Our Travel Blog

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kg Esok – Buaya 4x4 Offroad, 29 & 30 July 2006

Just returned home from an overnight offroading and camping trip to Sungei Kg. Esok(Kesok) in the state of Negeri Sembilan.

On this trip, we were divided to two teams(A & B) from our fellow Buaya 4x4 offroaders. One was to set out in the morning and the other team in the afternoon, the former for early birds like us who were just too eager to get into the rainforest to be the first to set camp(for the best spot), the latter for either folks who are not so used to waking up early on a Saturday morning or that their flight have just landed. This time around promises to be filled with fun and “high spirits”, however, we decided to remind ourselves to stick to entertainment of a more sober kind. The two teams were

Team A
A1. Fireman
A2. FreeLander
A3. Heliman (Convoy Leader)
A4. Mazlan
A5. DZul
A6. HO
A7. Firdaus
A8. Blue Thunder
A9.. Mozzie & Shanghai.

Team B
B1. MC & Eagle & Red Indian Girl
B2. Flying Lizard & Silver Surfer
B3. Kokonut Soldier(Convoy Leader) & Bed Covers
B4. Capt Lui & Capt Wong
B5. Kikilala
B6. James Pang
B7. X-Trail


Rendezvous at 8.30am on 29 July(Sat) at Senawang Exit Toll. Before heading offroad, we had breakfast at 9.30am. We were scheduled to arrive at the intended campsite at 11.30am, however as the site was occupied by some campers from the biological unit dept of UM we had to move on. At some point we winded up at a trail end near a waterfall at Lata Kijang(The Orang Asli calls it Kijang Jatuh), located about 15 minutes walk to Gunung Hantu Besar according to Heliman. The waterfall was very scenic with a drop of at least some 200 meters from the peak with a cool cozy stream at the bottom, but the place was not suitable to be considered as an alternate campsite. After some minor offroading thrill, at 3.30pm, we converged to meet up with Team B to proceed to another alternative campsite. Fortunately, with our convoy leader, Heliman’s(Bernard Ng) earlier recce of the areas and with the aid of his GPS, we did not get lost. Further exploration offroading led us across two rivers, with one rig on ATs(All Terrain tires), and another on worn out MTs(Mud Terrain tires), almost did not make it through. By the time we decided on the campsite was about 5pm. We had to settle to camp on the trail itself. The site was superb as it was beautifully shaded amidst bamboo trees with a stream at the bottom of the hill.

Dinner was BBQ chicken wings and a Grouper Fish that we had marinated with ginger and rice wine earlier then, steamed on top of the pit wrapped in aluminum foil, while the rest of the gang could not wait to get happy hour started. By the time we were through with dinner, more than half of them were “spirited away” on Heliman’s mix of lethal cocktail concoction. We took off to dreamland at 10.30pm. We were told from eye witnesses that the party continued till 2.45am while we were asleep. The night was rather chilly but nice as we were well sheltered by our camping flysheets. Woke up at about 9am this morning, then cooked up a simple breakfast of sausages and sunny-side-ups.
Nothing beats an open air breakfast early in the morning to the sound of the rainforest and the rapids from the river down below, eat your heart out 3D surround sound, THX whatever! We broke camp at about 12.45pm with Blue Thunder and Freelander and headed for Ulu Langat for seafood lunch courtesy of the latter. By the time we arrived home, it was around 2.30pm. Overall, we enjoyed the trip as it was rather laid-back and chill-out kinda trip, the offroading sector could have been a little more challenging though. Mozzie, Shanghai, and Moggy….signing out!

Check this site for more photos : Trip Photo

Monday, July 24, 2006

Coming Home to Miri, Sarawak(Borneo)….20 – 24 July 2006

(click photo to enlarge)
Finally made the trip back to my homeland Miri, Sarawak in the Island of Borneo, the place where I grew up, since it gained status as the first Resort City in this part of the world last May. Spent much of the early part of my life in Miri before I went to further my studies in the US.

