Sunday, May 28, 2006

A GENETIC LAB? NOT!

Saya sudah lama tidak menonton TV. Kalau menonton pon, rancangan yang saya betul-betul minat dan akan terkilan kalau ter'miss' seperti American/Malaysian Idol, Desperate HW. Tidak seperti 2-3 tahun lepas di mana rancangan telenovela Mexico atau Filipina berleluasa dan rancak ditayangkan. Semasa itu saya cuba mengikuti setiap episod. Itupun tidak semua. Hanya yang saya dapati jalan cerita nya masuk dek akal sahaja yang saya ikuti. Tetapi kebanyakannya saya terpaksa 'tinggalkan' separuh jalan kerana terlampau berbelit-belit plotnya mengalahkan cerita Tamil! Sungguh membosankan! Setiap kali hero dah berbaik dengan heroin, ada saja aral mendatang lalu memaksa mereka berpisah kali yang entah keberapa. Apa punya direktor! Kalau ya pon nak jual cerita, lojik lah sedikit.

Jadi, tadi, entah angin apa yang datang, cara tidak sengaja saya 'tertonton' satu drama di TV1. Ahhh, ini satu lagi fakta yang pelik. Entah kenapa, saya cukup tidak gemar menonton rancangan baik di TV1 maupun 2. Saya dapati, kualiti gambarnya kusam dan amat kurang daya tarikannya. Hinggakan rancangan 'live' nya pon kelihatan seperti rancangan 10-20 tahun yang lalu! hehe, jangan marah yek!

Tajuk drama tengahari tadi ialah 'Genetik' yang menceritakan pasal anak yang terpisah dari ibubapa sebenar tetapi kemudian berjaya bertemu semula namun timbul implikasi emosi antara anak , ibubapa asal dan angkat. Pada awalnya, mereka terpaksa membuat ujian 'paternity' untuk menentukan kesahihan genetik ibubapa sebenar dengan anak itu. Jalan cerita dan 'directing', boleh saya beri 8/10. Lakonan pon boleh tahan jugak, walaupun saya rasa watak Eman Manan sebagai bapa kelihatan agak janggal kerana Eman sudah termaktub dalam otak saya sebagai pelakon cerita silat dan purba.

Tapi terdapat satu adegan yang teramat menggelihatikan saya iaitu ketika mereka menunjuk kerja-kerja kajian 'paternity study' dilakukan di makmal. 'Scene' itu ditunjuk sambil muzik latar dimainkan: darah dalam tabung uji dicampur berbagai reagent dan kemudian disedut masuk ke dalam mesin. Sungguh canggih nampak semua prosedur yang dilakukan. Hebat betul makmal DNA kita yek? Akhir sekali sampailah masa untuk diketahui keputusan kajian DNA itu. Sekeping kertas ditunjuk melalui sebuah mesin. Kertas keputusan! Mata penonton pon semua terpaku kepada kertas yang bergerak perlahan itu. Dan keputusannya? Percaya tak? Apa yang tertulis dikertas itu? "Total Billirubin"!!!! Masyallah! Kalau ya pon logik la sikit!

Pengajaran di sini: kepada semua pengarah drama maupun filem, tolonglah buat homework yang terperinci dalm pembikinan sesebuah drama/filem. Janganlah pakai cincai dan hentam keromo. Jangan ingat semua penonton jahil tentnag sesuatu sehingga kami rasa diperbodohkan!

Itulah dia cerita tentang ada orang ni yang sudah lama tidak menonton TV dan apabila hatinya tergerak nak menonton, dia ditipu pula oleh direktor yang kurang mengambil berat tentang keterperincian fakta dalam cerita! Apa nak buat. Begitulah adanya.....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

TENGOK KAKI LAH!!!


As some of you would have known, we have a new niece added to the already long-list of our 'jinbeng'. Amira Sofia that's her name, befitting a cherub cute being. Pang5 has been on cloud nine since day one and has been giddily informing everyone of the new arrival. We noticed that his elation this time has been rather, hmm, what's the word, overboard, yes, overboard is the word, hehe. You see, we do understand his excessive excitement this time (eventhough this is his third offspring already and not the first!). It's because we assume he had this unspoken phobia of not getting any daughters. 'What if it's still a boy?' This question must have played in his worried mind oft-repeatedly. I can still recall a rather close friend of mine who was pregnant for the fourth time ( all her first three children were boys) and when she gave birth to another boy, her husband gave a loud sigh, "Masyallah!" the minute he saw the baby's sex, hehe.

