Monday, February 23, 2009

Return to Broga Hill

Sunday, 22nd of February 2009, 4:00am.
While most people were counting jumping sheep deep in their 2nd stage of REM (Rapid Eye Movement)sleep, I found myself hurtling down the lonely KESAS highway heading towards TTDI for a rendevous. It was so early in the morning, even the customary shroud of morning fog that envelops the section of KESAS near my home in Bandar Puteri hasn't formed yet.

The light of a taxi receded behind as I overtook it at speed.

"Nobody but taxi, lorry drivers and very dedicated diagnostic equipment sales people will travel at this ungodly hour!" I thought out loud.

"And perhaps a few die hard Trail Trackers!" came the unbidden addition to my mind.

Actually I was looking forward to this trip, especially after the harrowing experiences from last week. This time, we were returning to Broga Hill for yet another round of training to prepare ourselves. Our next major goal was to trek Endau Rompin on the 7th-10th of March 2009.
But I was late... :) Even leaving at 4:00am in the morning wouldn't guarantee my arrival at TTDI at 4:30am, the agreed upon meeting time. And I was weary of putting the pedal to the metal, with hardly 3 hours of sleep, I was still a little bit groggy.

The inevitable phone call came at 4:20am in the morning. Dennis, this time's trip organizer called me to check on my location.

"On the way!" I replied, using the most common excuse by late comers in Malaysia to explain my current position, before adding some element of truth, "just passing Shah Alam."

"We'll meet you at Devi's corner then," said Dennis.

And thus I find myself, standing amid grand applause as I reported myself at Devi's Corner for breakfast in TTDI at 4:45am. :)

Applauding for the late comer (me) was the usual suspects: Dennis, Linus, Aaron, Henry, Timmy, Yee Wei, Audrey and her friend, Kim. Aurelius, our great leader :), was nowhere in sight and I was later told that he had some stuff he needed to attend to and therefore was not able to make it for the trip that day.

Breakfast was standard 'mamak' fare though Aaron had a very interesting combination of Roti Canai with half boiled eggs spilled over. I was not as adventurous in my choice of food and settled instead for Indo Mee Goreng and Teh Tarik.

We left TTDI at 5:15am, making 2 drive bys and 1 rather long stop-over to pick up more people along the way. All of them are first timers to our trip: Hern Foong, Selina, Synn Wooi and a rather mysterious fellow, Chris, whom appeared at the stop over and dissappeared as easily as the mists that surrounded the hills that morning. :p :)

We spent quite some time waiting for Chris, which inevitably awoke the 'pixies' in a number of our members who decided to stage an impromptu performance, prancing and hopping in the twillight outside Nottingham University's campus guardhouse. (Wonder what the guard was thinking) :p Nothing but a little bit of 'exercise' to warm up the muscles for the upcoming hike huh? ;)

When the last member of our group appeared, we continued our journey, reaching the starting point of our hike near the rabbit farm (Rabbit Farm Land) on the road to Broga. To our surprise, we found that the palm oil groves on the opposite side of the rabbit farm where we planned to park our vehicles, filled with cars! Looks like 'Broga Hills' had gained quite a following since the last time we came and we were not the only ones drawn to it's pre-dawn attractions.

Finding our parking spots and unloading our gear, we set off on our trek, 13 of us down twisting, winding trails through the palm oil estate in darkness, the beam of our torchlights leading the way. It was already 6:15am. We passed the palm oil nursery, a small open clearing just beneath a gentle rising slope of hardended laterite soil which we had to negotiate.

It was after this familiar landmark before we found out that we were lost! :p

Somehow, we missed the branch on that laterite incline that took us up into the jungle trek beyond. Instead, we found ourselves keeping on the laterite trail that led us to this 'lalang' overgrown clearing when we realized our mistake.

We backtracked, (Henry making sure to 'mark' a bush not far away so that we will not return to the wrong trail on the way down) and found the branch.

Taking the now familiar trail, we passed gaping holes of collapsed soil on the left and right and over a small bridge made of what looked like a fistful of sturdy wooden sticks before we met the jungle trail. A short walk down and we soon reached the grassy foothills of Broga.

The ascent was steep in certain places but not as difficult as it was when it rained the last time we were here. Nevertheless, the hike had slowly taken it's toll on a few of us and we had to slow down to keep the group united.

