Haze has been invading my oxygen supply since early last month and it gets worse every single day now. Never a miss for every single year during the dry season that we Malaysian have to experience the smoky haze from our neighboring country.
I could cynically claim that Malaysia is a 3 season country now: the dry season, monsoon season and the haze season. The season where I got most of my asthmatic attack.
I take honey to help sooth down my phlegm and sore throat.
Wild honey reminds me of Manuka honey
The sweet thick caramel taste of New Zealand Manuka honey made by bees that roam around the huge open valleys in New Zealand, where Manuka flowers bloom widely between bushes and the bees roam freely collecting delicious nectars.
My honey supply comes from the nearest organic shops around my house imported from New Zealand. I don’t simply just buy local honey from the street as I don’t want to get cheated into sucking in melted caramel sugar that those opportunists claimed as pure honey. We get that a lot in Malaysia.
It is not easy to get pure local honey
Honey taste differently from one another depending on the type of flower nectar that the bees suck into. While the environment that the bees live in contributing to the quality of the honey.
Definitely not easy for bees to build their nest here in Malaysia with our air pollution level (haze from Indonesia) and our habit of destroying our greens under the name of development. Hmmm … so I am a bit skeptical about purchasing any honey from the street.
I tasted some local honey before like Honey Kelulut (taste a bit sour), local honey from an unidentified origin ( the seller swear that it is pure honey) and Tualang honey. The most expensive and tasty honey so far for my taste is Tualang honey. The Tualang honey that I bought from Amir of Seri Mahawangsa boathouse in Tasik Pedu is tastier, better in taste comparing to the Manuka honey from New Zealand.
Why Madu Tualang or Tualang honey?
Being a curious cat, I wonder why does the famously sought after Tualang honey tastes that good? What so special about this seasonal and expensive honey? And they said Tualang honey from Pedu Lake is among the best quality of honey in the world.
This is when I discovered the Tualang honey hunters of Pedu Lake. A very interesting discovery that changes on how I see my jar of honey at home.
Why do the bees choose Tualang trees?
The tallest tree in the rainforest is the Tualang tree. The tree stands prominently among the rest of the tree in the forest.
And, giant Asian bees of Apis Dorsata roams around the forest collecting flower nectars around Tasik Pedu and build their nest high up on the tall branches of a Tualang tree, out of the reach of the predators (both human and animals). The bees collected flower nectars from the estimated 180 types of flowers from different trees surrounding the area of Pedu Lake.
I always have the idea that we are stealing from the bees. They work so hard accumulating nectars and turn it into golden honey, while we easily would just steal from their hives. But, we are inter-dependent with our ecology.
Therefore, honey hunters need to adopt a sustainable method on how to harvest wild honey and at the same time ensuring the survival of the bees.
Pemburu Madu Tualang or Tualang hunters of Pedu Lake
Late March this year, I followed a group of a traditional honey hunter of Pedu Lake lead by brother Nizam. You can google him on the internet as they are a well-known honey hunter for this area and he and his team got featured on National Geographic channel.
You see, brother Nizam has the exclusive rights to a few Tualang trees in Pedu Lake. Honey collected from the bees trees in this virgin rainforest is ‘technically’ owned by him and his entourage. The ‘rights’ runs in the family for almost a decade, starting from his great grandfather, grandfather and now to him.
They have been adopting a sustainable way to harvest the wild honey for years.
If you are doing it right, the bees would always build its nest and produce tons of honey on the same tree for years after years. It’s like a yearly ritual journey for the honey hunters once a year on the same month to harvest the precious honey of the same Tualang trees.
The flowering season of our rainforest
Bees would start building up their nest after the monsoon season. From January to March bees would be super busy helping the pollinating process around the forest.
I am lucky this year to be able to witness the mass flowering season of the rainforest around Pedu Lake and Sepilok in Sabah. It was in March and early April. I was told that the phenomena happened every 5 years. Almost every tree in the forest that I visited at that time were flowering.
And, each corner of the forest smells differently. I have a strong sense of smell. Being able to witness and smell the forest during the flowering season is amazingly beautiful.
What an experience!
Once the honey is mature enough the team of seven to eleven hunters starts preparing the preliminary works before the actual harvesting procedure which I would go details in my next posting.
The tools are ready.
The stairs have been properly nailed from the ground to the top of the Tualang branch.
The harvesting could only be done at night when the bees are less hostile, as bees could not see in the dark. I waited anxiously and prayed for a dry night (even though the weather forecast says that it’ll rain for the next 5 days). Me being optimistic.
