Friday, February 28, 2014

Dirty Kuching Smokers Infesting The Spring Mall

"Forcing smoke down my lungs is pulmonary rape. It invades my body against my will, and it's not fair."

Patty Young

I went to The Spring earlier this month in pursuit of a haircut. One of the saloons there had more customers than they could stomach while the other wanted to charge me sixty bucks for a simple wash and trim because it was 4th day of the Lunar New Year and that, for some reason meant that they could rob their patrons blind. I ultimately decided to just have dinner and then leave to go barber-hunting elsewhere. Kenny Roger Roasters was serving some weird teriyaki version of their usual chicken so I decided to try it (turned out to be a bad idea). In the restaurant, I was seated right by the window, and this was what I saw,

She's surrounded!

I had a good view of the mall's back entrance and there I saw a little girl trying her darnedest to feed the automated parking machine money while a lime-shirted cigarette addict smoked merrily beside her. At the same time, another bloke wearing a striped shirt - also smoking - approached the little girl from behind. These reprehensible men were forcing their dangerous fumes on her and on every child, baby, senior citizen and pregnant mothers who use the entrance. What you don't see in the photograph is their conscience.

I watched as the bespectacled striped-shirt man walked right up to the little girl till the lit end of his cigarette was hovering right above her head,

Thanks for killing me, daddy.

As it appears, he seemed to be the little girl's father and had wanted to help her pay the machine, and in the process, breathed secondhand cigarette smoke right into her eager face below. I mentioned in a previous post that this is a depressingly common sight in the Kuching: a lot of parents here don't love their kids enough to keep away from them when they indulge in their tobacco habits. I have been to many cities in Malaysia and so far, the people of Kuching appears to me to be some of the most ignorant and least considerate folks in the country. This is a region where I cannot escape from cigarette smoke even after climbing to the summit of a 800-metre mountain!

When lime shirt was done with his ciggie, he casually threw it onto the ground even though there was a trash can situated just a few fucking steps away from where he stood. He didn't even bother putting it out! It's a fire hazard, you Ass Oh Bee!

Fire Hazard
You'll notice that the ash remained unscattered, meaning that it was still burning right where it laid.

Now, the management have reserved a few parking spots adjacent to the back entrance for the use of mothers with infants, pregnant women, the handicapped and senior citizens. And since The Spring's entrances are where most of the smokers congregate, these people using the special parking spots are regularly exposed to the poisonous fog that these smokers maintained there - and they are the people most vulnerable to cigarette smoke!

To prove that I am not lying, here is a picture of a man smoking right beside the special parking spots I mentioned, all set to force his cancer-giving smoke onto preggos and babies,

Smoking at Special Parking Spaces
He is also an employee of one of the shops in the mall to boot.

Is The Spring's management doing anything to curb smokers (especially from the staff of their tenants) from lighting up on the premises? Not a single lifted finger! They purport to run a place that caters to families but would do nothing to protect them. My wife, back when she was still pregnant with Darwin, actually went to their office to complain about the smokers but they said that they can't do anything so long as the smokers smoke outside (while still remaining on the premises) - which is a fat smelly load of cow-butts because they own the fucking place and could definitely enforce house rules against cigarette smoking on their property if it pleases them! They choose not to, that makes them complicit in jeopardising the health of Kuching's children.

I mean, look at this,

Cigarette Pack
The red-collared MBO Cinema employee was also smoking.

Pictured above are employees of various businesses within The Spring, and three of them were smoking cigarettes. Meanwhile, another little girl was standing nearby with her mother waiting for their ride to swing by. Just look, the Spring's management allows this to happen to poor defenceless kids!

The main entrance and foyer of The Spring have an equally bad (perhaps worse) infestation of these nicotine junkies,

Serial Killer
Not pictured: human decency.

In the picture above, you can see the guy in blue sucking on a cigarette while two unsuspecting families with toddlers and children stood just a few feet away.

And a few feet away, right outside of Starbucks, two men - one wearing a grey shirt and one orange - were smoking as well when a little girl walked past holding her father's hand.  And if you are observant, you'd notice that the seated man who was partially concealed by the father's upper body just exhaled a lungful of cigarette smoke as well, The girl didn't stand a chance.

More Assholes
I couldn't get a good angle and capture the orange shirt's fag in this shot, but you can see grey shirt's in his left hand if you enlarge the picture.

