Friday, December 28, 2012

Last Holiday Fling for 2012

This was an afterthought after our Langkawi trip. Other Half thought it would be a good idea to do a beach thingy with the kids since they were so keen to play with the sand. And they had pestered us a few times to stop at the beach in Langkawi but because we were short of time we couldn't.

I sounded it out to Friend and she being the ever enthusiastic agreed quite fast. A plan was hatched up almost immediately because time was short as hotels are usually booked end of the year. We managed to book ourselves into Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort. We chose the place because of its accessibility to the beach... easy for the kids.
Three days and two nights.... The kids excitedly plunged into the pool upon check-in. The water was very cold but that didn't deter us. Everyone was having fun before long. Son decided to lounge on the deck chair.... with his iPad and phone. He usually takes a longer time to soak in the moment and fun.
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We even took the opportunity to do an early celebration for Friend's birthday... sort of a surprise one. This was on the first night itself. The two men had to join us late as they had to work. The cake came with them!
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The children had made the cards at my place before we went to Penang for the holidays... An afternoon of creative juices.... Lol!
Weather forecast had predicted thunderstorms for the duration of our stay but only one evening was spoiled by heavy rains. But it wasn't too bad as everyone had spent more than half a day in the pool and on the beach. There were Rummikub sessions too.... as well as Monopoly Deal for the children.
The two boys tried paragliding the next day, their firsts. SY being younger and less experienced has some slight problems landing himself on the beach. I think the experience was exhilarating for both of them, one soon to be adult and the other, a budding teen. Other Half (and later Son) got to follow the whole excitement on the motorboat which pulled the paraglider.
On the second morning, Other Half took our gal on the jet ski....
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Son took SY on the other jet ski....
Time on the beach for the kids... to build sandcastles, or just to sit at the edge of the waters, letting the waves push them as they come in, sometimes gently and sometimes quite strongly. The fathers were game to join in the fun... I think it's a great time for everyone. Sitting at the edge of the water must have been a favourite for the girls cos they kept wanting to remain there... I guess it's kinda nice, to sit there... bobbing up and down to the waves as they roll in.... soothing.
We even had our own mini barbecue session... of sausages, bacon, mushroom and salads from the bag.... But both of us underestimated the kids ability to wolf down the food....

One of the highlights for me was the early morning walk I shared with Friend. It was nice to just sit on the rock by the beach and talk while listening to the waves being pushed onto the beach. It's been quite a while since I did that with a friend. Over the years, I've been caught up by so many things that I forget the simple joys that time with a friend can bring. We talked so much.... my boy finds it amazing that we can talk so much.... morning, afternoon, night... Lol!

One of the things that many women forget is that to have friends in our lives is important too. Women need emotional support from each other. Family and work (for those of us with a career) take up most of our time that we have no time to build our own network of support among our lady friends.

For me, it was a nice time to spend with my friend and our families. We have been colleagues for the last 8 years in a friendship stretching more than 10 years, one that got started through volleyball. Next year I move on to another school... Our friendship will continue but am sad cos there are just too many things that I will miss... how not to, with the one person that I've spoken most to in the last couple of years!

The hols was fun for everyone, I think. Plenty of time in the sun (and some time with the rains). And there weren't any untoward incident despite the 21.12.12 (end of the year thingy). These are what memories are made for... of bonds built, the fun shared, the things that we do together... They color our lives.... make it more vibrant, give it more meaning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Langkawi... Highlands on an Island

