High in the misty hills of Cameron Highlands lies a rare mossy alcove, a mystical forest of enchanting flora and fauna.
Winding through winsome hills and across weathered waters, we come to the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, a slumberful shantytown of sights and sounds and long journeys.
The largest and most well-known of the eastern isles, Pulau Perhentian still has much to offer the frugal traveller.
All our lives we have been brought up to believe in a dream – the great American Dream. To own a house and a car, to have a family, to be financially free. But does that apply to us here in Malaysia? What does that mean to us – what is the Malaysian Dream?
Growing up we are told to dream big, to be ourselves, to discover who we are and what we’re good at. And then shortly thereafter we’re told to throw that away and be a doctor or lawyer or accountant; quickly complete our education and jump straight into a higher level of study for a piece of paper that will guarantee us a slot in a prestigious position that pays good money.
And we save up, and accumulate wealth and assets, and invest in shares and properties and family members. All so we can retire early and enjoy the rest of our lives doing nothing.
Would you be truly happy with that?
Is that the Malaysian Dream?
I have always believed that we should always be happy in the here and now, no matter our situation, no matter how shitty life is. Perhaps content is a better word.
Of course that doesn’t mean accepting crap when it can be changed, or settling for something just because it is the path of least resistance.
Aim to be better – to earn more money, to be a better person, to be happier. But don’t forget to find joy in where you are now.
Every step you take on your journey to finding happiness should be filled with many little moments of happiness, because each step contributes to your big balloon of happiness.
Yes yes, you are what you do.
I know, it’s all super cliched – happiness is in the journey, not the destination. It’s been said to death, what else you got, bro?
How do we interpret this in Malaysia? What is the Malaysian Dream?
Is the Malaysian Dream the 5 C’s (Cash, Car, Condo, Credit card, Career or something along those lines)?
Will that alone bring you happiness?
What makes Malaysians happy?
Certainly there needs to be some social aspect – good friends and family, an upstanding member of society, lavish donations to charitable causes in the community. Malaysians are very charitable people.
Maybe one of the C’s needs to be Charity.
Do Malaysians subscribe to this pathway to happiness? Or are we simply parroting what our colonial subjugators imprinted upon us in their brief stay here?
Of course there is no one single path to happiness. The American or Malaysian Dreams are merely constructs that we use to impart a sense of direction to our future generations of loyal peons, so they will continue to slave away at the system that supports our precarious society instead of leaving for greener pastures (a.k.a. someone else’s system that works much better than ours).
Still, there is power in dreams. There is hope in dreams.
Do Millennials still speak of dreams? Or simply of crippling debt and overwhelming prices?
What is our modern Malaysian Dream?
On the dawn of the 9th December 2018, over a thousand cyclists took on the grueling climb from Ipoh up to Cameron Highlands after a heavy night of rain.
This year marks the fourth edition of the Darul Ridzuan Cycling Club (DRCC) King of Mountain series.
Going up the Simpang Pulai route, you find Ipoh is surprisingly close to Cameron Highlands.
You also get to admire a lot of the ominous limestone monoliths that Ipoh is famous for.
And it’s nice and misty in the morning.
One thing to note is the lack of shops or stalls along the way. The first major food joint is more than halfway into the climb, which is almost 50km!
And if you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot some of the remnants of the open mining they used to do in these parts. It’s looking a lot nicer now, but who knows how deep this man-made pit goes?
Port Dickson is a truly idyllic seaside sanctuary from the hectic madness not far to the north. The Avillion Admiral Cove is a meticulously reclaimed semicircular lagoon prodding west along the Straits of Malacca.
With turquoise waters and a gradually receding beach front, it’s a perfect spot for classy resorts…and sport.
For 17 years, this Avillion Admiral Cove has been host to the annual Port Dickson International Triathlon, one of the few this part of the world.
