Taman Negara, Malaysia

29 01 2012

As I plopped into the slender warped boat I knew our adventure had begun. Each segment could hold two people and had enough leg room for a nine year old to sit comfortably. There was a thin pad to sit on and life jackets to lean back against, which we would later find out harbored spiders.


Goodbye Jerantut


River View

The next three hours were spent voyaging upstream to Kuala Tahan, a small village across the river from Taman Negara National Park. Upon arrival we set up our trek and got a guide. Three days, two nights exploring the oldest rain forest in the world. We had no idea what we were in for and I was stoked.

The next morning were were to meet our guide at 8:30 beside the river and collect our food, water and sleeping gear before heading into the jungle for the hike. We walked into the village, secured a room for the night (less than $3/person) and then walked down to the river to eat dinner at a floating restaurant. We called it an early night, went back to the hotel, packed up our bags and got a good nights sleep.

Tuesday morning we started our trek. We gathered our supplies, met our guide, Ah-Ah, and also found out that we would have another person join us for half of the trip; a German man named Jans. After getting everything together, we crossed the river and went to the headquarters to declare everything we were bringing into the jungle. Plastic bags, food, socks, cameras, batteries, everything.

Monitor lizard at headquarters

We then set off on another boat as I described before. Our first stop was to be the canopy walkway, however after getting to the start we realized there was about a 90 minute wait to begin. We decided to push that back to the last day and get started trekking. Once we got back to the river, Ah-Ah tried calling out for the driver. Unfortunately, that means just yelling.

Waiting for the driver

About 35 minutes later he showed up, and we left for a 90 minute boat ride upstream to begin our hike. Ten minutes into the ride we hit something in the water (on the way back the water level had declined and we found out it was a giant stump).  It immediately killed the engine and a few of us wondered if it damaged the already dilapidated boat.  The current eventually caught the boat and we were carried directly into some large bushes or trees.

Stuck in the trees

After a few minutes we started hearing some disconcerting noise coming from behind. I looked back and the driver was beating the engine with a hammer. A few minutes of this passed and all of us couldn’t help but laugh at how our trip was shaping up.

Finally, the driver was able to get the engine working again, and I’ve got to give him props because it’s didn’t seem like an easy task. Off again we went, and a few minutes later small styrofoam containers were passed forward filled to the brim with vegetarian fried rice. We all scarfed down the meal while getting splashed with water from the rapids. Once at the entrance, we gathered our bags, and said our farewells to the driver and began our journey.


Not a bad view

Almost immediately, we began to notice leeches. When we asked Ah-Ah if they would be a problem, his reply was, “They are very friendly.” He was right and probably less than ten minutes later we were pulling the little blood-suckers off of us.

The roots on these tree are incredibly strong

Aboriginals will cut a notch and come back a few days later. They then rub the sap over their darts. It's lethal enough to take down just about everything, supposedly even humans.

Ah-Ah showing off a leech

The trick with leeches is to just let them finish sucking until they can’t hold anymore and they will fall off naturally. I must say that’s hard to do when you look down and see something attached to your body. They have an anticoagulant in their saliva that makes you keep bleeding, sometimes for hours after you remove them….

Smelled like almonds!

Tiger footprint!

Paul, Katie, Rachel and Me on the trail

Ah-Ah holding a giant millipede

Close up

Cool vine swing

Ah-Ah taking a break

Leech check

Tapir footprint

Shower time, sort of

We ended our first day trekking at a large cave. We set up shop inside and rinsed off at a stream nearby. The next few hours we spent cooking dinner, exploring and trying to get a fire going to prevent bats from sleeping above us. Starting a fire is pretty hard when everything is wet. We only partly succeeded.

1st day complete!

Giant cave

Sleeping quarters

Ah-Ah working on dinner

Drying off the feet

Paul and I

Ah-Ah, Scott and myself explored the cave after dinner. Ah-Ah showed us how elephants climbed up into the cave, where the majority of the bats slept, and some ridiculously large spiders.

We took this photo about 10 feet away, he was huge

After we laid down, a porcupine came  up and started to rummage through the cooking pots for a few minutes before disappearing back into the darkness. After an awesome night in the cave, we woke up and gathered all of our stuff for our second day in the jungle.

