Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek - Day 1

God knows why and how did I agree to go trekking with Feeder. I mean, seriously what was I thinking? Trekking, of all activities, is something I would never, in a million years, do. When I think back on the hardship, it still gives me the shivers. Everyday we walked 5 to 7 hours, depending on the schedule and our speed. Every night we slept in heater-less rooms with temperature as cold as -13°C on the outside of the concrete walls. It required courage to perform simple tasks like showering, brushing our teeth or going to the toilet. The mere thought of having to touch the icy cold water or taking off our clothes scared us. So I didn't shower for 7 days, wore the same clothes and only changed my socks once.

Day 1: Kyume - Chommrong

We started the trek at about 11am from Kyume, as far as the 4-wheel-drive could take us - basically to the end of the road. It was pretty easy at the beginning with mostly flat treks, through some greenery, wooden and steel bridges. But after few hours of non-stop walking, I felt exhausted already. The guide, who looked at me worriedly, said that this part was the easiest of the trek and the real hard work had yet to start.

Passing by residential area on the way.

Crossing a river.

Towards the end I was breathless from the uphill climb and the long hours of walk. I only allowed myself to look at the ground 30 cm in front of my feet. I was afraid that if I looked further, I would lose all will to go on. Feeder and the guide walked behind me, KC and the porter were already 15 or 30 minutes in front of us.

"If she can't continue, she can wait for us in Dovan or Deurali. We can go to ABC and come down and go back together," I heard the guide telling Feeder.

I am not going to make it, I thought.

We reached Chommrong at 6:30pm, half-dead.

The view of Annapurna and Fish Tail from Chommrong. The snowy mountains still seemed far from our reach.

On the mountains we needed to pay to get hot shower, hot water and to be able to sit by the heater. There was no heater in the room. Hence the only source of warmth was from dinner, and my own body heat. I wrapped myself with a Uniqlo heat tech, a long sleeve cotton shirt, a fleece jacket, a Uniqlo ultra light sleeveless down jacket, Nike winter jacket, and a red brand-less down jacket I bought from Kathmandu. Not mentioning a pair of fleece pants and trekking pants from Uniqlo, a knitted cap and a pair of wind / water proof gloves. (I can't believe I need a whole paragraph to list down my clothing.) Well, the result was my transformation into a ball.

A big red ball.

The first night was quite depressing for me. I woke up in the middle of my sleep from the cold. Feeder had just gone back from star-gazing. I cried and told him I was cold despite being in the sleeping bag and the blanket. My feet felt as if they were stored in the refrigerator. But there was nothing we could do and I dozed off.

Feeder's star-gazing.

The next day, we continued to walk...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Open Water Diving Course - How to Assemble the Equipment

Like I said, Feeder and I went for our PADI license in Lang Tengah few weeks ago. It was a four-day theory and practical lessons. Since we do not dive like once a month - in fact, hardly once a year - I thought I'd prepare some notes (before I forget) about things that I've learnt during the four-day-course. So that I can revisit those skills before my next dive. *wink*

Refer to above video from YouTube.

Step 1: Slide the BCD (buoyancy control device) into the oxygen tank from the top. Make sure the O-ring on the tank is facing the BCD.

Step 2: Use one hand to hold the BCD in place, the other tighten the belt. Make sure the O-ring is just above the level of the BCD neck area. If the position of the tank is too high, it may knock the back of your head. Try lifting and shaking the BCD to check if the tank is properly secured.

Step 3: Align the O-ring with the first stage opening. When properly positioned, tighten the yoke screw with three fingers. This is to keep you from over-tightening the screw. Check that the BCD hose and the pressure gauge is positioned on your left, the second stage and the alternate air source on your right.

Step 4: Attach the BCD hose to the BCD inflator. You should be able to hear a click when it's properly connected.

Step 5: While turning on the air valve, place the pressure gauge face down or away from you. This is to avoid injury in case the glass burst due to leakage (highly unlikely). Turn the valve slowly at first. When it is pressurized, turn it fully open, and then close it by turning it one time, using three fingers.

Step 6: Check the pressure gauge. It should read about 200 barg. Test the regulator by pressing the purge button. Inflate the BCD by pressing the red button on the low pressure inflator and then release the air.
Note: During diving, low on air is considered at 50 barg or lower.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

the geographically blind - living up to my standards

So Feeder and I were at the Subang Airport, checking in our luggage for a flight to the east coast (for open water diving course).

Me : I would like to check in our luggage.

Firefly ground staff : Flying to?

Me : (mind went blank for two seconds) ...
        (looked for the destination on the printed flight itinerary) ...
        (and failed to locate it) Kelantan...

Feeder : What? No, we're flying to Kuala Terengganu.

Me : (still reading the flight itinerary) ...
        (and found it) Oh yes!

