Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hike Up Gunung Pulai and Kangkar Pulai Fruit Farm Tour


Gunung Pulai seen from the south in Kangkar Pulai  

Boarding gingerly the monster vehicle after end of farm tour

Freshly opened chempedak 

Close up shot of the pulasan fruit

Fruit buffet for our taking

Admittedly, this is a tour not meant for any typical tourist. One has to love the outdoor, prepared to rough it out somewhat and sometimes, have to get wet to really enjoy the trip. In all there were 42 who joined me for this one day trip up north to Johor. We even had a gregarious lady who flew in from New Zealand to join us. Her name is Alison, a Briton who lives in New Zealand and this is what she has penned after her trip and I quote, "Thanks so much for this great and varied trip Collin. Mountain climbing, pampering, the fruit farm and all the lovely food made for a great day. Thanks for info below Kevin- yes definitely in no rush to eat chempedak again!! Great group and lovely to see so many of you again from previous meet-ups too :-)". Hers is not the only good review, we have received good reviews from many in the group too. But this one makes all the more special as she came all the way from New Zealand to experience our local events upclose and personal with us. Such good reviews only inspire organisers like us to roll out more interesting events. Can't rest on my laurel now, have to think of another interesting event to keep going...sweat liao!

The trip was scheduled on 19 Jan, Saturday. It was our first when Chua from Prima Sierra Holidays, my ever reliable Johor service provider proposed a trek to Gunung Pulai followed by a fruit farm tour at Kangkar Pulai which we then put together after a recce trip. I told Chua that I am not planning a 'siong siong' type of trekking but it has to have some element of sweat, challenge but most importantly, doable by anyone, of any gender or any age where everyone will get to experience it through and through. The program is certainly one of its kind which included return coach transfer, lunch, sumptous seafood dinner, fruit farm tour, guided tour and some shopping, among others.

When I posted out the event on SANL meet-up site, I received overwhelming response. In a span of just few days after the posting, I had confirmed 42 people with some still on waitlist. Have to apologise to those who could not make it for this trip as 42 is the maximum number I can take.

We were to assemble at Marsiling MRT station at 0700 hrs on 19 Jan. I planned to take the train, giving an hour to reach Marsiling station before 0700 hrs from my place. It was still raining on Friday evening and I was hoping for the rain to stop on Saturday. I did not pray for good weather, also not in me to pray anyway. When I got up at 0530 hrs, it was still raining...oh dear.

While still on the train to Marsiling, some texted me to inform they had reached Marsiling and asking where to wait and some texted to inform they would be slightly late. As organiser, I expected all these. I did emphasise that we have to arrive on time as our activities followed closely one after another and we have to leave behind any late comer. After marking attendance of those present and sure enough one will be half an hour late after I made a call to her to check on her whereabouts. We were to suppose to leave at 0700 hrs and now, it was already 0730 hrs, can't wait any further. I apologised to her that we had to leave without her. Had I waited, the entire program would be disrupted and that would make the rest very unhappy.

We left at 0730 hrs exactly, already more than half hour later than our scheduled time but we should be able to make up for it. Even at that early hour, there was slight jam building up at the Singapore side and any later, it will be chock-a-block at the causeway being a weekend departure. It took us about half an hour to cross over to the Johor side, well and safe.

After clearing the Johor side, our assigned guide Carl was already waiting and quickly, he went about to introduce himself to us onboard the coach. He spoke eloquently in a slow and patient manner. He is also very knowledgeable with the local attractions and places of interest. I like him immediately. The ride to Gunung Pulai will take us about 45 mins. We had to travel to Kampung Sri Gunung Pulai in the south west region of Johor state where Gunung Pulai is located. It was still raining, not very heavy though. Expecting to cancel the hike due to the rain, Chua was surprised when I told him we will still be hiking up Gunung Pulai. He didn't offer to join us, preferred to see to our other arrangements for the day. Once a hiker; always a hiker, ye!

