Friday, 31 August 2007

Happy Merdeka Day!

It was 50 years ago today...

...and I think it'll take me a little under 50 days to do this whole trip. I've taken a short break from training as a couple of things have cropped up - there's still much planning to do for one thing, and also Mei's Mum has just had an operation. The latter went well and she'll hopefully be home in two weeks.

As for the former, it has gone extremely well on one front. I met up with Reezan two nights ago and we discussed GPS, PayPal, photo albums on the blog, the wonders of hypnotherapy...

Basically, I'm looking forward to answering the request for maps with a GPS system which will tie in with Google Maps and allow me to give you a clear idea of where I've been on the trip.

As this trip is self-funded from a thin wallet, donations are also very welcome indeed. I've begun to sort out my budgetary needs and with Reezan's help and advice will be putting up a PayPal shopping cart soon. This will allow people to sponsor cash, events or items. You could sponsor a week's ride, for example. Or a day. Or a video camera. Or even any amount that you are comfortable with. I hope to get this up and running within the next week.

I'm also looking to sort out a seamless photo album experience so you can have a look at photos without jumping from site to site.

Reezan's been a great help and it's fantastic how so many people are jumping in to help. It seems the idea of 'celebrating' has captured their hearts. I hope to have a similar effect through this blog with whomever drops by.

I shall end this posting with another celebratory message. Mei and I have been married for just under a year. For me to take off on this ride with her blessings and support is something I'm immensely grateful for. I would not blame her for thinking she'd perhaps gotten into a crazy relationship, but she's never so much as voiced a squeak of protest. Just last night, in fact, she reminded me I have not done any training in the last few days. I am indeed extremely lucky to have her by my side...

On that note, I invite you to celebrate this Merdeka Day with gratitude - for the good things you do have in your life, in Malaysia. Celebrate that. And Celebrate Malaysia.

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Thank you one and all
(Names arranged alphabetically)

Andy Yang
Chris Seow & Mong
Gan Cheong Soon
Gerard Cheong
Jeffry Ho
Joe Nathan
Johann Annuar
Johari Low
Joseph Cheong
Lam Wei Mei
Manfred & Jenny Kohlhuber
Mohd Reezan Mohd Fadzil
Ng Fook Sun
SV Singam

Itinerary - Overnight Stops

The itinerary for the Celebrate Malaysia! ride in 2007.
Oct 15: Kukup
Oct 16: Pontian
Oct 17 - 18: Pontian
Oct 19 - 20: Muar
Oct 21 - 22: Melaka
Oct 23: Pantai Kemunting
Oct 24: PD
Oct 25: Morib
Oct 26 - 28: PJ
Oct 29: Pulau Carey/Kelang
Oct 30: Kuala Selangor
Oct 31: Sabak Bernam
Nov 1 - 3: Teluk Intan
Nov 4 - 5: Pantai Remis
Nov 6: Taiping
Nov 7 - 8: Parit Buntar
Nov 9 - 13: Penang/Butterworth
Nov 14 - 15: Sungai Petani
Nov 16: Alor Setar
Nov 17 - 19: Kangar
Nov 20: Kangar - Singapore (by bus)

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

I'm not watching the wheels go round and round...

Well, in a way perhaps I have been. But very much from the saddle of my bike. Yes, my training has begun...

A couple of weeks ago, I contacted my good friend Joe Nathan as he has done the Cycle-around-Malaysia thing as well as a recent ride down from Cambodia. He was very keen to hear more and we met up and talked about Celebrate Malaysia! whereupon he said I should meet a friend of his, Johann, who's been-there-done-that and whose CV includes cycling through the heart of Australia and being at the Mt Everest base camp during the 1998 Everest climb.

Well, we did indeed meet up: Joe, Jo and another of Joe's friends, Reezan, at Mas Ayu coffee shop in Siglap late one evening. Three Teh Halias later (and that was just me), the energy was still buzzing in the air - the guys were full of ideas, advice and encouragement.

In the following week, I brought my trusty run-of-the-mill Wheeler 910 to Uncle Teck at Song Seng Chan in Joo Chiat Road to have it fitted out with a new handlebar, a rack and some other necessities. Uncle Teck is 60-something (I think, and if I've added a few years, I do apologise, Uncle Teck!) and fit, hale and hearty. A ready smile, plenty of good advice and a couple of days later I picked up my bike, now looking much more ready to tackle a couple of thousand kms. The bike at least, maybe not me yet...

A word on Uncle Teck: he's part of a group of guys who meet up early on Sunday morning to 'go cycling'. They regularly do 80 to 100 km and that week I went there, the destination was Johor and the Iskandar Development Region... Most humbling...

During those days, Joe regularly waved a menacing finger at me, insisting I should be out training. As my bike was in the shop, he lent me his, and so started my training. I loaded up the panniers with some weights - two of Mei's 2-kg dumbells in one bag and a 5-litre bottle of some general cleaning liquid I found in our storeroom in the other bag. The first night was about adjustment - me to the bike, my legs to the weight and so on.

