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Confluence & The Monsoon Masterclass Journey

When I decided to work with Tourism Selangor for the last 3 years, the one thought that became my compass was to make people change their perspective about traveling in Selangor. Somewhat of an ambitious task but with every effort, failed or otherwise was always about that. About wanting to make this state (a backyard for a majority of the urban folks especially) fun and cool.

Knowing that I was not going to continue my contract with the company, I had to make sure that I need to do one last thing I’ve been telling myself since I was at OBSCURA. To turn Selangor into a photography hub as much as Vig has turned Penang into one. Didn’t know how or when. It was just something that I planted in my head while working on #TSBreakAway which had a lot of influenced from OBSCURA itself.

Then a door opened. No, it was merely a key presented on my table by my then-boss Fazly, along the lines about having a budget to do something good before we both leave the company. That’s when I immediately called Vig and hoped that he would jump on the wagon.

That call turned out to be what we now know it as The Monsoon Masterclass program.

There are two parts to this superb program – 5 days photography masterclass workshop with James Whitlow Delano and Monsoon Artist in Residence (Monsoon AIR) with Ian Teh. I really wanted to join the workshop but fate had other plans and so I lived vicariously through seven students’ documentary-styled photography work. Which then turned into a 2 weeks exhibition at The Boulevard, Publika from March 23 – April 6, 2014.

At first glance, you wouldn’t think much about some of the work exhibited but when you read their summaries, you start to develop a storyline in your mind and analyse closely what each photograph is saying from the photographer’s point of view. You create this conversation in your head with the photos; questions like who are you, where is this or how is it possible starts to build up one after another. The next thing you know, you get absorbed into their realm. There are seven different subjects, all of which were documented around Selangor. Some of the stories can knock your socks off, that much I can tell you.

Monsoon Masterclass 01

I couldn’t have thought of anyone better to tell Irene‘s The Afterlife Architect story than Vig

K.G Monsoon Masterclass 03

K.G Krishnan walked us through his story about the Street Sisters in Klang

Hanif Maidin Monsoon Masterclass 02

Hanif Maidin‘s Tanda Mati gives a bigger impact when it’s printed

There are two entities I would go all out for an event they do and know I’ll come back inspired. One is from Kakiseni and another is Vig.

Having followed @monsoonair on instagram and facebook religiously (in other words, stalking) and heard stories from Vig about Ian Teh’s assignment for this program, I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.

Ian Teh spent three weeks in a span of two months exploring Selangor’s coastline with Hanif helping him to do the research and Nadia as his partner in crime, driving from one end of the state to another. I knew bits and pieces of it, of what’s happening, where he is going and all that jazz but if I know Selangor the way I do, she always knows how to surprise us. She just does and she did.

Ian Teh_Confluence Exhibition

Confluence is a sum of what is happening to our country in a wider perspective. It’s almost akin to Ian Teh’s love letter written to her people. Much like how I would conclude my journey with the state, I couldn’t have thought of a better word to describe it than one that he had said the first time when I asked him how did the assignment made him feel.

“It’s bittersweet.”

That’s all it takes and needs to sum it up really.

Ian Teh_Confluence 01

Ian Teh_Confluence 02

Of course, I also know that he knows a lot more about Selangor in that 3 weeks he was diligently documenting the coastline compared to the rest of the nation combined. It is only when you put yourself out there that you would know the nitty gritty side of this enchanting yet bleeding state of ours. Almost to a point that makes you want to do something to give back.

Ian Teh_Confluence 08

Oh yeah, might I add that Ian Teh is a Malaysian born (shout out to PJ peeps!) British photographer. And like everyone else, we have our own preconceived ideas about a certain place..until we actually get to know the real deal.

During the launch of his book Confluence at Publika last Saturday (his exhibition with the same name is also in Publika until April 6, 2014), I didn’t expect him to be such a jovial storyteller. Of course, I say this because, I’ve only know him through his work since OBSCURA and never had the guts to go up to him and say hello when I realised he was sitting a table next to mine at a local mamak spot in Hartamas prior to his Monsoon AIR assignment. Only a week before this launch had I manage to actually talk to him and ask some questions that were in my head for a while. Heck, my first photo of him was of his shoes when I was introduced by Vig. Being the typical doofus that I am, I was too shy and starstruck.

Ian Teh_Confluence 03

There’s this sense of humour you get that’s very British too. Making fun of yourself in a dry manner sorta way.

Anyway, it was interesting that we were gathered in front, all prepared to absorb knowledge as he narrated his journey when I suddenly felt like we were in a reading class of some sort. We were all very close to him, sitting in a semi circle. Listening intently to Cikgu Teh, Veronica chirped.

Ian Teh_Confluence 04

You see that black book he’s holding? Yeah that’s one fine piece of..sweet yummy book if it’s ever edible. It was so impeccably made to a point that the cover designed by Azeem Idzham is probably the coolest interpretation of Selangor’s map I’ve ever seen and the way Shafiq Halim designed the layout of the book, you know there were a lot of thoughts going through when each page is flipped. Tash Aw, Prof Khoo Kay Kim and Eddin Khoo enveloped their thoughts for the essays in this book.

It makes perfect sense yet it’s also capable of breaking your heart. There are only 300 copies of the black version and 100 limited ones for white which you can purchase online here. I highly recommend anyone who loves photography or books of any kind to add this to your collection. You know it’s made with lots of love. Maybe some blood, definitely sweat and tiny bit of tears were involved in the making of this beautiful piece, who knows?

Ian Teh_Confluence 06

But if you had to buy something, let it be Confluence. You won’t regret it.

