Holidays

Kulai--An Under-appreciated Gem At Our Doorstep

I must confess. Legally, I have been a Johorean for 30 years (I switched nationality after my elder child was born) but the name "Kulai" has nothing but a by-word for a checkpoint en route northwards on the highway: "Oh, you continue to drive for about 50km after Kulai", or "It's quite near Kulai" are phrases often heard when we were driving towards more famous and seemingly more fun destinations. But to put things in perspective, Kulai has undergone much transformation over the years, and with an increasingly more savvy local population injecting new ideas into the aging town, her appeal has only just started revealing herself recently.

Kulai is picturesque with Gunung Pulai (popular with Singaporeans and locals alike) as her backdrop----a sight familiar with drivers using the north-south highway. It was this route which took my family and two friends with their families to Kulai over the Labour Day long weekend. Ironically, we decided on this place by the process of "elimination".

We wanted a rural and back-to-basics experience for the kids. We knew the highway would be congested with Singapore as well as local holiday-makers, so we did not want to waste time traveling too far north. Our first choice was actually the goat farm in Hulu Langat, Selangor, which I have visited before, but unfortunately it was not available on the dates we wanted.

My friends requested for somewhere with good food too. I recalled Kulai has some authentic and affordable food. After some online research, I found Durian Guesthouse exuding a rustic charm. It was located in one of the Chinese-only "New Villages", which dotted all over Malaysia. Its size and number of rooms also just about fit our bill.   We could have the whole guesthouse to ourselves. I was looking forward to a relaxing, no-itinerary type of holiday.

As if by fate, the owner, Thai Soon, turns out to be a business acquaintance of my wife. After graduating from a Singapore university, he started working in Singapore for many years. Later, he got married, and went about pursuing a dream that he and his wife had, and still have. Hence the birth of their first baby----Durian Guesthouse

Thai Soon, the owner who's in his 30s, runs the place with his wife. He almost single-handedly took care of all the remodeling and carpentry work at this refurbished old "new village" house.

Thai Soon, the owner who's in his 30s, runs the place with his wife. He almost single-handedly took care of all the remodeling and carpentry work at this refurbished old "new village" house.

Thai Soon aims to build the place into a sustainable farm while his wife creates interesting handicrafts and trinkets for sale.

Thai Soon aims to build the place into a sustainable farm while his wife creates interesting handicrafts and trinkets for sale.

Thai Soon shares his insights on gardening and farming with my wife.

Thai Soon shares his insights on gardening and farming with my wife.

He also gave us a quick lowdown of the history of "Chinese New Villages" (华人新村), which were built during the turbulent times when communism was a formidable force in Southeast Asia. The majority of communists and their sympathisers were allegedly Chinese. In order to contain them, the government built this villages to house the Chinese. At the same time, the Malays lived around the fringes of these villages, thus providing eyes and ears for the government of any potential shenanigans.

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The land, part of the property, that sits outside the guest house, is as big as four basketball courts.

The land, part of the property, that sits outside the guest house, is as big as four basketball courts.

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Outside, you can smell the herbs; inside, you can enjoy the library and board games provided by the guest house.

Outside, you can smell the herbs; inside, you can enjoy the library and board games provided by the guest house.

The interior of the house is nothing spectacular, but it reminds me of my grandparents' house. Everything is warm and cozy, well-kept and clean.

The interior of the house is nothing spectacular, but it reminds me of my grandparents' house. Everything is warm and cozy, well-kept and clean.

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Thai Soon is very proud of his town. He enthusiastically shared with us the various places of interest that we could visit, and the many places for good food. From our conversations, we were introduced to a world that I had never noticed. There is a strong and closely-knitted community in Kulai that espouses the simple life, sustainable and organic lifestyle and healthy living. They would meet up with one another often at roadshows, trade fairs, weekend bazaars etc. On our first day, his friend, a young lady who manages a spa at the Kulai Rainforest Treehouse, happened to be there to chat with us too. It was an initiation to their world and their dream for the town.

