Sunday, 31 March 2013

#TSdayout - The Amazing Race @ FRIM

Finally, I got my first invitation from Tourism Selangor to join their monthly ‘TSdayout’ programme. This time around it was themed ‘The Amazing Race’ and the venue was at FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) at Kepong, about 20 minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur city centre. I was quite excited about the idea of going to FRIM again, the last time being more than 10 years ago. “Please wear appropriate sports attire and don’t forget to bring along fresh clothes” was the reminder that came from Siti of Tourism Selangor when she called to reconfirm my attendance the day before.

FRIM is a popular place among joggers and cyclists 
Even foreign visitors feel very much at home at FRIM
One of the few traditional houses at FRIM
I reached FRIM at 7.30, went to one of the stalls near the parking area and got myself a plate of nasi lemak with fried egg and a glass of teh tarik (an all-time favourite Malaysian breakfast combo). Very high calorie breakfast, but I wouldn’t worry so much as I anticipated to burn them down soon. It was a very pleasant moment for me, sitting there all by myself, enjoying my delicious breakfast in complete tranquility of the man-made forest. FRIM is a very critical and special institution to the forestry sector in Malaysia in that it promotes sustainable management and optimal use of forest resources in the country by generating knowledge and technology through research, development and application in tropical forestry. Established in 1926, the 220 hectares park is the habitat of various species of tropical trees as well as flora and fauna. Besides being a leading tropical forest research institution, FRIM is also a popular spot for picnikers, joggers, cyclists, tourists and nature study groups. Among the attractions are The Canopy Walkway, Botanical Garden, Wetland Area, Traditional Houses, Ethno-botanic Garden, Arboreta, Picnic and Camping Areas, Research Gallery and many others.

Waterfalls and streams add to the tranquility.

All participants were there by 8.20 and were given a TS t-shirt each to be worn for the event. There were 28 of us and tasks/challenges were to be completed by every team. The Amazing Race consists of ten tasks/challenges to be completed by every team. They are: marbles in the pond, Orang Asli (indigenous people) costume using nature as props, Coconut clog walk, Complete the Jigsaw Puzzle, Spot the Unique Spot, Mud Crawl, Blind Man looking for Coloured Paper Stars, Nails on a Nail, Fear Factor and the final task was to list down all the nine previous challenges and hand over 2 items that were given to us at the start of the race (an egg which we were supposed to hold in our hands for the whole duration of the race and a map) . To make the whole activity more interesting, each team was required to create and perform their signature ‘haka’ dance after completing each task, and there would be marks given for that as well. 

A similar picture of this forest canopy was featured in the National Geographic magazine.
You need quite a skill to do the Clog Walk!
Winner of The Amazing Race @ FRIM with Puan Norhayati and En Fazly
The deserving winners posing for the album.
By 12.30pm, all teams were back at the meeting point and a scrumptious lunch was served. Asam Pedas, Chicken Soup, Ayam Goreng Berempah, Ulam and Stir-fried Cabbage were all finished in no time.Right after lunch, all participants convened at the main gazebo near the eating place for the prize giving ceremony. Puan Norhayati Nordin, Head of Corporate Management FRIM was given the honour to present the prizes to winners of Amazing Race as well as to the three best blog write-ups on the previous TSdayout programme at Skytrex. Our team didn’t  win anything on this outing but we sure win over a few friends. Mani and Amit, you guys have been great teammates! See you in the next TSdayout. 

For more information and great pictures on TSDayOut, please visit:

For more information on FRIM, kindly visit:

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Petronas Formula 1 Grand Prix 2013

All I need to enter. Ticket and ear plugs.
Two more days to the biggest motorsport event in the world at Sepang and I was still without any complimentary tickets, like I normally got the previous years. But a phone call from Natasha of Tourism Malaysia last Thursday afternoon brought cheers to me as I was told to collect my complimentary ticket at counter 6 at the main Ticket Counter on Saturday. Here I come again, Sepang F1!

Tens of thousands of spectators thronged the Sepang International Circuit on Race Day.
A full size replica of a Mercedes Petronas F1 car on display at the Petronas Pavilion.
Since this was my 6th time coming to watch the F1 in Sepang, I think I’ve figured out some do’s and donts quite instintively. Number one on the list is to go there with a full stomach. And I  mean really full! The reason is simple. There’ll be a lot of walking (which will sap your energy) and the food is very expensive. So, I stopped by the Petron station at the Elite highway, stuffed myself with four pieces of sandwiches and continued my journey to Sepang.

