Friday, December 29, 2006

Kota Kinabalu - Brunei - Miri - Bintulu

We started our return journey the day before Christmas leaving Kota Kinabalu at about 10.00am after having breakfast at one of the restaurants near the hotel. The children were noisy once we were off on the road pointing to these and that along the way but not too soon they were quiet and asleep, which was quite pleasant for us adults, some peace and quiet……

We took the reverse of the route we took getting into KK except that this time we could see the view against the night time when we arrived. There were many new developments along the way. New roads/highways and buildings were being constructed that will change the view of the urban area but at the countryside things appear to be the same all round with nothing new observed. Some parts of the road we took runs alongside the touristy heritage railway line where a special train for tourists runs the Kota Kinabalu – Beaufort heritage country route. We did not get to see the train but from the brochures the train still runs the route a number of times per week. There were mostly oil palm estates along this route but it was still a nice view to savour along the way, especially for the uninitiated tourist!!

Our destination on this portion of the journey was Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. We had reservation for two nights at a hotel in BSB. Enroute we had to pass all the immigration and custom checkpoints, in reverse of the previous inward journey to KK. However it was all a breeze this time. There was hardly any queue at the checkpoints and the ferry crossings were fast too. The drive on the country roads was easy as we encountered very minimal traffic. We stopped in Limbang for lunch and visited the town mosque for our day prayers.

We arrived at our hotel just at about dusk and settled in our rooms. The next morning, Christmas day, we took a drive around the city and viewed the well known ‘Kampong Air’ or literally water village where clusters of houses were built on stilts over the river. Even the school and community hall were built on stilts over the water. This was how riverine villages were built many many years ago. I remember these types of houses in JB when I was a little kid but all these houses are gone now. Brunei seems to maintain them perhaps as an attraction of sorts. It was a pity that I left my camera in the room.

We also visited the Empire Resort, touted as the biggest hotel resort, and spent about two hours going around the complex. It was really huge and it was crowded too ……. The entrance lobby has tall ceilings and there were four levels of lobby area. The very large pool connected to several smaller pools along the expanse of the hotel garden and its utility buildings, were crowded with people, families with children and in all sorts of swimming pool dressings, frolicking in the water. It appeared as though there were no proper dress code for the pool. There were people in shorts and t-shirts in the pool. The beach was also just a short distance away from the swimming pools. An 18 hole golf course surrounds the main entrance part of the complex with the club building annexed to the main building.

We went for another drive around the town taking a different route this time and stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants that appeared to be more crowded than others, indicating we suspect, that they serve good food. In deed, the food that they served was good. The basic dish was chicken rice but there were a wide variety of chicken dishes served giving us choices. As usual we picked a few varieties and shared them amongst us.

After the children had their afternoon nap and after we had our rest too, we took them to Jerudong Fun Park, a theme park built some ten years ago, located some 30 kilometers away from the city. This theme park, I was told, was initially opened free to the public but recently they started to charge entrance fees and one fixed ride fee. However the charges were very minimal, nowhere near the charges imposed by other theme parks in the region. It apparently is heavily subsidized by the state. They provide the usual fun rides, merry-go-rounds, mini trains, paddle boats, bump-cars, motorized swings and other children playthings. The three kids just could not have enough of the rides. They try everything in turn and returned for more from the beginning. We were there at 5.00pm and at 9.30pm they were still actively at it. They protested vehemently when we said it was time to go back to the hotel. Even baby Haadieya protested. It was the same with other children too. Many did not want to go home when their parents wanted to. A global problem really…..

The following day we checked out of the hotel at about 9.00am and headed for Miri. There were only two checkpoints to pass through, one to exit Brunei and the other to enter Sarawak. We checked into an apartment, a regular place for Shaffik to stay whenever he brought the family to Miri, for an overnight stay before proceeding to Bintulu. The children played in the swimming pool in the evening and the next day Shaffik brought them to the Oil and Gas museum where currently there is a display of ‘prehistoric world’ opened to the public. Haadieya came back and showed us how dinosaurs roar…… complete with action. We left Miri in the afternoon arriving in Bintulu at about 5.00 pm.

