Tioman Island, Malaysia
After my trek on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal I envisioned myself relaxing on a beach somewhere. From snow to sand. So when I decided on visiting Malaysia I did a google search for "top beaches in Malaysia." I was fairly overwhelmed and didn't really know where to go; was the East side better than the west side of the peninsula? How do I get there? etc. I'm not really sure how I picked Tioman Island or to go to the East side of the island to Juara village, but it all came together.
I took a night bus from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing, arriving around 5AM. I then proceeded to wander around aimlessly and sit at various outdoor seating areas till the ferry departed to the island at 3PM. After the 2+hour ferry to the island I then had to find a way to the other side of the island. Most taxis have a minimum of two people and since I was by myself I thought it might prove tricky, but with the help of a local I jumped in a truck bed and made it the 6 miles to the other side.
I found my accommodations on airbnb (I used Agoda for all my other accommodations in Asia) but it was a regular place and not someone's home. It was the cheapest place I could find so it was pretty basic. I had my own little shack with a mosquito net around the bed, no AC just a fan, a cold shower, and no wifi. When I arrived around 6:30 it was hot and stuffy and I immediately recognized how challenging it would be to live there for the next 5 days.
So for the next 5 days I was outside all day but moving from shade to shade, shielding myself from the sun. I kayaked and snorkeled. I walked the beach and toured the small Juara village. I read and listened to podcasts while laying in an uncomfortable rope hammock and mis-designed wood lounger. Even with all my precautions I still ended up burning the fronts of my legs pretty bad as well as my back. I started only going out to swim in the evenings around 5:30-7. I would swim to a nearby floating dock, dive off, and float on my back in the amazingly buoyant sea. Floating in the sea was my favorite part of the day. I was surprised by the lack of tourists there. I figured it must be off-season because the beaches were so quiet; I wouldn't see anyone on the beach during midday. I enjoyed the quieter scene and had secret spots I would retreat to.
The days passed and before I knew it I had to go back to the mainland. After my planned taxi didn't show up at 6AM, I had to wake up one of my hosts and he took me on his scooter back to the west side of the island. I arrived right at 7AM when the ferry was planned to depart, but luckily the ferry was delayed. That was a close call, if I missed the ferry I would miss my bus to Singapore. I was fairly stressed but grateful it all worked out.