December is here! And time flies when we are having fun. It's been a continuous time of so many activities since the hols began and this trip, I think qualifies as one of the highlights!
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This was hatched within 24-hours. Friend and I actually made plans to take the kids to Langkawi as one of our excursions on one of the days. Then on Friday morning as I was talking to Other Half about it, he quipped that he wouldn't mind going with 2 ladies and 5 kids in tow. A call and the trip was on... might I also add with super excited kids waiting for the day in great anticipation. Lol! Kids have a great appetite for play....
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And so, the following day... 5 kids and 3 adults (actually 4 kids and 1 soon-to-be-adult) went. Friend's Other Half sent his brood to my place. We took the 7.15 a.m. ferry, which meant getting ready by 5.30 a.m. The boat was packed despite it being the first of the day. The kids were so excited that they hardly slept throughout the one and a half hour ferry ride. Once we got there, we grabbed some food at KFC... By the way, KFC seems to be the most visible fast food restaurant in Langkawi.
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Other Half soon got the rented car which we booked before we left Kuala Kedah. Our first destination was the Cable Car ride at Oriental Village. I wanted to make sure that we got there before the weather turned. Weather forecast the day before had predicted thunderstorms. I think all of us were pleasantly surprised by what greeted us when we got to the village. The place was nice and there was a hive of activity going on.
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Everywhere was abuzz with things going on - horse rides, people riding on Sedge-ways, etc. The first thing we did was to get the tickets for the cable car. The kids wandered around. It wasn't very hot but was humid. Everyone of us sweated through and through.
While waiting to board the cable cars, the 2 girls tried out the flying fox. The two guys declined the offer to try hurl themselves off the tower. Lol!
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Then after walking around a while, it was time to board the cable cars. Waiting to board the cable car was quite uncomfortable because of the humid weather. The crowd was big and we had to wait more than half an hour for our ride in the line which snaked throughout the floor. The company running the cable car could do a better job by making the waiting area air-conditioned. Malaysians could get 1Malaysia prices for tickets, meaning they were cheaper than for the foreigners. As we were waiting we heard announcements being made that for a minimal sum, one could get priority boarding. I don't know what kind of minimal sum they were referring to but I think RM15 (1Malaysia price) and RM60-65 (priority boarding price) does not qualify for minimal!
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The cable ride was an experienced well worth it though. It was a steep climb with breathtakingly beautiful view of the jungle and coastline. The chilly wind cooled us all somewhat too.
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We got off the cable car at the first observation point and explored the area. From the observation decks, the views were awesome. The smaller kids were quite impatient getting from one deck to another but there was ample space for them to run around.
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This is a really nice place for photo taking. Unfortunately though the Skybridge was out of bounds! It's been closed for many months. Such a pity.

We weren't ambitious as the Langkawi trip was just a one day trip and didn't try to squeeze in too many places to visit. Over the years, Other Half and I have discovered that it's often more fun to just keep trips simple. That way, everyone is less tired.

Our final destination was the Underwater World. They had 1Malaysia ticket prices there too. By the way, we noticed too while there were 1Malaysia prices offered for entrance tickets, places like the Oriental Village hardly had a Malaysian flavour. I didn't see any Chinese kopitiams or Indian roti canai stalls. Such a pity that our rich diverse culture is not represented.
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The Underwater World is really nice. The exhibits were really impressive. They're as good if not better than the Sentosa Underwater World in Singapore that we went a couple of years ago.
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We were fortunate enough to be able to watch the seal show. The audience oohed and aahhed throughout the show. The kids were mesmerised. I was impressed too.
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But before going into the Underwater World we went to have tea here... It's as English as it can get cos it's run by an English lady. The place was cosy. You can have tea and watch the surroundings.
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Had scones with jam and strawberry jam. The menu claims it's homemade. Everyone liked the scones.
SY took a photo with a python.... I steered clear. Have no affinity for the slithery creatures. The Underwater World was totally worth it!
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We took the last boat back to the mainland. The weather forecast the day before had predicted thunderstorms throughout the day. But the weather held. It was even sunny most part of the day until we were done with the Underwater World. Then it started to drizzle as Other Half drove us back to the Jetty. It eventually poured after we got onto the ferry. God was good!

The trip was totally enjoyable. The children had fun. The young man too, cos he enjoyed his photo shoot. The adults had a great time too! We are planning another such trip. Lol! Turns out the adults too have a great appetite for play as well.

Memories are made of these... Some day I hope when the kids are all grown up, they'll think back of such times with fondness.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Taxidermy

We have a taxidermist in the family... an uncle who has been in this trade for decades. Recently we visited him and was told that his collection of stuffed animals were going to go soon. These are all works of art.. One has to have some know how of anatomy, sculpture, painting and even tanning. One has to remove all the internal stuff and 'do up' the animal.

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Uncle is one of very few people in this field. He says it's a dying trade. There are now many laws which prohibit the hunting of many animals in order to protect them from extinction. Moreover, it is also a messy job which involves digging up the innards.

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His collection of stuffed animals or some might label as 'trophies' dates back many decades. Over the years, many people and institutions like the zoo would send animals for him to stuff and preserve. All of these come with proper legal documents too.

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When we first came up north, this is one place which we would visit regularly and many of these stuffed animals were quite familiar to us. Our boy used to be afraid of some of them, especially this one huge crocodile head which would sit at the bottom of the stairs.

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This would be the last time we'd be seeing these animals. Since Aunty passed away, Uncle has been away quite often at his children's place.

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This leopard has been around for 40 years! It has been a familiar figure which grace the hall. And it's going to a new home too.

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These are also works of art... the preservation of form after death. I know it sounds quite morbid but it's not as scary as mummification of humans.

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These will all be soon displayed at the Natural History Museum in Putrajaya. I think they will make the bulk of the stuffed animals on display there!

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A lifetime of collection here.....

