Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mulu National Park- Day Two

Our second day in Mulu, started with us having breakfast in the morning after packing our things to move to the fan room situated near the cafeteria. We left our backpacks at the store located near the reception area and headed towards the place where we were supposed to gather for our next visit to another show cave called, the Wind Cave.

In our midst of getting breakfast and packing our bags, we found out that the group had started the hike earlier. Apparently, we have gotten the time wrongly. We thought we could save cost and hike as well. However, not wanting to miss any single piece of action and for the interest of time, we decided to take the boat to the cave.
The jetty was near the reception area.

Having learned how to swim (well, I always tell people, I could only save myself, should anything untoward happens) did not calm my nerves every time I have to go near the water. I took the time to secure my life jacket properly (please be sure you insist on one every time you have to be somewhere near the water).
With a few prayers, I got into the boat and found out that I was seated in the front seat. All the more reason for me to enjoy the ride as it will give me the opportunity to witness first hand anything extraordinary during our journey to the cave.
I was seated in front of this boy, who had the agility of a mouse deer. He would automatically jumped out of the boat to make sure it stays on course every time it starts to veer off course.

There were two people, manning the boat. One seated at the back, while the other in front. The guy in front (or rather a boy, no older than 16), jumped out of the boat, every now and then, to push boat off the shallow waters.

He's using a long bamboo stick to navigate the boat away from the shallow riverbed.

Despite the increase heart rate, I've always feel at peace when I am surrounded by lush green trees and water. My relaxed feet says it all.

We've arrived to our first destination after a good 15-20 minutes boat ride.
  • Wind Cave
As the name suggested, if you stand at a certain point in the cave you can feel the soft cool breeze blowing on your skin.

A long way down: A good 20 metres or more (there's no way telling due to the darkness) drop.

The path in the cave is safe as there are railings that you could hold on to as you walked pass each section of the cave. Most parts are well-lit but please do keep a torch light handy.

The section of the cave dubbed as the Kings Chamber.

  • Clear water Cave

The Rajah Brooke butterfly

In order for us to head towards Clear water cave, we would just need to follow the elevated wooden bridge built against the walls of the cave.

After seeing the many steps I have to climb to get to the cave entrance,I have have opted to sit in for this part of the visit. While my friends attempted the many steps, I amused myself with a few subjects while waiting for them to get back .

The very nice Thai lady who now resides in Australia came by and sat with me, while waiting for my friends to return from the cave.

While I was seated at the park bench, a Thai lady came over and we started talking. She was on a holiday with her husband to escape the cold winter in Australia. We later met the husband, who turned out to be as friendly as she. We all ended up sharing a table during lunch.

Interestingly, they have been travelling all over Malaysia, with Sabah being their next destination. She kept pointing out that Malaysia has a lot of interesting places to visit, especially Sarawak.

We were getting ready to go back to the park headquarters for lunch.

I stumbled upon this group of school children playing and taking a bath by the river. The river is so much part of their lives that kids as small as 6 or 7 were seen only with their peers bathing in the river.

  • Mulu National Park Interpretive Centre
The building where our second room is located, also housed an interpretive centre. We made our way there right after dinner that night, to gain more clarity on the cave system. We've learned that the show caves that we've visited was only the tip of the iceberg. It was approximately 20-30% of the overall system. We've managed to bear witness to its massiveness and impressiveness through the diagram below.

The enormity of the system struck me when I saw this diagram. Only then do I fully understand how the national park earned the rights to be called World National Heritage Area by UNESCO.

The visit to the interpretive center marked the end of our second day journey in the national park. We slept soundly that night, with thoughts of the next day's activity on our mind.

Until my next entry, let me take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim friends a great new year on the Islamic calender. May this year bring us more prosperity in terms of worldly and spiritual knowledge. Let's pray we are driven more on the desire to contribute to and help those around us, rather than to strive solely for material gains, Insyallah.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mulu National Park- Day 1 Part Two

Once we've arrived in the park headquarters, we headed straight to the reception area. We were required to pay an entrance fee of RM10.00 on top of the cost of our accommodation for the day. We were there during peak season- Thus, we could get bookings for the air conditioned room on our first night only. We had to move to a fan room for the next two nights. Fortunately, both rooms sleeps four comfortably, with clean beds and bathrooms. On a more positive note, our second was located in the same building as the cafeteria,making it even easier for us to have our meals.

