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New Reason for the Lunar New Year

I’m more alive than ever. I’ve made several trips abroad since January & have been taking care of work assignments without realising how time flies. Having tons of pictures to process when I got back, I couldn’t put my thoughts to words because a flurry of events had taken place & they needed more attention than this blog. Whenever anything concerns the welfare of a human being, I put my work below the importance of a soul. I certainly do not think blogging is work or work is my blog but I’ve been given several appointments that require immediate attention like how everyone wants things done……..by yesterday, so I had to deliver.

I wore new clothes on the first day of Chinese New Year & spent my whole afternoon with Freda laughing at all the challenges we have had to live with. My neighbour has about 8 people, maybe more, living in their house & with the increase in numbers, there’s always noise. We talked about handling enemies like what I had been taught how to when I wrote about it here. I’m having to deal with clamming up, being unable to express myself as the need of privacy in my life grows deeper. I have lost patience with people probing into my life when I don’t want to share, with people who ask me out for no apparent reason but to get to know me & people who try to waste my time in thinking that I have nothing better to do than to be of service them. I’ve stopped talking because I cherish my space so much. They are not bad people before you think that I’m insinuating. It’s just that I can’t understand why people can’t respect my space. The longest letters I’ve written are letters to Chien, my late best friend. I call them letters even though it reaches him at the instant that I press the send button because he was a great communicator & he valued my space & privacy. We connected as soul mates who knew what each other was doing even when we lived in different states. We didn’t have to report to one another but because he was in tune with my life as much as he shared a great part of his with me. I find it ever so difficult to connect with others now that he’s not here any more. Friends of mine with the greatest of good intentions have been trying to fill this void & have somewhat succeeded in part, never in whole. I wish they would remain as they are & not try to be a Chien to me. I value each one of them dearly & if they do anything that probes into my privacy, I will back away. It’s creepy to have someone track you on everything that you do. There’s a time & place for everything.

Those who are in my acquaintance list are the most worrying when you know they are out to hunt for a Miss Right. They go through a list of people whom they want to get to know better, ask for recommendations/introductions only to return to you to ask you out. What makes them think I’m interested to be with them in the first place? I already have such limited time for myself & my deserving friends, I cannot spare a minute for mindless chatter or small talk just so that they can ‘get to know me better.’ Going out is an effort. Time is costly. Every mindless minute I spend with anyone is minutes that I can never get back. What I do must count for the betterment of both parties. I don’t remember having this barrier before but I had to put it up to prevent myself from wasting other people’s time. Thank you for considering me even after having gone through your list of impossibles. Now you can add me to that list too. 🙂

I’ve been stealing time off to the jungle to capture my prized treasures & I’ll leave you with this Striped Throated Bulbul that had just gotten fed on a fig tree & was ready for a siesta. While I process pictures from my India trip, do checkout my Flickr for more photo updates. I hope this Chinese New Year would bring you much happiness & joy that prosperity cannot buy & may you be blessed with much more! Blessed Chinese New Year!

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When The Old Has Gone

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Sometimes, things don’t go as planned or just find that plans have gone entirely off track. In the last one month or so, I’ve had the opportunity to experience friendship like I have never before. I went in search of a new place of residence without really knowing where to start except that I have a budget to keep & I have Rufus to consider. And after much praying, God showed me a sign. In the following few days, the ”˜sign’ was spoken of by friends in a conversation. When I went to view the house that I was to occupy, I saw the ”˜sign’ in the house next door. The day after, during a management retreat with NST in Bukit Tinggi, I was asked again about this ”˜sign.’ I take it that God had found the place for me & I made plans to move. My new landlord is a very nice guy who fixed a new water heater for me too! The thought of buying a house & getting into debt is just not what I want. I can’t afford a lifestyle where I’m a slave to it. It may be for most people, to progress in life to buy a house but somehow, I know I will go where my work takes me, no matter how far & that means, I have to be as mobile as ever without any incumbrances.

Then comes the friend bit. My friends came to help me out. Kenny & Gary offered their trucks to move my stuff. Aziz was helping me pack & get organised. Edmund came with his staff to help me move several loads. I called my favourite mover, a lorry driver who came with his two sons, to move the big items. He never fails to make me laugh. We became friends in the course of moving several times in the late nineties! Rufus wasn’t very happy at first but he’s already resigned to the fact that this is his new home after the bulk of the items came in. I had to ferry him in my car wherever I went because he was unsettled & whimpered when I left. I can’t have that. So I strapped him to my passenger’s seat & he would be happily restrained by the seatbelt contraption that my cousin, Lisa, bought for him.