It had been a very interesting week. We enjoyed the overland travel and the experience of going through the various checkpoints and the ferry crossings, of the countryside, the small towns and villages along the way, observing the people and their lives and livelihood. Now we need time to reenergize. It was quite tiring but it was very enjoyable and pleasant….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

Petaling Jaya

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kinabalu – Kundasang – National Park and Heritage

We decided to make a trip to the Kinabalu National Park located some 6,000 ft up Mount Kinabalu and about a 2 hours drive out of the city in a district called Kundasang. Shaffik got a map, the children ready and excited and off we went leaving the hotel at about 9.00am. As usual traffic was heavy in the city but once we were out in the country road traffic became less and less but there were more heavy vehicles for us to overtake as we go along. The road up the mountain was winding, slow single lanes up and down, with heavy vehicles slowing us further.

The mountain rose beyond the clouds and noticed a waterfall cascading from way up high, shimmering white, giving the impression that the clouds had cascaded down in a single line to the bottom. I had my camera, took some pictures, but they did not come out right for lack of light, distance and improper positioning. Imagine, green, grey and brown, a myriad of colors covering and blanketing the mountain sides and somewhere there was a wide streak of white flowing down the side in a cascade. It was a beautiful sight. Even the kids asked what that was.

We moved on up the mountain road overtaking the slow vehicles now and then and overtaken by faster vehicles now and then. Many agricultural activities on the mountain sides, as there were rows and rows of vegetables being planted and ‘green houses’ dotting the undulating fields. Little huts and makeshift stalls dot the roadsides too displaying various local agricultural products on sale. They were very cheap, even cheaper than those we saw in KK dry market.

The sun was shining and the air cool when we arrived at the park. We had to pay a conservation fee at the entrance, a minimal amount really if it was for conservation of the park and the forest. We drove around the park to make one full circuit before parking the car. As it was close to lunch time and the children were already hungry we stopped for lunch at a café serving dishes of local vegetables. I checked out the surroundings, the toilets and took a peep into the kitchen; they were clean, an indication of a well managed café. The food was good and the rates charged were very reasonable. The café was located on a slope with overhanging patios. We chose a seat on the patio. The view was breathtaking; the cool air invigorating and combined with the aroma of food being prepared in the cafe hunger began to take charge. We ordered our food. The portions served were large but all of us, including the kids, finished all the food. It must be the environment and the cool air that stimulated our gastro activity.

After lunch we walked along the roadside, following the circuit route that we drove around earlier, and stopped now and then at various buildings along the way where there were various displays connected to the park and mountain activities. There were also hostels, hotels, lodging houses and chalets available for rent. We checked and they were all full. Apparently reservations were months ahead. There were marked trails and jungle trekking routes for the more adventurous and for those who prefer to trek higher up the mountain guides, were available. I was told that a guide is a must for those who wanted to go higher. There are two more stations, one at 11,000 ft. and the last one at 16,000 ft. reachable only on foot!!

The route we walked through was nicely landscaped and appeared properly maintained. It was nice, relaxing and pleasing to the senses. However it could have been better if there were no cars passing by us every now and then. I am not against the cars going by but when the cars emit smoke when going by that was obnoxiously nauseating!! And when every third or fourth car that passed by emit smoke from their exhausts, thick black ones too when they ‘struggle’ uphill, that defied and nullified the pleasures of enjoying the cool mountain air!! It would be better if the park management had provided shuttle services around the park, at nominal charge of course or maybe built into the entrance fee, and not allow private vehicles into the site, something like electrically operated buggies or a park train or anything similar. That would have made it more pleasant.

We visited the Heritage Museum and display of available flora and fauna in the mountain region. We took time, at a relaxed pace, to enjoy the facilities provided, and also admire the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. While walking around we could hear the sounds of the jungle and imagined the ‘unheard’ of the mountain. We saw what was to be seen and also imagined the ‘not seen’. It was a very pleasant afternoon but it ended too soon. The time came for us to leave the place and reluctantly did so.