Ironically, I can still remember Pang5's statement when his wife was pregnant with their first son. "Scan dah? Anak apa?" people asked him. And his standard smug reply would be, "Tengok kaki laa!" slapping his right thigh and putting on a gleeful smile. It's an attitude among Malay man, I think, to be proud of getting a boy as their first-born and acting as though they are the sole factor involved! So when their second child was also a boy, it was a rather quiet occasion. And no more thigh-slapping gesture this time, hehe.

Funnily though, prior to Amira Sofia's birth, we asked him again the same old question: Anak apa?, and his reply was exactly the same: "Tengok kaki laa". Hmm, so this smug phrase can be used either way, I see. I guess what Pang5 was trying to impress upon us was that he has this 'phenomenol' capability of choosing his impending baby's sex*. How's that? I'll leave that to Pang5 to clarify (if he has the time in between washing napkins and feeding Amira, that is!)

Oh,one more thing. I was made to understand that he has chosen the name Sofia in honor of Safiyah, my second daughter. Is that true Pang5? You must then have a soft spot for Sofi eh?

This is to congratulate Pang5 for a long awaited baby girl (with or without the help of his 'kaki' that is!). Welcome aboard Amira. May you have a meaningful life, filled with success and most importantly to be 'anak yang soleh'.

*Do you know that there's a popular theory on how to be successful in getting either a baby girl or boy? And this is being determined by several factors which includes the fact that male sperms are fast swimmers but are short-lived. The opposite is true of female sperms. :) No, I won't go into the details.

Hey guys! See who is here and leaving some words too! Thanks Pang5 for the kind response!


Pang5 (the 'Kaki' guy) wrote:

Thank you all. thank you for the kind prayers and wishes to amira sofia and her parents. i shall need more of those when she reaches her teen years.

"tengok kaki". i thought i'd try to explain that phrase, but i guess the writer's and readers' imaginations has more or less covers the meaning. but frankly, my xyl (that's wife in ham language) and i did some research on how to favor (to say determine is a bit strong, i think) the baby's gender. some are scientifically explained - parenting and medical publications, as well as traditional advise from chinese and indian friends. and yes, for some unexplained reason, we were quite sure it was going to be a girl BEFORE the fifth month ultrasound scan.

being said that, i believe that girl or boy, its rezeki being blessed upon me. plus, that's one of the special requests both of us made to the Boss at Multazam. who else can precisely determine the gender but Him, right? so, to achieve that, the effort (usaha) we put to favor the gender is by adhering to some of the tips we researched, and... the kaki. i trust dith and ikelah will be able to better explain the theories and practices. ahahaha

dith, as in the case of our first two dragons, both intan and i chose part of the name. first one intan chose danial, and i, muhammad. second, intan - muhammad, and i, mikhail. and this third one, intan chose amira and i chose sofia (after the ten or so other names were vetoed by intan). but whether i have a soft spot for sofi or not, i shall not answer that for concern of being taken advantage of by sofi and her other siblings. :D

btw o-k, on some notebook computers, the pointing device that looks like a button located between the alphabets G,H and B is called a nipple.

i read this phrase in a book that goes, "a daughter is God's punishment to the father for being a man". however, looking at ikelah and dith beautiful daughters, i know mine is a blessing!!! Alhamdulillah, insyaAllah.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A.R.M.S. and A GREAT ISLAND RETREAT


View from right side of cove. The Hotel is on the left, facing the lagoon.
Note the white sand and clear-blue water! Photograph by iKelah





View From The Main Building(Photo by iKelah)


I was at Redang Island from the 19th to the 21st, attending a medical workshop, "Applied Rheumatology Made Simple" or ARMS, sponsored by Pfizer. It was held at a 5 star resort called Laguna Redang Resort, thus the accomodation was simply smashing. From the speckless white sandy beach and the crystal-clear turquoise-blue water to the exquisite hotel structure, enriched with malay-timber architecture. Everything was heavenly. Not to mention the sumptuous array of buffets three times a day! There was a gastronomical variety of dishes: Malay, Cantonese, Indian and western and if I were to follow my 'nafs', I'd probably end up bloated but alhamdulillah, I managed to exercise prudence and frequent walks on the beach and climbing up rocks helped in burning those unwanted calories. The workshop was incorporated in a 3 days-2 nights package (sounding just like Pycnogenol's 3 hari-2 malam trysts, eh?) which carried a fairly steep fee per person, inclusive of accomodations, meals, ferry fares to and fro plus three snorkeling trips.

