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Looking for a short trip this coming September school holidays, I decide to go to Rawa Island. This is a privately-owned island about half hour boat ride from Mersing. Mersing is a small little town that has not much attractions to woo tourists. It is a ferry point to the many offshore islands (eg: Tioman, Rawa, Besar, Tinggi and others) in Johor..
Tour agencies and boat ticketing counters at Mersing Jetty
As usual, to prepare my trip, I searched the web for countless hours for any useful information. Sad to say, it is difficult to find many good websites pertaining to Rawa. If the place you are going is not a tourist attraction, it is even more difficult to gather information. For example, if I am finding information about Tioman, I am sure I have no problem in getting facts about this once-paradise island.
Checking with some of travel agencies that offer coach service to Mersing, I find it is not favourable for me. Firstly, the departure time is at about 6.45am along Golden Mile Complex, Beach Road. We have to be there half an hour earlier before departure time. Secondly, the price of coach ticket is S$20 one way to Mersing. Some charge extra S$10 for peak period (weekends, public and school holidays). With that disadvantage, I tell myself to purchase the coach tickets from Johor Bahru.
So one Sunday, I went down to Merlin Tower along Jalan Wong Ah Fook, JB. At the ground floor of Merlin Tower, there are many small counters selling coach tickets to various places of Peninsular Malaysia. I had no luck. Coach ticket to Mersing can only be bought at Larkin bus terminal, I was informed. I must mention here that I was rather impressed with the helpfulness of the counter service staffs at Merlin Tower. When I approached them and wanted to buy coach ticket to Mersing, instead of just saying “No”, they directed me to go to Larkin. This is the kind of social friendliness I experience many times while in Malaysia.
Few agencies run coach service to Mersing. Luckily, I know one agency because I had taken it before. It is the Johora Express. I bought 2 adult tickets at RM9 each and child ticket at RM5. Departure time is at 9.00 am. Total amount was RM23(about S$10.65).
We took Johora Express from Larkin Bus Terminal to Mersing
The exchange rate was S$1=RM2.16 at that day. A very favourable exchange rate indeed. If I buy the tickets in Singapore, the amount will be S$60 for 3 tickets. Some of you may think I am crazy to take the trouble to come all the way to JB just to purchase 3 bus tickets. For me, I take it as an outing/shopping trip. The proximity of my home to the causeway is another factor. City Square which is next to Merlin Tower is the upmarket shopping mall in JB. Over the weekends, many Singaporean day trippers will go there to shop and dine. Again the favourable exchange is a major factor. I bought Body Essence wash for RM7.66 compared to S$6.50 sold in Singapore ! However, not to my amazement, not every thing sold there is cheap. On the 2nd September, we woke up early to make the trip to Larkin bus terminal. We left at about 6.45 am though the bus departure time was 9.00 am. The reason why we were early was because we intended to avoid the jam at the causeway. To our surprise, the queue at the causeway was manageable. It is better to be early than never make it. You never know ! Another surprise was the bus to Mersing was not full though it was a Sunday and school holiday.
It took us about two and half hours to reach our destination. Along the way, I noticed there was much development going on since my last visit. Housing developments like Sri Saujana and Desa Terbau are vast and springing up. This is a good sign for the country. On the other hand, more trees and vegetations have to give way for new developments. Reaching Mersing at about 11.30 am, we alighted where the R&R Plaza is located. Here is the ferry point and you can find many travel agencies offering accommodation and boat transfers to the islands. I did not notice much change in the place. Because the boat leaving to Rawa Island is at 12.00 pm, I had to hurry to find where was Rawa Safaris office. I did not want to miss the boat. I had no much time to look around. Asking around, I managed to locate the office and did the necessary registration and payment. You need to pay for your accommodation before you are transferred to the island.
Jetty at Mesing where we took the express boat to Rawa Island
With its 53 bungalows spreading across the island, we were quickly brought to our ‘home’ for the next two nights. This is a no-frill room with no television, no phone, no mini-bar, no water heater, no kettle, no potable water. Water from the shower tap tasted kind of salty ! The only comfort we had was the air-con and attached bathroom. I do not mind but somehow I still feel the room rate is expensive for this kind of facilities offered.
Room is basic but acceptable
I love the lush and solitude and of course the patio
What I liked about this room is the patio. Amid the rustic surroundings, this is a nice natural environment. Imagine waking up to the rhythmic crowing of the cockerel, the raucous chorus of the birds and the swaying of the coconut trees in the comfort endless supply of the cool breeze. For once, I felt I was living in a kampung. If only the staff of this resort will be more friendly, this will be a very ideal place to spend your vacation.
It was very hot when we were there. So, sunglass and sun-block lotion are useful items to bring along. For drinking water, we had to refill our water bottles from the resort only restaurant called Cafe de Rawa many times. This is also the only place for your food. Unfortunately, the seafood I ordered was not fresh. The first day’s breakfast was buffet style. If you have stayed in a city hotel, you will find the breakfast quite miserable. For our second day’s breakfast, the ABF contained a piece of toasted bread and some scrambled eggs ! It was insufficient for my 10 year old daughter, let alone for me ! A very ridiculous serving indeed. I have never had such a miserable breakfast of my life in a hotel as this !
My intention was to spend the second day going for island hopping. However, I changed my mind for two reasons. Firstly was the lukewarm response when I enquired from the recreation staff. It was a take-it-or-leave it attitude that had somewhat muted my enthusiasm. Secondly, I agreed with my wife why not spend the day at the beach instead. It was a decision that I did not regret. We had an enjoyable time snorkelling and swimming. Besides, I saved some money on island hopping too.
Crystal clear water
A beautiful beach – almost all to yourself
I always think there is only one resort Rawa Safaris in the island. However, after some exploration, I learned that there are two different resorts. We were staying in Rawa Safaris Island Resort. The other side of the island is the Le Rawa Club, a more laid-back and smaller scale resort. If you like to know more this laid-back resort, you can contact ALang @ 012-7279559.
Rustic and charming
It was an enjoyable trip for us despite some unforseen “hiccups”. We left Rawa island with a golden tan and some irritable sandfly bites.
I took this picture in 2001. Now in 2013 where I posted here, I wonder how has RAWA evloved over the years……
We took a cab back to Larkin for RM80.00. Return coach tickets to Johor or Singapore were sold out