We left at about 4.00 pm and stopped at one of the cluster of stalls selling local produce, vegetables and fruits mostly. Ram and Mini just could not resist buying in bulk simply because they were very cheap and fresh too. I love salads and fruits and there were plenty to eat for the next few days!!

Half way downhill rain started to fall. Lucky enough for us we had sunshine while we were at the park. The children slept almost all the way. It was dark by the time we reached the hotel in KK. We had dinner in our rooms, yes plenty of fresh salads and fruits, and then tucked the children to sleep. A little later we went around the area and the nearby shopping malls to see the going-ons as it was the 23rd, two days to Christmas. It was already 9.00 pm but the place was still crowded with people. After about an hour going around the mall we returned to the hotel for an early night as we had a long journey to make the next day. More on this later……….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

The Mountain Beyond....

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The Route Around The Park

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The Route To The Summit

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View of The Hills


Its Alive! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In Kota Kinabalu

We checked into the hotel promptly on arrival. We had separate rooms from Shaffik and on different floors as the hotel was apparently full. They however promised to move us to an adjoining room with Shaffik the next day as that next room will be available then. True enough, we got that room the next day. The kids could move around the two rooms giving them more space and it was convenient for all of us too.

This hotel is located at the seafront in a new development area of the city. Most of the buildings are new and modern. There are many serviced apartment buildings amongst them but they were all full during this period, heavily booked by holidaymakers from nearby states (Sarawak and Labuan) and Brunei too (we were caught in long queues of cars on our way into the city as per my previous entry in this blog). The Christmas festive ambience was felt throughout the area. Loud music could be heard while walking along the pavements and inside the shopping complexes. There were people everywhere, many with loads of shopping bags and oversized too. I had a good time people watching, many with kids in tow and having trouble keeping them in tow with all those shopping bags in their hands. All the outlets had some sort of festive offers to entice shoppers but I figured the price reductions are just nominal. You may gain a little more if you buy more, buy two get one free, or buy this item and entitle to buy another item at a discounted price etc. etc. but ………. think about it ……… do you really need that extra quantity or that other item? It has been the same whenever a festival came up and there are four major festivals in a year. Add to them the so-called mega sales periods the shopping outlets put up for tourist seasons they have sales almost every other month.

I have been to KK several times in the course of my work and every time I was just rushing through the shopping areas in the little spare time that I had to look for whatever was appropriate as souvenirs to take home. However this was the first time for Ram, and since we had all the time to spare we were leisurely walking around and spending time at various places around the city. We also visited the wet market, the dry market, the arts and craft market, the Philipino market and others.

You can get local food and handicraft products of all sorts at these markets and they were cheap too. By cheap I mean when compared to KL prices, or for that matter Bintulu prices even. They were generally about half of KL prices and some even much less. Imagine prices of lobsters and prawns that were about 30 to 40% of KL prices or vegetables and salads at half KL prices. Walk into a restaurant and check out the prices of food they serve. They were normally much cheaper than the charges in KL restaurants. I told Ram that we are living in the wrong area for our retirement!! The handicrafts were mostly indigenous types made from articles salvaged from the sea or the jungle. Similar items can be found in KL at exorbitant prices. However the cheap prices are usually for local produce while the imported stuff can be just as expensive as KL prices.

There has been quite a lot of development in KK since the last time I was here, which was quite a number of years ago. There are more highways, tall buildings, complexes and public areas while more of them are being built. The areas I visited appear to be more congested now, more cars on the road and more people moving around. I will not be surprised if in the next decade or so cost of living here will increase in tandem with the development. There is always a price tag to development, to pay for the cost of the facilities, infrastructures and their maintenance, and the funds can only come from the public. Already, the prices of accommodation are as expensive as KL prices and I assume property prices are similar too. It is inevitable then ….. prices can only go up and up. People will be finding ways to increase their income to meet the rising cost and these will continue to spiral…… My simplistic view on costs…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bintulu to Kota Kinabalu - Passing Through Brunei Twice

We continued our journey passing through several towns and villages in Brunei on country roads most of the way and dual carriage highway some parts of it. Along the way I noticed rice being cultivated and several farms too. I also noticed one oil and gas installation and various other industries. There was a lot of construction work going on too including infrastructure work.

