Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kuala Selangor

Yesterday we left Kuala Lumpur for an overnight trip to Kuala Selangor. We went to the bus station and asked where to catch this bus, but were told four different things from four different people. We prodded and directed out to the street in front of the bus station where a whiskered old Chinese guy with a fanny pack and a checkered hat told us we were in the correct place. We waited in the shade until the bus miraculously materialized and whisked us past suburbs and then palm plantations to K. Selangor.

Kuala Selangor is a tiny town surrounded by jungle that transitions into mangroves closer to the Straits of Melaka. Unfortunately we could not see Sumatra from where we stood. You can see all of Kuala Selangor in about five minutes because there are only four streets, but it is still a cool town because of three nearby parks. Park one is actually a hill, Bukit Malawati, home to various points of vague historical interest, like a 'poison well' used to punish traitors, a 'new moon house' used to detect the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, a few cannon, a functioning lighthouse, and two species of monkey that you can feed yams. The silver leaf monkeys are the nice monkeys, easily recognized by their gray fur and mohawks and their niceness. Macaques are the not nice monkeys, easily remembered by their brown fur and their tendency to bear their giant incisors in your general direction. One little German boy could not get this down and went away with perhaps a lifelong fear of all monkeys.

From the Bukit, we went in search of Taman Alum Nature Park, which stretches from the hill to the Sengai Selangor River and includes some pretty sweet boardwalks through mangrove forests. We saw more of those two monkey species in the woods, but in their natural habitat, not fighting over yams, they both seemed much more tranquil. We saw tiny crabs living in holes in the tidal mud beneath the mangroves, plus mudskippers. I saw more herons than I have ever seen in one place in my life. For $5, we spent the night in a wooden A-frame tent that leaned visibly and as one English man put it, "looked a little wonky."

We met this English man at the Kampung Kelantin Firefly Park outside of town, where you pay three dollars to be paddled up Sengai Selangor in a malay boat by a Malaysian to see these amazing fireflies that flash in unison. The effect is like whole bushes are lit with tiny Christmas lights and from across the river it looks like nature is throwing a rave. A very strange phenomenon, but really amazing to see. We shared our boat with the English man and his son, while his wife occupied another boat with their other two sons. They told us England is too cold for fireflies, but they had seen the occasional, sultry firefly while in Italy. On hot humid nights growing up in Michigan we used to catch fireflies, or lightning bugs as we liked to call them, and keep them in jars. You wouldn't think about doing that at this park though - the fine for catching a firefly is 1000 Malaysian Ringit. Look, don't touch.

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