Category Archives: Stories
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.
How not to get bored of traveling?
My way? Planning for each travel trip is very important to me. If I plan to be at a place for say 14 days, I would plan on my everyday itinerary together with my backup plan if anything doesn’t go according to my plan.
Flexibility help reduces my anxiety.
I travel to do and see things I can’t at home. I hope to learn more about myself and being flexible allow me to be more open to a new self-experience.
My planning reflects my commitment to creating a unique different moment in each place that I visit. So that I could recall how does that place makes me FEEL years after years later.
I am glad that I am into photography. Morning light and afternoon light is always my favorite hours. So, I would be up very early in the morning and stayed until the last light, hunting and experiencing local festivals, market crowds, treks the hills to have a peek of the enchanting landscape, walking through a strangers village to have a look at how is life on this other side of the world and so on. The moment of learning and experiencing humanity is always a satisfying moment for me.
Wandering is a lot easier if you have a clear direction on where to go. Sharing some photos during my trip to Northern Vietnam last year. Will share more story during this trip on my next post. In Sha Allah
And last question … am I lucky? Yes, I feel lucky therefore I am lucky. Have a good day dear reader. Bye.
A friend asked me.
After so many places that I have been to, do I not feel bored?
After a while every place would look the same, she claimed. She travels a lot too. Covering common touristy places that normal tourist would go but yes, I think she has a good point there.
We tend to overdo things.
And when we overdo things, we’ll get numb and bored.
I call it the “touch and go” kind of traveling … get to your next stop, the Instagram famous spot, then click here click there in 30 minutes run to the bus to the next stop, click here click there in 20 minutes back to the bus again and repeating that for 7 days while covering for 6 continents (I am exaggerating here yah).
After a few trips like this … places will look the same, there is not enough time to FEEL. The reason we travel is to experience the FEEL. Every place offered a different opportunity for us to FEEL but we need more than 30 minutes to explore the new surrounding and experiencing FEEL.
How not to get bored while constantly traveling? Create a unique moment for each place that you visited. To do that … you need to do slow traveling.
Take more time at each place. Breath the air. Wander along the street. Explore local markets. Stay at the local’s home. Trek the mountain. Cycle around the town. Hangout at the local restaurant. Join the local festival.
Time for bed. It is 11:25pm on 03.01.2019. Will continue my rant on my next post. Goodnight.
I found a new secret hideout in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia.
- A simple, quiet and rusty place for an introvert soul, like mine … or let me rephrase it again, an OLD and worn out soul like mine. Lol … Selfish me, everything has to be like mine … mine all mine, no sharing and I do not want to share my soulmate either (if I ever have any) … gth! mental … oh yes!
Kuala Terengganu has a few small islands in-between the mainland and Pulau Duyung (Duyung Island) is the largest island. I flew over the islands during a paramotor event last 2 years. Never occurred to me that there are interesting stories to explore down there on the islands.
Well … Pak Awi didn’t pay me anything to promote his place so don’t get me wrong. I just love the place.
I found a new hidden place that I could stay for a few days or even weeks without creating a big hole in my wallet. A cool and safe place to go home to after hours and hours wandering around Kuala Terengganu.
What would I do here in Kuala Terengganu? Hmmm … I am going for a story hunting and I myself not sure what is the outcome gonna look like, lol.
I plan to hang around with the makciks (mid-aged ladies) around the villages listening to them gossiping he he he and the pakciks (middle-aged man) around the coffee shops or jetties reminiscing about life. Tengok berapa lama boleh tahan … the rest is a secret.
A few more photos of my new found hiding place before I end this post.
Last but not least … my all time favorite breakfast, Nasi Kerabu. A blue colored rice mixed with fresh vegetables, salted egg, stuffed green chili pepper, a piece of roasted chicken and sambal (chili paste). Wallah … am hungry now … gotta run.
ps- sambil dengar lagu “kutuliskan kesedihan, semua tak bisa kau ungkapkan, dan kita kan bicara dengan hatiku” dan perut yang lapar
I was in Jogjakarta, Indonesia for a few days in mid-November last month. Hanging out at Kota Gede with my local photographer friend, Romeography of Studio 76. We planned to wander aimlessly around the east part of Jogjakarta with our cameras.
It was already the beginning of monsoon season here in Southeast Asia … and I was pretty sure that the sky would be dull and the light would be challenging in Jogjakarta too, as the raining season is here to stay until at least towards the end of January next year
After a few failed attempts to hunt for sunrises and sunsets, we decided not to waste our time wandering around hunting for gorgeous landscape anymore… we were out on the street focusing on human interest instead.
