Friday, 27 October 2017

One local destination a month - Part 9 : Kuala Gandah and Temerloh, Pahang

The Malaysia Day (16 September) public holiday fell on Saturday. I decided that it was a convenient time for us to drop by two places I have read about before but never had the opportunity to visit.

1. Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre

Deep in the Krau Forest Reserve in central Pahang, there exists an animal sanctuary run by the Wildlife & National Parks Department (more famously known by its Malay acronym Perhilitan) dedicated to saving the lives of elephants. While it may be located deep in the jungle, the conservation centre is surprisingly quite easily accessible. Kuala Gandah is only about a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. About 80% of the distance is on a tolled highway and the remainder on a narrower rural state road.

On that Saturday morning, we left Shah Alam after breakfast and took a leisurely drive to Kuala Gandah. Traffic was initially heavy on the Gombak-Bentong section of the highway but once we passed the Karak Toll, the drive was smooth and easy. We exited at Lanchang and from there followed the road signs to Kuala Gandah. The drive on the rural road was even lonelier. We did not pass many cars and it crossed my mind that the sanctuary might be closed on public holidays.

When we reached our destination, I needn't have worried. The elephant conservation park was open. It was still quite early and visitors were only starting to stream in. There was ample parking space when we arrived but later on in the day as we wanted to leave, the large parking lot was packed to the brim. It showed that the place was much more popular than we first thought.

Entry to the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre is free but visitors are required to register at the reception. They do however welcome voluntary contributions, which are properly recorded in the registration form.

This elephant sanctuary is a very good effort by Perhilitan. Apart from taking care of orphaned or displaced elephants, their work includes relocating elephants that encroach and cause damage to oil palm plantations. Perhaps it is more accurate for me to say that it is the plantations that have encroached into wildlife habitat. Anyway, it is good to know that the world's largest land mammal is being given proper protection here in Malaysia.

This preserve is not meant to be a tourist attraction but allowing the general public to come visit is a good step in educating people on the plight of these animals. Each afternoon, visitors can watch a group of elephants taking a bath in the river that runs through the park. Tourists can join in the bathing fun by paying a nominal fee. After the river dip, the elephants then parade to a performance area where the mahouts show some skill in handling their charges. At the end of the show, the audience is given the chance to feed the elephants with fruits and sugar-cane sold by the park's staff.

This simple show is not to be compared to the full-fledged tourist events held in other countries. The chance to be close to such huge and gentle animals is well worth the half-day spent.

Lovely welcome billboard at the reception lobby. Visited 16 September 2017

We saw this young bull munching on the bark of the tree

The juvenile pachyderm enclosure

A cool dip on a hot day

Mahout or elephant handler

Feeding time

2. Pekan Sehari Bandar Temerloh

From Kuala Gandah, we took the old Federal Route 2 towards Temerloh where we spent the night at a simple but comfortable budget hotel in the middle of town. The purpose of visiting this town by the Pahang river was to experience the weekly Sunday market that's purported to be the longest in Malaysia. It is held every Sunday morning from 7am to noon along a stretch of street next to the river bank. It is where the local farmers and smallholders from the surrounding areas come and put up their products for sale.

The hotel where we stayed was just a few minutes drive from the market location. Online tips suggested that we get to the market as early as possible because parking would be difficult to find. We left the hotel just as the day was breaking and found a very convenient parking spot. However, only a few stallholders were just setting up shop, so we spent a few minutes walking by the river bank to enjoy the early morning light. We later stopped for breakfast at a food stall which had just opened for business. We were literally the first customers. The stall had a decent selection of food on sale which included nasi lemak and nasi dagang. Taste wasn't too bad at all.

As we sat for our meal, other customers came and quickly occupied the adjoining tables. Apparently, most are regulars of the stall and the cheerful banter between the stall owner and his local patrons was a delight to hear. I had a hard time straining my ears to understand the local dialect.

After finishing our breakfast, we began our stroll along the weekend market. There were so many varieties of local vegetable produce I've never seen before. Some of them with names that I've never heard. Of course, being an inland town and by a large river, there were many stalls selling freshwater fishes. Temerloh after all, is famous for ikan patin.

My better half bought some of the greens which we would not be able to find in Johor Bahru. These include a few types of pucuk and cendawan. We were tempted to buy some udang galah, which, at RM40 a kilo, was way much cheaper than what we can get down south. In the end, we stuck to buying vegetables and other less perishable items. The famous sambal hitam Pahang was one of them.

We did not cover the whole length of the market because by then, I reckon we had walked more than two kilometres. My arms were already aching from the multiple purchases my better half had made.

It was an interesting morning in Temerloh. I hope to be able to come and visit again soon.

Early morning at the edge of Sungai Pahang

Different types of freshwater fish on sale

Petai, jering, pucuk paku, cendawan and many other greens with names I know not

Bunga kantan in bloom

Smoked, dried and salted fish

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