After about two hours driving we approached the next checkpoint which was for us to exit Brunei and reenter Sarawak. We got into the queue of cars and noticed a very long queue ahead of us and another long one building up behind us. We inched along . . . . . and slightly less than two hours later we reached the Brunei Immigration exit point. No hassle getting our passports and papers chopped. After another 20 minutes queue of cars we reached the Sarawak checkpoint, a distance of 50 metres? No hassle in getting our passports and papers chopped here too.

Off we went, on country road again, to the town of Limbang, Sarawak. We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. They served good food and cheap too. Went to the town mosque after lunch for our day time prayers. A big mosque and very clean facilities, very comfortable and the people at the mosque were friendly too. Limbang is not a big town, as it only took us about 10 minutes to go around the whole town in the car, but the town appeared to be bustling with activities and people were moving around looking busy. Most of the major banks have their branches in the town indicating possible active economic activities.

We continued onwards to the next Brunei border. We checked in at the Limbang town Immigration office to have our passports and papers chopped accordingly for our exit of Sarawak and proceeded to the border which was about twenty kilometers away. A river was the border. We had to cross the river by ferry. The ferry could take only about ten cars each trip and only a couple of minutes crossing as the river was less than 100 metres across. There was already a long queue for the ferry too. I counted seven crossings before we got our turn. The Brunei checkpoint was just after the ferry crossing. No hassle getting our passports and papers chopped here too although there was quite a long queue but the speed with which the passports were chopped were much faster than the earlier checkpoints. I guess the officer here just went on putting chops on the passports and papers after seeing the chops done earlier without having to check in detail, trusting the checks done by his fellow officers at the earlier checkpoints.

Our next wait was at the other end of Brunei where we had to queue and wait for the ferry to cross another river. A few kilometers before the river was the border and exit point for Brunei where we passed through and had our passports and papers chopped. The Sarawak checkpoint was located after the river crossing and getting the formalities done here was easy too. It had then become routine to get our passports checked and chopped……. The final checkpoint was at the Sarawak and Sabah border some 40 kilometres after we had reentered Sarawak at Lawas. And from this checkpoint its 160 kilometres to Kota kinabalu passing through several towns like Sipitang, Beaufort, Papar and other smaller towns and villages. It was raining most part of this route slowing us down further. We had stopped for dinner and our evening prayers at Sipitang and finally arrived at our hotel in Kota Kinabalu at just before 9.00 pm.

We had to pass through ten checkpoints altogether on a route of about 400 kilometres. It would have taken us about 5 hours for that journey if it had been in the peninsular but here we were, having to pass through all the checkpoints and two river crossings, the journey took us more than twelve hours. The kids were restless, we were tired, and arriving at the hotel in Kota Kinabalu was a great relieve in deed. Something we had been looking forward to since the last river crossing. Dedek kept asking us whether the hotel has a swimming pool. When we replied yes, he asked “Are you sure?” He did this several times and was restless too asking, “How long more to the hotel”, and “do we have a room number yet?” and blah blah blah……… A really restless 4 year old kid, really while Babang was just cool and relaxed. Baby Haadiya meanwhile kept was restless in her own way. She was jumping seats from the front to the middle and the back every so often giving us adults a handful to keep her at peace. Truly a relief when we reached the hotel………

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bintulu To Kota Kinabalu – Stop Over In Miri

We started our journey to Kota Kinabalu by road from Bintulu in the evening of Tuesday 19th December 2006. Both Shaffik and Mini were working that day, so we left after office and headed first for Miri, which is about two and a half hours drive away. We have done this route a couple of times previously, hence there was nothing new. The regular apartment that we always stayed in when in Miri was full for the night and we had made alternative reservation at another smaller (read cheaper) hotel close by. We know that this hotel is also popular with families visiting Miri. Anyway, we were staying overnight and just needed a reasonably comfortable place to sleep. The hotel was sufficient.

