Pulau Tioman 26 May – 8 August 2014

Sorry it’s been so long between posts. It’s due to a combination of spending quite a lot of our time underwater, not having particularly reliable internet access (aka livin’ the island dream), not having been to many different places recently, and just generally being a bit lazy. Anyhow, here’s a taste of what we’ve been up to for almost three months on Pulao Tioman.

When we quit our jobs, left our home and set off on the Pino, we were full of trepidation, excitement and half-formed plans, but had no real idea about where we’d end up or what our journey would be like. We hoped we’d stick at it for at least six months, but I don’t think either of us seriously expected to still be on the road after more than three years. And perhaps we’re not any more. The constant moving; the daily chores of finding water, food, somewhere to sleep; the heat; the traffic; the hills: it’s been an enormously rewarding and mostly enjoyable experience, but right now we’re relishing the change of pace. Of course, we’ve had breaks from pedalling before – renovating Keith’s parent’s house back in 2011, returning home for various family celebrations at the end of 2012, and then training as divemasters on Koh Tao in 2013 – but during each of these previous breaks our onward journey has always been at the forefront of our minds and the breaks, whilst welcome, have most definitely been time-limited. This time, though, it’s different (for me at any rate – Keith’s thoughts on the future can be a bit harder to pin down).

For both of us, learning to dive changed everything. We first tried it simply because the opportunity presented itself, but we immediately realised it was something we wanted to do more of. We became divemasters because we couldn’t afford to dive any other way: it has to pay for itself. But the more we dive, the more we love it and the more we want it to be part of our lives. Working as divemasters can be stressful (always dealing with new people, trying to make the right judgement call if things don’t quite go as expected, spending hours on noisy boats) but being suspended in the water, bathed in sunlight, free to move in any direction, giggling as a furiously territorial damselfish charges impotently towards us (about as scary as being attacked by a handkerchief), watching a turtle’s sedate progress across a reef, and stopping, transfixed, as he regards us in turn; it’s just mind-blowing…and sharing this with other divers is the icing on the cake. It’s changing the way we feel about travelling. For the first time I am realising that this trip might not be a discrete element in our lives at the end of which we return to the UK to resume if not our old lives then at least some semblance of a ‘normal life’; instead, we might have stumbled upon a whole new way of life right here. We’re by no means ready to give up on our tandem travels, but I no longer want to be on the bike every day; I want to be in the water…and I have to admit it is rather nice knowing we have a roof over our heads (albeit a rickety one) and a stocked fridge (recent purchase) to come home to. So, we need to decide…do we continue with our plan to pedal through Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand (and perhaps then on to the Americas) or do we settle down, become dive instructors and put the pedalling on hold for a while. Will our cycle journey feel as rewarding if we break it into smaller chunks interspersed with longer periods (months/years?) living and working as divers? Will it cease to count as a single trip and just become a series of separate cycling holidays? Does that matter? It’s not a decision we need to make immediately, but it’s one that we definitely need to address at some point fairly soon….let’s just hope we both arrive at the same conclusion!

One of Tioman's giant squirrelt...they can be over a metre long (inc tail)

One of Tioman’s giant black squirrels…they can be over a metre long (including the tail).

So what’s our life like these days now we’re not constantly on the move? Well, we’re staying in a little village called Air Batang but more commonly known as ABC. It’s basically a strip of guesthouses, restaurants, private residences, dive schools and small shops running for approximately a kilometre and a half alongside a pebbly shore. Densely forested hills rise steeply just behind the houses. There’s a small jetty around the midpoint of the village, accessed from the single concrete road running the length of the village that’s just wide enough for a motorbike and sidecar. Two such vehicles trying to pass each other have to drop their sidecar wheel off the concrete onto the sandy verge.

The view from outside our bungalow, looking towards the jetty.

The view from outside our bungalow, looking towards the jetty.