"We leave no man/woman behind!" declared Linus when Synn Wooi told us his girlfriend, Selina is having difficulties and asked us to go ahead.

Not that we can go far if we intended to. The track up ahead was clogged with other hikers; those that had left their cars in the palm grove and set off ahead of us. Taking a breather, Linus also helped 'mark' the trail for us (hmmm... maybe Footstool will be leading us the next time since the trails are now clearly marked? :)).

Dawn came to us as we were still on the slope of the lowest Broga hill though fortunately the skies were overcasted with clouds so the first rays of the sun could not be seen. It however, motivate us to finish up the last few steps up the hill, overtaking the hikers in front given the opportunity to do so.

The top of lowest hill was FULL of people. There were probably 30 people already on top when we got there. The first rays of the sun was now peeping through with the rest of it still blocked by the clouds, highlighting it with a beautiful halo. It was magnificent!

Hern Foong, Yee Wei, Linus and myself rushed to the next higher hill, hoping to catch a better less 'crowded' view of the sunrise but no luck there either. Another crowd was gathered on this hill as well and the third rocky summit ahead.

Thinking this is the best view we can get, we dropped down our gear and settled down to watch the rising sun as a cool gentle morning breeze blew over the hills of Broga.

And while we wait, there is always the opportunity to do a little bit of cam whoring, strike up a conversation and scare a few people with Dennis's parang! :) (They were trying to get themselves within the recording field of two cameras set up by Linus to record the rising sun).

We finally left the hill at about 10am, backtracking down the trail we came from and through the oil palm estate before reaching our cars.

We dropped by at the Broga Hill temple, finding it equally an attraction for tourists as evident by the many tour busses there and taking the chance to freshen up in it's clean shower equipped toilets. I also took the chance to light a few joss sticks and burn a few 'gold' paper for the Gods, thanking them for their continued protection and hoping that they will bless my family and myself with good health and happiness. (Hopefully, that also means chasing all those 'sueh' yan away as well!) :p

Lastly, we completed our Trail Tracker trip with our customary feast, again returning to the Broga fish farm for a round of delicious (though somewhat overly priced) aluminium foil wrapped barbeque fish.

Where to next week? Nuang! Er... Chemeroh! No! Strata!... Ah... Nuang!.... Er.... ;)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Perak and Anger Management

Wednesday was the day I paid a visit to the gloriously disarrayed state of Perak, courtesy of the currently raging constitutional crisis where you now have two heads of government, one legitimate and one ‘the pretender’. (You tell me which depending on your political affiliations ;))
You know you have crossed over into that troubled state when great big banners declaring ‘Daulat Tuanku’ (God Save the King!) and ‘Rakyat Perak dirompak UMNO/BN’ (The people of Perak has been robbed by UMNO/BN) greets you at the state borders. In the towns, flags of political parties lined the roadsides, while in coffee shops over hushed whispers, you would probably catch scraps of conversation centering on the present political situation in Perak.

There is no doubt of course that people here are angry at what’s happening to the state and thought the protest at the Ubudiah mosque in Kuala Kangsar was 2 weeks before, you can sense there is a quiet fire burning. Little did I know as I mused about all this, driving along the side of wide open paddy fields, that I was going to feel some of the 'heat', though of a totally non-political nature of course. :)
It all started with my 'mission' to go to Lumut and conduct a so called 'close out meeting' for our commissioning works there with the client. Sounds simple right? I thought so too. I had been looking forward in getting out of the office for while.

After a 3.5 hour drive down scenic country roads, I finally reached Kencana ship yard and immediately hooked up with the team working there for the last 2 weeks. Got a brief introduction on what's going on, listening to points for improvement and recommendations for the next commissioning works that is to be done in the next 2 months. (*Yawn) All rather standard project engineering work if you please. :)

Meeting started on time at 2:00pm and after some initial confusion with who is to chair the meeting (duh! it should be the one calling for the meeting of course, me!), we went on with the first agenda.

That was when it started to go to hell.

As I was requesting my team member to give a 'brief' explanation of what went on at the yard during the last two weeks, this 'gwei lo' suddenly interjected me claiming that he already knew all that and wanted to just 'move on'.

I was mildly surprised, more from his abject lack of manners than anything else. "Who the heck is this guy anyway?"