Miri has evolved from a small sleepy oil town with virtually not much to do other than spending most of my time watching movies on my classic VCR and dreaming about being a tennis star on the tennis courts to a city with pubs, clubs, cafes and malls. Dual carriaged road and highways have also replaced roads that used to be single lanes, across newly builted residential areas coupled with a new highway that links Miri into Brunei that starts near my mom's house in Pujut, making traveling into Brunei an easy twenty minutes journey instead of the previous 3-5 hrs that included 2 ferry crossings. Now two bridges on across the Baram & Belait rivers have made traveling more convenient. At the Miri-Baram side the bridge is called "Asean Bridge". Miri is also major gateway to the hinderlands of Niah Caves National Park, the world renowned Mulu National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park and areas of the interior of Borneo such as Marudi, Long Lama, Long San, Bario Highlands, Ba Kelalan etc. For those into serious diving, Miri boasts one of the world’s finest marine parks and coral reefs, some situated only a mere 15-minute boat ride from the city. Divers from the Sarawak Shell Petroleum discovered these unique sites during their underwater explorations in the 80’s. This dive sites include Barracuda Point, Grouper Patch Reef, the Atago Maru Wreck, the Seafan Garden and the Luconia dive area. The Luconia is also a great place for sport fishing, apparently for giant garoupas. Unfortunately, we did not have the luxury of time to explore these possibilities and I have yet to get a PADI certification for diving. Something that would be great to have as Jules have been tempting me with her PADI id card which she carries around in her wallet everywhere she goes.
As usual we traveled by AirAsia on an Airbus A320 into Miri on Thursday, 20 July. This was through the two tickets inclusive of Bangkok that we managed to get courtesy of AirAsia on their 2 million free tickets promotion early this year. We only had to fork out RM80 per person for Airport Tax and Fuel Surcharge...tickets were FOC. The rest was history. On the day of arrival, the weather in Miri was excellent, not hot and very breezy as the airport is near the sea towards the south-east of Miri City. This was Jules very first time in Miri and she was thrilled as hell to meet my family and of course she had learnt before the trip that Miri is filled with dirt cheap beer, for RM10 you could buy three to four cans depending on the brand...so looking forward to that, haha. We only confirmed this on our 3rd day in Miri. But please not ask me where I get them, cause I do not want to get those folks in trouble and I still want my cheap beer next time I get back there(soon)! By the way, we are talking about Tiger Beer from Singapore(Home of Tiger Beer), so its as smooth as those in Malaysia and have a much better after taste. Cigarettes are also cheap, we could get them for RM2.50 per pack and we are not talking about duty free here people! Anyhow, again don’t ask why!

We were welcomed by my mom and Aunt Agatha aka Aunt “Akut”. We spend most part of the day, with mom at her house, a little driving around Lutong where I was born, Shell Territory, and then into Piasau Camp, where Shell houses its expatriate community, the golf course near the spit that separates the Piasau area and Miri City proper. I could recall my younger days where my late dad and mom would bring my brother and I with his pick-up truck. Cruised along the coast of Miri to my high school(St Joseph’s Secondary School) and then to my alma mater(Tun Dato Tuanku Haji Bujang College) where I did my STPM “A” levels study in Tanjung Lobang(Brighton Beach) back from 1984-85. Winded the afternoon with a bottle of Heineken Beer at a café near the Mega Hotel....feasting our eyes on cool rigs and four-wheel drive vehicles. Miri definitely has more of these vehicles than here in KL. You can find Land Cruiser 2, Ford Rangers and the Toyota Hilux Vigo almost everywhere. That was pretty cool!
I almost fainted when I saw there is a Marriot Hotel right smacked in front of my former school overlooking the beach.
Day two morning was a day spent mostly lazing around the house. We had the popular “kolok mee” dried noddles(see photo), which is a much sought after food especially for Sarawakians like myself staying in the peninsular or out of Sarawak. That
evening we had dinner with my mom, aunt Agatha, her daughter Jane and Uncle Paul at a shabu-shabu place. Shabu Shabu is a steamboat/suki well known in Japan. Later in the evening we proceed to my cousin’s place in Pujut, Miri, which is just about 2 km from downtown. John, my cousin(by the way he is the coolest dude in town and he drives a souped up Kelisa, a yellow two seater Honda CRX and a souped up Proton Perdana that has been converted to four wheel drive for racing purposes....reminds me of the movie "Fast & Furious, Tokyo Drift", took us to experience the nightlife that we have heard so much about around Miri. First we were at a pub called “Cherrie Berries”, the music was not our kind and we realized the place was full of expats and girls waiting to be picked up. After a while, we proceeded next door, upstairs to a club called, “The Balcony”, music was techno….if you like Paul Van Dyke, this is for you. To our horror, the clubbing crowd here were dressed in casuals and sandals, haha. Guess we are so used to the club scene here in KL where clubbers are dressed to kill. Anyway, we did enjoy the night with John’s company and some of his friend, so much we finished 1 bottle of Chivas and Jules proceeded to order a shot each of margaritas and flaming Lamborghinis, before we all got @!#$ed up, and that was around 2.15am, he took us to a place called "Up to You", which was supposedly their version of the “underground” club, that was pretty cool though, we danced and Jules almost stole the whole dance floor right there. Left this place at around three for supper. He took us to the wet market that has only 2 stalls often for food, and I discover that this place has one of the best “Char Kuih Teow” in town and we were told by John that the place operates from 2am to 9am daily. Finally, got home by 4am.

