English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The List!

Three things.

There are three things I managed to accomplish in my resolutions for 2012.

1. Take the PADI Advanced Open Water Certification. By luck I got mine through a blogging competition!
2. Try rock-climbing / wall-climbing. Did that and more!
3. Have a portrait photo professionally done. Thanks to Groupon and L'Unico, I have mine now.

Yes, it is exciting when a new year begins, and you are ready to start all over again with a clean slate. Figuratively speaking.

In my last post for 2012, here are my plans for 2013:-

1. Start up a business / company from scratch. I already have my partners, all we need is a bit of effort.
2. Pull off a great evening - the Installation and Awards Banquet that I am chairperson of.
3. Write a book (or two). One is a collaboration and already in the works. Some extra motivation & push needed.
4. Focus on 2 big projects. One on community improvement, and another hopefully with some links to UN Women.
5. Finish paying off credit cards, reduce debt.
6. Revisit Mabul / Sipadan for at least 5 days.
7. Build up my freelance work career
8. Build a framework to attract potential leaders, inspire and motivate others in personal development through one of the NGOs I'm involved in.
9. Ummm... lose weight? ;-p 5kg, at least. Join BIM again!

I guess resolutions become different as you get older and more mature. The plan just looks different from my other resolutions :-)

Let's see how much I'll accomplish in a year.

See you in 2013 and Happy New Year!



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Living it up in 2012!

With just a short week left of 2012, I started looking back at my progress over the last few months. Counting my blessings, and realising that in the big picture, I did what was important to me.

In a summary, I would say that this year has been a year of self-discovery, exploring choices and overcoming fears. It has been a year full of enriching activities - activism, causes, networking, learning.... and it has also been the year where I did a lot of soul searching to find my own meaning in this world.

Thinking back, I think my transformation was somewhat sparked by this quote I found, late last year. I posted it on my laptop, where I saw it at work every day.

It made a great impact on me. Especially the words 'If you don't like something, change it. If you don't like your job, quit'.

We love a lot of quotes, but how many of them do we actually apply? What holds us back from living the life that we want?

I started the year on a new job, full of hope that I finally found what I was looking for - a starting point to a long term career that is meaningful and fulfilling.

It didn't take me long before I realised that this is not what I wanted to do, or saw myself doing (willingly) for many years. Sure, I had a good title to boast of as Manager, and a reasonably high salary... but does that make me happy? Do I feel like I was doing something great?

The answer was a big, resounding 'NO!'.

I am not one that is motivated by titles or money, though I do need to have money to survive. And of course, we say money can't buy us happiness... but it can buy us that new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 to put a big grin on our faces.

But luckily, I wasn't one that was caught up on materialistic things. Letting go of the comfortable life as a full-time employee, fixed salaries, benefits and titles may be like cutting off your lifeline for some people, especially those who have a lot of financial commitments, but that is just what I did. I quit.

Some people might have thought I was crazy, but was too polite to say it. I know my parents couldn't understand it - that I worked so hard through university to obtain pieces of papers to tell me I'm smart. Yet why am I forgoing the easy life that they dreamt of?

Just steering off the path a bit.... I think that parents want a life for their kids that they never had, so they thought that it would be great if their kids did exactly that and life would just be great and easy-peasy. But the awful fact is that we kids don't want the life that they planned for us, because it isn't awesome at all as they thought it would be. Just a bit of Sabrina-philosophy here.

Anyway, back to my story...

I wanted to do things that I never had the chance to do if I had just followed the career path I was supposed to follow. I wanted to say 'I've done that!' or experienced jobs that I've been curious or fantasized but had no chance to do. I wanted to live the life that I wanted, not the one that has been set out for me.

So, what did I do? I did bookkeeping work on a free-lance basis, I taught financial management on a part-time basis. I even dipped my toes in a number of pursuits that I was interested in doing, like preparing a tender for a telecommunications company, helping out with an event management company, doing PR and Marketing work to create awareness about my dad's beach cabins, arranging garage sales and other stuff.

