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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!

The World Didn’t End, It Has Just Begun.

What 2012 had been was a year of drama, excitement, elation, grief, distress, mourning all at once. The year passed so quickly. With the blink of an eye, I’d been to several countries & back. Some of my involvement with social work has been enlightening too. Being one of the country’s representative for The Access Initiative (TAI) with Jeffrey Phang, I was able to learn what others pay top dollars to do so. Returning from our regional meeting in Bangkok, we were able to put our knowledge to work. Mom passed away just before the trip & I missed my flight but I knew it was important for me to be there. As part of the initiative, we are to advocate access to information, access to public participation in matters concerning the environment that would affect people & access to justice. We are now in the process of getting a club to adopt the hardcore poor homes by sponsoring food stuff. They are also keen to have the kids from the Drum Circle perform on their annual dinner event. More about that in time to come. Meetings with these wonderful ladies from the club is so heartening. With the passing of a life, another event begins.

On the animal welfare front, we have gained good ground by working with the first local council in Malaysia to celebrate & honour World Animal Day 2012. All thanks to Anthony T, who spearheaded & founded CAT (Canine Advisory Team, a panel in which I sit in) in MBPJ as a councillor since 2008, we will soon have a dog park to let our dogs be paw-loose & fancy-free! Listen to his speech at the launch of the day in the video below.

So much work set in motion by Sabrina Yeap, who also passed away this year, contributed to this effort of councils & organisations getting together. There are those who think that they are a contributing factor while they clamour for her stature but no one have the guts & gall that Sabrina had to have spent her life dedicated to making life worth living for the animals. Hardly surprising because those who deem themselves important have so many personalities uprising from their virtue of stunning others with incorrigible behaviour & expletives incontinence. And their little squadron of likeminded individuals, usually personalities playing up from not following doctor’s orders, would start to fire at anyone & everyone who has never known of such vocabulary. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, the pen writes or the keyboard types. When these keyboard warriors go on a rampage, they can only fool some of the people, some of the time. When some of these individuals stopped making sense years ago, I’ve pretty much disregarded their significance in the world of rescue. They have only themselves to rescue out of the pit they have dug & fallen into some time ago. I pray that they would find peace amidst the turmoil they face within.
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Later on in the year, I was featured on a full page of a Chinese daily & Szee Cshieng, the journalist from Kwong Wah Yit Poh contacted me a month ahead to set an appointment for the feature. We met in 2007 at the LIMA exhibition in Langkawi. Since then, she had been following my pursuits on FB. Thank you for the compliments in the 7 roles that you reprised of me but I see myself as an adventurer more than as a star. If God has given us skills & talents, then we must use them to bless others. Even if it’s just to teach a new skill, impart a knowledge or to share responsibilities. In doing this, my life is enriched. In living life to the fullest, I am able to create pieces that thrills from having lived that journey of getting to wherever or whatever. This came shortly after my interview with Cars, Bikes & Trucks section of New Straits Times & a feature done by Grace Chen.

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A directive from the top had me moving out of the city & into the beautiful countryside. My move is all done now & settling into my new place is easy. It’s the unpacking & organising of my stuff that’s daunting. Taking for granted of my ever present kitchen for the last 7 years, I didn’t know how much I missed not having one so I fitted in a brand new stainless steel kitchen & got myself a full-fledged/featured microwave oven that grills, bakes, steams & microwaves! Rufus took about 10 days to resign to his new home & he’s loving it here too. And my cousin Lisa gave me an infrared gas stove as a house-warming gift and guess who has been dropping in for meals ever since??? My beloved guest from Italy & the Scotsman living opposite my place! Hahahaha! Thanks, Lisa! I love the stove! I got a chicken timer for Christmas too & a pack of drink stirrers in addition to some birthday presents (gadgets & a locket). They also loved the DOM Benedictine that’s been evaporating from my non-consumption of it & topping it with Bulla’s Caramel Toffee Ice Cream, it seemed to have made these men happy! Not to mention, we even had a go at my rice wine meant for cooking…….. Time to stock up my freezer & pantry!

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When packing to move, I found my stash of yarn. It was then that I decided to pick up my first love of crochet & made a pair of gloves, a cowl for my winter trips, two boleros and now starting on my another pair of gloves. I ordered more yarn & am enjoying church service so much more!

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Making full use of fill-in time like getting caught in traffic jams, in between appointments & travelling transits, I was able to make all that. Imagine if I had more time on my hands! I’d be attempting to make those pretty tunics & dresses! If you like crochet, follow my crochet boards on Pinterest to get patterns & inspiration!

