We left Melaka nice and early for a 6 hour drive to Taman Negara, one of the biggest national parks in Malaysia. I was very excited, hoping to see lots of birds and wildlife. The drive was decidedly depressing. The scenery was nothing but palm palm palm. 6 hours worth. The road? Trucks of logged trees. I know needs must and all that, but it was sad to see it.
Where am I staying?
Xcape resort is fully equipped with basic and clean cabins, a lovely swimming pool and beautiful grounds. The plan was to spend 3 nights here, so I’m glad to say the hotel wasn’t bad.
- Grubbiness factor – non existent. Sheets, towels, bathroom – everything nice and clean.
- Bed: 9/10, comfortable, and even more so seeing that I spent a whole day ill in bed.
- Shower: 6/10. Functional and clean.
What did I eat?
I’m beginning to realise that breakfasts in Malaysia, however extensive, do not cater for the likes of me – it would be hard even if you’re vegetarian. BUT (and a big one at that), baked beans are prevalent (whoo!) and so is peanut butter. Sadly the peanut butter is just OK – full of sugar, salt and oils (yes, palm). So I’m trying to stay away from it, and I tried one brand for breakfast – one bite and I was done. Thankfully the beans saved the day. Non Brits can’t understand the appeal, but beans on toast for breakfast? YUMMO.
Lunches were varied. On the drive down we stopped at a roadside Malay restaurant where they had at least 16 dishes – ALL with meat or fish. My lunch was a cup of lemon tea. Appropriate since I was coming down with a cold. NOOOO! Other lunches? Once in the Seri Mutiara Taman Negara resort – mainly because it was closest to the park entrance. I had a stir fry vermicelli noodle dish – alright but too many noodles. What went down well was the fresh, unsweetened celery, apple and cucumber juice. BLISS. Another simple lunch was at our stop on the river ride. Simple lunch of baby bananas and Nasi Goreing – fried rice hit the spot. Delicious – and even more so because of the surroundings with all the drangonflies and butterflies flitting about.
Dinners? There are lots of floating restaurants on the river front, and the Family Floating restaurant was the venue for the night. I had a carrot juice – lol – watered down and super sweet, and an excellent veggie stir fry with oodles of fresh ginger. Spicy, peppery and crunchy this was exactly what my system needed. We went back to the Mutiara resort for dinner and all I wanted was a salad – no rice, no curry, no spices. And I got it (along with another fresh juice). Lettuce, apple, peppers, olives and and and – Avocado with sunflower seeds and lime. Oh salads, I have missed you so much. This was sublime – nothing fancy, but flavours i hadn’t had for a while. I hoovered the whole thing. I also ordered a watermelon and gin – nice and refreshing. A perfect meal. This place is more expensive than the local places – but worth it as it reflected in quality and portion size. Final Dinner – the plan was to find another local restaurant but the rain started again and it was torrential – to the point that you could not see anything a few feet ahead of you. So we stayed in the hotel. I had a vegetarian mee (noodle) goreing. Very moreish, very delicious and very edible.
Snack update. Well well well. In terms of savoury snacks, Malaysia is full of funky flavoured crisps – some with quirky names – but why why why do they have to contain so much crap and MSG? I’ve been having Lays plain crisps when I can find them – which is rare. My other staple are nuts. I do try and get local snacks when I can – like when I found these savoury pastries (that look identical to a sweet Indian pastry) stuffed with potato. Like a samosa – crispy, soft and super tasty. And kuih – traditional Malaysian sweeties. These ones were made with pandan, coconut milk and rice flour. Pretty chewy – which I don’t mind as I like mochi.. Delicious and not to sweet. And less than a ringgit each! Whoo!
What did I do?
In terms of the town, there wasn’t much of it, or much to do, the main action and attraction was the park on the other side of the river (yep, I was on the wrong side). But not to worry, it was easy to get across via water boat for a ringgit.
In terms of the park, there was a lot to do. Unfortunately, on the first night that we were there, it rained. And rained. And rained. So not normal for this time of the year, but it basically rained so much that the canopy walk was closed, we couldn’t do the river rapids (too much water, no rapids) the next day. Fortunately for me, that meant spending a much needed day in bed as I had got a bit of a cold and was quite congested (I think it was down to all the street food I had in Melaka) and I needed a rest.
So the next day, feeling a bit better, I went for a canopy walk in the national park. This was so much fun – more rustic and a lot more wobbly than the bridges in Costa Rica. We didn’t see many animals or even birds for that matter, but just walking around was good enough for me. Thankfully the place wasn’t too busy, adding to the magic of the place. It was stunning.
A river ride on a dug out boat was also extremely enjoyable. We did see a majestic hornbill and a couple of monitor lizards, but once again, that was it. I have to say I’m really surprised at the obvious lack of wildlife here. I’m also realising how much I’m missing the wildlife element of my travels – can’t wait to get to Borneo! We stopped for lunch in a very scenic spot, surrounded by butterflies, dragonflies and water sliders. Very nice and scenic, and a really good place to skim rocks (one of mine bounced 6 times!!!).
On our way back, we stopped to get off the boat and visit the Old Man of the Forest – the biggest tree in the national park. So the guide suggested to go into the forest barefoot as the path from the riverside to the tree was very muddy. Very good idea -it was a surreal experience walking in squelchy mud and in the forest barefoot. It was also grounding, humbling and very appropriate seeing that I was visiting such an amazing tree. And even more so that I was visiting the Old Man of the forest on what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday. On the way back we eased back to the boat, after wading through some water on the makeshift jetty, jumped in the boat, looked at my feet and, hello leeches! I had about 6 leeches all trying to get comfortable. Eugh. They were promptly taken off before they suctioned on – apparently once they start sucking you should let them carry on and let them fall off on their own – or the would will go on bleeding. Saying that, one macho boy decided to keep a leech on his leg – and we watched it grow fat – and even he was squirming but once it’s on it’s on. Eugh eugh eugh.
I also went on a night walk in the national park – but was warned due to the wet weather we are likely to see very little. It didn’t matter – it was excellent. Why? Never have I heard such a deafening sound of cicadas and frogs in a jungle. So musical and loud and the sounds! Absolutely amazing. We did see quite a few stick insects, grasshoppers, beetles and scorpions – but no bigger animals. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never miss the opportunity to go on a night walk! Spot the frog, snake, grasshopper and stick insect. How these guides spot these tiny things with nothing but a torch is beyond me.
Taman Negara national park is a beautiful place. I think I saw and did a decent amount, even with all that rainfall. I loved loved loved this place. Slap bang in the middle of nature – where I am most happiest 😊.