Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of Oil, Seahorses & Crocs

Last week, my girlfriend visited me here in Miri bringing some much needed warmth from Semenanjung. I gladly became her tour guide for her short stay in Miri.

Our 1st stop is the Petroleum Science Museum situated on top of the curiously named Canada Hill. This is where it all started, where oil was first found back during the days of the White Rajah.

Situated in front of the museum is a structure almost a century old, Well No 1 affectionately known as ‘The Grand Old Lady’, ignoring the obvious phallic symbolism behind the tall erection.

Exploration & production of oil moved offshore after the oil on top of the hill has been sucked dry. A few production platforms can actually be seen from the top of the hill, churning out thousands of barrels of oil per day that earned Miri the unofficial nickname of Oil Town.

Entrance to the strikingly designed museum is free but sadly many of the exhibits are in bad conditions.

After the short history lesson on oil & how it catalyzes the growth of the city, we visited another symbol of Miri - the Seahorse. While not as famous as their feline friends of Kuching, the mascot of the city can be found everywhere - in the middle of a roundabout, on key chains, on the signboard of a food court etc.

Perhaps the largest of them all is the Seahorse Lighthouse, which took us a couple of wrong turns before finally finding the place.

How a city known more for its oil came to be associated with the sea creature is unknown, but statues of seahorses in the middle of a busy roundabout are definitely more aesthetically pleasing than a monument of oil barrels.

The next day, we went to Brunei, a country so boring it deserves a blog post of its own.

On the 3rd day & running out of places of attraction to go, we decided to visit Miri’s Crocodile Farm. Entrance fee is quite steep at RM 10 & since it’s a Monday, the place is eerily deserted. There is a mini zoo if crocodiles aren’t exactly your cup of tea.

Not much to see though except for some bored looking monkeys, a sleeping leopard cat, a hungry & desperate stork chewing on rocks, a pair of stressed out sun bears and what the sign claimed to be the world’s most dangerous bird, the Cassowary.

The desperate stork

But the star attraction is of course the crocs. We climb up the wooden platform, built using planks with gaps in between so you can have a good look of your killer in the unfortunate incident of one of the planks giving way, to have a better view.

Crocodiles aren’t very animated or active creatures, preferring to lie around for hours on end under the sun. Having been around since the time of dinosaurs, I believed such behavior to be the pinnacle of evolution.

It’s supposed to be feeding time at 11.30am but perhaps due to the global economic slowdown, there isn’t any chicken throwing feeding frenzy that day. I am sure the crocs aren’t happy with such cost cutting measures. Somebody bail out these poor crocodile farmers please…

Just before the exit is the obligatory souvenir shop, for those who preferred their crocodiles dead and in a variety of colours.

Before flying back to KL, she bought some black pepper & rattan baskets as souvenirs from exotic Sarawak. That concludes our little tour of Miri city and it will be a couple of months before we see each other again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

There Is Something About Miri

Kolok Mee

Miri people have an unhealthy obsession with kolok mee. There are stalls selling the exact kind of noodles EVERYWHERE!

Kolok mee is actually like wantan noodles tossed in oil, top with minced pork & char siew. Unlike wantan mee though, it does not have soy sauce so it looks pale in comparison.

It's simple & cheap, you can get a bowl at around RM2.30. But I find it bland & oily. The popularity of this noodle really baffles me.

Maybe it's an acquired taste. Maybe it will slowly fall in love with it. Maybe I will even crave it when I went back to KL. But right now...I am just not that into it.

This is kinda cute

Pimp My 4WD

I had this impression that many people in Sabah & Sarawak drove 4WD because of the bad condition of their roads. But I found out that it's only partially true here in Miri.

You are more likely to find Myvis & SLKs (Small Little Kancils) on the roads than pick up trucks. That being said, pick up trucks are a common sight around town.

And they are not ordinary 4WDs mind you. The 4WDs here are usually extensively modified with large chrome grilles & bling bling wheels. They make the Kelisa-with-oversized-exhaust-pipes owners in Semenanjung look like wussies.

The roads in Miri aren't that bad either. In fact, I am surprised the pick up truck isn't as popular in KL, it will be perfect for navigating our pot hole filled roads.

This is just desperate


Aah..this is the latest buzz word coined by our beloved & highly respected PM. I can probably imagine the reaction of the people here in this part of Malaysia to be...