During registration, we were given schedules on the activities carried out in the park. We had a free and easy trip, where we could pick and choose the activities that interest us the most. Signing up for the activities also depended on the number of people who have signed up for the particular activity. We have opted to go for the visits to two show caves (The Lang and Deer Caves) and the bat exodus (which usually, starts at 5.30 to 6.30 p.m. every day).

On top of the entrance fee accommodation, we had to pay the fees to each activities or visits that we signed on to . In addition, you will have to be accompanied by the park's guide during the trips to the caves and visitors are not advised to attempt the caves on their own.

The guides from the park are very knowledgeable and have a good command of the English and Malay language. It gives our visit to the caves more meaning as they will be able to explain details of each caves and the history behind the formation each one of them.

It was a good 45 minutes walk to both the caves. Therefore, a pair of comfortable hiking boots or sandals is a prerequisite. I was wearing a new pair of boots, which by the time it was the time to walk back, it nearly killed my feet. However, I decided to soldier on slowly back to our rooms.

  • One our way to Lang & Deer Cave and Bat Exodus

The stick insect, an interesting find during our hike to Deer & Lang Cave

Another interesting find, in this natural treasure troves: I think god's colour palette is so amazing, who would have thought a flower of red and blue, could be found in a place like Mulu.

A subject that I could never get tired of, big, tall and green trees.


A pair lantern flies, a green and yellow polka-dot insect that looks more like a cross between a butterfly and a beetle rather than a fly.

The Lara Crofts of Mulu ;-) My good friends from school who have decided to share this unforgettable experience with me. In the background, the location of Lang Cave.

  • The Lang Cave
One thing great about visits to places such as Mulu National Park, which is also dubbed as the World Heritage Area, are never shy of information in the form of signage.

This looks to me like something out of a Star Trek movie. The cave floors are wet due to water dripping from the cave walls. Hence, visitors should watch their step and torch light is one of the essential items to bring during visits to the caves.

Another formation that makes me think of caramel ice-cream every time I look at it.
  • The Deer Cave
We were listening to one of guides walking us through the history of Deer Cave and how it was formed million of years ago.

The profile of Abraham Lincoln in Deer Cave, which could only be seen if you stand at a certain angle in the cave.

The same cave opening, the photo was taken at a slightly different angle and didn't show the Abraham Lincoln profile seen earlier.

As we walked further inside the cave, we were greeted by a familiar but unpleasant smell. As we shone our torch light to the ground, we were shocked to find it was literally littered with tonnes of bat guano (droppings).

Well, if you have smelled bat droppings before then the arrest to your olfactory will not be too shocking nor would you be left reeling from the intense smell, which suddenly filled your nostrils.

I recalled a part in the movie "Jurassic Park", where Jeff Goldblum and a few visitors to the park stumbled upon a small hill, which apparently are dinosaur's droppings. One of the characters exclaimed "That's one big pile of s**t", that was my exact sentiment when I saw tonnes and tonnes guano on the cave floor. A word of advice for the faint-hearted or rather those with low tolerance level of foul smelling odour, walking very quickly or a smidgen of Tiger Balm or Minyak Cap Kapak under the nose is highly recommended.

The Garden of Eden marked the end of our journey in Deer Cave.

  • The Bat Exodus
On our way out from Deer Cave, we suddenly heard a distinct sound of millions little wings flapping above the walls of the cave. We looked up and saw millions of bats heading towards the opening of the cave.

The bat exodus had already started. More than 2.5 millions bats from almost 12 species were making their out to look for food such as insects and fruits. It was an indescribable feeling and for the first time in Mulu I had my mouth gaping while looking up the sky. I could distinctively make out the "s" shaped-formation by millions of bats flying off to the place where food is readily available.

I could hear several clicks of the digital camera. Not one of us, wanted to lose the opportunity to record this once in a lifetime experience.

The bat exodus as seen from the viewing platform located a few minutes of walk
from Lang & Deer Cave

The viewing platform from where visitors could stare up to the sky watching the bat exodus every day from 5.30-6.30 p.m.

Our first day in Mulu ended just as the exodus ends. We headed back to our rooms feeling satisfied. I had the image of millions of bats flying off into the sunset replaying in my mind.

My next entry will continue with our second day in 53 000 hectres of rain forest. For now, I wish everyone a good night and enjoy the long break.

