30 October, 2009

The Great Adventure: Day 36 to 49

Sorry about the big gap in updating you all on our travels - been getting lazy & too distanced from technology. Do you realise that i haven't watched TV for weeks & weeks? I haven't even listened to my ipod much. Most of the time i read, sleep, relax & not do much at all. But isn't that what holidays are for?

Anyway, here's what we've been doing for the last 2 weeks...

Day 36 (Friday 16th October)
K went off for a morning dive (i stayed in bed) and finally saw a big shark - about 2m long. He also saw a couple of turtles. He was well chuffed with that dive!
The rest of the day was spent sitting around reading & relaxing.

Day 37 (Saturday 17th October)
K had another dive & saw even more sharks - white-tip sharks; not dangerous even if they are 2m long (apparently - don't think i would be too relaxed if a 2m shark came anywhere near me...)
In the afternoon, we decided to rent bicycles & cycle round the island (Gili Trawangan). K predicted it would take us half an hour or so, seeing as the island isn't that big. 2 hours later, we managed to make it back to our bungalow. What we didn't figure was that the road round the island is only paved in certain bits. The rest is just sand. Soft loose sand. Have you ever tried cycling on that kind of service? And on an ordinary bicycle? It definitely wasn't fun & we nearly ended up with heatstroke. But we can say we did it!!

Day 38 (Sunday 18th October)
K had two dives, while i slept then had a massage - which was very welcome after the previous day's cycling activities.
In the evening, we headed to the Irish pub in the island to their DVD shacks/gazebos (whatever you call them). Here, you can watch any DVD (the pub has about 200 to choose from) for free as long as you order some drinks and/or food. Can't remember what we watched, but do know it involved guns & war (guess who chose that movie...)

Day 39 (Monday 19th October)
While K went out on a morning dive, i was in charge of getting money. Despite what the guidebooks say, Gili Trawangan now has an ATM. But it's a fussy old thing and only takes certain cards. And it didn't like K's (German) cash card. However, our flexible friend, Visa, was accepted. But, K didn't know that number. Luckily, his mum had sent him the pin number. So, i had to check K's email, find the number, remember it & get some cash. But i only had 2000 Rupiah (14 cents), which isn't very much money at all. Now, this might not seem like a problem - but i needed to pay the Internet cafe. I got into K's email, found the right email, got the pin # in 5 minutes. And guess how much that cost? Exactly 2000 Rupiah. Miracle.
Anyway, to cut a long ramble short, i got the money.
Rest of the day was spent sipping cocktails & chatting.

Day 40 (Tuesday 20th October)
A complete non-day. Really didn't do much at all.

Day 41 (wednesday 21st October)
Had a slow start to the day, but in the afternoon we went snorkelling again. And this time i didn't use a floaty (life jacket). I got a bit nervous, and held K's hand most of the time, but i actually went in the ocean and snorkelled, all in deep water with out freaking out. And, best of all, i saw a turtle. And a big eel & a lionfish (which are really weird looking things)

Day 42 (Thursday 22nd October)
Today was laundry day, so i lugged everything off to the nearest laundry service. Everywhere we've had laundry done, they do it by weight, but on Gili T, they itemise it. I wasn't prepared for that, but it wasn't really that challenging - just meant emptying out dirty clothes all over the floor & counting everything. Not the most fun task ever, but definitely necessary...
In the afternoon, K & i went snorkelling again & i didn't hold his hand much at all. Am definitely getting more confidence in the water - yay!
In the evening, we had a DVD dinner at the Irish pub & watched 'This is England'. I really recommend it to anyone who grew up in England in the 80s. It reminded me of home, but also reminded me why i don't live there anymore.

Day 43 (Friday 23rd October)
In honour of K's sister's birthday, K & me humiliated ourselves on the beach by making a Happy Birthday video with my camera. It really is embarrassing to sing into a camera, knowing that people around you are watching... The bugger was that the video was too big to attach to an email. So, Sarah, if you're reading, i still have the video in my camera, so I'll show to it you when we get back. And Happy (belated) Birthday!

