2010: a year of restful increase!

As the year has drawn to a close, I shall do my usual reflection and thanksgiving for all the wonderful things God has done in the past year. It has been really really the best year of my life yet, though I expect more to come in 2011.

As I type this under the night sky on the top of Gunung Datuk, a cool 20 degree breeze flows past with a fog. Reminds me of Santa Cruz weather. Too bad there are no stars visible in the sky.

Thank you Daddy God for the following:

  • Last year at this Christmas season, I was enjoying the holiday of my life with Joshua and Vanessa in New York and Canada. I was probably in Niagara Falls or thereabouts. Thank you Daddy God for allowing me to see the world, to see New York City and San Francisco, two cities on two different coasts of another world. It really opened my eyes to see America, see how different people live, homeless people especially. Thank God for all the favours shown in the road trips and the arrangement for the beginning of my exchange programme in USA, from a bigger car, avoiding accidents, to getting the modules in UCSC. It was a truly rewarding experience.
  • Thank God for Nikki, Zoe, Whye Kiat, Kep Kee, Stephanie, Canny, Billy, Nidhi, Donna and Jikang, the main people, mostly from NUS, who hang out with me or helped mr frequently during the exchange programme. It was good to have familiar people around who are familiar with one’s own culture and language needs in a foreign country. They made me feel at home when I miss Singapore sometimes.
  • In the exchange, I met very wonderful people from the Intervarsity group at Kresge-Porter (K-PO) College, especially people like Jason the leader, Coral, Hannah, Brian, Cameron, Michelle, Duanne, Michael, Naomi, Randy and many others! It was a blast to eat at the dining hall with them and fellowship with them during Kairos and bible study. They allowed me to experience living with American friends in college, in a Christ-like environment. I miss the nights which we would watch LOST together!
  • Thank you Daddy God for the many right places and right time, certainly my wish was fulfilled in knowing you more in exchange. Also especially allowing me to meet Penny and her NOC Christian friends, Elisha, Zhiyao and Dixon. They were my weekend buddies when I wasn’t out with the earlier mentioned people. Thank all of you for the church services we attended and the various trips we had, such as to Point Reyes and Bay to Breakers. Zhiyao, thank you for all the wonderful photography insights you sharedq. Dixon and Elisha, thank God for the wonderful excursion to Catalyst West Coast, which is another story altogether. Elisha, thank you for sharing your heart and allowing us to find out how many mutual interests we have. It was really blessed to know you and I look forward to more collaborations in future!
  • Thank You Daddy for opening the world of American Christianity, to be exposed to the various good and odd churches around. I enjoyed every single church which I visited and toured to, and especially those which I had contact with the pastors, such as Christian Life Center, Vintage Faith, Santa Cruz Bible etc. Thank God for allowing me to go to so many events and participate in some of them, as ushers in Catalyst West Coast, and the best of all, as video crew at Spirit West Coast. Thank God for the wonderful people I met there, especially Tom and Tracey, who taught me about live camera shoot, mixing and painting. It was really a ball of a time to be involved in such a big scale event. Thank God for allowing me to go on a “world tour” to all the concerts, such as David Crowder, Phil Wickham, Leeland, Skillet, Firelight, Kutless and many more. Amazing.
  • Thank God for my CAP5 care group in New Creation Church, for constantly keeping in touch through webcam whenever you all have devo in school. Thank you Selene for the various discussions we have over email, and teaching me how to find my peace in God. Thank you Helen, Teck Beng and Belinda for the countless 4th services we attended and all the fun we have eating and phototaking. Thank you Ome and Alicia for sharing the same modules with me in school and giving encouragement to one another. Thank you Kit Fan and Jonah for always being there and also in our other groups of friends in SoC. Thank you Amelia, Daniel and Nicholas for joining us!
  • Thank you EstherJosiahYvonneJoshen for integrating me and teaching me the ins and outs of the Zone Video ministry! Thank you Zixiang for allowing me to serve with you in the Spark Films!
  • Thank God for my best friends from GTC: Jeremiah, Louis, Weiyi and Chris. You guys are great company and support, and will always continue to be my innermost support group (like Jesus’ 3 disciples out of the 12), as you all have been with me through thick and thin for 8 years! Time flies.
  • Thank God for allowing me to integrate back into Singapore and joining events such as SoC camp and rag dance. Rag dance is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, thank you to all who were in the team! Though I probably may not join again. Haha.
  • Thank God for restful increase in my results. Even though there were many project-based modules, I still pulled through by the grace of God. Thank God for constantly multiplying my time and never failing to show me favour with my lecturers.
  • Thank God for my earthly father who also gives me all things which I ask, and supporting me in everything I do. Thank God for my brother Jason who always share tips and insights about films and also advising me in various matters at home.

I am still praying for my life partner and the salvation of my family.

