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Birds of Different Feathers Flocking Together at Kensville Golf Resort, India

The air was crisp & the streets were scattered with birds of different feathers. Big fat Rosy Starlings ruled the perimeters of the airport, Ringed Necked Parakeets squeaking as they landed on trees, some rogue Red Wattled Lapwings seen foraging on the ground occupying the keen photographers in the bus as the driver circled between the international & domestic airport to pick up the delegates of the 2nd Global Bird Watchers Conference 2012 in Gujarat, India. What a way to set the pace for birding enthusiasts when we arrived! Completing a 16 hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai with a 7hr transit before landing in Ahmedabad.

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The most exciting part of this segment of the trip itinerary was not knowing where exactly the resort is tucked away. We couldnt have chosen a better place when we arrived at Kensville Golf Resort & saw a couple of Black Ibis grazing on the green. If this was an indication of life on the fairway, I wanted to be on the 18th hole scoring this birdie! As soon as I had registered & gotten my key card to the room, I dumped my bags & went for lunch. It was a good way to get acquainted with the others.

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Very soon, I was on the fairway with the Phillippinoes going after the Indian Roller! The water bodies situated beside the green was a welcome sight though the afternoon sun was harsh on the censor, casting shadows from the top. We inched forward to witness Green BeeEaters hunting for insects in the air as they land on the turf. There was a Pansy patch that created a colourful dotted background to this beauty. Wagtails were everywhere. I couldnt get further than the second hole on the golf course as I had already seen more than 10 species! Capturing them was a different story altogether.

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Birders must master the art of stalking & still-mimes when it comes to inching forward to where the bird is perched. The Indian Roller was rather cooperative as it fluffed & preened itself on my approach. I had to get closer for a better shot. It was perched about 4 – 5metres above on a branch of a tree, in full light. The irridiscent blue on green feathers made it such a catch on my sensor! Alain Pascua was stalking about 10 metres away from me, Rey Sta Ana was by the lotus pond & Mark Jason Villa was between the trees. Going after different species made it all the more exciting as we gestured with our eyes & gesticulated instead of using words to point to where the birds were. Body language was THE preferred mode of communication when everyone understood the universal code of birding ethics.?

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A Raptor glided by, hunting for prey as the Red Wattled Lapwing made its tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu calls as it flew across. I wasnt sure which bird I should aim for when they came at once. My heart was pounding with excitement, waiting for the right time to capture the behaviour of mating pairs. How do I begin to describe the breathlessness that comes from the feeling of awe each time a bird does something??? Birders traverse the world to get to see these magnificent winged creatures when the action is right here on the golf course of Kensville Golf Resort. This was not the start of the official excursion yet  Im all worked up from the sheer exhilaration of Pink Panther-activity in 13 degree weather.

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My Phillippino comrades on the field were great companions as our silent concerted efforts of preying upon the birds proved that we happen to be the birds of different feathers who can flock together.

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Will post links to more pictures in my album as soon as I can.

Next post, at the wetlands of Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary…..

Note:- The influx of delegates checking into Kenville all at once with some demanding to get service right away just proves that class belonged to the professional English-speaking Indian receptionist instead, who was beseiged with the ire of some jetlagged delegates who had no courtesy whatsoever. What irked me was that some didnt even know about the prohibition of alcohol in the state, had the gall to throw a tantrum ridiculing a system & belittling the reason behind the ban & that tourists are required to apply for permit to consume/buy alcohol in private properties. This clearly shows their ignorance of the countrys (India) culture & customs when they are too arrogant to read up about the hosting state which is the place of origin of their beloved Mahatma Gandhi. A few began whining about the level of competence while complaining about everything offered to them instead of waiting for their turn. It would be a wonder if they get invited to the state again. One travel writer took it a step further to sabotage the event by writing to the Times of India as well as other presses to allege that he was mistreated & that he had rude hospitality. Well, I received no such mistreatment, neither had anyone been rude to me possibly because I wasnt making unreasonable demands nor did I accuse the host of putting me up in shared accommodation when the website had clearly stated that we would be sharing with another. These delegates who happen to be from first world countries, behaved worst off than third world countries with their inexcusable manners & lack of appreciation for the reason they were sent to Gujarat for. Let the expenses that the government paid to fly them over to Gujarat be a lesson to never have them back again. With the many tourism boards I have worked with, I have never threatened to go to the media with any service thats below par. It usually comes in the form of a post-trip report thats separate from the actual articles that I write about the destinations. This puts the place in a better light & gives a chance for the host to rectify any wrongs that had occured in the process. Thankfully, theres nothing to report about except the exceptional time I had experienced with the people & the birds!???

The Oriental Diving Bird of Borneo

The Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) is a magnificent bird that hunts for fish underwater! Listed as a threatened specie, this bird is also known as the Snake Bird, contributed by the way it moves its head on its elongated neck. When it dives down into the water, it can stay submerged as it hunts for fish & reemerges to toss the fish in the air before it swallows it. The most impressive sight would have to be when it takes off from being in the water. Only its head breaks the surface as it swims to gain momentum for the lift. At Kinabatangan River, this specie can be spotted on treetops when not in the water.

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While cruising on North Borneo Safari’s quiet, electric engined boat, Alex Tiongco, Marts (speakers from Phillippines) & Hamit Suban, our brilliant nature guide, pointed out a flock of them on a skeleton tree. Unable to contain ourselves, we were rocking the boat with excitement. Each time either one of us did that, none of us could get a focus on the bird with our cameras & binoculars but it didn’t matter! Shaking from excitement is part of the fun. Thankfully for my Manfrotto 055CXPro4 tripod, much of our shakes were minimised & I could still take pictures on the flat bottom boat.

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Count the Darters!

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A Darter emerging from underwater! Used with permission from Cede Prudente.

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Grooming.

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These were taken from at least 100m away.

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A fishing Darter! Used with permission from Cede Prudente.

That was our first sighting on our first cruise. Eight of them in one frame! Sighting of a lifer is something that birders get extremely excited over especially when the specie doesn’t exist in my part of the world (Peninsular Malaysia), what more seeing eight of them. Their sheer size was also noteworthy & Cede Prudente had the opportunity of capturing this diving bird fishing as well as emerging from the water & it is truly an aspirational picture for me to document it one day……if I get to stay long enough in the river stalking this Darter.

My Wild Encounter With A Living Legend At Sukau, Kinabatangan River

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Bukit Melapi Resort – private dock.

When we left Labuk Bay, we headed straight for Sukau. In the interiors of Sabah, the ride itself was an interesting one because Hamit, our guide kept spotting birds for us to see. We stopped several times for the Greater Coucal that walked on the fringe of the jungle. We tried to ambush it from the car with my lens sticking out of the window but this bird outsmarted us. Even the journey gave us several species of Kingfishers & Herons. I was wondering what Kinabatangan would be like.

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The crew.

Soon as we got into Bukit Melapi Resort, we headed out on a cruise. Then a boat with foreigners sailed by asking us permission if they could fly a helicopter overhead as they wanted to film. There was a boat tailing this one & looking at the solitary person sitting in front, I did a double take. I asked the foreigners, “Where are you from?” to which they replied, “We are from the BBC!” proudly. As I couldn’t hold my excitement further, recognising the lone ranger on the boat behind, I asked, “Is that Sir David Attenborough???” And they nodded excitedly. Before you know it, Alex, Marts, Hamit & myself were waving frantically saying hello to the living legend! Then I turned to the crew & said, “Sure! Fly whatever you must & take as much footage as you need to show the world what Kinabatangan is all about!!!” And the crew politely thanked us in their thick British accent.