I already imagine myself licking on the thick high nutritional golden Tualang honey and bang! the sky at 6 pm on the ‘right’ harvesting night turned cloudy while the cold wind started to warn us about the incoming rainstorm.
And at 8 pm. it started to rain … for the next 5 nights too haaaah, well.
You see, even a drop of rain could ruin the precious honey. So, rain is a no-no during the harvesting process. So I asked … each time when it’s raining what happened to the honey at the hives? It would get contaminated too right?
Nature has its own way to survive… you know when it’s raining that thousands of giant bees would gather around the hive and shield their nest with their tiny-miny wings, like an umbrella. Amazing right?
The weather was unpredictable and I decided not to wait as I have to catch another flight to Sabah for my 3 weeks trip and I missed the harvesting season for this year. I will try again next year and share the story here.
Marking my calendar for the next honey hunting expedition in the year 2020,
In Sha Allah. I’ll see y’all in my next posting. Take care.
As I age every day with my own lifestyle, doing just the thing that I want to do in my life, I struggle.
I struggle to stay honest. As honest as I could be. It’s a daily struggle.
To act honestly towards friends and people around me. To talk honestly about how I feel about things. To stay honest in my writing and my artwork and at the same time, to be honest to myself.
That cringe feeling each time I crossover the honesty line is depressing.
“You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it’s always their actions you should judge them by. It’s actions, not words, that matter.”
All due to peer pressure. Of wanting to be accepted by my chosen group of well-minded people, so I thought.
With maturity, staying honest with my own self is seldom a problem. Maybe because I spend most of my time with me and myself … comfortable being alone exploring life. Simple mind and less complicated life.
But new people that I stumble upon this few years are very challenging.
I wanted to try something new. Open up myself, meeting new people and work on new projects but our personality doesn’t match. A sweet talker vs a doer does not belong together, a potential of a free rider.
Sweet talkers path their own runway with words and sweet promises to climb the highest mountain but when it comes to hard work building up the runway itself, they chickened out. The burden goes to ‘do-er’.
When you are trying your best to stay honest and genuine, these people showed me the other side of the perspective. That people can be reckless with their words. That word is cheap. Words and promises are just irresponsibly splurged to built trust.
Once they gain your trust, they’ll see and treat you as their donkey.
And, I decided to move on with my own way. Struggling every day to live life as a loyal, an honest and a sincere human being.
It is better to stay alone than to lose your self-value.
“And in the end all I learned was how to be strong… Alone.”
ps: … throwing words out of my congested chest, letting it all out.
25th Ramadhan 1440
We are in the last 10 days of Ramadan. Out of the 30 days of a blessing month of Ramadan, the last 10 days is the most blessed and anticipated nights. Believers take extra effort to increase their prayers and devotions toward the Almighty during these nights.
A month of self-restraint against food, drinks, wrongful desires, bad habits, negative temptations etc.
Fasting for 30 days in Ramadan month is one of the 5 of Islamic pillars. Fasting is just 1% of the effort while the other 99% is the extra effort that believers need to perform to strengthen their bond with the Al-Mighty.
Fasting is very hard for me with this Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that I had for almost 20 years.
With my health condition, to be able to fast during this month is a blessing.
I don’t want to miss my train. It’s my personal journey and I hope to fulfill my duty through my own pace. With a strict diet and the right amount of medications, I manage to fast without me ended up injuring myself.
Understanding that every deed of the son of Adam is for themselves except fasting; fasting is solely for Allah. Allah will reward it according to him.
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Indeed your Lord said: ‘Every good deed is rewarded with ten of the same up to seven hundred times over, except for fasting.’
I was assigned to write about Ramadan for my photography article in the News Straits Times this time around. Ideas on what to capture with your camera during this holy month.
Ramadan Bazaar is the most visited place in Malaysia, you could find it at every corner of the town. Operating between 4pm to 7:30pm. Food heaven where you could get food for iftar in one place. Because of my strict food diet, I don’t frequent Ramadan Bazaar that much anymore.
I decided to skip the food part of Ramadan and focus on how to capture the spirit of Ramadan through close-up photos. A close-up photo adds intimacy or relatable feeling onto your images. Sharing my article here for reading pleasure.
How do I spend my Ramadan month this year?
I tried to discipline myself to be closer to the community of the mosque.
Tried my best to have my iftar with my family and friends at the mosque every day, sharing food in one big tray, eat together, perform our Maghrib-Isyak-Tarawih prayers together, read certain surah from the Quran together.
