Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weekend retreat

We followed our GPS - then nothing showed on the screen - our destination was off the radar. There was  only one  way  to go - keep following the  gravelly road. Finally we arrived at The Dusun, tucked in the Berembun Reserve, about an hour's drive from KL.

Jem, a staff and an orang Asli  of the Temuan tribe greeted us to escort us to our overnight abode. Down the steps we walked with our hands full, each one of us, lugging our bags and food. Upon entrance into Emas chalet, a quick look around registered ,'Yay! this is it!'. So did 5 of the rest. First impressions - so free and open! Then straight onto the deck to view the dusun in front of us with the hills beyond. Then niftily up the narrow staircase  we checked out the sleeping loft. A higher view of the valley down below and and a sense of more freedom! Emas like the other timber chalets are built Malay style and on stilts.

It is certainly a place to chill out. Already I could sense the 36 hours or so ahead were going to be enjoyed to a different beat. It's amazing how  we distance ourselves from the grind and the noise of the city when nature surrounds us. We hardly ever protest. There's a willingness to just soak in and embrace.

The master bedroom in EMAS chalet

We came prepared to enjoy a bbq. That evening, in the darkness around us, with the city lights twinkling in the distance, and a sky that threatened to pour, we eagerly got our prepared bbq  stuff out of the fridge. The Dusun has a kitchen  ready for our cooking needs. Jem brought the coals and we started the fire  to cook our food, kawah-style. First off, were the drinks - white wine was the preference with beer and fruit juices while the coals were being stoked. I brought enough I reckon but my nephew insisted I had overdone it! 'But what do we do when our stomachs are half empty?', I countered. 'You wanna have bugs for dinner??'  I have to say we did well - almost all polished off with a bit to take -away. Dessert was kept simple - dragon fruits, grapes and chocolates. Everyone was satisfied. By the glow of the lights, we chatted and the young set  thought the  night bugs  were increasing in numbers as it grew darker.

All from our home kitchen  - chicken wings, spare ribs, lamb kebabs, mackerel, sotong,  frankfurters, sweet potatoes, corn on cob , potatoes and coleslaw.

In the open deck, we cooked  our food. 

Morning came.No one except  hubby and I were ready for the jungle walk. We were joined by 2 other trekkers from Brisbane. They occupied  another chalet by the infinity pool. It was past 10.30 am  when we started off. Nothing beats a good workout doing a trek. Surprisingly them lazybones of mine responded to the much needed exercise. Limber bodies bending real low under huge fallen tree trunks, clambering onto a couple of fallen timber to continue the trail, doing the stepping stone walk  across rivulets of water, clutching onto branches warily to get on to a higher level. Blackie and Tan, the  two resident dogs  just happily ran about, very much at home in this virgin jungle. Hubby's legs attracted  several leeches and it was a tussle to pull them off. When the walk ended and he was ready for a quick shower, more were found on his body. Such momentoes!' Well, no thanks,' said the young ones in unison.

All in all, the hours did not rush by. It was time to set off at 1.30 pm from this homely retreat. The gathering of cousins and us as a family was a time to treasure.

Trees before our eyes and the hills beyond - that's what we came for! 

Three's not a crowd - in fact come party here!

Nature surrounds

Let's drink to our fill and spout only tender words for Mother Nature around us

Listening to the sounds of rushing water is therapeutic  

The setting sun obscured by clouds

Our orang asli guide - he's 22 years old.

Fungi among the leaf litter

Phyllagathis rotundifolia / Akar serau malam - perennial herb  which is shiny dark green above and reddish below

Selaginella wallichiana Peacock plant /Paku merak - is a widespread herb of the lowland -forest understorey. The surface cells of the primitive leaves reflect green or blue according to the angle of view. 

Picking a leech off my hubby's leg - a few  of them  clung like crazy.

A leech reaching out , like a tiny whip for the unsuspecting victim

This one got me -  my pint in there !!

The sign that says it all - VIRGIN - let no man  plunder!

We passed by a freelancer who was taking pictures of  mushrooms. I had a peep into his camera - exquisite mushrooms

A jungle walk never fails to invigorate

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Flower Power in your House

Your garden is on the move - right into your living room, kitchen, bathroom. Just enjoy the beauty of nature   in shades of  lemony yellow, fuschia, red, pastels, bursts of orange...  Is there a favourite among these ?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Khatak Dance

Bells tinkled on the ankles as the Khatak dancers made their way to the stage. It is one of the most beautiful sounds to hear, especially when one is waiting with great expectancy. The sounds  produced from it  are rhythmic. Even before the percussion instruments start to play and the dance gets under way, the ankle bells or  ghungroos as they are called , already makes music to tingle our senses.

Khatak, derived from 'katha', a Sanskrit word means 'story'.Witnessing this classical dance which originates  from North India, was a real treat. The interactive lecture /demo by accomplished teacher, Geetanjali Singh and her troupe of dancers mesmerised  the MCG ( Malaysian Culture Group) members who filled the auditorium of the ICC ( Indian Cultural Centre). I am familiar with the the other classical dances like the  Bharatanyatam and the Odissi  dances. But it was a first witnessing the Khatak which is derived from the dance dramas  of ancient India. This dance form developed over the years and by the end of the Mogul rule, it was a popular entertainment. There are 8 classical dances in India : Bharatanyatam, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Manipuri and Khatak.

