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Catastrophic Event at Dog Shelter

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In the last few months of hiatus, I’d spent my time with friends, relatives and catching up on outdoor pursuits all over Germany & Italy and getting a bit of underwater time in Egypt. I took a break from myself because I wanted to get more input to be able to give output. I was writing for work so much that I’ve lost some mojo in the things that once brought me such joy. One event led to the next, and though people may envy my travels, they don’t really know how disconnected I become when I come back from each trip, catching up on friends’ FB feed and desiring fellowship with great buddies. One friend got married, had a baby with a man I didn’t know she married because I thought she was still dating her long time boyfriend whom I happen to also know. I asked her privately, of course, much to my confusion and thankfully, it wasn’t as embarrassing as I thought it would be. Honesty and forthrightness go a long way to preserving relationships. I don’t believe in talking behind anyone’s back unless I’m giving them praises.

I got to a stage in life where I started to place importance in keeping friends who want to stay in touch, I began to keep away from those who are malignant. I became less attached to social media starting with my weaning off Twitter & Google+, using it only to communicate with several people pertaining to current issues. I stay in touch with good friends who are also busy, making no demands on their time as they made no demands on mine and when we meet, it would be as if no time had passed between us at all. I made a resolution last year to only write what would be of good cheer, useful and informative articles for the benefit of my audience who take the time to journey with me.

I was also getting over a traumatic event.

Just before the turn of the New Year, a Christmas party I attended at a dog shelter ended up in a disaster. I couldn’t write about it then because I was distraught and injured. What seemed to be a fine afternoon of celebration in the sun with cheery dogs running about, a sudden storm turned the river outside into a raging torrent that submerged the shelter and all other houses in the vicinity in over 2 metres of muddy water. 13 volunteers and workers including Puspa, the founder of the shelter, Aziz & myself, were scrambling to raise the cages & free the dogs but the flood waters rose so fast, there wasn’t enough time to get all to safety and dry ground resulting in deaths. Everyone did their best to get as many dogs out, those of us who could swim, were grabbing dogs paddling about to hoist them to higher platforms, those who couldn’t, were clinging on to several dogs on trees, pillars & roofs for their dear lives. The scene was right out of a catastrophic mudslide except that this happened in Kajang, on our soil, to our people. Having my supposedly waterproof Sony Xperia Z1 phone in my pocket while I swam to & fro the main gate of the shelter’s compound to call for help, had actually flooded it. If only I can get hold of the footage I filmed when the flood happened, it would give you an idea what we endured before risking our lives to save our dogs. The incident left many broken hearted.

The rain didn’t stop. When the waters rose passed knee deep. I began to pray. This was way beyond what I was trained for in disaster management and life saving but I couldn’t leave them stranded and knowing the majority of our nation could not swim, it was a call of duty. I knew Aziz could swim, having been educated in the U.K., I expected him to be able to. He was rescuing bags of food and the box of frozen chicken. I asked God what to do. By then, the water had reached my waist. A rat swam frantically by. There was also a snake in the water. I didn’t flinch. I was just stunned. It was barely minutes. I had a backpack filled with documents, electronic gadgets, tablets & devices that weren’t protected. I pleaded for help. Lord, if you want me to do this right, please protect my belongings! God made me turn around & there, I saw a bungee cord hanging on the door! Then He showed me a pipe near the roof for me to climb up the window sill to tie my bag there. In my breath, I heaved a sigh of relief and gave thanks to God who always fished me out of trouble. Then the rescue really begun. I tried to stay calm and talked to those who couldn’t swim. We released all dogs within our perimeters to fend for themselves. My priority was human beings, dogs go to heaven any way. Dogs have an inbuilt ability to swim. Humans don’t. The larger dogs in the outside compound cages were freed in time and being social animals, they clamoured onto us & clung on for dear lives onto our shoulders and backs. If I wasn’t a strong swimmer, I would’ve drowned in all that weight. I tossed whoever was in my grasp to either Baskaran, the staff who got onto the higher platform with 20 other panicky dogs or Aziz who would bring the dogs to stand above the hoisted cages. Somehow, they know trouble was brewing. I couldn’t let my voice falter or they would hear my tone of distress that would trouble them even more. The last thing I needed was for the 20+ dogs to jump out of the holding platform at once to head for the torrential river outside the gate. I had scratches and bruises and like the rest, I wasn’t going to let go of them. Joey lost her car in the floods. It was almost like a repeat of Pulau Selat Kering back in 2009.

When the firemen finally got to us, they asked us how many we were and if there are children present. They asked us if we needed to be rescued in the waters well over my head. I said to them, where’s the boat, we only want to be rescued if we know we can leave here with our dogs. Bomba left us. Hmmm……I guess they don’t rescue dogs.