Also, I managed to record some bits of his session. Wished I had recorded the whole thing! So much humility and honesty in the way he delivered his answers when we asked him some stuff.

This particular video was when someone asked him “Why did you name your book Confluence when you kept on repeating coastline instead?”

He knows his stuff yo.

And then I asked, “What is your best memory during this trip?” .. and you know his Malaysian side had to come out first when he confidently replied “Food!”

In the end, I do think the magic behind The Monsoon Masterclass and Monsoon AIR is something we should respect highly. I felt so proud knowing this finally happened the way it did. That all that hard work and frustrations resulted into this magnificent platform for all photographers and storytellers alike to grow. I only wish for this to continue to be the best it can be, changing one viewpoint a time.

Truthfully, it really couldn’t have happened without Vig, Ian, Nadia and everyone else in the team. They really pulled out a rabbit from the hat this round. They really did.

Watch out world!

Ian Teh, Vig & The Monsoon AIR

To sum up what The Monsoon Masterclass and Monsoon AIR meant to me is exactly the way I had posted on my instagram:

“The only time I had this surreal feeling (referring to the aerial shots of the coastline above) was when I watched my favourite movie from Dain Said entitled Bunohan, which was an Oscar nominated flick too. Coincidentally, both were documented during the monsoon season; only in different states of Malaysia. So my point is, there’s so many great bits in Malaysia by Malaysians..just that there’s too few to spread their magic around. Tash Aw said it well in Ian Teh’s book Confluence – we think we know who they are, we think we know their stories, but in fact, nothing is certain. It’s people like them that made me changed my mind about what I knew and what I want to do in long run.”

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#TSBreakAway Featurette: The History Dream

This year has been a big revelation for me. Where Australia’s trip last winter made me realised that I’ve come full circle with myself, two weeks ago, my trip to Kuala Kubu Bharu cemented my reason for being here. In Malaysia.

While for many, it’s either about not having a choice or tied down to family and such.. for me it’s none of that. I could at anytime leave this country and had planned that way since I was a kid. I desperately wanted to get out since young because I’ve never felt like I belonged here yet here I am. Where my friends thought I’d be the first to leave and never return, it hasn’t been the case.

Till today, I remember the one thing my mum said when I was in Leeds, chilling at Nix’s house a year ago.

“So decided to move there?” she asked or something to that effect.

In that moment, part of me wanted to say yes but I didn’t and I knew if I did, she’d support my decision. That was the plan, has always been the plan.

And like the saying my English teacher once told me, man proposes, God disposes. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

That is until this trip.

It was a spur of a moment, one day sometime three weeks ago I suggested to Anis to head up to KKB to meet the uncle she had wrote about in her blog for #TSBreakAway and see what he thought about it. Then I mentioned it to Nigel who wanted to tag along. The week later, she told me they will be going on Friday. I was with Ashraf who was the resident mentor and videographer for this project we’re involved and casually asked if he wanted to go up too, see if there’s anything we could add into the #TSBreakAway footages.

KKB Group Profile

So at 6AM all of us (three #TSBreakAway Zombies and one Xplorer) were up and made our way to KL Sentral train station. This would be my first time going to KKB by train and apparently it was a first for the guys too. From here, we had to switch train in Rawang after an hour and then head to KKB in 30 minutes.

The train ride was very scenic and by the time we were in Rawang, the train we took was empty. So hey, we were like kids taking over the carriage like our own, talking about the 80’s and 90’s like it was yesterday while snapping photos and recording the view in between.

If I had to take a trip to anywhere, this fun bunch would rank at the top of my list.

Serendah

KKB Train

We had no plans when we got to KKB, just another random day exploring an old historical town and meet this charming uncle Anis interviewed. We didn’t expect that our trip would be something mind blowing, to a point that it was literally breaking us away from the norm. So as we were tracking down the route Anis took for #TSBreakAway solo assignment back to the tailor shop, she told us she was intrigued by this old barber shop (roughly about 40 years old) on the same street from where the uncle was working but didn’t check it out then because it was busy with people.

So I had this “brilliant” idea to get the guys to give us a reason to drop by and help Anis get her story. What I didn’t expect was for them to go along with the plan. I kinda sorta challenged Ashraf to cut his hair and get a shave since it looked like he needed a fresh look. Nigel too but only Ashraf agreed to do it. I did however got Nigel to do the old school shaving tho!

KKB Barber Shop Ashraf

KKB Barber Shop Nigel

KKB Barber Shop Nigel 2

Once the guys were done with their “spa” session, we continued on our next journey like kids going from one candy shop to another. I like how in this town, no one looked at you like you don’t belong here. They just continue doing their thing (at a slower but peaceful pace) and treat us like we’re part of them. Despite the uncle didn’t remember Anis initially, he entertained us with his stories of yore. Made ourselves comfortable in his 50 over years old shop, watching as he cut the wool for his customer and even managed to teach Nigel a bit of Pinyin. Who knew they both shared the same surname? Of course, he wasn’t spared from being lectured too for not able to read Mandarin. Haha! It’s like watching father scolding his son for a mishap. Ah KKB.. you sure know how to charm us.

In case you’re looking for this particular uncle to do your pants or suits, just ask anyone in KKB for “The Shirtless Uncle” and they all know who you are referring to 🙂

KKB Tailor

You know how when you got the ball rolling with one story, you went and dig deeper? Yeah, this was exactly the case. We moved from one shop to another just looking for something, anything. Then Nigel read about this other uncle who has an old watch shop which coincidentally was just around the corner from where we were. I mean, c’mon, while you’re here you might as well do what’s in your bucket list. But when we arrived, we didn’t expect that it would set the course of our adventure after this.

