31 December 2006

Out With The Old, In With The New

Since everyone is doing it, I shall too.

Here's a recap of what I've accomplished in 2006, in random order...
- Graduated B.A. (Hons.) Accounting & Finance.
- Traveled to Redang twice, Perhentian, Phuket.
- Picked up a new hobby - diving... and got certified too.
- Completed 8 dives.
- Started blogging again.
- Got a tattoo.
- Cholestrol down to acceptable levels.
- Taken up badminton, twice weekly.
- Celebrated 24th birthday at Poppy with 40+ friends.
- Made many new friends, caught up with some old friends, and lost track some.

As for 2007 resolutions and goals...
- Gain weight - currently 54.5kgs, target 60kgs by year end.
- PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Certification + 15 dives
- Commence Masters Degree

It's a simple list no doubt. But it will require effort on my part nonetheless. Wish me luck, just as I wish all of you all the best in 2007. Happy New Year!

25 December 2006

Tripping Phuket: Drunkards From Malaysia

Night life at Patong is amazing. Well actually, much of life in Patong only begins at night anyway. It's like having a street party every night of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year. The crowd is just perpetual.

Our first night was spent peacefully over chor dai dee, some satay foods from a hawker downstairs, and a bottle of Bacardi we bought at the airport. Main reason for our subtleness was the diving planned for the next morning.

Our second night was a little less subtle. We decided to check out the local bar scene and found one with a band playing just round the corner from Crown Hostel. The prices were alright, and the music was decent. But all in all it was nothing to shout about. We got weary by the middle of the second jug and votes were in favour of changing spots.

As we hadn't done much research on where to hang out before this, we simply walked the streets with our ears peeled for bands jamming their hearts out. 15 minutes later our feet brought us to this place...


Many factors contributed towards our choice of finding a place here. For one thing, they had a nice set up under the stars... air-conditioning not necessary. They also had a big enough stage for the band to play. There was a pretty big crowd there already, and that told us that the place couldn't be half bad. And there was the little bonus of this cute santarina as the hostess to greet us as we arrived.

It's not really a good pic because she blinked. Here's one taken with Robert's phone...

Much better!

We had many laughs at The Port. And the music was great. The service was fair and the waiters & waitresses friendly.

As we came to a close to the evening, Chow Phang decided to splurge by buying us each a round of 'Knock Outs'.

We still managed to comfortably find our way back to Crown Hostel. Along the way, we stopped for some photo-taking...

Damn drunkards!

Well like I said, we still made it back safely, without anyone puking... and everyone just seemed so "happy". LOL. The "Knock Out" worked... I slept like a baby.

We went all out on our last night in Phuket. Initial plans to check out the clubbing scene - Banana Club was dropped due to budget constraints. Where better to go to have a great time than the same place as the night before when we had ourselves a blast. So, back to The Port.

This time, we had more beer - 6 litres to be exact, more rounds of chor dai dee, more jokes & laughs, more friendly chats with the waiters, more music, and more of a great time.

We even came across another group of Malaysians there on holiday. It was refreshing to see people who looked and sounded like us. The initial sound of people speaking in Cantonese immediately caught my attention, and I just couldn't help but to walk over and say hi.

The evening at the Port continued with more alcohol...
Lots of Beer

Lots of tequila

A huge-ass customized extra strong Long Island Tea

And to it top off, a triple shot tequila for....

Air Asia Annual Dinner's biggest loser... RM5,000 lucky draw cash prize flushed down the drain man! This fella was so wasted, he didn't even realize he was signing MY credit card transaction.

And of course he wasn't the only one.

That's me puking all over Phuket. The locals were begging Robert & Chow Phang to lead me to the beach and do it in the sand.

Further attempts to get back on foot were futile. But that's not to say we didn't try. "Clear the way, drunk bastard coming through", "Malaysian drunk bastard!" ...I remember Soon Yean screaming as Robert & Chow Phang struggled with me. We were making such a scene that everyone we walked passed clapped & cheered & even hi5-ed us. WTF???!!!

On giving up the walk, we took a tuk-tuk back and sang songs by Beyond. I raced straight up the stairs for bed while the others continued on a little longer nearby.

Christmas Shopping 2006

Joining last minute shoppers at One Utama on the weekend before Christmas... what was I thinking?!

Agreeing to go after lunch because of my shopping companion... what were we thinking?!

Driving there... I definitely wasn't thinking!

It took close to 1.5hrs to find an available parking lot. The frustration was that I kept seeing others in front of me get lucky. And I was so annoyed that even though so many cars wandering around the parking lot had been doing so for more than half an hour already, there were still cars coming in. Does the parking management have no sense? Why did they even let me in in the first place?!

