I Had So Much Fun in the Last Five Days

My job revolves around many weekends of work. Close to half of the weekends in 2019. During weekdays, there are numerous monthly forums and meetings that I have to attend. In short, it is rather hard to find a good day to go on leave. I am happy that both my wife and I were able to take Monday and Tuesday off. And the last five days – counting the Friday evening – have been amazing. Here is a list of random recollection.

It all started here.
  • Nov 1st (Friday) was a very significant date for the fans of Blizzard. It was Blizzcon 2019. Now, of course, due to time zone difference, it would only officially start my Nov 2nd at 2 a.m. in the morning. So let’s rewind a bit.
  • Nov 1st was All Saints Day. It has been a while since I have visited a Church. I was happy that my wife could join me for a lunchtime Mass at the Cathedral. Fun fact. I was trying to get my buddy Jeremy – also a fellow Catholic – to join us. The response was: which Cathedral? I was like … dude, there is only one [Catholic] Cathedral in Singapore (I didn’t feel the need to specify)! He responded, “St. Andrew”? I face-palmed. Ours is Cathedral of the Good Shepard. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is an Anglican Church. “Does it really matter?” asked Jeremy. Long story short, eucharistic intercommunion is not possible. So yes, you may. And no, the communion doesn’t count.
  • Hero’s is a bar in Singapore CBD that has a lovely live band. I have been there so many times that the band knows me. Miraculously, my wife has agreed to visit Hero’s on a Friday night with me. Her first at Hero’s.
  • The 10 p.m. party was amazing. Way better than the one we have attended earlier on. We stayed close to the very end (past 2 a.m.).
  • My wife and I watched the Blizzcon 2019 opening ceremony live via YouTube on my wireless phone while we were partying at Hero’s. It was our first time tuning into the event live. The announcements and the trailers were amazing. Diablo 4 – a game we care about a lot and will buy when it eventually releases. Overwatch 2 – a game we had fun with and since O2 will have PvE content, it is a sure buy. World of Warcraft new expansion Shadowland – love the trailer but for sure we will not play that game again.
  • I have finished reading The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. After returning the books at the library, I have borrowed not one but six books! All six books are from the same author called John Straley. Some Alaska bizarre private investigation. I have to finish all the books within six weeks. That means I should not spend more than a week to complete one book. Uh oh.
  • It was my wife and my first time trying out Mbar Mini KTV. It is a small Karaoke booth charged by 15-minute blocks. The booth comes with one TV (duh), two stools, two microphones, and two headsets. English song choice is so-so. Pretty decent recording and sound system. Clean environment. We sang for half-an-hour and we had fun.
  • Talking about being spontaneous, after Sunday’s dinner, I have suggested visiting a real KTV and my wife gamed for it. There was a promotion at Party World. Twenty-odd dollars per person for not one but FOUR hours of Karaoke. We sang from nine till one in the morning. Again, we had fun.
  • And we have finally mastered the art of not-over-ordering at a Korean restaurant. Celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary at Big Mama (in actual fact, we celebrated our anniversary throughout the entire long weekend). We had BBQ boneless beef short ribs and ginseng chicken soup. Yummy.

2019 has been a fun year. Some asked if we are doing something special for our anniversary. In our own way, we are trying to make every day special.

10th Wedding Anniversary, Festival Of Lights, And A Grueling Drive To Fraser’s Hill

Friday morning, I woke up feeling woozy.  Cynthia has been having this bad cough at night lately.  When we reached the bridge that connects Singapore to Malaysia, on a Friday late morning, I was not able to comprehend what the signboard said.  It said: A back-flow of traffic from [I can’t recall the village name].  What does back-flow means?  Have they reversed the flow of traffic?

Clearing the Singapore Customs was a breeze.  As we drove through the 2nd link from Tuas (the 1st being the one in Woodland), our spirit was high.  We love road trips.  For our 10th Wedding Anniversary, Cynthia has suggested to stay over at Fraser’s Hill – our favorite location to relax in Malaysia.  And then, we saw it!  I was hyperventilating.  I wanted to pee!  If someone from Singapore Customs was to stare westward, he or she would see a massive built-up of traffic flowing from Malaysia to Singapore.  That explains “back-flow”, probably.

Friday was a public holiday.  It was Deepavali.  The story is rather romantic.  And I shared it with Cynthia as we crawled through the three-soon-to-be-expanded-into-four lanes of traffic.  A story I heard from my Indian colleague.  It goes something like this.  Once upon a time, there was a titan.  A good titan who ruled over the world (or the Indian part of the world).  When the titan was given the power by the gods, he started to abuse his people, making them suffered.  The only person who could stop this titan was his mother – the goddess of mother earth.  When the titan was finally struck down by the goddess, before his death, he asked his people to celebrate his death in a festival of lights (hence Deepavali).  Legend says that the good titan was corrupted by power.  And with power, he lost his humanity.  I love this story.  It causes us to reflect on what the wielding of power can do to us.  After I finished my story, we were still stuck in a massive traffic jam.

