We have just left Penang Island and its beautiful street arts. We are in a huge ferry that links the island to the Peninsula before continuing by bus to the center of Malaysia. Program: spirituality and meetings in Ipoh, tasting strawberries and tea in Cameron Highlands before finishing by trekking in the jungle of the Taman Negara… Ready? Let’s go!
Incredible stopover in Ipoh
At the end of our stay in Lao, a small french gentleman told us: “go to Ipoh, you will see it is a beautiful small city. You will not be disappointed! ” Arriving by bus, we wonder what there is to do in the area, as the city does not seem to be very “busy”. I must say that we are in the midst of Ramadan, the fasting month. Many shops and restaurants are opening late in the day. But, after some research and advice of the inhabitants, we find many things!
We already invite you to walk in the city center. There are beautiful buildings recalling the colonial period.
The discovery of temples hidden in the mountains
We find 3 temples worth seeing. The most famous is the Sam Poh Tong, which apparently contains a hidden temple. Next is the Ling Sen Tong temple, another buddhist, very colorful and half troglodyte temple. The Perak cave is also part of our program as we can enjoy a beautiful view from the top.
We start by taking a local bus to reach the temples of Ling Tong Sen and Sam Poh Tong, situated next to each other. We’re surprised when arriving in front of the first complex because it looks more like an amusement park with replicas of animals on which children can climb (Yes Madam is a child) than to a Buddhist temple. Yet, there are many prayer rooms, incense burning everywhere and representations of deities. The whole is sticked to the mountain. The beautiful and bright colors stand out much more in this landscape of greenery.
Our steps then lead us to the Sam Poh Tong temple. By crossing the entrance gate, we find that it is quite similar to the previous temple and do not really understand why it has such an interest. We really discover this temple by walking on the floors and tunnels, directly dug in the mountain. At the end of our walk, we emerge on a tunnel that indicates turtles. What? Intrigued, we head in that direction naturally. It opens on the other side of the mountain, in a small natural circus, surrounded by karst mountains. There is a kind of park with lots of large turtles hungry, waiting for generous tourists to give them green leaves. But the most interesting lies on the other side. A beautiful small orange temple is hidden in the middle of this natural landscape, bathed by natural light coming from above mountains. We are speechless in front of this wonderful show.
Hide and seek in the Kellie’s castle
After visiting these two temples, we decide to go to the Perak Temple the day after as it is located on the opposite side of the city. We look at how to get to our next destination, the Kellie’s castle, located about 1/2 hour from Ipoh. Simply take the same bus and change a little further. Rather simple! Yes, if the bus comes… We wait for 30 minutes, then for 1 hour. We are waiting for a moment when a Malaysian girl comes to ask us if we want her to take us somewhere. We explain our situation and the place where we want to go. She goes back to in her car, talking with her girlfriend and comes back to us saying “OK, it’s good for us, we’ll drive you!”. It is still unclear if we have to be happy or suspicious. But we say that they look rather nice, so let’s go. And there starts a great day.
We’re going all together, direction the castle of this dear Mr Kellie, a Scotsman who had come to settle in Malaysia at the end of the 1800s, to make money with hevea plantations (for rubber). Unfortunately, he died before the end of the construction of his huge castle, and his wife, devastated, decided to return to live in Scotland, rather than stay there alone. The Castle, never finished, is today opened to the public to discover a part of the colonial history of Malaysia and perhaps meet the ghost of this good old Kellie. What a program!
Jess, one of the two Malaysian girls, does the visit with us. We explore every nook and cranny of the Castle, from the hidden room in the basement, to the walk on the rooftop! Even if there are only ruins left, we understand the articulation of the rooms. This gentleman had seen things big. The funniest? Walk on the rooftop on the 2nd floor without any security gate! We have a 360 degree view of surrounding palm plantations and you can walk absolutely everywhere… at our risk.
Climb in the Perak cave
So now we think we are going back to the city. Jess and Su Lin explain us that they are in holidays in Ipoh for a few days before returning to work in Kuala Lumpur and Borneo. They want to do what there is to see in the surroundings. Therefore, they ask us if we want to visit anything else today. We explain that we will go to the Perak cave the next day and they answer “Okay, let’s go now!”. And this is how we find ourselves at the entrance of the cave with our two new girlfriends. Unbelievable!
We visit galleries dug into the mountains that make this beautiful Buddhist temple. The walls are covered with Chinese paintings, representing deities, animals or landscapes. It’s a very fine art.