Because I wasn't in full-time employment, I had more time with family as well. Especially after the scare with my mum's accident last year, it was nice to know I had options if I needed to take time off. I really did a lot of things to satisfy my curiosity, and I felt tons better about the time I spent everyday. Because it felt like I was doing meaningful things - especially since I had more time to work on my activism and causes as well.

Sure, I wasn't cashing in on my hours, and money is a bit tight... but I've managed. My main priority now is to reduce my debts, which I've done by cancelling all my credit cards. Things I wouldn't have done when I was still in my comfort zone.

Letting go of the comforts of full-time employment was one of the fears I conquered this year.

I started the year with a number of other fears. Fear of 'being the bad guy' I think, was one of them. Or even fear of thinking too liberally (not encouraged by the ruling government). Fear of the unknown, of what would happen if I took a step too far into the 'dark side'.

When I found out more about what people are fighting for, I realised how ridiculous we are to be afraid to fight for something that is rightfully ours. It's not wrong, it's just a perception that has been drummed into our heads from the media and education system.

I was all for human rights, but how can I be passionate if I let my fear hold me back from doing what I believe it? My belief is not just something that I say, but do nothing about. I'm not just a keyboard warrior, but one that will go all out to support a good cause, even if it means running in the rain or being threatened with arrest.

I do no wrong to express what I want, so why be afraid?

Don't get me wrong though, I fight against inequality and justice, not for any particular side. For I am an activist, not a politician.

I must say, it feels great to actually rub shoulders with other like-minded & passionate people, and who's who when it comes to human rights. The real deal, who does work at the grassroots level.

I also conquered one of my fears with regards to a personal case that had been long outstanding in my life. The first step is always the hardest, but as I am a self-proclaimed feminist, how can I allow things to drag on? Actions speak louder than words, and it was time to walk the talk.

One of my other fears had to do with my bad knee, which restricted me from doing strenuous activities like running. I was also fearful of heights.

Well... I sure did myself proud this year by running the 10k for Borneo International Marathon and also engaging in adventurous activities like wall-climbing and attempting the highropes.

Yes, a very eventful year, from the pictures.

I also found myself very involved in a great number of causes and events related to Arts & Humanities during the year.

And media... of course, always proud to see self in papers, directly or indirectly. During the year, I also did a radio interview for SPCA KK's Shave to Save campaign, and got on TVi talkshow to talk about SPCA KK.

For me, as the aspiring writer, several outstanding things happened. First, was that I produced my own indie book - a perzine, which got a lot of good response. Second, I won my first ever blog competition, which led me to finally do my advanced open water scuba certification. Third, one of my writings about Bersih 3.0 actually got published in a book!

Indeed 2012 has been a wonderful year for me, one that I will look back on for many years after.  The going might have been tough at certain times, but at the end of the day, I realised that things were just as they should be. It was all part of a big, beautiful plan.

I can only say that I am truly blessed.

Thank you for yet another beautiful year, one that I couldn't have made it through without my family, friends and acquaintances.

2013, Carpe Diem!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Food review - The Retro Club

Where would you go if you had a craving for good old Southern American food and tunes from the 70s, 80s and 90s in Kota Kinabalu?

The Retro Club, Kota Kinabalu!

The newest bar and restaurant in town opened for business only very very recently on the 6th December 2012. I had the pleasure of sampling a large portion of items featured on The Retro Club's menu during their review session for bloggers.

This cosy outlet, perfect for small and intimate gatherings, is located in the hotspot of popular nightlife hangouts - KK Times Square.