So the world didn’t end. Even after Chien died, mom died, Chien’s mom died, Sabrina died, Maxine died. I choose to think that my chapter with them has ended. And they would want me to write new books & chart new paths with other people too. And my world, the one that God has blessed me with, has just begun. Thank you, Lord, for a remarkable 2012.

Cherish Whats Left of Our Cities

Some of the issues I have had to deal with in my line of work are not your day to day operational issues where you can summon help from your peers, colleagues or subordinates. I get calls for help. Calls of distress. Calls of emergency nature that sometimes, I think I need to be equipped with not just a boat, a tent & a rations bag but a comprehensive first aid kit that includes a plaster big enough to cover hurts & an automated defibrillator to stun guilty parties out of their stupidity. And I’m licensed to use one. I train people to use them too. (Don’t try it on stupidity, it might backfire on you.) With so much happening, cycling & photography have become my best pastime.

Emergencies aside, I did find the time to board the KTM train to Klang for the Tourism Selangor Day Out on the 26 May 2012 for the Selangor Heritage Photo Trail & exhibition beneath the Klang City Bridge. Meeting Dian, Nigel, Hannah & David again was good as we explored a bit of the town to bring you the old charms of the place. David broke his leg when he jumped onto the boat fully kitted up & out of disbelief, I laughed out loud. I couldn’t believe it. Get well soon, David! LOL! Sorry, I always look at the brighter side of things, not laughing at your misfortune but at how it could happen to you! 😀

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We went into an old antique shop where I found an old pair of rollerskates amongst the knick-knacks that you won’t find anymore. There was an old ID card dated back in1894!

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Old radios, photos of yesteryears & even a magazine with the dashing young P.Ramlee were for sale. (Pictures above were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S3.)

Taking a walk around the shops was interesting because we came by many florists that had many kinds of fake flowers for decoration.

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The competition was launched by YB Elizabeth Wong, who was as usual, super punctual for the function.

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The event drew many studios, photography buffs & models who were dramatically made up to don on the Mardi Gras costumes.

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I never thought water meters were this artistic. I want the pink one…..where can I find it?

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Seeing veteran citizens using the bridge with their classic bicycles brought back nostalgic past of this town. We hardly see any old folks using the bikes in Kuala Lumpur any more. I had to ask if it was ok for me to take a snapshot of him!

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And I’m glad I got to be a part of this historical event under this bridge on that day, and was told that one of my photographs won the #TSDayOut Shot of The Day Competition! Thank you, Tourism Selangor!

All pictures here were taken using the Samsung NX200 unless stated otherwise.

Samsung Galaxy S3 for the Movers & Shakers

Samsung has outdone itself again by introducing the next in line to the flagship of Galaxy ‘super phones’ after the incredible success of Galaxy S2 & the magnificent Galaxy Note, both having their own class of cult following. Getting my hands on this sleek & slim beauty during the launch at One World Hotel, the Galaxy S3 comes moulded with super smooth Corning Gorilla Glass, that sticking a screen protector would not do justice to it. The seamless screen seems to blend into the frame of the phone. Noticeably, the Super AMOLED 4.8” screen gives an eye-catching real estate with the 16 million colours that it emanates.  It causes the icons to virtually pop out. Dazzling & life-like photo display.

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Who are the movers & shakers of the world, you think? Mothers, photojournalists, bloggers, movie-makers, scientists, captains of merchant ships, CEOs of banks & think tanks, ministry officials, rulers & leaders, of course! Not to mention those engineers who service aeroplanes & pilots who fly them. And professional builders & architects responsible for drawing up the city & beautifying landscapes! Yes, you are whom I’m writing for today & I hope it would assist your field as much as the phone has assisted mine.

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The moment I powered up the phone, the Android intelligence prompted me to key in my Google credentials & before long, all the apps that I have ever owned in my current devices came flooding in without me having to fuss over the reinstallation of apps that I’m so used to on my current Android devices. The 1.4 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 processor excelled the operation of any app including the most important function for me, which is the Camera. Virtually no shutter lag. Great for mothers wanting to snapshot fidgety kids at their most active moments or travellers who want to take mementoes of street performers on their tours without worrying if the camera’s settings are appropriate or designers wanting a snapshot of their work for reference to share with friends on Google+ & Facebook. The possibilities with the inbuilt camera are endless. You can be as trigger-happy as you want. With the industry’s standard of 1GB of RAM, the S3 runs on Ice Cream Sandwich version 4.0.3.

