete excesses of larger, pricier resorts. For now though, the road remains stubbornly incomplete and Juara remains a balmy little slice of happiness. Long may it last.


Salad's Sweet and Sour

(The first in an occasional series describing the best and worst in international food and drink)

No.1: Grass Jelly Drink  

What little flavour GJD possesses is kind of indistinct and unsatisfying - the closest I can get is that it tastes a bit flowery (violets?). However, GJD has an ace up its sleeve as, despite the name, it's also a bona fide food as well as a beverage. Oh yes, each can contains small fragments of jelly suspended (if you shake well before opening) in there like gobbets of phlegm. 

The Verdict

Grass Jelly Drink is rather like snot in a can. A swift Google search reveals that Vietnamese women drink it to enhance fertility. They're welcome to it. I will never consume it again. Ever.     

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The beach and Jetty at Juara. Skeg…
The beach and Jetty at Juara. Ske…
Rush hour on the section of beach …
Rush hour on the section of beach…
The Paradise Point Chalets.
The Paradise Point Chalets.
Lee, Lex and Bill on the Jetty at …
Lee, Lex and Bill on the Jetty at…
Bill and Lee savouring a fag and H…
Bill and Lee savouring a fag and …
A beaming Lex and, in the backgrou…
A beaming Lex and, in the backgro…
photo by: RenieMaria