Monday, December 25, 2006


A friend, a senior, company mate in College. A great guy, very athletic I must add. Always smiling, always laughing. I received 2 SMS from OP Azudin and OP Dr Wan Nik while I was in Kuching.
12 May this year, we were with many younger OPs and friends cycling to Endau Rompin National Park. OP Mat Tahir, was the oldest, the envy of every one for his athletic and youthful body and face, after all these years.
24 Aug 06, together with OP Azmi Hamid, I visited OP Mat Tahir in his house. He welcomed us at the door, slightly slimmer. Just discharged from his operation a week earlier. We spent a good 2 hours with him, chatting about everything and nothing.
We exchanged SMS a few times after that.
14th Dec 2006, I visited him with Azuddin and Frank in HUKM. Stayed with him for about 1 hour. Frank did most of the talking. Azuddin & I did most of the listening. I wouldn't be able to visit him alone. I will not know what to say or do.
His wife, his children and 1 cucu were in the room. Said good-bye, held his hand like a brother. I wished I had held it longer.
18th Dec, 2006 OP Mat Tahir left us. That's life - so fragile

We'll miss you too OP Mat Tahir. May Allah bless your soul.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


For 2 days on 18th and 19th Dec, I was in Kuching. Together with Teo and Grace, we were conducting a Leadership Training program for a GLC.

20th Dec was my return to KL. I had time to kill. My flight back from Kuching would leave at 7pm. I actually had much more time to kill. The flight finally left at 11pm.

After a 2 successful days , I was ready to explore the Kuching waterfront, while scouting for breakfast. Perhaps something local, something different from the usual breakfast menu of the hotel.

At the waterfront, the boats were busy criss-crossing the river, carrying office-workers to earn their daily food. What a difference. The pace of life appeared slower than the fast-flowing current of the river. The boatman was just too eager to smile for me. His boat roof served as a panel for advertising, to augment his daily income of RM1 per person that he charged for his service. I hope the boat will continue its tradition.

Suprisingly, no stalls were opened at the waterfront in the early morning. The wet market however appeared on sight. What an excellent opportunity to capture the locals. The stomach can wait.

Kuching is clean, literally. This city puts a lot of other cities of Malaysia to shame. Even the ice sold for consumption is hygenic!

I was also fascinated with the neat arrangements of the veges and can't help but capture them.

An Indian lady smiled for the camera, selling Indian spices.

Then it was Little India, a well-preserved street mall. The authorities have done an excellent job of retaining the old charm. The Indians were still there, as cloth merchants. So were others. I had my Murtabak breakfast, in a Malay warong!

Oh those cute colorful windows. Reminds me of the French Quarters in New Orleans

And what would Sarawak be without their Mee Kolok. This Chinese Mee Kolok cook bears some resemblance with someone :-(

While browsing in an antique shop, I chanced upon an employee of Shell. Must have worked in UK cos he's paid in Pounds. He must have loved his employer so much. Or, was he an ex-employee

I also chanced upon a cute coffee shop, which prides in its own roasted coffee beans. Stomach full, but cannot resist the charm of this cute place, or was it the charm of the Sarawak lass manning the shop? Owner, Mr Chang appeared to me as a nature lover. He wasn't at the shop but left plenty of his love for nature in the shop - t-shirt prints, photographs, post cards and a write-up of his coffee-beans -- LIBERICA COFFEE and ROBUSTA COFFEE. The Sarawak lass blended me both types in one cup and with kaya toast to accompany the coffee, I had my early lunch all for less than RM5.00

Time wasn't really on my side to meet all the multi-racials. But I managed to meet 4 of them - 2 Bidayuh, 1 Iban and 1 Orang Ulu. Let me introduce them to you.

Next came the China Town. Several Pagodas later, I was heading back to the hotel. A satisfying morning walk.

I must add that the Sarawakians drive in no haste. Horns are a rarity in use. However, don't wrongly park. YOU will be towed away!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


3 days on the road and lazing in Kota Bharu, I accepted the opportunity to go wet - a boat trip down one of the rivers, Sungai Pengkalan Datu which eventually leads out into Kuala Besar and the open sea.

Kampong Tanjung Kuala is situated close to this river mouth and home to the classic hand-made Perahu Kolek. The community of fishermen goes about their life in the usual unhurried fashion. I was there at late afternoon, long after the catch has arrived and sold. Fisherfolks were in their usual jovial mood passing their time at the Wakaf, the "empty talks" in their Kelantanese dialect that the "Orang Luar" or outsiders will be left guessing.

