Time-Lapse Photography of Sunrise Over Mount Kinabalu

Structures materializing from nothingness, a flower unfolding its petals through the night, a butterfly’s metamorphosis from pupa to adult stage, the sky changing its hues while the sun rises and sets… where it is not feasible to run a video camera for a long period of time to capture these defining moments, there’s time-lapse photography.

I’ve always found this photographic technique fascinating for the photo-video it produces but have never found the motivation to try it until a stay at the beautiful Gaya Island Resort. Located on Pulau Gaya, the largest of 5 islets sitting off the northwestern coast of Kota Kinabalu City, the resort’s hillside villas offer a jaw-dropping view overlooking the South China Sea with the horizon rimmed by Kinabalu’s mountainous range. This awe-inspiring setting was the perfect muse to coax my first attempt at time-lapse photography because I wanted my first time to be special!

In this post, I’ll share my experience and tips on time-lapsing a sunrise in the hope that the information will be useful for anyone attempting this technique for the first time.

Equipment and Necessities :

– DSLR camera (ensure that your battery is fully charged)

– Tripod

– Cable release or remote control

– Torch light, drinking water, towel and insect repellent (if photographing close to nature)

Time-lapse photography involves 2 steps… The first step is acquiring the images and the second step is combining the photos to form a video clip.

Step 1 : Acquiring the Images

Before embarking on a time-lapse photography session, always find out what time is sunrise at the locale you are shooting and be there an hour early to recce, set up equipment and frame the shot. In Singapore, I am used to daybreak happening at around 6.15am but at Kota Kinabalu, the sky starts brightening from 5.30am!

4:30am. It’s pitch black during the wee hours so a torchlight is essential for knowing you are putting all the parts in the right places.

As it was very dark, it was hard to frame the scene and get the horizon straight. I used the city lights in the distance to gauge and frame my shot.

Camera Settings :

– Switch the camera’s lens focus to Manual and set it to infinity

– Use Aperture (‘A’) mode for the shoot and set F-number to 16 (F16)

– Set ISO to the minimal (the lowest for my DSLR is 200)

– Turn on remote control shooting mode (if you use a cable release to control your shutter, this step is not necessary)

– Switch on your patience if your DSLR doesn’t come with a built-in interval timer like Nikon D7000 (I’m using Nikon D90 so I stood by my camera the whole time to click the remote control to shoot)

My time-lapse photos were taken from Gaya Island Resort’s Kinabalu Villa number 852 from 5:00am to 7:00am.

5:41am. Witnessing the arrival of dawn is truly magical. The highest peak in the distance is Mount Kinabalu. Awesome!

Pano view of the scene in front of me at daybreak.

Timing the Time-Lapse Intervals

Math and I are eternal enemies so my mind went into screensaver mode the instant I tried understanding how to calculate my number of shots. Basically, you have to first determine how long you want your time-lapse video to be and decide on how many shots you want per second of your video.

For example, if I want a 10-second video with 24 photos per second, I’ll have to shoot 240 images. Shooting from 5 – 7am (7,200 seconds), the interval between my shots would be 30 seconds. Which means I’ll take 1 photo and 30 seconds later, take another. The shots continue until I reach 240 shots.

That’s a lot of calculating to do!

So I simplify. I just made it a point to take a shot every 15 seconds from 5-7am. It didn’t matter how many photos I got, I just combined them all into the time-lapse video. I wasn’t concerned with how long the video lasted either. I ended up with about 365 shots and a sunrise segment that lasted 38 seconds on the video at the end of this post.

6:17am. The fiery disc popped out from the mountainous horizon.

I had it easy with this time-lapse shoot as the location was at the balcony of our villa. During the 2-hour shooting process, a Macaque Monkey came to visit and 2 Oriental Piped Hornbills flew by while countless birds serenaded the dawn. The entire experience was pure magic!

Such a sense of accomplishment for not sleeping in and miss the rare opportunity to time-lapse this incredibly scenic sunrise.

Step 2 : Creating a Time-Lapse Video

After capturing all the images, the next challenge is to combine them all into a video. There are quite a few options with Lightroom providing a pain-free way to do the job, but since I don’t have that program, I went with Photoshop to batch process the photos for a lower resolution and Windows Movie Maker to string the shots into a video.