Being thankful for the yummy breakfast; this is in an even smaller town called Kelapa Sawit, less than 20km away from Kulai. I believe golfers who frequent the nearby golf course would be familiar with the delicious food here.

Being thankful for the yummy breakfast; this is in an even smaller town called Kelapa Sawit, less than 20km away from Kulai. I believe golfers who frequent the nearby golf course would be familiar with the delicious food here.

Thai Soon became our impromptu tourist visitor liaison. He gave us a list of restaurants and food stalls, and recommended some places, one of which was the Star Fish Leisure Farm. It was a freshwater fish farm located in the middle of an oil palm plantation. According to Thai Soon, the boss wanted to expand and diversify the business into tourism and hospitality-related business. There is a myriad of facilities and activities available at the farm for the whole family. From chalets built on stilts and over the ponds, water obstacle courses, steamboat restaurant to offering boating, fishing, cycling and ATV-riding, the kids were immediately hooked.

The staff at the fish farm showing us their bee hive and colony of bees.

The staff at the fish farm showing us their bee hive and colony of bees.

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Wandering around fish ponds and chasing after geese. Monitor lizards and migratory birds are common sights.

Wandering around fish ponds and chasing after geese. Monitor lizards and migratory birds are common sights.

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At one of the chalets.

At one of the chalets.

The kids' favourite: a swing suspended over water.

The kids' favourite: a swing suspended over water.

The water obstacle course, which guarantees everyone a good splash in the water. Not for squirmish parents who are sticklers for perfect cleanliness.

The water obstacle course, which guarantees everyone a good splash in the water. Not for squirmish parents who are sticklers for perfect cleanliness.

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Water battle.

Water battle.

The fish and leisure farm is open to visitors on half-day or full-day passes. The entrance fee is very reasonable. Apparently it is very popular for student and corporate groups. Thank goodness on the day of our visit, there was no crowd and we were the only happy people there.

At the beginning, I thought spending 3 days and 2 nights in Kulai was a bit of overkill. "Will we have enough things to fill our time and keep the kids entertained?" In the end, it turned out we only seriously had enough time for one keynote point of interest----the fish and leisure farm, on top of the leisurely time we spent poking around and catching up at the guest house. And lastly, I must mention the food. Almost every meal was on point. I am not so much a food blogger, so I never have the habit of taking food pictures. My first instinct was to take a bite.

Although we did not spend the night there, I can so imagine the quiet stillness at night, punctuated by some weird insect calls or animal sounds.

Although we did not spend the night there, I can so imagine the quiet stillness at night, punctuated by some weird insect calls or animal sounds.

My friend's daughter, 9, probably paid the best compliment on this little road trip by suggesting "next time, we must come for one week. Three days is not enough!"

How To Plan An Overseas Trip For The Whole Extended Family

The short answer to this is I plan it first for myself, then I add little bits and pieces of itinerary to cater to the diverse interest groups.

There are, however, some pre-conditions that need to be met:

1. Stick to a budget that everyone (I am) is comfortable with. That means most of our trips will be centred on Southeast Asia (which I personally like), with short-haul flights (yes!).

2. The holidays are for the kids. There is a common understanding within the family that when the kids enjoy, the adults will too, and we can trust ourselves to entertain ourselves.

3. The trips are more about spending quality time together, and about character-building. We try to cut out the frills and luxuries (we allow ourselves to cheat a little once in a while). In my opinion, what better way to achieve that than to rough it out in the jungles or mountains.

Actually, I added number 3 myself. However, since I have always been the organiser, I think I have every right to pursue my own agenda. The reason why I have been the organiser had its roots in me being a former Malaysian citizen. Our first overseas trip was a road trip to the organic rice farm in Kahang, Johor. Since I was born in JB, the responsibility of putting together this trip just fell on my shoulders. I think the successful reception of the maiden trip bolstered the family members' confidence in me. And hence the birth of the Wong's Travel Agency.

Pony-riding on Mount Bromo: one of the most unforgettable experiences for the kids. It was not riding around circles, but through undulating terrain and sometimes doing steep climbs.

