Malaysia - Day 30 - 32 - Rafflesia (World's Largest Flower) & Traditional Poison Blow Pipe
Jan 4, 2012
|an. 2nd: We arrived in Cameron Highlands just a little after 5pm. There are 5 towns that make up the entire area of Cameron, we are located in Tanah Rata. The Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations. It covers an area of 712 square kilometers (275 sq mi). During the day, the temperature seldom rises above 25 °C (77 °F); at night, the temperature can sometimes drop to as low as 12 °C (54 °F).
We walked down the street to our guest house and checked in for three nights. Dressed in warmer clothes, we actually put pants on and our Columbia jackets - we haven’t worn these since Australia. We stopped in at TJ nur Travel & Tours and arrange to go on a tour tomorrow morning at 8:15am to take a jungle trek to see the Rafflesia flower. We have been following this plant since we arrived in Malaysia, tried to see just outside of Kuching, tried to see it in two other places in Borneo but they were never blooming. We are so excited to see this flower, I cannot wait. I may not even sleep tonight because I’m so excited. Went for supper at a local Chinese restaurant which is a favored by the locals in town. We all had a chicken clay pot.
Grabbed some Cheese Roti’s and water and went back to the room to call it a night and get an early head start tomorrow morning.
Jan. 3rd: Arrived for our tour at 8:15am, Spencer was our guide for the day. Depending on the weather and how we feel after trekking for 3hours in the jungle to see the Rafflesia we may also do a late afternoon tour of the tea plantation and the mountain ’Gunung’ Brinchang. It took 40 minutes to drive to our starting point, right in front of an Aboriginal community. A guide from the community has to join Spencer and they tag along to the flower. You have to take a guide or no entry is allowed. Although the Aboriginal’s do not own the land the government has made a deal with them that they are free to do with the land what they want and they have the rights to stop anyone from entering.
It was muddy along the way, we followed a farming road all the way up which was a mess due to all the recent rain. According to Spencer they have not been able to use the road with their 4x4’s since early December. We stopped a lot on the way, Spencer showed us a lot of different trees and explained exactly how they could or couldn’t aid you in the jungle. We crossed a river over a bamboo bridge and walked further, deeper into the jungle. As we got closer to the flower I was so excited. All of a sudden we stop and BAM - there it was. The most weirdest, strange, fake looking flower we have ever seen yet it was so wonderfully beautiful. How awesome this Rafflesia flower is, buds were protruding everywhere so we needed to be careful of where we stepped. We put our heads right into the flower and took a good sniff. It smelled like garbage/rotting meat but not that intense. The flower was approximately 80 centimeters wide, its center was large with yellow spikes and white spots on the inside walls. It had 5 large pedals, normally it has 6. Because we left early for the tour we escaped all the other tour arrivals and we spent a good 20 minutes taking photos of the Rafflesia and taking turns for photos with Nick and Delphine,
The flower with the world's largest bloom is the Rafflesia arnoldii. This rare flower is found in the rainforests of Indonesia, Borneo and Malaysia on both sides. It can grow to be 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds! It is a parasitic plant, with no visible leaves, roots, or stems. It attaches itself to a host plant to obtain water and nutrients. When in bloom, the Rafflesia emits a repulsive odor, similar to that of rotting meat. (however our species was different and only smelled a bit), the very smelly one resides in Sabah Borneo. This odor attracts insects that pollinate the plant.
Happy with our visit we continued on out of the jungle with Spencer and our Aboriginal guide, stopping to cut some bamboo in half and drink the water inside. Tasted like a faint vegetable, possibly a cabbage. Once we exited the forest we were given a small tour of the Aboriginal community and shown how to use a traditional poison blow pipe. We all took our turns, don’t worry the darts we used were not poisoned....however we were told that there is enough sometimes to kill a man within 3 minutes.
We discussed with Spencer what his thoughts were on a late afternoon tour versus one early tomorrow morning of the tea plantation and mountain and he suggested to do it tomorrow. With that said we thanked Spencer for the great tour he gave us and made arrangements with Wan (pronounced ‘one’, who is the owner of TJ’s) to do an 8:30 am tour tomorrow.
We ate at the same Chinese restaurant and called it a night.
Jan 4th: We started our tour at 8:30am, first stop was a lookout on the BOH tea plantation. We carried on from there to Gunung Brinchang, a 6,666 foot mountain. First we took a tour in the ‘Mossy Forest’ which turned out to be quite muddy and slippery. We climbed to the peak of Gunung Brinchang and took photos. Descended from there and made our way to the BOH tea plantation where we took a tour of their processing facility. The road journey to the BOH Tea Plantation is quite an adventure itself. Boh Tea Plantation has a total of 8000 acres planted with tea. The largest tea plantation in Southeast Asia. Road is narrow and winding.
BOH Plantations was founded in 1929 by J.A. Russel, a British businessman during the British colonial era in Malaya. He was optimistic of the tea plantation business due to huge demands despite of the world-wide Great Depression at that time. As a result of the potential, he applied for and was granted a concession of land for his first tea garden in Habu, Cameron Highlands.
We tried a cup each; I had the black tea while Jason had the BOH Gold. The Gold was milder, not being huge tea connoisseurs we didn’t really see much of a taste difference between BOH and let’s say a cheaper style tea in Canada. We walked away with no purchase.
Next stop was the Butterfly and Insect farm, admission fee was $5 ringgit. As we walked in we were immediately welcomed to the site of huge colorful butterflies, one landed on Jason’s shoulder but didn’t remain long enough for me to take a photo. Multiple species of butterflies abounded everywhere, there were also aquariums with different snakes, locust branch grasshoppers, rhino beetles, scorpions and many more. Initially we were only supposed to stop here for 15 minutes but we took just a little over half an hour. We could have stayed another two I’m sure. This place was huge and it had a museum located in the back. We made our way back to TJ’s, thanked Wan for everything, had time to grab a quick lunch and off we went to the bus pick-up point.
We caught the 2pm bus from Cameron Highlands to Butterworth. It was a 5 hour bus trip and half of it was spent driving down and through the winding roads of the mountains. Our bus driver kept falling asleep and the whole time it had both Jason and I on pins and needles ready to jump up and grab the wheel if need be. Grateful that we didn't have to save the day, we arrived at the jetty point in Butterworth just a little after 7pm. We walked to the ferry point and were on our way to Penang Island soon after.
Tired from the days journey we arrived in our 'Banana Guest House' which turned out to be a little more than rough around the edges but our rooms were $25 ringgit per night so you really cannot expect 5* accommodations and really it wasn't bad at all. The walls were made of cubicle walls and the ceilings were drop down. After putting our backpacks in the room we decided to go out and find a place to eat.
We found a little stall, a mom & pop shop that makes the most delicious pork egg rolls and fried yam balls. The husband stirs the ‘goods’ in the oil and once done the wife takes them right away and arranges them on the table for sale. She also rolls fresh peanut balls there on the spot. We bought a few and carried on our search for something more substantial. We settled on a hot dog/burger stand and ordered up a 'special mix' for Jason which consisted of two hamburger patties with a sliced up hot dog on top. I chose the standard burger with cheese. Not bad but there was a lot of "chunks" of unknowns.
I ended up catching a nasty cold and it seemed to be at its worst today during the bus ride here. Jason stopped at the 7 eleven next door and grabbed me some orange juice with extra vitamin c to fix me up. Took some cold pills and called it a night.