December 31, 2013

Is it difficult to be simple?

I am sure you have heard of this ... “It is simple to be happy but it is difficult to be simple”.

Errrrr, let’s see ... to be happy, it is simple but to be simple, it is difficult ... what is it really? The way I see it ... it is really about being simple ... right? So what is being simple and why is it so difficult to be simple?

First, let’s not be mistaken ... I am not talking in the context that by being simple, one have to live in poverty and getting by with very little or being simple is living as a hermit, cast away from the material world ... agree ya?

Well, here are a few of my thoughts and opinions, my two cents worth about what is being simple and why it is difficult to be simple in a regular setting. 

Being simple is not to worry about how people look at you
It doesn’t matter if you are successful or still struggling to make a living but if you are worried about how others look at what you are doing, what you have (or don’t have) and where you are at, then it is difficult for you to be simple. Because being simple is being able to be confident with what you are doing, contented with whatever you have and comfortable in wherever you are at. 

Being simple is not to worry about having less
You see, the sad fact is people are always chasing for more ... even though they already have more than enough. Why? They are worried about having less (than others) so they are constantly comparing for they must have what others have. So, they are always chasing at a pace that is getting more and more stressful. They don’t want to be simple because being simple means they will have less (than others). It is difficult for them to be simple ... much more difficult than the stressful pace of chasing and getting more. 

Being simple is not to worry about going back to your past
Many people comes a long way from a humble beginning and made it in life. The sad thing is too many were spoilt by abundance that came with their successes and somehow they find it difficult to relate to their humble past ... some conveniently forgotten about it, some don’t want be reminded and some refuse to acknowledge where they begin. So, it is not easy for these people to be simple because being simple is being able to roll up your sleeves and walk barefooted along the way where you came from. 

Being simple is not to worry about letting go.
Many people refuse to let go ... not even when they are at a point in life where they really need to let go ... why? Not because there is no one capable of succeeding them but because they are afraid of losing the absolute control of being in the driver seat, losing the addictive power of being the “Numero Uno” and  losing the supreme authority of being the one who call all the shots. So, it is very difficult for them to be simple because being simple is being able to let go and say ... “It is OK, I have been there, done that” ... it is time to take a back seat and enjoy the rest of the journey. 

Being simple is not to worry about what comes naturally
People worry about getting old. Yes, they don’t want to get old ... many are constantly at war against aging ... some using common cosmetic surgeries and supplements while others resort to bizarre rituals and practices. Maybe they think they can delay it but they know very well that they are fighting a more and more difficult war that they cannot win. It is not going to be simple for them because being simple is being able to accept what comes naturally ... gray hair, wrinkles, menopause, memory loss, disability, deteriorating eyesight, sickness and finally, death.

So, those are my thoughts of being simple. I am sure others will have their own views and opinions on being simple but I think many will share the few same thoughts I have mentioned above.

OK, let’s look at it again ... to be happy, it is simple but to be simple, it is difficult ... do you agree?

For me, I always say that I am a simple man and I am still working on being simple. I agree that it is simple to be happy but I don't think it is difficult to be simple.

What say you?

December 11, 2013

Let go, move on

Let me tell you a story of a young monk and his old master. One day, while the two monks were walking back to their monastery, they came across a lady waiting beside a bridge. As they approach the bridge, the lady asked the old monk if he can carry her across the narrow bridge and the old monk immediately offered to help. And so he carried the lady across the bridge and then let her go.

Now the young monk was quite annoyed because according to their teachings, they are supposed to avoid direct contact with the opposite sex but he kept quiet because he did not want to confront his master then. They continued walking and all the while the young monk was thinking why his master had direct contact with the opposite sex ... the more he thought about it, the angrier he became. The young monk was really disturbed throughout the whole journey back to the monastery.

When they reached the monastery, the young monk was still very unhappy and he was unable to sleep the whole night. The next morning he can no longer suppress his anger, so he went to his master and ask his master why did he carry the lady across bridge? And the master said to the young monk ... “I have already let go of the lady a long time ago. It seems like you are still hanging on to it and letting it makes you unhappy and angry. Why don’t you let it go?”

The moral of the story ... we have to learn to let go. Not just letting go the feeling of detest, despise or dislike but as we move along with our lives, we have to be able to let go of many other things too. Now, many people will deny it ... but really, one of the hardest things to do in life is letting go.

For example ... when people grow older especially when they are moving towards midlife, many will try to look younger... some do it subtly by the way they dress, some a bit obvious like dyeing their hair while others may go a bit further with cosmetic procedures. And a large majority of these people suddenly develop the urge to engage in various endurance and performance sports trying to be as robust as those many years younger than them.

