And so, on Sunday afternoon I sat on a rock beside a shallow stream, listened to the birds calling and frogs moaning as I watched a dragonfly land on Ian’s straw hat. Not another person was in sight. My shorts were muddy from clambering over fallen tree trunks. My shoes waist deep in mud and my teeshirt stuck to my back with sweat. I could hear no traffic, no voices apart from our own and there, beside me, was what I call a ‘shuddering leaf’. They twist and turn like a mobile in the breeze, suspended above the leaflitter. I like to wonder how they learned to levitate, but know they are actually dangling on a thread of cobweb. Trees so tall I can’t see their tops even if I tip my head back as far as it will go. Buttressed trunks of dipterocarps the size of elephants’ bent legs. Dried leaves the size of tea trays.
This is what I call My Happy Place. This is what I love most about South East Asia.
So, where was I? Well, believe it or not this was less than 15 km from our home, in a forest reserve they call FRIM (Forestry Research Institute Malaysia). Sure, it’s not exactly unspoiled rainforest. It has roads and shabby buildings with broken panes, a football field and a few play parks. But it also has trails, that are as impossible to find and follow (despite the map) over raised routes and streams, deep in the canopy. It has lots and lots of trees and the pervading sounds of cicadas.
We found a cafe for lunch. It was 1.30. It was closed already.
We found a waterfall and it was full of kids making racket.
We followed the map to find the canopy walk and failed to decipher the map.
But we also found something more valuable – My Happy Place.
Oh and we also found a tree with jackfruit necklacing down its trunk like a string of green hand grenades, some local kampong houses, one of which had a newly engaged couple wearing fuschia pink sitting on the steps for photographs. We found a poinsettia hedge and lots and lots of birdsong, all served up with a big, fat, juicy slice of peace.
And I smiled.