Ian Dory, rock climber and ninja veteran, starts his daughter young on a climbing wall.
Some parents plop their kids on a piano stool pre-preschool; others are taught to serve shuttlecocks before their first solid meal. Where I’m from? My parents shove literary material into our tiny hands during potty time.
If there is one word synonym to the Lee Family name, it’s books.
Below are several points that epitomise the Lees’ relationship with wordy tomes:
In my early years, money was tight. A family has got to eat, but we spent the bare minimum on food. 50 cents curry puffs? No. An extra t-shirt? Absolutely not.
Books? Splash away!
“Never stinge on books” was my father’s motto.
Most of us have longer relationships with some books than we do any romantic partner. Off my head, I name the Christy Millerseries my bible and greatest influencer.
If the Vulcan greeting is “live long and prosper”, the Lee greeting is “what’cya reading?”
Books take precedence over human beings. If there is one remaining empty seat in the car, the books ride. Human being, take the bus. True story.
It’s your birthday! Now, predict your birthday gift. Is it a book? Or is it, gasp, two books?!
A looming school exam calls for a sanction on leisure reading.
Score well in said school exams, and you will be rewarded with… wait for it… books!
Book fairs are a big deal. Every minute there is precious. Therefore, we gorge an enormous breakfast to prep. The last thing we need is to sacrifice book time for lunch!
We had strong opinions that MPH bookstore wrap their books to prevent browsers. How to read now?! What kind of rubbish policy is this?!!
P.S: Dear MPH, it wasn’t this way before. You changed.
P.P.S: Thank you, MPH staff, for entertaining my constant bugging.
P.P.P.S: Also, I apologise for the wasted plastic.
P.P.P.P.S: Here’s an idea to save the environment: don’t wrap your books.
Running, cooking, throwing a punch, how to tail a suspicious looking character down a busy street- we learnt it from a book.
Our default meeting place in church or at the mall is the library or bookstore.
You are severely judged for your choice in genre.
P.S: I stand by the institution of Chick Lit.
Very often, the government’s tax exemption limit for books is insufficient to cover our total literary cost.
By age 9, I knew that my father’s “5 minutes only” before disappearing into a bookstore really meant “2 hours. Minimum”.
The way to a Lee’s heart is …
Fun note: My best friend practically lives in a library, I’m talking about her room. She eventually earned first class honours in english literature, and currently makes a living (a lot of money!) writing propaganda statements to cover screw ups (although she might disagree with my definition of her job).
Note to self: Stop chugging down Starbucks like a CFM56 engine does Jet A1 because-
1) abate capitalism contribution
2) waistline should be directly proportionate to current operating aircraft’s wingspan (case in point: a flying school cadet versus a Boeing 747 captain)- let midriff not reflect a wide body aircraft pilot; nor a wide body pilot.
It’s mocking me.
Jeering to its hearts content.
The white luminous EFOB (estimated fuel on board) indicates a hefty 9.5T. I welcome fuel like the next pilot. As the saying goes, there are 3 items completely useless to an airwoman (airman): runway behind you, airspace above you, and fuel in the browser.
But this particular blob of fuel, abetted by gravity, adds to our ZFW (zero fuel weight) of 56.6T to arrive at an aggregate sum of 66.1T. That’s a 100kgs over our MLW (maximum landing weight).
Now, (certain) airlines crucify for three great sins. They are, by increasing order of severity: ATC infringements, refusing the hackneyed practice of FDP extensions, and aircraft limitation exceedance (which include, but is not limited to, landing overweight).
Given my limited skill set, flying is my sole rice bowl. And since a girls’ gotta eat, I endeavour to save my job, and simultaneously, my oversized ass.
“We gotta burn this fuel,” I tell my partner of the day (the FO). “Hafta bring the weight down below MLW.”
We request to make an orbit at our present position. Had one too many curry puffs for breakfast. Mind if we do a couple of laps to burn off the weight?
Approved, says the bored ATC controller.
So we gently ease the aircraft into a right hand bank. The PFD display a perfect rate one turn.
Oh, don’t mind us. Just etching circular contrails in the sky to burn liquid gold here.
“Burn, baby, burn,” I mutter under my breath.
