Monday, September 17, 2007

Tam@n Neg@ra, P@hang, M@laysia

For 15 years, my husband has been bugging me to go to T@man Neg@ra with him. I had always been reluctant to go, because I have this uncanny ability to attract mosquitoes and my skin react harshly to their bites. I rarely get one bite, I'd almost always get more than 5 bites, at least, and that was indoors, in a house in the middle of the city. I shuddered thinking how it would be in the middle of a large and old (the oldest in the world, if I'm not mistaken) virgin forest, where it would be festering with mosquitoes. Furthermore, I imagined it must be a very hostile place where people are forced to rough it out. I imagined having to camp out in the dark, amongst the wildlife (including mosquitoes and leeches) and knowing Malaysian weather, it will probably rain, and I will end up sleeping on a hard surface in a wet tent.
Then when I got kids, my apprehension increased and I had more excuses not to go. How can I bring small kids into the jungle? Only God knows what unseen beings lurk and live in those places... What if they got attracted to my cute little baby and decide to follow us home, or worse, take my baby home with them? haiyoooo tak nak pegi...!!
Don't get me wrong. I love nature and the outdoors, but I draw the line at endangering my life or sanity. I want to enjoy it, not fear it.

Well, a few weeks before we were scheduled to go back to Malaysia, Taufik brought up the subject of visiting Tam@n Neg@ra again. This time, though, he was so adamant, he almost threw a tantrum and threatened to go without me if need be.
So we browsed the tripledoubleyew for accomodations. Muti@ra was fully booked (and dayyyyuuum expensive) so we finally settled for W00dland Resorts. We read up on the activities available there, travelling tips and what to pack and planned out our trip as much as possible.
The first day we got back home, we headed for Gi@nt KJ and bought cheap walking shoes (RM15.99 sahaja babe), track pants, long sleeved t-shirts and insect repellents of all kinds (lotions and sticks and sprays, you name it, we bought it!).

Day 1

We waited for my in-laws to drive down, then we drove together to Kuala T@han. We decided to drive to the resort instead of parking our cars in Kuala Tembel1ng and then take a 2-hour boat ride to Kuala T@han. We figured it was more cost effective since a boat ride costs about RM50 per person and there were 6 adults and 4 kids in our group. A car ride takes slightly less than an hour from roughly the same spot and consumed roughly RM30 of fuel (cost may vary depending of the fuel price.. heh heh)
Our hotel was across the river from the border of the park. To get to T@man Neg@ra, we had to only take a boat to cross the river. Each ride costs RM1 per person. There were many floating restaurants that double as jetties and also offer touring services as well as food.
Since this was our first time, we decided to take the 4days/3night package offered by the hotel. It included 5 activities (guide and entrance+transportation fees covered), room and all meals. I'm sure you could just pay for the room at the hotel and seek touring facilities elsewhere. Though most of the hotel guests took the package deal, we did see a few people who went on their own.

The first night we were there, we had a Night Walk, where our tour guide Sabri took us on a walk into T@man Neg@ra at night.
Did I mention this was at night?
My mom-in-law, Anis, Izani and I did not join this activity, so we stayed in the room and watched a B-grade movie called 'Basilisk' on one of the 4 available 'satelite TV' channels. (I did not say the resort was 5-star).
The boys came back and said they saw a cricket, a spider, a bird and a deer. Or at least one of the eyes of the deer. Taufik said it could've been an eye of a goat for all he knew, but the guide said it was a deer. :laugh:
We ate some mata kucing and turned in early in anticipation of the activity the next morning ...
(The picture you see is of Anis in the park, next to the biggest Yam plant we've ever seen!)

Day 2

After breakfast, we met up with Sabri and he brought us across the river for jungle trekking and canopy walk. We carried Izani in a baby carrier so that our hands are free to hold on to trees while trekking and such, but actually he didnt stay in the carrier for long. We ended up taking turns carrying him in our arms. I am thankful that there were 6 willing adults with us :).

Along the way, our guide would point out trees and plants, telling us their names and uses. It was really amazing to see how huge some trees can grow if you just leave them alone. I'm sure loggers would prolly drool looking at the size of trees there. It was also amazing to find out how many useful and precious natural treasures we have in our forest. Only God knows what other uses are hidden among the plants there.
And having just come back from a place where there are more brown than green, all the foliage was extremely refreshing to my eyes!

The trek wasn't really difficult. The kids took it with stride and even my 60-plus mom-in-law thought it was bearable. The path is well marked and it didnt rain, so it was not slippery or mucky. There are steep bits, but the paths are so well worn that steps are carved out so it's not really dangerous.
Half of our group gave up halfway though, we didnt go right up to Terasek Hill, deciding to wait at the junction to the canopy walk instead. (yeah.. we're whimps.. what to do). We heard that the view from the top of Terasek Hill was spectacular, though. I can't tell from the pictures that was taken though, because it was all very foggy..


When the stronger half of our group got down from the hill, we continued our trek to where the entrance to the canopy walk is.
The 'canopy walk' is basically several stretches of rope bridges that connect the tops of one very tall tree to another very tall tree. The length of bridges vary from one part to another. Some are as short as 50feet, some as long as 100feet. In total, I think there are 500 feet of the rope bridge or something. Unlucky for us (or maybe lucky, depends on how you look at it), half of the canopy walk was closed for maintenance when we were there so we walked on only about 300 feet of it.
They have strict rules for walking on the rope bridges. We're not allowed to stop except at the platforms built around the tree tops. You have to keep within a certain distance from the person in front and behind you. There is a maximum number of persons allowed on the bridge and platforms at a certain time. There are rangers stationed on the platforms to guide you on when it's safe to step on the bridges/platforms. If it rains, the canopy walk would be closed for safety reasons.
All these rules did not help in appeasing my slight fear of heights. Compounded with the subtle swaying of the bridges, the gentle bouncing produced by the weight of other people stepping on it, the result was a very tummy-twisting, armpit-sweating, ketag lutut (knee-wobbling) experience. I did not look down even once during the whole walk, because looking at the size of the tree branches from where I was and knowing how big they really are from the ground was evidence enough of how high I really was.
Just like riding the rollercoaster though, no matter how scared I get during the ride, I always step off feeling like I wanted more :D
Note: Izani was kept in the carrier during the whole walk and God bless him, he slept through the whole thing.


After lunch at the hotel, we then took a sampan (long boat) ride towards Lata Berk0h, a waterfall on the Tembeling river. The scenery along the boat ride was awesome. The water was clear, the forest along the river was obviously unspoilt. With the cool spray of water hitting your face and a warm breeze brushing your cheek now and then, you can't help but feel serene and peaceful. I must say the boat ride was so beautifully surreal that I would not have been suprised to see a group of fairy princesses bathing in the river, ala Putri Gunung Ledang. In fact, at one point the gurgling of water over pebbles actually sounded like singing!
We had to get off the boat and trek in the jungle a bit before reaching the actual waterfall, but after looking at the condition and crowd at the waterfall, we decided to walk back to where the boat was parked and swim there instead.
Dont get me wrong, Lata Berkoh was nice. It had big rocks and deep pools, which is awesome for adults to swim in, but my maternal eyes see as danger spots. Most of the people there were foreign tourists and suffice to say the werent dressed appropriately enough for my mom-in-law's (and my) traditional melayu taste or my kids' innocent eyes. The spot where we end up swimming in was less 'happening' but it was good enough for my kids who had waited what felt like their whole lives to swim in the river. The water was very cool and very clear and very clean. My kids had the time of their lives!

Day 3

The next morning, we were scheduled to go on an expedition into the 'Ear Cave' (Gua Telinga), but since that activity would be dangerous for some of us, we asked Sabri for a more family-friendly activity, a visit to an aborigine settlement.
The visit was uncomfortable at first, because it felt kinda weird to just walk into someone's village and just expect to be entertained, you know. We were told not to go into their houses uninvited, which is of course, a given. I wouldnt like it if anyone came into my house uninvited either, Visit Malaysia year or not.
The aborigines were really shy folks. A few minutes after our presence was acknowledged, I saw all the women walking off with their babies in arms gather under a big tent on the farthest side of the village.
While one of the aboriginal guys prepared materials for a demonstration on making and using a blow-pipe, we mingled about talking to the children who were playing outside their houses.
The blowpipe demonstration was very interesting. They basically used things that they could find in the forest to make the pipe, but make no mistake, making a good working pipe that shoots accurately takes time and skill. We were delighted to recognize some of the plants he mentioned he used, thanks to the guided jungle trekking we did the day before.
The guy then showed us how to use the blowpipe and each one of us had a go at it. I am proud to say that I make quite a good blow-pipe-hunter-woman. I hit the target with just one blow! HA HA :laugh: (It is said that if you fail to hit the target after 3 tries, you are required to spend the night at the village before you are allowed to go home). Even Ilham and Ihsan gave it a go, and my boys would make good monkey hunters one day.
We gave the guy a 'contribution' of RM10 each, bought a few souviners (we bought a small replica of a blow pipe and my sister in law bought a bamboo comb and a rattan bangle) and said our thankyous and goodbyes. It was quite a learning and humbling experience watching how the aborogines live at one with nature.


In the afternoon we went up the T@han river, which was rougher than the Tembel1ng river. There were a few spots with white water, but not that rough that a boat can't go through. They call this 'shooting the rapids' and we were warned it advance that we would get wet, guaranteed. And get wet we did.
The ride was fun! It was mild adventure, safe enough even for the kids and baby izani. The rapids weren't really that rough to the point that you'd fear for your life, but rough enough to be exciting. And as if we didnt get sprayed enough by the rapids, our guide Sabri assisted in spraying us more with the help of his hand in the water and a bucket.
On the way back from shooting the rapids, we stopped by a place called Nus@ Camp, where there is a small river that feeds into the main T@han river, and we got a few hours to play with the water there. The kids had a lot of fun splashing in the cold water again.



We had no further activities later in the afternoon, so we said our goodbyes and thankyous to Sabri, who had been such a wonderful, friendly, understanding and educational guide to us.

Ilham had seen a poster for paintball games at another hotel near ours, so we decided to indulge him just this once. The kids (and their ayah) had fun having a go with the paintball gun. From his stance and actions at the game area, it was really obvious that Ilham was living out his fantasy of being a soldier in a war. I am glad he had fun.
I hope to not hear another request for paintball though, unless someone else is paying for it. This game is dayum expensive!

Day 4

After breakfast, we settled our bills and packed up to leave. We timed our journey just so that we could stop for lunch in Temerloh for Gulai Tempoyak Ikan Patin, then drove back home, tired but satisfied.

All in all, I think our stay in Taman negara was well worth the time and money. It was really nothing like expected nor like I had imagined it would be.
There were not that many mosquitoes and we didnt even see one leech. Perhaps the dry season (June - August) is the reason, because it did not rain even once when we were there.
The place was not as remote or uncivilized as we thought, especially since we were not staying in the park itself, but in a village outside of the park (and crossing the river when we need to, to get into the park). There was even a pasar malam (night market) on the Wednesday night we were there.

The activities within the package offered by the hotel was just nice, we thought. It wasnt too hectic and there were ample time for rest and to perform our spiritual duties in between activities. The activities that we chose were also not too extreme and was do-able by every age group that were with us.
In terms of our hotel, the accomodations were okay. The rooms were comfortable and spacious and the housekeeping was excellent. The food was so-so though. For the amount of money we paid, we think we could've have gotten better food (and choices) from the floating restaurants outside the hotels. Having our meals at the hotel was very convenient, though.
There are of course other accomodations around the Kuala Tahan village, those that offer less (or more) amenities, depending on what you're looking for. From hostel-type accomodations for the backpackers, to 5-star bungalows right smack in the jungle (in Mut1ara Tam@n neg@ra resort) for those who can afford (or dont know better).

Well, there you go, my review for Taman Neg@ra. I hope that I have inspired you to plan for your next holiday :)

7 comments:

  1. laaa you didn't look down from the canopy walk? kind of beats the purpose of the walk, no?

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  2. wehh.. takut, siot.

    takut tapi syiok, boleh?

    Tapikan, kalau nak kira, untuk kita2 locals, canopy walk and mandi sungai and jumpa org asli tu aje yang kira syiok.
    untuk mat-mat salleh, diorang a bit jakun kan tengok hutan, cengkerik, monyet etc, so segala-galanya syiok tahap gaban lah kira.
    Nempak semut pun berenti perati.
    tee hee.

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  3. bagus juga idea tu. one my collegue also bring his 60+ yold mother to the TN last school holiday. my Wans (the old and the young) are now into fishing @ Dungung with my BIL who just bought a boat. pantang cuti je, zoooommm to Dungung.

    -ninuk

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  4. percayalah kalau i ada kat situ i akan goncang goncang itu canopy walk. dan berlari lari.

    dengan segera mem back up post nampak

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  5. hahaha! i trust lollies would do that hehehe.

    talking about mat-mat salleh tu, cengkerik, monyet etc tu kira ok la tapi semut? lol. you're not exaggerating eh? hehehehe

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  6. at least you only have a "slight" fear of heights. I, have a Major fear of heights.

    hahaha

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  7. wowwwww... that's something new and different! so adventurous! your review has made me want to go to taman negara, mostly becoz i so want to meet an orang asli. :D

    ReplyDelete