12

Concrete Desert

There are many things in life we forget as we grow older, more technologically advance and intense surrounding like fresh air.

As the day goes by, each waking day is better than the day before.  I remember the morning after Day 1, everyone looked like zombies. When we woke up the day after, we looked a lot more fresh. Waking up at Kak Ani’s house got me feeling a lot more fresh. What’s the conclusion to all that? We’re breathing fresh air from Genting Highlands and now Sabak Bernam.

It only makes a difference when you have experienced it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Most of the time, I only bathed with hot water as I can’t stand cold. When I’ve been in a place without heater, I’ll make do with whatever I was given. Better than nothing at all right?

So when we stayed at Kak Ani’s, it’s understood that the water would be cold yet for some odd reason it wasn’t as cold as I thought it was. Which is a good thing on my end 🙂 There is one thing I was very thankful during this stay – no frogs lurking in the bathroom!

After all this is a good kampung life, and like many other kampung areas, these creatures are bound to be around somehow… a memory that I will never forget when I wake up in the morning during my younger days at my dad’s kampung, only to find a frog standing at the corner(every single time); staring as I consciously refreshed myself. It’s just one of the things that comes with such a life. One I am very terrified of too. :/

Kak Ani’s home is by no means made of wooden structure, her house and many around this area are what I like to call the “new kampung”. Instead of wood, it’s made of bricks. Nonetheless, it still feels just as homey. To make this trip even sweeter, we wake up to the paddy field view!

We needed to get ready and be at the meeting area by 9AM. We managed to eat our ketupat and rendang for breakfast 🙂 Well, Malaysians do celebrate raya for a month anyway. So why not? Unfortunately, my tummy is not used to super early breakfast but I managed to eat some anyway. Here the Malay custom would be to at least have a bite of the food that was served by the host as a sign of respect. Saying no too often offends many of them.

There is this saying that goes “Rezeki tidak baik ditolak” which translates something along the lines of sustenance or luck should not be refused. Anyone’s got a better translation for that do let me know 🙂

When we got to the meeting point, we had to transfer our bags into the bus; just as Kak Ning and I were doing so, we saw an abandoned kite lying on the ground. She quickly picked it up; examined the structure and tested it out. She squealed in delight knowing the fact that it could still fly at that very moment.

It was as if the kite had found the kid hidden in her when she ran along the street, guiding the kite in the air at the same time grabbing our attention. My last kite experience was probably when I was 5 years old, and that was a plastic kite. This particular one was what I suspected, a homemade kite. There aren’t many materials you need to make one. Like the kite Kak Ning tried out was made of brown paper, strings and a few sticks to form the structure.

I realised, I’ve yet to write about our amazing tour guide – Kak Ning. This extraordinary woman here speaks so many languages. Among them are dutch, german, javanese, mandarin, japanese, some tamil/hindi and she is currently learning arabic as well. That’s only the surface of it. If there’s anyone in this world who should have a blog (aside from cab drivers), it’d be her! I swear, she will never ever in her life run out of stories to share and tell. Heck, she could write a book if she wanted to! I’d definitely buy it.

If I have to describe her with a sentence, it would be – she’s so full of life. That’s our storyteller.

Alid on the other hand easily fit in with the locals. He brought smiles to everyone in an instant. Think I’m exaggerating? Pictures don’t lie. It helps that he is from Java and speaks their second language. So there’s no need to break the ice for him.

After going around the city and Selangor, I noticed that the friendly Malaysians are the ones who aren’t bothered with the material things in this world. So it’s much harder to say hello to locals in Kuala Lumpur when they are so distracted with their own life as compared to those who just enjoy life for what it is. I’ve discovered that KLites are easier to approach outside of the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. The same thing can be applied to those in Selangor too.

Which is sad really.

Another few more hours passes by and we finally made it to our last destination. Sunway is like .. I don’t know how to put it. It’s pretty well known for it’s ice skating rink (which I still love to go once in a while) and it’s very own theme park. That and the many universities surrounding this area. Of course, the most iconic thing about Sunway is it’s (faux) Pyramid and Sphinx. Till today, I’ve yet to know why. Kinda feels like Las Vegas a little bit.