We pushed off early, so as not to miss the appointed 12.00pm ferry ride. After sending the kids to school we took the Jerangau route to K. Terengganu which is known to be faster by an hour as traffic is usually lighter than the coastal road.The downside of this route is that the roads are narrower and gigantic lorries and trailers are its main users. In view of the recent car-crash of our late cousin, my mental status was not prepared for the endless over-takings of cars and lorries and I was perpetually reduced to a bag of nerves! Alhamdulillah we arrived safely albeit with a driver who was overly irritated with an extremely, extremely apprehensive co-driver! We reached Merang jetty very much earlier and the organizers were very kind to put us on an early ferry so as not to waste time. Popping a tablet of Stemetil, (with a plastic bag at hand for vomitus) I prepared myself for the worst. Yes, I suffer from sea-sickness of the ultimate kind. Two years ago, on the return ferry trip from Tioman, I was essentially throwing up orally and rectally (sorry!) and by the time I reached land, I was a dried vegetable! But Alhamdulillah again, this time, both the ferry trips to and fro were uneventful and I hereby now declare myself free from sea-sickness. Yeah!

On arrival we were transfered via a 'tram' to the main building where we were served with 'welcome' drinks , half-filled glasses of whitish suspensions. The sad part was that the drinks were prepared at the bar which also served a multitude of alcoholic drinks and worst still, the bar-tenders were Malays! Astaghfirullah! "Air apa ni, dik?" iKelah asked, worried. "Air asam manis, bang'. Suddenly feeling all thirsty, I gulped down the sweet-sour concoction and found it pleasant. Apparently, sourness helps to cure someone of sea-sickness, thus the drink on arrival.


Looking pensive. (A big room but the kids are not around!)



Our room was very spacious (termed as Quad), consisting of a king bed with 2 single beds. The moment I sat eyes on the polished parquet floor and the extra 2 single beds, I gasped, "If only the kids were here, what a waste!" The room was perfect for a family get-away. As the first talk was only scheduled at night, we had ample time to explore the grounds. I decided to pamper myself for a full body massage (which I missed during the Jogja trip) and iKelah eagerly left me for his photography spree. The masseur was a young Chinese girl who did a combination of Japanese shiatsu and Chinese massage on me which are definitely different from the traditional Malay urut. Her maneuvers were more accu-pressure-like and she worked by applying hard pressure to various points. At one time, she even applied her whole body-weight on me by kneading both her kness on my back! It was certainly a first for me.


The hotel is situated in a very strategic bay which probably is a lagoon with 2 hills on the tips pf both horns. The left hill is most probably a small island, joined by a stretch of land arising from the bay. On the left is another large cove. Along the beach of both bays, you can find many resorts with scattered chalets offering similar packages of almost the same price. At night, the whole place turns into a small city of lights with holiday-makers thronging it. Various joints put on loud disco music blaring into the salty sea air and this makes me wonder why would someone go for a holiday far away on an island but only to be disturbed by the same loud music they get in the noisy city??

Sunrise at Pulau Redang with a beautiful sillhoute to complement(Photo by iKelah)

As usual, iKelah was trying to capture the magnificent rays and changing red hues of the morning sun on the island. Unfortunately, the weather was rather cloudy that Saturday morning thus the scene was far less spectacular compared to the breath-taking image of sunset at Parangtritis.

The work-shop consisted of lectures and case-studies, presented by 6 speakers and spread over 2 days. 4 of them are women doctors who sub-specialiazed in Rheumatology: Dr Hazelyn of Putra Jaya Hospital, Dr Gun Suk Chyn of Hosp. Seremban, Dr Ong Swee Gaik of Selayang Hosp., Dr Esha Dass Gupta of IMU. Incidentally Hazelyn was a school-mate of mine in SIGS JB and we had some time catching up. She is also the president for the National S.L.E. Organisation which will be organising a 2 days camp at Suria Cherating Resort this coming weekend. A public forum on 'Managing SLE patients' will be held there on Saturday at 10 am. All are invited.