The structure of a conventional  Khatak performance  tends to follow  a progression in tempo - from slow - fast and ending in a dramatic climax. Geetanjali  put us through the paces of clapping the tempo. Counting and timing is of utmost importance. And she demonstrated the steps as the beat was clapped. The sounds of the bells and feet harmonize with the percussion instruments. The main accompanying musical instruments are  the tabla, sitar, sarod, harmonium, sarangi etc.

Happy to express herself

One of the dance poses

In harmony - teacher and students

Geetanjali Singh has been  a disciplined dancer since  young. At a tender age of 3 she was already dancing!

The  skirt is cut  such that when a dancer pirouettes, the skirt  swirls and flares out during a spin .
The complex footwork  performed with dexterity.

Students  showing off their skills

Amazing talent and discipline among the dancers - we were told they had only  a few months of learning and they  were ready to perform before a live audience.

After the demanding dance routines, the dancers still looked fresh as daisies.

Besides the dance steps, Geetanjali  also showed her skill in the abhinayas - the art of expression. Not only does the body express itself, the sentiments are felt by the audience.  

A lovely attire with the embellishments makes it complete for  the dancer.

Ghungroos - tiny, brass bells - Geetanjali's numbers 100!  Students start with 25 and as they progress to a higher competency,- they wear 50 and finally 100. The bells are tied together to a cloth  and worn above the ankle during a dance performance.

Red was my lucky colour that morning. See, I got to have a photo taken with Geetanjali

Sunday, May 1, 2011

High on an ostrich

Hey, you down there. Join me!

Thanks to a voucher I won for a write up I did on my holiday in Kerala, the NST awarded me a 2D/1N stay at the Thistle Resort and Spa in Port Dickson. So we headed  down south, a mere one and a half hour's drive  to enjoy a short break.

Think PD, short for Port Dickson - what springs to mind? Locals will say sandy beaches, resorts, villas, Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve, Cape Rachado Lighthouse, Army Museum, PD Ostrich. I bet there are little secrets of places, not forgetting local food delights that warrant our attention but haven't reached our ears yet.

We decided that ostriches would be an adventure.That hot noon,  we visited PD Ostrich and we were one of the few visitors. Good thing rain hadn't started yet as the recent thunderstorms send me quivering. Have to say, up close with the ostriches in the enclosures was a great experience. These creatures look tame enough but mind you, they are strong - a kick with their feet can be deadly! My 'high' was  the ride I got on the ostrich. First, the animal was 'caught' by the trainers. Then a blanket was placed on its back. A light netting was slipped over its face. Why? To prevent distractions and the ride will be smoother. The animal was guided to the fence railings. Up I clambered. 'Sit further back. Lean back. Hold on to the cloth. Tuck your legs in.' I did all the right things! The owner shouted out,'Hey, you're a natural!'. Ha! ha! all thanks to the trainers who guided the ostrich. More so to the ostrich who didn't throw a tantrum to run beserk. The drama queen in me  had visions of a heap of me bones  lying below his long, long legs!!

We hear of the ostrich burying its head in the sand when it is afraid ( not true!) . Well, the talk by Lana, the owner didn't 'bury' anything.We were glad it was informative. However she pointed out that talking to kids 10 years ago, there was more general knowledge  among them than those nowadays whom she finds lacking  knowledge and curiosity. Well, I hope the fun they get from  a visit here will  stir interest in searching for knowledge, even if it is to listen and watch the wonders on channels like National Geographic.

Staff getting the ostrich ready for my ride.

Cameras roll, ACTION!

Surprised to get a certificate for the fun I got. Thank you ostrich for not jolting me off!

Staff at  PD Ostrich explaining the feeding habits of the animals.

Easy when you know how! - stretch out your hand, palm very flat and allow the ostrich to tuk, tuk  at the feed. Come close enough the fence so as to avoid the ostrich hurting itself to reach you when overstretching its long neck.

Poor lady! Her feathers are not her crowning beauty as they have fallen during this rainy season. They are more suited to their home, the  dry savannas of Africa.

Much curiosity  about the ostrich's eggs. We held one in the hand - be prepared for a 2kg egg !

A baby chick ready to emerge from the shell.

Tough as they come  -  a newly born chick has to KICK its way out of the shell instead of pecking like other chicks.

Leather does not come cheap from an ostrich.  Can you guess which part of the body this belongs to?

1 bag  = 1 ostrich = $$$$$ . If you own one, especially a branded bag , it's worth its weight in gold!

The owner showing us the skeleton of the ostrich. We were amazed at the small size of the brain.

A first for all of us - ostrich satay which belongs to the meat of a one year old ostrich. Verdict  - the reddish meat is rather dense and tastes quite similar to beef. I like it for the fat I didn't see ! Ostrich meat is low in fat and cholesterol, high in calcium, protein and iron.   

Feel the adrenaline, ride an ostrich. It is the 2nd fastest animal on earth after the cheetah!!  Races are on during weekends. How exciting but we missed that.

The tour of the PD Ostrich got us back to nature in  more ways than one.  The farm is  also home to chickens, fowls, monkeys, turkeys, geese, rabbit and goats. Minah 's 7 month old baby, Gigi suddenly had a change of heart. She stopped suckling  and hopped on to my daughter and then nicely plonked herself on my husband's camera. The obvious attraction was the feed  he had in his hand. How she filled herself up! The cutie stayed awhile and was so much at home, squatted on the Nikon camera very close to my hubby.

Oblivious to our  interest in her, Gigi just stuffed herself  with the goodies!  Extra storage in the cheeks!