I reasoned that whether he knew everything already or not, perhaps it would still be ok to give a brief description of the work done so that it can be formally incorporated into the minutes of the meeting.

To this, my American commissioning team member agreed and continued with the brief.

The meeting went on normally for a while before it became my turn to talk again. This time enquiring the yard management on how the jig built for the commissioning job is going to be stored and who is it going to be charged for it to be built.

Before the yard manager could respond, once more, that same 'gwei lo' interrrupted, this time with a hint of irritation that he did not want to discuss about 'commercial issues' and that 'he didn't have time to waste talking about it'.
This is beginning to be irritating I thought, "What's wrong with this guy anyway?"
Hoping to salvage the meeting despite the outright hostile attitude displayed by this man, I gave in, allowing this 'gwei lo' to rattle about future production rates and all that, probably trying to impress the crowd with his 'vast' operational knowledge while I sat there, the devil within me wanting to 'interrupt him' in return by asking what is the relevance of all this useless prattle.

The straw that broke the camel's back finally came when as I tried to explain the condition of the second package and what would be expected of the teams in terms of commissioning time frame, this gwei lo barged in again, looking me with the beady eyes on his hog like face and quite rudely told me off.

"I have had it with you talking about commercial issues! If you want to talk about it, talk in a different forum."

Well, EXCUSE ME! "What is your beef man?!" I thought. What's with your problem talking about 'commercial issues' anyway? What exactly is 'commercial issues' to you anyway? How come everytime I open my mouth, you scream 'commercial issues'?

Not wanting to be talked down by this arrogant 'gwei lo', I explained to him that the issue we were talking about was important, not only due to the fact that it will incur some cost on the client, it will also incur some extension of time which I am sure everybody in the room needs to know.

"You're wasting MY time."

"I see," I replied. "Then perhaps it's best I keep my mouth shut."

That's it. The meeting's shot. This balding, overweight gwei lo (nine months pregnant perhaps) just hijacked it, thinking in his self centered, self serving mind of his that perhaps the meeting is all focussed on him without thinking what others might contribute or need to find out.
Parliamentary decorum would have required me and my team to stage a walk out but I chose remained instead and tried to calm my raging heart. The meeting went on, but not really for very long.
When somebody asked "Any further issues?"

My response was, "Nothing, since you probably knew EVERYTHING already isn't it?" and that was it. Meeting over, if you could call that a 'meeting'.

There was really nothing to gain from being mean to people. In all his arrogance, perhaps he might have forgotten that he had severed one critical line of information and help for a very important package on the platform. I don't necessarily need to deal with him. There are hordes of people like him in that hydra-like organization of his. He on the other had to deal with me.
I resolved to forget about this petty and mean, 'little' (what the Chinese say 'siew yan') man. Because if there is anything this guy wants to achieve by being mean to someone else is that the someone else takes it to heart and 'feels' it.

Bottom line is, we pick the fights we want to fight. The bait is useless if we don't bite.
You are only as miserable as you allow yourself to be, don't give them that satisfaction and keep that smile on your face.
And that applies everywhere and everytime. Not just in this case.
Despite the failure of the meeting, I managed to fulfill most of what I came there to do. I don't know about this guy though, perhaps the ONLY achievement for the day is to put somebody down and for that I guess, I pity him...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Singles Awareness Day Blues

This is my first attempt at trying out this 'blog' stuff and hey, since everyone else is airing their laundry to the world why not me? ;)

Saturday last week was 'Valentine's Day' but for singletons like me, it's the day that really reinforces the stark bleakness of knowing that almost everyone else is out with someone and here I am potentially sitting alone staring at the idiot box or blasting a few aliens for the evening. :p

Well, not this time!

This year, I'm gonna enjoy myself and immerse into the 'atmosphere', date or no date! Boo!

The day started off with strangely a trek to a waterfall!

After dragging myself out of bed at 4:30am in the morning, I got my things prepared and shot off to the meeting place at Linus's house in TTDI, the 'headquarters' of the Trail Trackers, a hiking group I have recently joined in facebook.

Arriving a little bit after 6:15am (but definately BEFORE Aurelius ;)), I find myself with the usual company of people that I have been going hiking out for some time now. (Aurelius, Linus, Dennis, Valerie, Chris, Aaron) The only new exception is Yee Wei, whom Aurelius introduced to us.