Pony-riding on Mount Bromo: one of the most unforgettable experiences for the kids. It was not riding around circles, but through undulating terrain and sometimes doing steep climbs.

After adhering to the three pre-conditions, I would consider the specific needs of the various groups of people.....which basically, are the mothers. There is a common understanding within the fathers/brothers-in-law that when the wives enjoy, we will too, and we can entertain ourselves.

My wife has five elder sisters and a sister-in-law who is a regular on the tour circuit. They grew up in kampungs and anywhere or any activities that can bring back fond memories of those days will win them over. To sell them a suspiciously "hardship trip", all I needed to do was to include some appealing key phrases like : fruit farm, vegetables and fruit market, shopping for produce etc.

By adopting this strategy, we managed to experience the majestic beauty of Mount Bromo, the cool air of Batu and the unbeatable fun at Batu Secret Zoo; visited more volcanoes and hot springs and tea plantation in Bandung; took one of the last few KTM train journeys to a town in Pahang and spent Christmas morning munching away in a market in Temerloh; and observe semi-wild orang-utans up close in Leuser National park, and river-tubing in Bukit Lawang; and of course the most recent trip to Khao Yai in Thailand.

All these sound fun, but not many people know that it is actually a very stressful and thankless job to be responsible for the well-being and happiness of a "village". It was a first time for me too to all those places, and God knows if reality tallied with the research done online and in books. I had to live and die by the decisions and choices I made.

For example, the bungalows I booked for Bukit Lawang trip received very good reviews. I did not pay much attention to the few comments by travelers on the steep climb up the hill to reach them. How bad can it be, I thought. Boy was it bad for the aunties when they wanted to give up and change bungalows half way up the hill. A ten-km trek through Khao Yai National Park to spot wildlife? We had to call our drivers to help pick us up at the halfway mark.

These are part and parcel of adventure travel, even though they did not really sign up for an adventure package. However, these were also the stories that kept being repeated at dinner tables, (painful) memories that reminded the aunties about our mortality, even though I have received strict directives on what NOT to do on our next trip.

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We enjoyed the chalet-type of atmosphere at the cottage in Batu, Indonesia.

We enjoyed the chalet-type of atmosphere at the cottage in Batu, Indonesia.

Visiting the volcano and having mud baths near Bandung.

Visiting the volcano and having mud baths near Bandung.

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Enduring the tough road conditions from Medan to Bukit Lawang. The van we were in was not of the highest specs, with weak air-conditioning and thinly-cushioned seats. The driver was friendly though.

Enduring the tough road conditions from Medan to Bukit Lawang. The van we were in was not of the highest specs, with weak air-conditioning and thinly-cushioned seats. The driver was friendly though.

Crossing the unexpectedly long suspension bridge over a river in Bukit Wayang....I mean Lawang.

Crossing the unexpectedly long suspension bridge over a river in Bukit Wayang....I mean Lawang.

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Next time I will spare a thought for senior citizens when planning the trips. This was the climb up a steep hill to our lovely bungalows in Bukit Lawang.

Next time I will spare a thought for senior citizens when planning the trips. This was the climb up a steep hill to our lovely bungalows in Bukit Lawang.

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Some of the most enjoyable times for the kids are times when they have free play.

Some of the most enjoyable times for the kids are times when they have free play.

Or soaking in cold jungle rivers.

Or soaking in cold jungle rivers.

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The guides prepared nasi and fruit picnic on the trek.

The guides prepared nasi and fruit picnic on the trek.

Tubing down the river after the trek. 

Tubing down the river after the trek. 

Curry puff hairstyle vs candy floss hairstyle.

Curry puff hairstyle vs candy floss hairstyle.

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Eating fresh durians inside the durian plantation.

Eating fresh durians inside the durian plantation.

We are off to pick some durians!

We are off to pick some durians!

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I am glad my children are blessed with a lovely extended family, and having the chance to grow up with so many cousins. Until the day the family decided to swap agency, I will continue to plan these trips, regardless if they make a profit or not, so that I can continue to gift them such memories. 