We had the pleasure of being introduced to Chef Shone Majimbun during our review, a locally educated chef from Inanam, Sabah.
Chef Shone Majimbun - “American food is more than just burgers and fries.”
After finishing his culinary degree from Kolej Damansara Utama, Kuala Lumpur, Chef Majimbun was accepted to work for the Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. It was during his two year stint in the United States that Chef Majimbun really learned to love and appreciate the delicacy and diversity of American Cuisine and it has shown in his cooking ever since. Upon returning Chef Majimbun has been employed by resorts and hotels specializing in western cuisine. He has also opened and operated two restaurants of his own, Fat Gecko and Shoney’s, which closed when Chef Majimbun took a break to realise his childhood dream of being a singer. Besides being the executive chef of The Retro Club, Chef Majimbun also operates an inn in his hometown of Inanam and a catering business. Chef Majimbun specialises in southern American cuisine with a touch of Sabahan flavours.

I grew up with the impression that American food is all about burgers, pizza, fried chicken, bagels and french fries, so I was interested to know what exactly is real American food.

For starters, here's what we sampled from their 'Bar Bites', 'Soups' and 'Salad' ...

Retro's Naughty Nachos
Corn tortillas served on a bed of chili con carne topped with sour cream and grated parmesan and cheddar cheese
RM 17

I like this one - it was crunchy, combined with the right amount of savoury, and sourness to tingle your tastebuds, leaving you wanting more. I just think that maybe the price is a bit heavy for a starter / snack serving.

Mambo Gumbo
Authentic sumptuous Louisiana style shrimp gumbo served with rice
RM 7

Something very new that most Malaysians would not be familiar with (I don't believe you can find this in any other restaurant in KK?). Perhaps it is an acquired taste for anyone to truly appreciate this authentically American style soup.

Grilled Chicken Caesar's Salad
Caesar's salad with succulent freshly grilled chicken served with Retro's very own dressing.
RM 10.70

A healthier option if you need your greens. An appropriate serving, and delicious!

Big Bad Buffalo Wings
Classic buffalo wings served with celery sticks and Retro's very own hot sauce (1/2 dozen)
RM 21

A classic American recipe, it was originally created in Buffalo, New York, thus the name. Cripy fried chicken always gets me craving for more. While it was coated in hot sauce, it wasn't that hot (at least to my Malaysian tongue). 

And then came the mains.... and oh boy!!

I forgot to take a picture of the  Big Bad BBQ Ribs (beef), but the meat was so tender after 4 hours of cooking. Smothered in tangy BBQ sauce, it is a definite must try. Priced at RM39.80, you will get 500g of this absolutely mouth-watering treat. It's big enough to share for 2 people, or even 3 if you're all not such big eaters.

Oh ya, maybe it was so tasty that I forgot to take a pic ;-)

Classic Lamb Shanks
Ultimate comfort food. Cooked till the meat falls off the bone in succulent perfection. (400-500g)
RM 45.70

Cooked in a red-wine brown sauce and topped with crunch shredded sweet potato, the meat is tender and scrumptious. Also large enough be shared between two. 

Tune-in Tune-out Tuna Steaks
Grilled tuna steak served in Retro's very own delicious New Orleans garlic  beurre-blanc sauce (250g)
RM 29.30

Very tasty, I thought the garlic sauce complimented the tuna very well (well, I love garlic in cooking!)

Street Car
Roasted beef brisket, shredded and sauteed with bell peppers and onions smothered in traditional demi glaze, topped with mozarella and served in a homemade bread
RM 19

Looks almost like a submarine sandwich. The sauce is also very tasty and has a tendency to run off the bun, so watch out for your shirt! ;-) Of all the food items sampled, I think this is something that I would order off the menu again. However I do think it is a bit on the pricey side at RM19 with no sides, if I am someone looking for a quick bite to eat before hitting the nearby clubs, unless it is a special treat.

Old School Grilled Chicken
A Southern style grilled chicken served with Retro's very own take on the New Orleans beurre blanc sauce (300g)
RM 22.70

I tasted the sauce, took me some time and asking the other bloggers what they thought, before we concluded that it tastes like lemon butter sauce. Interesting combination.

