Cameron Highlands: Good Girls Don’t Trespass- The Mossy Forest and Other Tourist-y Activities

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.

Cream scones, strawberry scones, and chocolate cakes.

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*.

Cream+strawberry jam+butter+scone=perfection
Strawberry milkshake.
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):

Photo credit: www.ujieothman.blogspot.com

Followed by this bridge (darker too), not that I know, having never been there before:

Photo credit: www.mrkumair.blogspot.com

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.

Photo credit: www.cameronhighland.net
That’s us, at an undisclosed location.

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).

And run.

“If we get lost, just count 24 trees and we’re out,” says Gloria. Not that getting lost was a concern, since we were not there.
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)

We concur.

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).

What should we do with these insanely steep slopes? I know! Let’s plant tea leaves!
So this is where my ready washed and packed salad was born.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? (For disturbing story behind this song, click here)
City kids never see cabbage outside their plates before.
Oh, let’s check out that secluded and suspicious looking house situated in the middle of nowhere.

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.

I freeze.

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!”

 

Cartoon credit: www.freepik.com

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.

From left: Annora, Zel, yours truly, Yin and Gloria at the Tserof Yssom!
The entrance

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 mossy forest
I see Perak, I see Pahang.
Hansel and Gretel in the black forest. Picture credit: www.storymuncher.com

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!”

 

Meme credit: www.legomessageboards.com

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.

Picture credit: www.forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com

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).

Photo credit: www.prunenurture.com
If you care about origin stories, this is for you.

We buy tea, take pictures of greenery, and fawn over this giant tea pot:

But the fun was in the tea factory tour.

The tour present to us various stages of ex-boyfriend tea leaves processing: withering, rolling, fermentation, drying, sorting, tea tasting and storage.

Check out relevant boards below for the 2nd and 4th stage (rolling and drying):

 

 

Don’t look at me. All I did was take pictures of the board. It does make complete sense.

And then we grace the cactus farm to purchase a security system. Fun fact, cactus make excellent security systems.

Gloria holding her brand new security system.

Just kidding, they are actually for terrariums. Speaking of terrariums, here’s a bundle of material she compiled en-route from the Mossy Forest:

Last but not least, here’s a cute picture of a strawberry pussy cat:

Meow!

Mulu, Sarawak: Of Cave-Hopping and Spelunking

“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.

Window seat by the prop
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.

Tagged.

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.

A++ for witt
Our temporary residence- the Palm bungalow.

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 wooden pavement

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:

Mr. shoe-shopping-bankrupts-me
Mr. I-am-an-allergen
Ms. my-tail-is-longer-than-yours
Picture credit: www.quotemaster.org
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.

Amazing!

Giant tree enroute to the canopy walk = photo opportunity
Every national park needs a canopy walk.
Being suspended 50feet above the ground by wooden planks and flimsy ropes never gets old.
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.

Wind in my face, the occasional murky water in my mouth, ahhh… I love boats!
Far away, the misty mountains call… Spot the Gwaihir

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.

Photo credit: www.limshimri.blogspot.com

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.

Yup, that helmet!

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…

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

… the lack of solid ground under my feet?

I’m tripping! I’m falling! I’m rolling…

Picture credit: www.drawception.com

… 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:

The “asteroid”

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 stalagmite and its shadow that gave Lady Cave its name.
I have a sudden urge to play “chopsticks” on the piano.
A random phallus
The king’s chamber
One of these stalactites could impale a person. Just saying.

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:

Clearwater Cave
Clearwater Cave again
Clearwater Cave on repeat

Advance spelunking starts here, we learn. Cavers swim considerable distances in the freezing water:

And then it’s time to ascend more stairs:

Uhuh, climb them steps.
“It’s holy water!” says the guide.
We might not have peaked the Mulu Pinnacles, but here’s a mini version of those glorious limestone formations.

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.)


