It was quite a strange and bizarre feeling to stay in a hotel where you are, not only the only guests, but also there is also no staff there. Hence when we woke to tapping on the rooms’ only window we wondered if the hotel manager’s name may have been Freddy Krueger! Di sent me out to check we had not inadvertently booked into the Bates Motel and I was relieved there was no old lady in a rocking chair watching us in a hotel window. The tapping continued and bravely we opened the curtain. We saw two birds tapping against the window pane. Di squealed ‘Toucans’, wrong continent Di but I was not brave enough to correct her.
All I could see, whilst looking at these two long-beaked birds, were the words ‘EBAY’ and I tried to imagine their value plus shipping – I could include Bird Smuggler to my growing International rap sheet.
Di contacted our friend in Australia, Vanessa, who apart from being a Ukulele queen is also an amateur bird expert and quick as a wink Vanessa knew the bird as a Hornbill. It is always good to know a bird expert – thanks Vanessa, you saved Di from embarrassing herself by claiming to have seen the only two Toucans in Asia!!!!
Once the birds had flown the coop and out of my Paypal clutches, Di rang the Mutiara Hotel, our supposed home for the next five nights. The hotel confirmed they were closed due to flood damage and could not open until the local government authority gave the all clear to resume business, they anticipated this would happen the next day. Perhaps they should have told us this before we arrived!
We decided to stay where we were another night as it was quiet and cheap, though having to pay cash exhausted our meagre funds even further. There are no ATMs in Taman Negara and you need to make sure you bring plenty of cash.
I worked most of the day on the blog and then had a pleasant walk around town and along the river front. In the evening we met up with Laura and Steve again for dinner at one of the floating restaurants.
It is amusing how, even though we speak the same language, words in English have different meaning dependant as to where you are from. Di was recounting how she sank in the mud when we arrived at Taman Negara the previous day. She said her thong was stuck in the mud and as she pulled upwards she could feel her thong being sucked down. Now this brought some confused and, may I dare, say concerned looks from Laura and Steve – what the #$%$#@# was she doing with her bum in the mud!!!! In Australia a ‘thong’ is a shoe, a flip-flop. In England a ‘thong’ is a pair of ladies underwear known as a g-string. I love these lost in translation moments.
Finally the next day came that we could go to Mutiara Hotel as it had reopened. We had high expectations of the Hotel and as there are no roads into the Hotel, to get there you catch a water taxi across the river.
The water taxi costs one Ringgit each (AUD$0.28 cents). The journey takes about 40 seconds but it is a bit of a balancing act getting in and out of the taxi with your luggage – the ‘taxi driver’ cannot help you as they are steering the boat against the raging current. Once on the hotels’ jetty there is a rail cart to place your bags in and the cart will transport your luggage up a steep hill to the hotel reception whilst you trudge up the many stairs.
The Mutiara Hotel is very nice and our four nights there cost 1006 Ringgits (AUD$73) per night including a buffet breakfast. We had a small chalet to stay in and it had all the comforts we needed.
The hotel has their own Hornbill bird who just loves the attention whilst constantly being photographed.
The only problem is that this bird roams around the trees above you and its droppings are all the colours of the rainbow – it all depends on the tropical fruit it has just consumed – beware!
Taman Negara is the worlds’ oldest deciduous rainforest, at around 130 million years old. I mentioned this to my daughter, Charlotte, that we were at the oldest rainforest in the world and she rightly corrected me that the oldest tropical rainforest in the world was the Daintree in Australia at 135 million years old.
Thus Taman Negara is famous for its rainforest and all that comes with that like, animals, insects, reptiles, flora, etc. The tourists come here to walk the vast network of trails throughout the rainforest. A lot of the trails, including several of the main trails, start from the Mutiara Hotel – hence its popularity with westerners. It is also four star so that helps a bit too.
There are many short five to ten kilometre round trip walks stemming from the hotel. Several of these walks are so popular there are now board walks erected to preserve the terrain. Di and I set off on our first hike to the Canopy Walk.