Mulu National Park- Day I Part One

In August this year, my close friends and I decided to take an unprecedented move and hung out our office attire, kick off the high heeled shoes and substituted them for backpacks, jeans, t-shirts and hiking boots and flew off to Mulu National Park, in Sarawak. I have always wanted to visit the place dubbed as the World Heritage Area and what better way to do so during the month of my 34th birthday.

We took the first flight out from Low Cost Carrier Terminal, Sepang to Miri, Sarawak. From Miri, we took another connecting flight with MasWings, at around 2.50 p.m. There is only two connecting flights from Miri to Mulu, one at around 9.20 p.m. and the other being the one that we took.

We had a lot of time, while waiting for the connecting flight to Mulu, which gave us some time to discuss the activities that we wanted to do in the national park.

Before we made the journey to Mulu, we came up with a list of the do's and here it is:

  • Things you should do
  1. Bring some canned food from home because food can get a bit expensive in the national park;
  2. Bring water or water containers along with you as you will be doing a lot of walking in all the activities in the national park- Hence, quenching your thirst is a must;
  3. Hiking boots, sport shoes or flip flops are the most comfortable foot attire. High heeled sandals or shoes should only belong at home;
  4. You are advised to get accommodation in the National Park itself, as that's where all the activities are held;
  5. Bring along a torch light for caving activities plus a pair of binoculars for that "awww-I-should-have-brought-my-bino-along" moment;
  6. A good camera is essential as it is a great place to stumble upon small and interesting creatures as well as beautiful plants;
  7. A pair of good eye and ear are also a compulsory, if you are nature lover, like yours truly, everything that you came across will be extraordinary and worth capturing on your camera.
  8. A good book or a few good books is also important for times when you possibly may encounter any flight delays during the trips.
  • Day One: Post-Mulu National Park

The bags

The happy troupers, while waiting for our ride to LCCT, Sepang

The strategist

Here we go people, heading towards the sunset

People, we have landed. Let's start MULU-ing around.

Once we landed, we headed straight to the baggage counter. Since, the sorting of the baggage was done manually, it took us around 30 minutes to retrieve our bags.

Then, we headed straight to the taxi counter to get a ride to the Mulu National Park. It is only a 10 minutes drive to the national park. Walking to the park was also an option (yes, a friend went there earlier, did advise me on that) and possible but judging from the heat and the weight of our backpacks, we made an informed decision and opted for the taxi ride.

The chronicle of my journey in Mulu will continue in my next blog entry. For now, I would to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Selamat Menyambut Maal Hijrah and here's to a productive and positive new year ahead.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Whole Lot Of Firsts In Taiping

One of my close friends and I have been talking about taking a road trip together for yonks. I reckon this deliberation of us driving off into the sunset ( ermmm...this is a mere exaggeration to make this entry more dramatic), has been in the pipeline ever since 2006. But it has never materialised, due to various reasons, which I (for the life of me) cannot recall. Finally, the opportunity arosed and we've decided to visit a friend of mine in Taiping.

We set off at around 10 a.m., got on the Kerinchi Link and drove straight towards Sungai Buloh, where we made a pit stop at the Restoran Jejantas. I know, it was less than an hour of driving when we decided to stop but the call of A & W there was too hard for us to resist.

After making another stop in Tapah, we arrived in Taiping at around 3 p.m. From there, we headed straight to Hotel Meridien, a quaint little family run hotel. The room was modest, beds were clean and the bathroom clean, prerequisites that have always been compulsory for me.

The view from the room was not too shabby. The one we had overlooked blocks of buildings in the town. If you are driving, parking will not be an issue nor is security for that matter. We automatically registered food, when we saw a mamak restaurant across the hotel. Hence, that was where we made our first journey in Taiping.

We then met up with my friend after having our late lunch, who graciously drove us around the town. It was quite unfortunate that we took the trip last November, which marked the monsoon season in Malaysia. Thus, the drive around town was accompanied by slight downpour that limited my photography effort, explaining the total lack of visuals on some of the places that I mentioned here.
  • Taiping Cometary & War Memorial
Our first stop was the Taiping Cemetery & War Memorial, set near the Taiping Lake Garden. The cemetery is a resting place for Malay, Australian and British soldiers that had died during WWII against the Japanese forces. The road in between the memorial, acts as divider for the the cemetery . The left being the resting place of the Muslims, while the right for the Christians.