With clean sweeping beaches and protected lagoony marinas, it’s not hard to see why this is such a popular spot for tourists and hardcore triathletes.
And where there is tourism, there is food. Just down the road are a number of popular seafood restaurants. One iconic eatery is based in a multi-tiered Chinese shrine. The rest have your usual assortment of resting flora and fauna.
With the sportspeople come a rainbow variety of vividly coloured equipment and accessories!
Ipoh has always been a unique concoction of culture and art and limestone and soul, a magnificent microcosm of modern Malaysia.
While the adornments may not be entirely original – even largely derivative as a lot of modern art and popular culture tends to be, Ipoh puts its own sublime spin on what it means to be a Malaysian metropolitan landmark city.
With extravagantly large visuals (you’ll notice Ipoh is noticeably larger in print on road signage) and splashes of colours between heritage colonial buildings, Ipoh is evolving out of the umbra of its larger brothers that flank it to the north and south.
Easily compared to Penang and Melaka, Ipoh has always been that hub town on the road down to KL or Cameron Highlands. But I’m afraid that is no longer the case.
While retaining its former identity as a British colony and tin mining town, Ipoh is rapidly blossoming into a tourist city rife with vivid colour and character.
Ipoh has a strange phenomenon where existing narrow terres townhouses have been extended upward. You can still see the remnant of the original roof poking out between crushed concrete.
And like any tropical town, Ipoh is alive with green and vegetation, tying it back to its simple Malaysian roots.
And of course it wouldn’t be a modern city without some swanky street art!
Remnants of the colonial era stand strong against the tropical elements.
Introducing the brand new Spiral Bridge of Hope – right in time to usher in a new era of Malaysian history!
This circular landmark can be found a few klicks south from the popular Queensbay Mall on the south-east side of Penang Island.
And it’s purposefully made with pedestrians, runners and cyclists in mind!
Although I’m sure motorcyclists will find their way up it, as they do.
With a height of 11 metres, a length of over 250 metres, and a gradual 5 degree slope (compared to some of the more ridiculous slopes we have here in Penang), this bridge was designed to not only be accessible by the physically robust or those with motorised assistance; even the most inexperienced cyclist and pedestrian can easily make their way up this tower bridge.
The new spiral bridge will act as both a safe passageway across the highway as well as a magical lookout point to this side of Penang Island. Although not immediately apparent from below, at its peak there is a large circular platform that provides quite the view!
To the west you can see all the way into Penang’s heart and suburban central, and to the east you gaze upon both of Penang’s massive bridges as well as Pulau Jerejak just 800m across the channel.
Maybe not so sightly at the moment with all the reclamation going on.
It was a clever idea to incorporate a viewing platform into this bridge; in doing so its value has been multiplied tremendously. The bridge is now more than just another overhead bridge – it is a potent tourist hotspot, a gathering point for landscape photographers, a place to relax and look up at the open sky.
So where does it go?
The spiral bridge starts from the south of Queensbay Mall in Bayan Lepas and stretches west across Penang’s busiest highway – the Lim Chong Eu north-south expressway. It bends around the tennis courts of Intel and along Penang’s Free Trade/Industrial Zone.
This bridge will serve to connect the coastal Bayan Bay area with the Sungai Nibong and the Bayan Baru area where Penang’s largest roundabout and Krystal Point are. All in all the project cost a decent 8.9 million, which is perhaps a little more than I would pay, but what do I know about building bridges?
The reason it is unofficially known as the Spiral Bridge of Hope is because the party that overthrew the previous government stronghold is named the Hope Party (Pakatan Harapan).
So here’s to hoping this bridge remains a beacon of our dreams and wishes for Malaysia for many years to come.
And here’s a video of it – now with music!
There is a place in Malaysia that is said to look like the head of a dog. I can certainly see the resemblance, although I feel a nicer name for it would be the land below the wind. Also known as the state of Sabah.
