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Local Village by the Jungle

People have long lived along the Tembeling River by Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia. Tourism and local life are well blended in the friendly tropical atmosphere.

A long boat is used to cross between river banks and plays an important part of their daily life. In about 15 seconds on the boat, one can travel back and forth between the national park entrance and where lodges and restaurants are. This long boat is one of the important public transportation for both locals and tourists.

Floating restaurants and long boats.
This scenery is common for miles along the river.

Floating restaurants are run by locals.
Many locals a
s well as tourists eat there every day.
Though they are not fancy, I liked the friendly and accepting atmosphere of these restaurants.

I had a lunch special(?) of squid and vegetable marinade.
It was truly delicious and very reasonable. (about US$1.50)
Because the high percentage of the population is Islamic, there are many restaurants in Malaysia where no alcoholic drinks are served.

A snapshot of the village near the jungle of Taman Negara.
When the time of Islamic prayer begins, synchronized Quranic verse is heard from afar. The sound of the nature and the note of Quran are mixed in harmony, creating a mystic moment.
Walking past a wing of houses, there is a trekking entrance to the Taman Negara jungle.

Mini market in Kuala Tahan on the floating restaurants' side of the river.
It is not a sophisticated store, but daily commodities, camping items, and food are sold there.
Among locals, tourists also come to shop by ones and twos.

A hair salon in Taman Negara. I was not adventurous enough to get my hair cut there, but it might be a good option for backpackers who have been traveling for months.

At dawn in Taman Negara. All around was covered with sickly blue moist air.
Deep in the jungle, it was about time birds started waking.

As early as dawn breaks, children are already on their way to school, taking the long boat.

Engagement in tourism businesses and profit-making by locals lead to community development. When foreign capital enters, facilities and services are often upgraded and become more convenient for tourists. However, the profit is hardly seen among local communities, and environmental degradation and exploitation often follow to create more problems.

In the jungle, forest dwellers, or indigenous people, have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. Immigrants have also resided in villages nearby the jungle for generations.

By traveling with respect for the life style of locals,
the true character of each place shows itself and the trip experience becomes more fulfilling.

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Lodging Option in Taman Negara National Park

Situated inland of the Malaysian Peninsula, Taman Negara National Park is a major tourism spot in the country. This jungle is one of the oldest pristine tropical rainforests that begun to develop as long as 130 million years ago - far earlier than forests of Latin America and the African continent.

When I say a pristine jungle, it doesn't mean that fauna and flora only make their habitats within. In this jungle live descendants of indigenous people who have been with the forest for centuries. Later immigrant Malays and Islams as well as tourists enliven the vicinity of the Tembeling River with their daily life.

Along the Tembeling River, there are facilities including lodges, hotels, campsites, a tourist information center, and restaurants.
At this time, there is only one hotel,
Mutiara Taman Negara, that is built within the National Park, and 16 other accommodation facilities are located in areas of the other side of the river called Kampung Kuala Tahan.

We stayed at Durian Chalet, which is located in a serene village about a 15-minute walk uphill from the Tembeling River. Lodges by the river seemed crowded and noisy, and didn't make me feel cozy.
We immediately liked Durian Chalet especially because of its location a bit away from the center of tourism.

There, dormitories, bungalows, chalets, and family rooms are available, ranging the price from RM10-50. Upon request, one of the staff members willingly gives guests a ride to the Tembeling River free of charge.

This is the bungalow we stayed in. The room is simple but clean, and comes with a fan, toilet, and cold shower. It took me some time to get accustomed to the cold shower, but I admit it was quite refreshing after walking in the humid tropical climate.

The price of an overnight-stay includes a breakfast.
At this small restaurant, local Malaysian dishes are served. The price was very reasonable and food was great.

If I travel all the way to a foreign country, I definitely prefer dishes cooked by local mothers to fancy cuisine prepared by some chefs.

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Simple yet Complicated Work of Nature

An urban life, hectic days, and stressful work...

People hardly have time to think about things that may not seem to affect their daily life directly.

For instance,
the fact that we humans are kept alive by Mother Nature.

There is air, water, light, and darkness.
Then there exist trees, forests, creatures, and humans.

The chain of life seems nothing special and may not grab much attention.

However, it is in fact nothing short of miraculous.
Underneath the all-too-simple surface, there is a deep complexity.
The lives of all living things are intricately entwined.

When I walk into a rainforest, things that I don't usually think about on a jam-packed train, such as biodiversity and the gift of nature, suddenly come to life before me.

Huggled in the buttress roots of a massive tree, I listen in rapt attention to the sounds of the forest and gaze at sunbeams streaming through foliage. I feel life in my bones.

To live life as a person, there are many important things such as money, social status, fame, love, and dream. In this world, however, there is one most valuable thing that is absolutely incomparable with anything else.

That is nature.

Healthy natural environment on earth is what makes life flourish.

