We left Tioman on the 7am ferry back to Mersing and took the resort company car to Muar, Ying’s hometown. We were there to visit her family, plus drop off a huge load of duty-free alcohol and chocolate that Ying had purchased on Tioman.
We were up at 5am to eat breakfast and arrive at the jetty for 6am, since the ferry timing leaves something to be desired. For a 7am departure, that meant any time between 6-9am. If the ferry left it too late, it might not show up at all, because they are highly dependant on the tides. If it’s not high tide in Mersing, forget about it.
Anwar, an Indonesian guy working as the gardener/porter/chief barbecuer for the resort dropped us off at the jetty on one of the modified motorbikes they use for transport on the island. These motorbikes have a large metal tray fastened to the left side of the bike, which is used to transport both luggage and people. Sometimes guests come to the island with huge suitcases. I’ve seen these suitcases zip around, balanced one on top of the other, the motorbike rider with one hand on the luggage, one hand on the handlebars.
The ferry itself is not great. First of all you have to sit inside, which is terrible for people who get sea sick (like me), but even worse, it’s a potential death trap if the ferry has an accident. At 7:30 we were told the ferry would be here at 8. No, really, it’s fine. I didn’t need the extra hour of sleep at all. Really. Grrr. Luckily this ferry had a small outside bit you could go to, but it was full of smokers and people throwing up, so not a fun place. I ended up sharing my sea sickness tablets with a young German girl who was not having a good time.
At 8:15 the ferry left for Mersing, and we arrived at 10, then started the 5 hour drive back to Muar. The distance was only about 300km, but Malaysia has a lot of small towns, known locally as kampungs, and very winding roads. The scenery consisted mostly of palm oil plantations with a bit of jungle thrown in here and there.
We made a quick stop at an ‘organic, but it’s not really organic, they just say they’re organic’ farm along the way where Ying had previously worked, then had lunch in a nearby kampung. We had some delicious laksa and a side dish of tofu balls, except that the tofu balls had pork balls inside them. Not sure what the point of the tofu is?
When we arrived in Muar, we took a three hour nap and then headed out for some dinner. We tried a red wine noodle soup that everyone enjoys, but that is particularly recommended for women who have just given birth. While neither of us fit that category, it was still an interesting experience. I told Ying about the flour and red wine soup they eat at the beginning of the year in some parts of Switzerland. Both soups taste very different to your traditional French dishes, which often pair red wine and beef.
After dinner we made a quick trip to the hairdresser’s, and I now am $7 poorer and my hair is a la Asian teenage boy, but at least it’s cooler. We also hit a nearby pharmacy to pick up some antiseptic cream and bandaids for some coral cuts I got three weeks ago that won’t heal. Remember to be extra careful when swimming near reefs! I got mine on a stray piece while walking out from the beach.
The next morning we went out for breakfast. I still can’t get over how cheap Malaysia is. We got a big bowl of Tom Yum soup, a bowl of noodles in black sauce and two hot drinks for less than $3 total. Afterwards we went to a photo studio to get some head shots for my Thai visa. Later we’ll head out to Ying’s hometown, a small kampung where her brother still runs the family farm. After that we’ll head into Melaka for a couple of nights before heading up to Kuala Lumpur.
I’ll miss Tioman. The quirky locals, the laidback lifestyle, the food. On my last full day on Tioman, we had a snorkelling trip and ended up having lunch in Teket. It’s the ‘big’ town on the island, aka the only one with a proper police station and hospital with a doctor. The ladies there make the best sambal (chilli sauce) on the island according to Ying. They also like to watch music videos. Last time I saw them bobbing their scarf covered heads to the musical overtures of the 2chainz song ‘Crack’.
I won’t miss the boredom or the bugs, but overall, it’s been fun – Thanks Tioman!