ItalicThe self-explanatory signage situated nearby the entrance of the memorial. It overlooks a hill on the right side.

Immortalizing my visit to the memorial by way of (what else?) photo taking.

  • The First Railway Station
The next trip was to the first railway station in then Malaya. The only remnants of the building was the signage above plus an adjoining building that currently housed a coffee shop, as seen below.

It was as if time stood still here. Apart from the new contemporary coloured paint, every part of this place still has the feel of a bygone era.

  • My First Night Safari in Taiping Zoo
Since I have never experience a night Safari, I thought what better way for me to have my first experience in the town of firsts. You will be given 30% off for the entrance ticket, if you are a perak-born. Please be sure to produce your IC as proof.

Here's yours truly in front of the ticket counter.

Two out of three of the resident hippos in the zoo. Lex, the adult male (on the left) and April, a juvenile (on the right). The adult female fondly named Raya is not featured here as she was too close to me and I wouldn't want to scare her with my camera flash.

One of the species of owl in the zoo.

Photography effort was a challenge in the Night Safari as the area was not well-lit. I would advise those planning to go there, to opt for the walk rather than the tram ride, as it will give you more time to appreciate the nocturnal animals featured in the zoo.

However, I would prefer to come back again, for a day trip because after the experience I would think it would do the Taiping Zoo more justice if I were to go for a day visit
, as I am certain comparatively, the diurnal animals are more interesting and exciting than the nocturnal ones.

  • Matang Mangrove Forest, Larut Matang
The journey to the 40,000 hectares of mangrove forest took us about 30 minutes from Taiping town. The Matang Mangrove Forest is dubbed as one of the most well-managed mangrove forest in the world. It is opened as early as 9.00 a.m. and visitors will have to make a brief stop at the guard house to fill in a visitor form. After submitting the form to the guard, you can drive off and park your car at the spacious parking lot located around the area.

My partner in crime, giving the signage near the entrance, justice.

There a number of chalets, a surau and public toilets located inside the mangrove forest itself. There's also an observatory hall where you could hold group activities and could comfortably fit around 50 people.

At each point of the forest, there will be signage like the above to explain to the visitors about the different species of mangrove trees in the forest. You could find the Rhizophora as well as the Avicennia species in the forest.

There are boardwalks accompanying the visitors all around the forest. Hence, getting you feet dirty or wet is not an issue.

A landmark photo with the oldest mangrove tree from the rhizophora species in the forest.

Another one of my fascinations, mushrooms.

Giant mangrove ferns.

I have a great fascination with everything tall and green. Give me a tall and big tree, I could stare at it with my mouth gaping for hours.

  • Kota Ngah Ibrahim or Ibrahim Fort
On our way back to Taiping town from the Matang Mangrove Forest, we stopped by Kota Ngah Ibrahim. The white bungalow built in 1896, the first biggest fort built by a Malay, is situated 15 minutes from the Matang Mangrove. There were very few visitors when we were there but were quite surprised that the place was well-managed with a lot of interesting exhibits.

The fort's exterior with large and well-maintained lawn.

Dayang in front of the exhibits located on the ground floor.

Ever wonder how the infamous J.W.W. Birch looks like? Inset shows the boat that he usually travelled on.

Well, don't do this at home kids, you should be paying attention in class and not pose for the camera.

Yours truly in Ngah Ibrahim's office.
  • Taiping Lake Garden
Before we left Taiping, we couldn't resist stopping by the Lake Gardens. There were big trees flanking the roads. We decided to park by the designated spot and to take in the beautiful scenery.

The big trees give the road along the Taiping Lake Garden a cool and shady effect. Word has it the Taiping Lake Gardens have been one of the most famous film locations in Taiping.

The branches are so long that they touchd the water by the lake side. It would be a great feeling to sit here once in a while with a book and sandwich in hand and enjoy the peaceful surrounding.

The lake with Bukit Larut or Maxwell Hill in the background.

My take on Taiping, it is a town with a lot of historical heritage sites. On that note, I do hope the locals will continue to appreciate them. There were quite a number of old buildings with historical values, which were abandoned. It would be disheartening to see a town with 40 firsts to lose its shine, if efforts to restore these building are not done immediately.

I will love to make a few repeat trips to Taiping soon because there are a few dishes which I haven't tried and places I haven't seen. Next time, I hope my trip there will be accompanied by clear skies and sunshine.