Pulau Tioman, Malaysia I'm Going to be Someone's Dad

I made it to Tioman by the skin of my teeth. It was one long string of screw-ups that left me in silent awe at the notion that I’ve gotten as far as I have on this trip.

It started with going to bed at 2 am and waking up late. I crammed all my stuff into bags and checked out of the hotel at 7:30 – the same time I was supposed to be checking in for the ferry to Timoan. I caught a cab and made it to the ferry terminal by 8, right at the tail end of when I was supposed to get there. I gave the cab driver the last of my Singapore currency, as I wouldn’t be needing it anymore. Things seemed to be going fine until I got to the counter and found out I was at the wrong ferry terminal. The place where my boat was leaving from was on the other side of the country – a 20 minute cab ride away. By the time I’d worked all this out, it was 8:15 and there was no way I was going to make it there by the 8:30 departure. I would have to spend another day in Singapore. As I was accepting my fate, the woman who sold me the ticket took pity on me. She photocopied my passport so she could fax it to the other terminal, then threw me in a cab. While I was en route, she faxed my passport over and told them I was coming.

I got to the ferry terminal, paid the cab fare by credit card, went through customs and security clearance, got tested for SARS, then ran to the boat in record time. I don’t know how long they held it for me. I couldn’t bear the guilt of looking at a clock.

So I sat down on the boat and fell right to sleep. It was a nice ride.

Four hours later the boat arrives at Pulau Timoan, a tiny little island with a scattering of ramshackle huts along the coastline. It was the location for the mythical Bali Hai in the musical, South Pacific. I go through immigration on the Malaysian side, screwing up only slightly when I realize I forgot to fill out my declaration card. No big deal. I do that all the time. My passport is almost full now, by the way.

I get off the boat and onto the jetty, only to discover I have to pay an entrance fee. Of course, I have no money in either currency. I explain this to the guy with the tin cash box and fold-out card table. I ask him if there’s an ATM nearby or if he can take credit cards. He gives me a look like maybe I didn’t notice his tin cash box and fold-out card table, then suddenly feels compassion for the poor retarded man and waves me through.

As I’m walking down the jetty, some locals surround me and ask me where I’m going. I tell them I need to get up to ABC, the area where all the cheap resorts are, and they tell me I have to take their ferry. I tell them I have no money. They explain that their boat is the last one today, I have to take it, and they’ll accept Singapore currency. I explain again that I have no money and need to find an ATM. I suddenly become invisible. I was okay with this, because I was certain they were lying and it would be easy for me to get up to ABC once I had cash.

So I finally reach the shore and the only place I can get to from there is the big fancy resort 300 meters away. I haul my bags over, head to the cashier, and pull my wallet out to give her my credit card. That’s when I realize my credit card is gone.

Fortunately I have a back-up card, so I use that to get 200 Ringit, or about $50 US. It’s enough to last me a couple days, but I’m still screwed if I don’t get my main card back. I have no mailing address, so I can’t get a replacement, and the card is my complete and total lifeline.

I’m pretty sure I left my card on the boat, so I convince one of the resort employees to drive me back to the jetty. I get there just as the ferry is heading back for Singapore. I search under my seat and find the card. The clouds part and a holy light shines down upon me.

So I’m back on the jetty and all I’ve got left to deal with is how the hell to get up to ABC. Indeed, those guys were right. There is no other way to get up there other than their boat. Timoan hasn’t heard about taxis yet. The security guys at the jetty don’t speak any English, but they smile politely and tell me to wait there for another boat. It takes me about an hour to figure out that they don’t know what the hell I’m doing there or where I want to go. So I walk over to the fancy resort’s golf course and find a guy who can speak English. He takes me down to the beach and hails a friend of his who is fishing out on the water. He convinces his friend to give me a ride up to ABC in his speedboat for 30 Ringit — about $8.

I hop into his tiny little boat in a massive swell with my laptop, camera, and various other digital paraphernalia that doesn’t like getting wet. I spend the whole thunderous ride clutching my gear to protect it from the spray, then nearly break my leg hopping off onto the dock.

After that it was only a twenty-minute walk with all my bags to a resort with vacancy. I’m in a nice little hut that costs $11 US a night, surrounded by mosquito netting, typing away in the dark. I have one electrical plug, so I have to trade the fan for laptop power.

To make a long story short (too late), I’m a colossal moron. I somehow managed to stumble through the day successfully, despite doing absolutely everything wrong. This is why I like traveling alone. See, I can do all the dumb things I did today and feel fine about it, cause no one else has to suffer the consequences along with me. I’m happy to wait all afternoon for a boat that’s never coming or walk indefinitely in the hot sun with forty pounds of luggage toward an uncertain destination. It doesn’t really bother me. But if I had someone depending on me to know what the hell I’m doing – well, we wouldn’t be getting along very well right now.

I’m looking forward to married life someday.

I’m looking forward to being someone’s dad.

People should regard this trip I’m on the same way they regard a man with no legs climbing Mt. Everest. I am battling an enormous handicap.

