26 December 2009

The Lake Club rendezvous - in person

It was a very pleasant evening, meeting fine people previously I got to know and used to 'talk' only in the blogosphere. It all started when I called Kak Teh to fix a 'mengeteh session' with her and her husband, Abang Wan Hulaimi (notably known as Awang Goneng in the blogosphere). Both of them happened to be in town for a short break and some official engagements. She instead invited me on behalf of another ardent blogger, Kak Puteri for a small dinner gathering at the Lake club.

Few amusing surprises awaited me during the meeting. Having no prior knowledge on who else to expect (except Kak Teh, Puteri and their partners of course) meeting other interesting bloggers and none bloggers was a very enlightening experience. NanaDJ was a mysterious lady who doesn't have a blog (as yet I supposed, not sure what will trigger her to start sharing in the blgosphere - probably a bowl of steaming mee jawa will do :) but a regular visitor to my blog. Others are a sort of cat and mouse type of relationship. I from time to time stumbled upon Oli's, mostly from Kak Teh's. A silent reader to Puteri's and I read comments by Yani in Kak Teh's blog but never have gut to say something in hers (Yani's , Oli's and Puteri's). That actually goes to Awang Goneng as well. Sometimes I am too mesmerized indulging with the intriguing facts and beautiful story line presented in one's blog, I found it is hard for me to participate. But now, knowing them in person, probably have sort of broken the ice.

The night ended with a karaoke session at the club. Even though challenged by several strong in-house contenders, undoubtedly Kak Puteri and Pak Abu were the star for the night. I couldn't join them on the floor as I fear if not the voice broke down on me, the microphone or the sound system will.

Again it was a night to remember. Thank you Kak Teh to make this thing happen and few surprises, thank you Kak Puteri and Pak Abu for being so generous and thank you everybody for making the night a memorable one. That night was simply beautiful, God willing we shall meet again.

These wonderful ladies of the night are now no more strangers of the night. From right Oli, Kak Teh, Kak Puteri , NanaDJ, Yani and my significant half.

Awang Goneng (in the middle), a prolific writer and one great persona I admire and really wanted to meet and talk with. As he is also a fellow Ganukite with vast experience of course, any knowledge-sharing on Ganukite and the keropok-lekor land will spark my feeling to travel down the memory lane. En. Sulaiman (Oli's hubby) on the other hands, was surprisingly shares similar interest with me and turned out to be a 'segayong'. A master of the ancient martial art, he told me (in his own word) "I still kick ass around". I supposed bad asses, that was what he meant. He wrote an interesting book on martial art (details can be read in Oli's blog)

As the light of the hall started to dim, the atmosphere started to became quite spooky too when Yani (extreme left) started to share her experience on the unseen entity. I was hoping there was no uninvited guests recorded on this photograph, as Kak Teh related her personal sighting during one of her visit to Terengganu's Pura Tanjung Sabtu. That really raised my goosebumps.

Next on the itinerary was a karaoke session. Bravo Pak Abu (Puteri's hubby)! He can really sing and he sang very well that night. Broery's evergreens were his favorite. Earlier, I was about to ask Pak Abu to play a round of golf on one of fine day, but upon hearing that he played three balls and a single handicapper, knowing my shortfall (mine was 18, now probably worse) I might as well become his caddy :)

The very attentive audience. From left Shaheeda of the Cape Town, Kak Teh, NanaDj and Yani. Yours truly (at the back row) seemed very attentive as well but with both eyes closed (concentrating too much on the lovely song...'sakit hati ku...sakit hati ku...). Sitting beside me was Abang Mahathir (NanaDj's hubby) and Yani's hubby.

I am not sure what was so ticklish that they were laughing and giggling at, but I am sure this meeting will be a memorable one for all of us.

23 December 2009

Thunder from the East

Whether it was a bad omen or just a pure fate I have no way to tell. Years back some would have said it was a dreadful celestial sign from a distant planet and pagans would straight away believe it and probably immediately initiate a sacrificial ritual to tame the angry demons. Others would have thought that nature has it own ways to punish the incompetents and the non-believers, who had never learned from the past mistake. Either ways, I believed sooner or later the land of the-three-Awang would be painted red with the blood of well-fed sacrificial lambs.