Finding stuff that’s been hidden for so long caused me to rekindle a passion that I had for crochet. I made hats, scarfs, gloves, amigurumi (toys), cosies, bags & cases and I wondered where did all that love for crochet go all these 7 years??? God had showed me signs early this year when my orchids that had never flowered since I set foot in that apartment 7 years ago, had started to bloom. He told me it was to be a new beginning. I didn’t understand it then but I did not question Him because I know whatever He brings, it is always good for me. And I started to crochet again. Follow me on Pinterest or selectively follow my Things I Would Crochet board if you want some inspiration!

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I got myself a king sized Luxury Escapes (King Koil) mattress for the new king bed was still in its original wrapping, packed flat, when I got it years ago. I had been sleeping on my existing queen bed all this while, never found a good enough reason to upgrade till now. Guess who has free reign of the bed? ?

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Moving to the countryside has a great advantage of being stress-free & I have many things to post but I have to take some time to find things in this mess & should be quite occupied over the next 2 months!

Category: Personal  Tags: ,  2 Comments

In Loving Memory of Sabrina Yeap, 1963 – 2012.

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Her grit saw her through the many dire situations that Sabrina Yeap encountered in her lifetime. The lives of those furry friends she found on the street, rescued from chains or cages in abandonment, in the drains & ditches and even in mangrove swamps. Sabrina Yeap always had room for one more dog in her farm no matter what her detractors say. And her detractors are simply just that. Sabrina was born, her parents died & her relatives took everything then dumped her at an orphanage. She knew too well what it’s like being abandoned. She never had a normal childhood, yet the love for dogs emanated from within the tiny frame that held her gentle soul, kept her close with the animals that she devoted her life to raising, caring & protecting. She spent 15 years working in SPCA as an Animal Inspector, then under the leadership of (Max) Ian Wheatley who founded the society in 1958. I met her a few years before Mr. Wheatley died when I volunteered at the society. 

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Holding Cleo, one of the rescued dogs of Pulau Selat Kering.

Sabrina investigated every case of cruelty reported & she worked together with the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) to prosecute perpetrators in court right up to 2005. In that time I’ve known her, she always had the welfare of the animals first. She would climb out of the trucks with dogs trapped & the look of triumph on her face told me that she had rescued another cruelty case. My task was merely to feed the difficult dogs their medication but seeing her return with a casualty was like watching CSI solve a case.

Our ties formed when I began travelling, and very often I had to leave my dog with her in her house where she boarded pets as a side income to supplement her low income from the shelter. She did odd jobs like bathing dogs kept by the affluent for RM10 each, which some might think is a lowly job when in fact, she had enjoyed every minute of the bonding sessions with them. She got closer to the animals that she was entrusted with, and very soon, my dog too, started to listen to her command.
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In safe hands!

She had always spent her money on the dogs’ welfare & never for herself. The money belt grew tighter after she left SPCA & eventually started her own no-kill policy shelter with 10 dogs in 2006,  giving tuition classes to earn a living. With a meagre income, she started an adoption programme where people could sponsor a dog for life at RM30 per month. She rented an area to keep these dogs, driving to & fro Kundang to prepare food for them & feed them. When more people got to know her plight upon recognising her exemplary work in SPCA, they begin to give her a helping hand. She built Furry Friends Farm to what it is today with sheer dedication, hard work & determination to give dogs (and cats, goats, rabbits) a sanctuary for their dog days. She gave talks in international schools on responsible dog ownership & had awareness campaigns in exhibitions & expos in the Klang Valley. She ate very little & made sure her furkids ate a lot. By the time she rescued & helped 100 dogs, she knew she had the capacity to take in more. The dogs were jolly, charming every visitor & hounding those who had treats in the pocket as soon as they stepped through the gate. She knew each dog by name & they knew her by her voice. The dogs would be scampering home if they had escaped through cracks in the fencing, much like a kid caught for staying out too long. She could even tell me all their traits as I sit down in the centre of all her most laid-back snoozers. Dr. Jill Robinson of Animals Asia Foundation, appointed Sabrina to be the executor of the Dr. Dog Programme in 2007 & have since raised eight Dr. Dog Ambassadors.

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Picking up Hope at the vet one morning in Kepong.

Sabrina had a quiet demeanour but with a kind of assertiveness that made her the matriarch of the troop, subduing even the most aggressive of males in the pack. She would get herself dirty to rescue a stranded pup & risk her life to reach out to an injured dog. She ferried each dog to the vet & would collect the ones which were already treated, in her little Kancil. Her relentless effort for animal welfare made her a champion for the causes she stood up for, including the Pulau Ketam dog dumping incident in 2009 that garnered international attention.(More on that rescue in the RESCUE category). In that mission, 29 stray dogs were rescued, now living in the farm. Its no wonder those who know her would feel protective of her. She had many friends, some stayed away from the overzealous & territorial volunteers she seemed to attract & helped in a distance. Having spent years communicating with her, we know what she held close to her heart & what she wanted most for the animals. We have lost a selfless saint of neglected dogs & cats on 17 July 2012. May she be reunited with the lives of her furry friends who had gone on before her to the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

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Sabrina kissing Jerry, the snoozer, at FFF.

