A nice walk in the jungle. I remember this book so well. I bought it for Chee I think one year for XMAS and if I remember rightly I taped myself reading it and added the cassette to the parcel. The kids used to love listening to these tapes as we traipsed up and down the motorway to music lessons. That particular year I had badly twisted my ankle a few days before Xmas. I had done all the shopping thank goodness but nothing was wrapped.
Damen was probably eleven, Tara nine, Chee six or seven, Lauren four and Monie about two. I gave Damen Monie as he was awesome at keeping her entertained and called Tara into my room because she was awesome at what I needed to do. I couldn’t bear any movement so lay on the bed with my foot raised on a pillow or two and told her to grab Sellotape on her way. She fetched all the bundles of presents from all the hideaways I described and ferreted them back to me and redirected the others curious questions with all the authority of a customs officer.
We set to work sorting out who was to get what into piles and she carefully wrapped them. Sellotaping cards into place and I remember her eyes shining as she listened to a little bit of the tape. The story is about a teacher who takes her class on a walk through the jungle and she is so absorbed showing all the different wildlife, she is unaware a python is eating her class one by one. When she realises she gets mad and shakes the Python so hard they all come out…or something like that! I knew Tara could keep a secret. What I don’t remember is if I kept her bits hidden. I must ask her one day.
Tonight Jerome is our guide. A local, and passionate about not just the Island environs, but Eco conservation in general. Langkawi is one of UNESCOs geoparks and Berjaya hotel is the largest hotel on the island with over 500 chalets set in over seventy acres of natural rainforest. A little different in that twenty one years ago when this was set up they tried to create WITHIN the environment, when a lot of other hotels start by clearing the site. Most chalets here stand alone and apart from where each chalet is they have tried to keep the surrounding area as natural as possible. This has meant more wildlife have their natural habitat reasonably intact….so we have birds and monkeys and bugs and geckos and bats and yes, snakes too, all living here with us. They have done things like not have many rubbish bins around so as not to provide places where Monkeys can ‘help themselves’ and for each tree they plan to cut down because it’s dangerous, they set three new natives in its place.
Jerome tells us he’s worked here for six years and I t’s not perfect and there’s a lot they could improve on. He leaves us with a bit to think on. Funnily enough I have spoken to three different couples today who all indicated they won’t be coming back here and site the Thailand resorts are more ‘fun’, more ‘going on’. He asks us if we were to return here in ten years do we think Berjaya will be better or worse than now. Most say they don’t know. I say better. He doesn’t seem so sure. It seems like he’s sad. Jerome indicates it’s a difficult balance between what people seem to want – the whole Disneyland effect and what they bring with them. The cigarettes and cell phones and bags and bags of rubbish. Hmmm.
Of course the group of us who are traipsing around are Eco minded. We are patiently waiting, watching for a lemur to spread his arms and expose his winged armpits as he glides silently from tree to tree. We stand riveted as Jerome tells us pythons are the lemurs natural predator and about the time he watched a python sitting on the fork of a tree just over there with his mouth spread wide open and held it there. They watched wondering what he was doing until they saw a squirrel moving around dancing to and from and unawares walked into the pythons mouth which he snapped shut. Dinner. He stops us and we listen to the Torkay gecko which is unbelievably loud and describes the tchak tchak of the house gecko I have seen running around the inside walls and says he keeps the insects down. He shines the torch up trees and unto the undergrowth to reveal things we would never have noticed.
My mind is cast back to ten years ago when Gilbert and I first stayed here. We were sitting on the deck in bathrobes having just showered after coming back from the beach. “Look, I pointed to Gilbert. Those monkeys are really close”. Gilbert grabs the camera and we dive out the door and are sneaking through the the jungle undergrowth crouching low and moving slow, as silently as we can. A little further. A little further to get the best shot, when I stop and say to Gilbert. “Do you think there could be snakes in this?” He looks at me and I can tell by the look in his eye he definitely thinks the could be. Both of us are barefoot. We leap up and begin to run back to our chalet bouncing our knees high into the air and toes pointed, barely touching the ground until we reach the safety of our wooden deck. OMG. We are making a noise a bit like a strangled scream as we run and I’m shaking thinking something might have wrapped itself around my legs…and today I discover it could have been a python! I don’t tell this story to the group of natural enthusiasts who know one bird from another and have books to refer to. I keep quiet about it. I thought of asking if they ever find snakes in the chalets but someone asks why were the houses often built on stilts in Malaysia. Tigers, Jerome answers nonchalantly.