Family Holiday In Khao Yai, Thailand

Someone somewhere must have been aggressively marketing Khao Yai (about 2.5 hours' drive from Bangkok) outside of Thailand because for the past few months, I have been seeing pictures and read stories about Khao Yai and its numerous sometimes-kitschy, sometimes-fascinating points of interests: from the replicas of an Italian piazza, a Santorini windmill to the Hobbit House, and the more commercialised Jim Thompson farm, Chok Chai farm and the sunflower farm.

To me, the highlight of the trip has always been Khao Yai National Park because of my romantic and voyeuristic fascination for wildlife-watching at its natural habitat. It was not difficult selling this destination to the other family members the moment they saw those online travel articles and upon realising Khao Yai offers highland cool weather in December. There were also countless number of cool accommodation choices, but I eventually settled on Raintree Residences. The price per night relative to the calming hilly scenery it offers really made it a no-brainer. It is located in a secluded part of Khao Yai, which in this case is an attraction on its own. The layout is also spread over a sprawling ground and the the five rooms we were assigned were clustered under one roof in a separate wing, which the whole 21 of us had all to ourselves! The big and small kids were so excited that they gathered enough courage to explore the place even in the dark.

Our relatively early bedtime was accompanied by a symphony of weird bird/amphibian/insect calls, much to my delight.

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The early morning chill nudged us along the gentle slope uphill, towards a lookout point just a few hundred metres away from the hotel.

The early morning chill nudged us along the gentle slope uphill, towards a lookout point just a few hundred metres away from the hotel.

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Like all our past family trips, the itinerary is never packed. We like a more leisurely pace. We intend to enjoy those few attractions we decide on and not think about the others we do not. On the first day, there were only Hobbit House and Jim Thompson Farm on the list. Actually I have already warned the others on visiting Hobbit House. I knew beforehand it was just a nondescript resort in the middle of nowhere and all it had going for it were the replicas of Hobbit houses, and some other whitewashed structures similar to those found on Santorini. To put it bluntly, it was just a photo opp in front of some "styled backdrops", symptomatic of the times we are living in right now. Nothing else matters, as long as the pictures look good on Instagram.

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However, I must admit that even though there was nothing to shout about the whole experience in the Hobbit House resort, the way the structures were built and styled was very commendable. That we did not have to pay any entrance fees helped it score some points.

After another 90 minutes' drive, we finally arrived at Jim Thompson Farm. I was a bit shocked to see bus-loads of local students and local tourists jamming the car park and the ticket counters. It was just not my idea of a farm. Inside, I saw glimpses of Tomita Farm in Hokkaido. If you like the sight of vast flower fields set against rolling hills, then you will go on a selfie/wefie rampage.  Unfortunately, our experience was marred by the surprisingly scorching heat on the day of our visit.

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After spending most of the day under the hot sun, the kids were dying to take a dip in the hotel pool, even though the thermometre reading was in the high tens. I was impressed they could stay in the icy water for more than 30 minutes.

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Day 2 saw us visiting the Primo Piazza en route to the national park. Besides the realistic-looking Italian piazza, there were merino sheeps and alpacas to entertain visitors. It was our first encounter with an alpaca!

Again, it's just a photo-stop and again, the owners paid attention to details and Primo Piazza is a photogenic venue albeit a little small.

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My sister-in-law (in orange) shouting for my wife (on the phone) to help carry her food while she is having her picture taken, to the oblivion of the latter. Love comical moments like this.

My sister-in-law (in orange) shouting for my wife (on the phone) to help carry her food while she is having her picture taken, to the oblivion of the latter. Love comical moments like this.

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Next came the destination I have been longing for: Khao Yai National Park. Not every one shared my enthusiasm for jungle trekking to hopefully spot some wild elephants or gibbons. In fact, most of them probably were groaning inside their hearts when they heard the trek would take 10 km in total (this was the second rainforest trek in two years done by the family).