KKB Watchmaker

You know how when you go to a shop in a city, they’d be breathing your neck or for some reason, it makes you feel like you either have to buy something or get out of the shop quick? This was neither the case. We hung out at his place, admiring the many beautiful black and white photos of him and his shop which was taken by other photographers in the past. We talked about his background and what he love to do. Then, I heard a dog barking at the back and his wife was so sweet to show me her pet. Feisty looking little poodle. Cute tho. But feisty, bouncing away while barking at me and I was told this little one bites. So yeah, I just leaned my back on the wall adjacent to the dog. Later, she told me about two other cats who are friendly with the dog and brought them out for me to play with. Yeah, we pretty much made ourselves very comfortable.

A spirit I have not known existed in KL or Selangor. That ease I love and strive for is in this old town after all.

Anyway, after all that shop talk we’ve made, the owner of the watch shop decided to bring us to check out his daughter’s cafe, a few doors away from his. Too bad we already had our lunch (one where I was scampering around looking for a clean toilet and an aunty from a kopitiam across the street was accommodating and got me to use hers without any expectation. She even wave and greeted me when I passed by her shop again later that day). Seriously, no one here forces anyone or expects anybody to get anything from them.

When we were at the cafe looking around at the 80’s local music posters and antique memorabilia scattered all over, his daughter went up to Anis and took out her phone to show a photo she took of a namecard she thought would be useful to us.

“I think all of you should check out the small photography gallery. You’ll like it! But I don’t know if it’s open today but you can call this guy.”

KKB Cafe

This must be the gallery Anis mentioned earlier in the day which I’ve never heard of despite visiting KKB a few times in the past. There’s only one place that sounds like this which also housed many other art related items but given how everything are, it’s no surprise that the gallery is not open. Well it is, you just have to call a few days in advance. I guess we’ll have to make another trip back and get inside the gallery. Seriously, it’s almost unheard of to know that art takes place in towns like these here. If there are, no one’s spreading the word. Which is sad.

This whole place calls out for a revival. THE perfect town to have art residency. Which got my head buzzing and throbbing, I wish I could manifest those emotions into papers. Slowly eventually I will. Some kind of community project all four of us made a pact to work on. I hope.

KKB Kedai Runcit

That burning sensation was only secured even more when we met Aunty Sim Ling Ling who threw us off with her generosity. Initially, we didn’t know what we stumbled upon since the owner of the shop went to KL for acupuncture. Then we roamed inside the shop looking at the things hung from the ceiling. You’ll find anything and everything here, it’s amazing. So she slowly emerged behind the counter making conversations with us and we being the cheeky kids, asked her all the old school items we could think of when we were kids. Excitedly, she said yes to all of it and even ran inside to grab it.

Where could you find “Buku Tiga Lima” that still costs 20 cents or pencil with rubber tip would still be 10 cents?

All of a sudden, we all had an idea to buy something from her as a souvenir to commemorate this surprising adventure of ours. Aunty Ling Ling was so jovial entertaining us with the things in the shop and also her tuxedo cat named Baby.

From one thing led to another, I don’t know what got me agreeing when she said “Let’s have coffee?” and walked really fast to the kopitiam next to her shop. In my head, I thought she said, maybe when we come again, we’ll have coffee with her. I didn’t expect to have coffee there and then.

We all ordered our drinks and the moment she found out that I’ve been looking for this particular Kaya Puff KKB is notorious for, she immediately got up and went to the shop.

Ashraf, Anis and I looked at Nigel, who was on the phone at that time.

“Psst..Nigel, we have a situation. Need to intervene..Psst…”

KKB Kaya Puff

By the time Nigel got off the phone, she came back with a box of Kaya Puff all ready for your mouth to salivate. *slap head*

And that she’s got this smile you just cannot not smile back at her. Cannot not accept her gifts. Cannot not accept her friendship. Just can’t.

Of course, I’m saying that in a good way. She even told us about the aunty who makes the kaya for the pastry shop..who happens to be doing it right that moment in that very kopitiam we were in.

KKB Kaya

BEHOLD! She was so efficient, she pre-ordered a tub of homemade kaya and delivered to our table each. Like what is this? Am I really in Malaysia?! By this time, we were all shaking our heads, didn’t know how to repay her kindness with and that she refused our money when we wanted to pay for it made us feel even more unsure. Appreciative of her kindness but also didn’t want her to think we’re taking advantage.

“No, no. I’m not petty over these things. I just want to share.” She told us.

At this moment, only then I know the real meaning of Malaysian Hospitality (MH). If we wanted to dig any story from KKB, this is the deepest KKB allows us. The heart, the bulb, the inspiration. You cannot go any deeper than this. No way.

So, as usual, you know we had to check out how this kaya was made and it takes 7 hours to make a big pot by one old lady and sells it around the town. When I asked if she wanted to sell it out of KKB, she said no. Dang it! Looks like I’ll have to come back here and replenish my stock.

KKB Kaya 2

Looking back, it’s true, KKB is mainly populated by the elderly folks who prefer the quiet and slow paced life. Which reminded me a lot of my late grandma who till she was bedridden, insisted she needs to work, to get the mind working. And that’s exactly what each of them are doing here..that and also because none of their kids wanted to take over their business because the bigger cities offer so much more. Hard working people makes me want to work harder.