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With the inception of S-Voice, you can use natural language commands and dictation to instruct the phone to wake up, effect a sentence & direct it to purpose a call or start an app or send a message to any one of your social media networking apps such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn & so on. First, you have to train the app to recognise your voice & your diction. You can choose to start S-Voice with ‘Hi Galaxy’ or any other phrase you think is appropriate.  Use it to start any app or Google Navigation (when you are outside of Malaysia) by saying, ‘Navigate to – <your destination>’ and a notice would pop up to turn GPS fix on followed by another saying that Google Navigation is not available in your country. Upon selecting ‘start Google Maps,’ you will be presented with a list of plausible locations that match your chosen destination. Selecting on one will prompt it to give visual & written turn by turn directions from where you are to the place of your choice. Apart from this, there’s a very good reason for you to get to know this feature well & perfect it for self-protection. With the increase of crime towards women, rampant abduction & robbery, it would be good for you to command the phone to call an emergency number for help in the event you get into such situations. Program the phrase to something less likely to be suspicious, like ‘I’m hungry’ in replacement of ‘Hi Galaxy’ & ‘Call for what?’ to dial an emergency number of a friend. If you ever get tied up & phone is in your pocket or handbag, this would be the situation to use it. What is technology for? This is truly a smartphone! Get one for yourself, your wife/girlfriend, your sister & your teenage daughter. You can send the women to me for classes on how to use the phone later.

Exploring further, the S-Suggest app does what is says, suggests apps for any kind of task. Here are the screenshots of suggestions given. I liked it for the Angry Birds Space that it suggested. How smart. It knows I’m a fan.

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It took me awhile before I found out how to do a screenshot on the S3. By clenching your hand into a fist, use the base of the fist to run it along the screen to capture the screen, doing away with the previous method of pressing the power button & home button simultaneously on the S2. Taking videos & photos can be stored onto an external card in the MicroSD slot, memory can be expanded to 64Gb. Again, having a super fast processor cause everything to run with ease. Watching a HD movie is a breeze! You can even multitask to check your web browser or answer an incoming SMS without having to leave the movie! It supports playback for these formats:- MP4, DivX, XviD, WMV, H.264 & H.263. Playing music goes without saying. Standard fare for MP3, WAV, eAAC+, AC3 & FLAC for as long as you have enough juice to power your journey.

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The virtual keyboard though small, is very responsive once you touch & type. The intelligent typing auto-corrects your spelling mistakes & lets you select the right word. Always check though. You wouldn’t want to be caught typing something else that’s not intended while communicating with your client as I have done in the past. With the removable 2,100mAH battery, you can spares or get a powerbank to charge your phone after a heavy day’s usage. The battery life is quite standard, with my apps running in the background such as 4 email accounts, Plume for Twitter, My Data Manager, News Republic & Facebook, a day’s work include updates to these apps & reply of emails on top of what the phone is designed for, accumulating to about 14 hours of life. As battery ages & have shorter life span, consider getting one spare & one powerbank.

I downloaded My Story from Samsung Apps & had fun writing stuff to send to friends with pictures appended to the ‘letter-like’ note. For those who are expressive, this app is for you.

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With Wifi Direct, you can transfer files wirelessly between devices with the same feature. I use it to beam pictures to my Asus Transformer 3G tablet or Macbook Pro for backup & if you have an On-The-Go USB cable, you can plug in a flash drive to transfer your files directly. Especially large video files. Here’s a sample that’s uploaded in high definition when I watched Alfred Ho in action. A blind singer, his immense talent in unparalleled & he’s available for engagement at dinners & corporate functions. You can reach him at +6016-6359800 & alfredho.music@gmail.com.

The downside is that it uses a micro SIM card which require you to cut your current SIM & keep an adapter handy should you wish to swap cards/phones. I’m skipping all technical jargon because it means very little to movers & shakers like yourselves as I prefer to bring your attention to what the phone is capable of. You can read through other bloggers’ reviews if you wish to get to know the technical bits of the Samsung Galaxy S3 a little bit more but I’d suggest you go to your favourite dealer & swipe that credit card of yours now to personalise what it can do for you. Happy gadgeting!

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Photo taken by Jaz Khai at the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3 on 24 May 2012.

Going On Air with Linora Low on Red FM

On 11 May, I was invited to be on air as a travel blogger on Red FM, made possible when Donovan Chan introduced me to a very cool babe who’s a DJ for the show. Linora Low is a fitness devotee & her hair colour suggests the bubbly personality that goes with her show! It’s red! You can find her on FB.

We got on to a great start talking about the myriad of gadgets that I take on trips & what they were for. Our video camera recorded even instances of an alarm ringing in the background, something she picked up while I was totally oblivious to it. In the studios where the acoustics absorb sound & exude silence, Linora was probably more acute to buzzes & rings than I would have been. So we got on chatting. Then we went on air & did things behind the camera where no one could see. We were Facebook-ing & Tweeting!!! Muahahahahah! And swapping seats!

