Rain Forest River View from the Taman Negara in Malaysia

Malaysian Road Trip from Penang to Taman Negara Rainforest



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Road trips are among my favorite things to do–especially when exploring a new country. After being crammed into the van from Thailand to Malaysia, it was a godsend to stretch out (a little–no SUV’s here) in our commuter sized Proton rental car. At least with the Proton we were able to come and go according to our own schedule. From Penang, we squealed tires out of Chinatown and took the high road to Jerantut where we caught a river taxi to the Taman Negara rainforest to begin the jungle adventure that was the last leg of the trip.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Once we decided for forgo the Super/Extra nice bus options overnight to Kuala Lumpur and rent our Proton things happened pretty fast. The rental car company actually delivered the Proton to our place at the Stardust Guesthouse and sent along a full team of staff to show us all the features of our stainless steel colored road warrior.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Along the way we passed a few other river taxis returning back to Kuala Tembeling.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Maybe it was because our boat was a little overloaded, but about halfway in to the trip we started taking on water. By the time our captain noticed it, the water was pretty high and people were perched on the tops of their seats making the boat really wobbly. We pulled in to shore and started bailing away.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Finally we pulled in to the floating restaurant of Kuala Tahan on the banks of the river across from the Taman Negara rainforest.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    As soon as we arrived, we met one of the jungle guides who was known as "Crazy Like Monkey?". I don't think I've met too many monkeys who play with snakes and Crazy Like delivered us a rambling and self serving speech to try and drum up business for his guide service.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Surprisingly the internet has made it out to Kuala Tahan.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    After checking out the various options for places to stay, we went with one of the cabins run by the Taman Negara Park and left Crazy Like Monkey on the other side of the river in Kuala Tahan.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    We shared the cabin with this brown beady-eyed bat.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Beware Monkeys! Speaking of monkeys, some of the monkeys from the jungle seemed to prefer hanging out around the cabins run by the park. In fact, we noticed a few large poops left on one of the chairs in our cabin. At first we couldn't figure out what had left them behind, but then we noticed a sizeable rip in the screen of our room left by the monkeys. We pictured them having a tea party in the middle of our room when nobody was watching.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    On this particular evening, the monkeys chose to invade somebody else's cabin. We discovered a pack of about ten of them lounging on the porch, chattering in the bushes, and one stretched out on the roof, while the fearful occupants peered from the windows to see if the monkeys were still there. They were!

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Monkey sightings became a daily occurrence but we never caught them having their imagined tea party at our place.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    First rule, even more important than signing the collision insurance waiver: No Durians (this sign was boldly stuck to the glove compartment). Enforcement of this rule was pretty strict in fact, and just a whiff of the garbage pit smell that the durian fruit gives off would result in an extra day's chargin's by the folks at Kasina Rent-A-Car. Steve, Alex and I wondered if the smell we might leave in the car after a few days in the jungle might be mistaken for a breach of the "no durians" policy.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    This little monkey was tearing apart the carefully manicured flower bed cultivated by the park staff.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The food at the restaurant near the park was really good.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    We filled up on big entrées before heading out into the jungle.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Our first trip into the jungle was just a day hike on a loop a few miles from our cabin.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Along the trail was the Taman Negara Canopy Walk, a suspension bridge hanging about 60 feet above the jungle floor.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    From the Canopy Walk we could see the creatures that lived high up in the trees such as these giant golden squirrels (not sure if that's the real name of the species, but that's what they looked like!).

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The Canopy Walk was a great place for some unique photos. Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Each span of the Canopy Walk seemed to go for about twenty or thirty yards between the trees.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    At a few points along the Canopy Walk the river was visible through the trees.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The ants in the Taman Negara jungle are a lot more organized than the average ant I've seen in the U.S.. These ants formed long and orderly lines as they methodically did whatever they were doing.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Steve and Alex are a good navigating team.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The line of ants extended quite a distance, and it was tough to tell exactly where they were going.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Alex introduced an impromptu obstacle and chaos ensued among the ranks.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The jungle had a lot more insects than just the ants. This brightly colored centipede would probably leave a nasty bite if you gave it a chance.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The further we traveled into the jungle the more we realized that the jungle was well equipped to defend itself from outsiders like us.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The jungle trees were often covered in moss and vines and towered above the forest floor to reach the sunlight beyond the impenetrable jungle canopy.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Most of the trees had extensive and sturdy looking buttress roots.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    Maybe inspired after seeing all the monkeys, Steve caught a swing on these jungle vines.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    As we pulled out of Penang we were surrounded by a motorcycle gang with Runaway Ralph style ping pong ball helmets.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    The Proton seemed to handle the open road with gusto.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    To reach the Taman Negara we had to drive a few hours south towards Kuala Lumpur, then take a secondary road east, and finally north to Jerantut.

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    For dinner we pulled off the highway at a rest stop that had a few restaurants. Alex and I chose this dish that we thought was chicken, but it turned out to be something really tough with the consistency of cartilage. Not too tasty!

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    We noticed this crazy old man as we pulled out of the rest stop. He was poised to charge out into the highway off ramp traffic on a little girl's bike!

  • Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004

    Malay Road Trip & Taman Negara Jungle Hike - October 2004
    We left the Proton behind in Jerantut, and caught a river taxi upstream from the Kuala Tembeling jetty for three hours to tiny settlement of Kuala Tahan and the Taman Negara jungle park.