Staff : ... (proceeded with check in procedure)

Me : (to Feeder) Are you sure we are flying to Kuala Terengganu?
        What if the hotel staff pick us up in Kota Bharu airport?

Feeder : I am sure.

Me : But last time we went to Lang Tengah, we took the boat from Kelantan.

Feeder : No, we didn't! We went to Terengganu!

In the end the hotel staff picked us up in the Kuala Terengganu airport. And we got our diving license.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How did I survive Paris - the people and their language

All my life I have been fascinated by the idea of staying in a foreign country and experience their culture. I guess I was granted this opportunity last August. I had been sent to Paris, France for a 3-month-assignment.

The biggest challenge I found was understanding the people, and making them understand me - obviously not all of them could speak English.

The most important phrase, to me, is not "bonjour" or "merci". Nor it is "bonne soirée", that is my favourite word instead - something I muttered everyday when it is time to be released from the office. The most important phrase - so important that it involves the matter of life and death - is, "beaucoup sauce s'il vous plaît". That was something I had to say everyday during lunch in the office canteen.

My colleagues who worked in the same project are very nice and friendly people. Some are Venezuelan. One of them told me she had been working in Paris for 6 - 7 years and married to a Parisian. Like me, she was really excited when she first started working in Paris. And traveled almost every weekend. So she could totally understand how I felt - wanting to see and experience as much as possible.

However some Parisian can be really "unbelievable". My first culture shock was on the first day that I arrived to the office. At the lobby we were registered as visitors with a temporary access card, and were told to obtain a permanent one from the administration department. So we took the elevator to the administration floor and apparently we were not able to access the secured gate with our temporary card. We knocked on the glass door to attract the attention of a lady (obviously French) sitting near the entrance. With sign language we tried to tell her we couldn't enter and would she please open the door for us. Perhaps it wasn't obvious to her that three foreign, yellow-skin noobs were seeking help - she took one look at us and continued to her business. I watched in disbelief as she went on typing on her keyboard. My two other colleagues gave me the get-used-to-it-if-you-want-to-survive look (it wasn't their first time in Paris), and turned to the other entrance.

At the other entrance, we did the same trick and this time it worked. The plump lady (also obviously French) let us in. I gratefully thought the world is still beautiful after all. We said thank you and this was what she replied us:

"No English, please!"

When I told my friends this story, CA suggested that I speak Bahasa Melayu to her. And she'd be too frustrated and switched to English herself. But Feeder said given his experience in France, she'd just ignore me. I couldn't agree more.

Had I been treated like this the whole time in Paris? Of course not. Like any other places, there were both good and bad people. The universe always had to keep its balance, didn't it? 

So Feeder and I were near to the Palais Garnier, trying to find our way to Galeries Lafayette. We knew Paris was not a safe place. Hence even when studying the map we were keeping a lookout. Two ladies approached us, told us in English that a few pickpockets were right behind them, about to reach. They only target tourists and obviously we looked like one. They would come ask for donation with a piece of paper appearing to be list of donors as distractions. Do not talk to them - just wave our hands and get them going. We thanked the kind ladies for their warning and was being even more cautious. A minute later a cute guy nice gentleman in suit and tie approached us with the same warning. Wow! Two good deeds in a row! I was rather surprised.

Inside of Palais Garnier.

Another time we were in Dinan, an outskirt town 400 km away from Paris. Again I was studying the map (that's what tourists do). A lady came pointed at the map and said "Vous êtes ici", to which I replied "Merci".

The old medieval town of Dinan.

A similar experience when Nicole and I were looking for the China Town near Place d'Italie (we were craving for char siew and roasted pork). A guy who looked like a gangster gentleman came throwing us sentences in French, which I could catch only one word - "adresse". Obviously he was asking us if we had the address so he could point us the right direction. He performed sign language when I said "China town". Another good deed gratefully accepted.

So, did I enjoy Paris? Yes.
Am I willing to stay there again given the chance? Yes.
Am I willing to stay there for long term (more than a year)? No.

I guess Paris did not live up to my expectations. It was not a city of romance, no! There were always people kissing and making out on the street but city of romance? Definitely not what I had in mind. At least I didn't feel anything when I was travelling with Feeder.
Paris. Is. Overrated.

It's not very convenient when you can't speak French. And the people, no offence but they're not very... patient and considerate. And the weather, towards the end and beginning of the year, was getting freezing cold.

I guess I can give a lot of excuses for not wanting a long stay in Paris. But then it all comes down to one reason.
Do I love Paris? No.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Last August, I was sent to Paris for a 3 months short-term assignment, together with a few of my colleagues. Seizing this opportunity, I asked my colleague, a semi-pro photographer, to help with my pre-wedding photo shoots.