Gunung Datuk

After hearing from Helen that the rovers trek are fun, I decided to jio Zhan Vic and kc to go on a 2D1N trek to Gunung Datuk (870m) with me. I always wanted to climb a mountain/hill, and going to Santa Cruz increased my liking for hiking. As it turned out, there were 2 other girls Adele and Xiuling who are assigned to our group. We had to wake up early to meet at 6am to take a bus to Johor Bahru in order to take a train from JB to Tampin at 0912. Although the train comes from Singapura, it is cheaper to do it that way. The train ride was fun initially, as I always loved trains. It’s nice to explore from one end to another, viewing the tracks from the tail carriage and catching the wind from the open doors. It’s interesting that KTM has money to buy LCD TVs for every carriage now as forms of entertainment, although the Capcom-like midi music in the background was super irritating that Zhan went to turndown the volume. Lol.

At Tampin, we ate at the little hawker place opposite the train station. It was slightly hilarious as the aunties did not expect such a large crowd and said that they may not have enough rice for nasi goreng and noodles for mee goreng for us lol. The food took like 45mins to arrive, reminding me of the slow pace of life in rural areas.

Cabs were hired to fetch us to the foot of the hill. The “gang leader” of the cab drivers, a Chinese, was grumbling and scolding all the other cab drivers for various reasons which I do not comprehend. It was slightly hilarious as he complained to everyone about his concerns in getting enough cabs for 31 of us. As we sat in his 36-year-old retro Mercedes cab, he continued telling us how effective he is in getting all the cab drivers’ contacts.

On the way to the mountains, we saw some bulls and rubber plantations. The car probably climbed a little of the hill for us before alighting us at the entrance. The initial part was interesting to see a little waterfall/pool from spring water which kids were playing in it. Then it started to get super straineous, with slopes as steep as 60 degrees. At various parts, we have to use the tree roots as steps, hug onto tree trunks for support, and use rocks and ropes as our support. Some parts were continuously steep with no respite in between, and often we have to use our hands to pull ourselves up. Not easy. I would say we are going at a pretty fast pace, with not much time for me to stop and take photos. But I still struggled to take many photos nevertheless with the camera in sling, although it was slightly hindering at times.

At the halfway mark, there was a resting plataeu. By then we were all drenched in sweat, my shirt was totally wet. I was contemplating to bring mh ukulele, which would be fun, but would not have survived all the knocks on my fieldpack. Some of us were struggling for breath, and we were utterly dehydrated. After a few minutes we continued. The second half was slightly less straineous with gentler slopes, though mostly still 30-50 degrees. There were some nice flater parts towards the summit.
There weren’t much wild animals, we spotted some colony of giant ants (really giant) and heard many noises of weird birds and insects. There were many parts we had to cross over fallen trees and logs. Fortunately the weather was good, cloudy and not too sunny, with the air going damper and cooler as we ascend.

Towards the end, the rocks and boulders grew bigger. That was the sign that we are reaching. And at last, we reached the summit base camp which was a small flat area that could got a few tents. Remains of ash and rubbish were evidence that this place was well used. We are kinda above the clouds, with some fog and mist in the trees above us.

We pitched our tents, which is quite a huge 8-man one, and I must admit I have little experience in tent pitching other than the school camps I attended lol. We decided to climb the summit before dark, and we ascended on a series of giant boulders via ladders. As we go higher, it became scarier as the ladders were hanging precariously on the rocks with little support or tied my ropes. If we slip, we would fall far down below, very far down. And some parts were literally rock climbing, as we had to hold on to the robes and squeeze our body through the rocks

At the summit, which is mostly rocky, it was cool and amazing. It was too cloudly to see anything or any sunset, although we are really in the clouds and could make out an orange glow in the west. It was a satisfying and accomplished journey. I’m on the top of the world looking…

As it turned darker, we descended slowly using torches. Some parts were very trickly and would cause your feet to wobble as we try to tackle the ladders. With the help of the experienced ones from NUS rovers, we came down for dinner!

There was a group which was very pro, as they brought trays and charcoal for a BBQ. Very amazing. We started up
Our burner/gas stove and cooked our instant noodles, accompanied with various canned food like corn, tuna, sardines, peanuts. It was quite food and I didn’t cook my campbell soup in the end.

At 10pm, we decided to change and go to bed. Sadly, it was too cloudly to see any stars. I suggested to play card games but none were interested to play in the dark. Other tents were gossiping and telling hilarious “bedtime stories” about “epic failures” and topics like “have you ever thought of committing suicide”. As I couldn’t sleep, unintentional eavesdropping was funny. Haha. I decided to get out of my warm tent, enjoy the cool breeze which reminds me of Santa Cruz weather, and reflect on the year that has passed.

We woke up at 5+am for the sunrise feeling super cold. Zhan suggested to cook at the summit, which was actually an extremely good idea after all. We cooked both our Campbell soups for breakfast, as we watched the sky changed from dark to light. There wasn’t really a sun as it was too cloudy, but we saw the orange rainbow glow. Kelvin’s tripod was pretty useful for photos. It was a nice misty view of the town lights below and the many mountains in the horizon. Reminds me of Malang when I went Mount Bromo and there was a very similar but nicer view, just that we drove up instead of climbing up haha.