Our bungalow is a ramshackle affair, with a roof that’s seen better days, floorboards that bend and creak alarmingly, gaps between the walls and a resident population of mosquitoes, ants, moths, spiders, geckos and a green and orange stripy toad. In the absence of a wardrobe we’ve strung a rope across one wall, and a mozzie net keeps most of the bugs out of the bed. We have a little verandah and our neighbourhood cats (Ginger, Noisy, Cataract and Adolf) are friendly and generally well-behaved. Some days the cold shower makes us gasp, but for the most part it’s a welcome respite from the relentless heat. All in all, it’s a lovely little home.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Our 'pet' toad.  We can reliably inform you that toad turds are larger and softer than gecko ones.

Our ‘pet’ toad. We can reliably inform you that toad turds are larger and softer than gecko ones.

Our alarm wakes us at 7am and after a leisurely breakfast we hop on the Pino for the 800m commute to work, arriving for 8am. There are various tasks to amuse us for the first half hour (cleaning and filling the rinse tanks, preparing spare bags, regulators and drinking-water for the boats, sweeping and cleaning, setting out the coffee & tea area) and at 08:30 we help oversee the movement of customers as they put their bags in the correct location for the boat they will be on, and also sort out paperwork and gear for new divers. If we’re diving in the morning then around 08:45 we escort our divers down to the jetty, get them settled on the boat, oversee them putting their gear together, chat with them on the way to the dive site, brief them on the dive and then jump in the water for 50 minutes of bliss. In between dives we serve lunch, make sure everyone’s swapped tanks and brief for dive two. After dive two we oversee the dismantling of gear and return to shore at some time between 1:00 and 2:30pm depending on which boat and dive sites.

B&J Dive Centre

B&J Dive Centre

The afternoon dive at 3pm is a repeat of the morning but without the meal (it’s just a single dive). There is sometimes a night dive too. If we’re not on the boat then we might be leading a shore dive, or, a particular favourite, conducting a scuba refresher, where we take certified divers who haven’t dived in a while and remind them of how to use the equipment and run them through a few skills before taking them for a dive. If we’ve got nothing on then we just hang around the bar area (me reading, Keith practicing his ukulele) or we might grab a couple of bin bags and do a beach clean-up. We also use quiet days to ride over to Tekek (the ‘Big Smoke’ which has an ATM, a bakery and a couple of shops selling fresh fruit and veg) and pick up some provisions. Another good source of fresh fruit is the mango tree outside the school, where a thump followed by the cry of ‘Mango!’ is the cue for Keith to sprint to claim the bounty before anyone else can. There’s also a durian tree, rambutan tree and an avocado tree.

Keith plus two customers returning from a 'refresher dive'.

Keith plus two customers returning from a ‘refresher dive’.

Happy faces post-dive.

Happy faces post-dive.

Throughout the day we can kill some time with general tidying jobs and try to waylay any passing potential divers, enthusing about the dive sites and hopefully signing them up for some dives. At 7pm we check the board for the next day’s dives and either head to the bar for a beer or meander home to cook dinner and chat with our neighbours (dive instructors Wendy and Steve) or pop to the next-door restaurant for an FCCBC (Fried Chicken Chilli Burger & Chips) if we are feeling extravagant, or a vege soup or fried rice paprit on a more mundane evening. Sometimes there’s live music at one of the bars, which Keith will quite often go to whilst I prefer the quiet solace of a good book.

Our neighbours, dive instructors Wendy and Steve, with Noisy, their cat.

Our neighbours, dive instructors Steve and Wendy, with Noisy, their cat.

Our other neighbours.

Our other neighbours.