I will be the lead while Carl will be the sweeper, making sure everyone is accounted for. All came prepared, donning their raincoats prior to the hike but some brought the umbrellas instead. The youngest member in our group is a young girl, Nadine who came with her parents and she is barely 10 years of age. Gunung Pulai stands at 700 metre high and there is a road that will lead us to near the end of the summit. Why just end near the summit and not the summit? Well, it is a restricted zone, nobody is allowed beyond that point and therefore, hike will end at that point. I had scheduled 3 hours to complete the hike, 2 hours up and 1 hour down. The route is 4.8 km to the furthest end measured from the gate and in all, no more than 10 km. 3 hours is more than suffice.

As the lead, I will have to ensure the last person has to make an U-turn back by 1130 hrs. We needed to manage our time well in order to meet our other activities - no choice.

We started at about 0930 hrs and I moved off first with some of them. Stephan, a German national who has been living in Singapore for some 13 years and Carolyn were with me in the front of the pack. Kevin, my outdoor buddy preferred to take his leisure time stayed at the rear with some. Less than 15 minutes into the hike, I stopped briefly for some others to catch up and ensuring everyone was coping fine thus far. Despite the rain everyone was still in a jovial mood and marching on, no sweat literally.

Though we were walking on hard road, it is going up, up and up. The heart will beat faster and faster and breathing heavier and heavier as we continued to press up. I was walking on a faster pace to catch up with the front pack after leaving them at some point earlier. Some trees felled due to soil erosion and the weather did not make it any better, anyway. I warned some along the way to keep a look out for any sign of falling trees.

When I walked past Carolyn, she told me it was a quite challenging route. She is a regular at Bukit Timah hike. There is a path that turns to straight left somewhere in the midway and it is elevated at about 45 degree. This is the most challenging part of the entire route. We had to bend our body forward and slowly pushed up. I did not stop at that turn, gave Carolyn and some whom I passed along the way some encouraging words and pressed on as I was hoping to meet the front pack.

Finally, I managed to catch up with Stephan, Alison and Jia Jun. We chatted on, sharing our own life experiences and what not. At about 1045 hrs, we reached the furthest point and beyond that, it is a restricted zone. It took the first group to arrive in an hour 15 mins. There is no view at the summit. It was cold, was still raining and misty. It just reminded us that we were not in a tropical country but somewhere in cold Europe now. I decided to station at the summit, planned to leave at 1130 hrs just to make sure everyone was accounted for. One by one, they reached the summit and much to my delight, our youngest member, Nadine made it with her parents too. Her parents must be proud of her feat too though they didn't say, can tell from their expressions.

Finally our sweeper Carl, who was also our guide reached the summit and it was about 1115 hrs. We were well ahead of our intended turn back schedule. I told him I will move off first while he still covered the rear. I decided to jog in bid to catch up with the rest and to see to the next arrangement, lunch that was.

Upon reaching the base, I immediatey contacted Chua who was already making the lunch arrangement at the penghulu home (the village chief). Not wanting to waste much time, I despatched the first batch who had already arrived to the lunch venue while I waited for the rest. Very soon, all of us arrived at the penghulu home and lunch was served. It was a simple lunch, cooked with local flavour and spice was the order of the day. I asked our Briton friend, Alison whether the spicy fish dish was too much for her liking but to my surprise, she said it was alright for her. On the contrary, it was a local member, an Indian lady who said the fish was too spicy for her. Hard to believe, right? I like best the local pineapple.

Our next program was the fruit farm tour at Kangkar Pulai but as it was still raining, Chua proposed we will head to the shopping mall first while waiting for the rain to stop (hopefully). It proved to be a good move. Happily, we headed to Jusco at Bukit Indah area, about 20 mins drive away.

We were given 2 hours to while away our times at the big shopping mall and we were to re-assemble back at 1600 hrs. Kevin, Rene, Noelle and I decided to spend our time at the foodcourt sipping away piping hot 'tea-tarek' and yakking away.