As I sit quietly at my corner observing my surrounding, I saw one big group of orphan of different ages occupying another corner of the mosque while some corners are filled with believers of different races, different level of lives, poor or rich sat together sharing whatever food served during that day.
I feel humbled. Being broken, I have this unrealistic pride I tried so hard to overcome. That feeling of pride that I should rely on my own, that I am the sole provider for my own needs. Accepting others gratitude is not something I am used too. I am trained to give but not to accept.
Accepting food from others is something that I am not comfortable with. Here I learned to let down my pride and tone down my expectation. Feeling grateful with whatever food served in front of me and not complaining.
Praying together as one big ummah create strong bonding between us. I personally need the motivation boost to excel during the last 10 days of Ramadan. The late-night prayers, the almsgiving aka sedaqah, trying to read as many surahs from the Quran as possible and rushing for suhoor.
Doing all these spiritual activities together within a group make it achievable. I could not do that alone, am a dreamer that would drift into my own cave if I am left alone … cruising in my own world.
The divine journey to get closer to the Al-Mighty is the essence of Ramadan. It is not easy to achieve but it sure is joyful, spiritually joyful.
A few more days before the month would end. Still feeling that I am not putting my best effort, yet the clock still continuously ticking.
Will I be able to experience another Ramadan again next year?
In Sha Allah, if Allah permits.
While editing this photo and listening aka daydreaming to Fynn Jamal’s song aka poem, it struck me … her song is always a sad story. It makes me sad listening to this song of her titled “Suatu Pernah”.
Suddenly looking at this photo of a young girl modelled for us at City of Taal, Manila, Philipines recently when I was in Manila, makes me sad. Her dad was at one corner watching over her beloved daughter posing for us, the photographers.
Her pure innocent heart … looking forward at the world, expecting the world to treat her equally and fairly. Probably one day she’ll fall in love and expect to be treated maybe not as a princess but as humane as possible.
And … guess what, life is not one bed of roses.
The video clip … so sad, tiba-tiba jiwang katak … sure sebab mental belum toughen lagi. Once in awhile, buang tebiat.
Habis sudah madah
Tak ada satu pun yang tertinggal
Setiapnya telah kau ambil dan terus engkau jual
Seolah tak pernah memakna apa
Seolah tak pernah kau inginkannya
Seolah tak pernah
Dikutipku bila sudi
Di bila tidak dibiar mati
Dan lebih menyakitkan
Ku tetap tunggu di tepi jalan
Seperti tak pernah ku ada harga
Seperti tak pernah kita bersama
Seperti tak pernah kau mahu aku
Tak pernah rindu
Tak pernah rayu
Terlebur hancur kebal rusukku
Berkecai sepai terpecah belah
Terima kasih atas ajarmu
Cinta tak wujud
Ah tak pernah
Dan dengarkan jeritku
Jujur tak terfitnah
Kau hanya bagiku
Suatu yang pernah
Takkan ada apa
Yang mampu untuk buat kau pulang
Bila sudah tiada rasa
Bikinlah apa tetap kau terbang
Takkanku pujuk kau jangan pergi
Takkan ku minta kau fikir lagi
~ Fynn Jamal
Life is a journey, not a destination.
I just got back from Pedu Lake, Kedah, Malaysia.
Located up on the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia approximately 5km away from the Malaysia-Thailand border, the lake is easily accessible via well-maintained road.
The 12km-long lake is part of the dense rainforest of Gunung Fakir Terbang, 6 1/2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur via North-South highway (exit Gurun straight on to Sik then approx 7 km away, turn right to Gulam then left to Durian Burung and proceed to Seri Mahawangsa Pedu Lake jetty).
Surrounded by clean water and serene forest, this is a good place to retreat your soul from the noisy and super busy city life.
I am recommending this place to those who need a short break from the city life.
The only place to stay here in the middle of the lake is at Seri Mahawangsa boathouse, yes on a boathouse parked next to a small island about 15-20 minutes from the jetty.
So, you can choose to sleep on the boathouse or on a treehouse or on a hut or just on a hammock or in a tent, an eco-resort type of stay.
Whatever your choice is the hammock is my best personal choice.
I fancy quietness and this place is easily accessible and quiet.
Tips to enjoy the luxury of lazing around in Tasik Pedu
If you plan to spend your time just lazing around then I want to share a few tips on how to enjoy “the luxury of just lazing around” in Tasik Pedu.
