Monday, March 20, 2017

8th Edition of Cycle Cruise On Superstar Libra - 10 to 15 March 2017

Group pic on first day of ride in Balik Pulau 

Time really flies and this was to be our 8th edition of our cycle cruise since our maiden trip in October 2013.  This time our adventure took us to Penang, Krabi and Phuket.  In our previous trips, we visited Penang and Phuket at least twice and Krabi was our first.  This trip was scheduled on 10 March where we flew with Silkair to Penang, cycled for 2 days and then joined Superstar Libra which will take us to sunny Krabi and Phuket to continue our cycling adventure.

Beaten track with padi fields in between and mountains from a distance in Balik Pulau 

We were supposed to have 32 of us including me as the tour leader but one had suddenly taken ill, thus 31 of us at last count.  There were few familiar faces in this trip.  Michelle and Aaron who did twice with us, Philip and his wife who did thrice and this time, they brought their younger daughter, Amanda along, Ronald, his wife and daughter, Josslin joining second time too.  Regular outdoor kakis of mine, power couple Tan & Jane and dainty Fenny were on this trip to keep me company throughout.  Among the group, we had a group of 7 fun seeking men who are cycling buddies, 2 lovely sisters in Deirde & Deryne, a father & son team and 3 gregarious nurses.  There were also 5 bloggers who were arranged by Star Cruises to shout out through their social media platforms as much as possible.  Alas, Xuejing who had been doing the planning since our inception trip did not follow this time and the responsibility fell squarely on me 😓 😓😓.

For the first time, Penang cycling tour specialist from Mata Hari led by SJ mapped out the cycling routes and also provided ground support throughout the expedition.  Save for Michelle and Aaron who brought their own bikes, the rest of us just rented mountain bikes from Mata Hari.

Our flight to Penang touched down at about 1130 hrs and by the time, we cleared immigration and customs, it was near 1300 hrs.  SJ and his team were already there to meet us.  Soon, we were transported to Balik Pulau for our first ride in Penang.  Our previous rides in Penang were in the heart of busy George Town but this time, it was a completely different cycling experience.  Balik Pulau is located in the rustic southwestern region of Penang island.  It was an easy ride where we cycled past padi fields, streams, Malay kampungs and Chinese fishing village with the mountains in full sight.  Easy ride aside, this ride also enabled the support team to identify those who will need help in our subsequent rides which can be challenging.  We ended our half day ride in a goat farm before being transported to Equatorial Hotel for a good night rest 😄😄😄.  

Goat farm in Balik Pulau

Day two of our ride will take us to Mount Jerai in Kedah state, typically it will take some 1 and a half hour drive from Penang but our coach captain somehow took us on a longer ride  😒😒😒.  Mount Jerai stands at 1,217 metres high and from the foot of the mountain to the summit, the distance is some 11 km.  To ride all the way up to the summit, one has to be a heck of a hardcore cyclist.  SJ called this mountain, 'a beast' to psych us before our roll-off.  We did not start our ride from the foot of the mountain but started some 20 km away where we had a fairly nice ride before commencing our climb.  I knew at some point during the climb, I will sustain cramp due to lack of cycling mileage and I was right.  Admittedly, the weather was hot as we started our ride at near noon time.  Local cyclists would have started very early in the morning before sun rises.  Our support team made sure there were many stops for us to be hydrated.  There were few who were already struggling at the start and had to give up at some point.  Everyone was constantly reminded to keep hydrated throughout.  When we gathered at the foot of the mountain to commence our climb, we were briefed there was a break at every 3 km where we can decide to stop.  True to our Singaporeans' 'kiasu' spirit 😉, majority decided to give it a go.  It was one heck of a tough climb I must admit.  Many decided to stop after 3 km climb and rest of us including me stopped after 6 km.  After that, we took the van up to the summit to have our afternoon hi-tea.  The view at the summit was covered by cloud, otherwise it offers magnificent view of the padi fields and the town on any given day.  We then headed to George Town for a good rest.