These are not a collection of pictures taken over an extended period of time. All of them were taken within a span of just 30 minutes.

The walkway outside of KFC and the special needs parking in the basement are also congregation spots for The Spring workers and mallgoers to light up.

We continuously bemoan the epidemic of underage smokers in our country but the fact is, these kids pick up smoking because their parents smoke, everyone around them smokes, and businesses encourage people to smoke by their tacit approval. Something drastic and urgent needs to be done before our entire nation goes up in smokes.

k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, February 23, 2014

So, I'm Back from Laos...

"There is probably no more obnoxious class of citizen, taken end for end, than the returning vacationist."

Robert Benchley

Mekong Cruise Sunbeams
Morning river cruise on the Mekong from Luang Prabang to Pak Ou ("Mouth of the Ou River").

Yes, the missus and I have returned from our sojourn of a dozen short days in the Land of a Million Elephants though recent surveys estimated that there are only about 700 pachyderms left roaming in Laos' wilderness. We saw exactly zero, and having no taste in having one such majestic beasts cart our asses around for jollies, did not seek out any of the 500 in captivity there.

We returned with a few odds, ends and 3000 photographs to show for our honeymoon, and in the fullness of time, I might blog about our trip in florid details. For now, here's an entrée - a postmortem of our recent vacation through the northerly regions of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

The Itinerary.

I love planning for backpacking trips and have always taken smug pride in my avoidance of paying tour agents to do it for me. In my life, I have only participated in 3 "tours". The first I remember was when I was 10 years old and my parents took the whole family to China - I vaguely remember unsatisfying food, too many old people, a measles outbreak within the tour group, and spending an inordinate amount of time in souvenir shops that our tour company no doubt reap a profitable cut from. My second experience in Udaipur and day trip to Chittorgarh was surprisingly incredible, if only because we hired a man - Mr Harmindra Singh - who truly loves his homeland and loves showing travelers around. We actually had to make him take us to a store to buy tourist junk.

My third encounter with arranged tours (this time a day trip to Agra from Delhi) soured my appetite for this sort of travel for good when our tour guide forced us to breakfast at a shitty eatery (I refused and walked down the street for far cheaper fare), cut our visit to the Taj Mahal criminally short just so he can force us to visit a souvenir shop (I refused to get out of the van), and finally stopped us by a tourist restaurant and souvenir emporium on the road back to Delhi filled with fat American tourists in spite of our protestations, turned off the ignition and disappeared for more than an hour (I refused to eat or buy anything). When we arrived in Delhi, he had the cheek to ask for more money, saying that the cost of the tour did not cover for driver's fee. I swore that I would never put myself at the mercy of these fatherfucking sharks ever again.

Here's a physical laminated copy of our itinerary which we took to Laos,

Laos Itinerary
It contains proposed daily activities, the budget in 3 currencies, flight plans, intercity transportation info, and the skinny on the guesthouses I had selected.

Drawing up itinerary is a joy in itself for me. It's like Sudoku or a jigsaw puzzle where instead of numbers or irregularly shaped bits, I try to mesh geographic locations, attractions, and local transportation timetables together into an elegant whole. The internet made this possible and foreign countries are no longer as impenetrable as they once were. With you calling the shots, you can eat what you want, stay where you want and spend as much time as you want drinking in the sights and scenery.

The Budget.

This is the entirety of our budget: 800 US dollars for 12 days, not inclusive of the price of the outbound and return flights.

Laos Budget
8 crisp Ben Franklins.

It is indicative of how little Malaysia cares about Laos (and vice versa) that we are unable to change Malaysian ringgits to Laotian kips in Malaysia, while the ringgit shows equal lack of purchase with Lao moneychangers. At the time of exchange, the 800 dollars cost me 2,640 in ringgits, which isn't too bad considering that it covered the expenses for two travelers. It was said that about a third of the currency circulating in the bloodstream of the Lao economy bears the faces of Hamilton, Franklin and assorted POTUS'es.

At the final tally, I found that we spent a grand total of 6,094,500 kips by the time we took off from the Wattay International Airport at Vientiane. A dollar buys you 8000 kips so that's about 762 dollars, so I still have a handful of US notes left over in my wallet now. That will go right into our future travel piggy.

The Sneak Preview.

