Thursday, April 30, 2009

From Batu Caves to Maran: Day 1

A Walk-umentary: Day 1

We have been informed by Julie (in a very detail email) on the do and don’ts, what to bring and other useful tips as early as February. So, we get plenty of time to plan and pack.

I stuffed those essential things (cameras, phone, umbrella, raincoat, wallet, chargers) in my back pack and the rest (clothing, extra pair of shoes, slipper, and toiletries) into a duffle bag. Everything was wrapped in plastics. I was all prepared for all conditions. Julie told us to get prepared for blazing hot weather and heavy downpour on the same day.

The walk seemed like a well kept secret in the Indian community. It has been around since 32years ago! There is hardly any information on the walk in the Internet. I do not have much info on how it started and who were in the first walk. It would be interesting to find out…Maybe I will dig more info next year. LOL!

We gathered at Batu Caves around 11:00pm on Saturday night (4 April). Julie had registered and collected T-shirts There was launch and prayer ceremony earlier in the afternoon.

We had supper at around 1am - Fried beehoon, bread, vade (yummy!) with teh tarik.

The night was hot and humid. No wind. Jue, Wai Mun and Amelia were sharing spooky ghost stories while waiting for the walk to start. Yikes! Not at this time at the night! Heheh!

I do not have an official participants figure for this walk, but I guess it was around 300 walkers. There were a few children as well. Generally children were prohibited unless they were accompanied by and adult next of kin.

A simple prayer ceremony or pooja was conducted after the briefing to the participants. Then, we were all set off to the walk of our lives! The mother of all walks in Malaysia! (Insert squeal of excitement here!)

This is the Midnight Express. A van that played Murugan devotional songs (in high decible) and kept the spirit high with its bright siren lights. It was basically a disco on wheels! Hahah! You could hear and see it from miles away! Love it!

I walked slowly within the group while recording some video clips. The ladies had already walked far ahead. Anyway, this was not a race!

The road led us to the KL-Karak Highway. It was pitch dark with the occasional lights from the passing vehicles. So, torchlight is a must item to bring.

Anyone care for lemang? LOL!

I was walking alone before I strike up a conversation with Sathiya. He was a regular in this walk. I remember his advice not to wear underwear for the walk. Let it all hang loose to avoid chafing! Hmmmm....

So I asked him if Dhoti (long Indian loincloth) a better choice of wear? He said it depends on how you tie it. It might just drop off if you didn't tie it correctly! OK, I'll stick to my sportwear then. LOL!

I also met Ayya who kept us entertained with his classical Indian songs.

Time passed fast. Soon it was daybreak.

I hated the stretch before the Genting Sempah Tunnel. The highway was built over ravines and snaked over the Banjaran Titiwangsa. I usually enjoy the scene here when I travel this route via bus, on my way back to my hometown on the East Coast. But on foot, it was a nerve-wrecking experience.

The fear of getting knockdown by the speeding cars had intensified with every step I took. The trailer-car crash scenes from Final Destination movie was playing repeatedly on my mind like a bad Astro commercial.

It didn’t help when the whole highway ramp vibrated and shook each time a heavy vehicle passed by. Luckily I didn’t pee in my pants! LOL! I kept going. My consolation - if I die there, my insurance compensation was going to be double since it was a public area.

I am not happy with litter-bug problem among the walkers. From my observations, most of them tend to throw rubbish conveniently into the drain, into the bushes and on the road itself. The organizer also didn’t provide proper rubbish disposal.

I walked miles with an empty mineral bottle because I refuse to litter around. When I arrived to the next refreshment stop, I passed the bottle to one of the volunteers for disposal. My jaw almost dropped to the floor when I saw she casually took the empty bottle from my hand and flung it into the monsoon drain.

So, from then on, I carried all my rubbish with me until I see a garbage bin in the town area. Come on people! Love the Earth. Keep Malaysia clean!

Warning sign on the digital display board. "Beware of KL/ Maran Walkers".

I grabbed some Milo and cream crackers at the rest area before the Genting Sempah Tunnel before continuing my journey.

After the Genting Sempah Tunnel, the highway was wider and not as many ramps as before. But the route was still undulating. Ups and downs! Check out how tiny the people were along the highway.

The heat of the sun began to bother me. So I quickly reapply my sun block. My backpack became heavier and heavier. My shoulders and legs hurt.

Medical problems were attended to promptly by the St. John Ambulance plying the route. (Insert thumbs up here!)

