Thursday, March 27

Mabul Island, Semporna : Diving, and Walking Around (Day 2)


Good morning!!! Haha, sorry for my delay in continuing my experience at Mabul Island, Sabah.  Check out my previous blog post here:

Did I mention that the sun rises at 5.30am in Mabul Island?  Yup, you read it correctly, 5.30am and the sunlight bursts into the sky. I woke up at 6am and the sky is as bright as this =)


The morning was chilly, so I made a cup of tea and sat overlooking the sea. The bonus of waking up early is that, when less motorboats around, you can see turtles swimming up to the surface to grab food and air. The turtles here are happily roaming freely, and of course I pray that they will remain happy in the future.



In front of Spheredivers Lodge, fishes, sea urchins, starfish and eels can be seen. During my stay there, my dive instructor managed to spot a blue ring octopus. The blue ring octopus seems to be quite rare, and it emits a blue luminescent ring when being threatened by predators. It is quite poisonous as well. A beginner like me, don't even recognize sea creatures so, I enjoy watching the Anemonefish (aka Nemo) roaming around the anemone in the crystal clear waters.


I can sit and stare at the sea for a long time. Breakfast is served at 7.30am, and approximately an hour after that, a voice bellowed across the lodge "Students, GEAR UP!". Immediately we sprung up from our seats and rushed in all directions. Some went to change to their swimming costumes, while some went to grab their GoPros. We are all students and as students, we have to assemble our gears all by ourself. Leisure divers do not need to worry much because all the gears will be set up.

My Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Open Water Course with "sifu" Benjamin Choong costs about RM1,600 for 5 days and 4 nights. We did some lessons in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, before heading over to Mabul Island.  There were 5 students altogether.

Leisure divers are priced at approx. RM1,600 for 5 days 4 nights as well (depending on the number of dives and the number of days you stay).

(Disclaimer: Price stated are as of March 2014. Msxeroz.com is not liable for any price differences as indicated above)



Basic Scuba diving gears consist of : 
a) BCD    b)Compressed Air Tank    c)Fins    d)Masks     e)Regulator.

The gas tank is quite heavy and I can barely lift it up during assembly. But fret not, their local assistant, named Alex, and boatman Anton, are always there to monitor and help. Truth is, the people around the lodge are so friendly and helpful. They are wacky but experienced. Other dive experts like Azhar, Aqeeb, Stanley, Raja will also keep a hawk-eye on us (to make sure we are properly taught and follow the rules).


Once the gears are set, off we go!
(p/s Sorry no photos of diving because we are students! Cameras are not allowed in class OK!)

The boatman brought us to Paradise 1. Benjamin briefed us before we hop into the water. So all we need to do is suit up and roll backwards into the sea. Fuh...easy said than done. I will never forget my first time. EVER.

So I put on my fins, inflate my BCD, mask on, and prepare to roll backwards. Then I suddenly blurt out "EH, MY TANK NEVER OPEN". I clearly remembered that I close the tank before going on the boat. Thankfully I remembered so I get good air dosages and off I go. XeRoZ, being confident, didn't turn on his gas tank. So he kinda suffocated LOL but it's ok he managed to float and get the boatman to turn it on. It was a frightening experience, not being able to breathe, he says. But well, this teaches us a lesson to always buddy check, double check (hello, don't 100% trust your buddy with your life). 

So my instructor gave us the sign to descend. I was pretty much comfortable on the surface, then I deflate my BCD. Being a newbie, I deflated my BCD too fast that I sank faster than I can equalize. Thankfully my instructor chose a not-so-deep sandy place, that I wasn't injured by the pressure. I panicked, seriously, I panicked the moment I sank eye-level in the water. Then i sank, and sank and I saw a school of fishes as big as my head on my left. I have to emphasize that I am a newbie (I can imagine many of you cursing me stupid or "sampat" due to my lack of experience), I was so shock by the presence of fish nearby. The current also kept pushing me nearer to the fish..WALAO then i tried to turn and I see TianChad's fins (he was still up) and I found Joseph (a new friend we met there). I grabbed to Joseph's tank and I frightened him. Sorry Joseph. I was frightened and I wanted to stay as close to humans as possible!! When Tianchad squatted beside me, I felt safe again. Then I looked up and saw my sister, having problems descending, and XeROz is still up on the surface. >.<!!!