Random reference:

http://mulupark.com


P.S.: Photo credits to Joanne Lim Ee Wei @ Elephant.

Lucky Bo: Totally-Worth-It Cholesterol-ville

I zip my maroon dress- spoil from the boutique’s discount rack. With an afterthought, I line my sepek-eyes with a touch of pencil eye-liner; and my lips, a splash of lipstick. Our pal considers the place “atas”, so err on the side of caution, or risk looking like the jakuns we are. Make a reservation, he says. So I did.

The nice lady on the line is thorough. Clearly she does this a lot. We will only hold the table for 15 minutes, she informs me.

So we make every effort to arrive at exactly 7pm, our reservation time. A row of classy looking shop lots greet us. Parking is easy- rich people don’t drive?

Photo credit: www.walauwei.com

Christmas music plays in the background of Lucky Bo. I take a moment to admire a Christmas tree and its ornaments.

We are led to a table near the back of the restaurant.

Cutlery is arranged on the table according to, er, sequence of utility?

Raised in a middle-class family that refused to pay 50 sens for pisang goreng, I felt like a deer in a kampung– completely out of place and every bit inadequate.

My insecurities kicks up a rung when a couple of tai-tais make their way to a neighbouring table, shopping bags in the hands of… their driver. I’m considerably perceptive, so a chauffeur of the rich upper-class is discernible.

But, alas, the nice waitress in denim is waiting for our order, so it’s time to sham confidence.

This, this, this, this… We randomly point at items on the menu. Thank God I reserved the Tomahawk steak via phone. “The 1.2-1.3 kg, Marble 3, Tomahawk Steak,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied, as if I consume numerically rated grub everyday. The truth is, only time my meal had a number in it was the McDonald’s 6 chicken nugget set.

They serve us sky juice- “warm, room-temperature, or iced, ma’am?”- for free! On an unrelated note, I once launched a spirited campaign of boycott-eateries-that-charge-for-plain-water.

But that was 21 years old air-conditioned-restaurants-are-a-ruse Chow Ping. Today, I am 27 years old Marble-3-Tomahawk-Steak Chow Ping.

The complimentary bread, drinks, and appetisers came. We chomp them down.

Bread, duh. Because I eat at places that serve you complimentary baked goods with vinegar all the time. Not.
Tuaktail. I sanction this drink.
Mushroom soup. Each spoonful cost, like, RM1.
Grilled cheesy portobello mushroom

But all that pale in light of the evening’s main star- our medium 1.2-1.3 kg, Marble 3 Tomahawk steak.

1.2-1.3 kg, Marble 3 Tomahawk steak

The steak is served- sizzling, alluring, and sitting on the serving block like Zeus on his Olympian throne. It might be the trance, but I promise you the air around it fizzled, like the surrounding oxygen is ad hoc to the existence of that slab of royalty.

So we let our Gen-Y instincts take the reigns, and instantly whip out our phones to capture this moment that will survive for lifetimes to come. The waitress waits patiently as we feed our cameras. Later, Broady remarked that the wait staff probably have personal records: longest camera-induced waiting time.

After what she probably deem as ages, we let her slice the steak up into pieces. The smallest, fat laden piece, she takes with her to spin up a plate of scrumptious Char Kuey Teow (of which, I grade 9.99 out of 10!).

But let us not get distracted from the star of the moment. I sliced my steak- fork in my right hand, knife in the left, because, who cares?

I bite. I wait. I taste. I sigh.

Savoury juice fills my mouth, indulging every taste bud, teasing every sensory nerve.

Are those… angels singing?

The fat- it melts!

Did somebody just compact heaven and put it in my mouth?

I redefine taste-gasm.

Tomahawk steak again
Char kuey teow. Cooked from the oil of our 1.2-1.3kg, Marble 3 Tomahawk steak. (that’s starting to roll off my tongue)

Life- never the same again.

