Tag-Archive for » outdoors «

Arriving in Kunming, Dali & Erhai Village, China in 24hours

As far as my eyes could see out of the little pane on my window seat, we were descending into a mountainous region. Whatever I’ve seen in paintings of old China plastered on the wall of coffeeshops as I was growing up actually reflected what was before me. Landing in Kunming, Yunnan, China, my 12 day trip began. The superfluous road journey was enough to set my hip off if it weren’t for the BackJoy Posture+ seat that I had lugged along. Absolutely necessary for long car rides. Each day, we travelled between 150 – 350km, stopping along the way for scenic spots & photo opportunity. Given the chance, I would have loved to stay put longer in one place to experience the culture & life of the people.

Our first stop was at ErHai Fishing Village, a lake that the Chinese term as the sea for the never-ending sight of the horizon. Not getting much sleep from the night before when we arrived at The Ancient City of Dali (Dali Gusheng), I woke up to a temperatures too low for my liking. A cotton-loving girl donned in Uniqlo HeatTech, fleece & technical jacket is hardly anything to marvel at. I saved my waterproof ski pants for the coldest sector of my journey…….Yading, in Sichuan near the Himalayas.

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At dawn, these boats are parked by the lakeside.

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Boats parked.

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Fisherfolks row out to haul in the catch.

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Wheat clusters left by the road.

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Mode of transport for the village folks.

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Taking out the vermicelli noodles at the factory.

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Noodles hanging out to dry.

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Garbed in balaclava, beanie & hooded jacket.

This was our first stop on our long & arduous journey to Yading Nature Reserve. On the bus, there were 12 other photographers & an MPV with 6 people plus the driver. Travelling 350km upon arrival in the evening was anything but nice. The fun only began on the 3rd day when I was accosted by Leong Taoping (Long Bean Army as I called him) and the demure but bean-bashing, Angela.

Taking Your Smartphone Underwater

Spending in access of RM1,000 for your smartphone, warrants a smarter solution to protect it especially if you are going out to sea. How often have you been caught in a situation where you wished your phone (which has doubled up as your camera) was waterproof or robust? Salt water is especially corrosive & keeping it inside a big dry bag with all your other stuff may cause you to miss precious moments around you so how do you protect your phone from accidental slips into the sea or splashes that might short-circuit it?

I got a chance to take my Galaxy Note underwater (before acquiring the Sony Xperia Z1) & I tested the Dicapac DCP-WP-C2 casing that allowed me to operate the touchscreen whilst in the water. My favourite online camera shop, Shashinki, sells it for only RM80 & delivered right to your doorstep! There’s a selection of Green, White, Blue, Yellow & Pink casing & it’s no brainer which one I picked! So I decided to take it skin-diving with me!

I snorkelled to where the reefs sloped to about 8 metres deep & all the while, I can operated the touchscreen through the thick bubble atmosphere the casing created when I locked the zip-lock top. The air pocket created space between the screen & the casing. On the surface, I could still touch the ”˜shutter button’ on the screen but once I nose-dived down to 8 metres depth, the pressure flattened the air space & I couldn’t ”˜touch’ the screen again. The casing is rated to 10 metres, which to most users, is more than enough waterproofing. Not a problem as I could turn it to video & take screenshots later. Little did I know that I had filmed the video upside down because I was inverted! Here are some shots taken with the smartphone in the Dicapac casing in the water below the surface & at 8 metres.

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Just adjusted the levels of the picture, no other edits.

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Birds eye view from below the surface.

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The house reef in Tenggol!

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See my fins beneath the surface?

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At the drop-off, I managed to take a picture….

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Yours truly staring at the phone…..

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With the supplied lanyard, I never have to worry about misplacing my phone on the boat & if you drop it in the sea, it floats!

P.S. – Also good for situations where you run the risk of getting sprayed by water cannons…… 😉

Check out their range of Dicapac casings that fit your smartphone!

Hiatus Ended

Whenever there’s a hiatus from my blog, I take time out to do everything that I’ve been wanting to do for the year before finding that inspiration to write again. After my round-Malaysia camping trip with Rufus, my work started to pile, visits to my clients’ place became more frequent & delivering my assignments meant I had to burn the midnight oil. Not that unusual but sleeping late doesn’t sync with Rufus’ timing to get his walk in the morning where he struts happily to shower the caterpillars at the shrubs near the pond. Beckoned only by the crows tailing us as we encircle the our morning fields, we watch the Purple Heron from a distance, an indicator that winter migration has begun.