It is necessary to batch process the photos first to shrink their file sizes before importing them into Windows Movie Maker to cut down on processing time. In Windows Movie Maker, I set the animation duration between photos to 0.07 seconds, add in a title, music, ending message and voila! I have my first time-lapse video! Hope you’ll enjoy it…

Rustic Serendipity at Pengerang

Spontaneity ruled Good Friday 2013 as Siow Har or I made an unplanned trip to Pengerang. It was 3 years ago (also on Good Friday) that we first discovered the Malaysian coastal town famous for its lobster dishes and had wanted to revisit ever since.

Although we’ve been to Pengerang before, what we intended to do this time round bordered on madness. We wanted to cycle from Sungai Rengit (the chief township in Pengerang) to Desaru, which is 30km away, and back. Total distance : 60km.

The distance we decided to cover may be a yawn to seasoned cyclists but for leisure paddlers like us who don’t own a bike and cycled only when the moon turned blue, 60km is a killer.

But we did it anyway without worrying thinking too much into or understanding fully what that amount of cycling can do to us. We learnt the hard (and long) way that long-distance cycling is not something to be spontaneous about but requires careful research, more so than regular holiday sightseeing.

Packed for an adventure of the unexpected. Our Pengerang trip began with an hour’s bumboat ride from Singapore Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal. The bumboat’s retro imprints felt like time had stood still.

We didn’t reach our destination, missing by about another 5-6km, but it was a personal feat nonetheless. Our return cycling tour covered a total distance of about 50km and we took 7 hours due to the many photo stops we made along the way.

That’s the great thing about being the masters of our own journey, we had control over when to stop and were able to explore many places off the usual tourist track. And also discovered parts of our bodies we never knew existed if not for the strains and cramps we endured under such an extreme physical expedition.

I will post up more info, tips and details about the experience later over at Explore Life Lah!. For now, this post will capture snapshots from the rustic-scenic ride and beautiful encounters along the way!

Leaping with energy on reaching Sungai Rengit, the chief township of Pengerang, This photo was taken in front of a small sea-facing Chinese temple off the main road.

Rode warrior! Golden wheat fields and an unbroken chain of balmy coconut trees accompanied our ride on the right while to the left, sand quarrying had defaced mother nature.

Small girl with big bag against a long road and monster trucks. I take my hats off to Siow Har who completed the rigorous trip carrying a backpack that could’ve easily weighed 10kg. We were given a lot of dust facials as cars and industrial vehicles whipped up clouds of smog as they passed us by.

Saw 2 abandoned godowns and decided to check them out. Glad we did because the aura of neglect made for a splendid bask on camera.

Relishing a chance to get upclose with the padi fields carpeting Pergerang’s countryside.

Siow Har fell off her bike and while we checked for injuries (thankfully it was just a bruise), we also surveyed the surrounding burnt field and saw these dandelions ready to seed. I’ve never seen a dandelion in the wild before.

Statuesque trees lined our route with numerous picturesque moments.

Every so often while travelling in a car or coach, such beautiful sceneries sweep past in the blink of an eye. Riding a bike, I am able to savour nature at my own pace and retain its beauty in my SD card.

When we first rode past this scene, it was high tide. On our way back, the waters have receded and revealed a web of mangroves that led to a single treeling rising above the waves.

Took a rest stop at Punggai Beach and hiding in the shade to cool off my badly burnt knees and shin. My chicken legs are proof that I hardly cycle.

We didn’t reach the more popular and touristy Desaru Beach but we found our spot on the quieter Punggai Beach about 15km away. It is not about settling for the next best thing, but appreciating where we’ve arrived at for getting anywhere required a lot of effort. Often, we’re too focused on arriving at our goal and missed being grateful for the minor successes along the way.

There were 3 things against us on the road trip – the scorching sun, state of mind and our bodies. The heat was relentless and coming face-to-face with a long winding road that stretches endlessly into the horizon was a test on determination. I’ve wanted to turn back a couple of times but pressed on. Not looking ahead and just focusing on my front wheel helped keep the mind from being overwhelmed. But alas, the body has its limits. Our legs were cramping so badly, especially after conquering a slope, to the point that I can feel every part of my leg muscles. Thank goodness we had Tiger Balm!

This was the last point we got to before turning back. Desaru should be under 10km away but it was already 4pm and we were worried that our ride back may coincide with nightfall. We didn’t want to risk being roadkill as the country roads lacked street lamps. After this shot, we cycled the 24km back to Sungai Rengit. *Pant*

Pointing to where we cycled to on a map at Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal. Sungai Rengit is at the lower tip of the light green map and Desaru is where the figure of a swimmer is above my finger.

It had been one tough ride from Sungai Rengit but an awesome adventure! Will definitely attempt it again and make it to Desaru the next time!