Thiaga from DAP, the party who came to our aid, offered Puspa a factory premise nearby to temporarily host the dogs till she can find something more permanent. Having had floods before, the current shelter is no longer a safe haven and she has got to move before another flood hits and by then, it wouldn’t be coinciding with any more parties with volunteers who know how to swim being present. Coming out to attend Pesta Balakong, the DAP councillor gave us new T-Shirts to change from our totally soaked & stinky attire. My foot was bleeding from having kicked some sharp object underwater but the pain was nothing compared to the pain of losing these beloved dogs in the flood. I don’t know the figures because I didn’t stay behind to witness the depressing sight which the workers had the terrible task of doing. More volunteers arrived after our calls for help reached social media. Anthony was my beacon. I never cried so hard before for the loss of these innocent lives caught in a catastrophe. It was something beyond our control. I cannot speak for the accusations levelled at Puspa on the running of the association but I was there at the scene with her to see her risk her life for her dogs. And so did her workers and volunteers present. I went home in a daze and washed my hair 3 times. I caught a chill but my thoughts were with MIAR. We can leave the incident but the incident can never leave us.

Upon hearing our ordeal, Steven Yong on behalf of HTC Malaysia came forward and gave the 13 of us at MIAR a replacement phone each. What a wonderful thing to do! A major commercial brand reached out to those who stayed behind for their four-legged friends. Thank you, HTC! The HTC Desire 610 is serving me very well. I’m reminded of the dogs that didn’t make it and the dogs that did. I asked God for a place in heaven for each one of them who crossed the Rainbow Bridge that day. And may those who lent a hand during the rescue and the post-rescue clean-up be blessed abundantly for answering the call for help. The empathy shown just blew me away.

Delights at Miss Ellie Teahouse

If there’s a place that you should go to for respite & be filled with an afternoon of treats, it would have to be at Miss Ellie Teahouse, a classic Tudor-styled English teahouse. The teahouse is located in the heart of a housing area in Taman Melawati & having opened less than 6 months, they are already whipping out more than 2 dozen kinds of main course, pastries & desserts to accompany your tea! Stepping into this teahouse was like stepping into someone’s home, decked in wooden furniture from the British Colonial days with wrought iron shelves displaying their finest selection of teas complemented by the rustic wooden beams on the ceiling! And it doesn’t even look old.

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The thought put into this place to complement Chef Justin Wong’s culinary creations was a combination of his preference for offering top class whipped delights in a cosy ambience replicating a homey feel when one sinks their teeth into his delectable desserts! He spent a great deal of time in Australia studying culinary arts before continuing as a chef in their shores. After several years of learning the trade, he returned to supervise the church’s ‘cafeteria ministry’ before deciding on opening his own tea house. Assisted by his mother, Nancy Wong, elder brother, Nigel & Auntie Helen, they embarked on a journey of keeping their hoards of foodie friends sated. With each dish served, one covets the next till just about every tooth is satisfied.

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Scones with strawberries & cream!

Starting the lunch course with Beef Casserole, it was followed by the creamiest of Créme Brulée & their signature Pandan Panna Cota. Staying a bit longer, the call of Scones was too powerful to ignore & we called upon Chef Justin to give us some of his classic concocted pleasures!

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Panoramic view from inside.

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Treats like these makes you want to have tea all day!

At Miss Elie Tea House, corners are created for you. Perfect if you are alone or when you need some privacy in this extra homey tea house. Even the washroom is decorated to make you feel like visiting twice.

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Everything is made with love!

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My favourite Créme Brulée……

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Unless you live in Taman Melawati, don’t trust your instincts to get you there. You need a GPS & Waze app preferably. They are located at 7 Jalan H3, Taman Melawati, Selangor, Malaysia & using Waze, by searching for Miss Ellie Teahouse using Foursquare connection. The GPS coordinates are GPS: N 03° 13.658’ E 101° 44.675’. Call them if your GPS fails – +603-41620113 or +6012-2055171.

They are found on Facebook at http://bit.ly/MissEllieTH. Like them for new stuff on the menu!

What To Find While Birding in Kuala Selangor

This month, Tourism Selangor takes us to celebrate the return of migratory birds & explore the resident species that make homes in the entire state. Migratory birds use the mangroves and coastal areas around Kuala Selangor as a transit area to feed and rest before continuing on their journey down south, much like a rest & relax area for birds! Kuala Selangor Nature Park has been designated as an Important Birding Area (IBA) – in compliance with internationally set criteria by BirdLife International. What can you find in this huge park? Let me take you to the permanent inhabitants……

Before you go, here are the list of things that you must carry on you when you set out on the long walk. You are not adviced to go if you don’t have these things on you.