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Sir David Attenborough himself!!!

He smiled & nodded, acknowledging our frenzy before continuing their journey. I shot the helicopter alright, with the cameraman sitting precariously over the edge as they filmed.

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Later, the helicopter parked by the open space next to our resort & we went over to ”˜inspect’ the machine as all curious creatures do when there are subjects of interest in the area. Couldn’t resist the pose with the flying machine!

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We didn’t think that we would meet him face to face after seeing tons of his works on TV & being such a fan of them. Saying we were star-struck was an understatement. He was a real-lifer! What else did we find at Kinabatangan? Find out in my next post….. 🙂

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The Golden Proboscis Primates of Labuk Bay, Sabah

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The owner of the land had wanted to convert the forest into an oil palm estate but upon discovering a family of Proboscis Monkeys in the boundaries, he decided not to cut the forest down. Instead, he went on to set up the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary to protect these primates, admitting visitors to have a closer encounter with these grunting & gleeful golden monkeys.

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The Alpha Male

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One of the females leaping onto the feeding platform.

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Don’t stare……

Feeding them twice a day at two platforms, I was able to see the harem & spotted the alpha male by the sheer size. A macaque was in the vicinity & the Proboscis monkeys were not the least perturbed by its presence. It was exhilarating to see the Silver Leaf Monkeys in the sanctuary too, roaming freely in the building & accepting humans as part of their community. One baby Silver Leaf Monkey scampered across the hall to leap onto a visitors lap, moving to perch itself on her knee. What a sight that I forgot to click the shutter. I had come for these kinds of encounters & allowing the baby monkey to grab my finger was a connection that I can’t describe. The adult monkeys would walk about the railings & plonk themselves right next to humans. One of them watched me while I shot the Proboscis when in fact, I should have grabbed my compact camera to shoot the Silver Leaf Monkey’s curiosity of my gear!

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Silver Leaf Monkeys

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Baby Silver Leaf Monkey start their lives in golden fur!

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Juvenile Proboscis Monkey

There was an ultra clingy Oriental Pied Hornbill adopted by the sanctuary since it fell out of the nest as a fledgling. This hornbill took an extreme liking to one of the girls & by that time, I couldn’t differentiate which bird was shrieking.

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The lush greenery of the sanctuary

Labuk Bay is about 30 – 45minutes drive from Sepilok, Sandakan & is a destination that you must not miss. Observe the feeding times & go earlier to set up your camera & tripod to catch them leaping into the air to traverse to the feeding platform.

Hamit Suban was our dedicated nature & bird guide who brought us to Kinabatangan River, making stops along the way to see the magnificent monkeys in Labuk Bay while giving us the history of how it all began. He is with the fantastic people at North Borneo Safari, owned & run by Cede Prudente, the NatGeo photographer whom I had hijacked by in 2007 to autograph my bird books. Four years on & I’m finally heading to Sukau, Kinabatangan River!
Let the good people at North Borneo Safari take you to Labuk Bay enroute to Sukau! I can’t wait to have my Orang Utan encounter!!!

Hours / Feeding times
Platform A : 09:30am & 02:30pm Daily
Platform B : 11:30am & 04.30pm Daily

For further information, please contact:-

North Borneo Safari Sdn Bhd
Lot 31, 1st Floor,
Block B4, Jalan BU 5/1, Bandar Utama
Mile 6, 90000 Sandakan,
Sabah, Malaysia.

E-mail:        inquiry@northborneosafari.com
Telephone: +6089 235525
Fax:         +6089 235526
http://www.northborneosafari.com

The Challenge of Bird Photography In The Rainforest of Borneo

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Panorama shot of the trails within the Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Pictures do not tell a thousand words when the eye of the beholder does not know the behaviour nor the habitat of the bird the picture was taken in. The level of effort corresponds with the level of commitment to obtain the shot given the probability of  most conditions that are not favourable to photographers. With a very small window of opportunity in the thick foliage of Sepilok jungle, you have a few seconds to respond to adjusting your lens to frame the bird & get it into focus before firing the shutter.

Most times, you need to be up early & light is usually not favourable to you. Making the best of these situations, you either use fill-in flash on 2nd curtain sync or bump up the ISO to the max, depending on how capable your camera is. Pictures shown here are the exact lighting conditions without any adjustments.

Venue:- Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok Forest Reserve, Sandakan, Sabah.
Heat & Humidity – This place must be the most awesome creation of tropical foliage in the rainforest of Sandakan but having so much thick cover, the humidity can reach well above 90% on an average day. It’s almost like the foliage on the canopy had trapped a massive amount of moisture for the life below that lingering inside is like a mist-cooker, you would be melting without even moving an inch. Lugging your gear with you & walking in the trails can cause you to be drenched wet with perspiration within your first half hour into your excursion. Solution: Get a Cobber, an expandable water-activated gel tube scarf to tie around your neck, cooling your carotid nerves as the day gets hot & hotter. Wear quick-dry & light attire to wick off moisture & sweat.

Hilly Terrain  – Be prepared to trek uphill as well as downhill. Carrying your mounted tripod if you have a 400mm lens or above would test your stamina & endurance but that’s just the beginning. Your essentials are almost always needed on an expedition like this so add it on to what you will be carrying on your photo backpack. Apart from carrying the right bag, an airtight/moisture-tight container is recommended for your batteries, memory cards & any peripherals which you think might be subjected to the humid air. A mini trolley would be an ideal partner for your bag & tripod as walking to the hotspots (spots with rare bird sightings) from one location to another can really drain you. Bring a 1.5litre bottle of water to rehydrate. You would not want to move from your spot for water only to discover from your birding buddies later that the bird landed, courted, fed & possibly mated when you were gone.

Wet Ground – Bring a foldable chair. Camouflaged preferred. I had to resort to sitting on the ground with my Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod shortened to fit into the little window. Alternatively, bring a small piece of spongy, exercise mat to sit on. Wear shoes with traction. I had my Timberlands Chocorua Trail on & it has served me well for the last 6 years.

Here are the shots, unedited, a few of them just cropped to give you clarity.

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In this picture, there is a hole in the tree. What we didn’t know was that this hole, is a secret bathtub for the birds!!! Note the twigs & branches obstructing the view.
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Close up shot of the bird bath…..
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And I managed to capture a Leaf Bird! I took videos of this bird & will upload them when I have better internet connection!

Updated! Video of secret bird bath!
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See the full frame picture……
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….and this section here where I pointed my lens!
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Here the bird sits quietly as it hunts for food. And a twig was in my way! Grrrr…..!
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Sometimes, you get lucky. There were two Kingfishers in this shot! Unfortunately, they were too far in even for my 500mm lens’ reach.
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To get a shot of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (8cm in size only & this male was in a feeding courtship!), there was only one window around the leaves.