"Har? What is that guy on the TV talking about?"

People here in Miri learn to coexist in harmony with each other. Not far from our office, a church stood side by side a mosque sharing a common perimeter fence.

Some Chinese can speak Iban, while the Ibans can speak Foochow.

Just last week, while I was 'enjoying' my non-halal kolok mee in a Chinese kopitiam, I saw a Muslim family sit a few tables away ordering food from a Muslim operated stall situated in the same shop.

I must be the only one who noticed it as the other patrons continued enjoying their breakfast without batting an eye.

1Malaysia? People here have been living as one all along.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

That Sinking Feeling

The tranquil surroundings of the training ground

" Intern will most likely be required to commute to our offshore facilities "

I was quite excited when I found out about this in my confirmation letter. After all, not everybody gets the chance to commute to an offshore platform in the middle of the sea.

The closest I have been to it is in PetroSains, but instead of fighting for tickets with hyperactive schoolkids for entry to the platform, this time I am going to the real thing.

And because of that, I need to clear 1 last hurdle before I am deem worthy.....the Basic Offshore Safety Emergency Training

The 3 day training is conducted at SMTC's training ground not far from our office. We get a rough idea of what to expect from our conversation with colleagues who had done it all before.

Of course, they told us it's going to be a fun & enjoyable ride. Yeah, right...

First thing that you will notice after stepping into the training ground is the large swimming pool. You see that 2 storey high platform in the pic, that's where we are supposed to jump from as part of the training.

But for the 1st day, we did not do any water related activities. Instead, we learn all about FIRE & FIREFIGHTING. For the practical training, each of us took turns to enter into a Smoke Room, which if you haven't realised already, is a room completely filled with smoke.

The Smoke Room is actually the little container
the helicopter

Don't be fooled by the small size of the room. It's very dark inside, you won't be able to see a thing. The trick here is to keep your right hand in constant contact with the wall & sooner or later you will reach the exit.

Then we moved on to extinguishing a fire with, well a fire extinguisher. This is the same thing a bomba will demonstrate to you during one of those dreaded fire drills. Somehow, I haven't tried doing it before because I was *cough* too shy to volunteer every time they came to my school.

There is no exception here though, so everybody has to do it ala Burning Flame.

On the 2nd day, we did our Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET). And yes, it is really as scary as it sounds.

For the HUET, we are supposed to use this thingy called the Emergency Breathing System (EBS). This thing is suppose to help us breathe 'normally' when we went underwater. We had to breathe through our mouth instead of nose, it is quite a challenge and definitely not 'normal'.

Now is a good time to start panicking

Then, we got into a fake helicopter & where they slowly dunk us into the water. Once the water reaches chest level, we all deployed our EBS. Before long the whole heli went underwater & PANIC kicks in!

I unbuckled my belts quicker than you can say 'Houdini' & immediately drag myself out of the damned thing thru the window.

Ever wonder what it feels like to be inside a spinning
washing machine?

It's very scary, more so for a non swimmer like me. I am not even using the EBS correctly, just virtually holding my breath & clinging on for dear life.

The worst part is we had to get back in for another 2 rounds. For the 2 rounds, the heli was capsizing & we were being turned upside down. It's even scarier as we remained underwater for a longer period of time.

Can't believe the company actually paid RM1000+ for us to undergo this kind of torture. It's like volunteering ourselves for waterboarding.

The whole heli sinks faster than the global economy

The 3rd & final day is also spent mostly in the pool. This time we had our lifejacket on & had to do all the survival techniques such as chain swimming, huddling & the survival circle. I actually enjoyed this part, with the lifejacket on you felt like you are lying on top of a giant water bed.

Doing the survival circle

And finally before we can get the safety endorsement, we had to jump from 8 metres into the pool! Suddenly the platform looks so much higher than the one I remember seeing during the 1st day.

Looking down to the wavy waters underneath will make you develop vertigo instantly. But there's no turning back from there.

When it's my turn to jump, I strode up to the platform & stood at the very edge of it. One hand covered my nose while another held on to my lifejacket. Then, I took 1 look below to make sure there's no obstacles. Took a step forward & just plunged downwards.

The most important thing here is to cross your legs, or else there will be no more happy hours for you according to my trainer.

With that, I concluded my BOSET Training. I got my safety endorsement, a certificate & a car sticker that reads...