Related Post : Pengerang – A Cycling Tour from Sugai Rengit to Desaru

Day 315 : That Changing Yellow Frame

The National Geographic store at Kuala Lumpur is my must visit place whenever I’m in the city. Really love checking out the latest prints within the yellow frames.

The collection this time revolved around water critters but most of the shots were blurred so I only have these 2 photos that are usable. Here are 2 other series of Nat Geo KL pics I took within this year too…

Day 035 : Frame Me (Feb 2012)

Day 099 : Chilling with Nat Geo (Apr 2012)

I crapped a prawn!

Legend of the Seas – Isles of Southeast Asia

It has been 11 days since I’m back from the cruise and I haven’t posted a single blog entry about the trip yet. The reason? I don’t know where to begin. Normally, it doesn’t take me so long to create a post but with this trip, I’m just too overwhelmed by the onslaught of new experiences that my fingers got short-circuited.

But after spending much time looking through my photos and videos, I’ve finally managed to organise my thoughts and I’m finally ready to share in detail all my adventures and tales onboard the Legend of the Seas’ Isles of Southeast Asia 5D4N cruise. There was LOTS I did, LOTS I-SEA (see)!

The chapters of my cruise adventure will write themselves over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for travel tips and useful information for a holiday onboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas...

So in the following one month, I will unfold for you a sea-faring legend of epic proportions. It is going to be epic not just because the cruiseliner was big, but because of the larger-than-life encounters I had. I came face-to-face with some of nature’s most majestic handicrafts, discovered that a cruise holiday is anything but boring, and experienced a level of service so personal, it seemed surreal.

Onboard LOTS, the permutations for fun are endless and the anecdotes of amusements many. Since what you can do on the decks are not so much limited by time but energy, my posts will not be a day-by-day account of what happened during the trip but presented as chapters about the things you can expect from Royal Caribbean’s multiple award-winning standard in creating unforgettable cruise memories.

The Isles of Southeast Asia used to be a key trade route between Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the surrounding countries in the early years of the region's maritime history. Common cargoes in those days included ceramics, tin, fish and local produce.

Our journey took us from Singapore to Port Kelang (Kuala Lumpur) in Malaysia and to Thailand’s defacto destination for a beach holiday, Phuket. This historic route was once an arterial passage where early Chinese junks and sail ships plied for trade.

It took the olden seafarers weeks to reach the distant ports with much perils (archaelogical finds in the coastal waters of the route uncovered nurmerous ships who met their watery graves), but with our modern-day LOTS, we could shuttle between this ancient route in a matter of days with time to spare for shore explorations at the ports of call.

I’ve been to KL countless times and vacationed at Phuket in 2006 and 2007. I thought I know these destinations well enough but the shore trips offered by LOTS showed me there’s so much more to see and appreciate. In the ensuing chapters, I will not only bring you into the heart of the ship, but will share with you the interesting facts I learnt during the docked explorations as well. Are you ready to set sail with me?

As you probably know from my previous entry, I’m not travelling alone but with nine pedigree bloggers picked from an earlier preview excursion onboard LOTS. Having spent the few days with them, I have a feeling readers would be in for a real treat with plenty of eye candies, sharp wit, spot-on observations and no-holds-barred reviews!

You can visit our combined blog about the cruise experience at http://blog.omy.sg/royal-caribbean. Do vote for your favourite blogger and stand to win S$3,700 in prizes!

Fellowship of bloggers with the ship's towering captains! This was a virgin cruise ride for many of us and we got to sample almost all the facilities & activities on the ship. Even with the ten of us combined, we didn't manage to cover everything because we were spoilt for choices.

From the above photo (left to right), with me on this trip are Fong Yee Leong (Yiliang), Calvin Timothy Leong, Phan Mui Yee, Eunice Khong, Estelle Kiora Cheng, Cherie Lee, Christine Ng, Catherine Ling, yours truly, and Philip Lim (aka Keropokman).

You can click on their names to view their personal blog but let me warn you, they are very addictive! Their blogs are not just entertaining with great percepts, but are very informative over a wide range of topics from food, travel, lifestyle and modelling. Anytime you need a pick-me-up during the day, pop by their blogs and have fun!

If you would like to know more about them, you can visit Catherine’s very succinct and accurate descriptions here. She didn’t talk about herself in the post so I shall say that Catherine is one of those rare breed of wordsmiths whose words exudes warmth and great creativity. She’s also ever humble and an award-winning food blogger.

Different as the 10 of us are, each with unique abilities and views, we have a common quest… a mission to find our bliss (or lack of) onboard Legend of the Seas.

