Tioman unplugged


I was told when I first arrived here (like a hundred years ago) that Tioman beaches were featured in South Pacific, the romantic musical of an American GI’s affair with an exotic native girl singing a many love songs amid lush tropical greenery, swimming together in crystal clear water, carefree and blissful until war and prejudices separated them.

That was the image I had but realized later that it must be a marketing ploy since none of the scenery here matches what was in the film version of the grand Broadway show.

Still, I kept coming back to different villages around the island with different friends – always for the same reason, always glad to be back.

My cousin Peggy and I must have taken a thousand photos. There’s really a lot of time to do nothing when nothing means appreciating nature, getting little glimpses of simple rural life, envying how cats can laze around so elegantly, sitting under the palm trees with leaves swaying about like Italians talking, feeling the sting of sun on bare skin, giggling at the sensation of cheeky little fishes that took a fancy for our legs, and gasping at the changing canvas of blue, green, pink and gold of the sun, sky and sea.

Well we could do all that ‘nothing’ because the resort WiFi sucks. Short of leaning over the reception counter, we were entertaining ourselves watching the circling arrow of update on our phones. You can imagine the amount of talking Peggy and I get to do during the time waiting for a slice of the network.

We did find another resort further inland with excellent WiFi and 90s Chinese music played on 70s sound system and treated ourselves to ice-cream while going online with a vengeance until we had enough.

After dinner at the best (and only) seafront seafood restaurant, we sashayed back to the WiFi resort only to find a charming cafe nearby with club music and fairy lights, a birthday party inside a seductively lit muslin tent shrouded by a balmy night. We watched the celebration for awhile, got online for awhile when suddenly I lost the kick of checking my phone and looked for stars instead.

So it was Jupiter and Venus shining bright above and the sea has retreated to the rocky outcrop. Peggy pointed out to some flickering lights, “There’re people out there.” A voice from behind us joined in, “you can walk to the rocks, its very shallow now”, said the young lady from our tour group.

Without a second thought, we stepped into the water, waded through whatever fear we had of the dark, sank our feet into the sandy sea bed, looked back at our resort, and savored the moment with sea breeze blowing on our faces and the new tide water rushing about our ankles. When we got back to the beach, we didn’t bother to check our phones and just talked till we were ready for bed.

I told my cousin when we arrived on the island with a group of youngsters, “since we’re not as young as them, at least act rich and we’ll have a wonderful time” and so we did.

Carpe diem … Joan Yap


Getting to Tioman

  • 3-day/2-night free and easy package from Discovery Tours for only S$159  inclusive of return bus and ferry Singapore-Tanjong Gemok-Tioman, twin-sharing accommodation and daily breakfast.
  • Travel time one way about 5.5 hours.
  • Food and activities about S$100.

Excellent way to have a cheap and cheerful holiday away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore. Best done during off-peak period. Avoid school holidays and long weekends.


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