As for the shopping, the place was of course crowded. No surprise there. There weren't any huge price slashes worth mentioning. But I did find a nice FCUK cap in the 50% discount bargain bin. Bought that for my bro. Lucky him! Maybe I can borrow it sometime. LOL

It is hard to shop under pressure. My only relief was that for once, I had a decent budget to get some nice Christmas presents for some special people. All in all, it worked out to be a roughly-RM500-shopping-spree. And for the first time in my history of such extensive shopping, none of the items purchased were for me. Pity...

21 December 2006

The Malaysia Year-end Sales

An ad currently broadcasted over national radio goes "Malaysia's Year-End Sale - with discounts so good it can turn anyone into a shopaholic."

Do we really need more shopaholics?

Oh heck, who am I to complain! I think I shall go check it out to see how true the above statement is... and maybe spend a buck or two along the way. :o)

Anyone want to join me and the rest of KL's last minute Xmas shoppers this weekend?

19 December 2006

Tripping Phuket: Patong and Its Sights

We spent all 3 nights at Crown Hostel, run by Peter & his wife. It felt very much more like crashing at a friend's place than public accommodation. Peter gave us great rates (less than THB1,000/pax) for the 3 nights, and he offered much needed advice on where to go and what to do.

Peter giving advice on Phi Phi packages

It was also quite an experience to sit and listen to him tell stories of the Tsunami incident which hit 2 years ago, and how Patong has been recovering. If anyone is looking for a decent place to stay, with really clean toilets, and only necessary amenities, Crown Hostel located at Soi Saen Sabai is the place I'll recommend (not like I've tried anywhere else actually). As long as your expectations aren't high, you'll not regret it.

As our accommodation was located at the very heart of Patong, most of our time was spent wandering Bang La Road, Rat U-Thit Road & Thaweewong Road. What a commercial hub it is!

The Atmosphere
First thing I noticed was that there are probably more tourists than locals walking the streets at any given time, I kid you not! And my best guess is that of all the foreigners, 95% (or more) are Caucasian. Of this group of Caucasians, 19 in 20 are men aged between late-20’s & mid-40’s. And almost all of them have one thing in common – their arm wrapped around the waist of a local Thai girl. I shall not comment further. And please do not quote me on any of the statistics here.

Another common sight all day through is the hoards of Tuk-tuks and taxis around. They park their vehicles neatly along the sides of streets and solicit business in a direct sales fashion. “Hello sir, you want Tuk-tuk?”. If not interested, just smile politely and say no thanks. It’s safe to say that you’ll never have to worry about not having transport, unless you don’t have any cash either. Mind you, bargain and confirm the fare before getting in.

You'll also find lots of small shops selling clothes, bags, suits, souvenirs, perfumes and other forms of interesting trinkets. Bars & restaurants are a-buck-a-dozen as well, although not necessarily value for money. Massage parlors galore, with women sitting/standing around outside touting in their very Thai accent - "Hai sir... euu wann mahssargge?"

Bang La Road

During mornings & afternoons, this street is like any other.

It's a totally different scene when light turns to dark. They close the road for everybody to come out and play.

One of the agogo bars just off Bang La Road. Went in for a quick peek and didn't quite like the concept so we moved on (honest!).

Thaweewong Road
Running parallel to Patong Beach, it was really nice walking the stretch.

Unfortunately even though Crown Hostel was a mere 10 minutes walk away, this was as close as we got to the beach throughout our stay. Everything on the beach is chargeable, from the water sports right down to relaxing on the deck chair and/or using their umbrellas. I wouldn't be surprised if they one day decided to charge a fee for walking on the sand.

The highly popular Banana Club is also located along Thaweewong Road, but we didn't get a chance to try it out first hand due to horrendous budgeting... so instead we hung out at bars with live bands.

The Port is where we had most of our alcohol moments.

You'll also find McDonalds in this area, and Häagen-Dazs just a few doors down.

And this little roadside stall...


...banana pancake. Delicious!

Oh and look out for this signpost - "Drunk People Crossing". If you're wondering if it's really that bad, ask us about the drunkards singing (or screaming) their hearts out on the streets at 4am in the morning when we innocent angels are trying to sleep.

18 December 2006

Tripping Phuket: Fun Specialists

It is indeed nice to do something out of routine when routine gets dull. The many events during our trip to Phuket were overwhelming, and I came back with many souvenirs - memories of fun & laughter.

I must say that much of the fun & laughter had EVERYTHING to do with the company I was in. My advice to the rest of you - when going on vacations, pick suitable travel mates based on the type of vacation you're hoping to have.

In my case, the objective was to have fun, fun, and more fun! And I conveniently wound up with the following team of “fun specialists".

