B - From Kota Bharu we caught the 6am local no-frills train on the railway that goes from the north-east all the way through the jungle interior of Malaysia (the "jungle railway"). There were fantastic views from the train tho i was feeling a bit worse for wear and hot too (there was no aircon and windows that wouldn't open) however i perked up when we found out there was a buffet car which, despite having harder seats, had food and drink and windows that opened. We spent the rest of the journey in there. Ten hours later we arrived in Jerantut - a small town and transport hub in central malaysia and starting point for getting to the Taman Negara national park. We jumped on a bus heading for the park and two hours later we arrived, dirty and tired.
Unfortunately we could see straight away that the "village" in our lonely planet had been developed to meet tourist needs and there were big newly built concrete hotels next to the brand new asphalt road. But we managed to find a guesthouse well out of the way with beautiful tropical jungly gardens. Granny, I thought of you here and how much you would have loved them (but not the heat).
The whole place was really quite touristy, with big guided tour groups noisily crashing around the jungle, still hoping to spot animals!! But there were so many trails and it was so huge you could still escape from the throng, and on our first small walk we still managed to see lots of birds - including woodpeckers, malaysian partridges, fire-crested pheasants - plus wild boar and lots of insects! But the main thing was just to be in this rainforest (it is 130 million years old) and have all the plants and trees towering over and around you and hearing all the jungle noises.
The next day we went up the canopy walkway and i was almost dismissing it as one of the big tourist draws of the park but it really had to been seen - or walked along - to be believed. The walkway actually consists of about 10 different rope bridges suspended REALLY high from the tallest trees (like the one at Bowood but for adults and far more scary). The idea is that you are actually up in the forest canopy so can see the bird and animal life far more closely but in reality the amount of people using it scare animals away. However, i did see a flying lizard and some stunning bright red birds. There was also the trouble that my legs were shaking and my heart beating far too much too look at wildlife. Claire thought it was funny i was so scared when i was so calm about swimming with sharks and other stuff, and i have to say i was surprised at my sudden fear of heights (some of it was VERY high up).
The other tourists at the park were annoying, mainly because they were either package tourists of the kind staying at the big resort there, doing big lazy inclusive tours of the park by noisy boats or travellers who all wanted to do serious 12 day treks into the jungle "proper", walking 7-8 a day in the sweaty, exhausing heat (the fools!). In the end we decided to do it our way and hired a guide who took us on a slow nature walk (5 - 6 hours to walk 3km!!! jungle walking is tough work!) along a quiet trail and pointed out the plants, trees and their properties and answered all our questions and we did some good birdspotting on the way. At the end he took us caving, through a small cave with thousands of bats flying around us and tiny spaces to sqeeze through so we ended up covered in bat poo and wet feet and clothes from the exit point being blocked by a stream! It was a great walk.