Back in 2011 when we were (minimally!) planning our travels in Asia, one of our main goals was to spend time wandering around in the jungle, looking for unfamiliar plants and animals. Due to a rather miraculous turn of events during our stay in Kuala Lumpur, we ended up spending nearly a week with a Malaysian friend of ours and her parents, traveling around their beautiful country. This unbelievably hospitable family introduced us to their delightful extended family and friends, and provided us with experiences we would never have encountered as mere tourists, including jungle time in a part of Malaysia that sees less foreign traffic. We were thrilled to share these unique moments with them, some of which were captured in the following photos.
We were privileged to meet the chief of the local Orang Asli indigenous community and his family, who served us tea and lunch. These first photos exhibit the slow death of our dust-proof, waterproof sports camera, which unfortunately isn't impact-proof and has been dropped/smashed one too many times....
We took a snack break and ordered "kopi 0", or plain black coffee before our journey to the Endau Rompin National Park.
At the chief's house, waiting for lunch.
Examining the offerings at the fish market near Kluang, Malaysia, hometown of our hosts.
So that's how they make that delicious coffee! The trick seems to be brewing it strong, pouring it through cheesecloth several times, and adding sweetened condensed milk.
One of my new favorites: the humongous jack fruit, which comes in easily- extracted mid-sized pods that have a honey-mango flavor.
At the family's vacation home in Kluang, scooping out the meat to drink with the coconut water.
Another new favorite: the mangosteen, with a soft, rosy-tasting white pulp inside.
One of our hosts' beautiful home decorations.
Shoes off in Malaysian homes! I have recently become convinced of the "shoes off inside" approach, which leads to one of my favorite things: a cleaner floor!
More lovely decor detail, much of which is Chinese-inspired, in keeping with our hosts' ancestry.
A storm brews in the distance, soon to bombard us with those heavy tropical raindrops- that is, if we weren't in the comfort of our hosts' vacation home.
To arrive at the rain forest, one must drive through many kilometers of palm oil plantations, a popular way to pull in the cash in the tropics. Above: palm oil fruit. Below, we gaze up at the interlacing fronds that we are told elephants take advantage of as hiding places.
Arriving at Endau Rompin National Park.
Welcome, says the cross-eyed cat.
The closest we came to spotting an elephant. They are plentiful in these parts, but incredibly stealthy and private.
Our first hike, to a swimming hole, involved wading through the river for about one hour. This was before I was nearly bitten by a poisonous water snake- I put on quite a show, splashing and screaming, with my fellow hikers so amused/concerned that the situation was unfortunately not documented...
Huge two-tone ant; I hear their bites HURT.
Preserved frog at one of the park's research stations. Creepy!
Looking out at the river near our beautiful cabin.
Gazing up at the jungle moon. After telling ghost stories, our guide was so frightened that she stayed in our cabin for the night rather than venture through the darkness to her home.
The round plant is used to make rattan products.
Tree trunk with a fern imprint.
Leaves used as a topical anti-inflammatory medication.
Crossing a jungle bridge.
Harold demonstrates the use of billowy "leech socks" which inevitably make one feel like an 18th century British explorer... We mercifully dodged the small-but-disturbing creatures almost entirely with the socks, along with careful steps and some incredibly strong DEET insecticide.
Our guide was given her first machete at age five, like most local children.
This tree bark gives appalling-looking acid burns.
Our hikes were well-signed, though not particularly heavily-trafficked, especially by foreigners.
This one's a wader; see the guideropes?
Feeding frenzy when we sprinkled cooked rice into the water.
This is the site where a man named Upeh did some "guling", or rolling down the hill. Very cute place name :)
Our guide, Shima; one of the chief's daughters.
Holes created by rapid rainy-season waters rushing over round pebbles, gradually carving into the solid rock below.
A fern grove where tigers like to hide. Didn't see any :(
Elephants walk up these stairs to the village.
Traditional village house.
According to folklore, if one were lost in the jungle, he could throw this solved puzzle in the air, start walking, and make his way to civilization.
Orang Asli village. Although their lifestyle has evolved with the times, people here continue to place great importance on familiarity with the jungle, with hunting, fishing, foraging and exploring constituting common activities for all generations.
This monkey isn't sure how he feels about us gawking at him.
Getting irritated, he begins to display, jumping from tree to tree and shaking the branches.
Slithering monitor lizard.
We end with a gift of fern shoots from the Orang Asli community, a delicious, commonly-consumed dish prepared in a stir-fry with garlic and chilis.