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Ushering The New Year in Taiwan

It’s a totally different feeling in a different country when I ushered in 2017. The last New Year ushered me in to Taiwan, where I have been living for the last one year. My adventures brought me to a place where I could discover my roots as a Peranakan (Straits Settlement Chinese), not knowing any ancestral Chinese practices prior to 5 generations ago. My great great grandpa had immigrated to Malaya (What Malaysia was prior to 1963 when we combined Sabah & Sarawak to form Malaysia) from Fujian (Hokkien, a province in China) in the 1800’s, sent my great grandpa, Peter Lim Teow Chong to Penang Free School where he also became the school captain, and onward to Kuala Lumpur with historical records of him being the first court interpreter in 1901.

I started an intensive Mandarin course that intensified not only my language capability but my own understanding of a culture that was not quite there for me not knowing why things are done in ways that couldn’t be explained by my Western influenced late dad, neither could it be articulated by my late mom for she was always busy making food or going out to play mahjong with her friends. Questions like why do we celebrate Chinese New Year or why do we have to have specific kinds of foods served during then or why do we do things this way and not that way, never really had an answer because the customs and practices were handed down by parents and grandparents and their parents who were educated and taught in English. The culture began to unfold itself from what’s ingrained in the Chinese characters as I will be finishing my 3rd term after Chinese New Year.

Grabbing my monopod (because I left my tripod in Malaysia), a chair and thermal mug of hot chocolate, my housemate and I went up Xiangshan ?? to the lookout platform and made our way through the enthusiastic crowd who had already gathered an hour before to find a place to park till countdown.

Sorry for the vibrations as I had to jostle with the crowd to get that window of opportunity to capture this. Hope you had a great start to the New Year!

Visiting Kuala Lumpur’s Colourful Past

The Chinatown walking tour is one of the most enlightening tours of Kuala Lumpur that you can be in. Arriving at the meeting point for the Rakan KL’s 2-hour tour, I had just picked up Wolfgang from KL Sentral where he had just landed from Italy! Entering an old hotel and walking along the buildings on the streets that have somewhat lost its lustre, I looked at what will be demolished in due time for the erection of the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) in the area. It was interesting to note that before Pudu Jail, there predates it was a smaller prison that sits on Jalan Panggong (Theatre Street) where arts & culture once thrived. This street served as the centre of entertainment & cultural development of sorts from street arts to opera. A few legacy shops selling artistic wares still exist today but for how long, we don’t know.

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We continued to venture with the guidance of the prominent artist, Victor Chin & environmental guardian, Adrian Yeo & his team to the back lanes where we got the chance to enter a house that resembled a ”˜secret society’s den’ in the heydays. It looked like a clan house. The doors had vertical bars as barriers, something that you don’t see in modern architecture anymore. Then we stopped for a mid-morning snack where I had a bowl of yee mee for breakfast & a generous handful of spongerusks that Victor handed out. I forgot what it was like savouring the flavours of Petaling Street where my late mother frequented when I was growing up. Four generations of my family have lived & breathed the air of the confluence of two rivers, known as Kuala Lumpur & never before have I felt so depressed about the lost of a heritage site. Sitting by the sidewalk is an gentleman of Indian heritage who came here as a boy at 5 years of age. Today, he 58 years old. He sells sundries, newspapers & magazines for as long as he had been there.

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Walking further along the street heading to Chin Woo Stadium, I got to see the art along the side walls of Yan Keng Benevolent Dramatic Association. Here is where a prominent tailor, Kwong Fook Wing, made his royal commissions. The KL Commercial Book Store is also situated here. After the final stop at Chin Woo Stadium, the highest point in Kuala Lumpur city, we made our way to lunch in a backstreet restaurant before parting ways. It is reported that one is able to look directly at Bukit Aman police headquarters where before it wasn’t possible during the British occupation in Malaya!

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St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sharm El-Sheikh

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If visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site is on your list to do when you visit Eqypt, then make a trip to St. Catherine’s monastery & catch a glimpse of Moses’ burning bush & the well of his destiny at Mount Sinai! It’s located a few hours away by road from Sharm El-Sheikh. We got off on foot after trailing across mountain ranges to get to St. Katherine city to see the place where Moses purportedly met with God.

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Opposite the monastery….

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The view on the road to the mountain was breathtaking to say the least, I was blown away by the terrain & vastness of the dry desert. It was in December when I visited Sharm El-Sheikh & it was a good 10?C. Reaching 1500m above sea level, we got down to walk the rest of the way to the monastery from the parking area. I had to climb a monstrous mountain to take a picture of the monastery! In my Crocs!