The young were not missing the chance to catch the action.
The scorching hot Sunday morning did not deter the tens of thousands of visitors to come in droves to the F1 circuit, located about 40 kms from the Kuala Lumpur city centre. The thunderous sound of the racing cars was getting more and more deafening by now but I was already prepared with ear-plugs which I just bought at a hefty RM15 from an entreprising peddlar near the car park. After collecting my ticket from Mr Razaidi of Tourism Malaysia, I went pass the main gate and to the open area near the main entrance and took some time to linger around with the crowd. There were booths selling souvenir programmes book, marlboro merchandise, food and ice-creams (oh… and it was Magnum ice-cream), and at least a dozen more selling all kinds of F1 merchandise. There were also pavilions by Petronas and Tourism Malaysia as well as some games arcades. I managed to get myself an F1 t-shirt (one of the cheapest) at RM39 at the SIC official merchandise shop.

Among the sea of people at the main entrance pavilion were Hollywood actress Teri Hatcher(of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Desperate Housewives fame), Pearl Harbour star Josh Hartnett and fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons. I couldn’t get near them as the crowd around them was already so cramped, but I could clearly see pretty Kimora towering among her fans. 

The F1 Merchandise booths doing brisk business.
View of the Corporate Platform grandstand.
I then proceeded Gate K1 where the Gold grandstand is, which has the spectacular view of the first and second corner. It was already halfway through the Formula BMW Asia when I finally got to my seat. It was followed by The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia about an hour later and subsequently the Malaysian Super Series, where spectators were entertained by supercars in the likes of Lamborghini, McLaren, Ferrari, Audi R8, Aston Martin and Porsche.

I had a chance to talk to a few foreign spectators in between the support races (normally on my way to or from the toilet), and one of them was Australian Rob Kirwan who was on his fifth visit this year. Rob, who came with a friend Damien were seen carrying inflatable kangaroos on their way to their seats. “Its so much cheaper coming here compared to going to Melbourne to watch the F1. And being able to visit other places in Malaysia with the extra saving is a big bonus” he added. Ryan, a young American from Nebraska who was sitting next to me said that he was not planning to watch the F1 when he came backpacking to Malaysia a week ago, but when he got to know about the race and after looking at the ticket price, he never bothered to have a second thought. “It was so cheap! Back in the US, you pay double the amount to watch the race sitting on the grass” exclaimed the Mark Webber fan.

The real supercars in action.
At the grid, minutes before the warm up lap.
The highlight of the event started at 1500 after a short downpour. The Red Bull team made it clear from the start that they were the team to be reckoned with when their two drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber dominated most of the race, with some pressure from Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Team Mercedes Petronas. The 56 lap race ended with Sebastian Vettel crossing the line just ahead of his teammate Webber after a gruelling wheel-to-wheel race to the chequered flag followed by Hamilton and Rosberg. The other 'local' team, Team Lotus didn’t fare too badly, finishing 6th and 7th respectively. 

Kimi Raikonnen in a Lotus Renault machine.
Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton at the Press Conference. 
The F1 race is always full of pure excitement, thrills and drama but this time around there was a bit of comedy errors added when Lewis Hamilton mistakenly pulled his Mercedes car into former team McLaren’s pit area. In another incident, Team Toro Rosso, in their haste after leaving their pit lane, get both cars banged against each other with one of them skewed sideways across the Caterham pit stall. The team was later imposed a US10,000 fine after stewards ruled their maneuvres were unsafe.

By the time the the drivers get to the podium to receive their trophies, I was already scrambling to get out of the grandstand. Its going to be hell if I waited just a little bit longer, as I anticipated the traffic out there would be very heavily congested. I had planned to go to one of the Rest & Relax area by the highway, get myself a long cold shower and come back to Sepang for the F1 Guns N' Roses concert. Free admission for ticket holders like me! As for the GnR concert that night, let me describe it to you very briefly. “It was highly explosive!”

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal of Guns N' Roses wowing the crowd with his magnificent guitar works.

For more information on Sepang International Circuit and Tourism Malaysia, please visit:

Note: Some of the photos above are courtesy of SIC. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Challenging the Mountain in Dungun

It was a fine evening when we reached Pasir Raja Rest House in Dungun in the state of Terengganu. Terengganu is the state with the longest coastline in Peninsula Malaysia, but in this excursion, I was with a group of ‘mountain-trail runners’ in 2 busloads to the inland parts of the state. All runners were dropped at Hutan Lipur Chemerong (Chemerong Recreational Forest). The runners are encouraged to spend the night by putting up their tents at the campsite provided while the media practitioners (me included) were driven to this Rest House, some 30 kilometres away from the site. I was quite surprised to find a fine accomodation in this remote part of this state. I was later told by the manager that the place used to be the official rest house for the sultan. It consists of 24 air-conditioned rooms including 2 dormitories with double decker beds that can accommodate 40 pax. Siti Salmah of Tourism Malaysia Terengganu and her two assistants were there to welcome us with a hearty refreshments and a short briefing on the upcoming programmes.  We look forward our next itinerary at 5.30pm which was the ATV ride at Chemerong.