For our first month or so we were more than happy to eat out every night, enjoying cheap, tasty food. Cooking dinner for ourselves was rather forced upon us a few days into Ramadan, when the declining number of open restaurants dwindled still further until, to our chagrin, Mawar (of FCCBC fame, and also our landlord) closed its doors. Rather than trawl the length of Air Batang looking for somewhere that might randomly be open we opted to cook for ourselves. We were luckier than most in that we have a camp stove. It’s been the same story in the mornings; we’ve always prepared our own breakfast in our room, but we know that other divers have had a frustrating time over the last month trying to find anywhere serving breakfast. For lunch Keith has retained his old Koh Tao habit of having a pot noodle, but I can’t stand them anymore and was delighted to discover a shop selling nasi lemak (rice with half a hardboiled egg, some anchovies, peanuts and a spicy sauce) wrapped in a banana leaf for the equivalent of about 30p – I’d buy one in the morning on the way to work to have for lunch, but for Ramadan that all stopped and I’d have to nip home and make a quick salad.

At the end of Ramadan we were rewarded with Hari Raya, which is basically open house feasting for a couple of days (sadly followed by a further period of most restaurants being closed – hopefully that is changing as Mawar was open last night). On the first day of Hari Raya everyone from ABC went to Tekek. The dive school was still open, albeit with later dive schedule, so as we couldn’t get to Tekek the dive shop owner put on a feast for the staff: beef rendang and a lovely chicken curry.

The next day it was the turn of restaurants and homes in ABC to play host. Some of the other diver staff enjoyed five or six lunches….Keith and I restricted ourselves to just one now that we’re not burning calories on the bike. I’ve never seen the village so busy. It was a good couple of days, mostly full of happiness and excessive hospitality, but sadly for some families this period of celebration was by shaken by three unrelated, sudden deaths, including the grandmother of one of the local guys working at the dive school. The dead are buried within 24 hours here and it was impossible to know whether the sidecars full of smartly-dressed locals were attending Hari Raya celebrations or going to a funeral.

During this period of near-daily diving and adjustment to island life we came to the end of our allocated 90 days in Malaysia and had to do a quick trip to Singapore. We stayed with a Dutch tec diver we’d met at the dive school and had a couple of enjoyable but busy days buying a few more diving-related bits and bobs. It was a relatively expensive few days as our trip off the island gave us the chance to go to a proper supermarket so we returned laden with three months’ worth of cornflakes, muesli and powdered milk, and we also, somewhat on the spur of the moment, bought a refrigerator and a cheap bicycle (so that we can make the journey from our home in ABC to Tekek without having to lug a large tandem single-handedly up and down several flights of steps or alternatively wait for a time when we’re both free to go shopping together). Keith denies it when questioned, but to me, these are not the purchases of people who only intend to spend the next 90 days here.

And so, to finish, here are a few more pics:

One of the fruit bat trees in Tekek.  They smell nasty (sort of waxy) and are cantankerous creatures, screeching and bitching all day long.  If there's a tree with 50 mangoes in it you can guarantee there'll be a bunch of fruit bats all squabbling over just one fruit.

A fruit bat tree in Tekek. The bats smell disgusting (sort of waxy) and are vocal, cantankerous creatures. If there’s a tree with fifty mangoes in it you can guarantee there’ll be a ten fruit bats all squabbling over a single fruit.

Yes?  You want something?

Yes? You want something?

One of the trekking trails linking the various villages.

One of the trails linking the various villages.

Mr Snakey.

Mr Snakey, reposing in his favourite tree.

Yogi, the dive school dog, and quite possibly the only dog on Tioman.

Yogi, the dive school dog, and quite possibly the only dog on Tioman.

Tamar's favourite 'View From The Loo' at the dive school.

Tamar’s favourite ‘View From The Loo’ at the dive school.

Satun to Pulau Tioman 14 April – 25 May 2014

This post is dedicated to all the wonderful people who’ve befriended us in Malaysia. We can’t thank you enough!

