Monday, December 31, 2012

My Summary of 2012

In the past few years, it has become a ritual of sorts for me to take a deep thought and to reflect on some eventful moments that happened in 2012 and before the clock strikes past midnight into the new year, I will upload my last posting of the year.

In August, I left my job at New Century Tours though I have been planning to leave for quite a while.  Before I slipped into comfort zone  and losing passion, I decided to to take the plunge - quit.  Of course, some disagreement in opinions with someone above me did hasten my decision to move out.  Do I regret?  Some concerned friends did advise me to seriously consider my decision, given my half century age, stable job won't come easy.  I have had experienced many failures before and by now, I should know better to pre-empt what lies ahead if things do not go as planned.  I have learnt that one has to manage one's own life and face up to whatever challenges that may head our way, like it or not.  For as long as we are willing to work, be flexible and the ability to adapt to any form of environment, one can easily get by.  If any, I have no time to regret once I have made my decision to move out but to do my best and hope for the best outcome.  Admittedly, it is not going to be easy going. 

If there is any regret for 2012, it is the passing of some friends.  First, my former secondary teacher, Mr Samuel who passed away in Feb this year and followed later, his sister.  My teacher passed away in K.L. while visiting his ageing sister.  Some of his 'so-called' old friends who knew his passing but simply feigned ignorance.  All they did was to make a call to Singapore High Commission in K.L. informing the officials that a Singaporean has passed away and they expected the Singapore government to take care of his cremation proper.  Some may find it hard to believe but unfortunately, it is true.  I can only think they might be afraid to foot his hospitalisation and cremation bills, thus best to stay away.  My teacher was never married and his only kin was his 90 plus year old sister who herself was suffering from dementia (she too passed away in November this year).  When a classmate, Ragu and I heard about his abrupt passing in K.L. and the body was still left unclaimed though some of his Malaysia old friends could have taken the initiative to do the needful, we did what we could to claim his body and performed the last ritual for him.  One thing I find it hard hard to stomach was that before his body was even sent for cremation, his 'so-called' old friends who suddenly turned up at the funeral parlour and started to talk about his estate in Singapore,  his sister's property in K.L. (she was a widow and never had children) and the need to take care of his ageing sister.  I truly believe my teacher had been an easy target by his old friends who are fully aware of his lacklustre behaviour and poor planning for himself and his sister and they read him like a book.  Without a doubt, he did not leave a will.  With his passing and later his sister too, some of his Malaysian friends managed to forge documents by getting his poor sister to make a thumb print authorising someone to act for her interest.  She was already not her normal self as she was suffering from dementia.  She was at their mercy.  Much to my dismay, her terrace house in K.L. was sold while she was still alive and all the proceeds went to these scheming friends of his.  We did what we could to stop them, even going to the extent of filing a police statement against them but what can we do in a foreign land when the law can be bent to benefit these schemers.  If there is God, I hope they will meet their judgment one day.   

Another person whose abrupt passing did affect me greatly whenever I think of him.  George should be alive if he didn't come along with me for a cycling event in Bintan in August this year.  A very careful person who at the slightest discomfort, would make a trip to see a doctor but a fatal heart attack took his 51 years of life.  If there is any solace, George died doing the one thing he liked and that was cycling.  The day before his passing, he was all smiles in the morning, posing and taking pictures along the way.  I will always remember him for he was always there listening to all my grouses and sometimes had to take my 'swipes' at him.  He was definitely one of my good friends and I still miss him dearly. 

It is not a fantastic 2012 for me, if any I would say just 'so so'.  But  I am glad that I did help organised few charity events and perhaps the most satisfying one is the two back-to-back event, Red Cross Home For The Disabled and Heart-To-Heart Service with some friends from SANL meet-up in November this year.  I may not have plenty money to donate but in my small way, I utilised my spare times to help in whichever way possible.  I will continue to help whenever I can.  I feel good if I can contribute my services for the less fortunate ones. 

My wish for 2013...well, to stay fit & healthy and only then, I can continue to be useful as a person.  Perhaps with some trepidations, I am looking forward to new challenges as we usher into 2013. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Fully Charged & A Satisfying Weekend

I have never felt so charged up on any given weekend for the longest time, not even when I have to cycle more than 100km on a typical Saturday morning with some friends or completed a full marathon run.  There were few back-to-back events on this Saturday and Sunday and I finally can heave a sigh of relief when everything ended up smoothly.  I decided I should post out this article once I am home, well this is exactly what I am doing now.

First thing first, I have to make sure my work comes first.  I have to get up very early on Saturday, met up my coach captain who is handling his first transfer for our Legoland bound passengers.  It is peak season, we can't afford any screw-up and I don't like to receive any negative feedback from our passengers either.  The first morning task was completed, no sweat and with one down, I can then proceed to handle my personal stuff. 

Because of the co-ordination job on Saturday morning, I have to excuse myself from the farewell hike for Junko on Saturday morning which was initiated by me but I can rely on CK and Dora to lead the group in my absence.  The hike at MacRitchie reservoir went off hitch less.  I can still spare time for the lunch after their hike and I am happy I can still manage to bid Junko farewell after all. 

After the lunch, I left for Red Cross Home For The Disabled to help with the sorting and packing of the purchases we made for the two beneficiaries, Red Cross and the seven families under the care of Heart-To-Heart Service.  Some of us from SANL's organising committee managed to finish the sorting and packing task and we were ready for the main event on Sunday.

Shinta, our committee treasurer reported that we were still short of some S$250 from our collections so far.  Our budget for the two beneficiaries is S$913.  However, I remained confident we can achieve our budget once everyone who has confirmed for the charity event on Sunday has pledged a minimum sum of S$10 each and already, we have some who are giving more.

The SANL led charity event at Red Cross Home For The Disabled was scheduled at 1.00 pm but as one of the organisers, I was already there before 12 noon.  Since I was early, I managed to take a quick lunch and Noelle who also arrived early, joined me.  We were expecting more than 70 volunteers from SANL (based on their RSVP) and the multi-purpose hall could be filled to the brink.  Red Cross' staff, Siti was already there to help with the co-ordination. 

Well before 1.00pm, the children were wheeled to the multi-purpose hall by their helpers and TS, Kevin and some who arrived early, also helped out.  At the same time, Noelle and I were transferring the packed rations for Heart-To-Heart into our cars.  By 1.00 pm, most volunteers arrived and some brought along candies, drinks and tidbits too.  

Estelle and her performers arrived around 1.30pm and when she was ready, we started the program before the 2.00 pm scheduled time.  TS did the introduction and it was so timely his mother stepped in.  His sister is housed at Red Cross and he was thankful that he can host the event where his sister is presently housed - so heartwarming to hear that. 

Some were expecting 'professional performance' as I listed in the program after deliberately to up the expectation, "Showtime by Estelle Production" as if we have budget to engage professional entertainers.  Estelle is just one of our volunteers, not any professional entertainer and she had been tasked to handle the entertainment part.  But she took all the trouble to plan this well.  She called in her contact, the students from SIM to do salsa dance & a short skit and Leng Kee CC's volunteers to do a mambo dance for the children and the volunteers.  In between, Kevin did try to steal the show with some clumsy act and Rene was also pulled in, by brutal force helped by me.  Everyone including the children really enjoyed the whole act.  It was an impeccable performance hosted by Estelle, am impressed.

As it was a back-to-back event, I left at about 3.30pm to fetch brother Sharana to Heart-To-Heart families in York Hill.  TS and some will join me later at Heart-To-Heart while the Red Cross program was still ongoing. 

The Heart-To-Heart event was to deliver our rations to the seven poor families.  It did not take us long to finish this task.  By 5.00 pm, we have completed all our task.  We have delivered our blessings to the children at Red Home For The Disabled and the seven families under Heart-To-Heart.  Best of all, we have managed to meet our budget and there is a surplus of some S$150 which we will use to purchase rations for another home.  We were ready to leave, some heading for late lunch or early dinner whichever is more appropriate while I prefer to head home for a well deserved rest.  Thanks all, SANL volunteers for the good times, I truly enjoyed the outing.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) 2012

I clocked my slowest  21km run in this year's edition but I am not disappointed at all.  On the contrary, I am pleased.  Pleased because Winnie who has never thought she will finish her half marathon race and putting paid to her confidence, she skipped two half marathon events last year despite already registered for these.  Her mental stage of mind had already defeated her, not once but twice before.

