Posts Tagged With: Malaysia

Hiking in Kubah National Park

This is a really late post of my trip to Kubah during the Lenten break.  But better late than never.  I really enjoyed my time at Kubah, albeit a really short one, and the trip deserves its own post.

Thank to the good roads and lack of a crowd, I managed to visit the longhouses at Benuk and Annah Rais in the morning with enough time for a quick hike at Kubah National Park.  Or perhaps the short time spent at the longhouses were due more to the general lack of anything to really do except walk along the bamboo boardwalks with a goofy smile on the face and nodding to the bored residents like it was a secret code that allowed you access to their lives.  I wonder how it feels to have crowds of strangers trampling on your front yard every single day of your life?

Day 2 in Kuching and the threat of thunderstorms made me forgo my planned excursion to Bako National Park.  The RM 230 cab hire definitely did not figure in my budget but what the heck, I might as well take in whatever experience I could.  Tour groups?  I’m quite allergic to them.

Kubah is the most accessible national park from Kuching.  Unfortunately, there are no regular buses to the park so you either take a mini van, a cab, or a your own vehicle.  From the main road, we followed the sign to the Matang Family Park and followed the road past it until we reached the national park entrance.  The lady manning the small office was very cheerful and suggested I do a 3 hour loop to the waterfall.  I opted to do the Selang trail which would take me to the viewpoint using the sealed road to the summit then hanging a right to the Rayu Trail which would later meet the Selang trail.  It was a much better route she said as it would mean descending the steep parts of the Selang rather than ascending it.  The 6 hour return hike on a sealed road to the summit of the mountain was out of the question as it would mean getting back down in the dark.  She colored the route for me on a simple hand-drawn map and I was off to the trail after a quick stop at the comfort room.

The sun was out and it was really really hot as I made my way up the steep sealed road.  At times I would walk backwards just to relieve the pressure on my quads.  Give me a forest trail anytime.  Sealed roads are more jarring to both knees and feet not to mention the heat it gives off.  It reminded my of the road up the jump-off point in Gulugod Baboy.  This one was thankfully less steeper.  A slowly made my way up wishing I had not listened to the lady and had taken the jungle trail instead.  I went pass by a middle-aged couple who were taking photographs of a lizard on a tree by the side of the road.

An orange mark for the Rayu Trail

The road finally leveled off and I took a break at the leafy frog pond.  Frogs are nocturnal animals so there wasn’t a single one croaking on the muddy pond singed by boardwalks.  It was cool and quiet place to seek shelter from the heat and to catch my breath.  I would have stayed longer if I had more time in the park.

A few meters from the pond, I veered right to the sign post marking the start of the Rayu Trail.    I was told to simply follow the color coding of the trails which were marked on the trees.  Orange for Rayu and yellow for Selang.  I made a conscious effort to look for the painted barks on the trees just to make sure I was on the right trail.  Last year, the small group I was  hiking with at Taman Negara in West Malaysia had missed the trail and we had gone deeper into the jungle rather than out of it.  We had not bothered to carefully look at the map nor taken heed of the color coding.  I was not going to take chances this time as I was all alone  and didn’t have a lot of sun time.

All alone on the trail, I was dwarfed by ancient trees that soared to the sky almost blotting it out.   It was very cool and leafy and the only sound was that of insects buzzing.  So peaceful it was on the trail, it was almost meditative.  With nary an elevation and clear trail sounds, I took my time to breathe in the surroundings.  There was no summit to assault and no campsite to set-up.  This was a just a short hike and I was going to savor it.

What it lacks in wildlife Kubah makes up for it in vegetation, particularly palms.  There were lots and lots of wild palms and some of them were really big you can pick one off (of course I didn’t do that) and use it as an umbrella.  I grew up with palms as we had several pots of them that my mom used to decorate the corners of the house with. Dead spaces suddenly came to life with these fan-like wonders.  In the wild, they were even more beautiful.  Like beautiful forest flowers, they stood out among the bushes and trees.