Day 44 (Saturday 24th October)
As this was going to be our last day on Gili T, we booked tickets off the island to Amed (Bali). Also got some new reading material & paid all our outstanding bills (bungalow & diving - NOT bar tabs, OK?!)
Had another DVD dinner, and then headed off to Rudy's, the best bar on Gili T. We'd spent quite a few evenings there & the staff had come to know us & were really funny & friendly. They spent half their time flirting & the other half dancing behind the bar - but still somehow managed to serve drinks. While we were there, a waiter at our regular beach cafe, Madi, came to join us. He was a really lovely man, fiercely proud of both his home (Bali) and his religion (Hindu), but in an open way - he really wanted us to enjoy & understand both. Still, i didn't fully understand his story about how the gods chose Bali to be a holiday island - something to do with stars & aeroplanes...

Day 45 (Sunday 25th October)
Left Gili T on a speed boat (still not my favourite means of transport...) and on the way we stopped briefly at Gili Air. We got off the boat & wandered on the beach so we could say that we had visited another of the Gilis...
The crossing wasn't too bad, but it still scared the pants off me. I really don't like how speed boats thump across the water; i find it very nerve-wracking. However, about three-quarters into our journey, the boat crew started cheering & smiling & the captain slowed down - a shoal/troop/school/whatever of dolphins was playing around the boat. There were about 10 of them swimming around & splashing in & out of the water. It was wonderful to see. I don't know who was more excited the passengers or the crew!!
Once we arrived in Amed, one of the boat crew recommended a place to stay in Tulamben (our desired destination). And so we arrived at the Mata Hari resort in Tulamben, East Bali.
In the evening, we found a local bar with a pool table & played until there was a power cut all over Tulamben...

Day 46 (Monday 26th October)
Was a bit of a non-day as both of us were feeling crappy (Bali Belly), so just hung, slept & read a lot.

Day 47 (Tuesday 27th October)
Both of us were feeling pretty much back to normal, so K headed out to the USAT Liberty wreck (the main reason for coming to Tulamben).
In the afternoon, K went out on another dive, while i (once again) went out on a money mission. In Tulamben, there are no ATMs. Also, due to the unreliable electric & telephone connections, no where takes credit cards. Lonely Planet, however, omits this important information. So, for 100,000 Rupiah, the hotel provided a driver, Agus, to take me to the nearest town with an ATM, Amlapura, about 30 minutes away. We get there, and i try all the ATMs in town (all 3 of them) and NONE of them work - cash card OR Visa. Arghh!! I had visions of us washing dishes forever at the hotel...
But Agus knew another bigger town, Semarapura, with more ATMs. And finally we got one that worked. Then we had the long drive home - in all, it took 4 hours. Despite all that, it was a nice afternoon. Agus pointed out lots of things on the way (monkeys, pigs, weddings, chili plants, durian stands, amongst other stuff) and i saw beautiful rice paddies, a really odd huge statue of a bull which had a bucket under it's boy parts. Not really sure what that was about. Actually, i don't think i want to know what that was about!
Also saw some villagers cock fighting. Oh dear, that really came out wrong.
They had fighting cockerels & the cockerels were fighting. Only saw it quickly in passing, but was a bit shocked - but i guess it's part of the culture here.
The biggest thing though was seeing the difference in environment. In 1963, the area was devastated by the eruption of Mount Agung the highest mountain/volcano on Bali. This means that the area around Tulamben resembles a moonscape with a few random palm trees on it. But then you go over a mountain pass, enter the next valley & it's back to green lushness again. Really interesting to see the massive changes.

Day 48 (Wednesday 28th October)
In the afternoon, we went snorkelling together. The USAT Liberty wreck is kind of rare in that snorkellers can also see it as it's only 50m of the shore and, at it's shallowest, is only 5m below the surface. It was really cool to see and especially to see how the marine life have taken it & made it their own. On the minus side, it was hard getting in & out of the water as the beach was really rocky - doable, but a tad painful.

Day 49 (Thursday 29th October)
Booked a driver (turned out to be Agus again) to take us back to Kuta. Enjoyed the 3-hour drive there, through winding mountain roads & rice paddies (half of the journey I'd already done on my ATM mission...) Also 'enjoyed' the Pussy Cat Dolls album THREE TIMES! Agus only had one CD & he just played it over & over. I don't even know that people actually bought PCD CDs. Well, they do in Bali. Surprisingly though, it wasn't quite as bad as we had anticipated, still 3 times was enough.
In the afternoon, i booked flights out of Bali for 31st. AirAsia is GREAT! Their website is easy to use & everything is really hassle free. So, on Saturday we are heading to Singapore for 4 days. Yay!