No doubt that this trip was born out of the generosity of the good people at Royal Caribbean, but we weren’t given any special treatments or privileges that any fare-paying passenger cannot enjoy. All the things we had or participated in are available to every guest.

The quest is to get into every pothole and cranny to find out how and why Legend of the Seas makes for an unforgettable cruise adventure.

Like I mentioned earlier, I will be sharing with you the different aspects of the cruise and land tours in later posts so for now, I shall leave you with a glimpse of what to expect in upcoming chapters. I will be talking more about the cruiseliner and its stability, a showcase of the culinary delights, a sneak preview of the amazing ‘live’ shows, the activities, the crew, the services, the land tours in KL and Phuket… Are you catching your breath yet? I am! There’re just so many things to talk about.

We may be couped up in a ship all day, but yet, there’s no greater freedom one could ask for to enjoy an amazing vacation. Food, shopping, entertainment, sports, casino, clubbing… everything is in one place, within easy reach. It’s a floating oasis! Needlessly to say, I was on cloud nine those few days. I had a great cruise experience.

I survived paradise.

Whether it is an all-you-can-eat buffet, fine wine & dine, or a quick snack, this is the one place where gluttony is not a sin. Rather, it would be a sin not to eat!

I may not be a food blogger, but I have got greedy eyes and Giorgio Armani tastebuds.

Need a companion in bed? How about a towel pet? Look out for a chapter dedicated fully in teaching you how to make this adorable dog and many other towel animals!

It's never a dull night with world-class entertainment, musicals and a pool party! I'll be sharing more about the entertainment onboard in a later chapter.

Rock climbing, waltz & line dancing lessons, cake making challenge, Bingo, lucky draw... the activities are endless. I wish there was three of me so that I could do everything!

What does Kuala Lumpur mean? What are some of the unique sights? Is there more to KL than just great shopping and food?

Join me on an exploration of the Hindu sacred mountain shrine at Batu Caves, learn more about Malaysia's history and an insider look into the factory of one of its national treasures, Royal Selangor Pewter.

I've been to Thailand's famous island paradise, Phuket, twice and had totally enjoyed myself. I wonder what more can the land tour offered by LOTS do to top my previous thrills.

Chilling by Phuket's beaches with ice cold beer... we'll have none of that. Join me instead for an awe-inspiring sea canoe adventure to explore the sea caves near Bhanga Bay! I even met a 'sea monster'! Watch for this exciting chapter!

WE 2010 : ASEAN Pavilions

Of the more than 200 country pavilions and themed pavilions, I visited only 30 of them. That’s less than a quarter of this phenomenal event, but it was still plenty to experience, record and learn from. So since I started talking about the country pavilions with Singapore’s participation, I thought I’d follow up with a review of the pavilions by the other 9 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

As with the thoughts about the Singapore Pavilion and all subsequent posts about pavilions, I have to qualify that the opinions expressed are merely based on my personal experiences as a visitor. Just as we all have a different vision of what a perfect world should be, so will opinions vary on what makes a pavilion worthy of visit.

While some pavilions left a lasting impression on me, others failed to pique my interest. And having seen 30 of them, my basis of comparison while limited, draws on after-thoughts about what was interesting and what was as interesting as watching paint dry.

But one thing I do keep a look out for is the feel of a pavilion’s character and personality. That X-factor. Its gusto. Its voice. Does it read me a fascinating and unforgettable tale of the country it represents, or is it a textbook narration of its history, sociology, economy, anthropology, political ideology… zzzZZZzzz… zzzzzz…

In other words, is the pavilion a Nerd? A Stud? A Plain Jane, or a Beauty Queen? Well, here are 9 Asian pavilions I shall attempt to characterize and they are arranged in the order from Z to X…

Brunei Pavilion

My very first step on the pavilion arena on the very first morning was at Zone B’s Asian Square. The Singapore Pavilion was directly across and I was next to the Brunei Pavilion. While I was standing there, stopped in my tracks by encountering the larger-than-life pavilions for the first time, trying to comprehend the awesomeness of size and space all around, forgetting to breathe… and my reverie got interrupted by a female voice hawking a pavilion.

Brunei Pavilion

Sounded almost like a lelong at a pasar malam. In all my 3.5 days visiting the Expo, I didn’t hear any other pavilion being touted this way. I didn’t succumb to the tempting invitation of ‘no queue’ and visited Singapore first. When I returned to visit Brunei after lunch, there was still no queue. And the female staff was still advertising.