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Before the season of diving ended I was plagued by a childhood injury & dislocated my hip again. Having the Low family help me in & out of the water during their certification trip was somewhat embarrassing but when I was water-bound, I was weightless/painless & free. Grimacing as soon as I leave the ocean, I spent Raya being bedridden till I could access my chiropractor after his holidays to have my hip adjusted into place. While horizontal, I got acquainted with Chinese serial dramas again & was given the desire to see China. Lo & behold, Soo offered me to take over her trip & when God healed me during a specific altar call where He had given me a vision 4 days prior at the start of the Pentecostal World Conference & just after a lady gave me a book entitled, ”˜The Church in China,’ I was convinced that God was indeed, sending me to China.

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I visited my reefs & said hello to the resident Risbecia tryoni while the inquisitive Sea Perch decided to have its picture taken as well. Doing several dive trips before the season ended gave me an opportunity to accustom myself with the Olympus E-PM1 & the housing.

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In the month of Ramadhan, I witnessed the Tourism Minister together with Secretary General of Tourism giving red packets to under-privileged children at a buka puasa dinner hosted by the Ministry of Tourism. I caught up with fellow journalists from travel mags & Julini, my ex-colleague from Concorde Hotel.

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In the passed 2 months or so, I couldn’t bring myself to detail all that’s happened because life is just too fast paced & I had tons of writing to do for my clients. From 17-pages reports to drafting letters to minutes of meetings, all of which overworked my braincells & took away my creativity for awhile. I was even getting upset over events that had transpired in a meeting that I was minuting so nothing from me could be comprehensible in the last 2 months.

Just then, Sony Mobile selected my picture for the launching of Xperia Z1 in Malaysia & the picture of the Twin Towers was taken with the phone that they have presented me with.

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Soon after, I participated in another event & another picture was selected. Yes, I got busy with the 20 megapixel camera on the Z1 instead.

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I needed time out & China was a major trip traversing across mountainous terrains spanning over 1000km on the way to Yading in what I deem as freezing temperatures. I guess I’m made for the tropics. Will tell you about my trip in between my travels as soon as I appease Rufus because I’d been away too often & too long…..

Half A Year Gone

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Taiping Lake Gardens.

There are not enough hours in a day for me & every minute is precious when I’m doing the things I love to do most. When Wolfgang visited, we spent a week exploring the jungles of Malaysia equipped with tents, poles, four-legged companions & survival kits. We learnt that even a simple tent can bear quite an effect on your sleep if the roof is not vented & the fly-sheet is not totally waterproof. The tropical rainforest usually lives up to its name when you are least prepared and with Rufus & Spice coming along, there’s no option to stay in a resort. I have no problem with that & it’s so nice to see Rufus getting all protective of his space & master (or slave aka me).

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Rufus having a snooze while I drove.

Hearing the nocturnal insects & the quaak-quaak frogs at night made me feel like I was on a different planet. There was no ”˜ribbik’ nor the ”˜oowooongg’ noises from the bullfrogs but a very distinct & loud ”˜QUAAK!’ which is then answered by their fellow species somewhere else. It was an interesting night. Rufus was adapting to all these foreign noises too. Aziz had to alternate between his tent & the 4WD because Spice kept him awake frequently with the need to answer nature’s call. He decided to sleep in the car so as not to wake Wolfgang.

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Rufus taking a cool dip with me!

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The Milky Way!

We spent nights shooting the Milky Way & visited Lawrence & Ina in Gua Musang in Kelantan. After that, we headed to Grik & spent a night at Belum. There, I was visited by a wild boar while I was in the tent. We drove to Taiping for some sight-seeing before returning to KL for a dive trip to Aur & Tenggol. In between, I caught up with my ex-boss, Dato’ Loy & ex-colleagues to celebrate his birthday & facilitate sessions for FInancial Psychology’s workshops.

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Ex boss & colleagues.

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Pulau Dayang, off Pulau Aur.

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Sandwiched in between a colour-coded (coincidence) dressing for the day, Bose & Soo.

I am constantly reminded that I have to stop & smell the roses each time work gets too hectic or when the assignment gets the better of me. I found one in such splendour that smelling it alone would not justice to it. It put a smile to my face that God flutters the heart of His children when His flora flourishes! Here’s to more discoveries in the wild!

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How To Find The Milky Way

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At Bulb mode, 57 seconds, F2.8, ISO 1000 with contrast adjusted for you to see the ”˜band.’

