Saturday, 27 August 2016

All about the escapade in Pulau Tioman, Pahang

Pulau Tioman is one of the 3 free trade zone islands in Malaysia. The other islands are Langkawi and Labuan. In my opinion, this is the best free trade zone island among all. The reason is because the sea life here are plenty and water is crystal clear. As for Langkawi, you need to travel a long way to Pulau Payar for a good snorkeling site. While Labuan doesn't really have a lot of corals around the beaches. Furthermore, the beaches in Labuan mostly infested with sand flies.
As a special side tip, you are able to bring more alcohol off this island if you are not departing from the Tekek Village where there is a custom check at that place. Compare to other islands like Labuan and Langkawi, you are restricted with only 1 liter liquor or 4 cans of beer per person. Same goes to cigarettes. 
There are two jetties that are departing to Pulau Tioman which is from Mersing Jetty or Tanjung Gemuk jetty. The most popular one is the Mersing Jetty because you can reach there easily by bus. If you plan to drive, you can park safely around the jetty which the rate starts from RM10.00/day/car. The ferry schedule departing from Mersing Jetty - Pulau Tioman is 7.00am, 10.00am and 12.00pm. However, coming back from Pulau Tioman is not fixed but mostly there is a ferry leaving Pulau Tioman at 10.00am. It is best you ask your resort for the ferry schedule on your travelling dates. (Fun fact: Mersing is a city in Johor however Pulau Tioman belongs to Pahang. So does Tanjung Gemuk)
Beside bus, you always can take a taxi to Mersing Jetty. However, the most luxurious way is to fly in from Subang Aiport. Last time, Berjaya Air used to have a fixed schedule fly in from Subang Airport but has been suspended due to operational reason in March 2014. Now, you can always charter a flight which you can get more information from the number above. There is a small airstrip at the Tekek Village.
The ferry ride will takes approximately about 2 hours and the first stop is at Kampong Genting, Kampong Paya, Kampong Tekek (those who stay in Berjaya Resort, disembark here), Kampong Air Batang (known as ABC), Panuba Jetty (only stop upon request) and lastly Kampong Salang. If your resort at Kampong Salang, you will take more than 2 hours to reach. To those who stays in Kampung Juara, which is the east side of Pulau Tioman, you need to disembark at Kampong Tekek and take a transit bus (picture above) to Kampung Juara. It is not free, estimated cost is RM50/pax but always use your negotiating skill if you are coming in a large group. If you do not want to pay for this, you can always choose for a little jungle trekking adventure through the jungle for an hour.
The first time after so many years, I had a larger group for this island trip. We are dropped off at the first stop which is the Kampong Genting. You can buy alcohol and cigarette at duty free price at any part on this island but the cheapest place to buy them is at Kampong Tekek. Please take note as I have told you earlier, if you are planning to leave the island more than 1 liter per person, do not leave from Kampong Tekek because of the strict custom check. You can always buy liquor and cigarette during your diving, fishing or snorkeling trip by just informing your resort to stop by Kampong Tekek for a quick shopping and bring them back to your resort. As of today, there is no checkpoint yet when you reach Mersing Jetty. Not sure about it in the future.
We need to take a little 15 minutes walk to our resort which is the Tioman Dive Buddy resort. Do not get headache with your luggages because most of the resorts do provide luggage pick up service as you can see in the picture above.
So now you can take a good stroll by the beach without your heavy luggage. 
You will go through their local clinic and villages. In Kampong Tekek, will see more government buildings there as that place is like a capital of Pulau Tioman.
About the phone coverage on this island, most of the mobile network operators do have station on this island but the strongest signal is Maxis. Others are just good for calling and receiving call but not surfing the net. U Mobile is the worst here because some villages you will not get any signal.