Group picture before taking the climb at Mount Jerai

There was no ride on day three, Sunday as we were to board Superstar Libra in the afternoon.  Morning was spent roaming the town with Tan and Jane.  At about 1400 hrs, after checking out from Royal Bintang, we took a short walk to Sweetenham Pier to join the cruise.  By 1500 hrs, everyone was already on board Superstar Libra and own leisure program followed.  Jason, the journalist from a Chinese media and Lacey, one of Star Cruises' sales managers will join us for our ride in Thailand.

At the summit of Mt Jerai 

Day four - the ship arrived in Krabi at about 1000 hrs.  As disembarkation was by tender boat, our bikes had to be physically carried to the boat by our support team and ship crew first.  The boat ride to the terminal took some half an hour and I was already feeling the searing heat of the sun.  It will be one hot ride I thought to myself.  On arrival, we were met by the Thai support team from Eco Ride.  We rolled off at about 1100 hrs.  The route was fairly rolling with highest climb at 132 metres only.  It was a big loop covering some 45 km with lunch stop at the famous Ao Nang Beach.  Save for the hot weather, the ride was easy for everyone and traffic was light.  We rode past hills and some villages, an idyllic sight.  By 1600 hrs, we reached the jetty safely.  We bade farewell to our Thai support crew before returning to the tender boat for Superstar Libra  😊😊😊.  As a reward to all, we have had gala dinner at Four Season later in the evening.  

Huffed and puffed up the slope in Phuket

Day five - we arrived in Phuket at around noon time.  If Krabi was hot at 1000 hrs, it was even hotter in Phuket at noon time.  Just like Krabi, we had to take the tender boat to go shore but the ride was shorter, about 15 mins.  Again, bikes had to be loaded onto the tender boat before we could embark. We had cycled in Phuket on two previous occasions and everyone had been made aware that it was going to be rolling throughout.  Our ride will start in the popular Patong Beach.  Traffic was heavy at Patong Beach.  It was near noon time when we were ready to roll off.  This time there were 23 of us plus 5 support crew from Team Mata Hari.  Since we had the whole day till midnight, the rest preferred to spend the leisure time instead of cycling in Phuket.  Perhaps, the expected tough terrain did play a part too 😏😏😏.  The ride took us to Karon Beach on the east coast heading south.  We rode past Kata Bay which offered one of the best scenic spots but at the same time, we had to manage climb after climb with the steepest climb at 193 metres being the highest point.  Many had to push the bikes.  It was heartening to see Ronald's wife, Mrs Yeo who is a leisure cyclist puffed and huffed up the rolling terrain.  Philip's daughter, Amanda is another fighter.  Giving up was never her motto, she just pressed on slowly but surely.  SJ team did a marvellous job covering the front and back.  Even at every turn, there was a marshal to usher the cyclists through so that no one was left behind.  They even helped to push some cyclists on the climb.  I was impressed I must admit.  We stopped briefly at Rawa Beach and took a less steeper road back to Patong Beach.  We were a little concerned of returning after last light, given we were behind our planned scheduled.  Fortunately, when we arrived back, it was around 1930 hrs which was not completely dark.  We gave three loud cheers to Team Mata Hari before we dispersed.  It was a challenging ride, some 45 km but definitely a good one.

Group pic in Patong Beach before rolling off

Day six, while still on board Superstar Libra on way back to Penang, the Hotel Manager helped to present nice completion certificates to all the participants.  In one of our lighthearted moment while waiting to disembark, some of the guys were sharing their own personal encounters during the ride.  One of the guys from this group of 7 who is affectionately called  大 ('big brother') for his seniority finally confessed that he was 'conned' by his friends to join. He is not a regular cyclist, in fact he was not familiar with the gear system of the bicycle and had been struggling to keep pace throughout. He thought it was like another ride in East Coast Park but he soon realised too late, he was 'tricked' into it. He didn't have a proper shoes for cycling until his son reminded him. We certainly had a good laugh at his 'misery' but he took it in his own stride. Another in the same group of 7, Mark did confess he is a roadie and therefore, found it hard riding on mountain bike where pace was too slow for his 'liking'. He will always come to me and asked when are we going back to hotel which actually puzzled me, I must say.

