Saturday, February 24, 2007

Wake Up To A Day In Tioman

C'est magnifique.
Turbo Props
40 minutes away from Singapore's Seletar Airport by Berjaya Air's 48-seater Dash 7s are the white beaches and azure waters of Tioman Island, gleaming off the East coast of Malaysia. The days were nothing less than hot and sunny right through. Unusual, we were told, for a monsoon season.

The tide was high in the mornings, good for sand in the underpants before breakfast (doing our bit for the Singapore construction industry, no doubt), smiling in sunnies and straw hats, the excitement of suntan oil on hot skin, swimming snorkelling with fishes, giving a wide berth to sea urchins clustered about like sea mines, and diving whilst beset by jellyfish. And also for chapped lips from one regulator too many in the gob.

At Renggis Island, where underwater visibility was excellent though surface current was strong, a vibrant reef system spread out its colourful wares in glorious magnanimity. I proved to be a clumsy oaf amongst the dense nimble schools of Scissortail Sergeants (closely followed by crescent warusses) who came alongside for a look and a peck on the goggles, then left me far behind with a few nonchalant swishes of the tail. Small sting rays fluttered along the seabed, countless clownfish(?) flirted with the corals, and everywhere swam silver and bluefaced angelfish, butterflyfish, yellow pufferfish, rather stonyfaced groupas, golden trevally escorts, gaudy napoleanfish...As Faithless said (but in a completely different context) so much more than I thought this world could ever contain. The dive centre enthused about Boris the barracuda who was resident in those parts, but didn't see a fin of him.
Beach Reading for Low Tides
Drowsy afternoons, when the tide was low, were for alternately lapping in the pool and reading and throwing frisbees on the beach. One day, we managed to rouse ourselves enough for a speedboat sea taxi to Salang, where there were 3 dive centres, monitor lizards lounging in the river, milkshakes and fruit juices at Salang Dreams Café and passable fare from the little Ramly burger hut nextdoor.
Dinner at Barbura Seafood Restaurant
Nights were for being "deceived, by trees!", and beers (yay, dutyfree island) and seafood dinners at Barbura Seafood Restaurant, next to the black nothingness of the wide calm sea. There, cats curled round your shins in calm lazy search of a scrap of black pepper crab, and ravenousness sated, you were welcome to lie back on the weathered planks outside and gaze up at the glistening constellations above, unknowable lightyears away, the twinkling, perhaps, of now-dead stars.
"Look," said someone,"is that an airplane there, under the moon?"
"No lah. It's the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. With flashing lights."
Pool not Billards
Some nights, there were also arcade games and countless rounds of pool and karaoke (all before the clock struck 2 in the morning).
Elvis - Original Beach Boy
Public karaoke sessions in rank smoky bars meant loads of drinks, Swedish girls singing ABBA, German boys whopping La Bamba, crazy dancing to Senggol-senggolan, drunk boorish Teutonic retirees befuddledly blocking the karaoke screen, and trying to shake a particularly sticky dance cover of Moonlight Shadow (Shadow) out of our ears.
Supper and Dancing
After karaoke, the party continued into the early hours on the edge of the cliff, courtesy of makeshift stalls touting murtabak, satay, and roti john for supper, teh tarik for a washdown, a strolling Filipino band with a vast repertoire, and an enthusiastic crowd of pop-collared frat boys and girls living up their year out.

And we cannot forget this: departing from the tiny Tioman airport, someone went in search of ice-cream and managed to return with a 1-litre bottle of Glenmorangie.

Trust John Piper for a pithy quote (though his theology is, at times, vague and therefore questionable). This one, purportedly from "In The Godward Life", has been making its rounds:
Jesus Christ is refreshing, but flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word, but then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.
Thank God for the luxury of time out to catch up on sleep, faff about, and think clearly away from the muddied hustling and bustling, and to get my bearings right and home in on his kingdom. It sux arse to, in the clearing air, gaze upon the continued corruption of my own sinfulness. But sin is sin and there is no excuse of exhaustion or self-righteousness for what is ultimately rebellion against God.

Thank God salvation is by grace and not works! How completely undeserved it is.

Thank God, also, for his kingdom that is infinitely and vastly more than me and my timeout; his vast ordered kingdom chugging along to fulfilment in human history which is ultimately to his glory, for who else is worthy of such majesty?

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

The Sun Sets on Tioman
Not meant to be a naff inspirational pic

(In other news, David Jackman will be back in Singapore this year for Project Timothy's Ministry Matters. Details here.)

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At February 24, 2007 1:26 am , Blogger J said...

I don't understand. I was told by several locals to stay away from P. Tioman right now. And here I am looking at your photo and hearing about it.

What the heck was I thinking?

At February 27, 2007 12:50 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

At lease the shadow wore underwear


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