Glitter might not be gold, but this liquid gold is unequivocally ka-ching ka-aching!
I watch the white EFOB keenly. 9.4… 9.3…
“Kinabalu, we are ready for approach.”
On an unrelated note, here’s a sunset view from the cockpit, just so I could misquote Shakespeare.
Note: Here’s a spoiler free review of Felicia Yap’s “Yesterday”.
What did you have for dinner yesterday?
Two days ago?
Now, do you remember dinner three days ago? (I had pepperoni pizza with watermelon. Simultaneously. So it’s more like pepperoni-watermelon pizza)
A world where everybody remembers yesterday’s dinner, some remember dinner the day before, and absolutely nobody remembers dinner two days ago. Except the odd psychopath, that is, who will eventually end up in a mental asylum on a deserted island.
Those who remember only yesterday are “Monos“, “Duos” remember up to two days; and this memory disparity is the gaping abyss that separate class- a system that favours Duos over Monos, may it be career opportunities or social dogma.
So when a steaming hot chick washes up dead from England’s River Cam, how does one solve the murder, if only yesterday’s memories remain?
Felicia’s story unfolds in first-person narrative from four different perspectives (hence breaking her teacher’s max three first-person voices rule). These four characters are Duo Mark, a successful novelist and aspiring politician; his Mono wife- housewife Claire; vengeful but dead Sophia; and detective Mark, the case’s assigned investigator.
The dead girl is identified. Her name is Sophia Alyssa Ayling. And she’s been sleeping with Mark. How does Claire feel about this? And does detective Mark have what it takes to solve this murder?
This is more than a murder mystery. The tale also explores a realistic view of love and marriage. How does memory affect one’s ability to love? In fact, without the lucid recollection of falling in love, can one remain in love?
In this fictional world, people record their lives with an iDiary every night (rendering Steve Jobs richer than ever). And before this technological advancement, people scrawled their lives on paper diaries. These written information is then reviewed the following morning and committed to long term memory, hence morphing the writen accounts into vacant, cold hard facts.
This novel is a blatant page turner. Humour your cognitive mind and forge theories along the way. Its plot resemble a spaghetti of climbing rope- a tangle of enigma. But as the book progress, we tug one end of the dynamic line, and the narrative untwine smoothly into a chain of seamless answers.
The reading journey is like a roller coaster, with penned up suspensions, a couple of emotional loops, followed by a majestic unveiling. This series of manoeuvres lead to the divulgent of who killed Sophia Alyssa Ayling.
Dear friends, I urge you- run, not walk, to your neighbouring bookshop and snag yourself a copy of Felicia Yap’s Yesterday. Claim for yourself the book 8 publishers relished a bidding war to print, the book now translated into 13 different languages.
The book written by a Malaysian!
Felicia Yap hails from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur with modest beginnings. Her father’s car had holes in its base so water spills in each time he drives through a puddle. According to Felicia’s blog, her parents lack funds to send her abroad, a feat she achieved purely through scholarships and sponsorships. Her less privilege background led her to understand the disadvantage monetary woes may present, and hence was born the Yesterday Scholarship.
Frankly, her personal story tears me up. I love a good underdog success story, and tangible proof that Malaysians have what it has to kick ass in an international arena. She is living proof that hard work pays of, that we reap what we sow. She is my inspiration.
Once again, run- no, sprint! Sprint to the nearest bookstore for a copy of Yesterday. Do it! And do it yesterday.
One should always abide firmly to the laws of the land (says the ESTJ in me). On the road, stay explicitly within your lane. Adhere strictly to speed limits, and under no circumstance should one race pass a gridlock of snail-paced cars in the opposite lane, accelerator fully engaged… unless you are chasing after scones.
The Lord’s Cafe
Like, say, the glowing figures on the Waze app indicate an ETA of 1755, and the rumoured closing time of The Lord’s Cafe at Tanah Rata is 1800 (different sources state different timings)- desperate times call for desperate measures; although we can neither confirm nor deny any assumption you may have chalk up.
Maybe it was the cool breeze wafting through the open windows, perhaps the adrenaline of the drive, or the crushing hunger, but the cream (RM2.80) and strawberry (RM3) scones were scrumptious. The slightly lengthy wait wasn’t pleasant, but the workers were friendly (entertained my request for extra butter). The negative Facebook reviews seem unwarranted.