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At the kelong near Pulau Selat Kering, Klang

Furry Friends Farm will be managed by her current pool of volunteers & if you would like to pay your last respects, the wake is at Nirvana Memorial Centre, No. 1, Jalan 1/116A off Jalan Sg. Besi, KL. Funeral Parlor No.13 (Rose). Funeral Service:- Friday, 20 July, 10am Shah Alam Crematorium (Nirvana)

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Group photo of the rescuers.

What The Last Six Months Had Been

Catching up with my thoughts is a rarity nowadays with the numerous events & assignments I have undertaken to bring the stories to you. Life seem to have gone on a fast forward mode with pauses in between for the things that matter in my life albeit brief ones. I was mourning the loss of my best friend, Choo Tse Chien, the person I have considered as family, since his sudden demise in August 2011. At that time, I had work assignments that required my composure & sense, keeping it all in to project the fragile front that managed to trick a few who did not know me well. I lost a travel partner, a guide, a teacher, a source of inspiration & excitement. I lost my panic button of sorts, a shoulder whose never tired of my outpouring of emotions . Immersing myself with work, I could only think of how my life would be without a reference, a valuable opinion or a confidante. Just how God can take him away at the prime of his life, I don’t want to know. I only know how much I miss him, his nagging & his kiddie-ish sparkle in the little secrets that he shared with me. I am thankful to have been his best friend for the last 6 years of his life & to have known how precious his friendship was to me. The whole of Penang rings of his name & presence at the mere mention & as I drove up to bid him farewell then, I knew Penang would never be the same again.

Everything that I know about birds, Chien had taught me. Every gear that I needed to get, he had done the research for me to make sure I didn’t make any wrong purchases. I made it this far since we started birding in 2006 is because of his infectious influence in my life. He made me enjoy birding so much. When I was on the phone with him one morning after walking the dog, I had seen a very curious blue/green bird with no tail. I described the bird to him & he told me to get my gear back to that spot I had been to shoot the ever elusive Hooded Pitta! And I did. He made everything so simple & attainable. And he worked hard for everything he had acquired, choosing to buy me stuff because I was the female version of him who loved bags. He added to my collection of bags when he himself couldn’t resist getting them. He made decisions when we travelled & it was simple because I didn’t want to think. I can go on & on but I want to tell you that even as I miss him dearly, I have chosen to let my memories stay within the hundreds of letters we have written to each other through email. We even fight through email. Being the big man that he is, he is very quick to make amends & apologise even though it’s my fault. Gosh, I don’t want to cry anymore & I’m sure you would want to read about the happy things happening right now instead.

So I will leave you with this, as personal as I could ever get, I am sad I have lost my best friend but I am glad to know that he loved me even as he had to deal with the biggest brat ever in the last 6 years of his life. I will endeavour to keep this passion for birding that you have instilled in me, for the underwater photography that you have been so supportive of & the cycling that you inspired me to take on. Sorry for all the times I’ve defied you as you have always been right. I just wanted to be a brat. Babes, if I’m not a brat to you, who else can I be a brat to???

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In loving memory of Chien.

Never Miss A Shot with Pentax – My Selangor Story 2011

I was eager to swim & soak away the aches so I took the opportunity to take the Pentax Optio WS80 with me. The thing that intrigues me is the amphibious nature of this model that I got supplied with during the contest duration to shoot with. I took it down to 1.5metres in the pool & it worked perfect. I could think of the many times that I have needed a small, waterproof, rugged camera with me & I will detail them here.
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Why You Would Need A Waterproof Camera:-

If you were an underwater photographer/videographer (like me), you need a backup camera. With the usual clunk that I carry, my underwater housing, strobes, lights, arms, tray, batteries/chargers weigh a ton. I simply cannot afford to carry another nor would I be able to purchase another set. When I shoot till the batteries dead, there is almost always a whale shark, a manta ray, an eagle ray or a happy squid BECKONING ME to shoot it. Somehow, Murphy’s Law would only apply then, ‘Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong.’ It is absolutely wrong NOT to be able to document any NatGeo moment that I encounter. The Pentax Optio WS80 or Pentax Optio WG1 would sit perfectly inside my BC pocket.