Now upon this little dog’s head lies two pointy ears, which is home to the Tip of Borneo. The locals call the place Simpang Mengayau, and historically it is the place of battle, where the indigenous tribes of Sabah used to fend off invaders from the sea.
See that little purple point named Kudat? That’s the nearest town to the Tip of Borneo.
If you don’t have time to scroll through pictures, here’s a TL;DR in video form!
The land below the wind awaits you!
The sunset is also quite impressive, since from this edge of the world one can see from east to west. You know which way to look for sunset, right?
And just a short distance from this gnarly peak is the town of Kudat. It is a few hours drive away (around three if all goes well) from the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu.
Kudat is a tranquil little seaside town, with a population of not-very-many. It is in Kudat that exists a monument that marks the birth and beginning of East Malaysia – when Sabah and Sarawak were formed.
To be honest, I’m still not sure how Malaysia managed to secure a whole stack of land that it wasn’t even connected to. Indonesia didn’t want it, I suppose.
To get to Kudat, you’ll first need to hit up the main hub and fly in to Kota Kinabalu. So let’s backtrack to the lively coastal city of KK!
It’s got all the views!
And boats. Lot of boats.
I think you can see a theme here.
A place just south-west of the city centre that I would definitely recommend for a quick visit is Tanjung Aru. It’s a little suburb sandwiched between Kota Kinabalu city centre and the airport, approximately five klicks from that budget hotel you’re staying at.
In Tanjung Aru is the popular Aru Beach.
Did I mention it was popular?
There’s tourists from all over the world crawling all over it.
And if you’re lucky you’ll spot some other things along the way.
And just a brisk walk from the Aru Beach is Perdana Park, which has a daily light show in their water fountain from 7pm onwards at every half hour interval.
Now I’m not sure how culturally relevant water light shows are, but it’s a pretty well coordinated one with some classic tunes. Definitely worth a visit.
There’s also plenty of eateries in the area.
Once you’re back in the KK city centre, you can wander around to grab some seafood.
Or you could hire a bike!
There are rental bikes at the town hall.
There’s also a pretty neat pedestrian and bicycle path that runs along the coast of KK.
It’s a good five kilometres or so, and it’s actually relatively uninterrupted (unlike some other paths).
Penang’s Special Champions
Did you know that Penang recently came in third place in a national Malaysian tournament?
We won a total of three gold, one silver and four bronze medals!
Do you know which tournament I’m referring to?
Most people haven’t heard of the Malaysia OKU Chess Championships, which is a chess tournament for people with disabilities. OKU stands for orang kurang upaya, which is the Malaysian term for the disabled and the less fortunate.
And you wouldn’t be faulted for not hearing about this event, since the inception of the Malaysia OKU Chess Championships only occurred this year in 2017.
Team Penang & Their Story
Penang and the other fourteen states (including federal territories – can you name them all?) of Malaysia were invited to send teams of special players to compete in this brand new national tournament.
Swarn Singh of the Persatuan Tongkat Putih took up the challenge and assembled a team of players from all the different disciplines and categories of OKU.
There are four categories in the Malaysia OKU Chess Championships: fully blind, partially blind (B2 and B3), deaf & dumb, and physically disabled. Each of these are then separated by gender.
Team Penang consisted of thirteen Penangite players from a range of backgrounds and representing different societies – there were five in the partially blind, three in the fully blind, three under deaf & dumb, and two in the physically disabled category. Out of the thirteen players, only one was female.
Given short notice, Swarn had to quickly put his team together, and arrange for transport for all the players down to KL, as well as meals and accommodation, which were sponsored by the Persatuan Tongkat Putih and Dato’ Mah Hassan of KL. Various authorities in Penang, such as DCM Dato’ Haji Mohd Rashid bin Hasnon, DCM Ramasamy Palanisamy, YB Puan Chong Eng, and Chow Kon Yeow all contributed to support this team.