We re-boarded our coach and after making final count for everyone, we left the mall a little over 1600 hrs. It was another 30 mins drive to Kangkar Pulai from Bukit Indah. Where we were trekking in the morning, we were on the north side and Kangkar Pulai is actually on the south side of Gunung Pulai. Kangkar Pulai is a 800-acres farming land which was given to some 120 Chinese farmers after the Malaysia's Chinese political party, MCA has won a local election in the 60s as a promise. The present Kangkar Pulai has a good mix of plantations from fruit farm, oil plantation, rubber plantation, orchid plantation to coffee & coco plantation. There is a nondescript house which attracts swiftlets in and this is where the prized bird's nest is harvested. There is also an arowana rearing farm, among many. It is now an agro-attraction.

Two 'monster looking type' of vehicles were already on standby for us when we arrived at the foot of Kangkar Pulai. The vehicle was an improvised type, seats were hard and reinforced in rows and the chassis was taken from an old truck - a brainchild of Chua. Chua commanded one of the vehicles while his nephew took another. The two vehicles then moved in convoy. It was a jolly bumpy ride and everyone were told to hold tight but nobody seemed to mind a bit with that discomfort. Chua was also our guide, speaking to us through his loudhailer but he was more at ease in Mandarin. Alas, we have some who are non Chinese, how?

We drove past a coffee plantation. Chua stopped the vehicle, jumped off to pluck some coffee seeds for us to taste and smell. He jumped back up, steered through the undulating terrain which drove up our adrenalin rush. Durians were sighted along the way though it is still not durian season yet. I managed to pluck some rambutans from some low laying branches when the 'monster vehicle' whizzed through the path. Everyone seemed excited.

We reached the fruit farm, safely and all limbs still intact - phew! When we first sighted the pulasan trees, everyone went for the fruits. We simply plucked from the trees and gobbled up, went on to pluck some more. Pulasan resembles closely to rambutan, the flesh looks the same and it tastes almost the same too. Why is it called Pulasan? Well, it actually comes from a Malay word, pulas which means twist. To open it, we just twist it with both hands just like what we do with rambutan.

Our foreign friend, Alison likes the pulasan fruit too. But she cannot stand the smell of chempedak when it was deftly prised opened by a helper, let alone taking a first bite. But local girl, Mala was so overwhelmed with the chempedak that she had sworn she will give up dinner for the sake of the chempedak. I can see her grinning away when she took a first bite. Other fruits like rambutan, pineapple, papaya and water melon were also served on the table. It was fruit galore.

After finishing up the assorted fruits, we headed back to the monster vehicles for a 'hellish bumpy' ride back to the base. And from there, we were transferred to an 'Orang Asli Restaurant' for our seafood dinner. We were already full with fruits earlier but we still have some capacity for dinner. The food was prepared by Chinese cooks. It was sumptuous. We had fish, we had crabs, we had prawns but we still managed to clean up each dish.

After dinner, we had to bid our guide, Carl and our coach captain, Rosdie good bye and of course, thanking the two gentlemen for their patience and a good job.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Malaysia Politics


Just days into 2013, election fever in Malaysia has certainly gathered pace.  Dr M, the 4th PM of Malaysia has fired his latest take, titled "Change" posted on his blog (click to this, http://chedet.cc/?p=34) and followed immediately, a counter from a Pak Sako which appeared veteran opposition members, Mr Lim Kit Siang's blog titled "What Change? A Reply to Dr M" (click to this,  
http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2013/01/04/what-change-a-reply-to-dr-m/).

As our closest neighbour, we should always keep a close tab on developments there.  Who will win in this coming election?  I say, it will be a close call.  

For your reading pleasure, I have copied the two articles from the two blogs which are featured below and we shall make our own judgment but keep close to our hearts.  Read on.