Very frankly, I was not that hopeful that she will attempt to run in this year event.  She did not prepare for this half marathon event.  Her last run was the 10km Shape Run in July but she managed to pull through.  Since that last run, she did one practise run on treadmill but ended up injuring herself - what bad luck.  Judging from her two previous experiences, I kind of know she will give up this run at the last moment.  How wrong I was when she said she will run and if she has to walk, she will.  Yes, that is the spirit and I applaud her for taking the first step forward.  Positive spirit aside, I am concerned too.  Is she ready for 21km?  She has not been training prior to that.  Even for me, it will prove an uphill task if I do not have regular training.

Catherine, another running kaki was supposed to join me for this run but bad luck seemed to have followed her.  She had a bad fall from a warm up run just one day prior to the event.  It is best for her to rest now, no point injuring herself further.  I hope she will have a speedy recovery so that we can have more runs in the future.

This morning, I got up at 4.00 am though my alarm was set at 4.30 am.  By 5.00 am, I left my house and heading to Aljunied station for HarbourFront.  I smsed Winnie to inform I am on the way as we were supposed to meet at Vivo City.  I managed to meet Winnie and after a last minute dash for the toilet, the flagged-off was already underway.  I believe we were in the second wave and it should be slightly after 6.30am. 

I advised Winnie to take very slow pace and stop if she feels she has to.  For the first 5 km, she was holding well.  Soon, we reached Universal Studio and she was still holding steady.  Surprise, surprise.  Ya, we stopped to take some pictures - she can't resist.  It was nice running through Universal Studio and running past some cartoon characters.  When we were out of Sentosa, we had already covered 10km mark.  We will now have slightly more than half to go.  Winnie was certainly encouraged that she could finish 10km and anything beyond, it will be a longest run for her. 

To conserve energy, we walked when going up slope.  This strategy seemed to work well.  Earlier, it was threatening to rain but the weather was getting a little hotter.  I cannot complain more, the weather was perfect for me so far though Winnie said it was hot.  At the 11km mark, we saw the clock at St James showing 7.45am or something.  We should have covered an hour 20 mins or about by then.  Winnie asked me how much time will it take us to finish the last 10km and I said, 2 hours if we walk all the way or 1 and a half way if we walk and run.  We were actually walking and running after the 10 km mark.  Cramps were threatening to build up on her legs and I advised her to take extra precaution.  She complained her toes were tight, sign of cramps building up.  She stopped to stretch.  Fortunately, she managed to overcome the pain.  Her determination to finish certainly impressed me.  I left it to her to decide her pace, not wanting to add any pressure on her.  It was walk, run, walk and run in the last 10 km.  She wanted to take picture of each marker as a remainder, starting with 11 km.  I managed to take one at the 12 km mark but I rather prefer she concentrate on her pace and manage her pain to the finish.  We didn't take any more pictures until we crossed the finishing line. 

The last km seemed to last forever for her.  She kept asking where is the finishing despite assurance from me that the finishing is just around the corner.  I knew she was grimacing in pain but she pressed on gallantly.  When we dashed across the finishing with raised hands, the gun time above showed 3 hours 33 mins plus.  The time is secondary but finishing is everything.  She has done it and she can now proudly show her 21km finishing medal to her children.  Now for the new target, 42.195km...are you game, Winnie? 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Overcoming The Distance

We are now two days away from the year end Stanchart Marathon.  Last year, I did the full marathon but this year I will run the half marathon instead.  In the last four years, I have had completed five full marathons with a PB of 4 hrs 26 mins in Sundown earlier this year.  I chose to run only half marathon for Stanchart this year not because I am fearful of the distance, I did not enjoy the same event last year.  There were far too many runners in all three events, 10km, 21km and 42km and it was total madness when all runners in the three categories merged in the final 5km or so stretch to the finishing.  Those in the full marathon category were already stretched to their limits but found themselves blocked by the slower runners in the shorter distance category.  Many were practically taking a stroll along the highway, as if it was a walk in the park when they were supposed to run.  I then decided enough is enough, no more full marathon for Stanchart and rest is history.

Running 10km was the farthest thing in my mind some five years ago.  I was totally unfit, had never done any form of exercise for umpteen years and I was already in my mid 40s.  It was in 2007.  That year, I decided to have a change of life and I signed up with Safra fitness club.  When I first started, I was on the treadmill and was doing at most 5km run - the max I could stretch my ageing bones.  When I saw some in the gym doing 8 to 10km run on treadmill, I thought to myself it was crazy and over my 'dead body' that I will do it.  I just wanted to sweat out and burn some calories, that's all.

When I learnt my colleague, Long Chua is an avid runner and at his coaxing, I decided to join him and another friend for a leisure run at HarbourFront to Keppel Bay Club.  He assured me that it is not going to be a long run but I was damned wrong to have trusted him.  It was a longest run in my life for the longest time I could remember.  We did less than 10km only, probably 8km or so and I was shagged.  Soon, both Chua and I become regular running mates.  He had already completed his three full marathon races and none for me.  My first so-called Stanchart Marathon run was the 10km event in 2007.  It was tough and I can feel the cramps gradually building up in both my legs.  I pressed on and when I hit the finishing line, I did it in 1 hour 1 min.  I was pleasantly surprised with my timing and I felt very inspired then.  After my first event, my run with Chua and a friend continued. 

I did at least two evening run in a week and sometimes, a morning run on a Saturday but I was still not confident enough to do a 21km run.  In 2008, I signed up for the same 10km again.  This time, I had a personal target.  I told Long Chua and some friends that if I can go below 55 mins, I will do the 42.195km the following year.  My 10km time for 2008 was 53mins plus, I had sliced off more than 8 mins from my previous best.  I was over the hill, fully charged, fully inspired and now, I will run the full marathon. 

In the one year in 2009, I ran in few other run events in preparation for the year end full marathon.  I ran the 12km run, 15km and 21km to give me the confidence but I still experienced cramps in the longer distance run.  When I ran my first full marathon in2009, I did not clock enough mileage prior to that.  I hit the wall at about 30km mark and that was where I started to experience severe cramps.  I managed to complete and I clocked 5 hours 9 mins.  I was not disappointed as my target was to come under 5 hours 30 mins.  But I could have come under 5 hours if I did not have cramps but I was still satisfied with my timing. 

I did my second full marathon in France in 2010, courtesy of France Tourist Office Singapore, my third with Sundown and my fourth with Stanchart in 2011 and finally, my fifth in 2012 with Sundown.  My best run was this year Sundown in May, I can run from start to finish without stopping and best of all, I didn't have any cramp at all.  I felt I can go for more after hitting the finishing line.  The cross training, cycling and trekking did help greatly. 

To have overcome the fear of running distance, I must credit one person and he is non other than my running mate, Long Chua.  If not for him, I won't have gone for my first full marathon in 2009 and five full marathons to my name.  Long Chua is still aiming for his 10th marathon and if he clears this year's event which he should not have any problem, it should be his 9th if I am not wrong and one more to go.  I wish him and all the runners for this coming Stanchart event good luck and run a good race.  Still the same old advice, it is not so much about the timing, it is about completing.   

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed?

We need friends but do we need friends when one does not see him or her in any occasion one can remember, have never bothered to catch up or not even a hello call but when he or she is in desperate need, you are suddenly remembered for obvious reason - a loan. 

I have this very old friend whom I know since I was 15-year-old and I am 50 now, we actually know each other for 35 years.  I will call him D.  Though we have known each other for so many years but we have never been close.  Many years ago, among some old friends, we chipped in to set up a small eatery business to be solely managed by D whom we have trusted based on our old friendship.  When business was not profitable, D simply dropped everything and walked out leaving us to handle the mess he left behind.  When the business finally folded up, we moved on. 

When another old friend's wife was suffering from cancer, we paid her a visit, gave her encouragements and when she finally passed on, we were at the wake for our old friend.  D was aware throughout but he did not make any visit and was never at the wake after her passing, not even a condolence message from him.  From that moment onwards, I have already disconnected my friendship with D.  I was in a desperate situation before and I realised when one is down, support from friends is very important.  I don't need such friend and he is certainly no friend.

It has been some 5 years since the passing of my friend's wife and one morning, I received an unfamiliar number on my mobile.  It was D.  I can immediately recognise his voice but this time, he sounded desperate.  Without asking my well being, he went straight to the point.  He was seeking for a S$2,000 loan from me citing he has lost his job since beginning of the year and he is now in desperate need.  This man, a single man and have been holding a decent managerial job though he is known to be a job hopper and out of the blue, he was seeking for a loan from any friend whom he can get hold on.  He is not known to be a gambler too or perhaps he is now, with 2 IRs in our backyard. 

