The vanishing sight of civilization from my seat window steadily turned green and so were my thoughts, reflecting on the impulsive decision to visit a place I had never heard of before. A year ago a trip to Vietnam and Laos was in its planning stage, though it doesn’t cost as much as other destinations like Europe or the Middle East, my overall laziness coupled with pointless spending on various unimportant things, mostly while socializing prevented a prudent strategy to save more. Some stern life lessons while soul searching helped me save enough for this month-long trip. The morally unplanned person in me did somehow throw up the idea of spending time in urban Malaysia, but during the last few days, the idea of clicking a picture with the twin towers in the background did not seem appealing anymore as some of my Facebook friends think otherwise. On my return to Kuala-Lumpur, I still had 6 days left in my pack before I would make the eventual return to Mumbai. I learnt about this place known as Teman Negara while I consciously thought exactly how many forests will it take to finally calm my heart down? There shall be more for sure! Here in Kuala-Lumpur while heading to a bus station I tried picking some words from the Malay dictionary and failed to get anywhere, so started all over again with English and in a matter of words I was swiftly recognized as an Indian, leaving no room for curiosity, blame all those Indian’s who visit and overpopulate Kuala Lumpur. Anyway, I was on my way to an odyssey of which people had only good things to say.
The bus played spoilsport to halt some constructive thinking going inside my head, as the next seat passenger ushered me to get down at the next stop, Merapoh village. From there I had to reach Sg. Relau which to my knowledge was the entry point to the illustrious, 130 million years old Kuala Tahan National Park or Teman Negara and I was already feeling epic. The circling flock of onrushing tour operators ensured that feeling was momentary, instead, I felt like a wounded beast being circled by a pack of hungry lions, as they try convincing your time is short and there’s a lot to be covered. After some searching I found a cheap place to stay, tea was free here and the jetty spot to cross over to the adventurous side was only a few minutes away from this place. Crossing over costs 1 RM. I ate the food I was carrying and slept.
My intention to avoid crowds as much as possible energised me to wake up at 4 am. Good internet connectivity here helped me narrow in on places to visit and plan my first full day here.
Points of attraction
First, the canopy walks! This famous structure and the exhilarating feeling whilst standing in the middle of the longest canopy in the world proved to be just the right kick you’d need to start this adventure. The view of the rainforest it offers is beyond my scope of explanations. It cost me 5 RM Next-up was the Bukit Teresk high point, which was easy to get to with all those path signs and directions.
The essence of Teman Negara
Most of my day was spent walking to these spots or aimlessly staring at treetops or in the directions some animals were making sounds. When I returned to the village I tried finding a beer place only to my disappointment it turned out to be a majority Muslim village, no nothing there. Life did compensate with a group of people chilling by a bonfire with some music in the offing, the kind you need on a solo trip. Then I happened met this local guy here who knew locations not frequented by regular tourists, all deep into the forest.
Next morning, I and my newly appointed local guide (I paid him 20 RM) set off to the deepest parts of the jungle. He wasn’t someone who promised tiger sightings in thin air or guarantees anything out of the ordinary. I chose his company solely to explore the deep forests of Teman Negara. Once inside there are no human voices, only bird sounds or some distant animal sounds. Elephants would come around the walking paths, at times with so much stealth they end up closer to where we were walking. Elephants are the most dangerous animal to humans in Asia, a tiger would still walk away from your sight, an Elephant would simply resort to killing you one way or the other. Deer were a common sight and grew fond of us showing themselves every few minutes. Not just the spotted ones, but we sighted some sambhar, barking deer and some other variety I have no clue about. The same paths were crossed by two wild boars and a giant Malaysian Gaur who stopped in his tracks and staring deep into my eyes, while us; we stood still for a while until he left. There were so many birds, insects, some snakes and many small creatures which we could spot from time to time. This was my day more or less, but as we started to head back through another route this guy knew, the bright orange setting sun showered its light on a spotted beast, in what seemed like the leopard had woken up from his slumber after a pleasing meal the very afternoon. This was the showdown of my Teman Negara highlight reel.
The next day we went again, this time to another part of the forest but luck eluded us today as big cats were a no-show. But this day I simply wanted to enjoy the beauty and keep up my charge with the forest with utmost silence, today was the day to listen, not just to the sounds coming out of this paradise, but to my own self, I thought.
The sun rose on my 5th day here and it was time to leave. I decided to try another exit route, so reached Kuala Tahan village and took a jetty to Kuala Tembling, all through those lush forests and what was the best boat ride of my life. This cost me 60 RMs, the single most expensive affair of this particular tour. After reaching Tembling took a bus ride to Kuala Lumpur and reached a small guest house, expensive and smaller from the room I took at Teman Negara. The toughest thing to tell yourself is that its time to return home, after an exciting time away.
The night was still young and there was enough time to walk around Kuala Lumpur, mostly for food, but something struck me and the money I had saved by not using those tour guides, expensive forest resorts and safaris, I hitched a cab ride to reach the infamous twin towers or Petronas Towers and ended this memorable trip with a neat selfie on my phone with those gigantic structures in the background. Life makes you do things you never wanted to do.
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