Thursday, December 31, 2009

How Many Watts Can We Illuminate?

Last year, I played the song Make It Mine to death throughout the new year and went back to listen to it whenever.

And promptly christened it my theme song for 2009 (yeah, I need one).

On Youtube I found this fresh new version from his Live On Earth album; a medley of the mellow The Sunshine Song, the upbeat intro to Traveler (how appropriate), and progressing smoothly into a jazzy Make It Mine.

Perfect sequence I thought!

One of my super-awesome highlights this year, amongst other things, was seeing Jason perform live in KL.

Maybe if I wish hard enough he'll come back to this part of the world soon soon soon :)

International green traveller and awesome wordsmith - JM.

Happy New Year dear friends! May 2010 bring you good health, Happyness, abundance, fulfillment and many many journeys of discovery.
Safe travels!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Never Miss A Moment

This has got to be my favourite billboard advert of the year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thought for The Day - 28 Dec 2009

Enjoy your magic moment today, as it will not be here tomorrow.

- P. Coelho

Friday, December 25, 2009

If the Fates Allow

The other night a carolling group came to the house to sing Xmas Carols.

I was amused, because they only sang one traditional carol, and the rest was a medley of modern ones, fashioned after ABBA songs! Yes, I remember there was Mamma Mia and Super Trooper (?) as well as that song made famous in Sister Act.

I like traditional carols and songs, my firm favourites being O Holy Night and Winter Wonderland, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This last one was performed by Colbie and Jason last night on Letterman :)

By the way, Last Christmas by Wham does not count as an Xmas song.

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, now.."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How About ....A Little Kindness?

I stumbled upon this little charity project, dubbed ProjectBack2School recently.

Read more about it here, here, and here, in Arteo's blog. All for a very good cause, so if you're thinking of doing some charity this festive season, you may want to consider this.

The bag will be available at Starbucks Warisan Square and Centre Point, hopefully the dates can be extended. I think he still needs more elves :).

Yeah, let's try a little kindness!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And This Is The Part Where You Pretend To Add Value

Because it's Christmas time (lame excuse, I know) and because there's no travelling story (yet!) from me, I thought I'd write about my other love - apart from travels and Jason - which is, books!

Just done reading this. Couldn't help but buy it the other day. Gladwell, the pop sociologist, really makes you think. Blink is still my favourite book from him.

Want List - I sat in the bookstore and read five chapters so far :). Barcelona! At the rate I'm going and provided they don't sell out, I may be able to finish the book before CNY. Haha.

Want List - because it's Dilbert, you know. And what a title; there used to be a time when I bought books purely based on the title. Does that mean I judge a book by its cover?

A BIG Want List - Calvin & Hobbes Box Collection. My piggybank collection is not yet sufficient for this purchase. One day one day one day soon.

Want List - to complete my JC collection. Brilliant wit. I watch Top Gear to listen to him, not for the cars.

Currently reading this from Murakami. I had planned to reserve this as reading material for my next trip but curiosity got the better of me. Am reading it slowly so it'll last till then. I am enjoying this book very much and it looks like the 'beginning of a beautiful friendship' aka a new collection :)

So now you know, when brown selipar is taking a rest, the girl burrows into her books and reads away ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Xmas Wishes

I wonder if it's too late to write to Santa.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Travel Is Not The Answer

I'd like to share this wonderful article by Miranda Ward on Brave New Traveler.

She opens with :

"We often hope to leave our troubles behind when we travel. Problem is, they follow us wherever we go."

Excerpts :

When we go somewhere new we hope either that the banalities of everyday life won’t follow us, or that we’ll become someone different in the context of a different space. But travel is not some magical process of transformation.

At best, travel is a state of mind – a way of revising our views of the world and ourselves, of exploring and watching. But it’s never the answer to all of our problems, never a method of erasing anxieties, and to a certain extent this will always be a disappointment.

What I forget is that it’s actually freeing to know all this – for if we do, we can start to think of travel beyond sightseeing and souvenir collecting.

Well written; good stuff to ponder on, including the commenters' posts.

Travel IS a state of mind; it's not just about geography.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Looking Out and Looking Back

When flying I actually prefer to have an aisle seat.

Why? Because I do not like to disturb other passengers to go to the washroom, and aisle seats are less claustrophobic. I like my own personal space, as much as possible. Short flights are not too bad, they are bearable, anything over an hour is kind of restrictive for me. So thank God for books and other things to read.