We hang around markets mingling with locals selling all sorts of daily items. We snuck around a group of people selling roosters or cocks for the gamecocks or cockfights. Uh … scary sight of bleeding roosters fighting for its life.
Wandering around with motorbike hunting for subjects and lights has its pros and cons. Other than the pain in the butt (from sitting on a small seat for too long), it was also the risk of getting wet from the rain.
But … it was the easiest way to move around from point A to point B without having to worry about the condition of our routes plus we can just park the bike anywhere we wish. Talking about convenience right …
Well … the rain doesn’t stop me from achieving my primary goal for this trip lol … which was to have a stress free moment chasing the light. I had a great time … getting close and personal with my subjects, good food and good companion all the way … ahhh I couldn’t ask for more, alhamdullilah.
We are planning for more future trips to explore more of the landscape surrounding Jogjakarta … maybe after the monsoon season is over. Who knows … In Sha Allah
And …. life goes on and on … and I am learning throughout the journey. Learning to be grateful for each moment that Allah presented to me. Learning to see and accept people as who they are. Learning to love every soul that cross path my journey … and letting go the one that decided to venture out of my path. People changed … a heart changed.
“Oh Allah, please ease my path. Guide my iman. Guide my every single actions. Guide me to love for Your sake. Protect what is in my heart. What lies in the future, only You know. Verily, Allah is All-Knower, Most Merciful and Most Gracious.”
Bye for now,
Ethiopian Danakil Depression – the most challenging place that I have visited so far.
This place challenged the tough me to the core. Not a usual kind of place for your vacation gateway … indeed, this is the place where you go for self-discovery… nope! I am not being sarcastic. This place is where you will see the TRUE you at your most physically difficult and challenging situation … at least for me. I survived 3 days 2 night stay in this ‘hot sauna heaven’ with an understanding that … anything that doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.
Warning: This is going to be a very long post. Reason being … this post is a ‘keeper’ in my personal digital journal
Danakil Depression is located at the Northeastern part of Ethiopia. Listed as the hottest and the lowest place on earth (nearly 120m below sea level). This place is used to be part of the sea bed of the Red Sea . And because of its geographical complexity, this place is rich with salt and mineral deposits. If you are into science and nature phenomenal, Ethiopian Danakil Depression is just the place for you. Salt canyons, salt lakes, hot springs, acid lakes, colorful sulfur acid mixed landscape, active volcanoes with bubbly basaltic lava and many more geological fascinating sights that could blow your mind.
Harsh and unforgiving brutal landscape indeed. When I was there, it felt like I was not on our earth … the gruesome heat was unbearable and my mind went totally disoriented, I was confused on my whereabouts … was I in planet Mars or was I at the gate of hell.
We were there at the end of its summer season, talking about being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Just imagine … the average temperature during daytime is around 35 degree and during summer it soars as high as 40s and low 50s. In summary … I was looking for trouble when I signed up for this daredevil trip. The downside of being a follower … oh well.
The curious cat got a ‘lesson learned’ experience here .. after all, they said ‘a cat has nine lives’ … alhamdullilah.
We entered Danakil Depression from Semera, the capital city of Afar state and exited through Mekelle.
Danakil is the homeland of the Afar people … famously known for being proud and independent warrior like character. They are predominately Muslim. These people are the unbelievable great survivor as they could survive the harsh and extreme living environment that surrounded them. There are lots of documented stories about these nomadic, courageous and unpredictable heroes of Afar that you can read over the web.
The killing part about this place is its extreme heat combined with its high humidity air. I had experience dry and hot season before in Saudi Arabia … but with low humidity. Here in Danakil Depression, the heat made breathing difficult … I choked from the dust, the heated wind (it felt like being blown by a hair dryer at full heat … on your face) and my own heavy sweat.
Gobbling on warm drinking water did not help at all. Too much of plain water made my stomach nauseatic. Isotonic drinks or water added with a packed oral rehydration salts would be a great help during a humid extreme hot day … at least for a start until your body get fully adjusted to its surrounding environment. Science vs logic rant … hmmmm
We were heading to Mt Erta’ Ale, known by the Afar people as the “smoking mountain” and the “gateway to hell”. A continuously active basaltic lava with two lava lakes. Sitting at 600m from below sea level … this place is not for a faint heart. We planned to stay overnight near the crater, shoot milky-way, enjoy sunrise at the crater overseeing the active bubbly lava as our background, head down right after dawn and reached Basecamp before the sun start to release its intense heat.