The Canopy Walk is the longest canopy walk in the world (another longest to tick off the growing list of achievements). It stretches for 550 metres through the rainforest. The 2.5 kilometre walk to get there along a well signed boardwalk is easy. However, there was some confusion whilst we were there. The flooded river had caused a tree to fall on part of the Canopy Walk. Thus a 200 metre stretch of the canopy walk was closed. The problem was you came to the closed part of the canopy walk first – the National Park people stuck a piece of paper on a tree saying ‘100 metres’ and an arrow. The arrow pointed uphill. The problem was that so many people missed the sign (it was easy to miss) but eagle-eyed Di saw it.
We met John and Margot in town the day before and their hotel room was near our room at the hotel. On arrival at the closed part of the Canopy Walk we met John and Margot again sitting with another couple John and Sonia. They were all disappointed the Canopy Walk was closed – Di pointed at the piece of paper pointing up and we wandered further up the trail to find the National Park people waiting at the entrance to the Canopy Walk. They said they put a sign up – come on guys there are signs and then there are SIGNS!!!! Anyway Di gave her best whistle and the other four came up for the Canopy Walk experience.
It costs 10 Ringgits (AUD$2.80) each to walk the Canopy Walk so make sure you take some money with you. I forgot to mention, before entering the National Park you need to pay a one-off fee of 1 Ringgit each and a one-off camera fee of 5 Ringgits for each camera – you pay this at the National Park office next to the Mutiara and you need to show your receipt of payment at the Canopy Walk.
I really enjoyed the Canopy Walk. The walk is not hard but it does get rather high and you are walking through the tree tops. The actual Canopy Walk structure is a piece of wood to walk on with chain link sides stretching up to chest level. The Canopy Walk does sway about a bit but you never feel unsafe. You walk one way through the Walk and once you start you have to keep going. You must keep about 10 metres between each person and this reduces a lot of the swaying motion of the Walk.
The 350 metres we walked took about 15 minutes as you were not walking very fast. You will see ‘tours’ with a guide being offered on the other side of the river to take you to the Canopy Walk. These tours were popular but for a 40 Ringgit (AUD$13) fee each, plus camera cost, it seemed easier just to do it all yourself for 12 Ringgits each, plus camera cost. The Canopy Walk is a must do in Taman Negara.
That evening we had a lovely little drinking session with our new found friends sitting overlooking the swirling river. We were, though, at one time bombarded by deep red bird poo from our friendly tree branch perched pooing assassin bird – but hey it’s his country so he can poo wherever and however he wants. This was followed by a great dinner and lots of intelligent travel tales – except for Di and her thong getting sucked down in the mud story again!!!!
That night was one of the first nights on our travels we had trouble sleeping. Firstly, the resort has plenty of wild monkeys wandering through it looking for scraps to eat. We were told not to leave anything on our balcony as the monkeys often steal whatever they can find. We were also told not to leave our windows open as the monkeys will enter the room. Well, that night we did hear the monkeys on our roof jumping from one chalet to another. These monkeys though were not the real problem.
The real problem was a group of four European men, Scandinavian I think, who thought it would be a good idea to stay up all night talking and drinking. Di yelled at them at 3am to go to bed. I yelled at them at 4am to go to bed – they were quiet after that. Luckily they checked out early the next morning as, when I went to complain to the hotel staff about them, the hotel staff said they had checked out and left already and caught the 8.30am bus. We had no more noise issues for the rest of our stay.
In the photos below you see clear evidence that man evolved from the ape. One photo shows the beer drinking man evolved from the beer drinking ape.
The next photo shows the chip/crisp eating man evolved from the chip/crisp eating ape.
The third photo shows the Break and Enter thief man evolved from the Break and Enter thief ape.
The fourth shows the cross man evolved from the cross ape.
We said our goodbyes to Laura and Steve – another great couple we hope to see again.
Di and I did another trek, which was to a lookout called Bukit Teresak. It was again an easy to follow boardwalk that was clearly signposted. At the intersection to the main boardwalk you climb upwards for 1150 steps to a pretty basic lookout with an okay view.
The upward climb took 50 minutes and in the hot humid conditions you sweat so much.
We also did a couple of other smaller walks to ‘blinds’ or ‘hides’, where a hut has been built with cleared land in front of it. The plan is you wait quietly in the hide until an animal wanders through the cleared area and you get a good view.
The four days we were there no one saw an animal in the hides – to be honest I thought it was all part of a monkey plot to rob your chalet whilst you out looking for non-existent animals in the hide.
