Xia's Journey

Taman Negara: From Cave to Capsule

on May 9, 2017

A couple of weeks back, I came across an event posting by SANL (Singapore Adventurous & Nature-Lovers) broadcasting for a trip to Taman Negara (Pahang, Malaysia). It featured spending a night in a cave and another in a capsule. Without any hesitation, I quickly went ahead to make payment for a slot as I reckon that the slots would be snapped out within the next couple of hours. Woohoo… How exciting would that be! I had always wanted to try spending a night in a capsule and sleeping in a cave would be such a cool, awesome “once-in-a-lifetime experience”!


In the days leading to the trip, Watsapp messages came flooding in to check, enquire, confirm and affirm anything and everything we could think of.


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Stock photo from Google. Woww… Looks awesome. How exciting!


28 April, Fri, 8pm

The day finally arrived when 41 of us met up at Marsiling MRT station, 8pm in anticipation for the long queues at the customs since it was a long weekend. We took 3 hours to get from Marsiling to Woodlands customs but surprisingly cleared Singapore and Malaysia customs within an hour! By 12 midnight, we were off and on our way to Jerantut, Pahang.


Spending the night on the 44 seater coach for 11 hours, an (inflatable) neck pillow, eye mask or ear plug would provide much-needed comfort. The neck pillow could double up as a pillow in the cave. The ear plugs would come in handy to drown out the echoing snores in the cave. Haahaa…. Ok, I’m kidding. The snores don’t echo, but as everyone is so dead–tired and that we’re sleeping shoulder to shoulder, the snores seemed to fill up the cave.



Our 44-seater coach for the 11 hour journey


29 April, Sat, 7am

We got into Jerantut town at 7am and had an hour to savour some Roti Prata (aka Roti Canai in Malaysia). I didn’t know this was the only carbo-loading opportunity, otherwise, I might have gobbled down more pratas! Heh Heh Hehh… : D

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Got into Jerantut town at 7am and had 2 prata kosong and 1 milo kosong for breakfast


29 April, Sat, 9:30am

We got to Sungai Tembeling jetty at about 9:30am and were presented with our ‘goody bag’ of 3 bottles of 1.5l of water, a cutlery set (a cup, plate and spoon), a pack of biscuits, a packet of instant noodles and canned food for communal consumption, a sleeping bag (for those who chose not to bring their own) and a sleeping mat.

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OMG… Are these what we are going to carry…??!! Like S-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y….??!!


Considering the ‘sudden’ amount of goodies that we received, I had to repack my small, little, day bag into the huge backpack to accommodate the 3 bottles of 1.5l water and all the food stuffs. But to be fair, we had already been forewarned right from the start that we would need to be carrying the 3 bottles of 1.5l water on our own. It didn’t seem tough until reality strike when we had to stuff them into our backpacks and started carrying it.


Managed to squeeze the 3 bottles of 1.5l water, cutlery set (1 cup, 1 spoon, 1 plate), 1 biscuit, 1 instant noodle, 1 canned food, 1 sleeping bag into my bag. No space already… Had to tie the sleeping mat to my bag and lug it with me.


29 April, Sat, 10:30am

At 10:30am, the boat came and sent us across the river where the Taman Negara Park Centre was. There, we did up the declarations i.e. the number of plastics, clothes, socks etc that we brought. By the time the staff finished up the declarations for all 41 of us (one pax at a time! Yawnz…), it was almost close to 11:30am, where we had a briefing by the centre staff on the rules and regulations and safety procedures in the park.

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The declarations had to be done one pax at a time…!! Took about one hour to finish up the whole group of 41 of us!


We got back onto the boat and took a 1 hour boat ride to the entrance of the park. Enroute, we had our packed lunch on the boat.



Had our packed fried rice on-board the boat. From Leon’s expression, he doesn’t seem to like it very much… Haahaa…



29 April, Sat, 1pm

At 1pm, we had finally arrived! Excited, we sprang off the boat and started trekking into the forest. Woohoo… Our adventure starts now…!!



Starting our trek into the forest and to the cave. Our adventure starts NOW…!! Woohooo….


The trek was not arduous, but it was not as easy as I had thought. We had to trek through the muddy terrains with our 10kg backpack, going up and down the slopes, climbing over and ‘limbo-rock’ under fallen logs, walking on logs across rivers etc.

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Up and down the slopes, climbing over and crawling under fallen logs, walking on logs across rivers etc.


