Wednesday

Exploring with a Friend @ Fraser Hills

After initial hiccups in planning, we succeeded in going to Fraser Hills (Pahang, Malaysia) with a friend's family. This also happens to be my first experience in hill driving. I had to pull up my car seat to almost 90 degrees and sit straight to get a better view at the bends and drive at a terribly slow pace, otherwise it was quite smooth.

Just about 90 KM from Kuala Lumpur it is hard to believe that such a peaceful and beautiful hill station exists.

My crazy partner prefers to stay indoors instead of exploring new places. Therefore, I've always had misgivings when we travel, and wondered how good it would be to travel with someone with same interest and at the same time comfortable to talk to. I guess my wish has been so strong that this time, I was blessed with wonderful experience and do things without having to argue!

View from our suite

Chirpy visitor at daybreak

Never realized moths can be colorful!

Hill view reflection

In this trip, the men and kids decided to stay indoors, where as my good friend and myself decided to 'explore' using the map. Both of us were not good in reading the map, but the town is too small, so it was rather easy to find our way.

Golf Course

Compared to the KL Butterfly park, here the butterfly park looked small and uninviting. Then the water park too was closed, but the view through the gates was fantastic.

Allen's Water - disused reservoir 

Though I enjoy walking in the jungle or plains, I do not look forward to climbing as I start sweating and loose my stamina quickly. However, when my friend urged to go on trekking, I agreed halfheartedly to take the shortest trail, but did not complete it:(

Ferns, berries, morning glory

After this disastrous attempt, we decided to drive further and see if there was anything interesting or you could just call it as 'wild goose chase'. And, we came across a viewing deck, so we pulled up to see. We saw the sign board to a waterfall and while we were considering to go there, we noticed a Caucasian stopping a car that was headed downhill and warn them of a landslide ahead.

Fish tailed palm

Watching us, a lady who was sitting nearby pointed at the Caucasian and told, 'my husband just walked to that waterfalls in the morning and he says that the roads are not good, but still the cars keep going!'. Now, I had to ask if he had taken any pictures. She assured that her husband would show us the pictures.

While taking out his camera, he told with a lighthearted banter that it took him 1 hour to go to the waterfall and 2 hrs to walk back! Soon, we learned that they were Australians and were on Malaysian roads for the past two weeks. Within few minutes we touched on various subjects such as Indian arranged marriages, waterfalls in Australia, 'grayed nomads' who cause traffic jams with their huge caravans, comparatively cheap Malaysian food price, peculiar habit of Malaysian bikers who wear the jackets as seen in the pic below (1st biker from right), lazy attitude of the staff at the resort where they were staying etc. It felt good to talk to strangers, without being stared at by my family.


Finally, we had to drag ourselves back to the resort, in the hope of coming back after a short break. But, later we were too tired and it was also rainy and getting dark, so we had to call it a day.

Since childhood, going to hill stations has always been fun. Cool weather, smell of fresh grass, chillness in the air, curvy roads or um...whatever I've always felt romantic about hill stations. But, after this trip I would certainly vouch that traveling with a like-minded and understanding friend to a hill station is substantially gratifying without any romantic inclinations!

Tokong Ular or Snake Temple - Penang, Malaysia

Compared to the colorful Pagoda of Penang, Snake Temple, which is locally called as Tokong Ular in Malay, is quite small. But, it is significant because it is one of the two live snake temples in the World!

Legend says that the main deity Char Choo was a renowned 13th century Buddhist priest and healer, who used to give shelter to the snakes.

Main Alter

When this temple was built around 1850, the pit vipers from the nearby jungle moved in this temple.

Pit Vipers

Bronze figurines

Prayer candles

There is also a local belief that the venomous pit vipers in this temple become harmless due to the aroma of the incense sticks burned here. But, there is a sign board to warn us against this belief.

Now, this temple looks touristy with typical attraction where you could take a picture with a pit viper dangling around your neck.

Monday

Turtle Watch @ Kemaman, Terengganu, Malaysia

It was an unplanned trip with short notice to Cherating, Pahang, Malaysia. Though i was aware of turtle watching in that area, I didn't know the details until I enquired @ Holiday Villa Resort, where we stayed. 

Though we booked to watch the turtles, we were told that the ranger would call us if there is a turtle landing at Telok Mak Nik in Kemaman, Terengganu, which is about 20KM from Cherating. We were lucky and the ranger picked us up around 9.30 pm and drove us to the site with another family. We had to walk about 80 mts in the deserted sparse jungle by the beach.

In hushed silence, we watched a turtle doing its reproductive process in the open beach below a muddy slope. The ranger lit a torch, without distracting the turtle, on the freshly laid eggs for for us to see.

Turtle laying eggs - unable to capture clear shot 

The ranger told that the whole process takes about 2 to 3 hours for the turtles, that includes selecting the nesting ground > digging the nest > laying about 70-140 eggs > closing the nest > go back to the sea!

As I was standing next to the ranger, I started talking to him and asked how do they scout for turtles. He told that there were 6 rangers working in that area, who are vigilant at nights on the look out for turtle landings. He walked us away from the crowd to show us the turtle mark on the beach.

Turtle mark 

He said, 'today you are seeing a green turtle and looking at the size it should be around 30 years old'. Actually, the green turtle looked blackish gray in that dim torch light. He further added, that each turtle might come to the same location for 6 or 7 times in the same season to lay eggs.

Closing the nest using rear flipperes

Another interesting fact I learned was that the turtles' gender would be decided based on the temperature of the nest. What we saw was considered as 'open beach' where the the nest was quite shallow with comparatively warm temperature, so if left naturally, it would produce female turtles.

The rangers dug out all the eggs, without disturbing the poor turtle, which was busy closing its nest. When I asked the rangers, why would they disturb this natural process, he told that they would take all these eggs to the hatchery where it would be safely hatched in about 6 weeks, thus protecting the species from predators and poachers.

Egg - flexible soft shell, resembling a ping-pong ball

In the mean time, another ranger brought freshly hatched baby turtles from the sanctuary so that we could release all of them at the same time.

2 hours old babies!

The ranger showed us how to hold a baby...

When the turtle completed its job and started to move towards the sea, the spectators in-spite of warning, used flash to capture this action. As turtles use moon/star light to find their way to the sea, this turtle got confused with the flash and started to move uphill! So, the ranger had to raise his voice among the crowd and then gently guide the turtle back towards the sea.

Trying to move towards light

Mission accomplished

Everyone cheered as it touched water and started to swim.

Home! 

Within seconds, the turtle was gone. It was an awesome, once in a life-time experience, which otherwise we get to see only in National Geographic or Discovery Channel!

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