Perahu Kolek is indeed a work of art. These boats are solid, made of the Chengal wood. To protect the wood from weather and sea, these boats are painted, many times over with vibrant colors and designs. Owners pride themselves in this work of art. I chanced upon one fisherman proudly painting his boat while a nephew was drawing a new design. It's an experiment, said him. He did the non-artistic part of painting the strips. The nephew was experimenting his skill as a batik painter.

The work-in-progress of the batik design is another work of art. The batik painter did not sketch the design prior. He painted straight on, confidence built over the years painting straight onto batik cloth.

Up close of the Perahu Kolek, one can notice the designs and colors at various parts of the boat. The Bangau at the front of the boat is like a mascot. It boasts of different shape, design and colors. Here I post a few of them

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Wrapping up 2006 with a ride back home to Kota Bharu seems just right for the itching bottom. It was a hasty plan hatched during the fasting month, too fool-hardy to attempt in Ramadzan but equally crazy to do in the monsoon month of December. But Mahmud, my younger brother from Kota Bharu was just as crazy. It was to be a "brotherly" ride for two, me born 8 years earlier and therefore in position of authority!!

Original plan was to do the 400kms journey from Bentong to Kota Bharu via Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang-Krai. However, consideration was given to the impending monsoon, the no-shoulder mountainous roads from Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang and the huge lorries that shuttles between these two towns carrying anything from logs to gas tanks. The "adult" in these 2 kids saw a revision of the plan, equally exciting but lesser cycling.

The revised plan was to cycle from Bentong to Kuala Lipis and then catch the slow Mail Train to Dabong for an overnight stop. Day 2 cycle from Dabong via the internal road to Jeli and swing to the East-West Highway to Tanah Merah. Day 3 a leisurely ride to the capital town of Cik Siti Wan Kembang-- Kota Bharu.

DAY 1 - 4th Dec 2006 (BENTONG - KUALA LIPIS - DABONG (by train))

Left home in Subang Jaya in the wee hours, transported to Bentong. 0715 in Bentong, all systems go. Typhoon Durian though was reported to be encroaching the East Coast. Bade farewell to Ila, my ever faithful daughter (driver) and the 2 brothers were off in the misty and cold morning of Bentong. The initial part was already a gradual climb. My borrowed GPS was showing an ascent from 70 m where we started to peak at a 222 m, roughly 20 kms out of Bentong town. The cold sweat gets warm very fast and we were dehydrating well. Journey was smooth, good road shoulders and traffic was not a bother. Rear view mirrors were permanent fixtures on both bikes.

Stopped at a "Baulu" store as Mahmood was feeling "gedebar"(fidgety). We later coined a new word "gedepar", an acronym from "gedebar" and "lapar"! It was a mini carbo-loading stop which I too welcomed. By lunch, we were resting nicely in a mosque and only 15kms to Kuala Lipis. The timing was in our favor as the train was scheduled to arrive at 1430 hrs. Did our jamak prayers and cycled to the Kuala Lipis Railway station for a hearty lunch and the wait. Ticket to Dabong was RM6.50 each and each bike costs RM3.50.

The train arrived on time but departed over-time. The bikes were neatly stored in the goods coach while we settled in the only working air-cond coach. The train stopped at ALL stations, big and small. Unhurried and laid back, village folks await the train arrival at the stops, probably the only activity and excitement. Children play on abandoned wagon, waving as I snapped their happy faces

I noted a huge river down a valley with a passenger boat at berth, somewhere between Bertam and Kemubu. I have made a mental note to explore this area in 2007. This time the bike will be on a river boat and a train!

There were 10 stops before we arrived Dabong. As the train rolled into the station, the sun was settling. Our original plan to overnight at the Stong Resort to view the Jelawang waterfall early morning has to be scrapped. The road to Stong would be in total darkness and fringed by jungles both sides. Guess we weren't too strong for Stong. We settled in a mosque after some Thai fried rice.

DAY 2 - 5th Dec 2006 (DABONG - JELI - TANAH MERAH)

We were ready to roll out of the mosque by 0700. Bade farewell to Dabong (I'll be back), and after carbo-loading of Nasi Berlauk and hot Milo, we rode into another cool misty morning.

We crossed the newly built bridge across the river and headed towards Jeli, the Tiger country. We saw no tigers but adequate signage to keep us aware of the danger.