Next morning(Sat), we woke up at around 9.15am. Surprising after club crawling, we woke up with hardly any hangover. An hour after that, we took a ride from Aunt Agatha into Kuala Belait(KB) and Seria in Brunei. KB used to be my favorite place to be as my aunts and grandma used to stay there before Aunt Agatha returned to Malaysia back in the 80’s, Aunty Vicky to Singapore, Aunty Liza to Seattle, Aunty Oi Lin and Aunty Mui Lin and my grandma migrated to Vancouver, Canada, and my Uncle Chee Tong to Edmonton. What’s left of Kuala Belait and Seria, two coastal towns situated to the south-east of the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, is just a fragment in my memory as a young boy during those old fun days, so very nostalgic! What used to be my idea of a fun place, is now almost like a dead town. There are no major shopping malls, shops closes at sunset, the consumption of alcohol is illegal and pork is a rare commodity. However, what almost shocked us is that vehicles are dammmmm cheap there in Brunei, and we saw cars, four wheel drives, SUVs, MPV’s you name it, parked as if abandoned by the side of the road with the “for Sale” signs on them. And Jules almost fell out of the car when she saw Range Rover Discover(good condition) selling for B$10,000 only(RM23,000). It was a Saturday and most shops were still closed at 11.30am. Later, we were told that the Sultan of Brunei is coming into town later in the day. Could not understand why the town has to freeze for the sultan’s visit.
After lunch we headed back into Miri as we did not wanna be stucked there for fear that they would freeze all traffic for the sultan’s visit.

On the way into back to Miri, we stopped at a mobile roadside fruit stall as I had spotted some indigenious folks selling “Talap” earlier. For folks not from Sarawak and in need of some education on this strange sounding fruit....Talap is as far as I know, only eaten here in Borneo is a native fruit grown in the wild by natives of Sarawak, and tastes very unique….it very difficult to describe the taste, you gotta taste it to experience it. And mind you, I have been searching high and low for this fruit for the last 20 years but to no avail as it is seasonal too. I am posting a picture of the fruit here, let me know if you have eaten it in your life, if you are a Sarawakian, you don’t count okay!

The rest of the afternoon back in Miri, Jules and I recce around the malls. Couple of new malls have sprouted up since my last homecoming. That night we visited our Uncle Stephen and Aunty Theresa, my cousin Mei Ling and Uncle Paul and Aunty Agnes in Lutong. The rest of the night we basically chilled.
Sunday, being our final full day in Miri, we tried to do as many things as we possibly can. Being in a small city like Miri, what else can we do right? My mom took us for tim sum at a food court for breakfast. In the afternoon, I took Jules up to Canada Hill where the Petroleum Science Museum is located. The main attraction is the “Grand Old Lady”, the first oil well(Oil Well No.1) for the Shell Oil Company. This place as it is on top of Canada Hill also provides for an awesome lookout view of Miri town perched by the seafront.

In the evening we had a great dinner at the Yi-Hah-Hai Seafood Restaurant situated by the Miri River at the new Waterfront center at Kampung Dagang area.

Woke up to heavy rainfall this morning, even the rain in Miri smells fresh….man, I so miss that smell when it rains here in Miri, you can smell the sea spray, so much different from the acid rain here in KL. We wish we could sleep the whole day through, unfortunately but our flight departs 10.05am. Before heading for the airport, we took breakfast with my mom, aunty and my cousin. And guess what, they have “Kuih Chap” here! One of our favorite dish, can also be found widely in Thailand and Singapore, but not in Peninsular Malaysia. Final stop was at the "Tamu Muhibbah"(fresh produce market) to pick up some "Midin". Midin is a cousin to the "Paku Pakis" which is a type of crispy/crunchy fern, harvested from the rainforest jungle. It is mostly not available in other parts of Malaysia but can be abundantly found in Borneo. Typically we stir fry it in a wok together with either rice cooking wine or shrimp paste(belachan) and makes a very aromatic and palatable ethnic dish to complement with steamed rice.....the taste is simply astounding and irresistable!

(Midin - a Signature Borneo Dish)

So here we are now back to KL. We are very looking forward for a next trip there when we can as there are still lots of new places in Miri we have yet to discover, and will try to make it up to Brunei’s capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, drive into Limbang, and hopefully also get to the Niah National Park, maybe the Bario Highlands or even into the Mulu National Park.

I have uploaded a video commentary on my mom's house.


Pop by our virtual album at http://pauljules2006.shutterfly.com for more Miri trip pictures.

Next stop, this weekend(Sat & Sun) we are heading south into offroad-rainforest territory into Kg Esok(Kesok) with the Buaya 4x4 "kaki"....so watch out for Moggy in action; she can't wait to get out of hibernation.