Our route took us from Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang before finally doubling back on Vientiane. Tried as I could, I was unable to squeeze Phonsavan into the circuit without making the whole venture a race against time - something I would have to redress in my Siem Reap to Vientiane (by way of Central and Southern Laos) trip that I had begun dreaming about before I even left Vientiane last week.

We spent one plus two days in Vientiane,

COPE Visitor Centre
COPE Visitor Centre.


Minced Meat Parmentier with Veal Gravy
(Sort of) affordable genuine French cuisine.

Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang.

Three days in Vang Vieng,

View from Pha Ngeun
View of the Vang Vieng countryside from the peak of Pha Ngeun. Click on picture to see a larger copy.

Tham Phu Kam
Tham Phu Kam. Spelunkers included in frame for scale.

Tubing Down Nam Song
Tubing down the Nam Song.

And four days in Luang Prabang,

Haw Pha Bang and Handicraft Night Market
Haw Pha Bang towering over the tourist night market.

Wat Xieng Thong Sim
The iconic sǐm of Wat Xieng Thong.

Tat Kuang Si
Tat Kuang Si.

Tam Ting at Pak Ou
Innumerable Buddhas at Tam Ting.

This is just a teaser reel and I'll delve into the nitty-gritties in my subsequent posts. I have had blog readers e-mailing me for advice about my travels in India (another country that is not overly popular amongst Malaysians as a holiday destination) and I'd like to do Laos some justice. In hindsight, I probably could have done this trip in one hot week.

Of course, don't expect me to be quick about it. I am starting work again tomorrow and I am on-call three times this week. Just the thought of it makes me want another vacation.

Compulsive traveloguer,
k0k s3n w4i

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Please Lao a Message After the Tone

"Wade in the rising water
Walk in the sinking sand
Crawl through the shadow valley
To try to understand
I climbed a Jacob's Ladder
I fell down holy stairs
I found Siddartha's temple
No answer anywhere"

The Tiger Inside Will Eat The Child (2011)
by Fatty Gets a Stylist

By the time you read these words, the seat belt lights would have been turned on and the aircraft Cheryl and I are on would be taxiing on the runway and getting in position to take off. As I've mentioned before, our destination is Laos, a former French protectorate which holds the distinction of being the most bombed country in the world per capita. Okay, that didn't make it sound at all appealing as a location for honeymoonery but we can't get away for long and backpacking through the northern regions of Laos sounded very doable in what little time we can spare. Besides, Cheryl isn't into those clichéd retail-heavy chick travel destinations that Malaysian girls salivate all over like Hong Kong, Korea or Japan - so basically, she's a woman after my own heart.

Trophy Wife
My gorgeous honeymooning partner.
She accused me of never posting any of her nicer pictures in my blog,
so here's a recent one.

Anyhow, this trip will be much gentler than any of my three previous backpacking stints across India. There's going to be plenty of cycling and walking tours, mini hikes and whatever old monuments that are still left standing on the prolifically exploded Lao earth. Ask me again if I had a great time upon my return. I have a good feeling about this.

k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Smokers are Bad Parents, Period

"A cigarette is a pipe with a fire at one end and a fool at the other."

Author Unknown

This is a depressingly common sight around town in Kuching: an average salaryman puffing on a cigarette at a kopitiam (or coffee shop), not bothering to even leave his table to do so and remorselessly murdering his wife and young child softly with secondhand smoke.

Asshole Kuching Smoker
Behold, the common tobacco addict in his natural habitat.

I photographed the tragic scene above on a Sunday morning, two days ago at Dong Guan Food Court at the Central Park Commercial Centre at 3rd Mile. Now, some of you smokers reading this might self-righteously denounce the bloke in the picture and declare that you are one of them mythical "considerate and responsible smokers" who would never light up in front of pregnant women, children, babies or puppy dogs, and would always, always excuse yourself to smoke away from your beautiful families. You sincerely and naively believe that you are not contributing to the annual statistics of 600,000 murders of innocent inhalers of secondhand smoke. Well, I have news for you assholes: you are still a bad mother or father, and an award-winning terrible human being.