Hutan Lipur Chemerong - A well preserved tropical recreational forest.

Tents tents everywhere!
The thunderous sound of offroad motorcycle exhausts were aleady heard about half a kilometre before we reach the Chemerung ATV Offroad Adventure. Located about 6 kms before reaching Hutan Lipur Chemerong, the place, which is open only on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays, are apparently very popular among the locals within the Dungun district. It has dirt tracks to cater for both ATV and motocross. For ATV, there are 8 packages/routes offered and the rates ranges from as low as RM30 for fun rides to RM300 for a 5 hour extreme jungle and steep hills ride. For beginners like most of us, the one and a half hour ride was enough to exhilirate us while having fun at the same time, not to mention the aching body afterwards.

The media team having a field day at Chemerong ATV Offroad Adventure track.
By 8pm we were back at Hutan Lipur Chemerong to have our dinner while being entertained by cultural performances of a group called Dendang Anak. The uniqueness of the group was that it performed traditional and ethnic music from all the various states in Malaysia very well while a dance troupe from Sumatera dances to the tune.  I could see that the spectators, local and foreigners alike, were enjoyed by the beautiful performance which was made livelier with jokes cracked in between the numbers by Ustaz Zul, the group leader. I was more amazed when I was told much later that all the group members recruited are former drug addicts, and music is infused as part of the therapy programme. Kudos to Ustaz Zul for his untiring and noble efforts!

Dendang Anak performing for the guests
It was 7.25am the next day and were already at the flag-off site. The place soon turned into a hive of activities, with Milo truck preparing the favourite chocolaty drink, a 100 Plus energy drink booth, a Fire and Rescue personnel packing up and ready to go to the various stations, Department of Civil Defense and Ministry of Health paramedic ambulances setting up their tents and equipment and heyy, there was also free Fitnesse cereal, and I quickly grab one! Well, two actually… What better way to start an eventful day!

The Miloman  in action.

Healthy breakfast for everybody.
681 participants were all set to go at the blow of the air-horn. Dato’ Haji Khalid Yunus, former deputy Information Minister, who is now the President of Persatuan Kembara Negara (National Adventure Association) blew the horn at exactly 8am for the first category. While waiting for the runners to come back, the organiser has lined up a few family activities such as colouring contest and quizzes on tourism with lots of prizes at stake.

Dato' Khalid Yunus blasting the air horn at the flagging off.
1 hour 8 minutes and 5 seconds later, we saw the first runner, Mohamad Amirul Neeza of the Male Junior category coming to the finishing line followed by other runners. The International Male Open category was won by a Kenyan runner, Thomas Kipkosaei with a time of 2.14:10 for the complete distance of 16.1km. Malaysia’s best was Muhaizar Muhammad from the Armed Forces with a time of 2.22:49.

Fancy running along these tracks for 16 kms?
Dato' Khalid Yunus with some of the winners.
I tracked the runners for a short distance but I had to stop when I reach this suspension bridge with a breathtakingly beautiful waterfall streaming underneath. I was told that this was actually the last tier of the Chemerong waterfall. The top tier of the waterfall, with a span of 305 metres, is the highest waterfall in South-East Asia but to get there, one has to be willing to go for a one hour hike up the treacherous mountain trail. I felt the urge to climb up and take some photos but since I was here for this particular event, I had to cancel the idea and go back to the Finish Line, getting myself prepared to welcome the runners back.

The 30 metre suspension bridge adds to the picturesque settings of the waterfall.
Beautiful scenes of streams flowing alongside the runner's trail.
A view from the suspension bridge.
It has been a wonderful trip this time around, more because of my first experience covering an official ‘mountain-trail’ running event organised by Persatuan Kembara Negara. Terengganu International Mount Berembun Challenge is the second venue of a circuit of 4 venues. With a total prize money of RM50,000 at stake, the ‘National Mountain Circuit’ comprises of Gunung Datuk in Negeri Sembilan, Gunung Berembun, Gunung Jerai in Kedah and the last is Gunung Nuang in Selangor and the runner with highest acccumulative points will be named ‘Jaguh Gunung Negara’ (National Mountain Champion). 

Congratulations to Persatuan Kembara Negara for a well organised event.  Whatever it is, I promised myself to come back to Gunung Berembun, probably on my own leisure trip, and capture the magnificent sights of the highest waterfall in South-East Asia. I’ll be back Chemerong!

For more information on National Mountain Circuit Challenge and Terengganu, please visit:

Persatuan Kembara Negara

Tourism of Terengganu

Tourism Malaysia

Chemerong ATV Offroad Adventure

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