All that cholesterol and the 600 bucks bill? Totally. Worth. It.*

*21 years old air-conditioned-restaurants-are-a-ruse Chow Ping might beg to differ though.

Turning 27 On The Metropolitan Island of Singapore

One score and seven years ago, my parents brought forth onto this Earth a new life, conceived in honeymoon bliss, dedicated to the proposition that one should never underestimate the fertility of a Wong woman.

I grace *curtsy* this planet at approximately 4pm Petaling Jaya time, screaming, kicking and totally rocking the botak look.

27 years later, an organised whim lands me on the metropolis of Singapore, sweating buckets and lugging a backpack through the intriguing streets of Geylang. But the toil quickly ends when we locate our cozy Airbnb layover lair, tuck into an “exotic” looking apartment.

A nap is in order, but play no hindrance to dinner plans.

chijmes

Because Mr. Google recommended it and every birthday girl needs a drink, we hop onto a Uber for Chijmes.

In a nutshell, love the place, love the ambience, love the buzz, love the lights.

In particular, love the concourse with the lush carpet grass and bean bags strewn around for tipsy drinkers or stargazing couples.

But loitering on oversized batu serembans will have to wait, because if the intense churning in my stomach is any indication, dinner beckons.

Of the many restaurants available, we picked Prive, because a crowd equals scrumptious nosh, right? Or perhaps we fell prey to the sheep effect.

Either way, we score a table. The first one offered was round with the diameter of two regular pizzas. After making it clear that that won’t work, the manager led us to a more reasonably sized rectangular table, so kudos to their service.

The ambience is pretty. Warm white (marry a guy from a lighting business family and learn terms like that) light bulbs hang around like vines, emitting the perfect amount of shine for an ideal culinary experience.

We waste no time ordering…

Classic Wagyu Beef Burger
Fisherman’s Catch Pizza
Mango Mojito

… And blow less time shovelling food down our throats.

I would comment on the quality of food, but my ravenous state at the moment disqualifies me as a reliable food critic.

Universal studio singapore

 

Photo credit: www.lokopoko.travel

There is a formula to The Perfect Theme Park Experience (T.P.T.P.E).

Limited crowd + Good Weather = T.P.T.P.E

Despite being a weekday, there was a notable crowd. Perhaps, we have the school holiday to thank for that. Fortunately, waits were consistently 20 minutes or less, so yippee-yay-yay!

However, Singapore is always synonym with a chance of rain. Yet, the sun shone like the ball of fire it is as we stepped past the giant rotating globe, under the freshly displayed Christmas decorations and into the park.

In fact, we managed to squeeze in a heathy helping of thrill rides and “family-friendly” ones before black clouds taunt us overhead followed by the promised bout of pouring tropical rain.

Speaking of thrill rides, here’s a quote to chew on:

The standard of a theme park lies in the quality of its thrill rides. ~ Chow Ping, self-proclaimed theme park expert

Therefore, bear with me as I dissect the lone thrill ride(s) of Universal Studio Singapore.

Battlestar Galactica: HUMAN vs. CYCLON is a two part roller coaster. Based on TV series Battlestar Galactica, choose if you want your feet tugged safely within the vehicle (human), or dangle with a chance of amputation (cyclone).

Obviously, we rode both. And here’s the expert’s (me) verdict:

Note: Score is rated from a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being atrocious; 10- orgasm-worthy.

Human

Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

First impression: 7

G force sensation: 5

Turns: 8

Duration of ride: 4

Pee in pants factor: 5.5

Average score: 5.9

Cyclon

Photo credit: www.dejiki.com

First impression: 8

G force sensation: 6

Turns: 5

Duration of ride: 4

Pee in pants factor: 6.5

Average score: 5.9

One second thought, allow me to modify the aforementioned formula.

Limited crowd + Good Weather + Great Company = T.P.T.P.E

 

And the company was awesome.

