Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Unnatural nature offers surprising beauty at Tasik Kenyir

Seen from the window of the small plane, the scattered green islands below looked like our own Myeik Archipelago. But I was flying to Kuala Terengganu, southern Malaysia, an hour out of Putrajaya.

Elephants bathe at a sanctuary near Kuala Terengganu. Photo: Nyein Ei Ei HtweElephants bathe at a sanctuary near Kuala Terengganu. Photo: Nyein Ei Ei Htwe

Malaysia, which will chair ASEAN next year, had invited participants from across Southeast Asia to savour some of its prime destinations. On touching down at Kuala Terengganu, we boarded a bus for the Tasik Kenyir lake resort to visit the elephant village, deep in the forest across a suspension bridge.

As local school students looked on, chatted with us and took photos, the elephants greeted each of the 58 delegates on our tour, dancing to music and kissing them with their trunks, putting a hat on their heads and paying respects. We talked with the students and watched as the 30 or so elephants bathed at a nearby stream, attended by their keepers. On the hour-long walk back through the deep green monsoon forest, the rain began to fall, as it does there every evening.

Bright and early next morning, we were off again, to Tasik Kenyir Lake. From a jetty we boarded motor boats, each carrying eight passengers, on a green lake set amid the green of forests and distant green mountains, for the one-hour voyage.

Photo: Nyein Ei Ei HtwePhoto: Nyein Ei Ei Htwe

Tasik Kenyir is a man-made lake that amazes with its natural beauty and limpid freshness.

Abd Azher Embi, the guide attached to my group, explained how this effect was maintained: the government had passed laws mandating strict upkeep, even to the point of ordering that twigs be removed from the lake surface to protect its beauty.

Guides responsible for the lake’s upkeep ensure that its fish are regularly fed with the correct food. Later, in the emerald depths of Tasik Kenyir, we could see the fish at play.

The first stop for our little convoy was the island Kelah Sanctuary, which entailed another 30-minute trek into the forest and across a wooden bridge (actually concrete, but clad in timber, the guide explained).

Crossing a small stream, our path led among rocks, bridged small streams and over a forest track to a sparkling confluence of watercourses alive with fish. Most were various species of carp, of the kind you can see sold for cooking in Yangon wet markets, but here free and glittering.

We visitors fed them from the food packs we had been given and then, when we paddled our bare feet in the water, they nuzzled our toes in a natural foot massage.

Then came more trekking across the forest floor, followed by a welcome break for lunch in a long, full day that left most of us, in the return trip in the motor boats, too spent to chat.

In the quiet of that setting, our silence, born of fatigue, was somehow apt. The next day, our busy schedule moved us on to other places and we left the lake. But the memory of its beauties and the stillness of its mood stayed with us, and calls us back.

Lake Kenyir Resort

The 70-acre lakefront resort within a national park features 136 wood villas in traditional Malay style. Prices range from 500-1500 ringgit (US$155-465) per night. Getting there takes about a 6-hour drive on the east coast expressway from Kuala Lumpur, or 4 hours from the northern expressway via the Gerik-Jeli exit. There are also regular flights from KLIA and Subang airports.

Tel: 6096668888

Fax: 6096668434