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Back To Laos Onto Malaysia Part 2 Return To Home
 


A change of country, and after a stop in Kuala Lumpur for a few days, the hunt for a decent sized Snakehead resumes on Peninsular Malaysia.

I'd missed my flight on it's arbitrary date given to Kuala Lumpur, so was stood waiting at Bangkok airport to see if I could get a standby seat on that day's flight, laden down with my usual mountain of luggage. As luck had it, I managed to scrape onto the packed plane, and finally took my seat next to the most miserable looking Filipino woman imaginable. Perhaps it was when I took off the Wet Afghan Hound boots... whatever. We arrived and dribbled through passport control at K.L.'s new and very modern airport, yours truly amusing myself by analysing two Japanese couples travelling together, each pair dressed identically from head to toe, including (yellow) trainers, hand luggage and visors. Oh dear.

The smart new train was taken into the city centre, and finally I got a cab to the Central Market up near Chinatown in early evening. Another luxury 25 Ringgit a night room secured, and I set out to explore. Chinatown there is a real experience- hot and sweaty, packed with tourists, traders, buskers and great food stalls. The traders try any dodge to flog you anything they can. Good fun to mess about with to be honest (if a bit of a pain in the arse at times). Typical exchanges:

"Watch sir?"
"Already got one ta", pointing at my wrist.
"But what about your other arm?"

Or perhaps:

"Handbag sir? Best quality designers sir."
"And I'd look great with a handbag wouldn't I?!"
"Ok- handbag for girlfriend then sir?"
"Hmmm. Actually mate, that sounds like a fair swap...". Cue blank expression on trader's mush. And so it goes- every 10 metres you walk, all night long. 

I spent a couple of days wandering the streets of K.L., taking in the dozens of shopping malls, the awesome Petronas Towers and the great view from the top of the Menara K.L.Tower, then eating and drinking a rack-full in the evenings, but after that I realised I couldn't think of anything else to do there, so the map came out again and a plan formulated in my tiny little mind.




"Two Chestnut please"

Buskers in K.L. Chinatown. Worry not; I managed to slip away just before the bowl came round.

Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers. About the most spectacular buildings I've ever seen. And probably about the most photogenic too.

 

Most people will have heard of Tasik Kenyir, or Lake Kenyir, in relation to fishing in Malaysia, and it was certainly my intention to visit the place and wet a line or two, but I figured there must be plenty of other stuff to do there too. Looking at my map of Malaysia, I noticed (well, it was hard to miss to be honest) that there was another monster lake up in the north of the country that I hadn't heard of before called Tasik Temenggor. It looked huge, and it seemed that there was only one road leading up to it. Perfect! I decided to work my way up there casually, calling in at Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands on the long road north. 

Arriving at Tanah after another umpteen hours on a bus, I immediately noticed how much cooler it was up there- hell, I even had to put on a sweatshirt for the first time in months- and I don't like a lot of that! Starving hungry after travelling all day, I dropped into one of the row of tandoori places along the side of the main drag through the place and ordered some food- sincerely hoping that the bloke 

who cooked it didn't wipe the plates on his shirt, cos it looked like he had just spent the day wrestling slugs in it (and it was no less reassuring that the bloke was wearing the same gear all the next day too...). To my relief and surprise there were no (serious) repercussions from the meal.

After going to see two waterfalls the next day- one of which was about the size of something you'll find at your average garden centre and had more bottles and polystyrene food trays in it than the bin outside Zorba's kebab shop at 3 on a Sunday morning; and the other much larger, but the colour of milky tea and with that delicate bouquet to it that only being the town's sewer outfall can impart. Not inspiring, so although the actual area was very pretty- some lovely views and hills and the like- on the basis that I have no interest in tea plantations or punnets of strawberries I decided to be on my way the following morning, on another winding bus journey up and down hills and valleys, ears popping all the way.

After over-nighting in the hooker filled little puddle that is the town of Ipoh the next evening, I found myself on the final leg of the bus trip up to Banding Island on Lake Temenggor. 

