Friday, July 30, 2010

Gunung Tahan

On 16 July 2010, Mei Ru & I, Chim, Cynthia, Soo Min, and Teacher Tham & Son joined Thong’s expedition to climb the Merapoh-Tahan-Merapoh trail. It’s 4D3N, and the experience is really very enjoyable.

Chim arranged most of the things, including Hassan’s van to drive us there. Merapoh is in Kelantan (near Kuala Lipis). We depart at night and reach there sometime after midnight, where we have to “self-service” at the dorm.

Before we start our journey in the morning, one of the officer will have to take not of how many containers, plastic bags, batteries, etc that we have with us, to make sure we take them down with us as well. This exercise is quite time consuming, and we doubt its effectiveness as well (it’s impossible to keep track of everything, perhaps it’s just meant to sent a message). We took a 4WD to go through to sloppy road (and we pretend it to be a roller coaster ride) to reach Kem Kuala Jeram, a river where they keep the fishes.

The journey on the first day is quite slow and tiring, perhaps we over carry too many food (afraid will die of hunger). We cross 4 rivers and camp at Kem Kor after 7 hours of journey. Nothing spectacular about the route or the camp. Gotten about 10 sand fly (“agas” in Malay) bite mark (nothing as compared to my record of 50 in Liang). Thong cook us a good dinner with Thong Sui, satisfying. It rains on the 1st night, and out tent leaks, so Chim the handy man solve it by covering it with an extra layer of rubbish bag.

2nd day is the main challenge, expected to walk a minimum of 10 hours so we have to depart around 7.30am. Thong packs us some black soy fish with rice as lunch, very appetizing. We ascend quite a lot (I notice it even more when we come down), walk, walk and more walking. The “prize” of the mountain is after Bonzai, where the view is spectacular. We can see more than 180 degrees of clear mountain range, and the area is rocky with sand, marble, short bushes and plenty of small monkey pitches. We spent quite a lot of time here with a lot of pictures taken. It’s really spectacular. We collect water at Kem Botak and proceed to the top.

The peak had quite a wide space, but it did flood when it rains. We have no choice but to “move house” from the more sandy ground to some rockier surface, else we would have a sleepless night. The night is really very very cold, and my glove and thick socks (covered by sleeping back) seems to provide very little insulation. It’s windy and definitely one of the coldest night ever. The peak is full with wild orchid, and there is an amazing “ocean of cloud” in the morning in multiple directions. The view is definitely one of the very best, as good as Jelawang (or better). We get some casual wedding photo taken here :) We we have peninsular's highest toilet here as well.

The journey down is really very painful, because the ground is hard most of the time with lots of roots, and I am wearing Kampung Addidas. Perhaps boots are more suitable for Gunung Tahan, as the path is quite wide. After 9 hours of excruciating pain and “bubbles” popping up beneath my feet, we finally arrive at Kem Kor and had a good dip in the water. The worst part is over, and everything else is just a piece of cake.

Most of the time, we travel with Siong Har because it’s comfortable, thus we seldom have chance to mingle with a new gang. Our last trip with Jian Hwa and Ali Baba to Gunung Kuning is quite refreshing as well, as we are more involved in the cooking for the 1st time (we always depends on Siong Har and Ah Fong most of the time). For the Tahan trip, we did meet many people with interesting personality and story.

Soo Min is a very funny and special girl, who somehow hooked on Marathon and now trying hiking and camping. She is someone who like things clean (imagine she use wet tissue to clean her feet before having lunch), yet able to bear the messiness of hiking. She can’t sleep together with stranger, thus she take sleeping pills and put on ear plug; she is willing to explore and adapting. Teacher Tham come to Tahan to fulfill his dream of hiking Tahan 20 years ago, and he met his colleagues in the mountain. He “retires” early to become an editor for student comic and magazine, made quite a big change. He did this trip with his son, which I think is a very precious adventure between a father and son (we don’t get any father and son team so far). He is a funny person in a funny way, and he categorizes himself as a “violent” teacher; perhaps the job of teaching really put people on a lot of stress. Chim is as caring and friendly as ever, and Cynthia is a person hard to imagine being involved in hiking. Perhaps like what Teacher Tham said, I am also “too gentle” for hiking. There are more interesting things about this group of friends, just that I don’t know how to describe further. Min Yi is supposed to join us, but she had to take some Chinese exam to qualify for something in China. She is also another interesting character, having travelled Europe in backpack and perhaps planning to move to China for a while.

The experience is really fun and good; perhaps it had been a while since my last hiking and camping trip. I always find peace and fun, and good company; not to mention a whole lot of dirt to clean up when I get home (and thanks mom and dad for the help).

Perhaps I might come back to Tahan again for the Merapoh-Tahan-K.Tahan 7D6N trip. I was told the K.Tahan trail is more spectacular. Who knows :) Life is full of surprises ...

Photos: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who am I, again

A man plays many roles, as a son, a husband, an entrepreneur, and a citizen of earth and my country. The question on my mind is what I had become and what I want to become.

When I was young, most of it is about study and school life. Then came the moment to decide what discipline to study at college. Somehow I was influenced by In-Tech and Computimes, and is choosing between Engineering (Lego influence) and Computer Science; and I choose computer science because it requires less money to startup my own company (rather than the millions requires to setup my own factory). Why I wanted to start my own company? Perhaps it’s because I wanted to be like Bill Gates, or perhaps it’s the words of my brother that we need to be an entrepreneur in order to succeed (he didn’t became an entrepreneur as of this moment). That’s how I tie my fate with software.