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Rise of the Guardians

I seldom do the movies at the cinema of late. Sitting still for almost 2 hours usually cause my back to act up the next day. And this time wasn't any different. Had to deal with a stiff back (and the continuous pain) the next day. Age is catching up. Body parts aren't that well oiled any more. And pain stays longer too. 8(Anyway, Son was the one who put it into the kids' heads this idea of going for a movie. We've been doing tonnes of stuff this hols but not done any movie yet. So it was not surprising that everyone was super enthusiastic about the idea. And I got talked into it.....

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Finding a movie is a breeze these days with apps like CineApp. We decided to watch The Rise of the Guardians at Jitra Mall... for one simple reason. The kids wanted to adjourn to Tutti Frutti for frozen yoghurt after the movie.

We had a badminton session earlier in the day and so had to rush a bit to get ready. Friend bought the tickets on her way back home. Kids helped to hang the laundry while I rushed out to collect some goodies from another friend. We made it to Jitra in good time.

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The cinema was quite empty when we got in. There were two other groups of people in the cineplex besides our group of 7. Movies aren't complete without popcorn and drinks. So we got those as well.

The Rise of the Guardian had awesome animations. The story is about how Pitch and his minions tried to kill the innocence of the children of the world. He wanted to turn their hope into nightmares and fears, warmth into cold... the sort of evil schemes which are supposed to plunge the world into a cold and destitute place. Enter the Guardians to save the day... Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Sandman, Tooth Fairy... and an inclusion by The Man on the Moon of Jack Frost. Jack Frost is usually associated with the bad but in this movie he's the good guy who saves the day. Anyway, after some suspense and many intense actions, with the help of one sole little boy who continued to cling on to his belief of the existence of the guardians, Pitch lost and hope was restored. Where there is hope, there is also happiness. Jack Frost was the hero of the day.

This is a movie which probably would appeal to kids at different levels. Many Malaysian kids today are unfamiliar with characters like Jack Frost and Sandman. Santa and Easter Bunny are familiar enough because of their associations with Christmas and Easter. The Tooth Fairy is probably identifiable too. Anyway, it's action-packed enough to keep the eyes riveted to the screen. But many of the subtle and underlying tales (and origins) would probably be lost on the kids.

I think the themes are not bad... the belief of one child could ignite a fire for others to believe and in the end gave strength to the Guardians to overcome Pitch. Life is kinda like that too... we need encouragement from others to believe and hope often times. Strength from those who believe in us....

Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are the faces of commercial Christmas and Easter. The tooth fairy... well, Other Half and I used to play tooth fairy with our little gal, till we made a slip and our gal came to her own conclusion that her Papa was the tooth fairy. But all of us need a little magic in our lives sometimes.... the awe and wonderment, the belief in something, someone.... And we need heroes to admire too. So the movie was nice in that sense. Plus Good triumphs over Evil. Who doesn't like a happy ending like that?

And yes! We went to Tutti Frutti after the movie despite the rain. Friend and I decided to forego the dessert and sat outside but the girls were sweet enough to share theirs with us. In the end, they left theirs for us and went back inside to tax their brother's. 8) after Tutti Frutti, the kids were reluctant to part... so we adjourned for dinner at Rong Reang. Rong Reang is a Thai restaurant, quite popular in Jitra.

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This is prawn tanghoon... supposed to be my favourite. But this one seems to need rice to go with it. It's not a dish that you can take on its own, despite being tanghoon based.

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Our own local calamari... though not quite in ring form. They're a little heavy on the oil though. The kids are small eaters. In the end, I had to push them to finish this dish.

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Seafood curry. Not bad. On a hungry stomach, this would be a winner. Unfortunately, most stomachs had yoghurt filling up most of the space. So finishing it took some effort.

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Mantis prawns in dried chilli - Son's favourite. Incidentally, this was also a belated birthday treat for him from Friend. Since it was his favourite, he finished this one.... He has a penchant of ordering the same food each time we go out..... We need to make memories for the kids and ourselves. Time flies and before long, each one will be leaving the nest. Just like the Tooth Fairy who took the teeth to preserve the memories for each child... Memories give meaning to our lives. They put smiles (and sometimes tears) on our faces. Sometimes we forget the reason for many things. Memories sometimes serve as reminders and reasons, as Jack Frost discovered from his memory the reason for him being chosen to be Jack Frost and eventually a Guardian. As he remembered he became more convinced and determined that he should guard and protect the innocence of the children.

For me, this hols has been a journey of discovery too in a way. I am ever reminded that much of the meaning that we get our of life often comes from the relationships that we form in our lives. And these are memories in the making too.... It reminds me too of memories of recent past, when I used to do stuff like this for Son and co too....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Muzium Arkeologi Lembah Bujang

It's been a busy 2 weeks (onto the 3rd week) of the year end hols.... one that has been filled with activities for the kids. And believe it or not, it's even more tiring than working! But one that is more gratifying as well as fun.

We've done badminton, gone out for many makan outings and so far made one outing to the Muzium Arkeologi Lembah Bujang in Merbok.