Barely six months after the first international embarrassment for the Ganukite, the land of the-three-Awang has made another highlight in our local newspapers. This time it was a bus terminal that cost 4.2 million in Kuala Berang kissed the ground. For those who had never being to this enchanting place before, Kuala Berang was once a sleepy town and probably the only township in the world where her roads were heavily coated with cow dung. Unique in it own ways. This was also the place where Terengganu inscription stone was found in 1899. I am least surprised if this humiliation won't just stop at the nasi dagang stalls alone, but spread into the international front as well. With the advent of the internet (and this blog for sure) news spread far across the continent the moment you blink your eyes. By the time you finished reading this blog, my friend in Tunisia would have been laughing all the way to the toilet flushing her teary eyes, reading this funny story.

If this fateful incident happen anytime during last week, it would have been the right time to snap another historical photos for my personal album. Just like what I did to the crippled stadium six month ago. But I was a few days earlier setting my foot onto that blissful land, mesmerized and deeply captivated by the monsoon blitzkrieg bantering the sandy coastal line.

The recent homage to my hometown however, was full with delectable adventures and few unsuspecting surprises. Garcinia mangostana, the queen of the fruit ripened rightly on time, so as another local delicacies Lansium domesticum. For a moment 'keropok lekor' was well forgotten as we stuffed ourselves well with the sweet taste of those fruits - everyday. A visit to the old but colorful market of Kedai Buloh was like invoking back my museum of memories. Another interesting acquaintance to the new beach playground was a laid-back trip to Pantai Pandak, a hidden paradise I've never known to exist until last week, even thought it was only a few minute drive from my kampung. My kampung has a new signboard too, unfortunately though as superstitious as it may be the kampung is still invisible for the google satellite to capture the location.

Back to the main issue - a well-fed lamb is not cheap these days especially in the land of the-tree-Awang, but Awangs of Ganukite would not grudge a little bit as they believe the money from the fossil fuel would not dry up and will keep their pride burning forever. But they were not to blame having that kind of primitive thinking as even some sophisticated folks in Copenhagen recently would still believe that the world won't sink and we will live forever and ever in this eternal Garden of Babylon.

A Ceaser once said : "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings". I have to agree with that.

There was no thunder in this Cherating beach when we stop for a night, but the cloudy sky was so ominously heavy with water, waiting the right moment to pour its content onto this aging planet.

My youngest was very curious on those alien objects harboring on the lagoon sandy shoreline (near Masjid Terapung). It turned out to be a line of natural buoy-like pine needles or some kind of bait (my guess) for the local fishermen.

At last we found our new playground, the heavenly Pantai Pandak. Later my father told me, he used to bring me to this place when I was still a small kid - too small to remember though. The beach was unadulterated and unspoiled. Almost preserved in time. Rodat, a Terengganu folkdance was regularly staged here, long time ago. This place was also one of the locations for the film 'Cucu Datuk Merah' (1963) where Nordin Ahmad and Latifah Omar played the main role.

I saw this avid angler braving the big wave try to catch the fish on a rocky bed of Pantai Pandak. This photo actually reminded me of an almost similar photo I once saw by Almarhum Sultan Ismal Nashiruddin Shah in one of his masterpieces. Not sure which one but surely not in his exceptional masterpiece 'Malaya: The Sultan Ismail Collection'. That guy managed to catch few fishes that evening.

My other half was so delighted when we managed to finally bought 'lok lit', an endemic local delicacy from this old marketplace. My late grandmather used to make lok lit, a special palatable taste bud especially after the paddy harvesting. The smell of freshly cooked lot lit was a divine. The taste was even an earth-shattering experience. 'Netbak', 'koleh kacang' , 'tok aji serbang', 'beke ubi' and 'coklat nissang' was in her experimental list as well. Commendable.

My kids and my significant half got their first taste of the floral nectar from the palm tree (air nira kelapa). My kids got hooked instantly, but my other half thought she was having a drink from a clogged drain :) The above photo was not the palm nectar but the nectar from the nipah tree. So intoxicated with the previous palm nira, I mistakenly bought the nipah nira instead of the palm produce. The taste was less strong and the color was lighter. The kick however was still the same.

This cute little creature was another new addition to our ever growing family of the Razak clan. My younger sister's (cendawanintim), Nur Nayli Insyirah, says hello to the world!

15 December 2009

It vibrates and then silence

This time it lasted a little bit longer than the previous predecessors. After a few telltale signs of its doomsday starting with erratic screen display, intermittent transmission blackout and non-verbal curses from it impatient owner, my cute little handphone ceased it services and gone kaput. That was the sign of the great life circle swinging in a full motion.