Quote    
By Dr M
Title: Change
1. In his campaign to become President of the US Barack Obama promised change, “time for change”, he said.
2. He promised to close down Guantanamo Detention Camp.

3. He promised to stop trials of detainees by Military Courts.
4. He promised to pull out from Iraq and Afghanistan.
5. And many more.
6. Now four years into his first term he has failed to keep his promises.
7. Guantanamo is still holding so-called terrorists; still torturing them. No military courts but no trials by civilian courts either.
8. Instead of pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan he approved a “surge” in the troops sent to this area. Later he pulled out some troops but American soldiers are still in the two countries.
9. Making promises during campaigns for elections is easy. Keeping them is a different matter. The best hope is that people’s memory is short. They would normally forget the promises.
10. Now the opposition in Malaysia have copied Obama and is promising change.
11. Give them a chance they say. The BN has ruled this country for 55 years. It is time to change. They will change this into a welfare state. Everything will be free. No fees for education. No tolls. Large subsidy for petrol. 20% royalty to oil producing states etc..etc.
12. The Socialist and Communist have tried this welfare state idea. They failed. Malaysia has no ideology. But the reality is that all Governments need money in order to develop the country and to subsidise living cost for the people. But when Government foregoes taxes, tolls and fees, it will have less money. But it will still have to spend money on running and maintaining utilities, expressways, schools, hospitals, operational and development cost, pension, subsidies, etc.
13. So where does the Government get necessary funds.
14. Borrowing is okay if the money is invested and giving a return to repay the loans. But borrowing money in order to just spend will lead to non-payment of debts.
15. That’s what happened to Greece. It’s bankrupt now. The whole of Europe cannot put it back together again.
16. Admittedly the BN has ruled this country every since independence. But look at the record and compare it with other countries which gained independence at the same time. Compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble and try as they might, they have not been able to overcome the crisis.
17. Remember 1997- 8 crisis. The then Deputy PM and Minister of Finance tried the IMF solution without the IMF loans. Banks and companies were faced with the threat of bankruptcy from non-performing loans. Imports cost more. Cost of living shot up.
18. The track record of the Minister of Finance then was bad although there is a fondness of claiming success brought about by other people as his success. PNB, UIA and Islamic banking were part of the claim.
19. Now as leader of the Opposition he is claiming to bring about change. What good change did he introduce when he was in the Government. All he was interested in was getting up the leadership ladder of UMNO in order to become Prime Minister. How he achieved his objective does not bear scrutiny.
20. Five years for the Anwar or Hadi-led opposition to govern is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years. We have some experience of this. Besides the Opposition as Government will ensure there will be no return for the BN. Officer in the Government will be used to “gempar” (threaten) whoever tries to change Government. We know this has happened before.
21. Already we see this person who claims to fight for free speech suing and resorting to the courts to shut the mouths of his critics. Other powers of the Government will be similarly abused. Nepotism and cronyism will be employed as indeed they are in the party he now heads.
22. The record is there. Malaysians must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked as I was hoodwinked by the appearance of religious piety in the past.
23. The BN has listened to the people and has changed many laws and policies. All that the people need to do is to urge the BN to carry out whatever change the people desire. But changing the Government can and will result in this country becoming unstable and unable to grow.
Unquote
Quote
By Pak Sako
Title: What Change? A reply to Dr M