 

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This is the ‘window.’ The blurred parts of the picture are leaves obstructing my view.
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See the leaves again?
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Courtship in action! I gotta find a male who would feed me too! LOL!
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I think marriage is on the way…….yay! (Chan Pak, the HK veteran birder, eventually got the mating shot of these OD KF!)

 

The jungle is filled with sounds of bugs & birds. We were so engrossed with the little Dwarfs that we missed the big red Trogon behind us. The Diard’s Trogon has a red chest but always remain hidden with its back facing us so any opportunity to take a frontal shot is a shot in the dark…..

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See what I mean??? Obscured, I managed to get an ID shot of its chest.

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Still obscured despite me shifting position & angle.

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Getting a little frontal shot is still not considered good enough for any birdmasters, who will never show shots like these.

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Finally after a strained neck, a twisted back & wobbly legs from contorting myself to get the shots, I got the Diard’s Trogon!

My foray into bird photography in 2006, was attributed by my best friend, Chien, (who passed away on the 24 August 2011) when he talked to me about how he got those waders by staking out in the water to wait for the right moment. His pictures are astounding. His passion was even more infectious. He was born to teach & by sharing what he knows, he had enlarged his circle of influence to emulate what he did. And everyone enjoyed doing what he taught us to do, birding & learning about the habitat of birds to get the right time & capture the right shots. He had been a great friend & I am a product of emulating what he did with bird photography. I will share with you my discovery along the way just as Chien was so enthusiastic about sharing his discoveries when he was alive. Whatever challenges in bird photography that comes my way, his teachings would always echo in my head.

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Nature’s umbrella In the jungle – even the yam leaves are taller than I am!

The people behind the Borneo Bird Festival were fantastic & the resort I stayed in (Sepilok Jungle Resort) gave me a lot of opportunities to shoot birds in their compound. Being appointed as one of the judges in the Bird Photography Contest of the Festival, I want to thank the organisers for that honour & opportunity although it blew my cover as The Wannabe, I still think I do better stalking & reporting in my profession! Make Sepilok Forest Reserve as your next birding destination & be thrilled!

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A Sunbird in natural lighting.

Chasing Dwarfs, Stalking Kingfishers in Sepilok

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The Rainforest Discovery Centres (RDC) brilliant natural surroundings have made Sepilok the quintessence of tropical wilderness that brought into existence, a rare form of dedication for bird photography. In the third inception of the 3-day Borneo Bird Festival held annually, birdwatchers & bird photographers from all over the world had flocked to the quiet town to catch a glimpse of lifers, a term used for a rare bird sighting for the first time.
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View from atop the Canopy Walk!

The lush vegetation growing from natures little spaces in the recesses between gigantic trees have created an undiscovered paradise beckoning to be marvelled at. Despite the high humidity, bird enthusiasts endured the sweat to stake out the popular spots to wait for the elusive Ruddy Kingfisher & the colourful  little Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher measuring only about 8cm in size.
The festival in Sandakan was held over 14 – 16 October 2011. Guided bird tours by experienced guides who can tell you what bird it is just by the sound of its call, lectures by consultants in environmental protection institutes, authorities of wetlands, authors of bird books & photography experts who congregate for one purpose was made accessible to members of the public.There were workshops by craft-makers, painters etc. while birders staked out the hotspots where the Ruddy & the Dwarfs were initially spotted.
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Sabah Tourism’s counter of shirts & paraphernalia!
Exhibitors of the fair made up of societies, bird clubs, tour organiser, organisations of wildlife conservation, photographic & fieldscope gears and the Sabah Tourism Board. It was very well organised with the concerted effort of the Borneo Bird Club, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Parks, North Borneo Safari Tours, bird guides, volunteers & the most substantial support from Sabah Tourism. It attracted approximately 4,000 people to the fair, notably, a veteran from Hong Kong aged 80 years who lugged around his 800mm prime lens to staked out 4 hours straight to get a shot of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. His effort got him a special award for being the most dedicated senior veteran at the fair!
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Chan Pak from Hong Kong, receiving his special accolade from Cede Prudente for being the most senior birder on the field in this festival!

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North Borneo Safari showcasing their birding expeditions!

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Sandakan Photo’s booth coupling with Nikon as the main prize sponsor.

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Borneo Bird Club’s booth.

Other notable highlights was the honouring of the birding legends, my best friend Choo Tse Chien (bird photographer & guide), Lee Teck Seng (bird & nature guide) & another naturalist, Isnadil Mohd who all passed away within 48 hours of each other. The birding world was shaken with the loss of three fantastic birders who contributed much to the field & as such, a tribute was given at the welcoming dinner by Sabah Tourism to their parents who were present for the event. Chien was the reason I got into birding & I would have to live on & continue his legacy as The Wannabe.

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Tribute wall of Chien, Teck Seng & Isnadil.

Note:- Right after the Bird Festival, I headed to Sukau along Kinabatangan River & internet access here is limited. More stories & pictures will be uploaded when I have better internet connection when I get into Sandakan!

More on birding:- The Challenge of Bird Photography In The Rainforest of Borneo.


 

Category: Adventure, Birding, Event  Tags:  2 Comments

Lifestyle Change Begins With A Foldie!

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Folding Bike shop.

The recent craze for folding bikes, fondly known as foldies, has hit town & people are realising the sheer simplicity of packing it & tucking it in the car to go anywhere & ride. I was given a rundown by Andrew Sia, the Chief Reporter of The Star daily, for the kinds of foldies there are in the market. My first encounter with an ultra cool foldie, was in front of a hardware shop in Bangsar, where a Brompton bike was parked. I was gawking at it so much so that the owner came out to demonstrate how it’s folded & unfolded. The conversion of the rear rack to a little wheeled trolley won me over. This owner whose name I didn’t manage to get as I was so engrossed in his description of the usability of the bike, has been all over Europe cycling & recently got back from China. I was totally impressed! The bike had only 16inch wheels! When he told me of the price, I thought, wow, would someone actually spend RM6,000 on a foldie??? Well, I was so taken up by it, I started doing my own research & recalled that Andrew had one so I deluged him with questions & midnight calls because I was very eager to have one.

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ORi C8 Classic

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Top view of the bike when folded.

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Andrew taught me a lot on how to search for one that suited what I’d want in a bike. Aesthetics was important too. Above it all, functionality & foldability.

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I went around town searching for the perfect bike. I found that most bikes with good components start at RM1,000 & above. Most importantly, I wanted something close to a Brompton but not the price. When I found Folding Bike Trading, I was so ecstatic to see a similar designed model but much more compact than a Brompton bike. When I got to the shop, a beautiful lady by the name of Well Tan, greeted me & served me a cup of tea before she proceeded to ask me about what kind of cycling I would want to do. I told her I was thinking of touring & maybe just for daily fitness. She recommended me the ORi bike.

The ORiBikes are designed by the award winning designer Jon Whyte, a former Formula 1 engineer from the U.K. Stylish and functional, ORi folding bikes bring an unprecedented experience of performance and practicality. I especially liked the C8 Classic model where the saddle & handlebar wraps are made of leather. The way it folds matched what I saw in a Brompton bike & for the price of RM2,699 for a C8 Eco series, it’s less than half the price of a Brompton. The Instant Rebound Catch (IRC) mechanism enables ORi to fold up in seconds and easy to carry and store. The brilliant idea was inspired by the simple and intuitive operation of airplane safety belt. IRC also works as a reliable hinge locking the bike together when unfolding. Thanks to IRC, the safety and convenience are perfectly connected together. It even has an easy rolling kit to commute to & fro the LRT!