The Rayu Trail eventually linked-up with the Selang Trail which led to the viewpoint, my final destination.  The high wooden platform was set in a small clearing and reached by a short steep ladder.  The views of the valley and the small villages were magnificent.

I took in the scene while  snacking on the leftover kek lapis I had bought the other day.  I still had not bumped on a single soul on the trail and the viewpoint and the view was all mine.  I could have sat there for ever but I had to make my way back and be at the headquarters by 4pm.  From the viewpoint, the trail suddenly became steeper with some sections having ropes to make it easier.  As I slowly made my way down, I now understood why the lady at the headquarters advised me to take the sealed road so as to the stepper part on the descent.  Ascending it would take the wind out of anyone.  There were carved steps and some parts had wooden slabs to keep anyone from slipping all the way down. Nothing treacherous but definitely difficult.

I finally reached the Main Trail that led to the camp grounds and eventually to the park headquarters.  All in all, it took me less than two hours to do the entire loop.

Trip Tips

1.  You can take a van and asked to be let-off at the turn-off to Matang Family Park then walk to the park entrance from there.  As for getting back to Kuching . . . I supposed you could wait by the side of the road.

2.  There are many walking trails and it all depends on how much time you’ve got. The Summit Trail is a sealed road that goes all the way up to the summit.  Yes, it it is sealed but it doesn’t mean you can take a vehicle.  Walk.

3.  There are cottages, chalets, and dorms if you wanna sleep over. You gotta book through the Sarawak Forestry Department.  There’s also a canteen.

4.  There’s a simple hand-drawn map which is easy to follow and includes the hiking time.

5.  The lady manning the little office at the start of the Summit Trail is very very friendly and helpful.

Categories: Kubah National Park, Sarawak | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Pulau Ketam — where the rainbow paints

The KTM commuter train finally stopped at the ramshackle station of Perlubahan Klang.  We had reached the end of the line of a trip that started at the Batu Caves at the other end.  The distance between the two stations didn’t seem too far when viewed from the route map.  I didn’t realize that I was on a real train on a route meant to cover great distances and not on the monorail that wound its way around the city and its fringes.  It took a whole two hours and countless stops for me to realize this.  As the train moved farther and farther from KL the scenery turned more rural.  The trip was very comfortable but except for the shop houses at Klang there wasn’t much to see from the train windows.

One of my favorite scenes.

There was hardly anyone on the train car as I stepped out into the bright afternoon sunshine.     The dock was just a few steps from the station past a some Indian eateries.  Following the sign that read “Pualu Ketam boat,” I found myself at a small table manned by a Chinese girl who sold me a two tickets fr RM 7 each.  One was for the trip to the island and the other for the return.  The boat had just arrived a couple of minutes earlier and a few passengers were heading down the gangplank to the boat.

A few seats were occupied and I sat at a window seat at the center row.  The a/c was cold and there was something showing on the large television mounted on the wall.  It took about 15 minutes before the boat departed more than half-full.  The blue and white speed boat was old but it seemed fairly sea worthy as it skidded over the waters past some islets and mangroves.

About a quarter to an hour, the boat docked at a small pier and a few passengers stood-up.  I grabbed my backpack and was about to stand-up when an elderly Chinese man with a woman I presumed to be his wife told me that it wasn’t Pulau Ketam yet which was the next isalnd.  Hmmm… perhaps my overall look (backpack and fisherman pants) signaled TOURIST!

The boat then proceeded to the next island and we  all disembarked and walked up the gangplank and to a large covered cement pier.  I followed the crowd and the Chinese couple ahead of me.  People seemed to know everyone as departing and arriving passengers greeted each other.