 

Bukit Kutu: 6 Valuable Lessons on Hydration, Lactic Acid and Giant Centipedes

1) H2o is the way of life (and hike). If in doubt, bring more

Up to 60% of a human body is water, but my fluid composition is rapidly decreasing. My sweat ducts ooze urea like a water hose on a perfectly manicured lawn. The compromised water level makes me pant like a deer for a river, and I stagger along like an injured version of said deer.

I exhausted my 500ml water bottle, and I long for a wishing well so I can (1) wish for water (2) drink the wishing water.

Remember to BMW: Bring More Water.

2) Is this the “big rock”?

Bloggers relay that the “big rock” is the trail’s rough midpoint. This information had us wondering “is this the big rock” upon every stone and pebble that came our way.

Breaking news: If you have to ask, IT IS NOT THE BIG ROCK.

Because when the huge ass boulder materialise before your eyes like angels in the nativity story, YOU WILL KNOW.

3) all routes lead to rome, but not all lead to bukit kutu

If you see a junction, stop and stare… I think I’m moving but I go nowhere…

I thank God for bloggers. Without them, we might be stranded in a virgin jungle right now, eating leaves and drinking our pee for survival.

Maybe not, but we’ll be very very lost, because not every route lead to Bukit Kutu.

Special thanks to blogger Grace Abundant, whose detailed directions and accompanying pictures are the reason we live and breathe (we followed it like Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass).

4) sikit-sikit, lama-lama mendaki bukit: every step brings you closer to the peak

Persevere.

2 hours 45 mins of churning the lactic acid mill uphill. We step climbed tree roots, traverse mud cakes, and scaled sandy slopes…

5) beware of creepy-crawlies

… and the effort lands me 3 leeches sucking on till kingdom come.

Red ants the size of my finger nail march everywhere like it’s the middle of a business day in Kuala Lumpur.

Not to mention the humongous centipede (see pic above!) just sitting there minding its own business, giving me the creeps, but not enough to pass of the photo opportunity. It’s length exceeds that of my size 6 feet! (My aunt calls me “da jiao po”(big foot lady)

6) the view is worth the climb

All the sweat, tears and blood (no thank you, leeches) bleed (no pun intended) together to reward my resolution: a stunning view of nature’s perfection. Distant hills stand proud, circling the irregularity of a water dam. Stratus clouds spot the blue sky, made better only by our front row seats.

Heck, I love Bukit Kutu.

Taman Negara: 24 Hours Amongst the Lush, Leafy Paradise

Jerantut

After 3 hours of endless kampung roads in a shock absorber-less van, we set foot in Jerantut, Pahang. Frankly, Jerantut surprised me. I expected a tiny cluster of wooden houses without plumbing system while Moana sings I’ve been starring at the edge of the water, ‘long as I can remember, never really knowing why. Instead, a small town looms; rows and rows of shop lots, a hospital, sizeable concrete buildings… But the city kid in me notes: no mall.

We embarked on our boat ride from the Jerantut Jeti to Taman Negara. Fees paid and permits in place, we began our jaunt “over the edge of the water”.

Spot our boat
Walking the plank to our boat

row, row, row your boat

Every floating log freaks me out. After I nudged my husband’s arm for the 38th time, he finally says, “baby, that is NOT a crocodile”. But I’m not convinced. Can you blame me? My pandora bracket will sooo slip out over a hook.

Captain Hook lost his hand to a crocodile!

My husband has two great passions: lego and Malaysian rivers. “Sungaiku, haiku”, cites the campaign slogan. Naturally, the water’s brownish shade caused him significant discomfort; but did nothing to me as we cruised along the windy river, wind in our (nose) hair, eyelashes flapping in the breeze.

In the jungle, the Malaysian jungle, giant trees, they touch the sky… (anybody who don’t know this song had no childhood)

mutiara taman negara

After 3 hours of a surprisingly pleasant downstream voyage, we are met with solid ground.