View of Karon Beach from the top

When the ship came alongside the port at about noon time, we were transferred to Queensbay Mall to spend the afternoon lazing around before heading to the airport for flight home in the evening. On touching down at Changi Airport, someone I hoped to see at the airport was there to meet me.  Home sweet home!    

The four of us at the summit of Mount Jerai

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Army Mobilisation Exercise In The Early Years

Nowadays sensation news, be it real or fake will reach to the masses almost in an instance, all thanks to the availability of social media platforms.  In the early years where the masses relied heavily on mainstream media for news feed and it means receiving it one day later at the earliest.

How did we manage army mobilisation exercise in the 80s where even pager had yet to make an entrant to the communication sphere?  If I can remember well, there were two types of mobilisation, one is the 'silent mobilisation' and the other is 'open mobilisation'.  Silent mobilisation posed the biggest challenge to recall personnel back, given the tight time frame and the contrary, activating open mobilisation was rendered much easier.  The latter required a core team comprising person overall in-charge to second in-charge, to third in-charge, so on & so forth.  The I/Cs will be given a list of people's contacts to get in touch with once the recall was activated.  For open mobilisation, the code names of the affected units will appear on national TV and also broad casted via radio stations.  Once the personnel got the recall activation on TV or radio, they will then head back to their respective units to be accounted for.  

I remember I was the second or third I/C for my group.  During our active days, we were activated in a silent mob.  The I/C before me will come to my house and then handed a list of contacts staying within 5 km radius of my place.  We will then list down the contact details among ourselves and went on with our given tasks.  We had to do so within few hours time frame and when the visiting task was done, we will don our number four uniform and headed back to our unit for reporting.  I remember I went on foot to  the residence of each of the recall personnel to hand them the activation notice.  If the person was not at home, someone from the house will have to acknowledge it.  I think I was given some 20 contacts to get in touch with.  I can't help feeling trepidation of sorts in bid to complete the task within the given time frame.  Pager was still not developed yet, let alone smart phone of the present and our means of communication was very much dependent on land line.  In the absence of mobile phone and Internet, we can still take comfort that majority of the personnel can still be contacted and made it back to camp in time.  This silent exercise was even activated when we were reservists.  During our time, we had to do few silent mobilisation including one or two open mobilisation

I now wonder how silent mobilisation is executed in present days.  Does silent mob using the old method still apply?  I think creating chat group on FB should suffice unless MINDEF feels it is unsafe to do so.  😏😏😏

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Summary of 2016

I have not been posting many articles on my blog for the entire year of 2016.  Yes, I have been too laid back I have to admit 😏.  However, no matter how laid back I can be over the one long year, I will always make it a point to post my last entry of the year before the clock strikes past midnight...yes, that is the ritual of sorts for me.

Looking back at 2016.  The few milestones that I can be proud of should be the Compressport Rail Corridor Run in January and the blueseventy Aquathlon event at Orchid Country Club in July this year.

On Compressport Rail Corridor Run, we were hoping to get 5,000 runners in our inaugural event - our collaboration with Compressport.  Boy, as we shouted more and especially the news from the authority announcing the closure of the green corridor belt for three years due to pipe laying project, we were able to capitalise on it by telling the running community that ours will be the last rail corridor race.  The sign up simply took off like a rocket from there on.  At long last, we were able to garner about 7,500 runners.  In fact the overspill helped a rival event much to our displeasure somewhat 😠.  It was also my first as race announcer entertaining some 7,000 runners who were waiting eagerly to be flagged off.  I really got a high doing that, truly enjoyed the electrifying atmosphere then.

