Eating in Taman Negara

There are not a whole lot of options eating for eating at Taman Negara.

But the good news is, it’s not all bad news.

A view of the world's oldest rainforest from Bukit Teresek

A view of the world's oldest rainforest from Bukit Teresek

If you are staying at the significantly more expensive Mutiara Taman Negara, you will have a continental buffet breakfast included.

The continental breakfast is an odd assortment, of mainly Western options – a salad bar lacking in imagination, sausages, beef bacon, baked beans, hash browns, fried bee hoon, fried rice, porridge and other basic buffet options.

Sometimes you’ll get nasi lemak where you have to hunt for standards like cucumber in the salad section. The sambal with ikan bilis (anchovies) is really quite good.

Nasi Lemak at the Mutiara with overdone eggs over easy

Nasi Lemak at the Mutiara with overdone eggs over easy

Of interest is an eggs station where you can have eggs done to your liking. You can also ask for scrambled eggs with any of these additions: chilli, red and green peppers, onions or cheese. However, they will do the scrambled eggs in, what I call, Asian style ie, overcooked. So if you like your scrambled eggs soft in the middle, do ask them to stop. Eggs over easy will also render the yolks completely cooked. But at least, you do not get that trademark Singapore look of blur-ness when you do ask for it.

In short, the breakfast at the hotel was better than I expected.

The same restaurant also offers dinner at typical hotel prices: a steak and lamb chop cost around RM45, nasi lemak and nasi goreng (that includes more substantial chicken, satay, egg and so on) about RM20.

Considering how far this place is from everywhere else, it’s not that expensive. However, since there are cheaper options, I never tried dinner here.

Across the tributary from the Mutiara is the little town of Kuala Tahan. It is from this town that one can hire a boat more cheaply (RM1) and quickly to get to Taman Negara. The other is Kuala Tembeling that is a RM35 3-hour boat ride away.

View of Kuala Tahan from across the Tembeling River

View of Kuala Tahan from across the Tembeling River

There are about 10 floating restaurants on the other side of the river, and every one of them has a boat service. You don’t necessarily have to eat at the place the boat brings you to.

Floating Restaurants at Kuala Tahan

Floating Restaurants at Kuala Tahan

To get a boat over, you simply wave at anyone over on the other side, and one will come over in less than a minute. By the time you fumble for change to pay the boat man, you’ll be on the other side.

As it costs RM1 to get across. So you’ll have to add RM2 per person to get a meal there, if you are staying at the Mutiara. Considering that most dishes are on average RM6, you can see why many choose to eat here instead, even though they lodge at the Mutiara.

I was able to sample food and/or drink at 5 different establishments – Wan’s Floating Restaurant, Mama Chop, Liana’s, Family Restaurant and Nusa Restaurant.

All the restaurants will offer options for Caucasians such as pancakes, burgers and fries. The menus do not vary that much: fried noodles or fried rice with vegetables or with various meat options. Thai = tomyam in these parts.

At Nusa, I found the best ice lemon tea for RM1.80 (Mama Chop RM2.50; Liana’s RM1.30). Stay away from the chicken curry rice, unless you like watered down curry that is more similar to poor quality sayur lodeh with little coconut.

Nusa Restaurant

Nusa Restaurant

The fried rice, however, was surprisingly good. It had enough “wok hei”, as the Cantonese would say. This is where the heat is so great that the flames add an extra flavour to this dish.

At Wan’s Floating Restaurant, I decided to try a Western Food option – to see if the foreigners have it better than the locals and ordered a burger. The burger looked good. But the patty was burnt, the bun was crispy because it was stale and there was nothing redeeming about it.

Terrible Burger at Wan's Floating Restaurant

Terrible Burger at Wan's Floating Restaurant

The fried chicken was described as “in pieces, with chilli and onion”, was really one fried chicken wing with a stingy amount of sliced chilli, sliced onion and sliced vegetables that seemed to be marinated in oil. The seafood kway teow tasted pretty good, but was too oily.

I only had a drink at Mama Chop, the last restaurant on the row, tucked away and hard to get to. But that allowed me to take a look at the menu. You can get alcohol at this restaurant if you sit on the other side of an embankment. The drinks were much pricier than at other restaurants and food priced generally higher. The lemon tea here was pretty good, but not as good, nor as cheap as that from Nusa.

The cheapest meal I had was at Liana’s. The fried noodle was too sweet, the lemon tea was watered down, and the fried rice was just okay, though much better than that at the Family Restaurant.

If you like a waiter who knows nothing about the food he serves and prefers to act cool behind a pair of sunglasses while taking an order, then you will enjoy dining at the Family Restaurant. There were plenty of Europeans here when I decided to give the place a try.

Besides the usual, they even offer milk shakes here. I watched the faces of two European customers as they had their first taste of their milk shakes. They looked confused more than anything, but they continued to consume their drinks.

I had a horrible mango juice that they decided to serve blended. The ice was coarse and rough. There was hardly any mango flavour. The “Local Fried Rice” was mushy and oily. The broth of the tomyam seafood was pretty good and was rich with prawn flavour.

Family Restaurant: Finger Licking Good?

Family Restaurant: Finger Licking Good?

Even if you love tomyam flavoured dishes in any form however, I would recommend staying away from the Family Restaurant. I observed disturbing behaviour of the woman in-charge of making beverages and packing food for take-away. I shall call her Cat Woman.

When Cat Woman was preparing drinks, I spotted her lick her entire palm after she squeezed something out of a packet. Then I saw her lick her fingers before she proceed to wrap them around a hamburger she placed in a plastic bag for the backpacker who ordered it out. She continued to lick her fingers while I was there, never once washing them.

If you insist on visiting the Family Restaurant after this, look out for a rather large breasted woman with shoulder length hair tied in a ponytail. She seems to have a preference for wearing yellow shirts, as I noted her wearing shirts of the same colour on consecutive days. Could be the same shirt. She might have licked it and put it on again.

I quickly ate my meal with visions of her saliva-covered hands touching my food.

Perhaps you wonder how I could have continued my meal. But sometimes it is better to suck it up, count it as an unforgettable and unpalatable experience and not make a fuss.

And there is one benefit: Not expecting my Taman Negara food experience to be worth discussing, I wasn’t intending to write this article. So you can thank Cat Woman for this.

History of Visits:
2010 March: Breakfast, lunch, dinner; Poor

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