Saturday, May 29, 2010

Conquering Mount Kinabalu: Part 1 - How It All Started

One beautiful Sunday morning at a mamak restaurant in Wangsa Maju, five friends were eating breakfast when the conversation suddenly turned into a mission to get the fifth member to join the four of them to climb all the way to the top of Mount Kinabalu. After much persuasion, sweet talking and promises to help her carry her things up the mountain, the temptation slowly weaved itself into the heart of a girl who only a week ago would simply laugh at the idea of her ever climbing a mountain.

When I first signed up for the Kota Kinabalu trip weeks before that fateful breakfast, my initial idea was to join them for the first two days, doing island hopping and white water rafting. As they climb Kinabalu on the 3rd and 4th day, I planned to have my own solo adventure around Kota Kinabalu – shopping, beach and spa. I was not tempted by Mount Kinabalu at all, not even by a single speck of an extremely tiny iota.

I allowed myself a few hours of thinking after the breakfast before I emailed the trip leader:

via-ferrata punya trip mmg dah full kan? mmg x leh dpt extra permit lagi kan?
(just in case ada sorang makcik yg konon2 tak nak naik tlh dibakar oleh kawan2 nye pagi tadi)

(huhu, email tu pun macam tak ikhlas je nak pergi kan)

Truth be told, I regretted my decision as soon as I clicked the ‘Send’ button as I got the first mild panic attack. Less than two weeks before the trip commence, and only now I decided to climb the highest mountain in Malaysia? And it is my first mountain climb too (Gunung Datuk doesn’t count eh, kawan-kawan).

Deep inside, I was secretly hoping that Jai was going to reply that no permit is available. So imagined that a few days after the email he confirmed that he managed, after great effort, to get one more permit for me. Oh dear…

“After great effort” – hahaha, lagi la tak boleh quit. Cuak attack!!


The friends that I was going with are almost all climbing enthusiasts. They have conquered countless mountains and hills as part of their effort to complete the G7 (G7 are the seven highest mountains in Peninsular Malaysia, which are also higher than 7000 feet or 2134 meter) or just for fun (geleng kepala). Their perfect idea of relaxation is 4-10 days journey into the mountainous jungle. I on the other hand, find my heaven at the spa, a shopping center, on my own bed, or a bookstore. The closest thing I did to joining their climbing trip was sending them off at the bus station or train station whenever they were leaving for the expedition. They love hills and rivers. My kind of perfect hill to climb and river to cross? Starhill and Sungei Wang of course.

If I were to chart my fitness level against them, it probably look something like this:


The permit secured, I paid the full fee for the trip: there was no turning back. I had no option but to squeeze as much ‘training’ as possible within the two weeks. Weeeeee, saper pernah dengar orang training for Kinabalu in less than fourteen days..???!!

So among the sporadic, irregular training that I did:

1. Stairs climbing at Batu Caves – dua kali naik je. Lepas tu nak pengsan, sebab tak breakfast before panjat
2. Stairs climbing at my twenty-storied high condo – huuu, takut. Dah la climb waktu malam, condo belum fully occupied pulak tu. Sambil panjat, habis semua surah aku baca. Doa makan je tak baca.
3. Jogging, jogging, jogging – minimum 4 km if pressed for time
4. Running up the small hill behind my condo, next to the Telekom building
5. Walking back home from my office in KLCC to Wangsa Maju.
6. Hiking up FRIM hill
7. Hiking up Bukit Larut
8. I participated in the Energizer Night Run less than a month back, so I supposed all my training for the run can be counted as Kinabalu’s training as well (even though I did not really train for that run either.. hahaha, ngelat!)

Before the hike up Bukit Larut - belum start naik pun, dah gigam lebih-lebih.

The ladies who conquered Bukit Larut!!! (err, this stop is not even half-way to the top)

At the top of Bukit Frim ~ 1000 feet.

Picnicking at the FRIM's waterfall, and then a group of white-clad people started to do tai chi or something nearby and we jumped into action as well.

I did some research too, scouring the internet for blogs on other people’s experience climbing Mount Kinabalu. Some said it was easy, some said it was hard. Most of them proposed a rigorous training program at least 2-3 months before the climb, which totally made me weak at the knees since man, I only have fourteen days!

I also interviewed some of my colleagues who had already climbed Mount Kinabalu. Almost all are first-time climbers, never had they climbed any other mountain before attempting Kinabalu (good!). Some of them made it all the way to Low’s Peak, a few only went as far as Laban Rata only. They said it was a hard hike, but so worth it. Most of them don’t really train that hard before the climb (somehow this info appeased me). All of them wanted to return again (huh?).