Anyway, so we arrived at our hotel, Sunway Pyramid Tower Hotel; the hotel we only found out we were suppose to stay instead of the one printed on our itinerary, Sunway Resort & Spa. Just when we were all looking forward to the spa part. There were some minor glitch that hold our arrival, like the bus was stopped half way at the lobby for some ungodly reason or that we had to dumped our bags outside the door because there were no bellboys to help. A little bit strange but we’re all fine. Too much pampering is not good anyway right? We carried our bags in and waited for a while until we were given our room keys by Mr. Hafeez.

Oh I forgot to mentioned, as the days go by, our bags were stuffed with things. Not the ones we brought or bought but goodies we were given by our sponsors everyday 🙂 I’m sure if there were anymore of it, our bags would’ve exploded! The bags were getting heavier and bigger like monsters.

My roomie for the next 2 days was Chia Li! This girl has very long black straight hair. One I envy very much. When she sleeps. I couldn’t tell if she was on her left or right… because her face was covered by her hair! Hehe. Not really a sight you’d want to wake up to in the middle of the morning and get scared off 😛 Still she rocks! A very sweet girl indeed.

As soon as we checked in and left our bags in our rooms, we were instructed to go to Mantra for lunch. An indian lunch sounds just as appetizing as any other because we Malaysians eat almost anything as long as it’s good.

Due to some more glitches with Sunway City Berhad (who’s our other sponsor), our itinerary had to be shuffled. Instead of going to the theme park after lunch, we were told that our passes will only be given the day after. So what does this means? After lunch onwards… it’s free and easy baby! Albeit Monday will be a very hectic schedule for us since we had to squeeze the theme park in. Oh boy.

Some of us wandered in Sunway Pyramid shopping mall and a few went back to their rooms and kicked back or like Kemal, Sy and Victor, they camped inside Starbucks to hog the internet 😛 . Amelia and I headed to Starbucks for some downtime. This is something I usually do when I needed to clear my mind. That and before this trip, I was craving for Chocolate Chip Frappucino but didn’t get around to do it.

So this was something I was on board for 😀 Hello CC Frap with chips!

It was a good thing to have some space not doing anything other than chilling for a short while. Just a little bit. Not too much. I’d like to call it an hour(or so) to reflect on everything in life. When you’re on the move so much, you need at least this sort of moment to just relax and look back. Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll be enjoying what you’re doing.

That’s how I would conclude my coffee with Amelia. Made me realised about a lot of things. Thanks Amelia!

Then I went to visit Kak Zara & Denise‘s room. I realised although we all are bunked on the same floor, each and everyone of our room sizes varied. Like a lot. Theirs were very spacious indeed! Mine and Chia Li were alright. We didn’t really mind the view (of the Pyramid wall) because we’re hardly in the room anyway.

After hours of time to ourselves, we walked to Sunway Resort & Spa for a buffet dinner at Sun and Surf. This buffet, according to Sy cost RM78 (not sure if there’s the +nett bit) with plain water to boot.

Being the food monsters that we all are, we headed straight to the buffet and gorged ourselves with soup, salad, bread/pita, roast chicken, sushi, rice, satay and god knows what. There were really a lot of food. One I try not to overload myself with. Wouldn’t want to feel like a Michelin going back to the room later.

That is until.. I saw the desserts. No wait, that was the first thing I saw actually 😉

Looked at Spectre, by round 2, he was already leaning his back on the chair. I like to call this pose, the (very) satisfied king. He was a goner for the rest of the rounds.

However, there’s one other person who is the opposite. I present you, the comical Victor.

During this time when I took this picture, I haven’t indulged myself in the desserts. So he took the liberty to show me what I was about to miss. That … fella. I couldn’t even put a straight face when I tried to take this photo! Just look at the chocolate sauce dripping in his bowl. Tsk tsk.

Tempted by the force of eveeeellll..I took a hold of mine!

Unlike others, I prefer mine strictly marshmallows and strawberries because these are the only two most sinful combination that goes well with chocolate. It’s been my childhood favourite this one. Now that I was given the opportunity to eat all I want … bon voyage everyone!

However, there’s one slight problem to this perfect story..Sy found a few strands of hair on the marshmallows at the buffet counter. Thank god I took these marshmallows from the other side. Phewh. He’s got the whole run down of the story here. I hope Sunway City Berhad will be more aware about the happenings in their buildings even though it’s managed by other people. It’d be ashame to have what big reputation they have go down the drain for something like this.