On its own, the scones were ordinary, but when paired with cream, strawberry jam and butter? Heaven-licious. The chocolate cake is the foolproof consolidation and application of the cocoa plant- moist and generously chocolate. I thank God for friends with small stomachs, because save a couple of tiny bites, the cake was all mine *evil laugh*.
Chasing Waterfalls At Parit Falls
We wanna visit a waterfall! Feel the spray on our faces, hear the splashing aqua, smell the inodorous scent of Adam’s ale. So we hustle to Parit Falls and even manage a couple of shots at the wooden sign board before the entrance.
And then we advance towards the entrance gate like a couple of school girls for the canteen during recess period…
… only to find it securely shut.
A rectangular board denotes: closing time- 6pm. I glance at my Fenix watch: 705pm.
The entrance to the waterfall is closed.
A wave of disappointment billows over.
Disclaimer: Everything that happens next is hypothetical.
We survey the guard house, locked shut and starved of human life. A beat up van sit idly beyond the gate, equally desolate. The gate is only slightly higher than my height. Its design is plain with regularly spaced grills on both planes- conducive for climbing. Excluding the unsuspecting cars cruising by a few hundred meters away, our surroundings are uninhabited.
The gate looks closed but not locked. I wrap my hands around a grill and yank. No joy. I reposition my legs wider apart, and tighten my grip around the gate. With one mighty burst of strength, I engage every pull muscle (predominantly biceps) and tugged.
A slight creak escapes the metal structure. I smile at the encouragement, then draw another deep breath and pull. The heavy gate slides grudgingly about a feet and a half. I grin at my handiwork.
But good girls don’t trespass.
So of course we don’t scurry through the ajar gate. We don’t scamper downhill, glancing guiltily over our shoulders, giggling giddily.
We don’t have this conversation either:
Unknown character 1: “What about the gate?”
Unknown character 2: “Just leave it open. If anybody ask, we saw the gate open and decided to explore, which is technically correct.”
In a parallel universe, where we ventured in, this scene would meet our eyes (except darker, since it would’ve been after sunset):
Followed by this bridge (darker too), not that I know, having never been there before:
On Earth 2, we trek the short distance along the slightly muddy trail. This journey us to the rest area circled in red in the photo below.
Also, while vacating the crime scene (if one be so bold as to trespass- not us, certainly), and motorbike noises happen (hypothetical), here’s your best option: pretend to be ghosts (not a real scenario given none of these actually happened).
JOurney To The Mossy Forest
The next morning, we load our bags and hop into Gloria’s trusty Alza. The drive from our Airbnb residence in Ringlet to Brinchang where the Mossy Forest is took 45 minutes.
In an ideal universe, we’ll drive all the way up to the forest entrance, where we park literally steps from the green paradise.
But life isn’t perfect, rather, there’s an occasional avalanche of lemons raining down like burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah. The road is brimming with potholes, our tyres scream with protest with each indented experience. This is a job for 4 wheel drives only. A passing lorry driver lends advice. “Parking sini,” he says. “Jangan bawa kereta naik. Nanti rosak.” (Park here. Don’t drive up or risk damaging the car)
And discovered his lie.
The potholes last a short distance only, easily managed with slow driving. Beyond that short stretch lay roads as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
But it was too late, for we have already park our vehicle on a patch of balding land and began our uphill climb for the mossy forest.
When life showers you with lemons, make lemonade with a shot of vodka.
So we take weird detours into vegetable patches, pose with suspicious looking houses, and chat up hardworking farmers (who probably wish we’ll just get lost, but is too nice to verbalise so).
Disclaimer: The following events happened in a dream and not in real life. Ahem.
What does one do if physiological needs strike in the form of a bladder emergency? Well, pick a bush, of course; and employ a lookout. So that’s what I do. I choose a luxuriant plant, yank down my track bottom and panties in one swift motion, and unleash a shower of liquid gold.
Here I am, fertilising plants, minding my own business, when a distant sound propagate into my ears. Its volume is increasing.
My brain waves interpret the approaching thrum as a nearing motorbike.
I unfreeze. Basic instincts kick in. Do I fight or flight?
