Life on Perhentian Islands – Start of the Saison

In January/February 2015 I visited Austria for one month. Back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I felt happy and looked forward to the future, whatever that would be. At that point I was in contact with several dive centres in Malaysia and Indonesia. Also I was exited about going back to my bicycle trip, either to New Zealand or to South America. I litteraly had no clue, what continent I would be for the next time. First I enjoyed meeting several friends in KL. Anna and Lee from Ombak divers I met for the first time on the small island Kanawa in Indonesia. In Kuala Lumpur I decided to follow them to Perhentian Kecil, an island in the North of Malaysia to be part of the dive crew of Ombak divers. When I realized that another friend from Indonesia would join I knew that the 4 of us would make a strong team. Dozens of dives and many courses later, more than 4 weeks working straight 12 hours per day, 7 days per week we are still in great mood and happy to be here. Our team grew by another instructor and together we manage our every day challenges in an efficient way. Diving is like a drug for me. I love to be back in the blue world. Exploring reefs, boat rides over the ocean, the island covered with jungle and white beaches als a home base. Also I see many chances to grow on this place and can count on the support of my colleges. The atmosphere is good. I look forward to spend several months here!

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Back in the countryside

After I left Tioman Island I met my Malaysian friend Aidy again. In the meantime he works in Kuala Lumpur and together we went on an 8h bus ride to Jeli where his family lives. In my post “More than hospitality” I described how his grad family almost adopted me, when I passed their house by bicycle many months ago. Now was exited and happy to see them again. In the dark, early morning Aidys parents waited for us at the bus station. I wanted to copy the respectful way Aidy greeted his parents when his mum just pulled me in her arms and whispered “Sweetheart!”. The next four days I spend in the center of a huge family. I played with the kids, learned a lot more Malay words from the grandfather and constantly got to try new local food. I joined the family to different basars where we were constantly stared at. “No, she is not my daughter in law. My son studies abroad together with her…” Aidy was a bit nervous that I would tell another story if they asked me in English. His cousin took me around on the motorbike and I joined the village when they cooked Asyura in huge pots over the fire at the mosque. This porridge is anually prepared for the muslim new year. It took many sacks of spices, buckets of onion, garlic, sweat potato and manjok, 28kg of sugar and two days of time. That day the family dressed me up in their traditional clothes and make up. I felt weird in that role but very welcomed at the same time. The people in Jeli still live a very rural, traditional and layed back life. I enjoyed to have been part of the community for some days. Farewell was sad once more. I will keep my Malaysian family in my heart and hope to revisit them one day!

Leaving Tioman

The end of the saison comes close. For the last 2 weeks I just wanted to dive as much as somehow possible. As staff I have the possibility to dive alone as often as I want when I’m free of work. After working almost every day for the last months I wanted to enjoy and explore on my own without the responsibility for any beginners.
Unluckily I got a bit sick. Problems with my sinuses kept me out of the water for many days. One day of diving with reverse block, bleeding nose and an enormous head ache that I almost cried under water was enough. On land I felt good which made me a bit frustrated. I wanted to dive and for the very first time I just was not able to.
So I explored a bit of the island. In the 4 months on Tioman I got to know way more of the under water world then above. Now I hiked in the jungle and had a day trip with Keith on his and Tamars tandem bicylcle. They came all the way from London and our ways crossed already in Kirgistan two years ago. Both became professional divers as well and for some months we were colleges on Tioman Island. For the rest of the time I hang around, read, planned and got bored a bit.
The more it was a pleasure when I was finally able to dive again after a week. Some more work with students… and finally some really enjoyable dives only with my colleges or alone.
Time goes on and suddenly it is the last day of diving. We close the dive center. Most of my colleges go home over the monsoon saison and come back to work here in January.
I will leave to go on with my journey. I look forward to live and write about new adventures. The bicycle is calling for me! 😀

More than hospitality

After my junge adventures I was very exhausted, dirty, sticky and my clothes where in rages. One screw on my bicycle destroyed my trousers and I decided to cut the screw. So I went to a car workshop close to Jeli and asked them for that. They did and also invited me to their house.

I had an amazing time with this family! Aidy – now my little Malaysian brother – is the only one speaking English but he was nonstop talking and translating.  Umi, the mother prepared amazing amounts of food for me and hungry as I was from the last few days I ate it all. We went to a cave together, to the bazar and to swim in a river. They introduced me to all relatives living nearby. Also many of them came together every evening for a chat during the sun went down. So I met many aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends. All of them absolutely lovely. I felt undescribable welcome and warm with Aidy and his family. They also tought me a lot about Malaysia. How to wear a sarong, how to eat with the hand, a bit of the language. They repaired my trousers, gave me new trousers too,  a sarong and all their love.

When I left on the third day everybody gave me a big hug and some almost cried. Me too.
I hope to come back one day to see you again!

In the jungle

After crossing the Thai-Malaysian border I was keen on being in the mountains again. I followed the highway until the first village where I could organise Malaysian Ringgit and adapters for the plugs. Then I turned to the East and cycled for a few days through farmland and villages before the surrounding area turned into rainforest. It was astonishing beautiful especially in the mornings. Dense fog was hanging inbetween the hills and the red morning sun had to fight her way through. The atmosphere was mystical when I opened my tent in the morning.

Unfortunately it was not easy to find a place for camping. Directly beside the street the jungle seemed to be a green wall with no chance to enter. In my first night in Malaysia I approached a small house when it was already dark. I asked the family if I can pinch my tent here and they invited me into their house. Another night I built my tent beside a small palmoil plantage. Was quite surpirised when two policemen came to wake me up at midnight. But they where surprised too and had no idea what to do. I asked them if it is a problem that I camp here and they said yes. Why? Because it is dangerous!!! People tell me this since I left Austria. But I had countless nights in the tent with no problems at all. The policemen and I talked for a while. They seemed to feel uncomfortable. I wounder how they found me as my tent was not visible from the road and it was totaly dark. But I prefered not to ask. Finally they gave me some food and left. For the rest the night was quiet.

The jungle in Malaysia seems to be full of life. Much more than in all the other tropical countries I visited before. Often I saw monkey families crossing the road. Every few kilometer there where dead snakes, lizards and monitors on the road. Sometimes I also saw them alive. Once I even passed the dead body of a  big cat. Maybe a leopard? Now I regret that I did not take a photo of it!

The people told me also about wild elephants and after a while I started to believe them. There where traffic signs about crossing elephants quite often and I saw some tracks which came from huge animals. Also there where colourful birds and butterflies everywhere.

Cycling in this environment was hard sometimes. So hot and humid! But I really love the experiances I made. I met amazing friendly people, saw astonishing landscapes and had delicious food.

For me travelling by bicycle is still the best way to come  in contact with the soul of a country…