Isn't it common when someone shares his/her experience at a waterfall, they usually describe how beautiful it looks: the tall, cascading drop, the magnificent spread of the fall, or the little rainbow that appears only at a specific time of the day?
And then they go on describing the activities: a picnic by the pool, water abseiling, or sliding down the rocks.
But seldom, if ever, do they mention its incredible sound. While I agree that the sight is unforgettable and the activities are memorable, more often than not, we take for granted what the outdoors fully have in store for us - to connect with all our senses, to listen.
This revelation came to me in my hike at the Kanching Falls, near Templer's Park, just outside Kuala Lumpur.
My cousin and I were looking for a place to hike and we did some research at the website waterfallsofmalaysia.com.
This is a great place to find waterfalls. It categorises them by location (state) and difficulty, so one can easily pick which is the most suitable to drive to and trek in.
Blessed with our rainforests (and rain most times of the year!), I came to realise just how many waterfalls there are near where I live and how I had been oblivious to them before.
But it's never too late to start. We picked Kanching Falls because it has multiple cascading-type falls and as the website described, "the upper falls require trekking". Perfect!
We arrived early in the morning to avoid the crowd - we had read that the lower falls are usually full of visitors. After paying RM2.12 (12 sen for GST) for the park fees, we began our hike.
It wasn't too far from the entrance when we stumbled upon our first short but strong waterfall. Then we continued hiking and came across pools with man-made structures, such as bridges and walls, which were not in the best shape. However, the place was clean, as I noticed janitors performing their duty.
We continued upwards, step by step, and left the concrete pathway; the sound of gushing water as our compass.
When I was standing near the base of the upper falls, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer currents.
We watched as the water flowed down, level by level, and we set our target to reach the top.
Soon, we were hiking by the side of the waterfall, following the fairly traceable markers along the way.
Here was where the adventure began - stepping on rocks, holding on to roots, all the while listening to the music the waterfall created.
We made several pit stops on our way up, each rewarding us with a different angle of the waterfall and the surrounding view of the rainforest.
"You're not far from the top," we were told by some hikers coming down and we continued. In a few minutes, we were there, watching the water come to our feet and then flow down.
There was a stream leading further into the forest and we followed until we saw a "No Entry" sign; then we returned to where we felt was the most scenic and fun pool to immerse ourselves in.
There was no one else but us, a private pool in nature, and that was when I truly listened. Each water droplet drummed the rocks, the wind hit the leaves like an accomplished pianist playing his piano, and a harmonic piece of music was composed.
It is not every day that one gets to hear such a song, indeed it's a luxury for one who lives in the concrete jungle.
The powerful yet soothing sounds calmed the mind, soul and body, after our hike.
I opened my ears and chose what I wanted to hear: harmony. No talking. Just soaking in the water while enjoying the sounds and the view.
When we left, it was crowded at the lower falls. Instead of noise, I chose to hear the laughter of children playing at the pool.
There were monkeys too, and I was sure I heard them, along with footsteps and my breathing. Yes, I had suddenly become "present" to these sounds.
I learned to filter the unnecessary, whether in a busy or quiet environment, and to respect the thoughts that came with it.
Sounds of silence
It is not just with waterfalls that I find such pleasure. In my previous weekend, my family and I headed to Damai Laut in Lumut, Perak, and I was again granted the opportunity to listen to nature - at the beach.
After filling our tummies at nearby Sitiawan town, we headed to the beach in the evening.
The water sports sure looked tempting but by just strolling along the beach, one can do less but perhaps enjoy more.
I stood, enjoying the whistling of the breeze in my ears and the rhythmic crashing of waves on the shore.
Then I realised something more: a pretty sunset over the horizon. "What sound does it make?" I pondered. Nothing and that was the beauty of it. There is no whoosh or chime when the sun sets.
So how could it seem to "sound" so good when there is no sound at all? Consider this: it is the silence that makes the sound; it engages our senses to reflect our day, indeed, even our life.
The "sounds" only we can "hear" in our minds with silence are something that we decide if it is good, desirable music, or a bad song. When the sun sets, the track ends, and we start to compose another for tomorrow.
So, once in a while, unplug the music player on your smartphone, unplug from the constant chatter, and plug in to the sounds around you.
I've since learned that you don't even need to go far - it could well be in your neighbourhood, at a corner you sort of knew but never really experienced. There may be a message for you to heed when you listen.
Go out and be serenaded by the sounds the world has on its tracks, and create your own song.