29 April, Sat, 5pm

It took me 4 hours to get from the starting point to the first cave which was the half-way mark. By the time I got here, I was already almost dead-tired and wondering why in the world did I pay to come ‘torture’ myself. Wahahhaa…. As it was getting late and dark skies were looming, everyone paced up and tried to arrive at the cave before it got more difficult.


I’ve finally reached the first cave which was the (4km) half-way mark. Still have another 4km more to go… Jia you…!!


29 April, Sat, 7pm

At 7pm, OMG… I made it to the Gua Kepayang Besar (cave)! Just as I stepped into the cave, it poured. Pheww…. I was really really lucky… Some of my group mates who arrived later almost missed the entrance as it wasn’t prominent, with the fact that one have to climb up to the entrance of the cave, making it rather elusive and mysterious.



No obvious signage near the ground and especially when it was very dark, one could hardly tell that this was the ground entrance to the cave. Had to climb up to the cave using either of the two yellow arrows to be able to get into the cave.


The cave is huge and is able to accommodate up to 200 paxs. As there were 3 or 4 other groups on the day that we went, the cave seemed to be ‘packed’ with hikers. Our guide had laid out a ground sheet for us and all we needed to do was to place our sleeping mat and ‘chope’ our sleeping area.


Since it was pouring and dark, I didn’t get the chance to go to the river to wash or freshen up. I got my cleanliness fix from the wet wipes and powder that I brought.


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A lot of hikers on the day that we went


30 April, Sun, 1am

One of our group mates “R” fell ill during the trek and wasn’t able to make it to our cave. Several of the guys in our group were yanked out from their slumberland and activated for the rescue mission. Please see Andy’s first-hand adrenaline pumping account for the rescue mission!


30 April, Sun, 9:30am

As the guys had to ferry our group mate in the stretcher back to the starting point, all their belongings were split out to the rest of the team to carry them to the ending point.


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By 7am, daylight came into the cave. We started to pack our belongings and stuff the guys belongings into our own bags too.


Though my backpack was down by 2 bottles of 1.5l water (Finished 1 bottle on the first day and gave away another to the guys as I reckon they will need it more than I do during their ferrying mission), I had with me two sleeping bags and some miscellaneous items from the guys belongings.


One sleeping bag inside the bag and one sleeping bag outside the bag and some other miscellaneous items too. Haven’t start, I already ‘cui’ liaoz… Wahahhaa…. : D


Alvin and his 5 sleeping mats. Although the mats were light, it was quite bulky and difficult to crawl under the tree logs, getting across rivers and meander at the edge of the cliff ~ especially so with his injured leg from the rescue mission on the night prior.

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The pink, blue, black and hmmm… “ah boy’s team” : p


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Our only group pic without the rescue mission team. Thankfully, they had one too which I had included it at the end of this blog post.


On this day, the trek was made tougher as the terrains got mushier from the downpour last evening. We trekked through the ‘even-mushier-terrains’ with our as heavy or even heavier backpacks, going up and down the more slippery slopes, climbing over and ‘limbo-rock’ under fallen logs and walking on logs across rivers.

What was significantly different was that, there were many many more waddling across rivers and mud plains as well as meandering around the cliff on the second day as compared to the first.

As many of the rivers and mud plains were mid calves or knees high, all our shoes were totally soaked through. Our team mates in their Kampung Adidas were good, whilst the rest of us in hiking shoes were fretting over how to get our shoes out of the mud and how to get the mud out of our shoes. Hahahaa…. :”D

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Totally soaked (feet) in rivers and mud. Don’t even need to dream of coming out unscathed…


30 April, Sun, 2:30pm

I arrived at the Orang Asli hut at about 2:30pm and had a good 15 minutes rest before heading to the ending point / ferry pickup point, which was a mere 10 mins walk away.


Arrived at this Orang Asli Hut where we had some respite from the heat and rested our aching shoulders and sore feet. Heard from one of our group mates that the Orang Asli inhabitants actually asked them for RM5 as “shelter fees” after the whole bunch of us left. Haahaa…


30 April, Sun, 3:30pm

Seeing that most of us had arrived, the guides decided to make us lunch. We brought out our instant noodles and handed them over to the chef. Famished, we waited… waited… and waited… Ahh… Its ready! The noodles were snapped up in minutes and devoured in seconds. That was probably the most delicious noodle we’ve ever had.

