Sunday, 17 March 2013

Taman Negara National Park

The next leg of our travels took us deep into the Malaysian rainforest! At 130 million years old (give or take), the Taman Negara National Park seems to have a fairly legitimate claim to be the oldest rainforest in the world. This beautiful national park lies on the eastern coast of mainland Malaysia in the state of Pahang. A good 6 hours from Kuala Lumpur, we imagined the journey was going to be a right ordeal!

Instead we were pleasantly surprised as we cruised east for 3 hours in a 'luxury' bus to Kuala Tembelling, and then a further 3 hours by boat up the Tembelling River. I am using the word boat in the loosest possible sense, as whilst we travelled in considerable local style, we were essentially in a motorised punt :)

This journey was one of the highlights of our time in the park. It gives you a great perspective of the rainforest and a lot of the wildlife hang out at the rivers edge...mainly water buffalo!

Once at Kuala Tahan, we explored the different accommodations and decided on a pretty unique mud hut called Agoh Chalet. This was our humble abode for the next 4/5 nights. After a very long day travelling, we swept the geckos aside and set about recharging the batteries...

The next day we spent 6/7 hours hiking in the valley and eventually to the peak of Teresek Hill! Experiencing the longest canopy walkway in the world was surely the highlight. 40-50 metres above the rainforest floor, delicately perched in the tree canopies, are a maze of rope bridges. The guides seem confident that each section can hold 5 tonnes but we were far from convinced!

After a swift summit of Teresek Hill we made our way down to Lumbok Simpon, a greatly recommended swimming hole on the river! The best way I can describe the water is brown, clean and clear. (I imagine the brown comes from all of the iron). There is nothing better than a swim in a cold river after hours of hiking in mid-high 30s. We had a small hike through leechy dense forrest ahead, otherwise we would have stayed here well into the evening!

For an evenings meal, there was a selection of floating restaurants along the river at Kuala Tahan. After a few dodgy dishes, we decided to stick to the 'Mama Chop' barge. They sold a pretty tasty prawn curry that Emma had every night! Mango Lassi aswell..mmm.

After we had exhausted all of the options around the area that didn't need a guide, we booked ourselves onto a 4x4 night safari. Without a decent 4x4 and a powerful spotlight to hand, we gave in and paid the RM40. This actually turned out to be one of the better £8s we have spent. Two hours winding through rainforest tracks, sitting on the roof of a 4x4, searching for any manner of wildlife. We saw....leopard cats, wild boar, birds of prey, owls and angry looking cows! So, sadly no tigers, elephants, or monkeys but good fun anyway!

As far, our blog hasn't exactly been aimed at giving advice for future travellers. However, if there is one pearl of wisdom that we can offer, it is this...

(If you are on a budget) Avoid money grabbing tour companies at all costs.! When travelling to remote parts of the world, people are easily persuaded that you HAVE to be part of a tour and pay through the nose to experience that place. In fact, if you are willing to do the leg work to research and plan your own trip you will not only pay a fraction of the price, but most likely get much more out of your experience as well! However, If you have a larger budget and like everything to be organised then tour companies are a good way to go. So long as people realise that it is not the ONLY route, I'm happy :D

The bus ride from Kuala Tahan to Jerantut was a unique and awesome experience. This was a 1.5 hour local bus, packed with far too many people, going far too fast and seemingly too close to the cliff edge! But we paid RM7 (<£2) compared to the RM75 that tour companies charge. Experience the way that locals travel, and pay less! Win-win!

Next stop KL!