IT’S always fun when a bunch of city slickers heads into the jungle. More so when all connections to the outside world are cut off – no TV, no Internet, and horror of horrors, no cellphone signal.
A small group of us, some with young children in tow, had been planning a trip to a jungle retreat on the outskirts of Gopeng for some time.
The resthouse is nestled right in the heart of the jungle on a two-hectare site which the owner, Adeline Kuo, slowly developed over the years. The durian trees were in full bloom but she assured us that “durians have eyes, and will not drop on our heads”.
Our plan was to enjoy the nearby waterfall in Ulu Geroh and get up close and personal with the Rafflesia, the world’s biggest and stinkiest flower.
We were so thankful that the waterfall was just a short distance away, kept in pristine condition by orang asli in the village nearby.
Some of us still have vivid memories of our last jungle trek in search of a waterfall in Ulu Langat that took us nearly five hours. Our leader then described it as a stroll in the park but to us, it was pure torture.
The following day, we went hiking. We were accompanied by three orang asli guides, two of them women, and I felt rather embarrassed that while I was huffing and puffing all the way up, they were just, well, taking a stroll in the park.
There was only one Rafflesia in bloom but we were all happy to be able to see it. It smelt terrible and the size was relatively small. Apparently, the huge ones are the species found in Borneo, not on the peninsula.
In the spirit of what I have shared often in this column, I saw the weekend getaway as a journey, not a destination.
We took our time on the trek, soaking in the wealth of information offered by the guides as they expounded on the value of the plants along the way.
The aborigines use different plants for everything from curing jaundice in newborn babies to chasing away spirits that threaten their crops.
There was much to observe along the way. The orang asli houses were basically wooden structures and the villagers still fish and bathe in the river.
We spotted satellite dishes on some houses, which made one member of the group remark that he should have come by to watch the Arsenal-Tottenham match instead of having to sing to us, accompanied by his son on the guitar, after dinner.
In the two days we were together as a group, there was real conversation going on. The smartphones were dead silent and there was no rush to check email every five minutes.
On Tuesday, a report in this newspaper revealed that Malaysians are among the world’s biggest workaholics, with almost 90% of the workforce working even when they are on holiday.
According to Expedia’s 2012 Vacation Depri-vation Survey, Malaysia was fourth on the list, after India, Brazil and Italy, with employees who cannot seem to “let go” of their work even during vacations.
Well, we certainly let go of our work last weekend. And I am pretty sure the office survived pretty well without us.
Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin woke up extra early to watch the sunrise at the retreat and was reminded of the opening lines of that famous poem by William Henry Davies, “What is this life if, full of care; We have no time to stand and stare.” The STAR Online Columnist Sunday 25 November 2012