I told myself I must be one biggest idiot if I really lend him the money.  I declined to offer my help to him and I was polite to him throughout the conversation even though I was supposed to be angry at him.  Later, I found out he had been calling and sending SMSes to some friends but to my understanding, none offered any help.  I guess he has to help himself first.  I know I am devoid of compassion but he is not worth my help at all.          

Sunday, October 28, 2012

adidas King of the Road, Singapore Leg


adidas King of the Road (KOTR) is a championship run event held in five countries in Southeast East and Singapore is among the five.  The total distance is 16.8km for this morning run which will be flagged off at Gardens By The Bay. 

Admittedly after the last Sundown Marathon, I was not keen to run but Winnie managed to convince me to participate as she was hoping to use this event to prepare for her year end 21km Stanchart Half Marathon.  She has not been doing any form of serious run in preparation for it and the leg injury from a recent fall put paid to her on-off training schedule.  Owing to all these factors, she decided to opt out at the last moment - what a pity!  Stanchart event is inching close and I am not sure whether she will be ready by then.  "Can't run, walk lah...don't have to give yourself too much pressure lah, Winnie".  I really hope she just go for it, come what may and she will feel fully satisfied with her own accomplishment - trust me.     

Anyway, I set my alarm at 0545hrs this morning and since I will not be picking Winnie at her place, I will take MRT instead.  By 0600 hrs, I was already out of my house and the walk to the station took about ten minutes.  I was joined by many runners at the station.  I alighted at MBS station.  As I was not too sure where exactly the flag off venue, I just followed the crowd and I can't be wrong.  It was already 0700 hrs & clicking and I was still walking to the start line with the rest.  Quite a long walk after exiting the station, actually. 

When I finally arrived at the start line, I can see many runners already in front of me.  Local deejay Rod proudly announced some 12,000 runners from 53 countries will be running this morning.  I tried to move in front if there was any space, knowing too well if I started right behind, I will be blocked by many slow runners.  The flag off started shortly after but as I was not among the early birds, I had to wait for the second wave.  I did not have my watch on me, everything was based on assumption.  I reckoned we had to wait for more than five minutes later before we were flagged off. 

I have not been running very long distance for quite a while, at most 15km and this week, I only did one run at East Coast for about 10km.  I told myself that I will not push too hard, just the usual pace should do.  It was already getting brighter and with the light, the heat.  We covered the first 6km running through MBS and around the city before entering the F1 pit and into the park connector alongside Nicoll Highway.

At the 6km mark, I can see the first runner on the return and at that point, he had already covered 14km - world class pace.  Some of us clapped when he strode past with ease.  He is a young chap from you know where...Africa, of course.  It was a big gap between him and the second runner.  Not very long later, I saw the first female runner and no prize for guessing where she comes from and Africa, of course.  I was still maintaining my pace, no intention to accelerate and I can feel heat in the morning. 

We were running on Nicoll Highway to the direction of Old Airport Road and at 10km mark, we made an U-turn back to the finishing.  I was hoping to catch some familiar faces on the U-turn where runners can see each other on both side.  No chance, I didn't manage to find anyone I know.

At every water station, I will pour the plain water over my head to cool down and 100 plus to quench my thirst.  At 15km, I saw the same lady African runner who was leading the pack earlier but she was lying on the ground and attended by a fellow competitor.  Gosh, the morning heat must taken a toll on her and there, she was lying on the ground waiting for medical help.  What a wasted effort for her, I thought to myself.

With less than one km to the finish, I did not have the fire in my belly to accelerate like I used to but preferred to maintain the usual stride.  When I was about to run past the finishing, I looked up the gun time above which showed 1 hour 42 mins.  I gave a big thumbs-up at the finish for the photo.  By my reckoning, I should have clocked a nett time of 1 hour 35 mins or maybe a little more.

Before heading home, I went to 100 plus and Adidas booths to have nice pictures taken for souvenir.  I even participated in Tiger Air spin-the wheel contest, but only managed to win a small towel.  Good enough, I have something to bring home from this event.  Will I run again next year?  Well, not sure for now leh.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pretender, The Way To Go For Some

I am not a perfect being, I have many flaws but when it comes to 'play act', I will fare badly.  As an imperfect being I am and who am I to comment on somebody's flaw, really?  But I can't help posting my thought on my blog as it has been bothering me for quite a while.  Tell you all already, I am not perfect lor.     

I know this person for good many years but I will not name her (opp, she is a lady...well, what the heck) - for obvious reasons.  To get my story going, let me give her an initial instead.  Okay, I will call her AS (not ASS but AS, the initial).  Why I say AS is a great pretender?  This is the story... 

By the way, we were friends once but not anymore for quite few years.  Admittedly, in my 50 years in life, I have not met anyone who will (without shame) announce to the world that he or she has worked his or her butt out when in actual fact, it is the contrary.  I won't say AS is a bad leader but an exemplary one, far from it?  If she does not think too highly of herself and too lowly of others; if she accepts teamwork is the way to go & grow; if she, as the leader of her team knows how to recognise credits of others and not totally for herself while faults are pointed at others and not herself, the list can go on and on...the joy of working as a formidable team is real, haiz!

I will list two recent incidents which really put me off.  A fellow colleague in her team passed away from a sudden sickness and some of us helped to pass the hat around for the bereaved family.  AS (gracious of her, this part should be real) emailed to thank some of us for helping in our small way or another.  Perhaps, she was in a rush to send this thank you email to some of us, she made a typo error.  She was supposed to type 'deceased or demised colleague', instead she typed 'dismissed colleague'.  Simple mistake and no big deal, right?  I pointed out the typo error to her immediately.  Guess, what was her reply?  She replied she is busy as she has to send out many quotations to clients and she will leave the mistake at that, as she has no time to correct that one word, 'dismissed'.  Hey, she got the time in the world to thank me for pointing out to her and explaining her rather weird reason for not correcting it but didn't have the time to re-send the corrected one.  Does that make any sense to anyone?  No time to eat or even 'shit' (I am bad, the latter is added to up the effect)?  By the way, business continues to reel badly despite the many quotations sent.  The one thing I cannot stomach is that she does not know what is respect to others, especially to the person who has just passed away.  Does she know that those who do not know this deceased person received this supposedly thank you email from her will think he was dismissed from his job and then passed on?  I have no idea whether she knows she was doing a great disservice to her fallen colleague.  When I read her reply, it was beyond words for me to say more.

While her 'busy schedule' continues, but at a drop of a pen, she flew off to a far far place for more than one week with her pal and I cannot say it was for work, for holiday or both.  Anyway, if it was related to work, her job has no link to the few places she visited with her pal but she gladly did it at a drop of her pen.  What do you think what her other colleagues (who are her subordinates, unfortunately) will think?  She is lucky she is a protected species in the organisation, not many will have such luck though.

Why do I want to pen this story knowing she might know I am talking about her?  Am I afraid of a rebuttal?  Simply put, I am not a pretender like her and I really cannot stand the false front she put out.  Lastly, I am laying bare the facts.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Broga Hill Hike With Friends


It was another HTTB event, titled "Hike and Historical Trip Day Trip (Sunrise at Broga Hill + Malacca) organised by Hiker Lillian and SP, the elder of the group. 

The response was so hot that the initial 12 slots were taken up within minutes when it went 'LIVE' on HTTB meetup site and finally, it was increased to 26.  Either Lillian is hot or the trip to Broga Hill is hot, or maybe both are equally hot.  Dora was the one who prompted me about this trip and thanks to her, she did all the follow up for me.  She worked fast (her fingers worked even faster) and she managed to confirm one slot for me without me breaking a sweat - what a lucky fella I am (sweat)!

For S$60 per person, which included coach transfer and a decent peranakan lunch in Malacca (the climb is free though), it is definitely worth everthing I must say.  This was also my first trip organised by Hiker Lillian and I was looking forward to it.

On 6 Sat, Saturday at 2245 hrs, we assembled at Marsiling station for our coach.  I arrived very early, more than an hour before the scheduled coach departure.  CK joined me a while later, he was early too.  Slowly, everyone started to stream in.  I don't know many in the group but there were few familiar faces like Edmund and his ahem, girlfriend (the last time, they are not steady yet but this time, they are on liao), Poon, Jacky and his wife, May, Anna, SP, CK and of course, Dora.  Soon, these new faces become kakis.  Some of these old faces whom I have not met for a while and it was certainly good feeling to re-group for another hike.  