  • Insect repellent <– compulsory. Midges will get you otherwise. These are nastier than mosquitoes & they come in swarms. Preferably, wear long sleeves or you will be considered as one with the colony of monkeys nearby.
  • Hat. The sun has no mercy. Stay cool & stay in the shade. Machismo can’t take you far in this park. Use a brolly if you have to. There are camouflage collapsible ones sold in tactical shops to prevent you from sticking out like a sore thumb as you wait for the birds.
  • Polarised sunglasses. <– you will need this to prevent you from squinting the whole day. Go to Peak Vision Optics & get yourself a pair of Cocoons.
  • Drinking water. <— compulsory. When you find a bird stalking a prey, you wouldn’t want to run back to the park office to get something to quench your thirst.
  • Batteries for all gadgets. Your phone, your camera, GPS, torch, whatever you need to power up everything for you to document the journey (of birds).
  • Portable/handheld fan. You will thank me for this.
  • Camouflaged attire or any green, brown or khaki coloured clothing will help you blend into the surroundings & get nearer to the birds.
  • Folding chair to rest at will. 🙂

Leave word with your friends & the park ranger of your expected time of return. They will send for a search party if you are caught ogling at birds longer than you should. We set off early in the morning to get there after breakfast. The loop around the wetlands is several kilometres long but you will see plenty if you keep your eyes peeled. The only migrants who arrived sooner than expected were the Blue Tailed Bee Eaters.

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Blue Tailed Bee Eaters. I think they were having a bit of a domestic quarrel here!

Walking along the fringe of the mangrove, we spotted a huge bird lying on the ground. When we got closer, it flew to the nearby trees, settling just above our eye level. It was a huge Crested Serpent Eagle! We had a good 20 minutes shooting it at all lighting conditions & angles never thought possible. A Black Naped Oriole was consistently attacking it to chase it away from its nest, assumed to be nearby. The eagle didn’t budge until it spotted a bigger morsel further into the jungle.

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Soaring above us was a White Bellied Sea Eagle, taken here just after a successful hunt. The fish it caught in its talons was a sizeable one! We weren’t really looking up into the sky if we weren’t having a break & thankfully, I had the camera ready. They will usually give out a shrill but most come unannounced when they hunt.

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Us taking a break in the shade while waiting for the kingfisher.

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Flying Lizard (Cicak Kubing)

Birds are not the only kind of wildlife we see in the park. There are Flying Lizards too! When we went up to a watchtower, we got to capture a few woodpeckers looking for worms in the woods.

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Spending a good 5 hours at the park & returning with all these beauties in our memory cards was all we came after. On the way back, we were treated to another session of birding when we saw a tree filled with nests that turned out to be Baya Weavers’ nests. Treading carefully & slowly, I was able to film one doing the deed! See video here:-

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They are normally built on the same tree.

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Closer look at the nest.

Coming away with a few residents & one migrant specie in my list is a great boon to come back again & again. More birds will be arriving in these shores as December approaches so it’s the best time to be watching them at Kuala Selangor Nature Park! Don’t forget that list of things to bring!

To get there, you can take the bus or taxi but it’s more advisable to drive.

(Taken from Wikipedia)
Visitors can board Selangor Bus No. 141 from Medan Pasar Bus Hub in Kuala Lumpur. The bus departs half-hourly from KL between 6.30am and 7.30pm, and takes 2 hours (++) to reach the bus terminal at Bandar Malawati, Kuala Selangor. (The last bus for the return trip from Kuala Selangor to KL is at 7.45pm) The one-way fare is RM7.30. The bus hub is about 100m north of Central Market. From Masjid Jamek LRT, walk 100m southeast along Jln Tun Perak before turning right into Lebuh Ampang. After walking another 100m, you will see the bus shelter next to a grey “clock tower” in the small square.

Directions from Bandar Malawati Bus Terminal: The terminal is in Bandar Malawati, which is about 1km southeast of the town centre. You can then take a RM5 taxi ride / local bus to the town centre of Kuala Selangor (alternatively you can take a 15-20min walk). [The bus terminal is also served by Cityliner buses from Klang]

It’s a one hour journey by cab. The cab might also not be able to pick up a passenger on the way back, so expect fares to be high. For comparison, the distance from KL to KLIA is about 80km and a one hour journey. Taxis typically want RM 70 for a trip to the airport. So you would expect something similar, or higher for this trip. You might be able to negotiate a good deal if you book the taxi for a return trip.
Hourly hire rates for a small taxi (red/white) is about RM35 an hour if you would like to book one for the duration of the trip.

If you drive, set your GPS to Kuala Selangor Nature Park & navigate your way there! I use Waze, available on iPhone & Android.