After being satisfied with hot soup and the view, we descended back to camp, realizing that our tent had collapsed due to strong winds. Hahaha. Just nice for us to dismantle. After a group photo, we began the descend. It was so much easier! Some parts we had to sit down and slide down the rocks, but overall it was more enjoyable going down. Some portions were so steep that I marvelled how we actually made it upwards earlier. As we were in front, we had to slow down often to wait for the others to catch up. There were curious loud sounds of monkeys later, and we were afraid of provoking them or if they throw shit at us. Lol. There were two instances of monkey shit on the floor, wonder if they did it intentionally.

After the descend which still took about 2 hours, we greeted the pool with a splash. The water was super super cold, and there was a nicer upper part with a small waterfall which functioned nicely as a shower. It was like hard massage! We bathe in the water and had some fun, although initially i thought of going to the proper shower but what’s the point lol.

After a cab ride back to Tampin, we had an interesting lunch at a Chinese hawker center. The laksa tasted a little like Mee Siam, and the bak kut Teh was very tastety with many spices. After a short walk in Tampin town in their rural old shophouses, we took the Transnasional bus back to JB.

Bintan Holiday

Last last week I went to Bintan Lagoon Resort with Wing and gang. After learning in geography that the whole area is owned by Singapore, upon planning for the trip, we realize that it is a tourist trap. Almost everything in the resort is priced highly in SGD, with the option to pay by Rupiah, although at exorbitant prices. For example, the buffet lunch at the hotel’s restaurant costs $28++, while a 30-min ATV ride costs $88!

The bintan resort ferry was quite sad as we couldn’t go outdoors to feel the wind, as compared to the Batam ferry I took last time. Only the “Emerald” class seats can. Upon arriving, what I learnt in geography proved true: the streets to the resort is very well maintained, straight and lined with trees like Singapore. At the resort, for some reason we missed the “Welcome Indonesian Dance” which everyone else online experienced. We only saw the dance on the 3rd day.

After checking in, we ate lunch at a cafe near the golf course clubhouse. Each course was around $15++ average. Pretty expensive for us. We checked into our villa, which is one is the smaller ones, but it has 3 bedrooms, huge kitchen and living room, much like the changi chalets, but better furnished. The best part was we have a 6-seater buggy at our disposal, which we could drive around the resort! Super cool and everyone had a chance to try driving it.

After that, we decided to hire a taxi to Pasir Oleh Oleh to buy stuff to cook for the next day’s meals so that we don’t need to pay so much, and also to buy additional stuf for our BBQ. Realised that the ideal number of people to go is actually 6-7, as the villa’s beds and buggy fit those numbers, and so do the taxi. The resort actually charge us for populating >7 people in the villa. At Pasir Oleh Oleh, and the “Kampung” opposite, are actuallly purpose-built tourism towns to serve us. Hence the things, such as Polo Ralph tees, are priced at SGD and rupiah as well. Fortunately the groceries and meals here are much cheaper. We were led by a tour guide, as one of us could speak Indonesian, to another corner of the town which is actually the Indonesian’s own Hawker Centre and shops, which sell things even cheaper. Good place to buy stuff and not get cheated. We had a wonderful BBQ and Christmas gift exchange that night, thanks to good planning and various people contributing the food. The only initial problem was the firestarter – the Diaso one didn’t work too well, and the hotel gave us some gel-like fire starting liquid which worked well.

The next day, we went for a swim at the nice pool, which was oddly deep at 2.2m in one part but oddly shallow at 1m in most parts. After instant noodle lunch, we went to the beach, which is probably the highlight! The winds were really strong and continuous, never ending and very refreshing. The horizon was pure and empty with no ships in sight in the South China Sea. The waves were huge and strong, like those in California suitable for surfing. The beach is quiet, golden with fine sand, nice to step on, with many cute hermit crabs around. The only thing was the sea is unfortunately still not very blue compared to Calif. Nevertheless, it is still really shiok to just lie down on the beach reclining chairs and do nothing!

Other than doing nothing, we played some volleyball, dunked some people, and played monkey with frisbee after that. The only thing was they close the beach pretty early at 5.30pm, and don’t allow us to go into the water after that. Probably cos of monsoon season, the tides coming in are larger. Hence there are not many sea sport activities available too, not that they are affordable/worth-for-money in the first place. My friends say Rendung or Bali is better/more worth it.

At night we returned to Pasir Oleh Oleh for Zi Char food at one of the the cafes. At least it is more reasonably priced. We played mahjong/watch DVDs until we sleep. The next morning, some of us woke up earlier to try to catch the sunset, but it was too cloudy. Nevertheless, it was still a nice even cooler breeze, with even higher tide and bigger waves, so it was a nice dawn. We ate the buffet lunch and went back.

On the whole, Bintan is a nice quick getaway from Singapore, just bring your own food, or go in a group large enough to hire taxis to Pasir Oleh Oleh ($22/taxi) often enough, instead of taking the shuttle bus which only comes twice a day at $6/pax. I wish I have a chance to visit Tanjong Pinang, although my Indo friend said there’s nothing much. The tours to there from the Resort are too ex ($60-$100/pax).