I walked right in to Brunei Pavilion and I liked it. It was a burning 38°C outside and I liked that the spaciousness and lack of crowd kept the air-conditioning cold. Yup, that’s about it. The pavilion was good only for enjoying some air-con.

Standard fare

After I went one round of its exhibits, I understood why there was no queue. There wasn’t anything much to see. The pavilion was bright and neat with the deployment of standard exhibition panels, shelves and plasma TVs to loop touristy videos. The one eye-catching thing was the blue-lighted floor designs that I assume represented water since the pavilion’s theme was something to do with nature.

Brunei 3

Brunei is a pretty rich country so it’s kinda surprising that the pavilion looked like it didn’t require much financial effort. Moreover, the choice of exhibition topics such as the plain listing of the 8 national strategies of development was too academic.

Character : Nerd married to Plain Jane

Laos Pavilion

Laos shared a pavilion with Myanmar in Zone B’s Asia Joint Pavilion III. I was there around 9:00 pm and it was closed by then. I hadn’t planned to visit the 2 pavilions but wandered into their shared space unwittingly.

Laos Pavilion

Though I didn’t get to see what’s inside, the attempt to dress-up and represent its culture at the entrance even though it’s just a very small exhibition area seemed to hold a promise of not too shabby contents inside.

Character : Jock (potentially)

Myanmar Pavilion

I popped by Myanmar’s section on the way out of AJPIII and it was really plain. It felt more like an exhibition booth rather than to be classified as a pavilion. I always have a soft spot for Myanmar because of the controversy surrounding Aung San Suu Kyi’s 14 years of house arrest imposed by the Burmese military junta. I hope to visit the home country of this moder-day freedom fighter one day.

Myanmar Pavilion

One of the 4 Southeast Asian nations with the unsavoury association to the Golden Triangle (an illegal opium-producing area that spans Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar), the country’s culture is greatly influenced by its surrounding neighbours, especially in religion.

Myanmar scene

One of the most interesting things to see at the pavilion was the intricate wood carvings of celestial beings and Taoist deities such as Nuwa (女媧), who’s believed to have made mankind from clay. However, their display couldn’t have been more inappropriate. They were really beautiful works of art crowded unceremoniously together on shelves and on the floor.

But the most atonishing exhibit of all would be the brutal honesty in presenting the nation’s health program. I can’t hear what was being said but the uncomfortable images depicting surgery and various stages of eye diseases really stood out at the World Expo where only beauty has a place in the sun.

Character : Plain Jane

Malaysia Pavilion

When contemplating the Malaysia Pavilion, this saying kept flashing in my mind… “Good from far, far from good.” In a distance, its arches bit an impressive crescent against the skyline. But the closer I got, the more it loses its magic. And once inside, I kept having the urge to look for a shopping basket or trolley. Felt like I entered Carrefour.

Malaysia Pavilion

Being a bridge away from Singapore, Malaysia is my most visited country. And I like going there for its eclectic conglomeration of urban built-ups dipping their feet in the rooted heritage of colonial structures, old shophouses and five-foot ways. Of course Singapore has this kind of scene too, but in Malaysia, it just feels more authentic. Besides, our neighbour has lots of natural, untamed reserves to explore.

Pavilion set-up

I can see that the pavilion tried to capture Malaysia’s multi-faceted charm. Unfortunately, it turned out to be nasi lemak without the coconut milk; it had the look, but not the flavor. There’re too many prints and not enough real artefacts. Even the ‘forest’ was made up of plastic trees and plants which made it look more of a handicrafts store, less of a tropical rainforest paradise.

Supermarket interior

When visiting the pavilion, one of the interior plan that made me scratch my head was a staircase linking the first floor to the second. It’s one staircase for going up and down so it got pretty crowded and I was stuck in the human traffic for a while half-way up the steps. Such a smart design. Or maybe the creators didn’t anticipate such a huge crowd.

Malaysia scene

The 2nd level was somewhat of a cocoa showroom with some half-baked exhibit to explain the cocoa-making process and a cocoa drink sampling counter. Sales was brisk. Moving from the supermarket section of the pavilion, we come to the home and décor section with a stylishly designed modern-Malaysian living room, bedroom and bathroom.

There was another small exhibition of art and craft that seem like an afterthought, and more retail and souvenir counters around. The pavilion’s theme was 1 Malaysia. Well, it sure was the 1 place to shop.

Character : Nerd

Cambodia Pavilion

Here’s a diamond in the rough. The pavilion’s exterior was nothing to shout about but the interior was lavish with the cream of what put Cambodia on the tourist map. Perhaps that’s the strategy of the pavilion, to trick visitors into having low expectations and then wow them.