Firstly, listening to the Cicadas orchestra
This group of Cicadas or riang-riang (in Malay) would sing together at some odd times, a few times a day. Their buzzing sound that echoes throughout tree branches in this tiny island in Tasik Pedu (Amir called it the Survival Island) is phenomenal.
And you will notice their orchestra performance played as a background song in the island. Their music sounds louder than normal maybe because of the echoes.
Secondly, swimming with the Lampam fish around the boathouse.
Swimming during a hot day is heavenly.
Swimming in a pool or at a river or at a beach is different from swimming in a lake. There is abundant of fresh clear water around you. Yes, swimming in a deep lake feels different.
During a hot day, the water inside the lake feels colder and warmer at the same time. Very therapeutic.
But please be caution on your safety. I put on my life jacket all the time when I am in the water.
And I was in the water for hours. Canoeing and swimming … just enjoying the sun and the water at the same time.
Thirdly, lazing in your hammock during the mid-day after lunch
Yay! we have a full-time chef at the boathouse. He cooks all the time. Yes! he is a he.
I was well fed all the time. After having my rice with masak lemak ikan baung (fresh water fish in coconut milk) I feel … d r o w s y.
Not much thing to do as it is super hot during mid-day.
Lazing around in my hammock under the tree with all the leaves hanging out is a perfect thing to do. Sleeping … to be precise ☺️.
Embracing the lazy moment without guilt. Wahhh … I am happy.
Fourthly, watching the movement of the light and the clouds from the boathouse.
After a few boat trips circling the lake and enjoying the vast natural landscape surrounding Pedu Lake, a quiet time while watching the sunset is my next lazing thing to do.
Sitting with your loved one while watching the change of colour on the horizon is romantic. Hmm feeling lazy together with your loved one is classically romantic.
It makes me thinking of the Creator that creates all of these beautiful things around us. A moment to just be connected to the Creator and appreciating His greatness.
Feeling blissful to be able to just sensing His existence through the beauty around us is an amazing feeling. Alhamdullilah.
Fifth, hanging out at one of the treehouses at night
There are a few treehouses that you can choose from. And hanging out in my hammock with my favourite book while listening to the sound of the forest at night is cool and peaceful.
Just me and my own world. I would never get tired of this.
Conclusion: All of us need to have a quiet moment with ourselves. To feel comfortable and peaceful being with ourselves. To feel at peace with ourselves.
He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the world ~ Marcus Aurelius
Although I don’t mind being on my own but having a person or two that have the same quiet mind as I am, hanging out with me is always welcome.
How do you prefer to spend your quiet moment?
Share with me and leave your comment below.
My second visit here at Northern Vietnam and my first was five years ago.
This time around we covered Sapa, Y Ty, Ha Giang, Dong Van and the Ban Gioc waterfall in Cao Bang. We drove along the road close to the border of Vietnam and China starting and ending at Hanoi.
Acres and acres of dreamy layers of paddy field.
The road is narrow, long, rough and winding but the view is worth the pain.
Due to its small road, I think the best way to enjoy the landscape view here is with a motorbike. Riding slowly along the narrow path in between the layers and layers of paddy field and explore the life of Vietnamese ethnic minority here.
For the Muslim, halal food is difficult to find along the way. So, be prepared with your own food arrangement. I turned into a vegetarian whenever I travel, but it seemed like being a vegetarian here at Northern Vietnam is also very tough. Since I am aware of what I want to explore here … a little struggle on food has not dampened my spirit.
Just be a little flexible and creative on my diet choice then I would definitely survive.
Our local guide during this trip is uniquely interesting.
An adventurous girl, she claimed that she is always lucky with the weather. During the week … yes indeed! the weather forecast predicted that we would have a strong storm for the whole week throughout our visit but the weather decided to treat us fairly with at least 50% sunlight, 30% foggy moody grumpy weather and 20% light rain. She is indeed our weather lucky charm.
I accepted the gloomy weather during this trip ‘as is’, not complaining.
Plan B. The best time to capture clouds movement. Slow shutter landscape shoot and time-lapse video. So at each location, rain or shine, I make it a point to capture time-lapse moments. Each recording takes up to at least an hour for a 5-second interval of at least 7 seconds time-lapse video using my GoPro.
Sharing my time-lapse video here at my youtube channel.
Gorgeous beautiful world that we stayed in, Masya Allah. And … I am grateful that I have the eyes to see and a heart to feel. I want to see more, I want to feel more.