Revisiting Sipadan – Part Three: Mabul

I ran a temperature the night before, that I lost the appetite to eat. The things that made me happy were the SMS to and from Wifey, being able to hear her voice, and the thought of another day of diving around Mabul.

The day began with another dive beneath Seaventures. While the boat was being tied to a mooring line, I managed to exchange waves with Lianah from Borneo Divers, my dive guide during the Celebes Safari back in November 2007. There was a slight surface current, but once I slipped beneath the waves, it was calm.

I was greeted by a school of Jacks, and the usual Abudefdufs, and I smiled thinking how Wifey would be cursing had she seen them. Then I noticed something on the sandy bottom – a discarded toilet bowl. I quickly motioned for Kimi to come closer and take my camera, as I had to have this shot of me sitting on the toilet bowl underwater; something I have always wanted to do underwater.

Then I went to the sea fan where I took some shots of the Pygmy Seahorse, and waited for my turn as there already were some cameramen doing their shots. Then I saw some of them went to take photos of something crawling on the sand; it was a Blue-Ring Octopus, probably one of the most poisonous animals on Earth. I took some shots of it before Lee, the second dive guide, signalled to me that he was going to surface with Aznan and Spena, and wanted me to buddy with Kimi. Then, some 20 divers from a nearby resort descended upon the sea fan and sand and silt just hung there, clouding the visibility. All of them rushed and elbowed each other to get an opportunity to take a photo of the Pygmy Seahorse, which, by then, I was sure, was smothered by the amount of sand these divers had kicked and disturbed. With the visibility gone bad, Kimi and I had no choice but to cut short our dive and surface.

We did a long surface-interval as Johnny, the other dive guide, suggested that we do our second dive after lunch. As I was still feeling feverish, I looked for a masseur. I know I fell asleep while being massaged.

The second dive was at Eels Garden, while the third was at Paradise 2. Renek lost his mask at Eels Garden after surfacing due to a common mistake divers do. The visibility at Paradise 2 wasn’t that good but I enjoyed the dive, especially when I happily snapped away at this half-asleep Green Sea Turtle. Huge mother!

I had fever again soon after surfacing and slept again before waking up in time for dinner. The rest of the night was spent lying down on the jetty watching the millions of stars in the sky above us.

And I was always thinking of Wifey then…

Doing the deed underwater

Its bite can be fatal

The sh*t stirrers

No teeth



Revisiting Sipadan – Part Two: Mabul

I had trouble sleeping. It just felt strange not having Wifey by my side before I sleep. I think I finally slept at around 3.30am, and woke up at 5.30am, went for breakfast at 6.15am, then off to Semporna at 7am. Because the Regatta Lepa was on in Semporna, we decided to switch jetties and headed for a resort further downstream to board the boats that would be taking us to Mabul.

The van that brought us to Semporna from Tawau, and back

Upon arrival at Mabul, we checked into our homestay rooms, had lunch, then geared up for the first dive at the Water Bungalows House Reef, a bunch of artificial reefs near SMART and SWV.

The thousands of schooling Jacks that greeted us at the house reef

The only Frogfish I saw during the entire trip

Juvenile White-Eyed Moray

Towards the end of the dive, I chanced upon a bunch of Sergeant-Major Damsels (Abudefduf sexfasciatus) and immediately thought of Wifey. She hates them because they are what she would see most of the time whenever she went snorkeling. How I wished she was with me as the last dive I did prior to this one was with her in Perhentian on the 23rd March 2009.

Abudefduf sexfasciatus...Wifey's favourite hate

The second dive was at the Seaventures. This time around, the sea conditions were calmer, and I took all the time to photograph the elusive Pygmy Seahorse.

Pygmy Seahorse

Chromodoris geminus

The third dive was at Paradise 2 in search of the Mandarin Fish. The momment we descended, we saw a Flamboyant Cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi), and Bobo, Azrin and I took lots of pictures of it.