Why? Simply because they refuse to let go of their youth ... they want to hang on to it for as long as they can. But really, they know that dressing up to look younger doesn’t make them any younger ... neither will dyeing their hair black. And maybe they can still compete in endurance and performance sports but I am sure they realize that it takes whole lot more to get themselves to it and way much longer to recover afterwards. That is a fact that they cannot deny.

Like I said earlier ... one of the hardest thing in to do in life is to let go. Maybe that is why many find it hard to let go of their youth and accept the fact that they are growing old.

I have met many who have stopped working (they have reached retirement age) but they are so afraid to say that they are retired. They always say that they are some sort of consultants or freelance specialists or what not ... seems like they still cannot let go of the ‘working phase’ of their lives. Or maybe, it is their way of saying ... “Hey, I am no that old OK?” Somehow they don’t like the word ‘retired’ ... to them ‘retired’ is like sitting at home waiting for death to come.

I beg to differ ... I don’t try to look younger or more youthful because I am not ... mentally not, perceptually not and physically not. I don’t hang on to my youth ... as a matter of fact, I let it go quite some time ago and already moved on to another phase of my life. I can accept the fact that I am growing old, my hair is turning grey, wrinkles are fast appearing and I am lacking behind in my physical capabilities  ... that is OK with me.

The way I see it ... it is OK to slow down and take things easy. Take a back seat and say ... “Hey, I have come this far ... time to let go and move on”. It is not that bad really ... on the contrary, there are new things to learn, new friends to make and new environments to explore.

Really, need not worry about letting go and moving on ... there are still plenty of exciting things in the later phases of our lives.

November 27, 2013

Do I want to run a marathon?

Hey Shiek, you want to run a marathon? ... my friend asked me. Wow! Me? Marathon? 42.195km? Errrr ... I don't know if I can do that. How about a Half-Marathon? Emmmm ... maybe, with several months of solid torturous training, I can ... but I don't think I will do that.

Then some asked me to trek the Himalayas ... the ABC and EBC circuits in Nepal ... take up the challenge, so they say. There are many in my age group or even a lot older, who trained very hard and took the challenge ... they successfully completed the ABC or EBC or both the circuits and have proven to themselves and to others that they can still do it. I am glad for them but I am NOT them.

I like to ask ... whatever you are doing, are you doing it because you really enjoy doing it or are you doing it just because others are doing it and you want to prove that you can also do it?

OK, like I always say ... don’t get me wrong, I am not against people going for tough sports or other challenges ... I am sure many are doing it simply because they really enjoy doing it ... they have found true passion in whatever they do. I wish them great success and would be very glad if they can share the photos of their adventures with me.

Really, at this point of my life ... it is not about proving that I can still take up tough sports or other challenges. I have nothing to prove and I don’t need to show anything. I just have a life to live ... an active, comfortable, safe, healthy, happy and simple life to live.

Believe me, there was a time where I was doing things just to prove to myself and others that I can do it. I thought I could change the world and bask in the glories ... then I realized it is a lot easier to change myself because I found out that every glory will have to be paid in full with equal amount of misery.

So now, I am all for simple things ... no hassles, straight forward and easy stuffs. I jog a bit, cycle around my neighborhood and play some racket games. If I want to trek a jungle trail ... I look for a safe trail to provide a few hours of good exercise in the midst of the wonderful nature with a bunch of good friends ... I like that a lot.

I am not those hardcore mountaineers ... if I want to hike up a mountain, I will go for hikes that will not strain my knees, burst my lungs, or break my back ... I don’t mind a few leech bites, thorns or scratches and stings from insects in exchange for a good day of cool mountain breeze, the happy bird chirpings, the nice surrounding views and the fresh clean air ... this is good enough for my weekends. On weekdays, I like to cook, do a bit of carpentry and lately trying to be creative with recycled wood. The important thing is, I really enjoy what I am doing.

So, do I want to run a marathon or challenge the Himalayas? NO ... I don't think so.

I have said this before and I like to say it again ... sometimes people want to show and prove to others so that they can walk proudly as if they rule the world. But really, maybe they don’t have to show anything or to prove anything but still they can walk proudly too ... if they don’t care who rules the world.

November 08, 2013

Lat tali lat ...

Lat tali lat ... and then what? Of course ... TAM POM! Does this phrase rings a bell to you? If it does, you are probably in my generation or definitely older. Maybe some who is a little bit younger than me can still remember this phrase which is from a method used for selection (or exclusion) of participants in games we used to play ... well, I will not try to explain how it works here ... I am sure those who knows it remember how it works.

