Village in the Heart of the Jungle

050211044000.jpg The village-3 hours into the jungle

In the spring when we first arrived in Malaysia, our family had the most fantastic trip into the rain forest to visit an Orang Asli Kampong. Orang Asli are the native people of Malaysia. Our friend, Bridget, and some of her local friends had been to a small Orang Asli Tribe, in the middle of the jungle many times over the years. She wanted to take her two friends who were visiting from China there. Ineke and her two girls, Mirthe and Annijme came on the trip as well. Ineke has lived in KL for 12 years and had been to the village many times with Bridget.

We set out early in the morning in Bridget’s and Ineke’s Land Rovers and our local made little four-wheel drive SUV Kembara. We drove up through the winding mountains on a major highway that rivals any highway in the US. After an hour northeast of the city, we exited the highway and got onto a paved local road. We passed through small villages and bustling towns filled with street hawkers, shops, cafes, gas stations, schools and plantations growing rubber trees and palm oil nuts. Once, cows were crossing the road and we had to wait for them to amble by. We witnessed beautiful landscapes of rain forest, plantations, temples, mosques, water buffalo, children playing, motor scooters in the fields, and workers resting in the shade.

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(leaving the main roads and heading into the jungle)

After about a half an hour, the town life slipped away and we saw very few cars or scooters. The roads wound up to the denser rain forest and we exited the road where it ended and crossed over a river with a tiny one-lane cement bridge. We drove onto hard packed dirt roads passing small villages with bamboo huts up on stilts or government huts made of cement. We met a guide for the Orang Asli Department.

We drove behind the guide in the thick dark jungle and soon we approached a river with its bridge washed away. In its place was a bundle of bamboo sticks lashed together! Our Kembara had guzzled a half a tank of gas going through these dirt hills so we decided to abandon it by the river, as we could not risk being stuck in the middle of the rain forest without any gas! We decided that we had come too far to turn back now. Bridget and Ineke drove their Land Rovers across the river without incident. The children and the rest of us walked across the rickety makeshift bamboo bridge and climbed into their vehicles.

050211024826.jpg“WHERE’S THE BRIDGE?!”

The roads deteriorated and we started to get very unnerved. We slipped and slided, bottomed out, ran off the road and got stuck, but we were determined to carry on. For forty minutes, we watched the incredible beauty of the rain forest slip by as we passed bamboo arches, banana trees, streams, and birds that protested loudly that we were interrupting their peace. Ineke and I alternated between chatting about how lucky we were to experience this adventure and clutching on with white knuckles and sitting in silence as she maneuvered through the tricky terrain.

We came upon two motor scooters with three men on each. They were carrying blowpipes, knives and spears. They were surprised to see us but they were friendly and told us that the kampong was only ten minutes away. Finally, the guide pulled over and we could hear the river below us. We grabbed our backpacks and bags full of gifts and hiked down the steep path to the river. It was so clean and clear. The children swimming in the river were startled as we came down the path. They ran up the bank of the river toward the kampong shouting. We waded across the river and went up a muddy path on the opposite side. A man and several children greeted us on the path. Mirthe and our children were startled and a little frightened of the man because his mouth and teeth were bright red! We explained that it was not blood, but the juice from beetle nuts. They chew nicotine-like leaves that turn their mouths red.

050211051104.jpg The Kampong children coming to greet us.

The kampong children took our bags and disappeared up the path ahead of us. We entered the kampong and it appeared to be deserted. However, looking closely we could see everyone was inside peeking out at us through their bamboo huts. The chief and his wife hurried out and greeted us. They remembered Bridget and Ineke from previous visits and asked about their friends. We were invited into the chief’s house, which was constructed of bamboo poles and lined with bamboo mats. Every hut was up on stilts and there was a set of bamboo steps to get up. I was sure I was going to fall right through the steps and then the floors.

 050211043938.jpg 050211043212.jpg

050211044648.jpg 050211050520.jpg

Three hundred people lived in this particular village. They hunted in the forest, caught fish, and grew rice and vegetables. The atmosphere was peaceful, slow and happy. The children came out to watch us and most of them warmed up to us. Our children passed out cookies, noodles and toys. The kampong children were thrilled. Bridget and Ineke presented the chief with medicine and clothing. Tea was served, cigarettes passed out and smoked and talk was initiated with broken Bahasa and our guide translating. We wandered through the kampong and pondered what life would be like out here so far from civilization. There was not any running water, plumbing or electricity. After we said goodbye and thank you to the chief, we headed back down to the river with the children for a swim.

050211052502.jpg Swimming!

The kampong children enticed our children into the water and soon they all were performing and showing off for each other. The jungle around us moved and breathed with a life of its own. Our guide was anxious to get us back down the mountain because the wind was shifting and the clouds were moving in. It rains most afternoons so we left before it was too late. The kampong children were disappointed that we were leaving and Devon, Max, Annijme and Mirthe were upset to be leaving so soon. We made it down without any more troubles and found our Kembara just as we had left it. We switched back to our own vehicle and headed down the rest of the mountain.

050211053306.jpg

I  still dream about those kampong children’s faces and remember the warm welcome we received!  Next weekend we will travel to another Orang Asli village that is not as far into the rain forest.  We will travel on a bus on paved roads with bridges!  We are going with the schools helping hands after school charity group.  I am looking forward to seeing another village. We have also planned another adventure this summer. We will spend a night at an Iban tribe in Sarawak, Malaysia on Borneo. Stay tuned for these new adventures!

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4 Comments

  1. Chris Chen said,

    May 20, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Very Interesting and nice location. Could I have your friend, Bridget’s contact number, so that I can contact her regarding her next trip to the village. Thanks

  2. Amy said,

    May 12, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Hi Anni, I found these photos from google search, the shot is awesome and interesting.

    Can I for your permission to use 1 or 2 of photos from your blog? It’s urgent and I would like to know whether your photographs are copyrighted.

    Thanks

  3. rozwan said,

    October 7, 2012 at 9:46 am

    hi there.
    I;m working in gerik and do some community with orang asli, May i know which part of kampung orang asli you have been?

    • globalanni said,

      October 9, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Rozwan, I am not sure of the name of the village we visited. We exited in Raab and drove for another hour. It was very secluded. We met with a guide who took us to find the village we were looking for. We had to drive on very rustic dirt roads and then wade across a river to reach it. Sorry that I can’t remember the name. Thanks for stopping by!


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