Monday, March 31, 2008

Pulau Weh 2008: Part 3

Here we are in the heart of the most hardlined islamist Indonesian state, and we're having lunch in a Chinese restaurant! But no pork was served lah. ;) Ok, here're the gang: from right; Joseph, Suriana, Simon (greenish t-shirt; and he is chinese!), Fairuz, Azura (aka Manta Turtle), Lynn, Jack Jack and yours truly.

After lunch, we went straight to the pier to wait for the ferry to take us to Pulau Weh. It was hot. And muggy. And I was starting to sweat. A lot.

Here's Nazri (one of our Dive Masters and resident hunk) with Jack Jack (left), the DM-in-training. Oh, some of the better pics on this entire Weh series belong to him.

Our Mama Diver, the one and only Borneo Turtle, Yanni trying to look cool despite being dead tired and nursing a cough and cold which would plague her throughout the entire excursion.

Ah finally our ferry arrives.... and man, was there a huge crowd coming in and out! And Weh is supposed to be a secluded and sparsely populated island. Well, sparsely by Indonesian standards, I guess. :p

We were lucky to be able to catch the fast boat, as it only took us about forty five minutes to cross the narrow channel of water to Weh, the most northerly island in the Indonesian archipelago. If it was the other slower ferry, we would have had to endure a 2 1/2 hour journey!

We were booked onto the Kelas Bisnis seats. Not bad lah... got aircon... got tv (but thankfully was not switched on!)... and no chickens and goats walking around....

A lot of the guys and gals managed to catch some forty winks. And I managed to catch them in the most unflattering sleeping positions.... Hehehe.... Oh btw, this post is dedicated to the lovely lady in the picture, Lynn.

The ever observant Su called my attention to this really long and red axe standing beside the emergency exit...

...which is called Pintu Darurat in Bahasa Indonesia, which means Emergency Door in English... as in a state of Emergency during a war type of emergency. Ok, we thought it was pretty funny at the time.

Here's Simon (yes, he really is chinese) with his really big melons. (Yes, he 's a he, not a she.)

So anyway, an hour later, we got out of the ferry onto Sabang, the main town in Weh. By the way, Pulau Weh actually means The Faraway Island.

Then we were bundled into three vans, all 25 of us and our ultra huge dive luggage, and brought on a really long and bumpy ride through Weh's hills and countryside before we reached Sunur Tiga where our hotel was located.

Here's a view of the small bungalows at the resort that we're going to call home for the next five days - Freddie's Sunur Tiga Guesthouse.

By the time we were all settled in, it was already 8pm.... so the moon was up. Oooh full moon. Which is good for us divers as that means we'll probably get clear visibility during our dives.

Early next morning, I took the opportunity to take a look around the resort and the beach that was right at our doorstep!

The resort was built into the side of a hill and they provided us with gazebos for suntanning and also to shoot the breeze after a hard day at diving.

The entire complex was built using wood salvaged from the recent tsunami and the owner made sure he only employed the local people to build it.

Most of the units were single bungalows on stilts and every room had a sea view. It doesn't get any better than this. Although, I gotta say, some of the higher units was a bitch to climb up to every time.

Pantai Sunur Tiga is a relatively secluded beach, but it was very beautiful and waking up to the sound of the waves lapping at the soft sand will forever be etched in my memory.

Here's Lynn playing with the resort's pet dog, Malu.

Imagine this - settling into a deck chair with a ice cold glass of pineapple juice in one hand and a good book in the other, under the shade of a coconut tree, ...

...and from the corner of your eye, you notice you're all alone on this serene beach, as the breeze lulls you to sleep...

... and then as you open your eyes, right in front of you, the evening sun glides lazily down into the horizon. I love my life. ;)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pulau Weh 2008: Part 2

Flying into Banda Acheh was indeed an eye opener. On Boxing Day 2004, the Northern Sumateran city was hit by first, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale and minutes later, a tsunami that completely swamped the entire town. Four years on, the place is still reeling from the devastation as evident from the aerial view.

Everywhere we could see remnants of the destruction that is yet to be cleared - boats left high and dry, empty shells of houses overrun by tall grass and creepers, and pools of sea water that have not been fully drained.

I could feel a sense of hopelessness pervading the land, even though it was evident that the people here are trying their best to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

I got a very weird feeling as we were brought to various sites that the tsunami destroyed, wondering if it was appropriate for us to be doing the 'tourist thing' here when the locals have lost everything they got including their loved ones and here we were, posing next to the ruins, snapping pictures as if it were the Colosseum.

A lot of countries like Japan, Kuwait and the US as well as multinational companies like Coca Cola have provided the funds to rebuild the infrastructure in Banda Acheh and other devastated parts of Sumatera.

These benevolent parties have also sponsored motorised trishaws, trucks and small stalls to provide some livelihood for the survivors of the tragedy.

It was quite a sight to see this big fishing boat perched atop this house. The owner of the house decided not to take it down and has since built a walkway up to the stern to provide tourists a safer way to climb to the boat.

Seeing the belly of the boat from below is definitely a very weird experience, and one which I shall not forget for a long while.

We also got to see the famous mosque that miraculously survived the tsunami when everything else around it was destroyed. It was actually quite a small building , which made it even more amazing that it managed to stand intact.

