Roll count! 1, 2, 3, 4… and away we went. “Let’s go!” the group shouted as the last member called out his number.
The afternoon was cool – ideal for trekking, pond crossing and cow-gazing – catching a whiff of cow dung as we walked past. Squirrels and birds peered at us, a snake slithered back into its crevice while some kittens played on, unfazed by our presence.
We put our bags in our rooms which were cool, clean and comfortable. Humidity here is rather high as we are near a river and are surrounded by hills. But it was cooler here and for that alone, I was thankful!
There is no wi-fi, the TV reception is fuzzy and we bathe by scooping buckets of water out of a very large water container onto ourselves. Meals are served in the mess hall. Everyday about 200 mouths are fed. I’ve not seen freshly caught fish in a while.
Going back to nature in this manner is refreshing. Here, I get to kick off my shoes, put up my feet and read a book. I get to sit at my balcony and stare at the night fog while on night duty and the children are snoring their way to dreamland. Most of all, I get to reminiscent — the squatting toilets, bathing with water out of a huge tub, gazing at lean (bordering on skinny) cows grazing on grass in mostly undisturbed natural surroundings. Even the heavy downpour and the sound of rain pelting against the roof and the strong wind blowing in my face brought back memories of me darting in and out of the rain when I was young. Tropical downpours can feel like one is being pelted with large water drops at a very fast rate.
The camp commandant even brought in some durians. These were the hybrid ones, bitter mixed with sweet. There is a joke in Malaysia (which is probably true) that the better durians have been exported out to Singapore so what we get here are the second rate ones, and ‘second’ rate they were. The size was ‘wrong’, to begin with. Perhaps because they were hybrids, they were very large, like the size of Thai durians. Then they did not have a strong smell. I could not tell the sweet durians from the bitter ones as the smell was barely detectable. In my family, my dad usually handled the durians. He smelled them, paid for them and opened them. I learnt by watching him. I was not an expert on durians compared to my dad and friends who grew up on orchards. But now, I felt like I knew a lot. I smelled the durians and opened them; short of paying for them. I’ll have my first rate durians in Singapore next time but while here, I might as well enjoy the hybrid ones which I would never be able to get in Singapore. Life here is a nice change indeed.
Soft yellow flesh durian
Bitter and sweet durian but the bitterness was barely detectable.
We had chicken and fish at every meal, served with broken rice. The good rice has been exported as well. I liked both their chicken and fish but after five meals of chicken and fish, I had had enough. The different varieties of chicken and fish were sambal chicken and fish cooked with black beans. We also had ayam penyet and nasi lemak. The food was good but I was ready for some variety after this! The first thing I noticed upon going back and having my variety was the taste. The food here tasted far more natural than what I had after this.
Freshly caught fish by a family that lived nearby. We didn’t have these for our meals though.