#4 (Final) Malaysia, July 13, 2009

Dear Everybody,

The Taman Negara Jungle was magnificent! Many kinds of unique flora have evolved over its 130 million years because it never was affected by volcanoes or by an ice age. It’s the oldest jungle in the world.

We arrived via a three-hour boat ride on the Sungai River on a very nice day, enjoying birds—magpie robin, common myna, and even a black hornbill which Marco identified first after somebody else spotted this big bird.

That afternoon Marco and I did a little hiking on one of the trails through the jungle. Some of the trees are 50 meters (170 feet) tall.

That night at 8:30 PM, we went with a group and guide on a night jungle walk with flashlights which we enjoyed. We saw mainly insects—walking sticks, a snake up in a tree, a scorpion, bees, phosphorescent mushrooms, quite a few big spiders, termites and inch-long ants.

The canopy walk was scheduled for the following morning. They have rigged many swinging bridges high up in the jungle canopy and we walked over about eight of them. One actually had ladder steps—all swaying. Marco seemed very comfortable but I thought it was scarier than I anticipated.

After two nights at the jungle we got a bus back to Jerentut and then one to Kuala Gandah, an elephant sanctuary. Upon arriving I was thinking it was overly touristic, quite disorganized, and probably going to be a disappointment. It turned out to be lots of fun.

First they brought in six elephants including a baby, which the mahouts guided one by one into the river for a bath. Then they lined them all up on a cement platform and the tourists could feed them watermelon, bananas, peanuts, sugar cane and other fruit. Next the tourists all lined up for rides by one’s and two’s. Marco rode and I photographed.

On the bus coming from Taman Negara we became acquainted with a very nice couple (Gary-South Africa/Marloes-Netherlands) whom I was also going to photograph riding their elephant with their camera. After taking one picture, the camera said, “Card Full!” So I grabbed my camera and shot several more pictures of them, so now we will email each other so I can send them pictures. Actually Marco rode twice, the second time using my ticket.

This was all followed by more lines for “bathing with the elephants!” About five people would get on an elephant behind the mahout—Gary and Marloes got on with Marco. The elephant walked about 30 feet into the waist-high river and then dropped over on his side, spilling the riders into the river! They had all prepared for this by wearing swim suits (or ‘bathing costumes’, said the brochure).

 

 

 

 

The baby elephant was in the river playing with many people and Gary, Marloes and Marco joined in. The day was beautifully sunny, after a foggy, misty early start.

Soon it was time for the bus to take us to Kuala Lampur. We arrived in Chinatown about 7:15 PM, got our hotel, the Chinatown Boutique Hotel, that we had stayed in earlier, dropped our packs and walked about six blocks to the LRT which we took to Dang Wangi station near the Sheraton. We wanted some Italian comfort food and we knew this Italian restaurant in the Sheraton wasn’t open on Saturdays and Sundays. The pizza and pasta were excellent; we got back to our hotel about 10:30—very late for us, but worth it!

The next day we had brunch at our favorite—Chinatown Food Paradise—and then checked out and in to the Sheraton Imperial for our last “spiffý” night, courtesy of Claire’s ‘points.’

When we checked in the desk clerk offered us a suite for no extra charge which turned out to be fabulous! On the 32nd floor, the suite had two baths, two showers, 2 TVs, full corner windows, etc., etc. What a capstone to our great three-week trip!

That evening we had the Sheraton’s buffet that included the biggest and best oysters on the half-shell that I’ve ever eaten! The kinds of ice cream (in addition to many desserts) were yam, green tea, corn, and strawberry on which you could ladle chocolate, caramel or cherry sauce—Burfdah!!

Another ‘small world’ thing—-I was listening to Anderson Cooper’s book on my iPod, and he was describing having been in Sri Lanka two weeks after the tsunami. He was in Matara, a small town on the southern coast where he was interviewing a Catholic priest who had been conducting Mass on the Sunday morning of the tsunami. The priest said he heard a loud crash and then discovered he was swimming. This same incident was related to me when I was in Sri Lanka in January, 2008 by my tuk tuk driver. (You may remember my reporting it on one of the Sri Lanka emails) The driver, his wife, brother and toddler had gone ‘home’ to Matara to celebrate Christmas (they were some of few Christians) and were attending Mass when the wave hit. The driver managed to stand on a table and saved some other people, including his toddler son whose hand was just disappearing under the water. Soon the table broke, then another wave struck, and they were all thrust out the hole in the wall. Surprisingly all four of them were OK and lived to tell the tale. Twenty-nine people died in that church that day. The driver showed me a clipping from the local paper when he brought me to his house to meet his family one day that described all this and pictured him.

Well, now we’re home after our very long journey—and were met by all of Marco’s family. It was a really good trip and Marco is such a good traveler!

Until my next trip—-all the best!

Carol

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