When I try to understand the life in the jungle, I feel like being brought back to who I really am as part of this ecosystem. And I want to cherish these kind of special feelings as long as I live.

 Cheers to Mother Nature!


A plan for the Malaysian jungle

Over the course of about 3 weeks in February 2006, I traveled in Thailand and Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital and business center in Malaysia, is crowded with people from all over the world. Malaysia's official religion is Islam, and there are mosques all around. With the population of approx. 25 million, the country consists of different ethnic groups such as Malay, Chinese, Islamic, Indian, and indigenous.

About 60% of the nation's land is covered with rainforests which are rich in biodiversity. Among the 44 or so national parks in Malaysia, our first destination was Taman Negara National Park.

Time permitting, I prefer to take it easy and travel by bus or train, rather than by air, because overland journey gives me the opportunity to sightsee places that are off the beaten track.

There are several routes to get to Taman Negara National Park from Kuala Lumpur, allowing tourists to choose what best suits their schedules and preferences.

The most popular route is to take a bus (2, 3, or 4) or a train and a bus (1 and 3) from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Tembeling Jetty. Once at Kuala Tembeling Jetty, a boat will take you to the entrance of Taman Negara National Park. (See detailed schedules below; the timetables and prices are subject to change.) There is a way to arrive at Taman Negara by taxi, but the boat trip up the Tembeling river is highly recommended.

Scenic view from the boat. Alligators are sometimes spotted.

1.Rail (http://www.ktmb.com.my)

Dept:  Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station
Dest:   Jerantut
Dept Time: 7.55pm / 9.00pm
Travel Time: approx. 6.5 hours
Operated by: KTMB

2.Long-distance Bus

Dept:  Pekeliling bus station, Kuala Lumpur
Dept Time:
10.00am 11.30am 3.00pm 5.00pm / daily
Travel Time: approx. 2.5 hours
Fare:    RM10.85
Operated by:Perwira Ekspres


Dept:  Jerantut
  Pekeliling bus station, Kuala Lumpur
Dept Time: 10.00am 11.30am 3.00pm 5.00pm / daily
Travel Time: approx. 2.5 hours
Fare:    RM10.85
Operated by:Perwira Ekspres

3.Shuttle Bus

Dept:  Jerantut
  Kuala Tembeling Jetty
Dept Time 08.30am, 1.00pm, 5.30pm / daily
Travel Time: approx. 40 minutes
Fare:   RM5.00
Operated by:NKS Travel & Tours


Dept:  Kuala Tembeling Jetty
Dept Time08.00am, 7.30pm / Daily
Travel Time: approx. 40 minutes

Fare:   RM5.00
Operated by:NKS Travel & Tours

4.Express Bus (http://www.taman-negara-nks.com/bus_shuttle.htm)

Dept:   Kuala Lumpur, China Town, Hotel Mandarin Pacific 
Dest: Kuala Tembeling Jetty
Dept Time: 8.00am (Daily / Registration: 7.30am)
Travel Time: 2.5 hours to Jerantut, 2-hour break, 40 minutes to Kuala Tembeling Jetty
Fare:   RM35.00
Operated by:NKS Travel & Tours


Dept:   Kuala Tembeling Jetty 
Dest: Kuala Lumpur, China Town, Hotel Mandarin Pacific
Dept Time: 11.30am (Daily / Registration: 11.00am)
Travel Time: 40 minutes to Jerantut, 1-hour break, 2.5 hours to Kuala Lumpur
Fare:   RM35.00
Operated by:NKS Travel & Tours


Dept:  Kuala Tembeling Jetty
Dest:  Kuala Tahan in Taman Negara National Park
Dept Time: 9.00am / 2.00pm (Daily but Fridays: 9.00am / 2.45pm)
Travel Time: approx. 3 hours
Fare:    RM25.00
Operated by:NKS Travel & Tours


Dept:  Kuala Tahan in Taman Negara National Park
Dest:  Kuala Tembeling Jetty
Dept Time: 9.00am / 2.00pm (Daily but Fridays: 9.00am / 2.45pm)
Travel Time: approx. 3 hours
Fare:    RM25.00
Operated by:NKS Travel & Tours

Kuala Tembeling Jetty - the 3-hour boat trip to Taman Negara is enjoyable.

Since I flew into Malaysia from Bangkok in the morning, Jerantut was as far as I could make it within the same day. Therefore, we stayed overnight at a cheap hotel in Jerantut. When our bus arrived there, we found several hotels in no time. Though we had no reservation, check-in went quite easy and we set off to wander about the town.

View from the hotel in Jerantut. A few cheap hotels are situated along this street.

A variety of information about activities in Taman Negara National Park is accessible in Jerantut. It shouldn't be a problem even if you have not done your homework in advance. We planned our jungle trip the night before while enjoying Malaysian dishes at an open-air restaurant in "downtown" Jerantut.

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