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Hypselodoris bullockii

Mandarin Fish

After the last dive, I fell ill and was bedridden with high fever. But nothing stopped me from wanting to dive again the next day…

Revisiting Sipadan – Day One: Tawau

I’ve been looking forward to this trip since November 2008, booked the flight tickets back in December 2008, and now I am here in Tawau, typing this out, and will be leaving for Mabul Island in 6 hours time.

The day started very early, as I had to send Wifey to Renek’s place by 6.15am. After watching her and Dalie leave for the airport, I went back home feeling lonely. I got home, got back into bed, and held Wifey’s baju tidur to my nose and continued sleeping. Got up at 7.45am, showered and all, sent Medina to her kindergarten, and then went for a meeting with the drillers at 9.30am. Then off to Renek’s and his dad sent us to the airport for our flight to Tawau.

Here are some pics of the day’s activities:


Kimi and Renek reading

Approaching Tawau

Having dinner

Tomorrow, we’re moving to Semporna at 6.45am, and then off to Mabul.

(To be continued)


Pain in the ass in other words.

I must have injured my coccyx more than once. The first time, if I remember correctly, was on the sidewalk in front of my house in England back in 1984 when I misjudged my timing when doing a forward somersault. I landed on my butt. And several times more when I did static-line (combat) parachute jumps, especially in Ipoh and Gong Kedak. And of late, I have been having coccydynia, probably because I have been sitting for too long in the office.

Yes, I often sit and not move until after I had had lunch, and that was around 4pm. I’ve been so busy in the office lately that I always lose track of the time. And I have been swamped with problems that are being caused by some of the subsidiaries.

Pain in the ass

I like to greet people. At the toll booth, I would thank the cashier, even though I am the client. Don’t ask me why. It’s a habit. I do that as I enter the office, too. The first person I would see normally, other than the receptionist, is my CFO’s driver, Ho. So I’d go:

“Hi! Ho!”

Then disappear to my part of the office humming that song by the Seven Dwarfs, “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go!”

At my side of the office, I would then bump into the MD of a subsidiary, the vertically-challenged lawyer with ego of biblical proportions. And since his first name is WAN, I’d go:

“Hi, Wan!”

Yes, without the enthusiastic and cheerful tone when saying “Hi!” Therefore my greeting to him would sound very much like HAIWAN (animal).

Pain in the ass, and since he is one, I never felt bad greeting him as such.

And tomorrow I shall be flying off to Sipadan, a trip I have been looking forward to for the last 5 months. And guess what? A day after my return to KL, I will have to go on board the oil rig with our clients.



Wifey coming out of the waters of Perhentian after snorkeling - pic by sis-in-law, Zaza, 22 March 2009

It’s Sunday, and 21 days since I left KL for Perhentian with Wifey and my in-laws, Zaza and Kazu.

A week from today I will be diving the waters of Sipadan again, something I hope to do at least once a year, if not twice.

A Nostalgic Train Ride – Part 3

I then went to the Buffet Car. It is a far cry from what it used to be more than a quarter of a century ago. I remember how each train’s buffet car is operated by a different operator; and on one particular mail train southbound from Butterworth is operated by this chinese husband and wife. Everything was hawker style – mee hailam, mee goreng, cantonese mee, mee hoon, kuey teow, cantonese fried rice etc etc. The car would be filled to the brim with people from the 3rd class coaches who refuse to make that 10-car journey back to their respective seats.

The menuTaken at was empty

It’s totally different now. The seats are modern and more comfortable…not those wooden benches and barstools of the yesteryears. The buffet cars are all operated by a single company…and the cooks are non-Malaysian (mostly Bangladeshis).

But to my surprise, the buffet car was empty at lunch time. Maybe the cost of food and drink’s gone up.

Although the nostalgia of the smell of oyster and soy sauces, mixed with fried garlic is no longer there, the romance of being in a buffet car is still the same. I bought me a cup of Maggi (Curry flavour) and a drink packet, and just sat there watching the alternating sceneries, camera in hand.