XeRoZ's then told me (when we went up) that he can't go down due to anxiety attack! HAHA...and I thought I was the weakest, ended up I braced my fear for the deep blue! *feeling proud*

We did some basic lessons, and then our instructor brought us to see some sea denizens. That experience was indescribable! No words can be used to describe what I see. School of fishes, Angel Fish, Yellow Tang (I think it's a tang, because its so much bigger than what I saw in salt water aquariums), Anemonefish inside bubble-tip anemones. Big fish, small fish, lion fish, pipe fish...It was so freaking awesome!!! Then we went to a sunken motorboat and 3 freaking huge turtles were lazing on it. AWESOME!!!!

Everything was awesome beyond words. Please remember to visit my blog sometime again because I'll share with you some videos. Meanwhile, let's continue exploring Mabul Island....

Mabul Island is a quaint island, surrounded by beautiful beaches and clear waters. It is inhabited by local Bajau laut and Suluks. This island has a Police Force, School, Mosque and a lot of mini markets. There are also massage parlours, tailors, and laundry. Other than that, are diving schools and holiday resorts.




After a tiring day of diving, we were brought by Aqeeb for an island tour. Aqeeb was one of our co-instructor and he was knighted as an instructor in February this year. According to Wern, Aqeeb was really good as well. Despite his serious looks, Aqeeb is kind and tentative to students. 



The beach are almost similar to other beaches in Malaysia. There's a bar located by the beach. I was told that sometimes, there's live band performances too!


2014, is indeed a happy year for me and XeROz. We managed to keep on travelling for every 3 months. hahaha..Oh boy~ there goes our savings! 

Learning to dive is one of XeROZ's dreams. He so desperately wanted to share his dreams with me. That's why I was here.


The signature building of Mabul Island, is the oil rig platform called SeaVentures (the World's one and only diving rig). It's a resort, if I'm not mistaken, and I am intrigued to dive there one day. Wooo~ 


Openly placed amongst the resorts and bars are rickety houses of the locals. You can see how drastic the difference between the conditions of the people in Mabul and of those in Peninsular Malaysia. I felt culture shock too!


There were so many kids roaming around. Some were even fully naked. Houses were build on used planks, and some don't even have windows. I felt really troubled with what I see. The people here are mostly uneducated, hence explain the lack of proper civilization. They do not have proper garbage disposal, and everything is disposed to the sea. I'm not exaggerating this. I've seen boatmen throwing pampers and plastic bags into the sea. I've seen pampers floating around, I have seen shit floating around the sea as well.


Right at the edge of the local settlement, lies a beautiful holiday haven - The Mabul-Sipadan Water Village.


Water bungalows being build on top of the beautiful sea. I wished one day I get a review offer to stay here wakaka *keep dreaming, MsXeROz*


Initially we wanted to stay here for our honeymoon. But then I won a honeymoon package to Bali (which I have yet to blog about), so we have postponed our decision to stay here. =( 


The bungalows made of wood and the colour was beautifully enhanced by the colour of the blue skies and blue waters.


Beautiful places must be surrounded by beautiful people as well *cough cough*


 I was there, right in time for sunset. The golden hue was so captivating! You have to go there to truly enjoy such a glorious sunset!



And just as the sun sets, you can see the moon already!


Here are some of my favourite sunset photos which I took (using my humble iPhone 5)


 If only I have a DSLR... (damn you robber! I still cannot forgive the robber who stole XeRoZ's DSLR)



 I love this sunset photo the most. Which do you prefer?


By the time sun sets, my stomach was growling of hunger. It was worth it! We then bade goodbye to the sun...


The most heart-breaking moment was to realize, that...

I didn't have any photos of myself in this place T_T 


This must be the most lengthiest blog post I've ever written since 2010! I'm so tired..I shall stop here until I get some nice videos from Tianchad ya!


Muacks,

MsXeROz

Monday, March 24

MH370 - Missing Airplane Found

At 10pm today, an emergency press conference was held by our beloved Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. This was to confirmed that the debris found by the Australian Search and Rescue team at the south of Indian Ocean belongs to MH370.