Neither. I hold my pee and jerk my pants up, panties still dangling below my butt cheeks.
Just as the elastic band contact my waist, a motorbike rolls into sight. An ang mo couple rides past with flushed cheeks and cheerful beams. I even reciprocate a smile, short of a hearty “welcome to Malaysia!”
As soon as they disappear from sight, I turned to my supposing lookout and shoot them a “do your job” look. Then I resume my plant-watering duties without further interruption.
Finally, We Arrive At The Mossy Forest
After a staggering 1 hour and 10 mins, we finally arrived at the Mossy Forest.
First item on the agenda is paramount- a wefie.
Then, we step into the mossy utopia. Wooden planks pave our trail, flanked by a disarray of contorted oak trees with gnarled branches and messy leaves. The flora is enwrapped by a layer of mist. Moss drape the trees with impressive fervour, like string lights adorning a Christmas tree. The picture before us is not unlike the Black Forest from Hansel and Gretel. Minus the bread crumbs.
The plan was to hike Gunung Brinchang. And find Jim Thompson. We stroll towards the trail’s starting point, located within the Mossy Forest…
… where we’re stopped by a decent looking guard with I-just-work-here written across his face.
Now, it would be fitting to share that we contacted the relevant authorities about permit requirements. Some misunderstanding obviously occurred, since we were led to understand that one isn’t needed.
So here we are, posed for entry, and our friendly neighbourhood guard just stands there like Gandalf– “You shall not pass!”
No permit, no entry, he says.
How do we apply for one? We ask. Can we pay and enter now?
“To obtain a permit,” he replies, “one must visit the dark forest on the 3rd moon after winter’s end, clothed in a robe of a thousand threads. Carry in your right hand a vial of virgin’s blood, mix with 2 drops of unicorn sperm and a pinch of fairy dust.”
No, not really. This is how you apply. The application must be completed beforehand. It may be done online, but payment has to be via post or stork delivery system.
I asked the guard if he’ll leave for lunch or a drink soon. Or toilet, or to feed his cat. He wasn’t. (Not that we would trespass in his absence. Brr. Because, good girls don’t trespass. Also, google “Cameron Highlands”, “hiker” and “missing”)
Remember the lemons and lemonade? Screw that, I’m having a beer to drown the disappointment.
No, I’m serious. We lugged beer cans uphill to sip amongst the sea of moss-laden vegetation.
And it was good.
Other Tourist-y Activities: Boh Tea Plantation, Cactus Farm, Strawberries and Others
It’s Cameron Highlands, so obviously one must indulge every tourist-y activity.
We visit the Boh Tea Plantation. Greeting us is a terrain full of tea leaves, dotted by moving dots (people).
We buy tea, take pictures of greenery, and fawn over this giant tea pot:
Day before, this flight to Shenzhen was retimed following a harrowing build up of mist. In fact, the aircraft bound for neighbouring Macau was unable to land. So comprehend my relief at the comfortingly short lines of METAR and TAF.
Refer to story below for gravitas justifying my cheer:
A recent flight to Kunming had me shitting my pants (See Note 1 below). At approach minima, the Runway was not in sight. Just as I’m about to drive the thrust levers into TOGA for a go around, the FO verbally gestures down at the approach lights that magically materialised at our hour of need. I click off the autopilot and manually fly the aircraft down, flaring with minimal visual cues, save for the scarce runway centreline lights. Speak of a legally unnerving, unnerving legality.
Hereby documented are the various stages of a pilot’s fear:
Stage 1- f***ing scared/ da** scared
Stage 2- shitting my pants
Stage 3- my balls up here (demonstrated with curled fingers to represent balls, held/bounced along the pilot’s neck region)
Yhprum’s law (Murphy spelt backwards) states that everything that can work, will work. And Old Yhprum is on our side today- if only we’re prepared.
I count four aircraft ahead on the taxiway- discounting the distant tattle of twinkling landing lights on the approach path, we brace for a long wait on ground. In line with that prediction, we delay our second engine start (we taxi with only one engine as part of fuel saving initiatives, which allegedly translate into bigger $ bonuses). So picture our bewilderment when offered an immediate intersection departure, of which we passed on account of an idle Engine no. 2.