  • The children of parents who smoke are 2 to 3 times more likely than children of non-smokers to eventually pick up the habit of smoking.
  • Children of smokers are more than 2 times as likely as children of non-smokers to start smoking at a younger age (between 13 to 21 years old). This is important as early onset of initiation into cigarette smoking is found to cause stronger addiction to nicotine. Starting early and being strongly addicted meant that they will smoke more in the course of their lives, and we know that every stick of cigarette a person smokes reduces 11 minutes of his or her life.
  • If you smoked at any point in your life, your child is more likely to smoke even if you have stopped smoking before the kid is born. Surprise!

Even when you are not actively exhaling your noxious stupidity into your children's fresh little lungs, you are still encouraging them to take up tobacco smoking by choosing to continue pursuing your selfish, disgusting behaviour. They will then in turn go on to influence your grandchildren to smoke, and they too will influence their children and their children's children all the way down in a never-ending vicious cycle of bad parenting. That is the curse you choose to pass down to your descendants. That is your legacy.

Anyway, the irresponsible man who breathed cancer in his wife's and little boy's faces simply got rid of his cigarette butt after he was done by flicking it away like a booger he just excavated from his nostrils.

Asshole Kuching Litterbug
The tobacco addict littering the streets with his phallic oral fixation.

Regular litterbugs might do it when they think no one is looking, but smokers would shamelessly drop their cigarette butts wherever they like in full view of everybody. I'm sure we are all used to the sights of spent cigarette butts peppering our streets like the seasoning of our screaming lack of civic-mindedness but beside being an eyesore, improperly disposed stogies are serious fire hazards. Just last week, a man was arrested for setting a bus he was riding ablaze by smoking in the on-board toilet.

So to bring it all back home, if you are a smoker and have children, you are actively harming them even when you don't smoke anywhere near them. I just want you to know that. I want you to live with that.

A better father than he is,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Sailing the Spirit Boat

"(Be a man!) You must be swift as a coursing river
(Be a man!) With all the force of a great typhoon
(Be a man!) With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon!"

I'll Make a Man Out of You (1998)
by David Zippel and Matthew Wilder

Still one of the manliest songs ever written.

Mount Santubong
The daunting visage of Mount Santubong. Picture taken on 28th December, 2011.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year this year, a day which the Chinese people customarily sit around with family members that you don't talk to on any other day of the year, chew snacks incessantly like cows chewing cud and haemorrhage money to children in red packets, I decided to do something a little different - I decided to try and make my way to the top of Mount Santubong located a half hour's drive outside of Kuching.

Santubong or si-antu-ubong apparently means "spirit boat" in Iban, the language of the indigenous inhabitants of this region and it was here where the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace independently developed the theory of evolution through natural selection. Even his first paper on the subject, On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species (1855) is commonly known as the Sarawak law paper. Basically, Sarawak was to Wallace what the Galápagos Islands were to Darwin (the English scientist, not my baby son who was named after him).

This is actually my second attempt, having tried and failed a month ago in December. Two years of Housemanship have um, domesticated my body so much that I was struck by waves of nausea within the first hour of my maiden expedition. Besides, it also started raining heavily before I even reached the first waterfall on the summit trek, so I was relieved to be forced to turn back. Eff Why Eye, there are two trails in the national park, the "jungle trek" and the "summit trek" - the former is a leisurely loop through the rainforest at the base of the mountain while the latter takes you to the pinnacle of the sawtooth peak - if you dare. Anyway, I accidentally followed a false trail on the way down and spent about an hour lost in the undergrowth wading through thorny, spiny vegetation. I eventually navigated my way out by downloading a compass app into my smartphone.
14 Map of Trail
The purple arrows denote my failed first attempt. The yellow arrows plot our intended route this time.

So, I started training again; doing crunches, push-ups and running up stairs in the past few weeks. This time around, I was joined by Ashraf (one of the two legal witnesses of my marriage to Cheryl). He had never trekked Santubong and was interested in doing it with me. He is also something a long-distance runner and I was nervous about embarrassing myself in front of him, but thought it was wise to have a fellow medical practitioner tagging along should I get a coronary event from the exertion or something.

We started our trek at 8:10 AM from the Green Paradise Seafood Restaurant (as opposed to taking the shorter Bukit Puteri trail) and the little boy who took us to the beginning of the trail mistakenly sent us out on the jungle trek instead of the summit trek. We only realised this when we were already halfway through so we had no choice but to complete it before we even gotten started on the summit trek around nine o'clock. I'd like very much to tramp all the way back to the starting point to rearrange that kid's internal organs but we already wasted enough time.