Here we are at Tioman Dive Buddy resort. Their room are pretty basic and not the luxury type. Maintenance definitely required in this resort. As for the food, pretty simple and common. You eat just to make fill up your stomach so do not expect any exquisite cuisine. Despite all the negative sides, I still prefer their service provided by this dive center. If is not worth 5 stars, at least give them a 4 stars. 
The best season to travel to Pulau Tioman is between the month of May - July which is also known as their peak season. If you want to get a lower rate in accommodation, choose March, September and October. These are the low season and sea are kind of rough and you will experience rain more frequently than any other months. Personal advice is just choose the peak season, you do not want the rain or the wave to spoil your entire holiday.
Zoom in the picture above for water taxi service around the island. Top 3 activities in Pulau Tioman basically is fishing where you can rent a fishing pole and buy baits here. 
Second is snorkeling at one of their famous snorkeling site which are Pulau Tomok, Pulau Renggis and Marine Park. Pulau Tomok is not really deep, good for beginner who is starting to learn how to snorkel. Pulau Renggis will gives you a chance to see black tip reef sharks and green turtle! Fishes at Marine Park are a lot and huge in sizes. Do not miss these snorkeling sites! The rate will be around RM80/pax for a boat trip to 2 out of 3 snorkeling sites. You can always negotiate if you come in larger group. Note: The price is inclusive of snorkeling equipment such as mask, snorkel, fins and life jacket. Some provide lunch and drinking water for you too.
The most popular activity will be diving. Diving at Pulau Tioman is not very expensive. It is about RM70-RM80 per dive with all equipment in. The best part is the more you dive the cheaper it is. It can go as low as RM50/dive. The price is almost as competitive as in Pulau Perhentian.
This is the Marine Park which I have introduced to you earlier. There are a lot of artificial wrecks down below which attract a lot of fishes. There are about 7 small cargo wrecks below. The visibility is very poor for diving but good for snorkeling.
As I have mentioned earlier, Pulau Renggis is the place for you to see green turtle and black tip reef shark. They just swim around that small broccoli look alike island. 
Pulau Tomok is a place for snorkeling. Not diving. You do not get to see a lot of special sea creatures here. However, the effort is there by putting a lot of artificial wrecks underneath this part of the ocean.
One of the artificial wreck is this car, It has already degraded until you cannot identify what kind of car is that. 
There is even treadmill here! Take off your fins and start running on it! 
Some are just tyres and bottles as you can see from this picture. The corals are growing out from the bottles.
Pulau Tioman has quite a lot of real wreck around the island such as the Japanese Wreck, Sawadee Wreck, Pirate Wreck and many more. It is definitely a good place to start your nitrox course and AOW course here. 
The corals bed on this island is not as impressive as Redang Island. However, it is good enough to attracts all kinds of creature that you can't even see in Redang Island. In my opinion, the best dive site so far was at Salang Village. A huge school of fishes just right at the jetty.
As usual, I will show you a series of amazing sea creatures below and end my post with a nice short video about the underwater world in Tioman Island. I hope you all enjoy my post and do visit Pulau Tioman whenever you have the chance. I am sure I am going to visit this island more frequently than any other islands.
Black tip reef shark
Sea dragon nudibranch
White Eyed Moray Eel
Green Turtle
Scorpion fish
A school of yellow striped fish.
A type of nudibranch, not sure the scientific name of it. However, watch how this nudibranch trying to attack me in the video below. Enjoy!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Muzium Diraja (Istana Negara Lama) & Istana Negara