And that brings us to today, Friday, which I'll update later. We have just over 3 weeks left on our travels & i am really NOT looking forward to heading back to Europe (no offence to anyone, i love being warm & hate European winters). And especially as all my winter clothes are in boxes in France & I'm going to be in Germany...

16 October, 2009

The Great Adventure: Day 28 to Day 35

So here I am again, sat at the computer while the sun is shining outside. Do hope you all appreciate the effort I'm making...

So here's what we're been doing for the last week:

Day 28 - Thursday 8th October
This was the day that we left Tioman & headed to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as everyone calls it) The journey involved taking a speed boat to Mersing, on Penninsular Malaysia. there, we had to hang around for 3 hours until hour express bus to KL. Here was where i updated my blog last time.
Got on our (on-time) bus to KL, with a supposed journey time of 4 hours. It wasn't 4 hours - it was 6. Have now (finally) come to the realisation that whatever the predicted journey time is, add at least 2 hours and then you'll know the actual journey time. Luckily, we had lots of time & didn't have any connections to make. The bus ride itself was interesting - we travelled through miles and miles of palm tree plantations; i assume they are for palm oil. May sound strange but for me (& K) seeing palm trees neatly planted in long rows just seemed weird. Palm trees are supposed to be exotic & wild, not neatly arranged.
On arrival in KL, we followed one of our fellow bus passengers, Tammy, to a guest house that she'd been recommended in Chinatown. After that, the 3 of us went out for dinner in a nearby Chinese restaurant (what else do you eat in Chinatown, eh?) After that we went to a Beatles bar that played house music, then to a reggae bar playing pop. Go figure...

Day 29 - Friday 9th October)
K & i indulged ourselves in a full on Western day. We started off by taking the train to the Twin Towers (or Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in Asia). Here, we went to the medical centre as both K & I had insect bites that had got infected & knew that we needed antibiotics. Under an hour later, we had had our bites cleaned, received a week of antibiotics & antibiotic cream. (And now, a week later, both of us are healed up)
Then we treated ourselves to a nice lunch (K was craving steak & proper coffee; you can buy Nescafe EVERYWHERE here, but if you want a real coffee, it's a real challenge). And then it was off to Kinokuniya for some extreme book shopping. We spent ages there in the air-conditioned world, safely cocooned off from the real world.
Once back in our guest house, i booked our flights out of KL - Air Asia is great. The cheapest prices & a load of destinations available. And you can do everything on -line. Where did i book us to? Keep reading...
In the evening, we hit the night spots of KL. Not really sure where to go, we asked a taxi driver to take to a bar/drinking area. Think he took us to the posh area because everyone was posing & we felt a bit out place. Then again, maybe that's what everyone does in KL? Later on we found an Irish bar a bit out of town, which was a lot more our style.
And so another day ended.

Day 30 (Saturday 10th October)
Unsurprisingly, has a slow start to that day. We walked to Little India to have a curry lunch - again, what else would you eat there?!
This restaurant specialised in something a bit different - Southern Indian food. Or was it Northern? I can't remember which it was; all i know is that most Indian restaurants specialise in one type, and this one specialised in the other. And it did taste different. It still tasted like curry, but more earthy & it was good too.
The afternoon was a bit of right-off, both of us went back to sleep in readiness for the evening. In the evening, we (once again) satisfied out Western food cravings in a BIG way & went to TGI Fridays. Ever since K had their Jack Daniel's glazed beef ribs in Japan, he has been craving them again. So off we went. And i had a really good steak & mashed potatoes. Cravings satisfied, we found a cavern of a bar with live music, called Rum Jungle. Was a fun place & we discovered that the service improved wonderfully once we started tipping the staff. Our glasses were never empty & staff were always available for an order. Tipping isn't really done here, and similar to other (Asian?) countries, people don't really pay the staff much attention, let alone courtesy. So, by being nice & tipping, we ended up having an enjoyable evening.
But it wasn't over. I wanted to see the England vs Ukraine game (in hindsight, it wasn't a good decision) so we got a taxi to the Irish pub (again). On the way there, we had the wonderful & entertaining driver, a 3rd generation Indian Malaysian. He told us about his family & that he has 9 kids. Yup, NINE! He also told the funny story about how he and his wife had trouble getting pregnant for the first few years of their marriage. They went to the doctor & had lots of tests & stuff & finally she pregnant. Then again & again & again. Finally, taxi driver went back to the doctor (after baby number 4) and asked the doctor to stop them getting pregnant. The doctor said, "First, you ask me to help you get babies. And you get babies. But now, you ask me to STOP you getting babies?! I kill you!!!" The taxi driver driver went on to comment that " the factory is now closed". He was a really lovely man & seemed full of life & joy, despite working a hard job & hours.
After that, the England game was a disappointment. Luckily, I beat K at a few games of pool afterwards, so the evening wasn't a complete waste...