We slept on the coach as we planned to arrive before first light to watch the sunrise at the peak.  Broga Hill is in the border of Selangor state in this small town called Seminyih which is about 40-min drive from KL city.  I have not been to Broga Hill but I did goggle search from some its details, to prepare myself.  I know it is not a tough hike but it is also not a walk in the park affair either.

It was around 0600 hrs when we reached the start of the hike and when SP requested for someone to volunteer as last man, I gamely volunteered.  It was still dark, each of us put on our headlight before the start of the hike.  Even at that early hour and also, it was a weekend, the place was already streaming with many people.  Once all 26 of us were accounted for, we moved off and soon, we joined the other hikers on the way up.  There were some blind hikers (yes, they are completely blind) and they were escorted by able-bodied assistants.  I was covering the back, making sure no one in our group has fallen behind me for safety sake.

Broga Hill stands at some 300 metres above sea level,  it is definitely doable by almost anyone.  A young girl, aged probably five or six was hiking on own but I believe her parents must be somewhere around.  She was not escorted at all.  She is quite a brave little girl, moving up confidently and at ease too but I still do not think it is a good idea to leave this little girl on own to trek especially it was still dark and she was not even equipped with headlight.  Who am I to tell that to her parents, sigh.

Broga Hill may be a hill but there are some steep and rocky paths along the way.  I can see some struggled quite a bit with the climb.  The surge of crowd on the weekend also can 'kill off' some interest.  Some in our group also did not come prepared, not even the basic necessity like the headlight. 

In less than an hour, most of us reached close to the peak.  There are three peaks, which follows one after another.  Some of us gathered at the second last peak.  We were not motivated to go to the third peak as it was packed with people and it was also getting misty.  The view was blinded by the mist, no chance to get any good view at all.

By 0900 hrs, we were at the foot of the hill and soon, we were heading to Malacca town for a short day tour and lunch.  Throughout the journey, I was sleeping away but by my reckoning, it took us less than 3 hours to reach Malacca.  Admittedly, the peranakan lunch was so-so and some of us were already looking forward to try the famous 'chendol' at Jonker street after our lunch.  Dora and I went for our massage while CK, Anna and the rest roamed the Jonker street.  We gathered back at the Red House for our coach to pick us.  I was afraid that we will be caught in a heavy jam on a typical Sunday outing but to my surprise, it was smooth traffic all the way to the Singapore side.  We were dropped at Marsiling Station well before 1900 hrs. 

Thumbs up to Hiker Lillian and SP for a good short trip.  I look forward to another with them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Batam Island and Golden View Hotel

My first trip to Batam was sometime in the mid 80s with some of my airport colleagues and I vividly remember we stayed at Turi Beach in Nongsa, then a very much sought after 5-star resort and of course, its rate was also rather stiff.  Batam then boosted of these two popular resorts, Turi Beach and Batam View.  The sleepy island, two third the size of Singapore was abruptly made popular when its radio station, Zoo 101.6 went 24/7 where many listeners from Singapore started to tune to its non-stop airing of music.  Then, the radio stations in Singapore did not run 24 hours but rendered no option when they realised many of their advertisers were turning to Zoo 101.6, they countered with their 24-hour radio programs to re-capture audience.  Much to their relief, they recovered quickly and now, nobody in Singapore talks about Zoo 101.6, let alone remember they were once 'the-talked-about radio station' in Singapore.

A follow up day trip made (still in the late 80s) with some friends on one weekend and the surge of crowd at Clifford Pier terminal (which later moved to World Trade Centre, now called HarbourFront) heading for Batam was simply unbelievable - short of a stampede, it was like bumper-to-bumper during boarding.  Among the so-called attractions on the Batam island, we were brought to Tua Pek Kong temple (many who went solely to pray 4 numbers, supposedly many struck rich so claimed by some believers), the one & only traffic light on the island (where the guide so proudly announced to us on the coach) and the nondescript building housing all the popular deejays from Zoo 101.6 who have become household names in Singapore then.  Another big lure was the purchase of duty free liquor and cigarette on the return, even on a short day trip but our government soon clamped down on this loophole.  Slowly, Batam lost its lure as a tourist attraction and not long later, Bintan emerged as a hot tourist spot in our region.  It was in the mid 90s era.

I was introduced to Ah Bee, the owner of present day Golden View by an acquaintance in the late 90s.  The site where Golden View sits nicely now was still a flat plot.  Ah Bee runs a popular seafood restaurant called 933 built on planks and poles above the water in the mouth of Tering Bay in Bengkong Laut.  He had another seafood eatery called 555 in Nongsa which was swept away in a monsoon storm many years ago.  He also runs a travel and coach company called Nusajaya 168.  Evidently, he is fond of 15 if we add all the number together (933, 168 or 555) but despite knowing him for many years now, I still have not asked him why the number 15 - for good luck, perhaps? 

Ah Bee is a self-made entrepreneur and he reminds me very much of one of our popular sitcoms character, 'Phua Chu Kang'.  No air, no fuss and no posh office for himself - his only work desk is the two dining table near the entrance of his restaurant which he eats and conducts almost all his meetings there.  He is a very hands-on type of person and when I was told by an acquaintance who used to work for him in the 90s that he had started to reclaim the water that fronts the bay around the perimeter of his land, I really had no clue how big and how much reclamation works until I witnessed it in recent years.  At that time standing at the balcony of 933 restaurant, I can still see the calm turquoise sea so near me but each time, I visited his place, the water seemed to move further and further away.  In Singapore, all reclamation works in Singapore is undertaken by our government involving bigwigs in the industry but this is the self-made man who oversees the entire reclamation project from the smallest detail to the last.  Since the late 90s, he has reclaimed some 200 hectares and work is still not done.  It is no small feat by an individual who has the bold vision to see far and dares to dream, to say the least.

As far as I can remember, Golden View was conceptualised and work started in the late 90s but briefly stopped during the financial crisis.  When most businesses in Indonesia were reeling badly from the damning crisis and many incomplete buildings were abandoned midway by owners, Ah Bee pressed on.  He built the hotel painstakingly, floor-by-floor started with the basement.  He was not in a hurry knowing too well the economic outlook was not favourable then.  At the same time, his reclamation work continues, good time or bad.  He emerged from the recession scath-free.   

Bengkong is not the town centre, Nagoya is and it is not a known resort region like the idyllic Nongsa though the bay front is close by.  It is definitely a big challenge to compete with the many city hotels in Nagoya town and the better known resorts, Turi Beach and Batam View in Nongsa.  What can a new player, Golden View offer to the market then when Bengkong is neither in a town centre or resort region?  The reclaimed land therefore plays a strategic role for the hotel. 

I would be wrong, it took them some seven years to build the hotel, stopped during crisis period and continued when time was better.  If I remember correctly, in year 2007 Golden View commenced its business.  This is a 10 storey building block which boosts of some 215 rooms and meeting facilities, among others. 

Ah Bee is not a hotelier, far from it but it does not deter him from taking a personal interest in running the hotel business, the travel business and among others.  Almost daily, I understand he is the first at work and last to live.  He is, of course fortunate to have his children who have come out of age to help him manage his businesses and his few trusted lieutenants too.  Hendra, one of his two sons is tasked to handle the travel business and if any, he is the point man for the organisation.  I have dealt with Hendra and though he is still a very young man in his mid 20s, he has already garnered the knowledge in running this business.  Perhaps very much influenced by his father, he believes in 'win-win' in any deal.  They know how to work well with travel partners, understand them and by-and-by, gained their trust and support.  They are prepared to go aggressive with pricing if need be, knowing too well unfilled rooms is a total loss and their other ancillary services will suffer along with it if there is no crowd.  One does not need to go to school to learn about economics for they know keeping cost low is critical to go the distance.  An example, switching off the aircon supply in the lobby area in the late evening on a typical low weekday to save on high energy cost is a sure no-no for a established hotel chain but where it makes commercial sense, they just do it. 

