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We’d read about the nightly dazzling performances given by fireflies along the Sungai Selangor and decided we’d venture off the tourist track to experience them. Wow! We were so glad we did; it was such a magical sight – bush upon bush twinkled like pinprick fairy lights at Christmas against a jet black sky, just beautiful. When the mesmerising creatures landed on our hands it sent a shiver of excitement up our spines. Unable to take photos using a flash (apparently it can kill the fireflies), we’ve had to commit the memory to our minds rather than on camera! See how terrible these photos are!

A firefly on Lola’s hand!

Loving the stays when we’re in the home of locals best, we booked a room in Pasir Penambanh, a small fishing village on the northern side of the river. The space is operated by Lu, along with a team of local residents, whose family used to run a fishing warehouse there – the fish would be brought in, weighed and packaged up.

Artefacts from this time are a backdrop to the common area, so it was like sitting in a fishing museum.  It made us feel a connection to the past and understand the importance of this building, and the others alongside it, which sit on stilts on the river’s edge.

Next door’s house on stilts.

With my teacher’s hat on, I was particularly interested in the abacus. Lu explained that learning how to use this resource meant that he (and all his peers who learnt it at school) have the most amazing mental arithmetic skills. They can almost immediately calculate any of the four operations (multiplication, division, addition and subtraction) by visualising it in their heads!

The main lounge leads onto an expansive terrace that offers the most incredible views over the wide calm river. Entranced, we watched stunning sunsets, eagles soaring overhead and lunging for prey in the water, fishermen going about their daily lives and even a sea otter swimming right by us.

Lu taught us how to play local games, and we had hours of fun listening to the lapping river and chilled music whilst playing.

The nearest town, Kuala Selangor, is an old royal capital that was briefly conquered by the Dutch when they invaded Selangor in 1784. Evidence of this time takes the form of the remains of a hilltop fort and a lighthouse, which sit atop Bukit Malawati, overlooking the town and sea beyond.

As we admired the views, tame silver leaf monkeys hung around. Jake became particularly friendly with them…

On our final day, we noticed a group of people walking around the town, led by a medium/religious specialist/shaman (we are not entirely sure what their official name is). They were pitching flags from the local Chinese temple, and burning incense and religious paper.

Intrigued by the ritual, we asked Lu about it. He explained that under the Chinese religion, Taoism, people use ’mediums’, who can reach higher spiritual states, to ask advice or help from the gods/spirits, and also to receive happiness and health. That evening, the village held a festival at the temple. Giant candle-like structures dotted around the grounds, incense filled the air, food stalls lined the roads (closed by community police), and a main stage emitted strobe lighting and boomed Chinese techno pop music mixed with Chinese love songs, as an array of glittering dancers and singers belted out their tunes. Meanwhile, 4 or 5 mediums were being embodied by the gods: they were shaking and calling out in an altered state for their usual behaviour. To some, it may have looked a little scary, but with so many people around and a slight understanding that this was taking place for the good of the community and was a happy event, we took it all in, fascinated.

The tranquillity of this place and the kindness of its people instilled a calmness in us and we were sorry to leave.