Feeder was going to travel to Paris, bringing the wedding gown which I have booked from Malaysia. I would need to hire a make-up artist and a hair stylist in Paris. With the help of Google I settled with Charles Gillman. He had good testimonials, experienced with Asian facial features, responsive in emails, reasonably priced (85 euro for photoshoot), and most importantly, he could speak English.

In our email correspondence I asked for reference of a hair stylist and he introduced me to one whom he always worked with. Her name was Danielle Carson, charging at 80 euro. I paid Charles the deposit, confirmed the appointment, and scheduled for them to arrive at my hotel at 6:30 am.

Therefore I had all the items on my list checked, or so I thought.

On the day of the photoshoot, at 6:30 am I checked my email, and saw this:

From: Danielle Carson <>
To: shinloo <>
Sent: Sep 28, 2013 1:08:21 AM

Dear Shinloo,

How are you? I hope you read this e mail in time, I am right in the middle of fashion week and I had a show booked on the day of your shoot at 10 am. Unfortunately they changed the call time to 6 am just today. I am just e mailing you now because I just got in from doing three shows and haven't had a second to stop all day and they just informed us a couple hours ago.

What I can propose is I can do your hair for you at 5 am today, if you read this in time, but unfortunately it's impossible to cancel the show.

I'm really really sorry this has never happened before I will happily try and accommodate you at 5AM and I tried calling other hairdressers I know but unfortunately it's too last minute.

I hope we can figure something out in time,

Again I am so sorry,

Danielle Carson

I stared at it for 2 minutes. Re-read and re-read. The email was sent 5 hours before our appointment. I almost cried. What could I do without a hair stylist?

Then I started calling Charles, who told me he went to the wrong hotel branch. He was supposed to come to Residhome Hotel in La Defense, but instead he went to another branch in God-knows-where. But fear not, as he was on his way. He said he couldn't get in touch with Danielle and then I told him about Danielle's email.

At about 7:30 am he arrived. We wasted some time to discuss whether or not to go on with the photoshoot. And then we decided to get the make-up done first and think of the hair later. Charles was nice and helpful. He tried to search for a salon nearby that I could go to. And he kept apologizing on Danielle's behalf.

Charles working his magic hands on me.

After Charles left, my colleagues and I spent some time having brain storming session on what to do with my hair. Couldn't have done it without them. =)

From left - Nicole, Chloe and SeeYee. Me sitting in the middle.

In the end I still decided to leave it to the professional since the salon nearby was already open for business, which, as far as I know, was very unusual in France. After some hand-waving and picture-showing we finally got the salon to understand what we wanted.

Me and Feeder, in front of my office building in La Defense.

This was how I began a long day of pre-wedding photoshoot in Paris. 

Hence fellow brides out there, heed my warning! DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT hire Danielle Carson the hair stylist in Paris. I pray that the same fate will fall upon her on her wedding, and her birthday, and her prom night (I guess she's too old for that), and any important event in her life!

Don't get me wrong - Charles Gillman did a fabulous job! But this Danielle, she's irresponsible, unprofessional and useless! Below was an email I sent after the photoshoot:

From: shinloo
To: Danielle Carson <>
Sent: Oct 4, 2013 6:18:34 PM


Sending your email 5 hours before our appointment, I am sure you already knew I will not be able to read your email in time. This is equivalent to not showing up at the last minute and totally unprofessional. 


I am grateful for your effort to try to help. I believe it was a bad day for both of us. I hope you will be wise in selecting your partners in the future. 


Below was Charles' reply:

To: shinloo
Sent: Oct 7, 2013 1:44:50 PM

Hello Shinloo,

Sorry for the delayed reply, this weekend’s been rather busy. I just wanted to thank you for your email and I really hope that your shoot was enjoyable despite the actions of Danielle that morning. I wanted to let you know that we had a firm two hour discussion on Tuesday morning to follow up on her bad client service with yourself. Following on from this, we’ve made a decision that she will no longer be working with Charles Gillman Cosmetics – Paris, as she doesn’t fit our philosophy of superior customer service. 

Once again I apologise profusely, it was lovely to meet you and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your stay in Paris.

Kindest regards.


Great! Serves her right! I hope this ruins her career!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Wind Rises - The Review

Le vent se lève! ... il faut tenter de vivre!
~ Paul Valéry ~


It's a story of a man who put his aviation dream in the first place, and the love of his life the second. At least, that's how I interpret it.

Jiro Horikoshi was a aircraft designer who created the Mitsubishi A5M, to be used in the war - a war which he strongly opposed to. None of the aircraft survived. 

Knowing that his dream and career were always more important, his wife still support him nonetheless. She chose to leave him so she could die alone from tuberculosis, which was incurable.

I guess it's supposed to be inspiring. But to me, it is just damn sad. It may looks like he had accomplished a lot, and that he succeed in his dream. But I feel otherwise.

