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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lata Bukit Hijau - Kedah

Located in the Baling district of Kedah, Lata Bukit Hijau is not your average kind of waterfall.

Firstly, the place surrounding it is not strewn with nasi lemak wrappings and other rubbish, often an eye-sore in many of Malaysia’s popular weekend spots.

The local authority in Baling has done a great job sprucing up the place and equipping it with good public amenities while local holidaymakers care enough to leave the place as clean as they found it.

Secondly, it’s not a stand-alone waterfall. Fed by water flowing down from Gunung Inas (1,454m), it is actually a chain of multi-level falls that gush downstream along a series of lofty drops and water pockets.

The highest drop is about the height of a seven-storey building!

Better and pristine falls are located upstream but they are tougher to reach and only accessible by trekking through rutted trails along jungle-covered hillslopes.

Lastly, it’s not often one comes across a fabulous waterfall that’s easily accessible from a trunk road.

Located along the Sungai Petani-Baling trunk road, a short detour is all you need to hit one of Malaysia’s best spots to chill at. There are a few routes to get to Lata Bukit Hijau Recreational Forest but most of these will get you through a maze of countryside roads around the region of Kulim and Karangan. It’s best to head on straight to Sungai Petani’s PLUS exit and continue eastwards to Baling town.

Along the trunkroad, look out for Binjul and turn right to get to Malau. From there, follow signboards to the waterfall.

Besides wallowing in the river water, you’ve plenty of things to do on the dry land at Bukit Hijau.

If one has a tad more adrenaline in the bloodline, try trooping up Gunung Inas’ 4km jungle trail.

The path is lined by rainforest trees like the merbau, meranti seraya and meranti tembaga. It is a haven for those who want to get up close with many species of Malaysian hardwood.

Nature photographers will find this trail interesting, too, to capture pictures of a serene setting.

Gunung Inas also feeds rocky Sungai Sedim, a short drive away, which is well known today for its whitewater rafting adventure and the world’s longest canopy walk.

I am not the kind who likes to pack picnic baskets, hence warung makan (food stalls) are a welcoming sight.

Usually, I find some of the best foods are served at local stalls. These also make a great place to strike up conversations with locals and find out a bit about the history of a place.

I share a table with some elderly Malay men. Between teh tarik and pisang goreng bites, I manage to nudge them into telling me some bits of interesting tales.

“Hang kenai Raja Bersiong?” a 70-something-old man asks me in a heavy Kedahan twang. He wants to know whether I’ve heard the story about the “fanged king”.

Munching peanuts, the chain-smoking pak cik tells how, once upon a time, the ruler of Kedah, Raja Bersiong, extracted his fangs and threw them away. The spot where the fangs fell was called Baling, after the Malay word for “throw”. The name of the place remains as such till today.

He went on to tell me more stories and our chat warms me to the place and the people even more.

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