But not without having to deal with the biggest cock of a taxi driver I have probably ever been in a car with. Long story, and I really can't be bothered with all the details here, and after all, I don't want to bore you even more than you already have been, but the crux of it all was that when I showed him my bus ticket to Banding to tell him where I was going, from which terminal I was leaving, and with which bus company, he took it upon himself to stop at two hotels and a petrol station to ask where this place called Banding was because he had never heard of it (!?). He then tried to drop me off at the wrong bus station (the opposite side of town), then had to stop at another petrol station to ask where the other (main) bus terminal was, and at the end of it all he finally whinged because the journey had taken longer than he expected, and, of course, I wouldn't












First view of the massive Tasik Temenggor in Northern Malaysia and a mirror-calm morning. (This is just one little channel of it, by the way).

pay any extra. I caught the bus with literally two minutes to spare, collapsing into my seat in my omnipresent puddle of sweat.

I can't remember how many hours later, but I was dropped off by the bridge to Banding Island in the centre of the narrowest part of Lake Temenggor, which links it to each side of the mainland. The sun beat down relentlessly through still, stifling air, and I had no idea where I was supposed to go to be honest. Deciding to head down a path to the water's edge, I dragged my gear down to the bottom, luckily finding a small cafe with half a dozen locals there sheltering from the heat, looking at me like I had an arse in the middle of my forehead or something. Eventually, one of them, 'Eddy' (real name Siswaddy Asroun Bin Mohamad Asroun- so 'Eddy' will do, ok?)



Dr. Dolittle at "Butterfly Alley". Thousands of them, and some seemed almost tame.

struck up a conversation because he wanted to 'practice his English' (that old chestnut...). As it turned out, he really did just want to practice his English, much to my surprise, and after a couple of Cokes he offered me a lift to the nearest (and only) hotel in the area a couple of miles away on the island. Free of charge too! Nice Guy Eddy left me with his best wishes and a business card (also standard for Asia, I'm finding out), and told me that I should call him if I had any problems during my stay - very much a top bloke

I checked into the hotel, which was a bit more luxurious than I have become used to lately- even in the most bog-standard, cheapest room they had- since it had air conditioning and an en-suite shower. Heaven. I decided to get a rod out and try a quick dabble down at the lake edge near the hotel, once I'd dumped my stuff, but after half an hour, four insect bites, two leaches stuck on my legs and a lost lure on a deadline (again) I chucked it in and retired to the air conditioned comfort of the room, before showering and going to eat at the restaurant (there were no other places to eat within a couple of miles), and thereby discovering that, a. I was the only person staying at the hotel again, and b. it was a 'dry' establishment. Vegas it was not.

 

 

Mr Along steams his boat down the lake...

After eating, I started some enquiries about fishing on the lake, and was directed to a wooden shack just near the entrance to the hotel, where I was told that fishing trips could be arranged. A short chat with the proprietor soon put a spanner in the works on that front, since he told me he needed five (yes, five) people to make up a trip, and that the cost was to be 250RM per person per day; i.e. 1250RM for the boat- about £190 a day (at present rates), and about 190 miles outside of my budget. I could only shake my head in disbelief, after all, all I wanted to do was have two or three days fishing, not charter the f***ing Britannia. Surely I hadn't travelled all this way to find out that I couldn't even have a realistic chance of getting a bait in the water? At this point I was getting pretty disconsolate about the whole thing. I mean, when I first thought about doing this trip, I knew there might be a few problems along the way- whether they be health, money, logistics, soiled underwear, even bloody ladyboys- whatever, but one thing I hadn't counted on was how much the sight of a farang with a fishing rod would incite such, well, what feels like naked avariciousness (I hope that's not too strong a word) 

...But not for long: "Same same but similar"...

in so many instances of trying to arrange a day on the water. I know these blokes have to earn a living, but lets put things into context a little: you can get a very good meal at a nice restaurant for less than 10RM, a night's accommodation in much better places than I've been staying in for 50RM, a half hour taxi journey for between 5 and 8RM, or 10 hours on a bus for around 20 to 25RM. Even a 9 hour taxi drive right across the country goes for about 300RM (and the poor sod has to drive all the way back… and I should know cos I’ve since done it… we missed the bus). And this bloke wants 1250RM a day....?

