How-to's, Malaysia

How to get to Tioman

May 11, 2014

Tioman is a beautiful island in peninsular Malaysia. So beautiful, that getting there just ought to be complicated and long.

I have written about Tioman earlier, I love the island and we’re going there again next weekend. This time to Juara beach which looks stunning and peaceful. Last time we went by car, but now we don’t have that much time to spare, so we’re going the way which many people usually take to get to Tioman. Here’s a how-to.

How to get to Tioman

To get to Tioman island from KL, you have really got 2 options:

– Fly in from Subang airport (pricey)
– get to Mersing and take a ferry (you can either take a bus or drive if you have a car)

(we’re not going to talk about flying to somewhere close to Mersing and then taking a ferry – I don’t see much sense in this option, to be honest)

Driving time is around 5 hours, but I wouldn’t recommend driving at night to catch the early morning ferry, so if you really need to drive, you can leave KL early in the morning and should be able to get there for the afternoon ferry (1-2pm, depending on the schedule). There’s a parking area, quite safe, I think we paid around 100 ringgit for 8 days, not sure how much it was exactly.

So the most conventional way to get to Tioman from KL would be:

Night bus to Mersing jetty (5,5 hours+), wait for the ferry (~2 hours), ferry (~2 hours to Tekek), and then depending on where you’re going in Tioman (if it’s Juara, then another 20 mins or so by car).

I booked everything in this order:

1. Searched for hotels/motels online, called and emailed them, got a price quote and booked (verbally).

2. Booked the ferry tickets. This one’s tricky – last time the dive shop assisted us with this one and left us the ticket at the jetty counter, those were 70 ringgit return each. This time they advised to book with the official ferry company (link above), BUT these guys are 90 ringgit return and you only can book for a certain date, not time. After the booking they send you the schedule (it’s updated monthly as tide levels are different every month) and even that is not a 100% guarantee you’ll get a seat on the boat. I called them, they have very pleasant call reps and they assured that if you buy tickets online, you will leave on the date booked, just get to the counter as soon as you arrive to Mersing and see if there are seats left. If not, then wait for the next ferry (there are 3-4 boats a day, at least this May).

A friend of mine went to Tioman 2 weeks ago and he hasn’t booked a ferry, having arrived to the jetty (it was a busy public holiday too), it turned out there were no tickets for 2 boats in a row, he had to wait until 11am (having arrived at 5am). So yeah, I went safe this time and booked online even though it’s 20 ringgit more.

3. Booked the bus. We are leaving from KL to MSG, Mersing. Same return.  The bus station Term B’spadu Selatan (or TBS) is located right at the LRT station Bandar Tasik Selatan Station (Ampang line). Mind which direction you’re boarding – the line splits in two at some point. We wend from Bangsar to Masjid Jamek and changed to Ampang line there. I’ve heard you can do the same at KL Sentral and Pasar Seni, but please double-check that.

Once you reach the station, follow the directions to the bus terminal, go up and across the bridge and register at the counter at that same level. Note that you need to register both of your tickets. They’ll give you the boarding passes and you’re good to go one level gown to your bus.

4. Figure out your transportation from the jetty in Tioman. We’re arriving to Tekek, going to the duty-free shop in the airport, and the hotel owner picks us up and drives to Juara (40 ringgit per person, return). There are boats that you can hire too, or if you’re going to Salang or ABC, take the ferry straight there.

5. Going back – same thing. Arrive to the jetty early to make sure you get the seat, waaaait, 2 hours by boat, waaaaait for the bus (or have your roti canai at the nearest mamak), 5-6 hours by bus. And a cab back home.

Looks complicated, but I honestly believe Tioman is worth it. I have yet to experience the Perhentian Islands, Redang and other islands here, but I’ve heard from too many friends here that Tioman is their most favourite one.

Note: this is not the only way to get to Tioman, there are other buses and, I guess, other boats too. I explained how I’m going and how many of my friends get there, so yeah, please always travel responsibly and do your research :-)

Hope it was useful and talk to you soon!

Malaysia, Outdoors

Build a house in 3 days or an Ode to ‘Can Do’ attitude

May 7, 2014

This is an ode to “Can do” attitude. The mindset that allows you to dream big, decide and achieve a goal that didn’t seem even close to realistic some 2 months ago.

Actually, that’s a good idea, let’s go back 2 month from now. I was writing my 3 Most Important Questions and a goal on contribution suddenly came out as “Build/renovate and architectural object/house”. Not sure where it was coming from, but fast-forward to now, I have actually been able to cross it off. I helped build an actual house.

