Pulau Rawa

Trip Start Jul 02, 2012
Trip End Oct 04, 2012

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Flag of Malaysia  , Johor,
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On Tuesday we were picked up by a taxi to head over to Malaysia for a couple of days on a tropical island.

It only takes 20 minutes to drive to the Singapore/Malaysia border, and it was the simplest border control we've been through.  First of all you drive up to a toll booth and hand over your passports where you are stamped as leaving the country.  You then drive about 500m to the Malaysian border control toll booths where your visa is stamped as entering Malaysia.  No checks, no scans, you just hand the passports out the window, they are stamped, handed back and off you go!  There was one line with a sign that said "reject cars", but we sailed past that so all was well!

Driving across the causeway in to Malaysia was a real eye opener.  The difference was instant and complete.  There were literally hundreds of motorbikes, a train clattered past belching black smoke, there was rubbish all over the sides of the road, half finished construction sites were common and the cars were 10-15 years older. Looking out the back window we could still see Singapore glistening in the distance; looking forward, the horizon was hazy with pollution.

Our driver pulled over and we transferred to the second taxi that would take us to the town where the ferry leaves from, about 130km away. 

The taxi had seen better days - the stereo (or what was left of it) was duct taped in place, the seats creaked everytime we went over a bump, the seatbelts were the old fixed variety rather than retractable and mine had twine around it to hold it in place!

Mersing is 120km from Johor Bahru and it was a real adventure rattling along in the taxi, all of us stealing wide-eyed glances at each other, not sure whether to laugh or be afraid!  Actually, there was of course nothing to worry about, the car made it all the way, the drive was scenic (rough roads though and not much suspension!), with banana trees and palms (producing palm oil for export) for miles. We went past huge rock pillars left abandoned on the side of the road which were used during the Japanese occupation to attack the incoming troops from behind.  They are slowly being reclaimed by the jungle and in fact we saw a big monkey on top of one using it as a great lookout point.

We arrived at the Resort office two hours before our scheduled ferry, so after checking in we went to a nearby cafe and got something to eat.  The whole area was dirty and rundown and we were happy to board our ferry at 12 for the half hour ride out to the island.

We raced out in to the South China Sea(!), and 30 minutes later pulled in to a jetty at Rawa Island.  It was like something out of Robinson Crusoe.  A handful of chalets on a white sandy beach, palm trees swaying gently in the breeze all set against the rugged backdrop of a tiny island in the middle of the ocean.

We were welcomed onto the island with fruit drinks and shown to our chalet which was literally on the beach and had 2 hammocks swinging between palm trees in front of the balcony.  We were in heaven!

After trying out the water slide on the jetty which was hilarious, we paddled and swam until it got too hot, relaxed in the airconditioning and then lazed in the hammocks with our books.  To top off a perfect afternoon a thunderstorm passed through, just long enough to whip up the sea, bend the palm trees to 45 degrees and necessitate umbrellas on the hammocks!

After the storm, everything was much fresher and cooler and we followed the paths part way around the island checking out the other chalets (we had 'beachfront', there were also 'waterfront', built on stilts out over the water, 'hillside' and 'frangipani', set among beautiful flowering trees.

Dinner was very relaxing sitting outside listening to the waves roll gently in and a delightful mix of 60's, 70's and 80's music!  Afterwards Michael and I had a foosball showdown followed by a table tennis clash between Michael and Richard which I think the whole island heard!  We rounded off a great day by lying in the hammocks by the beach listening to some great 80's hits - Final Countdown, Eye of the Tiger and Dire Straits among others!

Wednesday dawned bright and clear and as we made our way down to the cafe for breakfast, we were very surprised to come across several peacocks - rather out of place but seemingly very at home!

After breakfast Richard and I walked up to the top of the island via 191 (yes we counted!) concrete slab steps.  Being a little out of practice due to the lack of cathedrals and monuments in Singapore, we were given a good reminder that we have calf muscles and lungs by the time we reached the top!  The view was fantastic looking down to the rocks on the other side of the island and also down to the beach and jetty while the seabirds wheeled and dived above us.

We spent a very happy morning swimming, watersliding and playing table tennis and foosball rematches.  After a quick lunch, we packed our bags and were whisked back to Mersing in a record time of 20 minutes, flying over the waves at an exhilarating pace.

Arriving back at Mersing, we decided we would catch a bus back to Singapore having checked it out the day before and discovering we would save over $100 by doing so.  We made our way to the ticket office only to be told by the guy that they were closed.  I said to him that I was told yesterday they closed at 5.30pm (it was only 2.30) and he said not today.  Puzzled, I asked why to which he replied "I have something else important I need to do".  Really?!!

Armed with a scrap of paper with directions to the main bus station, we walked for 15 minutes in to the main part of the town,feeling a little uneasy as we walked past ramshackle shops, filthy gutters, feral, mangy looking cats and really not sure we knew where we were going.  Clearly destined for a spot on Amazing Race, we found the bus station with 15 minutes to spare, got ripped off by the ticket seller and gratefully climbed aboard the best of a pretty rough looking bunch of buses.  

The ride back to Johor Bahru was actually quite comfortable although I did wonder at one stage if the emergency door at the back of the bus just behind my seat was going to come off as we rattled over a particularly rough part of the road and I could see daylight through the gaps!

Getting back in to Singapore was quite a palava.  First the bus stopped and we all got off and went into the Malaysian customs building and had our passports stamped.  Along a corridor, down an escalator and on to another bus to drive a short distance to Singapore customs where we walked up more steps, escalators and along corridors to have our passports stamped again and baggage put through security.

Rather than risk getting on the wrong bus and ending up back in Malaysia (we had trouble finding anyone who spoke good enough English to give us confidence we knew which one to choose!), we took the easy option and climbed in to the reassuring comfort of a local Singapore taxi, arriving home in time for dinner having had a fantastic adventure! 


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