We said our goodbyes to John and Margot – another wonderful couple we hope to meet again. John and Margot live in Lincolnshire and, if you know your English football, you will know why they were happy Football chappies!!!!!
On our last day in Taman Negara I wanted to get off the boardwalk and do one of the longer bush trails. Di didn’t want to do this so she went across the river in a water taxi to change our departure the next day from a boat to a minivan.
I had not left on my trek yet when I saw Di lumbering up to the footpath to our chalet. Di stood at the bottom of the steps and looked up at me like a drowned sad little kitten – her sad eyes would melt you! She said ‘I fell in the river’ and her bottom lip quivered!!
Di was saturated and dripping wet. She held a ripped plastic bag with one bottle of water in one hand and a lone flip-flop (thong for Australians) in the other hand. Well it seems the water gods tried to suck her flip-flops off in the mud, now they sucked (one at least) off in the raging river.
Di had managed to cross the river by water taxi and change our booking without any issues. She purchased some bottled water and other goodies at a small shop. The return water taxi ride was not a problem until she came to the Mutiara Hotel jetty. Di stepped from the water taxi to the jetty and whilst she was mid stride the boat was pushed away from the jetty by the fast flowing river – hence Di ended up in the swirling brown river water.
The new millennium has created a brave new world – no longer is the catch cry in emergencies ‘save the women and children’, it is now ‘save my iPhone’. As Di fell in the murky river water her instinct mid fall was to grab her handbag, which contained her iPhone, and attempted to raise her handbag above her head as she was submerged into the river water. Now also remember she is wedged between a boat and a jetty and the boat has a propeller in the water. When she surfaced she was able to hand her handbag to lady still seated in the water taxi. Di then grabbed the boat and hung on as her body was pulled downriver between the boat and jetty. All through this she hung on to the plastic bag which was rapidly emptying of shopping goodies.
One of the male staff jumped into the river whilst another male staff member grabbed Di’s hand and tried to pull her up onto the jetty. In a true Benny Hill comedy skit, the staff member in the water grabbed Di’s bottom and embarrassingly pushed in places he never thought he would ever be required to push in. Di was pulled/pushed up to safety.
The iPhone survived, one bottle of water survived, one flip-flop survived and Di survived with minor abrasions and bruising. It could have been so much worse as the intensity of the river water had decreased since the day we arrived and Di, who is a very good swimmer and is water wise, could so easily have been washed down river, even under the boat.
I made Di a cup of tea and made sure she was okay. I then set off on my trail trek. Yes, she wanted me to leave her alone, she wanted peace and quiet.
The trial I was on was out to Bumbun Tabing which is a ‘hide’ about five kilometres away. The trek was good but full of mud as this area was well affected by the flooded river a few days earlier.
There were places were ropes were strung to help you pull yourself up and down the gullies.
I didn’t see another person on this trail. I was soon flicking leeches from my shoes and socks. I came to a spot where the sign posts had been washed away and what was left of them was strewn around the trail.
After walking about 90 minutes the trail was becoming harder to follow and I was worried about taking the wrong trail so I thought that was enough and I turned back.
I had not gotten to the Bumbun Tabing hide, though I had a feeling I may have passed it. I then noticed a large leech, full of my blood, feasting away on my finger. As it was so big I didn’t attempt to remove it and about 15 minutes later it simply dropped off.
I returned to Taman Negara a little bloody and a lot muddy. Di and I compared war wounds and had a quiet river side drink that evening to wash away our pain. The next day we were leaving Taman Negara after a very enjoyable stay. My ONLY criticism was that the hotel should have advised us they were closed before we arrived. I do want to thank the hotel staff who assisted Diane in her moment of need.
The next morning Di had to catch the water ferry again to cross the river. She was a brave lady and let me photograph her at the scene for inclusion in the blog.
Once on the other side of the river it was obvious how far the river water level had dropped. A concrete roadway was now used as a parking lot and this was where the minivan was picking us up from – whereas, four days earlier this spot was a few metres underwater.
The minivan ride to Kuala Lumpur took about seven hours with a 90 minute stopover at Jerantut. We had one night at Kuala Lumpur then we headed to Tioman Island via Melaka and Mersing again.
Let the adventure continue………