Cmmbodia Pavilion

Although more could have been done to hide the exposed ceiling to create a more engrossing feeling of being Lara Croft, but the thrill of seeing partial replicas of the famous architectural relics in Siem Reap made up for it.

Siem Reap replicas

There was the Cambodian Naga, the smiling face from the Bayon, the gigantic roots of a strangler fig at Ta Prohm, and a model of Angkor Wat. It momentarily brought back memories of Siem Reap through the excitement of recognizing what was being replicated. If you would like to know about my Siem Reap adventures, please click here.

Cambodia scene

While the Cambodia Pavilion wasn’t very big, it really gave visitors a glimpse of what’s it like to visit its many UNESCO World Heritage sites of towering temples and ancient carvings.

Even the small space within the pavilion worked to its advantage because that’s how it felt within the walls of the ancient structures. The pavilion was a time capsule.

Character : Jock in drag as Plain Jane

Philippines Pavilion

When I first glanced around the Asian Square, I thought the Philippines Pavilion was actually an administrative centre for deaf and mute visitors because of the hands printed on the walls. I mistook them for sign language.

Then I realised it was Philippines’ pavilion to the theme of Performing Cities. The pavilion design looked rather bland during the day. Even when it was lighted up at night, it didn’t have any jaw-dropping effect.

Philippines Pavilion

There wasn’t a queue so I got in pretty quickly and it immediately felt like I entered a club or live band lounge of some kind. Serve up some alcoholic concoctions and the whole experience would be perfect!

Club scene

There was a main stage where dance and musical performances took place and other performing platforms for the showcasing of the Filipinos’ innate talent in singing. Apart from watching liveshows, the pavilion offered a collection of Filipino art laid out in a casual and accessible manner. If only there was an open bar in there…

Character : Jock

Vietnam Pavilion

Sitting next to the AJPIII (which housed Laos and Myanmar’s pavilions) in zone B, Vietnam’s pavilion was easily the most impressive in terms of building material. The quaint little pavilion made up of bamboo and rattan incites a sort of calm without the use of minimalism, a visual style that often personifies Zen.

Vietnam Pavilion

I hadn’t planned on visiting Vietnam Pavilion but it turned out to be a very pleasant and delightful encounter. I simply love the way it looked on the outside and inside (although the interior did remind me of a prayer hall).

Inside the pavilion

There was practically nothing to read in the pavilion about Vietnam except for the interpretative messages about its culture from the many huge vases and art sculptures.

Art & decor

Somehow, I can’t help but feel that the Vietnamese preferred not to pen down a definition of what is life, but to let it be an open exploration with each visitor forming his/her own meaning through the country’s pieces of art. But one thing’s for sure, religion plays a big part.

Character : Beauty Queen

Indonesia Pavilion

My first impression was that the Indonesian pavilion looked kinda bare with a whole lot of empty space. The open concept defied my early preconceived image of what a pavilion should look like… that it should have 4 walls enclosing all exhibits and design elements. But the pavilion was hollowed out for outsiders to look into its various levels and layout.

Indonesia Pavilion

With so much ’empty space’, I imagined that the pavilion won’t have much to showcase, but the pavilion was one of the more interesting ones to visit in terms of the richness of content and variety of exhibitory techniques. There was a surprise at every turn!

Natural texture

At 4-storeys, the pavilion was the tallest at the Asian Square and was really effective in communicating its environmental leanings. An interesting feature was the combination of various natural building materials such as bamboo, palm leaves, and wood chips for the pavilion’s walls, flooring and some fixtures.

Nature & technology

Bamboo all the way

Of all the pavilions, I thought Indonesia was the most successful in synthesizing nature with technology to create a seamless journey in discovering Indonesia’s native natural-scapes as well as digital edge.

Character : Jock best friends with Nerd

Thailand Pavilion

The Thai pavilion was my favourite amongst the ASEAN gathering in terms of entertainment value, ability to wow, and leaving a lasting impression. A guided visit with 3 shows in 3 different theatrical format, the pavilion was definitely worth the 2-hours queue time.

Once visitors entered the pavilion, they were greeted by an animation of the pavilion’s mascot, Tai, while waiting for the first theatre doors to open. It endeared itself to the visitors through a very lively but brief introduction about Thailand and the pavilion. Tai appeared again later in another show segment about Thai history and diplomatic ties with China.