Most people travelling to Malaysia from Satun take the ferry to either Langkawi or Kuala Perlis. However, the expense and hassle of negotiating the Pino and trailer’s safe passage on a small boat meant that the land crossing at nearby Wang Prachan was a far more attractive option despite the steep hill awaiting us on the other side. We had been misinformed about the provision of accommodation in Wang Prachan itself (which turned out to be little more than a string of market stalls either side of the road near the border) so we rolled back down the road for a couple of kilometres and stayed in the National Park accommodation (not cheap – 400 Baht entry fee on top of the 400 Baht for the room – but it was raining and in any case we’re getting very lazy about camping in the tropics; it’s still just too damn sticky).

The border crossing itself was a straightforward affair. It’s a quiet crossing so the border guards had time to chat and admire the Pino, and Keith found a bottle of his favourite whisky (cask strength Glenmorangie) in the duty free shop. From there on it was a simple case of being stamped into Malaysia, and here we are! Malaysia has provided us with plenty of memories so far: mostly wonderful, some slightly irritating, and some, frankly, a bit baffling.

Man on motorbike, rather peremptorily: “Where you from?”
Tamar: “England.”
Biker, pointing at the ground, announces: “Malaysia!”
Tamar, perplexed: “Er, yes, it is.”
Biker rides off, presumably pleased with himself for having helped a pair of hapless cyclists establish where they are.
Tamar & Keith almost ride off the road laughing.

Or perhaps we misunderstood; perhaps he was telling us that he was from Malaysia…but then why did he think we might have thought otherwise?

On another occasion we’d stopped for a snooze at a bus stop (sadly no longer as frequent or relaxing an experience as it was in Thailand as the bus stops in Malaysia are not nearly as well appointed) when our doze was interrupted by the screech of brakes. I cracked an eye open to see a concrete mixer truck slewing to a halt on the grass verge just ahead of us, and its two occupants leaping out and trotting in our direction. Keith was closest so they prodded him awake to have the usual ‘Where are you from? Where are you going?’ conversation before hopping back in their truck and departing. I wouldn’t say we regret our decision to travel on such an interesting machine, in fact most of the time it facilitates the most wonderful and enjoyable encounters, but if we are recumbent with our eyes closed then please people, we really just want to be left alone for a little while.

Oh, and car, truck and motorbike drivers, unless your horn issues anything other than a very mellow parp or a cutesy little toot-toot, please, please restrict yourself to a giving us wave or thumbs up when you pass us. Seriously, any other honking or blaring occurring as you hover on our shoulder can only sound at best annoying and at worst, downright aggressive.

Poor bus-shelter provision and careless hooting are not the only let-downs of late. To Keith’s chagrin 7-Elevens are no longer a source of delicious and cheap iced coffee, and when he does now purchase one (usually from a cafe to accompany his lunch) it is frequently made with what looks like a tea-bag. That’s just wrong!

Thankfully, these minor irritations are just that, and do not really detract from the wonderful experience we’ve had in Malaysia so far. We particularly like the multiculturalism of Malaysia. The diversity of ethnicities, evidenced in the cuisine, the languages, architecture and places of worship gives a very different feel from the other SE Asian countries. If you have an ear for it (or, if like us, you don’t and you just ask people outright what language they’re speaking) you’ll hear Chinese dialects (Cantonese, Mandarin and Hokkien), Indian dialects, the Malay language, and, handily for us, English. Malay is the official language, but you can still find people from the older generation who don’t speak it at all as they were educated in English and their home language was Chinese.

Mmm-mmm, Beef Torpedo Soup!

Mmm-mmm, Beef Torpedo Soup!

Malay cuisine is as diverse as its people. In Georgetown, where we’d anticipated spending a couple of days, we were so overwhelmed by the plentiful, cheap and fabulously varied dishes on offer that we ended up staying five nights and gorging ourselves stupid. Penang Laksa, Hokkien Mee, Char Koay Teow, Nasi Kandar, Roti Canai, Wan Tan Mee, Rojak, Cendol and Ice Kacang all competed for our palates’ attention. Warm rich spices from India, tangy hits of tamarind, chilli and lemongrass, sweet and spicy shrimp paste, garlic, sesame, ginger….oh! be still our beating hearts and salivating mouths! The only dish that wasn’t entirely enjoyable was the Beef Torpedo Soup, the main ingredient of which was somewhat chewy. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to work out which bit of the bull might be the torpedo. In between eating we wandered around admiring the sights and sounds of Georgetown until we reluctantly heaved our groaning bellies back onto the bike and set forth again, hoping we didn’t sink the ferry from Penang Island back to the peninsula.

