Posted on 18 October 2011.
Have just had the very tiring drive down to Kuala Lumpur, 5 hrs involved, but Natalie and Wong are happy as the traffic was quite light – sometimes the journey can have an extra hour or two added! One of the highlights was at the toilet stop. I found a little lizard secreted in the bushes catching the (very large) ants! It was very cute and kept cocking its head toward me as if to say ‘what are you looking at?’ The other point of interest on the long drive back to KL was passing through some amazing mountain formations known as the Lost World of Tambun…..wow, now I feel like i’m in some kind of Jurassic Park sequel!! Apparently there is a theme park secreted within the hills, so thats definitely on my to-do list – it really does look amazing.
So I arrive at the hotel in KL, The Gardens Mid Valley. I stay here each time I come now, I like the familiarity when you are so far away from home…..the bellboy recognises me ‘Ahhhh Miss Julie, you visit us again’ (he remembers me because the first time I stayed we had a long conversation about the English Premier League – he supports United and I support the mighty Wanderers!) I get the same room each time, I don’t even need to request it, they just check my record from last time….same again, its the familiarity that keeps you sane.
Unfortunately even though I have been in Malaysia since the weekend, for some reason my business card isn’t accepted - just what you need after a long tiring day. Anyway they know i’ve stayed there before and are quite happy for me to check in and for me to ring the UK to sort it out and the following morning the card goes through without a hitch.
I am picked up at 9am the following day to try and avoid the worst of the city traffic, and so it gives me plenty of time to get ready. On the way to our first appointment with a large cosmetics company, we pass the local Carlsberg factory. And do you know what??….the adverts are spot on……….Every Friday the workers are given free beer (as much as they want) after they finish their shifts…..now thats what i call keeping your employees happy!!! If I decide to change jobs at any point then it might be worth sending a CV off to Carlsberg just for the perks!!
I also learn about the largest flower in Malaysia. The subject comes up because we are listening to the local radio station (you spend rather a lot of time in the car travelling from one meeting to another), that plays a mix of 80’s and current UK pop music, so you can hum along to Kylie and Jason one minute and then be shimmying along to Rhianna the next. Anyway, inbetween the eclectic music there is a quiz that asks the name of this large flower…unfortunately he gets the answer wrong and thats the end of his chance to win 1000 ringgits, however Nat and Wong knew it, and then begin to tell me about it. It only grows in 2 places in Malaysia and even then, it is very secretive. It grows deep in the jungle and you have to trek a couple of days to catch a glimpse of it. It only flowers once a year and so if you do see it, it is considered very lucky indeed. Natalie has indeed forayed into the jungle for a peek and although she did find the plant, it wasn’t in flower at the time.
It is called the Borneo Rafflesia, and it turns out that it is not only Malaysia’s largest flower but the world’s largest! I found the following information on the internet, and hope you enjoy reading about it.
In the year 1818, Sir Stamford Raffles was posted as Governor to Bencoolen in Sumatra which was then, the administrative centre for the British East India Company for Western Sumatra. Raffles’s interest in natural sciences was insatiable.
A respected and popular member of the Royal Society in London, Raffles arranged and persuaded a fellow society member – Dr.Joseph Arnold to accompany him on an expedition into the interiors of Sumatra. It was on one of these expeditions that they stumbled on a discovery which was to puzzle botanists for a long time. Unfortunately, Dr Arnold died because of jungle fever before presenting the report to the society.
Rafflesia are endemic to Southeast Asia, and of the recorded 17 known species, the Rafflesia flowers have been found only in Indonesia – Sumatra and Java, Malaysia, including Borneo island and south Thailand. Rafflesias have small, brownish, scale like leaves and fleshy, foul-smelling flowers of various sizes from a few inches to a meter big in diameter. Rafflesia is classified as a parasite, which means it just takes the nutrient out of its host.
The Rafflesia can be found in tropical rainforests where the climate is continuously warm and humid, with very high humidity. The Rafflesia is rare and fairly hard to locate. It is especially difficult to see in bloom; the buds take up to 10 months to develop and the blossom lasts for just a few days and how many of these strange plants that survive in primary rainforest is still unknown.
The buds that form before blooming are the size of a cabbage. The large fleshy flower is the flower’s sexual organ. There is a deep well in the centre of the flower containing a central raised disc that supports many vertical spines. The sexual organs are located beneath the rim of the disk, and male and female flowers are separate.
The reddish brown colors of the petals sprinkled with white freckles, exudes the most unpleasant stench, similar to rotting flesh or carrion. Some people believe that the stench attracts flies and insects which help disperse the seeds. In order for the seed to germinate, it was found that the vine of the host plant must be damaged in some way so that the filaments of the seed may infiltrate successfully. The damage to the host vines could be made by trampling hoofs of large animals. The seeds would then adhere to the passing animals’ hoofs and are transported to other places where they can find host plants to attach to.
So the next time you are out and about in the countryside having a stroll, take a minute out to have a good smell….then thank your lucky stars that the British weather is too wet and cold for the fetid Rafflesia.
So, thats all for my blog today, dont forget to check back for the rest of my Eastern adventures…….