But then, do you remember the following phrases? Maybe your ‘kampung’ (village) have different following phrases but from where I grew up ...  the complete phrases are as follows:-

Lat tali lat tam pom’ ... really, I am not sure what language it is or what is the meaning.

Sik fan em sai soong’ (Cantonese) ... meaning having rice without any dishes.

Ah ma ta ngor ta em tung’ (Cantonese) ... meaning when my mother beats me, not too painful.

Ah pa ta ngor see futt tung’ (Cantonese) ... meaning when my father beats me, the backside hurts.

Selection methods like “Lat tali lat tam pom” will be forgotten very soon if not forgotten by many already. I have not seen anyone playing or even heard anyone mention the phrases for a very long time. And what about 'Whose shoe is the dirtiest?' The last time I saw children playing this was at least 10 years ago.

Another selection method was “tim chee ping ping” ... yes, remember? This method was used to choose who gets to be the ‘ping’ (meaning the soldier or the good guy) and who will be the ‘chak’ (meaning thief or the bad guy). Participants will hold each other’s thumbs to join hands and then the ‘tim chee ping ping’ phrase will be said out loud and one will count the hands up and down from syllable to syllable ... now, I am not going to explain how exactly it works because I am sure old boys like me will remember ... but I will tell you the two phrases just in case you have forgotten them ... they goes like this :-

Tim chee ping ping ... yat tim chung lei, lei cho ping

'Tim chee chak chak ... yat tim chung lei, lei cho chak

Loosely translated, the first phrase means ... touch and point to the soldier (ping), once it touches you, you be the soldier (ping). And in the second phrase, just change the ‘ping’ (soldier) to ‘chak’ (thief).

Anyone remember ‘kunci kunta’? The game played with two sticks or small branches (one long and one short) and a small hole in the ground ... this game is long forgotten ... I can’t remember exactly how it was played ... can someone refresh my memory?

What about ‘tai chi’? Not the ‘Tai Chi” kungfu but in Cantonese ‘tai chi’ means the letter (pronounced ‘tai' ... meaning big). We played this game at the badminton court where players have to spread out their arms and legs (which resembled the Chinese letter   ... hence the name) to block your opponents from crossing the certain lines ... I remember I always took the first available bus in the morning so I can get to school early to play a few games before the school starts.

Many old games, words and phrases will soon be forgotten. The same goes for many old terms and old name of places that are no longer use by the younger generation ... for example, I was partnering a young player in a badminton game not too long ago and when our opponents returned a high shot, I instinctively called out loud (to my younger partner) ... “square”. Look, to old school type of badminton players like me ... ‘square’ means retreat or move back to your own box (or square ... hence the term). But my younger partner was confused ... he looked at me and asked ... errrr Uncle ... what is ‘square’ ah? Later, I jested to myself ... nobody uses the term ‘square’ in badminton anymore you old fool!

Let me tell you a name of a place (in PJ) which no one uses anymore ... my friend and I were looking for a place to have lunch and I suggested that we go to ‘Sun Tow’ (in Cantonese). Puzzled at my suggestion, he asked ... Where is ‘Sun Tow’? I said ... State. Still a bit baffled, he asked me again ... Where is State? It did not occur to me that my young friend doesn't know the place which I called ‘State’ or  'Sun Tow’ in Cantonese ... the younger generation really don’t know that there is an old cinema called State Cinema in that area ... I am not sure if it is still called State now. Anyway, my friend told me that area is called PJ New Town.

Time flies, things changed, old names and phrases may have been forgotten by many but I still remember a lot of them. I like to talk and reminisce about the good old times we had, the old games we played, the old phrases we remembered, the old names we knew ... they bring back a lot of good memories  ... I like to remember them and I am glad I can still remember them.

October 15, 2013

"Bor Hu Hair Ya Hoh"

Recently I indulged in a new interest ... tea, I mean drinking tea ... Chinese tea to be exact. So, I am learning how to brew a pot of good “puer” tea. Experimenting with the rudiments of tea brewing ... the nature of the pot, the cups and saucers (porcelain, ceramics or clay), the water (tap, mineral or pure water), the water temperature, the type (and age) of tea leaves, the fire (from gas, charcoal or methylated spirits) and the various methods of making tea ... learning how to brew a good pot of tea.

A tea enthusiast said to me ... “Shiek ... just GOOD is not enough, you should learn how to brew a PERFECT pot of tea".

