The Taman Negara, the Cameron Highlands and Kelly’s Castle (Malaysia)
Saturday, January 29th, 2011
AJ “When I am King and Sherriff, I am going to bring my whole army here and they are going to search all of this rainforest – every track! – to check on all the wildlife!”
While high up on a 30m high, 500m long swaying canopy bridge……….
Jessica “I didn’t think I was scared of heights but the huge canopy walkway made me feel very sick and scared!”
Jessica loves tea, constantly pining for a decent cuppa on our travels. Deep in the Cameron Highlands, she was in heaven after having a special pot of Cameron Highlands tea and then running wild around the tea plantations with AJ……..
Jessica “……….I love it here…….there’s tea and Land Rovers everywhere ……….it’s like Land Rover land – and it’s nice and cool…..I should have been born here!”
Jessica “………. Daddy………………will you buy me a Land Rover 110?”
Commenting on the several strawberry and vegetable plantations…………..
Jessica “Grand-dad would love it here – he could have a huge allotment!”
Commenting on the sudden change to the cold weather of the highlands……………
Mum “…….I’m Freeezing”
Jessica “I’ve just had a hot shower and could run round the room naked 5 times!……..I could be a nudy!
Dad “I’ve got cold feet – unbelievable. But it’s not actually that cold. We‘ll will die when we get back to England – we’ll never survive! ”
AJ “I feel warm – but only because I have some covers over me.”
On the local radio……
‘In Style, In Rhythm’ by Tom Jones and ‘I’m not guilty’ by Duffy.
Leaving Melaka, our route took us on a quick whiz through Klang (again!) – to re-check vehicle shipping options, Kuala Lumpar city centre, past Fraser’s Hill, Batu Caves and the Genting Highlands. It was Thaipusam, the most important religious festival in the Hindu Malaysian calendar which is celebrated complete with hooks and spikes into the skin of participants who carrying ‘kavadi’ (burdens). The caves were packed with thousands of people and we had to bypass due to the traffic queues. It was a shame and we decided afterward, we should have stayed in Melaka one more day as there had been a small Thaipusam festival taking place in Little India there.
We drove through Kuala Lumpar city on a whistle stop tour for no other reason than to have a look at the famous Petronas Twin Towers (home of Petronas – the state owned oil company). Built at a cost of $2 billion, standing 452m high, with 8-pointed stars shapes, 88 floors and a postcode of 59088 (the number eight being a favoured number of the Chinese) – we thought the towers looked quite special and magnificent. We stopped only long enough though to take some photographs before driving out again. It was a nice multicultural capital city that looks older than it is (only approx. 100 years old). Our leaving thoughts were that the huge underwater tunnel aquarium based there, might have been good to see (you can also dive with the sharks if pre-arranged) but with the heat, we wanted more natural outdoor life rather than the city for the children at that moment.
Taman Negara, Pahang
The Taman Negara was boiling hot – so much so that Jess and AJ got sun-burned and we all sweated to death. We approached from the south to the village of Kuala Tehan to reach this huge tropical rainforest – the largest undivided tract in the Peninsular, spread over 4,343 square kilometres and 130 million years old (some of it older than the Congo and Amazon). To get there, there is really only one long road enveloped by forest, jungle and mangroves to get through. The village then separated from the Taman Negara by the Tembeling River. To reach the rainforest, we took a motorised sampan across to the Park Head Quarters where Jessica and AJ received huge big posters from one of the park keepers, detailing the animals, vegetation and the types of footprints they might find. A portion of the hunter gatherer Negrita related Orang Asli tribe live in the forest, living off the land using temporary vine and brush shelters. There are some 1,000 of these people dotted throughout the whole of Peninsular Malaysia, many living in the most basic of ways.
Despite the heat, we managed a fascinating 3 km+ round trek with the children through the rainforest which was more than enough for us but, it was hardly a dent given the sheer size of the place – Jessica and AJ delighted in looking at what they determined were footprints and tried to guess what animals could have passed through. In addition, we climbed the canopy walkway which is a narrow 30m high, 500m long, swaying aluminium and rope ladder bridge. AJ managed the forest trek and walkway like a gazelle (scaring the living daylights out of all the wildlife we were trying to look at along the way!), while Jessica struggled with the swinging motion & height of the walkway – making her unexpectedly feel sick and panicky. From the top of the canopy, we were able to look at the views of the Sungai Tembeling section of the rainforest below us and observe wildlife such as geckos, monkeys, birds and insects, high up in the tree tops. In truth though, we didn’t get see much as, to get the best from the rainforest we needed to spend a few days trekking through and observing at differing times of day and night. When we did stop to listen and observe – AJ just couldn’t help himself but make a racket of some kind – including monkey sounds to see if he might get a response back! – though he did get a big fright and came running back when a large animal grunted and bolted in the bushes t one stage, behind him. We saw many huge, big geckos and Jessica loved the experience of observing and following them. She would have loved the opportunity to trek and camp for a few days inside the interior but it was impossible to keep AJ still for longer than a minute (poor Jess ended up a bit frustrated with her brother – the age gap feeling a bit ever widening at times!).
We hadn’t planned to visit the Cameron Highlands – we thought it would involve lots of treks – our original thinking being that it might be too much for the children, especially in the searing heat. But, having seen how much they enjoyed the Taman Negara, this changed our plans somewhat so we headed straight for the area from there.