Georgetown’s unusual ‘dog’s bone’ shaped windows

Georgetown’s unusual ‘dog’s bone’ shaped windows.

We loved the intricate stonework at the Khoo Kong Si Temple.

We loved the intricate stonework at the Khoo Kong Si Temple.

A craftsmen working away in one of Georgetown’s shophouses.

A craftsmen working away in one of Georgetown’s shophouses.

Some of Georgetown's street art.

Some of Georgetown’s street art.

Outside Cheung Fatt Tze’s exceptionally well restored mansion aka The Blue Mansion.

Outside Cheung Fatt Tze’s exceptionally well restored mansion aka The Blue Mansion.

A venerable old bruiser.

A venerable old bruiser.

Some more Georgetown street art.

Some more Georgetown street art.

Fresh watermelon juice to go.

Fresh watermelon juice to go.

A piece of Little Britain, up on Penang Hill.

A little bit of Britain, up on Penang Hill.

The vertiginous funicular ride down from Penang Hill.

The vertiginous funicular ride down from Penang Hill.

It’s becoming a bit of a cliché, but it really is the people we meet who make our journey so wonderful, and Malaysia has an exceptionally rich seam of extraordinarily welcoming people, both in the expat and local communities.  We’d encountered Malaysian hospitality on our first visit here last year when we met Mudrikah and her friends in Khota Baru, and Zachariah helped us out near Alor Setar. We got in touch with Zachariah again when we knew we’d be passing by, but sadly our timing was off and he was not around. So instead of visiting Zachariah we stopped off at a hotel, where the owner’s son, Richard, turned out to be a keen cyclist and after he and his friend had been for their evening ride they took us out for dinner and we had the chance to find out a little more about Chinese culture in Malaysia….and also marvel at the different hours that Malaysians keep compared to the rest of SE Asia. Most other Asians seem to be early risers and, with the exception of in the busy cities, the restaurants seem to close quite early. Not so in Malaysia where we frequently saw people sitting down to dinner at 11pm.

A late dinner in Sungai Petani with Richard and friends.

A late dinner in Sungai Petani with Richard (wearing glasses) and friends.

We left Hotel Akasia laden with gifts of fruit and biscuits and made our way from there to Georgetown for our gluttonous feasting, and then to Simpang Ampat where some friends of Andrew (our friend in Chiang Mai) live. Andrew had contacted Brett and Noey, and they’d very kindly invited us to spend a few days with them and their four children. Two nights turned into five as we played Mah Jong, swam and fooled around in the pool, were introduced to the never-ending joy of banana-leaf curry (where waiters repeatedly pile curry and rice onto your banana leaf until you beg them to stop), sighed in delight on a return trip to Georgetown to sample some ‘to-die-for’ patisserie in an unusual art gallery, oohed and aahed at the fireflies lighting up the trees like Christmas lights on a river trip, and made even more new friends at the combined birthday parties of some of Brett and Noey’s friends and colleagues.

Keith in party-mode, which makes it all the more extraordinary that Amanda subsequently invited us to stay with her.

Keith in party-mode, which makes it all the more extraordinary that Amanda subsequently invited us to stay with her.

Noey, Keith and Tamar’s artistic contributions to the tablecloth at the cake shop in Georgetown where diners are provided with crayons and given free rein (Noey’s picture of Keith was by far the best in our opinion).

Noey, Keith and Tamar’s artistic contributions to the tablecloth at the cake shop in Georgetown where diners are provided with crayons and given free rein (Noey’s picture of Keith was by far the best in our opinion).

