Friday, March 30, 2007

Fireflies at Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor

From Janda Baik we can take the Karak Highway to Gombak toll and then take the MRR2 Highway to Kepong, then Sungai Buluh. Straight to Kuala Selangor. It's a pleasant drive out of the city, winding through old rubber and palm oil plantations, a few shanty-looking towns and several Malay villages …peering into a way of life that perhaps seemed all too familiar to the British planters who used to own large tracks of lands out here at the turn of the 19th century.

To see the fireflies, you have to be there when it's already dark. So, if you are early, before going to Kampung Kuantan, you may want to see some historical site at Kota Melawati” formerly known as “Fort Altingsburg”, the execution block, royal mausoleum and colonial buildings. A bird sanctuary park at the foot of Bukit Melawati is an ideal place for bird watchers to watch migratory birds. Also found are silvered–leaf monkeys, butterflies etc. There's also a train ride up to Bukit Melawati. You can park your car at the town area. The train ride will make one round from the starting point and will be back there about half an hour time. You can see a nice view of Kuala Selangor from the top of Bukit Melawati. The Kuala Selangor District Officer's house is also on the hill top.

Kelip-kelip in Bahasa Malaysia, means 'to twinkle'. Twinkle is what these little creatures do. The kelip-kelip is popularly known as fireflies. However, as confusing as the English Language goes, fireflies aren't flies but are in fact tiny 6mm long beetles, which belong to the Lampyridae species. And they don't produce fire but a cool green glow in the lower abdomen.

If you would like to know more about the kelip-kelip, the visitor centre at Kampung Kuantan has some information. This is also where tickets for the boat ride can be bought. The ticket includes a drink and a packet of local snacks, just in case you get hungry during the boat ride. However, there are pretty good seafood restaurants at Kuala Selangor itself… and seafood doesn't come fresher than the ones sold here. Fishing boats come in from the day's work with fresh catches that are sold to the restaurants. Prices are reasonable…much more affordable than the average place in KL.

As the crowd often turn up during the weekend, boat operators usually tend to accommodate as many of the visitors as they can. This means sacrificing a little on the allocated time spent on the cruise per boat. So, instead of the 40 minutes cruise, it may only take 30 minutes on weekends. If it's possible try making a night excursion during the weekdays and preferably not when there is a full moon or during rainy evenings… the effect would not be that great.
Kampung Kuantan was once a humble little village, not unlike many during the early years. But as industrialisation set in later, this village suffered what many others did - young folk moved away; fishermen and farmers living off the land found it difficult to eke out a living and the highways took away any chances of revival in the area.

Then one day, a bunch of entomologists heard about the strange congregation of lights not too far from the village - a place where millions of little green lights twinkled in the shadows of the night. The entomologists descended on the area like a swarm of bees to honey.

That was in the 70's. But the beauty of the place was kept a secret until almost a decade ago. These twinkling lights helped the villagers revive their little town. They are the local folks' little fairies....

Standing on the floating platform waiting for our turn to climb into the wooden sampan (rowboat), I was glad that we were all given life jackets. Having been told to pick a moonless night to go, we planned the perfect night, the 1st night of the month on the Islamic calendar… least to say that we had worked it out just a little too well that night. In such darkness on the floating platform, where the sampans docked to empty out and fill up with eager visitors ready for a trip into the unknown, I would surely have done a 'walk-into' the water if it wasn't for the guidance of the boat operators and boatman. The murky, flat-white coffee coloured river just seemed a little too swift for a dip. But we settled into our seats on the sampan comfortably and safely and with a push of the row, the boatman slowly steered us away from the platform and into the night.

As we drifted down river, we saw no sign of twinkling trees. So we took a moment to lay back and admire the twinkling of the heavens. Knowing little about the kelip-kelip, their lifecycles and living habits - we proceeded to bombard our poor boatman with a barrage of questions. He imparted all that he knew in a hushed voice. Straining to hear his story, we found out that the kelip-kelip in many areas are fast becoming a rare sight as more and more of their habitats are being chopped down to make way for development. The species of kelip-kelip we were about to encounter, reside only in mangrove areas. During the day, they retreat into the tall grasses just behind the mangroves. As night falls, they move to the mangrove trees (called pokok berembang) lining the banks to feed on nectar from the leaves and to attract mates with their synchronised flashing. The chemical reaction in the thorax of the insect produces a cool green glow that is controlled to flash at a rate of 3 flashes per second. The males flash within 1/30th of a second of each other whilst the females do not flash as frequently nor as flamboyantly as the males. Each tree has different groups of families and sometimes the synchronisation of flashes on one tree falls out of synch with the neighbouring tree. However, for optimum effect, it is best to visit the place just after nightfall and not later than 11.00pm, after which time the kelip-kelip would have found mates or mated, and subsequently the flashing would stop.

The boatman steer us to the edge of the bank so that we could get a closer look at the beetle. He gently cupped a straggling individual in his hands. As he opened his cupped hands, his palms lit up a green glow, flashing on - off, on - off. Beautiful from afar, but up close, these beetles are pretty unsightly..not cute like the ladybug or even the dung beetle. The boatman then gently returned the poor flustered creature back on the leaf. Another one landed on my left hand. It's so nice, glowing on my hand! When I pushed it away, it came back and landed on my friend's hand in the sampan. So we just let the creature follow be with us in the sampan.