Breakfast was wan tan mee prepared at one of the coffee shops in Janda Baik. After that is off the beaten track to Perting waterfalls which according to the internet, is also called Lata 'Hammers'.

Dennis guided us there with his GPS and a short while later we find ourselves doing an off road adventure!

Now when I indicated that I could drive to Dennis the night before, I didn't realize that I am going to subject my old warhorse to this kind of torture. :p From the lonely tarred trunk road leading to Bentong, we had to turn out and move on gravel and sometimes hardened mud track to this base camp located by a small river.

The camp really looked well equipped, with mess halls, suraus, toilets and chalets but we didn't come down here to laze around! :) We're Trail Trackers and we are here to track trails!

Immediately, Dennis jumped into the river and tried to negotiate across only to find halfway midstream that we were heading the wrong way. A camp employee told us that we had to wade across the river further upstream pass a dragon fruit farm that had a new gate installed, which sound familiar if you had read the internet article posted by Aurelius before the trip.

Soon after we were on the track and it was a breeze. There was hardly any effort moving down the trail and thank goodness there were no sign of leeches. Then again I didn't expect any since I poisoned myself earlier on with more than a few squirts of Baygon! Of course there were the familiar 'rants' and 'advise' about it being 'bad for health', poisonous and 'it smells bad enough to scare a Grizzly', but hey, I'd rather get myself poisoned than donate my blood to ravenous leeches bent on sucking me dry like a prune!

About an hour later we reached the waterfall, immediately after a steep climb down. Dennis brought some rope and I guess it would have been useful if it rained because the way down would have been muddied and slippery. Fortunately it didn't and each footing had a firm purchase.

The waterfall site was occupied though. There was already this group of people camping near the waterfall but I have to say that these people were good in not littering or damaging the place. I have seen enough campsites ruined by uncivic minded campers.

Anyway, we took a dip and as with all Trail Tracker trips, start to do our share of camp whoring.

The water was icy cold but I guess not as cold as the river in Mulu park, just beneath the pinnacles. Now that was REALLY cold...

After what seemed like a few hours (I left my phone in the car and I don't have a watch), we headed back out, wishing the happy campers good bye before we left.

A short almost uneventful walk back later, (Yee Wei got attacked by a leech and a prolonged overheard conversation on body building and wrestlers), we were back at the car park.

Now, no Trail Tracker trip would end without a scrumptuous feast right? Otherwise, how come after so many trips we still don't look like a bunch of 'lidi' sticks? ;)

We stopped at Janda Baik and presented ourselves at this restaurant offering what else? SEAFOOD!

Finally, it is back home to KL where Aurelius had to shoot off for a hot date leaving me to send Chris and Yee Wei back home. :p

By the time I reached home it was 4:30pm and it's still Valentine's Day! :p

So what is a single guy to do?

Sleep first... then go out for my pre-booked and pre-deposited appointment at Frangipani. :)

Having been unsuccessful in procuring a date with the 'target' (surprise, surprise; she already had an appointment with someone else), it would have been hilarious for me to go sit at the dinner table having foie gras and roast chicken with truffle sauce over champagne all by myself (and sending the picture of the empty seat opposite me to her). But I am not that insane... :p :).

Instead, I called up a friend, knowing earlier on (through MSN) that she would probably celebrate 'Singles Awareness Day' too. We agreed to go and soon we are on an 'Amazing Race' to Frangipani. I say 'Amazing Race' because what I thought should have been an easy ride guided by GPS to Changkat Bukit Bintang, turns out to be something else when the GPS couldn't locate that road and took me somewhere else. And we were only 1 hour away before our table and food is forfeited (with the deposit). :p

But reach there we did (after asking directions from the restaurant staff) and we found ourselves at this posh restaurant enjoying choice French cuisine. Well, I had originally planned all this to culminate into the 'moment' but what's to do? The person whom I was going to spring that 'moment' on had another date! Grrr.... ;)

Anyway, that notwithstanding, the food was heavenly and the company great.

We ended the evening with a session of 'Valkryie' at Klang Bukit Tinggi TGV before calling it a night.

Valentine's day didn't turn out the way I planned it but with good food and even better friends, it's ain't that bad. It was also a day of relevation. Perhaps next time I shouldn't wait too long before making the 'move'. In any case, it's probably best to put my best foot forward and just move on.
Next year, it's going to be a REAL Valentine's Day. Promise! ;)