Big guys with big hearts.
23.12.2011 - 02.01.2012
Kuala Gandah, January 1st 2012
This trip was meant as a make up for myself for being unable to do it while I visited Thailand last September 2011. I think it would have been more fun in Thailand as Thailand is more an elephant country than Malaysia. Still, it had been an unforgettable experience anyway.
Through the internet I got very useful information on how to get to Kuala Gandah. Choosing a hotel within a walking distance to KL Sentral Station made matters even more practical. From Pekeling Bus Station, I bought a ticket to Lanchang, and boarded the Temerloh Bus. The only thing inaccurate in this information from the internet is the bus fare. It says "no less than RM 7.00". As a matter of fact, my ticket cost RM 10.40. Well... that's no big deal.
On board I asked the driver who was an Indian to drop me off at Lanchang. After just being back from China, communication suddenly felt so easy here. The driver asked about my trip and where I was from. Unlike some of my countrymen, his warmth did not lessen even a bit when I told him I was from Indonesia. Instead, he became more excited. He switched at once from English to Malayan. So, he spoke Malayan, I spoke Indonesian. He seemed like meeting a little sister and I seemed like finding a big brother. Hahaha. No matter what my countrymen have to say, I'm not going to dance to their music of ridiculous hatred for this country. I say ridiculous, because... let me give an example. Once I read a comment on a newspaper like this: "Don't let those Malon people call us Indon. What an insult!" LOL So childish. On the very contrary, many of my countrymen are big fans of Air Asia which is... Malon's.
On the bus ride...
"Genting Sempah", but I read "Genting, sUmpah!" which in my language means something like "I swear, it's Genting!" What?? My slanting eyes widened.
But... the next second, thanks to my slanting eyelids, my eyeballs didn't jump out. What??! "Janda Baik"??? There's a place in Malaysia named "Janda Baik"?!? In my language, that means "The Good Widow". What a name for a place!
On the way we passed one of Malaysia's popular destination: Genting. This was the view from my window seat.
Being just back from a winter season in China, I felt like jumping into another planet. This first day of 2012 was darn pricking hot -- an exact opposite of Wuhan not to mention Jiuzhaigou. On top of that, in China it had been low season for tourism because of the winter. In Malaysia, it's just the highest season. First, it was big vacation for Malayans and her neighbors like the Singaporeans, like the Thais, and like me. Second, those from countries of 4 seasons, lowered the season in their countries, escaped the bitter cold, and fled to this tropical country, thus making the season double high. I was being grateful (for the super fine weather) and soaking my T-shirt with sweat at the same time. Here we are at the elephants' sanctuary.
Pygmy Elephants are the ones rarely seen a.k.a. endangered, living in Borneo a.k.a. North Kalimantan. The elephants here in Kuala Gandah were the Asian Elephants, I suppose.
Our activity began with a documentary movie about of course, elephants. The story was about Malaysia government's effort saving elephants from deforested areas. The elephants were moved to Taman Negara National Park. Not seldom, it would take a long tedious journey for the elephants to get to their new home. They would have to travel on trucks, get on a boat (to cross rivers), and then back on the road again. In some cases, elephants don't make it to their new home. However, there's no choice. If the government don't take the elephants away, they will perish anyway because of starvation due to their deforested home. By being moved to the national park, the elephants get bigger chance to live their life full.
There was a touching episode in the movie. It was about a young male elephant, named by the people: Vincent. He was moved out from his forest along with an adult female elephant which people assume must be Vincent's aunt. The long journey to Taman Negara wore Vincent off. He stood still crying. Tears ran down on his face. His aunt who stood beside him turned a bit towards him and rubbed the tip of her trunk around Vincent's eye, round and round. It went on for several seconds. Almost a minute, I suppose.
Vincent passed out minutes after stepping out the boat. People were worried and already preparing for the worst. In the end, nevertheless, Vincent made it to his new home. It's not just us who need support, animals do also.
You can buy some snacks at the sanctuary and feed the elephants. The elephants seemed always too happy to eat. They never say no to food.
In the savannas in Africa, once I learned from Animal Planet, the elephants have extremely wide ears which protects them from the heat. On the other hand, I've noticed also here that elephant's ears are also created for human purpose. See! This boy uses the elephant's ears like a handle to grip onto. He surely would feel unsteady if the elephant had ears like human's.
But, there's another function still, of an elephant's ear. It's a place to clutch your feet to keep you steady on the elephant's back and not fall back. See the boy's toe? What if an elephant's ear was like human's? How would you do that?
This boy is leading his companion to the stage.
Here's the elephants' stage. Everyone, at any age of any sex, wanted to get as close as possible with the elephants. And, the elephants seemed to enjoy the attention.
Each elephant specialized on one performance for their audience. This is one thing all elephants do best.
I sometimes wonder whether somebody has ever trained an elephant to water a garden? Instead of a sprinkle, wouldn't an elephant be more effective?
I find an elephant's smile charming.
These are the elephants that performed. They all have their names and have come from different parts of Malaysia, and also from Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. Finally, all elephants stepped forward and salute their guests. Notice the one on the most right of this picture. He seems to be a cheerful elephant. I made several shots with a continuous shutter and of all the shots, this elephant on the right was always the one with feet and trunk the highest among his friends. He looks like a natural actor.
After the performance, the elephants approach their guests for...
... for a treat.
I believe, no elephant celebrate New Year better than the elephants in Kuala Gandah. Food again, food again. New Year Party it is!
And... what next? Next, each guest can have a ride on the elephant's back with a ranger sitting in front.
Ever wonder how you get up on an elephant's back? Here's how. You just climb on a stage, and then move your butts. For me, it's like getting on a busway in Jakarta. But I didn't take the ride. I didn't see the long queue worth for just a short ride around the arena. I want to ride an elephant in a jungle, or through a savannah.
A child may sit in front of the ranger.
How nice does it look to sit on an elephant's neck like this. It would be one of her best childhood memories, I bet.
I stretched out my hand and greeted, "Hello, Elephant!" The elephant stretched out its trunk and laid the tip in my palm. What a cool moment it was. I squeezed its trunk gently like shaking hands. I tried that with the other elephant and it responded the same. It even let me hold its trunk longer.
Thus, as seen in this picture, the kids next to me tried to imitate me. "Gajah... gajah..." they called the elephant while stretching out their hands.
But, the elephants just walked passed by. Either the kids were too short to be noticed by the elephants, or... the elephants didn't speak Malayan. Poor kids.
Actually the very thing I wished to do was to scrub the elephants in the river. However, when I arrived in Kuala Gandah, tickets with permission to get into the water with elephants, were no more. I was rather disappointed. But when I saw this elephant bathing session, my regret vanished all at once. This is not at all my idea. This is basically teasing each other with splashes of water. On top of that, there are so many people. I would impossibly get to feel a connection with the elephant while bathing it. The elephant itself is almost covered by people.
The other cool thing I experienced in Kuala Gandah was meeting new friends, a kind and warm family from Rusia. The husband happened to have a similar interest as mine: a linguist, translator, photographer, and blogger. His objects are mostly nature.
My first dinner of 2012: Hainan chicken rice. I had tried the Singaporean version in Singapore. I conclude, the Indonesian version is best.
As if not having had enough of something Chinese in China, I spent the night strolling KL's Chinatown. I had been there during daytime. I would like to know what it's like by nightfall. It was hectic, busy, vibrant... not my thing.