Anyway, I have booked Air Asia's hot seat only once ever (cheapskate? Yes, I am sticking to a budget). The rest of the time I just hope I'll get a whole row to myself :P.

On some lucky days I got window seats, and got to admire white fluffy cotton candy clouds and awesome views like these :

To Langkawi.

To Bario. I cannot remember the name of those twin peaks.

Mount Kinabalu - on the early morning flight to Sandakan. The pilot always announces this and I never fail to be in awe.

Somewhere over Baram.

Looking back on the year, I am happy that all my travel plans materialised, except for one, plus I enjoyed a few unplanned trips as well.

I sometimes wonder if I'll ever get tired of travelling one day. The airport and the departure lounge are beginning to feel strangely familiar. And I don't even flip much when the flight is retimed or delayed. I'm getting better at travelling light, and reading maps. My pair of brown selipar is well-travelled; happily worn out.

Hmm. I think the approaching year-end is making me a little bit sentimental.

Can't wait for 2010!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In the Maze : Jalan Sosrowijayan, Jogjakarta

Back in Jogja, I found Jln Sosrowijayan fascinating.

A maze of little alleys and dwellings, it was confusing at first - then by the next day I could find my way through and even the locals recognised me as I walked by a few times :)

I wish I had the time to sit longer, linger over a cup of coffee and watch them live their daily routines.

Where I booked to go to the temples.

Entrance to one of the gangs.

This is an internet cafe, nice modern French doors.

Community 'hush hours' - studying time.

Another entrance.

Lone sculpture.

Quaint little bookshop that I liked a lot.

One of the many losmen.

Budget rooms.

This is a kitchen set-up in one of the alleys.

Dead end.

I love the design, colour and texture of this chair.


Mother with baby.

A very polite sign to remind you to be quiet after 10pm.

Another small gerbang - entrance.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Up in the Kelabit Highlands : Bario - Final Part

So on Saturday evening, we had a light dinner at 6:30 pm as Tine said sometimes the ceremony drags on very long with speeches and what-nots and dinner can be served as late as 10:00 pm.

Then at 7:00 pm, armed with torchlights and aided by the bright moonlight, we made our way toward Pa' Ramapuh Atas, which is about 45 minutes walk from our place.

Along the way many other villagers were on their way too; on foot, on motorbikes and on 4WDs. We walked a steady pace while chatting and could smell the sweet smells of ripe taraps and bambangan as we passed by the trees.

We reached the longhouse before 8:00 pm and were welcomed by one of the village elders, the other group of tourists (our friends from the morning trek) also arrived at the same time and we were ushered right to the front row facing the small stage.

On the stage were three sets of families who are holding this name-changing ceremony, on the occasion that they have become parents and grandparents; this a unique Kelabit tradition.

I didn't want to snap a picture of everything so here's just some that I managed.

The families.

The ceremony had already started so we missed the earlier bits, when we arrived they had some speeches, ngajat dances, performances of church/spiritual songs and lastly a traditional Kelabit song performed by very old ladies.

There are only few ladies with the elongated earlobes left in Bario. Most are the older ones, the younger ones actually get their long ears 'cut' these days. The headgear for the ladies are beautiful, as are the necklace for the men which I did not take a picture of, sadly.

Food-wise, first we were given a packet drink, as well as some biscuits and snacks as light refreshment while waiting for dinner. Then they served coffee and tea. Dinner was finally served at just after 9:00 pm, starting with a serving of of pork fat that must have dumbfounded us outsiders that one of the village elders (and an uncle to the families) took to the microphone to explain to us the significance of this food; apparently once you take one you had to finish it. Stephen told us that previously the pork fat was one-foot long! Man that is one very greasy chow.

That's Tai's hand reaching out for the fat.

Our friends from the Salt Spring trek in the morning were there, too. The one in yellow is Joseph, who explained to us about the pork fat. In very good English.

This was then followed with some tasty porridge, then rice wrapped in leaves was distributed; followed by a skewer of meat! We estimated that each skewer (one per person) was probably at least 500 gms of meat, so between the four of us we had 2 kgs to finish!

That's a lot of meat.

The skewer.

After the porridge I was already quite full, but I though I'd try at least one piece of meat which I managed to and after that no more. Stephen decided to pack the untouched food and bring it home, a good idea I must say so that it won't go to waste.

An hour later as dinner wound down, guests started leaving and we thought we'd make a move too. We went around thanking the hosts and bade them goodbye.

