Saturday, July 30, 2005

Batu Caves round 3

Better and better, every single time! For our 3rd trip up to KL and Batu Caves, we did it even cheaper and more convienent than the last 2 times. This weekend we went July 29th-31st. Debbie, who speaks Malay was a huge help in helping us to organize a ride. She got us a driver to come down to Singapore and pick us up near International Plaza (where Johann lives) and we piled our gear and bodies into a 10 person van. The best part of it was we got to pay in Malay Ringett which is even cheaper than Sing dollars and split it 10 ways! We also got the skinny on how to do the Dynasty Hotel in KL for super cheap too. We got ourselves an Executive Suite and split it 9 ways! Plenty of room for all! Since we had a driver, we just told him when to meet us in the morning, and he took us directly to the wall! It doesn't get much easier than that! Since Izam (our driver) was with us for the weekend, he hung out and watched a bit of climbing too. Then, when his curiosity and our prompting got too much, he finally gave it a try! He loved it! Hopefully he will be able to continue climbing since he's so close to such great rock!

In attendance for this weekend, Johann, Pat, Kenny, Cindy, Debbie, Jim, Jordan, Kumar, Jeremy and myself. (In the van from Singapore). Jordan lives up in KL, so he had a place to crash, but met up with us for the climbing each day.

How to cram 8 people into an executive suite??? Plenty of floor space and a little moving of furniture!

Jim's nook.

Kenny scores bigtime! No worries Tuan, Cindy is merely posing for the camera! I don't even think a leg hair wandered over to anyone else in that bed!

Cindy getting ready to climb! Cindy is the mother of 2 beautiful and awesome children, who at this time we had not yet met. This was her re-debut into climbing after being away from the sport for almost 10 yrs. After we got her harness straightened out, and went over a few knots as a refresher, this woman was a mere flash in your eye as she clearly got her mojo back on the rock!

See, if you don't take a picture of her on the ground, you won't be able to see her since she climbs so high, so fast!

Izam, our driver on his first ever climb!

Izam had no problem on his first climb. Look at that huge smile upon completion!

This is Jordan getting ready to do a lead climb.

Kenny is on Jordan's belay.

Kumar was also just learning how to climb! He did great! And we kept him safe, just before he was to get married! And Pat, Johann's girlfriend, was here this weekend for a visit, so she was also able to join in on the fun! She's usually found on the rocks somewhere just outside of Hong Kong!

This may look a little weird, but what we are trying to prove here, is that climbing rope really is super super strong, even when you think you need to retire it. Jeremy's rope went into retirement on this trip, and Kenny and Jeremy slowly cut away one strand at a time, and then tested it's remaining strength. Kenny is down to the last piece of cord inside the sheath, and it's STILL holding his weight. Climbing rope is super strong!!

When we were leaving at the end of the day we were able to talk to these kids that were hanging out around the base of the wall from the neighboring Kampong. The older girl was shadowing me during my climbs, and before I would start she would gently wisper, "climb well, sister". I asked her if she wanted to try it, but she didn't want to try, she just wanted to watch from the safety of the ground.

Beautiful local kids.

This is Debbie with the kids. She was able to speak to them in Malay, and she was the one that organized our driver, Izam, for the weekend! Since Debbie was fluent in Malay, she was able to get us around KL with relative ease! Half the time, we couldn't keep up with what she was saying!

Everyone likes to have their picture taken!

This was such an awesome trip! We also were able to explore a second wall, aptly knows as "Mosquito Wall". Yes, there were tons of mosquitoes there, BUT, it was in the shade for most of the day. Win some, you lose some--blood that is!

Kumar and Cindy were fairly new to the group at this point, but are now staple climbers. Johann hooked us all up with a website called Multiply, and it's helped to keep us all in touch, and is a godsend when trying to organize a trip instead of trying to use email. On our way back to Singapore from this weekend, we began brainstorming for another trip to the infamous Krabi, which is in Thailand! More to come!!!


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pulau Ubin with Adam and his kids

Our friend Adam, who is from Wales, moved to Singapore for his job. He loves it here, but what he misses most are his two kids, Jack and Jade. However, in July, Jack and Jade came to Singapore to visit and so we planned lots of fun stuff to do with them for their month long visit! One of the days we went to Palau Ubin, to go mtn biking.

