A Night Trek at Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia- A Walk in the Dark!

I have trekked many times through a jungle, so many times that I am comfortable. I know the amount of noise any group makes is a guarantee that there would be no animals for miles around hence I am not worried. But the jungle acquire a different hue at night, one that is dark and somber. I have camped in jungles at night but hardly ever trekked at night. So it was with high anticipation I was looking forward to my walk through the Hemmant Trail (1 km long) at Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia.

Tree Ferns at Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia
Tree Ferns at Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia

As we were a large group we were divided into two and I was with the first group. All of us had torches and without them I would have been lost. Both the groups had guides with them. A head count was taken to make sure that all of us got out of the jungle. Our guide was quite knowledgeable about the history and the jungle as well.

Fraser’s Hill was discovered by Louis James Fraser in the 1890s. He operated tin mining operations and our guide was not at all happy with the tin mining and the damages that it caused to the fragile ecosystem. Mr. Fraser apparently vanished without a trace never to be be found again. Around 1 917 Fraser Hill attracted the Bishop of Singapore who thought it was ideal place to be promoted as a hill station and hill station it is today. It was relatively cool out there compared to other places I visited in Malaysia.

As we were a very big group it was difficult to spot any animals. But our guide knew where spiders make their hidden traps and we had a fascinating time discovering it. Within the forest he showed some remains of the structures built during the mining era. He also pointed out that Fraser’s Hill was a birder’s paradise but we had better chances during the day.

It started raining lightly towards the end of the trek and I jogged back with another participant. We found that high tea was waiting for us at 11.00 pm at night! I have to admit I still enjoyed it. It was the perfect end to a very wonderful day!

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I often say I became interested in birds only after I acquired my zoom lens. Then I could bring the birds closer and ask my more knowledge friends to identify them for me. And gradually it grew on me. I don’t have any super zooms, only a 70-300 mm lens. So to get a reasonable picture I am actually at the mercy of the bird. If it lets me inch closer I get a decent shot, if not then I try another bird! So when I got an opportunity to research and visit some of the birding sites in Malaysia I did a piece on Hotspots for birding in Malaysia. Do check it out.

Black Throated Sunbird, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia
Black Throated Sunbird, Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia

This article was part of a publication for Tourism Malaysia. If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website.

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I have to admit I am spoiled when it comes to the mountains. After all one of the perks of staying in Delhi/Gurgaon is that you can travel overnight and be in the Himalayas. So when I realized that Fraser’s Hill (in Pahang, Malaysia) is 1524 meters (5000 feet) in altitude I was quite ambivalent about it. It was our first night halt after Putrajaya on the Malaysia Tourism Hunt 2012.

But what completely blew my mind away was the flora and the vegetation. I had a short stay at the Fraser’s Hill but what I saw was completely amazing and so different from the Himalayas.

Tree Fern at Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia
Tree Fern at Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia

I have seen ferns all my life but it was a first to see it growing like a tree! And quite aptly it is called a tree fern. A few of them growing together gave an impression of being in a really ancient setting. I wish I had more time to take pictures in better light. It was overcast in the evening and it was actually raining intermittently in the morning!

We had an hour of free time before the hunt activities started. I took a stroll around our hotel, Shahzan Inn. And as Calvin (of the Calvin and Hobbes fame) would say I immediately stuck gold. I found this insect hanging from a flower petal.

An Insect on a Flower Petal, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia
An Insect on a Flower Petal, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia

Soon after clicking the insect, I kept walking ahead because one hour is not much time if you go chasing insects and birds! I did manage to see Black Throated Sunbird but could not manage a single decent picture. I walked up to this signpost proclaiming Bukit Fraser near the golf course and it was time to head back for the hunt activities. Selamat Datang in Malay means welcome!

Fraser Hill Signpost, Pahang, Malaysia
Fraser Hill Signpost, Pahang, Malaysia

Our hunt activities took us all over Fraser’s Hill, to their horse riding and archery center and to the lake where boating is on offer. But my task was to hunt for birds and click their pictures as that was also part of the day’s task. I did manage to click a few but I have only one worth posting.

Streaked Spiderhunter of the Sunbird Family, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia
Streaked Spiderhunter of the Sunbird Family, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia

This Streaked Spiderhunter of the sunbird family was not shy at all and I managed to click quite a few pictures before it got annoyed and flew away. Fraser’s Hill is a paradise for birders but as I had very little time I hardly saw a few and could click even less. I got fleeting glimpses of exotic birds but not much beyond that.

Shahzan Inn, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia
Shahzan Inn, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia

My biggest surprise was in the car park of the Shahzan Inn. It was an outdoor car park at level 3 or so. While I was taking my stuff out from the car boot I saw a butterfly at least as big as a sunbird and my jaws dropped! It is a big regret that I could not go chasing them to click a picture.

Tropical Flowers- Lobester Claw Flowers, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia
Tropical Flowers- Lobster Claw Flowers, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia

Exotic tropical flowers are in plenty at the Fraser’s Hill. These Lobster Claws were growing in the hotel premises itself. After dinner we went for a night trek. I have been to the jungle many times before but many of the participants were completely taken over by the idea of being in a jungle. I have to admit it was a lot of fun to be there at night. We saw a lot of trap spiders who live by the hillside and if you do not know where there trap doors are you cannot figure out they are around. The expert from the Fraser Hill showed their habitat to us.

While walking back it was almost midnight. It started to rain. I didn’t wish to get wet and two of us, Zaidie and I, jogged back to our hotel. Only we stopped at a restaurant nearby as there was after dinner supper waiting for us, full of sweet and savory dishes and Teh Tarik (which is as close to chai as anything I have tasted). And guess what? I ate after 11.00 pm or so!

When I crashed finally, I woke up with great reluctance only the next day. But the way to our next stop Bukit Gambang was quite beautiful.

View on the Way, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia
View on the Way, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia

This was clicked from the moving car and I oohed and aahed at the light falling through bamboo groves. Wild orchids were growing by the roadside. And it made me quite content, just to view the scene while my team mate drove the car.

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Even though Malaysia Tourism Hunt 2012 was suppose to be competitive, I thought the participants were really cool and their lust for travel was much more dominant than any competition. We all ran around hunting for clues in our teams but we had so much fun together!

The Spirit of Malaysia Tourism Hunt 2012
The Spirit of Malaysia Tourism Hunt 2012

The gentleman in the orange in the picture above is Mr. Musa Yusof the director of the domestic marketing division, Tourism Malaysia! From what I have seen Malaysian bureaucrats seem to be so different from the Indian ones! He traveled with us all the while and was always game for posing with the participants.

I also learned that in order to make a person feel  welcome you need not know the language. A smile, a nod, a concern to understand your issues go a long way even when the language is not perfect. I kept wondering that in spite of our hectic schedule why did I enjoy the trip so much? It was because of the cooperative participants, concerned organizers and genuine hospitality.

At Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia we went for a night trek. We came back at 11.00 pm and guess what? I actually experienced the famous Malaysian after dinner supper! There was a tea with lot of snacks waiting for us. I do occasionally eat Maggi late at night but having a lavish spread out at that hour was a new experience for me! Malaysians are really fond of their food and they make others experience it too!

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