With a population of less than 500 and voted one of the world’s most beautiful islands by TIME magazine, Tioman island in Malaysia is an obvious spot for any traveler with an intrepid spirit and a robust wallet.
After taking a ferry from seaside town Mersin on the Malaysia peninsula’s east coast I arrived in Kampong Genting a little over an hour later. I’ve been here for almost a week now and I have to say it’s one of the nicest islands I’ve ever been to. Even though I mentioned having a robust wallet helps, there are plenty of options ranging from budget becah-shack accommodation up to hill-side private villas. You can guess which one I chose! This guide helped me out greatly when it came to choosing what activities and sights to fill my time with – scuba diving being the most enjoyable activity I tried.
Malaysia has been in the news a lot recently (Tioman island specifically receiving a lot of attention because of this story of an English volunteer who turned up dead – the story was swimming in murmurings of foul play and murder, but as yet is unresolved) however I can still happily report that the tourism industry is thriving and the local people haven’t lost any of their willingness to make your stay a memorable, joyous experience.
As my months of travelling are rolling out in front of me, the money isn’t running in! So I am always looking to stretch my budget where I can. One thing I never skimp on is accommodation. However, I cam across this awesome site Air B&B where people with a spare room or a spare apartment rent them out to weary travellers looking for a home from home. The best thing about staying with these hosts is the personal touch You are living with your own personal guidebook to your destination ! So use them, ask them to tell you the places to eat, see, visit that are off the tourist map. After all, who better to show you around than someone who lives there! Well unless you end up shacking up with these guys! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9TS2BM2NUA
As an ex-city rat there is one city- the greatest on earth- that I just had to visit. New York New York! As I sat in my premium economy seat, wondering exactly what I paid extra for with a child kicking the back of my seat and a fat man taking up my extra inches from his arm rest- I was still happy as larry as ,I got that buzz in the bottom of my stomach that I always get when I start exploring a new destination. It’s a mixture of excitement and anxiety and it’s the drug that made me start this venture across the globe. It’s addictive and New York did not disappoint. I landed at JFK and bee lined for the taxi queue. As soon as I got into my first yellow cab of many over the next week. One traveller tip here- aways go with the yellow cab queue- it may look long but it’s a flat fare to manhattan. Ignore the taxi touts trying to tempt you away from the crowds! Once in a cab, I immediately fell into banter with the cabby. Just as in London, were the drivers want to immediately engage in debate, so all the way across the Atlantic do the New Yorkers. We chatted about Obama Care, the weather, the food I should try in New York and then, just as we came up over the bridge..there in front of me, sparkling like a sea of diamonds, was Manhattan. I felt immediately at home. On my first day I did the usual, the Empire State, Central Park, The Met and of course a bit of credit card crunching at Versace and Rolex! However, my main draw to New York is the food. As an avid fan of the show Man Vs Food, I was determined to do my own version. From pulled pork sandwiches to bacon fried turkey- I wanted to devour every mouthwatering flavor and food on offer. Here are my top five: 1. Dinosuar Bar B Que– Harlem- This meat haven serves brisket topped with pulled pork- yes meat on meat with traditional slaw. 2. Bar Bacon– Hells Kitchen- everything in this bar contains bacon- you have to try their candied bacon, the perfect mix of sweet and salty. 3. Potatopia– Greenwich village- only serves fries but fires with ANYTHING- salmon, shrimp, beef, chilli, every cheese imaginable, truffles, garlic..it goes on..and on!- 4. Takashi– Ramen noodles available only after midnight- try grandmas spicey noodles made from simmering beef bones, marrow, garlic, ginger, herbs, and the magic ingredient (intestines!…?) for 24 hours, before being topped with seared Kobe beef,! 5. Jacobs Pickles– Upper West- And for that morning after- the ultimate New York Bloody Mary
Part of the reason I left the London sprawl to see the world includes getting into the outdoors. Majorca is just the place to explore an amazing variety of terrain—leisurely, or with a bit of adventure.
Around an Island
Majorca is not just about beaches and sun—although its a big plus! I was happily impressed with just how diverse this island’s geography was. Yes, relaxing on various beaches kept me busily relaxed for a bit. Those sandy beaches are often cut into by cliff-sides into the sea and rocky ridged landscapes—even caves— with an occasional patch of beach in between. Ready for some island outdoors, this coastline would be the perfect place to start. Equipped with GPS, a mountain bike, dive mask and neoprene socks, I headed out for some coastal adventure.
Coasts of Adventure
Using EarthCache.org—a GPS-based outdoor activity/exploration organization—I found the locations of a coastal cave region in the east. I completely underestimated the distance, which took me all day on bike to a town called Port Cristo— ready for adventure the next day! Riding south I found several exciting spots to rock-climb, cliff-dive and even found some caves. The sport of “caveing”, exploring caves, can be a bit sketchy unless you are experienced. I’m not, so decided to find some experts. I found them in Mon d’ Aventura , a Majorca outdoor adventure company “dedicated to active, imaginative and adventurous people of all ages…” and would soon be joining them for a day of caveing!
Eager to finally leave London I booked the first flight I found. Of course, leaving London had to be done in style, so I splurged on business class with British Airways for around 550 GBP. Admittedly I was more concerned with going to a destination with plenty of sun and sea, so taking off over the grey city and soaring away over blue waters, in a few hours I landed on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Majorca. I do remember reading an online article—The Top 10 Hotels in Majorca, Spain—and chose a hotel on good faith. The hotel I selected turned out to be amazing.
A Palace in Old Palma
The old quarter of Palma with its Gothic church spires and centuries old houses in a maze of tiny lanes bursts with Spanish culture. On one lane, near the huge Cathedral La Seu stood the Hotel Can Cera. Built in a 17th century city palace, my five-star boutique hotel, in Italian Renaissance style, had a fine restaurant, spa, Spanish balconies and an ornate patio courtyard. The antique, Majorcan style suite, roof terrace, and exquisite common rooms were hard to leave. Soon, I would see more of Majorca, but not right now. JQ