Well taught me more about foldies & how I should go about owning one. A far cry from a few shops that I had been to in town whose main business is selling & servicing roadies (road bikes/racers) or mountain bikers. Her knowledgable guidance convinced me that owning the right bike is to be done pridefully & no one should rush you into a buying decision. She answered every doubt that I might have & went on to serve me more tea. Then she explained the difference between mainstream bikes & foldies, that the purpose is totally different. A foldie is used for commuting & touring with ease of being able to bring your bike anywhere & everywhere with you. It sounded perfect for my lifestyle! And it wasn’t about competition.

The thing with conventional bike shops is, you always feel pressured into conforming to the norms of cyclists, what they should wear when cycling, what kind of accessories you must buy etc. but with a foldie, YOU ARE YOUR OWN STYLE. I will come up with some fashion bits advice for the ladies who wish to embark on this journey with me. Do let me know what your preferences are & I will detail what the change that the cycling scene needs.

With that, I took a forthnight to mull over it & after My Selangor Story 2011, I took home the ORi C8 Classic foldie! Well is giving a very special deal on the ORi bikes & if you tell her that you saw this on Pummkin’s Pitch, she would give you a 5% discount + a bike cover bag with a further RM30 off on selected helmets to help you get started!

I’ve decided to form an all-girl cycling group to get fit & have since recruited several ladies to join me in my pursuit. Will be organising more photo trips on foldies too so get into gear, guys! Do get your foldie from Well as she can explain in detail what you ought to get & what will save you money in the long run. I will detail with more pictures once I get to ride on my new foldie soon!

Meanwhile, check out her shop at:-

Folding Bike Trading
G 10, Emerald Plaza East,
Jalan PJU 8/3, Damansara Perdana,
47820 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia.

Tel: +603 771 33 888
Mobile: +6016 393 2229 ( Well )
Fax: +603 771 33 222
Email: foldingbiketrading (at) gmail (dot) com

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The frontal black bag holds the bike cover inside.

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Groovy helmet to protect your main asset….

Day 4 – Gruelling Course at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort

Our first activity before breakfast was to trek into the dipterocarp montane forest. Andi Kus & I preferred to take photos of life that enfolded around us & we stayed well behind the troupe as they marched pass us. Minute plants caught my attention & as giant fungi looked out of place, the jungle began to tell us a story of symbiosis. Moss that is found only at a certain height above sea level was seen here. Ferns that begin with a tight curl, unravel themselves in splendour the deeper you go into the forest. Every life form supports the ecosystem & make up the food chain. We are to take nothing but pictures, leave nothing behind but footprints. That’s not always the case with me. I left a scent & took 5 leeches back with me. Andi Kus didn’t get a single bite even though he was beside me taking the same shots! Now how is that possible??? *shudder!*

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Moss

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Moss on semi dead wood

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The leeches paled in comparison to what followed after breakfast. An obstacle course called ”˜Tears of the Sun,’ designed to test your endurance & team spirit, was part of surviving the My Selangor Story 2011 tour. Zul, our team trainer called out Ridha to lead the bloggers into a Bollywood dance as the theme song ”˜Jai Ho,’ from Slumdog Millionaire came on the superb sound system. Then everyone had to get out of a knotted circle to run to the starting line of the tremendously challenging course…..

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Hills & ditches, everyone got wet. Climbing over wooden fences, inclining & declining wooden slopes only to be dropped vertically into the ditch again. Crossing every pool of water caused everyone to depend on one another. By the time they reached their 5th ditch, each one learnt to make the best of it by…….dancing & acting! Watch the video! The superb showmanship by medical student, Shaleh had me in stitches. At the end of the obstacle course, the differences in culture, ethnicity & countries bore no more obstacles to friendship & camaraderie. In the name of cohesion, we danced to celebrate the completion of the most gruelling task, not in the course but in trusting our lives with another on the journey.

Watch the video of bloggers in action!

We got ready & clean to go for the closing lunch reception that the wonderful sponsors at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort prepared for us. The General Manager, Ruddin Salim expressed that it was a pleasure to have us but I feel that the pleasure was ours to be invited for the journey. Najib reiterated that he never says goodbye but when will I see you again. The presence of the GM, Assistant GM & all the Fun & Adventure marshals & trainers who made us feel belonged & welcome was more than just the hospitality that came with their jobs. It came forth because of the love they have for the work that they do. I want to thank & appreciate all the physical effort of Zul & his team for working through the night to set up the course & trail for us & the group after us. His tireless work make him the best in a class of his own. Thank you for making it mean so much to us!

We savoured yet another lavish spread of buffet lunch at Rajawali Coffee House in Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort just before the bus departed for Day 4 of our journey at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort for a sumptuous offer…

If you think this blogpost warrants your vote, please click on the 5 hearts HERE!

 

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Rajawali Coffee House

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Main dishes!

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Mousses & soufflé!

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Cakes!

 

Day 3 – The Soil Beneath The Clouds at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort – My Selangor Story 2011

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At the entrance of Golden Palm Tree Resort & Spa for the farewell.

Bidding farewell to such a wondrous place in Selangor seemed a bit morose, with all the feasting & the merry-making over the last 2 nights. It was also our dreaded time to face the oncoming unknown challenges in the jungles of Genting Highlands. The General Manager, Mr. Pascal Prigent, saw us off in style & sat with us to have a group shot for the record! Thank you for having us rock your resort & terrorise your bell-hops with requests to go to London, Mars & Venus. It made my stay ever more universal. ?

Like an entourage accompanying the mission, we bade farewell to the resort management, got onto the bus & possibly slept all the way to Awana Genting Highlands (minus the zippy washroom stopover) to make up for the eventuality of any (gruelling) exercises. We were briefed of the day’s itinerary the night before & anticipate it, we did not. Added to the challenge of not knowing the itinerary prior to the tour, the mention of an obstacle course was enough to unnerve the (un)fit, (un)prepared, (un)abled & (under)trained in us. *Gulp*….I wouldn’t like the thought of my hip falling out of socket in any of the challenges & to think that in my hey days, I was training to be a part of the Eco Challenge team & rock climbing was a weekly affair….then.

We had a grand welcome with all the managers lined up to greet us like VIP! It was great! We were ushered into the lounge where the launch of My Selangor Story 2011 for Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort took place. YB Elizabeth Wong was present again to grace the event & the Senior Vice President of PR Communications Genting Malaysia Berhad, Dato’ Anthony Loke, gave us an introduction of the property that Awana Genting Longhouse is a part of. The area had been gazetted as an IBA – Important Bird Area as of last year, marking the recognition of birds that live in the area requiring protection & conservation of their habitat. This is great news for me as a birder as I come up to this area to photograph birds & protection might hopefully gain them in numbers thus, increasing our chances of spotting them. He also cited the uniqueness of the longhouse experience, one that can only be had in Sarawak. He stressed that conservation to the surroundings have produced great interest amongst photographers who then participated in a contest to have their entries made into a coffee table book! The flora & fauna will be showcased in the book that is about to be launched soon. I’ve known about the conservation efforts in Cameron Highlands & Fraser’s Hill but this is the first time I’m hearing about the efforts in Genting Highlands. If indeed, this will be of great interest to bird & nature photographers to make more frequent trips up to document the fauna & spreading the awareness of species. I will organise my group to explore & expedite the appreciation of the place once I find out what there is to be done! It was evident that Dato’ Anthony showed a deep appreciation for the environment that built his career, even more, his love for the life that it contains. He spoke without a formal written speech & was probably assisted by only points in his note. As it’s paramount for the property on its stewardship, the steward would be the one to steer the wheels in motion for the rest in his charge. It made me forget that I was dreading the drill factor in the first place & made me want to go out to meet nature right there & then!