This is for those who are studying medicine (and those interested)

Categories of Rheumatic Disease:

1)Ambulatory rheumatology
-Soft tissue rheumatism
-Osteoarthritis
-Gout

2)Arthritis-rash syndromes
-Viral arthritis
-Still's disease
-Reiter's syndrome
-Psoriatic arthritis
-SLE
-Henoch-Schonlein purpura

3)Chronic rheumatic diseases
-Rhematoid arthritis
-Spondyloarthropathies

4)Serious rheumatic diseases
-Infection
-Malignancy
-Vasculitis

Management of Rheumatic Disease:
1)Physio
2)Pain relief
3)Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic agents a.k.a. DMARDS

On Sunday we managed to squeeze a boat-trip to the marine park for a short bout of snorkeling. Mind you, the ride and rental of snorkeling outfit was not cheap. They even charged an extra 20rm for 'powered' goggles used by short-sighted people like iKelah. But it was worth the money to be able to see those colorful fish swimming close by. And the corals were a great sight to behold. It was sheer fun to see the fish come in droves as you drop bits of bread into the water. But it was even more fun to see iKelah do his free-style, :)). By the way, the marine park has banned the use of flippers as their usage tend to destroy the corals.

All in all, it was a truly fun-filled and educative weekend get-away, meeting people of the same fraternity and rekindling old friendships. I mingled with young doctors from various hospitals including those from Has's institution. I got to know Datuk Dr Yeow (who was iKelah's family physician in his childhood days) better, during our meals and listened as he rattled away his vast experience. As always I pray that Allah swt has blessed the trip and may the new-found knowledge benefit me. Special thanks to Ho of Pfizer for kindly inviting me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

THE SAD DEMISE OF A COUSIN

I can't even begin to write about this sad occasion but I wish to let it off my chest and also to share with you friends out there, to make this as a 'teladan' for us....

iKelah's young cousin passed away Saturday evening in a freak car accident. A trailer/tanker from the opposite direction (North/South highway) lost control and jumped the road divider, and rammed into his car. All in the car died on the spot with severe injuries.

But the freakest 'thing' would be that his family only knew of his death by reading about it in the newspapers the next day! Imagine! The police had difficulties contacting his family eventhough they are living in a town and not in a remote village in Sarawak or something!

When we arrived at the Mortuary of a small district hospital in Johor, the only body not claimed was his. The remains of the rest of the passengers were already claimed by their relatives much earlier in the morning!

I could almost palpate the sorrow in his mum when I hugged her. 'He's a good son. An obedient one. Who'd know that he'll go before me?" she cried. All I could say was 'sabarlah....'

Certainly death is imminent for al of us. May this tragedy serve as a reminder for all of us to better ourselves in every aspects as a Muslim.

To arwah: May Allah swt forgive you and us. May Allah swt protect you and place you amongst those He loves. Ameen Ya Rab, Ameen!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

WE HAVE FINISHED AL BAQARAH!

For those who have read along Al Baqarah's translations and various tafseers at AT TAQWA since March, would have noticed that we have just finished Al Baqarah! Alhamdulillah!

Thank you for joining me and may we gain baroqah from Allah swt. Special thanks to Crimsonskye for the audio of recitations by Mishary Rashid al-Efasy. Jazakillah hairan kathira!

Insyallah next, we will embark on Aal Imraan!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

....and you keep a part of them with you forever: An Indonesian experience, the finale


Kenakelayan quoted this in one of her entries:

...you will come across people who will leave you increased in some good way or other, and you keep a part of them with you forever. These are baraka people.

Anang, the driver who took care of our trip from day 1, fits the above bill very well. A well mannered and mild-tempered person, he forever spoke with a pleasant tone and expression. Never did we see him once, losing his temper or showing his annoyance towards anyone. He tried his best to answer our queries, answering to our barrages of questions left and right.

Always wearing a sincere smile, he is ever polite in his ways. When eating with us, he chose not sit too near, perhaps in fear of disrupting our privacy, eventhough we felt so comfortable with his presence. Once at the hill at Parangtritis, as he was imparting valuable knowledge to us ladies, an old woman who was on foot, greeted him and made some query, to which he answered with a smile. Others would probably brush the woman aside but not Anang!

He completed high school and started working immediately without acquiring tertiary study. But let not that make you think poorly of him! His knowledge of his motherland is to be praised. His knows ancient history of the Hindu and Budhhist power colonising his homeland as much as he knows of the whole gamut of the present day politics. And he even read serious books like Hamka's!

Patience is written all over his face especially when following us around bargaining for things at the market or when we had to wait for the sun to set its best crimson color at Parangtritis or when the guys were in a state of despondence for not able to capture Merapi at its best. As if reading the guys' mind, he made a detour, taking a route with a better view of Merapi.