We rode from Adam's condo in the East, up to the ferry to catch a bumboat to get to the island for some off road riding and for what we later found to be a very rich natural history experience. We saw more wildlife on this visit to Pulau Ubin, than any other visit we've had there. It was cooler this day, as it was overcast and drizzly with rain. A pleasant day to ride!

From Adam's condo to the ferry is about 25 km, but this is all road riding. We chose to do the more scenic route and use East Coast Park bike path as our main drag. That way we had views of the ocean for part of our ride, and on this day, there was a photoshoot on the beach, with some scantilly clad models which I believe Jack noticed first, and then of course, Jeremy did too. Unfortunatly, no pictures!

Once on the bumboat, we tooled over to Pulau Ubin. Adam sat at the back of the boat with some of the bikes.

Jeremy and Jade.

Jack and Kelly.

Jeremy cruised through this section of trail in the jungle, without much effort. So, as he waited for us to follow he got pix of the spots that slowed us down.

There were a lot of downed logs!

Alongside of one trail there was some barbed wire that Jeremy found. It had been here for a long while, and the tree grew around it.

At the end of one trail, there was this colonial house. It was all fenced off and padlocked. However, there was a park service guy inside who was cleaning up and packing up to leave. He invited us to go in to check it out. He even let us inside to see the interior. It was pretty run down, but the plans for this old homestead is to clean it up and make it into an interpretive center.

Adam with the kids BEFORE...

...and AFTER. They love this as you can see!

We did a group shot on the patio that faced the ocean and Malaysia.

As we continued our ride away from the colonial house, we had these huge birds fly over head of us. They stopped together and rested up in the trees just over the trail and above our heads. They were two hornbills, and they had a rhombutan (a piece of small round fruit) that they were passing between the two of them. We watched them for a while. Can you see them in the pix?

As we kept going, on our off road singletrack, Adam shot out ahead so he could get some video of the kids coming up this one hill. I was running sweep, and Jeremy was in the front behind Adam. As Adam jumped off his bike and began filming with his Canon digital camera, Jeremy shouts out that he sees a wild boar! Adam swings around and actually catches the boar on the video running across the path! We can't show video on the blog (that I know how to do yet...but it was there!). Unfortunatly, the only boar Jack, Jade and I saw, was on Adam's video and it was moving fast, a small black blurr!

We had a great day of riding! Both Jack and Jade did awesome and the weather, while it was drizzly, was great for riding both on and off road! At the ferry terminal, back on the main island, Adam and Jade grabbed a cab back to Adam's condo while Jack, Jeremy and I rode the 25km back to Adam's. Later that evening, Jeremy and I then rode back to our condo, another 20km.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Batu Caves round 2

Revisiting the blog!
Since we are back up and running, I thought I'd better take some time to get it all updated! There is so much more to see as we've taken many more trips in the last several months.

This trip however is our second trip up to Batu Caves. It seems that each time we go, we find a better and less expensive, and more convienent way to get there and get around and a place to stay.

This time, we went with a big group of folks: Johann, JJ, Jim, Lydia, Yulian, Mai, "Ben"(real name is Jeremy), Zach, Michelle, my Jeremy and myself. We rented a car in JB Malaysia to drive up to KL. Lydia's Dad was kind enough to drive Jeremy, Yulian, Lydia and I up to JB, we just had to get to Lydia. We met Johann, Jim, and JJ at the car rental place in JB. This way we could split the cost of gas, tolls, and the rental and have the flexibility to get to and from the cliffs. Our vehicle was BRAND NEW! We had to take the plastic off of the seatbelts to use them. And if we had known, we would've been able to watch movies in it too!

Our sweet ride.

Jeremy always likes to get pix of others sleeping, in less than attractive poses, so I thought it would only be fair for him to experience what others do. Curses to him for being able to fall asleep just anywhere!

We stayed at the Dynasty Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Next door to it, was a Bak Kut Teh hawker stall, and we had our first tastes of Pork Rib Soup. It was delish! Don't worry, I'm bringing home recipes!

As well down the road and turning right and walking just a bit further, yielded us a Muslim stall which fed us very very well! We had about 12 folks for dinner and it cost us about 70 ringget, which translates into about $35 SGD, which is about $20USD! So cheap, and sooooo good!

The most expensive part of our dinner were the bananas! After a big day of climbing, we ate many many bananas! And they tasted so sweet and good.

Johann, doing what he does! Johann has an incredible website that you should visit showing pictures of his bicycle tours and travels all around other countries.

