Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Eating in Kota Kinabalu

Sun setting on Kota Kinabalu

These are the (fantastic and mediocre places) Enfant Terrible and I ate at when we were in KK in August. All places are on Gaya Street unless specified otherwise. All meals were paid in cash.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

People at airports

(I should be hustling but this is way more fun.)

Though I should know better than that, a comment I read on facebook pissed me off. The original post involved photos of Syed Azmi, Malaysia’s best known do-gooder (I mean that as a compliment), making the rounds at an airport in the wee hours of the night (morning?) and leaving snacks and drinks beside everyone who was asleep there.

The commenter asked why he would do that when surely there were poor people in the city who were more deserving of his charity than the “rich people” at the airport.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nostalgia Part X

When I was still in school, which is like 16 (!!!) years ago,* there would be annual end-year athletic training camps. They would span a weekend and were a sort of introductory elimination session for the new athletes our coach had spotted throughout the year. Those who made it would join the “high-altitude” training camp in Cameron Highlands, which spanned 10 days.**

The school camp would start on Friday evening, and we’d sleep in the gym and use the school’s toilets. Us girls usually snuck into the teachers’ toilets because they were cleaner. One time, we snuck in too early and were caught by the science teacher.

Looking back, it was kind of a strange, in-between experience. We slept in school but didn’t camp on the field or sleep in the classrooms as the Scouts and Girl Guides did, respectively. We didn’t even have to cook, because the canteen staff took care of that. (They lived there anyway, so why not?)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Setia Alam Community Trail: A jaunt

Addresses are a funny thing in the Klang Valley. A new housing development might be nowhere near Kuala Lumpur, but the spin doctors will tell you that it's only 20 minutes away from KLCC (at 5 AM on a weekend maybe).

This is the case for mine and Enfant Terrible's neighborhood-to-be, where the developer is actually still building the roads (!) that lead in to it. Not that we're complaining, because we fancy that it'll be a nice, quiet place that attracts hobbit types like ourselves.

(One possible inconvenience is that no one seems to be able to agree on what district we're in. The land assessment fee is imposed by Kuala Selangor but the developer says our postcode will be that of Sungei Buloh, Shah Alam is just a turn-off away, and the ad promos say that it's a part of Greater KL, which is a whole other postcode. I think I'll hold off on the online shopping for the moment.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Haze running: A training report

Against all good sense, Enfant Terrible and I went for a run last week. The API was a little over 100. The flat gray nothingness in the distance had lightened, but the hills we intended to run were still obscured by the haze.

Anyhoo, we figured that it would be as good a time as any to try the wet rag face mask idea, plus we were getting v v v v restless.

So, you get a multifunctional tubular headwear wrap thing like a Buff, wet it, slip one open end down over your head until the wrap is gathered around your neck, then pull the uppermost end of the tube over your mouth and nose. Don't use a soaking wet wrap because that's DIY waterboarding.

How was it? Well, it's more comfortable and snug than an N95 mask. But it can be uncomfortable for some, it can get quite warm, and you have to keep it damp (easy if you sweat like I do).

On the bright side, it keeps out the smell of smoky air, which was the whole point of the exercise.

One thing to note though, is that we went trail running, and I dare say the air is clearer amid the trees. If you intend to wear a wrap like this and go road running, then be prepared for many sideways looks and possibly the police coming up for a chat. Because who else but psychos and criminals would be out in such weather?

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Southeast Asian (and n00b) camping guide to the Greenman Festival

Enfant Terrible had gotten Settlers' Passes to the 2015 Greenman Festival. Meaning we'd camp at the Glanusk Estate, Wales, for SEVEN days. We watched as the vast, peaceful, green fields of the estate filled up over the week and were eventually overrun on day 3, when the General Camping horde arrived and put down stakes (hehe).

Bring all the food!
Festival food is always expensive, more so given the exchange rate when we were there (RM6.70 = £1.00... ouch), and the portions are always tiny. So, buy foods you can cook/heat quickly and that ideally don't require slicing/much seasoning.

We had baked beans, canned soup, powdered mash potatoes (which needed more salt), fruit, local bread, and ROBERTSON'S GOLDEN SHRED MARMALADE :3

Beauty. Image from here.

One of the best things about the Glanusk Estate Greenman Festival site (in addition to being astoundingly beautiful) is that it is a brisk 40-minute walk to Crickhowell town. The town has at least 2 grocers and excellent cafés (Courthouse Café, burger at eighteen). It is a very nice town with very nice people. Wales is full of nice people who call you "love" or "darlin'" if they don't know your name.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ais krim potong Sin Wah: A review

Air krim potong is currently my favorite dessert. I'd only had a casual interest in it until I went to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, this year. Then, I fell head over heels for the stuff.

(It used to be I couldn't get enough of mochi donuts from Mr. Donuts, but that's how things change.)

Literally translated, ais krim potong is sliced ice cream, but of course there's more to it than that. First, it's made with coconut milk instead of milk and cream; second, you don't need an ice cream maker. Also, ais krim potong bars (?) are traditionally skewered, though in the interests of public safety, the skewers of yore have been replaced with non-pointy rods.