Recuperating from a weekend of chasing birds at the Wings of KKB Selangor Bird Race 2013, I came home with the 3rd prize of a trophy, a Deuter Pulse 40 EXP waistpack & a certificate. Seizing the day of high pressure in the atmosphere, I decided to have a go at astro photography again, now that I live so far out from the city. After dinner, we set out to look for a dark spot in the countryside in Semenyih. We set up our tripods & in the total darkness, we fumbled as the lights from our LED torches temporarily blinded us whenever we switched off for shutter release. Remembering I had the red LED setting on my Petzl e+Lite headlamp, it made it easier to operate in the dark without causing dizzy spells.

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As Earth is part of the Milky Way, we can only see speckles of dust or what our eyes can make out as haze or clouds. Looking for the ever-so-familiar sight of the Milky Way, I could only guess which part of the sky it was. I had my Google Sky Map app with me & it provided a very precise location of the constellations in the sky, relative to where I was. Here are the instructions on how to equip yourself & find the Milky Way with your eyes!

 

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The equipment I brought along with me:-

1) Camera – I used the Samsung NX200 mirrorless hybrid for this.
2) Samsung 20mm F2.8 lens
3) Manfrotto MKC3-H01 tripod with movie head
4) Asus Padfone Station
5) Petzl e+Lite headlamp (Get it from Lafuma!)
6) Folding chair

And essentials that you should have with you:-

1) Mosquito repellant.
2) Snacks & drinks to quell hunger pangs when you get too excited.
3) Blinkers to mark yourself in the dark.
4) A multitool to operate quick-release plates/screws etc.
5) Hammock & pillow if you get too sleepy waiting for clouds to pass.
6) An entourage.

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‘When observing the night sky, the term “Milky Way” is limited to the hazy band of white light some 30 degrees wide arcing across the sky (although all of the stars that can be seen with the naked eye are part of the Milky Way Galaxy). The light in this band originates from un-resolved stars and other material that lie within the Galactic plane. Dark regions within the band, such as the Great Rift and the Coalsack, correspond to areas where light from distant stars is blocked by interstellar dust.’ – wikipedia.

At different times of the month, you might be able to see it if you find Pluto & a great way to do so is to do a search in Google Sky Map app on your Android device or any other star gazing apps such as Stellarium on your laptop, to point you to the exact location in the sky relative to where you are standing. Make sure your GPS is also turned on in your device.

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At Bulb mode, 60 seconds, F2.8, ISO 800, only brightness adjusted.

If you have a bright wide angle lens, use that instead. Telephoto lenses are good for taking pictures of planets, not constellations unless you have a specific constellation that you want in a frame. I have yet to experiment with other lenses & will post an update here once I do. Depending on your settings, the general rule is, the bigger your aperture (smaller F-stop), the more light it allows but to keep the image sharp, you need to keep ISO low (800 or 640) in order to keep the blacks. A minute or less should be sufficient but then again, experiment with stopping up on the ISO or time to get the desired results.

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Then I tried to take just the stars at F8.0, 37 seconds at ISO 2000 & all I got were the constellations!

I couldn’t adjust my tripod head to tilt any further as this cluster was already too high up in the sky. Your camera may or may not allow you to have priority release of shutter regardless of whether you can focus on anything or not. In my case, my camera has to be set on Manual mode, Manual Focus & Multi Point Focusing. Adjusting the focusing ring on my lens through the CCD & LCD in the dark is a great pain. Literally, my neck was craned as I had positioned my tripod over my seat to look into my screen as it pointed upwards to the sky. A lot of the aim, is GUESSWORK. Pressing the shutter release was the start, waiting for a minute or so was expected but as soon as you press the shutter again, the camera went into a processing mode which took another minute & during this time, you shouldn’t move your camera or tripod in case the shutter hasn’t really closed yet. I heard a third sound when the processing was done. Through the 4 – 5 hours of shooting, I only managed 30+ pictures, of which only 3 or 5 were usable so don’t fret if you don’t get your pictures on the first try!

Here are some of my fluke shots, the frustration that you get after waiting for the picture to be processed…..

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Best time to plan for a starry night, weather & elements dependent, is to use a Moon Phase widget on your Android device to help you decide on the days where the moon would be below the horizon. The best time would be when it’s at waxing crescent or waning crescent, what we know as new moon. Search for an ideal spot to include some trees or landscape in your picture BEFORE your actual night of shooting. This would help with any impromptu decisions to go stargazing whenever the skies are clear. Be aware of your surroundings though. You may not be able to see what’s around you but it doesn’t mean that you are not being watched. Nocturnal animals are out & about too. I found a Terrapin crossing the road & stopped to take a photo of it!