7.30 am Wednesday morning, everybody was ready to go. The children were very excited. We left at that time and headed for Brunei. It was about 30 kilometers from Miri to the border. There was already a queue of cars at the immigration checkpoint. We had our passports chopped at the Malaysian side of the border followed by the Brunei side a few metres away. Then Shaffik had to register his car for entry into Brunei. The maid, holding an Indonesian passport, had to have her passport checked and chopped in the office proper. Shaffik went with her into the office to assist. They took quite a while to come out and we wondered whether there was any problem. We found out later that there was no problem at all. All the officer did was look at the passport photo, looked at her, viewed the written forms cursorily only and then chopped the passport. But ……. Why so longggg? Ah-haaa…. It appears that if its time for the immigration officers to go for a drink, all others can wait…… and there were a few of them. All of them decided to rest and have a drink, chit chat together? and in the view of all their waiting customers too!! That seemed to be the attitude of the officials, who had some form of ‘power’ in office!! Speaks much about good customer relations doesn’t it?

While waiting for the maid to get her papers done, I felt the urge to visit the rest room. At the entrance was a prominently displayed saying in Malay translated as “Wash your hands, look after your health”. My immediate thought was “Ahhhh, good, they initiate thoughts of cleanliness to the public. A good move on the part of the authorities”. But when I got into the rest room it was exactly the opposite. It looked as though the place has not been cleaned for a while……. days maybe……. The toilet cubicles ? Yak yak yak! The floor was wet with stagnant water here and there and the walls dirty!! No signs of cleaning utensils anywhere let alone sign of or presence of cleaners!

1st checkpoint formalities done with and off we went on our journey, wondering in our minds what else we will encounter on our way to Kota Kinabalu………

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On The Move Again

As soon as we returned to Petaling Jaya from Kerteh we had to prepare for a trip to Bintulu. We had made reservations on Air Asia to be in Bintulu from about mid December to the end of the month. Shaffik had planned to take his family on an overland trip to Kota Kinabalu for the Christmas holidays and there was enough space in his new MPV for us to join them in the trip. Hence all the pre bookings for the cheap air ticket and the preparations for the trip.

We planned and execute our plans but there are certain things we could not plan or predict. Like Shaffik and his whole family having flu and fever, one after the other, starting about ten days before the overland trip; like Ram and I having flu as well when we returned to PJ from Kerteh, which put a strain on the well being of everybody healthwise. The weather too had not been any help as it had been raining and gloomy over most of the days.

Shaffik was determined to go ahead with the trip as although we have been to Kota Kinabalu before, this will be his first time by road and first time for me too. We envisage the trip will take about 10 hours road traveling time. There will be quite a few immigration checks to go through and the queue and waiting time may slow us down. Immigration checkpoints are open during daylight hours only hence we may have to break journey overnight somewhere.

There will be ten immigration checks along the way. The only way to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from Sarawak is through Brunei. Look at the map of Brunei. The country is split into two portions with part of Sarawak (Limbang) in the middle. Therefore the checks will be on exiting Sarawak, entering Brunei, exiting Brunei and entering Sarawak at Limbang, exiting Sarawak again and entering Brunei and exiting Brunei to reenter Sarawak. Then exiting Sarawak to enter Sabah. Ten immigration checkpoints altogether!!!

We traveled to Bintulu on Thursday 14th Dec. The whole Bintulu family including the maid were down with various stages of fever, flu and cough. Ram and I were no better. I was sneezing away while Ram was sniffling too. It became worse on our second day in Bintulu, especially Ram. But the Almighty be praised, all of us recovered in time for the trip which was scheduled for 19th. to 26th December.

We started our trip in the evening of the 19th. More of the trip later……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, December 10, 2006

In the East Coast With A Japanese Family Friend

We had a few days rest at home in PJ, after attending the funeral of Ram’s nephew in JB, when we had to prepare to go away from PJ again as we had planned. This time to Kerteh in the East coast.