There were not many shady areas along the highway. It was all concrete and tar. Some managed to find a tiny shady spot to catch a nap. :)

We spotted an accident along the highway. Freak accident - a trailer carrying iron bars went into a ditch along the highway.

Thank God no walkers were harmed. I think the accident must have happened before any of us reached that place. Otherwise...many double insurance payouts would have to be done! Hmmm....where does all these mordid thoughts come from? (Insert Final Destination crash scene playback here! LOL!)

I reached Hutan Lipur Lentang at around 12:30pm. Hutan Lipur Lentang is a recreational area popular among the locals for picnic and its cascading waterfalls.

The ladies were already at the rest stop.

Lunch was served - vegetarian curry rice. I wolfed down the rice using my fingers - the Indian way of eating! So hungry!

I was tempted to soak my feet into the waterfall but I was too lazy to take off my shoes. LOL! After a short rest, I continued the journey with Julie, Amelia and Wai Mun.

The heat from the sun was unforgiving, coupled with the heat that rose from the tar road. It was hot hot hot. The last time I experience this was in the Ocean to Ocean Run a couple of years ago. But that time, we only spent like 1 hour under the sun since it was a relay of 8 persons.

I used a face towel; draped it over my head before I put a cap on. At least it shielded my cheeks from the sun. Step by step I plodded on...

These must be Ayya's shoes. I saw these on the grass next to the highway. He tried taping his "opened-up" shoes with duct tapes. I guess it didn't work. :(

I was trailing Uncle Shumugan right up to the Karak Toll. It was easy to identify him because he sported a ponytail. :)

Not too long after we passed the toll, raindrop started to fall. The sky was still sunny, mind you.

Smaller drop became huge one as if we were machined gunned by the clouds. In no time, I took out my umbrella and wrapped my camera in plastic bags. Must protect my baby first. Then I looked for shelter…which was obviously none since we just passed the highway and not reached the town area yet! So, I wore my back pack in front of me and walked in the rain.

Pungent acidic smell began to rise as rain water came in contact with the hot tarmac surface of the road. It was simply awful.

Later, I found shelter at an overhead bridge. Soon came the rescue truck! Yay! I decided to hop into the truck with a bunch of others walkers.

The truck took us straight to our next stop – the Sri Balasubramaniar Temple in Karak.

Julie was already at the temple when I arrived. Amelia and Wai Mun was walking. They insisted to walk in the rain! Mighty persistent women, eh?

Uncle Shunmugan pointed a place for me to sleep in the temple. It was behind some kind of platform, behind a stage made of plywood. I placed my mat and sleeping bag there. I have a little bit more privacy compared to the rest where they have to sleep in the open on the temple floor. Suddenly I missed home. LOL!

A place to sleep had been found, it was time to clean myself. I was stinky, sweaty and sticky from the all day walk. The temple bathrooms could hardly cater for all 300 of us! So how?

Take bath in the public! LOL! It was a culture shock for me. I admit that was the first time I bath in public like that.

I took off my t-shirt and joined the rest of the guys at the water tank. The tank was located next to the temple and was barely shielded from the public eyes with a piece of cloth hung on a wire.

We took turn scooping water from the tank while others were soaping themselves. It was quick but refreshing!

According to the regular walkers, Day 1 was the toughest. The course was mainly on highway – lack of shades and place to rest. The course was also hilly.

Amelia and Wai Mun finally arrived at the temple. Congrats! They walked 100% of the journey on the first day!

Medical check-ups were provided free of charge by the local health authority. I asked for some painkillers from the doctor. They gave me paracetamol.

Dinner was served around 8:00pm after pooja. Simple but delicious vegetarian food. Rice, curry and papadom on banana leaf! Hmmmmm..I could hear my tummy growling now as I type. LOL!

After dinner some of the walkers sang praises to Lord Murugan in the temple. The songs were very catchy. My..My..They still have lots of energy after a long day of walking, eh?

Me?...I just wanna curl up in a fetal position and sleep! LOL!

Lights off at 9:30pm.

Here's a video summary of Day 1. Enjoy!

Day 2 post coming soon! The day of blistering heat and blisters.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From Batu Caves to Maran: A Walk-umentary

What? KL-Maran 204km Walk

Where? From Batu Caves, KL to Maran, Pahang.

When? 4-8 April 2009

Who? Organised by Tamil Nesan

How Long? 204km over 3 days.

