Taman Negara

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So we caught a bus with 3 members of Team Malta (One went to meet a friend in KL for 2 days) to the Jungle and nature reserve, Taman Negara.  There is only one resort inside the park and it’s ridiculously expensive so we did what everyone else does and stays in the town across the narrow river.  On the bus, Team Malta picked up a stray German girl to complete the foursome.  Our 5 hour bus took 7 hours so it was quite late in the evening when we arrived.  We found a “hotel” just up the road (like 10m) from the bus station.  They had a room that would sleep 5… but there’s 6 of us.  He said he could add another mattress and when we asked “How much?” he responded with a smile, “free!”  Our price worked out to 18RM each which was way better than the 65RM Kristi and I normally end up paying for a private room.  

Just one thing… I was the only male in this room of estrogen.  I decided that it would likely be in my best interest to just shut my mouth for the next two nights since there is no way I can win any battle here.  Maybe if I blend in, they will see me as one of them. I really hope their cycles don’t line up tomorrow.  

Kristi asked the guy in the office if they had wifi.. his response was “Welcome to the jungle!” He gave her the wifi password and warned us that sometimes they have wifi and a lot of times they don’t.  I managed to get 1 bar which was enough to keep me entertained at night.  

Now we need food.  But it’s 6:30pm and this entire town is Muslim so they’re all fasting for Ramadan.  In fact, nothing appears to be open which sucks because we want to book a tour tonight.  We find a restaurant on the water and go for a walk.  I need laundry done too since Perhentian was 8RM/kg and I have 3kg and don’t have the urge to pay $8 to have my clothes washed.  Of course I go from one expensive place to the next and they were charging 6RM/kg… In the Cameron Highlands I paid 7RM for 3kg… this is hard.  We find a tour place that is open and talk to him about pricing.  We wanted to do a night safari, a canopy walk, jungle trekking and we wanted to visit the Orang Asli tribe.  This would normally cost us around 150-200RM per person to do all of this.  We got him down to 105RM each because we were a big group of 6.  

The night tour left at 8:30pm that night.  We had the choice between a boat down the river, jungle trekking or a 4×4 ride to the Palm Oil fields.  We chose the Boat ride.  I was extremely excited about this thinking about the Caiman tour Kristi and I did 18 months ago in Nicaragua.  Lots of things tend to come out at night to the water. This has to be good.  

To keep things short… we didn’t see anything.  We saw 2 sets of eyes that our guide insisted was water buffalo… but we couldn’t see shit all.  We saw some bats and some sleeping birds but all I got out of this tour was wet.  Our boat was like a long thin canoe, but it had slats that water ran in from.  about an our into the 2 hour tour, being in the back, Becky and I were sitting in nothing but water.  

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There was a highlight to this tour and it was the stars.  Having grown up in big cities, you don’t get to see and appreciate how beautiful the sky is.  When I was growing up, my grandparents owned a 24 acre farm on Falkland Mountain about and hour from Vernon.  One of my fondest memories was when we would build a bonfire, roast hotdogs and marshmallows and I would just get lost gazing up at the stars.  My Grandad and I would spend hours out there as he would point out constellations everywhere.  This feeling rushed back to me while we were relaxing in our quiet, flooding boat on the river.  At the end of the tour, I felt that just watching the stars was worth the money.  

The next morning, we woke up extremely early.  There were 6 of us and one bathroom…. one sink… one toilet… poor toilet..  never saw it coming.  

We went for breakfast at 8am as we knew we had a long day with our tour starting at 9:30am.  We were in a group of 8 people as a couple from China joined us.  We met our guide, Carlos, who spoke much better English than I had anticipated.  The German girl openly voiced her concerns to Carlos about her fear of bugs and leeches.  Carlos assured her she wouldn’t have to deal with leeches.  She didn’t look convinced.  

Kristi started questioning him on the animals we may see.  This is a legit jungle with big cats and all kinds of crazy shit that can kill you.  Kristi said she wants to see a tiger.  Carlos said the last time he saw a tiger was 5 years ago and that he really doesn’t want to see another one because he is not yet married and does not have children.

As we headed out, Carlos pointed out the last toilet and suggested if we don’t want to go behind a tree that we use the toilet now.  Kristi of course being Kristi, announced 10 minutes later that she had to pee.  Carlos was like “whaaa?”  And Kristi laughed and said she was kidding.  Typical.  Carlos then pointed out the smallest tree and told her to pee behind that.    

Carlos was awesome.  Great sense of humor and a surprisingly large English vocabulary.  When I asked him where he learned English, he told me from speaking with tourists.  That is impressive.  He has an eye for everything and loves taking about the jungle.  He would let the group walk ahead of him then call us all out when we would all walk by something.  He explained a lot of the plants and the types of bugs we were coming across.  He showed us plants that they believe repel mosquitoes,  a nut that when cracked open is what they use for shampoo and a mixture of ants and termites.  Termites in the jungle look mean.  In Nicaragua, if you were lost on a volcano and were hungry, you can rub a termite nest and when they crawl on your hand, you can eat them safely.  I wouldn’t try that with these guys.  They look like angry ants!

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We hiked for a couple hours to reach the first lookout point.  Well “hiked” is a very loose term.  8 years ago the government realized the tourism potential here and everyone got together and built a huge walkway leading up to the first lookout point.  When I say walkway, this thing is elevated off the ground about 2-3 feet and is well built.  It’s like a long ass bridge.  This is why Carlos could guarantee that there would be no issue with leeches.  Halfway up Carlos started making a call which at first we thought was a monkey call.  He tried 5-6 times and then came the response, from deep in the bush almost like an echo.  But to me it doesn’t sound like a monkey but more like a bird.  I was right, we was chatting with a peacock.  It’s been 2 weeks since I was in Taman Negara and yes I’m still gloating about how clever I am.  We took pics but they aren’t very good because it was a bit foggy at the lookout points.