01 Suspension Bridge
The suspension bridge on the jungle trek.

02 Waterfall at Suspension Bridge
The waterfall and rock pool that the suspension bridge crosses over.

The summit trek immediately proved itself to be far more challenging than the jungle trek. One of the things that many experienced hikers say is "Don't underestimate Santubong" and that became the watchword for our climb, one we kept repeating to each other ad nauseam when we got winded, lost our balance or stepped into a puddle. It's easy to misjudge how difficult Santubong is since the peak is only a modest 810 metres high. You see, the trail does not make a steady upward trajectory to the top but instead dips and rises dramatically along the way. It is heavily crisscrossed by gnarly tree roots that are constantly trying to catch your feet and trip you. The perpetually damp and mossy rocks littering the trail are also incredibly slippery and there's no safe way to step on them without slipping and breaking something important. If those aren't challenging enough, the air beneath the canopy is humid and oppressive. You would quickly sweat litres and dehydrate. It's like Mirkwood down there in the undergrowth, if you ken what I'm saying.

And rumour has it that the latter half of the trek is almost vertical most of the way. A lot of people said that it is a more difficult climb than even Mount Kinabalu, which at 4,095 metres is 5 times higher than Mount Santubong. In fact, people regularly throw in the towel before reaching the top and Santubong police deputy officer-in-charge Sergeant Major Rosli Deris said that climbers frequently fail to make their way back down the mountain as well, necessitating rescue.

03 Arbomancy
It's interesting to see how some of those helper ropes were tethered.

04 Waterfall
The waterfall on the summit trek.

05 Marching Ants
Heh, looks like I'm not the only guy with a large belly on this mountain.

There are allegedly hornbills and proboscis monkeys living in Santubong but we did not encounter any. Instead, we came across a lot of dark coloured termites marching in upsettingly large columns along the trail. When we spotted an especially big termite parade skittering across a fallen tree, I tried to photograph it. The pointed snout on the heads of the soldiers indicated that they are a species belonging to the Nasutitermitinae subfamily of termites (the snouts are called nasus). They were out in strength foraging in the late morning but when we returned in the evening, they have all disappeared. I also noted that their mounds were confined to the ground on the forest floor. My best guess is that they belong to the genus Hospitalitermes - the very morphologically similar Lacessititermes termites build arboreal nests. Anyway, these jungle-dwelling termites aren't pests and they ignore man-made structures, preferring to feed on lichen, dead leaves, fallen branches and twigs, and other plant materials.

Well, excuse me for the impromptu entomology lecture. I have a condition.

Nasutitermitinae 2
The horned soldiers are typically smaller than the more corpulent workers in this subfamily.

Nasutitermitinae 1
They are frequently (and understandably) mistaken for ants.

When I got up to continue the trek, I slipped and body-slammed the log, instantly pancaking and sending thousands of them to the Great Termite Mound in the sky (sorry). It hurt so bad I thought I had broken a rib.

We finally arrived at View Point 1 where the Bukit Putri trail joins the official summit trek at about 10:00 AM. There we encountered a large group of local college students who were making their way down. Apparently, they have started their ascent at 5:30 PM yesterday and reached the summit at 10:00 PM where they camped. The trek is tough enough in daylight and these people did it at night! We noticed that half the group were girls and that immediately inflamed our machismo, spurring us onward in defense of our manly prides. We cannot fail now! Girls did it! In the dark!

The trek between View Point 1 to View Point 3 is a discouraging, monotonous upward crawl inclined at somewhere between 45 to 60°, commanding frequent rests. We couldn't help noticing that the water we brought with us (about 2 litres each) was starting to dwindle in volume. We were also encountering more vertical sections of the trek that could not be surmounted (at least by us two schmucks) without the help of rope ladders that the park rangers have installed along the trail. Needless to say, we were making very slow progress. On the up side, the tree roots that were trying to murder us most of the way earlier were now proving to be invaluable footholds and handholds and I often find myself favouring them over the rope ladders.

06 Rope Ladder
Certainly not for those with a fear of heights.

06 Scenery
View of the Sarawak River from either View Point 2 or 3. It's hard to keep track.

We saw that some treehuggers have placed laminated posters on the way pestering trekkers to sign an online petition to stop the building of a cable car system to ease access to the top of the mountain. At this point in the slog, both Ashraf and I, fatigued and dehydrated, were lustily thinking, "Fuck that noise! Just build the damn cable car! Build it NOW!"