We start our engines. Not long later, we are again hurried for an immediate departure, ahead of the approaching aircraft advancing at a chilling rate. But engine starts take time, and mandated post-start time requirements exist. We reject the benevolence with a heavy heart.
Why the hurry to get rid of us? Not that I don’t appreciate this overt change from the typical conspiracy to keep up planted on ground for ages (Note 2).
Note 2: From fear of a piggy-back.
Like a fan girl at a Westlife concert (excuse the reference, for I am, after all, a 90s kid- we lived on boy bands), the nice looking marshaller waves his marshalling torch like glow sticks in an overhead clapping movement.
Can’t believe that I’m the fool again, I thought, this love would never end… I let the aircraft roll at a meagre 3 knots. Fan boy holds both bats upright and stationary, teasing a stop. Except, as I advance, the bats remain at constant distance from each other- offering me no estimation to my stopping point. Without warning, he crosses the bats in one quick swift motion, and I’m forced into an abrupt stop. “Dahsyat!” my FO remarks, which is a polite alternative to my intended remark.
Here I am, minding my own business, peering out the cockpit window, when HE plods along, dragging 2 heavy wheel chocks behind him.
I rub my tired eyes for clearer vision, then blink twice.
And then I squint, and lean forward…
For I cannot believe my eyes.
Clad in a red shirt under his reflective vest is Wang Lehom!
Or a doppelgänger? Either way, the guy roaming the tarmac is a dead ringer. In fact, the likeness is so distinct, I’m almost certain it IS Wang Lehom. Has he quit singing and acting for a lucrative career in airport ramp management?
I should have requested an autograph!
Our ride home in uneventful, but not un-annoying. I sit with my back against the back rest and the headset firmly clamped over my ears.
Now, a new procedure was introduced where one of the two pilots is required to have the headset on at all times in Chinese airspace (instead of the usual speakers). Being the dutifully submissive cockpit officer that I am, of course I comply (yes, I’ll totally self-incriminate online).
Neglecting the rationale behind that ruling, my ears are, like, clamped- which is only mildly annoying (not that I can’t pull off the Princess Leah look).
Oops… I did it again. I binge watched nearly 3 seasons of chick flicks … got lost in the show…
The case in point is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical series, and here’s a rapid fire about our heroine, Rebecca Bunch:
“She was working hard at a New York job making dough but it made her blue, one day she was crying a lot and so she decided to move to… West Covina, California! Brand-new pals and new career. It happens to be where Josh lives, but that’s not why she’s here…”
Rebecca moves to West Covina, home of her childhood sweetheart- Josh Chan– that cruelly dump her last day of summer camp many years ago. Despite her initial denial, we all know the truth- she’s in West Covina for Josh.
Not long later, she discovers that Josh has a girlfriend- Valentia. However, this plays no deterrence to her affection and constant seduction of Josh. This flagrant dismissal of Valentia as Josh’s girlfriend leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, much like Emily Griffin’s book Something Borrowed, where the heroine (?) shamelessly steals her best friend’s fiancé. Of course, Emily portrays the best friend as “manipulative”, and the supposing antagonist. But perspective is a powerful fulcrum, and protagonist is just one viewpoint tweak away from antagonist.
Similarly, Valentia is painted as mean, and unappreciative of Josh, as if that somehow justifies Rebecca’s pursuance of a taken man (although it is interesting to note that Rebecca and Valentia eventually become good friends). Some, in the spirit of hedonism, might applaud Rebecca’s pursuit for love and happiness, but I am substantially troubled. I consider Valentia the victim.
Anyway, Rebecca eventually realise the err in her ways, which she express through the song I’m the Villian in My Own Story:
But even after her warm for Josh is over, her man-stealing days aren’t. She had a committed relationship with Nathaniel, her boss-turns-enemy-turns-boyfriend-turns-ex-turns-co-boss-turns-F-buddy, that she eventually breaks off for mental health reasons. He gets a new girlfriend, but Rebecca and Nathaniel continue to bone… and bone… and bone for another 8 months. At one point, she even laments that this affair is the healthiest relationship she ever had, an attestation that she harbours no remorse about banging another girl’s man. But does her unstable mental state give her a free pass? I don’t know.
