Exploring Malaysia's oldest rainforest
26.07.2011 - 29.07.2011 30 °C
On arriving back in Malaysia we had an evening to spend in Kuala Lumpur. We decided to go up the Menara KL, a tower with an observation deck at 276m for great views over the city.
We were up early the next day to travel to Taman Negara, a national park in the centre of the country, home to some of the world’s oldest rainforest. After two trains and two buses, we arrived earlier than expected, so headed into the forest for a quick walk. The cicadas and birds were very loud, and the humidity oppressive, but it was great to be in the jungle.
In the evening we ventured in again on a guided night walk. Despite the large number of other people (noisily) doing the same thing, we managed to see two tapirs almost straight away. They didn’t seem bothered by all the people and were so close we could have touched them. Our guide also coaxed out some large spiders and scorpions, and we saw squirrels, birds and stick insects. Luckily we avoided the leeches.
In the morning we set out to find our main reason for coming here: the canopy walkway. This is a series of rope bridges strung between the trees close to the top of the jungle canopy, around 30-45m above the ground. It was an easy walk to the entrance, and although close to the park HQ we still saw a pheasant, monkeys and squirrels on the way. The walkway itself was great – although it felt a little rickety, being up in the trees gave a very different perspective on the forest. On the way back we climbed a hill with viewpoints overlooking the jungle.
To leave the park we took a boat down the river, a more scenic option than the bus. Our boat had some motor problems though and we made slow progress; we were concerned we may miss our train to Kota Bharu. In the event, we were on time for our train, but found that it was already full. A spot of research in an internet café suggested we could catch a bus to a larger town, and then get a connection to Kota Bharu. After a three hour trip to Kuantan, we arrived to find that all the Kota Bharu bus services that evening were full. Almost as an afterthought, we were offered a bus that went just before midnight, and so jumped at the opportunity. It did come with a warning that it was “City Link”, but we were happy just to be on our way.
Long distance coaches in Malaysia are excellent: fast, comfortable and with loads of leg room. City Link’s bus that evening bucked the trend. It was little more than a local bus, and a dirty one at that, with no luggage space. Clare’s seat reclined of its own accord while Tom’s was fixed rigidly upright. The air conditioning functioned far too well, so that we were really cold. It was not an ideal place to spend the night, and we arrived at Kota Bharu at around 7.30am having not slept very much.
Our first proper case of tummy trouble hit shortly after we got off the bus, so our explorations of the place were limited. Fortunately, Kota Bharu is a pretty functional town – we were there in order to catch a boat to our next destination – so we didn’t miss a great deal. If you find yourself there, Clare recommends the loos in the shopping mall over those in McDonalds. We did get to catch a cultural show with traditional drumming, top spinning and batik demonstrations.
The following day we were still poorly, and travelling wasn’t an enticing prospect. After queuing at the doctors, getting antibiotics at the pharmacy (which we later found out weren’t for diarrhoea at all, but toothache – no wonder they didn’t work), Tom collapsing at the pharmacy and recovering, we felt just about ready to face the journey to Kuala Besut and onwards to the Perhentian islands – hopefully a little bit of beach paradise for us to recuperate on.