One of my favourite hikes was the one from Robinson Falls to the Chinese temple in Brinchang. It starts with a long uphill track with some scrambling on all fours over fallen trees and climbing through slippery roots to the top of the Gunung Berembun. The next bit is a steep descent to the valley floor followed by a winding path that leads to another trail. This last part has some serious going up and down and becomes a bit of a muddy mess after rain but eventually it leads to the Chinese Sam Poh temple. On a good day this took me about 4 hours, including walking back along the golf course. Sometimes I had an early dinner in Brinchang where there is a Chinese eatery that does a phenomenal kway teow with black pepper beef.
A mysterious animal that proved to be a constant companion on these jungle walks was the one that did whoop. I have never seen it and I suspect it is a small grey bird of some sort. It does regular short whoops but whenever you look in its direction, it stops and you see nothing. Then suddenly, but invariably, it whoops just behind you.
Once I came across a group of noisy white thighed langurs and I spent some time enjoying their entertainment. It’s a rare treat. The only other mammal I had seen in the jungle so far was at Gunung Jasar. It was a bright day and I was resting from a long uphill walk when I saw a woolly tail from a bush not far away. Then a small black face, two beady eyes, and then it was gone. An unknown vertebrate. The only animals you are guaranteed to see in the jungle are brightly coloured butterflies. Well, apart from the ubiquitous flies, mosquitoes and ants, of course.
I read somewhere that the numerous trails through these jungles were first established by the military who patrolled here against the communists in the sixties. It was in these highlands that the American silk merchant Jim Thompson disappeared in 1967. He was an ex-CIA man and some say he wanted to meet the communists. Maybe he met them and they didn’t like him being a bourgeois silk merchant exploiting the workers. Maybe. Who knows. Wikipedia features an entire article dedicated to the Disappearance of Jim Thompson. So you can read that. There are a lot of who knows there. It also links to another article about people that disappeared into thin air. Loads of people have gone missing, people that walked into jungles, people who climbed up mountains and people who just walked out of the door. If there’s anything to be learnt from this, I haven’t found it yet.
That’s all you’ll hear.
They might be aliens abducting people in their space ships.
Maybe. Who knows.
A popular dish in Malaysia is Tom Yam, a spicy soup with bamboo and shrimp. It is not a dish that I particularly like, but sometimes I’ll give it go for the sake of variation. But then, after all, bamboo is a wood. It is not a food. So, there you go.
Spicy, the man asked.
Yes, I said, I like spicy.
And I do but when his wife served the bowl with the red fluid swirling in it and, heedfully, put a roll of toilet paper next to it, I knew I was in for some seriously hot food. Carefully I took a spoonful and it wasn’t so bad. It is never the first spoonful that does you in. Soon sweat dripped from my brows as I was chewing on some unforgiving piece of wood. A little kid was marching up and down the pavement in front of me, beating his toy drum. When I sucked on a thread of vermicelli from the soup it broke and slapped against my cheek causing a drop of soup to get into my left eye. It hurt, I cried, the agony, the little man was marching, beating his drum, tears in my eyes, I couldn’t see a thing. Slimes from my throat, sweaty palms, everything was burning, I dared not touch anything for fear it would get worse. I made it through but if I’ll ever be eating this soup again, I swear, I’ll be wearing goggles.
Next post: 7 Habits of completely ineffective people.