Part of me was sad by this fact but another part of me can kinda sorta relate to their kids because it’s been years since my dad been pestering to take over his business but I refused because really, what he’s doing and what I need to do is on totally opposite spectrum. But I still feel sad for them because when they are no more around, what will become of KKB? This town can’t possibly die out of natural death! Over my dead body.

So enter that buzzing brain of mine which Ashraf, Nigel and Anis added more fuel. We just need a plan to execute this thing. I’m sure combining our nutty brains together, we’ll be able to do something but yeah, as of right now, I’m letting the pot simmer for a bit. I still have other paperworks to complete. Gah!

Oh yeah, so how did we end our session with Aunty Ling Ling?

Sneakily, she already paid for our drinks beforehand. Oh Aunty Ling Ling, you really blew us away with your sweet charm. Sigh.

KKB Group Photo

To end this unforgettable trip we did, I found this draft poem I wrote while I was in the train in Sydney a few months back. One I think describes KKB profoundly to me.

A return trip is in order!

Ticket to the Unknown

It ain’t so bad,
This train to no where,
Worst case would be to arrive
To a place you’ll write your story
For the rest to read and navigate.

There’s a moment in our lives,
When the ticket you bought
May not be the place you thought;
You’ll arrive in peace and harmony
But then, peace is anywhere no?

Such is the life this dwarf leads
For those hunters may not see
The beauty therein lies
in front of thee.
Oh what a waste when it flee.

So where will you go,
What will you see?
Just take a trip
Wherever it may be
and just hold on tight for this journey.

Sidenote: Nigel took some superb black and white photos from this outing. I think this is by far he best work, you gotta check it out here!

Image
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Sunrise in Bagan Lalang

Sunrise in Bagan Lalang

Heart Life

Paint the clouds,
the trees and your life
for this story is about
how you do it, dream it
and most certainly live it.

Your strength is in Him
that belief, that hope
it all comes from Him
so carry faith,
carry it all the way.

Have heart, lots to start
As wisdom will impart
when you make mistakes
So take heart,
Life is a work of art.

It was one of those rare moments when I’m able to wake up early for sunrise. To be honest, I wasn’t able to sleep the whole night.

And it’s nice to see such relationship exists in front of my eyes. That beautiful moment between a parent and child.

Hopefully as we move forward with technology, we bring along the human aspect in our lives.

5

Grown ups can have fun too! Uluhati Edition.

Sometimes, in the midst of living; you tend to lose yourself along the way and having said that, it’s the only thing I could say about myself. I’m not sure what it was but I did. I had lost pieces of myself while fighting, caring and growing up. I miss writing, be it poems or stories and I really miss creating art the most.

These are my tickets to escape, my secret garden to hide out.

When I stopped doing it, I felt as if I’m a ticking bomb. The past couple of weeks had been me suffocating only because I didn’t know I was repressing so many emotions inside.

Today, I found the urge to write. No, actually I started writing a month ago..continuing a story I’ve abandoned. Slowly, eventually.. I’ll get there. Just like everything else.

It’s been a challenging year so far. What is only about 2.5 months since we started 2012 to others, it felt like I’ve been in it for 11 months. I’ve discovered so many things about myself. Forcing me to grow up a little bit more, if not be more responsible. And I won’t lie, it has been quite a challenge. Mentally and physically.

So one day, last month, the day I’ve been waiting for had arrived. There’s this gem in Hulu Langat, Selangor I went for a recce with a colleague prior to #TSDayOut called Uluhati. This little haven made me feel like I was revisiting a place in my mind that has not been attended for many years. It’s like a ranch. A beautiful one.

So yes, finally got to share this place with others (thanks to Farhah who’s been telling me about it months before) and I was really excited about it. We stayed over at the longhouse in Uluhati with the rest of the crew, Syidi came along too. In that brief moment, it felt as if we were on our way to “balik kampung”. Despite the fact that Syidi and I only just got to personally know each other last year, it felt like we were all going back for Raya.

While Uluhati is only 40 minutes away from the city, I think it was my perfect getaway from everything. Honestly, it did felt like I was on a paid holiday. The bbq served by En. Shaipuddin and his wife were just beyond words. There were grilled lamb (which En. Hafeez happily gorged down a few), tilapia, mushroom soup, garlic bread, chicken, fries…oh it was endless.

We weren’t ready for a feast but there it was, a celebration under the stars with laughter.

I couldn’t have painted a better picture of that night. There were no mosquitoes too. So that’s a definite plus. After a couple more plates of dinner (that turned into supper)..we played Chinese Poker and Bluff at the veranda as the wind whisper in our ears until 2AM. Retiring our bodies and minds on the comfy beds.

The next morning, we woke up to a cool breeze. So cool, I had the fleece blanket wrapped around me like a burrito. Just like waking up in the kampung, listening to feet stomping, alarm ringing and roosters crowing. The only thing that came to mind was “not to bathe in the cold natural water from the hills”. I’m a chicken cat like that.

Once again, ever lovely Riznida Eliza (En. Shai’s wife) made us Nasi Lemak and some toast bread. Oh it was good to be back with Mother Nature, even if it was just for a while. While waiting for the other #TSDayOut participants to arrive from Bangsar at the river; we got to see the sun rise overlooking the Titiwangsa Mountains.

Rasyidi beautifully captured the morning sun at Uluhati

Breathtaking.

Did I mentioned that there are goats, deers, chickens, turkeys, dogs and cats roaming freely around this 2.8acre land? There are horses and ponies too! More about that later.. for now, we have to be at Langat River for bamboo rafting.

It’s an adventure day, a great outing to get everyone out from the comfort zone and explore together. Each raft had one raft guide from the local Temuan tribe. Technically, we’re in good hands because these people can survive in any parts of the world.

