Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gua Wang Burma-My First Caving Experience

Malaysia has some of the biggest and longest caves in the world. Some are archaeological sites, others are simply beautiful with stalagmites and stalactites, and maybe some underground rivers. Some caves are home to a wide variety of cave fauna such as bats, swiftlets, toads, snakes, and invertebrates such as insects, spiders, beetles, cockroaches, centipedes and millipedes.

Amongst the most famous caves in the world are the caves in Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak, which was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2001. More than 345 km of cave passages have been mapped in Mulu.
In Peninsular Malaysia, caves can be found in all the northern and eastern states of the peninsular. The tropical karst towers occur as steep isolated hills rising from the valley floors. 

Perlis, the northernmost state in Peninsular Malaysia, has some interesting river caves, some of which have been mined for tin, such as Gua Kelam 1 and Gua Kelam 2. The latter is one of the Peninsula's longest caves and accessible to adventure cavers, just like Gua Wang Burma. Many foreign spelaeologists come to Malaysia to document the caves and study the fauna, the physical properties, as well as the history.
Our group being briefed by Aziz, the forest ranger, who is our guide for the day.

The most popular cave in Perlis is Gua Wang Burma, a cave system that has become the main attraction of the Wang Kelian State Park within the Perlis State Park. Recently, I was invited to join a group of 30 Tourism Malaysia frontline officers and some media friends for a 5 day Nature Trail of Kedah, Perlis and Langkawi, an opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss out, especially when I saw the Gua Wang Burma exploration in the itinerary.

The Twin Stalagtites, one of the main attractions in Gua Wang Burma Satu

The journey starts with an uphill jungle trekking guided by an experienced Forest Ranger known as Aziz. We were shown and briefed of the various medicinal and poisonous plants and trees along the way. After about 40 minute of enjoying the beauty and bounty of the natural untouched rainforest, we finally reached the entrance of the cave.  Known for its streams and exotic species of insects and fungi, the cave system is divided into two main caves: The less challenging and more scenic one is Wang Burma Satu, with its unique rock formations comprising of stalagtites, stalagmites and columns, and Wang Burma Dua, which is physically and mentally challenging with its dark hooks and turns, of narrow passages and muddy tunnels – you will need to crawl or squeeze your way through to reach the amazing water-worn rock formations in the inner part of the cave.

Another interesting multiple stalagtite formations

Caving in Malaysia is still relatively new, but I strongly believe that, with a more cohesive effort by The Forestry Department and Tourism Malaysia, the activity can be promoted to become a popular recreational tourism.

I have to conclude that, after the three and a half hour caving adventure of Gua Wang Burma, I really look forward to my next caving experience. Mulu Caves, here I come!

For more information on Gua Wang Burma, please contact the followings:

Perlis Forestry Department
Km 2, Jalan Kaki Bukit
01000 Kangar
Tel : +604-9765066
Fax : +604-9767901

Tourism Malaysia Perlis
No 19, Ground Floor
Jalan Pengkalan Indah
Taman Pengkalan Indah
Pengkalan Asam
01000 Kangar
Tel : +604-9781213
Fax : +604-9781143

* All images courtesy of Hafiz Othman.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Up Close with The Orang Asli

I experienced my first real encounter with the Orang Asli (indigenous people) community sometime end of June this year. Peninsula Malaysia has three main Orang Asli ethnics. They are Negrito (commonly found in the northern states), Melayu Proto (found in the southern states) and Senoi (found in the central part of the peninsula). I was with two friends looking for new off-roaders campsites when we passed by their village, known as Pos Bersih in Ulu Slim in the state of Perak, some two hour drive from the Kuala Lumpur city centre. The Orang asli we met are of the Semai tribe, a sub-ethnic of the Senoi, which is also the largest ethnic of the three.

Approaching the village, I could see several motorcycles over-laden with petai (bitter bean-Parkia speciosa) coming in and out of the village. Apparently, it could very well be a bountiful petai season now, judging from the abundance of the produce. The village of about 120 houses has a primary school and electricity supply provided by the government. There are also quite a number of single storey uniformed brick houses built in the village. We were later told that they were part of the Rural Ministry’s programmes to build free livable houses for the hardcore poor of the state as well as in other states in Malaysia. Nevertheless the sight of the craftily built traditional Semai huts on stilts are still predominant in the village. Using renewable natural materials including timber and bamboo, the dwellings are often built without using nails while the roofs are made of rumbia (sago palm). Pre-cut holes and grooves are used to fit the timber elements into one another, effectively making it a ‘prefabricated house’.  Pos Bersih definitely lives up to its name. ‘Bersih’ in Malay language means ‘clean’ and it was well reflected in the surrounding areas of the whole village.

The Semai community in Pos Bersih are mostly animist, some profess Christianity while only three families profess Islam. However they are still gripped by their old beliefs of witchcrafts. I was invited by Sani, a middle-aged village headman or ‘Tok Batin’ to come again later in December, as they will be celebrating their annual festival of ‘Genggulang’ which is a festive ritual to appease land spirits for a good harvest and is still observed in many places where the people worship the rice spirit. In this ritual, the spirits are offered sacrificial chickens, flowers, and unhusked rice. Now, the festival has lost much of its religious meaning. It has become more of a cultural event similar to the way the Chinese celebrate Lunar New Year or the Westerners celebrate Christmas. The Semais love to dance and it is in occasions like this that they will perform their cultural dance or ‘Mondek’ from late evening till the wee hours of the morning.

Budin and his newly wed wife.

The river Slim which flows near the village serves as the main water supply to the villagers. The scenic river with its crystal clear water is full of activities in the early morning and dawn with all the villagers bathing and doing their laundry by the river. Interestingly, it is also from this particular river that the district got its name ‘Slim River’.

The Petai that Budin sells. 
We also met Budin and his wife, a newly wed couple of three months who stay in one of the traditional dwellings. His earns his living by selling forest produce like rattan and petai. Budin seemed to be quite content with his life, saying that he enjoys the slow and laid back lifestyle of the Semais. After having a brief chat with Budin over a cigarette, we decided to make our move to our next destination. As a gesture of goodwill, I bought two bunches of petai from Budin at a discounted price before we leave Pos Bersih.

Traditional Semai dwellings still an inviting sight.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A New Beginning

I’ve been wanting to blog for a long time. They say pick a subject that you are most familiar with/have interest on. Trouble is so many things interest me. So, after much deliberation, I decided to start with the subject that I know will be of keen interest to me till the end of my life, considering I am approaching my half century mark in five year time.

A Quote on Travel I extracted from melsenpai blog

So this is it. This is ‘The New Beginning’ to my blogging career. The subject? Travel and Tourism. Travel is something which I have been deprived of myself all these years due to my work commitments. My hope is that this blog, Malaysiana Explorer, will help to encourage foreign travellers/tourists to see and explore this blessed country like me, and discover the wonders that Malaysia has to offer.  And I am going to start it off on my birthday! Happy Birthday to me and Happy Birthday to ‘Malaysiana Explorer’! Please enjoy my travelling experiences in the upcoming articles :)

Most Popular Article