Queen Elizabeth’s second son slipped quietly into Belum, in northern Perak, and was determined to have a “holiday of a lifetime” before returning to England for his nephew’s big day. Britain’s Prince Andrew, who has represented British business interests since 2001, decided to take a break before the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on April 29, in London.
“Whatever happens, you must preserve your treasures – Belum and Temenggor.” ~Prince Andrew
Andrew told the Ipoh Echo of his difficulty going on “normal” holidays, away from the publicity glare and intense media interest: “I really envy the people who can just take a plane or drive somewhere, without having hordes of security personnel or the media pack and curious onlookers following.”
It is a sign of Andrew’s determination to enjoy Malaysian hospitality and to experience a stay in one of the world’s oldest rainforests that he was prepared to forego protocol and the usual luxuries extended to the fourth in the line of succession to the British throne.
Prince Chooses Belum Eco Resort
The Ipoh Echo, the only paper given access to the Prince, accompanied him throughout his Belum escape. With a busy schedule back in UK, Andrew had chosen to spend his time on the 3-day, 2-night package at the Belum Eco Resort on Temenggor Discovery Island. During the 7-km boat ride from the Banding Island Jetty, Andrew, who is a keen bird-watcher and wildlife enthusiast, marvelled at the several species of tropical birds.
The island’s accommodation, which consists of small, twin-bedded bamboo chalets with attap roofs and an open-air balconies, was fit for a king. Within hours of arriving, Andrew was thoroughly refreshed after his first experience in a shower which was completely open to the elements.
“This must be one of the best showers I have had in my life – icy cold water, being so close to nature and a stunning view over the waters, towards the emerald green of the jungle in the distance,” beamed the prince.
Andrew, who had seen active military service in his younger days, negotiated the rough terrain between the chalets and the main resort building with ease. His interest in the multi-media presentations about the lake and its wildlife, completely absorbed him.
Ten Hornbill Species
On the second morning, Andrew was up for an early morning boat trip, courtesy of the proprietors of the resort, to view the hornbills. Perak is known to have all ten of Malaysia’s hornbill species unlike Sarawak, which only has eight species.
Andrew’s patience was rewarded when several hundred hornbills flew overhead. It was a breathtaking sight, and the prince was able to record this on camera to take home to England. Much of his day, was later spent on swimming, fishing and canoeing on the lake.
The second morning saw another early start, complete with a very steep trek to Pulau Tujuh and its seven waterfalls. There had been a heavy downpour the previous night and some of the trekkers had to don several layers of clothes or wear long-sleeved shirts, as they shivered in the dipped temperatures of dawn. Heavy mist still shrouded the tops of the trees, on the peaks in the jungle.
“But for the leeches, and the tropical foliage, you would think this was England,” joked Andrew who was surprised that early mornings in the tropics could be relatively freezing.
As the party trudged along the jungle path, Andrew was fascinated with a clump of bamboo, because dinner, the previous night, had consisted of rice and jungle fowl cooked in bamboo over a charcoal fire. Steven showed the prince how thick bamboo sections were cut from the older bamboo clumps.
Delighted with Menu
“That is what I like about the resort. The food tends towards a spicy fusion of local fruit, vegetables and jungle produce,” said Andrew who was delighted with the bespoke menu provided by the resort owners.
Later that night, the royal guest spent a night in a hide overlooking a salt-lick, one of the 60 scattered in Belum, to see if he could spot any wildlife. As luck would have it, Andrew managed to spot the Sambar deer and a tapir. When daylight came, Andrew recognised a variety of animal tracks like the kijang, elephants, wild boar and seladang, criss-crossing the salt-lick.
Perhaps, the only regret that Prince Andrew had was the amount of litter at the Pulau Banding jetty, the ugly government construction in the centre of the Orang Asli village and the fact that there were no Rafflesias in bloom. His horror to see indiscriminate logging and destruction of the rainforest was also another of his disappointments.
Just before Andrew left the country, he was interviewed at the home of the English couple Mr and Mrs Pillarofo, who have been living in Ipoh since the Emergency.
Although the whirlwind tour had whetted the Prince’s appetite for more adventure holidays, he doubted that he would be able to make another incognito visit like this one. “Never say never,” said the prince. “My daughters (Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie) might want an adventure holiday and I might be lucky enough to accompany them.
Holiday of a Lifetime
“Belum is certainly the holiday of a lifetime and an escape in the truest sense; the virgin rainforest, the wildlife, the birds, the flora and stunning views from Talikali viewpoint. And who could forget the ancient limestone hills and the fiery sunsets over Temenggor Lake? “Whatever happens, you must preserve your treasures – Belum and Temenggor.”