Well Lewis the Lion had arrived on the west coast of Malaysia during the monsoon season because of which the ferry crossings to Mersing had been reduced to one a day, leaving at 9 o’clock in the morning. One of the first things he did therefore on arriving in Mersing was to go down to the jetty to purchase his ticket for the next morning.
There were a pile of shoes and flip-flops in pairs strewn higgledy-pigglety beside the door entrance to the ferry ticket office and Helen asked if she also needed to take off her shoes too? She was greeted with a nod and a scowl but as she hurriedly explained that she’d only been in Malaysia for less than an hour, the scowl warmed into a smile. There were more smiles all round in the office when Helen tried to say thank you in Malay after buying her ticket ‘Terima kasi.’
She realised that Lewis the Lion was right all this time and that his magic words really did help to break down barriers and allow her to start to connect with people. One of the boys even joked that he was English too and the next day back at the ferry terminal, they were all eager to say hello to Helen and Lewis the Lion again! (Look out for Malay and Indonesian on the Lewis Loves Languages section).
They were told to arrive at 8 am and were issued with a boarding card and given a seat number on the ferry.
Lewis the Lion and Helen were some of the first to arrive
but in no time at all there was a throng of people, bustling around the ferry port with backpacks, suitcases, boxes, crates, pet cages and fishing rods. It was certainly going to be a full ferry this morning!
Once the ferry had arrived, the crowd surged forward through the gate, presenting their boarding cards before queuing again to board the ferry. Once aboard, Lewis the Lion and Helen were on the top tier of the ferry and so could watch out of the window as they went.
It took the ferry another half an hour before it was fully loaded up and set sail. Luckily for Lewis the Lion and Helen they were sat next to a lovely family who showed them a map of Tioman as they were also going there on their holiday. They even let Helen send a quick text message to her hotel owner as her Australian pay-as-you-go SIM card had run out of credit!
The ferry crossing took a couple of hours, stopping off at a couple of ports before it was Lewis the Lion and Helen’s turn to disembark in Tekek.
The first thing that happened as Helen stepped off the ferry was that her glasses steamed up!
Both she and Lewis the Lion could even see the steam rising off the water and the mist descending down the jungled mountainside.
Big, warm drops of water fell onto his head and back. He really did feel like he was in the tropics now with this hot, humid and wet weather.
The place where he was staying had organised a taxi service for him across the island but this was no ordinary taxi service but in fact a 4×4 wheel drive to take him through the jungle to the other side of the island. The driver told the passengers to wind down the window as he had done himself, even though it was raining, otherwise the windscreen would steam up. At first the car strained to climb the steep hillside but Lewis the Lion could understand why a jeep was required as the narrow road’s surface was very bumpy and uneven.
However, as they rode deeper into the steaming jungle, he felt the smile growing wider and wider across his face. The jungle was simply a beautiful place to be with trees of every imaginable variety. There were twisted telegraph cables running above the roadside and Lewis the Lion delighted in the fact that small monkeys were resting and then clambering along the top of them!
From the wet, forest floor a rather pungent rotting smell was emanating from around them…and then Lewis the Lion spotted the culprit: the big, spiky dorian fruit, the smelliest fruit on the planet!
The taxi driver asked Lewis the Lion and Helen whether they liked it? ‘No,’ they echoed in unison! It was far too smelly! The taxi driver laughed and said that many islanders loved the dorian fruit and that it was used in both sweet and savoury dishes alike. ‘It definitely must be an acquired taste,’ Lewis the Lion thought to himself.
Driving along the bumpy track, huge orange and blue butterflies chased each other in pairs. At a certain point, the driver pulled the car over by the side of the road and said they would have to walk a bit. They had to walk carefully past some workmen who were repairing part of the road and laying new concrete. Back on the road, it was fairly slippery and the driver told Lewis the Lion and Helen to watch out, especially whilst carrying her heavy rucksack.
They then came to some villagers who were gathering fruits from the trees. These where small, yellow fruits with a rubbery, soft spiky skin, about the size of a plum. Lewis the Lion had never seen them before and so the driver insisted that he try one. They were called rambutans.
At first Lewis didn’t know how to get into it. The driver showed him that you twist the skin off to reveal a white, rubbery textured fruit surrounding a small stone. Very sweet and delicious!
By the villagers, the taxi driver picked up a moped and Helen and Lewis the Lion rode pillion behind him, back on the forest track, even though they didn’t feel all together safe without a helmet. The taxi driver told them not to worry as not many people do here and besides he would drive slowly. Lewis the Lion still wasn’t a hundred percent convinced in this logic but really didn’t have a choice so he got onto the motorbike with Helen and the driver.
Before long, the road had led them down towards the beach. Helen was unsure of the name of the accommodation, only that it was on Juara Beach. The taxi driver presumed that she must be a volunteer on a Sea Turtles project running on the island and so dropped her off there. Lewis the Lion was intrigued to know more but maybe another day?
For now, the project manager directed the travellers back along the beach to Riverside View,
where Lewis the Lion had a wow moment as he looked out across the bay.
A sandy beach swept in a crescent shape, lined by palm trees and coconut trees, whilst looking up to a tropical rainforest.
His accommodation was a chalet on the beach.
A wonderful paradise here on earth and it took no time at all for Lewis the Lion and Helen to make themselves at home there.
On Helen’s daily stroll back and forth along the beach to go to the little café Kak Long Corner,
Lewis loved being dangled from her hand so that he could observe the patterns in the sand, particularly at breakfast time.
In this way, he could read the story of the night in the sand.
Criss-cross, fine lines told of crabs, whilst three prongs indicated big black birds or mynah birds (like the sort he had first been intrigued by in Australia).
But his favourite of all were the small paw prints of scampering monkeys: it was just wonderful to think of them being so close at hand.
He also loved not to see, but rather to hear the footprints of squirrels as they scampered across the roof in the evenings. However, for certain creatures he certainly wasn’t too keen on knowing that they were so close. There was Sam, the huge spider (as big as an outstretched palm) that lived in the corner of his room between the bed and the wall and then baby Priscilla, the python who lounged around on top of the roof of Chalet 5. Worst of all were the incessant, flies that would pester you at all hours of the day. Lewis the Lion felt like his tail was constantly flicking and wafting them away from his face.
For poor Helen on the other hand, she had to rely on spraying herself with a repellant and slept under a mosquito net, not that that seemed to make too much difference. The mosquitos still seemed to like to take the odd friendly bite and one sneaky one even managed to find its way under the mosquito net one night! On the plus though, generally the sand flies stayed away. They had already chased a Taiwanese and German couple away not a few days before. What Helen did discover on the island though was a unique, local treatment to take the sting out of those pesky bites: a type of limestone based paste. Insect bites however did feel like a small price to pay for this piece of paradise.
The setting reminded Lewis the Lion very much of the classic story of the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, (even though it was by the sea).
Have you read this story before or seen the Disney animation?
Which is your favourite character and why?