JAN 4 ― Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad published a piece called “Change” yesterday in his blog.
In it he asked why change governments.
He then criticised the socialist ideology. He strangely claimed that “Malaysia has no ideology”.
That is completely untrue.
When Dr Mahathir came into power in 1981, Malaysia was introduced to the neoliberal ideology.
This is an ideology that is biased in favour of corporations and capitalists.
It is the opposite of socialism, which aspires to put people first.
The neoliberal ideology was aggressively promoted around the world in the early 1980s by influential global networks of business interests and their supporters.
Their mantra?
Sell off public assets. Remove regulations, so big businesses can run free. Control workers’ wage demands. Cut public expenditure.
Dr Mahathir joined the bandwagon. This is well-documented in books and papers.
His economic advisors were businessman Daim Zainuddin and the well-known neoliberal strategist, Kenichi Ohmae.
It was Ohmae’s rejected mega-project to create a “Multimedia Supercity” in Tokyo that got recycled in Malaysia as the “Multimedia Super Corridor”. Read Dr Tim Bunnell’s book, “Malaysia, Modernity and the Multimedia Super Corridor” (2004).
Ohmae’s ideological influence was “extremely significant”. And what other ideology is that if not neoliberalism?
After becoming prime minister, Dr Mahathir quickly announced a privatisation policy in 1983 — in line with the standard neoliberal programme.
Publicly-held assets were sold off to private business interests, entrepreneurs and corporate “captains” to supposedly make the economy more ‘efficient’.
But efficient for whom?
The “massive privatisation strategy” carried out during Dr Mahathir’s tenure is said to be linked to “increased competition for resources within the ruling Malay party [Umno]”; it redistributed resources “in favour of emerging factions centred on key political leaders”.
That is what political economist Jeff Tan found out and wrote in his book, “Privatization in Malaysia: Regulation, Rent-Seeking and Policy Failure” (2008).
Indeed, many privatisations are improperly justified handouts for the capitalist elite from the public coffers.
Selling off the public’s holdings remains a favoured economic policy of the Malaysian government until today. Witness the recent sale of Penang’s port and other public-owned assets to well-connected tycoons.
The neoliberal ideology calls for weaker worker unions so that big businesses can have the “economic freedom” to exploit workers to maximise profits.
Again, the Malaysian government’s development agenda subordinated labour in favour of private business interests in the 1980s under Mahathir’s watch, according to economist KS Jomo and Patricia Todd in their book “Trade Unions and the state in Peninsular Malaysia” (1994).
Labour organisations in Malaysia are weak relative to business power. They have no bite to negotiate for better working hours, conditions and pay.
The neoliberalism ideology wants ‘free markets’ in labour, so that the ‘price’ of an employee (his wage) can be competed down if necessary. Fixing minimum wages is bad.
Dr Mahathir forcefully argued against minimum wages in Malaysia, claiming it might bankrupt Malaysia, without providing sufficient evidence (“Dr M: Minimum wage may bankrupt Malaysia”, The Malaysian Insider, March 2, 2012). Dr Mahathir did not bother at all to consider the positive aspects of minimum wages.
The neoliberal ideology is opposed to strong states that directly ensure the people’s welfare, but it supports a strong state to enable businesses and capitalists to flourish freely, to ensure corporate welfare.
This involves all kinds of hidden subsidies and supports for businesses, including overlooking environmental regulation and standards.
And so we have today Lynas and the threat of radiation. Our rivers are polluted by business activities, and yet the people must pay businesses to buy water filters for their homes and mineral water.
Dr Mahathir does not like the welfare state approach, which says “if we properly meet basic social needs and securities first, economic prosperity will come”. Dr Mahathir prefers the opposite, neoliberal approach, which says “support the corporate class, and enough wealth will ‘trickle down’ to the people”. Now Malaysia has one of the higher income inequalities amongst the Asean countries. The super-rich are sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country in illegal outflows.
Dr Mahathir complains about an unjust neoliberal world order, but Dr Mahathir hypocritically follows the neoliberal ideology, says political science professor Johan Saravanamuttu in his book Malaysia’s Foreign Policy, The First Fifty Years (2010).
Even the Nobel economist whom Dr Mahathir is fond of quoting, Joseph Stiglitz, has rubbished this neoliberal ideology, calling it a “grab-bag of ideas” about markets supposedly serving the public interest by “privatisation, liberalization”, when in fact it is simply “a political doctrine serving certain interests”. Read Stiglitz’s article called, “The end of neo-liberalism?”(2008).
On debt, Dr Mahathir says Greece borrowed a lot of money and is bankrupt.
But Europe fears Italy has also borrowed too much and is going bankrupt.
Malaysia has been given a financial warning: a top debt ratings agency says our public finances are weak, and are at the same level as debt-struck Italy (“Fitch warns Malaysia of possible downgrade due to ‘deteriorating’ public debt ratios’, The Edge, 1 August 2012).
Malaysia’s debt is now more than half of the income Malaysia as a whole earns in a year. This debt is RM456 billion. This debt nearly doubled since 2007, or in just four years.
This is to say every Malaysian now owes about RM16,000. If you earn RM4,000 a month, then you need to give up four month’s pay to settle the debt.
Dr Mahathir says: “Look at [Barisan’s] record… compare it even with the developed West. They are in deep financial trouble…”
Dr Mahathir says: “Five years to give a trial as government is dangerous. Many things can be destroyed in five years.”
But which government doubled Malaysia’s debt in less than five years? Barisan Nasional, right? ― english.cpiasia.net
Unquote