It takes 3 ‘normal trekking’ hours to reach Mt Erta’ Ale from Basecamp. And with the extreme heat, we could only start hiking when the sun is down. Everything went wrong that night though … we took 6 hours to reach the crater, we were lost in the middle of nowhere … in the dark desert and we were out of drinking water too.
I hate all sort of trekking or hiking activities … so much that I avoid any Nepal trip … and I never trek at night too. I thought that this one would be as easy as hiking up Mt Bromo in Indonesia …well, I was totally wrong and I was not prepared for this. There were a lot more things happened that night but I am still not comfortable talking about it … lol … life is already interesting as it is and a few breakdowns here and there will never break my spirit.
I am sharing my lesson learned moment here with all of you, so next time when you plan to visit here … you will be well equipped:
- Avoid summer season, the heat is intense beyond normal
- Be mentally prepared that you will be trekking (15km) up at night with the heat (35-40 degree) and camel riding is not advisable due to the rugged volcanic terrain landscape
- Wear proper trekking shoes with socks on and no sandal at all (including trekking sandal) as the landscape here is nearly 100% badlands terrain of volcanic rocks.
- Carry 2 liters of water as the heat is really extreme
- Bring along extra packed Oral Rehydration Salt as you will be losing a lot of mineral while sweating and drinking 2 liters of mineral water in 3-6 hours could not help to replenish back our mineral lost.
- If you have chronic gastric, especially GERD … bring your medication along. As the heat and extreme tiredness will trigger your GERD.
- Bring extra energy bars to boast your energy especially on your way down from the crater to Basecamp as you will be racing against time to avoid the escalating heat.
- Bring your mirrorless camera instead of your heavy DSLR (unless if somebody else is willing to carry your DSLR) and I think super wide lens (16-35mm or 12-24mm) should be good enough ( maybe fish-eye lens would be good too). Don’t bring your whole lens collection as you are racing against time here.
We reached Mt Erta’ Ale at 12:45 am (started at 7pm) … nearly half dead. My mind was so disoriented and it went totally blank … and my focus naturally switched from photo mode to survivor mode. No milky-way or gorgeous sunrise shoot for me as everything that I shoot there were merely just some record shoots, nothing to shout about.
But wow … looking at the fiery red light coming out from the crater for the first time was a very memorable moment for me … out of this world experience, it felt like I was in the movie set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy … lol.
Yeah … witnessing and listening to the bubbling sound of basaltic magma straight from its crater is way cooler than watching it on TV. Smelling the hot stingy sulfur straight from its burning pot is way interesting than hearing the story from some strangers on youtube … lol.
This is the craziest thing that I have ever done … so far (other than staring 30cm eye to eye with wild hyena … lol). All this introvert, impulsive, blurriness, ‘lost in transition’ and my easy ‘tidak apa’ (careless) attitude that I have could lead me either towards a new life experience or a life disaster tragedy for me … 😉 . I learned my lesson well … I am just glad that I survived well too.
I have the habit of keeping everything bottled up inside me and I refused to complain or put the blame on others for whatever misfortune that I had experienced. I do open up a little bit for a few selective souls … but nowadays … I prefer to just lay low … as the only person that you can really trust is maybe just yourself <— lol, a bit sidetrack here 😉
Our journey continues as we drove out from Mt Erta’ Ale Basecamp heading to Dallol, the famous ghost town in Danakil Depression. We spent one night at the ‘million stars’, minimalist and zen Dallol hotel lol. It was windy that night 😉 … the hot wind (around 40 degrees) kept on blowing dust straight to my face. I woke up every hour either to gobble in more water or to splash more water onto my face and head … it sure felt like a long lonely night for me.
It was a great relieved when we were finally driving out of Danakil Depression. And, when we reached our hotel in Mekelle … I had the best shower in my whole entire life (3 days 2 night without proper shower he he he) … my bed felt like the best bed in the world and the hotel air-condition felt like the luxurious thing that life could offer me … lol.
This is a picture of me and my local guide aka host aka friend Daniel Million. I was with him and his team during both of my visits to Ethiopia. A very experienced guide and a well verse ornithologist with an angel heart. I highly recommend him as your guide if you decide to visit Ethiopia. You can contact him via his email or Facebook account at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can check out his website Traverse Ethiopia Tours.
Uhh … I am signing off now. Sharing another quote here as a reminder to myself … 🙂
“Why tiptoe through life, to arrive safely at death? If you’re gonna be afraid to live, what’s the point?”
p/s Wish me luck … 😉