Saturday, July 25, 2009

Taman Negara

I have heard of Taman Negara but have never been anywhere near it even though I've spent half of my life in Malaysia. I was convinced I had to bring "A" there when I read that Taman Negara is one of the oldest rainforest in the world, estimated at 130 million years old.

Hiking in the peaceful forest.

Taman Negara was a bit far and was difficult to get to (4 hours bus ride, 3 hours boat ride) from Kuala Lumpur but turned out to be quite pretty. Unfortunately, I think it got too popular internationally and with popularity comes touristy. During our stay there, there were two teams of TV people. We heard one was from MTV India and the other one from some Swedish reality show.

We made hotel reservations with Mutiara Resort who also arranged land and river transportation and our daily itinerary. A 4 day-3 night package for two, which includes accommodation, buffet meals and a guide into the forest and cave, costs about RM4000. I think it was slightly overpriced for Malaysian standards and "A" and I would normally prefer to self-explore a new place but the whole trip turned out quite exciting and trouble-free.

Boats at the jetty that will take us to our resort.

Canopy walkway.

Drumming on the roots of a tall tree.

There were at least a thousand bats in Gua Telinga (Ear Cave). This human-ear formed cave has narrow, slippery and wet passages that is filled with bat-droppings. It was definitely one of the more challenging explorations yet.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Perhentian Island

Crystal blue and calm waters of Perhentian.

Our Resort

"A" studying hard for PADI open water final exam in our chalet.

Bubbles Resort is a pretty modest lodge cum dive center that is located on the southern tip of Perhentian Island. There are no roads leading to this beach and you can only get here on a boat. Beautiful as it was, I admit I was slightly nervous when I arrived because of small beach size and the lack of activities but that quickly changed. On our first night, we saw some 20-30 baby turtle hatchlings on the beach, which apparently is a very rare event. They looked so vulnerable and exposed, you just want to pick them up and bring them to the sea but we were told by the turtle-protecting volunteers not to touch them because the little hatchlings need to learn survival immediately after coming out of their shells. Two days later, we saw a large turtle laying eggs on a similar spot.

Sand hole where the hatchlings came out of. I couldn't get any photos of the hatclings because I wasn't allowed to use flash on them.

“A” and I got our Scuba Diver license in the Andaman Islands and finished our Open Water license here in Perhentian. Our instructor Eric a.k.a. Old Man here at Bubbles Resort was both comical and strict. During our dives, I must have seen at least five billion fishes but the one amazing experience I had was swimming among 20 bumphead parrot fishes, some must’ve been as long as 5 ft. They moved slowly around us and made a stone-scrapping sound when they use their big teeth to bite off corals.

We also saw a 1.5 meter black tip reef shark and a 3-legged resident turtles and had our hands cleaned by some invisible cleaner shrimps.

Proud divers.

Merv - my bff and dive master.

Big lizard under our neighbor's chalet. Apparently, a python went under the resort's restaurant during our stay there.

Super friendly Bubbles Resort staff waving goodbye.

Getting there

The Air Asia flight (round trip RM230 per person) from Kuala Lumpur LCCT to Kota Bharu took only 50 minutes. We had prearranged transportation with Bubbles Resort in Perhentian Island, so a car was already waiting for us when we landed at the airport. Car ride (one way RM30 per person) to the jetty took about 1.5 hours and boat ride (round trip RM70 per person) from the jetty to Bubbles Resort took about 30 minutes.