Mutiara Taman Negara is the nicer of the accommodations available in the national park. Since we were in the mood for a little splurge (that explains our rapidly decreasing bank account figure), we booked an aircond chalet for 2 with with an attached bathroom and private toilet bowl.

Welcome
Where’s the monkey?
Animals everywhere. It is, after all, a jungle.
Check out the booty on this hottie.

Bookings here also include buffet treats 3 meals a day, from the moment you check in till the second you punch out (or return your key).

The lamb was particularly mouth watering. Or maybe I just like lamb.

The dining hall
The buffet lineup
Scrump-ti-ousss! I-kid-you-not!

a pitch black jungle

The night jungle walk was, with respect to its name, at night, in a jungle, with no street lamps. Without the shine of our mighty torch lights, a blackness swallowed us like the fog in Sherlock’s Hounds of the Baskervilles. I stick my hand out like a traffic police but the darkness cheats the sight of my fingers.

The guide inform us that the “concert” we hear is a chorus of crickets, frogs and grasshoppers. He points out insects and creepy-crawlies, 2 snakes (1 poisonous, the other looks like a belt), too many crickets, and a big fat spider that sends tingles up my spine.

Spider: “Bet you can’t find me.”
Gotcha!

Pak Cik guide points out a pair of mating stick insects and delivers a mind blowing fact: our friends can “bang” for up to 15-20 days! I did a fact check on the internet (marvel of the modern world), and discovered that their norm is FIFTY-NINE-FREAKING-DAYS! Speak of endurance.

Photo credit: www.teara.govt.nz

But the climax is yet to come. Scorpions lurk under leaves and in self-made holes. The slightest movement, the softest whisper, sends them clambering back into the shadows. To coax one out, the guide caress it with a stick, gently baiting it into the open. The guide shines a UV light at the scorpion to reveal a glowing silhouette of fluorescence glamour.

Photo credit: www.dailymail.co.uk

We trek on to Tahan Hide, a wooden structure that functions as an observation tower. From here, in plain view is the spot where park rangers lay out salt. That, coupled with the presence of a water source, aims to lure animals into plain sight. Unfortunately, we luck out today. No animals, just a couple of moths in our hair.

Photo credit: www.tamannegara.org

Bukit Terisek and the canopy walk, in that sequence

Day 2, we flex our quads up the man made wooden steps. Every 5 minutes, the guide takes a break to relay jungle survival tips. Where to source for water? How to start a fire? How to tend to wounds? Never sleep in the open, he advise.

The hike was relatively easy and our efforts land us on top of Bukit Terisek and a breath taking view. Pictures are in order of course, or it didn’t happen.

Pics or it didn’t happen.
The view

The canopy walk, which is essentially a hanging bridge draped betwixt the towering tropical rainforest. Rules dictate a minimum distance of 10 meters between each person, precautions despite the sturdy ties to the solid trees.

A healthy portion of the walk was closed for maintenance, and I can’t say I’m not disappointed. However, I make the most of the opportunity, drinking in the lush, leafy paradise from the front row seats of the hanging bridge.

Me on the canopy walk with the hubby in the distance.

hanging with the batek tribe

Speaking of hanging, the visit to a village of the Batek Tribe was an eye opener. These orang asli (aboriginals) are scarce in numbers. In the year 2000, there were only 1800 of them. Fortunately, their population today is nearly double.

20 families live in this village, where they drink from the river and hunt for food. The tiny huts house whole families, many of which have 7 or 8 children. Women walk around in sarongs, and the guide playfully told us that they don’t wear underwear. That sparked the question of sanitary pads, one I wish we brought up at the time.

And I thought my apartment is tiny.

A young Orang Asli man entertained us with his carving skills and fashioned wood into an arrow. Then, he demonstrated the fire starting technique the batek people use to spark “red flowers“.