PERFECT? Or for that matter ... perfection. OK, let me stray away from tea for a while and say a few things on my mind about perfection. Striving for perfection is for those very particular people ... aptly called the perfectionists. In their determination to strive for the very best, they cannot be too compromising ... their need to be demanding, insistent, stubborn, adamant and obdurate will most likely cause a lot of inconvenience, uneasiness, discomfort and agitation in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against it ... just that I am not that determined generally. Maybe once a while I am adamant and stubborn (mostly for the wrong reasons) but most of the time I am a “never mind, chin chai lah” (meaning whatever) kind of person. I am ok with “this or that’ and there is no hard and fast rule for me. So, I have to (and I can) live with second best or even less. Really, I find it a lot easier for me being able to settle for less.

I cannot be a perfectionist ... I am happier being the opposite. As a trekker hiking up mountains, reaching the peak will be the perfect result. But for me, it was not really about reaching the peak ... my focus is on enjoying the journey. Waking up early, waiting and meeting fellow trekkers, the jokes during the easy morning drive, the breakfast at a quaint village along the way, casual chat while trekking, enjoying the breeze, listening to the birds, appreciating the wild faunas, stop to look at morning sun rays penetration the tree tops, thinking about where and what to eat after the tiring trek. Really, the last thing on my mind is the peak ... it is PERFECTLY ok if I don’t make it to the peak.

Now, back to tea ... a perfect pot of tea? I have heard and seen how people go about brewing (what I think is) a perfect pot of tea and I have great respect for these people. They are absolutely serious about their tea ... the elaborate process they observed involves stringent rules and procedures, specialized tools and trappings, clear sense and surroundings, deep technical and historical knowledge of tea ... plus, the unique skills and abilities garnered from years of experience.

WOW! That is serious stuff ... ask any tea master and they will say the same.

Look, for non-perfectionist like me ... I “play play” only ... I may not be able to make a perfect pot of tea but I am more than happy if I can make a good pot of tea with whatever I have. There is a saying in Hokkien ... "bor hu hair yah hoh” [也好] translated loosely it means “no fish, prawn is good enough” ... I am PERFECTLY alright with “good enough”.

September 24, 2013

Don't envy

Recently in a social gathering, I met a couple of those "show-off" kind of people. You know, those ... "Hey, notice the brand of car I am driving! Look at my watch! Did you see the platinum card I am using? My kids are smarter!" kind of people. I am sure you have met one or two of these characters before. I feel that nowadays people put a lot more emphasis on status than it used to be ... they want others to know they are living well and be envious of them.

Well, I don’t envy them ... for that matter, I don’t envy anyone. I don’t believe people should envy and wish they had what someone else have.

I have been tempted by the influences of both worlds. Of the rich and famous ... I have seen people living the lifestyle of luxury, pleasure, lavishness and affluence but I don’t envy them. And of the simple and humble ... I have read about the lives and teachings of distinguished masters, teachers, gurus and “sifus” but I don’t envy to be like them.

I learn from both worlds and gather what I think is good for me ... so, I choose to be content with an easy, simple life that is free from outdated beliefs and dogmas.

Envy is perceiving that you are always lack of something ... it get worse when it morphs into jealousy ... that is when it starts screwing with your thoughts, feelings and life. If you are not content with what you have ... hey, go strive harder for what you desire. Don’t envy ... if you do, you are counting other people’s blessings instead of your own and you will be miserable because you cannot be envious and happy at the same time.

September 02, 2013

We cannot afford “high class”

We were invited to a birthday party and on that day just as I was about to change, my daughter said to me ... “Daddy, we are going to a “high class” restaurant you know” ... she was hinting that I should dress up a bit and I answered cheekily ... “We cannot afford “high class you know”. My daughter gave me a blank stare ... she don’t understand what I meant, she was worried that I will go in my seasoned khaki pants, a fake sports shirt bought at my favorite pasar malam (night market) and my cheap pair of (dog chewed) sandals ... which is how I usually dress going out.
So, I did dress up a bit ... put on a weathered pair of jeans, a "still quite new wore a few times only” T-shirt I bought at a hypermarket (two CNYs ago) and my old pair of (Jusco Sale 70% discounted) sneakers ... really, that is me dressing up.

And indeed it was a “high class” restaurant ... I hope I did not “sutt lai” (embarrass) anyone.

Now, that is not what I intend to talk about here ... I am just giving a prelude to the term “high class”. What I want to talk about is managing the “high class” expectations of my kids.

You see, I am very reluctant to take my kids (or even let them go on invitations) to expensive fine dining restaurants or alfresco styled cafes or other swanky brasseries and bistros. We don’t need it ... more importantly, I don’t want my kids to be influenced by extravagance and overindulgence ... at least not until they make it out on their own. Even then, I hope they don’t get caught by the “high class” obsession ... getting into the habit of indulging on brands, trends and opulence ... hence that is why I am trying to manage their expectation now.

