Though small in stature, Kak Ita packs an authoritative figure as she tosses and spins her dough. The sizzle of the oiled pan as it grills the dough is offering amazing temptations to the senses. She’ll carefully watch her dough until it becomes the thin, crispy, and lightly charred Roti Canai that greets every hungry hiker in her small, rustic hut in Kampong Sri Gunung Pulai.
Packing an equally mean punch is her homemade savoury chilli paste that is both sweet and spicy. It’s a “must have” companion to go with the roti canai or the nasi lemak in Kak Ita’s Anggun café, which is open Monday thru Saturday from 6am to 12pm.
“I was born here,” she says, effortlessly folding the thinly spread dough into its circular shape. “I have been doing this since my youth and I know all my customers’ faces.”
Indeed, the huge teacup landmark bearing the name Anggun Café is a sight you cannot miss when driving into Kampong Sri Gunung Pulai. It’s the sole road that leads to the starting trailhead of Gunung Pulai, a 654m mountain set in a 80 sq km forest reserve closest to Johor Bahru and Singapore.
The beneficiaries of Kak Ita’s culinary goodness must be the hikers. Everyone who has ever hiked at Gunung Pulai has either had their attention drawn to this interesting teacup or lured in by the pungent fragrance of the chilli paste and grilled dough.
Gunung Pulai, which is also known as Mount Pulai, is one of the more famous hiking spots in Johor. It’s about 90 km from Singapore and is approximately 700 meters above sea level, so it is an easy visit from Singapore. A heavily guarded base located at the summit of this mount houses 2 telecommunication towers, while another tower lies slightly lower, just off the summit. The rainforest and waterfall, coupled with the wildlife one gets to spot here, attracts adventurous hikers to this trail.
Having a belly full of Kak Ita’s Roti Canai and chili paste just enhances the attraction.
Reasons why everyone in Singapore should visit Gunung Pulai at least once:
#1. There’s a historic connection.
Gunung Pulai is part of the Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest which reservoir serves as a water catchment area that runs to the Johore River. It’s part of an entire reservoir complex that allows Singapre to get most of its water supply every day until 2061, according to terms under the 1962 Water Treaty that was signed between the Singapore and Malaysian governments.
#2. It’s a nature playground there.
With the enhancement being carried out at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve until 2016, there is limited access to Singapore’s highest hill, which stands at 164m, and the nation’s primary forest, which is 1.64 square kilometre and 400 acres. Compare this to Gunung Pulai, which stands at 654m and covers an area of 80 square kilometres, and it’s easy to see how adventure awaits.
Take the jungle trail up and you will be engulfed by the loud noises of cicadas and crickets while shaded by the canopies of the tall trees. Get up close and personal with the Southern Pig-tailed Macaque as it swings freely in search of the fruits provided by the forest. The call of the gibbons is out there as well. Listen to their communication across the forest and its vibrancy is the perfect finishing touch on a beautiful day in nature.
#3. Take a food trail.
What better way to reward yourself for a hard morning’s workout then by going on a food trail at the nearby town of Kulai? It’s less than a 30-minute drive away from Gunung Pulai. Well known for its rusticity and old world charms, stopovers in Kulai after a morning adventure on Gunung Pulai seems to be a normal itinerary for most hikers.
Check out the list of food offerings in the town of Kulai compiled by hiking buddy Tony over at the amazing Johor Kaki Food blog. (Click image)
That’s alll the good that Gunung Pulai brings to all of us. It is important that we also bring the good to Gunung Pulai. One recent disturbing sight at the waterfall near the foot of hill is the amount of rubbish that has accumulated there. There is no proper maintenance plan in place by the relevant authorities, so it is up to each of us to take responsibility for what we bring into nature.
Though there are calls for clean up Gunung Pulai found in blogs, there has still been no action taken yet, judging from the pics I took few days ago.
Waterfalls are not rubbish containers.
We believe that actions must be combined with words to make the greatest impact possible. We want our readers and participants to get involved by taking responsibility for what they take along for their adventure and care for our natural environment. To help solve this problem at Gunung Pulai, we will be adopting the area as Trek For Hope‘s training ground.
Here’s the plan: we will plan to do monthly weekend hiking sessions where we will train and also pick up the litter that exists in this incredible area. Afterward, participants are all invited to go on the Kulai food trail after training and cleanup work is complete. If you would like to partner and join us for this meaningful cause, please like us on the Trek For Hope Facebook page where each event will be announced.
It’s never pleasant to pick up the litter of others. This is why we should not leave our own… but having the reward of Kulai’s fantastic foods for a job well done is something that makes any worry just melt away.
Other references to this story:
Trekking at Hutan Lipur Gunung Pulai by Tony, owner of Johor Kaki Blog
We thank NLB, Tony and fellow hikers, for the use of some images in this story
<19 May 2015> Read about our waterfall cleanup at Gunung Pulai here