My most recent trip to Golden View on a weekday with a friend has left a deep impression on how things have developed thus far.  Outside Golden View, the sprawling reclaimed land (then was just water aplenty) offers hotel guests and even locals varied choices to while away their times.  Ah Bee believes having myriad of activities will attract people and I cannot disagree with me.  I once asked him why he needs to reclaim when there is no shortage of land in Indonesia and he said, something to this effect, "The reclaimed land will allow me to plan ahead and maximise to the fullest when the time comes."  At the furthest end of the reclaimed land, one can see the shore of bustling Singapore on a clear day.  Some houses are already built and I believe in years to come, more houses will throng the vast land.  It just costs a mere S$30,000 to have a landed property near the sea.  S$3 million may not even get one a landed house in Sentosa, see the diff?  Team building, go karting and paintball activities are already in operation for quite a while now.  Always a must have, the sea sport activities are already up and running and more to be added.  They have even acquired Cheng Ho junk from Singapore for sea cruises around the bay.  There is this little miniature park which houses the varied cultures of Indonesia, a brief history lesson for visitors.  There is no entrance fee to all the attractions and especially on weekend, it is crowded with the locals.  Where there is crowd, they will patronise his eatery and joints and it is 'win-win', that's the key word.

This is the man who does it himself, guided by practicality and experiences from the hard knock in life.  The hardware is already there, the vision too though workmanship can be improved more and it is still very a work-in-progress.  Once his land has matured and investor confidence in Indonesia has improved, the future ahead is bright.  Hang on, Ah Bee.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Leisure Warriors @ NATAS Soccer Challenge 2012

We did not qualify for the second round, no sweat.  On whole, we were not in good form somehow, but we offered no excuses.  Did we play our heart out?  Yes, we did and in the most gentleman way we could for we did not earn any warning, yellow or red from the referee in the entire tournament.  If there is an award for fair play, I truly believe we should be the winner (the part is meant as 'self consolation').  I am proud to present our team, Leisure Warriors comprising Derek (team captain), Keith (playing goalie), Winston, Chong Meng, Tommy, Ming Wei, Tommy and yours truly.   

NATAS 'five-a-side' Soccer Challenge was scheduled for today at East Coast Park and kick-off at 1300 hours.  Six teams from each group and there are two groups and the top four in each group will compete in the quarter-final, semi-final and the final.  Each game lasted 5 mins only but it can test one's fitness even though it was only 5 mins on the pitch.  There were five teams in our group as one team mysteriously did not turn up.  We were in the second group and we had to play four matches.

Our first match was against the team from Hertz.  I should say we started off well.  I played upfront while our captain Derek will cover the back.  A short while into the game, I realised I have not fully covered from the left thigh injury I sustained in last week practise game.  Damn, I cannot risk it anymore.  I had few attempts at goal but each attempt was feeble, alas.  It was quite an even match and it ended nil nil for either side.  Jenny, our HR colleague dropped by to root for us.  After she left, Caroline and Nicole arrived and stayed to the end of the tournament..       

Our second match was against Citystate team.  I decided to play reserve, not to take any chance to aggravate the muscle pain in my left thigh.  We were under attack from the opposing team.  They could easily go two up had it not for the poor finishing by their lone striker.  Luckily for us, Keith did well to keep the score down but a short while later, they managed to score against us.  Evidently, some of us were rusty and not fighting for the ball - lack of fitness is chief suspect.  I decided to switch with Winston.  Again, I had few attempts at goal but poor finishing did me in.  By then, we were already two down and when whistle blew, we lost our second match to a better team.

After the break, we were up against the team from American Express and again, I played reserve.  One of my former colleagues, Thia was playing for American Express and when I thought I am the oldest player in this tournament, Thia is few years my senior and they are some who seem to be older than me too.  I have not met Thia for quite some time but he has certainly aged much.  Boy, he is still playing football in his 50s and this is his fourth participation.  They were certainly better than us, from controlling and distribution which put us under constant pressure.  Again, Keith did well to parry away the ball each time.  We were one down and I decided to take over from Winston.  I didn't play as well either, attempts at goal proved feeble each time.  Thia finally scored the second and last goal for his team and I knew we did not have much chance to draw level.  Again, we lost to a better team - kudos to them.

Our last match was against the team from Dynasty Tour.  Earlier, we watched them played against Citystate team.  It was quite a physical game and tension from either side was slowly brewing.  Fouls were committed by both sides.  Finally, a foul was made against a player from Dynasty Tour.  He was very agitated, threw a F word at the referee and earned a red card eventually.  With one player down, I must admit the Dynasty Tour team did well to earn a hard earned draw with Citystate.  Hey, this is not a professional game but why must they play in such aggressive manner?  I was hoping our last match against Dynasty Tour won't come to blows but if they draw first blood and admittedly I am ready for them too. 

For our last match, I played reserve again.  The physical fitness of some of our players is telling for we were waiting for ball, more than challenging for it.  To our pleasant surprise, Derek drew first blood and scored our first goal.  For the first time, we were leading the game.  Keith played his heart out, either parrying away the ball or diving to reach for it.  Few sure goal attempts were saved by him, I'm impressed.  A tackle was made on Derek who fell flat and for few seconds, he was not moving.  Someone shouted for 'medical attention' but to our relief, he managed to stand up.  A foul was not given by the referee, funny.  The opposing team managed to slip one goal in and to our disappointment, they drew level.  They even went up one up against us.  I decided to change with Ming Wei in hope to draw level, at least.  Again, I could not muster much energy to harass their defence.  We lost this match, 2-1. 

We did not qualify for the second knock-out round.  We were still in high spirit, for we did try our best though our form did let us down at the end of the day.  If I have to name the 'Player in our team', the accolade should go to Keith and for the 'Golden Boot', no prize for the right answer and that is Derek for his solitary goal.  This is just one tournament and also our first, but Leisure Warriors team can train and be ready for next year.  I am likely not be with the team for next year but I hope they can keep going and I wish them well in future tournaments.  Hip, hip, hip...hooray (3x), team Leisure Warriors.  Good job! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2012


It's my second consecutive Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2012 which was flagged off this morning.  Prior to the run event, I have created an event on HTTB site which garnered some 20 members signing up.  Separately, Aranda Country Club also managed to get some 20 of us to sign up for this meaningful run. 

On Saturday morning, I had a futsal practise match with some of my former colleagues as we were making preparation to compete in the coming weekend NATAS Futsal Tournament for this first time.  We have been preparing well and this will be out last practise before the tournament.  During play, I felt pain on my left thigh and I realised I had pulled my muscle while kicking the ball.  I could not carry on play with the guys, preferring to give my left thigh a rest as I remembered I still have the Yellow Ribbon run the following morning. 

I still feel the pain on the left thigh this morning.  I was walking with a slight limp but still chose to go for the run event.  "If I can't run, at least I can walk the 10km.", I told myself that.  Further, prior pick up arrangement had been made with some friends and I don't want to disrupt their plans at last moment notice.  So, 'die die' must go lor.

I received Dora's short text before 6.00am this morning informing she was on the cab on way to MacPherson station with her son, who will be running for her.  She is still nursing a knee injury.  By 6.15am, I was out of my house and on way to MacPherson station to pick up Dora and Howie, well before the scheduled time at 6.30am.  After picking them, I drove to Paya Lebar station to pick up Shirley (a member from HTTB) and after picking her, I headed to Meiti's place at Telok Kurau.  CK will meet the rest of my GP Riders gang at Aranda Country Club and take their transport as my car is full. 

I expected jam at Loyang Way as one side of the road will be blocked for the run and thus, I took the longer route, travelling to Changi Coastal Road via ECP.  Fortunately, the traffic was smooth along ECP and the public car park near Changi Village was not even full.  It was around 7.00am when we arrived, some 45 mins away from the flag-off. 

CK and my GP Riders members had arrived early and they were sipping coffee and tea at a nearby coffeeshop.  They later joined us at the traffic junction to walk to the start point together but they had to leave us as Meiti and Howie were still queuing for toilet at the coffeeshop and it was nearing 7.45am. 

By the time they were done, 10km event had already commenced and we wasted no time, not even doing any warm up and off we went.  Dora was planning to meet us at the end point.  Fortunately for me, I can still run albeit at much slower pace.  I was pacing Meiti but CK and Howie were not within sight almost immediately.  The weather was fantastic throughout, I couldn't ask for more.  It is the same route as last year, started near Changi Village and into the rustic neighbourhood.  It is not flat though, fairly undulating throughout and can pose a challenge to many runners.  After about 5 km, Meiti was feeling the strain on the up slope and she decided to walk for a short while instead.  I joined her.  On whole, she was doing fine and by my reckoning, we were averaging around 7 min per km.  I can still feel slight pain on the left thigh but very much bearable though. 