Day 31 (Sunday 11th October)
This day marked exactly one month of travelling. Seemed like ages ago since we left Germany & we certainly have entered a different world.
Today was another travelling day, luckily this day didn't involve buses but aeroplanes. First of all, we got ourselves to the airport, which was a bit of a challenge because, for some unknown reason, K's cash card wouldn't work in any ATMs. Meant we didn't have enough money to even GET to the airport. But we took the train one stop & found out that we could buy tickets for the airport express train with Visa card. Yeah for plastic Santa! Once we arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Aiport (KLIA), we had to take a shuttle bus to LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal - they really like their acronyms here). The bus driver was completely crazy - i think he was a wannabe NASCAR driver or something. Was very glad (& grateful) to reach LCCT in one piece.
Checked in, had lunch, then waited at the gate. And guess what? Our plane was delayed. Luckily, it was only delayed about 40 minutes, so nothing too horrible.
And then we boarded. LCCT is very Low Cost. They have no passengers bridges to board the plane - everyone has to walk outside to their plane & walk up the stairs. I think it would even be quite easy to walk to the wrong plane & end up somewhere you weren't planning to go because no one checked out ticket once we were on the plane. Luckily, we did get the right plane & two hours after taking off, we arrived in...

We are finally in the Southern hemisphere; K's first trip, my 4th. Hello everyone down here - nice to be in your half of the world...
We decided to stay in Kuta - lots of choices to stay, eat, drink & relatively easy to get out of. On arrival into town, both K & I were a bit overwhelmed & immediately wanted to leave. It was just too much - noisy, crowded, busy. All the tourists there seemed drunk, all the locals were trying to sell you stuff - it was a bit too much. I wasn't expecting the chaos of Bangkok in a small place like Kuta. But that's what it felt like. Mad.
However, K & I soon realised that being in Kuta is a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" And once we found out where the Happy Hours were (i think it's possible to drink at a Happy Hour somewhere for 24 hours in Kuta), things rapidly improved. Kuta is not a place to relax & enjoy nature/beach. It's the Australians Ibiza or Mallorca. You need to let go of any pre-conceptions, morals, healthiness & just enjoy the craic.
And here's a question for any Australian out there - WHY? You have such a beautiful country, with beautiful weather so why would you choose to go Kuta?

Day 32 (Monday 12th October)
Today was a day of anniversaries, one sad & one happy.
Being in Kuta, it's hard to miss the memorial to the 2002 Bali bombings. It's right in the middle of the drinking area, near where the bombings occurred. 12th October is the anniversary of the bombings & there were tributes in town & family members came to the memorial. It's pretty sobering looking at the memorial, seeing all the names listed by country, with Australia having the majority. Having wondered around Kuta, it's hard to imagine how things must have been that night. Already Kuta is a crazy place, but trying to imagine how emergency services got anywhere near the scene is impossible.
On a happier note, today was our two-anniversary. Two years of Germany vs England. And still smiling - yeah for that!
The day itself was pretty uneventful, although there seemed to be extra police (with bug guns) wandering around. And each club/bar seemed to have at least one security guy with a big gun. And by big gun, i don't mean a pistol. These guys had semi-automatic machine guns (so K reliably informed me). K also noticed that every bar had a security check for all local males. They all got patted down, while the drunken foreigners could stagger in unchecked. Makes sense i guess (in hindsight)
K and i again sampled the delights of various happy hours and had a fun evening. At one point, a very very drunken Australian came over to our table with (for some unknown reason) a German style military tin hat on. He offered it to K to try on, which he did & then we had the following (bizarre) conversation:
Oz Guy: You look German
Me: He is German
OG: Yeah, I hate f**king Germans!
Me: No, he REALLY is German.
OG: Yeah, I hate f**king Germans.
Me: No, this guy here REALLY is German. From Germany.
Here, Oz Guy started processing what he was hearing, in a very slow way. You could virtually see the cogs rotating. Then, there was a look of realisation on his face; he high-fived Kevin, took his army hat & wandered off back to his mates (who he said were f**king Swedish)
Ah yes, the joys of drunkenness...