But the most interesting begins when we start the set of stairs to climb to the top of the mountain. The girls follow us, although they are not really thrilled by the 500 steps to reach the summit. First we go on the right side, which results in a view… on the factories of the city below. No really interesting. But we do not stop there. We keep on walking on the left side, towards the “steepest” part. The stairs are quite steep, but once at the top of the mountain, the view is much more interesting. You can enjoy a beautiful panorama of Ipoh and its surroundings.
Tea and trekking in the Cameron Highlands
After our break in Ipoh, we take a bus to reach Cameron Higlands, a little further away in the center of the country. The bus stops in a small town, Tanah Rata, nestled in the heart of the mountains. The change is radical compared to what we have seen until now.
Trek through the jungle
It is not sunny on our arrival. But we still study the map of the hiking trails. It is really easy to hike in the mountains nearby.
We would like to do the trek n ° 1, which leads to the highest peak in the area, on Mount Brinchang. But the path is now closed, as the summit, because tourists regularly confused the Observatory Tower with the telecom Tower. They climbed on the bad one (the telecom…) to enjoy a wonderful view over the whole region. The telecom company has therefore privatized the entire site, and now, no one can go there… #stupidity
So, we choose another summit of 12 km that makes a big loop in the jungle and comes back to the city. We’re going with our sneakers and k-ways in Indiana Jones mode. The first meters in the jungle done, we wonder if there’s snakes, varans and other nice insects that lives there. Not that we don’t like crossing passages less than a metre wide, but who knows? Fortunately for us, there is nothing, only a few large centipedes. We later learn that there are about 80 different species of snakes in the area… You can imagine our heads at that moment. 😉
We easily reach the top and enjoy a magnificent view… on the clouds. They are stuck around the mountains. Therefore we do not see very far. The rain starts again when doing our little break. So we pack all our stuff and rush in the jungle, even more wet. We follow the indications of the trek that lead us to a power station. We bend and find the road that takes back us to the city. This road is under construction at this time and the floor is covered with mud in which we almost lost our shoes. The road also fell in the jungle on the way and there is a big hole in the middle of the trail… We’re finally back safe and with our shoes all muddy to our guesthouse, but very happy with our little walk.
Meeting with one of the oldest forests of the world
The Mossy Forest is part of the oldest forests in the world. Notably, she survived the dinosaurs! There are beautiful species of trees, that you can’t find elsewhere. The Malaysians are very proud to present it to tourists. You should know that it is located on the border between two States: Perak and Pahang. It faces the Brinchang mount (the one on which can no longer climb) and gives a very nice panorama on the surrounding forest.
So, we go for a morning of discovery with our guide, including this incredible forest. A pedestrian bridge was built in order to avoid the deterioration of the moss and trees. So we walk one meter high from the ground, slaloming between gnarled trees. Sometimes, an opening lets you see the extent of the forest.
We enjoy a really nice weather during our visit. But we can imagine that this place must be somewhat supernatural, almost mystical when it comes to a rainy day with fog.
Tasting BOH tea
Malaysia is not one of these large exporters of tea, like China, India or Sri Lanka. However, the country has a major company of tea, that allows to provide the entire national population. This company, BOH, was created in 1929 by an English rich investor. Mr Russell has decided to create the first plantation of black tea on the green hills of Cameron Highlands. Today N ° 1 in Malaysia, locals only swear by the BOH tea. Why BOH? Just for Best Of Highlands!
We have time to visit the tea factory, then the Museum and the shop of course. We don’t want to stand in line to drink tea beacause of the crowd, but we buy a small package as a souvenir, to taste later. Personally, we don’t find it to be better than the tea that we had found in Longjin in China.
The ride in the middle of plantations is really beautiful.
Koh Lanta in the Taman Negara mode
Because we find that the jungle of Cameron Highlands is still “nice”, we decide to venture further away in the Taman Negara national park. If I am right, it is 7 times the size of Singapore. And of course, the jungle is populated small animals of all kinds that we love. Let’s go!
Night walk in the jungle
Arriving in the village facing the jungle, Kuala Tahan, we book a small unusual room in the middle of the forest, isolated from everything. Perfect to get in condition! There is only noise from the trees and the river to disturb us in our capsule…
After our arrival, we book a walk in the jungle at night. Apparently, you can see many more things than during tha day, as the animals start to hunt. I hope we are not the bait!