The narrative doesn’t frown on infidelity. I love Rebecca and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but this element is questionable.
“I’m just a girl in love, I can’t be held responsible for my actions… I have no underlying issues to address, I’m certifiably cute and adorably obsessed… they say love makes you crazy, therefore you can’t call her crazy… when you call her crazy, you’re just calling her in love!”
The feminist factor
Rebecca Bunch is a feminist, there’s no question about that, and the show has an underlying feminism theme.
What? The girl who ditched her lucrative city job, zapped across the country, relocates herself, purely for a guy, is an advocate for female empowerment??
Feminism has been redefined over the years, the by-product when scores of opinionated women roar (I am woman, hear me roar!). Humour my brand of feminism, when I say it’s one’s freedom to choose. The power to marry or not, have kids or not, cook or not, wear yoga pants or not.
To phrase it differently, a woman may say “I choose to be a stay-home mum, not because of society’s definition of woman, but because of my personal decision to concentrate on my family,” which is worlds apart from “women should stay home to clean, cook and care for the kids on pure virtue of their gender”. Also, “I need a man to provide for me” is vastly different from “we have our individual role to play in this relationship, independent of our respective gender”.
Therefore, I support, applaud, even, Rebecca’s right to, yes, bolt across the country, desert her conventionally-defined success, in hopes of reigniting the spark she once shared with her ex-boyfrined from 10 years ago.
On a side note, there is nothing weak or antifeminist about loving someone who doesn’t love you back. I adore how Louise Brealey blunts it out. After backlash on her character, Molly Hooper‘s unrequited love for Sherlock Holmes on Sherlock, she tweets:
“Loving someone after years is not reductive, retrograde, antifeminist or weak. Fight the patriarchy, not me, and read some f****** Chekhov”.
Not that Rebecca is not madly in love with Josh Chan, of course, more like passionately obsessed. But her mental health is not the point here (important issue as it is), rather we emphasise on women’s journey for the sweet spot.
Consistent with a woman’s right to decide, is her journey in search for her individual ideal. We don’t want armies of empty-headed feminine warriors. Instead, we yearnfor platoons of strong, independent women, whose decisions are made from rationalisation, and not directly influenced by society’s expectations. For the ability to think, rationalise and make decisions, are the foundation that will prop up the feminist movement.
And to arrive there, one must journey, search, make mistakes.
To quote Huffington Post, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is doing something far more complicated than simply ironically reclaiming, or accidentally reinforcing, a sexist insult: It’s limning the gap between how far women have come in our ideals and expectations, and how far society has actually progressed. Rebecca is a bad feminist, in the Roxane Gay sense; she holds feminist beliefs, and can easily articulate them, but her entire social self is at war with her ideals. She wants things she knows a feminist “shouldn’t,” and she admires qualities she knows define traditional femininity.” (Or as Holly Bourne calls it- cognitive dissonance)
And one has the right to be a bad feminist, because that is what feminism is all about, once again- the right to choose. And as Roxane Gay said, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”- Let women think.
I’ll spare the Megillah and lay it down: I ship #grebecca (Greg and Rebecca) so hard, sigh- shit show though, their relationship was. First, she “whores” (her words, not mine) herself to him at Bean’s party, in an attempt to locate Josh.
Then, she proceeds to brush off his advances, over and over again. Ever felt like sticking your hands through the laptop screen to give a movie character a dire shake? Wake up, you blind chick! It’s the best friend! It’s the best friend! (Greg is Josh’s best friend)
Finally, she offers him a pitiful minute and agrees to a date, after this very sexy rendition of Settle for Me:
The date is great, so swell (even if not perfect) so she HAD to wreck it by claiming banging rights with another guy. Get this right: she ditched Greg during their date, and brought home another guy to screw.
Uhuh, chicks’ got issues.
But Greg eventually forgives her- speak of amazing in a flannel shirt.
Later, she discovers how much he cares about her, and hence began a series of marathon sex. So much sex, actually, that she contracts a UTI (Urinary Track Infection):
And because people in general suck at keeping sex and love separate, she (alas) falls for him!
And then complications knock. Josh and Valentia break up, and Rebecca gets a bite of the forbidden fruit- Josh.