My lunch

Labis stationDerelict quarters

I remember walking back to my seat more than 2 years ago; sometimes we would hang out in between coaches, or sometimes we’d just sit by the steps. Those who smoked, would smoked then. But the smell of diesel fumes emitted by the locomotive…priceless.

Walking back to my coach this time was through a dark passageway, uninteresting and dull.

In between coachesNo more sitting by the door

Finally, I saw signs of civilisation as we passed Kulai. I sent a text message to Wifey informing her that I was half an hour away from JB.

GIANT Hypermarket, Kulai

Many of you would question my decision to take a train ride down to JB. A drive would take me 3-hours the most. But Wifey drove down the day before, so taking another car down seemed absurd. Flight? It would take me an hour plus to get to the airport, and if I were to take any of those low-cost carriers, I would have to be there two hours before. The flight would take close to an hour, and then spend another hour getting to the hotel (after taxiing to the apron and parking the aircraft). That would have been 5 hours.

Buses? You will never catch me on a bus ever again. I have had bad experiences being on those fast coffins. And my last trip by an express bus going to JB took me almost 8 hours. The driver exited the highway at Tangkak, and we followed the old trunk road all the way, and made lots of stops too.

On the train, I had a much needed sleep; I was very relaxed, and I got to reminisce about the old days when life was so much simpler.

I should take another train ride, sit back and relax…

JB station

A Nostalgic Train Ride – Part 2

Disused coaches at Gemas

What was to be a short nap, turned out into a full-blown three-hour sleep. The tension at work, coupled with the travel and visit to the oil rig, operations report, editing marketing report, going through figures determining IRRs, and hunting for interim vessels for jobs must have gotten to me. When I got up, we were already at Gemas. And because I was in a deep sleep, the ticket inspector could not wake me up to inspect my ticket. When he saw that I was already up, he immediately asked for mine.


The ticket inspector would make that staccato on the headrest with his single-hole puncher.

“Tiket! Tiket!” (Ticket! Ticket!)

This 40-something malay ticket inspector with the most unfriendly face asked me for my train ticket. I was travelling back to Kuala Kangsar with my friends that afternoon.

Ticket Inspector: “Adik punya dah potong ke?” (Has yours been cut? – what he meant was: have I had my ticket inspected)

I looked down at my crotch and replied, “Mesti la dah potong. Umur dah 17 tahun dah.” (Of course mine has been cut-off. I’m already 17 – I was referring to my foreskin)

He looked strangely at me, puzzled initially, then gave out this stupid laughter and went off.

A jolt by the coach as the train took a corner brought me back to the present. There was this ticket inspector, Indian, in a friendlier-looking uniform, with a friendly smile, still waiting for my ticket. I smiled back at him and handed my ticket to him.

Sudah potong

I looked out the window, and saw a row of rubber trees in a plantation. My thoughts were then returned to that same train ride I was on 26 years ago.

“Your country is amazing. Even the trees in the jungle are in lines.”

I nodded at this foreigner, a backpacker who was with his girlfriend, I presumed. I wanted to laugh, but kept on a straight face.

“Those are rubber trees, you plonk!” I thought to myself.

26 years on, the view is still very much the same, save for some pockets of development, both legal and illegal, on both sides of the track. Somehow, I miss those days, my salad days – so carefree and the only responsibility I had was to pass my exams and not get scolded (the least) whenever I had to shove my report card beneath my father’s nose for it to be signed on the penultimate day of each school holidays. Those were the days when all we had to do was wake up in the morning, go for classes, go for meals, go for the daily swimming and water-polo training, go for prep, and sleep…or at least, pretend to sleep. Then, later at night, sneak out of the dormitory doing everything and nothing in Kuala Kangsar town, get chased by cops patrolling in Land Rovers, and jump into the Perak river to escape them.

View from my seatA plantation in Labis

Suddenly, I felt the urge to go to the toilet. Someone was in the sitting toilet, therefore I had to use the squat toilet. Since I was only going to urinate, I only had to stand. It is already a challenge trying to aim into a normal toilet bowl; imagine doing the deed, the bowl opening just half the size of a normal squat toilet, in a moving train. You can imagine how good my aim was…NOT. The difference 26 years later is that although the toilet did not look clean, it smelled clean!

