6/9/18: Jungle Bliss (Taman Negara, Malaysia)

Amanda and I woke up at 7 in our little pod at Danz Eco Resort and went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.

We filled up on fried noodles, watermelon, and toast.

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We climbed onto the truck to take us to town at 8 am. On board with us was a girl wearing a tube top, a full face of make up, and false eyelashes. In the middle of the jungle. Very fitting.

Once we were in Taman Negara park, which apparently is 7 times bigger than Singapore, we followed the signs to the canopy walk. Even at 8:30, it was really hot and we were sweating profusely.

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Blue plants!

The canopy walk was really cool, though— well worth the 5 ringgit they charge for it. We didn’t see any wildlife, but it was nice walking high up in the jungle, looking at the trees around us and down at the ground beneath us. I can imagine it would be a struggle for someone afraid of heights, though. The shakey bridges weren’t exactly the most comforting.

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Dripping in sweat, we followed the signs for Bukit Teresek, which was essentially a viewpoint. I didn’t know this.

The way there was a never-ending trail of cardiovascular stress. We climbed staircase after staircase before finally arriving at the first viewpoint, drenched head to toe in sweat. The viewpoint was only mediocre. We just saw some more of the jungle a bit of a distance away, and that was it.

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So.many.stairs.
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Cool vines!

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Dripping in sweat
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The viewpoint

We kept following the trail, which wasn’t as bad anymore. There were no more stairs.

The second viewpoint was a tad bit better than the first, but still pretty mediocre.

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Crazy plant!
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Second viewpoint

We were getting attacked by bees, so we left pretty quickly to head back to the park entrance.

We got to the bottom around noon and went into a minimart to get bug spray.

As we were sitting outside, spraying on the repellent, the Belgian couple that we met the night before (who are also vegan) walked in to the minimart.

They told us they were going to the waterfall soon and invited us: the more people that join, the cheaper it is.

We needed to get food since we were already quite hungry, so we told them we’d get something as takeaway and meet them.

We walked into the restaurant where we had eaten the banana roti the night before and ordered fried rice for Amanda, curry vegetables for me.

As the woman was calculating the total, she listed the items out loud.

“5 for rice, 6 for chicken curry.”
“No, veggie curry,” I corrected her.

She cupped her hands to mouth when she realized she had made a mistake.

“Oh, yeah. Veggie curry. Sorry, I made chicken curry.”
“Oh…” I said.
“Are you vegetarian?”
“Yes, but it’s ok. Don’t worry. I’ll just pick out the chicken.”

I wasn’t going to make her go back and cook a whole new meal for me. We were in a hurry and honestly, it’s not the biggest deal in the world. Maybe if we were in the U.S. I would have sent it back, but not here in a country where I don’t speak their language and vegetarianism is not a common thing.

We met back up with the Belgians (who are named Kate and Costa), and then walked over to our boat.

The ride over was amazing. We were going down a small river, so the trees from either side draped over and hugged the entire river. It was really picturesque.

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The water was super shallow, so there were times when I didn’t think the boat would make it through.

However, we somehow made it and were dropped off at a pebbly beach an hour later. The waterfall was about a 20-minute walk from there.

The Belgians stopped a few times to take pictures— first by a massive tree with impressive roots, and then again by a sandy beach by the river. They are really active on IG (@thegoneaways) so they were getting content for that.

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The trail to the waterfall

They told Amanda & I that we could keep walking if we wanted. We were hungry, so we went ahead to eat our lunch. I was dreading opening up a box full of warm chicken contaminating the flavor of the entire meal.

However, my lunch ended up being better than expected: the chicken and curry sauce were in a plastic bag, separated from the rice, and then the box just had rice with some veggies mixed in. That made it really easy to pick out the chicken. The curry sauce was really spicy and creamy.

Amanda, who ordered vegetarian fried rice, also had pieces of chicken in her meal… so I guess the lady got both of our orders wrong.

As we ate, a bunch of flies and bees started swarming us. They were all around my head, landing on my arms and legs, trying to get to the food. It got really annoying, so I pretty much shoveled as much food as I could, as quickly as possible, in my mouth and then ditched the container.

Amanda and I didn’t have bathing suits, as we didn’t know the afternoon would involve swimming when we got dressed that morning, so we just took off our shorts and t-shirts and went into the water with our bra and underwear. There was no one else there, so it was fine.

The “waterfall” was not really a waterfall, though. It was more like a bunch of rocks cascading down a small hill.

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But it was nice nonetheless. The water was a good temperature— not too cold but not too warm, perfect for relaxing.

The Belgians showed up a few minutes later and we swam around for a bit. The current was strong, so it was nice to put our feet at the edge of the rocks and feel the river flow under us. It was like getting a leg massage.

I felt so blissful and happy in the water. I didn’t know what to expect coming to Taman Negara, but it’s really beautiful here. It definitely has quite a bit of tourism, but it’s not the annoying, overrun-with-tourism tourism. The villages are still very much authentic, and the jungle is very much a jungle. It’s not beautified or tamed for the tourists.

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After a couple hours of swimming, we took some more pictures of each other in the river. More and more people were showing up, so we decided to get going.

There were bees and ants all over our plastic bag of leftover food. There was even a group of ants CARRYING A DEAD BEE!!! It looked like a sacrificial ceremony for the bee, the way they were carrying it on their backs.

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The sacrificial bee
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So many bugs

Of course, the bees started swarming us again and we wanted to get the hell out of there.

We debated whether to bring the bag of food back with us or to just leave it there— there were bees ALL around it, plus scary red ants that looked like they could do some real damage if they bit us.

Amanda took one for the team and picked up the bag. It ended up being a lot better than we expected. Once we were carrying it, the bees went away and the ants were easy to swat away.

We definitely went to the waterfall at the right time because as soon as we headed back, TONS of groups on their day tours were headed to it. We passed so many boats, most of them filled with older Asian tourists, all smiley and friendly. They definitely would have been offended by me and Amanda’s bra & underwear look.

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Tree photoshoot

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Branch photoshoot

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Way back

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Once we were back in town, we walked up to the Danz office to use their WiFi. There was a guy making smoothies at a stand next door, so I got a coconut & banana smoothie. Amanda tasted it, realized how good it was, and then got her own. The guy asked us to take a picture with him, and it has got to be the world’s most awkward picture.
Why are his hands like that??!

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We took the truck back and podcasted in our pod. A pod podcast! We talked about getting into grad school, how the last few months of living in NY were for Amanda, dating, our career goals… a lot. It was really fun to catch up with her in a more formal setting.

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Sunset from the truck!
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Woooo pod podcasting

By the time we were done with the podcast, it was around 7 so we went back to town for dinner.

The poppin’ restaurant of the night was no longer Family Restaurant— tonight was Taman Negara Floating Restaurant. We looked around at the people around us and realized that we knew almost everyone (by face). It’s definitely a small village.

Our vegetarian flat noodles were delicious! Flat noodles are probably my favorite type of rice noodle. The texture is just so fun!

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While we were waiting for the truck to come get us and take us back to Danz, Amanda was looking at the #tamannegara hashtag and FOUND THE RUSSIAN GIRL FROM THIS MORNING! The one who was wearing a tube top and false eyelashes.

And… get this…

SHE’S VEGAN!!! (@marusia_0906)

I was perplexed. How are there so many vegans at our one little hotel???! I swear it’s secretly a vegan lodge. There’s no way 4 vegans all gathered there at the same time coincidentally. I hadn’t met this many vegans all at once in all of my travels.

(P.S. the Russian girl’s IG stories are amazing.)

We got back to the lodge around 10 pm, read a bit, and then went to bed.

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