Carlos showed us the type of vine that Tarzan swings off of and challenged us to climb it.  Challenge accepted.

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I got decent height but then my hands started hurting and I looked down and got nervous.  I totally could have climbed the 100 feet to the top if I wasn’t wearing my day pack.  Look at how impressed that guy in the background is.  That may not be an “impressed” look.  I might have budged in front of his kid so I could climb… 

On the way back down, we stopped and Carlos found and cut up some wild mangos… These aren’t like the mangos we buy in the super market (even in Malaysia) and it’s hard to describe the flavor.  I actually enjoyed them but Kristi didn’t.  Reviews were mixed amongst the group.  

Another tourist trap in this jungle is a huge canopy walk.  The highest point is 45m high and it feels incredibly sketchy when you walk along the bridges.  Carlos said he would meet us at the exit because he doesn’t like heights… this is not reassuring.  Our guide is skipping this.  

It’s only wide enough for 1 person and there are signs everywhere saying to spread out 5-10 meters.  There are 6-7 bridges with platforms similar to zip lining but with signs suggesting no more than 4 people per platform…. this is kind of terrifying.  You are not allowed to use your camera on the bridges because you need both hands to hold on as you walk.  

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This tour was a lot of fun and quite easy for people of most ages.  If you want to walk for a couple hours and be in the jungle but not in the jungle it is very nice.  They do offer a few other tours too for quite a bit more money.  I considered one of these as they have overnight tours and the biggest one being a week long tour.  The week long tour looks and sounds amazing but you really need to like the jungle to do that.  These overnight tours get you off the beaten path and allow you to see some real wildlife though.  I knew from the start that we were in an area that was way too populated to actually see any wildlife.  Maybe one day, we will go back there and do some real jungle trekking.  

We had lunch and got ready for the 2nd part of our day.  We were going rapid shooting and to the Orang Asli village.  Unfortunately Carlos was not our guide for the afternoon but the guy we booked through would be.  He is a big kid at heart and talks very passionately about rapid shooting.  Rapid shooting, we get back in the same boat we were in the night before and we cruise up the river.  The guide does everything in his power to get us completely soaked.  It’s actually very refreshing at 3pm when the temperature is pushing 35 degrees.  We arrived at the village but there were a lot of people there so we swam in the river for about 10-20 minutes before heading up.  

This tribe is one of three living in the jungle and they spread out all over the jungle.  They always live on the move because when rainy season comes in, the river gets too high and fast for them to live where they are.  They are becoming more modern now too in the ways that they wear clothes and get news from people in the area.  This of course has positives and negatives.  Some of the kids now are starting to go to school to learn English and Malay because the tribes have their own dialects that only tribe members understand.  If a tribe member dies, they believe that they go back to nature so they put the dead member high in a tree to give back to the jungle and then they move.  They will not stay in a place where a tribe member has died.  

The rest of the tour is hokey and basically there to entertain tourists.   They show us some of the tools that they make and use, then a guy comes in and makes fire.  This pleases our guide as he uses the fire to light his cigarette.  

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They then show us the darts that they use to hunt with along with the blow gun.  It’s very cool and they were selling them… of course I can’t pack this thing around for another 10 months so I pass.  Just like that badass handmade bow and arrow in Indonesia.  

The local tribesman does a demonstration where he makes a dart… it takes him about a minute.  Very fast.  He explains to us that they do not eat animals from the ground because they see them as dirty.  They hunt mostly monkeys and birds.  One of the main delicacies here is monkey brains.  Now for the best part: We get to shoot the blow dart gun.  We watch the demonstration then all take turns shooting at a teddy bear hung up on a tight mesh net.  Everyone misses.  It’s long and awkward (intimidating) gun to hold.  You want to aim an inch or two above your target.  Normally they would put poison on the darts but obviously ours don’t because we are hunting a teddy bear 20 feet away.  Everyone misses.  

Luckily we all get a second shot.  Kristi missed again but I hit that stupid bear right in the chest.  We will not go hungry if lost in the jungle.  As long as those monkeys stay close and don’t move.  Most of the people hit it on their second try.  It was a lot of fun.  

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For the record, I am holding the dart gun wrong but it’s how I was comfortable and it worked.  

We spent the rest of the day swimming and beating the heat with the nice water of the river.  The water was strong but that didn’t stop team Malta from swimming to the other side.  I wasn’t about to try that.

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When we got back, the sun was starting to go down.  We found food and planned our escape route from the jungle.  Team Malta was headed to the Cameron Highlands and the German Girl was on her way to Malaka, a UNESCO World Heritage Town, that has turned into a tourist trap that we may or may not go see.  I insisted we not pay jungle bus prices and we go to the town over, Jerantut, so we can find a cheaper bus and laundry service.  

Saying “goodbye” to Team Malta was hard but we wish them safe travels and may meet up with them in Kota Kinabalu on Sabah.  

So I survived 2 nights with all of the girls and am looking forward to some relaxing time. We ended up spending an entire week in Jerantut because we found a cheap hotel with decent internet and we just didn’t feel like doing anything.  We ate street food almost everyday and we found a Dominos pizza (it tasted like home) If you don’t know me, I can eat pizza everyday for the rest of my life and never get bored.  That concludes my blog on Jerantut.

Our next destination is Johor Bahru and Singapore where we plan to say “F*** the budget” and spend way too much money. Thanks to everyone who has contacted me and shown some love for my blog and what we are doing.  It means a lot knowing we have so many people that support us and claim to be living vicariously through us.  

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