View the press conference here: http://youtu.be/cy5Z0bHVZLo 

Although 17 days has passed since the plane has gone missing, I knew deep down that chances of survival are very low. But when news broke that, MH370 flight ended mysteriously in the south of Indian Ocean, my heart skipped a beat. I feel saddened by the news. The 17 days of torturement, 17 days of sleepless nights of the family and friends of those on board. 17days of thorough searching by the Search and Rescue (SAR) team. The thought of it is painful enough, and no words can describe what the family, friends, and search teams go through today. 

Will those involved find closure to this tragic episode? Why did the plane ended up in a totally opposite direction from it's designated destination? Why isn't there any call for help? 

All these questions, i hope, may be answered one day. 

With this msxeroz.com wishes my deepmost condolences to those whose family and friends were on board MH370. I know the discovery of the crash site isn't gonna make any of you feel better, but i believe, knowing and understanding is a part of recovery. 

Rest in Peace MH370. 



Tuesday, March 18

Mabul Island, Semporna (Day 1)


My Mabul Island trip was one that I will always remember! Why?

It was a very random trip. Initially, me and XeRoZ planned to do our honeymoon in Mabul Sipadan Water Resort, or in Kapalai, which both, can be reached via Tawau Airport. Then after getting quotations from the resorts there, I felt abit 'sakit hati' (translation: heart pain) because it's pretty much expensive to spend 3 nights at the luxurious water village there. Then i crawled to him and say, "let's go get our diving license!!!", and he was like, "What about our honeymoon?" And i go, "nevermindlah, go diving more worth it!"

I was terrified by the idea of D I V I N G. I can swim and snorkle, but being under the deep blue sea surrounded by creatures that I've never seen before is intimidating! But I had always knew that XeRoZ loves adventures and he has been persuading me for like 3 years. And at the same time, I found cheap flight tickets and booked to Tawau! 

What's next? 

Finding a dive instructor! So we went to MIDE (Malaysia International Dive Expo) as recommended by my good friend, Ange! She said she got good deals from there so off we went! She was right, the expo was packed with people who are passionate about diving. Prices were attractive too! There are many Open Water Dive Packages being offered especially in Perhentian, Tioman, Redang and some islands in Johor which I can't remember. 

It was at one booth that I bumped into Malaysia Asia's David Hogan Jr. One of my first blogger friend who encouraged me to keep blogging when I was still new in the blogosphere. I told him I was looking for courses, and the good looking 'Angmoh' who was with him, told me that he do conduct courses in Perhentian Island. I told him that i had booked tickets to Tawau and immediately he pointed me to a guy, tanned skin, wearing a cap, speaking on his mobile phone like a boss. So, this was how I found my instructor, Benjamin Choong. The weird thing about Benjamin was initially he said he will email me the quotations etc. he said he was busy from the exhibition and travelling. So i waited and waited for his quotation, then i called to ask him about the details. Initially, I thought 'maybe i keep asking discounts, he don't like, so tak layan me'. So i 'patah hati' also lah, continue scouting for any instructors that willing to entertain us. But as time pass, I realized, Benjamin is really a busy and forgetful person. I'm glad to have him as our instructor. From 2 persons group, my gang enlarged to 7 people ( 2 Leisure divers + 5 students). 

Woah! I hope I don't bore you with my lengthy introduction! Let's continue with the journey to Mabul Island. We took the morning flight and arrived at Tawau Airport at 10am. Something stupid happened to iLoo (XerOz's cousin) a couple of months back. He booked the wrong flight time and we all have to wait for him! We thought that we could go to Tawau town and loiter around, but as we 'Waze'd the direction, town is 30km away and taxi fee is RM45/way! Transportation is very expensive in Tawau yoh! 



What else, we sat at the airport for 3 hours, studying our Open Water Course book. 