We drove into the Cameron Highlands (the name taken from William Cameron, a British government surveyor who discovered during 1885 and founded an extensive hill station there) – from it’s backside, a long way round so we could explore more of the interior and stay well away from any motorways. It was a brilliant, beautiful and worthwhile move – the children loved and it was one of the best drives in Peninsular Malaysia in our view. We came across Gua Musang by accident, a place where the jungle railway passes and the landscape is full of limestone hills with caves. We approached the mountainous retreat of the Cameron Highlands from here – a huge highlight for us with gorgeous scenery, mangroves, beautiful flowers, foliage, jungle and vegetable, strawberry, rose and tea plantations all the way through (also definitely a motor bikers dream with it‘s curly, winding, empty roads – we saw many groups of huge, big Malaysian versions roaring through!).
Once in it’s heart, we couldn’t help but notice the abundance of Land Rovers everywhere – hundreds even thousands of them – all old and properly used as working vehicles by the Tamil, Bangladeshi and Malay workers who live here. We saw mainly Series pickup’s and 110‘s and reckoned that there must be more working Land Rovers per square metre located here, than anywhere else in the world. The weather in the highlands was much cooler especially at night (freezing!), woollies instead of air conditioning the norm. Daytime was boiling and the children had been fighting in the car on our long journey through. We decided our first port of call had to be a tea house, a quiet, relaxing place just at the tip of the highland‘s north end (Bharat’s Tea House – founded by a famous Indian settler Mr Shuparshad who came to make his fortune as a young man here in the early 1900′s). We tried out the famous Cameron Highlands offerings i.e. tea with scones, butter, jam and fresh cream – heaven and delicious! The children investigated the attached plantation with much zeal and freedom (newly refreshed from the tea!) – a great place to play hide and seek – better than any playground we thought and a good move as Jess and AJ could find their feet again and forget their cabin fever. We stocked up on freshly sealed Cameron Highlands tea for Jessica (our resident tea lover!) before moving further into the highlands which was to take us onto Brinchang for the night.
There are three principal towns situated in the highlands – Ringlet (a rich, agricultural area), Tanah Rata (principal settlement) and Brinchang (famous for it’s fruit and vegetable farms). After investigating and doing a recce of the area, we decided our favourite place was Brinchang as though busy with people and plenty of guest-houses and hotels to stay, it seemed the most authentic, natural and least prim out of the three. The only thing was the weather – like being in England again – plenty of rain, cloud and fog. On our last day, we decided on a drive right through to Tapah before heading the long way round (again away from any motorways), to have a look at onto Kellie’s Castle, just outside of Ipoh. The route out of Brinchang was equally, if not, an even more beautiful drive due to the foliage, waterfall, lake, Orang Asli people and views along the way.
Kellie’s Castle, situated 12km outside of Ipoh is a dilapidated, crumbling half-built (never finished) mansion, once owned by a Scottish entrepreneur called William Kellie Smith. We came to have a look and see for ourselves the prosperity achieved by this enterprising man and his family (wife and two children) who settled here. The mansion was to have Malaysia’s first ever lift. However, it is believed that Smith fell ill and died while making a trip to Europe to buy this piece of new fangled machinery. His land (rubber tree plantation) and new mansion (built to replace an earlier home which was connected on the same grounds) was sold on by his wife after he died.
The ‘castle’s in a state of dis-repair and we thought his old house on the same grounds nicer but it made a nice diversion before heading north to Georgetown – our second to Penang (finally deciding to ship our vehicle from there to Medan, Indonesia).
Travel sickness hit with Jessica in Taman Nagara and the Cameron Highlands due to long, very windy roads (we‘d experienced similar in the Tibetan Plateau and Northern Laos along with altitude). The canopy walk panicked Jessica and made her feel sick because of it’s height, length and the rope bridge movement – none of us realising it would be a problem until we were actually on it.
Away from the motorways and tolls is one of the best ways to see the interior of Malaysia and definitely worth doing.
Jessica -Science – Looking at the basic needs of humans and which activities that use more or less energy. Finding 14 animals in a spiral word chain. Word search to find the names of shelters that different animals use. Looking at animals differing living environments. English – Looking at vocabulary and grammar i.e. choosing correct words, phrases and/or answers to complete a sentence and/or situation. Looking at words that have the same meanings. Choosing the best answer to fill blanks in a passage. Reading information from a notice about holiday art & craft classes and answering questions about the details provided. Language – Practising Malay language greetings. Comparing Malaysian language to Indonesian language. Maths – guessing the blank solutions to long addition sums.
AJ – Science – Labelling and looking at external parts of different animals. Looking at differences between living and non-living things. Looking at similarities and differences between animals e.g. types of body covering. Looking for animals with tails in word search quiz e.g. horse, elephant. Doing a crossword with clues to identify the external features of a bird. English – matching sentences to correct pictures. Writing sentences to describe pictures. Making sentences and writing from jumbled up words. Choosing correct sentences to best describe a picture. Writing repeated sentences to practise handwriting (giving dad lines in return to see how he likes it!).Maths – introduction to simple long addition. Looking at 1,000s, 100s, Tens and Units – how to translate numbers with thousands involved into numbers and words.
Other Educational Observations
Malaysia has excellent value and diverse educational offering everywhere in most bookshops. Back in Georgetown, we found Year 1- 6 Science, English and Mathematic books for 50p each – suitable for both Jess and AJ to use depending on their various ability levels. Jess found a book she liked that had a mixture of poetry and essays aimed at first year Secondary School. We spent £6 in total.
Working in pencil with sharpener and rubber rather than pen much better – saves errors and accidents and improves neatness.
Bye for now
A, A, J and AJ