Four months in the subcontinent swiftly came to an end when we realised that acquiring another Indian visa in Bangladesh, was substantially more trouble than it’s worth. Thankfully budget flights are readily available within Asia with Tiger airlines, don’t expect any frills though, I was denied a mouthful of cold water on the plane and told I had to pay £4 for a full bottle. Budgeting tip – usually by claiming that you need a drink to take medication will result in receiving a small cup of boiling H2O for free, if not, just pretend to throw a wobbler and begin to foam at the mouth, you’ll be surprised how fast a trolly dolly can run down the gangway with a cold bottle of Evian!
Back in the Malaysian peninsular, we decided to head to Tioman island, it’s close to Singapore and we’d heard it has ok beaches and diving, so it was good enough for us.
Lonely planet says that Tioman is shaped like a turtle, by now we all know that the traveller’s bible talks at least 65.4% pretentious and outdated bullshit. Likethewheels however, speaks nothing but 110% non biased, truth – it’s shaped like a snail or a thumbs up…
Tioman was never originally inhabited by anyone, it was only after Time magazine declared it the world’s most beautiful island back in the 70’s that the ethnic people from the neighbouring islands decided to set up a tourist infrastructure. The trip to Tioman used to require travellers to step from one tiny boat to another at the state boundary in the middle of the South China Sea, now it’s a quick two hour passage in what I call ‘the white man’ super ferry. Despite the massive influx of tourism over the last 30 years, development is relatively slow and the beach where we stayed, Air Bitang or ‘water pipe’ still has a chilled village vibe.
The Malaysian government decided that the people of the island needed something to do, so they gave the bored families some basic wooden chalets to rent to foreigners in their ‘make money from tourism’ campaign, so you can still grab a few cheap shanty huts. Tioman, like a lot of tightly knit remote communities, has a problem with incest, so don’t be surprised to see some locals a few fries short of a happy meal wandering around. There is also the small issue of drug addiction and theft is not unheard of, even in such a nice place like Tioman, a druggy will go to any lengths to feed the monster eating away at their very soul. The interesting thing about the island is that everywhere, including the beaches and outside your hut, you will find huge monitor lizards. Coral island near Tioman was once home to hundreds of these beasts and I was told used to make a nice day trip, until one day a fleet of Vietnamese fishermen decided to stay there after they were unable to sail due to bad weather. The fisherman subsequently had monitor lizard for breakfast, lunch and dinner and now the entire island is reptile free…
We done a handful of dives here, the most interesting of which was the 30m sawadee wreck, which was sunk two years ago to make an artificial reef and lies right next to a older wreck from 1995. ‘Snail’ island was a great way to sort my head out after being in the subcontinent for so long, not exactly a tropical paradise but still gets my thumbs up.
Eco Divers– by far the best value dive shop in Tioman, situated on ABC beach, cheers Geoff!