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Dato’ Anthony Loke during his speech.

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A basket of Phalaenopsis sp Orchid was presented to YB Elizabeth Wong for gracing the occasion!

After a video demonstration from the resort of what to expect of this journey at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort, tea & snacks were served to prep us up for the abseil challenge. Najib, the founder of Fun & Adventure company that arranges the outdoor & team building activities for Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort, briefed us about the do’s & don’t’s when entering the jungle. He introduced Mohd Zul Fahmie, as the person in charge of leading us through the challenges that followed. With an amazing portfolio as an outdoor & obstacle course trainer, what we were to experience with Zul would be forever imprinted in our minds……and bodies (ouch!). He reiterated that there are several practices that they adhere to when entering the jungle & that is, not to call on each other’s names (how do we call for help then??). We were told not to take anything that does not belong to us & to generously donate blood to those who require it……aka leeches. Yikes! I will detail all that we did in the next posting.

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The hike up to the Abseiling grounds had such a pleasant sight. Beautifully landscaped pond with fringing jungle.

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The side of the Longhouse.

Everyone put on their harness as they had to be secured to Figure of 8 with a carabiner. Hiking up the hill to the top, many had to conquer their fear of heights. Once they got the hang of coming down with the support of the rope & the belayer, many of them went back uphill to descend down the rope again!

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We were put on the greatest challenge of our lives. Don’t miss my next post.

After dinner, we proceeded to walk a few hundred metres to a trail. It was dark. We were told to form two lines according to our two groupings. And we were to sit on the ground. Zul briefed us of the activity to follow. We were to do this trail BLINDFOLDED & SOLO. I had turned my GPS on, tucked away in my cargo pants pocket & was prepared in the event that I do get lost in the jungle, at least I would know how to navigate my way back. Not that the organisers would let us get lost, but as a sense of safety & precaution built into me, I would always carry at least 2 GPS devices when I go anywhere near a jungle. (There was a time that both failed on me but that’s another story!) All our escape plans that we had secretly formed had to be abandoned upon them telling us we were to go solo & the trail would be 2 hours long. And to think that so many trusted my escape plans in the first place! Aha! I can’t tell you what we had planned lest you make us go through it once again! Hahaha!

Assisted by a rope tied on sticks that formed the route, we were blindfolded & had to place our trust into the marshals hands. The wait in complete silence except for the sound of crickets & nocturnal squeaks accompanied us as the marshal took us to the route one by one. We were getting used to the darkness. Unbeknown to us, Tian Chad was assigned to take our photos & what a hilarious moment it must have been for him to see us crawl/duck walk/bent over & groping in the dark!!! As soon as I saw the pictures below, I was rolling on the floor laughing my heart out.

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All Blind Trail pictures are courtesy of Tian Chad.

I was one of the first few who got taken to the trail. I felt my nose & ears being tickled by some feather-like substance & had to learn to use my other senses to feel my way through. Along the way, I was anticipating drops in the terrain or uneven ground when suddenly, a hand grabbed my forearm & a voice said, “Lebih baik kamu jalan di sebelah tali,” (Best if you could walk on this side of the rope) which I retorted, “Kenapa???” (Why???) and the voice said, “Nanti kamu jatuh kalau kamu berada di sebelah itu. Saya bagi you tips. I help you!” (You will fall otherwise. I’m giving you tips. I’m helping you!) And the hand released its grasp. Ohmygawd! I got helped! So straight away I climbed over the rope & continued with one outstretched hand, groping in the dark. Almost towards the end, somebody bumped into me & I realised it was Helga. And Siti was behind him. We got led to where we sat down to remove our blindfolds & found the first few bloggers sitting & sniggering away! We’ve been had! It wasn’t 2 hours but 20 minutes!

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Upon downloading the tracks from my GPS unit, this is the screenshot of the trail that we took, coloured in dark orange above.

Watch this video!

The marshals & organiser had planned for a birthday surprise for Nigel Low, who had to be tricked to do the trail last. By then, we got ready & sang him a birthday song when he removed his blindfold! Many happy returns, Nigel!

We spent the night in 4 dormitories within the longhouse. Very basic accommodation with mattresses on the floor, pillows & thick woollen blankets for everyone. I guess team building starts with sharing your space with everyone else. Bathrooms & toilets were outside of the longhouse. We had to sleep early as there would be a 6:30am wake up call next morning to accept our challenges ahead.

Note: This is a contest entry & I would appreciate your vote for me HERE! <—- Thanks again!

Up in Awana, gluttony took on a new meaning. Read about the storm the chefs cooked up here!

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The Awana Genting Longhouse – communal living with nature!

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Ascending the stairs to the Longhouse.

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Comfortable mattresses & pillows.

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Communal area outside the dormitories in the Longhouse.

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Awana Genting Longhouse dormitories.

 


Day 2 – High Tide, Low Tide & My Ride – My Selangor Story 2011

Rising to a high tide is awesome! Apart from hearing the sound of water beneath my villa, it was also indicative of how much time we could spend in the water. The ripples generated by the wind was another visual clue that I ought to be in the water as soon as I can! Got ready in record time, slathered a layer of sunblock, put on my fun visor & I was ready to rock & roll. It would be a great day to be outdoors.

Right after we breakfast, the congregation of bloggers marched to the Smiley Beach for some fun in the sun & for me to launch the windsurf. Dragging the board out to waist deep water, I only managed to sail within the confines of the buoyed perimeters as it was rather choppy & I was out of practice for over a year. Nevertheless, it was very fun to fall into the water each time the sail did not want to cooperate with me & the wind! The other bloggers took on a more physical challenge by taking the sailboat or the kayak out. Rowing in tandem, they had a field day manoevring the kayak before aggregating for a game of beach volleyball. I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to simply because I spent most of my time in the water or on the board but I kid you not. It was more times in the water than on the windsurf board. Such is life!

As we weren’t the only guests, many people turned up to hire bicycles for a ride about the village & it was quite chaotic to get onto some other activity within the place. Cycling was something that we eventually got to do in the afternoon. At 2pm. I was already thinking about bringing my collapsible umbrella out, to the horror of others who then suggested I should have an umbrella holder on the bike. Hahaha! If only that was possible for my mini collapsible brolly! I may love the sun, but I don’t like the effect that it brings so I try to stay covered up whenever I’m outside.

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Photo of Watersports Centre at Smiley Beach courtesy of Golden Palm Tree.

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At Smiley Beach

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Dwi Andi & Ridha on the board posing for the camera!

