Hunting down the world’s largest flower

Sometimes when you travel, cool experiences and opportunities find you. One such opportunity came when we wanted to break up a long overland haul from Penang to Pulau Perhentian Kecil in northern Malaysia. Roughly at the midpoint, the Cameron Highlands seemed like a nice change of pace from the beach bumming and scorching hot weather we’d been enjoying for the last month or so. A quick read through our guide book told us we could expect nice cool weather, tea plantations, strawberries and some decent trekking/wild life spotting. After doing a little more research on things to do, we found out that Rafflesias, aka, the world’s largest flowers and pretty rare, were native to certain areas of the Highlands.

When we arrive, we discover that the flower takes 7 years to grow and then is only in bloom for 5 days before it dies.

But, when we arrive at Father’s Guesthouse, the owner informs us that there was a very large bloom that was about to start and we could hike about an hour into the jungle to see it. So, the next morning we set out on a guided tour to have a look.

At the end of a wet, muddy, hot, sticky and sweaty hour trek through the jungle and into the mountains, here is what we found:

This rafflesia flower had an 80cm diameter

This rafflesia flower had an 80 cm diameter

Herding lizards, not spiders

Last night, we saw the biggest spider we have ever seen. It was huge, it looked mean and it was inside our room – on the very important bed to bathroom path.

D saw it first and he simply bounced back and silently took refuge on the bed, making sure tht his feet were not touching the floor. I was not wearing my glasses and he wouldn’t tell me what was going on but we eventually both sat on the bed, strategizing.

I (cowardly? lazily?) thought we could just leave it there. “Chances are it’ll just go away. It’s not like big spiders like to climb into people’s beds at night and bite them.” I really meant that but D’s horrified face made me wonder – maybe they do like to do that.

–         We could kill it

–         But then if we miss it may run away and climb on us

–         There is enough meat on this spider to make some people deep fry it and eat it, it would be juicy. Very juicy. Would you clean up?

We thought about using the broom and chasing it outside but there were too many obstacles along the way: bags, bed… the last thing you want when chasing a potentially poisonous spider out of your bedroom is for it to hide under your bed or in your luggage.

But we had a bin. Right next to the spider. It’s actually where Connie, our lizard friend, hung out all day bvefore she obviously was chased by the evil spider.We were really hoping that providing shelter to Conie and her friends would keep us from finding ourselves in such situations – lizards are supposed to eat spiders, no?

Somehow after taking care of cockroaches in Vietnam and various other large insects over the past 10 weeks, D had decided that it was now my turn to address the situation. I took a deep breath and, with the broom, placed the bin against the wall where the spider was, hoping that it would simply jump in and politely let me escort it out. That was underestimating the spider. After dropping the bin twice because I thought the animal was climbing out, we realized that it simply went back inside the closet.

Kecil 002

We have not seen it again but we have not dared opening the closet. As D puts it: “I’d rather just let all of them hang out in there. It’s better than upsetting them and risking having them all over the room.” Wise man? Famous last words? Only the night will tell…

Update, 24 hours later:

Ronnie was back. Not at first wen we went to bed but I woke up at 3 to go to the bathroom and it was there, even closer to the bathroom. After discussing the subject some more, we opted for the friendly approach: we named her, used her name in a few sentences and went to sleep. This morning, she was gone. I do believe she ate our lizards though.

Our friends had one too – they killed it. He killed it, she cleaned up: “Of course we killed it! I donKt want to sleepwith a spider in my room!”hen you say it that way…

If it all goes according to plan…

After about 10 weeks without plans, we have decided to spice things up a little. We’ve been pretty lucky with wifi access recently and have decided to put it to good use. We researched and planned.

This is what we hope to book for the rest of the trip, at least if we are able to get the special rates we’re hoping for and if they’re all available. As you’ll notice, after all these weeks and a few bad experiences, we are starting to loose our patience for overpriced scruffy bungalows and are going to the other extreme: if I have to go above budget, I will at least enjoy it!

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia: Fathers Guesthouse for some cool weather, free wifi and good hikes. We are hoping to see the largest flower in the world and to do some tea tasting.

Kecil Island, Perhentians, Malaysia: Maya Beach Resort. Ten minutes walk from the main town but on a quiet, more secluded beach. Hoping it’ll beat Koh Phangan. Still hesitant though so comments and suggestions are welcome if anyone has been to the area.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Hotel Maya. Another Maya although we’re a bit hesitant about this one as we are a bit unsure about the location. The hotel itself seems amazing – floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Petronas towers and free in-room cocktail every night? Yes!

Singapore: The Scarlet Boutique hotel witha  rooftop bar in the heart of Chinatown, just so we end in style.

So that is the plan… but it changes by the day. Any suggestion?