At around the 6km mark, I met Mui Huan who was running and at the same time taking pictures along the way.  We joined her from there on.  When we reached the entrance of the prison, it was slightly more than 8km.  More pictures were taken by Mui Huan.  Both the two ladies gave a last pose with the wall as the background before we headed all the way to the finishing.  It is a clean and huge compound inside, the high walls around the circumference remind me that this is a prison, no doubt.

When we ran past the finishing, the clock showed 1 hour 20 mins plus.  CK and Howie, both did under 1 hour joined us later - congrats.  We went back to Changi Village where Dora was still waiting for us.  I did not join my GP Riders gang for photo taking at Aranda Country Club, chose to ferry the rest back instead.  Thumbs up to the organisers for another meaningful event!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

George Lee

A jovial chap, liked the outdoor and always there to listen to my grouses and every little thing I poured out. He will be missed dearly.
Farewell and rest in peace, George - my buddy (1961 to 2012).

Friday, August 10, 2012


Note from me:
This article, titled "The Race Factor' is written by Dr M which is taken from his blog,  Despite his best attempt to explain the need to adopt race-based approach in Malaysia political scene to the Malaysians before the election, I do not buy his explanation as I believe a meritocracy society should be the way forward. 

1. Many have asked me why we cannot do without race-based politics in Malaysia.

2. The short answer is that we all want to remember and be recognised according to our racial origins, the countries of our ancestors came from, the languages we speak, the cultures we belong to.

3. We really don’t want to say we are just Malaysian and nothing else.

4. If it is pointed out to us that in many countries where people of different racial origins live, there is no racial politics, no identification of the citizens with the countries of their origin; we will say that we are different. You cannot compare them with us. Yet on most other issues we compare ourselves with them.

5. But are we so different from them. There are actually a lot of people of foreign origins in Malaysia who seem to have forgotten their origins. These are the people of Indian, Arab, Indonesian and even Turkish and European origins who are accepted as indigenous people by all of us. They have been so accepted because they identified themselves fully with the indigenous people. They speak the language of the indigenous people habitually, practice the customs and traditions of the people they have been assimilated into and incidentally they are Muslim.

6. According to the Federal Constitution these people are Malays and are therefore indigenous and not foreign in origin.

7. There is a row in Sabah because of the number of people who have been made citizens. Some of those people had been expatriated although many returned illegally.

8. But most of these people qualify to be citizens. They have been staying in Malaysia (Sabah) for decades. They and their children speak Malay, the national language.

9. On the basis of length of stay and mastering of the national language, they qualify to be citizens of this country. And so the acquired citizenship.

10. By comparison we have many citizens who cannot speak the national language who were accepted as citizens. And we are still giving citizenship to foreigners who wish to be Malaysians on condition they have been living in this country for 10 out of the last 12 years, speak the national language and take the oath of allegiance to the country. So why cannot the migrants to Sabah who have all these qualifications be accepted as citizens? The objections for them being accepted seem to be political.

12. If we don’t want our politics to be race-based, then we must forget our racial origins, speak the national language as our mother tongue and swear allegiance only to this country. We can retain our religion however.

13. Maybe one day this will happen. But for the present our politics will be race-based despite our protestations that we are not. We must not even say we are multi-racial as this implies consciousness of our racial differences

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

National Day Speech by a Singaporean Artist - Majulah Singapura!

Note from me:  I sought my friend, Kiat Sing's permission to post her National Day message on my blog and she readily agreed.  Like her, I am proud to be a Singaporean for we are unique in our own way and certainly, we have come a long way.  Almost like her, we used to live in a small house without room, just a hall and all seven of us including our parents squeezed in this small house.  To give myself a little more space and to avoid getting kick from my brothers in the middle of the night when they were soundly asleep, I had to sleep in the kitchen.  I lived in that small house till I reached 16.  My National Day message to our country - Continue to innovate, continue to progress and more good years ahead. 

Many friends of mine have claimed that I’m not a typical Singaporean because I’m calm and patient. I’m an artist not a banker, lawyer or engineer running the rat race like the usual people they meet. I used to agree. However, a recent incident has changed my opinion totally.

I was paying up for my hiking trip at YMCA recently and the Filipino casher and administrator has mistaken me as a PR because of my passport number that doesn’t start with an “S”. I was surprised at how upset I was. The fury stemmed from the fact that I am a local Singaporean, born and bred in Singapore, when the island state has nothing favorable to offer me. I grew up in a village and moved to a HDB new town only at the age of six. At that time, there weren’t Hougang, Yishun, Woodlands, Pasir Ris, Sengkang or Pungol HDB towns. Our parents like many other parents and grandparents of fellow Singaporeans, marched and dug drains with Lee Kuan Yew under the banner of Barisan Socialist. My father who is a retired contractor provided doors to HDB and I still remember how my mum used to complain how the only breaks he took was during Chinese New Year. So we literally built the nation with our bare hands.

I have seen how some friends of mine were totally appalled when some PRs didn’t know that we had a Socialist party, some didn’t even know that our national language is Malay and the reason why we have English as our first language was due to racial riots. They also do not know what the true origin of Merlion was. I share their disappointed sentiments. On the other hand, I also have many foreign friends who expressed their genuine joy in being part of Singapore, many of them has told me privately that they feel more at home in Singapore than in their motherland. I am very glad to hear that. And I think a major part of it is due to how Singaporeans truly understand that our harmony and acceptance of other races and creeds is a great virtue. We don’t take it for granted. We have all grown up with Malay and Indian friends; it is part of our second nature to accept differences among us and to embrace them. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed some people being taken for granted by their foreign friends who are not used to this concept. Singapore is unique indeed. Tolerance and acceptance is part of being us and such terms are not to be interpreted negatively because it is a merit and understanding that so many other nations lack. And with my many new foreign friends, my life has been enriched further as I open my eyes to even more cultural differences.

Hence, I’m a typical Singaporean! I am proud to be one. I am nice and reasonable, like how most friends know me to be; and I’m glad to say that most Singaporeans are like me. If you think otherwise, you should really make an effort to go out and know them better, make more local friends instead of jumping upon stereotypes that simply shows that you are unable to be integrated into our society as you have overlooked the core value of our beautiful island and have taken it for granted. The country and its people have much to offer and we also look forward to genuine friendships where hearts are involved, not just judgement without true understanding. And we are not here to judge you as we all know too well that our forefathers were immigrants like yourself. They have come to learn the precious lesson of self-respect and mutual respect and have imparted such marvelous life skills to us.

I am constantly amazed when I travel to China and being asked the question which province I’m from? And at my art events overseas like Europe, USA and India, why I can speak and write fluent English? Some friends have also marveled at how we not only speak English, our mother tongues, some Malay but can also swear perfectly in Hokkien, Teochew and some of us Cantonese or even Hainaese. I’m proud to be a Singaporean artist albeit our identities are often misunderstood overseas. Perhaps that’s why we are special and it might take several generations to come for others to recognize us more prominently. Well, after all we are just 47 years old. Happy Birthday to my beloved country! Majulah Singapura!

Quek Kiat Sing

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Race Against Cancer 2012

It's 'Race Against Cancer' run event at East Coast Park this morning (22 July) by Singapore Cancer Society.  I am the charity athlete for the second time (didn't participate in last year though).  This one aside, I also have few fund raising campaigns and therefore I set a modest target of S$1,000 chiefly with colleagues and friends in mind.  In my own capacity, I am pleased that I have garnered S$1,170 for this cause.

In RACE, I have registered for the 15 km run.  Despite having participated in many run events, I can't help feeling some adrenalin rush of sorts the night before.  We had a dinner gathering for participants in our last 'Ride for Rations' event on Saturday evening and the organisers happily announced some S$150k was raised for the 'Sunlove Home'.  Kudos to all.  After dinner, I left slightly early to prepare for this morning run.

I got up at 6.00am and by 6.15am, I was already on my way to East Coast Park.  Frankly, I don't enjoy waking up early for run and certainly, my body is not conditioned for morning run either.  I run best in the evening...probably it is the mind thingy. 

I reckoned I arrived East Coast Park at about 6.30am (as usual, it is not my habit to put on my watch for any run event) and it was still dark.  Though I can easily find parking space nearer to the start off venue at Angsana Green at that early hour, I decided to park some 2km away.  The walk to the start venue should have more or less warmed me up by then and that was my intention too. 

