And so from the perfectly groomed little airport on Tioman I head back to an orderly Singapore where even the buildings have giant numbers so they won’t lose themselves. From there I get on the 23.25 plane to London and a winters chill. I’m looking forward to it really as I have been away for long enough.
At the North end of Salang Beach the footpath winds up past an impressive abandoned bungalow complex. I say impressive becuase the bungalows cling to the steep slopes teetering on high thin legs and actually blend into the hillside quite well.
The path quickly turns to a winding jungle camino that follows the electricity cables that come from the islands capital.
My T-shirt was soon turned into a sopping rag as the humidity and the heat took their toll, but after a good hike up and down you come to the deserted white sand beach of Monkey Bay.
At Monkey Bay I stripped my sopping clothes and skinny dipped in the cooler waters of the sea, floating around I could look back at the jungle wrapped around the bay like a shawl.
Continuing on was an easier walk even if the distance was farther as the slopes became kinder. Monkeys followed me in the trees making sure I wasn’t up to no good, monitor lizards scurried out of my way and I teased tree snakes with sticks as butterflies flapped dreamily around as if in an opium den. The noise is hypnotic in the jungle, a constant rythm that has kept us entertained for all time, before the electronic rythms this was our melody and it has stayed fresh.
Eventually the path reaches habitation again and after another set of stairs and a hill reaches the long arc of a bay that the small airport sits on. I came across a fellow I knew was from Salang and hitched a ride back in his boat along with his son that he was accompanying from school. Perfect timing for the perfect day.
I love the fact that Tioman has a heart of solid jungle that can be explored, but must be respected. I spent a long time on Koh Tao in Thailand but found the fact that it had evolved from one vast coconut plantation had left it featureless in it’s interior, but Tioman still has the monkeys, monitor lizards, butterflies snakes and everything that goes with this hemisphere and location.
Here is a panorama made from the end of the new concrete pier in Tioman…
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It was around 12 years ago that I saw a Norwegian feller on the beach in Tioman with a laptop. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was connected to the web via a sat phone and that he was working.
I decided that if this woas work then I wanted to get involved, so I learned how to use computers and got busy.
I am now sitting on the same beach in Tioman, with my laptop connected to the internet and I’m not working too hard.
It feels like I have come full circle, back to the source.
I hung around in Singapore for the Thaipusam festival Continue reading Thaipusam
One thing about Singapore is that you can transport yourself to different parts of the world in theme park style by going to a few of the little enclaves dotted about.
Right now I am in Little India. Little India is like a sanotised microcosm of the mother country where you can absorb the sights and sounds in a few hundres square metres, music shops, shrines, them smell of incense misxed with spicy food. Tonight I chowed down on a mutton byriani and cold iced tea.
I almost didn’t stay through the day though. For a while this morning I missed my lady and felt somehow as if I were negligent in not being in the UK with my brethren for the bad weather and knee deep snow, so much so that I rang Qantas and asked them to change my flight. But just before I gave them my credit card info for the surcharge I realised that I had better finish what I had started and make it through my last week for this winters trip, so I have booked a bus to take me to Mersing where I’ll catch a ferry to Tioman tomorrow.
for tonight I have the treat of the six nations starting so I’ll pop on over to a local bar and catch the game in 20 minutes time.
I’m getting too lazy to shift my arse out of Singapore – It;s comfy here, not as expensive as you’d think if you stck to the food halls where you can buy any food from China, India, Malaysia with even fish and chips on the menu for those missing home. So why move – I have heard the weather is still awful on the island of Tioman so perhaps diving is out of the question so we’ll see – it’s raining here now so maybe this muggy weather will lighten up a wee bit.
Anyhow, later on I persuade a few lovely souls staying in the hostel thatÂ it would be a good idea to try a Singapore Sling at Raffles. It’s the only thing I had on my agenda here so we have some food and meander over to the iconic hotel in the late evening. I didn’t actually think we’d get in, believe it or not I looked about the tidiest of the bunch in my cotton shirt and strides, but my old tatty trainers, a lovely young French girl who was wearing a pair of rubber thongs and an American feller that looked like he should be playing in the Red Hot Chillies all added up to a refusal at the first hurdle in my books but no, they allowed us to sit in an outside bar in the centre of the hotel and sup on a few slings we did. They tasted a bit like an over enthusiastic half pint of strong grenadine, but hell, they were invented here and we had one at the source.
