I don’t know how people decide what they want to visit in a new country. India, I would think, is particularly difficult, if only because it is so large. Does one do history-things, or nature-things, or things other people have talked about? Or does one simply go visit people one knows?
In Malaysia, we had no idea where to go. It was not a country we’d always longed to visit; it was just accessible from Singapore. But where were we to go?
Minimal research drew us to Taman Negara. We love forests, and Taman Negara is the world’s oldest rainforest, said to be over a hundred million years old.
I just threw that number in there, so take a minute to process that.
We’re in the year 2018. That’s a little over 2,000 years.
Look back at history. How far can you go? Maybe back to the 16th century BCE? Okay, so add 1600 to the 2000 years of the Common Era.
Be generous. Add 3,000 years, if you like. You’ll get to a round figure of 5,000.
That’s half of 10,000.
Add another zero and you still get only 100,000.
Add another zero and you reach a million.
And now, think about Taman Negara, which is a hundred and thirty million years old. That’s 130,000,000. Now you get the point of the exercise.
We decided to stay at Mutiara Taman Negara, even though cheaper options were available, mainly because our two days in the forest were our real indulgence during this holiday. We went one step further – we didn’t opt for cheaper ways of getting to the resort either. Instead of taking a bus and then a boat, we took the direct shuttle service that got us to the forest in about four hours, as opposed to the seven hours that we would otherwise take. We wanted as much time as possible in the forest.
Taman Negara is not administered like Indian forests. The concept of a safari in a jeep doesn’t exist. Instead, you buy a ticket and walk in. It costs MYR 1 per head, and it is a one-time payment valid right through your stay. In addition, you pay MYR 5 for each camera you intend to use, and that’s all. You’re set. You’re in the world’s oldest rainforest. And the experience is surreal.
Sure, on day one, we walked only on the boarded path.
But we were walking in a rainforest that is over a hundred million years old. Boarded walkway or no boarded walkway, that journey was through the oldest rainforest in the world, surrounded by huge, ancient trees, under a green canopy.
Until that moment, the word ‘canopy’ belonged to my geography text book. I remembered half-forgotten details of insects in a rainforest, of huge trees reaching up to the sky, and of birds so high up in the trees that you cannot see them from below. We heard sounds everywhere, sounds of the jungle – insects, birds, water …
What would we see around the next enormous tree trunk? An elephant? A tapir? A tiger? And when we saw none of them, were we really going to say we saw nothing? I’ve written about this before, but I write again, how are magnificent trees ‘nothing’ in people’s vocabulary?