The flag-off was scheduled at 7.30am for the 15km event where I was to run and 7.45am for the 10km and I think 8.00am for the 5km.  The start venue is at Angsana Green, next to the East Coast Lagoon Hawker Centre.  I lined up with the runners not too front, little further back.  It was still early and the showhost was trying to warm up the crowd.  Admittedly, the mood was a tad serious in the 15km event, given many good & competitive runners were raring to go and the showhost was really working hard to loosen up some tense moment.  Our Sports Minister Chan was the invited VIP to do the flag-off together with Singtel CEO and Singapore Cancer Society President and some ra-ra follow suit.  I understand there were more than 8,000 runners in the three events. 

By 7.30am, we were finally flagged off.  We were heading to the direction of Fort Road.  It was a straight 3km where we were to make a U-turn to the direction of SAFRA resort.  I was running a bit faster than my usual pace, pulled along by the faster runners.    I was just behind this particular runner who caught my attention because he was wearing a t-shirt which, I believe must be his name, 'Coach Tay'.  He was not a tall man, shorter than me but boy, he packed a good pace.  I briefly overtook him for a while but sooner, he shot ahead of me.  I was keeping pace with him. 

By the time, we made a U-turn after 3km mark and a short distance further, I can see the 10km runners running at the opposite direction of us.  10km and 15km runners do not get to meet or clash at any point, only to meet at the finishing which is good.

At the waterpoint, Pocari was served instead of 100plus which we normally get in most run events.  While I always swear by 100plus, in fact cannot live without it but when I took my first sip of the Pocari, it actually tasted better than 100plus, much to my delight.  So, I will grab a cup of Pocari at every waterpoint. 

At 8km mark, more than halfway to finish, 'Coach Tay' was still in front of me but he began to slow down.  I managed to inch past him when he stopped to get his drink at the waterpoint.  From there on, I lost sight of 'Coach Tay' whom I thought I could tag along with him to the end.

One hour into the run and much to my dislike, it was getting hotter.  The U-turn is at the Safra Resort, slightly more than 10km and after that, it is 5km all the way to the finishing.  I slowed a bit, more because of the weather but I know I can push if I wanted to.  As I didn't have my watch on, I kind of 'guesstimated' that I am doing 5 mins and a little more per km.  With 2 km to the finishing, I was just cruising along with some other runners.  Perhaps, it was the weather, or perhaps it was a charity run, I did not have the urge to push myself but it was a good enough pace for me though.

Before I ran past the finishing line, the clock showed 1 hr 20 mins and 30 plus seconds.  Well, that was the gun time and I reckon, I should have clocked plus/minus nett time of 1 hr 20 mins in my 15km. 

After collecting my finisher medal, I walked to the finishing line to look out for familiar faces from among the runners.  I managed to see Kiat Sing who was running the 5km run, shouted at her and she saw me just before crossing the finishing.  Winnie and her two children were also there but somehow they didn't manage to see me running past the finishing line.  I later joined Winnie and the children for breakfast at Mac's.

I salute all those who have finished the run regardless of time or distance, it is a run for the cancer cause that is key.  To Singapore Cancer Society, it is another successive hosting of the event and I look forward to next year again.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Ride For Rations 2012

This charity ride, themed 'Ride For Rations 2012 which is organised by Bike Aid for Sunlove Home's Neighbourhood Links is into its second year and also, my second consecutive ride with them.  I was inspired by the warm and enthusiastic spirit of the organisers who volunteered their own time to put together such a well organised event.  I must compliment the people behind it, Manjit Singh, Shoeb, Jennifer and the rest in the organising team for their hard works.

I got to know my current cycling kakis, GP Riders exactly one year ago when I first joined 'Ride for Rations 2011'.  I was then a novice rider and the two brothers whom I just got to know, Tomas and Pete were then rooting me all the way.  After that event, I become one of GP Riders members and the rest is history.

This year, GP Riders and friends sent in a team of 20.  From my side, I managed to rope in some of my outdoor kakis from HTTB, Dora, CK, Jacky, Rene, Kevin (his second trip), Corrina (her second trip), Vivien, Fang and her friend, Johan.  From GP Riders, Tomas and his two brothers, Pete and Arthur and through them, they managed to get Brian, Kingston, Richard and the rest of their friends.  My running mate, Chua who was to join but due to recent bike injury, he volunteered to provide vehicle support instead.

Each cyclist had to pay S$200 for the one way coach transfer, 2 nights accommodation, a hosted dinner on second night and non stop supply of isotonic & mineral drinks and bananas throughout the two days of ride.  On top of that, each cyclist has to raise a minimum sum of S$500 which is key to this event.  The fund is meant for the needy families managed by Sunlove Home.  In all, there were 79 cyclists and we were supported by more than 15 vehicles.   

On 6 July, Friday we assembled at Lavendar Road for coach pick up.  The coach was scheduled to leave at 2.45pm and I was there before 2 pm but learnt that I was waiting at a wrong spot with some cyclists.  Only Dora and CK joined Chua who was driving up to Malacca in his car.  At my request, one coach was assigned to our group.  We left on time for 2nd link but we were told to offload my bikes after clearing the immigration & customs in Johor and transfer to another coach.  It puzzled me because it was the Malaysia registered express coach that we were taking which does not require any transfer in Johor under normal circumstances.  It was such a hassle taking out our bikes out again and then re-transferred onto another waiting coach.  I gave my feedback to the organisers to take note for future similiar event.  At the Johor customs, we did encounter some disruption of sorts when an officer initially did not allow our coach to clear through with our bikes citing permit required, among others.  I knew something was amiss but left it to the organisers to sort it out.  Fortunately, everything went on smoothly. 

We were in high spirit on the coach, each of us making self introduction to the group and as usual, I was poking fun at people but it was meant to create relaxed atmosphere, nothing to be serious about.  I was poked by my kakis too, taking back some as much as I gave out.  Finally, we arrived in Malacca's Emperor Hotel and it was around 7.30pm.  Dora, CK and Chua had arrived earlier and they were there to meet us.  That night, we had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel but some of my other kakis, Dora, CK, Kevin, Jacky and Chua went off separately.  We had an early night to ready for a long ride from Malacca to Batu Pahat on the following morning. 

I bunked in with Chua, got up at 5.45 am when the phone rang, quickly brushed my teeth and thinking it was already 6.30 am.  When I was about to go for breakfast, Chua asked me why I got up so early for breakfast, only then I realised I got up early - no thanks to that earlier than expected phone call.

Before 8.00 am, we were all ready, almost everyone donned the specially designed 'Ride For Rations 2012' jerseys - what a sight.  At exactly 8.00 am, we were flagged off.  We were heading to Batu Pahat, total distance slightly more than 100 km.  It was a wet morning, fortunately the rain had already cleared but the road was still wet and pool of water filled some pockets on the road.  We can't ask for more, the entire morning was cool which was definitely good for ride.  I tagged along some of my GP Riders gang while Dora, CK and Kevin who cycled with their foldies gathered among themselves.  Before the flag-off, one of our GP Riders members, Simin had a flat tyre.  We waited for them while the main group left.  When it was done, we rolled off together as the last group.  But to no avail, after a short ride her tyre gave way again.  Tomas, Arthur, Corrina, Vivien and I went ahead while Pete and others stayed behind to help out. 

We were riding an average distance of 30+km an hour, even hitting 38km/hr and near 40km/hr at some stage.  It was not a slow ride, given we have to cover more than 100 km to reach Batu Pahat.  The weather was hotter in noon.  After lunch, we were left with about 30 km to reach our destination, Batu Pahat.  We did slower ride this time, about 25km/hr and by 2.00 pm, we reached Pine Tree Hotel.  It is quite a new hotel, clean & spacious and definitely better than the one we stayed last year.  Some of the faster group had already settled down at the hotel.  I got my room, put my bike in the room first and waited for the rest and my belonging which was left in Chua's car.  By 3.00 pm, Dora and the rest arrived and shortly after, Chua arrived with all our bags.  I had a good bath and by 4.00 pm, we met at the lobby for a good massage.  As our group was big, it was split into two.  Dora, CK, Kevin, Chua and some left to have light meal followed by massage while I joined my GP Riders group for massage only.  We rejoined later for hosted dinner at the hotel.

