Just thinking about traveling to Taman Negara National Park in Pahang, the world's oldest tropical rainforest, robbed me of several nights of sleep. I wish it was the excitement of treading on the 130-million year old jungle that kept me awake, instead of the logistics. Getting there is quite a feat in itself.
In my younger days, I've traveled there twice by train. The overnight journey took 8.5 hours from Tanjong Pagar KTM railway station to Jerantut station, followed by a 3-hour river boat ride along the murky Tembelng river to Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara.
Now that our nearest train station has been relocated to Johor, taking the train is no longer an attractive option. We could take a bus or plane to Kuala Lumpur, then catch another bus to Jerantut where we can take the river boat which leaves from the jetty at Kuala Tembling at 9am and 2pm for Kuala Tahan. If we miss that last boat, we would have to stay overnight in Jerantut town to take the next one in the morning.
The last option is to drive there. I had only driven to Malaysia once 8 years ago and didn't quite enjoy the 7-hour drive as I was the only one driving the car. This time, YK's friend agreed to share the driving duty which makes a huge difference if you ask me. The journey, which took about 9 hours, was pleasant and scenic. With the help of GPS, we didn't waste anytime getting lost.
We arrived in Kuala Tahan at 3pm and only managed to find Yellow Guest House after making several wrong turns. While the room rates are extremely attractive, it is sited in a weird location which makes it inconvenient considering we were staying for 8 days. The guys prefer a hotel that is situated within the park itself.
|Welcome to Taman Negara.|
At this point, I should give you an idea about this area. Kuala Tahan is separated from Taman Negara Nature Park by a large murky river called Tembeling River.
|River boats like this take passengers across the river to the park. Each trip costs RM1 per person.|
|That's Taman Negara Park across the river.|
Apart from Mutiara Taman Negara, which is next to the park entrance, all other guest houses are located across the Tembeling River at Kuala Tahan. Most are within walking distance of the river and there are many boats to take passengers across to the park entrance.
We parked the car at a public car park which charges RM5 a day, and made our way across the river. Driving has its advantages. I brought a thermal pot to cook soup and noodles, food and snacks, and even spare bed sheets and towels.
|The steps leading to Mutiara is so steep, we always end up gasping for air. Luckily they've installed a cart to pull our luggage up.|
The guys were right after all. While the room rate is much higher at Mutiara Taman Negara, it provides a more comfortable stay. What's important is we could just step out of the room and enjoy the nature around us. The trails leading to the forest, canopy walk, cascades and mountain start from here.
The view from our villa is gorgeous. We wake up to the sounds of birds chirping each morning.
The first time I went to Taman Negara 30 years ago with the Outdoor Adventure Club, we stayed in the camping grounds . It was rainy season and the ground was wet and soggy but we were young and happy-go-lucky and didn't mind one bit.
During this trip, I saw some Malaysian families pitching their tents at the grounds which brought back lots of fond memories.
According to the hotel manager, they are facing a problem with wild boars which steal food and destroy the tents at the campsite. True enough, we saw a family of boars heading to the kitchen area in search of food, sending the campers scurrying about in shock.
This trip also brought back memories of my other visit with my girlfriends in 2001 where we stayed in the cheaper chalet to save cost. Somehow, the chalets (below) look so worn out and unappealing now.
The facilities at Mutiara have improved over the past few years. The new restaurant, Seri Mutiara Restaurant, serves good breakfast and buffet dinners. On days when we were so tired after trekking, we took our dinner there. The buffet dinner costs RM50 per person which isn't exactly cheap considering the spread is quite limited.
Some days, we took the boat to the floating restaurants for a quick meal. While the food is cheaper, the taste leaves much to be desired - the food is either totally tasteless, burnt or too salty.
Naturally we were very excited when we heard about the Wednesday night market just outside Kuala Tahan. We loaded my shopping basket with peanut pancake, chicken rice, otak otak, fruits and desserts before heading back to the hotel to enjoy our stash.
|Buying peanut pancake.|
|Orang Asli women at the fruit stand.|
|The market starts at 4.30pm and ends at 830pm. |
We enjoyed our stay and did all the things we wanted to do. You have to love nature and the outdoors to enjoy a holiday like this. The humidity level is so high, you're drenched in sweat all day. There are lots of insects like butterflies, sweat bees and flies buzzing around and landing on your limbs day and night.
|Drenched in sweat and itching from insect bites.|
If you're unlucky, you might get leech bites which will leave blood oozing out of your skin for hours.
|Bloody from leech bite.|
For me, the opportunity to bask in the natural beauty of the forest and seeing wild animals made the trip memorable. It also made me realize that my passion and interest have not changed one bit. After 30 years, my heart remains the same.
|Sunset over Kuala Tahan.|
|We stayed in a villa like these.|
|The resident barking deer.|
|Park headquarters. |
|Lots of wild boars roaming about.|
|Beautiful bird in the hotel compound.|
|Seeing the tapir was the highlight of the trip. YK was busy swatting flies that were attacking him relentlessly.|
|The rangers feed the tapir potatoes. |
|A gorgeous lunar moth.|