Greg. Josh. Greg, Josh. Greg… Josh… Greg? Josh?
What’s a girl to do when she’s stuck in between men?:
But he producers intend to write Greg off, and they do- he hops on a plane for Evory. When Santino Fontana (actor that portrays Greg) left Crazy Ex, I was miserable. Crushed. Dejected. Grief-stricken.
Life lost meaning.
So now, Greg is gone, and only Josh remains- convenient for the producers’ plan to rid all love triangles.
Please, anybody but Josh, I pray (my personal opinion, which is surprising, given my staunch support for Asians in Hollywood). It’s nothing personal, only that Rebecca needs a man with backbone, which Josh seems to pathetically lack- partially due to his pattern of serial monogamy.
Oh, what does the future hold?
… And then they spring Nathaniel on us. (He’s the one in the middle.)
P.S.: I don’t blame you for watching that video on repeat. Not that I did. Ahem.
“What you wanna do for your birthday, Jo?” I asked my BFF.
I cross my fingers and hope for “get pissed drunk”, although half a can of cider beer does it for her (true story).
Instead she says, “caving!”
And that’s how we ended up in Mulu, Sarawak.
DAY 1- the arrival and botanical heritage trail
We voyaged over a tropical rain forest via an ATR 72 into a plane of viridescent vegetation. The earlier departure into Mulu was significantly delayed due to mist, rendering a visual approach unfeasible. So I sigh with relief when our 20 minutes flight conclude seamlessly (from the perspective of a passenger, discounting all possible undisclosed cockpit complications).
At the arrival hall, a nice girl named Diana stood patiently with an A4 paper- “CP LEE & JOANNE LIM” printed in capital letters. Walter from CBS’s Scorpion once said that “there’s an endorphin release you get from seeing your name on a sign at the airport. It’s an indication of forethought.” I concur.
Diana drives for 5 minutes before we arrive at our home base for the next 3 days- Mulu National Park.
We check in at the park’s office where we’re tagged, then presented a map and room keys.
I’m amused by this T-shirt and it’s accompanying note that says “adhere to the park’s regulation… to safeguard you from keeping 120 professional Sarawakian Search & Rescue members busy for days AND you don’t have to print a silly T-shirt!”
Point taken: a T-shirt is a very unflattering place to have your face plastered.
After dumping our baggage, we pull on sensible shoes and venture out for an evening stroll. The sky hints at a chance of rain, and sun sets at 6pm in East Malaysia. Therefore, of the unguided tours, we picked the Botanical Heritage Trail for it’s length (only 1.5km) and proximity- being stuck under the pouring rain in the dark is not on our bucket list.
The entire trail is covered with a wooden pavement. Trees line each side of the track, with limited sunlight exposure. The walk is easy and relaxed, the perfect setting for a poet’s soul; or 2 gossiping 20s girls.
We make a couple of new friends along the way:
DAY 2- CANOPY WALK
Trees, unidentified insects, nasi lemak, and canopy walks- these are the staples of a Malaysian national park.
We set course on the same wooden pavement we sauntered along on Day 1. Here, we encounter a huge tree, probably older than Noah and his ark. Oh, if trees could talk!
After 2.5 km of leisure trekking, we arrive at canopy walk.
I’ve experience numerous canopy walks, the last documented one being this at Taman Negara, Pahang. Yet, the thrill never gets old- suspended from multiple tree trunks, caressing the treetops, like a passageway into a hanging Eden.
LATER DURING DAY 2: ADVENTURE CAVING IN RACER CAVE
Alas, the highly anticipated moment has arrived- tummies full from lunch, we board the little speedboat that will journey us to Racer Cave for our spelunking adventure.
After 20 minutes, we arrive at Racer Cave. Here, we slap on yellow safety helmets, headlamps and strap into safety harnesses. Attached to the harness is a rope, each end equipped with a carabiner.
After a short safety brief, our group advance into the stony unknown with caution. But first, we squeeze through a tight and narrow opening between the rocks. I suck my tummy in, and curse every cheese cake I’ve ever indulged.
Thank goodness, I wedge through uneventfully.
