I was told that between 6:30 to 7:30 a.m is the best time to head out to the resort’s expansive rooftop to catch the sunrise. I couldn’t miss my chance! I left my phone in the room and headed out in the early morning, breathing the fresh air and catching the morning dew.
The rooftop overlooked the beautiful view of Lake Temenggor and the mountain peak, which gradually lit up by the rising sun breaking dawn in the stunning blue and orange sky. Coming up there sans phone was definitely a good choice as I was able to fully take in the breathtaking view and listen to the early morning birds with no digital distractions. For once, I could experience the true beauty of nature with my own two eyes instead of through a screen.
The highlight of the day was the tree planting activity with members of the Belum Forest Friends. We had to plant Gaharu (Agarwood) tree saplings, a tree native to the forest that is often harvested for oud, a rich aromatic (and expensive!) resin that you can find in a lot of perfume.
Because of this, the trees are often poached for their precious resin through illegal logging. In the wild, a single Gaharu tree can take up to 40 to 60 years to grow to maturity! But in a plantation, the tree can mature in as little as 6 years, so I’m glad that I took part in it. There are 25 species of Gaharu and we planted the Aquilaria malaccensis which is one of the highest grades of the species and is unique to Malaysia.
In the afternoon, we were scheduled to visit a Kampung Orang Asli called Kampung Semelor. To get there, I had to go on an hour-long motorboat ride and a 15-minute bumpy ride on a four-wheel drive. I checked my cell phone, not surprised that the ‘No Signal’ indicator was staring at me on the screen. When we arrived at the Kampung, curious and shy eyes were watching me through the window panes and behind doors. The Orang Asli in this area are known to be very, very shy around outsiders, so it was a privilege to meet them.
Since there was no signal in the area, it was a great time for me and many of us in the group to interact with the locals and enjoy their local delights that didn’t involve me working my angles to get the perfect photo opportunity. This was an experience like no other as I was really immersed in learning about their lives as living in this village far away from town.
Come night time, I went for night trekking in a small group. I’ve never done it before but I was worried about the creepy crawlies that I would encounter (*shivers*). I managed to put on my Bear Grylls alter-ego on and went ahead.
The jungle trek was filled with natural terrain as preserved by the locals. Some parts were very narrow and some went up at about a 60-degree angle which was scary as heck! Along the path, I met with a colony of giant ants and millipedes which were happily using the rope as a bridge from one tree to another. This made it challenging as I had nothing to support me– I wasn’t going to touch the insect bridge!
After about 20 minutes in, I reached a flat area at the top. I was asked to switch off the torchlight and close my eyes for a minute. When I opened them, I heard sounds of wonder from the group as we saw glow in the dark mushrooms along the path ahead. Did you know that our soldiers used these mushrooms as a guide for them at night to hide away from the communists back in World War II? Fascinating!
Then as I reached the last checkpoint, I looked up and saw so many stars in the sky twinkling in the dark night sky as if to say hello! This was something I definitely would never be able to see in the city or through my phone camera.
It was such a fulfilling day that when got back I just plugged my phone to charge, took a cold shower and went straight to bed.