Several weeks earlier we received a phone call from a Japanese family friend Ohtani, Tadasu-san, living in Kobe, Japan that he, his wife and daughter will be holidaying in Club Med Cherating, in the east coast, for about a week. This time around they will not stop over in KL, as they often did whenever they holiday in Malaysia (they had stayed over with us in PJ several times previously), as the daughter had just changed job and cannot get away from work for too long. Hence we made plans to stay with Sita in Kerteh during the period that the Ohtanis were in Cherating. Kerteh is only about a 45 minutes drive from Cherating.
The Ohtanis enjoy tennis. They play tennis whenever they get the chance and when in Club Med Cherating. In fact they go to Cherating with the main intention of playing tennis!

I have known the Ohtanis since the early eighties. I was then working in Tokyo for the Bintulu Fertilizer Plant Project and was in the same office with Tadasu-san. Tadasu and family later moved to Bintulu for the construction of the plant. Our children were small then and they used to play together. We maintained contact even after the project was completed and visited each other whenever we can. While working on the project a few other Engineers were together with me and most of them who knew Tadasu Ohtani are now working in Kerteh. Sita made arrangements and invited those who know Tadasu to her house for dinner but not telling them that Tadasu will be there. I meanwhile arranged to pick up Tadasu and family from Cherating on our way up to Kerteh from PJ, and I too did not tell Tadasu of the impending presence of old friends.

It was raining most of the way from PJ to the East Coast. It was expected as it’s the monsoon season in this part of the country. It was still raining in Cherating when we arrived at the hotel at about 5.00pm, fetched the Ohtanis and headed straight to Sita’s house. Tadasu had catalogued old videos and pictures into a DVD and we viewed them while waiting for dinner. It was fun watching videos of the kids when they were small, ourselves when we were much younger and various other scenes that we have somewhat forgotten. It was nostalgic.

Meanwhile Ram and Sita, also with Fahrul’s help, got dinner ready and waited for the arrival of other old friends. Sita had invited four families and when they arrived there were ‘surprised banter’ between the Japanese and the Malaysian old friends and it was hilarious looking at them. Everyone had a good time that night, including the children. I think most were not too excited over the food served as they were more interested to catch up on old times with Tadasu-san and family.

The next few days were spent with the Ohtanis, taking them around the area, introducing them to local food, showing the sites and so on. Tadasu was also fascinated by a fruiting mango tree. He had his camera, both still and video, clicking on and on, at the mango tree, at the 'strange' looking food, (some of them wrapped in banana leaves or coconut leaves) and also at local scenes . Miyuki-san wanted to get local spices to take home and we brought them to a local shop where these stuff can be obtained quite cheaply, more so when compared to prices of the stuff in Japan (which can be more than ten times!!).

The last day of the Ohtani’s stay in Cherating came so soon. It was Friday and they were scheduled to leave in the late afternoon. Sita was not working (Friday being the official weekend off day for the Terengganu state) and invited them to play tennis with her at her club in the morning. We picked them up at 7 am and headed straight to the club in Kerteh. While the four were playing tennis, Ram and I practiced our qi gong while little Najla played around by herself. We had late breakfast and sent them back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes and promised to meet again hopefully not in Cherating this next time but in PJ and Bintulu. We can perhaps squeeze a day or two in Port Dickson as well then. They can still play tennis there as there are tennis courts in our resort condo. They are already planning to come again in 2007 . . . . which really is just around the corner!!

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

The Wives and Children


Miyuki-san with Aziah, Maziah, Yus, Ram and the children Posted by Picasa

Gathering of Old Friends


Tadasu with Ghani, Roha, Sarun and families Posted by Picasa

Getting Ready for Tennis


The Ohtanis and Sita - Ready for Tennis Posted by Picasa

Little Najla on court.