Between View Point 3 and View Point 4, one of Ashraf's legs (right, I think) was struck by crippling cramps and he was forced to stop. I could literally see his thigh muscles spasming as he sat there clutching himself in agony. He had been playing futsal the night before and reckoned that he was short on electrolytes. He said that even his sweat no longer tasted salty. We were faced with a difficult choice at this juncture. Either we turn back now and make our painful way back to base camp with our tails between our legs, or we press on knowing that every step we take forward meant an extra step we have to take on the way back.

Staring wistfully at the trail before us, I said to Ashraf,

"You know what? I think I can make it. You stay here and eat the remainder of your chocolate. I will come back for you later." I swear I could hear Freddie Mercury singing Don't Stop Me Now in my head right then in that moment.

I quickly made it to View Point 4 on my lonesome. The leg of the journey to View Point 5 was no longer a trek but a no-nonsense climb of numerous 90° rock faces from ledge to ledge all the way up. Right before reaching View Point 5, I ran into two girls heading down who told me that I was only about half-an-hour away from the summit. I noticed that one of them made the climb wearing a pair of jeans. I can't fail now!

"I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva!
I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me!"

"I'm burning through the sky, yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit!
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light!
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you!"

07 Scenery
The scenery from View Point 5 of the Damai Golf and Country Club and its beach.

08 Shipwreck
A shipwreck.

I realised that the climb was getting easier and easier the higher I went. It was chillier up there with comforting zephyrs coming at me from the sea. Since it was rope ladders for the most part, I could give my poor tortured legs some rest while my upper body and trunk started pulling their own weight. The trail between View Point 5 and the summit featured a valley where I begrudgingly conceded some altitude before facing more vertical climbs (3 to 20 metres apiece) up and over the rocky mountain face, each one threatening to render me quadriplegic should I falter and fall. This was it. This was where I prove my worth. Daddy's going to make you proud, Darwin (my kid, not the English naturalist)!

At 12:30 PM, I summited Mount Santubong.

A sign at the top claimed that it took me more than 3 kilometres of hard climb to reach the top. The view from the Santubong summit was amazing - shadow of clouds floating lazily over the blue-green South China Sea with waves which gently caress the coastline of Damai. It had been raining rather ceaselessly for the past few months so I was glad that the weather remained congenial the whole time with no mists to impede the scenery.

09 Scenery
Cloud shadows over the South China Sea.

10 Panorama
A panoramic shot of the view from the summit.

About 1:00 PM, Ashraf surprised me by turning up at the summit. Some of the climbers have given him some of their extra water on their way down and since the final bits were less punishing on the legs, he managed to claw his way to the top. "I crawled up here on my hands, elbows and at one point, even my face," he said.

We made our way to the other side of the summit where they have built a small hut for the park's visitors. Two young adult males were already there, smoking cigarettes.

13 Defilers
Cigarette addicts.

What the fuck, people of Kuching? You people smoke in every coffee shop, at every mall entrance, in your hospital, in public parks, at the riverfront, and even in front of pregnant women, babies and young children. Now, I climbed 4 hours up a fucking mountain and I still couldn't get fresh air here?!

They were also playing loud pop music from their cellphones and at one point, sang along to Christina Perri's Jar of Hearts, I shit you not. It didn't ruin the whole experience for me but it certainly dialed my dopamine high from conquering Santubong down a notch.

12 Scenery
The view from the other side of the summit.

Due to their offensive presence, we didn't stick around too long and at 1:40 PM, we started our descent from Santubong's summit. If anything, going down was even more grueling than the journey up no thanks to our now overworked limbs and our stupid lack of foresight to bring lunch (and enough fluids) with us. It was also more perilous because we were forced to go ass first most of the way due to the sheerness of the rocks. Since we parked my car at the Green Paradise Seafood Restaurant where we started off, we had to take the long trail back as well. Ashraf was so dried out near the end that he risked taking a drink from the waterfall. They looked crystal clear but he said that they tasted "rooty". We'll see if he develops leptospirosis in the next few days.