This is how you do itThe paraphernalia

To be continued…

A Nostalgic Train Ride – Part 1


For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by trains. I remember when I was 4 years old, one of my toys was this train set. The locomotive was battery-powered and had a light at the front, and if you pour a drop of sewing machine oil through its funnel, it would emit a puff of white smoke. When I was 6, along Jalan Bangsar there used to be railtracks crossing it going towards what was the Lever Brothers godown. Whenever my mom visited her tailor at the still-existing shoplot at the entrance of Jalan Riong, I would alight from the car just to touch the tracks and see if I could steal some length of it and take home.

During my five years at the Malay College, the train was the only free ride home for most of us. Some who came from Perak never got to travel by train as they would be picked up by their parents, while some of the more clingy ones, also got picked up by their parents and sent back once school holdidays were over. For me, it was always the train…right to the day I left the college after SPM: I took that free train ride.

Recently, Wifey had had to attend a management retreat in JB. She drove down on a Friday. Then, I decided to join her in JB so I could drive her back. I decided to take the train down to JB. I went to buy the ticket after work on Friday. After thinking about the safety of my belongings, I decided to travel First Class – the same class I would travel in when I was still an Air Force officer.

First Class Ticket

Saturday morning – I got up at 6.30 and quickly showered. I left the house at 7.15am to take the LRT to KL Sentral to board the train. I had a quick nasi lemak breakfast, bought me some reading materials, then boarded the train.

Riding the LRTMy Nasi Lemak breakfast

The train left on time at 8.30am. I sent a few text messages to Wifey informing her of my departure, checked my Mobile Facebook account, then reminisced a bit of those days, more than a quarter of a century ago…those train-rides to and from Kuala Kangsar.

I was a 7th-grade student, first time away from home, though not really the first time on my own. And it was already April, close to the first school-term holidays. The prefects would brief us on our travel arrangements: those whose hometown are in the vicinity of a rail station, would receive a return ticket, 3rd Class (Coach Class, as they are called now), while those without, would be on specially-chartered buses to take them back (ex-KL). And we were told that there would be special coaches for the Malay College students. We were all so excited to be able to travel on our own.

Special coaches, my foot.

Ekspres Sinaran Pagi to SingaporeAll comfy

When the mail train arrived at the station, all the coaches were full. The civic-consciousness (or the lack of it) among Malaysians were on full display that day. Our coaches had been taken up by millions of others. We boarded anyway and looked for whatever that could seat us. As we were the most junior of the college population, those of us who had managed to get a seat were expected to give it up for seniors; therefore, my first train ride back to KL was done standing up – all the way, for 8 long hours. By the time I got home, I smelled of stale sweat, other people’s stale sweat, and diesel fumes courtesy of Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railway). Over the years, we wised up, that during Aidil Fitri breaks, I would light-up firecrackers just to get people out of the seats. Whenever that failed, the luggage compartment above the seats would be the best 8-hour bed: of course I was much smaller then.

Quarter of a century ago I would have fitted up there

I was quickly brought back to the present when an announcement blared over the PA system saying that we were approaching Kajang station. I took a few photos, then took a short nap…

To Err Is Human

Imagine being in a relationship…and you plan to marry this person. Soon after you guys have made plans to get married, the other person’s character changes…suddenly all the things about you that were so attractive to the other person, becomes irritating to the other person; and the other person makes callous remarks towards you. Suddenly, the other person no longer has time for you.

Then you discover the other person has been cheating on you.

What would you do? Would you try to win the other person’s heart again? Would you change just to see if the other person would like you again? Would you even consider marrying that person after what’s been done to you?

I’ve been in that situation before, until I saw a sarcastic writing somewhere that said:

“To err is human, to continue to dwell in it makes you an outright idiot!”

I’d like to know what you think.