I once heard a mother telling her friends that she spent “kei pak mun che ma” (in Cantonese meaning a few hundred dollars only) on coloring and treatment for her daughter’s hair ... she sounded as if it is just small money out of the pocket. I am not against teenagers coloring their hair but spending “kei pak mun” to do it? That is not the way ... at least not for my kids. I am sure there are other “wallet friendly” options.

I can accept the need to pay several thousand dollars for a teenager’s dental braces but spending a few hundreds for a teenager’s hair coloring and treatment ... that is outlandish. I don’t think a teenage girl should be given that kind of luxury.

People tell me about birthday parties for their kids that cost several thousand dollars held at “high class” outlets. If these people tell me they are more than willing to spend thousands of dollars on good and proper education for their kids and maybe many times more when their kids are at tertiary level, I will be very happy for them but splashing thousands of dollars for a birthday do ... that is definitely out of the way for me. I think celebrations can be held in a simple and meaningful manner with those that matter most to you.

Some parents talked about their kids getting onto programs and getting involved in organizations to help the poor and unfortunates ... they tell me how their kids will learn to be a better person when they (their kids) witness how deprived and underprivileged the very poor people live. But on the other hand, I see the very same parents allowing their kids to live in extravagance, indulging in lavishness spending that directly contradicts every single word that they told me. Let me say this ... if their kids really did witness, learned and understood how important a few dollars can be to a very poor family, these kids will NEVER want their parents to spend hundreds of dollars just to do up their hair.

Call me old fashion or call me a “kedekut” (stingy) ... my kids can live comfortably learning to manage what they have and how they should spend. If they decide to go for good food, they have to settle for Jin Nan Fish Ball Noodle, State Wanton Mee, Ah Wa Hokkien Mee, Fatty Mee Hoon Kueh, Klang Bak Kut Teh, Chuan Kee Chicken Rice and the likes ... NOT the likes of Ole Ole Bali @ Kiara, Alexis @ BSC, Genji @ Hilton or Garibaldi @ Bangsar ... not even on special occasions.

I am not saying we have to live like a pauper ... I just don’t want my kids to think about Starbucks when they want a cup of coffee ... Starbucks is not a place for coffee ... it is place to for those who want “to be seen”. At their age, they don’t need the latest smart phones nor do they need on-the-go online access. If they want internet access they can wait till they get home ... we have high speed wifi at home ... THAT is already a luxury.

So, to my darling daughter (and my dear son), when you read this ... I hope you can understand what I meant when I said we cannot afford “high class”.

August 19, 2013

It is unexplained

It is that time of the year again ... the month where most Chinese believe that the hell gates are opened and beings of the netherworld are out roaming the streets ... the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

As usual, ghost stories are aplenty during this time of the year ... all sort of ghost stories, some real scary, some seems unreal, some very funny and some are out of this world, so to speak.

While waiting for my wife at hypermarket check-out counter, I heard a mother telling her very young daughter that ghosts and ghouls are now out wandering the streets at night catching little children ... look, I am sure the mother was just trying to scare her daughter so that she won’t go out playing alone. Really, I believe the mother is more worried about the crimes committed by human beings rather than the doing of ghosts.

I am sure the mother’s intention is good but what I don’t agree is using ghost stories to scare children. I don’t think children should be planted with the idea that there are ghosts in this world. These young minds should grow to be free to explore what is out there. Should they encounter anything strange, it is up to them to call it ... a ghost or something unexplained.

When I was young, I was told many ghost stories (not by my parents) ... though scared but I was also curious ... so, when someone in my village dies, my friends and I will be the first ones at the wake gathering around the Taoist priest when he conducts the rites ... why? We were told that when the Taoist priest lifts up his hands during the rites, we can see ghosts inside the sleeves of his robe. While some of my friends swore that they saw something ... I never saw anything and I am not convinced there are ghosts in this world.

Those who know me know that I don’t believe in ghosts ... although to me there are no ghosts or ghouls, no demons or devils and no spooks or spirits, that doesn’t mean I don’t think there are strange and unnatural occurrences.

I believe strange things do happen. But that does not prove that ghost exists ... to me, they are just things that are unexplained and I can accept things that are unexplained. Like UFOs ... the Unidentified Flying Objects ... they are UNIDENTIFIED ... so, UFOs are NOT proof that aliens exist. The same notion applies ... say, if I see a cup on a table moved by itself and then fell to the ground ... I don’t believe there is a ghost trying frighten me ... it is just some forces at work. What kind of forces? I don’t know ... like I said, it is unexplained.