Here's something familiar - an Astro satelite dish. Actually they were everywhere. I guess people here are crazy about Akademi Fantasia as well. I wonder how they managed to smuggle the dishes through Customs. ;)

The highlight of our 'tour' had to be the grounded barge. As we were brought to this factory-like structure, I was wondering why they would bother to show us such a common building.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was actually a 150 metre barge! Right here, in the middle of a housing estate, miles away from the harbour! Can you imagine the force of the rushing waters that dragged this behemoth so far inland?

As we walked around this 'thing' I got a bit nauseaus when I read this graffiti on the side of the barge - 'di bawah kapal masih ada mayat' - which means 'underneath this ship there are still corpses'.

There was a small blue donation box next to the barge to benefit the victims of the tsunami. Written on one side of the box was a mnemonic (?) for the word 'tsunami', lest we forget. "Tuhan Suruh Umat Nabi Agar Manusia Insaf "- which I roughly understood as "God called upon this so that people may repent".

It was almost too much for me to bear.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pulau Weh 2008: Part 1

Greetings from Banda Acheh! I have just got back from a fantastic scuba diving trip at Pulau Weh which is off the northern tip of Sumatra, very near Banda Acheh.

Here are a few pictures of Banda Acheh (which was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami four years ago) as well as Pulau Weh.

This is one of our fellow divers, Azura giving her best impression of the 'King-of-the-world Titanic' pose on a grounded barge that was washed 2 kilometers inland.

We had to wait for two hours for the ferry to bring us to our final destination: Pulau Weh.

Finally the boat started to chug along, and none too sooner as we were all getting tired, sweaty and hungry (to dive, that is!)

We stayed at Pantai Sumur Tiga beach, which was a very picturesque place indeed.

Our dive itinerary started early the next morning, and Yanni, our trip organiser was only too glad to return to the water again. They don't call her Borneo Turtle for nothing!

Pulau Weh is very famous for its crystal clear waters, lots and lots of fish and humongous sea fans.

I hope these few pics have whet your appetite for more and I will be posting more pics soon. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Saya rasa sungguh capek sekali, dong. Esok sambung lagi, ya?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tulibu dibu douchoo!

I came across this Youtube video on mrbrown's blog. It's an audition tape taken from the Bulgarian version of Pop Idol. It beats anything on AI this year.

Excuse me while I roll on the floor laughing one more time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The American Arch-angel

A new star has emerged in America and it's not Obama. It's seventeen year old David Archuleta. He's currently the front runner in this year's American Idol and one look at his breakout performance of the John Lennon classic "Imagine" and you'll understand why everybody in Idoldom are already crowning him the next Idol even though the competition proper has yet to start. (The Top 12 finalists begin their quest this week).

I really laughed out loud when Paula Abdul commentted that she "just wants to squish him, squeeze his head off and dangle it on her rear view mirror..." What's scary is I actually understood what she meant and in a way, I agree with her.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Election Day 2008

This is a collection of random pics around Muar town on Election Day. It was relatively quiet today in town. I guess everybody's busy making 'x'es on their election slips at the polling stations. No, no chads poked, made pregnant or even argued about in court here. Just a simple piece of printed paper and a pencil. Simple.

The war of the banners are in full throttle in the town centre. A sea of blue, green and red can be seen flapping in the wind.

The ruling BN election machine is obviously the more wealthier one, as evidenced by the multitudes of flags, banners and posters EVERYWHERE. For every flag/poster by the opposition there are at least five of the blue scales.

Anwar's renegade party, Keadilan, also makes its own presence felt here with extra long banners sporting the infamous white 'black eye' logo.

The Pan Islamic Malaysia party or PAS has been trying to make inroads into Johor but so far has not been successful. Will 2008 prove to be a 'banner' year for them?

These hanging banners that criss cross the town's streets are becoming more of a nuisence as some of them have snapped and fallen onto passers-by and cars, causing chaos and traffic jams.

In the more urban constituencies, DAP is trying to woo the chinese votes. The party did win a state seat here in Muar a couple of elections ago, but promptly lost it to BN after just one term. Can they wrestle back this seat as well as others this time around?

This has to be the biggest poster yet in the whole of Muar. It depicts a picture of the ruling coalition's Chinese leader, Ong Ka Ting and the local candidate all thumbs up about the development in the country.

Even road dividers and traffic lights aren't spared from the banners and flags.

I saw this BN nominee come out of his sleek brand new Mercedes Benz the other day at the petrol station. Nice guy. Just a tad bit sloppy looking.

This is the Keadilan candidate for my Parliament Constituency. Ooh... she sure can strike a fierce pose....

...and she's going head to head with this BN's candidate. He sure does show a more approachable face, don't you think?

Ah, here is the primary school near my parent's place that is doubling as the polling station where I will cast my vote.

One by one, we first have to register at the front counter with our ICs before being given a identification slip and directed to one of the three polling rooms to cast our votes for the State and Parliamentary seats.

Even though the political parties these two ladies represent are rivals, it is heartening to see them being very friendly to each other. Maybe the claws will come out come results time. Hehehe

Well, I wish all the candidates and the political parties participating in this year's election all the best and whoever wins, please govern our country to the best of your ability with diligence, honour and integrity. One last thing: please remember to clean up the mess you guys did to our town.