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Let me know if you have succeeded in taking any photos of the Milky Way!

What To Find While Birding in Kuala Selangor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flying Lizard (Cicak Kubing)

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

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

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They are normally built on the same tree.

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Closer look at the nest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Do I Blog & Do You Blog Too?

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I don’t write about mundane things. I don’t think you would want to read about what I do when I wake up as much as what I wake up in & with whom. Wouldn’t that stir your curiosity? ;) 

I spend much of my time outdoors because I can’t see myself getting fat & lazy as writers tend to sit too long to conjure up stories about their subjects when they have no experience to write about. I know of journalists whom instead of following the scene to get news, they would get actors to fake a scene  to make news, but that’s about as far reaching up (or down) the corporate ladder as their standards go. Just don’t believe everything that you read until you verify the facts for yourself. 

Just about anybody who writes a blog is considered a blogger nowadays but what do you actually blog about that details you as a person & most of all, an individual? Why do you read other people’s blogs? What do you hope to get out of reading someone’s blog or by following them? How do you position yourself as an individual? When I started blogging in late 2004, it was a way of expressing what I couldn’t in my work or professional assignments, things that God had led me to do & the encounters with different kinds of people in my life. I detailed my early pageantry participation in a post that made lighthearted sense into a piece that anyone can identify with. When you have skills & use them, looks become secondary to intelligence because over time, beauty fades but your wit will grow with you. Am I afraid of growing old? Well, I’m only afraid of what growing old might prevent me from doing, all my outdoor pursuits in the same vigour that produces my work for you. 

Encounters with caustic people have taught me to know the great disparity between class & crass. I hardly contend with psychopaths for the violent social behaviour that they demonstrate causes me to feel great pity upon them for the life that they can’t have. There are those who are deprived of attention when they lash out on others & that’s entirely their prerogative if they want to be known that way. They are of no consequence to the life I lead & the people who are around me. And I continue producing pieces to engage as much as you want to be engaged. 

If you blog, please remember that your blog is entirely an expression of who you are, what you do & what you deem to represent so when you spew scum or what I would call a solemn utterance with the intention to invoke supernatural powers to inflict harm on anyone, you are indeed, asking for it to be reflected back to you. I firmly believe in Genesis 12:3 as it results from what is said in Proverbs 26:1-3. If you happen to be a person of credence & what you blog about interests the world, people would flock to read about what you have to say but if all you produce is negativity, you will attract all that you deserve, whatever that may be. 

When I’m not writing for my clients, I tweet about life & challenges. I engage people & disengage small minds. I activate what is known as a connection with people, to inspire & rouse them to think on a different level. And I spend a great deal of time looking for God’s marvellous creation in the natural because I love nature & wildlife. I take pictures & videos of them. And I teach my friends to do the same. The simpler you are, the less complicated things will be & the longer you will live. I will not sweat the small stuff. I’m amazed by some of the lies people spin to bring others down. They have such energy to concoct them & coat them with malice to a point that their testimonies become INCREDIBLE. Sometimes it’s so funny to see how the plot is lost in the over-zealousness of such individuals claiming their territory like how animals mark their space with pee. 

Strangely, these are what draws you, as a reader, to my blog each time something happens. If you have come here to catch the latest, I’m promoting a crime prevention programme with NST-Cars Bikes Trucks, AAM & the Royal Malaysian Police in conjunction with Car of The Year (COTY) 2012 happening in November. It’s a free course for women & spaces are limited to 300 only. You can sign up here or visit Venus on Wheels in Facebook. More about it on Monday.

Wannabie for The Wannabe

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There are bags & there are fannies! I’m so honoured for this privilege of being the bag ambassador of our homegrown, Greenroom 136, a funky waterproof bike bag that is named after my birding reputation as the Wannabe. Patrick Lim, (not my dad but a rather younger & more dashing version) the founder, had toyed with the idea of launching a series that serves commuters like us to protect our belongings from the sudden onset of rain & hail. When he did & came up with the range, I was so proud to advocate this range for him! And liking waterfalls is one of the reasons why I would prefer to use waterproof bags to hold my belongings when I cycle any day.