Because guys have bigger appetite than girls, it’s only natural that I see a plate of oysters (after many plates of other things plus desserts) placed on our table. This is Thristhan and Victor’s battle. One only Sy, Spectre and I could watch as spectators. This was when Victor was taught how to eat oysters (there are many ways). After that, he went to take another plate of it for himself.

Oyster is best served cold, raw and with lemon. A dish not everyone would like tho.

After our stomachs are filled with God’s creations, we were allowed to wander on our own again.

And like many curious beings, we decided to walk around and see what Selangor has to offer for nightlife.

For the first time we got the Tourism Selangor guys to explore with us. Johan and Hafiz(yes the one who fed the monkeys). We had fun watching people performing, singing and dancing. It was time well spent indeed!

Amelia(the backbone to MSS trip) was with us too and I thought this photo which was taken with Alid’s camera looked pretty darn cool. At least we know what Pentax Optio WS80 can do by accident 🙂

And this was also when Alid introduced us all to his dance moves…

I think he called it the “Duck Dance” Victor corrected me and said it’s some finger-piano-playing dance. Alid, care to verify this? It really was called the “Duck Dance”. Not sure where he got inspired from. Perhaps one of the many Hindi movies he was watching during the morning? See, I think among all the pairs Amelia’s made, this one – Victor and Alid has got to be the best match ever. Their both quirky, most definitely fun and animated.. not to mentioned, love Hindi movies too. So I’d say kudos Amelia! *These photos were also taken by Alid with Optio WS80 because my P80 died half way :/ Thank you Alid!* Mind you none of us were drinking either and we were definitely having fun.

One of the other dance we did was inspired from this group of people who were doing it 🙂 Managed to record this, thanks to Alid’s Optio WS80 🙂 Phewh! Thank god for his camera because the rest didn’t have it with them.

 
In a nutshell, I think we certainly made the most of our night here because we only have one more night to go before we say au revoir to everyone.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you like it enough to vote, head over to MySelangorStory/ConcreteDesert 🙂
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15

The Light Root

Motion sickness is a very uncool thing to have when traveling. It is the enemy to any traveler!! Having said that, it’s pretty obvious I was one of them. So how did I combat that devil while going through another 3 hours to Sabak Bernam?

Sleep. (Prays to God no one took picture of me sleeping in the bus)

I had to force myself to sleep, which is unfortunate because Gilbert, our resident driver drove along the coastal road (that explains the extra long hours journey) and I missed out on the many paddy fields scenery throughout the journey.

Pfft.

So anyway, when we finally arrived at Sabak Bernam .. we were dropped off at the Dorani Home Stay. The event I was patiently waiting for because home stay being home stay, it means all of us will have to stay with our foster families!

Secretly, I was also waiting for this moment because with the kind of treatment we had given by Resorts World Genting, I wouldn’t know how some of them would react to this. Wanna know why? We’re literally put in the middle of a kampung (village) area so far out from the city, our only option is to adapt.

Oh yes, I was soooooo looking forward to this stay indeed!

It has been like what? A decade I believe since my last visit to this place (or was it Kuala Selangor?).. one day my dad drove us to a place similar to this during raya to visit someone. I couldn’t recall who or where but I knew it was in Selangor and the house was built around the paddy fields. Imagine the look on my face at that time when I saw the long lushes green paddy fields. Wished I took a picture of that.

Anyway, back to MySelangorStory..

as we got down the bus, we were welcomed with kompang and bunga manggar. Now, this particular custom is usually associated with Malay weddings or something more formal. Naturally, I thought we were going to a wedding 😉

Boy, we were celebrated alright.

On top of that, we’ve got the youngsters performing a traditional dance called Kuda Kepang. And wouldn’t you know it, yours truly with 5 other girls and 6 other guys were taught to do this dance too.

During this perfomance, I was sitting next to Alid and he told me about the cult life of this particular dance back in Java where he lives. He explained to me in detail the rituals done such as eating live stocks alive and other mystical related things. It was pure gore to know where this dance had originated from. This dance was then introduced in Johor back in the days and the story behind this dance was based from the battles illustrated from the Quran. It was one of the methods used to attract people to Islam long long longgggg time ago.