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Suddenly In Miri

It's been months since my last blog post. In fact, I am suppose to blog about my trip to Melaka but everything came to an abrupt end during the intense period of studying for my finals.

Didn't even log into my Blogger account for ages. Obviously, there will be a massive gap in the timeline of this blog.

I was enjoying life in KL, went to Melaka during my last post...then suddenly *poof* I am in Miri, Sarawak now.

The obvious question will then be, what am I doing here in The Land of Hornbills, Kolok Mee & Kenny Sia?

*answering my own question*

Well, I am here to do my internship, attached to a large/huge/gigantic multinational company for 20 long (hopefully not miserable) weeks.

I am not going to name the company though, in case I need to badmouth them here in my blog in the future. Due to my tendency to procrastinate, I am actually already into my 2nd week of internship.

I depart from LCCT on 12th April. Since I will be relocating myself there, there is quite alot of things to bring along. My 2 luggage bags looked like it's going to burst open anytime.

And when I check in both my luggage bags, imagine my horror when I found out that it was overweight by a whopping 7kg & for that I was charged an extra RM105! That's almost the price of my flight ticket itself!!

My friend's luggage bag was even larger, he can even fit a washing machine in there if he wants to. And for that he was fined close to RM200. That makes me feel a whole lot better ha ha

It's like going for the movies & buying another seat just to put your popcorn.
Thanks alot Mr Tony Fernandes.

Two hours later, we arrived in Miri. The airport is so much better than LCCT. It makes LCCT looked like Tesco with check in counters & lots of chairs.

For all you ignorant city dwelling people who thinks Miri is just a small shanty town. It's actually a Bandaraya which puts it on the same level as *gasp* KL.

We checked into Imperial Hotel in the heart of Miri. We get an amazing room with kitchen, washing machine, Astro, a double bed & daily buffet breakfast to boot...all paid for by the company.

We lived like kings, at least for 5 days.

It has been an enjoyable 1st week in this part of Malaysia. Will try to blog more about life from the eyes of a KLite in Miri, but don't get your hopes too high though ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Menara Taming Sari

It's good to be back blogging after a long absence, was kidnapped by Choy San as Renaye will say.

Truth is, things had been rather hectic lately but still, I managed to find some time for a trip to Melaka over the weekend. The place certainly transformed a great deal since my last visit...

Noticed that there is a newly added phallic symbol at the heart of Melaka called Menara Taming Sari.

It's actually a revolving tower named after the keris belonging to the (fictional?) local warrior, Hang Tuah. Hang Tuah meanwhile is the idiot who killed his friend out of blind loyalty.

The legendary keris now is said to be in the possession & part of the royal regalia of the Sultan of Perak. We need verification from Datuk Nizar for that though.

A ride on the revolving tower cost RM 10 per person with MyKad. The cashier insisted on seeing ours before giving us the 50% discounts. Oh, well...

The 7 minute ride is supposed to offer you a glimpse of the development taking place in Melaka.

From above, we get a good view of the Eye on Malaysia ferris wheel, another newly added tourist attraction. Are they trying to turn Melaka into a World Heritage Theme Park now?

On a clear day, you can probably see pirates cruising along & lording over Selat Melaka as well haha

The sampan is actually the Maritime Museum, a must visit for every rombongan sambil belajar to the Bandaraya Bersejarah.

Nothing wrong with that of course, for museums are great places to learn about the past. A place for antiques, old & out dated stuff.

Ahh...that explains why there is a Muzium UMNO here ;)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Red Cliff 2

What better way to usher into the New Year than having a bloody and violent Chinese history lesson at the movies right? And we can all thank John Woo for saving the CNY movie genre with this 2nd part of Red Cliff.

After feeling slightly cheated by the trailer for the 1st movie, we are finally treated to some awesome battle scenes in the 2nd. But not before another hour of intense build up & strategizing.

Do I have to remind you to wear your helmet every single day?

Well, things are never that easy with the Chinese. Even war acquire a deeper, more philosophical meaning.

Listen as Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) & Zhuge Liang (Takeshi) spout out fortune cookie quotes, Sun Tzu's teachings and Confucius sayings at every opportunity.

Also, this being a John Woo film, expect to see some trademark stuff from the director like...