Because we had such a big group, the stall owners asked some of the locals to move out so we could all sit together. We ordered a bunch of food and each of us had at least 2 drinks minimum! And still it was so cheap!

This is some of the yummy Indian food that we had. As you can see, you eat it with your RIGHT HAND! Me, being a lefty, have some troubles remembering this, and it does not go un-noticed by locals! Typically, you eat with your Right hand and you 'wipe' with your, you can see why I get stares when out in public.

A big group of tummy satified, climbing satisfied mish mosh of friends!
Going around the table from Left front and going backwards...
Zach, Michelle, Johann(orange shirt), Mai, Lydia, Yulian, "Ben" (really Jeremy), Suresh, Kelly, JJ, and Jim (from Texas). Jeremy Brodhead is taking the picture.

On our way back to the hotel we passed by a police yard with all these motorbikes stored inside. We wondered if they had been confiscated b/c of fines or or some other reasons. It's a sea of motorbikes!

Well, since this was primarily a climbing trip, and not an eating trip...we did do some sweet climbing at Batu Caves. We really loved the rock there, and climbing with Muslim chants, calling the people of the Kampong to pray is really unlike anything else in the world to us! The rock is especially nice, and the higher you go, the more things you see, caves, and views! Just amazing!

And since the climbing area of Damai Wall is situated right next to the Kampong, there is no shortage of the local people hanging out watching us climb. We had visits from several of the local kids and other interested passerbys.

And this group of boys were hanging out, climbing on the bars of this old contruction structure. In the field next to the climbing area, they ended up playing football (to us, soccer).

JJ(front right), Suresh, and Johann, at the end of the day. We don't have any pictures of them, b/c they spent the entire day doing a mutlipitch climb which kept them after the first pitch up in a cave. They only came down at the end of the day.

Some of the young girls of the Kampong playing in the parking area on their bikes.

And this is Yen, he's the guy who helps to keep Damai Wall looking nice and sets the routes with bolts. He checks them, and makes sure that everything is safe. Yen is just starting a small climbing hostel with rustic features for climbers to stay right at the wall. When we were here on this trip, the space wasn't quite ready yet...they were having trouble with water issues. Yen is a nice guy, and knows the area very well. He can also take you white water rafting, and to other climbing areas. Each time we go to Batu Caves to climb, we make it a point to say Hello to Yen!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Dinner & Durian with Kazue's Japanese friends.

Kazue, one of Jeremy's co-workers and one of our friends here, had some friends from Japan come to visit her for a few days at the beginning of July. She invited us to meet her friends and to have dinner with them at one of our communal favorite Hawker restaurants, "Pine Crane". (Excellent food, and great prices in the Clementi area)

Front Row: Ling (our roomie), Jeremy, Kelly we are all sporting gifts from Kazue's friends.
Back Row: Saki, Junko, Kayo, and Tomomi

One of the dishes we ate for dinner. We had several new to us dishes. All were fantastic! Thanks to Kazue!!!

After dinner, we made the decision to walk around the Clementi area, showing the girls all the shops and hawker areas and temporary fruit stalls. Apparently, durian (either you LOVE it, or you HATE it) is in season now, as we happened upon this temporary fruit stall.

Durian for sale! D-24 is a grade of durian.

Fancy stacked durian for cheap!

Saki showing us it's not that painful to hold a durian.

Kayo showing us the inside of a durian.

Saki is excited to try durian!

Saki braves a bite of Durian!

Kayo braving a taste!

Kayo's reaction to the taste of durian!

Junko's expression after tasting the durian.

Durian, you either love it or you hate it. It smells like rotten sewer sludge. We have no idea how it tastes, but when we do try it, we hope to film it. We were waiting to try it, b/c we didn't have the video camera with us this evening. As I smell durian in our various travels around Singapore, it reminds me of how Meredith ate Vegemite! If she can do it, I can surely try this stinky fruit, right? We are hoping to have a durian connoisseur with us, Adrian, who LOVES it, and claims there are different varieties. So, one day, we will also try the durian! It certainly makes for an entertaining evening though!

Special thanks goes to Saki, Junko, Kayo, and Tomami for giving us the opportunity to meet them, and share many laughs at the Durian stall! You ladies are very brave! Thanks again for our gifts! And a big thank you to Kazue for taking us all to dinner and sharing your friends with us! We had a lot of fun!