However, considering we all are humans. We tend to misinterpret things.

As Alid and I discussed further of this dance, it reminded me of another traditional dance called Ulek Mayang, which in certain part of Malaysia is made into a cult dance that has a similar effect to the one in Java. What kind of effect you might ask? One can be possessed by “something” even without one’s knowledge. Actually many of our dances which originated from Java have their own stories to tell, one many of us might not be ready to hear.

If you want to know more about it, make sure you’re spiritually strong to absorb it 🙂

After Kuda Kepang, we were introduced to the Barogan dance. It’s a folk dance based on Nabi Sulaiman a.s life as he could talk to animals. When I saw this dance, it immediately reminded me of the Barong dance from Bali. Do not be mistaken with these two dances, although I must admit there were characters/parts that were similar. Barong is a mythical character and is wrapped around Hindu characters. When I compare both of the dances, I can see how even the most trivial things in life has it’s own history background. I couldn’t think of anything better to learn history than to watch these dances. And I was lucky to be able to watch two different dance with similar traits from different cultures.

It simply spoke volume.

Got me thinking how come some of us could act so low against other people. After all, we came from the same source.

As soon as the show was over, we were all teamed together for the home stay program. Nicole and I were room buddies again! Our foster sister who met us was Kak Ani.

Now, this was when the conflict occur. See, I’m 25 and I look nothing like one. Kak Ani is also 25 and she looked matured for her age. Because she was referred to Kak, automatically my brain was programmed to call her that yet I couldn’t comprehend it. How did I managed to fix this glitch in my brain? I made myself assumed she was born in January, a month earlier than me so that the title fits. Problem fixed!

Thank god our bags were able to fit in her Wira which were loaded with plates (we later found out that she does catering) when she initially wanted to send us one at a time. Oh no no, we made ourselves fit in it rather than making her go back and forth.

Since my dad’s kampung in Kampung Sega, Rantau is the perfect image of what kampung life is about, with wooden house to add.. I was at ease being here. Only this time with paddy fields to envelope us throughout our stay.

The moment her car was parked next to her house.. I saw THIS.

What one earth was that? That my friends is how ketupat (packed rice) looked like when it’s boiling in a pot.

YES FOLKS, my (yet another) dream is about to come true..or at least I made sure it would. Being the person that I am, I asked Kak Ani if she could teach us to weave ketupat. When she said yes, I swear the sun was shining with me. No kidding.

Can you imagine the (already silly) smile that she managed to carve on my face? Sorry, no photo of that tho 😛

We quickly took our bags and went into our designated room. Chucked it at the corner, went out and met Kak Ani’s mum, Puan Haliwati.

Maybe God was having so much fun that he decided to amp the mood one notch higher.

Why?

There on the floor laid a bundle of palm leaves calling us out. Sheesh. Talk about temptations.

Yes, I also managed to pester Kak Ani’s mum to teach us this dying skill. We were told that Denise and Wen Yi had to stay with us because their foster mum could not make it in time for their stay. Both of them were also just as excited when they went into the living room where we were diligently trying to weave two strands of the palm leaf.

They say the more the merrier right? This certainly fit the description alright. Even Kak Ani joined us weaving.

Now, considering we never weaved a ketupat. It is understandable to see how difficult it was for us to do it. We sat there, Denise even recorded grand master (our foster mum) weaving and still couldn’t get it right..until 2 hours later. Yes yes, two incredible hours to weave TWO ketupat. How productive is that? Despite it all, we were very very very very very verrrrryyy proud of ourselves for getting it right (of course with lots of help!). Kak Ani confessed, she too had only started weaving a few weeks back during Raya. But for a beginner like her, the ketupat took form in mere 30 minutes. -_____-

Even the one I managed to weave looked like an alien. :/ Oh well, I’m still stoked the fact that I finally know how to weave a freaking ketupat! Hip hip hurray!

Hats off to two of our most awesome masters for being very patient with us through the whole session. Of course we weren’t spared with the witty remarks of having very stiff fingers.

Well, this brought me back to my first few weeks of my guitar lessons. Boy, that was some torture. But I’m sure, if we get to weave more often, we’d manage to pull off a ketupat in 30 seconds (like our foster mum). I think.