If it weren’t for the hotel a few meters from the pier and the rows upon rows of restaurants lining the small road to the center of the small town, Pulau Ketam would seem like it’s totally out of the tourist trail.  There were more locals than tourists and all the stores merely sold food and everyday items rather than tourist junk.  Absolutely no sign of a “Pulau Ketam– the Forgotten City” (as one travel brochure called it) t-shirt.

Honestly, when I reached a small roundabout with a large cauldron and two temples which seemed to be the town center, I was a little disappointed.  It was pretty but there didn’t seem to be anything else.  I thought of going back to the boat which was due to leave in about 30 minutes but the thought of the long train ride led me to stay.  I could kill a couple of hours in this town and still make it back to KL before dark in time for dinner, I told myself.

Looking blankly at a low wall with Chinese characters and contemplating on what to do, Mr. Chinese came swinging by on a bicycle.  He was sight-seeing too.  He asked me if I was staying the night or was going back to KL.  I answered to the latter.  At a small blue house overlooking a tributary of the river, a small Chinese-looking  film crew was cooling their heels while a Malay guy explained a few things about the  temple to them.  They seemed to be making a feature.

A tableaux of dieties inside a spirit house beside the temple

Seeing Mr. Chinese on a bike reminded me of my long-overdue resolve to learn to ride one.  It’s one of the best ways  to explore the nooks and crannies of places such as this one.  In the meantime, I had to make do with my legs.  With no clear sense of orientation or where I wanted to go, I simply took to the backstreets and discovered a quaint town of  beautiful colored houses and a relaxed vibe.

Flying dragon

Across the bigger temple with its sculpture of floating dragons that seemed to float on air was a small locked house.  Behind it was a concrete yard overlooking a canal.  A couple of large wooden tables held statues of deities, a couple of which had their heads covered with scraps of newspapers.  Several hand drums with long handles (how I drooled over them) lay on one side  packets of yellow paper with Chinese characters.  Discards from an old temple?

An air of sleepiness pervaded the town.  Perhaps the heat of the day drove everyone inside. Even the vendors were quiet; their goods spread unguarded on tables near the open shop fronts.  Business was slow in the restaurants all purveying seafood.  It was a relief to just walk past them without anyone shoving a plastic menu on your face.  I espied a couple of whites having a meal in one of the round wooden tables and they seemed just as surprise to see me as I with them.

The population seemed to be largely Chinse going by the looks of the town people and the names of the stores.  It was a just a few weeks to the Chinese Lunar New Year which probably explains the freshly-painted and cleaned houses. One lady was perched on a stool busy wiping off probably a year’s worth of soot and grime on the red spirit house on her front yard.

This would be at home at any beach

If a rainbow had dropped from the sky and splattered on land painting all the houses, this would be the place.  I spent a couple of hours just quietly admiring the beautiful houses painted in bright hues of the rainbow.  It was remarkable how the people of a small simple town on a small village could spend so much energy to make even the most simple wooden house so colorful with.  At each turn of the corner, I would come across a house more lovely than the previous one.  It was a pure delight to simply stroll along the narrow streets with hardly any people.  It would have been perfect if not for the trash on the canals and a few scruffy yards.

By the time I walked back to the boat to catch the 4:30 trip, I wished I had known there were accommodations in the island as I would have wanted to stay longer and catch the sunset on the river.

The boat was already at the dock waiting for passengers heading back to Perlabuhan Klang.  School had just let out and a gang of school children in their brown and white uniforms clambered on a wooden ferry to take them to the nearby islands where they lived.

I took my seat (window, center row) as more people got in, some with boxes and sacks they put at the front of the cabin.  The door closed and we sped across the quiet waters of the river.  In a couple of hours the sun would set painting the water a lovely shade of orange just like some of the houses. As I slunk in my seat and looked at the mangroves on the short, I knew I would be back and this time stay.

The most memorable places are those that take time to grow on you.  There are no “ooohhhhssss” nor “aaaahhhhssss.”  Only quiet meditative appreciation.  It’s as close as you can get to being enchanted.

Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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