After that, iLoo arrived and we departed to Semporna Jetty, which is a 1 hour van ride from Tawau Airport. You know sometimes in places like airport, there are some travel agents pestering you to take their packages? It's the same in Tawau airport, except that this time, i was the snobbish tourist. I approached one of them to ask is he the one fetching us, and he asked me where I'm going. I refused to answer because I didn't trust them. Then this particular guy went to ask all the agents around the airport entrance and at one point, most of them were helping to find who was our van driver. I was so touched by their helpfulness and faith in humanity restored at that point! 

The journey wasn't that bad, the road was straight, and traffic was smooth that day. The van driver even stopped us at a sundry shop for us to get some cup noodles and snacks. Who knows, maybe the island is so secluded that there's no shops! 

We arrived at the Jetty and was told by Benjamin to look for Anton. We were also given a photograph of Anton. So again at Jetty, a group of people came and ask us where we are going. I mentioned 'Anton'. Then they go "ahhh, yes, yes, Anton!" They pointed to a boat on the left and then helped me grab my bags and walked across the jetty to the boat. So helpful, I thought!


The funny part begins when the men that helped us carry bag asked us for 'tips' for carrying our bags! Walaoeh! Only 10steps and we have to give Rm15 for 3 of them!!! (Rm 5 each)! Then i keep looking at the boatman, i don't think he looks like the Anton that Benjamin showed. I feel panicked lah! But seems like my friends all said he looks like Anton so i let the matter rest lor. (Only at the next day I realised the boatman is not Anton). Motorboat engine started and vrrrooom we go! The journey to Mabul Island takes about 1 hour. But 1 hour ride  fun because just 5mins off Semporna Jetty, you can see the sea in shades of blue, turquoise and aquamarine. In the middle of the sea, there are houses built on stilts. 


We arrived at Spheredivers Lodge, and was welcomed by Benjamin. The lodge was build on top of the sea, and it looks very much like the houses of the locals there! It was a very basic accommodation, small rooms with 2 single beds, and an attached bathroom. Our rooms was the new ones being build last year so it has an attached bathroom. The older rooms do not have attached bathroom.


The water surrounding this lodge is crystal clear. From the top, I can already see seaweeds, starfish, sea urchins, anemonefish and a lot more. Turtles were friendly as well and they swim pass this lodge quite often! 

Sunsets are amazingly beautiful! The sun here rises at 5.30am, and sets at 5.30pm. Fishing boats, tourist boats and kid boats were a common sight here.


I was too busy checking things out, that I didn't have any photos of the lodge during daytime. So i have to make do with the one photo that I took (at night!) hahaha! 

This is the dining area, also the TV area (they have Astro here weih). Telecommunication signal is good as well. We can enjoy 3G signals throughout the island. 


Our rooms are just across the dining area. Everything is made of wood and the whole floor will sway whenever big waves hit the lodge. 


No dives were done on my first day. So we just jump down and do some snorkeling right in front of the lodge! 

More stories on the next day! So stay tuned...

Xoxo,
Msxeroz


Saturday, March 8

MH370: The Mystery Of The Missing Plane


This morning Malaysia was hit by a shocking news - Plane found MISSING after approximately 2 hours after departure from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. 

MH370 was expected to arrive at its destination at 6.30am, but it never arrived. At 2.40am, the plane was last heard off until all communications were lost around the airspace of Vietnam. Until as of this time, the debris of plane has not be found. 

Malaysian Airline System (MAS) was under public scrutiny due to lack of information to provide to the family of the passengers on board. Upon detected lack of signal from MH370 at 2.40am, actions were taken at 7am, and until now, there is no sign of the plane yet. This puzzling situation, caused the people of various nation to be saddened and tonnes of rumours, internet trolls and senseless jokes have surfaced. 

As for me, I am as curious as most of the people out there. I'm not an aviation engineer or anything close to that, but here's some of the questions on my mind.

1) How can a massive plane like MH370 disappear from radar so abruptly?

2) Why it didn't release any distress signals? 

3) If it did crash, the blackbox will be able to send some signal (something like France Air flight 447) to locate the blackbox. Why can't we locate the blackbox or any debris?

I wonder when will the news be updated. Search and Rescue mission has been deployed for the whole day already, and no solid news is being told yet. But I feel the pain of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety of losing someone you love so dearly. Hopefully, there's survivors be found, and  can bring closure to this tragic episode.