Another outdoor event that I enjoyed most was the inaugural blueseventy Aquathlon event at Orchid Country Club though monetary gain came to naught.  Admittedly, turnout was not to our expectation owing to clash of a similar event on same day.  We had less than 400 but the whole experience was unique for the participants as well as for us, the organisers.  It was our first managing the swim leg where each swimmer took the plunge into the pool at every 10 seconds interval and boy, it turned out well.  It was a personal project with Pekya and in collaboration with blueseventy, our sponsor.

If there is one event I didn't enjoy a bit in 2016, it should be the iWheel For Fun event 👎.  I actually lost interest in the event midway through it; more to do with personality clash with some and I was even prepared to drop it completely had it not for my partner who was persistent all the way - thanks to him actually.  Notwithstanding, we bite the bullet to make sure the event went on without hitches and after that, I just want to put all this saga behind.  Not my kind of event I must say 😅 .

The second edition for OCC 3Ten Run in September this year was another challenging one for us.  Unique because the run was in the golf course but somehow, it just didn't get the hype from the running community.  We tried hard, really hard to promote it and the run event went on and ended well too.  The laying of the plywood over the drain that covers some 4 km within the golf course was a nightmarish experience.  I went back home at about 3 am in the morning after the event, took my 'so called dinner' at the 24-hour McDonald's near home.  Event organiser like us never had it easy sometimes; rather most of the times.          

In between, I have had the opportunity to facilitate some corporate events like Munich Re, Canon Singapore and Hard Rock Cafe.  In fact, Munich Re is my repeat client.  I must be good, right?  If I don't measure up, they won't want me to facilitate the second time, right?  Hmm, I am not humble leh, lavishing praises on my own.  This time I brought the whole team on a cruise vessel and made them swim, run, make up cabin and set up dining table including their CEO 😀 .   Importantly, they had a good time onboard....I win liao lor!

Many friends have predicted 2017 to be one challenging year especially with twitter king, Donald Trump in-charge of the sole superpower.  Dangerous situation if handled badly but guess, everyone is in if it has to happen.  On the contrary, I am looking forward to 2017 with positive hope for some of our events planned for the year.  For starter, we will have our Run For Light 2017 happening on 14 Jan at the iconic Gardens By The Bay.  It is also our first where we will attempt to break the Guinness World Records for the largest resistance band demonstration on the event day.  Wish us luck, people!  Happy New Year to all!!!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Singapore's National Day

Wow, this is my first post for 2016 and since it is 3 days before our national day, I will write something that relates to our national day (I'll try as I really do not have any specific subject to talk about).

Last year was SG50 and it was celebrated in a big way, given it was our golden jubilee celebration. Alas, the demise of LKY who was at every of our NDP but sadly, he could not celebrate SG50 with us.  This year is SG51 and the celebration may be scaled down compared to last year, I can still feel the NDP mood among us.  Just few days ago, we organised a walk event for Canon Singapore with SG51 celebration in mind too.  The plan was to end the event with a national day song, Count On Me, Singapore to be sang by all.  There was no rehearsal and we just have to sing along which was led by one senior Canon employee.  I immediately felt the patriotism in me when the song was played.  I jumped on the stage and sang my heart out.  I don't sing well but at the spur of moment, I just sang as if there was no tomorrow.  On the floor, there were non Singaporeans too.  The Canon CEO is a Japanese and she was on stage singing along with the rest of us.  With lyrics on hand, they sang along with us.  This national day celebration is not just meant for Singaporeans too, it is also our show of appreciation to the foreigners who live and work here.  I am proud to be a Singaporean.  Happy birthday, Singapore!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Summary For 2015

This is my last posting for 2015 and typical of me, I will do it on the eve of the New Year before the clock strikes past midnight going into 2016.  My Chinese horoscope has indicated 2015 will be a good year for those born in the year of the tiger and, phew...I am among them.  No, I am not the superstitious type in case some think I am but 2015 on whole has proven to be not too bad a year for me.  That said, Chinese horoscope has indicated 2016 will not be that smooth sailing for those who were born in the tiger year.  Notwithstanding, I believe in working hard, be truthful to ourselves and to others and it does not matter what one's horoscope says.      

