Aim­ing hig gh

Leave the city be­hind and live the lan­guid life at an Orang Asli set­tle­ment near Gua Mu­sang, Ke­lan­tan.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ESTER CHIN star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

The ex­perts and keep­ers of our anc ient forests are the Orang Asli and what bet­ter way to en­joy their unique cha arms then to spend some time liv­ing amongst them.

ARE we there yet?” I ask in Malay be­tween gasp­ing breaths, while look­ing for a flat sur­face to take a breather. The Orang Asli guide in front turns around, flashes a be­mused grin and shakes his head.

The el­derly man, whom we call Pak Cik Syam, is in­sanely fit and filled with sinewy mus­cles. He leaps through ex­posed roots on the ground like an Olympian. The sight of a twenty- some­thing city boy strug­gling to hike a hill might have been laugh­able to him.

The me­dia are on an ex­pe­di­tion or­gan­ised by Tourism Ke­lan­tan to hunt for the elu­sive Raf­fle­sia at Kam­pung Ladoi in the Kuala Betis Orang Asli set­tle­ment of Gua Mu­sang, Ke­lan­tan. A glimpse of the bloom isn’t a guar­an­teed deal, though.

“If luck is on our side, we might be able to see the flower. It blooms for three days only be­fore it starts to de­com­pose,” our guide explains.

Screw luck. Two hours of an ex­tremely bumpy ride on a 4WD up a dirt road and then this stren­u­ous climb... I bet­ter see that darn flower, I thought.

A dozen mos­quito bites and sev­eral curses mut­tered silently un­der my breath later, we fi­nally chance upon a Raf­fle­sia that’s in full bloom. The sight of the flower – es­pe­cially when you fac­tor in the hellish hike – is glo­ri­ous. And as luck would have it, there are many seedlings within the vicin­ity.

“The Raf­fle­sia is like a preg­nant lady,” Pak Cik Syam of­fers this bit of trivia as we make our way down the moun­tain. The flow­er­ing process ac­cord­ing to him, takes about nine months – much like hu­man preg­nancy.

While go­ing up had been a chal­lenge, the de­scent is the un­nerv­ing part of the ex­pe­di­tion. There are no branches or tree trunks to hold on to. At times, I’m crawl­ing on the ground to steady my­self.

But then again, you don’t have to be ex­tremely fit to go on this ex­pe­di­tion. Our en­tourage com­prises a mis­cel­la­neous bunch: pho­tog­ra­phers lug­ging heavy equip­ment, a group from Tourism Malaysia ( some whom were pos­si­bly Awie fan­boys as they were hum­ming his songs of­ten) who squeal with de­light when we pass a stream and an asth­matic fe­male travel writer among oth­ers.

De­spite the ar­du­ous ad­ven­ture, ev­ery­one makes it back safe and sound.

Home in the hills

Nat­u­rally, all I want to do af­ter the hike is to take a cold shower and a long nap. Which is why the pris­tine Kam­pung Redip in Pos Hau is such a wel­come sight.

The Orang Asli set­tle­ment – which dou­bles up as a kam­pung home­s­tay site – sits about 20 min­utes drive from Kam­pung Ladoi.

Lush rolling green hills en­velop the vicin­ity and a crys­tal clear stream runs through the vil­lage. It’s a haven af­ter the long jour­ney.

“You will be sleep­ing by the bank of a river tonight,” the vil­lage pres­i­dent Razali Ayeh says when he passes the keys to my chalet. Con­structed out of bam­boo shoots and dry leaves, the look of the prop­erty from the out­side can be in­tim­i­dat­ing to those who are ac­cus­tomed to city com­forts.

Step in­side though, and the in­te­rior is ac­tu­ally very cosy de­spite its ba­sic fur­nish­ings. Two sim­ple mat­tresses are placed side by side on the door with two power sock­ets above them. My ini­tial fears of bathing at a com­mu­nal shower dis­si­pates when I spot the spa­cious bath­room. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to bed­time with the sound of the flow­ing river lulling me to sleep.

That is, un­til a Face­book friend com­mented that my abode for the night looks like some­thing out of the Thai hor­ror movie Nang Nak.

There are 12 chalets at Kam­pung Redip and they range be­tween RM50 and RM70, de­pend­ing on the size of the unit.

“The chalets are built and op­er­ated by the families here and the neigh­bour­ing set­tle­ments. That’s why no two units look the same. It’s also why the in­te­ri­ors are all dif­fer­ent,” Razali explains. Guests have the op­tion of set­ting up tents at the des­ig­nated camp site.