Below is a trailer of the movie, with the soundtrack that I really like.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Geographically Blind Reborn (again)

I had abandoned it for a year. Last week, out of no where, it came back into my thoughts. And then suddenly I had so much to say - not to the world, but rather to myself.

As I began writing, I re-discovered some of my older posts. Most of them were things I had long forgotten. It felt familiar yet strange, reading back my thoughts, my experience in life, travel, things that I once felt so important that I needed to document them. It was as if looking at myself from a totally different perspective, in a third person's point of view. I watched myself fall, live life, and grow up. 

Then I remembered how it once supported me to get through everyday, when depression took over me. And how I fell in love, and it took everything in - my laments, my brags. 

I created it. But it completed me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Greatest Fear

There was one thing that I had done recently that made me feel proud, and I had not felt like this for the longest time. I had learnt to swim.

Last year I gathered my courage, and did something I should had done years ago - I signed up for swimming lessons. I did this partly thanks to encouragements from Feeder, and mostly because I was tired of being afraid.

Being in water had been one of my greatest fear for the past 29 years (apart from lizards, anything cold-blooded, my boss' boss and ghosts). Whenever I was in a swimming pool (which is very rarely) of a mere 100 meters depth, my hands would never leave the edge for fear that I might fall and unable to balance on my feet. I never had a drowning experience and I wished I never would.

Back when I was in my college years, in the Batu Ferringgi beach my friends and I were sitting on a banana boat. I remembered I watched in panic as the speedboat driver playfully swirled the boat in a sharp turn causing the banana boat to capsize and all of us ended up in the sea. I wailed as loud as I could for my friends to come save me, all the while having the orange-coloured life jacket on.

My high school, King George V Secondary School in Seremban, was the only school in town that had a swimming pool. Back then I took the swimming lessons, I was taught to glide with the float. But when I reached the stage where I was supposed to let go of the float, I couldn't do it. I guess I just wasn't as determined as I am now.

So when I signed up for the swimming lessons, I was very doubtful. I mean, if I could learn to swim I already had 16 years ago. What pushed me forward, I guess, was that I didn't want to add this to my list of regrets in life. I was, after all, going to reach 30 really soon.

My first lesson was a tough one. It started out easy, thanks to my brief experience in high school. Blowing under water, gliding, kicking - those I could manage. But then there came the hard part. I was told to kick, glide, push my arms apart and bring my head above water to breathe. Now that I talked about it, it seemed so easy but back then, for a person like me, it was harder than jumping off a roof. But what could I do when my hair was wet and half of my body from waist down was submerged in the pool. So I did tried to do as I was told. 

As I pushed my arms apart, the insecurity of having no floating support took over and the only thought in my mind was, "I'm not going to make it". Hence water was splashed and people stared as I regained my balance to stand on my feet, half of my body from waist down submerged in the water. I wiped off the water dripping from my hair and saw faces trying really hard to refrain from laughing.

Later that night I cried myself to sleep with sad thoughts that I would never learn to swim. I might as well had thrown the 300 bucks to the ocean - at least I could hear a splash. But that didn't change the fact that I had already paid. So I left work early whenever I could to practice in the freezing cold water. It took me 2 weeks to be able to perform the 3 simple steps of frog style. The first time I managed to do it, I guess that was the proudest moment of my life.

Now I could swim laps of frog style. It didn't quite come naturally to me yet. I still must count in my head "kick, glide, push, up". And water threading was still something yet to be mastered. At least, if I were placed in the middle of the ocean without any floating device, I wouldn't immediately drown. In July this year I would be going to take a diving license. Hopefully that experience would strike out another item on my list of regrets.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

People say we are meant for each other

People say we are meant for each other.

I was preparing an invitation email for my wedding. Then I forgot the most important detail. But I remember I told one of my friends, so I asked her.

"Do you remember when is my wedding, Karishma? November what?"

"Oh I forgot. November 29th?"

I checked the calender and 29th November was a Saturday.

"Yes it is! Thanks!"

"You forgot your own wedding date? Check with your boyfriend!"

"He would most probably forgot also."

To prove that I was right, I gave him a test. He was playing Diablo on the computer. So I dragged a chair and sat beside him.

"When is our wedding date?"

"November 31st." Eyes on the computer screen.

"What? No!"

"November 31st! Yes!" Eyes were still on the computer screen.

"No it's not! It's November 29th!"

"Oh yeah, you're right." Eyes still had not leave the computer screen.

I moved my head close to his so that my head had blocked one-third of the screen.

"I forgot my own wedding date and my friends laughed at me."

"Hahaha..." Shifted head while eyes were still on the screen.

Well at least he didn't shout at me or slap my face.

The next day I told my friends and was told there were only 30 days in November. They had a good laugh.

That is when people say we are meant for each other.