This is my biggest and most personal post yet in my blog. Hahah! Not trying to write an epic here but just to document my journey as detail as possible. I have to break them up in several smaller posts for easy perusal.

Each year, I would do something or go to the places that I have never done or go before. Something crazy. Something out of the ordinary. Something that challenges me. This happened to be IT, this year – The KL-Maran Marathon 2009.

The walk was basically an annual Hindu pilgrimage, a 204km walk from Batu Caves to Sri Marathandavar Temple, Maran to pay homage to Lord Murugan in the Panguni Uthiram festival. En route, we visited a few smaller lesser known Hindu temples for rest, food and shelter.

Panguni Uthiram festival is observed by the Hindu devotees over a 10 days period in March-April every year. It is not as grand as Thaipusam at Batu Caves, another grand festival for Lord Murugan but it is not less fascinating.

The journey was even though was long and arduous; it was a humbling yet enriching experience for me. I met new friends. L learned new things. Enjoyed the richness of Indian culture without having to go to India.

Saw things with my very own eyes which otherwise I could only see on TV. Only in Malaysia! Malaysia BOLEH! Heheh!

From Batu Caves to Maran: Day 1

From Batu Caves to Maran: Day 2

From Batu Caves to Maran: Day 3

From Batu Caves to Maran: Walk Wit Milk

From Batu Caves to Maran: Panguni Uthiram

From Batu Caves to Maran: Sri Marathandavar Temple

From Batu Caves to Maran: Bazaar

From Batu Caves to Maran: Food

From Batu Caves to Maran: Feedback

From Batu Caves to Maran: My Photo Gallery

Acknowledgments:

First and foremost – Julie Wong for introducing this walk of faith to me. Thank you for the well written do and don’ts list for the walk. It saved lives! Thanks to Amelia and Wai Mun for walking the long journey with me.

Organisers and sponsors – Tamil Nesan, various temple committees, Sports Toto, Milo and also the villagers along the way to provided food and refreshments! Thank you for your generosity and hospitality.

Volunteers – RELA, Police Force, St. John Ambulance, Medical officers who look after our welfare during the walk. Couldn’t have done it without you guys! Thanks!

To me fellow Indian friends. Too many to name here but you know who you are. Thank you for accepting us with open arms. Thank you for allowing me to eat, bathe, sleep and walk with you guys. Thank you for taking the time to explain the rituals and “silly” questions from me. Thank you for the encouragements to complete the walk. Thank you for your friendship!

A special thank to Uncle Shunmugan for being my pacer..LOL! This 80 years old man can sure walk. I had to catch up most of the time. Also, thank you for allowing me to photograph the prayer ceremony and be part of the milk carrying procession.

NANDRI!!! (Thank You in Tamil)

Disclaimer:

I am not an expert in Hindu culture and I am not a Hindu for that matter. The information and views on post is based on my own personal experiences and also from varying sources like the internet, the people I met etc with varying levels of accuracy. Please inform me if you find anything that is inaccurate, incomplete and in error.

I also would like to apologize if I ever unintentionally offended anyone with my jokes in the post. This is not an educational piece. It is a personal observation and I do add liberal doses of “spices and sauces” or jokes to this one as my other blog posts.

Pictures and video clips are all taken by me (except some were from Amelia). Should you want to use it in your blogs, please ensure I am credited and provide a link back to my blog. Thank you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bidor Half Marathon 2009

What? Bidor Half Marathon

Where? Bidor, Perak, Malaysia.

When? 26 April 2009; 7:00am

Who? Organised by Bidor Runners Sports & Recreational Club

How Far? 10km

We arrived in Bidor town about 3:30pm on Saturday. Bidor (美罗)is a small about one hour and a half drive from Kuala Lumpur. Amelia, Yew Ting and I joined Mohan and Hazel from Singapore for this trip. It was our first "eat and run" trip together!

Check out hotel! See Foo Hotel in Bidor. Can you see the START/ FINISH gantry from the window of our room? That was how near out hotel to the start point!

Took this while the ladies went shopping at the supermarket opposite the hotel.

Doraemon! This ought to add some cuteness to this blog. LOL!

Frankly speaking there are nothing much to do in Bidor in this trip except eat, run and eat!

After resting for a while in the hotel, we went to look for the famous herbal duck noodle at Pun Chun Restaurant!