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Ohhh… Yummz yummzz yummzzz… Faster cook, faster cook, very hungry already….


30 April, Sun, 4:30pm

Two of the boats came (one after another) and sent the first 20 of us to the campsite. As the boats came in staggered timings and we were unable to have the Rapids Shooting against the other boats, our boatman made it up to us by having our own Rapids Shooting!


Going at incredibly fast speeds, he pivoted the boat to 45 degrees on both the left and right sides. We were screaming our lungs out, whilst having a nice cool shower. Unfortunately, the boat ride only lasted 15 minutes and before we knew it, we had reached the campsite. Awwww….

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Our boatman was very kind and gave us our own Rapids Shooting adventure!


30 April, Sun, 5pm

We got to the campsite and I finally got a glimpse of our capsule. Ohhh… how cute they were. And the bed sure looks fluffy. I was so glad to be able to have my first shower in 48 hours too!

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There were tents and capsule. I was lucky to have gotten a capsule accommodation. Forgotten to take a pic with my “bed-mate”; Regina. Heh heh hehh… : p


30 April, Sun, 8pm

Whilst we waited impatiently for the guys to return and still not getting any news, we had a BBQ dinner, some ‘kpo-ing’ session and a birthday celeb before we called it a night.

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Got BBQ chicken and coffee cake. Damn shiok…


1 May, Mon, 8am

With the trip coming to an end, the guys finally returned in triumph. Woohooo… Yayy… The park rangers had sent our team mate to the clinic and we will swing by to pick her up upon checking out. As the guys shared their stories, I couldn’t help but feel proud of them and ashamed of myself.

What we had gone through was only a minor fraction of what they had to go through, and yet I was constantly lamenting how heavy my bag was, how painful my shoulders were, how slippery the ground was etc etc etc… : X

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So glad to see the guys back! But poor things… They have so many more vampire bites on their legs as compared to us… :”(


1 May, Mon, 9:45am

As quite a number of our team mates wanted to do the Canopy Walkway, I decided to tag along too. Thinking that it will be easy and stable as like Singapore’s MacRitchie Tree Top Walk, I went empty-handed, except for my mobile phone.


The Canopy Walkway was just directly across the river from the campsite and took us less than 15 minutes to get across the river to the starting point.

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The Canopy Walkway was just directly across the campsite where we stayed. Can even see and swim over. Haahaa….


The Canopy Walkway started off low and as we progressed, it got higher off the ground and my legs started getting as wobbly as the suspension bridges. There were a total of 6 platforms and even a stretch of ‘ladder steps’ to make our way down. Having been on quite a number of suspension bridges, I have never come across ‘ladder steps’. Hmmm… That’s interesting. It was a relatively easy walk, but yet I was soaked to the skin after the walk.

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Soaked through after the 530m long, 40m high Canopy Walkway


1 May, Mon, 11:30am

At 11:30am, “R” re-joined us back on our coach! We were so glad she was feeling much better and rejoiced in her return.


Slowly and surely, she’ll make it. Jia you, “R”! We will all be praying for your speedy recovery.


1 May, Mon, 11:30pm

At 11:30pm, we have finally arrived back at Singapore customs. I grabbed a bag off the luggage compartment and headed for the customs. As I placed the bag (facedown) onto the conveyor belt for scanning, I noticed a sleeping bag hooked onto it. Hmmm… thinking aloud, “Somebody must have unknowingly hooked the sleeping bag onto my bag” or so I thought…  Taking no notice of it, I left with the bag and stood at the gates waiting for my taxi companions; Andy and (son) Wei.


As Alvin stepped out from the gates, I waved goodbye to him. He waved goodbye and asked (randomly), “Did you happen to take Felicia’s bag? She took the wrong bag.” I was thinking, “Who in the world would be so cuckoo” and laughed aloud. I decided to put down the bag as it was getting heavy. “OMG…. IT’S ME….!!! This isn’t my bag…. Wahahahaa….” I managed to catch Felicia as she stepped out and got our bags swopped. Thinking back, it was hilarious and the trip ended off on a lighter note.


See… Felicia’s bag on the left and my bag on the right… Looks almost the same right? Hahahaa… Ok ok… I’m just finding excuses for myself for taking the wrong bag! Small prawn has become “Big Head Prawn”.


Some After-thoughts

Through this trip, I am glad the whole team stood as one although many of us didn’t know each other prior. We struggled, we persevered, we didn’t give in and didn’t give up and we pulled each other along the way. Nevermind that we were slow, we leave no man / woman behind.