An orang asli man demonstrates the fire starting technique.
A deadly arrow.
Real men build fire with bare hands (and wood). #myhusbandisarealman

We even had the chance to build fire hands on, with nothing but cane and wood. Because, real men build fire with bare hands (and wood and cane).

the 7 rapids

A.k.a. rocking the boat in baby pools of whirling water. Which is what the boat skipper did. Waves of water splash my face, drenching my t-shirt and running shorts.

Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy… Oh wait, those are the 7 dwarfs.

Nevertheless, 7 “rapids” and 7 showers later, I was soaking wet from head to toe with bubbles in my butt crack… And then it was over. WHY IS IT OVER ALREADY??

only 3% of malaysians have visited taman negara

Says a park ranger.

What??! That’s lower than the national diabetes statistics!

I say, let’s up the data.

We owe ourselves that much.

useful links (random links from google)

www.tamannegara.asia

www.taman-negara.com

www.lonelyplanet.com

 

 

A Saunter Through Namba, Osaka

Welcome to Namba

Kon’nichiwa (Hello), Namba!

I stepped out of Namba Train Station into a melting pot of hustle, bustle, and cool breezy air. As a Pilot for AirAsia X, I frequent Osaka on night stops. Unfortunately, the crew hotel location renders trips to Namba a special treat, ones I take only when allowed the luxury of time.

Despite my love for travel and adventure, I’m a creature of habit. Each visit, I eat at the same restaurant, shop at the same retail shops, and stroll down the same avenue. Today, I resolve to challenge my comfort zone.

Oishii (Delicious)

I elect to dine at whichever restaurant catches my attention. This turns out to be a cozy and traditional looking ramen shop located off the main street. A large lantern with Japanese characters envelope the entrance, swaying with grace in the wind.

The menu is plastered on a large board next to the giant lantern. My eyes scamper through the characters, searching for English alphabets. I’m not disappointed.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is placid and calm. A counter table lines the kitchen area surrounded by stools. Space is not abundant, but there is wisdom in the seating- they only seat the customers they have the capacity to serve. Like in most ramen shops in Japan, I purchase a food ticket at the vending machine. Money through the slot, press choice button, ticket out. I opt for the soft- boiled egg noodles. The young wait staff collects my ticket stub and gestures for me to take a seat.

A kettle sits on the table next to a jug of cold ice water. In the mood for a warm beverage, I empty a sizeable amount from the stainless steel kettle into my cup and take in a gulp. Hey, that’s not water! A quick sip presents a savory taste; it’s soup! I flip the kettle around, and printed in bold black letters: after you finish eating Tsukemen, you can adjust to dilute the taste of the soup by adding a Dashi soup. Oh my!

Not long after, a bowl of steamy hot Ramen noodles is placed before me. I take in a spoonful of broth. A tinge of saline tang tickles my tongue; the taste of anchovies is hefty. The noodles are appropriately springy, and I expected nothing less. The soft-boiled egg is my favorite. A gentle bite pierces the white exterior, and orange liquid yolk burst out like heaven to my senses.

The Tombori River walk

Stomach full and satisfied, it’s time to resume my adventure. I make random turns and follow unfamiliar alleys. The weather is pleasant, the perfect day for the great outdoors. I notice that many locals cycle as a mode of transportation.

The random wandering takes me to the Dotonbori Canal. Rays of light from the setting sun is mesmerising, so I take a break to savour the allure.

I notice a walkway along the river. Upon further inquisition, I discover the Tombori river walk allows me a stroll along the waterfront with a view of over 30 restaurants and retail stores. I happily oblige the path. A yellow ferry seated with tourist stirs pass, smiles plastered across the occupants’ faces.

The walk takes me to the famed segment of the canal: the Running Man. Let it never be said that I visited Namba without a photo with the Running Man. So I whipped out my camera phone for a quick selfie.