  • When you have a pool party, you almost always get thrown into the pool. Everything else can be replaced but definitely not the pixels recorded in your memory card if you don’t have a waterproof camera.
  • When you go jungle trekking & have to cross rivers with rocky terrain, the last thing you need is to drop your camera while balancing on these ultra slippery rocks. And you are like me, you want to take the breathtaking shots as you trek……
  • You teach swimming & scuba diving like me & want something to record your student’s progress. They can’t see how they perform themselves if you don’t have a waterproof camera that can shoot videos of them with. It is great for perfecting their strokes (swimming) and correcting their finning method (diving). Maybe you can get your friend to record your performance too.
  • You love tide pools after the tide go out & want to document life in these tiny pools that hold a myriad of life. It’s impossible to submerge a bulky, housed camera & a small, handhold, amphibious camera would be great for this task. Another NatGeo opportunity that you wouldn’t want to miss.
  • You’re one of those who like taking pictures of yourself in the bath……no, I’m not that type so WIPE THAT IMAGE OF ME DOING THAT IN YOUR HEAD.
  • You just want to don on your rain jacket & play in the rain & what better way to shoot in these circumstances than to have a waterproof camera with you at all times???
  • Still not convinced? Well, I spent a hour in the pool at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort to convince myself why I SHOULD BE GETTING A WATERPROOF CAMERA next & it wasn’t very hard to convince myself after looking at the videos. These videos are super clear & have already been resized.

The beautiful landscaped garden at the hotel, has a man-made waterfall cascading into a concrete pool. The garden is bordered by a walled fence beside the golf course thus, a serene & tranquil environment for guests.

The kids playing merrily in the pool made great subjects to film underwater. Here are the videos taken with it:-

The camera is perfect for travellers who want a fuss-free, waterproof model to take snapshots in situations where they wouldn’t want normal cameras to function in, such as at beaches, waterfalls, lakes, swimming pools. It serves as a good back up camera with HD movie capability in the event that your primary camera refuse to work for whatever reason.

As soon as I got out of the pool to relax on on of the deck chairs, the pool attendant walked over with a beach towel & handed it to me. I am impressed with the level of service rendered even at the recreational level where guest are expected to take it easy. Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort has definitely got it right with impeccable service!

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

 

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

 

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Sumptuous Offer at The Mix, Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie – My Selangor Story 2011

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Zynchro, the resident band.

Now we see why we need a holiday to recuperate from one & thankfully as we headed down to Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort,, there were no other physical challenges ahead apart from chilling out. The closing dinner was held at The Mix, our official restaurant for My Selangor Story 2011 & the chefs whipped up a storm! I particularly enjoyed the Mesclun Salad & the Apple Potatoes Salad with Toasted Nuts topped with a generous helping of balsamic & garlic sauce. I had 5 helpings before going for the main dishes which were superbly done. The presentation of the food in circular bowls served on covered heated pans ensures the food stays warm no matter how many times you go back for second helpings.

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Mesclun Salad & the Apple Potatoes Salad with Toasted Nuts

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The offering at the dinner!

The Mix has a bar downstairs & a restaurant upstairs. As you enter the premise, the kitchen is in full view of the patrons, watching the chefs cook will whet your appetite as you look through the menu for what to eat. Ladies Nite is on every Wednesday AND Saturday where we ladies are entitled to selected cocktails & spirits all night long. There is a private dining room for patrons wishing to have a space away from others & a rack of fine wine for the connoisseur.

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Chef at the grill!

The dinner marked the closing of the 5 day tour & a celebration of the coming together of so many brilliant young minds for the chance of contesting in such challenging circumstances. Sagina Manandhar, Marketing Communications Manager of Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort, gave the closing speech as a welcome to having us stay with them & to congratulate everyone for surviving the challenges! En. Fazly Razally, the Event & Marketing Manager of Tourism Selangor, arrived later to join us for the after dinner celebrations with the house band!

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Zynchro, the resident band that performs nightly at The Mix, entertained us with a great rendition of current hits & hot favourites. Before long, the crowd was dancing to their upbeat numbers. Dian organised a surprise birthday cake for Amelia, the organiser, as she celebrates her birthday that evening with us. She obliged to sing again at the popular request by all of us & was she good!

We said our goodbyes to the Indonesian bloggers who would be on the first flight out the next morning. It was rather sad to let them go & it would have been so good to be perpetually on holiday but with modern technology of the internet, we will never be far from each other.

Watch for my next post on the 5th day of my tour! And please vote for me HERE! <—- Every blogpost is an entry so please vote on every link that you find at the end of my entries! Thank you!

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.

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

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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……

Malaysia Becomes ISOs First Asian Country Venue Host!