I turn around, and darkness nods. Our headlamps and peeping light through the rock fissures act as sole light sources. In fact, later during the tour, the guide prompts us to switch our headlamps off. As a result, patent blackness envelopes. I couldn’t see an inch ahead of me, and all I could think of was, “is this how David hid from King Saul??”
We climb rocks, sometimes with a rope’s help, mostly freehand. As a lukewarm rock climber, I rate these ascends 5a- doable by any abled body person with basic locomotive functions. The advertised “intermediate level” sounds about right.
At one point, we repel down one and half storey of rocks. A rope permanently looped around a sturdy rock act as anchor while the guide belay us down. As each person reaches the base of the rocks, he/she throws the carabiner back up, and the act is repeated till everybody is safely lowered.
We even get a stingy view of the cave’s namesake- the racer snake. This belt-like reptile binges on bats and birds, we learn. No rats, the guide assures us.
On top of that, we also get a healthy look at the “Mulu Cappuccino”. The guide grabs a handful of what resembles black soil and parades it to our little group. Jo whips out her camera and is about to snap when the guide says with a wink, “it’s bat poop.” HAHA!
We continue to traverse rocks and scale others. I thank God for that yellow miner’s helmet that saved me from concussion at least half a dozen times.
The cave has only one way in and out, which is unfortunate. A route loses its charm once you’ve conquered it. But becoming cavewomen is not the plan, so we backtrack where we entered. This, however, given its declining gradient, proved to be an onerous feat. Indeed, that was exactly what I spat, grip working overtime.”This is an onerous feat!” I declared. “Yes! I did just say that while hanging from a rock for dear life!” I continue loudly to aware the bats of my anguish.
But I didn’t die… which was a relief… phew! What did happen though, was a comical tumble that followed my attempt of leap off the rock like cat woman. Our guide managed the jump effortless, making it look easy.
Mimicking him, I ready myself, knees bent, and sprung off a rock with burning confidence… landing flat in a pile of unidentified brown “fluff”.
And that was the end of my humiliation… not.
Our 2 hours expedition approached the finishing line. Having slip right back through the initial crack, sunlight is beaming on our faces.
After living 2 hours without a ray of sunshine, I’m ecstatic. I quicken my pace down the rocky terrain, arms raised in victory. “We survived!” I proclaim.
I smell the sun… freedom… I feel the wind… I feel…
… the lack of solid ground under my feet?
I’m tripping! I’m falling! I’m rolling…
… Yep, just imagine me in place of that cute cartoon log…
… Once again, the yellow miner’s helmet is my saving grace.
DAY 3: SHOW CAVES- wind cave, LADY CAVE, and clearwater cave.
After 2 hours of navigating through bat poo, and making ladders out of rocks, we still insist on spending Day 3 in more caves. This time, however, we stick to show caves- those with solid, beautifully paved routes and man made lights to lit our paths.
The first show cave on our agenda is the wind cave. It’s name is derived from a spot in the cave where wind blows in at varying velocities.
Mid cave, a crack of sunlight spills into the cave from a hole above:
“Where did the hole come from?” The tour guide asked. “Why, this asteroid, of course!” Then he gestures at this rock:
No, not really, he rights the story. It’s some science-y stuff about rain water. But I prefer the asteroid tale.
Lady Cave is named such due to a stalagmite that cast a womanly shaped shadow. In my honest opinion, though, that conclusion requires quite a lucid imagination.
The Clearwater cave, as its name suggest, has crystal clear water. This cave also have a hefty flight of stairs that overly satisfies my daily cardio requirement. But that climbing wasn’t for nothing, thanks to this rewarding view:
Advance spelunking starts here, we learn. Cavers swim considerable distances in the freezing water:
And then it’s time to ascend more stairs:
After all those dark, dingy caves, it’s time to photosynthesise. So we take a dip in a pond of Clearwater’s chilly water.
(Okay, full disclosure- we city kids sat on the steps leading into the pond for eternity. I said “Jo, we need to stop being the embodiment of city kids”, after which, I took a step down, then spent another 5 minutes shivering from the cold water. We then tried to visually gauge the depth of the water. Jo even attempts a step of faith, then quickly retraces when her feet couldn’t meet the bottom. Only after a couple of Sabahans boldly plunge into the water, do we leave the city on the wooden steps and soak in mother nature.)