During our short stay, I managed to listened to both mother and daughter communicate in Javanese. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the company of one before so this was yet another cool discovery. We were also told of their family background from Java. They were apparently royalty descendant but something happened in Java so Kak Ani’s grandfather ran to Malaysia instead.

In just a few hours, my brain was already busy retrieving facts.

After that grueling session, we were served with kampung food which they had cooked for us earlier.

There’s one dish I never tried before which is called Pejari and this was cooked with eggplant. It’s a certain dish that tasted sweet but I wasn’t sure how it was cooked even though it was already explained. Not bad at all.

Right after dinner, we had to rush to see the Firefly at Kuala Selangor.

In one of my previous post, I had mentioned about being able to do many things listed in my to-do list. This was definitely one of them. I think it has been 5 years since I wanted to check this place out but never got around to do it.

Now that I was able to, I was pretty damn excited indeed!

This is yet another dying breed. So to protect this species, we were not allowed to take photos with flash or make too much noise. Fireflies love mangrove area and the only way to see fireflies, we have to sit in a boat.

Before we got into the boat, I had learned yet another lesson in life.

To set the camera settings to Auto so other people who aren’t familiar with it could take our photos. So this was what happened when I didn’t set it to Auto. Let’s just assume it’s an artsy fartsy thing ok?

One boat can only fit 4 adults. If I’m not mistaken, it’s RM10 per person. So Citra, Victor, Spectre and I got to share this once in a lifetime experience together.

I already knew about this particular fact – that it is hard to take a photo of a firefly with a steady hand or tripod (in a boat no less). So I wasn’t so disappointed with the outcome, I much rather enjoy this moment I have watching with my eyes instead of behind the lens.

This little amazing godsend creatures are something I tell ya! When you have a glow on your finger moving about, you won’t remember anything else but the little fella. It could just zen you out in an instant!

See the yellow/green glows in the photos? Those are the magical creatures. I really don’t know why every firefly preferred to hang out on my steel strap watch. What is it about this texture that they like so much anyway?

Be careful not to pinch them. They’re very delicate. Killing one of them is like killing one of your own family.

Since Optio P80 doesn’t have long exposure, I managed to record a video of my experience 🙂 A short clip actually.

 
Amazing isn’t it? The feeling I got when a firefly lifted off from my finger was nothing short of magical. I just felt like one of Disney princesses in the old movies. Yeah that was a lot of fun indeed. We were laughing sitting in the boat as we did our best to attract the fireflies. 
After the boat trip, we were briefed about fireflies in the auditorium room. See, I never told anyone about what I discovered when we entered the Firefly park which was sponsored by TNB. You see all these artworks plastered all over the park? These were the very work I had to help Erman, my Art Director in my first advertising company 5 years ago (who is also my mentor, one of the few people I look up to). That very year, TNB was going all out with campaigns regarding fireflies, spreading across Hari Raya, Deepavali, Chinese New..everything from tv commercials, press ads to billboards. This was his brainchild from the very beginning and I was very lucky to help him when I did my internship and then absorbed in as a permanent employee. 
Every firefly brief by TNB was strictly Erman’s, up to a point we ended up calling him Man Firefly. So to actually see the real work being displayed for the public to see (and hopefully appreciate) was an added bonus to my visit. Didn’t know it was still there after 5 years! And it still looked just as good as it was first printed. Bravo Man!
We left the park around 10.45pm and was immediately told by Mr. Hafeez that there was a surprise waiting for us. Turns out to be Satay Hut at Tanjung Karang. The effort we Malaysians make to get good food. It didn’t matter if we had to drive to the other end of the world, if it’s good, it’s worth going for.
They were delicious indeed. Succulent. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. But I’m a beef satay fan and I’m sure the beef must’ve tasted delicious. This place supposedly serve satay twice the size compared to the normal satay. There’s another place synonymous with satay in Selangor too. It’s in Kajang.
I don’t know how we managed to finished two rounds of satay but we did anyway and was also late to arrive back to our foster family. We arrived at Sabak Bernam around 12.30AM. We apologised to Kak Ani for waking her up so late at night to drive us back.
Our Saturday was an eye opening experience indeed and I enjoyed every minute of it too.
With tired mind, body and eyes, we slept on our queen size bed at the same time wondering what Sunday will offer us next.
Day 3 Part 2 comes to an end.
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