The Tioman Islands, which are situated on the west coast of Malaysia but south to Singapore, are less of a destination for a backpacker in Malaysia. When telling friends, most of them had not even heard of it before. Ferries are not filled with young backpackers or even young Malaysians, but rather families from both national and international destinations, and western couples. Going on a Sunday in high season, the ferries were jam packed and overflowing.
However, as Tioman is a massive island (the size of Ko Lanta) many tourists have a number of options to venture to. Resorts are hidden in secluded beaches, and there are a number of places to choose to make a base. Salang– similar to the party atmosphere of Long beach in the Perhentian Islands, but is intertwined with high rise accommodation- and high rise prices (which made me think of Koh Samui) made me avoid it. Most people head to ABC, a quiet rocky beach that offers a lot of scope in budget accommodation and budget restaurants. I heard Juara beach was the most spectacular, and wanting a detox and long hours of sleep with my bed- I headed there. Sharing a jeep taxi to Jurara from Tekek meant the 30 minute journey was much cheaper than what it would be (and also meant I didn’t have to do the trek recommended for those staying in ABC and wanting to visit Juara), for 25 ringgit. Luckily, I checked into one of the only guest houses on the beach: Juara Mientra Resort.
Recommended to me by my new travel companions and not booking, meant that only the most expensive rooms were left. Hmm, sensibility took my head, but my heart took over. I craved the quiet solitude of an empty beach and I wanted a comfortable bed. I decided to make a flash packer, or even tourist move. 150 ringgit later, I had my own air conditioned chalet on the beach facing the sea, with my own sun lounger, minibar and even a bath?! (I hadn’t seen one of those in 5 months!) I squealed with excitement and I knew I had made the right choice. The beach was empty, with white sand only walked on by 4 westerners and 3 locals, and only a volleyball net tied to some swaying palm trees that surrounded me. It was what I had wanted.
I ate at the restaurant adjoining my resort titled imaginatively: Juara Mientra Cafe, where I had deliciously tasting Pattaya (seafood fried rice encased in a fried egg with a dollop of sweet chilli sauce on top): Perfect. The food isn’t as expensive as I thought, actually cheaper than Long Beach- so Tioman is not as overpriced as anticipated, and which is why many backpackers are put off visiting, (although I have heard different things about Salang).
Unfortunately due to low tide and my short time in Malaysia (as well as my urge to try some adventurous food in Melakka) I had to leave Tioman earlier than expected. I could have easily passed days in Juara and those days to weeks in ABC, but alas it is not so. I recommend obviously having more time, but making sure you check ferry times when visiting and coordinating it with bus times, and your travel plans. It is frustrating how less ferries travel than in the Perhentians. However, the Tioman Islands are not to be missed, there is so much choice and variety in the type of place, accommodation (much more than the Perhentians) and it still has that untouched Asian Tropical beauty of an island that many crave to visit.