We arrived with trepidation at Tioman Island on the east coast of Malaysia ready and raring for a couple of weeks aboard the yacht Labarque after a few hectic days in Singapore. The plan would be to spend a couple of days anchored off Tioman Island, then make our way slowly north through Kuantan, Chukai and finally ending up in Terengganu by which time I would be a sort of modern day, but just as legendary of course, Captain Cook.
Very kindly, we’d been invited to join my dad’s cousin Patrick and his partner Elizabeth on Labarque, a beautifully antique ketch, their home journeying around the world the way we all dream.
Tioman is a small, beautiful island with a number of bays. We were anchored off the main village called Tekek and spent a couple of days exploring, discovering delicious Roti Canai (a sort of flatbread served with a curry sauce), drinking Teh Tarik (a tea so sweet your teeth melt), getting lost (though I’m not sure how that’s possible on a minuscule island) and watching with squinted eyes as huge planes attempted to bank and land on the tiny strip of tarmac (with a cliff wall at the end!) that they call a runway.
As Patrick & Elizabeth will attest, life on board is not all glitz and glamour. Firstly there’s the endless TLC that an older boat requires and then the long nights spent rolling as we did in a swell outside Kuantan. Ruth and I, at the front of the boat, must have looked ridiculous lying spread eagle, limbs all over the place, bracing ourselves on anything we could find so as not to roll out of bed. We made it through the night though and found our way to park up (technical term we sailors use) outside of Kuantan – a town with a genuinely nice feel to it. We wandered around, visiting the museum and catching up on some of the work required to keep this blog up and running.
Next we sailed to Kapas, a glorious island I’ll tell you more about next time, where we spent as much time as possible snorkelling. I’d been wanting desperately to see some of the reef sharks and turtles we’d been told were “everywhere”. Clearly not in any of the places I decided to splash about. Not one, NOT ONE! Just a tonne of jellyfish which somehow annoyingly creep up on you when you’re least expecting it. I was just about ready to slice my arm off to give the sharks something to aim for but no, it wasn’t to be. There were loads of clown fish though (Nemos for the uninitiated) amongst an abundance of other weird lifeforms to make up for it and left the island satisfied meandering our way slowly to Terengganu.
We weren’t sea sick once, hooray! A pleasant surprise since the last time I was on a boat was on the Great Barrier Reef and I spent the entire time face down over the side. I managed to show my complete lack of sea faring ability by giving a horrible demonstration of knot tying. Patrick tried, and sadly failed, to teach me as I was utterly useless. I’m pretty sure I got the knot tying badge at cub scouts, one of about 6 badges I managed to achieve in 3 years hard graft. Maybe they just gave me the badge in sympathy or found it lying around somewhere and got my mum to stitch it on for me (I had no badge for sewing).
Terengganu, the town where we would leave the boat, was and is lovely. I spent hours, literally, traipsing behind Ruth around the mazes of fabric markets. Hours. And hours. Each day would begin with a new excuse to “pop back”: “But we don’t have a present for my grandma”, “I need some for a cushion I’m going to make”, “What if I find the perfect fabric for my wedding dress?”. Other than the fabric markets, which I could now draw a map of blindfolded, Terengganu had another offering for us. A batik factory and shop. More fabric. Brilliant. Ruth had a great time, I ate ice cream.
After a few days of pottering about we said our goodbyes and left with high hopes and good wishes for the next stop, Penang. We’re both extremely grateful to Patrick and Elizabeth for allowing us to invade their little world on Labarque, and so give us a totally different experience of travelling.
And on another note, it turns out I’m more Captain Pugwash than Captain Cook.
Click the images to enlarge and cycle through – there are lots this time!