A big Kudos to the guys who were so selfless in the rescue mission. They were yanked out from their sleep, bear the brunt of the cold, had inadequate food and water, suffered numerous slips, falls, leech bites and blisters and yet having to go through the many hurdles of the wet, muddy, slippery trail. My deepest respect to them!

I found solace in this strong sense of camaraderie which kept my heart my warm and brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it. It may not have been the most enjoyable trip but it sure resonates in us how much we could achieve when we come together as one.

Below’s an excerpt from our team leader which echoes my sentiments. Thank you all, for all that you have done. You have been an inspiration to the rest of us.

aged-parchment - thank you message part 1

Love Note from TS part 1 / 4

aged-parchment - thank you message part 2

Love Note from TS part 2 / 4

aged-parchment - thank you message part 3

Love Note from TS part 3 / 4

aged-parchment - thank you message part 4

Love Note from TS part 4 / 4. Finally finished liaoz… He quite lorr sohh right… Hahahaa…. : p


29. Our Heros

A BIG KUDOS to our HERO team! Thank you guys for your awesome, selfless act of kindness!


Last but not least, I like to end off with some tips for future hikers to Gua Kepayang Besar (cave). It may not be comprehensive and exhaustive but it should be able to cover the bulk of it.

Some Tips when trekking to Gua Kepayang Besar (cave)

–          (Inflatable) Air Cushion Neck Pillow to have better neck support as its going to be a long draggy 8 hours (or more) coach ride from Singapore to Pahang.


–          Workmen / Painting Gloves as you would need to grab lots of roots, tree trunks, ropes or anything else that you could grab hold of, to prevent yourself from falling.


–          A 30l (or more) Backpack  to carry 3 bottles of 1.5l of water, communal canned food for dinner and breakfast, cutlery set, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat. I had initially thought it would be sufficient to bring a small little bag since it would just be one night in the cave. How wrong could I be…!! Thankfully, I had a bigger backpack and made the swop last minute seeing that I had soooooo much more things to lug with me!


–          Hydration Salts, Nuts, Energy Bars to last you through the 6 to 7 hours hike x 2 days


–          Headlight would be ideal so that you could free both hands if you should need if you ran into nightfall.


–          Some of the teammates swore by Kampung Adidas since it was a rather wet and muddy terrain. All of our “branded” trekking shoes were soaked (entirely) in rivers and mud and many fell apart.


–          Mopiko/Axe Oil came in handy to get rid of leeches since many of us didn’t have a lighter on us.


–          Some Prior Hiking Experience / a Reasonably Good Fitness as it was a rather long muddy trek with lots of hurdles such as going up and down slopes, waddling over rivers, climbing over and crawling under fallen logs, meandering along cliffs for a continuous 6 to 7 hours x 2 days. With the 10kg heavy backpacks on us, it was certainly no walk in the park.


Below’s a video taken by Kee Wan on the first day before he was called away for the rescue mission on the second day morning. The video gives a good idea of the route on day 1 and from the second minute onwards, it shows some obstacles that one would have to go through before the video ends off at the cave. Enjoy 🙂


6 responses to “Taman Negara: From Cave to Capsule

  1. Hello Xia, nice account from the main group 🙂
    Seems like you chaps got a lot of water ponding too haha.

    Read your earlier post, you just recover from broken elbow and chiong Taman Negara already?. Power !

    See you in Sengkang (jogging or cycling soon).

    cheers, Andy

    • xia says:

      Hi Andy ;

      Haahaa… You guyz had it much worse than us. Feel so ashamed of myself for the constant grumbles and complaints.

      Had the elbow injury last Nov (2016). Much better now and can chiong liaoz… Heh heh hehh…

      Catch ya around soon. I usually run and cycle around SK only : D

  2. Vince says:

    Wow looks like an exciting trip! Why oh why did I missed this?? lol 😦

    And I reckon “kampong Adidas” is the SAF Adidas PT shoe???

    • xia says:

      Hi Vince,

      Hahaa… Next time if I go again, will jio you ok… Heh heh hehh… : D

      I’m not sure if “Kampong Adidas” is the same as SAF PT shoe or not. “Kampong Adidas is a jungle rubber shoes, good for water sports etc. I don’t really wear it often though. Haahaa…. : )

  3. LihChin says:

    Very well written account of the trip. Brings back fond memories…

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