One of the most rewarding experience of a trek is the camaraderie built when circumventing the various challenge----upslope, downhill, climb over boulders, tread over rivers, balancing on logs-----and helping one another out, egging one another on, and cracking silly jokes to keep everyone's spirits up. In the end, we didn't manage to spot any mammals bigger than a macaque. The elephants were probably shunning away from the groaning, and whining rag-tag group of trekkers from Singapore. Even the Thai rangers were smiling, albeit politely, at our ineptness. In the end, we stopped short of radioing for help; we made a call to our drivers to pick us up at the halfway point.

Needless to say, I'd be having a earful for the subsequent months for proposing the trek, and I'd be hearing lots of funny anecdotes too, when the aunties start to recall their gruesome experience.

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(Left) Calling for help? Nay....one's doing business deal, and the other probably catching Pokemon. (Right) One of the more sedentary relatives is experiencing some muscle spasms (legs keep shaking) for the second time in two years.

(Left) Calling for help? Nay....one's doing business deal, and the other probably catching Pokemon. (Right) One of the more sedentary relatives is experiencing some muscle spasms (legs keep shaking) for the second time in two years.

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The objective is to reach the observation tower that overlooks a lake and salt lick to spot wildlife.

The objective is to reach the observation tower that overlooks a lake and salt lick to spot wildlife.

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"Weird men" at the "waterfalls". Some of them were disappointed that they could not see any waterfalls at the trek, so the drivers suggested a waterfall that is free. It turned out to be a "water floor" as it looks more like a canal that channels mountain runoffs. However, the water is pretty clear. All of them except one boy is either tired or turned off, so in order not to disappoint the boy, I got into the water with him.

"Weird men" at the "waterfalls". Some of them were disappointed that they could not see any waterfalls at the trek, so the drivers suggested a waterfall that is free. It turned out to be a "water floor" as it looks more like a canal that channels mountain runoffs. However, the water is pretty clear. All of them except one boy is either tired or turned off, so in order not to disappoint the boy, I got into the water with him.

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The hotel resident dog comes and bid us adieu as we prepare to check out of the hotel.

The hotel resident dog comes and bid us adieu as we prepare to check out of the hotel.

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Our last stop before Bangkok. The sunflower field. Visually quite a sight, it makes for a good backdrop for photos.

Our last stop before Bangkok. The sunflower field. Visually quite a sight, it makes for a good backdrop for photos.

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Rounding off with two of my favourite group pictures taken on this trip.

Rounding off with two of my favourite group pictures taken on this trip.

350 Steps To Heaven

My wife comes from a big family. She has two elder brothers and five elder sisters, and many nephews and nieces, resulting in my children having many cousins (good logical thinking). One of the greatest joys is our family travels, usually comprising groups of not fewer than eight persons, with the largest ever turnout being 23. Malaysia and Indonesia are our perennial favourites because they offer some amazing attractions, landscape and culture which fit nicely into our budget.

As you know, I am The Family Man, but not many know I am also The Tour Operator. Ever since I first planned a "well-received" road trip to Malaysia, I have become the de facto family travel agent. I have to check everyone's schedule, research and suggest itineraries according to the budget, and also make sure the destinations have something for people from age 5 (age of my son back then) to near 60. For those of you who are interested/curious, you can check out some of our trips on my facebook album.

This June holidays, we went to Bukit Lawang in Sumatra for a 3D3N eco-retreat. My original suggestion was Lake Toba, but after reading that the car ride there from Medan is 5 hours, I switched my attention to Bkt Lawang, a place I have never heard before but popped up during my research, and a "mere" 90 km from Medan. To my horror, I later found out the ride was 4 hours despite the short distance because of the conditions of the roads leading to the tiny village on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park. Its main attraction is the tropical rainforest, clean air and wild orang utans.

Medan's new Kualanamu International Airport.

Medan's new Kualanamu International Airport.

A typical road which we drove on.

A typical road which we drove on.