Day 33 (Tuesday 13th October)
Today was another slow one - that's what seems to happen after an evening of happy hours; surprise surprise!
But we did book our tickets out of Bali.
And in the evening, K & I satusfied our Japanese food cravings, by going to Fukutaro ("The Best Japanese food on Bali" apparently) K had ramen & gyoza; I had natto-maguro & sushi; we both had miso soup. And it was good! I forgot how much i love the sticky stinkiness that is natto.
We ended our evening by buying a couple of convenience store beers, heading back to our place & playing poker on the balcony.

Day 34 (Wednesday 14th October)
An early start as we had to get the boat out of Kuta. We decided to take the easiest option, which was also more expensive. But it was worth it. We got picked up at our place, driven to the port, had our bags put on & taken off the boat & at 7:30 in the morning, all that service was VERY welcome. Our boat ride was 2 hours over rough seas, as we had to cross the Lombok Strait (in between Bali & Lombok) Luckily, the weather was good, so the crew said that we had a relatively smooth crossing. Still, for me, it was a tad scary...
And now, here we are in the Gili Islands, on Gili Trawangan.
Here is really beautiful, a real tropical paradise. No cars, no motorbikes, nothing with any kind of engine (except the generators). The only forms of transport round the island are foot, bicycle or horse.
On our arrival here, I volunteered to go and find ourselves a place to stay. I wandered off in the direction (or so i thought) of where the majority of place to stay are. I managed to go in completely the wrong direction. Now, that's not too shocking, but if you look at the map of Gili Trawangan, you have, basically, two choices - clockwise or anti-clockwise. Somehow, i managed to get us a place at the North end of the island, instead of the South (where i had intended on going). Luckily, the island isn't very big - only 3k long and 2k wide, so it isn't too much of a hassle. Actually, where we are is a bit nicer because we away from the action & it's a lot less developed at 'our end' of the island. Also, we have an outside bathroom which i am enjoying a lot more than i expected. There's something really nice about taking a shower in the sunshine.

Day 35 (Thursday 15th October)
A nice slow day with lots of sleeping time.
K did manage to book some diving though. And we had a nice dinner overlooking the dark waters in between Trawangan & Meno.
What's really interesting here in the Gilis is that the landscape is completely different than in Bali. Apparently, the Gilis/Lombok is the edge of a different zoogeographical area, with a mix of Asia & Australasian wildlife, whereas Bali & eastwards is purely Asian wildlife. And it is very apparent - here the trees are more bush-like & the environment isn't as lush as we've been used to up till now. Still, it is really beautiful but in a different way. If you want to learn more search for "Wallace Line" on the internet; he's the guy that first identified this difference & put his name to it.

And that's where i am today, sitting in an internet cafe. But if i look to my right, i can see beautiful blue ocean with little boats bouncing around, with Gili Meno lurking in the background. And i do have to admit that i am enjoying my rare moment of air-con while i update you all...

08 October, 2009

The Great Adventure: Day 18 to Day 27

Sorry about the delay in updating our adventures; internet connections off the mainland aren't that good & pretty expensive (12RM per hour, instead of 2RM)

Anyway, let me update you on what we've been doing since the last update...