Here are some exerpts of our conversations with him (retrieved from my memory box, thus, some distortions might have occured)

"Yang bahayanya, awan panas, dihasil dari proses letupan gunung itu. Di sini dipanggil Wedus Ghembel. Panasnya bisa capai 2000 darjah. Ia bisa gerak laju sekali"

"Biar saja saya yang bawanya" and off he took all our shopping goods and we walked around hands free.

At Parangtritis, we were amazed on how the villagers managed vegetable farms by the beach. "Iya. Sayur bisa hidup di pasir. Cumanya, perlu ada air yang di lalukan ke situ."

I could rave on and on about this guy who is a walking encyclopedia in his own unique way!

From day one, Anang had carried an unspoken motto that says: I am here to make your stay worthwhile!

Anang is one of those people whom you keep a part of them with you forever! May Allah swt give him His blessings constantly, insyallah.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

PADANG FOOD GALORE. OF SPLEEN AND BRAIN! : AN INDONESIAN EXPERIENCE PART 3

On the final day, we made a last sight-seeing around Jogjakarta and as expected our two 'National Geographic' photographers wannabe, couldn't have enough of the city! They giddily snapped every interesting subject and object in sight and even made Anang slow down or even stop the Kijang amidst the traffic. (sabor jek la!!) As usual, Anang provided us with good info about the historical background of the buildings and places, political details included too.

From Borobodur to Jogja, we had glimpses of Merapi's peak along the way as the clouds cleared off and on. The guys especially were still frustrated of not getting a good close-up of it. Hence, Anang made a special detour to Babadan, another route up the Merapi. The first instant we could view Merapi clearly, the guys made Anang stop and off they scurried to a nearby paddy field to begin their picture-taking spree. Whilst listening to Anang's 'lectures', I eyed the earnest two guys in various awkward stances, wanting to capture the best of Merapi! (squatting, kneeling and even lying supine, I think, hehe)

Then we entered Kota GedikGede, a Kraton belonging to the Mataram Sultanate back in the 1500s and 1600s. As Friday prayer was approaching we went straight to Masjid Agung Mataram. Outside the compund were dwellings of those who worked there. One of which sold various keris Mataram which are greatly coveted by keris lovers. Boogey owns one and was excited to view the collection there. Besides the usual keris Mataram, they have the Sultan's keris which is much better in design and is very intricate, with gold lining the 'lok's, delibrately made for enemies who are 'kebal' to iron. Of course, it comes with a steep price of several juta rupiahs! Later, Ikelah, later!

The Masjid Agung of Mataram



The Friday prayer's sermon was given by someone with a crisp clear voice and we understood him eventhough it was in Bahasa Indonesia. However the text was very general with no specific message except to be a good Muslim. But Alhamdulillah that we managed to pray in an old masjid built by a strong ancient Muslim Empire!

Next, we ventured next door to the royal graveyard of the Sultans of Mataram. There were several 'gazebo's where the Juru Kunci were stationed. They are the officials who take care of the makam. With big trees shading and constant cool breeze blowing, the place was absolutely balmy and peaceful. The Juru Kunci were all fully attired in the traditional Mataram costumes with their keris stuck into their sarung waistline at the back. They sat serenely on the floor in the gazebo, queitly, doing almost nothing, hehe (some were smoking kretek, I think). This made me make a witty remark to Boogey's wife, " Senang nya hidup dia orang, relax betul. " And she replied, " Ha'ah. And I thought my job was the most relaxed on earth! Rupanya ada yang lagi relax! This I must tell my friends who envy me! Hehe"


The Jurukunci sitting cross-legged in their full costumes




Admiring the fine intricate wood-work of the door to the Makam
(hands of Paul Mossanother photographer blocking)


Apparently they still perform an ancient tradition of exalting the sultans by doing some ancient rituals at the graves every Fridays. Just a simple ado but intriguing, no doubt. It was done in a quiet and sombre mood with no fanfares whatsoever, so a visitor like us could have missed it easily. I managed to see the Jurukunci walk in file carrying yellow cusions. The person in front was shaded with an old parasol, probably he was carrying something sacred or something. A lady wearing a 'kemban' attire trailed behind and I caught her performing a strange gesture upon entering the grave-yard: she touched the stone-steps twice with her bare hands, probably an act exclusive for a woman entering the sacred ground?