His fetish for white doves

The bird look tasty roasted or deep fried

The theme of brotherhood. it me or is the relationship between Zhou Yu & Zhuge Liang really pushing the boundaries of 'brotherhood'?

Sometimes brotherhood takes a
bad seat when you need a smoke

And Chow Yun Fat leaping out sideways with two guns blazing. Nah, that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Sliding down the rails & toothpick is optional

Apparently, the Chinese also invented many of the methods employed in modern warfare.

Biological warfare, grenades, sophisticated crossbows and kamikaze attacks were all used in the battle thousand of years ago.

Heck, we even saw the soldiers play an ancient form of football (called Cuju) with skills that would make a Brazilian proud.

Ahh...another testament to the greatness of Chinese civilization. This will definitely make your skin glow a brighter shade of yellow. Just perfect for the New Year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do The Right Thing

The banners are up, security suddenly tightened, posters and articles trading accusations filled the walls of faculties. All these can only mean one thing...the campus election is around the corner.

Once again, the fight is on between the pro-aspirasi and pro-mahasiswa factions.

Although, student bodies are prohibited from being affiliated with any political parties, it's little secret that one faction is pro-establishment (pro-aspirasi) while the other is anti-establishment (pro-mahasiswa)

Student politics are a reflection of national politics, no matter how the authorities try to conceal it.

Perhaps mirroring the political situation outside of campus, the odds are heavily stacked against the opposition in the campus polls as well. The authorities are known to throw their backing behind pro-aspirasi candidates to ensure their victory.

During my 1st year, all Chinese students were made to attend a gathering to listen to some talk by the representatives of the Chinese student committee. We were told specifically not to vote for the pro-mahasiswa or 'green faction'

This is what happen when you let them win

If they came to power, the Chinese students will suffer. There will be strict enforcements on our attire & entertainment will be forbidden (except nasyid performances). Our campus will be turned into a Taliban approved learning centre!

Those possibilities alone are enough to make us gullible 1st year students make the 'right choices'.

Random picture, nothing to do with this post whatsoever

And for those of us who live in residential colleges, rumours that we will be kick out of college if we voted for the 'wrong' candidates will be passed around every year.

College authorities made it clear that they support the pro-aspirasi candidates. More intimidating is the fact that the ballot paper is marked with a serial number traceable to our names.

Doesn't matter whether those rumours are true or false, the majority wouldn't want to take the risk.

Nobody really cares about student politics anyway. Student activism is severely curtailed in Malaysia unlike their counterparts in other countries, where they are influential in initiating political, social & economic changes.

Student activism means standing in from of a tank to make a point

But here, the candidates are reduced to fighting over petty issues like prices of food in cafetaria and the bus schedule.

I hope I do not get into trouble for my rantings. Did I not mentioned that threats and intimidations aside, the campus elections are 100% clean & fair. And I promise that when election comes, I will do the 'right thing'

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Der Die Das

My German classes are starting next week. I will be taking Level 4 but unfortunately, I can still hardly string a proper sentence in German. Listening to native speakers is a challenge but...I am going to persevere.

I know, it might not be as cool as learning Japanese or Korean.
Yet, I am glad I am learning German as an extra language because :

1) when I see an object, I will quickly classified it as masculine, feminine or neutral. In German language, everything falls into those 3 categories.

So, a table is masculine, pig is neutral, a cup is feminine etc etc...

2) it makes me want to try & watch a German movie. I did watch 'Der Untergang' eventually.

It's a great movie about Hitler's downfall...but I gave up trying to make out what they are actually saying in German halfway through the movie. Reading the subtitles are so much easier.

3) when I order a burger at McDonald's, I knew that 'ich liebe es' written on the box means 'I'm lovin' it'

4) I found out that Deutschland is actually Germany, not Holland.

5) I discovered that some English words
, such as kindergarten are borrowed from German.

6) I can spell using fancy alphabets like ü, ä, ö and ß

7) I will not starve to death if stranded in Germany, but what I eat will be limited by my vocabulary, meaning - bread, sausages, potatoes & onion soup.

8) I can pronounce
Michael Ballack & Bastian Schweinsteiger's name correctly.

9) whenever I watch Project Runway (can't believe I actually admit it), I like hearing Heidi Klum bid farewell to the contestant using the German phrase 'auf Wiedersehen'

10) I can now curse in four different languages.

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