Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lata Kedondong 2012: The Return

Yes, we returned to Lata Kedongdong once more, first time in 2012, after quite a while. :)

Gathering a posse of 17 people, we congregated at Devi's Corner TTDI to pay 'homage' to it's roti canai, roti telur, telur setengah masak (most of the time) and teh tarik, filling up our energy stores before the commencing hike.
Breakfast at Devi's Corner, TTDI

Taking off after our 'expert' commando navigator, Dennis Teh, arrived 30 minutes AFTER our scheduled departure, we head off first to Desapark City, doing a few merry go-round turns before finding our 'Princess' Wai Wai standing at a different guardhouse from the one we thought we would find. :p ;)
Princess Leia, er... Wai Wai ;)

Needless to say, our FIVE car convoy couldn't maintain 'shield' integrity and so we ended up separated into three groups, all heading in the general direction of Ulu Yam. Offhand, I would like to thank my very patient participants, because despite the round and round turns, they have the supreme patience not to complain about it when we finally arrived at the destination (well, at least not in front of me of course)... ;) Haha!

Taking the MRR2 road with Vit Ping the only person skillfully steering his steed behind me, passing over the flyover at Kepong roundabout in the direction of the Batu Caves temple, we took a left turn just before the temple at a junction with the words 'Ulu Yam' printed (Route B22). We linked up with Teoh san's Honda Accord in the town on the road to Empangan Batu (Route B23). We are starting to gather 'lost sheep'... ;)

We passed Empangan Batu (Batu Dam on Route B23 -> B57), intermittent phone coverage granting us a brief opportunity to locate the other two cars in our earlier FIVE car convoy. They were behind us in Batu Caves town when were were passing by the Empangan Batu's romantic blue lake. :)

We reached Ulu Yam Baru town about 20 minutes later, following signboards to Batang Kali (Route B57) from there. Once we exited the town, it didn't take long before we found the signboard pointing towards Genting, about 6km from Batang Kali. We turned into the road (Route 66).

Caution is advised when travelling on this road. It is winding and there are many blind spots. And like it's famous cousin in the US, it is also famous for those people with a need TO speed. FAST cars (ie: Ferraris, BMWs etc) and Mat Rempit convoys ply up and down the route, the winding roads a 'test' to hone their skills on the highways of Malaysia (to the detriment of us all citizen drivers) :p. Of course our navigator, Mr. Dennis still have fond memories of this stretch of road... ;)

We reached the parking lot of a recreation park located about 20.5 km from Genting. Time check: 1030am. ;) The park is very well managed and clean, the toilets suitable for post trip baths and apparently now maintained by a keeper who would appreciate a 'contribution' of RM0.30 for upkeep of the toilets. :)
At the Car Park, waiting for cars #4 and #5... :)

After docking our three trusty 'steeds' at the car park, it was time to catch up with the two other cars. Informed that they went ahead to Batang Kali for a petrol stop, they finally linked up with us at the car park at 11am. Well, I guess it's still morning.
A large gathering... :) Definitely the biggest group I have brought to Lata Kedongdong... :)

After a customary group photo, we heaved anchor and cast off, in search of the staircase located at edge of the park that led to the jungle track and Lata Kedongdong beyond!
And we are off! :)

As before, the staircase and cement trail only went about a few meters before petering out to jungle track. And again, if you are not really observant, it would seem like there are seemingly a few 'tracks' heading in generally the same direction. Well, one rule of thumb when tracking on this trail, keep the stream and the road between you and you will never go wrong. ;)
The stream that links with Sungai Batang Kali
The jungle trek begins...

You can choose to do a 'river track' but I haven't done it before myself, although I have heard others do. However, judging by the size of some boulders in the stream, I would presume it to be a little 'tough' to scramble over them boulders.