Lo­cated about 56km away from the town of Gua Mu­sang, ac­cess to the vil­lage has im­proved in re­cent years. The dirt road has been evened out and sev­eral bridges are built across the many creeks found en route to the set­tle­ment.

Tourism Ke­lan­tan of­fi­cer Muham­mad Faiz Is­mail says the in­fra­struc­ture up­grades are done to im­prove the flow of vis­i­tors to the vil­lage. And if it’s up to vil­lager Pak Ah­mad, the more vis­i­tors the mer­rier.

“We like to in­vite peo­ple here and make more friends,” the el­derly man tells me as the rest of my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions take a dip at the nearby Leurew Wa­ter­fall.

“If pos­si­ble, we would like to see orang putih at our kam­pung too so that we can con­verse with them in Eng­lish and share with them our cul­ture,” Pak Ah­mad adds of his hope to wel­come Cau­casian vis­i­tors.

An in­sight into the cul­ture of the Temiar tribe is def­i­nitely some­thing that tops my itin­er­ary at Kam­pung Redip. From cook­ing demon­stra­tions to the tra­di­tional se­wang per­for­mance, there’s much to learn here. Se­wang in­cor­po­rates solo singing, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and all- round merry- mak­ing.

Truly, it’s the warm hos­pi­tal­ity of the vil­lagers that make my stay at Kam­pung Redip a spe­cial one.

Flood pesta

The fact that both Kam­pung Redip and

Kam­pung Ladoi are lo­cated on high ground doesn’t mean that the vil­lages weren’t af­fected by the dev­as­tat­ing floods in 2014. Ac­counts of the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent still seep into con­ver­sa­tions when­ever you speak to the Ke­lan­tanese here.

“The flood was like pesta,” our 4WD driver re­lates of the fes­ti­val- like at­mos­phere back then on our way down to the Gua Mu­sang town.

“Speed­boats and am­bu­lances were dis­patched from other states and the re was a surge of per­son­nels try­ing to evac­u­ate peo­ple,” he adds, as we past hilly land that’s been cleared for plan­ta­tions.

Ac­cess to the vil­lages was cut off and he­li­copters were used to dis­trib­ute es­sen­tials. Rem­nants of the dis­as­ter are still vis­i­ble to­day. De­stroyed wooden homes and bridges mar the land­scape, as we drive past the old Gua Mu­sang KTMB train sta­tion to the Eth­nob­otany Park. For­tu­nately for the forestry re­search and re­cre­ational cen­tre, the venue was rel­a­tively un­scathed.

To­day, the place – which is man­aged by the South­ern Ke­lan­tan De­vel­op­ment Board ( Kesedar) – houses a her­bal park and host ac­tiv­i­ties such as ab­seil­ing, fly­ing fox and rock climb­ing.

Mean­while, the Swee Nyet Kong tem­ple – which the lo­cals call Tokong Mek – in Pu­lai ( about 15km from Gua Mu­sang) is still re­cov­er­ing from the floods. A sus­pen­sion bridge that links the main tem­ple to the cave tem­ple op­po­site it was de­stroyed back then. Vis­i­tors will have to take a longer route to­day.

It’s still an ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful venue, though. A calm­ing wa­ter fea­ture lends a sense of Zen to the main al­tar which con­tains a sa­cred 600- year- old paint­ing of a de­ity.

Al­though, it’s the nearby cave tem­ple that takes my breath away. It takes 165 flight of steps to reach the top. But the view from above of the sur­round­ing lake and green fo­liage – much like the Raf­fle­sia – is so worth the climb. This me­dia trip was spon­sored by Tourism Malaysia to high­light Visit Ke­lan­tan Year 2016. Book­ings and ground ar­range­ments at Kam­pung Redip can be made by con­tact­ing Razali Ayeh at 011- 40249499.

The nearby Leurew Wa­ter­fall at Kam­pung Redip is per­fect for a re­fresh­ing dip on a hot af­ter­noon. — Pho­tos: FAIHAN GHANI/ The Star

Away from the city lights, the moon and stars shine much brighter in the night sky above Kam­pung Redip.

The Raf­fle­sia only blooms for three days af­ter a flow­er­ing process that takes up to nine months.

The chalet that the writer stayed is lo­cated right next to a clear stream. — CH­ESTER CHIN/ The Star

What that will make your kam­pung stay truly mem­o­rable is the warm hos­pi­tal­ity of the Orang Asli.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.