It was good and now that I've got my bike back, I've been regularly going out with about 10 kgs in the bags. It's all starting to take shape!

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Monday, 20 August 2007

And so it begins....

But before the legs pump the pedals and the miles flow by, the fingers have first to tap the keyboard. I'm learning this blogging thing, and I'm organising and planning my route. At this point, my fitness is suspect and my funding still uncertain. I have set aside about 6 weeks and the only destination now is Penang on 11 November. I have a wedding to attend, you see...

The rest is still a little uncertain. I have, at times, surrendered to happenstance, and I am beginning to think serendipity will be my co-pilot on this trip.

I will need some things though - a compact digital camera, a compact video camera and a bit more equipment for my bike. I have already embarked on readying the bike, but the cameras are a little out of my budget for the moment. Well, I'm sure something will be worked out... If you do want to sponsor one or both, you do know how to contact me...

Bill McDannell has reached DC and if you look through his journal, he reproduced my first email to him on Tuesday August 7th. We have promised to keep in touch. If you like, drop him a line and wish him well.

My dear friend, Patsy, at The Star has also reflected some interest in doing a writeup - I guess the idea of celebrating in the midst of much gloom is a unique thing. Keeping my fingers crossed it'll all work out.

More news soon...

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The Route

Places of interest which I am likely to visit are marked out here in red. Last updated 18 November 2007.

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It's the journey, not the destination: An Introduction

This is a philosophy I have extolled often enough. Through the years, even when I practiced as a hypnotherapist, a common thread in my dealings with people has been that the present should always be our point of focus. It's no use dwelling in the past for it drags us back. No use keeping our sights on the future for we fill our lives with worry and dread.

When we live in the here and now, however, we give ourselves the chance to absorb, appreciate, and give a little something back.

Enough people have espoused this so I shan't bore you with what you probably already know... save to add that this ideal is not always the easiest to adhere to though. Life sometimes has a way of dealing us a set of cards that leaves us scratching our heads and chewing on our nails. Or worse.

It's easy to aspire to this philosophy when you've got a steady job, some money in the bank, your health, the love and care of close ones. When you're dealt a difficult hand, however, it's not quite so easy. The focus then shifts to your actions, not your situation. What do you do next? How do you respond?

It is something akin to this that I find myself in now.

Malaysia is the land of my birth and my first 21 years. Most of the subsequent 21 years have been spent away. And yet, even though the body is not there, the heart always has been. And we all know home is where the heart is.

Consequently, the last few years have not been the easiest. Like a child who is away when a parent is ill, I have read about the problems my homeland has been going through with more than a tinge of sadness and helplessness. It's true the media thrives on bad news, but it's also true - and we would be blinkeredly foolish to deny so - that there is indeed much bad news nowadays.

I am no politician, law maker, activist, whatever. I am a simple bloke with a great love for a country that is rapidly losing touch with the values the founding fathers envisioned. This simple bloke has a tiny sphere of influence so small I might as well be a gnat on the back of an elephant. I can do almost nothing to solve the social, political or economic problems I read about.

When I was young, I had close friends from all the major races - in many ways we even failed to see the differences, enjoying instead the common-ness we had. I just don't see the same integration now. And it saddens me. It saddens me too, to see the social ills that continue to plague Malaysian society whilst taxpayers' money is spent questionably.

I have struggled with my response to all this. To do nothing, to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear is unconscionable. It has never been my way and it never will. And yet, I am that gnat. On an elephant. A large expanse before me...

And so perhaps the idea hatched. Certainly I would point to one person to whom I owe the inspiration and the courage: Bill McDannell who chose to walk from one end of the United States to the other to effect change. Now, I do not have the audacity to believe I could bring about nationwide change.

But I do believe in focussing on the here and now. And right now, right here within me, I feel more than a little sad and helpless.

So I have decided to confront that head-on. Not with my typical sledgehammer approach to life, but in an altogether gentler way. I wish to be that gnat, scratching at the surface of this country, exposing what is beneath the tough hide of this mad elephant charging ahead. Not as an irritant, but rather a micro-observer. I do believe that although the big picture may appear to be an insane, headlong rush into oblivion, the micro view may be altogether more surprising.

I intend to seek and find (and I have no doubt I will find) the values Malaysia was founded upon. In the everyday lives of ordinary Malaysians, I am sure I will discover warmth, kindness, honesty, a moral sense of right and wrong and a brotherhood that cuts right through the bigotry and racism we read about all too often. The heart of Malaysia must surely beat strong and healthy and I want to feel that pulse.

My physical journey will be a slow one, on bicycle, firstly through the villages and towns of the west coast of the peninsular. I will meet people and I will write about them and share their stories with you. Stay tuned, the journey starts in October...

Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...