Mutiara Resort – Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia
After a eventful day of holding a python, feeding deers, riding an elephant, long drives, little information, and finding out we were the only 2 people on a 3 day GROUP tour, we were finally set on the road to Taman Negara. Although the elephants, deers, and other animals were great, the main purpose behind this tour was to explore the world’s oldest rainforest, Taman Negara.
The word ‘taman’ means both ‘park’ and ‘garden’ in Malay while ‘negara’ means ‘nations’ – together they translate simply as “National Park”. Even though there are many other national parks in Malaysia, Taman Negara remains the magnificent king of them all. Taman Negara is the oldest rainforest in the entire world, estimated at 130 million years old, and it therefore has one of the world’s most complex and rich ecosystems.
After the Elephant Sanctuary we were transported to the Han Travel Office in Jerantut.
Luckily we had some snack for the route, because we started to get hungry. We are pretty good at keeping our bags stocked with crackers, nuts, and fruit. Justin loved these Curry Flavoured Muruku, so he was constantly buying bags of it in Kuala Lumpur. I have had them before, in South Africa. I remember my dad buying them from time to time.
Curry Flavoured Murkuk
Above is a map of Malaysia, and the routes one can take with Han Travel. We were heading for the big green area in the middle, “Taman Negara”. In typical South East Asian fashion, we had to wait in Jernatut while our bus driver disappeared to fix a flat tire. If we weren’t waiting in an official company office, I would have been a little worried that we had been literally “taken for a ride” 😉
We received a number of receipts that we were told to use for all the activities included in our tour package. We had separate ones for each meal, jungle tour, trip and sight. Without these receipts we would be stranded, and need to pay all over again, so we made sure to keep them in a safe place. We waited at the office until our new driver eventually arrived with a poorly repaired tire. It still looked a little flat to me. Oh dear!
We made it to the Kuala Tahan safely. This was where our restaurant and “check in point” were situated. Across the river was the Taman Negara National Park, and the bungalows where we would be staying.
“Mama Chop Restaurant” – This kind of sounded South African to me. In fact, we would only refer to it in a African accent, so it caused quite a giggle for us.
“Take Nothing But Photograph, Leave Nothing But Footprint”
On the one side of Mama Chop Restaurant was a counter where we could get information, and talk to our Han Travel representatives. We were happy to see prices advertised for activities and adventures. It appeared that we had gotten quite a good deal for all out transport, accommodation, meals, and activities.
The restaurant was not fancy, but it was floating on the river and we liked the rustic feel of it.
To get across the river each restaurant had their own boat.
We climbed on and we were taken across the river. We were eager to see where we would be staying.
This is Amiee, he was a friendly guy!!
On the other side of the river things were a lot more lavish and organized. There was a convenient luggage lift next to the stairs, and as we climbed the stairs there was an noticeable difference between the “rustic” side and the resort side of the river.
The resort was situated in the National Park. It was quite exciting to know that we would be sleeping inside the park. If we had made this trip by ourselves, we would stayed on the other side of the river as that is where the hostels are situated.
We entered the resort office to get our room key.
When we were considering which package to take for this trip, we had a choice of having our own room, or sharing a hostel style room. The room price was astronomically high compared to the dorm room price. We thought that since it was only two nights, we would just take the dorms and hope for some decent roommates. The pictures of the dorms made them looked pretty comfortable.
The resort’s Mini-Market.
We collected our keys and made our way through the resort grounds looking for the dorm rooms. We were probably foolish in hoping that the dorms would look even slightly like one of these lovely chalets….
Welcome to the dorms!
Don’t get me wrong, we know how to rough it if we have to, but after walking through the beautiful private chalets for 15 minutes, we wanted to run away from the dorm rooms as fast as we could.