Little did I know I was up for a bit more adventure than anyone thought. And was very much unprepared for it too.

There were 20 rafts, 2 passengers plus one guide on each raft..going on a cruise along the river which took about 2 hours. If there was anything you should try in Selangor, and not wanting it to be too hardcore.. it would be this activity.

Half way through the journey, looking at the houses, little kids watching us city people doing what they do on daily basis..I realised our guide was slightly inexperience. But that’s not going to stop me from having fun tho.

That’s Salina, enjoying the breathtaking view

The first incident happened when our raft (Salina and I were paired up together) were stuck in between huge rocks in the middle of a very rapid current. While the young guide was trying to repositioned the raft, it was easier if we got off the raft and helped as well. From one thing to another, he had some difficulty and the raft floated even further away. Torn to save us or the raft, we all thought it was best if he took care of the raft first. However, if we made any kind of small move, we are sure to fall head first and that’s not good idea when I was holding my dslr.

Seeing as Salina was frozen in her spot, I had to do the one thing I never thought would come in handy in my life. I fell backwards and body surfed along the river knowing that I’ll grab the raft when I arrived at the end. My only reason for doing it was to actually my camera first and I knew I can’t stand any longer with the kind of rapid pushing us from behind. Salina took a leap of faith and did what I did.

What luck, Syidi & Aida were there to see how the incident unfold.

Thankfully, we both were at Kuala Kubu Bharu last November for white water rafting and The Paddlerz suggested that we should do body surfing as part of the activity. This is when you allow yourself to float in the river face up.

Who knew such trivial activity had the potential to save lives?

Truth enough we arrived where our raft was at, except that my thigh had hit a massive rock underneath which resulted in muscle cramp due to the shallow river. Which made it worst because I couldn’t support myself.

It may have looked like I was a klutz (and I am one) but this was just one of those where an accident just happened and all you can think about is saving your life (and the camera). I was pulled out from the river like a helpless body, walked a little bit on the river bank to sit on the raft. One of the guides told us that the river should be much more calm from here onwards.

Where the first incident took place before I body surfed.

“Good. If it was anything like that again, I don’t think I could save myself again because of the cramp.”

The camera was fine, miraculously! And we continued on our journey admiring the view. I had mentioned to Salina that our guide was actually lucky to have us because of the experience we had prior. Had it happened to other people, we’re not sure what it would have been.

I spoke too soon.

Our raft got caught in between two massive rocks and stronger current. This time, I knew I will have difficulty to move away from the situation. True enough, the guide had to literally pull me out of the water and pushed me up the raft. It’s during this struggle that my camera took a dip in the river before I managed to lift it again.

I got on to the other raft, the one where Tok Batin Andak, the head of the tribe was on while Salina went solo with the young guide.

From then on, I resolute to enjoy my scenery with my eyes and not behind the lens.

Sounds a bit dramatic doesn’t it? Oh well, things happened. All we can do is do our best to avoid getting hurt. And I don’t regret going on this adventure even if it had put my camera into comatose.

It’s what I needed. A moment to wake up to feel like I’m still alive.

The best part of the journey is still yet to come. When we arrived at the end point of the river, there was only the Mazda pick-up truck and all 6 of us sat at the back, going all cowboy right up to Uluhati. It felt almost like going on a roller coaster, what with the corners and steep hill we had to go through.

It was truly a fun time.

Minutes later, I saw everyone’s enjoying the cozy long house and greenery. It was also the first time the rest were introduced to this place. And while waiting for our next activity which was the blow pipe demonstration, we were welcomed with the yummiest home cooked food. It was so good, I didn’t even think of taking photos. (All photos after this are from the iPhone)

The long house with the picnic benches. Love.

What I like about the food is that, it reminded me so much of Negeri Sembilan’s food (where my dad came from) and I just love the fresh bite of the pucuk paku. If it was Pucuk Paku masak lemak cili api, I’d prolly grabbed the entire bowl 😉

About an hour after lunch, we were all listening to Tok Batin Andak explaining the entire process about blow pipe. We certainly enjoyed his brand of humour. The kind of accidents that had happened while were quite scary, he made it priceless.

Tok Batin Andak and his many funny tales

While I don’t remember my experience with blow pipes when I was in Kuching decades ago, it was a good thing I get to experience it here. Tho, Syidi did mentioned that this particular ones are heavier compared to the ones in Sabah and Sarawak.

Yours truly’s target..was anywhere but the target point. Some are elephant hunter and one could be a rabbit hunter. It all depends how good you are at blow pipe.

My favourite part has to be when the participants were submitting their photos for the photography competition. That’s when you’ll get to see all sorts of shots from different eyes. Things you might’ve missed or taken for granted, this is when it’ll open your eyes (and mind). We even get to select the winners under a tree with En. Din. It can’t get anymore authentic than that.

I’ll come back again.

When everything was over, Aida and I hitched a ride with Syidi to Bangsar. Considering how hungry we were at that time, we joined Cal and Farhah for.. neither dinner nor lunch at G3 Kitchen Bistro.

The rest of the day was left dead.