Thailand Pavilion

When I stepped into the first theatre, I could hear grasps. Before us was a large water curtain cascading into a pool below. The sound of water splashing filled the room. The show was projected onto 4 screens shaped like jigsaw pieces (although I felt the odd shape wasn’t necessary) in the middle and onto the pool.

Vertical fountain

After the show, we were directed to a second theatre that featured projection on 3 sides and a huge, animatronic puppet Indrajit, the mythological warrior that stands guard at the entrances of many Thai temples.

The interesting part about this second show was the interaction between the puppet with the projected animation of Tai and what looked like Guan Gong, the Chinese god of war. The 3 characters talked to each other and created a multi-textured presentation.

Great shows

The last theatre played a 4D show. We’re all familiar with 3D by now and the fourth D is the addition of real physical experiences that complimented a show’s content. In Thailand’s case, I felt wind blowing in my face when the show talked about beaches, sprinkles of water when the scene showed rain, and the smell of fragrant jasmines when a basket of the flower was tossed into the air. Amazing experience! Love the pavilion as much as I love visiting Thailand.

Character : Jock married to Beauty Queen

KL-ed, Sick and Overspent

I commemorated 08/08/08 with yet another KL escapade. Well, actually, it’s not much of an escapade since this is the umpteenth time I’ve been there doing much the same things, just at slightly different locations. I had decided to make the trip mainly as a celebration of sorts for Eugene, and partly also because I wanted a vacation and going anywhere that required flying is too expensive nowadays. But I think I majorly overspent this holiday.

Darn of all darns, I fell sick before the trip and my nose ran all the way from Singapore to KL and back, all 4 days 3 nights. So with shopping bags in one hand, and tissue sheets in the other, I sneezed and signed my way through the malls and clubs of KL. I think my credit card caught my flu too ‘coz it left trails of blue (sometimes black) mucus on countless receipts and bills.

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Transport : RM200 (S$85.10)

3 of us took a friend’s car and it worked out to be RM100 per person each way for petrol and toll charges. We fed the car 3 times (petrol cost : RM138 + RM74 + RM100) and had to pay 3 tolls along the way (S$4.90 + RM$40.80 + RM10.80).

Travel Time :

Depart SGP (9.00am) → Arrive KL (12.30pm)
Depart KL (2.00pm) → Arrive SGP (7.30pm; traffic jam at Singapore Tuas Customs)

There are 2 lanes designated for private cars for entry into Singapore. However, many will cut the queue from the 3rd lane meant for lorries and buses. Our car was in the 2nd lane so we had to constantly keep close to the vehicle in front to stop any car from eating into our queue. For the law-abiding, the best lane to be in is the 1st lane (rightmost lane) as you don’t have to deal with those road sharks. Trying to fend off these cheaters caused us to get into a minor accident. No big deal, just a few scratches near the front left-tyre cavity.

Accommodation :

8 – 9 Aug – Replica Inn Bukit Bintang, RM172 (SS73.20 per person for 2 nights)
11 Aug – Imperial Hotel, KL (Formerly known as Sheraton Imperial), US$30 (S$50 per night)

Replica Inn is a standard budget hotel with just the basics (no pool, no gym, no fridge, no safe deposit, no restaurant or room service). The room is clean with a huge bathroom that is fuss-free in its design. The location is really great as it’s at one end of the popular food street, Jalan Alor, and just across from Bukit Bintang Plaza. But it can get a bit dusty and noisy since its right at the heart of action.

Imperial Hotel is what luxury is all about. I’m so used to budget travelling that anything with just a splash of color on the room’s wall would make me see multiple stars. My friend redeemed some of his mileage points so we paid only US$30 a night for the room. I don’t know what the rack rate is but staying on the 35th floor with such a great view, I would imagine the original price to be equally eye-popping.

Imperial RoomEverything is perfect about this hotel. The room is gorgeous with a contemporary oriental design; the bathroom is well-mirrored (a great place to get romantic, if you know what I mean…); the gym doesn’t make me feel like a hamster on a wheel, the pool is positioned along the path of the sun with comfy, cushioned deck chairs and tents; the lobby is grand with layers of cascading marble stairs; and I discovered the deep relaxation of hot-cold jacuzzi at its spa recess.