(I have left out an important thing regarding this trip i.e. our eat-outs and the food. Our first lunch was a stop before reaching Jogja. A Javanese eatery selling gastronomical array of dishes. There was Gudek, nangka cooked with dry spicy gravy. Ikan bakar with sambal served on a flat stone plate. I saw some people 'tenyeh' bird chillie and ate along with the fish. The look on their faces shows how scrumptious the dish is. Perhaps the stone plate, very much like flat lesung enhances its flavor, that's why! But the guys felt that Javanese dishes were not for their taste-buds, hence it was Padang food all the way after that!

The Padang restaurants had this unique way of serving. They would fill up small plates of every dish they have and spread them on our table. Once you touch a dish it's considered taken! The boys loved Padang cooking. Once Boogey feasted on goat brain cooked masak lemak and Ikelah kept topping up on the spleen dish till the restaurant ran out of it!! Horror! They might think that Malaysians are big-eaters! Anyway I have my reservation on Padang dishes. I felt that they were too spicey and flat. At one point I even thought that a dish tasted like the Jamu I had after giving birth!)

Finally, we headed for the two and half hours journey back to Solo. Since we needed to do some last minute shopping, we had to rush straight to the batik market before it closes at 5pm. Batik Solo is apparently different and some say has better design. Since we were rushing, my myopic impression was that their choice of color was limited to only various shades of brown and I found them boring, much to iKelah's annoyance! So, no, I didn't find anything realy interesting to buy. Nor did I find any shop that sell good collection of tudung as suggested by QOTH.

After checking in a hotel for the night, we rested and had dinner in yet another Padang restaurant. Ikelah and I opted for a trishaw ride to a nearby shopping mall and bought some books in a book-shop. The Indonesians are truly cultured and earnest people, confirmed by their dilligent work in translating popular english novels, like those by Tom Clancy and many others. Even National Geography was sold in bahasa Indonesia! Fancy that! Still on that note, Boogey made an observation worth mentioning here i.e. the Bahasa Indonesia has about the same amount of vocabulary as Bahasa Malaysia but the Indonesians use substantially more of their vocab than we do!! And I do agree. That's why when an Indonesian person verbalize, they tend to do it smoothly with fluidity with not much stammering nor pauses in contrast with many of us who love to interject with 'aahhh', 'hmmmm', 'apa tu' etc as if trying hard to retrieve a word, :))


Three days were not enough to savor all the goodness there but enough for us to say that we loved the place and the people. An amazing trip full of knowledge, fun and banter and of course sampling a piece of an Indonesian life! Alhamdulillah!

Special note: I think it is unfair to let these entries go without inviting Boogey's wife a.k.a. Mrs Moss to leave her comments regarding the trip. So Mrs Moss, please drop in and say your dues!

Next: (ada lagi ke???) My special tribute to Anang, our trip driver there. He deserves a special mention!

Monday, May 08, 2006

ITU BUKAN MERAPI PAK!!! :AN INDONESIAN EXPERIENCE PART 2

On the second day, after checking out, we headed for Chandi Prambanan , the biggest ancient hindu temple complex there. Scattered over the area are also many smaller chandi (s). We didn't enter the temple but only viewed it from the outside as the entrance fee was high for foreign tourist, 10 USD, compared to 5,000 rupiahs for the locals (though I don't think we looked any more foreign than the locals! If we keep our mouth shut , that is!). Prambanan is higher than Borobodur but smaller in size and the deco, idols and etchings are also markedly different as Borobodur is a buddhist temple. At night when the weather is good, an open air staging of Ramayana is conducted at the grounds next to the temple. We initially entertained the idea of watching the show but since iKelah wasn't keen, we dropped it. Anang was made to stop at various spots to satisfy the whims of the two photographers in their bid to get the best shots of Prambanan from afar.

Next, Anang drove us to Ketep Pass to view the erupting Merapi, closer. The journey up took almost an hour and as I was nursing a splitting headache, sleeping through it was the best. At Ketep Pass, we could see the two great mountains, Merbabu and Merapi side by side. Merbabu is higher but is currently inactive. The guys had mistaken Merbabu for Merapi and unknowingly had taken incessant snap-shots of Merbabu instead. We later went to watch a short movie on Merapi at the museum theater and on exiting the place, we took shots of us with Merapi on the background. Only then did the guys realized that they had mistaken Merbabu for Merapi! We had a good laugh at their grave error. Imagine their dispair should they only realize the mistake at home! So, we had to patiently wait for them to redeem their lost, taking more shots of the 'real' Merapi.


