Always up for an adventure, I jumped on the chance to explore Taman Negara (National Park) when the opportunity presented itself. Some of my fondest memories were from road trips and I find driving the roads less travelled to be highly therapeutic. Blessed with lush jungles, scenic streams and beautiful coastlines, we’re lucky we don’t have to drive far to come across natural beauty.
Armed with basic necessities like mosquito repellent, antihistamine tablets, a flash light, energy bars, an adequate amount of clothing and table salt (a painless way of removing leeches, which I thankfully didn’t encounter), I was ready for my trip. The drive took me three hours across the picturesque Titiwangsa Mountain range from the East Coast Expressway to the trunk roads of Kuala Krau–Jerantut. My journey took slightly longer because I inevitably stopped to sample the many roadside stalls and their tasty offerings of cendol, pisang goreng (fried banana) and kerepek (crisps).
Mutiara Taman Negara offers various types of accommodation, including camping for the adventurous and suites of all sizes for those who prefer comfort after a day of jungle trekking. Upon checking in and fuelling up at the Seri Mutiara Restaurant, I geared up to get wet (dri-fit clothes recommended). The itinerary suggested rapid-shooting down the river to the Orang Asli settlement, and it proved to be a great experience.
The simpler life of the orang asli (the indigenous people of Malaysia) reminded me how far I was from the hustle and bustle of the city and really put everything into perspective. Sharing the moment with these beautiful people was enlightening, especially learning how to use a blowpipe and how to start a fire. I can safely say my survival skills are not up to scratch, but at least my comical efforts drew laughter from the women and children!
My hiking skills were much better, and I trekked up the Teresek Hills where the awesome view of the majestic rainforest was hard to beat. I was not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Mount Tahan as it was cloudy, but the amazing view of Mount Perlis, the valley below and the Tahan River was more than enough.
The gentle chirping of insects and birds, along with the mesmerising surrounds, were worth the workout my legs endured. All my senses were amplified in anticipation of spotting snakes, insects and animals during the guided night walk. Since it rained earlier, the animals were probably asleep but we did manage to spot various arachnids, a brown tree snake, praying mantises and gigantic ants.
Taman Negara is home to the world’s longest canopy walk. Stretching across 530m and at 40m above ground level, it is not for the faint-hearted. It was at this incongruous spot that I met a German couple who eventually hitched a ride back to the city with me. The tales of their Malaysian adventures, coupled with our experience in the spectacular Taman Negara, made this one of the more memorable road trips I’ve had in recent years.