One blog that I read suggested that a person should climb Kinabalu with the heart, not with the feet. I immediately thought, “Well, I can do that! I have great mental tolerance”. I thought that between the two, my physical will crumble first, that my legs and body won’t be able to take it anymore halfway through the hike. I thought that my mental is stronger, because I have “determination, positive attitude and perseverance” (well, at least according to the assessment by my friends and bosses in my yearly review). I will be able to make it to the top, because Lady Fafa never surrender even when she is in pain!!!!!!!!!

Oh my… how wrong I was.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls

You can live your whole life not realizing that what you are looking for is right in front of you.

Hohoho... Rina is not kidding when she wrote on her blog: (Fatma, somehow I thought of you while reading this book thehehe. Try and read it then you'll know why =P)

I bought the book 'One Day' by David Nicholls right after reading her blog, curious to see what she had in mind. Two chapters in, not even past the 26th page, I had to put the book down. This can't be. I am not Emma Morley, I am not Emma Morley. OH MY GOD, I AM Emma Morley!

Let put it this way. Didn't everyone have that one song that nailed your emotion and feeling so perfectly, as if the singer knows exactly what you are thinking, and the lyrics is so personal it might as well come from your own diary, and you thought, "Sigh, this is sooooo my song". For the first time ever, people, I found 'my book'. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, I screamed "I totally did that!", and at times I had to put the book away because it became unbearably painful to see a flicker of my life in the story. (And I will stop the comparison here because if I review the book on a personal level any further it will be as if I am reviewing my own diary, huhu).

(Hmmm, maybe I should demand a royalty).

'One Day' is an amazingly moving - at times tender, at other times hurtful - account of twenty years worth of a love story. Emma and Dexter first met on their graduation day, and the book explored their bittersweet relationship for the next two decades, with each chapter taking place on 15 July of each year (a unique storytelling technique which I totally dig).

Before you dismiss it as another boy-meets-girl story - a premise that has been told countless times since ancient civilization - you simply has to read it because of the powerful way the story was told and the profound insight into the intricacy of relationship the book is providing. David Nicholls is a super-awesome narrator, stripping the emotion down to the rawest layer, and he is now officially my new favorite author.

It has been too long since I got so engrossed and deeply connected with a book that I finished it less than 24-hours. I don't want the story to end, but at the same time, I can't wait to know what happen to the characters at the end; and when it does end, I felt hollow and dazed and emotionally drained.

(And no, this is not a chick-lit, guys. The author is a male, but who might as well be a female in his last life because seriously, how else did he managed to convey all those feminine emotion so, so well?)

I am linking this excellent review from Times Online for your reference because I don't think I will do a good job telling you how absolutely wonderful this book is except to recommend that if you need to read only one modern adult fiction this year, make it this book!

(I have a feeling that once you read it, in one-way or another, you too might think that this is your story, this is your song).

And thanks Rina, this book comes at the right time :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review: Red Pyramid

If you look up the word ‘disappointment’ in my dictionary now, you will see the words “Red Pyramid”.

It is the new book by Rick Riordan – yes, people, the same person who wrote the Percy Jackson series, the books that I love to death. An author who I highly expected will churn out a hit with this Egyptian adventure.

I read it and was reduced to tears - tears of boredom.

Well past the 300 pages mark, nothing happen. Okay, I supposed there were some adventures, magic, Egyptian gods and family drama going on, but the story is terrifyingly similar to Percy Jackson that I had that feeling like I am rereading an old book. There are two kids trying to save the world, and the Greek characters are being substituted with the Egyptian ones. Even the fight scene was like “Meh!” and all the jokes were “Urggghh, can it be more lame?”. The ending was so anti-climatic that my only reaction is: “That’s all?”. My grandmother’s cat can write this book!

I slogged through the last page just because I have to finish it; I don’t really care about the ending. “Red Pyramid” even sat untouched on my bed table for days, eventhough I had only twenty pages to go. So close to the finish line, but I was left unexcited that I could not bear to read it anymore. This had only happened once before, when I was reading Orhan Panuk “My Name Is Red” – I still didn’t know the ending of the book, and it had been more than a year since I read it (the book actually has a very interesting storyline, but the writing was so high-level and complicated that I got lost. Lesson learnt: a Nobel Prize winner in literature doesn’t write easy-reading book).

Perhaps the author is so caught up with the success of his first series that he sticks to the same formula. Well, nothing is wrong with that. Countless time other authors (yes, Dan Brown, I’m talking about you) have done the same too, but at least the storyline and the ‘feel’ of each story are different and are as exciting.

I guess I was so disappointed because I had been looking forward toward his new book... sigh.

Well, I have faith that the rest of the books in this series will be better than this first one, because Rick is actually a good author as his Percy Jackson books can attest, and the basis of this story has so much promise – it’s Egyptian history and mythology, people, nothing is more exciting than that! Perhaps he is saving the big climax for the later books, so yes, despite not liking this book at all, I think I will still buy the whole series.

And Rick, please don’t screw up Percy Jackson’s second series, pretty please…