July 18, 2010

Friends change or change friends?

When I left my last job, I wrote “Who Are Your Friends” because I am well aware that when I don’t possess the “connection” and “influence” in the corporate playing field, the many so called “pung yaus” (friends) and “hing tais”(brothers) will quickly disappear. Unfortunately that’s a sad reality. So many of these so called “friends” and “brothers” conveniently disappeared, some vanished mysteriously almost immediately … while a few (probably out of courtesy) continued to send me emails or an SMS or two with words like “stay in contact” or “keep in touch” for a while longer. Very soon, most of them too stopped corresponding.

True to the saying “lou yuen chi ma lik, yat kau keen yan sum” [meaning (in Cantonese) distance will test a horse’s strength and time will reveal a person’s heart], now I can clearly see only a few are worthy of a true friendship.

I have changed and because my status changed, my thinking changed, my lifestyle changed, my influence changed, my interest changed and my material value changed ... maybe people feel that I no longer possess anything worthy to be their so called "friends". Or maybe people just don’t understand or accept that friends change, so they change friends.

Only a handful who really meant it when they said “keep in touch”… really staying in contact, making an effort to catch up in between their busy schedules, genuinely concern and honestly keen to know about my well-being. Good to know they still value my friendship regardless the many changes in my life.

I am the old school type who values friendship strongly. I am lucky to have many good friends … some I knew not too long ago and some I knew for over 40 years (since 1969, from Standard One). At times we grew apart as we moved about to make a living and adjust our lives but we always kept in touch. We try to meet whenever possible. Along the way, we changed many things but we did not change friends. Whether old or new, good or bad, rain or shine, thick or thin … they still remain my friends and I remain as theirs. I value this friendship very much and I am sure they do the same.

My point is … do you understand and accept that friends change or do you just change friends?

July 02, 2010

"Fa Kuo San" or Flower Fruit Mountan

I have heard of Gunung Bunga Buah or Flower Fruit Mountain or “Fa Kuo San” (in Cantonese) a long time ago. I first heard of this mountain when I was a teenager. My dad used to tell me that he and his friends often hunt for wild boars at the base of this mountain.

This mountain is also synonymous with the mischievous Monkey God of the well known Chinese legend “Journey To The West” … in the legend, the mountain which the Monkey God stays in is also called “Fa Kuo San”. Gunung Bunga Buah is one of the few high mountains among the various mountains in the Titiwangsa range just next to Genting Highlands.

I have wanted to trek up this mountain when I first took up trekking seriously but somehow never got to do it. So when Jean Soh messaged me and asked if I am interested to hike up this mountain, I am all for it. In no time I managed to convince my regular bunch of trekkers and we met in Kinrara, Puchong at 6.00am on 03 April 2010. After a quick breakfast, six of us started our journey heading towards Gotong Jaya in Genting Highlands. In about an hour, we reached our destination and parked just at the back of the rows of shops and restaurants.

Group photo before the climb

After a quick warm up, we begin our quest to conquer the peak of Gunung Buah Bunga. Jean Soh have trekked this trail several times so she was leading the way. From where we parked, we have to walk into a private farm. The trail starts from the back of the farm. We trekked up a slope through a small forest. After about 20 minutes, we got out of the forest into an old tar road. From here, Jean told us that we have to walk for more than an hour before we reach another forest trail that leads directly to the peak. The old tar road seems to have been abandoned for years. We passed an old quarry and the view of the quarry against the clear blue sky was spectacular. There were thick undergrowth along various parts of the tar road. And the leeches … on this day, armies of these suckers were out for blood! We have to constantly check our legs and bodies for these little buggers but somehow they still got to us.

The long old tar road, wild orchids (above) and the old abandoned quarry

After about an hour and twenty minutes, we reached the junction turning right into the jungle trail that lead straight up the mountain. From here we knew we have another 2 hours or so to trek to the peak. After a quick rest, we head into the jungle. The trail from here starts with a slight slope upwards for about 15 minutes. Then it was all the way down a valley. We must have descended at least 300 meters. My mind was thinking about trekking up this valley again on the return journey ... that would be a killer.

We reached the bottom of the valley, rested for a while and then proceed to hike upwards. From here it is mostly upward trek and after slightly more than an hour we reach a place with beautiful rock formation. Regular trekkers called this resting point the “rock garden”. It was a bit misty but from here we can see the buildings of Genting Highlands perched on the opposite mountain. We took a short break and then two from our group decided not to proceed due to exhaustion. They stayed at the rock garden.

From the rock garden, four of us continued trekking across some fairly tough terrain heading to the peak. It was getting a bit humid and we were all sweating heavily. I was drenched. The ascent from here is quite gradual only in a few areas we faced some steep slopes. Almost an hour later we reached the peak. We were the only group at the peak. We rested in a small open area at the peak and had our lunch. From the peak we saw the Klang Gate Ridge and the dam on one side and Genting Highlands on the other and lush green surrounding mountains and jungles. We stayed at the peak for about half an hour and then made our way down.

At the peak of Gunung Bunga Buah

The descent was a bit quicker. We joined the two waiting at the rock garden in just 45 minutes. From the rock garden we headed straight out to the old tar road. In about an hour we got out of the jungle. The weather took a change and began to rain as soon as we reached the old tart road. We have to trek in the rain and it was a perfect condition for the leeches to come for blood. While trekking on the tar road out to the farm, I must have got at least half a dozen of those blood suckers feasting on me … they are all over my legs. We walked briskly and by the time we get to the junction going down to the farm, most of us (except for the super fit Jean Soh) were totally drained. I began to feel the strain on my knees but there is still about half an hour to get out to civilisation.

We saw several large milipedes and a HUGE (almost the size of my palm) spider on the way down

It rained as we got to the tar road on the way down

We continued down the slope into the farm and finally we got to our car. We were dirty, itchy, tired, swollen, exhausted, wet and hungry … down but not out. A quick freshen up at the nearby shops and we were all glad that the next and last agenda of the day is FOOD! So with only one thing in mind, we drove to nearby Bukit Tinggi for dinner. We went to the same restaurant that we ate on our previous trekking up Nuang (from Janda Baik). A big steamed tilapia, “kung po” wild boar meat, extra large plate of stir fried sweet potato leaves and egg “foo yong” plus soft drinks for all cost us less than RM80 (six pax) … we were more than happy to pay our share. Then we went to the nearby market to buy some organic fruits and vegetables and headed straight home with another peak to add to our trekking list.