The marvellous Myers family.

The marvellous Myers family.

It was at the birthday party that we met Amanda, who lives in Taiping, and who invited us to stay with her when we finally dragged ourselves away from the family fun of Brett and Noey’s. Amanda took us to an extraordinary bar, more of a ‘speakeasy’ really. Previously a tailor’s shop, it went out of business over a decade ago and the owner appeared to have simply locked up on the last day of business and left it at that. Shirts and half-finished suits hung gathering dust on the wall and bolts of cloth were left in careless piles on the counter. And so it sat until a year ago when the owner decided to turn it into a bar. To facilitate the change of use from tailor’s to drinking establishment the owner has taken a minimum expense approach. He’s basically bought some crates of beer and unlocked the front door. The dusty suits and bolts of cloth remain in situ, there are no tables, few chairs, you just perch where you can and soak up the unusual, musty ambiance of this unforgettable venue. Unfortunately Keith lucked out on the conversation front, being perched closest to a regular who didn’t like the British and was determined to tell Keith all about it at drunken length.

Lilian seeing us safely off on an trip into Taiping.  (Photo courtesy of Amanda)

Lilian seeing us safely off on an trip into Taiping.
(Photo courtesy of Amanda)

Amanda very generously let us stay on at her place for a few days whilst she was at a conference in Ipoh. We relaxed with Lilian the dog (who is looked after by everyone on the street but spends a lot of time at Amanda’s), pedalled round the beautiful Lake Garden, and watched the entire first season of Game of Thrones over the course of two evenings.

From Taiping we rolled down to Ipoh where we met up with Amanda and Noey and some of the other people from the party in Simpang Ampat. It was then a two day cycle from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur and we broke the trip at the curiously-named ‘Slim River’, which turned out to be named not after a skinny bit of water but after a 19th century English captain who mistakenly went up the Slim River instead of the main River Perak.

We’d initially hoped to visit an old friend of Tamar’s in Kuala Lumpur, but in another burst of bad-timing we managed to arrive when he was visiting friends and family in Scotland, so we approached KL resigned to hunting for a suitable hotel….and once again were rescued by the incredible Malaysian hospitality. Angie & Yuen were collecting some river gravel for their hydroponics hobby when two sweaty cyclists flopped down onto a nearby shady bench and promptly fell asleep. When they awoke the cyclists appeared hungry (rummaging in their bags for biscuits) so Angie gave them a container of rojak (a delicious curry) and politely went back to her stone gathering. When the cyclists came over to thank Angie for the meal she was appalled to discover they didn’t even know which hotel they’d be staying in for the night – how can anyone live like that? And so she immediately offered them her spare room for the night. The two cyclists were very, very grateful!

KL’s a bit of a nightmare to cycle round – lots of busy dual-carriageways – plus we wanted to stop off at a ukulele shop en-route, so it was a little later than anticipated by the time we got to Angie & Yuen’s where a sumptuous feast awaited us. Yuen’s a fantastic cook (under Angie’s tutelage we believe).

One of the things we really wanted to do in KL was buy a ukulele for Keith (inspired by Brett and Noey’s musical family Tamar had already bought an alto recorder in Taiping). He’d spent a couple of hours trying some out in the shop en-route to Angie & Yuen’s and we had a few more shops earmarked for the next day. Luckily, the one closest to Angie & Yuen’s had a really helpful assistant who talked Keith through the pros and cons of various instruments and showed him a few chords….and then all we had to do was to work out how to a) attach it to the trailer and b) keep it dry in the hot, humid, storm-prone tropics.

With Angie & Yuen at the National Monument.

With Angie & Yuen at the National Monument.

