Straights of Melaka

The Girls

Tammy Chillin'

May 18, 2001 (39-days)

Apa kabar? (How are you? Sound familiar? Fortunately a lot of the words are the same in Indonesian and Malay)

Malaysia is a nice mix of islands, highlands, rainforest and city life. After seven months of travel, I’m really enjoying the islands with the slower pace and chilled atmosphere. In my travels I visited Melaka, Tioman Island, Taman Negara National Park, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, Pulau Perhentian Kecil, and Kota Bharu.

After checking out the Straits of Melaka and getting a refresher in history, I headed for Tioman Island. On the way to the island I met two 20-year-old Muslim girls and they took me under their wing – they made sure I got on the right bus and boat. They were going to the island for practical study at the posh hotel. It was fun talking with them about their religion and different views. I learned that they start wearing the scarf on their head when they are 7-years-old. Not all of the women wear it, perhaps things are changing.

I had an interesting dive at Tioman Island, where the triggerfish are very territorial. Before we went in the water the dive master gave us a warning. I thought he was overreacting, since I’d already seen triggerfish in Indonesia. When we dropped down on our second dive the dive master indicated to get behind him and pulled out his knife. A triggerfish with vicious looking teeth, charged at us. We kicked our fins at it as we backed away. It left and then attacked us four more times. I realized how rapid my breathing was and couldn’t imagine a shark attack. There are stories of fins and flesh being bitten by these finned creatures, most are harmless.

Other creatures… the Monitor Lizards on the islands are huge; they look like alligators. Fortunately they are quite timid, because they seem to spend more time on land than they do in the streams.

I saw a tornado between the mainland and Tioman Island. I was a little nervous as I watched the tip of the funnel lifting up the sea as the dark clouds gathered. I wondered where I would go if it came towards the island. I looked at the wooden shacks around me and was relieved to see the funnel disappear.

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