Just a Bit Gorgeous and Gobbets of Phlegm
Tioman Travel Blog› entry 46 of 115 › view all entries
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.