It’s been an eventful time since my last post, with no access to internet, so this’ll be a short update on lots of things. 😉
I left the Perhentians on my 29th birthday, September 18. The trip to Taman Negara national park turned out to be a long one, due to Hari Raya, the festival marking the end of Ramadan. The most memorable was probably when our bus was driving around the small streets of Jerantut city, looking for an ATM where we could get cash to bring into the chemically ATM-free Taman Negara. I had 69 Ringgit with me, so going without more cash was hardly an option, and I was not the only one in that position. The first ATM was out of cash, since everybody had been stocking up for the Hari Raya bank holiday. The second one wouldn’t accept foreign credit cards. The third one was also empty, but luckily at the forth ATM (the last one in town…) we got our cash.
Several guest houses in Taman Negara were closed because of Hari Raya, but eventually I got myself checked in. The next morning I slept long, before going into the National park itself. I asked about doing the nine day trek to Mount Tahan, the highest mountain in peninsular Malaysia, but all the guides were off for … you guessed it: Hari Raya. 😉 Instead I headed out alone on a short trek, that turned into a long trek, and nearly an involuntary overnight trek… I went on the Canopy Walkway, long bridges high up in the trees, and then I continued on to scale at least a small mountain, Bukit Indah. When I came back down, I was five kilometers from the village I came from, Kuala Tahan, and six from Kuala Terrenggan. I decided to go up to Terrenggan instead of going back the same way I’d come. It was a pretty hard trek, up and down small canyons with a creek to be forded in the bottom of each, and fallen trees across the path every few meters, to be climbed over, crawled under or walked around. A wild boar got as surprised as I did, when we were suddenly staring each other in the face a few meters apart, and I don’t know who jumped higher, me or it… Luckily the startled hog decided to head the other direction, because I barely had time to remember how aggressive these tusked animals can be, and look for a tree to climb to get out of the reach of those sharp things before he was gone in the undergrowth.
In the middle of nowhere I walked into a camp of Orang Asli, the aboriginal nomads inhabiting the national park, and they could tell me I was not too far away from Terrenggan. With lifted spirits I pressed on, anxious for a meal and a boat back down the river to Tahan. Imagine my disappointment when Terrengan turned out to be nothing more than a long-abandoned resort, in the process of being reclaimed by the jungle… I was sitting on the old ramshackle pier by the ghost town resort contemplating what to do if no boats came by. I figured I’d have to head back to the Orang Asli, and ask if I could stay the night with them, and head back in the morning. I had a bit of money with me, so at least I could pay them… When I was about to give up, a group of overnight trekkers came down the path, and met with their pre-arranged transport on the very same pier I was sitting! I managed to get a ride down the river, to a shower and a hot meal. The trek that started out as a 45 minute easy walk, turned out to be a gruelling seven-hour adventure that saw me back in my guest house after dark… 😀
I met a nice German girl called Katharina in the dorm I was staying, and we travelled together from Taman Negara furher down the east coast of Malaysia to Pulau Tioman. She left there a few days ago, and I left this morning. Tioman was like a bigger version of the Perhentians, with more monitor lizards, more monkeys, and more people. 🙂 I dove with Fisherman Divers there, had five dives on three different days. I was only planning to stay there a few days, but it turned into a whole week. 😛
This morning saw me leaving on the 7:30 boat to Mersing, and then get the bus at noon to Singapore. When I arrived, I spent almost an hour making my way by the subway to Little India, and it turned out I could have walked here in less than half that time… I then strolled around Little India, which is supposed to be the backpacker area, looking for a guest house and asking people, but nobody seemed to think there were anything else than more or less expensive hotels! Eventually I sat down at an artsy fairtrade restaurant, had an expensive (but organic and fair) meal, and used Singapore’s fantastic free WiFi to find out that there were in fact lots of guesthouses nearby. I chose one that I’d heard of from another traveller on the ferry to Tioman, Ali’s Nest, and so far I am happy about the choice. It’s basically a Chinese family in the middle of the Indian quarter who’ve made a couple of the rooms in their apartment into dorms… The family also lives here, and grandma (looks like she’s at least a hundred years old) is looking over my shoulder as I write this. 🙂