With lockdown restrictions in place worldwide, we are all finding our own ways to explore the unique local surroundings we have at our doorsteps. For Lydia & Atiqah, this is the forests & fauna of the Malaysian rainforest.They took their Core Roll Packs along for the ride.
Words & Photography by Lydia Amalina & Atiqah Is | @is_atiqah + @lydia.amln
A movement control order has been implemented again, as the daily counts of Covid-19 cases keep increasing after an event in Sabah, Malaysia. I currently feel like I am loosing myself, as the feeling of frustration overwhelms me due to the current pandemic situation hitting worldwide.
I have always been an adventure seeker; be it forest hiking, diving into the deep ocean, climbing rocky mountains, or just cycling around the city. The Covid-19 pandemic has been hitting us for almost a year now and it has been looming over the tourism industry in particular. However, this does not stop me exploring my own country, full of off-the-beaten-track treasures. Peninsular Malaysia is not as huge as America or Europe, but I am grateful to have the chance to explore our unique tropical forest with the vast diversity of flora and fauna. It feels like a micro National Geographic adventure, which fulfils my desire to travel again (for now!).
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation over dinner with my friend Atiqah, who is also an adventure-seeking person like me. We revolved our free time around planning a mini touring cycle-trip to the East Coast Malaysia with other female cyclists. Little did I know, that random conversation would bring about a cherished memory for us. With only a group of 5 ladies, we cycled along the East Coast — experiencing the beauty of the South China Sea beaches and enjoying the delicate local fusion, Nasi Dagang.
However, as the second movement control order was implemented again in Malaysia, we were unable to cross the borders in to neighbouring states and so we never had a chance to do another bike tour. But as I learned, the orders could last a long-time and so I decided that I needed another impromptu trip to happen, however close to home it needed to be. In the nick of time, I had a call from Atiqah who had a plan for another short bike tour. We decided we would take a trip to Tanjung Malim, a small town in Perak District. It was 75 kilometers train ride from Kuala Lumpur. It is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes train ride from Kuala Lumpur to Tanjung Malim, which would serve as a doorstep wander for our little adventure.
As we hopped on the train, we meandered through several small cities, passing in between the block of humongous steels and an array of glass windows that had created a border from this wondrous world. Our friend, Nik Ahmad Fahmi joined our impromptu bike tour by cycling through his backyard forest for 20 kilometers. Along with the backpacks that we had prepared, we headed off to our remote campsite. We were cycling through the meadow of woods, in between the narrow, twisted route under the canopy of bushes and tropical trees. The sound of a gushing river running on our right side while riding gave me lush serendipity. As we passed through a small village where the houses were made of a remnant of tree leaves and wood, we noticed the vibrant little kids playing on the street, while the older villagers were just hanging out at the balcony, which gave us a feeling of tranquility. A contradictory feeling from my accustomed routine of living in the urban city of Kuala Lumpur.
In the city I often feel frustrated and that there is a lack of fulfilment for my soul amongst the view of enormous skyscrapers, accompanied by the polluting sound of vehicles. There is a constant hunger to fulfill the peace of my mind.
Back on the open-road, time passed by and as we began to realise this, the wind started to blow stronger through our hair, the white fluffy clouds turned grey within the tropical forest perimeter; we accelerated our pace to reach the campsite before the rain began pouring down. Despite the mischiefs and struggles of crossing the river under the rain, we finally reached our campsite.
As I think back to these micro-adventures that do not require a plane ticket or a passport, I begin to realise the under-rated privilege it is to travel just across the district or state within a small country like Malaysia — specifically Peninsular Malaysia. Although the tropical forest is densely populated with bushes and plants, which makes trails harder to mark, to explore the Malaysian forest is to be encapsulated within the smell of wood, melodious bird chirping, and the complete zen of the river flow.
Peninsular Malaysia is full of uniqueness, diversity, and with the mystery of deep forest undiscovered. A beauty that even a local like me could forget to cherish and take value of its treasure. To enjoy a cup of coffee by the tent, cycling through the thick, muddy soil while lifting our bicycle on our shoulders just to cross the river is something I shall always be grateful for - to have an adventure within the place I call home.