8

Airborne-sick

So here I am.
8 months later. I am so sorry.
While it seems like I’ve abandoned Wanderlust Theories, I really haven’t. In theory, it has always been in my mind. It was just never translated from brainwave to words. 
And that makes a lot of difference unfortunately. 
It’s not that I don’t want to write or that I had lost interest in this; I just went away discovering myself and then (hopefully when I’ve figured it out) share my theories about whatever I’ve been experiencing. So this entry is dedicated to everyone who’s been reminding me to start writing (David of MalaysiaAsia, Fie, Alid & Wilson of PlacesandFoods) and those who happened to read this. Seriously, I can’t imagine why anyone would read my rants but yeah, do know that every reader is special to me 🙂
Life has been quite the roller coaster ride; physically and (especially) emotionally. The thing is, I realized I haven’t set foot in an aircraft since My Selangor Story started and I *think* I have forgotten what it feels like to take off. 
Dramatic right? I know. But it’s the truth. Really. 
Honestly, I do miss flying away to places I deem my escapism. It could be the schedule or something else. Somehow, I just never got around to getting onboard. I have sent and picked up people to/at the airport many times tho..
However, I am having fun doing what I never thought is possible. 
Not in a million years.
Then again, I have went on a trip with Johan Farid Khairuddin (or affectionately known as JFK) and Fie in his Cessna around Selangor & Kuala Lumpur back in April. That was probably the closest thing to flying I suppose? ‘Twas amazing!
When I said “I’d like to make Selangor as part of my journey”, I never thought that my feet will be planted deep in the ground of Selangor! It’s so deep, I feel like I’m the information counter for all things Selangor sometimes. Not that it’s a bad thing actually 😉 It’s just that, this experience, this job (if you may call it) has truly changed my perception of traveling. 
I’ve learned so much about myself as much as I have been researching about Selangor every single day. A journey I’ll forever cherish. 
Perhaps this quote by G. K. Chesterton said it best – “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”
And in some twisted kind of way, maaaaybe that’s what He’s trying to tell me; that as much as I love traveling wherever, whenever, it is something else to discover your own country (or in this case, state).
I can’t imagine thinking back that I’ve been to places, seen faces and listen to stories which I wouldn’t be able to do without being part of Tourism Selangor. People who would just take me out and show me around Selangor as if I’m a foreigner. I can’t say how thankful I am for having such awesome people supporting my dream.
The best thing is that, my friends are now even more excited to go on an adventure in Selangor with me like they’ve never been before. That alone I think is an achievement itself.
It has been a humbling and cool journey thus far.
One I keep learning and growing from experience to be a better person. 

Here’s a big hug to everyone! Muah 🙂
6

Hidden Acrobats.

Just when you think life is all about routines and schedules, just take trip to Pulau Ketam (Crab Island in English) which is situated at the other end of Selangor. Take my word for it, this is one trip that’s worth your time and soul.

It’s been a long time coming this one. Me and my ultimate gamer friend Hafiz had planned this trip for a very long time and finally got our heads together to go last Saturday. It’s usually the last minute plans that works for me, I just don’t know why.

Quite surprisingly, not everyone knows the existence of this island here. Which adds an air of mystery even more to this little place.

We decided to start early (what with the unpredictable weather and all), as early as 8.30am and instead of driving to Port Klang like we would to any other place, we decided to throw ourselves out there with the locals. That means, ditching the car at KL Sentral parking lot, take the KTM train to Port Klang and the speed boat from the jetty to the island.

I always believe to get the best stories, one should be a part of the society, which means taking the public transportation. Taxis, buses, trains, .. you name it. These are gold mines for great inspirations!

KTM ticket from KL Sentral to Port Klang is RM8.60 per way and it takes about an hour to reach to the last station (depending on the train speed, it’s inconsistent).

Be prepared to stand because every train is usually pack with passengers. On average it’s pretty cool inside, unless if the air condition is down .. that’s not going to be a pleasant ride. While we were inside, I was happy to see many of the passengers were reading to kill the time. There were many printed materials on the panels for one to read too. Jokes were among the most common one you’ll find in the train.

When we arrived at Port Klang, armed with very little information about our destination, we came up with a strategy – to follow this particular traveler who we assumed was also going to Pulau Ketam. Hafiz who did his research prior to this trip had mentioned that on average, there are many photographers who visit the island for some photography sessions. I guess last Saturday wasn’t in their plans.

Soon as we got out of the station, we saw this building with big sign “Jeti Pulau Ketam” and immediately headed for it. Much to our chagrin, that wasn’t the place we were suppose to take the speedboat/ferry to the island. We managed to ask one of the lady staff and she instructed us to walk on the other side where the actual jetty is located.

So here’s how you get to the jetty from the train station:

As you walk out of the train station, turn right where you’ll see an empty land with blue panels blocking the sea view. Keep walking until you’ll see an opening/entrance with the ferry/speed boat sign board. Then make a left into the entrance and go straight ahead. Voila!

Apparently there are two ways to get to the island, you get to choose either a speed boat which takes 30 minutes to arrive for RM7 per way or the ferry. And the boat ride ends at 6pm on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays; 4pm on weekdays.

No worries as the attendants are friendly and the seats inside are comfortable. You could even watch WWE matches throughout the journey. Along the way, you’ll see many fishing boats, villages and mangroves. Something you won’t see while you’re in the city, that’s for sure.

The salty air is one that you have to get used to and when you do, in an instant the air smells like normal. So for the very sensitive nose, this one can be a challenge for you but hey, it’s au-naturale. Can’t beat that!

When I found out that photographers who visit this island love to take black and white photos, it just doesn’t register in my mind. Why? Because everything about this island is just so colourful. It’s vibrant colours from one person to the other, one house to another. So it makes more sense to capture the lively spirit in it’s original state.


I knew people in this island are used to tourist going in and out of their territory but I didn’t know they were as friendly and warm. The first person to talked to us was Miss Na, who was on her bike and dressed in vivid colours. She probably represented Pulau Ketam to the core.