College years are an eye opener for me, as I finally feels that the thing I learned are useful as in applicable in real life (I have no idea what the science and mathematics subjects are for during my secondary school years). It’s fun, and it’s quite easy. I am actually quite motivated to work on projects, and exam are a piece of cake (as compared to STPM, maybe the scope is smaller or other students are less competitive).

Though programming is fun and all that (at one point, I do find programming troublesome and wanted to become a system administrator because it’s easier), but I am still a techie but not entrepreneur-ing yet. I work on R&D projects (I learned that I am not good enough for scientific research, just pure programming skill) and C++ patterns which is really fun, inspired by people like Mun Wai and Andrew Keith. I am good, perhaps not really talented, but I found my own space and my own world, and I am happy and comfortable with it.

My entrepreneur-ing started when Kwang Yee asked me to join him to develop some insurance software for Pocket PC. Somehow I really like the idea and jump ship without giving much thought into it, as I am just too excited. Soon reality kicks in as I am thrown into deep sea and expected to do sales (I thought I just need to handle programming), and I realized we didn’t ironed out a lot of partnership detail and I am in for a lot of shock due to different expectations. Perhaps both of us are immature in a certain sense, as he is street smart while I am just a techie good with programming; I can’t be him.

Anyway, this failed entrepreneurial spark the opportunity for me to do freelance programming for a while, and I landed another job developing business application (out of my R&D forte). I learned the business part of software development and project management, while still continue with part-time freelancing. A few years down the road as the company is not doing well with little challenges left for me, I came out with the idea churning property statistic out of classified advertising. It took me almost a year to develop the website to cover new property launches (not my original idea, but this will serve as the platform to attract visitor who are interested in property) while I continue freelancing to cover the bills.

Somehow my Endeavour is not very fruitful, and Mun Wai asked me to partner up with a few guys to start a software company. At first it’s quite promising (with a few problems), but we still have to part our ways due to different expectations and commitments after a year. We did have revenue of about RM 100K, an office, MSC-status and a staff, superb! I did learn a few things about software startup here, which changed my mind of wanting to do a startup. I decided I wanted something mobile and lightweight, as a conventional software house is too heavy with the physical office maintenance with staffing issues, running cost and the continuous need to seek business, and also issues between partners.

My last software startup serve as a wakeup call and made me realize what I wanted to do, that I am running out of time as well. My freelance business pickup up, and my web application on food and property is doing really well. I found that I can create a business which does not require high capital, does not require permanent on-site staff with high maintenance, does not require an office with running cost, does not need to seek for more clients and offers me great mobility with recurring income. It’s almost a perfect paradise, and I had the correct skill set and experience to make it workable, and I am comfortable with the profit level. It just requires some hard work and innovation for a few years to build the platform; and it could set me free to retire by yachting into the Caribbean seas. Perhaps not so perfect, but it’s the best plan for me so far.

For the past few years, I received a few invitations for partnership from other entrepreneurs, to work together on some new idea, or to contribute to their business, or to create a software startup (to move beyond freelancing). Somehow I no longer feel excited, due to a few reasons.
  • Developing software for the sake of money is boring. Software Development need to be fun in order to last (perhaps I am too pampered with choices)
  • Partnership is like marriage, and it’s not easy to find someone compatible. At this stage, I would prefer a “best friend” or “girlfriend” in business, not a “wife”. Partnership is a sticky business; it’s not something I am willing to jump straight into it. I prefer natural progression, step by step; we need to work together for a while before we talk about marriage.
  • I had extra baggage with me, which are my freelance business and web applications. I am not willing to stop them or bring them into the new venture; because it’s extremely tricky when we have to split.
Perhaps I had been a lone ranger for too long, or perhaps I had mastered the way to survived as a lone ranger; or perhaps I had found my ideal business. I no longer dreams of making millions per annum in a software company with 100 strong staff, where I need to exchange money with lots of hard work and loss of freedom. Perhaps I really know what I wanted to do, for now. Can I withstand the temptation of money? Or am I too lazy to work too hard? Or I am afraid of commitment into a business partnership without courtship? Perhaps it’s a bit of everything :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why do I like Hiking?

As a casual hiker, I came along this question quite often. Why do we endure all the dirt and pain, and what joy could be possibly get from hiking?

Some would say it’s because of the good food, or the food could actually taste better because we are tired and hungry, and with the company of our comrades. Some say it’s the beauty of the nature, the wonderful ocean of cloud and the charming mystical forest. Perhaps it’s because of the swim in the icy cold water and drinking from the sweet river stream. It’s possible that the feeling of conquering the mountain and standing on top of the world for just one day.

After putting some thought into it, I do it partly because it helps me to escape from the city life. When I am in the mountain, I cut of all communication so that I am no longer disturbed by any phone call. I am very focus with only one objective, which is to reach my destination. I don’t have to multitask, and there is nothing else to distract me except the beauty of nature. I walk, I rest, I drink, I eat and I sleep. All is very calm and simple, and I can put all the worries and extra baggage of city life behind me, don’t have to worry about work or people asking me to do this and that. It’s just so serene and simple, like the Zen of life. It might be tough, tiring or even painful, but it’s nothing as compared to the silence torture of the city life. I finally found a peace sanctuary within these few days.

Too bad that it’s just a temporary escape, that my phone start ringing again the moment I step back into the city, with work and responsibility start flowing back again.

I was wondering is there a way to escape the unpleasant disturbance of life, which are more long lived? With my choice of life and career, I found that I am moving into a direction which I could permanently move into my peace sanctuary. Why didn’t I go back to employment since it’s comfortable and simple? Because I know there is no escape, as I would need to suffer a slow pain. I am trying to achieve Nirvana or Zen of Life in a shallow level, where I no longer need to do something deemed unnecessary. Again, I longed for FREEDOM.