Pulao Tioman: Fish Fish and More Fish


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After travelling from Singapore by bus, I got a ferry to Tioman island, a small island off peninsular Malaysia. There are around eight small villages around the island, most situated on the west coast and the northernmost is Salang, which is where I started. There are no proper hotels (so far as I saw) and all the resorts consist of beach hut accommodation. There are – shall we say – differing levels of quality for travellers with different budgets.

My place was on the cheaper end, but was right at the end of the village and right in front of the beach, with palm trees and hammocks which made it very relaxing.

Day two on Tioman was my birthday and I spent the evening with some nice people who were also staying there. It was nearly a full moon and we went to a beach right on the end of the village and drank the evening dry! Echoes of Kilchattan.

Learning to scuba dive was a quick and easy process and a hell of a lot of fun. The trick is in the breathing/buoyancy control and having done a lot of swimming in the past i was quick to pick it up. There is a huge amount of coral around the island and it’s teeming with fish. There are also a number of dive sites close by.

After five nights in Salang, I moved to Air Batang (known as ABC) to do my advanced diving course and get a change of scene. It was even nicer there, with a more chilled vibe and more young people, more going on and better bars. It also has an artificial reef for scuba called Ghost Town which is amazing. If I went back, I’d go there.

Collectively during the nine dives I did in six days, I saw a lot of sea life including:
– Batfish, a school of yellowtail barracuda, blue spotted ribbontail stingrays, triggerfish, giant moray and snowflake eels, scorpion fish, false clown fish, schools of angelfish, various puffer and parrotfish, a turtle and some colourful nudibranches (sea slugs).

Food highlights included:
– Grilled whole sea bass at Salang dreams restaurant – the best cooked I’ve had for sure. It was stUffed/marinated with curry paste of chilli, lemongrass, turmeric, tamarind and corriander (amazing) and accompanied with a tamarind and chilli-based sauce. Best fish meal so far.
– Grilled mackerel (same place) which was grilled in a banana leaf with different flavours. Having been used to Scottish Mackie, it was interesting to see one so big; I had a slice about and inch thick and 4-6 inches diameter, so it would positively dwarf the ones we normally see in the UK, which I normally have whole.
– Pizza at the Sunset bar on ABC, accompanied by cracking mojitos and the fab company of B&J’s diving school guys.
– Grilled Barracuda at Johan’s(?) restaurant on ABC; first time I’d had the fish but it was again grilled beautifully and I’d definitely have it again.
– Calamari Sambal – a great curry with what is historically my least favourite seafood, but which has grown on me a great deal with the various fish soups and curries I’ve had in the past week.

Now that I’m in Kuala Lumpur (generically referred to as KL) I’m going to walk around and find some more interesting grub. First up, hopefully I’ll be able to ‘source’ some roti chanai(!)
Despite my appetite noticeably nosediving in the heat, I’ve had a lot of nice meals and am trying to make it quality over quantity, but realistically I’m going to have to budget it out a bit more. So, the KL highlights (to follow) will mostly be street food, I feel!

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