Rolling hills welcomed us with very few vehicles on the road. Passed Jelawang but couldn't catch a glimpse of the Jelawang waterfall from the road. We passed Kuala Balah (KB), once one of the "uluest" place where teachers once shudder to be transferred to. With good road connection, piped water and electricity, this KB can rival the capital KB - though on a much smaller scale.

Our leisurely ride saw us arriving at a Dataran Makan in Jeli around noon, and having covered 50 kms of rolling road. I faintly heard Mahmud ordered an ice-kacang and I boldly ordered one too. No guilty feeling of overdosing the calories. It was most welcome on a hot sunny day. It's supposed to be monsoon and Typhoon Durian. Yet, not even a rambutan or langsat.

Next on the menu was chicken rice of the right portion. Dessert was a tough decision between two local delicacies - "Jump and Spear" or the Pengat Ubi. Being of warrior heritage, my choice has to be Jump and Spear (Lompat Tikam).

We jamak our prayers at the Jeli mosque and soon headed towards Tanah Merah, another 50 km ride for the overnight stop. I spotted this surau along the Jeli - Tanah Merah road. One needs no guessing as to who owns this. But I suppose, everyone is welcomed!

Weather was continously hot but the rolling road was in our favor. The downhills were generous and we got into Tanah Merah about 1700 hrs. Kota Bharu was a mere 40 kms away but we decided to overnight here. Had Satay for early dinner together with Mahmud's family and my sister's family (Su) who travelled from KL this morning. We took 2 days to reach Tanah Merah and they took 8 hours in cool comfort. So boring for them!

Checked into a RM60 a night hotel and settled in for the night.

Day 3 - 6th Dec (TANAH MERAH - KOTA BHARU)

We were ready to roll by 0700 and was soon heading towards Pasir Mas. Our noses were all up sniffing for the best breakfast stall that abounds along this trunk road. We were not disappointed. Though the nose didn't do its job, the eyes did. A sign board Nasi Kerabu Daging Bakar was all we needed. We added ayam kampong to the menu and was soon carbo-loading for the journey to Kota Bharu.

A slight drizzle welcomed us as we rolled into busy Kota Bharu. it was too light to even think that it's Typhoon Durian's tail-end. The Durian didn't hit Malaysia's East Coast after all.

Can't help but regretted missing the Dikir Barat, a cultural performance I enjoyed as a long ago.

I also missed going fishing. My late father was a fisherman. Thank god, the beautiful Perahu Kolek is still available.

All in, we cycled 240 kms over the 3 days. Jointly we spent less than RM200.00 for the entire trip. Air Asia can't beat our price for a interesting 3-day holiday.

Now Everyone Can Cycle

Till we meet again


....And I chose to cycle.... ever since I gave up on high-powered motorised two wheels and settled in for a low-adrenalin eco-friendly two wheels universally called the "bicycle". In my country of many dialects, the humble machine is also known as SPEDA or GEREK.

The change to the non-motorised two wheels came about in 2001, after a nasty accident - on my high-powered 1200 cc BMW of course. It was an encounter with the four legged kind, and there were 5 too many. I could probably have avoided the confrontation if it was a lone goat. But being a tightly-knit family of 5, they came out of the bushes together. I avoided all except 1, hit the poor creature, lost control of the mean machine and kissed an on- coming 4 wheeler from the national car manufacturer. I flew like a superman (or was it like a frog) and landed face down. Broke my left wrist, misaligned my left collar bone and injured my arterior cruche (I'll check the spelling later) that hurt my right leg for 2 months.

Health later became an issue as the right leg and knee hampered my physical activities. Was advised by a sports doctor to take up cycling, to strengthen my thigh muscles. The thigh muscles will help hold the knee as I progressed or rather aged graciously into the future.

That's the historical part. Fast forwarding to the future, cycling now become a passion. Converted many friends (in their roaring fifties) into cycling. Now that you can estimate my era, the non-convertible friends of mine told me that cycling are for kids! Oh how I pity these adults.

I set goals for this love. At my kiddy age of 55 last year, I did a charity ride dabbed "ROAD TO 55" and cycled coast-to-coast, the entire Peninsular Malaysia. The 1960 km journey took 21 days, most times sleeping in mosques or suraus. The journey is in my webpage and includes my TransBorneo ride completed in March this year. That's the kiddy stuff my adult friends are referring to.