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Filipino American Expat in Singapore

Leeches, lightning, hornets… these are some of the things I’m fearful of. So when you put all of these things together, you can imagine the fear on my face. I get squeamish at the sight of blood. A bolt of lightning is terrifying and it gives me goosebumps. Seeing any insect in large quantity, concentrated over one area… also one of my greatest fears.

Our destination was Kota Tinggi, Malaysia. One of my teammates is an avid mountain climber and he volunteered to lead a group of some newbies up Gunung Panti… a small mountain near Kota Tinggi with a teeming population of leeches. How did I prepare?

I looked for the thickest socks I could find in my cabinet.

Pre-climb and personal prep

We had two pre-climb meetings to discuss assignments. I was assigned to bring bread, rice, tuna, and an entertainment beverage. I bought two loafs of sliced bread, about 2.5 kg of rice, and four cans of tuna.

I had no tent so I would be sharing with some teammates.

What else did I pack?

  • My old trusty JanSport
  • 1.5L bottles of water – 2x
  • Running shoes (not recommended, wear appropriate stuff)
  • Thick socks
  • Loose jogging pants
  • Dry-fit shirts
  • Underwear
  • Travel towel
  • Slippers
  • Umbrella (not really necessary)
  • Bluetooth speakers (by request)
  • Tupperwear with plastic spoon and fork in lieu of meal kit

Waterproofing your bag is necessary. I wrapped all my packed clothes into plastic bags and tied them up. My JanSport did not have a rain cover.

Also, a Spotify playlist tailor-made for my trip. 😛

Getting there by public transportation

We met at Kranji MRT at 7:00 AM. We packed ourselves into a yellow Causeway Link bus that brought us to Woodlands Checkpoint. Automated immigration was bogged down (hello, Deepavali weekend). After immigration, we took the connecting bus to Johor Bahru Checkpoint (Malaysia’s massive immigration hall) before taking another bus to get us to Larkin.

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From Larkin Bus Terminal, it took about an hour and a half to reach Kota Tinggi. It’s a sleepy Malaysian town which reminded me so much of Pampanga. Our group leader “Kap” Cal brought us to Secret Recipe where we loaded on lunch. Taxi arrangements were made to take us to the jump-off point afterwards.

Gunung Panti, almost!

Three old taxis took our group to the jump-off point. There was a torrential downpour on the way there… which only made my anxiety better!

BABY STRINGS OF LEECHES DROPPING FROM TREES… SWIMMING IN PUDDLES… WEEEEEE… LEECHES FEASTING ON YOUR SKIN… LEECHES GOSSIPING WITH EACH OTHER AS THEY FEAST ON YOUR SKIN…

The passing storm subsided at the jump-off point.

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Super wrapped na ako by this stage. T-shirt, mask, hat, socks, shoes… you could only recognize me by the glasses on my face.

Our group started walking down the guided trail and we were starting our ascent. At about 20 minutes in, we encountered this tour guide and a group of students descending from the mountain. The tour guide turned us around saying that we needed a permit to climb Gunung Panti. Kap Cal was surprised as he’d climbed this mountain several times.

We made our way back down. My anxiety also went down.

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Our trip was over?!

Like a man on a mission, Kap Cal had a Plan B… to be continued. 🙂

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