Job done, now what Captain Kirk?
I remember once standing on a Thai raliway station with my daughter in my arms as life went on around us. Lady boys flirted on the night time tracks and people milled around until they all started to buzz about like stirred up bees shouting ‘Singapore Singapore’. It was the orient express travelling on it’s way south with it’s carriages full of luxury. A little nest of people sat on a balcony at the back of the train with a waiter poised to fill up glasses with more champagne and for a moment I saw the difference between the life we had chosen to live and the opulence of this little island sat like a jewel in the sea.
And here I am, sweltering in the humidity that marks so many months in this part of the world thinking that the only way to really get to know this place is to take out a bank loan and spend until increasingly chubby fingers are spent.
But no, one will simply nip into Raffles and have a Singapore Sling, anything else would be showing off. How vulgar.
The friends I am staying with in Perth bought me a ticket to see David Byrne play at the city zoo so we ambled over there via some nachos and a pint and settled in for what turned out to be a wonderful night.
Byrne built the evening up from low key to spectacular in a similar way to the ‘Stop making Sense’ gigs of the eighties, only this time it was subtle. He played a lot of the Byrne Eno songs and I think most people went home feeling like they had seen the best that Byrne could deliver – a few people were shouting for Psycho Killer at the end but I’m quite happy he didn’t do that song, It was always a song for opening the night, end the night on something a little less psychotic.
So here I am waiting to go to the airport. The hospitality I have recieved in Perth has been the best yet, but perhaps that’s because they are valuable old friends I am visiting and a few bridges have been mended. Life is short and we can’t afford to waste such beautiful people, so it is on a note of reconciliation and friendship that I leave this wonderful country on. I am also happy that such a warm welcome was afforded by people from back home, I had begun to think that it was an Australian cultural quirk to throw the doors open with such warmth, but no. Good.
So I am in love with this country, it took me a wee while to get my head around it’s warm and very big heart but I think I have an idea of it’s nature now and feel comfortable just being here.
I think we’ll be back.
Just to show I haven’t forgotten that I am supposed to be writing a blog about work and travel I had better mention that I do work whilst on the hoof y’know.
Today I updated three websites and went half blind staring at my monitor until the early hours – it’s worth it though as when I put my laptop down the scenery is still stunning.
For this evening we went to one of those Ozzy restaurants where S.E.Asian food is given the reverence it deserves, then back home for a few cold beers. Life is good – only a few more days until I fly to Singapore and then Malaysia so I had better make the most of Australia now, I do hope to be back.
Well Mike and I stayed up until 5am eventually moving to the shed so as not to wake up the family. We put the world to rights and figured out what to do with it so don’t you worry.
Anyhow, Joey and Mile nicely bought me a ticket to see the cricket at the WACA stadium in Perth, so we trotted down there with some buddies of Mikes, an ESKI full of food prepared by Joey and a few hangovers.
The cricket was great, one of the best games I have ever seen – New Zealand won the game on the last ball of the 50 overs. The crowd sure do get behind the boys in Oz. Here is a picture of one bloke and his girlfriend…
The flight to Perth was planned well – I booked a seat on the left of the plane knowing we would be heading down the coast, and sure enough we flew along the Great Ocean Road so I could see the coves and bays that I had driven around in the days before. This always gives me a perspective on just where we are in the scheme of things – I’m not sure how, but it does.
So I sat like a cat with it’s nose to a window while the plane ate up the miles to Perth and was met at the airport by an old old girlfriend of mine. It is lovely to see her, her husband and children and yet again the hospitality is faultless.
Perth is what I would call a ‘Boutique City’, Brisbane was similar – easy to get around, very clean and not imposing, everything in it’s place. Of course it has a big river but does not make as much use of it as other cities, but this is changing.
This Western Australia has less population than a mid sized European city. They seem to think they need to change this and ship people in – ship people in so that they can get more resources out of the ground and make more money, therefore being able to consume more and eat up resources.
Keep Australia just the way it is…and Perth is very lovely.