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Here we are again, the ISO Standards Meeting. This time, with my other Malaysian delegates, Syed Abdul Rahman, Lawrence Lee, Michael & William Tong & Khatijah Hashim!

Returning from shooting in the jungle, I had to set my gear in motion for the bi-annual ISO Standards meeting on 28 & 29 June 2011, the one that the Ministry of Tourism sent me to Orlando for in October 2009. That trip gave me a chance to visit my all-time fantasy land of Magic Kingdom where all dreams do come true & to meet my family in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was decided then, that Egypt being the first to bid, would get to host first, thus, the Ministry sent me to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt last December of 2010 & finally got to be the first Asian country to host a Working Group meeting!

I met up with Wolfgang, Martin, Mark, Steffen, Julie & Trond the night before the meeting to let them savour the best of Malaysian’s hawker fare at Lot 10. They tried our authentic Hokkien Mee, Cantonese Fried Kuey Teow, Pork Satay, Herbal Drinks, Yong Tow Foo & some other stuff but I was too busy trying to take panorama pictures to note what other stuff they had ordered.

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The panorama feature is in the Scene mode of the Samsung NX100!

In their invitation card for the welcoming dinner, the dress code specified was either Formal or Batik so I brought them batik-shopping in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle! They were ever so enthusiastic to own a piece of our cultural heritage & the shopkeeper was so happy that he gave me silk handkerchief for bringing them there!

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Martin Denison tries on a silk batik while Trond & Steffen deliberate in the background.

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The gentlemen with their various try-outs!

In the day, for two consecutive days, the meeting proceeded as usual. Though not all the delegates were present, notably Deric Ellerby, my BSAC National Instructor who certified me as one in 1998.

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We convened at Renaissance Hotel.

Everyone got very excited as dinner time approached. Here we are, garbed in our batik!

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From left:- Steffen of Wales, Trond of Norway, Wolfgang of Italy, Mark of UK, yours truly, Peter of MSDA, Martin of Austria.

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Group photo before dinner.

All ready, we walked across from the hotel to Saloma Bistro right opposite, to the beating drumbeat of the kompang!

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The Ministry of Tourism put together an ensemble of cultural dances & the delegates had a great time participating on stage!

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Taken together with the Deputy Secretary General, Acting Director General, Director of the Industry Development Division of the Tourism Ministry.

The night ended with all smiles as the delegates prepared to return to their countries the following day. A few stayed on for the seminar at the dive expo & also for diving in our warm waters! Until the next meeting in December, I will continue to work with both Ministries for the development of the ISO Standards in Malaysia! 🙂

Racing For Birds in Frasers Hill

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Under the invitation of Travel Malaysia & Tourism Malaysia in Singapore, I attended the Bird Race two weekends ago in the company of avid birders & photographers comprising of 38 teams in a quest to spot & name the most number of species in the 1 & 1/2 day race up in Fraser’s Hill, Pahang. The event was celebrated with the presence of officials & councillors amidst vendors adding to the festivity with sale of bird identification books, embroidered patches, shirts, binoculars, digiscopes & headgear. I met someone whom I had been communicating with for the passed 4 years in the forums & later joined his group for the race that soon floored me.

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Panoramic shot using the inbuilt function on the Samsung NX100. Vendors at The International Bird Race 2011

The race started at noon & we proceeded to the usual birding spots to count the species & also procure ”˜photographic evidence.’ Jason, Andrew, Ron & Alven were using digiscopes, short name for digital camera-mounted-spotting scopes. They hail from the land below the wind, Sabah, our neighbouring state in Borneo, and they were bent on locating the Silver Breasted Broadbill, the Orange Breasted Trogon & Silver Eared Mesia, which are non-existent or scarce in their terrain. Playing the good host, I brought them to midway between Hemmant Trail & Bishop Trail, when I got plagued with a broken clamp on my tripod, a non-functioning Aperture Priority on my Olympus E1, slow buffering rates & tripod giving way. Upon Andrew’s suggestion, I shortened the third section of my tripod to make it two sections for all three legs, rendering a shorter tripod, a bent back & a craned neck. I was subjected to sitting on my birding chair & crossing the tripod legs over mine in order to get a better balance & stability to shoot any birds that land ahead of me. The picture below depicts how camouflage & proper equipment can make a big difference in the success of bird photography. Unfortunately, I haven’t got any NX lenses for birding. I am contemplating on getting an adapter to affix my current lens onto the NX100 but will be limited to manual focus only.

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The Sabahan birder team & the armchair birder!

Spotted the Female Large Niltava giving me her sexy pose near her place of residence. The Male came out while I was fiddling with my camera, hopped onto a milestone & stared squarely at me about 2 metres away. Before I could direct the lens at him, he fled. Sigh. Presenting you, his partner……

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Female Niltava.