Yummy! I love the soupy Chinese herbal duck drumstick noodle. The portion was generous. I like the soup. Not too bitter or medicinal. The duck meat was so tender that it loosen with a slight poke of the chopstick.

Slurp! Slurp! I found many blogs by runners who ran the Bidor Half Marathon posted about this famous dish! Slurp!

Then, we walk over to the Ta Thong Biscuit shop and watch them make the chicken biscuit and mooncakes in front of our eyes. Freshly baked!

Amelia was attracted to the cute mooncakes in the shapes of little animals.

Fancy some Tricerotops?

Snake and mice, anyone?

How about some bugs?

I found those mooncakes are too cute to be eaten. LOL!

We also check out some fruit stall along the main road.

Petai (stink bean)....are sold outside the stores.

Guava - seedless, sweet and full with Vitamin C goodness.

2009 marked the 5th edition of Bidor Half Marathon. From its humble beginning of only 200 participants in 2003 to last year's 1200 runners, Bidor Half Marathon has become one of the well received half marathons in the country.

According to Mr. Leng, the race director, a total of 1,600 runners registered for this year's run.

Check out the medals over the years....(I don't own these...took some snap shots of the displayed medals at Tukang Jahit Mexico, where the race kit collection was).

2003

2004

2006

2008 - I've got one of these Eagle thingy. Heheh!

The size has grown bigger. The design also got better!

Dinner by the roadside stall. Some simple dish and rice. We kept bumping into Uncle Sonny and his entourage who joined us at the next table for a drink and later we met them again at the Guardian Pharmacy.

My breakfast. Milo and pussy bun. LOL!

I took part in the 10km event only. Same finisher medal. LOL!

The route was rather enjoyable to run except for some stinky shit smell around the plantation area. I didn't notice the awful smell last year. Probably they had just fertilized the oil palms. Heheh!

Check out the Bidor Half Marathon video here. Had to "press on my brakes" many many times to capture our friends running at the opposite side. For those who didn't appear in the vid...you were way too FAST and FURIOUS for my camera. :)

ENJOY!

Note: Background music - Oakenfold's "Ready, Steady, Go" Korean Version from the Collateral Soundtrack. I love this song!

Feel free to embed this video in your blog. Don't forget to link back. :)

Breakfast is served! I love Nasi Lemak. Yummy! My only complain is the Tau Foo Fah was reserved for the 21km runners only! Hey! Not fair! :P...

2009 Medal. Ain't it gorgeous? But how come two of the runners (first and second from right) running wearing underwear in the outside? Superrunnermen? LOL!

What's in our goodies bag?

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Mohan for his makan treats and being our driver. Traveling runner friends - Amelia, Yew Ting and Hazel who made this trip fun and makan-licious! :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Run Your Race Running Clinic

What? Back to Basics - Running Clinic for Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2009.

Where? Lake Garden, Kuala Lumpur.

When? 19 April 2009, 8:00am

Who? Speaker - Elite Runner, Mark Williams

This is the first of a series of running clinics organised for the Standard Chartered KL marathon. Basically, it covered all aspects from training, diet and nutrition to injuries and safety tips.

Actually I kinda missed the circuit runs that FTAAA used to do for KLIM. Because it beats the hey out of training alone for the marathon.

But anyway, new organiser, new events!

This morning speaker was Mark Williams - a Briton, family man and elite runner. He used to run professionally for Hong Kong and had won some roadraces in New Zealand and in KL too!

The way he speaks kinda remind me of Paul Moss (minus the sarcasms and nasty comments) of One In The Million reality show. LOL!

The session went very well and very informative, especially to new runners who are preparing for their first KL Marathon!

I particularly like the demo of stretching excercises. The clinic was rounded up with a Q&A session after a run around the Lake Garden.

Yin was seen busy with her phone. I thought she was sms-ing but she sworn that she was taking notes. LOL!

I posted some of the useful tips from the clinic on stretching before running. Do check out the video. Comments are welcome.

Note: If you have heard carefully, there was elevator music playing in the background when Mark was speaking. I didn't put those sleep-inducing background music in the video. LOL! It was actually played by the music people at the clinic throughout the session. (Insert yawn here!).

They better play upbeat, get-your-spirit-high kinda music for the next event, otherwise everyone will fall asleep! BTW, I decided to shake it up with a song by Metro Station at the end. My favorite running song at the moment! :)

Happy training! Shake shake shake shake shake it!

For more info about the next running clinic and Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2009, please visit

http://www.kl-marathon.com/

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