At length, we reached a point where we had to negotiate up the side of a boulder close to the falls. Protruding tree roots offer good foot and hand holds although Dennis's boy scout rope was a welcomed relief for those not so 'initiated' in the art of jungle trekking. ;) The alternative over climbing up this 'high point', is to circle around it in a slightly longer and rather branch entangled route. Not really recommended. :p
For the 'uninitiated', a good sturdy rope is always better than trying to climb slippery rock (or in this case, boulder) faces... :)

We arrived at Lata Kedongdong approximately 30 minutes after leaving the car park. I almost couldn't recognize it this time around. :p
Arrival at Lata Kedongdong, 2012

For one, there is this huge tumble of bamboo spread across the outflow of the pool fed by the waterfall, inadvertently raising the water level of the pool and making the water look 'greener'.
The bamboo tumble covering the pool outflow, 2012. Water is slightly greener... :p
The clearer, 'cleaner' version we discovered in 2009

Despite it being almost noon, the area was still cool and the air pretty crisp.

There is also some form of bamboo 'shelter' located close to the track when we came in, no doubt set up by people with the intention to spend a night here without the hassle of carrying a tent. :p

We dropped our bags and head to the cool waters of the pool. The initial plunge was met by still 'icy' cold water although as our bodies adjusted to the temperature, swimming in it becomes bearable. ;)
Wading into the pool :). That's what we came here for isn't it? :)

As mentioned before, the raised water levels has deepened the pool at its center and although there is no detectable current there, it is more than 2.5 meter deep. Caution is strongly advised when swimming. Closer to the waterfall and towards the outflow, the current becomes stronger and now with the fallen bamboo tumble 'shrouding' the point where the water tumbles down from the pool, the seemingly stable waters just before the tumble might hide an underwater 'vortex' that can potentially suck a swimmer under and trap them between the boulders underneath. Keep away from the outflow! :p
The piles of boulders below the pool...

Once more, Dennis and Aaron explored the area above Lata Kedongdong, skirting along the slippery rock incline next to the falling waters. Again as before, there really isn't much aside from a small pool and a minor cascade. They lingered there for a moments before joining the rest of the group below.
A new yoga pose from Aaron? Must be back breaking! :p

Some of us didn't join in the 'fun' of swimming, preferring to keep their clothes firmly on their backs. ;) Questions as to 'why' they don't want to indulge in our little habit elicited a rather 'coy' answer in the guise of, "Oh, I didn't read the part about bringing spare clothing" and "Ah... next time." :) Ah well, as the saying goes, "Render upon Caeser..." ;)
Presenting: The Non Waterfall Bathers (NWBs). :)

After spending 1 hour and 15 minutes at the falls, it was time to head home and to look for lunch! ;)

We packed our stuff, taking time for one more group photo.
Group photo before we leave...

After that its a short trek back to the car park, a brief shower before going over to Ulu Yam for a taste of its famous Loh Mee! :D
One of Ulu Yam Lama's famous loh mee... Mmmm... ;)

Overall, Lata Kedongdong is still a nice place to swim, albeit one has to be a little bit more careful this time. A short relatively easy hike from the car park and a nice cooling dip awaits. Well worth the LOOOOONNNNGGGGG drive from civilization... ;) Till the next adventure! ;)You're welcomed to read my last documented visit of Lata Kedongdong here. ;)

The car park on km20.5 Ulu Yam -> Genting can be referred for below, ah the perks of modern technology... :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

City Square Shooting Gallery: My Date with Smith & Wesson

What do you do on a Friday night?

Well, while others are favoring the drinking holes and clubs in and around KL, I chose to do something a tad bit different this time.

It’s my 2nd half day Friday since my company (now Aker Solutions ;)), started the 4 ½ day program and I took the opportunity to make a beeline from Pavillion Towers located at the heart of KL to Segambut before the hordes of KL-ites head to their cars and clog its myriad roads!

Now, what am I doing in Segambut?

Well, I am off to City Square Shooting Gallery! :)
The main lobby at the shooting gallery

Now, this shooting gallery isn’t the same thing as you would find in some circus booth firing those spring loaded shooters that spew out lame rubber plugs, this is the REAL thing, that is REAL guns and REAL ammo.