Posing with a cloudy Merapi behind.



As the weather was cloudy, Merapi's peak was not visible that morning. But we could see that the mountain was heavily populated with villages strewn all along the terrain, marked by rows of green vegetable farms. The Merapi lava must be providing the ground with good soil and thus good produce. No wonder, the villagers were reluctant to vacate their homes despite the danger.




Candi Borobodur


Next on their list was to capture sunrise at Borobodur. Again, the entrance fee was steep for foreigners and doubled if you enter to catch the sunrise. To optimize cost, we checked into a hotel in the premise of Borobodur that included the entrance fee. The hotel rate was much more expensive but since it included the entrance fee to Borobodur, it evened out. Unfortunately it didn't include entrance for sunrise and as we felt that the price was stupendous, the guys agreed to forgo it. The Manohara Hotel, as it was called, comprised of single storey rooms scattered over the grounds next to Borobodur with absolutely serene ambiance. Big shady trees and scented-flower plants like Kenanga, Cempaka etc contributed to the natural beauty of the sprawling garden.


Down the stairs of Borobodur. Look who are holding hands!!



Borobodur is a huge ancient pyramid-like structure, built into 4-5 levels, on top of a partly leveled hill. On each levels are many bell-like sturctures called stupa with Buddha statues sitting inside, apparently attaining Nirvana. From the top we could again view Merapi and Mt Sumbing. Ikelah made a second mistake of misidentifying the two and again we had a good laugh.

Checked out early to make one last trip round Jogjakarta. We visited Kota Gede (Mataram Sultanate Kraton), the Makam Mataram and prayed Friday's prayer at the Masjid Agung Mataram. Next entry: On Kota Gede and Solo.



Bargaining is our forte! A shop-owner even remarked : Kok Bapak bisa menawar bagus sekali!


You are absolutely right, Kenakelayan! A true budget holiday (shoe-string) would mean sleeping in dormitaries ala YMCA or even in make-shift tents but I don't think that is feasible in Jogjakarta. I guess ours catered more for couples who prefer cheap accomodation with some privacy. Furthermore, if we decide to pitch a tent in the middle of the city, we might induce a 'riot'! As it is, they have enough 'happenings', what with the Merapi eruption, the workers demonstrating, grafts etc. We wouldn't want to add " Empat pengunjung dari Malaysia bikin rapot: tidur di jalanan!" in their headlines!!

Nope, Mama Sarah, we did'nt go there for volunteer work. Eventhough Merapi is erupting albeit 'softly', the people are still put in the 'siaga' state i.e. only those living up high on the mountains are vacated but not those below at the foot. In fact, from the news yesterday, many farmers are fed-up waiting and had stubbornly threatened to return to their farms to tend them. Mynn, as Boogey had put it, the sky did turn purple! :))

QOTH- I think that phrase is truly apt for them! :))

Anggerik, Edward, Simah: it was indeed an adventure for someone like me!

Pycno- Thank you for praying for us. A true friend is one that make dua for another! No , 'wedus ghembel' is only formed when there's profound eruption.

Hiyoshi- there must be concrete reasons that your parents are erupting like volcanoes! :))

OF TRUE-BLUE BUDGET HOLIDAY AND A GRUELING PHOTOGRAPHIC EXCURSION: AN INDONESIAN EXPERIENCE

I have never stepped foot on Indonesian soil before, unlike many of you out there who are not only blog-hoppers but jet-setters as well. Thanks to boogey and his wife, who managed to secure us 4 cheap return air-tickets to Solo, last Wednesday, now I can proudly tell my kids that I not only endured the grueling hours of photographic excursions ala National Geographic but also a life-time sighting of a majestic volcano erupting!

No, we didn't know that Merapi was going to throw up it's lava when we agreed on this trip which was planned late last year. Thus, when I heard of it's inevitable eruption coinciding with this trip I was particularly apprehensive and had mixed feelings. But the guys (being their macho selves , of course!), were so excited and had envisaged themselves scrambling up the active crater with their cameras and tripods and had even toyed with the idea of being chased by a hot stream of flowing lava! All these were before we found out about the phenomena of 'wedus ghembel' (uttered with a thick Javanese accent, please) which are the extremely hot clouds (up to 2000 degrees celcius) formed after a volcano eruption, that can travel at an astounding speed of 200 km/hr and can cause severe burns on those overwhelmed by them! Anang, our very amiable and knowledgeable driver, had seen a 1994 Merapi eruption survivor
who had sustained burns of the limbs inflicted by the vicious 'wedus ghembel'. Furthermore, tourists are not allowed beyond a certain distance and we can only view Merapi from several sighting points, much to my relief but to the guys' chagrin, of course!