I’ve heard of the practice where one gets hydraulically massaged in a hot jac and then going immediately into an adjourning cold pool. Without a thought, I stuck my leg into the hot pool only to realize that that thing can make soup out of me (you see, I’ve only been to jacs no warmer than my pee so far). And when I played human thermometer at the cold pool, I thought of the Arctic. It’s pure Nazi therapy. But I tried. As I slowly immersed myself in the hot jac, the heat sent serious goosebumps all over my body that’s still out of water. But once my body got accustomed to the warmth, it was just like soaking in any normal jac. I boiled myself for about 10 minutes. I think the steam must’ve dissolved grey matter along with my tension for I did the unthinkable… I crossed over to the other side.

The water was ice-cold but I felt so comfortable in it. I think fried ice-creams must feel that way too, just reversed. The feeling was indescribable. Heat emanated from my body, cold peeling it away. It was calming, soothing, relaxing, relieving, refreshing, serene, tranquil, peaceful, lulling… ah… and I stretched out my legs. Then the cold bit me right away. Stay in one position and it felt nice. Move around, and pleasure became torture. So staying in one’s comfort zone isn’t always a bad thing. Well, at least until it starts getting uncomfortable.

Exchange Rate : S$1.00 = RM2.37 (Fri. rate) – RM 2.32 (Sun. rate)

Travel Insurance : S$28

Total Spent : S$450 + S$75 + S$310 (Credit Card) + S$101.30 = S$936.30!!!!!

Whore Wallet

Gasp! I’m still reeling from having just calculated my total expenditure. My wallet is such a whore! Always opening its flat legs, ejaculating cash and credit card every store I walked into. *sigh* I told myself I won’t shop much this trip because I still have 6 to 7 bags of new clothes I haven’t worn from previous trips. The only consolation is that what I bought this trip are all radically different from the largely singlet and t-shirt ensembles I had accumulated. This time round I went more for casual shirts, jackets and pants.

Total S$56.00I succumb to sales easily and have this habit of storing new clothes and wearing them only after my old ones are worn out. Yet, I get so comfortable in those old garbs, I hardly throw any out. So I still have brand new clothes from previous purchases, some up to 3 years ago, still nicely folded and wrapped up in plastic bags. But I had given some out because I can’t fit into them anymore. Those wretched cloth time-bombs, so unforgiving of age and a few extra pounds. So I better start wearing them soon or conduct a closet sale.

This trip to KL I discovered One Utama, another mega mall that’s slightly further out from the city. Thanks to David who took us there or I wouldn’t discover how loose my wallet was. But frankly, all the malls are infected by chain retailers and they carry similar products. It was just a matter of who has the right sizes or a slightly wider range. I’m quite a fan of the local brands Padini Authentics, PDI, and Seed. This time round I bought into Malaysian designers Key Ng and Michael Ong, mostly ‘coz they were on sale. Key Ng’s designs are very wayang and what female impersonators might wear on their days off, but his clothes are a nice fit for me. Initially I thought the designs were outlandish and didn’t cast another look, but once I tried the more somber pieces on, my wallet opened its lips. Michael Ong is more understated and I bought 2 super low-neck long-sleeved pullovers. Don’t know if I’ll have the guts to wear them in Singapore though.

Silly Drunk Pics

The other large chunk of my travel budget went down in pisses. Drinking in KL is only slightly cheaper than in Singapore so with that minor discount at the back of my mind, I spent much more than I would on a night out back here. Here’re some bar prices from the clubs we went to :

Absolut Vodka (0.75L) – RM300
Carlsberg beer (bottle) – RM20
Lychee Martini – RM30
Beer on tap (jug) – RM38.50 (happy hour), RM61 (after 1am)

Went to more or less the same places except for Ratkem Celap on Saturday night. This club was pretty obscure and rather out of the way. It looked like a bungalow converted into a party house with outdoor patios and a small, oblong dance floor, which was packed. Given that the door bitch had an attitude so grim, I wouldn’t make the extra effort there next time.

Vodka Power

Of late, I had grown a penchant for photographing friends when they’re in a very susceptible state for embarrassing poses. I, too, don’t escape the fate of my Nokia N82 5-mega pixel eye. Edison Chen would’ve admired my camera work. But that’s the fun part of getting drunk, to be possessed by the ability to act silly. And also have the pics as a refresher when alcoholic amnesia sets in. I used to think that it is bull crap when friends tell me they can’t remember a drunk when they’re drunk. Now, I’m experiencing memory lapses when I’ve gone too far off the end. I don’t even remember bits and pieces. It’s a total mental block or a very slow recall. Time to cut back on the drinks before I lose more of my existence.

Despite my flu, unfamiliar travel buddies and a reprehension that I would have much fun in this KL trip, I must say the score card added up pretty well with stories to tell. For one, I had witnessed the birth of an ear-licker. Ha.

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