Friday, May 04, 2007

Palau Tioman

Life is slow and simple on Palau Tioman.
Thirty years on from Time magazine's naming of the isle as one of the world's top ten most beautiful, Tioman is still largely unspoiled.

Nowadays, tropical paradises with prime beachfronts are usually synonymous with resorts. Picture Hawaii, and you think of a beautiful beach with dozens of glitzy high-rise hotels cluttering up the strip. Ditto Thailand. But on Tioman, there is only one big resort, and even that is slightly more reserved than your average Hilton monolith. There's also a small airport, with a few flights a day and seeming to cater to the Berjaya resort clientele - the folks staying in the budget huts like us stuck to the cheaper ferry-and-bus route.

There are several small villages on Tioman and one larger "town" of Tekek, where the airport and some municipal buildings are located, along with a scattering of shops and guesthouses. The villages, including Air Batang, where we stayed, are little more than a cluster of huts and guesthouses grouped around the single-lane mostly dirt path, in most places wide enough only to accommodate a motor scooter, that ran alongside the beach. Some of the beach chalets, as they are called here, have open-air restaurants tacked on: a few plastic tables and chairs and a handwritten menu posted on the wall.

Huge lizards waddle along that path, darting from the jungle to the beach and back, and the horizon is empty save a few fishing boats floating in the distance. A thirty second walk to the beach, and after, cold water showers and mosquito coils on the porch as I hang out my sarong and write in my notebook. Not much to do but.

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