When I decided to leave my comfort zone more than 3 years ago, where I used to draw a decent pay,  I was already contemplating to go into organising outdoor event or training related stuff.  Some concerned friends did advise against leaving my comfort zone to go into uncharted territory especially I am not that young anymore.  Yep, it was a risk I was prepared to take.  I have to budget everything in the past few years  and only spent when it was necessary.  Stable income aside, I realised I am happier doing things I enjoy.  I did some freelance works, organised some outdoor trips and fortunately, I still managed to get by.  Most importantly, I do not have to resort to borrowing from friends or relatives.  

I did tell some friends that I was keen to realise a run event for the masses.  Well, by some stroke of luck, I managed to get connected to some friends and our first run event, Run For Light was finally launched in January 2015.  Admittedly, it was tough as there were just too many run events in Singapore.  We went on to launch a cycle event called 'Casio Nongsa Cycle 2015' the first half of the year and one more run event, 'OCC 3Ten Run' in December.  Indeed, it was a learning curve for new players like us.  I am not sure the good year for those who are born in the Tiger year mentioned in the horoscope means making good money but the good year to me means I am satisfied that I have managed to fulfill my ambition to have launched outdoor run events in 2015.

Opportunity does not always happen and I am indeed fortunate that a golden opportunity has come knocking on my doorstep.  Yes, I will be embarking on another new career path come 2016.  I foresee 2016 is going to be another challenging year ahead but I am prepared to take it on.

This is to wish everyone a Happy New Year ahead.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016 (SCMS)

Group Picture Taken At Ya Kun

I have not been running SCMS event in the last two years until Feng messaged me to replace her in this morning Ekiden event under 'Team PainKillers' and I agreed right away since I didn't sign up many run events for this year.  There are 6 runners to the team and each of us will have to run 7 km to complete the 42 km distance and passing the sash to another runner when one runner holding the sash has reached the designated checkpoint.  In our team, I only know Daniel.  On the eve of the event, I managed to be introduced to Norman who will be taking over the sash from me.  The order of our relay team was as follows: Daniel will take the first leg, I will be the second runner followed by Norman, Andrew, Max and Raymond.

Picture Taken at Padang

I got up this morning at about 0345 hrs and drove to Leisure Mall to catch the shuttle bus which will take the Ekiden runners to their respective start points.  My start point was at Singapore Flyer and I had to pass the sash to Norman, the third runner at East Coast Park near Fort Road.  The bus left at exactly 0430 hrs and well before 0500 hrs, we arrived at Singapore Flyer.  It was still dark but our chat group started to kick-in when Daniel arrived at Orchard Road start point.  I estimated more than 50 Eiken runners at my side.  When it was past 0500 hrs, one of the marshals informed us that the race had started and we had to gather at our waiting pen.  I did a little warming up while waiting. A group of Kenyan runners were the first to run past the 7km mark and they had already pulled a long lead.  After them, a local Ekiden runner arrived and that was fast.  The second runner quickly took over from him.  Not long later, local elite runners and the Kenyan women runners strode past.  More faster Ekiden runners started to arrive.  One Ekiden runner was (I think) fourth to arrive and he started to shout for his second runner.  No response.  He shouted at the top of his voice and actually, letting go a little of his frustration, much to the amusement of the rest of us waiting.  Poor chap, he did a fast first leg but his second runner was nowhere in sight.  