Hickory Cheddar Burgur
200g char grilled ground brisket with tangy BBQ sauce and dressed with lettuce, tomatoes and onions and grated cheddar
RM 22

I couldn't remember if I tasted cheddar in this burger, but I sure tasted the tangy BBQ sauce that the homemade beef patty was smothered in. Definitely satisfying.

Each of the mains come with 3 side dishes of the diner's choice, but if you want more, The Retro Club offers sides galore to order from the menu at RM3.80 each.

Sides include Southern 'Slaw (a pinkish coleslaw combination), Garden salad, Fat finger fries, Garlic mashed potato (with gravy), dirty rice, garlic bread, etc.

We were also given a sample of the blend of herbs and spices that Chef Majimbun uses in his cooking. 

Even though we were quite full after tasting all the different foods that Chef Majimbun had so kindly prepared for us, we were still happy to have dessert :-p

Coated Ice Cream
Vanilla ice cream coated with crushed chocolate chip cookies and served with cranberry sauce
RM 7.50

Yummy, but nevertheless a bit pricey though for 2 scoops of icecream....

And now after bellies have been filled, time for the verdict!

What I loved....

1. The 'No Smoking' policy and children-friendly services, which includes a menu for kids, making it a venue suitable for families. I totally applaud that I won't have to put-up with the smells of cigarette smoke while I am trying to enjoy my meal.

2. The theme. I find it refreshing that an establishment acknowledges that some of the best music was made in the 70s, 80s and 90s (when I was growing up ;-)) in a time when we are just overloaded with music with a lot of XXX lyrics.

Personally, I think the food selection is really good, but not outstanding. You might also be able to order some items on the menu elsewhere with more competitive pricing as well. But I can also say that the food is wholesome and definitely has that 'homemade' taste when I sink my teeth into it.

Would I recommend this place to my friends? If they are looking for a good cosy place with good music, and great for conversations - of course! But you do need to make a reservation, I believe, as the seating availability is quite limited.

To end the evening with The Retro Club, Beno takes us to view the bar.

Located on the first floor above the restaurant, the club offers a very intimate and exclusive feel. I especially loved the glowing tables which caught my eye the minute I stepped through the door. I can imagine that this place would be perfect for private gatherings too.

I just loved the glowing tables that changed colours every few seconds.

The bar is well stocked with beers and liquor from established suppliers. The beers include Tiger, Tiger Draught, Heineken, Heineken Draught, Guinness, Guinness Draught, Strongbow and Paulaner. They also carry a range of affordable wines from Australia, New Zealand and Chile as well as sparkling wine and champagne from France. For customers who prefer a stiffer drink they also have a wide range of liquors from 12 years scotch to 18 years single malt whiskey as well as everything in between. Their bartenders, one of whom is a juggler who participates in bartending competitions, has a long upstanding reputation for mixing cocktails and are always willing to accommodate their recipes to the customers taste.
Their line-up of weekly DJs are hired specifically based on their experience in mixing retro music from 70s disco to 80s new wave to 90s pop with everything in between thrown in. The club has a strict policy to never play any songs after 1999 to maintain the retro environment that they've established. A live band is also performing three nights a week (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) that are specifically trained to entertain customers with hits from the yesteryears.

Promos on-going in The Retro Club:

Mondays- Corporate Night (10% off on bottles)
Tuesdays-Airlines Night (present airline card to enjoy 20% off for house pouring drinks)
Wednesday-Wicked Wednesday Ladies Night (happy hour all night long for beers. As for ladies, B1F1 for housing pouring drinks and beers)
Thursday-Rock Night (happy hour all night long for beers)
Sundays- Share the Love Sundays (happy hour all day long)

Many thanks to Beno, Chef Shone Majimbun, and the rest of The Retro Club staff for a wonderful evening and for inviting us to write reviews.