The distance from Batu Pahat to Singapore is longer, about 136 km and therefore, flag-off was scheduled at 7.00 am.  It was a different route from last year.  It is more scenic, cycling through idyllic kampong and of course there is lesser traffic along the West Coast heading to Pekan Nanas town.  We donned our 'red hot' GP Riders jerseys on the last day of the ride.  After we were flagged off, it was my turn to have flat tyre just less than 10km into the ride.  My GP Riders group shot ahead, not aware of my predicament but Corrina and Vivien who was behind me stayed back to help.  After changing into a new spare tube, we set off.  Just ahead, I saw my group standin by the side of the road and this time, it was Richard's turn to encounter flat tyre.  Ah Wee, our trusted bike mechanic was there to help out.  After getting Arthur's bike up and running, we rolled off again.  This time misfortune seemed to get me the second time.  My back tyre went flat again.  Ah Wee's expertise came in handy.  This time, we really made a thorough check making sure the rim and the tyre were clear of sharp debris. 

Off we went.  I was the second last person and Pete was behind me.  I had a strange eeling something was not going to be right despite assurance from Ah Wee that everything was alright with my tyre.  True enough, the back tyre went flat again.  By then, the group had shot ahead and only Pete was left behind with me.  I told him to move ahead while I will bring the bike to the nearest bike shop for repair.  Luckily, Chua's car was nearby.  We managed to find a bike shop in a small town.  He didn't have the spare tube and mine too was the right type.  No choice, we had to patch up the tube.  It is not the usual bike shops we find in Singapore or big town, it is a small nondescript bike repair shop in this small town which I cannot remember its name.  The owner did his best to patch up my spare tube, not a fantastic job but good enough, I hope.  I was way way behind the slowest rider, almost one hour was wasted trying to solve this puncture tyre saga. 

Chua was hoping I can give up the ride to join him as co-driver.  But I was not prepared to give up yet and I assured him that if this time the tyre gives way again, I will join him as support team.  Chua drove some 20 km ahead for me to start cycling.  I was just behind the last group of cyclists.  I was covering about 30km/hr but the head wind was slowing me down to around 25/26km/hr at some point.  I was hoping to join my GP Riders group, if possible.  I really huffed and puffed all the way.  Slowly, I passed some cyclists along the way.  At about 68km mark, I managed to meet Jacky with two bandaged knees.  He told me he fell while avoiding a car and luckily, it was superficial cut. 

I left him and the rest to cycle alone, hoping to reach the lunch venue at Pekan Nanas.  It was some 30 km to the lunch venue and I was hoping I can rejoin my group there.  I saw a group of red shirt cyclists from a distance and I knew they are from GP Riders.  I was not too far away from them now.  By then, I cycled past Kingston who was lying on the side of the road and was attended by a medic.  Oh no, not again but fortunately, his injury does not seem serious.  . 

Finally, I managed to meet my GP Riders group at the lunch point.  We were slotted to move off as the first batch of 28.  We had another 40km left but this time, we must move as a single group on the more busy road all the way to Singapore checkpoint.  We moved off together in one single file at about 1.15 pm.  When we reached the Singapore immigration counter, Ah Wee who was queuing in front of me suddenly pulled a cramp.  I managed to get him to lie down, pressed his right leg down to relieve the muscle tension.  He was grimacing in pain but he managed to recover to continue.    

We reached Marsiling Block 3, our final destination at 4.00 pm, safely and in one good piece.  The second group comprising Dora, Kevin, CK, Jacky and Rene, among others arrived at about 5.00 pm.  Most of us left for home before the arrival of the last group but I later learnt that the last rider arrived at about 6.15 pm.  To the relief of the organisers, everyone has arrived well and safe. 

It has been another fun and memorable outing.  Without detailed route planning and support, we cannot have made it so smoothly all the way back.  This event was not supported by any government agency on either side, solely an initiative by a group of volunteers with fund raising in mind but collectively, they have had put up an an excellent job, yet again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Note from me:  Most times I don't agree with Dr M's views which I find to be too ultra-thinking and draconian but this particular article, I cannot disagree with him.  It is a lesson we must learn from the West, where too many benefits are given out to win votes but in the end, some nations are paying a big price for it.  You can find his article, titled 'Government' on his blog, and it is my pleasure to copy it on mine.
1. We are seeing some strange things happening in Europe. This continent of rich developed countries is going through afinancial and economic crisis that resists attempts to turn it around and recover.
2. Several countries of Europe are actually going bankrupt. Greece is bankrupt. Now Spain is practically in recession. Reports indicate that Portugal and Italy are also in deep financial trouble. Even the UK and France are in trouble.
3. Where did they go wrong? It is important to know the reasons for their decline because we who are fond of copying the Europeans might be going the same way.
4. I am not an economist of course. Neither am I a financial expert. But as a layman I noticed certain things which may have a bearing on the decline of Western nations and the United States of America.
5. Simply put the decline is due largely to living beyond their means. In other words they are spending more money than they actually have or earn.

6. Younger people may not be aware of it but there was a time when all the white goods, machinery and motor vehicles that we bought were from Europe and America. Today you hardly see any of them. We now buy everything from Japan, Korea and China. The products of Europe and America are too expensive and often of poorer quality that we just don’t buy them.

7. Their high cost is due to their paying their workers wages many times higher than what they should be paid for the productivity level they achieve. They also reduce working hours per day, lesser number of working days per week. They give long holidays to their workers, high overtime allowance, generous pensions and medical care etc.

8. Even then their workers are not satisfied. They go on strike, which actually increases the cost of production. They may be given what they demanded even if their employers could not afford. The price of their products or services had to be raised again even though they were already too high and uncompetitive.

9. Rapidly they lost the market. Unemployment increased and unemployment benefits had to be paid out by the Government just when revenue decreased due to decreasing sales of their products.

10. Countries like Germany may be able to sustain the high cost of production while maintaining high living standards. This is because Germans work hard and are productive. But the poorer countries of Europe such as Greece, which tries to live like the rich, cannot. So they borrowed money.

11. We can borrow if we can invest for greater return in order to repay. When we borrow in order to just spend, we will never be able to repay. What can happen to individuals who borrow in order to spend can also happen to countries. They go bankrupt.

12. Is there a lesson in this for Malaysia? I think there is. We in Malaysia like to live well. If we cannot pay for it then we can ask the Government to pay. We believe the Government has unlimited amounts of money to pay for everything.

13. At the same time we want tax rates to be reduced. As for the tolls they should be abolished. We seem unaware that when we reduce or abolish tolls, the Government has to compensate the operators. What this means is that Government expenditure would increase just when revenue decreases. Abolishing toll does not mean we don’t pay. Through the Government we will be paying indirectly. The sad thing is that people who do not use the expressways will also pay. With tolls, only the users pay.

14. The opposition is promising increases from 5% to 20% of gross profit to be paid to the states where oil is produced. At 5% these states are already getting more than what other states get from the Federal revenue. Imagine the amount at 20%. The fact is that the oil is found in Malaysia and all Malaysians must benefit from it.

15. Then the opposition parties demand for higher education to be free for everyone. Do away with PTPTN. As far as I know only Germany, the richest country in Europe provides free tertiary education.

16. Taking all Ministries together, Malaysia spends almost 25% of its budget on education. No other country in the world developed and developing, allocate this much. Of this a very substantial portion has always been for scholarships.

17. But such is the demand for education in Malaysia that there are not enough scholarships for the deserving. Government had to launch a new scheme involving loans to cater for those who are qualified but cannot afford. The terms are very generous as the interest rate and repayment scheme permit repayment after they begin to earn an income. The loans are greatly subsidised by the Government.

18. The opposition can promise to remove all payments by the people, but all the expressways, education service and the amenities/infrastructure will have to be paid by someone. We think of the Government as some sugar daddy with unlimited funds. It is not. Government money is in fact our money acquired through taxes of all kinds. Reducing tax will mean the Government has less money, and forcing the Government to pay for all our needs will lead us to bankruptcy. That is what happens to Greece and the other European countries.

19. We are a democratic country whatever our detractors may say. The people have the power to choose their Government. Power corrupts and the right to choose who should govern the country is also a potent kind of power.

20. That power can be used to threaten the parties wishing to contest in elections. The incumbent Government is most exposed to this threat. Under threat it may forget prudence in the management of our finances. It can lead to the Grecian problem.

21. The opposition doesn’t care. For them winning the election is the only objective. Beside when they form the Government they can forget promises.

22. Remember how President Obama of the “greatest democracy in the world”, promised to close down Guantanamo detention camp two days after his installation as President. Well Guantanamo is still there.

23. The opposition will certainly forget much more easily than Mr Obama.