Unlike the US, where they have the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution that legalizes the ‘right to bear arms’, in Malaysia, it is completely illegal to own a firearm without a license on pain of imprisonment (max 14 years), whipping (not less than 6 strokes) (Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act, 1971, Section 8) or even (gulp) DEATH (Internal Security Act 1960, Section 57)!

So with these types of punishments in mind, it’s no wonder shooting galleries here are a rarity if not completely unheard of.

Therefore it was quite a bit of luck that I stumbled upon this Groupon that offered a one session of Handgun Training for Two Persons (50 rounds) for a rather reasonable price of RM225. Having seen a few people putting up facebook photos of themselves firing handguns at other shooting galleries, I have asked and been told that you need to get a ‘membership’ to do so. And mind you, memberships don’t come cheap. I was informed by someone (namely Sharon Choong :p) that it could easily cost RM10,000+ to be a member at a certain shooting range in Subang and another hefty sum to maintain the membership annually. So for RM225 to get a ‘feel’ of shooting a handgun, I think it’s quite a steal!

Aside from the Groupon offer, City Square Shooting Gallery does offer ‘walk-in’ as well as ‘membership rates’. Member prices are about 40% cheaper than walk-in rates although you’d have to pay an initial RM2,000 membership application and RM600 annual fee (2012) first. For a walk-in session, the price would be around RM450, counting gun rental, booth rental, ammo and the expertise of an instructor. In all cases (including using the Groupon), you’d still need to have your background checked AND cleared by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) before they allow you to hold a firearm. Expect 2-3 weeks for that to happen.

After contacting the gallery and stating my intention to redeem the Groupon, I was given an application form to fill as well as required information to submit for the background check (namely a Photostat copy of your identification card (I.C.)).

I was also asked to state my preferred time slot to do the shooting although you do have to take into account the 2-3 weeks vetting process when you want to choose your date with the Smith & Wesson. ;) City Square Shooting Gallery is open everyday except Tuesdays and Public Holidays.
City Square Shooting Gallery's Operating Hours

After a two week wait, I was contacted by the Shooting Gallery and our date is set. :)

Arriving at the gallery for the 6:30pm appointment, I was met by their friendly staff (who incidentally works as a bodyguard) who passed me another form to fill prior to the start of training. You’d have to pass your IC to them to verify you are whom the Police have cleared from being some kind of criminal or Al Qaeda terrorist. :p

Some video footage of firearms training in the US to wet your appetite while you wait for your partner. If reading is more of your forte, racks filled with Gun Magazines are available as well... ;)

When my pard’ner arrived (Janice Khoo), it’s off to the training room for our briefing on how to properly use a firearm.

For our Friday session, we were joined by 3 other people making a rather cosy group of 5. I am told however, for weekends, the sessions could be filled to the brim especially when some companies choose to spend their annual ‘Family Day’ allocations on sending their staff for firearms training instead of the traditional picnic and egg on spoon balancing telematch in Lake Titiwangsa (don’t ask me why, I am figuring it out myself)! That would be in the area of about 20-30 people per session.

The initial briefing session was conducted by Mr. Von (that’s actually his ‘middle’ name), who gave us detailed instructions on the proper ways to hold, aim and fire a weapon. Emphasis is placed on safety of course, where we are repeatedly told NEVER to treat a firearm, even an unloaded one as a toy and point around people other than your intended target.

After the oral training session is complete and sufficient questions answered, it’s time for the REAL deal… life fire exercise! :)

The moment we have all been waiting for! :D

For beginners, discharging your weapon is done in a shooting booth under the supervision and guidance of an instructor. Mr. Clemen assisted us on this part of the exercise, while Mr. Von watched over the other group of 3.
The REAL thing... ;)

We were provided with a Smith & Wesson M&P9L which fires 9 x 19mm Parabellum rounds. Other models of firearms are available such as the Glock 17 and the CZ competition models, although you don’t have the luxury to choose if you are using your Groupon. :p
My 'date' for the night: Smith & Wesson M&P9L

Contrary to my expectations, I found the S&W lighter than I expected. But that does not mean firing it would be easy. As a matter of fact, I was told the heavier your firearm, the less the effect of recoil.