In my fifty plus years of life, I have seen my share of strange things but I believe that only science can offer the best explanation to the things happening around us. And those things that are unexplained ... for now, they will remain unexplained but in time science will be able offer a proper explanation of what exactly they are.

August 01, 2013

Don’t let exam results decide your fate

My friend and I were discussing about our kids’ coming UPSR examination ... he has a son who is the same age as my daughter, so both our kids will be taking the primary assessment exam in a couple of months. My friend asked me ... “Eh, how many ‘A’s do you think your daughter will get ... can get straight ‘A’s?

WHAT? Straight ‘A’s? Look, knowing my daughter’s academic abilities, it is almost like striking a lottery ... next to impossible. Really, I am not looking forward to ‘A’s in my daughter’s UPSR result.

But then, how important are the ‘A’s?

Every time when exam results are released, we only hear praises for the straight ‘A’ students or those who obtained many ‘A’s in their results. Most people are fast to applaud and offer a pat in the back only to those who made it good in their exams. What about the vast majority who did not get any ‘A’s and those who didn’t even make it through? Are they not worth a few words of encouragement?

Hey, we are all different ... so, we learn differently, we have different inclinations and we learn at different rate.

Among us, there are kinesthetic learners, visual learners and auditory learners ... then we have people who are math inclined or language inclined and those who are inclined towards art. And then some learn very fast, some slower while others may need longer time to learn.

So, should the thousands of different individuals who all have different learning skills and abilities be tested and measured by the one same mean (exam)?

What I am saying is ... education is not just about getting the ‘A’s. I don’t know about others but for me, if you don’t get the ‘A’s in school, it doesn’t mean that you are any less “educated”. I don’t think exam results should tell you what you are worth.

Don’t let exam results decide your fate ... you may not have the ‘A’s to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer but you can be the likes of Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg ... an entrepreneur, a passionate dream chaser and a world changer. 

July 12, 2013

Trekking to the crash site of the RAF Liberator KL654R

First, let me tell you about a plane crash ... on the 23rd of August 1945, just several days after the end of WW2, the RAF Liberator KL654R (a B24 bomber of the South East Asia Command (SEAC) 356 Squadron) and 8 crew members took off from Cocos Island, about 1000km south of Sumatra heading towards Malaysia. They were on a mission to drop supplies and leaflets announcing the surrender of Japan and the end of the war. Sadly, it turned out to be their final mission ... the plane and its crew members crashed into the deep jungle of Negeri Sembilan.
The RAF Liberator KL654R (photo sourced from internet)
According to sources from the internet, the crash site was discovered by local orang asli during the 1950s and reported it to the authorities. However no action was taken to excavate the crash site until 1991 when a group of orang asli while gathering rattan stumbled upon main fuselage and took the plane’s machine guns to the Kuala Pilah police station. This prompted a military search which located the crash site with the help of a local orang asli called Pak Abu. Pak Abu originally heard the story of the Liberator crash from his father who actually saw black smoke and explosion of the plane as it crashed into the jungle.

Subsequently several groups organized various expeditions to the crash site and in 2007 MHG (Malaya Historical Group) together with Ed Macy (former Apache pilot) and Clayton Ford (police detective) made another expedition to the crash site. In this expedition, they did a thorough excavation of the site and discovered many bone fragments as well as personal items such as rings, spectacles, coins, dagger, dog tag and a water canteen.

Later the bone fragments were DNA tested to confirm their identities and on 18 October 2012, the remains of the 8 crew members of Liberator KL654R, Flight Lieutenant John Selwyn Watts, 158017, Flying Officer Edward Donald Mason, 166082, Flying Officer William Kenneth Dovey, 166352, Flight Sergeant Jack Blakey, 1582692, Flight Sergeant William Ross, 2213814, Flight Sergeant Raymond Arthur Towell, 1624252, Flying Officer J.T. Bromfield, 166369 and Flight Sergeant A. Turner, 1621393 were buried with full military honours at the Cheras Road Cemetery ... 67 years after they crashed.

The RAF Liberator KL654R's crew members buried with full military honours (photo sourced from the internet)
Now, about the trek ... from fellow trekkers we heard that there is a trail leading to the Liberator’s crash site and after gathering more information from the internet, we learned the trail starts from the peak of Gunung Telapak Buruk, a mountain in Negeri Sembilan. So, on the 6th of July, 2013 we decided to make an attempt to trek to the crash site.

Let me tell how to get to the peak of Gunung Telapak Buruk first. Take the LEKAS highway, head towards Ampangan and after getting out of Ampangan toll plaza drive pass Pantai and you will be driving on Route 86 heading towards Jelebu (Kuala Klawang).