Thursday, January 03, 2013

One Day Pontian Eco-Tour




I have been organising cycling, trekking and run events for friends and some meet up sites members but this trip was certainly different.  We do not have to trek up mountain, cycle or run under sweltering sun.  It is an eco-tour to Pontian in the idyllic south-western region of Johor and travelling in the comfort of a luxurious coach cabin.  For this eco-program, I am charging S$70 nett per person, which includes land transfer, lunch, some leisure time for last minute shopping and a personalised explanation by the facilitators, among others.

The trip was scheduled on 29 Dec, Saturday for all 27 of us with me as their tour leader. Sheepishly, I must admit it was also my first such trip but I reckon I should not have any big issue ahead, after all it was just a one-day trip up north.  Some of our regular kakis also came along.  Kevin who is always so supportive and I only realised that he is still nursing a leg injury from his recent Hokkaido skiing trip with Y Trek.  My running mate, Catherine and she brought along her parents too.  Jacky, his wife and their two lovely boys though the youngest one is quite a rascal who was ‘taunted’ by me throughout the tour in light-hearted spirit, of course. And JK too who tagged along with Catherine.  For the rest, it was my first meeting with them but soon, we will gel well.     

Prior to the departure, all were informed to assemble at Newton Hawker Centre open car park by 7.30 am. That morning, I got up around 5.45 am and very quickly, I was on the way out.  I took the train to Newton station and I was already there well before 7.00 am. One by one, they arrived and as usual, one or two arrived later than the scheduled time.  The last person arrived at 7.45 am and after making one final headcount, we were off to 2nd Link. I was using our own 44-seater Citystate Destinations coach for this tour with our ever trusted coach captain, Jason on the wheel. 

Frank, our facilitator was on board with us, together with his assistant, Lee Hong. While travelling, I did the initial introduction and a little bit of rah-rah to break the ice.  Thereafter, Frank took over to explain the program of the day in more details. As it was still the school holiday period, I was expecting heavy traffic jam at the 2nd link. There were more cars and coaches on that morning but it was better than what I had expected – couldn’t have asked for more, really. All in all, it took us about an hour to clear on both sides. Soon we were travelling on the highway heading to Pekananas town to our first stop – the bee farm in Parik Sikom. The name of the bee farm is called 'Nictar Bee Farm' which is owned by a local Chinese man, Haleem. I thought he must be a Chinese Muslim but no, Frank told us that his surname is Lim and everyone used to call him 'Ah Lim' but gradually it ended up as 'Haleem'...well sounded almost the same.  That much about the bee farm owner.