So we set off on a journey around the village roads to satisfy the adventurous in us, hoping to see wildlife but the only thing that went wild was us. The cycling leader told us to stay in a single file but almost everyone defied that because it was more fun to group up & terrorise other road users! I was expecting to see cows & chickens but the route we took was purportedly ”˜the beginner’s track,’ which lasted approximately half an hour. The squeaking of the bike as I cycled was such a funny noise to hear. Given so, having withstood the salty breeze & splashes, the bikes were fairly well maintained. I chose one with a front basket for me to place my bag & other gadgets in it. I kept hollering to Nigel who was in front of me to ask him if he can hear this funny squeak but he turned around & said, “Mine’s squeaking too!” @_@

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Bloggers cycling

It would have been more fun if we had a purpose or if there’s a specific object to acquire like food! I know of a ”˜keropok’ (crackers) shop in the village that sells great tasting crackers & what a boon it would be to the economy if all 24 of us went there & bought 3 packets each to have something to boast about when we get back. I was expecting to see some cottage industries or maybe even farming methods in the remote of Bagan Lalang but I had to keep up with the group who was going too fast for the tour. I wish I had brought my umbrella then, even if I were to get lost, I would be identifiable by looking ridiculous on the road. Surely there were streams which we could explore? Perhaps get down to look for shrimps & such. I’ve made up my mind to bring MY BICYCLE & a troupe of likeminded friends with theirs to come back & look for that cow, chicken & keropok.

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Returning to the watersports centre, we were greeted with ice-lollies & ice-cream, treated by Tourism Selangor! What a refreshing appetiser! Thank you, Tourism Selangor, for the little stuff that matters. We embarked straight away on the Low Tide Tour, an activity where you walk in the tidal flats to discover life within, very much like the exercises I do with my students at tidal zones too. So Rosie, our nature guide, gave us a run down on what we could expect to see. Going barefoot, we trotted to the mud flats where the sea was but had gone out with the tide, we found ourselves walking in to the underside of the resort! Rosie taught us how to find ”˜pephahat,’ (bamboo mussel), which are buried in the mud. Any attempt to take the animal out was forbidden as we were there to observe & conserve. A myriad of snails were seen actively crawling about & the army of Soldier Crabs were invading our territory. I was delighted to stalk them! What did they look like? Well, watch the video to find out!

I would have loved to do the other nature tours such as the Mangrove Tour but time was limited & we had prepare ourselves for dinner at the ballroom! More on food in my next blogpost!

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And whats special about wining & dining in this resort??? Read all about it here.

Living It Up At The Golden Palm Tree – My Selangor Story 2011

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The palm tree layout of the resort.

Upon arrival, the stunning facade of the entrance to a 1km stretch of villas straight out into the sea conferred me a grand reception. The spacious lobby was designed to accept a huge number of guests lounging around in the breezy, circular structure with a conical roof that forms as the ”˜base’ of the palm tree layout of the resort’s property. From the inside, the conical ceiling was formed by bamboo sticks creating an optical illusion to the beholder. Another part of the lobby’s ceiling hangs the chandelier giving a warm glow to the place.

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Golden Palm Tree was influenced by Polynesian & Maldivian-style villas built on ”˜stilts’ (large concrete pillars) with high, thatched roof, the interior is quite a treat with holiday makers who like space. I can safely attest to this having been to Maldives 3 times, staying in one of the most expensive resorts in the atoll.

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The warm & inviting lobby lounge!

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Bamboo ceiling.

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Chandeliered ceiling.

We were given our key card & meal card & was briefed on the mode of transport to get to our rooms. The buggies operating in 5-minute intervals were great as we soon got acquainted with every bell-hop who ferried us up & down the ”˜trunk’ of the palm tree, I began to make requests to go to ”˜London, to see the Queen,’ or to ”˜Mars’ & ”˜Venus’ to the delight of the bell-hop who entertained me by bringing me to ”˜London,’ ”˜Mars’ or ”˜Venus’ which is just down the lane to the heart of the palm tree or back to the lobby. As we were told of the itinerary for the following day, I sort of got my mind set on the watersports & cycling! I couldn’t wait to get to my room to see what these villas were like!

The villa that was assigned to me was at the 5th branch of the palm tree by the sea. With two bedrooms within the villa, I was to share a room with a blogger who had to pull out due to health reason while Zarah & Olyvia took the other bedroom with twin beds. The Canary Palm Villa not only has two rooms, it also has two bathrooms, two verandahs & a lounge, fully equipped with amenities such as a mini bar, TV, hair dryer, coffee & tea making facilities, safe deposit box & bathroom essentials. My room has a bathtub like what I have at home (but bigger & not cluttered with rubber duckies & whales) & a shower cubicle, everything designed to let me enjoy being in the bath for one whole hour. This probably also set me on a dreamy mode for the rest of my stay here as I imagined what it would be like if I was here with Prince Charming instead. I also wondered if I were here alone, would I find my Prince Charming?

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My princely villa! I had the bed all to myself!

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Photo courtesy of Golden Palm Tree.

At the heart of the palm tree is where the Bila Bila Restaurant sits & where we had our daily breakfast. Aptly named, Bila Bila means ”˜anytime’ or ”˜whenever’ in Malay, denoting the availability of all day & all night dining for the guests of Golden Palm Tree. Situated right by the Infinity Pool, Bila Bila serves international & local fare, even poolside food & snacks. Catering to the tastebuds of the East & West, Golden Palm Tree receives a majority of guests from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong & Caucasians from western countries who loved hanging out by the pool. I only want to be in it. ?

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Infinity Pool

In the two nights that I spent here, I had imagined what it would be like for couples wanting a quiet & romantic getaway. Though we didn’t get to experience the rest of the other F&B outlets, I thought the ambience throughout the resort at night was awesome but the resort management ought to do something about mood-control in the day time. If I were to spend the kind of money to lavish on a romantic getaway, the last thing I want to experience is a noisy crowd who doesn’t know how to respect the peace & tranquil of place. Perhaps the management could come out with a notice to guests on proper behaviour & decibel levels upon check-in so that they would read & sign to commit to respect the peace & privacy of other guests wishing to laze by the pool or anywhere else. I was having my moment in the pool at the edge that drops off to a ledge by the sea & was jolted by the shouts of other foreign guests while they laughed out loud posing for their snapshots. While this may be acceptable for guest of other hotels by any other standards, it wasn’t by mine & neither should it be for Golden Palm Tree if it is to be pitched as a reputable, luxurious resort. I shudder to think if this behaviour would be tolerated in the ultra romantic settings of Perahu. Preferably, a separate pool be built for those wishing to have a quieter setting, leaving the infinity pool by the Buloh Bar to those who want to freak out into some fancies in the sun.

Guest services were prompt & though my only contact with the resort staff was kept to having my luggage delivered & picked up as well as asking for directions to the Smiley Beach, I was pleased with the level of services rendered.

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Night scene at trunk of Golden Palm Tree with buggy zipping by, captured by a slow shutter speed.

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One of the palm branching out to sea!

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Evening by the infinity pool.

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Sunset just outside the verandah of my bedroom!

If you are thinking of taking your loved one for a short romantic getaway, Golden Palm Tree might just be what you need. Prepare to wine & dine in the sunset or take any of the tours provided by the resort. This resort is all about living it up & living it well.