In 1957 which is the independence year of Malaysia, this was the palace for our Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Monarch) and Permaisuri Agong (Queen) until 2011 where they have moved to a new palace which is located in Jalan Duta. With 54 years of history and it has becomes a Muzium Diraja in 2013. Muzium Diraja is a museum where you will see how the castle exactly looks like in Malaysia. 
The parking in front of the castle is free but not ample. However, it is enough to accommodate the visitors as the maximum time you will be spending here is just 30 minutes top.
That's the admission fee. If you are Malaysian, you are required to show your MyKad to proof. They do have caddie ride to take you from the entrance to the castle and return for just RM2.00/pax.  
How I wish this is the view when I am looking out through my house's window. 
So the caddie ride will stop you here and you will get to visit the first site of the museum. This site is strictly prohibit you from taking any photography and video inside, Shoes are not allowed as well too. 
Basically what is inside here is showing you the living room, dining room, guest room, meeting room, study room, office, bedroom, theater room, bathroom and they even have a private dental clinic which will help the whole family for routine check-up once a week. I believe their teeth must be extremely clean.
The furniture and the interior design are aging as you all know it has been here for more than 50 years and counting. So it may looks kind of old. Well, things must be old to be inside a museum.
This the hall where royal ceremonies where held here and this place allows you to take photograph and video but no shoes are allowed too.
This was the place where we commonly saw in television where new Yang di-Pertuan Agong has enthroned, enthroning the new elected Prime Minister and Federal Titles such as Tun, Tan Sri and Datuk grant by Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be held here too.
This majestic palace was a home for 13 Yang di-Pertuan Agong within 54 years. Basically Yang-di Pertuan Agong is rotates every 5 years by the Sultan of 9 states out of 14 states in Malaysia which are in order starts with Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Perlis, Terengganu, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Johor and Perak.
The last Yang di-Pertuan Agong who resided in this palace was Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni Almarhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah from Terengganu. The 3 major tasks play by a Yang di-Pertuan Agong are:
  1. Appointing new Prime Minister
  2. Delaying the disband of the Parliament
  3. Organizing a meeting with all Sultans including 4 Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Melaka, Pulau Pinang, Sabah & Sarawak).
The view from this Palace is absolutely amazing. The mix of greenery and expanding high rising buildings. This Muzium Diraja is definitely a good place to bring your kids to understand more about where Malaysia's rotating constitutional monarch resides.
15 minutes drive from the old palace to this majestic and grand new palace of Malaysia. Al-Mu'tassimu Billahi Muhibbuddin Tuanku Al-Haj Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Badlishah from Kedah is the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong that stays in this palace and his reign will ends by 2016. He is also the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong that has been enthroned twice. Not just that, he is also the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong who gets to stay in the old palace and new palace during his two times reign in this country.
You can see more visitors from other countries flocking here compare to Muzium Diraja despite the merciless heat from the sun. I feel quite proud to see such a beautiful palace in my country. For your information, you only get to take picture from the outside of the palace. Tourists are not allowed to enter the palace for viewing like in Muzium Diraja. It is common sense because you don't like to have some random people come into your house freely and posing to take photo and leave.
However, you can take picture with the guards here. They are standing straight and the same position and pose during their schedule. It is like a Buckingham Palace in England where Queen Elizabeth resides in.
Each sides of the huge gate has a pair of cavalry and a guard where you can take photos with. By the way, the horse is case you are asking. The main highlight is during the changing of the guard. Twice a day the guards dressed in traditional attire and accompanied by a sound system will perform a ceremonial changing process outside the gates of the impressive building. At 10.00am and 3.00pm each day two guards will march in, while another two march out with full pomp and ceremony. Unfortunately, I missed the ceremonial time.
You will spend less than 10 minutes here since you can't go into the palace so there is no entrance fee, parking fee or photography fee here. Overall, it is good quick drop by experience if you have oversea friends who are visiting Malaysia. For your information, there are 3 different gates in this palace. You are advise to head to Pintu 1. So make sure your waze app is set to Pintu 1. By the way, both old and new palace are not accessible by common public transports except taxi.

Total Damage: RM7.00/pax (Museum DiRaja), Free (Istana Negara)
Ambiance: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Recommended?: Yes for family or tourist

Majlis Diraja
Jalan Istana
50460 KL
Wilayah Persekutuan Malaysia
Tel: 03-22671000
Opening Hours: 9.00am - 5.00pm (daily)

Istana Negara
Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim
50500 KL
Wilayah Persekutuan Malaysia