At 5:45 PM, our ordeal finally ended. It was a triumphant moment for both of us. I summited Mount Santubong with a severely out-of-shape body after only a few weeks of training while he did it with a painful cramp in one leg. Besides, both of us only slept about 4 hours during the previous night and we took the long way up (and down) plus we accidentally did an hour-long jungle trek before we started the ascent. What we achieved was nothing less than heroic.

11 Panorama
Another panorama from the summit. My camera seemed to have done a less than perfect job stitching it together.

I was going to try and summit the gentler Mount Singai (which is just a little more than 500 metres in height) in Bau the next day but I overslept. I am also stiff all over and it is agony for me to even negotiate my way around the house. I hope I will make a full recovery by this Wednesday when I leave for Laos with the missus.

Adventure is out there!

P.S. I went and watch the remake of RoboCop starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson after dinner that night (which Ashraf was not up for). The movie was surprisingly good.

Made Santubong his bitch,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Lunar Laser New Year

"The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation
And it looks like I’m the Queen"

Let It Go (2013) by Idina Menzel

Cheryl and Darwin have flown back to Penang to spend the week with my in-laws so I forded the Lunar New Year this year with Sophie and Mikey, our two feline freeloaders whose sole contribution to this household is occasionally pooping outside the litter box. As per Chinese custom, we sat down for a reunion dinner on the eve of the holiday. I had a seasonal Golden Fortune pizza from Pizza Hut accompanied by a homemade Rusty Nail (two parts Scotch, one part Drambuie) while the cats have their usual - kitty kibbles with no alcoholic beverages because they haven't turned 21 yet.

Reunion Dinner with Cats
The table conversation was stimulating.

I live on the 8th floor of my building and was treated to a fantastic firework display that the people of Kuching were putting up since 7:00 PM. I was glad that Darwin wasn't here because I have no idea how I could put him to sleep when it sounded like the freaking London Blitz during World War II out there. Because Kuching is a pretty low-rise city, I had an unimpeded view of the pyrotechnics all the way to the neighbouring town of Bau and it got to pretty epic levels at midnight when everyone let their best rockets rip all at once.

Kuching Fireworks CNY Eve
I wonder how much more awesome it would have looked had my apartment faced the more affluent suburbs.

Kuching Fireworks CNY Eve from Balcony
Fireworks, burning of incense, burnt offerings for the dead and China's heavy industries - I'm starting to think that the Chinese people's main contribution to the world is smoke and air pollution.

The tradition of exploding stuff during the Lunar New Year started from the legend of a fearsome man-eating monster called 年獸 (nián shòu - literally means "Year Beast") which terrorised some village annually on New Year's eve. Fireworks and firecrackers were set off to finally scare this creature off for good and now, because we are a superstitious lot, we still do it to ward us from the visitations of evil spirits. Supposing that evil spirits used to be living folks, why would they be spooked by some flashes of light and loud noises - why wouldn't they be enthralled by it like any regular individual? And if they do find it aversive, why wouldn't they come and haunt their victims on any other day of the year when no one is lighting up any repellant fireworks? Question for the philosophers, this.

Just for a lark, I purchased a laser pointer for our cats. Mikey, our Ragdoll seems to be immune to the allure of bright darting points of light and acts as if he couldn't see it.

Mikey is Immune to Laser Pointers
Hi, I'm Mikey. I eat expensive kibbles and pee on my humans' floor mats, but I wouldn't provide them with any entertainment chasing laser lights.

Luckily, our Maine Coon, Sophie, loves it and wouldn't tire of trying to run it down all over the apartment. She's the more athletic of the two anyway and regularly kills any vermin that dares trespass into our house. Mikey, on the other hand, occasionally mistakes his own shadow for a challenger and tries to wrestle it to submission.

Now, I read that even low-powered green laser pointers produce beams that are visible at night via Raleigh scattering from air molecules and is frequently used by astronomers to point at stars and shit in the night sky so I tried it and the result was pretty damn cool.

Shooting Down Stars with Mah Lazer
Now, I can insult astronauts using laser Morse code.

Refracted Laser
Laser light refracted through a glass of booze.

Anyway, since I'm alone here in Kuching away from the family, I decided to do something I couldn't usually do on the first day on the Lunar New Year. What is it? Well, you'll find out the next time we speak again.

P.S. This post was written while Sophie's tail was partially obstructing my access to the keyboard. She likes lounging between my keyboard and the monitor when I'm at work on the PC.

Horsing around,
k0k s3n w4i