I circle around the shops a couple of times, and came face to face with another running man! (In the form of a concrete statue)

Shinsaibashi

More roaming lands me at the Shinsaibashi- Suji Shopping Street. A variety of stores line the thoroughfare. From big brands like H&M and Uniqlo, to low key boutiques, and cafes, there’s something for everybody.

The Disney Store

As an avid Disney fan, I was delighted to stumble upon a Disney outlet store. These don’t exist in my home country of Malaysia, so I was excited explore. Disney merchandises line the shelves and hang off hooks. I indulge myself, shopping and admiring. The Beauty and the Beast soundtrack play in the background, adding a spring to the shoppers’ steps.

Osoi desu (it is late)

I’m so engross with the sights that time passed through attention. The glowing figures on my watch gave me a shock, although the streets still scream “the night is young”. Unfortunately, rest reckons. So, I head for the train station, my footslog apparent, drinking in the last of the city.

Oyasumi (goodnight), Namba.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balad, Jeddah: The Buried Sandy Gem

the calvary

On Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, a scene unfolds where Agent May encounters a situation that cripples and haunts her. Her mysterious nickname “The Calvary” is explained in a chilling episode where an inhuman girl corners her. The location? Bahrain.

Photo credit: www.hollywoodreporter.com    Agent May in Bahrain

The episode plays in my head as our transport pulls up in front of Balad. No doubt due to its uncanny resemblance to the show’s presentation of Bahrain. The street mongers, the sandy coloured buildings, and the lack of drains (due to the country’s dry climate).

“The Town”

Balad literally means “The Town”. Because of it’s location in the Muslim’s Holy Land, pilgrims come here from near and far. Naturally, majority of the people roaming the streets are non-natives. I suspect most of the business owners are Africans, Indians, and even a couple of Asians. In fact, if there were Arabs around, I must have missed them.

Selfie time

Like most women in the vicinity, I am dressed in the traditional black juba with a shawl over my hair.

Within the first hour, I learnt 2 engaging lessons:

1) Do not trust the board at the money changer.

Our friend counted then handed me the Riyal currency, mouth sealed shut like the Silent Brothers in the City of Bones. Upon counting, probing, and more counting, I realise that what I see (on the board) is not what I get.

2) Always haggle.

Nothing is final till money is exchanged. My friends purchased very real fake suitcases for 230 Riyal each. An identical one would cost double the price back in Kuala Lumpur.

Bargain. It is not a dirty word.

A typical back lane in Balad

cuisine

Due to the diverse nationalities in Jeddah, different cuisines are available. Indian restaurants, in particular, pop up like pimples after a durian feast.

We pick Sangeeth Restaurant, my friend’s personal favourite for their spicy chicken briyani rice.

We made our way through back lanes and main streets, only to find the restaurant close- not an uncommon sight. Muslims pray 5 times a day. During prayer time, most activities cease. This includes restaurants and shops.

Indian restaurants are everywhere.

As predicted, business resumed 10 minutes later.

The briyani rice did not disappoint. Steamed to near perfection with a healthy portion of raisins, each mouthful proved scrumptious. Each bite improved only by a taste of fried or butter chicken.

Speaking of butter chicken, its gravy texture is optimum. It also compliments the roti canai.

Spicy fried chicken
Butter chicken
Briyani rice

nuts,dates,sweets,chocolate

The variety in these shops is astonishing. Let it never be said that one visits Jeddah without a healthy snack of nuts and dates.

This brightly lit shop looks like Santa’s workshop. We exited the shop with bags and bags of treats. The shop attendants’ friendly demeanour, on top of the many free samples we were offered, is probably the culprit of the shopping spree went wild.

Abeer Sweets
Looks like Santa’s workshop

Gold, frankincense, myrrh,

perfume.

And the cute little lamp featured in the picture below.

Rub to get 3 wishes

One is spoiled for choice.

I have been told that the perfumes here include a special element that keeps the scent strong for days.

It is no wonder that some regard Balad as a shopping paradise.