We rowed down river for a while longer. Sitting back to enjoy the ride and appreciate the wondrous sight, it felt as though we were floating through the Milky Way, suspended amongst the dust of twinkling stars shimmering in the velvet darkness of the universe. The trees were filled with these tiny wonders and everyone who went on the trip were so awed by the spectacular display. It was a really great evening out with nature.

Returning to the jetty, we looked into the faces of other visitors for reassurance that perhaps we were just overreacting. 'It's just a small drop in numbers but the atmosphere remains just as intact as before?!'. There was no reassurance, nothing but disappointment in their eyes.

We left Kampung Kuantan around 9:30 pm with the images of the twinkling lights still on our eyes. We were not allowed to use flash to take the photos of the kelip-kelip, so I don't have any good photos to show it here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Treasure Hunt to Pangkor Island

Another backdated story. In 2003 our office sports club (KSSE) had organized a treasure hunt to Pangkor Island. I was the club President at that time. Due to the request from club members, so we organized the treasure hunt.

We hired a consultant to prepare the questions, FG Network Consultancy Sdn Bhd. This is an event management company. Mr. Baskaran heads his team to organize our event. They prepared everything from the questions for treasure hunts, marked the routes, booked the rooms, presentation for the answers and dinner with some stage games, plus sponsorship for a few electrical items as lucky draw prizes. We also had received many other sponsorships from our suppliers to make the event a successful and memorable one.

Twenty cars took part. There were about 80 participants. All participants had to register, took the questions and the stickers first. After the briefing by Mr Baskaran and his crew, we flagged off from Elektrisola in Janda Baik at 8:30 am. Our MD, Mr Thilo Westerhausen was proud to see this group of people took part in a healthy recreational event like this one. He flagged us off together with his son, Enzio. This was the second treasure hunt conducted by KSSE ever since I was in the committee members.

We took the Kuala Lumpur - Karak Highway to Gombak toll and then took the MRR2 to Kepong and straight on to the PLUS Highway heading north. But while passing by Gombak, we already had to find the answer for the first question somewhere along the shoptlots there. If you have not joined any treasure hunt before, you might not understand what's the story is all about. The questions for treasure hunt normally are tricky questions, some even like riddles. You'd be given instructions to follow the route. You have to be careful with the trip meter because if you missed some points, you'd loose the clue. Because we had the consultant to organize everything, so all the committee members also were able to take part. Treasure hunt is my favourite event. Because we had informed the consultant from the very beginning that committee members would take part, so they never discuss anything on the questions with the committee.

In my group there were Azri and Isma (husband and wife), Kak Devi and myself. We went in my car. Azri was the first driver. I was the navigator. Navigator had to read the clue for the route and clue for the treasures. The other two members in the car had to think of and find the answers. Treasure hunt is a teamwork. Maximum four members in a car, minimum two members.

Can't really remember which road that we took. If I'm not mistaken we went to the junction where it turned to Kelly's Castle to go to Lumut. We had to complete all questions and find the treasures before we arrive at Lumut jetty. When we arrived the jetty, we had to submit our answers and treasures to the organizer. Then we received our ferry tickets to go to the Coral Bay Resort in Pangkor Island.

That night we had the dinner and questions and answers presentation by Mr Baskaran and his team. They also conducted a few stage games. Everybody enjoyed the hunt, the dinner, the games and the prizes. The next day, we spent sometimes at beach before lunch and checked out from the resort by 2:00 pm. It was another memorable trip for us!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Fishing Trip to the Kuala Selangor Light House

For the first time last year I went for fishing trip to a real deep sea. But we did not stay in the boat. We stayed in a light house which is situated in Kuala Selangor. It's really in a deep sea - you don't see anything around you, except the ocean! Luckily the light house is very big and it has some bedrooms in it as well. Idayu and I shared one room at RM30.00 per night - with aircond! It has three single bed in the room with attached bathroom. More than comfortable!

We departed from Janda Baik at 9:00 am to Kuala Selangor through Karak Highway - crossed the tunnel to Gombak toll and took the MRR2 (Middle Ring Road 2) to Kepong and straight on to Sungai Buluh, Paya Jaras etc until we reached Kuala Selangor. Then we took the road to Bagan Nakhoda Omar and went to Jeram jetty. There were Chan, Mat Sabri, Phoon, Erwin (an expat from Switzerland), Idayu and myself.

From the jetty, we took the fisherman boat which Chan had booked earlier. The boatman and his son would take us to the light house. When we asked him how far is it to the light house, he didn't know in kilometer. He said 3 hours boat ride! Wow, 3 hours...! I took the pill to help me not to be seasick during the journey. I already had one very bad experience during islands hoping at Tioman Island and another experienced during squid jigging (mencandat sotong) at Pulau Kapas in Terengganu. Ghoshh...when I remember that, I thought I'll never ride a boat again in my life! But I can't put aside my love for beaches and fishing.