We talked about everything under the sun & where the moon can’t shine given that we had attended the same launch of the Vibrance Kegel Device. This is what girls get up to when they meet. Of course, we covered food topics, how can we not? We are Malaysians where we are predominantly filled with thoughts & suggestions of what to eat & how to eat it. The one hour on the show was really short considering how much we talked when the mic was off. Wait for the recording to be posted!

Here’s a shot of me behind the console!

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Her own mic cover!

And then the super fit DJ herself in her red tresses & Macbook Pro!

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Redhead!

Then a shot of the two of us!

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Note:- Uploading the video now & will embed once done! I’ve been filled with assignments all month & that takes precedence over blogging but do know that I tweet in between. Will post more once I settle my work!

Citrawarna Malaysia 2012 – Parade of 7,000 Performers

Citrawarna Malaysia 2012’s opening ceremony on the 19 May 2012 was graced by the Tourism Minister, Ng Yen Yen, who was accompanied by hundreds of children clad in traditional costume, each holding a flag waving to the beat of the rhythm. The grand fanfare displayed a diverse offering of Malaysia’s tourist destinations & products, paraded by performers in costumes. The night heralded approximately 20,000 people, 7,000 of those were performers.

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In conjunction with Mega FAM Tour 2012, a media & travel agents’ familiarisation tour for representatives all over the world, Citrawarna Malaysia showcased one of the grandest parade of the year at Merdeka Square, the site where Malaysia’s flag was raised on Independence Day in 1957.

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Against the backdrop of the former courthouse turned Ministry of Information, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building was lit up by many colours beaming into the sky. The ground was laminated with white vinyl flooring to illuminate the dancers & their equally elaborate costumes. Despite the rain earlier, many turned up to catch the multi-coloured parade of performers ranging from uniquely decorated floats to sportsmen & chefs accompanied by fireworks in the sky. Scores of trishaws ferrying passenger from the World Heritage City of Melaka were brought to the parade.

The sound system provided surround sound throughout the stretch of the parade giving a very carnival-like atmosphere that got people to their feet with the rest of the performers.

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Commuting With Foldies On Trains

We have to thank Well Tan of Folding Bike Trading for arranging with the authorities at Prasarana who manage the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Monorail (train) & RapidKL (bus) for allowing us folding bike cyclists to take our foldies onto their trains/buses during off-peak hours between 9am – 4pm & on weekends. We had a trial run at the launch back in December & I was invited to be a part of the maiden group to get onboard for our first ride to their headquarters at Sri Rampai station in Kuala Lumpur.

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Well with the authorities of Prasarana.

While the rest cycled from Well’s shop in Damansara Perdana, I was coming from the other end of town to the Kelana Jaya station & waited for everyone to arrive. As soon as they did, the press fired away!

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We were briefed that for a normal day, bags are to be used to store our foldies to prevent any injuries to other passengers if emergency brakes are applied. It was good to meet everyone with their ultra jiffy foldies. Five ladies were present including me. Well, Lai Peng, Anne & Ping were amongst some of the regular cyclists who did long distances weekly. I love my Oribike with Ezywheels allowing me to roll it when it’s folded.

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We were given a RM10 credit on our pass to access for the day. It took about 45 minutes to reach Sri Rampai station. The press conference was held to officially support the Car-Free Day & declare the trains accessible for folding bike cyclists!! Soon after, we were treated to a scrumptious buffet lunch & I headed back together with Kamarul, the Brompton biker accompanied by police officers!

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This is definitely a breakthrough in cycling for commuters in Malaysia. Bicycles had never been allowed in public transport but with the emergence of folding bikes, authorities are beginning to recognise & accept this trend & usage of bikes to open up access to us. Thank you, Prasarana & Well for negotiating for it!!! Definitely a milestone for Malaysia!

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The event was highlighted in the newspapers too!

The Selangor Heritage Trail on Wheels™ 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….

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. (If you are in a competition, flash photography is not allowed.) 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 thats 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! Video below:-

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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!

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!

Editor’s note:- My foray into bird photography in 2006, was attributed by my best friend, Choo Tse 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!

 

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

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

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Moss

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Moss on semi dead wood

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

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

Watch the video of bloggers in action!

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

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

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Rajawali Coffee House

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Main dishes!

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Mousses & soufflé!

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Cakes!

 

Day 3 – 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.

 


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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Please vote for me HERE! <= Just give me as many hearts as you think it’s worth once you get in!

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

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

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The palm tree layout of the resort.

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

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

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The warm & inviting lobby lounge!

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Bamboo ceiling.

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Chandeliered ceiling.

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of Golden Palm Tree.

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

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Infinity Pool

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

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

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

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One of the palm branching out to sea!

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Evening by the infinity pool.

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Sunset just outside the verandah of my bedroom!

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

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

Read about my 2nd day’s activities here!