Upon touching down at Solo's (a.k.a. Surakarta) airport, we were greeted by the ever-pleasant Anang, whom I daresay, represents the people of Java, who are ever so polite and humble in their ways (sadly, I can't say the same for our Malay society, here). Immediately, we were driven in a Kijang (equivalent to Unser but much better in its suspension) for a two and half hours journey to Jogjakarta. Along the way, our eyes feasted on beautiful landscapes of systematic green paddy fields, with scattered small brick houses and majestic mountain ranges as back-drops. intermittently we see shops selling brick and stone tiles in various shapes and also sculptures of idols in myriads of forms (this being the ancient hindu influence).

In accordance with the theme of our trip: 'A budget holiday with fruitful returns', we checked in a budget hotel smacked in the middle of Jogjakarta. It is squeezed in between myriads of other small hotels and spas. It may be small and quaint but it has a small swimming pool, nontheless!

Not to waste any second, we ventured to the batik market after our dzuhur-jama'-asar prayers. We passed through a Kraton (a large, walled, old palace ground/court) and sauntered through a pasar burung which got the boys busy snapping away. On hindsight, we (Boogey's wife and I) now realized that the early shopping indulgence was a deliberate tactic by the guys to prepare us for their first big photographic rendezvous which unknown to us would entail a grueling uphill drive and moments of true patience! (We even stopped by a spa to enquire of its service, planning to pamper ourselves the next day but alas, the plan was abandoned). Sunset at Parangtritis was our, or more accurately, their next agenda. Another hour and a half journey through narrow roads amidst paddy fields brought us nearer to the coastline.

Parangtritis has a hill with a cliff by the beach and it boasts of excellent sunsets which are being sought after by avid photographers. The sight was breath-taking but the road uphil was not. Half-way through, the meandering road turned ugly and we bopped up and down as the poor Kijang negotiated with all the crevices and holes encountered along the 'rocky' path. Almost reaching the plateau summit, Anang gave up as the path got more vicious and the guys had to suffice with a small grassy plain to station their tripods. The view was nevertheless beautiful, encompassing the rocky cliff on our left, the vast village below and the sea-line covering the horizon.

We, the ladies and Anang, ambled around an open dilapiated shack near the parked Kijag and made small talks. Whilst the guys prepared themselves for the 'exact' moments of shots of the coveted sunset, we attained valuable lessons on the historical and geographical facts of Parangtritis from Anang. Needless to say, by the time it was over, we had more knowledge of the place than the sunset-hard-up boys! For more an hour we enjoyed the stillness of the serene hill albeit the occasional odd sounds produced by geckos amidst the constant background sounds of crickets and watched the sky slowly turned into an orangey-reddish hue which would make a fantastic subject for canvas painting. Off and on, we could hear fits of laughter from the guys as they 'fought' for the best 'seat' to capture the 'moments'. Ahh! Boys will be boys! Apparently they were fighting for a spot near a coconut tree that would give a nice silhouette to their picture!

Finally, when we thought the eager photographers would never cease in their endeavor, up the trail they climbed, with cameras and tripods , adorning satisfied looks of mission accomplished.
I can't help but sarcastically remarked, "Eh, that was fast. Aren't you waiting for the sky to turn purple or something??"

Next morning, after breakfast of nasi goreng which consists of reddish fried rice strongly flavored with their thick caramel-soya sauce, garnished with slices of tomatoes, cabbage strips, sliced omelete and strips of shicken fillet (there's only one type of nasi goreng, so dont ask for NG CIna, Kampong, USA, etc!. Also, don't dream of teh tarik here. Ikelah, onced asked for teh susu and all he got was a diluted tea with lots of milk. You should see the exasperated look on his face!), we checked out and headed for the chandi (s) and another chain of photo sessions.

As this entry is long, I will relate the details of the chandi (s) and our viewing of Merapi in another entry.

Alhamdulillah, we were given this opportunity to travel together, the four of us, to a great country with cultured people and vast heritage. A truly memorable trip to cherish. Thanks to Boogey and wife for being great company and making this trip possible. Thanks also to Pang5 for sending us to the airport in the wee hours of the morning and to Khin for fetching us back.

* for photos see iKelah and Boogey
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