When we landed in Melaka I started browsing the local tourist brochure, when I noticed a small paragraph mentioning that it was possible to view what is apparently the best firefly colony in Malaysia. This immediately sparked my interest. As it was mentioned in a published brochure I incorrectly assumed that it would be easy to arrange a tour of this natural treat. Three days of searching soon proved me wrong.
We were both very interested in making a trip out to see these little critters but every attempt we made to source information brought up another dead end. No one had heard of it or knew even in the slightest way how to assist us with getting to see them.
We searched high and low on the internet, scouring travel chat rooms and other people’s blogs in an effort to locate some useful information. All we received was a rather unnecessarily curt response from one person who challenged Damien’s rudeness for “hijacking” someone else’s fruitless post /enquiry about the bugs, apparently this is not the done thing and we should have started another post. It takes all types.
On our last day in Melaka before we were due to depart to head off to Sepang, Damien suggested that we go to the Discovery Café as he had read in Lonely Planet that this was a reliable place to go for information on tourist options in the town. We headed down the river to the Discovery Café not too hopeful that it would be a fruitful venture but willing to give it one more shot, after all we are travelling to see more than the towns and eat the food! As good as that may all be.
I have very fond memories of years ago when I was at a party at my friend’s place in Uki of seeing my first firefly. I was sitting out the back of the house overlooking a little valley, engrossed in conversation with a new found friend, when out of nowhere a little firefly came and floated in front of us lazily and then glided off into the darkness. It was a magical moment, as I had never seen something like this before and recollections of this moment spurred me on to continue in our quest to find a means of seeing these little guys in Malaysia.
We met Mr Tang, the owner of the Café, and he was quickly encouraging us to stay, drink beer and listen to his band play. We sat down and explained our mission and he was only too happy to assist. He got straight on his mobile and started what sounded like a very earnest conversation to obtain us the hitherto elusive details. After what seemed a very long time he concluded the conversation and told us that he needed to get someone to talk to someone else and if we came back in about four hours he may have something for us. Fair enough, it was more promising than previous efforts so we stayed for a beer and marvelled at the large array of washed up and strung out looking travellers around us, staring off depressingly into the night. Time to get out of there even if the beer and the music was OK!
Return we did and Mr Tang beamed that he had been able to arrange a taxi out to Sungai Timun, where we would be introduced to a man who would take us down the river to see the fireflies. We dearly wanted to stay at Sungai Timun as we had heard that lobster was often caught there by the local fisherman and that crocodiles and birds were also in abundance on the river. But the cost involved and the difficulty in communicating and executing our plan soon dictated that we would need to adjourn and discuss whether we took this option any further. Seeing only the fireflies and staying in Melaka afterwards would mean back tracking to Melaka after the festival, and staying additional nights before heading up the coast to Penang. Should we or shouldn’t we? Damien in his thoroughness had me answering an array of “what if this” and “what if that” options until finally we decided that yes, it is OK not to go on our trip in a linear direction and that doing a return journey to Melaka after the festival was the right decision.
Buoyed by our recent experience at the festival we went to see Mr Tang on Monday, mildly confident that this venture via taxi out into the countryside would bear fruit and not be a TIA moment. Monday night rolled around and we set off with our taxi driver, Martin, who was a friendly chap. We were enjoying our drive out on roads less travelled by buses when Martin started to drive in an alarming way. His tailgating and attack driving style with oncoming vehicles soon had me rather nervous, and reasoning it was better to look out the side window then where we were headed. I was having flashbacks to years ago when I was on holidays with a bunch of my good mates in Thailand. It was during that trip we coined the phrase “pseudo laning’ to describe the Thai penchant for driving wherever the hell they liked on the road. We had a particularly hairy experience one night where I still remember us all screaming as our taxi driver pulled out in the dark into on coming traffic and a hapless motorcyclist went flying off the side of the road in an effort to avoid our car. We still don’t know whether he made it…
However, I digress. Due to Martin’s driving I darted a worried glance Damien’s way and he affirmed my feelings, by demonstrating his: dramatically grabbing onto the seat in front with vigour and might I add a facial to match. Thank goodness Damien had the sense to speak up and expressed to Martin that we were in no hurry and could he slow down please. Mercifully, he did. From there (minus the occasional lapses of hooning) Martin rectified his driving and we were able to take in the sights of the countryside as night fell.
Martin had obviously never been to Sungai Timun, so as we inched closer we had to go down a few dead end dirt tracks into the bush. We asked a few people conveniently hanging out on the side of the road for directions, until serendipitously we stopped to ask a lady selling food at a small road side stall and funnily enough it was her own son who was waiting for us and she pointed us in the right direction.
We arrived in the little kampung (village) of Sungai Timun and soon were suited up in life jackets and on the river. The ride in the tinny was in itself so lovely to me. The smell of the tropical night air filled my nostrils and had me transported into happy memories of holidays in Northern NSW. I always marvel at the power of our sense of smell to evoke such strong feelings and emotions which are memories linked purely to that particular scent. When I have one of those “smell” related memories I want to keep inhaling it to conjure up the feeling it evokes as it is so much more whole than a visual recollection alone. It’s like when you first awake and you are in the half sleep half awake phase and you are holding onto the image and feeling of the dream you just had…you know it is fleeting but it is so real and vivid in that moment. Those olfactory memories are like that to me….
It’s hard to put down in words how happy and content I felt being surrounded by the beautiful shapes of the trees that silhouetted the banks and the sound of the insects as they filled the night air but truly, I live for this stuff… nature is always where I am happiest and I was glad to finally be immersed in it here in Malaysia.
To top off what was already a special journey we did get to see those little fireflies. They hung in masses on various trees and lit them up like so many little blinking fairy lights. Damien commented that they were like little Tinkerbells, such a lovely way to describe it. Our boat driver kindly nudged our tinny close to a few of the trees and cut the engine so we could quietly sit beneath them as they floated, flashing their little bums at us. I stood up on the boat and caught one in my hand and Martin shone his torch so I could take a closer look. Wow. Such a wee snip of a thing to put out such a pretty light. One fell on my shoulder and blinked away at me. Ah the simple happiness of that moment 😀
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and we worked our way back up the river to the kampung, but not before our eagle-eyed guide (how did he spot it in the dark???) shone his torch on the bank and putted us in closer to see a baby croc.
We questioned him via Martin (who also served as our translator on the night) how big the crocs are in this river and we were told a staggering 20 ft. Yikes! Hands firmly inside the boat now!
Needless to say we were more than happy with the outcome of all our hard work to find a means to get there. The hard worked for wins are often the best, aren’t they? I felt a little like a trailblazer considering no one else in Melaka seemed to know about these little sparkly gems.
However, it was not without a little disappointment in that we found out there was a dorm in the village we could have stayed at, and that we could have gone on a crocodile and bird viewing boat ride if we had been able to sort it out. But I don’t want to seem ungrateful for what we had and it is more than enough motivation to return one day now that we know how.