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Built in a tough 1000 denier Cordura outer shell, the Wannabie is a combination of solid vinyl and 420 denier ripstop, that would take whatever sprays the sky or FRU trucks throw at you. It’s especially handy for a quick grab of power gel stowed in one of its compartments with my phone in the main. Hanging on the handlebar of my Oriptimus Prime (my foldie that acts like a Transformer!), my Wannabie can pack in an emergency tool, additional blinkers in addition to my chunky Galaxy Note. The bag looks great on my classic foldie too!

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In July, I was charmed (conned) into cycling a 54km round journey to Chenderiang Falls by friends. We headed to Kampar & then cycled from the train station to the huge waterfalls, making plenty of stops as I pedalled along. I had a push from Ronnie on my uphill leg while CK took my panniers after I got too ambitious carrying rations……like toys for the waterfalls. 😀 Dr. Ang kept me company for 10km & then we reached the falls. The entire ride was hilarious when I accepted a ”˜tow’ from a motorcyclist, hand in hand, pulling me for 2km to the chargrin of the rest of the riders who were waiting for me at a junction only to hop off their foldies to take a stance ready to snap pictures of me getting a ”˜ride!’ Brilliant! He came back to offer me a huge durian later too! Perhaps Patrick could come up with surprise packs for offerings-of-such along my rides. I never know whom or what I could pick up next time…… 😀

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I made it……I made it….!

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Soaking is the order of the day after a hot ride…..

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Chenderiang Falls as seen from the PLUS NKVE (highway)

The fannies are great. I have the Manny reserved for when I bring my bigger camera. Anything can fail you but the bag that keeps your belongings safe, shouldn’t. 54km was my breakthrough on my foldie (minus 2km of being towed) & I believe in staying fit to let me enjoy all my outdoor pursuits anytime. And my Wannabie lived up to it. Get yours now!

Wannabie
I have a fanny, Whose name is Wannabie,
She’s none the ordinary,
But a brimful of joyous life and unpredictability.
Always the eager beaver to seize the mind,
Some know her as one kind, A wildchild none the other,
Always random that’s how we love her.
I have a fanny,
It’s my Wannabie!

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 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.

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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Day 3 – Seafood & Gluttons in The Mountains at Awana Genting Highlands, My Selangor Story 2011

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Dinner was lavish. Seafood was brought in & the spread was more than what we could stomach for a week. The restaurant is called Pasar Ikan Bakar, translated to mean Grilled Fish Market. Decorated with low tables & Thai triangular-backed cushioned mattresses on colourful hand-woven straw mats, it was one big, cosy dining area. When we were told of a night walk, we thought we’d better stuff ourselves. It was difficult to hold back given the choicest foods in the spread! We became gluttons at sight of the seafood!

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Calamari/squid, fresh prawns & flower crabs on a bed of shaved ice!!!

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Cosy settings at Pasar Ikan Bakar

We even had the in-house band entertain us with songs throughout dinner which I thought was utterly fabulous! The singer had a wonderful voice & it filled the place with an ambience that’s indescribably good! Maybe my protruding tummy at the end of the meal & the triangular backs of these mattresses caused me to be at ease at all times. It felt so good to have someone serenading you over your meal, just like in a hotel except that I was in the middle of the jungle in Genting Highlands. Bliss! With bloggers like Andi Kus & Shaleh, I couldn’t stop laughing the whole night. Goofing around was never this fun until I met them! I don’t think there is another jungle lodge that’s as elaborately comfy & vibrant as this place!

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Andi Kus & Shaleh with muka-muka masing-masing!

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Posting the yummy seafood for you to see again!

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Salad bar!

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We even have pickled nutmeg & such!

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A fruit rojak bar!

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A sambal counter!!!

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The in-house band entertaining us!

This wasn’t all, Amelia Tan, the organiser gave a rendition of the same song in the most soulful manner, enough to melt any man’s heart. The video is on my Day 5’s posting.

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I had two helpings of this portion!

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We were served supper too!

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Spoilt silly for choices.

This is definitely the place for companies to bring their employees for team building. Where else can you get such great food to bring out the devotion in your staff? After being fed supper, we all turned in. In the stillness of the night, the symphony of frogs croaking sent me rolling onto my mattress & planning yet another escape route for the obstacle course the next day…….

Pasar Ikan Bakar is at Awana Genting Highlands Golf & Country Resort and is open every Friday, Saturday & Sunday. For bookings, call +60361013015 Ext: 53020 or 7605 between 9am – 5pm.

Note: Thank you for reading this far! This is a contest entry so please vote for me HERE! <—- Just click on the hearts! The more hearts, the better!

The next day, the gruelling challenge begins…..

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.

 


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

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.