The suspension bridge that links the village centre to the opposite bank. Some of my in-laws changed their minds about not having a porter after a few steps on the bridge.

The suspension bridge that links the village centre to the opposite bank. Some of my in-laws changed their minds about not having a porter after a few steps on the bridge.

 

If the ride there was butt-crunching (potholes covering a few stretches of the 2-lane road), then the walk to our bungalow retreat was quads-burning. When we alighted from our bus at the village centre, the bungalow's porters were there to welcome us. The one who spoke English wasted no time in describing the daunting journey ahead. "We have to cross a suspension bridge, then walk up a very steep mountain.....350 steps! You carry luggage, very heavy!" They would help carry our bags for IDR50,000 per head. Always not one who fall for such ruse, I politely declined their offer (my luggage wasn't too heavy anyway). Understandably, the aunties and pre-teens succumbed and wisely paid the <S$5 porter's fee. Still, climbing up the 350 steps hands-free still proved too much for some of them. As we walked past the numerous bungalows on the foothill next to the river, I could see my relatives throwing envious glances at them. "Up there, there are no strangers and tourists loitering around," was what I read and that was how I defended myself.

Mother and son playing in the river below.

Mother and son playing in the river below.

Some of these city kids probably have never crossed a suspension bridge before. The tree top walk is actually higher, but the few missing wooden planks on this bridge make the walk a bit more interesting.

Some of these city kids probably have never crossed a suspension bridge before. The tree top walk is actually higher, but the few missing wooden planks on this bridge make the walk a bit more interesting.

The woman in red is my eldest sister-in-law. And she is looking at me in a way that might make me mistake her proud, over-achieving expression as a more accusing look.

The woman in red is my eldest sister-in-law. And she is looking at me in a way that might make me mistake her proud, over-achieving expression as a more accusing look.

Kids did not think much about the climb and sprang into action immediately afterwards.

Kids did not think much about the climb and sprang into action immediately afterwards.

He's a natural kampung boy.

He's a natural kampung boy.

One of our non-Bahasa-Indonesia-speaking neighbours. According to the staff, this snake is poisonous, but its venom only causes fever.

One of our non-Bahasa-Indonesia-speaking neighbours. According to the staff, this snake is poisonous, but its venom only causes fever.

The view from the bungalow retreat---On The Rocks.

The view from the bungalow retreat---On The Rocks.

The Bukit Lawang River is clean, shallow and cool. Perfect for the kids.

The Bukit Lawang River is clean, shallow and cool. Perfect for the kids.

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I always believe kids are happiest when they have unstructured playtime.

I always believe kids are happiest when they have unstructured playtime.

The main reception-restaurant-gathering area.

The main reception-restaurant-gathering area.

In the evening, the temperature in the jungle dropped quite drastically. From not sleeping with a blanket to everyone fighting for one, it was a cool and restful first night. The only challenge was the army of mosquitoes which took a liking to novel Singaporean blood. One of the single biggest expenditure here was arguably insect repellant. We later learned that locals would pluck lemongrass, rub and crush the leaves with their palms and then smear their skin with the broken bits and pieces to ward off the mosquitoes.

The next day, it was the trek into Gunung Leuser national Park. It became well-known after an Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre was set up decades ago. The apes that are nearer the village and tourist trails are inevitably semi-wild, with some guides feeding them with sugar canes and fruits. I see it as a necessary evil for the bigger good. With tourist money come better relationship with these great apes, to an extent that certain boundaries are not crossed.

I tend to wake up very early when I am on holidays, away from cities.

I tend to wake up very early when I am on holidays, away from cities.

Mother and child duo of orang utans. Seeing them in Mandai Zoo is one thing, admiring them in their natural habitat is magical.

Mother and child duo of orang utans. Seeing them in Mandai Zoo is one thing, admiring them in their natural habitat is magical.

Our guide Putra fashioning a crown out of some jungle ferns.

Our guide Putra fashioning a crown out of some jungle ferns.

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Generally speaking, the trek wasn't very difficult. We actually can choose the different levels of difficulty according to our own abilities. There are some steep ascents and descents, but not something my 8-year-old son couldn't manage.

