Taman Negara – Part I

When we last left our intrepid heroes, we were heading from the not-too-impressive town of Kuantan to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It was awesome!

We bussed from Kuantan to the small town of Jerantut. Being a popular jumping-off point for one of the highlights of Malaysia’s tourist industry, we booked ahead at a place called the Wau Hotel. I’m just going to say they have absolutely amazing customer service. They are extremely friendly and dependable people. They went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of. We had our travel booked to the rainforest in no time.

Bright and early Monday morning we caught a bus to the jetty (about 15km outside of town) to catch our boat to the jungle village of Kuala Tahan and the Taman Negara Rainforest. We expected a ferry. What we got was a wooden longboat!

We spent the next three hours motoring upstream through a forest waterway, complete with some water buffalo and a few locals waving hello. We arrived at our destination at almost 1:00 PM; the floating restaurant/tourist booking station was a whirlwind of people coming and going, and we listened to one of the head fellows go over the map and encourage us to travel in pairs should we want to trek without a guide (“Do not trek alone. Should you go alone, and fall and hurt yourself, only monkey and gorilla will find you. Make sure you take food wherever you go. In jungle: No KFC.”) Odd thing to say, considering there is nothing but floating local restaurants in the village, but we got the point. We listened and enjoyed a small meal before huffing and puffing through the hilly village to the Tahan Guesthouse, conveniently on the opposite side of town. It was a great little inn, though. It felt like a kindergarten home room, complete with brightly painted ladybugs on the wall and stuffed animals hanging from the front porch ceiling.

We’d wanted to book the first night with a 4 x 4 safari, but it was full. We booked for Tuesday night instead and wandered around town. It was one of the smallest places I’d visited yet, and there was a pleasant mix of tourists and locals. Everything is close to the river so you can always hear the boat traffic. Also, the main Taman Negara entrance is on the other side of the river so you have to take a water taxi if you want to go. We looked around for several hours, taking pictures and enjoying the atmosphere (culturally, not necessarily literally. Very humid, as you might expect.)

Near dark, we came across a young woman who asked us where we were staying. She and her boyfriend had come in on a boat without a booking and everyone was full. We advised that our guesthouse was full, but there was another 200m past ours that might have an opening; if nothing else, we’d share our room with ’em. She sounded hopeful, and we asked her name. Nicky, she replied, and she was from Baltimore, MD. This was the first American we’d seen in some time and we chat for a few moments before we asked anything about her boyfriend.

“His name is Reese,” she said.

“That’s awesome, my name is Rhys. How’s he spell it?” I asked, knowing the answer already.

“R-H-Y-S.” she said to my astonishment.

“…no way. REALLY?!” I was aghast. I had not yet met anyone in person with my name. This is a meeting that must take place. Nicky said she’d pass along my amazement and would let us know if they found a room. Indi led me away as I was dazed by this new information. Of all places in the world to check this off of my list. In the evening, we met up and had a nice chat. Rhys is from Cardiff and has a fantastic sense of humour. We hit it off quickly and, although Kuala Tahan is a small village, we didn’t see them again. We got some contact info though, thankfully.

That’s one day. I’ll let Indi write about our second day. I’m going to enjoy the air-con and hot shower.

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