Welcome to Jelebu District sign
On this route, look out for a small red Chinese temple by the road side on the left. As soon as you see the temple, slow down and about half a kilometer uphill, you will see a sign welcoming you to the Jelebu district ...TURN RIGHT HERE. Once you turned right, just before the sign, you will see a road going uphill ... this is the road to the peak of Gunung Telapak Buruk.

Road going up to the peak
Now, this road is 12km long all the way up and it is not a well maintained road so a 4-wheel drive vehicle will be very ideal ... if not, I suggest you drive an old car which you are not too worried when it is thumped by thuds and bumps on the long way up.

It takes about 40 minutes to drive carefully up to the peak of Gunung Telapak Buruk ... once you reached the peak you will see a few telecommunication towers and at the end of the road, right in front of you, there is an army facility which you are not allow to go further. There are painted oil barrels blocking the road and the facility is guarded by soldiers.

The trail starts from the left side of the fenced up telecommunication tower
Park your car here and you will see a fenced up telecommunication tower at the side of the road. If you are facing at the fenced up tower, the trail starts just on the left the tower, along the fence. Once you go in along the fence, you will get into the jungle and the trail starts downwards.

Fallen trees along the way
OK, back to the trek ... from what we heard, this trail is full of leeches ... so we came prepared and well ‘sprayed” all over with tobacco water and Baygon but my favorite is still MossiGuard ... proven to be very effective against leeches.

As we are trekking from the peak, we started downwards, beginning with a long slope. Then the trail evens out a bit before it comes to another slope. After that, the undulating trail goes up and down crossing a few valleys. There are plastic ribbon markers left by previous trekkers but because all of us were first timers to this trail, we left a paper trail as an additional safety measure. The trek was quite easy as we were mainly trekking downwards and apart from a few fallen trees and stubborn scrubs there were no major obstacles along the way. The cooling mountain breeze also reduced the humidity and made the trek a lot more enjoyable. Also, on this day, the birds were particularly merrier entertaining us with chirps and whistles all morning.

For most of the journey, we trek along the side of valleys and as we get deeper, we walked in the middle of ridges. Old school trekkers like us don’t carry gadgets ... so by experience we guessed (errr ... accuracy not guaranteed ya) we must have trekked about 7km after walking for about an hour and forty minutes when we came to a clear open area in the middle of a ridge.

Part of the aircraft's wing
We were told the location of the crash site is very near this open area. So, we started to look around and very soon, we saw it ... on the left just about 3 meters down the ridge, we saw a metal structure embedded into the ground and though rather battered, we can see that it is a section of the crashed aircraft’s wing. Then we saw a trail on the right of the open area ... this is the trail that leads to the main wreckage of the RAF Liberator KL654R at the bottom of the valley. The plane was believed to have hit a tree, broke a wing which was embedded on one side of the ridge and the rest of the plane crashed into the valley on the other side of the ridge.

The plane's tyre ... still inflated
We then trekked down about a hundred meters to the main wreckage and along the way we saw many metal airplane parts scattered everywhere. We can see this site has been cleared by previous visitors as it was quite easy to move along the wreckage looking at the various huge remnants of the RAF Liberator KL654R ... we saw what used to be the fuselage, a tyre which is still inflated (war plane tyres are inflated or solid?) and many other parts which we are not familiar with. There is a small stream (which is said to be the source and beginning of Sungai Muar) and moving along the stream we saw more parts of the wreckage ... a tail section of the plane with its ‘R’ alphabet, melted aluminium chunks (which give an idea how hot it must have burned when the plane crashed) and many other metal and aluminium parts of the plane.

The tail section of the plane

A part of the fuselage

Various parts of of the plane scattered around the crash site

We spent 45 exciting minutes looking around the wreckage and taking many photos of this historic crash site. Though we were all talking excitedly about the wreckage, I am very sure that there was a silent moment in our hearts where we pay tribute to the 8 crew members who perished in this unfortunate event.

A photo opportunity at the historic crash site

Checking out the wreckage

This is a huge part of the fuselage

Looking around the crash site

Taking plenty of photos

Group photo (L-R) ... Leong, Hoh, Choon Lan, Ooi, Shiek, Keat, Ms Yap and Ah Seng

 Then it was time to leave ... we climbed up to the open area and after a short rest and a quick bite, we then started to trek out of the jungle. By now it was already noon and the jungle air began to heat up and getting humid. We needed more rest stops as we were all quite tired trekking upwards to the peak of Gunung Telapak Buruk. It was a tough return leg ... especially the last couple of long upwards stretches. The first few of us took more than two hours to get out of the jungle and by the time we reached our vehicles, we were exhausted ... it took another twenty minutes for rest of the group to make it out safely.