#prayforMH370

My prayers is with all the passengers of flight MH370. 

Xoxo,
MsXeRoZ


Friday, March 7

Anwar Ibrahim Found Guilty Of Sodomy!


Court of Appeal found Anwar Ibrahim guilty for Sodomy II. 

Spotlights intensifies in Kajang By-Election now. Question is, who will represent PKR? 

Is this a plan backfire for Encik Anwar (which is now a suicide move) to create a by-election then? 

*grabs popcorn* 


Ultraman: Banned Because of Bad Translation

Following from my previous post on Ultraman being defeated by KDN, and the excerpt which I posted from SG Yahoo! News portal, I find it an obligation to continue the research on the reason why the comic book entitled 'Ultraman The Ultra Power' is being banned by the Malaysian Government. 

And hence, I found this .... 

(I do not claim ownership of the material published above, and happened to found it over the internet).

Assuming the above material are the excerpts of 'Ultraman the Ultra Power' then it explains very well that the downfall of this comic happens due to a very bad English-Malay translation job. 

In fact, my eyes bleed profusely with the language used in the translated version of the comic, due to the sentence 'Dia semua, kononnya kuat dan undefeatable'. The whole description, the translator used 'beliau' to refer to Ultraman King (a sign or respect of person of higher status) and suddenly 'Dia' (used to call someone of same status) is used. 

I summon the power of Ultraman King to destroy the translator, for doing such a shit job! Damn the translator! He should be trial for treason, making a disgrace to our national language! 



I also saw some of the people were suggesting that Google Translate also uses the 'banned word for Non-Muslim, that starts with an A and ends with a H' (sorry, am no risking the usage of this word in my blog because I don't wanna be jailed) as a translation for the word 'GOD'.



I checked and found that it's true, so, what's your bet that Google Translated may be banned by the KDN as well? 




Thursday, March 6

Ultraman Defeated In The Hands of KDN Malaysia


Yes, you didn't hear me wrong. Ultraman was being defeated shamefully.

Ultraman, my childhood superhero. He who dons a red and white full body suit with a bee poo bee pooo beeeee pooo red bulb on his chest that usually triggers it's alarm when the hp level is low, yupz, that ultraman. He was undestructible. He was super. He defeated numerous monsters. He defended Earth from devastation.

But who knows, Ultraman was defeated by KDN in Malaysia. No one seen that coming! No one expected that to happen! 


RIP Ultraman. You are now banned by the government. Your heroic deeds shall remain in my memories. 

*last respect*



Sunday, March 2

Chill At The Hills: Avillion Villa Idaman, Janda Baik



After a crazy, crazy week of last minute rescheduling, we finally found a place that can fit all of us- Avillion Tanarimba, Villa Idaman. 


Located at Janda Baik, a quaint village near Bukit Tinggi and Genting Highlands, it is just an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur. 


It takes another 10mins to reach the villa, and the whole journey is filled with greens! The weather was so hot, that cool hilly breeze were not detected until evening falls. 


Tanarimba was an interesting place. Well, I never knew such a secret getaway available so near us. The place is filled with trees, and buildings like villas were scattered along the hills. Everything looked exclusive and private. At the entrance of Tanarimba, there's a wedding    luncheon being held in this picturesque hall made of wood and glass. 


We went up some slopes and finally arrived. Villa Idaman was really impressively huge and spacious! We were welcomed by two housekeepers, and given a house tour. Overexcitement empowered me, all my photos taken during the house tour were blurred! Here comes a wordy blogpost again! Haha!!!

So this villa has 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and 2 living rooms. The masterbedroom is as large as my house (damn embarrassing to reveal this) with an attached bathroom so huge (like my living room) with a minipool sized bathtub jacuzzi! The master bedroom has a sliding door with balcony overlooking the forest! So expect to be awakened in the morning with a view of the misty forest! Amazing! But, no, I didn't stay in the master bedroom T.T because we had too many of us and we drew lots!

Then the other rooms are fitted with queen sized canopy beds. Each, decorated with its own theme. Everybody was happy with their spacious bedrooms! This guarantees a comfortable sleep at night!


