3 Sep 2014

Going to Kota Bahru, Kelantan

The next day we started out around 10.00 am, after a leisurely breakfast of nasi lemak, scrambled eggs on toast and some salad at the picturesque beach side restaurant. Wan took some final photos of the surrounding area and then off we went on the way to KB. 

Looking at the map, KB is at least 400km away so Repin decided to share the drive with Wan. He took the first shift and we drove slowly along the coast passing serene looking fishing villages, small towns and by 12.30pm we had reached the outskirts of Kuala Terengganu. Earlier we had stopped for a bit of a snack of keropok lekor (a fish sausage made with fish and flour) and eaten with a sweet and spicy chill sauce. The ones sold along the roadside seems better than the ones we buy at home, maybe because its freshly made on the spot and fried then and there. 

We also stopped for some pictures along the way. This coastal road is really picturesque with lots of photo opportunities. 

Wan and Repin at one of the beaches we passed by

a fishing village

We stopped for prayers at one of the masjid in Kuala Terengganu and then stopped for lunch at a restaurant nearby where they sold nasi campur - rice with a mixture of fish, curry and vegetables. 
Then off we went again, this time with Wan doing the driving. This is a very unfamiliar road because none of us had ever driven to Kota Bahru recently. In fact Wan  had never ever been to Kota Bahru. This would be his first trip there. It's a pity that Emma could not come with us. It would have been more fun for Wan if his wife came along.

Anyway according to our guide/ gps WAZE we should be in KB by 7.30pm. However we made it there earlier by half an hour - we reached there by 7.00pm and was at the hotel by 7.30pm. 
Wan was very impressed by the hotel - it has a luxurious lobby with a definite age-old charm and an ambience. Palm trees decorated the entrance with liveried bell boys waiting to help us with our luggage. After the registration were taken care off we went up to our rooms to freshen up and then went back downstairs for dinner at the Chinese restaurant downstairs. That night we decided to have an early night and went back to our rooms although Wan decided he wanted to explore a bit. 

30 Aug 2014

Our East coast road trip

This trip had been planned by Repin since last year when he first got the Exora. In fact one of the reasons he wanted to go to the East Coast was because he wanted to test the car. When Yati went back to Indonesia and was detained at Surabaya Airport, we thought - there goes our trip!  But luckily she managed to come back in time for us to still drive there, although we had to cut short the trip by one day.

So here we are in Cherating at last! We started out a bit late yesterday because we wanted to send Sarah and Neville to Sentral for their express bus yo Singapore. Then drove up to KL to leave Saru's food and finally picked Wan from his house in Ampang. However in spite of delays, we arrived in Cherating at 3.00 pm- just in time to check in.

It wasn't a bright and sunny day but the sea was beautifully calm, the breeze welcoming and cool to the senses and we had a pleasant tea break on the beach. That night we decided to try out the firefly watching which was on the River Cherating and run by a passionate nature lover, Hafiz, who originally came from Myanmar. He gave a short talk on the habits of fireflies and how we have to conserve it's natural environment, ie the mangrove swamps where they are found.

The boat ride to see the fireflies cost only RM25 per person but I think it was really worth it. The night was dark and at first a bit eerie but I enjoyed the breeze. There were about 15 people on each boat and 3 boats all together. At first we could not see anything but slowly as our eyes got used to the dark we saw tiny flickering lights. At first, just a few then there were dozens of them everywhere- mostly nearer the water's edge, just above the shore. Hafiz had mentioned that bright lights frightened them or kills them so nobody was allowed to take pictures. Even a small light from our phones could distract and confuse them according to Hafiz. And since light is their means of communication to each other especially when they want to mate, by flashing lights at them we would essentially be blocking them from mating and thus indirectly cause them to slowly disappear, which was what had happened in Kuala Selangor. Today there are so few fireflies there tourists no longer visit the place anymore. Also according to Hafiz, they are very susceptible to water pollution. If the rivers are polluted, the mangroves too will die and this too will endanger the fireflies. So he and his team will clean the river every once in a while- collecting plastics, tins and other rubbish thrown by careless people, to make sure the environment is clean.

At one point the mangroves looked like a fairy land- with the tiny flickering lights on the trees and they were so friendly these fireflies even flew down to our boats and landed on our hands and clothes. I felt awed and fascinated by these beautiful lighted creatures and was so glad we made a point of coming here to see them.

16 Aug 2014

The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide

Title: The Guest Cat
Writer: Takashi Hiaide
Published by New Directions Publishing Corporation
Translated by Eric Selland 2014

When a young Japanese couple, both writers, rented a house somewhere near the Shinjuku area in a quiet part of Tokyo, they are visited by a female cat, belonging to the small boy next door. Working at home the write and his young wife allow the cat easy access into their home and their lives.

Slowly, without realising it, the cat entwines itself into the very fabric of their lives and every day affairs and into their hearts. The day becomes brighter, the hours  more precious and their events more meaningful with the advent of Chibi, the cat. They even sometimes pretend the cat belongs to them, buying it special tidbits and enjoying its playful habits.

Without them realising it, a year had gone by and the young cat has now become an adult. Sometimes it would even sleep in their house and on their bed. However one day both husband and wife had to go to a dinner party in another part of town and did not come back for the night. The next day they realised the cat had not come to their house and through the next few days they didn't see it either. Both husband and wife became perturbed by the cat's disappearance. Finally the writer goes over to the neighbour's house to find out what had happened. They were told that it had died in an accident - apparently hit by a car. For a long time they mourned the cat's loss and even wanted to see where it had been buried but its owner, the neighbour, became aggressive and even angry when told the cat had visited them every day and even slept in their house sometimes.

Soon the couple moved away and bought their own house not far from the neighbourhood. But one day they were visited by a couple of kittens, a male and female which looked exactly like the guest cat which they had lost. Soon the kittens too visit the couple, now older and just like its predecessor settled in.

A beautifully written book by Japanese poet, takashi Hiraide, this book should be read by animal lovers everywhere, specially by cat lovers. It is about love and loss and love regained. The book reads like poetry, moving and subtly conveying deeply felt emotions of the writer and his wife concerning their guest. A lot of the writing is philosophical. I would definitely recommend this book  and will give it a 5 star rating. A book that will change you and how you look at relationships.

My favourite line from the book is this lines from the first chapter:
" I often remember the appearance of Chibi the cat and the scene in the guest house when she first came inside. It was in the late Autumn of 1988...
There was a narrow space with an earthen floor for the washing machine facing the courtyard, which was a mere partition off from the spacious garden off the big house. One shining, sunny afternoon, through a crack ion the open door,four bright white feet stepped inside the the room's insulated drain bard and with a well-honed curiosity rushing through her entire body, Chibi quietly surveyed the meagre interior." This was the introduction of the book.