The walk home was very good as we get to burn off our calories, we were joined by another local who was very chatty and we found out later that he's the only Kelabit with a criminal record, way back in the 80's when he was convicted of manslaughter and served time in prison. He now lives in Pa' Lungan (4-5 hours walk!) so he will stay the night at a relative's place nearby and walk back home the next day. To them, this is normal; no big deal.

After all that walking and eating, I slept soundly that night. The next day, got up at 7:00 am to pack, have breakfast and get ready to leave.

A nice clear Sunday morning.

Stephen gave us a piece of wood and materials to leave our message. Time to show off your creativity!

Some are really good I must say - like this one from an Italian couple.

My thank you plaque :). Er, didn't get my creative juices flowing.

Waiting for our flight on Sunday morning. That's Stephen with the backpack. Both of them came to see us off at the airport.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Bario - there is no rush, no distractions, not even loud noises. Life is so simple, yet I think the villages deserve some development especially basic infrastructure.

Our flight left Bario on time with only 3 passengers (!); the rest probably will go on the later flight as ours has a brief stopover in Marudi.

Things that are good to know :

(i) Before departing Bario, you are required to pay RM10 as service charge to the MasWings agent who's the appointed ground handler. Many people don't know this unfortunately and causes confusion sometimes. Tine explained that this is applicable to everyone, not just visitors and it's a shame that we were not informed earlier by the airline.

(ii) Do not bring big $$ notes; try to bring smaller notes like RM10 as it is not easy to get small change here. I ended up borrowing from Tai.

(iii) It can be freezing cold at night, bring your socks. And a torchlight. And ear plugs, if you are a light sleeper. Alarm clock not needed, there's a wake-up call at about 5 am ;) every day.

(iv) Handphone signal is very good, at least for 019 and 013.

(v) Airport transfer is RM10 per way.

Oh, it didn't rain the whole time we were there; Stephen said we brought the sunshine with us!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Up in the Kelabit Highlands : Bario - Part 2

My Day 2 in Bario started very early.

The day before, we had agreed to start our trek to the Salt Springs at Pa' Umor at 7 am, however the morning mist was so thick and cold; we decided to have a leisurely breakfast while waiting for the mist to clear up a bit. Just before 8 am, we left Ulung Palang after memorising the trek and its landmarks.
Align Center
View from the balcony at 7:00 am.

Half an hour's walk later we reached the 'town centre' and trudged on towards the airport, passing by the town centre, the clinic, and other homestays.

Turn right.

After walking for two hours along a dirtroad under the hot hot morning sun - Tai almost wanted to give up - we reached the village of Pa Umor, and rested at the MM Bridge. We had puffs and bread and tarap and water for refreshment.

This is the dirt road, which seemed to go on forever!

Resting at the Bridge.

Here we joined a group of tourists who had a local guide with them, so that made it easier for us going into the last leg of the trek. It was not as easy as we thought.

Follow the signboard.

Oh how much farther?

A few crossings like these.

Finally! Reached the salt spring at 11 am, 3 hours after we started.

The main salt spring at the hut where they source the water for the salt. There are other springs in the nearby grounds.

The water is boiled in the vessels, using firewood.

The guide, John Parson, explaining the salt making process.

The water is then poured into foot-long bamboo tubes, kind of like making lemang I thought.

Once hardened, the salt is taken out by splitting the bamboo tubes.

Freshly packed Bario salt. Organic natural salt. Cheaper to buy it here than in the shops.

For me, the salt spring experience was overshadowed by this fresh carcass of a honey bear they killed just the night before. My first time seeing a honey bear, and it was dead and cut up. Don't look if you can't stand goriness. The bear apparently attacked one of their dogs and killed it. And er, we were offered some barbequed/smoked bear meat. I took one small piece; it just tasted like any smoked wild meat. At that moment, I think I tried not to think of the bear; or maybe what I thought was that it would taste better with beer? That's kinda sick; sorry.

Look at its claws.

Poor bear. I thought of Pooh.

After resting a while, we started our journey back to Pa' Umor village ("One more hour of murderous walk!", so said one of the tourists). Since it was high noon and we were really really tired, we decided to call a 'taxi' to pick us up from Pa' Umor. Got back to the homestay at about 2:00 pm, just in time for lunch. Famished, we polished off the delicious nasi goreng and pumpkin soup, and rested for the rest of the afternoon.

Tired feet, in dirty adidas kampung; the best footwear for Bario.

We were invited to a longhouse party at Pa' Ramapuh that evening.

To be continued.