Day 18 (Monday 28th September)
(Still on Perhentian Island)

Both K & I adapted to the island life style & spent much of the day reading or napping. Not the most exciting of experiences to share, but we ARE on holiday after all!
In the evening, K headed out for another night dive. He enjoyed this one much more and even saw a shark. Yup, a real shark (admittedly it was a small one & didn't look like a proper shark. For those interested, it was a Bamboo Shark)
And that was pretty much Day 18.

Day 19 (Tuesday 29th September)
K started of the day with a wreck dive, which he really enjoyed but came back wanting more, so signed up for another one the next day. The wreck site was a cargo ship that ran into the reef during monsoon season, not as exciting as a WWII wreck, but interesting all the same...
In the afternoon, K headed out for another dive; this one 'just' a reef dive, looking at various fishes & corals.
Meanwhile, i hung out at the shack, watched the afternoon squall from the comfort of the shelter of the balcony. Also watched mad little squirelly type things jumping madly around the trees. They look like squirrels, but have the colouring of chipmunks, with the white stripe down the side. There were also a lot of beautiful butterflies in loads of different colours. Lovely.
Also saw a big monitor lizard (about 1m long) hanging outside of the reception of the place we were staying. Not sure if it was checking in or out...

Day 20 (Wednesday 30th September)
K headed out for his second wreck dive and had a much better time.
In the afternoon, we had planned to gout snorkelling again, but a really big squall hit the island. There was thunder & lightning & everything. It was all tad scarier, but made all the more scarier by a tree falling over onto the bungalow next door. Scared the crap out of the two Swiss girls who were inside at the time. Luckily, neither of them were hurt but their toilet was destroyed.
Ah, the excitement never ends, eh?

Day 21 (Thursday 1st October)
We got up relatively early in order to catch one of the earlier speed boats out of the islands.
About 10 minutes into our journey, a Malaysian air force jet came flying over. Nothing too exciting about that, but then he (assume the pilot was a he because no woman would do the things he did...) proceeded to do a series of completely & utterly crazy manoeuvres. For example, two of the things he did were a full stall, then later simulated a strafing run at our boat. It was like having our own private air show. Have to admit it was pretty scary though.
And did the excitement end there? Oh no!
Maybe 10 minutes after our Top Gun experience, one of the boat engines packed in. This meant our boat was going REALLY slowly & i thought our 30 minute ride would turn into an epic journey. Luckily, a replacement boat came along & we all changed boats. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN!!!!!!! This did not amuse me in the slightest. Open water? Changing boats? Not my idea of fun at all. Luckily, it was a really calm day & wasn't that hard at all.
Finally arrived back in Kuala Besut about an hour after leaving. Not too bad.
Took the public bus back to Kota Bahru, which was nice. Took about 90 minutes (our taxi in the opposite direction took under one hour) but it was a nice slow ride which was infinitely pleasing after the morning's boat adventures...
On arrival in Kota Bahru, we decided to buy our bus tickets out again for the next day. I went to the ticket office - which was complete mayhem, with no clear queues or anything - perhaps i'm too British, i need order! We'd completely forgot what day it was & everyone was getting ready for the weekend & buses were selling out on Friday (the next day). Finally, i got myself to a sales clerk & requested 2 tickets to Mersing (S E Malaysia. He told me the price. I DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH CASH ON ME!!!! I was really frustrated by this point, but asked the clerk if he would save the tickets for me & i have to admit i didn't expect much.
Anyway, K & me decided to stay at the same place in Kota Bahru - the Ideal Traveller's House. Once we'd unloaded, we ventured back to the bus station via a cash machine. Managed to talk with the same teller and guess what? He'd saved our tickets! What a lovely man! Really didn't expect him to do that, but he did! Yay!
Also made a quick trip to a pharmacy to stock up on medical supplies & the staff their were also really helpful. For me, Malaysia is a crazy & disorganised place (not as crazy as Thailand though), but the people are really helpful & nice which kind of balances things out.