You may contact The Retro Club or make reservations as follows:
Address : P1/G/41/Gr & 1st, Ground and First Levels, Block G, Signature Offices, KK Times Square Phase 1, Off Jalan Coastal, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Telephone : 088254251
Facebook : facebook.com/TheRetroClubKK
Twitter : twitter.com/TheRetroClubKK
Blog : theretroclubkk.blogspot.com


Monday, December 10, 2012

Reasons for better public transportation systems in KK

I have to admit: I grew up in a privileged lifestyle. Everywhere I went, my parents would send me, and pick me up again. I owned my first car, a shiny black Toyota Vios, when I was 25. Before that, I had an old yellow Land Cruiser at my disposal. I now drive my cute blue Suzuki Swift wherever I go. I find that life would be difficult without it.

While growing up, I had my share of riding buses – I took rides on the school van, I took the Likas – KK buses as a teen (which incidentally stops right in front of my gate and blares its horns while the conductor shouts 'KKKKKKKKK!!' every few minutes), and when I was feeling particularly energetic, I would walk from my school back to the house, some 5km away, just because I could.

I never particularly took to taking public transport regularly, I thought it was a great hassle (heck, I looked down my nose at it!), it was stuffy and unclean, torn leather seats... and you find yourself brushed against some stranger who tries to hit on you during the long journey to home.

No, I did not have a particularly good view about public transportation, until I went for a year away to sunny Queensland to do a Masters in Accounting & Finance.

Then I found that I had to rely on the buses and trains.

OMG! I thought, when I found that I had to attend many evening classes. 'Is it safe?' I worried.

It was then that I found out that basically everyone rides the bus – young people, old people, the handicapped, students, office workers.... Some people do have cars, but people rely mostly on public transport. And it was so reliable and safe! And accessible to everyone, even those who have a bicycle.

I loved it. While waiting at bus-stops, I find random people striking up a conversation with me. I met a lot of friends there. And there is just this feeling of independence when you can find your way around places, with the intricate bus, train and citycat routes.

It might take you some time (and more energy) to get to your destinations, but I just found it interesting. I even went to several job interviews to different places by searching prior to my appointments on which bus / train / citycat to take on the online public transport route planner. It was that organised.

I've been to many other big cities of developed nations – most of Australian cities, Singapore, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Oslo, and I have always enjoyed taking the bus or the train, or even tram. Whether it was burning hot, raining heavily, snowing.... it didn't matter.

Had KK been the same, with good pedestrian walkways, I definitely wouldn't think twice about taking the bus.

But it is not. And a car is an absolute necessity. I really long for KK to develop their public transportation like all those other big cities. It's a pity, because KK is so beautiful, but marred by the cars stacking up the roads, parking illegally, and walkways crowded with obstacles such as eateries putting out their tables and chairs illegally, holes on the ground, slippery tiles, dirty and smelly back alleys. And not much shade from our burning sun. Not a pleasure at all to be walking outside. Not even on a street steeped in history like Gaya Street.

Our streets are choked up with smog emitting vehicles almost anytime of the day (been to the city lately?) and we are in dire need of a change.

Here are my reasons why I really really think that we should lobby for better public transportation (and better pedestrian walkways!):

Reason #1 - Have more disposable income

My dear KKians, especially those who have recently graduated and secured jobs: Do you feel like your salary is enough to cover your expenses? Without a good public transportation system, you are already accumulating heavy loans early in your career.

Here's a little case study.

The minimal wage may currently set at RM800, but in order to purchase a car, you may need to earn at least RM2,000 a month.

So here, we are assuming a graduate, let's say her name is Siti, and she wants to buy a car after working for some time, and earning RM2,000 a month.

According to my research, the cheapest car you can perhaps purchase, is a Perodua Viva, manual transmission with solid white colour, at RM26,638.90 (inclusive of insurance?).

According to the calculations, Siti needs to set aside RM353.85 per month, providing she pays a deposit of at least 10% or RM2,664 for a loan tenure of 9 years / 108 months. (Bear in mind, that while repayments are smaller for a longer tenure, but the total interest charges are higher!)