We sat in rows facing Haleem, just like children waiting eagerly to attend our first eco-lesson.  Haleem brought us up close and personal to the bees from the beehive he has been keeping but before he can do so, he has to ‘smoke’ the bees first. He said the smoke is to 'disorientate' the bees so that they will not become aggressive and start to sting. He then explained how honey is gathered from his farm, the eco-way. Some brave hearts from among us even held on to the beehive for photo taking and Carolyn (picture above) was among the few. I preferred to watch on the side while looking out for open space in case we need to dash for cover, you know what I mean (do not take the last part seriously though) . Oh ya, on our arrival, Haleem had earlier prepared his cross-breed pineapples from Johor and Sarawak for our fruit testing, which he proudly called 'Josa Pine' (Jo for Johor and SA for Sarawak). I have to say it is sweet and juicy – in short, heavenly.  Haleem produces his own honey which he sells at his premises after each ‘bee demonstration’ and of course, some of us ended up buying, even his ‘Josa Pine’ too - much to his delight.

Our next stop, Lee Rubber Plantation. This plantation is owned by the Lee family in Singapore, one of the founders of OCBC and it was one of the biggest pineapple exporters in the world then.  The plantation is not opened to the public but Haleem is the man who is authorised to bring us on a private tour of the plantation.  It is 10,000 acres of nothing but pineapples.  In case, you cannot visualise how big is 10,000 acres, well, one acre is about 44,000 sq feet.  We can only see rows of pineapple to the end of the horizon.  I have not been to a pineapple plantation and this is certainly an eye opener for me.  Pineapple is best grown on soft soil and it gives bouncy effect when one jumps on it.  Soon, some were happily jumping on the soft soil next to the pineapples to feel that bouncy effect.    

Lunch is our next agenda.  Frank told us the lunch theme is what else but pineapple.  The ride to our lunch point which is also the horse farm took some 20 minutes.  We are travelling in the remote region in Pontian, the road is quite narrow, long and winding too.  Quite a challenge for our high deck coach but we have a superb driver in Jason - he certainly knows his way around.  He even had to carefully manoeuvre over low hanging cables, phew.

The horse farm is called ‘Wednesday Ditch Farm and Resort’.  First, we headed for lunch to answer our hunger pang.  Among the dishes, we were served pineapple rice being our main course, yes…literally on a pineapple which we can scrap for its flesh after finishing our rice.  There was some confusion when one member who is a vegetarian had our vegetarian rice taken by someone in the group and she had to wait a little longer for the cook to dish out her vegetarian meal again.  I went over to that fella to tell him that it is right for him to take someone’s lunch without checking first.  Small issue, everything was quickly blown away after lunch.     

At the horse farm, we were briefed on some of the basis equipment and techniques for horse riding by the instructor.  A rider did a short demonstration for us but nobody had volunteered to mount on the horse, or are we allowed?  Perhaps, ride is chargeable.  But we were allowed to feed the horses at the stable.  It was my first going up close and personal with a horse.  Frank did propose a 2 day full board horse riding training course at this farm and at the end of the course, we can earn certification by Malaysian Sports Authority for Equestrian Olympic Standards.  The course comes in 7 modules over 2 days.  Already some in the group expressed interest.  I wonder with that certification, can I race at Kranji Turf Club (dream on…)?

By now, it was about 3.00 pm and next, we will be heading to a local snack factory which is about 40-min drive away.  I took a short nap while on the move.  On our arrival, we were immediately treated to a sampling of pineapple tarts, fish & prawn crackers and a variety of local products.  After the sampling, some were happily shopping for the goodies at the shop.    

Our final stop was the much talked about Johor Premium Outlet before heading home and we were to spend an hour there.  After making sure everyone was accounted for, we left for Singapore just before 6.00 pm.  It was smooth sailing at both sides, no jams but we had to wait a little longer for Jacky and his two children at the Singapore immigration who were caught in the human queue.  All was well and finally, we reached Newton car park at about 8.00 pm.  It was a short trip but quite an educating one, at least for me…and am sure the rest should share the same sentiment too.  Watch out for more such trips in the near future.