For my sake, here is a recipe for red bean ais krim potong (my favorite flavor is cempedak though).

Anyway, no kiosk on Gaya Street, KK, was spared a look-in. More often than not, I'd come away with an ais krim potong (RM2.10-2.60, depending on where you went), and it was WORTH IT.

I'm trying to be consistent back in Kuala Lumpur, but you're likelier to find Paddle Pops than ais krim potong here.

Nevertheless, 99 Speedmart sells single ais krim potong as opposed to the boxes of 6 or 10 you find at Tesco.

Sadly, the brand they carry (Sin Wah, durian flavor, 95 sen) isn't worth the effort. It had a watery texture, more like a frozen slushy (or ais kacang?) than ice cream, and tasted sad and thin and not the slightest bit creamy.

Have I told you that my goal now when traveling to a new place is to eat all the sweets?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Extenuating circumstances

Enfant Terrible and I haven't gone running since last Thursday because of the haze. This year's might be the worst I've ever seen since 1996. I was still in secondary school then, and I remember how dim and smoky the field looked from my classroom.

So, we've been watching The Strain and Fear of the Walking Dead. What I've seen so far of FotWD is good. It's intense but less nerve-shredding than The Walking Dead, if that makes sense.

As I've read The Strain trilogy (the quality of which sadly declined from book 2 onwards), I have mixed feelings about the TV series. Sometimes it feels like the only things they kept from the books are the character names. Everyone, including The Master, looks different from how I imagined them (doesn't that always happen), and don't get me started on the new characters.

On the other hand, the series should be judged on its own merits because you don't compare apples to oranges. So, as a TV series, it's quite good, though some of the medical talk, which was probably expositioned for the benefit of a layman audience, did make me twitch.

Anyway, watching monster apocalypse productions during this weather is probably not the best idea. In both FotWD and The Strain, the powers-that-be are either hiding information from the public, or are somehow responsible for the events and are hiding information from the public.

If you've read The Strain trilogy, it's not difficult to imagine that our current (real-life) weather conditions are a literal smokescreen for something more ominous.

Maybe there's some serious terraforming shit happening at ground level. Maybe law enforcement outposts are quietly being put into place under the cover of smog for nefarious purposes. MAYBE the vampires ARE involved in this and are enjoying free rein right now in the diminished sunlight (we know that the older the bloodsucker, the more tolerant it is of sunlight... or is it the other way round?).

Maybe I have cabin fever.

Or MAYBE that is what they want me to think.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Trying to compute

I've been holiday-sick since I got back from Kota Kinabalu. It's like being homesick, but you yearn for the holiday place instead of home. Of course, I got a little homesick when I was in Europe, so you can't really win that game.

I've also been thinking of getting another laptop. The idea came about when ET and I were discussing quite seriously the idea of being traveling freelancers. From what I've read, it seems to be mainly a white people thing at the moment.

(When I was in school, I imagined I would be a vagabond, living in a van and washing up at petrol stations and cooking over a camp stove. All my belongings would fit into a rucksack. I have a rucksack. I have a camp stove. I have a... sedan. The idea still intrigues me.)

All I really need to work is a computer, electricity, and an internet connection (doesn't almost everyone?), and it's possible for ET to conduct music lessons over Skype, though that isn't really a thing in Malaysia yet. Maybe we can make it a thing elsewhere.

The thing is, the working holiday I took in KK made me realize that my current laptop is uncomfortably heavy (almost 2 kg, maybe more because it's got so many files stored on it, har har) and too big to just shove into any old laptop sleeve. It also has a shit battery, so it's on DC power all the time.

I don't actually need another laptop, or so I thought, but my current one switched off on its own a few days ago. I lost an entire manuscript! And yet, right now, I wonder if it had overheated and whether an overhaul might refresh things somewhat. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, it's just old. (One day someone will say that of me too, I think.)

A new laptop would be nice though. It would be smaller, lighter, and more portable. It would run faster, until it doesn't. And then I'll get another one. And so on. We'll see.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

TMBT 2015: A race report of sorts

Technically, only participants write a race report. Still, "race widow report" doesn't have the same ring to it, you know?

(I know "[hobby] widow(er)" sounds morbid, but it just indicates you've "lost" your spouse to their interest. You don't even need to be married; you qualify if you have a significant other!)

So, first: TMBT = The Most Beautiful Thing, referring to the Sabah landscape. TMBT can also stand for That Murderous Bloody Trail, or Terrible Muddy Ratched Trap, or Treacherously Mindbending Running Torture, and other more descriptive terms. I could go on.

TMBT distances this year were 12, 28, 50, and 100 km. The last 2 are ultra-marathon distances, which I'm sure need not be explained (they exceed marathon distances).

As you know, trail races are more difficult than road races because the terrain is uneven, and you might run into trees, get stung by bees, and/or fall into a river (I have not experienced the last). You'll definitely get dirty, especially if it rains/has rained.