The car will also need fuel to run, at least RM10 a day (according to my estimation of regular use), so she needs to set aside at least RM300 – RM350 a month.

Car will also need to be serviced 2 times a year, according to Save Money, for a car priced below RM50,000, a 0.8% to 1% basic servicing cost will apply. At 1%, Siti needs to set aside RM266 for her car servicing a year.

Let's not forget road tax and insurance as well.

Assuming that she is like most young people, she also owns a credit card with limit of RM3,000 and a mobile phone with postpaid package of RM68 a month (minimum) for her expensive smartphone.

Food expenses, assume that she spends at least RM30 a day (RM10 per meal x 3)

Salary (After EPF and SOCSO is 88% x RM2,000 x 12 months)            =            RM 21,120

(-) Car repayments (RM353.85 x 12 months)                                          =            RM 4.246

(-) Fuel costs (RM350 x 12 months)                                                       =             RM 4,200

(-) Car servicing                                                                                     =             RM 266

(-) Road tax & insurance (approx)                                                  =             RM 800

(-) Credit card repayments (5% x RM3,000 x 12months)                       =             RM 1,800

(-) Mobile phone (RM68 x 12 months)                                                  =             RM 816

(-) Food (RM30 x 30 days x 12 months)                                               =             RM10,800


Gasp! A loss of RM1,808??

As you can see, the bulk of expenses come from food, and you know how much food prices have increased? A mere 2 years ago, a kitchai ping would cost around RM1.60 a glass. Now it costs RM2.50 at some shops!

These calculations does not even take into account the cost of renting / buying a home, which should be more important than a car, the value of which decreases over time.

Do I need to also remind ourselves of the increasing price of petroleum? And our salaries remain stagnant.

If we didn't have to purchase a car, that would mean being able to free up at least RM 9,512 annually. A bus ticket can cost maybe RM4 a day x 30 days x 12 months (just assigning an arbitrary figure here) which means it costs RM1,440 a year to ride a bus. And that isn't even considering if there are options for daily, weekly or monthly tickets with more savings!

I am sure parents would be happy too with this sort of arrangement, then their children can be truly free and independent as graduates, which should be the case.

Reason #2 – Help stop global warming

According to Motor Trader in February last year, Malaysia has passed the 21.25 million mark in numbers of cars on the road

That is A LOT of cars, really.

Do you think this is commendable? I sure do think NOT, especially considering our people probably cannot afford a car (see reason #1), and that we are contributing greatly to increased carbon emissions (http://cleantechnica.com/2010/08/09/cars-cause-global-warming-more-than-planes-study-finds/)

I was appalled at the amount of green-washing, by some car manufacturers who claim to be 'eco-friendly' on a giant billboard in the city. Eco-friendly, my foot!!

Reason #3 You get fit

We spend horrendous amounts of money to get fit at the gym. We drive all the way to a fitness centre, to spend our time walking and running on treadmills, riding on stationery bikes... all of which go nowhere. How about using that energy in real life? And save some $$?

For health, we need to take 10,000 steps a day (http://www.thewalkingsite.com/10000steps.html)

Having a good public transport system also means that we will be spending more time walking, to bus stops to our destinations and vice versa, and soaking up some glorious vitamin D from the sun.

We complain that food is making us fat. I just think it is the amount of inactivity and excuses that we give ourselves.

Reason #4 – Reduce traffic jams, and problems of lack of parking space

Need I say more?

I think one of the big issues we need to face is that most of the buses in KK are each privately owned. Therefore there is no system. The buses wait for long periods of time in one place, honking away to get more passengers so that they can fill their buses up like sardines in a tin can. The way around this is to form a consortium, or have a big bus company that pays a fixed salary to the bus drivers so that they don't need to harass people who just happened to be standing by. No need for conductors either.