Day 22 (Friday 2nd October)
Had to take a taxi to another bus station. Apparently Kota Bahru has 3 different bus stations. Why, i have NO idea, but it is a bit confusing.
Got there in time for our 8:30 bus. The bus wasn't quite as nice as our last long distance bus, but it was relatively comfortable - which was good, because today's bus ride would last 12 hours. Yippee!
Still, despite being 12 hours, it wasn't that bad. The drivers would stop every couple of hours or so for a pee break & we had a longer lunch break too. Only thing was that the drivers didn't tell us how long we had, so was always a bit pissed off when one of the travelling foreigners was still in the toilet when he wanted to leave.
At around 8:30pm, the bus stopped. Then the driver made an announcement & all the (Malaysian) passengers got off. Us foreigners were all sat there feeling a bit clueless, then the information filtered down that the bus was broken, something to do with electronics. SO, once again, K & I had to change modes of transport. This meant grabbing our rucksacks from the baggage hold whilst standing on a steep slippery grassy verge in the dark. I was not impressed. We got on the new bus, travelled about 10 more minutes and reached our final destination. I really don't know why the first bus driver couldn't have driven 10 more minutes & have avoided all the hassle of us unloading everything. Well, we had arrived safely & that was the most important thing.
Before crashing, we managed to book our boat tickets to Tioman Island the next morning. Decided not to get the early boat (7am) and stick with later one at 11am (a much more humane time).

Day 23 (Saturday 3rd October)
Got the ferry over to Salang on Tioman Island (SE Peninsular Malaysia). One of the reasons for going to Tioman was the slow pace of life & quietness. Actually, that was a lie. The main (but not only) reason is that for some unknown reason, Tioman is duty-free zone & beer & smokes are half price compared with the mainland. Woohoo - party time!
On arrival to the island, we enjoyed our first duty-free beers. 5RM. Nice.
Found a nice place to stay - Ella's Place. Was really nice & quiet there & with a sea view. Was really relaxing to be able to go to sleep to the sound of the ocean every night.
In the evening, we found the one and only bar in Salang, the 4 S Cafe. Salang was described as the "Party Beach" in Lonely Planet, but one bar? Is that what qualifies as a party beach? Admittedly, it was a fun place, with friendly locals & foreigners alike.

Day 24 (Sunday 4th October)
Had a typical 'island day' - read, slept, ate some food, went for a swim & then went to 4 S for cheap beers.

Day 25 (Sunday 5th October)
Another Island Day.
But in the evening, K booked himself on a diving trip & i found out that i could join him & go snorkelling.

Day 26 (Monday 6th October)
Went out for our dive/snorkel trip.
Was a half day thing from 11 to 3pm, with a lunch break & two dive sites.
The first dive site wasn't that good for snorkelling as the water was too deep. This meant that i couldn't really see much, just a few fish swimming by. Luckily the boat was 'parked' nearby, so i got back aboard & waited for K. K had a better time, being able to go deeper & see different things than me.
Then we headed off to a coral beach for lunch which was really nice. Think it was an uninhabited island, so we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. Was really nice.
The second dive site was MUCH better. The water was a lot shallower, so there was so much for me to see; a rainbow of fish, coral & sponges. It was also possible to swim in between huge rocks & see different things on the other side. It was so cool!
After getting back, we had a siesta and then headed out for dinner. And then after dinner... you guessed it, 4 S again, where we mistakenly joined in with the drinking games going on...

Day 27 (Wednesday 7th October)
Had a very VERY slow start to the day. Drinking games seem fun at the time, but extremely stupid the day afterwards...
One of the problems of the small islands is that they have no ATMs. Not only that, they have no banks. We had stayed on Tioman a little bit longer than we had planned & therefore ran out of money (another way of looking at it is that we drank all the money away...) Anyway, we needed to find somewhere that would change money. We tried 3 places that were recommended by islanders. All three said, "Yes, we usually do currency exchange, but we don't have enough Ringgit today". Crap. Finally, we went to a little kiosk on the pier to inquire about bus/ferry/plane tickets. And asked her where we could change money. And miracle of miracles, Kiosk Lady could change money AND had enough Ringgit for us! YAY! Meant that we could have food and even a few sneaky beers...
While we wandering around looking for Money Exchangers, we found the famous river where the Monitor Lizards live. And yup, there they were. They were swimming lazily up & down and were very impressive, about 1.5m. And did i have my camera with me? Of course not...

And that leads me to today. Day 28 which is only half way through.
K & me are on our way to Kuala Lumpur & I have to end here as we have to catch our bus. Only a 4 hour bus ride today...hopefully!