In the highly-urbanized city of Kuala Lumpur that I live in, the closest that
comes to natural lushness are the small patches of man-made greenery that
decorate the many high-rise flats and office skyscrapers that dominate the
landscape. Thus, it was quite an exciting prospect for me when my school
organized a trip for the Boy Scouts to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia
in Kepong during the June holidays.
The work at the Institute focuses on the
conservation of one of the last stretches of primary forest left in the world.
In fact, the trees could be as old as a few hundred years! We were to spend a
day there to learn about the work done and its implication on our lives in a
rapidly depleting world. Once we reached the
Institute, the natural surroundings held us spellbound.
I had never seen such tall trees in my life or such a dense canopy above me. It
was really awesome. I felt like a stranger to the land, unable to reconcile the
experience with what I was used to back home.
We started the day at the Institute by trekking through the dense forest. The
trails were sometimes overgrown by roots and creepers, making it difficult for
us to confidently cross the unknown terrain. We were obviously used to concrete
slabs guiding our footsteps and road signs directing our way. Here, we could not
tell one tree from another, or even distinguish if we had been through that
path. Even the insects and little animals native to the forest were alien to us.
In fact, we felt a strange mixture of confusion and excitement.
As we walked through the forest, we came upon some native tribes of our
country who still practiced their traditional lifestyles in the forest. This was
the Institute's way of ensuring the authenticity of the culture and nature that
was peculiar to all of us. We were allowed to watch them cook their mid day meal
and how they made some of their traditional hunting weapons. It was an
The last Highlight of the trek was the canopy walk, which meant crossing a
distance of 300 meters on a thick rope bridge suspended more than 100 meters
above ground level. It was really thrilling! I had a terrible fear of heights
and the prospect of walking literally on air sent shivers up and down my back. I
could feel myself shaking with fear and breaking out in cold sweat. In the end,
I was forced to walk on the rope bridge as the alternative was walking back the
way we came, which was a full two hours' walk! When I was suspended on the
bridge, my exhilaration came as a surprise.
Instead of being scared out of my wits, I actually felt a high. This was
compounded by the sense of achievement I felt when I completed the walk.
The day at the Institute was indeed a wonderful experience, despite the fact
that the surroundings were strange to me. I had learnt a great deal about nature
conservation and the natives' tribal way of life. At the end of the trek, a more
valuable insight that I had gained was the self-knowledge that I could conquer
my fears no matter how frightened I may have been.