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At the base of the rocky range, vendors sell their wares along a row of little shops. It’s interesting to see & not be able to buy as I’m already over-weighted with all that I had to bring on my journey to Sharm El-Sheikh. The drive kept me in awe & seeing the size of the ranges up close truly made me marvel at what God can do. We went inside the monastery but many areas were cordoned off, sparking my curiosity to break in ala Tomb Raider style. I wasn’t dressed for the part neither did I have my cloak of boldness worn when I went pass the fortress. Still, I’m sure I would have headed straight for the kitchen if I were allowed to roam.

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My fascination for animals & especially animals I hadn’t seen before, was quite apparent judging by the expressions I got from my subject & the people around me. This camel was rather cautious as I pointed my camera at him. And camels sleep with their entire neck & head lying on the ground! I also learnt that walking on these pebbly & sandy ground is rather uncomfortable. Be sure you have the right kind of shoes when traversing hard terrains & wear socks to cushion impact. Wearing a hat helps & be sure to have polarised sunnies.

I flew to Sharm El-Sheikh with Emirates Air with one stopover in Jordan. Once you have your ground arrangements taken care of, getting there is a breeze with the many airlines that fly to Sharm El-Sheikh.

The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO report, this monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world together with the Monastery of Saint Anthony, situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo, which also lays claim to that title.

The Selangor Heritage Trail on Wheelsâ„¢ Event on Boxing Day

This post appeared first on Detours US blog under the Ambassador Program of which I had become a part of. Detours is the maker of bike bags in the USA. You can see it here.

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Selangor Heritage Trail on Wheels was a cycling event that took approximately 100 cyclists to get to know the historical sites & places with heritage value at Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), Selangor, Malaysia. We went to recce the places & earmarked them to let participants experience the splendour of that destination on bicycles! An initiative effort by the state government of Selangor under the Tourism & Environment portfolio of YB Elizabeth Wong, the Head of Tourism Executive Committee, we collaborated with the Hulu Selangor Town Council (Majlis Daerah Hulu Selangor or MDHS) to bring cyclists & cycling enthusiasts together to participate in a non-competitive, non-race event to seek out the heritage trail with a map on a route led by authorities.

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Traffic Police Station.
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How it looked like in the old days. It was once a church!

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Group photo with Well Tan (in white top to the left of person in black shirt) & her darling riders.

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So many foldies!!!

Recognising the need to reduce our carbon footprint, we designated two segments of the program for that day, one being the main trail in town, the other being the adventure trail to see the historical broken dam of Ampang Pecah, the Masjid (mosque), the Chinese & Indian temples located just outside of KKB town. The dam that collapsed in 1884, was responsible for flooding the old town of Kuala Kubu, causing the death in untold numbers, one of the reasons why they moved the old town that’s now submerged, to the new site called Kuala Kubu Bharu. There are a few churches in town & a lot of interesting eateries that have been around for ages. There’s a little quaint restaurant that used to serve chilled herbal tea in brandy bottles & ordering them is equally fun!

The cook in the kitchen of Teo Kee Restaurant at Big Tree in front of the post office in KKB.

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The heritage spots.

The route promised to be exciting with a famous Butter Sponge Cake shop as one of the stops & a police station that was formerly a church. Riders went to all the spots encompassing a 25km loop with a stop at a broken dam & a hot spring. At the end of the event, I was asked to do a similar event in a different district & it looks like the heritage trail will soon go places!

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Ampang Pecah, the broken dam.

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King George Monument

The town has a cycling lane, an effort to get citizens back to riding bicycles but the route of the heritage trail covered everywhere else.

I managed to get Folding Bike Trading to be the official supporting bicycle shop to standby with technical support for the cyclists & Lafuma as the sponsor of discount vouchers for the goodie bags. Even breakfast & lunch were catered for together with a lorry load of fruits (durians, dukus & rambutans) for the cyclists to feast on!

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Cyclists in full coloured fashion!

We asked the ladies to come dressed in their most fashionable attire as riding is not just about racing but about looking good on your bike! We wanted them to come accessorised with gadgets & bags too! Then we asked the men to come in anything but racing outfit. The photo opportunity depicted them in cool attire rather than in competition vests. They redefined Sightseeing on Wheels! The launch was officiated by the President of the town council, two Members of Parliament & head of police in the district & we had a bike acrobat to perform some really cool stunts that put people half his age to shame. 70+years Ramanathan did some calisthenics & balancing act on his bike to the stunned audience before the ride.

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Flag off!

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Bike acrobat & riding around the block.

As the country was developed without the cyclist in mind, we are helping the state gazette cycling lanes to make the roads safer to ride in & create any event that will bring cyclists together in numbers. Working with local councils who are all for the idea is a great experience & nothing beats the thrill of riding in the countryside discovering new places & finding food along the way. Follow my journey as we convince others to get on the bike again!

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Yours truly having a picture taken with YB Elizabeth Wong!

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Hot spring – a soak after a cool dip at the dam….