After taking off our trekking gears and a short rest, we drove to a water source about halfway down for good cool wash and freshen up. By the time we cleaned ourselves, our empty stomachs were asking to be filled. As usual, a good exercise deserves a good reward ... wasting no time, we drove to Seremban town for a well-known delicious bowl of fish ball noodle.

On our way home, though quite tired, we were still talking excitingly about our trek. Not only did we spend a good day trekking and enjoying the nature ... we also visited a historic place, experienced a piece of its history and have a great story to tell our family and friends.

You know what? Gunung Telapak Buruk is definitely another mountain on my favorite trekking list.

June 28, 2013

I do what I like and I like what I do

Many people asked me what I have been doing since I quitted my full time job a few years ago ... I told them I have not been doing a lot ... just taking it slow and easy. Most people understand my simple way of life. But then there are a few who think differently ... they think I should do something more prolific with my life.

I don’t know how prolific they want me to be ... maybe I should go backpacking around world, be a volunteer in an international aid organization, join a green movement to save the world or go build homes for the unfortunates in third world countries. You know what? Someone actually suggested that I should write a book.

People asked me ... “Don’t you want to do something before you die?”

Well, I understand the good intention in the question but really, it has never occurred to me that I have to do something worthy or significant before I die. No, I don’t have big dreams. I have never wanted to travel and see wonders of the world, don't have any intentions to volunteer in any aid organization and have not done anything noteworthy in my life that I can write about.

I don’t have big aspirations ... just small and very simple dreams. As a young school boy, when the teacher asked me what is my ambition ... I did not say I want to be a doctor or a pilot or an engineer (that was what most of my classmates said) ... I just wanted to get out of school as soon as possible, find a job, buy a house, find someone I love, get married, have children and live an easy simple life. And that is exactly what I did ... over the years, bit by bit, piece by piece ... I have put them all together ... my simple dreams fulfilled.

I don’t know how many years I have left in my life and I don’t have big plans for it ... I am happy with whatever that comes along. If the weather is good, I go out to enjoy the nature and if it is a rainy day, I will hit the couch with a book, watch an old movie I downloaded or practice a new song with my erhu. When there are cheap flight tickets offered, I will go on a budgeted holiday wherever it may be. Whenever I find a good recipe, I will try it out with my family and friends.

Now, do I want to do something do before I die? YES of course ... I do what I like (even if it is not something worthy) ... that is the freedom I wanted. And I like what I do (even if it is not something significant) ... that is the happiness I enjoyed.

June 12, 2013

Don’t trouble trouble unless trouble troubles you

I bumped into a friend at a local coffee shop ... a doctor that I knew for many years now. We chatted and I asked his opinions on an article that I read about a group of medical practitioners encouraging people NOT to go for medical check-ups.

The good doctor said this  ... “Don’t trouble trouble unless trouble troubles you” ... he then stressed ... “This is my personal opinion NOT my professional opinion”. Well, I am sure you understand what he said and what he meant. I don’t think I will find many medical professionals who share the same opinion.

Many medical practitioners and health specialists will say that people who are in their later years should have thorough medical examinations more frequently ... older people should constantly monitor their health as they grow older, they advised.

I disagree ... but that is just my personal opinion. I am not here to advise you not to go for medical check-ups ... if you want to find out what health issues you have, it is entirely up to you.

My point here is ... do older people really need to purposely go find out what is wrong with them? That is what medical check-ups are for ... to find out what is wrong with your health ... right? Really, if you do a medical examination, you are bound to find something wrong ... I am not joking.

The way I see it ... for old uncles like me, a thorough medical examination will definitely show a list of health issues. Some may not be serious ... just aches and pains. Well, actually that is a good sign ... put it this way, when you have lived more than half a century, if it is not painful it is probably not working anymore. But then there will be some issues that can be considered quite serious ... though may not be life threatening yet but can be quite worrying. So, do you want to know?

It is not that I am asking you not to care about your well-being ... I am sure you are very much aware of what to do and what to avoid. Like me, I am sure you will watch your diet, do the exercises, play some active games, run a few miles, trek a few mountains, try to stay as healthy as you can ... I think that is good enough. Don’t worry, trust your body ... it is an amazing piece of machinery ... if something is not right, it will tell you ...  then you can deal with it.

Really, everyone has health issues that lay hidden inside us ... there are always there. They may not threaten you if you don’t know where they are. But if you look for them, you WILL find something ... all too often, you will find trouble.