Generally speaking, the trek wasn't very difficult. We actually can choose the different levels of difficulty according to our own abilities. There are some steep ascents and descents, but not something my 8-year-old son couldn't manage.

Wefie with the orang utans.

Wefie with the orang utans.

Lunch was packed nasi goreng, eaten with our bare hands.

Lunch was packed nasi goreng, eaten with our bare hands.

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Of course, no jungle is complete without the common long-tailed macaques. Mother and child seen here sharing remains of a pineapple.

Of course, no jungle is complete without the common long-tailed macaques. Mother and child seen here sharing remains of a pineapple.

The kids' highlight of the trek-----river tubing downstream. Even though the rapids were mild, the nature of the vessel exaggerates the ferocity of them. My butt actually hit the river bed of pebbles a couple of times.

The kids' highlight of the trek-----river tubing downstream. Even though the rapids were mild, the nature of the vessel exaggerates the ferocity of them. My butt actually hit the river bed of pebbles a couple of times.

One of the best parts of such holidays is actually just relax and do the things that we want or not do anything at all.

One of the best parts of such holidays is actually just relax and do the things that we want or not do anything at all.

The future boss of the bungalow-----the beautiful baby girl of the Indonesian dad Wawan and his German wife Corinna. A girl's name is Aurora.

The future boss of the bungalow-----the beautiful baby girl of the Indonesian dad Wawan and his German wife Corinna. A girl's name is Aurora.

On the third day, we hired a few becaks to take us to a family durian plantation, a palm sugar factory and a tofu making factory.

On the third day, we hired a few becaks to take us to a family durian plantation, a palm sugar factory and a tofu making factory.

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More walking after we disembark from the becaks.

More walking after we disembark from the becaks.

We had a bad experience at a touristy durian plantation in Segamat, Malaysia. We did not bear high hopes but surprisingly, these durians actually tasted rather good.

We had a bad experience at a touristy durian plantation in Segamat, Malaysia. We did not bear high hopes but surprisingly, these durians actually tasted rather good.

Some lazy bums decided to hitch a ride out of the plantation.

Some lazy bums decided to hitch a ride out of the plantation.

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We had lunch by the river, thoughtfully arranged by our guide, who thought it was a good idea. We really appreciate their effort at providing us with a pleasant experience.

We had lunch by the river, thoughtfully arranged by our guide, who thought it was a good idea. We really appreciate their effort at providing us with a pleasant experience.

The chickens are also eyeing our lunch, of ironically, fried chicken.

The chickens are also eyeing our lunch, of ironically, fried chicken.

After-lunch siesta. By the river, no less. Indonesia-style!

After-lunch siesta. By the river, no less. Indonesia-style!

The tofu "factory" is just a backyard of a home. I am not sure if he will ever obtain his license from NEA, but I tried the tofu on the spot, bought some to add to my gado gado dinner and they were fresh and problem-free.

The tofu "factory" is just a backyard of a home. I am not sure if he will ever obtain his license from NEA, but I tried the tofu on the spot, bought some to add to my gado gado dinner and they were fresh and problem-free.

A typical scene in the late afternoon, when villagers enjoy what their environment offers.

A typical scene in the late afternoon, when villagers enjoy what their environment offers.

A slice of kampung life: the staple game of sepak takraw.

A slice of kampung life: the staple game of sepak takraw.

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Their last chance to play in the river. The next morning, we have to wake up at 3.15am, set off by 4 a.m. for airport to catch our flight at 10.30 a.m..

Their last chance to play in the river. The next morning, we have to wake up at 3.15am, set off by 4 a.m. for airport to catch our flight at 10.30 a.m..

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It takes very little to be happy.

It takes very little to be happy.

All in all, the feedback I gathered from those under 14 was very favourable, saying the trip was fun and amazing. I have not managed to get a response from the other age group yet because they have not spoken to me since we got home. Doesn't matter. I am already plotting the next trip.