Friday, June 10, 2005

the jungle is neutral

thanks goodness that the four Singapore boys lost in Fraser's Hill have been found safe and sound! from all the coverage in Singapore and Malaysian media, I gathered that Singapore must thank all the search and rescue people from the Malaysian police, orang asli and the locals from Fraser's Hill.

I think people must realise that we must not underestimate even simple forest trail, especially we Singaporeans who are used to manicured and managed parks and relatively small scale forest like BTNR and the Central Catchment. Even then, experienced trekkers (or foolhardy ones) still managed to get lost in the Central Catchment.

Robina and I had the fondest memories of Fraser's Hill since we were undergrads and later, postgrads and newly-employed underpaid working stiffs. My first visit to Fraser's was with MNS (now NSS) birders. later on even BSS began to organise visits to Fraser's. The sleepy little town with its fresh air and cool outdoor air-con temperatures was only a short distance from KL. Its nature aspects were wonderful! apart from the many birds species, the crisp montane forest and flora were fascinating. plus, this was one of the few places that u can spot mammals like martens and civets relatively easily. You get woken up every morning by the jowling calls of siamang and gibbons and watch the glorious clouds of mists rolling amongst the hills.

when Robina and I started working, Fraser's was one place for a quick and cheap vacation. this was one place to bring a few books, drink tea on the verandah. We still missed the tasty (and cheap) meals at the "food court" next to the mosque and the delicious laksa from the Chinese coffeeshop. having piping hot spicy tom yam on a chilly evening was so shiiook! I had the best chicken satay in Frasers', prepared with TLC by this Malay uncle from Johor (who was very proud of his satay recipe). This uncle was very chatty and treated us Singaporeans with warmth since he had worked in Sembawang shipyard in his youth.

I hope that the "bad press" from this latest "lost" episode would not affect tourists from going there. (I recall that a British botanist was lost there a few months back: must be botanists! :-P) I can imagine all those Singaporean mothers warning their kids: "hiyah! go to Fraser's some more, wait get lost then u know!"

P.S. The Jungle is Neutral is a book by Spencer Chapman about his experiences in Jap-occupied Malaya with Force 136. His writings about his survival in the Malayan rainforest were awe-inspiring and his descriptions about the flora and fauna and orang asli were typical of a British naturalist.


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