Although I kept my valuables close, and alertness high, I admit that the place has its own personal charm.

 

The chatter.

The dust.

The merchants.

The food.

The town.

I Heart Melbourne City

melbourne, I’ll miss you

This might be my last trip to Melbourne for a very long time. The thought of leaving AirAsia X weighs heavy on my heart, but opportunities are waiting around the corner. And you know what Sherlock says? “Sentiment is a defect chemical found in the losing side”.

But sentiment is hefty, and I’m determined to drink in every detail this city has to offer. We stay at Ibis Hotel on Swanston Street, situated on the fringe of Melbourne City. It’s location is crazy convenient, and I love it.

Ibis Hotel Swanston Street

Of trams, buildings, and sculptures

I step into the cold breezy Australian air. Tiny droplets of rain cling to the tip of my shoulder length brown black hair. I begin a steadfast march towards the city center. Pedestrians in Melbourne City are a usual sight, so I’m not alone in my quest.

The drizzle graduates into a downpour. I raise the hood of my jacket and stick my hands into the pockets, each footstep advanced with renewed resolve. I’m surprise at the sights I’ve missed. The beauty I unknowingly graze over in my oblivious haste.

RMIT University

Cling-clang-cling-clang steals my attention as a crowded tram speeds past me. I noticed a green and purple building to my left, how such a uniquely coloured building escaped my attention beats me. Upon further inquiry, I discover that it’s the RMIT University.

Melbourne Library Sinking Building Sculpture

Soon, I arrive at a sculpture that’s never earn the time of my day. Today, I blink at the sinking building in amazement. So many questions, so little time. But those questions will have to wait till another day…

State Library of Victoria

Because I love libraries. So while I’m snapping my shutters away at random buildings and sculptures, the State Library of Victoria cannot escape my agenda.

I’m hungry

The buildings and sculptures distracted me from the growing grumble in my stomach. Only when I stumbled upon my favourite restaurant, Mekong, was I reminded. Mekong serves pho, a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup. During lunch hours, Mekong is always full to the brim. The workers try their best to optimise the seating space, but a line is inevitable. As usual, I opt for the sliced beef pho. A placard on the wall provide step by step instructions on how to best enjoy the noodles.

Mekong Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup
Mekong’s Interior.
I love my pho (Vietnamese noodle soup).
President Bill Clinton Had 2 Bowls. How Many Can You Have?

scroll to continue my stroll

China Town.

 

A busy crossroad
Melbourne Flinders Street Station

Stomach full and satisfied, I pursue my mission. I passed Chinatown and several busy crossroads. The positive energy is electrifying, and I breathe in every detail, missing Melbourne already.

Hot chocolate.

It has been said that Melbourne is the city of cafes. Therefore, I grab myself a hot chocolate to complete the experience.

throwback

I’ve had my fun here. From strutting down an alley of glowing graffiti grandeur, to darting pass street performers in hopes of beating Mind Game‘s closing time (life of a geek’s wife). Not to mention bracing the bitter cold with my set crew after a late arrival for China Bar, because it is one of the few 24 hours restaurant in the vicinity. It’s no wonder I’ve forged an attachment to this radiant and (literally) colourful city.

Strutting my zing in a Melbourne City sidewalk.

Then there was that time my bud Gloria dropped by the day I was in town. The weather was pleasant, so we strolled down the streets and towards the Yarra River.

Photo credit: www.melbcruises.com.au

Here, people paddled in kayaks, their tone arms render me conscious of my own flabby ones. Ferries wheeze by and we waved to the tourist onboard. A teenage couple sat under a tree making out, and I actually felt bad for staring.

Chilling by Riverland.

but its not goodbye forever

Like cheese cake and Sherlock, Melbourne city carved a unique place in my heart. The buzzing streets. The splashy buildings. The luscious food.

I’ll miss you, Melbourne. Till next time.