My Trip to Taman Negara: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I have reworked this article from the original articles that was first posted on my blog in March 2012. There was too much focus on the bad and ugly that I thought I should share some good things about Taman Negara!
My trip to Taman Negara took place March 10-12, 2012.
I have always wanted to visit Taman Negara. So when I saw a trip being organised by someone I (used to) know, I decided to sign up for it. I didn’t have any friends who wanted to go with me on the trip, so I decided to sign up on my own. There would be other people who would be on this trip so I wouldn’t be going solo, and I have already met three of them – Jie, Abby, Adibah – on a white water rafting trip that was previously organised by the same person as well.
There is just so much to say about this trip, and so much I need to share, that’s why I also took a considerable amount of time to think about how to phrase it.
So I’m breaking my post about this trip into three posts instead of writing it into one gigantic unreadable block.
Where do I begin? Taman Negara is such a beautiful place! As it has been gazetted as a national forest, all developments, logging and hunting have been banned in order to preserve it.
I may be an adrenaline junkie, but to be honest I’m not that outdoorsy. I don’t go for hash runs or jungle treks or mountain hikes much. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them – in fact, I do. I just don’t enjoy them enough to go often.
During this weekend trip in Taman Negara, I had the opportunity to explore a tiny section of the virgin forest – by a guided night trek, a guided trek to the canopy walk, and a night safari. We visited an Orang Asli village via a “rapid ride” in a wooden boat where we got soaking wet! And the best part was sitting zen-like in a clean, clear stream where we got to zone out for a short while.
Guided Night Trek
The first night I was there, we went on a guided night trek where the guide pointed out many of the flora in the forest. We also observed one of the animals’ watering holes from a faraway observation post. I honestly had no idea what to look for! But the guide would flash his light at the animals and point the creatures out. Generally we would know that an animal was looking our way when the light picked up the eyes of the animals.
There is actually a package you can buy where you can stay overnight at an observation post to watch the animals. We didn’t know about the package though, and we did not manage to opt in for it.
Morning Trek to the Canopy Walk
The next morning, we were taken through the forest again, this time to the canopy walk. Unfortunately for us, a major part of the canopy walk was closed for maintenance. Having said that, the canopy walk itself was fun – although to be honest, it was not any more exciting than some of the other canopy walks I’ve been on. We did take lots of photos on the canopy walk though. I’m only putting up my own photos as I am not sure that my friends would want me to put their crazy photos on my blog.
The morning trek was supposed to include a trek to the peak of one of the hills, but unfortunately for us, the path was closed during our visit as well.
The night safari was an option that we added on in our second night, as it was not included in our weekend package that we signed up for. I must say that the way the night safari was conducted was rather… well, to put it politely, it was very “third-world”. I guess I don’t really have a good point of comparison as the only other night safari I’ve been to is the Night Safari in Singapore, and because theirs was more of a zoo than an actual jungle, it isn’t a fair comparison. When you have a controlled environment, it is much easier to conduct guided tours in comfortable trams.
Taman Negara, on the other hand, is an actual uncontrolled jungle with animals than roam freely whenever and wherever they want to. Whether we can see a specific animal – or for that matter, any animal – depends largely on our luck, and the ability of the safari guides to spot the creatures.
We were taken around on the back of a pickup truck. Not exactly the safest way to travel, mind you… in addition to the seats placed in the open back of the truck, they added cushions to the roof of the driver’s cabin. I took a seat on the roof because it was something I have never experienced, and something I am unlikely to experience again in the future. Besides, it was fun!
We did manage to see quite a number of wildlife. A few of them were observed from the distance where the guide flashed his light at treetops and the glint of the reflected light off the eyes of the animals could be seen.
The Orang Asli Village
Part of our exploration included visiting an Orang Asli village. Orang Asli means native in Bahasa Malaysia.
There were many villages by the river throughout Taman Negara, and each village was tiny, comprising of only about 8-9 families. I have heard the term “rude hut” before in stories, but I have never seen one for myself until I visited the village. Each family stayed under one roof, and it was really a “rude hut”. Each hut was made of wood or bamboo and straw, and was basically a one or two-roomed hut with a roof. Some huts don’t even have a fourth wall on purpose. There isn’t a real kitchen, unless you count the open space at the “back” of the hut.
You aren’t supposed to visit the village on your own. You have to be taken by a guide. When we arrived at the village, we were taken to a sheltered area that was made up specifically for tourists like us.The strongman of the village demonstrated how they create fire without matches or gas lighters, and we could even give it a try if we liked, after the demonstration. The villager also showed us how he created a blowpipe dart from raw materials, and then he demonstrated the use of a blowpipe. Of course, as part of the experience, each of us gave it a try by aiming at a target that was set up safely away from the village.
The Orang Asli are still very primitive. They do not have electricity or running water. They don’t even have education. They are protected by the same laws that protect Taman Negara, and they are not allowed access to civilization as the rest of us know it. They are required to stay the same way they are, with the exception of food and clothing, which are provided by the government in exchange for allowing themselves to be part of the Taman Negara exhibit. I have quite strong feelings about this, but I will discuss this on the next page. We could see the villagers wearing donated clothes (some were quite branded) and their “kitchen” was stocked with packaged food like tinned biscuits and instant noodles.
Shooting the Rapids
One thing that was really fun was the rapid ride on the wooden boat. This was our transport to the Orang Asli village. It moved at rather high speeds (for a wooden boat) which caused water from the river to splashed into our faces. Needless to say, we were soaked from head to toe in no time. This was the most adrenaline-inducing part of the entire trip!
Zen Moments in the Stream
We also made a stop at one of the many streams that connect to the main river. The beautiful part of this trip was that even though the water was brown, the water in the streams and river was very clean. We didn’t feel any itch that usually comes from contact with dirty or contaminated water.
On a side note…
While this has nothing to do with Taman Negara specifically, it has something to with my trip, so I’d like to include it here. When I tweeted about how I was left stranded at the KTM station after my trip, Norulain and Christian immediately contacted me to check if I needed help, which was very sweet of them, and I was really touched. It was very heart-warming to know that I have truly caring friends.
How did I get stranded? I will be explaining it in the third post…
Now, on to the bad part…