It all started with this - bare ground and some base pillars

It all started with this – bare ground and some base pillars

I joined the EPIC Army. It’s a social enterprise that supports the local Community – Orang Aslis, here nearby KL. EPIC designed an Ikea-meets-Lego kind of house that can be built in 3 days. And you don’t need to be a professional builder to make it. 30 people are divided into 5 teams: structure, walls, roof, floor etc and have their specialist builder to supervise and coordinate the workflow. In 3 days you build a proper solid house.

It’s amazing how deep this cause reaches – not only you help build a house for a family, working with some of them hand in hand, you also contribute to building a bonding relationship with the community to bring in more layered aid in the future – like family planning advice, healthcare, personal finance etc.

Day 1 afternoon - structure in place

Day 1 afternoon – structure in place

I applied to join this amazing 3 days experience for a number of reasons (main one above), but also because it triggered something in me. I wanted to do more DIY and I wanted a challenge.

Day 2 in the afternoon - roof halfway done, floors done, walls - ongoing

Day 2 in the afternoon – roof halfway done, floors done, walls – ongoing

This is what I learnt (you have to agree, all these learnings in just 3 days do qualify for a status of ‘a truly transformational experience’):

1. Life is hard. It’s physically hard to build things from scratch and for a lot of people out there life is really tough. Never forget that and don’t take what you have for granted.

2. Get out of your comfort zone. It’s the only way to grow. Period.

3. Set bold goals and be conscious about them. Every day. Else, how would you progress in life? Anything you set as a goal is possible if that’s what you really want. It may sound weird, but it’s true.

4. You opted in for it. Commit to it. There’s no such thing as dropping out half way. Especially when buildng something like.. well, a house. There are people who are counting on you and it is important to not give up.

5. There is life without Internet. Three days offline is a great way to connect to your true self, let go of worries and the daily hustle and become more calm and grounded. Lovely feeling!

6. Feeling present and grounded is awesome. See above. It lasts for quite some time too! Now I want to be very aware of this kind of feeling and I even started wearing a little awareness bracelet (a small but meaningful reminder – whenever I look at it I remember that feeling of presence and get connected to it).

7. It’s truly empowering to be around like-minded people. It’s amazing how much you can do and how uplifting a feeling you get when you are surrounded by like-minded people. I got inspired by some of their goals and achievements so much that I finally made up my mind and signed up for my first marathon!

8. Charity rocks. My goal is to donate/contribute to charity or other meaningful causes regularly now.

9. Scared of it? Do it! I was scared but curious to get up on the roof. But I did it and the feeling was awesome! That’s getting out of the comfort zone.

And here are some pictures (mine and by other volunteers) to show the truly impressive progress and the result.

Day 3 - internal walls and the window shutter frames

Day 3 – internal walls and the window shutter frames

Almost done - painting the house

Almost done – painting the house

And the house is done!

And the house is done!

Amazing team of 30 most beautiful individuals. Photo by Chu Hwai

Amazing team of 30 most beautiful individuals. Photo by Chu Hwai

Yours tryly handing out on the roof. Nailing it. Photo by Janice Tan

Yours truly handing out on the roof. Nailing it. Photo by Janice Tan

Team Roof! Photo by Toh RongRong

Team Roof! Photo by Toh RongRong

And this is the collage of the transformation. Thank you Cris Solis Chen for the picture.
Epic build #21 - photo by Cris Solis Chen

Thank you for reading and please let me know if you have any questions or comments – would love to hear your thoughts :-)

How-to's, Malaysia

12 best places to eat in KL

April 24, 2014

I just discovered this cool app for creating your own city guides and couldn’t wait to share it with you. And what a great way to finally put together a list of my most favourite places to eat and chill in KL!

It’s called Jauntful and you should check it out if you are, like me, using Google maps or Foursquare lists to share your finds with others.

Here’s the 12 best places to eat in KL, as I know it:

Hidden gems of KL

You can also download the printable version here.

And please let me know in the comments below if you know a good place in KL that’s worth checking out. Thanks!

How-to's, Malaysia

How to rent an apartment in KL

April 21, 2014

We have been living in KL for 1,5 years now and moved places three times already. I’ve been getting this question quite often and thought it might come handy to those of you who are looking for a long-term rental in KL.

It really depends on where you work, how big your family is, what’s your budget etc etc. We are a young couple working in Bangsar and we had some very important must-haves in mind for our dream apartment.

1. It has to be close to work. So I defined ‘close’ first – max 20 mins drive // close to the LRT line (we have a station right in our office building).