Other side of the cave

Nice hair

Ah-Ah, Scott and I waiting outside for the others

The trail was more technical and have a few more rolling hills than the first day, but still quite easy for trekking purposes. We stopped after about three hours for lunch next to a river. We all chilled in the river for a little while before eating and starting on our hike again.

Bats in the other cave we visited


Odd spider

Inside Gua Telingga (the ear cave)


Never rained once in the rain forest - lucky

Started every day with the intention of keeping the feet dry. I usually gave up about 30 minutes in

It was inevitable

Riverside lunch

This leech got me good

Shoe, sock, no problem.

Where is an inner tube and a beer when you need it?


The rest of the hike went by quickly and before we knew it we had made it to the observation hide for our second night. There were a few other people there, so we could definitely tell that we were getting close to the base again. Our next day was only a few kilometers back to the base. That night we were able to see some tapir searching for vegetation to eat.

Observation Hide

Scott and I hanging out before dinner

No photo of the tapir because it was dark

Chilling on someones clothes

Dinner under the hide

This guy made Scott and I have a good jump

Thursday morning’s hike was an easy one. We met our boat driver who took us to an aboriginal village inside of the park. While at the Orang Asli village we learned of how they go about their daily lives. The experience felt quite intrusive and I was happy that we didn’t stay too long.

End of the trek

After the village, we made our last stop of the jungle for the canopy walk. I was definitely happy that we didn’t wait the first day for it. It had some cool views, but definitely was the least exciting part of the trip.

Chilling on the boat

Relaxing view


Canopy walk

View from above

Water buffalo

That afternoon we arrived back at the village and learned that it was a public holiday and that we had already missed that last bus back to Kuala Lumpur. We grabbed a room and stayed one more night there before making our way back to the city the next day.

Six hours of travel to get to the city is a pretty long time. Since it was split in half between boat and bus, it seemed a little shorter than it actually was. That night we explored some of the markets in KL and visited the Petronas Towers.

Scott and Paul having their feet cleaned by fish

Patronas Towers

Temple near our hostel

The next day we headed to the airport and came back to Taipei. It was a great trip and it just made me look forward to the next adventure.


The festivities!

8 01 2012

It’s been over a month since my last post, and for that I apologize. I’d like to say that I have been so busy gallivanting around Taiwan, however quite the opposite has been the case. It seems like an eternity has passed, and in a way it has. Where to begin; let me set the scene.

As we prepared for Thanksgiving, Taiwan ushered in wet, cold weather. I was able to fully appreciate commuting to and from work by bicycle in all of its glory. The first few weeks were rough. I lacked waterproof gear, and as a result, for a while I was soaked and miserable. Since then I have managed to obtain a few key articles of clothing and gear, however, I’m still in need of some pants to keep me dry.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with a pot-luck dinner in the dorms. A fair amount of people showed up, both foreign and native teachers. It was a fun night, but the dinner made me miss being around family for the season.

Fun Thanksgiving

A few weeks later I began taking Chinese classes again, however this time I decided to go to a more structured school: National Central University. I like it a lot more than the last class I enrolled in. It is fast-paced, sometimes it seems a little too fast, but we are learning a lot of useful language and given a lot more resources than the other school. All in all I am really happy to be back studying and hope that it continues to go well.

Christmas and my birthday went well. My buddy Scott and I stayed up all night chatting on Christmas Eve, so I spent the 25th quite tired. Me and a few friends went up to Beitou in Taipei, which is famous for hot springs. We spent the day lounging around the springs and then headed back into Taipei and ate some really good Indian food. Definitely the most unusual Christmas I have ever had.

A quick week went by and we gathered again for New Years. A large group of us went to Taipei to watch the Taipei 101 fireworks. I had never done the big city, large crowd New Years event, and am happy that I experienced it.  It was a ton of fun and a good start to the new year.

Sweet Fireworks at Taipei 101


Proof we were there!

In two weeks me and four friends leave for Malaysia for a week-long vacation during Chinese New Year. I can’t wait, and hopefully then I will have some more fun photos to share.  Hope everyone’s holidays were fantastic!