For me, vacations have always been about fun. But my trip last weekend was serene, tranquil. Not “fun”, but regenerating.
A short flight from KL Friday afternoon and we are in Terrenganu, a quaint Malaysian city. A drive through the city and acres of palm plantations later, we are at our resort by the Lake Kenyir, our balcony overlooking miles of blue, and swathes of green. I love it when I get to be at a place where there are more trees than people.
(I’ve put in a YouTube of a slideshow of the pics, but they’re a bit grainy, I’ve been stingy on pic sizes!)
I wake up to balmy sunlight through white curtains. Stepping into the balcony, I fall in love with the place all over again. A hearty breakfast later, I settle down to laze, undisturbed, enveloped only by the sounds of lapping water, a distant bird-call or two (my husband spots black and white horn-bills, but I only hear them honking from time to time), and the incessant chirping of a thousand invisible crickets. Palm trees, tall tropical vegetation everywhere, with ferns and creepers galore, the play of light and shadow on the grassy slopes of the lake, the susurrating of lake breeze through a million leaves. Nap-time.
A fishing trip in the afternoon on the enormous lake, a lake which was born when a whole host of rivers were dammed up and the waters gathered to form the biggest artificial lake in Asia. Tree trunks–dried, old, moldy–stick out of the water like eerie monsters, skeletons of the nature that has been destroyed, standing in mute memorial of the jungles drowned to create this lake.
A sleeping trip for me, while the husband attempts, unsuccessfully, to lure fish. The very silence is music to my ears.The wrong notes are the small live bait, pink-white fish, a little longer than my fingers.
They are picked up and hooked, right down their middle and carried, writhing and flapping, to be “cast” into the water, again and yet again, till they go all limp and are thrown away. I am selfishly thankful, for want of a better phrase, that the soft little bait-fish cannot scream, or their agony would break the afternoon stillness over the waters, shatter it into a million tiny pieces.
More of the same in the morning, but almost imperceptibly different. The lake turns blue, green or aquamarine and a dozen shades in between, depending on the quantity of clouds in the sky. This ensures that no two days would ever be entirely the same by its shores. Kenyir is like a moody woman, gorgeous, unpredictable.
A lake cruise in the morning, the sun nuzzling the nape of my neck, the lake breeze lulling me again, but I’m not asleep, merely comatose in an orange haze. I part my lashes from time to time to peer at the blue and the green skimming past, or the blue and green approaching, but it is all too much of an effort. When I’m taken to a herbal island and shown Tongkat Ali( a sort of herbal Viagra), and Kacip Fatima (the female equivalent), I’m still drowsy. I sleepwalk through the whole routine and get back to the boat to dream some more.
We go to one of the 14 waterfalls that grace Lake Kenyir, and the road to it lies through tall, looming tropical jungle, strewn with leaves, red leaves, yellow leaves, leaves the size of my palm, and leaves big enough to form a small umbrella. Creepers and trees in tumbled profusion, stuffy, sticky heat and the omnipresent crickets calling through semi-dark jungle. The waterfall itself is a delight, cool flowing water, noisy yet soothing at the same time. Fallen logs from behemoth trees, small fish in still pools, mossy stones and grassy, slippery banks.
A moment of panic when the boat would not start. A moment that stretches into an hour, as the boat drifts over muddy water almost too shallow for it to tread. Visions of eating bugs, caterpillars and snakes from watching that stupid show Man vs Wild, where a good-looking guy teaches you survival tricks. (The hubby just adores that show.) Thank god they turn out to be merely wild visions, and a rescue boat arrives, dragging us back over the blue waters.
Morning is another laze-fest, and I crawl around in bed as long as possible, take pictures, write, sleep. I drag out the seconds, stretch every minute, battle the hours. I do not want to go back to KL, but a ride back through the rain is inevitable. The anti-climax hits us when we realize we’ll be home only by midnight. I dive back into the book I’ve been reading, and surreptitiously take pictures, like this one:
Back in KL, Lake Kenyir seems far away.
But then I’ve always had a calm, peaceful lake inside me, a crystal pool of blue waters where all the stress, grief or anger in the world does not reach. I draw back into this lake each time the world is too much.
And Lake Kenyir is not that far, either.