With barely any time for coordination and virtually no time for training, Swarn brought his stalwart band of chess champions down to KL to duke it out against the best and brightest of the OKU chess world. Swarn relished the opportunity to show off the outstanding talent that resides in Penang, and he remarked that his only disappointment was the lack of female chess players in his team.
With two female players pulling out due to unforeseen circumstances, Team Penang was down to a single girl player, thereby limiting the number of medals that could be achieved in the championships.
However, everyone did their best and brought home a total of eight medals! An amazing effort considering there was little time for training or formulating strategy.
Congratulations to Penang’s special champions!
The Malaysia OKU Chess Championships
An official nationwide chess tournament has long been the dream of Dato’ Mah Hassan and many others who have not had the chance to showcase their intellectual prowess on the wooden battlefield.
Dato’ Mah Hassan is the president of OKU Chess Society of Malaysia (Persatuan Catur Orang Kurang Upaya Malaysia) and Malaysia’s first blind lawyer. He is instrumental in championing for OKU rights and privileges in Malaysia.
Dato’ Mah Hassan was also involved in organising the Malaysia OKU Chess Championships, which took place on the 17th until 19th of February 2017 at the Paralympic Sports Centre (Pusat Kecermelangan Sukan Paralimpik) in KL.
This is the first time an OKU chess championship has been introduced at the national level, and it is planned to be an annual event from here on out. The response was very good, with every state readily participating.
The winning team was Selangor with a total of nineteen players, bringing home eight gold, three silver and seven bronze medals. Second place went to Johor, another strong competitor.
The championships were graced by the presence of Encik Nik Abd Kadir Bin Nik Mohammad, the Deputy Secretary General (Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha) as well as Encik Safrushahar Bin Yusoff, the Director of the National Paralympic Sports Council (Pengarah Bahagian Paralimpik Majlis Sukan Negara).
Congratulations to all the champions and parties involved in the organisation of this wonderful event!
The World of Blind Chess
Have you ever wondered how blind and visually impaired people can play chess? Normally it would involve using sight to differentiate the pieces and the layout of the board.
This is what a chess board set for the blind looks like.
The different sides and pieces and board positions can be determined by touch alone. And the pieces slot nicely into place to help with the movement of troops.
Swarn Singh has returned an inspired man, and his new goal is to set up a centre where the OKU of Penang can gather and learn and train in chess and other strategic games. He plans to register an OKU Chess Centre on Penang Island, and begin setting up a facility to help train and nurture the chess players of the future in order to gain glory for the state of Penang.
Swarn’s mission is to promote talent and excellence for those living with disabilities through sports such as chess. His hope is that this will help those with disabilities to contribute more to society, and to gain confidence and acceptance in their abilities and strengths.
Swarn hopes to see the establishment of the Penang OKU Chess Centre by late this year, which will raise awareness and create a hub for the disabled to come and master the art of chess.
Swarn also hopes that chess will be integrated into the upcoming Paralympics and recognised as an event at other major sporting events. Although not traditionally classed as a sport, chess is an exercise of the mind and something that is enjoyed by scores of people worldwide.
Who is to say that the next Grandmaster won’t arise from Malaysia, from the ranks of the OKU?
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to lose your vision?
What if you woke up one day and you discovered that you could no longer see. Doesn’t the very thought just send shivers down your spine? We don’t know how precious it is until we lose it, and only then do we realise just how much we rely on our sense of sight for almost every aspect of our lives.
There are over 90,000 visually impaired people in Malaysia alone, and they may not want your pity, but they still need your help.
The Persatuan Tongkat Putih may not be trying to find the cure for blindness, but their mission is a progressive and laudable one. By seeking to create sustainable living for the blind, they are empowering those who have been cast out by society and raising up those who have been cast down by circumstances.
So come and give the Persatuan Tongkat Putih a helping hand today! All are welcome and you can call Swarn Singh at 016-488 7811 or contact Jas at 016-485 1745 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.