Arriving on Tioman

When we planned the trip to Tioman, I was not thinking about much more than escaping the winter, escaping big cities, doing something exotic, and BEACH. I forgot that being exotic comes with confronting things that might be brand new, uncomfortable or both.

Arriving in Terminal 2 of Singapore´s airport was like walking into a movie set. It is the terminal that services Southeast Asia, I believe. We were nearly the only “white” people there. I saw so many headscarves that I was unconsciously touching my hair and feeling slightly naked. Hubby admitted that it felt odd to be the minority.

We hadn´t eaten breakfast and the gate wasn’t open so we wandered around trying to find something to eat. We found an Indian food shop and didn´t know what anything was on the menu, so I just looked around at what other people ordered, looked at the pictures on the menu, and guessed. We ordered puri, or fried bread with a couple of savory salsas, which I have eaten before, but I had forgotten what it was called. Hubby went to exchange money and I sat watching our bags and breastfeeding Kiddo. A male employee of the shopped was staring. I tried to smile but I felt uncomfortable.

Next, we checked in for our flight and looked around at the other people flying to Tioman. There were a lot more locals than I had assumed. We ate another snack in the food court, stressed as Kiddo wouldn´t eat anything, and made our way to the gate. We made the acquaintance of some New Zealanders with a 9 month old baby girl and spent the half hour delay talking to them.

Then we got on the plane. Folks, I think if I were to imagine a personal hell, it might have been eternity sitting there waiting for the plane to take off. It was so hot. And so humid. My body was rebelling. I felt physically sick. Kiddo´s face was erupting in sweat beads and my clothes were totally damp. Possibly the worst part was the smell of everyone else´s perspiration erupting out of all their pores. I didn´t realize I couldn’t buy water and get it packaged to take on the flight, so I had no water, and was super thirsty. It ended up getting better when we got up to cruising altitude and the AC was a bit stronger. Also, we got a little snack pack of a sweet bun with red bean paste and a small water. Kiddo had fallen asleep so I drank her water too, and then I felt human again.

It turns out the heat of the plane is a right of passage when flying to Tioman. Those little planes just can´t combat the jungle heat. But they can fly 46 people safely in 40 minutes what would have otherwise taken a whole day over land and water.

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The huge airport at Pulau, Tioman

The little plane also executed the most deft Top Gun landing I think I will experience in my life. Because of the topography of Tioman (think: Jurassic Park), the only flat part is on the coast. The pilot must angle in straight for the trees and mountains of the internal jungle, and then turn so that the plane is at what felt like a 45 degree angle while it careens into the short landing strip. It was incredible.

We arrived and I felt even more like I was on the set of Jurassic Park. There was just our little propeller plane sitting in front of a backdrop of rainforest jungle. The baggage cart comes directly from the plane to the steps were the passengers are waiting, and everyone just clambers up and picks up their bags. Then each person pays 5 ringit to the government for protection of the island.

A woman from our resort was waiting for us and took us to the boat. I ran to get a bottle of water for us, since I was still thirsty and I was sure Kiddo needed to drink. It turns out I held up our boat, whoops, but I got to see some locals for 2 minutes, which was fun. Everyone there has scooters, all the women I saw had head scarves, and there was not a feeling of western life anywhere but in the English writing on the signs (there are lots of tourists there after all) and the coca cola, but that is everywhere, isn’t it.

The boat ride to the southern part of Tioman from the northwestern part where the airport is took about a half hour, I think. It was lovely. It was truly gorgeous, not to mention cool from the speed of the boat. Kiddo told me that we were “driving really fast!” and that “it is fun!”

When we arrived at the Bagus Place pier, we were offered a complimentary drink and just sat around, looking at how beautiful the beach and ocean were until Kiddo wanted to get in the water. We checked out our room, changed into our suits, and got into the fabulously warm, 28C water. It was amazing.

Otherwise, our first day was about being on the beach, seeing reef sharks (one HUGE one that scared the crap out of me), seeing crabs, building sand castles, finding pretty bits of coral and shells, swimming off the pier, drinking McLaren Vale white wine that we had brought, and eating our first dinner on the island.

After dinner, we watched them feed the fish and the shark at the end of the pier. They throw all the food scraps to them. It was pretty special. Then we conked out under our mosquito nets. I woke up at 12:45am when someone was walking around, surely going to their hut, but it sounded like they were going to walk right up to ours. It was very humid and hard to stay asleep, but I remember feeling like once a breeze started it was a pretty nice way to sleep: no covers, just a t-shirt, and still feeling a bit warm. I know Hubby had a hard night as he prefers blasting chill while he sleeps. I wonder how that will affect our holiday here!

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