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Niltava feeding on a worm.

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Cuckoo Dove perched after feeding!

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Chestnut Capped Laughing Thrush feeding on moth.

Nesting sites & nests are almost a highly prized commodity worthy of secrecy & protection. Alven & I ventured to the spot where a Silver Breasted Broadbill’s nest was spotted & we virtually parked ourselves about 7 metres away from it. This specie is very clever, weaving & building a hanging nest from a suspended branch over a ravine where no humans could get to, nor wild animals apart from snakes. At 15 minute intervals, the parents would return singularly to feed the chicks in the nest. Each time people ventured to where we were, I swung into a pose & Alven had to pretend that he was shooting me instead to detract them from sighting the nest. Here, I managed to catch a glimpse of the chick but only see it properly in the pictures.

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The mummy (female) returning to feed chicks. Note the ”˜necklace’ she’s wearing.

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And the slightly larger male’s turn to feed chicks.

To get a proper shot of them, we had to stay put for over 2 hours. Even with my camera troubles, these record sightings of them are worth it. I can’t wait to get my hands on an NX lens for birding. With newer technology, I am sure to have the chance to improve on my shots. The Sabahans came out as 3rd Runner-Up in the pro category & received books & hamper plus cash vouchers & I got to take home a piece of my work, not in bird photography but in an expression of colours on fabric!

The batik painting that I completed in about 4 hours in between meals & shooting nature, sparked off a new hobby & reignited my passion for painting since I laid my brushes to rest after school.

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My next purchase would have to be a sturdier, carbon fibre tripod to support my equipment. The never-ending buying of gears is part & parcel of a lifelong pursuit of nice pictures. Until then, I’d have to be happy with being under-my-tripod-on-a-chair to track birds that fleet over with no fear of the camo-clad, clandestine meets with the feathered-kind.

Happy Thoughts, Happy Trails & Happy Fins!

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Staring at my screen, my mind flows to the instances when & where I had been the happiest. My dad instituted in me when I was growing up, that it’s not how much I can make but what I do to get there that would make me rich. It’s not about being with the people who can help me achieve my goals but about making the goals to help the people around me so they won’t falter. He wanted me to go places, to see things, something I couldn’t really fathom at the age of 13, but his words echoed in my mind. I had 4 dogs, 17 cats & 2 turtles which I could never take with me & the thought of going anywhere without them wasn’t appealing at all. I was filled with thoughts of how to save the world – the world being the stray dogs & cats in Malaysia because every time when it stormed, the thought of a stray dog/cat being drenched & suffering in the cold, etched a despairing imagery that made my heart drop. Indeed, my first ambition had been to be a vet & save ”˜my world.’

As if animals had the seventh sense, (detection of impure intentions), my first dog, Mickey, was adverse towards my mother, a Hakka who USED to eat dogs. It’s repulsive to think my mom ate my best friends’ kind but in her days, it’s either dog meat or die of starvation. Well, the feud began as Mickey would wait for the time when my mom would hang her laundry (dad, sis & hers included) & when it was all done, would leap up the lines to pull them all off!!! LOL!!! He even knew which items belonged to her & would shred her clothes to bits!! ( I really shouldn’t laugh but it was such a funny sight to see her going after him with my dad & I running to the rescue! Rescue the dog, I mean…..) When my nanny does our laundry, Mickey would sleep underneath the clothes line to chase away the landing crows. Call this loyalty but it went on for years! I’m surprised she didn’t eat him up. Ppffffttttt! 😀

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I went to school daily with several paw prints on my pinafore, drawing curiosity from teachers till they accepted the fact that I had very enthusiastic dogs that bade me farewell in the mornings. We went straight home after school, had lunch & short nap before we went to the golf club for our extra-curricular activities. On weekends, my sister & I would follow dad to the shooting range for his practices. We got acquainted with everyone at the club until I picked up air pistol shooting myself. I didn’t go as far as to represent the country like my dad did in the Asian Games, Commonwealth & SEA Games, but I got an idea how passionate dad was about his practices long after he retired from the sport. Then my thoughts went further back as a child when dad would bring us to the beach in Port Dickson. During low tide, there were lots of soldier crabs which I half expected to leap out of their burrows & nip me. Refusing to walk, I clung onto my dad’s legs for dear life…….with a reassuring voice, he said, “Darling, daddy will hold your hands & you can put your feet on mine. We will walk to the water together ok? The crabs won’t bite daddy’s feet!” That sounded just fine. I could do with that. So we set out with me standing on my dad’s feet, being held up by his hands & we took giant strides to escape the battlefield of claws & clippers….