We were considering a house in Puchong. That would be cheaper, yes, and a house, BUT the daily commute would take around 2 hours. Every day. That was a deal breaker.

2. I needed an oven. That’s not very common in KL to have ovens. Note that they will always be electrical too.

3. I didn’t care about the bathtub, but I wanted a very distinct separation of the bathroom/toilet from the living areas. In the previous apartment we had sliding glass doors to the bathroom. Trust me, you don’t want to go through this relationship trial :-)

4. Any additional amenities such as the pool, gym etc would be great to have.

5. Shops/cafes/any life around. I’ll explain this one too: in our previous place there was close to nothing around. And you wouldn’t be able to walk anywhere. It’s hard to explain, but to get to the condo, you need to drive to it. No sidewalks.

So this in mind, I browsed two local websites: this one and this one. iProperty also has an app. From start of search until you get the key, it usually takes 1,5-2 months. That’s a good safe estimate. Of course, it’s also possible to find something in less than a month.

A couple of tips on how to rent an apartment in KL:

1. Narrow down your search area

2. Browse online and make a list of condos/housing areas you like in the area

3. Contact a couple of agents (I prefer texting them as it’s sometimes hard for me to understand the accent, plus you’ll be able to keep track of who’s responsible for which unit/condo)

4. Schedule a couple of viewings so you get a good idea of the condo/area.

5. Once you decide on the short list of condos, hunt for the best apartment there. Usually it’s only a few agents per condo so you don’t need to chase 10 different agents.

6. Here the agents are on the landlord’s side, not yours. Negotiate hard.

7. If you sign a 2-year contract (while 1 year is usually the minimum), you can negotiate a better price.

8. Always check who pays for Indah water, management fees, aircon servicing, Internet installation (this one’s rarely your landlord’s responsibility, be ready to sign your own contract and file a deposit), what furniture is included and take pictures of EVERYTHING before you move in and discuss EVRY SINGLE detail (so by the time you move out and need your deposit back you don’t end up with questions like “did you replace the shower hose? What’s that little stain on the wall? What do you mean you forgot you need to service both aircons every quarter?”)

9. Deposit and other costs. It’s usually 2 rents (1 is an advance payment for the first month) + 1 full rent cost goes for utilities deposit (rarely it’s 1/2) + stamping fee for the rental agreement (around 300rm) + any other deposit for access cards, parking, Internet installation etc.

So be prepared to part with $1,5-2k at once and only get them back in a year (or 2, whichever contract you signed).

10. Be nice with your landlord. And neighbors. And the management office of your building (every condo has its own).

If you’re curious, we now live in Camellia, Bangsar South and were also considering Centrio, but it was above our budget.

Hope it was helpful. Please let me know in the comments below if you have any further questions, I’d be happy to share more information with you.

Travels

3 movies that inspire to travel

April 20, 2014

How often do you travel? How do you decide “now is the time to book a trip”? I really love going places and discovering new things, but there are times when you need to be home/wherever your base is and do whatever it is that you’re doing. Here are 3 movies that I watched recently and wanted to share with you. These movies inspire to travel. Tested and proven.

Movies that inspire to travel_featured

They are very inspiring, they are not all exactly about travelling, but are showing the beautiful world, precious moments and happiness.

1. Home. The history of a voyage

2.The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

3. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

BONUS: Enisei (in Russian) – a documentary about life in one of the remote areas in Russia.

UPDATE: Anton just found it in English too :-)

Malaysia

Garage 51

January 18, 2014

Garage 51 is a nice indie coffee place that we went the other day to have brunch with a friend. It was a gloomy rainy day, but gloomy in a nice way, in my favourite way. In Europe Autumn feels like it: it’s a bit dark, slightly foggy, very humid, it’s a weekend and you know you have the whole day to yourself and right now you are going to wrap a blanket around and walk barefoot to the kitchen and make a very good cup of coffee just as you like it and have a lazy breakfast with a book or just daydreaming.

It was the same mood, all but for the blanket and Europe part – the +30C are not exactly the same as +5C, not that I’m complaining or anything.

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The place is literally a garage in the middle of a busy area with car repair shops and other industrial entourage. What can I say? Coffee’s really good, food is good, the atmosphere is just amazing. And the lovely murmur reminded me of the Coffitivity app I use to concentrate.

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p.s. have you noticed my new beautiful header a friend of mine Yi Ning designed? I love it, thank you so so much Yi Ning!!

Diving

Diving saga. Part 3. What to see in Tioman [video]

January 9, 2014

So the dive saga continues with the video this time! If you’re unsure what to see in Tioman, go under the sea!