Me and hubby, got... a kids-bedroom! So we had a double decker bed! =.=' 


The living room was massive and enough for all of us to linger and play games. It also has and attached balcony where we opened up its doors and let the cold wind blow in. 


In a short while, the whole place is filled with laughters, as we had turned it into a private casinos! 


We fully utilized the huge coffee table! Haha!

We played until exhaustion kicks in and then we all hopped into the poolside. Even the pool is surrounded by lush greeneries. I feel so blessed at the moment because during recent years, the pollution in KL was terrible and smell of smoke fills the air. Here, we played the water and was serenade with sounds of monkeys, cikadas, birds and some other sounds which I cannot decipher. 


Location is perfect, ambient is perfect, but something is amiss about this villa. Firstly, the pool pump is not running. We were informed that the pool pump has just 'recently' malfunction. Secondly, there is no lights by the pool. So it means that we cannot swim at night! 

How can this happen!!! We plan for a bbq and as everyone knows bbq is a hot process. Eating chicken wings and drinking beers while chilling by the pool is a fantastic plan for bbq but because there's no pool light, the whole place looks eerie and no one wants to go near there! Fix the pool pump and light up the pool, Avillion!!! 


Our arrangement for dinner is bbq, and there is a bbq pit available for us. But then, we were told right before bbq'ing is that, there's only 2 packs of charcoal! 2 small packs!  And I was told that the housekeeper says it's really far to get charcoal, so this means we have to grill our food carefully! I didn't expect this at all! Is if a cost saving tactic by the Avillion? Or are they just badly prepared? How can they not know when we have informed that we are going to have bbq for dinner! Luckily a friend of mine brought her gas operated cooker and we fried the cocktails, sausages, chicken breasts and crabsticks. And we even baked chicken wings with the oven provided. Honestly, I'm disappointed by the service provided. The housekeepers could have provide us plates, cups and forks at the outdoor table, but instead we had to request every single thing from the kitchen. 

On the plus side, we were provided mosquito coil, so at least it was a peaceful, non-itchy dinner! 


I was awaken by the bright sun. And I went to walk around, we practically messed up the whole place already haha!
There were some family photos in the villa, and this makes me wonder, is it someone's home previously? It was a family of 4, an foreigner husband and chinese wife with a son and a daughter. I think most likely they were really wealthy to build such a massive house like this. This must be their vacation palace because it is impractical to stay here, there's no school nearby. 


The interior of the house were minimally decorated, but has a few Buddha statues. 


And then breakfast is served. So i rushed to the dining hall and saw this!


A western breakfast consists of 2 sausages, 2 sunny-side up eggs, a platter of fruits, a jug of milk and a jug of orange juice. Again I am disappointed! I've been to Avillion resorts and I had high expectation for this one. Instead...oh my, the breakfast setting is fine, but we had to toast the bread ourselves, we had to make our own coffee, and oh boy, what the heck we were given a large chunk of chilled 500g of butter! It is really inconvenient because the butter is hard. I've got a couple of suggestions here:

1) Make coffee or tea and serve the guests. Then we do not have to walk all around the dining table to make our own coffee/tea and truely enjoy breakfast.

2) Toast the bread for us. You have a large oven in the kitchen, you can mass toast bread for guests, say 2 piece/person. And if the guests need extra, they can use the toaster. Otherwise our eggs on plate are all cold while we wait for our bread to be ready. And imagine how many rounds do we need to make to the toaster when theres 10 of us and only 4 toasts were made each round? 

3) I am not Chef Wan but I can say that the western breakfast looks 'telanjang'. Put some baked beans, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes! 

It was also disappointing when milk and fresh juice cannot be refilled much because there's not enough! Although the housekeeper apologised, I feel quite sad because it's just some basic stuff lacking there.

A little extra effort can make this place a sought after holiday destination. Seriously, I would recommend this place to friends who want some weekend getaway, but I suggest they be mentally prepared or maybe call to inform that charcoal should be prepared for bbq. An extra added value in hospitality will be a boon here as well. You'd want to make guests feel 'sad' to leave, and will come again because they miss this place. 

It's a lovely getaway overall. I miss the chilly hills already now as I'm drenched in sweat!