The little bahstahd, part I of Tioman

Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
Trip End Jul 24, 2013

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Friday, February 1, 2013

When you think of paradise, you imagine Tioman Island. I assure you that much. Small, isolated island off the coast of Malaysia, with monkeys running wild, thick jungle, crystal clear water, and coral that takes up the whole color spectrum. As mentioned previously, we took a 2.5 hour ferry ride for not much cash at all, getting off at the fourth dock, called ABC, which was known for having lots of housing and great snorkeling. That was definitely true. 

The first day was a mostly relaxed day--we arrived and walked around a bit trying to get our bearings and find a place to stay. We essentially walked down the main "road" and asked one by one, doing our best to haggle. Malaysians, in my opinion, don't understand the concept of haggling. Or they're just smart and realize you have nowhere to stay anyways, so they just stare at you and shake their heads. It occurred everywhere, actually; it's like they all have a pact to just not haggle so that foreigners have to take their stated prices or get lost

Anyways, after denying a few, we finally went back to the cheapest place, which was comprised of a half dozen "chalets", apparently none of which had names. At least we didn't find any within our 3 days. Though we weren't going to have air conditioning in the 90 degree weather, it didn't matter much--we were happy with the $7/night on a tropical island. It cooled off in the evenings, anyways. We set up shop, ate a bit, then set off to explore. We walked about one hour or so down the road to get to the main town, which is made up of a solid 100 people. I mean, if you Google the population of this island, it's about 500 people. The "main" town is called Tekek, the worst excuse for civilization ever. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I absolutely loved the lack of legitimate structure. It was just one path going along the coast of the island, with a nice resort here and there, but mainly these small little huts where people like Neil, Keel and I were staying. At the moment, there was hardly anybody there. I felt like we owned the place, and truly felt carefree for the first time in years. Truthfully, a very liberating place--I'd recommend going there, but try to go in the off season like we did.

After our trip, we didn't do too much. We continued exploring, finding what restaurants there were, buying some food at the convenience stores, and finally settled down at a small hut bar run by two Canadians who also ran a diving school. They'd been doing it for 6 years. Drinks there were relatively cheap due to the fact that the entire island is duty free. Paradise and it's duty free. What the hell! We got there for their happy hour, so a beer was about $1. It was here that we met all of our buddies--the two Austrians, Robert and Simon, and Desiree, who is Malaysian but friends with Robert through school. She studied abroad in the one and only Pennsylvania! Alright, the only foreigner that knows what the hell PA is! 

The day after we decided to hit up Monkey Bay--a place famous for, well, the monkeys. Not only that, though; it also has amazing snorkeling with great fish, coral, and other things to see. The trail there took us through the jungle--legitimately. The only way to know where to go was to follow power cables. It was about 70 minutes before we reached Monkey Bay--surprisingly (and sorta not), we had the entire bay to ourselves. It was like a dream. Pristine beach, clear waters, gorgeous fish and coral, and nobody there. Just us three and the monkeys we'd yet to see. That would change soon, as I brought some food with me. 

First, though, Keel and I decided to go snorkeling. Neil wanted to take a little nap on the beach to rest his weary head; a mistake, ultimately. The snorkeling at Monkey Bay was the best I've ever seen; and I think Keel feels the same. Massive columns sprouted up from the sea floor, twisting around one another and forming underwater artwork. Thankfully, the aggressive fish weren't there. Hate them. We decided to go around the cliff, where the water was becoming more violent--we figured that's where the good stuff would be, and we were right to take the chance. Visibility was amazing due to the clear water, which gave us a great chance to see a few sharks, a sea turtle who frightened a ray (double whammy for us), as well as insane amounts of your general "x-ray" fish and all the colors you can imagine. No Nemos, though--that was at another island. After being absolutely stunned by all the amazing things we saw (it was about 1.5 hours of snorkeling), we came back to a worried Neil, who was walking towards us already, carrying all of our stuff as best as he could, along with a giant stick. 

Neil had the unfortunate experience of being terrorized by a mysterious monkey--the "lit'le bahstahd" as his accent says. Unfortunately, Keel decided to bring along the biscuits I bought, and put them in his bag. Mistake #1. That little thing smelled out the biscuits and sneaked up on Neil, who was napping whilst aware monkeys were around. Mistake #2. The little guy stole Keel's entire bag, going through his belongings until he found the cookies. At this point, Neil turned over at just the right moment to see the monkey and threw his sandal at him. According to Neil, the monkey didn't give a rat's ass and just watched the sandal go by, continuing his business. Neil then grabbed a massive stick and began to chase him with it. The monkey ran away into the bushes and disappeared. That's when Neil moved all of our stuff, and how we encountered him. 

When he told us what happened, we went to search for Keel's bag. Luckily, Neil had a damn good eye and remembered exactly where the monkey entered the bushes, and there it was--Keel's bag with all the belongings out of it. The odd thing about all of this was that Keel's zippers were locked together, and somehow the monkey got everything out of it. Essentially, he got Keel's wallet, my cookies, and other things out of a .5 inch gap. We have no idea. The little ass ate all of my cookies, but clearly had no care for Keel's wallet, which was just thrown a bit away from his bag. Oh well, we only cared about getting Keel's stuff back. Success in that sense. 

After our little adventure, we rested on the beach for a bit, soaking up the sun (yeah, cause we needed it...). We then headed back for a nice dinner at what we called "the slow place" because it took so damn long to get our food. Honestly, I ordered the "tomato salad", which took about 30 minutes to come out. The worst part about it? It was one single tomato, sliced up, with a few spices on it. I have no clue. I truly didn't like that place, but Keel enjoyed the rice so we ate there anyways. I liked "the breakfast place", which was where we always ate breakfast. In other words, where I also would eat 2nd dinner since slow place always sucked. 

To end the night, like usual, we went to the little hut bar and had some beers. This time, they completely ran out of beer. Island problems. However, they were going into the main town (Tekek) to get some the following day. We decided to give them $15 so they could buy us some Captain Morgan Spiced Rum--perhaps the greatest idea ever, since Keel and I, at least, were extremely tired of having horrible drinks. So, this night turned out to be extremely relaxing. We simply all chatted, the Austrians, Desiree, and us three. We watched the sun go down, and I think for the first time, it hit me just how lucky I was being there. As I sat down next to Desiree, gazing outwards towards the sea, I reflected on how amazing this place was and my experiences have been. 

One and a half years ago, I lived in Spain. Now, I live in China. I speak Spanish. I speak Mandarin. I...sorta read it. I'm one of a few foreigners out of 3 million people. I've climbed the highest mountain in Southeast Asia in one day. I'm residing in a small hut in a tropical island off the coast of Malaysia; one of a few dozen visitors on the entire island. I've seen sharks; rays; wild monkeys; a sea turtle; the clearest water this world has to offer. I have no internet, no cell phone; just conversing with 7 people from 5 countries. I'm watching the sun go down behind the sea, stars gradually revealing themselves through the pollution-less sky. It's perfect. 

That, my friends, is what life should be like. Stay tuned for Tioman Island part II! 
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