Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SE Asia 2017 - Day 9 (8/22/2017) - Batu Caves and Taman Negara

Today was all about a day trip to Taman Negara (literally, National Park) arranged through (shocking!) Taman Negara Day Tour.  Pick-up was at 7am, with a friendly phone call from the driver when he arrived to remind me to pack extra clothes and flip-flops if I had them.  There was a couple from Boston already in the van when I got in - I later found out that they both went to UIUC as well, though graduated a good 7 or 8 years after I did.

Entrance to Batu Caves

Our first stop was the Batu Caves, where we arrived around 7:20am.  There were only a handful of people there, which was nice (it apparently starts getting crowded after 9am).  The three of us walked up the stairs, explored the cave, and then came back down.  During the descent I ran into a couple of guys that I had seen at Menara KL the night before - they were from Spain, and were only in town for about 24 hours.  We were back in the car and headed out at 8am.

Batu Caves

We made a quick stop at Starbucks (my choice, unfortunately) so that we could grab breakfast to go, and then continued on the 250 km journey to Taman Negara.  Half of the drive was on a highway, and the other was on a two-lane road.  The roads were pretty well maintained the whole way.  In the park we stopped at a hotel for quick toilet break and then Thirai (our driver and general guide) handed us over to DJ (our nature guide) a little after 11:30am.

Cruising along the Tembeling River in Taman Negara

DJ took us by boat over to a nature trail that had been boarded over within the last few years to help the mass of tourists that had become interested in the park in recent years.  We connected to an uncovered trail that had a couple of nice viewpoints overlooking the river and the forest.  The approximately 1-hour trek was of moderate difficulty, but the high humidity results in some (or in my case, a lot of) sweating.  Part of the return journey was made on a canopy walk, roped platforms secured high up on some tree trunks.  Thankfully there weren't many people around today (maybe because it was a Tuesday?), so we didn't have to wait in line for the canopy walk.

Taman Negara canopy walk

We took the boat back to the starting point, where we had lunch at a "floating restaurant".  Thirai had kindly arranged for a vegetarian meal for me, which consisted for rice and veggies wrapped in an egg omelet of sorts (the others also had chicken in theirs), and a tofu and veggie concoction in some sauce (the others had beef instead).  They also brought out some pineapple and watermelon to finish things off.

After lunch DJ took us by boat to see a village of the Orang Asli (the native people of Malaysia).  This particular village (unlike others) didn't mind tourists around, and a couple of them demonstrated fire-making as well as the construction and use of blow darts for us.  This particular tribe was nomadic (they move when they run out of food in the area or someone dies in the settlement), and received some monetary compensation for the tourism.  I have conflicted feelings about the exploitation of native peoples for the purposes of tourism, but I will not bore the reader with my thoughts here.

We shot through a couple of rapids on the return boat ride, resulting in us getting thoroughly soaked (this was expected).  After arriving Thirai took us to the hotel so that we could change and use the toilets, and then we began the drive back to Kuala Lumpur at 4:30pm.  I was back at Hotel Maya around 7:45.

The Petronas Twin Towers in all their evening glory

A little later I walked over to the shopping center at the base of the nearby Petronas Twin Towers to get lunch in the food court.  I ate at a place called Simple Life Healthy Vegetarian, having the Mixed Mushroom Paste with Multi Grain Rice (without egg) - the accompanying soup was bland but fine, and the main dish was pretty good.  Side note: I would have been able to see the Twin Towers from my room if the Hotel W under construction was not in the way.

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Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/GBb3cDWVzQCR9oyFA

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