Some of the waiting runners started to move forward leaving little space for first leg runners to run through and the marshals started to push them back.  Stretching out my head to look out for Daniel in the dark and he suddenly appeared before me.  It was about 0545 hrs and boy, he was among the early batch to arrive.  I quickly took the sash from him and sped off immediately.  Adrenalin rush did kick into me as I did not want to lose the good head start given by Daniel.  Still fresh, I was soon running past many runners who were doing the full marathon.  I did manage to overtake at least 5 Ekiden runners who were ahead of me.  For the first 3 km of my 7 km run, I accelerated faster than my usual 5 mins plus per km pace.  I reckoned it was 5 mins or little under per km.  I then decided to slow down a little to prevent over burning.  At about 4 km into my run, I can see the 4 hours pacers from a short distance in front of me.  I told myself that I have to catch up on them and slowly but surely, I did.  There were two water points along the way but I skipped them all.

Running past Fort Road cross junction to East Coast Park, I knew it was near to my check point.  I accelerated a little faster and from a short distance, I saw a group of Ekiden runners waiting, I started to shout "Painkillers" to catch Norman's attention.  When I arrived, he was already waiting.  I passed the sash to him for him to carry on.  It was already 0620 hours.  After a quick dash to the toilet, I decided to walk to Padang instead of waiting for the shuttle bus to pick us back.  It was easily more than 5 km back.  I was walking in the opposite direction of the runners who were heading to East Coast Park. I was taking my time as it was still very early.  Daniel had by then settled at Ya Kun outlet at Funan, tempting rest of us to join him for a hearty breakfast there.  While walking along Nicoll Highway, I found a nice Wang Cafe at Suntec and decided to take my breakfast there.  Meanwhile, our run progress was updated on our group chat.

Daniel and I were waiting at Padang for the rest of our team members to join us.  The cool morning started to get hotter by the minute.  When our last runner, Raymond completed, it was near 0930 hrs and we finally managed to re-group.  Our gun time on the app show 4 hours 22 minutes.  Good team effort.  We then strolled to Ya Kun at Funan to have another round of breakfast before parting way.  It is nice to meet new friends and we promised we will run again next year.  The clock under 4 hours for 42 km.    

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fright Of My Life

Everyone should have encountered frightening moment at least once in their life.  I have had encountered few but I remember two incidents fairly well.

That year was 1982 and I was still serving NS.  It was our hard earned 3 days rest & recreation trip (R&R) in Brisbane city after more than a month of army training in the wilderness.  We went to Dream World, it was already a highly developed outdoor entertainment park then.  My army mates and I were queuing up to board a boat which will take us through the man-made river and into the man-made safari.  At the entrance, there was this big notice warning us that a lion had escaped from the zoo and was on the loose.  I happened to read that notice but it didn't bother me.  As we were slowly moving, there were crocodiles in the river and some other animals.  We knew these were not real.  As we went into this man-made cave, it was quite dark and while the boat was gliding through, I saw a moving lion from a distance away.  Suddenly, the warning notice that appeared at the entrance struck me hard and for that moment, I thought a lion was really on the loose and it was hiding inside the cave.  I thought there was no escape for us as our boat was moving nearer to the lion.  I swear I was frightened stiff.  All the hair in my body simply shot up.  It took me a while to realise that the lion was not real.  My army mates had a good laugh at my expense, of course.

Second incident was in 1985.  I was to attend a seminar in Bangkok.  On arrival, I made my own way to the hotel which was quite near the airport.  It was a nice 5-star hotel but tried, I did, I cannot remember the name of that hotel now.  I managed to check-in, got the key and took the lift to my room.  When I opened the door, it was pitched dark.  First thing first, I had to find the switch to on the light.  I couldn't find the switch which was usually near the door.  Finally, I managed to switch on the light.  I saw a figure standing in front of me.  I cannot describe the fear that struck me at the very moment.  I thought I saw something I was not supposed to see.  Everything happened very fast.  When I regained my composure, I realised the figure that I saw was actually my own mirror reflection.  There was a big mirror mounted on the wall near the entrance and since it was so dark, I had no idea that there was a mirror in the room.  Again, all the hair in my body suddenly shot up.  I had a good laugh at myself after that.