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Mom would disappear into the horizon the moment she enters the water. Used to freak dad out. Dad was the stronger swimmer but mom loved the sea & had no fear. Isn’t it apparent where I got this ocean-streak from??? Mom’s fearless attitude & dad’s wisdom had kept me astute in all other sense & I thank God for their dedication in my life. The last I heard, dad is happily playing golf in heaven. Mom will soon join him there. She can still recognise me but she’s no longer able to talk nor respond to what I say to her. ? – I am thankful that she is in Christ & my assurance is in the promises of God, in the Word that has been established since the beginning of time. I know she will be in a happier place after suffering from stroke twice.

I sail across the reef & look at the colonies that God had designed. It’s so awesome that He pieced them together to build a reef occupied by so many inhabitants. Even my camera cannot capture the marvels of His thoughts & all I can do is show you a glimpse of my world & what goes through my mind when I dive.

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It’s been awhile since I wrote any heartfelt pieces. I was too busy getting in & out of aeroplanes, stopping to pick flowers but not to smell them, I’ve witnessed but not engaged & I have disassociated from caustic people who tried to rob me of my joy. I have made peace with God to not fret with people who discount me from their lives in their moment of weakness & after trying to make peace with them unsuccessfully, it’s time to move on. The burden is not mine to bear. God fills every need I have & I can’t ask for more. I hope they too, would forgive me for my silence in letting go.

I want to make every second count. I will take more pictures & fill you in on what goes on in my life, if you care to come back here. All these engagements to write for my sponsors are indeed, my own opinion & I will not endorse anything contrary to my beliefs. I have started my new appointment with another travel agency & this new covenant will be for His Kingdom. There will be events & exciting happenings as we roll out our offers soon. Hope you are able to join me in my adventures to make these stories come to life!

Team Off Course In Motor Treasure Hunt

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Blue skies outstripped the preceeding days of rain & haze, ushering me to get ahead with my geargets (pummkinology for combination of gears & gadgets) & newly acquired Samsung NX100 hybrid camera! Rendezvous with Nigel & Carman was at 7:15am, at Metro Tabernacle. Most times, we spent hours on end not saying anything to each other as we spend them underwater but it was an exceptionally chirpy, Tuesday morning because we were going on a motor treasure hunt! Nigel called our team, OFF COURSE, which was quite apt, I tell you. One wonders what team members get up to when they put an adventurer shutterbug who loves food to the navigator. Let me lead you through our journey of solving the puzzles & clues contained within the challenge.

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At the flag-off, we got a shot of our 1-member-short team. Jo couldn’t wake up in time to join us leaving us to solve problems & decipher what-we-thought as non-existent!

Starting out hopeful, I brought my entourage along. Let me introduce them to you. Tigris, my tiger; Gigi, my giraffe & Hippster Jr, my baby hippo. Don’t be fooled by their cute expression, they pack a punch to power up a computer & wire up to the net! I’m serious! They are little bags that hold all my cables, USB modem, AC Adaptor & other knick-knacks…..hahaha!

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Tigris, Gigi & Hippster Jr at work.

Having done 2 U-turns, we must have missed all the clues because either we have gotten it wrong or there’s something about the tulips (instructional map of hunt) that really threw us off course. By the end of the first hour, we figured we weren’t going to make the finish line at 12:45pm. The route took us through to Cheras & onward to Kajang town, with questions that challenged our intelligence…..or the lack of it. I was particularly looking forward to the photo-acquisition challenge along the way, however, we circled round & round Kajang town to find why ”˜Baba is missing’ or how ”˜Hot coins perhaps heated up audio equipment’ could have been possible. Some of the questions were quite pseudo & deceptive & the only way to find out the answer is to get down for them. The sun was high up & both Carman & I were in sleeveless/spaghetti strapped top, exposing a huge surface area that would be sun-kissed so we decided to stick our heads out of the window to scout the place.

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I found a biscuit shop! They had all my favourite kinds of biscuits! No, I couldn’t stuff Nigel’s car with it…..

We changed course the moment I told my team about Duck Satay. Suddenly, the quest for the champion spot was no longer on the list. Carman & Nigel were on the hunt to eat a quack. Duck Satay, it has become….. We ordered Fish Satay & Duck Satay, literally ate our heart out before setting off on the hunt again.

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Malaysia Restaurant is at the corner shop opposite the pedestrian bridge.

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The satay was all meat & no fat pieces. Pretty good for RM1.20 per stick!

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The peanut sauce came with a teaspoon of sambal paste to give it an extra zing!