As I prepare to write about the culinary efforts & the activities I had experienced in my following blogpost, please cast your vote for me HERE!

Read about my 2nd day’s activities here!

Day 1 – Setting The Mood for My Selangor Story 2011 Tour

The anticipation didn’t wear off on the day of the launch. It magnified the moment I managed to shut my luggage. Packing for a ”˜blind trip’ was a mixture of anxiety & angst with a dash of ingenuity generated by the fear of not being equipped for the journey. What the 5 days beheld, we weren’t told but bringing a pair of sneakers was compulsory. So I brought everything. Setting my GPS for Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort, I arrived at the hotel at 3:30pm.

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Map of Holiday Inn Glenmarie from my Garmin Roadtrip.

All thanks to our generous sponsors, the press conference to kick off the event was held at The Mix restaurant & bar, within the property of Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort. The chefs were on hand to ensure the layout of the trays of canapés would look as appetising as they were. The beautiful Marketing Communications Manager, Sagina Manandhar, greeted us with all smiles & welcome, making me feel that my holiday has just started from that point on! It’s amazing how the hospitality of one person can set the mood for the rest of one’s stay but we were not to stay there yet.

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Raw Salmon with Caviar Canapés & Turkey with Tomato & Diced Mango Canapés!

The General Manager, Mr. Anil Pathak, arrived to usher in & welcome YB Elizabeth Wong, the EXCO for Tourism, Environment & Consumer Affairs for Selangor. An introduction speech was made by Amelia Tan, the Organiser of My Selangor Story 2011 from Horizon Communications, who was the brainchild behind the event since the first inception in 2010. She called on Dian Azura, who was last year’s grand prize winner, to give her take on what My Selangor Story had been for her. Immediately after winning the title, she was offered the position of a Social Media Specialist for Tourism Selangor, a 1-year contract in which she tweets & updates the organisation’s Facebook page with her resourcefulness in bringing events come to life. Her engagement with social media had proven to be successful by the number of followers Tourism Selangor had acquired. In a span of a few short months, the number had grown to 3,177 to date, inspired a lot more people to explore & experience Selangor no matter what time of year it is! She detailed how one’s passion for travel should not be quenched & that everyone should follow their dream & attain to get somewhere, wherever that may be. She reiterated that winning last year’s contest was just the start of her adventure.

And aptly so, when YB Elizabeth Wong took to the rostrum, she echoed the same sentiments telling us how she used to blog ever so often before taking office as an EXCO. Being extremely pleased to see a great number of our neighbours from Indonesia & Singapore flown in specially for this occasion with VIP treatment by Firefly, she extended a warm welcome to them & told them to make use of the 5 days to experience as much as they could. How I wished Firefly could fly me from the Sg Besi old airport to Subang Skypark just so that I can experience the VIP service from them! It’s always a pleasure to fly a different class! Setting the event for the 2nd year running, she thanked Amelia for her team’s monumental effort in bringing people together, Tourism Selangor, our tourism board, for extending logistic support & all the sponsors who had graciously given to the event.

The Golden Palm Tree Resort & Spa located in Sepang Gold Goast, Bagan Lalang, is our official resort & spa whilst Resorts World Genting is our official resort. Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort is our official hotel & The Mix is our official restaurant. Pentax is our prizes sponsor apart from being the official camera for the duration of the tour as they would be supplying us each with a camera to shoot with. The official airline is of course, Firefly, who will fly everyone home when the tour is over. We wouldn’t be complete without phone & data coverage kindly sponsored by The Cube, who provided us with pre-registered SIM cards.

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The officials, organisers & sponsors of the event.

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Travel bloggers roaring to go!

Soon after the YB Elizabeth launched the event, we had to board the coach for the journey to our first resort destination to begin our tour! What did I do in a 5 star resort? Find out in my next instalment, still on Day 1 – My Selangor Story 2011…..

 

Next,  see how I lived it up at Golden Palm Tree Resort!

And please remember to vote for me HERE! <— THANK YOU!

Our sponsors:-

Organiser Official Tourism Board Official Airline

Official Hotel Official Resort & Spa Official Resort

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My Selangor Story 2011 – A Story Worth Telling

My travels have never been short of dramatic & in my profession, I’ve seen things & encountered things that sometimes baffle even the scientists I work with. When you work in an environment that requires 110% of your alertness, you will begin to notice the life around you. And holding two complementary professions means that I get to be at many places & write about them at the same time.

If I’m not teaching my students to dive, I am out there filming my next blockbuster……..and that’s to film the amazing coral reefs & everything that moves therein. If I’m not filming my blockbuster, I’d be stalking birds & bugs in the jungle. If I’m not in the jungle, I’d be pestering the fishermen to find me the elusive Sea Apple (sea cucumber) or documenting culture wherever my assignments take me. I’m guided by my sense of adventure, moved by my emotions for the living, inspired by the love of God & activated by the cameras & gadgets that I hold in my bag.

If I can as much as show you, the stuff that magazines ask me to write about, or scientists pay me to discover, I would show you the splendour of Selangor through my lenses & the excitement through my expressions in my blog. Will you vote me into the 30 to be a part of My Selangor Story 2011???

To vote, please go to this link & give as many hearts as your heart desires! Thank you! http://bit.ly/nVzspS

Footnote:- If the music in my blog is drowning out the video, the embedded player is on the top right column of the sidebars. Just press stop…..or play again if you like!

Trail Through Fishing Village & Quaint Town of Tanjung Sepat

Gathering a bunch of my friends to take this trail of faith (many did not know how to get there & was relying on me leading the convoy), 22 people in 8 cars embarked on an adventure to shoot anything & everything along the journey to the quaint town of Tanjung Sepat in Selangor. We stopped in Banting to have a cup of butter coffee, a classic favourite of the locals located near the taxi station.

Getting to the town was an adventure in itself. We came by an irrigation canal filled with lotus lillies & everyone got down to attempt to take pictures. The town was famous for its fisheries, Hainan Pao (steamed buns) & locally produced coffee.
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The fishing jetty here is popularly known as ”˜The Lover’s Bridge.’

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Tanjung Sepat Famous Pao.

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Locally produced Kwo Zha B coffee.

After a scrumptious lunch by the Lover’s Bridge, we headed to Bakau Gruv Resort to see the mangrove swamp & the beautiful surroundings. The resort belongs to the late Professor who used to teach at University Malaya before he succumbed to his condition last year. He is succeeded by his son. We were granted permission to roam around the place & take pictures of nature.

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Mating butterfies.

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The view at Bakau Gruv Resort.

Before long, we found ourselves on the road again, heading towards Batu Laut fishing jetty. The sun casted a nice glow as it set over the river bank.

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Batu Laut Fishing Jetty.

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Panoramic view of the jetty along the bank of the river.

Selangor has so much to offer. The shutterbugs only called it a day after the last of their battery power had drained & looking forward to another trip some time in the near future, prompted those who had no cameras to get one & those who had cameras to get better lenses! We vowed to return, with an empty stomach to savour all the local delights that Selangor has to offer on the trail through Banting to the quaint town of Tanjung Sepat……

Visiting The Mah Meri Weavers & Woodcarvers of Carey Island

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Carey Island is the home of one of Malaysia’s many indigenous tribe (Orang Asli) called Mah-Meri in the state of Selangor. With a legacy of wood-carving & pandanus leave weaving skills, the Mah-Meri had been in their settlement in Kg. Sungai Bumbun since the beginning of time. Now the island has been taken over by oil-palm conglomerates & the place has been converted into a huge oil palm estate, with the exception of this settlement that is still untouched. Passing a golf club on the right, we came to a junction with an indicative signboard to enter the village.