Our guide, half asleep while it is barely 8 p.m., makes us cross the river and go! We start gently looking for insects. We first find the little glowworms, then millipedes, then spiders, the size of the hand palm. You start looking at where you put your feet on…
Then we hear something moving in the trees. First we think that they are monkeys, but our guide tells us that it’s bigger! As we approach a bit (Yes, it could be a monstrous thing but we move forward… as in horror movies), we see an animal jumping in the trees. It is a leopard cat. Looks like a Bobcat, but with patches of leopard on the back. It is quite big and clearly hunting something.
A little further, our guide points his flashlight on a small branch that moves. Ah well no actually, it’s a snake! What? It is all thin and fluorescent green with big eyes. Another guide tells us that it is a Viper. So it is better to stay away…
Then we go to a watchtower to observe animals that could come to drink in the small pond in the middle of the tall grass. We are told that there were a lot of animals before, but that there is nothing now, because of tourism. We turned everything off and wait patiently in the dark but nothing will come tonight.
On the way back, we hear a big noise in the forest. For a second it feels like in Jurassic Park with a Tyrannosaurus coming at us. A Dutch beside me takes my arm as she’s scared. This is ‘only’ a huge tree that just crashed a little further. Fortunately we were not under…
Our guide desperately seeks the giant spider in order to introduce us. But we’re happy to never find it. Scorpions are fine! Sleeping after all these wonderful meetings will be a challenge! Let me tell you that Mister checks under the bed on our arrival in the capsule… 😉
Lost in the middle of the canopy
The next morning, we leave for a walk in the jungle. Program: walking in the trees to 20 meters above the ground and then trek to the top of the Hill Teresek… at 335 m. Nothing too complicated! Our guide is missing for the morning, but we’re going alone. We should bea able to do it with the map!
First step in the canopy walk. You walk onto walkways about 20 meters above the ground, in order to discover the fauna and the flora at the tops of the trees, in the canopy. One thing is certain, it’s just as interesting as down! We discover the black giant squirrel, jumping nimbly from branch to branch. We’re moving on bridges suspended above the void. It’s very impressive, especially as they move according to our movements.
Too bad that the path is shortened for the moment because we’d love to extend our ride up there. We hear lots of sounds that we are not used to.
Second step, reach the Teresek Summit. We have seen that it was not very high, so we don’t have to worry too much. But we forget one thing: we are in a tropical jungle. In other words: humidity = 100%! So we’re moving and climbing stairs to reach the view point facing the mount Tahan, the highest mountain in the area. But then I can not tell you how I swet. It breaks records! My clothes are literally soaked and Mister think I’ll do a syncope as I am literally red! And yet, not insurmountable. The climate plays a lot eventually. 😉
The way back downhill is much faster and we easily find the boat to reach the village on the other side. A good shower is appreciated!
Whirlpool on the river and meeting with the Orang Asli
We only have one afternoon left. So we decide to meet a local tribe, by boat with a guide. By boat, they mean in fact, mini boat that moves in fast in order to soak you. It is really fun for us. The Spanish couple who makes the trip with us, enjoy it much less…
Anyway, after the rapids and now that we are once again soaked (but not swetty), we arrive in the village of the Orang Asli, a local tribe, which continues to live independently in the forest. To explain a little their living conditions, our guide shows us how to start a fire in less than one minute. We can go on Koh Lanta without any problem now! We’ll make fire very fast… if we have some dry raffia, Lichen, and many other materials to make it. 🙂
The hunting is part of the life of the tribe. A young man from the village shows us how they make their Blowgun, their poisonous arrows, and especially the meaning of the drawings. All the men of the village must know how to hunt. This is the mandatory rite to be considered as a man. Young people leave alone in the jungle for several days in order to bring back animals that the Chief of the tribe requests (for example: 5 squirrels and 3 monkeys). At the end, they make us try the blowguns and although they look quite heavy, it is super easy to blow and reach its target.
Then we take the boat back to our capsule and as you can imagine, we are once again completely soaked in the rapids, but also very happy!
This concludes this new adventure in the center of Malaysia. In order to recover from our emotions in the jungle and because we want to see something different, we head to the Islands Perenthian, to the northeast of the peninsula this time. Program: snorkeling, diving and lazing on the beach. “What else?” as the add says. You will have to wait until the next article to figure it out!