I first went there many years ago and thus was pleasantly surprised by what greeted me this time around.
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There is a nice recreational area in the museum grounds, perfect for family picnics and the kids to get wet playing in the water. There was a small group of people there when we got there. The weather was perfect for an outing too, cloudy.
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The place was generally well kept. Monuments and artefacts were mainly outdoor and they were well maintained and taken care. The grounds was nice and the kids had a great time running all over the place while looking at the remnants of the ancient ruins of candi(s) or stupas and artefacts, mainly from granite and laterite stones, from the ancient kingdom of Kataha. Among them were Candi Batu Pahat, Candi Pendiat, Candi Bendang Dalam....
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My girl remarked that it was the first time she had visited an 'outdoor' museum. (Most kids only think of museums as buildings which house old things). So an outdoor museum was a new experience for them. The above artefacts were used to squeeze sugar cane for its juice. And they're huge contraptions compared to our little modern extractors. Took us a while to figure out how they used those huge stones! There is also a building which houses other artefacts like the beads, porcelain, Shivaite lingga. soma-sutera (a drain like structure) and arca.
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Lembah Bujang was a very happening place back then. Back then was around 1500 years ago when getting together meant the need to meet up physically. And Lembah Bujang became the meeting place where international interactions and the exchange of goods took place. Of course these days, all these can happen from the comforts of our homes, regardless of location. All we need is an internet connection and the courier service. And our own homes become the happening place where all these social interactions and needs are met, though I think it lacks the fun of the physical interaction. The pic below shows remnant of stupas (candi) which were mainly temples dating back over a thousand years.
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And when people meet, it's only natural that not only an exchange of goods take place but that of culture as well. And so the candi(s) or stupa(s) were built so that these wanders or travellers could feel a little of home away from home. Eventually many of them stayed back permanently. This too contributed to our racial composition today too. If we were to trace our ancestry many of us would find that we would have ancestors from different parts of the world too... my kids are no different as we can trace their ancestry back to the Middle East!
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Lembah Bujang basically had all it takes to be a good meeting place. Well located and sheltered within an estuary with plenty of food supplies and good weather, the port thrived for centuries. Small rivers flowed into the hinterlands. It was purported that the Chinese traders would use these rivers to get to the old kingdoms of Srivijaya and Langkasuka. The traders from China and India would wait out the monsoon seasons here too. This went on right up to the 11th century. And because of its long history of trade, it is one of the richest archeological sites in Malaysia. Hopefully it will continue to be preserved. Our authorities seems to have a penchant for 'erasing' certain parts of history....
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This is a good place to bring kids to visit. Beats the sterile mall environment anytime.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Buffet Dinner at G Hotel

To celebrate Son's birthday, we decided to go for buffet dinner at G Hotel. We thought it might be fun to try out their Surf and Turf buffet dinner which is on Saturdays.

We left quite late for Penang and when we got there, the parking bays were nearly filled. Took us quite a few rounds to find one. The whole area seemed packed with shoppers and people out on a weekend.
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We had a couple of hours more to kill before dinner and over these for tea at...
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.. where we watched this, as the tables were located at a vantage point just directly opposite and above the pageant.
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A Japanese Princess Pageant was taking place. It was quite interesting to see it at first. The contestants also had to answer a question in English. Noticed that spoken English isn't that great these days. It was the first time we had seen an event like this. Didn't quite get used to watching the girls do the catwalk, Japanese style. They had to be demure but everyone of them seemed to have to walk tilted to one side, it seemed. Well, anyway, I am no expert in Japanese culture.
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Turns out the Surf and Turf wasn't much to shout about. I mean the spread was okay and it could be we aren't easily wowed these days plus our stomachs can't seem to hold as much food as we used to be able probably had something to do with it.
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There wasn't much seafood surfing around the turf of the buffet table. Some seafood like squids were sorely missing. I supposed they think fish, scallop, mussels and prawns qualify the buffet to be called Surf and Turf.
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The barbecue stuff was at best basic with prawns and chicken as the main attractions. And most of the prawns were overcooked, leaving them dry and rubbery. The cook did a poor job at the barbecue pit.
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The kids enjoyed the dessert section though.
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...especially the chocolate fondue. Could see that they enjoyed coating the fruits and marshmallows with chocolate. The rest of the food was okay, not spectacular but okay. However, we had a nice outing together. Kids are growing up. Times like this should be cherished. Our gal enjoyed every moment she can spend with her big bro these days, I can see.

We walked around a bit after dinner and did some shopping. Kids got themselves a Cluedo board game and we got a present for Other Half's godson... Got home quite late but I think we had a great time. And one more thing... it was nice to have a driver both ways too. 8)

Our boy is a young man already. How time flies.