Along the way, you might say we happily trailed behind others because looking for the answers was a lot of fun. We had to take a photo of ”˜one of Dorothy’s friends’ which we deciphered to be Scarecrow, Tin Man or Lion. I wasn’t expecting to see any lion in the wild so we had to settle for Tin Man or Scarecrow only. We had strange quests to fulfill & seeing the picture below was an indication of how we performed to achieve them. The vista of the interiors of Hulu Langat from Semenyih was truly breathtaking. We were glad we had satay because every car in the hunt was off course & late.

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Scrumptious food awaited us at the Langat Fishing Seafood & Beer Garden, the final destination of the hunt. It wasn’t about winning, it wasn’t about how we couldn’t answer the questions because with all the pictures that we took along the way with all my geargets, we had a whopping good time!

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Yam with Mantis Shrimp & Cashew Nuts

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Steamed Chicken with Soy Sauce

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Steamed Tilapia Fish with Bean Sauce & Chillies

The moral of the hunt is, it doesn’t matter where you are going or what you are looking for, as long as you have great friends to get lost with, it makes it worthwhile to stay OFF COURSE!
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The team OFF COURSE! ? – Incredible hunters with wild friends….

Kopi’s Gotten Hitched!

A beverage of colours is what we are known as on our usual morning breakfast rendezvous. Sree will order his kopi (coffee), Aziz his Milo & teh tarik (frothy milk tea) for me. For months, we would discuss Sree’s wedding plans. We laughed of the idea of filming his wedding & making him a placard to wear around town on his stag night to tell the world that he will be married. In his excitement one day, he excused himself to the gents, only to return with a panic look telling me that he’s dropped his phone in the latrine! The sadism in me overruled my sympathies for his sh*t-drenched phone & what followed afterwards left much to be told.

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Aziz & I were half-expecting him to call for our usual rendezvous but this time, his urgent voice denoted yet another emergency. He had lost his car keys with his mother’s & cousin’s luggages for their maiden trip to Jakarta! We rushed to get to him, whisk the women of his life to KLIA Express, put them on the train & sent them off while he sorted out his problem with the locksmith. His mother said to me, “Aiyo, he’s always like that, my daughter is calling from Jakarta & asking, “Ah Mah, are you on the plane yet???” and I’m thinking I’d better not tell her that we are not even in the airport yet!” She also said that he dropped his wallet into the toilet bowl before so Sree must have had some form of affinity for the lavatory. He then flew to the airport to check in the bags to make sure they got there with their pieces!

The day of joy came for him & his beautiful bride, Valee to be joint in holy matrimony & I made sure I was present to (laugh) celebrate his great moment (at) with him!

Congratulations, Sree & Valee! May your kopi be brewed & stirred constantly with the aroma of excitement & joy as you work on your brood of mini-kopis! 😀

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Teh Tarik, Kopi’s Wife, Kopi & Milo!

Even his guests became the unofficial dancers to grace his event!

Austrian Food at Karl Beisls

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Curried pumpkin soup with Austrian white wine

I was invited to a food tasting at Karl Beisls by Andrew of one of our local dailies & when we arrived, two reporters from another daily have already started with dinner! The war of the universe has begun & yours truly was in the line of fire when the offensive party knows not that I do not work for their adversary. When the food arrived, they clamoured for the photo opportunity, leaving no room for Andrew or me to shoot. Getting a feel of a territorial war, I began to sympathise with Andrew. Seated next to the enemy, I had been the butt of their insinuations of our purported lateness. I replied, Oh, were you told to come earlier then? Hmmm…wonder why we were told to come at eight. Maybe they think we shouldnt eat that much.

When I had the chance, I whispered to Andrew, Oi, Uncle, I feel like Im treading in enemy waters, what have you done to them? Shes really sarcastic! Is this what you do in the reporting business???

Dunno lah, Auntie, they are all like that. Just enjoy your food & dont give them room to attack you.

Ok, our mode of operation became a story telling session. I couldnt eat most of the dishes due to my allergy but we had lots of fun sampling other non-pork dishes & sharing backpacking tales.

After losing 4.5kg in 5 weeks, I didnt think the pumpkin soup, salad & salmon steak would do anything to jeopardise my weight management program. My pants fit & I dont wobble when I walk. Thats all that matters.

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Pork Jelly Salad – I cant touch this.

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Pork Knuckle with Bratwurst…..cant touch this at all

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Salmon Salad! Yummy!

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Chef Karl Beisl with Roasted Suckling Pig…..I cant touch this. Im allergic to pork.

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Another Pork Dish… cant touch this either

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Osso Bucco Lamb Shank with Pasta – Im allergic to lamb too.

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Ah, finally my Salmon Steak with Spinach & Mashed Potatoes!!!

Category: Food  Tags: , , ,  7 Comments