I was really hoping that this little communication gadget would last a little bit longer, at least another few more years with 8 more cat-lives to fulfill my personal pleasure. Unlike the steam room or the sauna which many believed will do wonders to their live longevity this supposedly immortal being doesn't work in the same principle. Sauna will cleanse our body from noxious substances, when combined with regular steak dinner, orgasms and chocolate cakes finally enable us to live another 126 wonderful years. The excessive exposure of this gadget on the other hand, will simply retard our brain and causing some to Alzheimer state of mind.

Now that it has marked it last day, the last resting place would be in a display cupboard with the earlier prehistoric electronics devices I kept since the first time my brain got zapped with the radio wave. This particular model was good and intended for everything except giving a good signal whenever I wanted to talk and get connected through the air. At least that was the excuse for me the last time I wanted to replace the bulky Xda II with this sleek black beauty.

The evolution from the first handphone ownership was really exponential particularly in the size department. The first model was a big one so famous with Ah Long of Bkt Beruntung selling pirated VCDs. It was so cool those days having that big menacing gadget while chewing rubber-gum in pasar malam. Probably it was meant to be that big and shatter-prove too. Those days I heard, if you got chased by a horny cow, a knock with that thing on the cow's head would send a clear signal for the cow to understand the threat. I guess local enforcement officers has also learned the lesson (those days) and kept to the save distance whenever they spot the Ah Longs with this potential weaponry in the vicinity.

These days it was so easy to change our loyalty from one phone provider to another. Actually I have been loyal to this one phone provider, Marxis for the past ten years until last month when I decided to change my faith to another rival company, Silicom. The reason was simply because I didn't really fancy their arrogance attitude. Since you can keep the existing number, it was very convenience and easy to switch camp (and jump party). I love this concept very much. It is the buyers' market. Next probably the Digimon. Who knows.

This mean I have to get another replacement soon. Otherwise I will be living in the Jurassic park, isolating myself from this sophisticated world. I have planned to get a new one with the sole function that is to enable me to talk. Nothing fancy.

Handphone nowadays, if you take out the funny ringing tones, the wifi, the gigapixel camera and the main purpose for its existence is no less if not better than a vibrator. Sooo ticklish when it vibrates in my trouser :)

08 December 2009

Bali in a nutshell

It was almost ominously becoming my first episode of an international embarrassment recently. The hotel room which I booked earlier seemed to be taken away by the Kangaroos who came there for their annual surfing thus leaving me to wander around the city with my luggage for another emergency alternatives, my plastic cards (the chips) out of sudden having their own mind decided not to work properly and almost left me on the street begging for rupiah to pay for the room and the organizer changed the conference venue to another part of the island (luckily not the date) without notifying the participants way in advance - I almost stranded on another side of the world. That was not to mention how the organizer changed and reshuffled the timetable jolly-molly and I almost missed my slot.

Bali was very hot sans the rain that almost sank the whole Sumatera. The whole sky was opening wide void of any cumulus cloud which I saw floating clearly from the aeroplane before we touched down. My body sweat all over even with a simple few descending steps from my hotel room to the cafe. I was on another last-minute official trip, a 5 days assignment to Bali, Indonesia presenting a talk on a conference. Without prior knowledge of the conference itinerary, there was actually nothing of any intellectual activities planned except a cocktail reception in the evening on the first day. So I took the opportunity to explore the mystical Bali, their inhabitants, the customs, the taste, the smell and indulged myself in a whole new experience so far the closest I got was from my couch watching Lonely planet on the Discovery channel.

Barong and kris dance at Batubulan. Barong ( it looks like a big lion) is actually a mythological character, the king of the good spirits. This dance narrated the story of good fighting the evil. The play have several acts and lasted about one hour with the soldiers in trance stabbing the keris to their own body as a final play.

One of the many acts in the barong dance. These ladies performed the dance elegantly evidence of many years in the dance academy.

Batik weaving was done manually. This reminded me of my mother who used a similar instrument back in the keropok-lekor land. But unlike my mother's, their technology in the weaving seemed to be more advanced. The instrument used a semi-automated feeder of which until today I still couldn't figure out how exactly it work.

There are still few active volcanoes in Bali. This one is Gunung Batur poised majestically against the blue sky in Kintamani. Tracks of lava flow can still clearly be seen at the foot of the volcano.

This restaurant where we had our lunch overlooked the magnificent mountain and Tasik Batur (on the far right). I was quite pleased as this restaurant caters for Muslim and has a musolla in its premise (which was a rare coincidence if you were in Bali). As it is located on a higher altitude, the temperature was a bit pleasant here.