I did a timing.  At worst part of the jam, it took us 40 minutes to move 500 meters.  The jam was 4 to 5 km long.  You can do the maths.  That was why I panicked.  We had no water and food in the car.  And I wanted to pee.  I read somewhere (or was it in a movie?) that someone was holding his pee for too long and his bladder exploded.  He died painfully of course.  What a horrible way to end one’s life!  Throughout the FOUR AND A HALF HOURS traffic congestion, I saw one driver opened the car door and emptied a plastic container of fluid onto the road.  I did not want to know what that was.  I also saw one kid holding out a plastic bag of fluid.  I also did not want to know what that was.  Some left the cars or buses and have decided to walk to the Malaysia Customs.  One Malaysian BMW broke down.  Engine overheated or out of petrol, I have no clue.  I felt for the young couple.  There was little chance that a tow truck could reach that Bimmer before dawn.  Every inch of the road was utilized by vehicles.  We saw one Malaysian driver alternated between pushing his car and driving it.  That was critical fuel saving mode!

By the time we got through the Customs, it was late.  Some cars raced pass us in some ungodly speed.  Maybe there was some real emergency trying to reach the toilets not too far ahead.  Before we could see the petrol station, we saw another jam.  There were some police labeled cones and there was a road block.  Since all of us have suffered through a 4.5 hours jam, I feel that it was really cruel for the police to set up a speed trap right after the Customs.  Who wouldn’t speed?  Fortunately, I have mind over bladder.  I stayed at 110 km per hour for that few minutes of short drive from the Customs to the roadblock.

Fraser’s Hill is about 500 km away from Singapore.  In a normal day, it takes between 6 hours to 7 hours and 20 minutes to reach.  The last 7 km was called The Gap.  The road is so narrow that it can only be a one-way traffic.  So odd hours to go up, even hours to come down.  The gate closes at the 40th minute so as to make sure that the last car enters is able to cover the 7 km (in worst scenario, one may need to wait for 1 hour and 20 minutes for the gate to open).  By the time we left the highway, it was pitch dark.  The road was wet due to raining.  Occasionally from afar, we saw the fireworks.  A celebration of Deepavali by the villagers.  It was a pretty scene.  Fireworks on our 10th anniversary!  That momentarily suppressed our supreme hunger and worries (did you know that petrol stations such as Petronas that do not have a higher quality fuel selection are not allowed to sell petrol to Singaporean cars because standard petrol is subsidized by the govenment?) and I muscled the car through the hilly and windy, wet and slippery roads.  I could hardly see what lied ahead but there was no time to waste.  Time to switch the car to sport mode (there is really such a mode, and not figurative speaking) keeping the accelerator floored.  When we reached The Gap, it was so late that it was free for all.  As we drove up, we had encountered 5 cars coming down.  That was the reason why we needed to press on and cover The Gap asap.  We reached Smokehouse before 10 pm.

On Sunday, when we came down via The Gap, it was a totally different scene.  Fraser’s Hill is now so commercialized that there is a huge tourist bus taking tourists up and down the highland.  It took the bus half an hour to cover the 7 km distance.  Emerged from The Gap, we were stuck behind a train of traffic.  It was real exciting to go wheel-to-wheel with the cars in front during our overtaking maneuvers through the non-existence straight lines and some really tight corners.  Some were more defensive than others.  Nonetheless, we were very determined to hit the Malaysia Customs asap.  Because I have a F1 race to watch on TV at midnight today.

We love to stay at the Smokehouse.  Cynthia said that it is her 2nd home.  As for me, I count Hong Kong as my 2nd home, Bandung as my 3rd, so Smokehouse has to be my 4th.  Over the years, Fraser’s Hill has become more and more commercialized.  Now, according to Henry, the man-in-charge (OK, he is not the boss but he is in charge when the boss is not around), there are budget hotels being built and new F&B areas being built.  In a way, Fraser’s Hill has lost a bit of the charm we initially fell in love with.  There were so many tourists visiting the Smokehouse for breakfast and tea.  Some only wanted to stop by and take photos of the unique British cottages.  We miss the serenity.  Perhaps we shall visit Fraser’s Hill on a non-peak period.

So what do we normally do in Smokehouse?  We love to read books in the garden, sitting on the swing.  We love to play Scrabble in the living room.  The tea and scone served between 3 to 6pm is divine.  We love the British bed-and-breakfast feel.  If they were to serve steak and kidney pie (the one at Cameron Highland does I think), that would be perfect.  Henry (and his team I believe) comes from Myanmar.  It is such a joy chatting with him even though he always remembers us as somebody else.  Four months ago, he had a bad motorcycle accident.  Lost a few teeth, has quite a few stitches all over his face.  But he survived.  That is good news.

We played the Spanish Scrabble this time.  Boy, it was hard!  As you can see in the snapshots above, both of us were referring to the dictionaries all the time.  We have learned a few new words.  I hope in time to come, this will become much easier.  In fact, it reminds me of the time when I first played English Scrabble.  I struggled no less.