Every year, it's as if TMBT organizers ask themselves what the most difficult route could be, and map that out. Naturally, hundreds of runners, if not a thousand or so (this year), sign up for it. Some even pay for a hotel package. All this for a route that can involve uphills of ~15k or more.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Trail running and haze

Today's haze was especially bad. We decided not to go for our run as a result.

The usual advice applies: Stay indoors when possible, keep doors and windows closed, and stay hydrated.

I was curious about it, so I looked up "running in hazy conditions". All I found was a Singaporean running site. There was also a 2012 run report from the USA, where the writer and other like-minded psychos ran during smoky conditions that had reduced visibility to fog-like conditions and necessitated the use of headlamps.

However, I found nothing on being in the trees during a haze. I'm not sure I want to report on that first-hand, even though we're virtually haze ground zero. So far, my throat is a bit sore and I'm sniffly and bleary in the morning. Lethargy holds sway in the day, and not even cold showers relieve the lassitude.

Running these past few days has been very warm, humid, and generally uncomfortable. Even the energizing effects of exercise are dampened by the haze, where your skin feels sticky and dirty all the time. I can almost feel the dirt landing on me. Ironically, the post-run endorphins are superseded by the tendency toward crankiness.

Ice cream only fixes it for 5 minutes!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Right in front of me

This is what most people do when they start an exercise regimen: buy exercise gear they don't really need eat. It's natural, because you feel good about your effort and exercise makes you hungry. It's also silly to starve yourself when you want to lose weight, as that is counterproductive in the long-term.

Anyway, when we took up trail running, I was 100% unprepared for how much more I had to eat. Eating 6 small meals a day? A recipe for sadness. The same went for eating more protein/less carbs. I had to accept that you need the calories when you do 10-12 km trail runs a day. Enfant Terrible took to the idea with frenzied joy, though he usually eats more than I do anyway.

So, I've been eating almost triple (!) my usual servings of rice, and I'm still hungry between meals, but manageably so. I snack on fried dal and raisins and dried pineapple (I also eat these things while running). The only problem is breakfast. The hunger is actually painful after breakfast, come to think of it.

I've tried white bread and brown bread spread with peanut butter and topped with bananas, oatmeal, eggs, rice, noodles, and all that, and am ravenous and sad an hour later.

A few days ago, I finally realized what I'd been doing wrong. I'm still kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner. I should have doubled my breakfast servings. OBVIOUSLY.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

People on trains: A comparison

Biggest pizza I ever saw in my life (VivoCity, Singapore)

EVERYONE is watching some serial or playing a game on their phone. Candy Crush appear to be the top game, followed by Jewel Saga (looks like), Fruit Ninja, et al. Others FaceBook, Instagram, or er, look up sex advice (as seen over someone's shoulder). Outfits run the gamut from pasar sloppy and laborer dusty to high-end night out (because Singapore public transport is just so damn good).

L'Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris)

People read stuff like Balzac and Voltaire. French men actually wear those boat hats. No berets in the summer (obviously). Clothing tends to be various shades of white and brown (white people), and brighter colors (other ethnic groups). But everyone looks effortlessly light and chic and ready for summer. Unlike the tourists, who just look frazzled.

Concorde Metro stop, obviously (Paris)

Every stop we went to just served to demonstrate why London is considered one of the most fashionable cities in the world. Immaculate style and incredible range (corporate, corporate casual, smart, smart casual, street, smart street, and other looks whose names I don't know). All ladies had their warpaint on. Cat eye makeup is still in. People read (book or e-book), work, or stare into space. You need wellies (rain boots) even in the summer.

ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture by Ashish Kapoor (Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London)

This one was too purple to leave out (Covent Garden, London)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Strangers you meet

[A bus stand in Abergavenny, Wales]

The bus we want is scheduled to arrive in 40 minutes. We wait right at the bay, seated on the pavement. A pudgy guy in a tracksuit joins us. He has an Aldi's plastic bag.

Pudgy pulls his phone out and checks his messages and social media, then plugs in his earbuds. The he rummages through his bag, and winds up emptying it. I can see a 1.5-L bottle of Coca Cola, more bags of crisps/potato chips than he needs, and some household miscellany.

Pudgy puts the bigger, heavier items back in the bag first, then the smaller, lighter ones. He pulls them out again. He repacks the bag. And again. I guess he's trying to pack it efficiently, but you can only do so much with a 5-L plastic bag.

Suddenly, one the two old ladies who had been sitting on a low wall across the street from us strides over. Pudgy doesn't even notice her, only looking up when she says:

"I've come to save the day, love!"

She hands him another plastic bag! A bigger and sturdier-looking one!

Pudgy looks up, and a big, happy smile spreads across his goofy face.

"Aw, thank you, darlin'!" he says. His heroine smiles back and rejoins her friend.

*Pronounced "abergavoni".

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to do nothing in Kota Kinabalu: A 6-day account

Day 1
- Arrive from KL; register at TMBT counter; check-in to downtown hotel; chill until it's time for early dinner (Mad Ben: mussels in white wine with spaghetti [fab], lamb burrito + fries [best ever], thin-crust lamb pizza [excellent though small]); sleep.

Waiting to cross the bridge to the start point. Only 10 people per crossing!