Not wanting to be fussy before taking a look inside, we decided to check out the interior. Above you can see two sets of double beds. This is only half of the room, there were two more sets of double bunks on the other side of the room. We had keys to the cupboards, but the keys matched ones situated on the other side of the room. Justin went to get them switched, but come back with the news that they didn’t have keys for all of the cupboards. Half of them were broken too. Urrg…
We decided that we didn’t want to stay here, especially considering that we didn’t know who else would be joining us later that afternoon and there was no safe place to keep our bags or valuables when we went into the jungle. This was not ideal, so we returned to the front office to upgrade to a private chalet.
Sadly, they were almost completely fully booked, and the only chalets they could offer us would cost us about $800 for two nights. This would mean that we would spend 8 days of our travel budget on two nights of sleeping. I was very upset because I hate the thought of not being able to keep our belongings safe. We had cash, cameras, an iPad, passports, etc, and we would be venturing into the wet jungle where we were advised to not bring anything with us.
This is one of those times where Justin magnificently manages to stay clam, and sorts out the situation. He raced around trying key after key until he finally managed to get one of the cupboards in working order. Of course, the cupboard could be ripped open if someone really wanted to open it, but I felt safer with it being “locked” to some degree.
Realizing that this was just something we would have to deal with, we relaxed for a while, and then made our way back across the river to Mama Chop restaurant for lunch.
We didn’t realize that if we got onto another boat we had to pay to cross the river.
It was very cheap though, and once we got the other side and asked about this, the restaurant reimbursed us. We tried to complain about the dormitory rooms. They were completely different from what we felt we had been promised. Complaining proved useless as nothing could be done.
With nothing else that we could do about the situation, we decided to relax and just enjoy the trip. We settled down in the restaurant and ordered some lunch. Almost every thing on the menu was available for us to choose from (included in our package).
This was tasty – An omelette over fried rice.
Delicious! I love this… It is a comfort food to many in South East Asia. Me Hoon or rice vermicelli (thin noodles made from rice). They are sometimes referred to as rice noodles. Above we had it fried with chicken and vegetables.
This kitty was begging for attention.
When we initially arrived at the resort, it was raining, but once the sun came out it was a truly breathtaking place to walk around.
Lots of bugs along the walkways!
…and wild bores. There were five of them running around outside our room.
For the first night in the jungle we had a night walk scheduled. We were warned that the leeches would be out in full force due to the recent rain, so we needed to prepare for this. The mosquitos seemed to be staying away from us because of our mosquito repellent arm bands, but we covered our bodies with an extra layer, just to make sure we weren’t bitten in the jungle. We were told to tuck our pants into our socks, and wear hiking boots.
Crossing the river at night was interesting. The sound of the water was loud, and the there was almost complete darkness over the water.
Dinner at Mama Chop. Spaghetti Balloonis anyone??
Not being in any rush to get to dinner, we took our time getting over there. We were therefore very surprised when we found the restaurant fully packed. Fortunately we found the table we had used at lunch was free, and how thoughtful of Mama Chop – the table was reserved for us!!
There were huge cicada’s hissing and flying all around the tables. It was the most unnerving thing for me because I am not used to the sound, or sight, of these bugs. One of them flew into my face while I was eating, and I almost started crying. It took every ounce of strength not to start screaming when they began flying into my legs under the table. By the end of dinner I was petrified of these psycho-bugs because as luck would have it, they were determined to keep diving into me.
After dinner we climbed the sand banks of the river to see what was happening on that side of the river. I was happy to get away from the crazy cicada’s (as you can see above… I’m smiling), but two minutes later a massive frog jumped into my leg, and another cicada flew into me… I ran waving my arms all over the place, and SCREAMED down the road. This must have been quite a show for anyone watching! Justin thought that I was over-reacting – If only I could let him feel my panic for one second.
Anyone feel the same way as me??
Even just typing this I feel like there are bugs on me..
This frog was harmless, but big, and he gave me a fright.
We went back to our room to layer up for the leech infested night-walk through the rainforest.
It looked like it might rain, but we were told that the forest would be wet anyway, so it didn’t matter.
We were fortunate enough to not have to share our dorm room with anyone.
More on the rainforest coming soon…