Playing on her own. No partner to play tennis? Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Losing A Nephew to Cancer

He was just fifty, considered by many as still young. He was at the peak of his career. He was energetic and full of enthusiasm in whatever he does. He worked for a well known computer company and was well regarded by his superiors, peers and subordinates alike. He was a good magician too and entertained friends, relatives and young children whenever he can and when called upon. He has a friendly disposition, easily approachable and is humble. But now he is gone. He had cancer and succumbed. Some say the Almighty loves him more and hence take him away from us and yet some say that he still has more to offer to those around him. The fact remains that he is gone and will not come back. Cancer has again taken its toll.

He was Ram’s nephew, the youngest offspring of Ram’s late eldest brother.

Just over a year ago Ram lost a niece, the eldest daughter of her late elder sister, to cancer too. In between there were others, friends and relatives who succumbed to the same disease.

Statistics shows that cancer is the second highest cause of deaths in most countries while it is now already the highest in the US and UK. It is estimated to be the highest killer in most countries by the year 2020, and that is not too far away. It is sad really and what’s even sadder is the fact that our modern lifestyles are, to a certain extent, a major contributor to the increased statistics.

Cancer is usually known or discovered when it is too late. Chemotherapy has traditionally been the only way to treat cancer. While chemotherapy does eliminate cancer cells to some extent, I was told, it also eliminates good cells as well.

Ram’s nephew started complaining of stomach pains some six months ago that did not go away on regular treatments. On close examination he was found to have cancer of the colon. He was scheduled for an operation to remove the cancerous portion of the colon but on opening up the surgeon found that it had spread to other parts and organs. It later spread to the liver, all within three months. He continued medical treatment but his condition continued to deteriorate until his passing a couple of weeks ago.

All the time he was in high spirits, at least he showed it to us when we were around him. He was very weak the last few weeks. It was also too late for us to get him to try qi gong, which we learnt can help cancer patients, and also too late for him to try other types of treatment that others suggested.

We had just returned from Bintulu when we heard of the passing of this nephew. We rushed to JB to attend his funeral and joined the family in prayers for him. All his siblings were there, including his sister who had just married off her daughter at a wedding ceremony held in Kuching, Sarawak where they now reside, a couple of days earlier. This wedding was the main reason for us being in Bintulu, as we had attended the wedding together with son Shaffik and Mini. It was only a 50 minutes flight from Kuching to Bintulu.

The last time we were in JB was for the Eidil Fitri celebration hence we took this opportunity to stay on in JB for a couple of days and spent time with mum as well. She is in good health but we notice that her memory is slowly fading. She is beginning to forget her routines, the prayer times and so on. Otherwise she is ok. At 85 years of age she has no complaints and that is a lot ok. May the Almighty bestow upon her continued good health so that she can continue her prayers and supplication to Him as she often does. Amin……….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Qi Gong – The Art of Exercise and Healing

We attended a two day practical session of Qi Gong (pronounced Chi Gong) conducted by a renowned local ‘Master’ or ‘Seifu’ who is by profession a gynecologist. He has been practicing holistic medicine for more than 15 years. We had previously attended a full day Health Seminar and this two days practical session was a follow up of the previous health lecture session.

Arrangements for these Health Seminar and practical session was triggered at a tea talk organized by my Retirees Club more than a year ago. The talk, “the benefits of Qi Gong” was given by the Qi Gong Master, and members who attended the tea talk requested for a full session on health and Qi Gong. But the Seifu had his calendar full and it took us more than a year to get him. It was many thanks too to my previous employer, who made all the arrangements and picked up the tab on all expenses for the three days session.

The one day health seminar highlighted to us the advantages of eating right, and the benefits of exercises. We commonly hear of people talking about ‘eating right’, ‘eating a balanced diet’, ‘working out what we take in’, etc. But do we follow it? Do we know what they mean? How to balance our diet? Its all wishy washy and at the end of the day we keep gaining weight and with it all the risks associated with overweight and obesity. According to the Seifu when we are hungry our bodies actually are asking for nutrients. But what do we do when we are hungry. We feed on calories instead of nutrients. On a scale of 1 to 10 we usually take 6 to 7 calories (sometime more) and only 3 to 4 nutrients (sometime less) when our bodies actually need the reverse of that. We continue to do this every time we are hungry and then we wonder why we put on weight. Present day food, wet or dry, and those that we get off the supermarket, are mostly processed or grown artificially or chemically fertilized, such that their nutrient contents are much reduced. Hence calories content are high and nutrients low. If our body gets high nutrients we will get hungry much later.