We saw a shark, moray eel, blue spotted ray and so much fish that if I list all the names you’ll get tired of scrolling, also there were turtles, scorpion fish, nudibranchs and coral, coral, coral.

Here’s proof. This is what diving is like.

Anton did all the shooting and the rest I did all by myself! My first ever video editing, yep, the wife of the videographer. And you can also hear what diving is like: bubbles, breathing and an occasional boat passing above.

Let me know if you like this kind of stuff, I have some more to share.

Just in case you’re missing out, here’s part 1 and part 2 of this Diving Saga.

Cheers,

Olya

Diving

Diving saga. Part 2. Tioman diving

December 28, 2013

Starfish

Learning diving is fun. There’s so much written about it, so many questions answered and experiences shared. I won’t repeat the Internet, I’ll use the famous tattoo quote: If you’re not sure, don’t do it. That is to answer the question of “Oh, should I learn? It’s scary, right? Will it hurt?

Tioman reef

It’s an experience, it’s not hard, it’s a lot of information and new skills to learn but it’s just like learning to drive – it’s common sence knowledge. But it opens a whole new world to explore!

Fish school

When you do specialty dives in Advanced Open Water course, you need to choose which 3 you’ll do additionally to navigation and deep dive. I chose fish ID (where you sketch down fish underwater and then sit with a book and find which ones you saw), photo dive, and hm.. I don’t remember now, but was fish-related too. Tioman diving has so much to offer, you have everything there – ship wrecks, abundance of fish, coral, deep dives, shallow dives – everything!

Pipefish

I LOVE FISH! Following one to see where it goes, what it does, the busy underwater life, awww. Apparently most of the divers have a certain passion for something. Some take macro pictures, some try to spot a certain fish family, some like wreck diving and some can’t live without night dives. I discovered mine – it’s fish.

Red breasted wrasse

Here and above are the pictures our instructor Fahmi took over the entire week of our learning.

Giant pufferfish

Fahmi is a great admirer of nudibranchs – those are teeny tiny fellas that you won’t even notice if you don’t pay attention. But with macro mode and some flash you can see how beautiful they are!

Nudibranch

Nudibranch

Nudibranch couple

This is the white eyed moray eel. White eye = not dangerous

Tiny white eyed moray eel

Tiny moray eel

Not to mention tiny:

I said tiny moray eel

In my next Diving Saga I’ll have a video where you can see how small this eel really is.

This Moray eel is quite dangerous though:

Moray eel

And not so tiny

Moray eel and Anton

And this one. The scorpion fish. If you touch the spine, you might not make it to the shore:

Scorpion fish

Thanks to Fahmi we never missed a fish hiding. This bamboo shark hides very well.

Bamboo shark

Bamboo shark

The highlight of that day was the turtle we spotted.

Hawksbill turtle

Hawksbill turtle

Thanks to Fahmi, he tried to fit both of us + the marine life into one shot :-)

Hawksbill turtle

Hawksbill turtle

That’s all for today. If you ever go diving to Tioman, let me know, I’ll introduce you to the best instructor on the island. And stay tuned for the video (that I’m making all by myself, yes, me, all by myself) and please leave your email address all the way down on the left so you won’t miss it, mmkay?

p.s. The Diving Saga continues here.

Malaysia

Penang Penang

December 26, 2013

So after a year of living in Malaysia we finally went to Penang. I know I know..
It will probably take another year to now go to Cameron Highlands.

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I was always wondering where is all the old and vintage and historical in KL? Well, it’s all in Penang.
And some of it is also left in Melaka. It now makes perfect sense. Look!

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So 4,5 hours by car, 53 ringgit for all the TOLLs and you’re in Penang. Whoa, what an interesting town!

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People were saying “Eat all the food!” and rolling their eyes with the “Mmmmm” (apparently Penang is all about food). I meaaaaaan, I dunoooooo. The food was good, no doubts, the mamaks were better than those two across the office in Bangsar, but I probably need another try with someone local guiding me through the hidden gems of food spots. Like that naan place in Melaka.

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We wandered around and only on the second day started to understand the city.

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Oh, and we were introduced to Zach! The guy who paints all thise iconic murals in Penang! Woohoo, I know a celebrity :-)

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And now I’ll leave you with all the silly talk and let you enjoy these beautiful pictures Anton took:

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By the way. There’s a subscribe form right at the bottom, so please keep scrolling all the way down, type your email address and I’ll send you an email every time a new post is up. No spam and not too often, I promise. Do we have a deal? Thanks and talk to you soon!