I may be biased, but I think the Brisbane transportation system is one of the best. Check it out at http://translink.com.au/

I really really hope for a better future for KK and its citizens.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Summary of CEDAW

I'm posting this because the posters I did for the Human Rights Run yesterday was ruined by the rain :-( 

I hadn't had much a clue about what CEDAW was, until that day I made the exhibition materials. CEDAW, or the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women forms the basis of one of the goals set by the United Nations (UN) to be achieved by 2015.

What is UNMDG?

On 6 - 8 September 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UNMDG) are set by the UN to achieve global progress in key areas:

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2) Achieve universal primary education
3) Promote gender equality and empower women
4) Reduce child mortality
5) Improve maternal health
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability
8) Develop a global partnership for development
You might ask, what are women yapping about inequality and discrimination? Isn't the world equal as it is?

Here's the answer.... 

Just think about it. One of the favourite questions on an employment form is - Are you pregnant? In Malaysia, there has been such cases, where a woman was not given a chance for a job because of her pregnancy (Read here)

Women are being sidelined in politics (and from climbing up the corporate ladder), because society expects women to stay at home, be the housewife / full-time mother, without regards to her capabilities. Things however, may be slowly changing. But certain parts of the community still has that perception.

The awareness for the need for gender equality has been around since 33 years ago, in 1979.

Personally, I think that the society at large needs a lot of gender awareness training - to understand that sex (what sex organs we were born with), is not the same as gender (attributes that are considered feminine or masculine). 

There's still a lot we need to achieve before 2015. Read my thoughts here on a previous post about more gender issues in Malaysia.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Challenging oneself - with Zip Borneo!

Here goes. Deep breaths now.

I say a little prayer as I step onto the rope, the thin line that is holding me up 16 metres from the ground. The rope dipped lower as I transferred my weight on it fully, hands grabbing handing overhead ropes that doesn't seem to offer much support (and much comfort for the heart).

Heartbeat thudding in my ears, I make my way to the first platform. I felt so vulnerable here - too aware of the cool breeze surrounding me, people watching below, and the rope holding my weight shaking as I wobble closer.

"Keep going! Don't look down!" I told myself sternly.

The guy at the platform, a staff member, grinned cheekily at me. "You can do it!" holding out a hand to grab mine as I got closer.

When I got to the platform, I clipped myself to the next safety line as briefed earlier by another staff member. I know it is a very safe activity, I've read through ZipBorneo's website. Yet, when you are dangling over a 16m drop, on swinging steps, it's hard to remind yourself of this fact.

The high ropes challenge was just one of the 4 activities we did at Zip Borneo for the 2 day 1 night Hitz.fm KK's Fun Camp.

I think I was very lucky - I had been listening to the ad about the competition for sometime, thinking about how much I wanted to go. Then my blogger friend Margaret Chong sent me a Whatsapp message, asking if I wanted to go.

Hell yeah!! I had only been trying out wall-climbing a few weeks ago, and was saying about how I wanted to try Zip Borneo as well. No way I was going to miss out!

We were picked up on Saturday morning from the Hitz.fm KK office in 1Borneo Hypermall, by a big tourist bus from Riverbug. I was so comfortable that I slept most of the way, after filling in the necessary forms (you know, waiver of liability... blah blah).

Zip Borneo is located in the Kiulu Valley about 15 minutes past Tamparuli in Kampung Rangalau Lama. You can also choose to do whitewater rafting here as well, but for this camp we didn't.

The moment we arrived, we were shown to our lovely, errmmm... back to basics type of sleeping arrangements. Hammock-style with mosquito netting. I wasn't sure what to expect, and this is definitely what you would call 'roughing it'. Not that I mind! As long as I have people to keep me company.

They told us that Raleigh International sets up camp here as well.

Group photo first!
After choosing a bed, we were off for a briefing and to be divided into two teams - Red team and Blue team. Then we were led off to our first activity. And woahhhhh.... the tower looks higher up close than what it looks like in pictures. Gulp!