I read that when they were searching the private gymnasium of one of Uday Hussein’s now legendary palaces of deranged excess, they found he had big blown-up posters of W.’s daughters on the wall, amidst all the pornography.

Now that’s downright twisted.

The Malaysian Ringit is the first currency I’ve encountered that has a fixed exchange rate against the US dollar. It’s a solid 3.8 at all times. It fluctuates against every other currency except the US. Apparently they got sick of it dropping all the time. I didn’t know you were allowed to do that. There must be some kind of penalty. Anyway, it’s certainly a favorable rate. Meals, hotels, and transportation are all about the same numerical amount that they’d be in dollars, so everything is around ¼ its normal cost. Hi ho!

The reason I’m updating again after posting nothing for the last week is very simple: No TV. It’s either this or sleep.

10 Responses to Pulau Tioman, Malaysia I'm Going to be Someone's Dad

  1. Brad

    You’ll make a great senator one day!

    Oh and I can see that our trip through ‘Nam is going to be…errm interesting…I have my phrase book and tapes, so I shall find out and practise “I do not know this man” in Vietnamese. 8)

  2. Hi Matt !
    I’m Barbara, 18 years old, french girl and this is the first time I look your site.
    Did you went to Bagus Place resort in Pulau tioman ? Because this place was created by my dad, and it was fun to see that you’ve been to Pulau Tioman.

    And do you know Mukut ?

    See you, waiting for your answer
    Cheers !

  3. DEL

    You know your video’s are pretty cool and it great you want Americans to travel. But deep down you are still a typical ignorant American, “Crawling its way out of poverty” who the hell do you think you are KL is more developed and safer than more than half of the Cities in the US, I know I’ve been to Detroit! And as for the food who asked your cheap ass to go to dump shack restaurant you get what you bloody well pay for what were you expecting!! You should have just gone to a shopping centre food court! Typical American ran to McDonald’s what a tard!

  4. ~

    hi,luv ur videos!!i’ve been to malaysia and i think it was ok,i wouldn’t really recommend it to people though..but i think giving extremely negative comments about any country are rather inappropriate since you’re not just ‘another traveller’,i’m sure a lot of ppl read your blog every now and then…being honest is fine,but being rude??

  5. KL dude

    Hey Matt. I’m from KL, actually going to college now in New York and will be graduating pretty soon. I wish I could travel the world like you, but the US is all I can afford right now.

    I must agree with Barbara. Your remarks, “crawling its way out of poverty” was offensive and it shows that you are something that you don’t want to be-a typical ignorant American.
    You need to study the demographics and engage more in consversations with the local people before jumping into conclusions. Compare what they say with the local media and the US media, then make your own analysis.

    However, I admire your courage and I support your cause. All the problems in the world are caused by ignorant people who don’t care to cross borders and get to know other people.

  6. Islander

    Interesting reading, pictures and videos.

    I have travelled quite a bit and have lived in Mauritius, Malaysia, Ireland, UK. I love malaysia for many reasons – climate/weather, excellent infrasture, food, people and places/attractions, low cost and high standard of living – I have plans to work a decade and retire there.

    We have different views, shaped by our own personal experiences – obviously, you do not seem to have visited the “right places” in Malaysia but seem to appreciate the friendly people.

  7. Malaysian

    Hey there,

    Interesting stuff on travels but calling Malaysia a place that’s “crawling out of poverty” and calling it a third world country???…gosh….you are definitely bot helping eliminate the stereotype of the typical American who’s ignorant as ever and think the whole World revolves around them!!!…and believe me….not ALL Malaysian girls are gonna hit on you!!..yes i know that there are some who go crazy when they see white guys and think you’re “all-that”…but it’s not ALL OF US!!…most of us think of you as another human being….

    P.S. Malaysians are way friendlier than Americans…I’m not just saying…I’ve been to the US!

  8. Andrew

    I am an American in Malaysia right now, and I would like to say…. Malaysia is a lot like the typical US Citizen. Some friendly people, but a lot of people who are plain rude and unfriendly, especially most of the cab drivers. One tried to charge me $25 MR for a cab ride, which I gratefully turned down. I found an honest cab driver that went by the meter.. it cost me 4 MR.

    As for the person who says American’s are rude, go to Texas. Everyone I have talked to, Californians, British, Malaysian, North African…. they all agree that Texans are the friendliest people. Do not judge Texans by what you see in movies, or base them by George Bush…. go there and you will see what I mean.

    Matt, I love what you are doing, and NEVER STOP. you are living the dream that myself and my Girl Friend would love to do. Also, i love seeing that there is a credit card company that copied your idea in their commercial. I forgot if it was Master Card or Visa.

  9. Nordee

    Hello Matt.
    I met Liz from the Big Apple a week ago. She is 23 this year and she traveled almost around the globe. AND she is not the typical one from your country. She has seen most part of the world and she is nothing like you. She is far more open-minded rather than you. PLEASE. Stop being a typical American if you are really going to travel. Stop the idea of wanting all country will look or smell like the U.S. Every country have their own distinct identity and environment. Please respect others.

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