I trudged back to the hotel, thoroughly hacked off with the whole ordeal. There I was, in the middle of nowhere, on the banks of a huge, beautiful lake, and with no way of getting out onto it. I considered hiring my own boat and doing it all myself, but the likelihood of getting lost in the hundreds and thousands of ravines and gorges means that this is a big no-no (in fact there is no boat hire there anyway I discovered). Sitting back at the hotel, the manager walked past and enquired how negotiations had gone. On hearing my answer, and no doubt seeing some self-evident disappointment, he asked me to follow him to his office. On the phone, he spoke quickly in Malay to someone the other end, who turned out to be the friend of a friend. 

"Would you like to fish for two days and camp out on the lake?" he asked, receiver held into his collar bone.
"No kidding- that's perfect!" I nodded to him
"Ok. Two days, including camping, fuel, bait and a bit of food- noodles, 400 Ringgit is what my friend needs. Ok with you?"
“Can we go for three days?” I asked hopefully, trying to milk the current tide of good fortune as far as possible. “I’ll pay the extra”, hoping these were the magic words. The manager asked the question.
“No- he doesn’t want to” my mediator eventually passed on. Fair enough then. Still- it was worth asking.



These blokes sat out in the rain all night; three of them in about an 8ft dinghy. Must have been really good friends- at the start of the night anyway.

 

Along and Toman bait.

 

I was so shell shocked from the earlier negotiations that I snatched his hand off without even a thought to bartering a better deal. In fact it felt like Sale Of The Century in comparison, and I left the office suddenly full of expectation for the days ahead.

8am the next morning, and my boatman picked me up at the allotted spot down from the hotel. I left a rucksack full of stuff at reception, and took just some fishing gear, spare dry clothes, camera stuff, my sleeping bag and a bedroll. 
"Hello" he said as I hopped down the steps. I reached out and shook his hand. 
"I'm Andy. What's your name?", I asked.
"Allo".
"Allo Allo", I said, amused in my typically puerile little schoolboy fashion.  
"No, no! Not spell like that!", and he wrote the word A-L-O-N-G on the transom of his boat. A good start...

Out onto the lake we raced, the early morning calm, and the fresh, recently risen sun making the lake look even more beautiful than my first impressions, with wisps of white cloud and mist tipping off the ridges of the adjacent hills. "This could be good", I thought to myself, a big grin plastered into my face. Then the engine packed in. I sat sunning myself as the now familiar sounds of an outboard being taken apart and reassembled clattered through the jungle air. Later, we were on our way again, and eventually entered one of the multitude of slim 'arms' off the lake, heavily tangled with the dead trees of the former valley. 

We fished hard for a couple of hours without a sign of a fish, using the surface 'frog' lures that Johnny, Thorke, Thomas and I had used on Sri Nikharin earlier in the trip. And after three or four moves of location the early confidence was starting to wane a little. About the fifth move of the 

Dawn breaks over the river feeding into the arm of the lake.

Birthday present of a lovely Toman taken on a live catfish.

morning, and we gently paddled into yet another dead-arm. Suddenly we saw two Toman roll deeper into the arm. Then another. Finally we had found some! The water got thrashed to a foam, and I actually felt that day that I was fishing well, yet not a single follow of the lures was achieved. Bloody frustrating with fish rolling everywhere. Time to get the big guns out, and a heavy rod, with 25kg braid was rigged up. Mr Along recommended a wire trace, so I tied one up and asked what size of hook he liked to use. He grubbed around in his tackle box, and produced a huge hook- at least a size 12/0, maybe 14/0 (I shit you not). I didn't like the look of that- mostly for fear of the catfish bursting like a maggot when impaled with the metalwork. Hmmm.
"How big do these fish get Along?"
"Sometime 5 kilo".