As we were descending down the smoking mountain, we stopped at this popular sighting of a paddy field at Tegallalang. The rice is almost ready for the harvest. With such a terrain, most farmers will resort to using traditional ways of harvesting their produce. This exact spot was also a film set for Julia Roberts latest international movie 'Eat, pray, love" , which was shot quite recently.

Those eerie looking roots juxtaposed the serene surrounding in the Sacred Monkey forest near Alas Kedatong, Ubud. The bridge led us to the sacred monkey temple. I didn't put the monkey photo here as their monkeys were no less difference from any other monkeys in almost all departments.

This komodo stone-carving found in the Ubud forest gazed precariously on a young lady having her blissful evening bath from the cold spring that coming out from the komodo's mouth. If you look closely, there was another lady enjoying this natural spring under the Komodo's belly (notice a slipper). Unbeknown to me at first, she was actually getting too comfort with the nature half-naked! What a rare sighting!

Yours truly was striking a killer pose in one of the sacred sanctuaries for Hindu devotees. One has to wear a sarong and a sacrimonial yellow band to enter this place. So composed with the pose I forgot the name of this place.

These disciples took a dip in one of the temple sacred pools to cast away the bad spirits. I almost joined them to cool off and have a good splash as my armpit was flooded and my sweat run down like Niagara falls. Too hot and too humid. I am wondering why. Probably too many bad spirits wandering around the island.

This civet the local calls luwak (Paradoxurus) was a very interesting creature in this Coffee, fruits and spice garden at Temen. This mammal favorite food is ripe coffee beans. The still-intact beans from this animal's dropping, were cleaned, roasted and ground to become one of the most astonishing coffee ever. Dare to drink?

The resulting coffee is said to be like no other. It has a rich, heavy flavour with hints of caramel or chocolate. Other terms used to describe it are earthy, musty and exotic. The body is almost syrupy and it's very smooth. I however, have no gut to taste the coffee. The price of a pound of Kopi Luwak is around $300 or more. The above photos of coffees were samples given to us for our taste bud pleasure (from top left kopi halia, ginseng, chocolate and vanilla)

Another beautiful spot to marvel was this floating pura at Tanah Lot. One can only access this place during the low tide. Luckily I came quit early in the mornng while the tide was really low.

I spotted this terrace of green paddy fields on my way back from Tanah Lot. It was near Seminyak. Not to missed this rare opportunity, I asked the taxi driver cum our guide to stop at the road side for me to snap some splendid pictures of this natural beauty.

A stunning view of sunset at Uluwatu. Visitors/tourist come to this place for two purposes - to witness the beautiful sunset and to watch kecak and fire dance. Sun sets around 6 pm in Bali and one has to come earlier in order to catch the magnificent view.

Kecak is the most unique Balinese dance which is not accompanied by any orchestra but by a choir of seventy men. It has its origin in an old ritual dance: Sanghyang or Trance dance. The story depicted of Rama and Sita mythical adventures, fighting a demonic king Rahwana.

The grand finale for this kecak performance was a white monkey (Hanuman) kicked the fire around and menacingly toward the crowd. Ironically, earlier I almost got mugged by a probably Ebola-infested monkey who was so fascinated with anything that was not your original body parts (glasses, hats, foods, cameras etc).

Similar to this island inhabitants, food was confusing enough especially for the unwary Muslim travelers. Even with the halal label flaunting obviously on its banners it was quite common to see pork served alongside the other dishes in most of the eating establishments. The only safe food haven was the Padangs or outdoor eating hawkers along this beach. I found the best soto here, really.

Personally I think the accommodation around this tourist spot was a little bit on a higher side. The price that I paid was not worth for the type of room that I got. I paid approximately RM250 for a room in this two-stars hotel. However, I quite like the old and classic Bali decor.

Kuta Beach was really overcrowded with the sun-worshipers. It was really hard to walk freely on this beach, unless you step onto somebody's buttock.

Every evening sun-lovers will stroll the beach and waited patiently for the glowing sunset at Kuta Beach.

The highlight of the excursion was a romantic candlelight dinner with my significant half at the beautiful Jimbaran beach close to the sea. The seafood was considerably quite expensive, but... this unforgettable experience with the loved one was priceless.

In a nutshell, Bali is a very interesting island with lots of new adventures and opportunities to satisfy our sight, smell and taste. Me on the other hands, would not consider to come to this place for the second time given another chance. Our own mother-land has even more charms and hidden gems waiting for us to explore for a fraction of traveling time and cost. Sometimes, the gems were just a few steps away from our doorsteps. Just pack our bag and beat the road.

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