In addition to a suitable dry-bag for the uke, Tamar also needed to buy a new bikini (the old one having become a suncream stained rag). How hard could these two tasks be? Very hard as it turned out. There are precious few outdoor gear shops in KL (it seems that the only expeditions Malaysians make are by car to their air-conditioned shopping malls) and swimwear manufacturers, for the most part, do not cater for a combination of broad ribs and small boobs. After a day of emotional anguish we did eventually manage to get everything we needed, and as it was so late when we finished we had the added bonus of seeing the spectacular Petronas Towers illuminated at night. It was almost midnight by the time we padded our footsore way back home to Angie & Yuen’s. When we weren’t shopping, Angie and Yuen drove us around to see the sights (and some shopping malls) and were great company.

All offending bodyparts appropriately covered at the National Mosque.

Offending body parts appropriately covered at the National Mosque.

The breathtakingly beautiful Petronas Towers.

The breathtakingly beautiful Petronas Towers.

A catfruit.

A catfruit.

From KL we headed south to Melaka (aka Malacca), and once again had the good fortune to be befriended by a local. We were sitting on a bench, having a biscuit to fortify ourselves before hunting for accommodation, and as usual had drawn a crowd of spectators, one of whom asked us, unexpectedly, if we were WarmShowers members (Couchsurfing for cycle tourists). We replied in the affirmative and he said he was a WarmShowers host and his last guests had just left that morning so if we wanted to stay we were very welcome. Naturally, we leapt at the chance. Howard owns the excellent Ringo’s Foyer Guesthouse and keeps a room free up on the roof for WarmShowers guests. He is without a doubt the host with the most and within minutes of arriving we’d been introduced to the other guests and were all on bikes being shown round town by Howard before being taken to one of his favourite cheap eats places for some excellent laksa. After dinner he took us to the best place to see the procession celebrating Buddha’s birthday – as luck would have it we’d arrived on Wesak Day. Melaka’s an easy place to like, especially if you’re staying at Ringo’s Foyer, surrounded by bikes of every shape and size, and taken to the best places to eat every night by the ever-helpful Howard.

Wesak Day parade in Melaka.

Wesak Day parade in Melaka.

Wesak Day parade in Melaka.

Wesak Day parade in Melaka.

 Georgetown’s trishaws are prettily decked out with plastic flowers, but in Melaka they take trishaw decoration to a whole new level.

Georgetown’s trishaws are prettily decked out with plastic flowers, but in Melaka they take trishaw decoration to a whole new level.

Yellow bird, as yet unidentified...any twitchers out there among you want to offer an opinion?

Yellow bird, as yet unidentified…any twitchers out there among you want to offer an opinion?

From Melaka we gradually began to bear east, through Muar, Batu Pahat and Kluang to Mersing, where we took the ferry to the beautiful island of Pulau Tioman. We had to negotiate the Pino’s passage directly with the captain and ended up paying more for the bike than for one of our own tickets, but the deckhands were helpful and took note of Keith’s instructions on where to grasp the trailer, bike and bags to cause least damage to them.

Once safely disembarked, the Pino once again proved its worth as a way into the local scene.  Within hours we’d had three invitations to the same snorkel-test (the ‘graduation ceremony’ for a new divemaster), made friends with a scuba instructor who follows both the Giro and the Tour (and told us which bar he’d be watching them in), and been invited trekking the next day.  By the end of the night we’d made good contacts in two dive schools and had the name of the manager in a third.

During this period of pedalling, eating, shopping and making new friends, we also found time to submit applications for new passports. We’ve run out of pages in our old ones and are now waiting on tenterhooks to see if the passport office will accept our applications, which we’ve submitted without our original passports. We’ve sent full colour copies of our passports instead but are not keen to be parted from the originals, which we need to check into most hotels, and would also need if suddenly called upon to travel home. So here we are, on another tropical island paradise, awaiting new passports and passing the time by freelancing as divemasters. It’s a hard life. 

Next to a giant trishaw between Melaka and Muar.

Next to a giant trishaw between Melaka and Muar.
(Photo courtesy of Sabine and Fernando who are travelling around in a VW camper).