Hmmm indeed. I reached for a more conservative size 6/0 Owner SSW and held it up to him. He shrugged and gestured that it would be ok (thankfully). A little catfish was slipped onto the hook and held in the surface of the lake, ready to be presented in front of the next Toman that dared to stick it's head above the surface within casting range. And very soon one did, and I noticed that it had risen in a right to left direction some 15 metres in front of me. A quick flick of the rod tip, and the bait dropped into what I had judged would be just the right spot, the tiny lead sinker hopefully pulling the bait down in the firing line of the fish. 

Morning and the jungle steams after the previous evening's torrential rain.





























Lining up the Toman Trigger for a porker-potshot!

In an instant the heavy braid was peeling from the spool and rattling through the rod rings in a blur. "That's not the bait!" I thought (clever eh?), and clicked the bale arm over and gave it a firm hit. The clutch sang as the fish ripped line off of it, and within seconds the grating of line on timber started resonating up to my hands. I held on hard, hand clasped over the spool, and almost closed my eyes waiting for a pistol-crack as the line parted, but it didn't and within another couple of minutes a beaten Toman was waddling around the side of the boat, complete with the portion of branch which had been pulled away from the submerged tree trunk. Lifted aboard I was well chuffed with that fish. Not a monster at about 3kg, but a nice one nevertheless, and in lovely condition too- fat and silvery with a slight iridescent purple/blue tinge to it's scales. Very pretty, and on my 37th birthday as well. Nice one.

We fished through the rest of the morning (with yours truly missing another couple of chances like a fool), and finally during the afternoon the temperatures got too oppressive to be out on the lake fishing, so Along showed me a spot of his where a jungle stream entered the lake. We followed it a way upstream into the shade of the trees, where large rounded boulders made deeper, crystal clear pools, and we both chose a pool each and jumped in- and what a relief it was from the heat and humidity of the surrounding forest.

Spending an hour or two there, we eventually set off back into the lake, and despite all best efforts, we couldn’t find any concentrations of Toman again. So an executive decision was taken to spend the last couple of hours of light trying for Jungle Perch (Seberau) before sorting out a place to sleep for the night.

A light spinning rod with a spoon was rigged, and almost as soon as we reached the Seberau Spot, the dark clouds descended and a torrential storm drenched us to the skin. We fished through it without success, and once it had stopped elected to set up camp on a sandbank where a river entered the lake, shivering as we set the fibreglass poles through the tent, and amazed that three locals were going to spend a night on an 8ft fibreglass dinghy out on the lake tied to a tree a hundred yards in front of us. 

Once all was set up, and a dry layer of clothes put on, Along boiled up some water for coffee and some Maggi Noodles, and we sat by a hazy moonlight eating our food and looking out over a flat, smooth surface of the lake, the sounds of the night-time jungle all around us. Simply magic, and made a little more so, in a purely petty, childish and selfish fashion, by Along telling me as we talked that as far as he knew I was the first farang to come and fish the lake this year.

What wasn’t so magic though, was the night in the tent. Some mosquitoes had obviously got in there and their constant whine began to induce a certain kind of paranoia, and in the darkness I could hear Along slapping his face every few seconds. At least I hope that was what he was slapping. Then we had another downpour during the night. And finally I discovered that sleeping on hard packed sand is not very nice anyway. At dawn we were sat with a hot coffee watching the jungle steaming into life and the calls of monkeys and birds echoed through the branches. Happy days.

 

I think I've waffled on enough about the lovely Tasik Temenggor, and I apologise that this piece is only about the first day fishing I had in Malaysia (although for some I guess that is a relief). But, somehow, and I don't know how, I keep running out of time to do stuff. Still, in any case, it's now half one in the morning here and I need to be up early to do a load of jobs (like making sure my flight ticket for the rest of my journey is still valid...whoops, yet again) before leaving on the bus for Kuala Berang near Lake Kenyir at about 10am. Then quite how I get onto the lake, and quite where I'll stay I'll have to work out when I get there I suppose. So I'll leave it there and fill anyone in who's mildly interested about the tropical paradise that is the Perhentian Islands in my next update, which, given a following wind, should be coming sometime soon. 

(The Perhentian Islands being precisely the reason why I haven't updated this site in recent history........)

Back To Laos Onto Malaysia Part 2 Return To Home
 

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