I was really intrigued by their craft using the pandanus leaves that’s been dyed in colour & delicately handwoven to make beautiful purses, wallets, mats & baskets. I got to hear about them through Reita, who was manning the Gerai OA at the Museum during a showcase of indigenous people’s crafts. We set out in the morning of 23 July, in a convoy of two cars, Soon’s 4WD & my Pammobile. Making a quick pit stop for nasi lemak along the way, Carey Island is only a mere 48km from Kuala Lumpur.

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Arriving at the entry point junction of the settlement, it started to rain. There were tell-tale signs that this community is into animism. The woven decorative leaves that hangs from a tall, bamboo pole that droops at the roadside, marks the entrance to their place of residence. Shrines are built from all natural materials, offering atonement to their ancestors for divine protection. We soon got familiar when we asked whoever we could apprehend in the rain, to tell us how to get to the weavers & the carvers. And we got there just in time to hijack Samri, a Mah Meri woodcarver, who was on his way out to fish in the nearby river when the rain stopped.

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Samri’s shed & woodcarvings.

As he demonstrated the craft, he showed us his works & photo albums of the places he had been around the world to showcase this art form. He sometimes receives commissions to do statues & idols which he takes his time to finish. Samri told us the tales that were told to him by his forefathers about the mysticism of the knives that their ancestors used to defend themselves against monsters & dragons in the jungle. Presumably, they must’ve encountered territorial spirits. He elaborated with such drama, that I began filming him to record his account. It should be uploaded with links here in the next few days. He learnt the craft from his father, who learnt the craft from his forefathers. A skill handed down the generations, Samri work can be commissioned & can be contacted at +6013-2286045.

Going pass his hut to another similar thatched roofed hut, we found the weavers whom we had come for. The ladies were sitting on the raised platform with basketful of dyed pandanus leaves that were ready to weave.

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Colourful leaves for the weaving.

Asking permission to photograph them, we soon got into a lively conversation with them. SoonCM, then took the opportunity to address his curiosity:-

SoonCM: “Macamana dapat warna seperti ini ah?” (How do you get these colours? – pointed to the weaving)
Orang Asli Lady: “Belilah! Dari China! Apa warna pun ada!” (Buy lah! From China! Whatever colours are available!)

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Colourful unfinished woven basket.

Stunned, SoonCM was undeterred. He wanted to know how the leaves are dyed in the colours they are now. Not how the colours were obtained. Nevertheless, he continued the conversation while I laughed.

SoonCM: “Dari mana datangnya daun ini? Mana boleh dapat?” (Where do these leaves grow? Where can you find them?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Daun ini datang dari pokok Pandanus, terdapat di dalam hutan.” (These leaves are from the Pandanus tree from the jungle.)

SoonCM: “Oh, bila kamu akan masuk hutan lagi ah? Saya nak ikut boleh?” (Oh, when are you going into the jungle again? Can I come along?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Sini mana ada hutan? Gorf kors adalah. Semua ladang kelapa sawit. Mana ada hutan?” (Where got jungle here? Golf course got lah. Everything here is oil palm estate. Where got jungle?)

By which time, I was hysterical, trying not to shake to take my pictures. I was quite certain the lady thought we were genuine city slickers, yet I couldn’t stop SoonCM from having that conversation with them. Still adamant, he went on to enquire about festivals & celebrations.

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Orang Asli Mah Meri weaver lady.

SoonCM: “Di sini ada musim perayaan ah? Saya mau datang tangkap gambar lah.” (Are there any celebrations/festivals here? I want to take pictures.)

Orang Asli Lady: “Ada. Perayaan sembah moyang. Datanglah nanti. Ada makan minum.” (Got. Festival to honour our ancestors. Come then. Got food & drinks.)

SoonCM: “Bila ah? Bulan depan ah?” (When? Next month?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Tahun depan. Tahun ini sudah lepas.” (Next year. This year’s has passed.)

SoonCM: “Di sini bila orang mati, ada perayaan untuk mereka tak?” (Here, when people die, are there any celebrations for them?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Orang mati mana ada perayaan? Kalau sudah mati, mati lah. Mana ada perayaan lagi?” (Where got celebration for dead people? If they die, they die lah. Where got celebrations?)

SoonCM: “Oh, tapi saya dengar di suatu tempat bila orang mati ada perayaan punya….” (Oh, but I heard in some villages when a person dies, there’s a celebration.)

SoonCM: “Macamana kita nak tahu bila? Kamu ada nombor kontak ah?” (How do we get to know when? Do you have a contact number?)

Orang Asli Lady: “Ada. Kat Facebook.” (Got. On Facebook.)

By then, even the Orang Asli ladies were laughing their heads off, at the visibly stunned & blissfully ignorant city slickers like all of us who have had little or no interaction with the indigenous people in the country, much less with rituals for the dead. Surely in his conversation, he never meant to be offensive but instead of calling it upacara, (ceremony), he used perayaan (celebrations) instead. Being quite the sport as he is, he thanked the ladies for their time & entertainment & vowed to come back for those photos he came for.

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Nearly finished wallet woven by the Mah Meri ladies.

We explored the rest of the village & found many edible fruits from the mature trees. The sun was already high above our heads & the nearest eatery is about 10km away. One old pakcik (uncle) came out to ask us what we were doing & I replied that we are from the city coming here for some fresh air & pictures! He then told us the fruits are ripe & we can eat them if we wanted to…….and we did!

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One such tree was the blossoming Rose Apple tree, with juicy, succulent, sweet Rose Apples hanging like bells off them. Then my subject disappeared. “Soon! Where’s my subject?!?” “Errr….I ate them. I thought you’d finished taking pictures..???” *Face palm!* Then Aziz spotted the fruiting Rambutan tree, with a little hesitation, we discussed about how we could get our hands on those hairy fruit. SoonCM’s 4WD came in really handy & naturally, he got the honours of tending & feeding the troupe! Aziz snapped off some branches for him to jostle the bunches while Edmund scoured the area for other fruiting trees. I realised that only hunger can bring out the hoarding instincts in us as we began to ravish any kind of edible fruit found! And no, we didn’t touch Pakcik’s prized red pineapple. 🙂

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SoonCM, our hero!

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Compromising positions???

The village is filled with nature’s surprises & naturally, a photographers delight as we trailed all the way to the end of the road. We were even treated to Man-Faced Bugs mating!

And what was I shooting wrapped in a windscreen shield?

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Flowers.

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Bee on flower.

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Mating Man-Faced Bugs!

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Pod.

Wrapping the trip with a seafood lunch, we headed back feeling liberated by the Orang Asli giving us an insight to their lives, marvelling at their skill that would have been lost if not for programme that helps them sell their goods to receive 100% of the profits thereof. Do help them keep the craft alive! They can be found on Facebook (really!) here:- http://on.fb.me/ojtEWm