Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saya suka Malaysia. Part I: Taman Negara

That does not mean anything bad as Lithuanians might thing, just I like Malaysia. If spelled correctly. In a short time, we did quite a lot: starting from train trip to the jungle, ending by visiting beaches and towns on the eastern coast.

Here we go!

To the jungle we took a train. The only tourists in the second class. Though I did not see much difference, except double price. Reminds my childhood trains in Lithuania, just those were much warmer. "Express" does not mean anything. 7h half way through peninsula. Though good sleep, and freshly cooked rice in banana leaves for nearly no price. Right after getting out we are picked up by the only agency doing boat trips. Nearly impossible to be cheated. No need to negotiate, they don't have "special" tourist prices. Minibus to hotel, bus to the boat, and 3 hours in the jungle river. Beautiful views, and once in a while settlements of indegineous inhabitants - Orang Asli.
Warm welcome to the jungle

Taman Negara is the biggest national park and nature reserve in Malaysia, as well as the oldest jungle in the world. At least in Asia. It takes maybe thousand sq km, and in the far away places is still quite wild. The park was isolated until end of 80's due to (racial) conflicts in Malaysia. Just a few years ago it was only accessible by the river, now there's a road and a local bus. Seing how locals are entertained by riding together with some dirty stinky tourists, apparently not too many choose the second option. If you want to be bored in an aircon clean bus full of tourists, there's an option of paying 5 times more and taking a shuttle.

First shower we took the first evening. We did not have much time to explore the jungle, but facing the wildlife was instant. First we spotted raindeers and little shining bugs (jonvabaliai). Right after - bloody thick leaches in our skin. These were our most faithful companions for the rest of the days in the jungle. From disgust and screems "get it out!!!", we transfered to automatically picking tens of them every hundred meters from our shoes and out of feet, and taking photos of these lovely friends... NOT. That was the most annoying thing, that made us run without looking to the trees (we decided they attack less if we are fast), rest only on the trees, and come back to the hut even before 6pm rain.

That was tough... but we did it!

Second day started with ease. We forgot leaches from the evening and headed to the canopy walk. A bridge up high in the trees, maybe 30m. Only 4 at a time on one bridge, at least 5 meters in between. After that, more hiking up, nicely sweating. Bit of mud. Until we saw our legs... full of bloody bastards. Still I can proudly say we did nearly full day, just at the end we cut off the waterfalls and rested by the river close to our hut. That was were we spend the night, a hide with wooden "beds", were you are supposed more wait for animals then sleep. The far away was fully booked, so we went for the closer one, where we stayed alone. Very romantic, and very scary :) Tropical rain outside, anymals roaring... ok, more like barking... all jungle sounds, absolute dark... and the most scary talks ever :)

The next day we ran straight to the headquaters in the morning, and learned about baigon. Something that you should spray far away from skin and clothes, never touch or breethe in. Having nearly bathed our shoes and trousers in it, we were safe from leaches. And saving everyone we were meeting on the way :) Anyway we went for a bit of rest, swimming in the river. and visiting Orang Asli.

The wild people

Nomandic tribes, the race of negritos. Still living from hunting and picking fruit, building sheds from leaves, never going to school and getting married at the age of 16. When boys know how to hunt and light fire. When girls know how to build a house and catch fish. It's not a show-off four tourists. Some of them do have t-shirts and sneakers, others cover with piece of cloth. Observe us, but don't wave. They probably don't know what is waving. Some speak English, all understand Malay. They sell forest stuff for production and some souveniers to us, like hand-made bamboo combs. They don't eat tourists and are shy, pieceful and friendly. Malay government is trying to bring kids to school, integration is hard. Jungle life is happy, but there's not enough jungle anymore.

To be continued...

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