Oh yeah, besides walking, your only other mode of transportation here is bicycle. That’s RM5 per bike for rental 🙂 But we preferred walking, just because we wanted to experience this area without missing a spot. Besides that, you might wonder if there were crabs around the island since it’s named after this creature and I’m glad to say yes, they were crawling sideways everywhere on the sand. Heck, I got to see salamanders crawling too. Not too excited for that one actually. :/

I love the wind. It was breezy. It was also hot. But not as humid. Or maybe I was to stoked about being in the island for the first time? You’ll be the judge of it when you get there.

If you feel like staying for the night or more, there’s only one hotel called Sea Lion waiting for your presence. And it’s just a short walk from the jetty. About 2-3minutes? If you’re a fast walker, you could even do it under one minute 🙂

Only been there for a few minutes and I already loved the things I experienced. Not only was this island quaint and charming, it’s full of character. You can find good food (naturally) here, that is a sure thing.

Don’t forget to bring long lenses as well, you might never know when it comes handy. Actually you’ll need at least two types of lenses, then you’ll be satisfied with what you capture.

As we walked deeper inside, we discovered the many little things that were not around in the city anymore. Those old school junk food I used to buy when I was a kid can be found here. Such a joy! I was ecstatic to find my childhood chewing gum, Marukawa’s Fusen Gum, that still costs 10 sen per piece, fish/prawn crackers and fried ice cream 🙂 It’s like a mini food land here.

Cheap yet very good food land.

You might be surprised when you enter the island, it seem quiet and lonely but when you get to the market, you’ll find the rest of the population hanging around there. I cannot stressed out how friendly these people were while we were there. It didn’t feel like a Malaysian thing (sue me for saying this but I’ve always grown up knowing the unfriendly people) and suddenly it felt effortless to put on a smile or say hello. In fact, you can wave all you want too. Which I did and was reciprocated 🙂 Hey, I really like it here.

If there’s one thing I could say to describe Pulau Ketam is that, it’s a kampung life, a much more basic (not to mention super bright) kampung life than the ones on other parts of the country. How basic is basic? I realised as we were walking along the path, many houses didn’t have big furniture like sofa or coffee table. There’s cabinet but I think that’s one of the necessity ones. Then I wondered why and figured it’s probably due to the fact that it’s hard to bring it in. It could get to the jetty but the rest of the way, you’re on your own carrying it in the narrow streets.

Besides these things only takes up more space and it’ll only feel crowded for them. Therefore, they apply the minimalist concept, which I highly agree. For convenient sake, that is.

As we were exploring, we found a few attractions that one could never missed out on. There’s a Buddhist temple and a very pretty police station with mountain bikes parking outside. It’s possibly the prettiest police station we’ve ever seen. For the Muslim, the surau is called Balai Islam (I initially thought it was some Muslim station) when it’s a community hall instead. So I learned something new.

From my observation, I find that the community here are very tight. Just about everything in this island involves the community. They were the ones painting the buddhist temple garden or have a chess club for people to play.

Now, that’s one thing the city lacks and could learn from. I’m pretty sure everyone knows everybody here too.

It was so easy to be ourselves and take in the peaceful mood Pulau Ketam exuded. The docks were available for anyone to chill out and simply experience how simply life could be. That was what I learned from this trip. To simplify our life is to know what’s essential and what’s not. In reality, we could do so much without the things we have now but because we were so consumed with materials in this world, many a times we are blinded by it.

I love when a place I go strips down my belief to it’s core and show me the importance in living. And I like it the way Pulau Ketam is; secluded, mysterious and charming all wrapped in one. I wouldn’t want it any other way, and hopefully it will remain the way it is.

I thought I’ve seen it all while I was in Delhi with a small motor vehicle crammed with half dozen people. I didn’t know we have our own version of acrobats too! 😉 Amazing eh?

As we walked further inside, we were welcomed with an array of dried fish. I’ve not seen this one before, I mean the process. I’m so used to the after product that it didn’t occur to me to know how it looks like before it was fully dried. The smell was overwhelming the first few seconds, and then eventually I got used to it.

It is a kampung life this one.

But we could only do so much walking for 3.5 hours that we needed to get something to eat. And behold, the best seafood in Selangor..well one of them. I like to believe to enjoy the best crabs, one should go to the island of crabs to be feasted 😛 So yes! 

This chili crab is 1kg for RM40! Ours was RM48 for the extra weight. Look at that! I’m drooling as it is. Bah! For that price, you can’t get it anywhere else in the city. Yeah baby!

We wanted to order deep fried battered squid and butter prawns but..we decided to devote our life to the crabs instead. And wouldn’t you know it, Fish gave up 1/3 of the way. Thank god I’m a massive crabs fan (especially since I don’t have my braces on anymore)..so I managed to wipe it clean for the two of us! That was some hearty meal alright. Possibly the best. It’s just finger lickin’ goooood.

Thankfully, we still have space for dessert and I promised that we would eat the fried ice cream before we head out back to reality. So we did!

If you grew up to Japanese comic Doraemon, you might recognise the look of the fried ice cream looking like Dorayaki. Only instead of red bean paste, it’s ice cream 🙂 It’s just yummy! While walking back to the jetty, we managed to witness people unloading things from the boats.

To watch them work with smiles on the face as they sing song or make jokes was a breath of fresh air to me. I’d love to apply that to whatever I do. It shows the spirit they have and it was such a precious moment to capture.

On the way back to the train station, we found a lady selling fresh steamed corns 🙂 Oh yes, this has always been one of my favourite street food to purchase. I grew up going to night markets for this! And now, after so many years, I finally get to relive it. Walking while indulging in the sweetness of the corn. Yeah, the perfect end to our trip indeed.

I love every minute of it.

8

Guten Nacht

It’s been said too often that where there’s a beginning there is an end. I like to think only this chapter has ended and new one is in the works. For some of us, this is like an adventure of a lifetime, others an opportunity to mingle. For whatever reasons it may be, I don’t think it could have been done any better.

Ok, that part probably can do without the worst jam in Klang Valley – Taman Tar’s traffic jam.

If you must go to this area during peak hours, I advise you to study the alternatives to avoid this mindless traffic jam. If possible, avoid at all cost; especially during Ramadhan.

We were late by 1.5 hours stuck in the jam and headed for the wrong destination. All is well after because as we reached at the lower end of Ampang’s lookout point, we were told to make a run and take whichever car to Haven. (Hehe, I like how that sounded)

This particular part, with heavy rain to add, made the whole scene looked like it came from Amazing Race. Just a little bit of thrill to wake our tummies up 🙂

Yup, you got it right. Our final destination for the grand dinner was at the top of Ampang’s Lookout point. The one place where I find solace in at night if there’s a need to get away from the city’s rush. And also to indulge in the food stalls by the brink of the lookout point.

Despite the many times I’ve been up here, this was my first time to go to Haven Restaurant. After all, there’s always a first for everything right?

The moment we arrived at the entrance, we were embraced by all of Haven’s staff! There were photographers taking our pictures too! To this fifth day, I’ve yet to get used to this sort of treatment.

As we walked further inside, we saw this hanging on the building across us. We were also taken away by their preparations for this Grand Dinner that we were late for. We felt really guilty for holding them back because we were told Haven closes at 10pm.

We arrived at 9pm.

Nonetheless, they were all smiling and receiving us warmly. We signed our name on the guest book and were given (our 6th) goodie bag! This must be what those celebrities go for when there’s events around eh?

We came here because of the view too!

I don’t think we could asked for more with our seating arrangements strategically facing the city skyline. Even if you’re not in a good mood, you won’t be for long when you lay your eyes on this majestic view 🙂

I think there was a good reason why we were late. Had we arrived as scheduled, we would be basking in the coldness of the heavy downpour and would not be able to see the skyline at all.

As part of this grand dinner, Encik Anantharaj Appanan, the Managing Partner for Haven Restaurant gave a welcome speech to all of us. Hey, it was a pretty nice feeling to know that people around have recognised the power of blogging (although where I come from, it’s called the dinosaur blog era). It was really good, being here with everyone.

When we arrived, we were given a menu to choose our main course. The entire list sounded so delicious, it made me indecisive for a moment. Not to forget, a long list of drinks to choose from too!

After we ordered our main course, we headed to the buffet appetizer and desserts. When you know there’s Lobster Thermidor waiting for you to feast on, you’ll do whatever it takes to not delay it. Otherwise, there won’t be any left for you.

Ah lobstaaahhh.. how I love you so very much 🙂

The very dish many who are close to me know I’ll go crazy for.

Just as we were picking out the various appetizers on the table, Haven’s waiters served our main course as well. So what does this mean? Full speed ahead when eating! My chicken chop was super yummy, that portion alone took me a while to finish. I can’t imagine what I’ll be like if I had ordered the ribs!

I think even Kings won’t be able to finish this! Just look at the portion. It’s an amazing race on it’s own. Why? Because Sy, Max, Thristhan and Dylan who were sitting on our table decided to have a ribs battle among themselves. You should see how the battle started! Now this is what I call food fest! Heck, Dylan and Thristhan even went for second helping of the ribs. It must have been finger lickin’ good for them to feed themselves more even though they were already full.

We were also entertained by One Night Service solo Razlan Saharuddin, Kak Ning, Hafiz and Wen Yi (I didn’t get to take your photo!) throughout the night. The best part was when Kak Ning took the mic and took control of her audience. Even Haven stopped in their tracks and listened to her tongue-in-cheek comments. She should be an emcee on the side too.

We laughed, we sang, we smiled, we cheered, we took (a lot of) photos and we celebrated.

Haven couldn’t have been any more sporting than to wait for the dinner to end towards midnight. Kudos for that!

We were very fortunate throughout this journey to be able to enjoy what we normally wouldn’t have stumbled upon. And here we were, making memories that will forever be embedded in our minds.

Oh, there were more goodies for us to bring home before we left Haven – mooncake by Casahana and an umbrella from Haven 🙂 More reason to hit any strangers who tries to do anything fishy. Hehe. Not to mentioned the vouchers Haven sponsored for the 10 of us too! I’m sure this is not the last time we’ll be here.

That night, I think none of us wanted the night to end. We lingered on the deck for so long hoping time would move slower than usual. Alas, everyone will have to go back to reality the day after. Starting with Alid‘s super early flight. He had to leave us all at 6 AM and we didn’t get to say proper goodbye.

The many times I’ve been to the lookout point, it has always given me good memories. It started of as one and this grand dinner will only add one more into the collection.

It was a very merry MySelangorStory Monday for all of us.

Oh! Before I forget, I’d like to thank Tourism Selangor crew for driving us up and down that night! The things they did for us 🙂 Everyone’s just awesome! Wee.

So Day 6 is coming by fast. Let’s see how I manage to conclude the week with one single post 🙂

I would love to hear what you have to say or if you like this post enough to vote it, head over to MySelangorStory/GutenNacht.