I was one of the first people to do my first activity. Abseiling -  or dangling down the side of the tower as you lower yourself down a total of 18m. I was feeling completely numb as I climbed up the tower to the top of what seems like the height of a 3-storey building.

While I had some experience of this from coming down after wall-climbing... doing it from the top of a tower was.... frankly speaking, like suicidal. The worst part was the first part, where you push yourself out of the building, back first.

Into nothingness.....

Briefing (Courtesy of Hitz.fm KK)

Getting fitted up! (Courtesy of Hitz.fm KK)
I feel like I need some workboots to complement this look! I think I look like a construction worker. Hahaha!
My knees were wobbly as I reached the ground. Feels so good to stand on solid ground again!

After the high-ropes, I did the 10m wall-climb. But due to wearing not the right shoes, and due to the hot sun at mid-day when I started... I couldn't finish the challenge, sadly. My arms were also still aching from the high-ropes where I was clinging on to dear life. Previously, I would say that most of my energy was probably expended from throwing curses during the activities.. but for this trip, I think I was pretty good. Haha!

The final challenge (I am not sure it was really a challenge) was the 320m long Flying Fox from the top of the 18m tower. By that time I was pretty sleepy and tired.

The staff always made sure we were clipped on to the safety lines, while waiting for our turn. But still, the feeling of being up there so high, is still pretty daunting.

Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air! Whee!!!!

Awaaaaaaay I go!!!! (Photo courtesy of Margaret Chong)

Rica & Cassie as Snow White & Captain Jack Sparrow! (Courtesy of Hitz.fm KK)
And then it was time for lunch, and an hours break. Enough time for me to take a 15 minute nap, which I really needed!

In the afternoon, we had Tribal Games - a series of local / kampung games where we had to play in groups of 2 or 3.

I was partnered with Rica, popular radio announcer for Hitz.fm KK. I must say, we made a very strong team! We won each challenge, and gathered plenty of points for the red team.

A lawn-bowl type of game. Bocce, I think it was called?

Tug of war was just simple for me ;-)

After the Tribal games, we had just one more quest - to do our own style of Hakka! You know, the tribal dance of the Maori people in New Zealand, popularised by rugby team All Blacks... No?

Anyway, red team won! And we each got a little elephant figurine. Awwwww......!

After a night of not-so-restful sleep (my back was aching!! And dogs were barking and howling....) we were off to a jungle trek. Armed with supplies of food and cooking utensils, we were on a mission. To cook food in the jungle using firewood.

We crossed a long hanging bridge, and 3 rivers to get to our destination. For some reason, this brings me back to fond memories of camping in the outback for 10 days for my Uluru trip with 1 Russian, 1 Dane, 1 Aussie and 2 Germans. Those days of spaghetti cooked over a campfire (Dang! I should write a real post about that! At that time I only wrote briefly with pics on Resdagboken)

Along the way, we had some other challenges, namely blind trekking, using catapults to hit plastic bottles, and building a rope bridge that all of us could climb on.

Starting a fire

When you're hungry, everything looks good!
Our special chef was Rica, and we made a really really yummy lunch of maggie goreng, sardines, fresh cabbage salad and tuna.

Then it was time to pack up and leave.

Rubber tree leaf

Last group photo
After two days of sunny weather while we did our outdoor activities, a rain storm came just a few minutes after we arrived back at camp. Perfect timing!!

I definitely enjoyed myself during the whole 2 days trip, completely immersed in nature. I think I learned a thing or two about myself as well. 

1. Deep down, I am really quiet a God-fearing person, in the sense that for all the hair-raising activities I did, I only said a little prayer for everything to go smoothly and nothing much else. Hahaha!

2. I really hated being bossed around. Especially when I'm dangling on a rope and holding on for dear life, I trust no one but myself. Any advice, however well-meaning, I just can't listen to. 

So... planning a trip anytime soon? Choose Borneo, explore your own backyard, you'll be surprised. And while you're at it, challenge yourself with ZipBorneo! ;-)

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