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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Malaysia: Taman Negara

A boat sailing up the Sungai Temering
The only way to get to Taman Negara is to take a boat up the Sungai Temering

Malaysian place names can be surprisingly uninspired. From Muddy Confluence I travelled to National Park; yes, Taman Negara literally means 'Park National', a whoppingly original name for a National Park, don't you think? I wonder if I'll soon be crossing the River Sungai on my way to Mt Gunung on beautiful Pulau Island...

Kuala Tahan
Kuala Tahan, home to Park HQ, with Wan's Floating Restaurant on the left

Into the Jungle

Bumbun Kumbang
The luxurious hide at Bumbun Kumbang

To be honest, the trek into the jungle was pure hell. I'd set my sights on the lodge at Kuala Perkai, some 28km from park headquarters, as a good place to get away from it all, and I reckoned that two days' walking, one of 11km (staying the night in a hide called Bumbun Kumbang) and one of 17km, would be fairly acceptable. How little I knew of the rigours of hardcore tropical jungle; the first day took a little over five-and-a-half hours of hard slog, and the second a whopping nine hours.

Mark enjoying a cup of tea in Keniam Lodge
Enjoying a solitary cup of tea in spooky out-of-season Keniam Lodge
Sungai Trenggan from Keniam Lodge
Sungai Trenggan from Keniam Lodge

The Fishing Lodge

The fishing lodge at Kuala Perkai
The fishing lodge at Kuala Perkai

I was soon back on the trail, getting hopelessly lost and having to ask for help from the local tribesmen, but I eventually arrived at Kuala Perkai. I spent two full days at the fishing lodge, and it rained for almost all of that time. I found myself writing a lot (luckily I'd packed my computer) and reading a lot (fortunately A Suitable Boy is a monster of a novel). My clothes and pack steadfastly refused to dry out, I ate noodles and pasta in various unexciting combinations, and it wasn't long before I was bored out of my tiny skull.

Mark relaxing by the river, six days from civilisation
Relaxing by the river at Kuala Perkai
Mark reading a book on the veranda at Kuala Perkai
Reading a book on the fishing lodge veranda at Kuala Perkai
Taman Negara Resort
Luxury in the wilderness, at the rather pleasant Taman Negara Resort

1 Although Taman Negara is properly referred to as a rainforest – as in tropical rainforest, semi-tropical rainforest and temperate rainforest – I think 'jungle' sums it up better. The word jungle is defined in the dictionary as 'thick, tropical forest', and so it applies perfectly to Taman Negara. It's probably less scientific than rainforest, but I want to emphasise how different this place is to the other rainforests I've explored. Taman Negara truly is a jungle.

2 Hides are so called because they are perched high up on stilts, affording a good view of a grassy patch that wildlife seems to frequent only when nobody is in the hide. The hide at Bumbun Kembang wasn't as pleasant as the fishing lodge, but it served its purpose as a break in the walk, and it did have a pretty view.

3 A bit higher up and he'd have been performing a service that desperate men pay for. Walking can be such a thrill!