On exercise the Seifu suggests we harness the elements of mind, body and life forces (qi or chi) within us. We may shed sweat from our body but we are really shedding water and not much calories. Harnessing the elements of mind, body and life forces do help in shedding the calories as well. There is also the benefit of keeping all the health risks at bay. The structured exercises, like yoga, tai chi, karate, tae kuan do, falun gong, salambam (I stand corrected on the spelling for this Indian art), qi gong and others help to lessen the health risks as these exercises do demand a lot of concentration in the mind and movement of the body and exciting life forces within the body. However, qi gong does more. It not only do these but also generate higher life forces or qi around us. It not only prevents sickness and diseases associated with modern living but also help reduce it from our body. One clear example of the benefit of qi gong, when done regularly, is the keeping at bay and also elimination of cancer cells from our body. Medical science has not acknowledged this but the examples of this benefit is numerous worldwide. Medical practitioners know the advantages, while some of them recognize the benefits but science, being what it is, to get proper medical findings and proofs to substantiate its benefits is difficult and reliance simply on the results achieved is not a usual scientific methodology of acknowledgement. We can call it an ‘act of God’ but science needs more than that!! Many cancer patients who practice qi gong have proven to survive for many years beyond the short life-span predicted by their Oncologists on discovering cancer cells in their bodies. In deed many have the cancer cells reduced and eliminated ultimately. It was this fact that influenced the Seifu to take up qi gong, studying under the close tutelage of the ‘Grand Master’ in China some twenty years ago. Thanks to his teachings too many of his patients diagnosed with cancer have since benefited from practicing qi gong.

We learnt breathing techniques in the two days session along with lots of practices in 18 ‘Super Qi Gong’ movements and four ways of ‘Qi Gong Walk’ which we were told are beneficial for keeping cancer cells at bay or eliminating them even, and also for keeping our hearts in good shape. We were also shown techniques for generating or exciting the qi and concentrating on it.

Breathing was to be stomach breathing through the nose, and the breath cycles deep and long. Ideally we should breathe about 10 breaths or less per minute (normal breathing are 17 to 24 cycles per minute). Lowering our breathing cycles has a lowering effect on blood pressure. I have tried it, doing slow breathing cycles for about 20 minutes to half an hour each time once or twice a day and regularly over a period of a few weeks and it did lower my blood pressure quite significantly. I tried this after reading something on the ‘net about controlled and slow breathing having an effect on blood pressure. I cannot remember what website it was but it was one that was selling some gadgets to assist in the slow breathing. Slow breathing relaxes the body, muscles, nerves and blood vessels and prolonged or repeated slow breathing, over an extended period of time, has its benefits on blood pressure and also heartbeats. Notice how your heart races when you are under stress, or when your adrenaline flow your heartbeat gets faster and faster, your breaths gets faster too and so will your blood pressure. It will only get higher. Hence the reverse is also true. When you get stressed its best that you practice slow breathing and relax your muscles to eliminate the stress. It can be therapeutic.

The super qi gong is slow, relaxed, movements of the body each of which has effects on specific parts and internal organs of the body, and the slow movements follow the rate of breathing and vice versa. So also the qi gong walk, the steps and movements are purposely accentuated which demands concentration and regulated breathing. Thus all the elements combined make for a healthy body.

For those interested to know more on qi gong can do a search in the ‘net by using qi gong as the key word or visit the following site: But reading about them only is not enough. Practice it and gain its benefits. Better still, join a group near you where you can have guided practice and do the movements correctly. Even if you do not get or excite the life forces or the qi in you, you get to exercise regularly and in a structured manner. Good luck and God Bless ……………….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya