West malaysia, a modern country with a modern society where muslims, christians, hindu’s and many other religions live peacefully together. In this setting we will spend our remaining 3 weeks.
What is a better place to start then to start in the city with the best food in South East Asia?
Our plane landed late in the evening in Penang and we hopped onto a bus to the city of George Town. When we arrived there all the stores and restaurants where already closed so we saw the rats enjoing their feasts in the trash on the side of the road. But swiftly we arrived in the comfort of our hotel and fell asleep.
The next morning we ate our slices of toast and handed in our laundry, ready to begin our George Town adventure.
There was a sightseeing walk in our Lonely Planet and we decided to do it.
The first thing we found out is that there’s truely a heat-strike going on in Malaysia. It was SO HOT! But the walk was fun anyway. The walk led us through the different areas of the town. It started in China town and took us through India-street (where we had a delicious lunch), china-india-street and ended in the Armenian district. Years ago the city was just a bit boring according to the city council. So they hired a group of artists to go nuts with big murals through the city. And it seems to work! The city looks really cool. The heritage of different cultures is found in the houses. Our hotel is an old Chinese house for example. But a house further could look like an old greenish Portugese-style building. In between this clash of cultures you’ll find those big murals. Truth be told, must murals involve cats.
So what about the food?
We had our fare share of fine South East Asian dining for the last 6 months. So we know it’s al good. But to be quite frank, it didn’t make us say WOW. I think when you visit Malaysia you’ll never be disappointed with their style of cooking. Whenether it’s Malay Style, Indian or Chinese the food is cooked with a smile and that comes back in the taste.
One bus ride later we arrived in the Cameron Highlands. The highlands filled with Tea and Strawberries. The tea plantations here are stunning. I rarely drink tea, but this view will make you want to drink your fresh cup of tea. It’s not all tea here, there’s also the Mossy Forrest. One of the oldest bits of forrest in the world. How old? Try +-260000000 years old. Thats old I hear you say. Yes thats hella old! But it still looked green and it lived up to it’s name, there indeed was a lot of moss. On the way back we visited the Butterfly Garden. Where we held a Green Leaf Snake and where the butterflies didn’t want to get of Julie.
Apperantly there should be some nice trackings in the Cameron Highlands, but we saved our strenght for our next destination.
When you say Jungle you say The Amazone and Julie and Hidde are in the jungle all the time! True, true, fair enough. But did you know the oldest bit of rainforest in the world is in Taman Negara, Malaysia? No ofcourse not, we didn’t know that either. But it’s fact, no fiction.
Taman Negara is a village next to a river. Across this river there’s jungle. The Taman Negara National Park. This protected forest gives home and shelter to a lot of trees but also, Tigers, Black Panters, Panters, Rhinocerous, Gibbons, Tapirs, Elephants and what not!
So Julie and I felt adventurous and booked a 2 day trekking through a dense piece of rain forest. Arriving at the meeting point we had to pack our bags. 4 bottles of water each, 1 can of sardines, 1 can of beans, 4 packs of noodles, 1 bread, 1 pack of candles, 1 pack of cookies, 2 sleeping mats and 2 sleepingbags. This finally fitted into my big backpak and Julie’s smaller backpak, ready to go!
We hopped onto the boat and went to the Canopy Walk trail. A 30 meters high parcours between the trees. Back with our feet on the ground it was time to get aboard of the boat again and get deeper into the jungle. We got excited already when we spotted our first Rhinocerous Hornbill (google link). After a hour and a half we arrived to the beginning of our hike. 8,4km to the first checkpoint.
This is the track Julie and I hoped for many times. No wooden walkingboard pathways, no markers, just a guide, jungle and us.
The forest is absolutely beautiful. Really amazing to walk through it. It’s weird to describe it. But a forest that dense and old is something really special and we’re glad it’s protected. After an hour we saw some Gibbon monkeys, not much time to watch them because we had to be at the checkpoint before dark.
Luckily we made it right in time. Oh, I forgot to mention where we would sleep. We slept in… a cave! So we gathered fire wood. Made a fire with a lot of smoke to keep the bats and insects away and layed our sleepingbags around the fire.
Our guide Pedro cooked us jungle dinner and told us a jungle myth about the number 23. Apparently in the past 20 years some people got lost in this jungle and some of them even died there. But all the people who got lost had one thing in common. They where all 23…
After this scary jungle legend it was time to try to sleep in our cave. It was a bit scary. When I first slept I woke up by a ratteling sound and I saw Pedro’s torchlight pointing to the dishes. A porcupine came into our cave to have a late-night snack. I fell asleep again and when I woke up a while later he was still eating. Early in the morning it got a bit cooler in the cave and the bats started flying back in. Julie and I decided to go out with the 2 of us to walk around a bit and spot some earlybirds in the forest.
It was kinda scary to walk without a guide through the sounds of the jungle. But we where brave and curious enough to do so. The first animal we saw was a woodpecker. Cute bird, strong head. He kept on drilling until we were distracted by another sound. WOOSH, WOOSH, WOOSH. Some sorth of wooshing sound was around us. We went looking to the direction of the sound. We remembered Pedro saying the day before: sometimes you hear the Rhinocerous Hornbills flying. This Hornbill is really big. So you can hear the flapping of the wings. After hearing it we also saw the 2 lovebirds. Yes, hornbills are monogamous, they stay with one partner all their lives and if one dies they remain single widows till they die too. Romantic birds 🙂
Back in the cave everyone was still sleeping so we climbed to the window of the cave and there we saw a group of gibbons swinging in the trees.
Back in the cave Pedro gave me the assignment to build a bread toaster on the fire. When I was around the age of 8 I joined the scouts for one year. But they never learned me how to build a toaster on a wood fire… But I managed to create an amazing toaster. When Pedro came back we upgraded my toaster with bamboo wood so the toaster wouldn’t set fire.
The trail, from that point on was still 8,4km. So we packed our belongings, said goodbye to the cave and went on.
The first stop was 30 minutes later. Another cave. This one filled with bats and creepy crawlers. After exploring we got back on the trail to find the river for lunch break. But before we reached the river we all got thirsty. What do you do when your thirsty in the rainforrest? Exactly, you cut a white liana and drink from the water that drips out of the end.
Pedro told us that if we where lucky we could swim in the river. Unfortunatly the river was really shallow. Ankle deep. But still very nice to sit with your feet in the water. Pedro cooked us jungle maggi noodles with sardines and we enjoyed eating it. After washing the dishes in the river we started walking again and passed by some obstacles. We had to cross 2 dryed out rivers on fallen down trees. We used them as a bridge to cross the river. Pretty dangerous, if you’d lose your balance you could easily fall down 3/4 meters. Tired as we were we gathered all our focus and survived.
Not long after that we reached the river where the boat was waiting for us. We’d finished the trail!
Before we got back on the mainland we took a stop at a Batek village. Batek people are actually native Malaysian people with Africans roots living in the forests of Taman Negara for a long, long time. And we got to meet them and learn a bit about their habits.
We didn’t really speak with them, but we learned how to make a fire and hunt with a blowpipe the Batek way! Pretty cool!
We said goodbye to the Bateks and ran into the river, we where longing to wash ourselves after 2 sweaty days and a sweaty night with bats and prorcupines in the cave. So we ran in with our underware and a couple of minutes later 3 other boats arrived filled with malaysian tourist who also wanted to go for a swim. They all ran in fully dressed and a hilarious clash of cultures was created. 6 western persons half nude and 30/40 Malaysians fully dressed looking at eachother.
We feld a bit underdressed and almost too embarased to get out of the water.
When we arrived at the hotel we took a well deserved shower went for dinner and drank a beer with Pedro. And then, finally, a good nights rest.
The next day we started lazy. But we had some energy left for a walk through the jungle. We decided after talking with one of the park guides, to do the ‘short and easy’ trail.
It started off easy, but then we had to climb for 1,8km. After that we had to walk down a really steep and old pathway with rotten pieces of wood who’d once formed a stair down at some places. So they made it more difficult. When we reached the foot of the mountain we lost the markers, so we gambeled to go right to find out that we walked with the river stream goinging the wrong way. We where going up, but we had to go down. We found our way really quick and when we got back to the park entrance we treated ourselfs on ice-cream.
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