I used to live off ‘murder-mile’ in Clapton, London and I remember a CD I used to play at night (to drown out the frequent police sirens!) – recordings of sounds from the rain forest that I only dreamed of visiting. So, by the time I finally came to Malaysia I was very impatient to get out into the jungle and spend some time learning junglecraft skills from the natives.

I was surprised to find how difficult this was to do – Malaysia hasn’t yet realised the potential for eco-tourism in the forests and the Orang Asli (the indigenous people of Malaysia) I met were not keen to take strangers into the forest, particularly wet-behind-the-ears newbies to the jungle like myself.

Over the years I met quite a few Orang Asli and many of them seemed to me to be slightly ‘cut-adrift’ and lost somewhere between their traditional culture and the modern world. They are often quite insular and private and this is perhaps partly because of the way they’ve been treated and the many problems they’ve had over land rights.

All this is to say that the Orang Asli are in a difficult position here in Malaysia and many feel resigned to a gradual assimilation into a modern culture that they are often not well adapted for and a erosion of their traditional way of life.

So when Keong (from Rainforest Adventures) introduced me to an Orang Asli named Raman it was, for me, a real pleasure. Here was an Orang Asli who was passionate about keeping the traditional Orang Asli way of life intact, very open about sharing his knowledge and both very organized and extremely hard working.

A couple of weeks ago I went for a short trek with Raman in the forest and his knowledge of the plants and trees was simply amazing. As someone who has had tried to track down this sort of information for years it was simply a delight to come across someone who had it all in his head!

Raman brought his whole family along while I was shooting the video, and everyone was busy getting lunch ready and sorting out odd jobs on the farm.  The kids were sent off to collect firewood and happily climbed up the hill with a parang  – future jungle experts in the making!

I’m ashamed to say that my first thought after meeting Raman was that it would be best to keep the existence of such a gold mine of junglecraft information secret so that I would be able to call on him whenever I wanted without others taking up his time. But I pushed that unworthy thought aside and decided to do this video instead so that anyone interested in junglecraft can look him up and learn from him for themselves.

Raman has a small kebun (farm plot) in the forest at Gombak – not far from the Orang Asli museum, so it’s really very close to KL indeed. If you are visiting Malaysia and want to get try a night or two in the jungle it is a perfect place to start or, if you are interested in learning some jungle skills or going jungle trekking this also can be arranged.

Anyone interested in meeting Raman or staying over at his farm can contact him directly on O12 644 5575. Please note that he doesn’t speak very much English, so if you don’t speak Malay it would be better if you arranged things through Keong on O12 511 3690 or by email at keong@sepuh-crafts.com.

I know Keong will be familiar to many of you already; he is a great guy who is doing a lot to help the Orang Asli and a pioneer for promoting wilderness activities in Malaysia. For those who don’t know who he is, check out his website which has some great accounts of jungle adventures and native skills.

Keong also sells parangs – in fact I bought one from him the other day (and very nice it is too!) – and he specializes in authentic, hand made parangs from East Malaysia.   If you are interested in knowing more, check out his Sepuh crafts website.

One last thing I wanted to say about the Orang Asli is that whenever you go into the jungle with them you’ll notice how relaxed and unhurried they are – it’s a great thing to learn about the jungle:  to you slow your pace down and not to rush. 

After all, what’s the hurry?