The 50 rounds shared between Janice and myself is more than adequate for me. Don’t dream about going ‘Rambo’ because firing a gun is tiring business! This is because aside from having to manage the recoil, you’d also be straining your muscles just trying to maintain the proper stance and aim to get a good shot. Of course with enough practice (and generous amounts of money), you’d be discharging shots like those guys in Discovery’s ‘Top Shot’. :p ;) For now, being a beginner, I’d advise that you guys TAKE YOUR TIME to discharge your weapon, those ‘angry’ looking soldier targets with em’ brandished bayonets ain’t reaching you anytime soon.
Charge! The angry looking soldier whom you're gonna pepper him with 9mm lead... :p ;)

A note on the shooter’s physical size for those ‘concerned’ ;). You don’t need to be a ‘hulk’ like George Reinas from Top Shot Season 2 fame to shoot accurately. Despite concerns on the force from the recoil of the weapon, I was informed that small children are also able to handle the S&W. My partner, Janice shot better than me despite only weighing about 40kgs. ;)

Don't let her dimunitive frame fool you, she is quite a mean shot!

Firing is done at ranges of 5 meters, 10 meters and 13 meters on stationery paper targets with ten rounds each spent on the 5 meter and 10 meter ranges and the last 5 rounds used for the 13 meter distance.

At the end of each range session, the target is taken down and marked by the instructor before putting it up again for the next range. Needless to say it gets harder to hit your target as the range increases.

Wearing ear muffs and eye glasses are mandatory. The ear muffs were obviously provided to protect your ears from the loud noise of a discharging weapon but the eye glasses were an initial enigma to me until one of the spent cartridges leapt out of the breech and struck it when I was firing a round! Whew!

The sound of a discharging firearm is also quite different from what you’d hear in the movies, more of a ‘snap’ than a ‘boom’. Maybe it’s because I am using a lower caliber weapon?

With one final whiff of cordite, my shooting session finally ended when I fired my last 9mm round at the 13m target. Thereafter, it was time for a few customary group photos with my instructors and another one with my ‘poor’ target. And yes, you can bring your multiply punctured target home for you to do whatever you want. :)
Group photo, Mr. Clemen is 2nd from right... :)

With Mr. Von, the instructor that gave us our oral briefing...

What you better not bring back are the bullet casings that might be littering the floor between your feet. Spent casings they may be, they are still against Malaysian law to possess it and you can get into very big trouble if the authorities catch you with it. :p

Spent Casings... make sure you are not tempted to bring them home... :p

On leaving, we had one final briefing, that on membership and other avenues to further explore the sport of competition shooting from the owner of the gallery, Kelvin Lee, who himself is a professional shooter and lead instructor.

Apparently, there are competitions here in Malaysia, mostly participated by members of the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) and PDRM as well as a few private citizens. Don’t expect BIG prizes to recoup your about RM600 – RM1000 participation fee (which covers gun rental, ammo, equipment, lodging and such); I am told by Mr. Lee that the only prize you get is the ‘satisfaction’ of beating PASKAL, PASKAU, UTK or Commando members at their own game. ;)

The PRO, firing the S&W with one hand...

And so, ends one more otherwise regular Friday night for this ‘quantum singularity’. ;) Having so much fun, this will definitely not be my last time visiting City Square Shooting Gallery, as what our friend and former California Governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) would say… “I’ll be back!”. :)

The next Top Shot? ;) Hahaha! Lots more practice required!

For more information, you may contact the City Square Shooting Gallery at:-

City Square Shooting Gallery
9th Floor, Menara TKSS
206, Jalan Segambut
51200 Kuala Lumpur
Wilayah Persekutuan
Tel- 603 - 6257 8975
Fax-603 - 6257 7890
GPS coordinates - N03° 10' 56.6" E101° 40' 35.9"

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