The first half an hour, there's no problem. I felt very fresh with the ocean wind scrubbing my face. But after an hour, I started to feel giddy. Because it was a fisherman boat, there's no seat like the passenger boat. We just sat anywhere we like. Since Idayu and I were the only two ladies, we were asked to sit inside the boat. Then, I just lied down and sleep for the next hours. Thank God I could sleep, or else I might throw out whatever I have inside my stomach. The guys also were not very comfortable. They lied down at the deck below. Idayu was quite tough, she didn't seem to feel giddy like me.

Finally we arrived the light house. You could not see anything else around except the ocean. For the first time in my life, I was risking my life at a deep sea. I could not swim, and it was quite scarry. Quitely I pray in my heart so that Allah will save me. I remember my Mom alone in the house...

The guys did not book any room, they wanted to fish all night. The light house is very big. It has a kitchen and dining area, lounge to watch tv, prayer room and guest area - where anglers can rest. It has public wash room near the guest area too. So they can just shower in the wash room. But for ladies, it's better to rent a room with attached bathroom.

I went to rest for a while in the room. But the guys already started fishing, they just couldn't wait! After a while, I joined them too at the light house deck. Idayu was already there. They have got some small fish using the apollo.

Later in the evening, I joined the guys for fishing on the deck. My line was stucked a few times. Not because of fish, just stucked under the deck. An amateur angler! But I still enjoy fishing. I just caught two small fish (ikan selar kuning). Later that night, we used it as bait, expecting to get bigger fish. But no luck. At almost 1:00 am, I went to bed. At 3:00 am, I came up again to the deck. Many guys (from other groups as well) were still fishing. Looked like they were not going to sleep. By 4:00 am, I gave up!

In the morning around 8:00 am, I tried my luck again. Only the apollo worked for me. I had to forget about my dream to catch big fish. Chan caught one fish about 2 kg (ikan telinga gajah). People from other groups caught some nice fish (kerapu, jenahak, pari). By 12:00 noon, we packed off and left the light house.

During the journey back to Jeram, we had a very fascinating view. Many seagulls were following closely to the boat as if they were sending us off. Then I realized that when the boat was moving, there were many small fish in the wave caused by the boat. That's the reason why the seagull were following us! But it was really a fascinating scene when we could see it caught the fish!

Since I did not get any big fish, I just bought some at Jeram jetty!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Charity Convoy to Melaka

Charity convoy is a favourite event at my work place to most of our sports club (Kelab Sukan & Sosial Elektrisola - KSSE) members. Sometimes ago in 2004, we had been to Melaka on our yearly charity convoy. Looks like I'm going backward in my blog. The reason being, last time I don't have a blog yet. Now that I have a blog, so I want to post all of our good trips in my blog for others to read.

The charity convoy to Melaka was the first in our history where three girls were also riding their motorbikes throughout the journey to Melaka. Convoy always taught members to be more discipline. They should not overtake their friends when riding. Always follow the lane as instructed by marshalls. That's what I like best about convoy. Although I did not ride a bike, I can join the motorcycle convoy as marshall in a car. We normally must have at least one van and one car to escort our motorcyles convoy. The van has to carry all the participants luggages and any other things that we need for emergency during the convoy. The van normally followed at the back of the convoy. Another car would lead at the front row. If we are lucky, when passing by a town, traffic police on motorbike will escort us.

We left Janda Baik around 8:30 am. Our Managing Director, Mr Thilo J. Westerhausen, had flagged off the convoy. We took the Karak Highway and went to Gombak toll then took the highway to Seremban/Melaka.

Because it was Friday, the convoy stopped at a mosque at in a village that we passed by, for Friday prayer. We also got the chance to stretch our legs during the break. After Friday prayer, we bought packed lunch before continuing the journey to Amirah Beach Resort at Pengkalan Balak in Melaka. We arrived the resort around 4:00 pm and took our late lunch. Then we refreshed and rested in our rooms for a while. But some of the boys had already gone to the beach. That night, we had dinner at the resort.

On Saturday morning, we got ready to visit two orphanage homes in Melaka. One is the government orphanage home and the other one is run by a private individual. We spent sometimes with the children at the first home. The boys took the children for ride on their motorbikes, that made the children so happy. After giving away some souvenirs, donation etc; we left the home for a second home in our list.

We were welcomed at their hall. The Principal gave a welcome speech and our representative , Mohamed Amrah also gave a short speech. Amrah was the Vice-President of KSSE. After the wlecome and get to know session, we handed over our contribution and souvenirs for the children. After that, we had our lunch with the children and the staff at this home. After Zohor prayer at their surau, the boys took the children for ride on their motorbikes. The children rarely get this chance, so definitely they were so happy.

We left the home with sweet memories of the children and went back to the resort. That night, we had a barbeque dinner. Continued with karaoke session. The next day, we left Melaka safely to return to Janda Baik. Due to high discipline of all convoy members, we arrived back safely at Elektrisola around 6:00 pm.

See you again in next convoy!

Jumpa lagi di lain konvoi!