I'm in Malaysia for a friend's wedding on Rebak Island, which is near Langkawi. I know there are nepenthes there so since I had a bit of extra time, I secured a guide to show me where they were. From what I understand, there are N. mirabilis, N. gracilis, and N. smilesii there.
I met my boat for the short trip to Langkawi before dawn and met my guide at the Marina. Turns out he doesn't know much about "monkey cups" except where they are. He has some on his farm in the flats, growing wild, which sound like N. mirabilis, but we never got there unfortunately. Instead we headed to the base of the highest mountain (or at least very close to it) on the Island, which was about 700 meters high. We parked in a small parking lot for some hotel's staff and headed into the dense jungle. There was a path, but it ended after maybe 100 meters at a small swimming hole at a river. Here, 2 minutes into this all-day hike, the guide mentions that there will be no more path, and we headed straight into the jungle and up the mountain. I don't know if you're familiar with the terrain here, but these mountains are very, very steep, like going up a staircase made of random rocks, leaves, holes, loose sandy dirt, and what I called the "malaysian tripping vine." It was truly exhausting. Less than halfway up, I was dripping with sweat in the humidity and heat. Dripping actually doesn't describe it - it was more like I was dunked in a pool. My guide, who grew up in the area and walks the hills every day just laughed at me. It was at this polint I plucked the first leach off of my hand.
I don't have a memory card reader on this small laptop so the pics will have to wait till I get home, but in all honesty there aren't that many as the hike involved arms and legs most of the time, and if we were to get to the "monkey cups" we had to press on. I was pretty excited because he described these nepenthes as growing at the very top of the mountain only, which is strange because I'm only aware of lowland species here. He says he can't get these ones to grow down on his farm where the others grow. Anyway, as we pressed on and I grew more and more exhausted I began to wonder if I'd make it. I'm in fairly good shape, but this was killing me. I'd gone through all my water and some of the guides by the time we got to the top. Along the way we saw two kinds of monkeys, some strange pygmy deer, missed the pythons he said were usually at one spot on a stream, and became intimately familiar with many kinds of bugs. Oh, it alsol turns out virtually everything here has thorns.
So after an eternity, and as my final energy stores were depleting, we found them. He says there were two kinds growing here, and to this moment I'm not convinced of that. Certainly there were two distinct looking pitchers, neither of which I immediately recognized, but one seemed to be uppers only and the other lowers only. It did appear that they were different, though. Anyway, there were a few surprising characteristics. First, this is the end of the two month dry season in Malaysia. For the most part, there were no pitchers, and the ground was bone dry. The nepenthes were growing right in dry soil that looked like clay and sand. It did not look like what nepenthes usually grow in. They were small - I'd guess that they were about four or five inches for the greenish uppers, and 2 inches for the tiny red thorellii-looking lowers. They never appeared on the same plant, hence the confusion. There was fairly dense undergrowth, and the slope at this point was about 60 degrees. It was actually pretty dangerous just hiking through here - and again it had been hours since there was anything resembling a trail. I did get some good pictures here, and have a good representation of what the plants and pitchers look like, so I'm really anxious to get some ID help. The guide says that there were thousands more of these plants the rest of the way up, of the exact same variety, and that they were only slightly bigger further up. With the hours getting late, the water diminishing, and nearly dead with exhaustion (I don't want to be gross, but my long, thick cargo pants were 100% soaked through with sweat), and with the terrain nearly impassible, we decided to head down.
It was on the way down that I realized truly how exhausted I was. First my left leg started to cramp up. Then another part of the leg - then my torso. The water was pretty much gone when we got back to the swimming hole a couple hours later. I've never been that spent, physically. I was cramping up over my whole body. When we got to the car I thought I was going to pass out as my fingers were going numb. We stopped for more water, which I just poured down my throat, and some of the local "gatorade" like beverage, called 100 Plus or something. It was actually kind of scary, and I was in no shape to go hike his farm looking for the nepenthes there. It seems disappointing now, but at the time there was simply no question.
So I had him drive me back to the marina, where there were signs welcoming guests to the very fancy wedding I'm here to attend. They gave me some strange looks as I looked like I'd returned from being lost in the jungle for 2 weeks. I got back to the room finally and collapsed, missing dinner, but I didn't care. I was alive, barely, and had some good stories to tell the other guests. All in all, it was a great adventure - my guide was wonderful (he seemed to know everything about every tree and plant, latin names included, except the "monkey cups". No matter, he knew where they were, and I'm confident that they are safe for the long-term. He almost never brings people to this mountain, and when he does, he says it's for challenging exercise. It takes superhuman strength to get there, though he looked like it was a walk in the park. Anyway, I thought it was very interesting that there are nepenthes that grow in the flats at near sea level (which I never saw), and then the only others at the very top of the tallest mountain. And I really expected different soil and conditions where they grew.
Many pics to follow when I get home!!