Name: Soon Yean
A.K.A.: Traveler/Malaysian drunk bastard
Specialty: Air logistics, language & nonsense specialist
Function: Catalyst
Responsibilities: Transport & food arrangements
Known for: Ignoring Chow Phang; Annoying Mervyn; Repeatedly reciting “Tonight… tonight… Thai boxing… Best of the best Muay Thai”; Puking over balconies

Name: Robert
A.K.A.: Adventurer
Specialty: Food, accommodation & nonsense specialist
Function: Coordinating accommodation & bar hopping
Responsibilities: Care for “Malaysian drunk bastards”
Known for: “it’s up to you guys… I’m OK with anything.”; Singing "Who the fuck is Alice"

Name: Chow Phang
A.K.A.: Island explorer
Specialty: “Spontaneous activity”, alcohol & nonsense specialist
Function: Fund management
Responsibilities: Initiate spontaneous plans; Creation of “Malaysian drunk bastards”
Known for: Asking/making silly & redundant questions/statements

Name: Mervyn
A.K.A.: Underwater explorer/“Malaysian drunk bastard”
Specialty: “Making-$-disappear” & nonsense specialist
Function: Coordinating water activities
Responsibilities: Diving arrangements
Known for: Blowing a 4-day budget by the end of day 1; Puking on sidewalks

Yea, I know it was pretty gay to have an all-guy trip. But as you can tell, there was a lot of nonsense to laugh about, and a whole lot of silly exploits to share. Many of which would probably not have taken place had there been gals (who we know) around.

Take for instance the many moments of wacky expressions & zany laughter which followed Soon Yean & Chow Phang’s excessive farting. Put it this way, if Kevin Costner was “Dances with Wolves”, Soon Yean can be “Farts with Sharks” now that he's a diver! (He’s going to let go the sausage on me for sure)

13 December 2006

Stories Of Phuket To Come

I've noticed a sudden surge of hits starting 11/Dec, a day after my return from Phuket. I figure you guys are really excited to hear about all the silly stuff I/we did up north. Trust me, we had heaps of stupid moments you're sure to laugh about.

Sorry to say, I'm all tied up this week and won't be able to share till a little later - hopefully end of this week. However, do check back often as I assure you there will be many interesting posts on the subject coming up very soon.

As a bonus for reading, I promise to include photos too!

01 December 2006

Being Mervs

I came back from work around 6pm, sat down on the lazy chair and did a bit of channel surfing. For the first time in a long while, I dozed off in front of the TV only to wake up an hour later feeling even more tired than before the nap.

It felt like I hadn't had good rest in over a week. Have I really been working so hard? I seriously think not. I don't pull all-nighters like during my college years anymore. I don't club on weekdays anymore. I don't wake up all that early either. I wonder why I'm so exhausted... and it's so sudden too. I was feeling great just yesterday. Hmmm...

Well, I'm too tired to ponder any further. Let it just be "It's tough being Mervs".

I suppose "being Mervs" will always be easier than "knowing Mervs". Do you know Mervs? More on that later.

27 November 2006

'Tis The Season To Go Shopping

And so, December finally arrives, along with Christmas and all the sales of the season. It's a time for giving and receiving, although I quite prefer the latter any given time. Above all else, it’s that time of the year when one doesn’t need an excuse to go shopping and spending more money than a shopaholic can earn.

Alas, that is my curse, my cancer. I am a crazed shopaholic. Money spending frenzies are far from uncommon in my book, and I love every bit of it!

They say that to overcome a problem, you first have to admit it is a problem. Well, I admit it – I, Mervyn Tan, am a shopaholic. Now what? Where does one find therapy for retail therapy?

One interesting solution to this problem – earn more money than I could possibly spend. That would take my impulsive spending off my list of problems. Now wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t we all like that?

Shucks, all this talk about the almost-impossible is making me depressed. I think I’m in need of a little retail therapy already… just a little. *snickers*

"I lost my credit card. May I borrow yours?" *evil grin*

21 November 2006

Reverse Engineering... Or Not

It seems I got some info wrong... my BC is the newer version of TUSA BCJ1600 - BCJ1650 (redesigned apparently). Found out when I read the label while having one of those stupid moments. Stupid is too mild a word actually.

When I was young, I had this annoying (annoying to my dad) habit of unscrewing stuff, taking it apart, and then trying to reassemble it later. I like to think of it as "reverse engineering" because it just sounds so cool!

I guess I picked that up when I started messing about with Lego. Needless to say, there were many times when things didn't quite fit together again; they didn't appear as before; there were leftover parts; or they simply didn't work anymore.

Just as there is a bright side to everything, my reverse engineering instincts have given me the know-how of building PCs from scratch (or at least with a manual).

Anyway, the kid in me lives on. When my gear was finally dry, I got to packing it away neatly in my cupboard. On examining my newly purchased BC, I realized that it's actually possible to disassemble it... without any tools! I'm still not wise enough to hold back on such impulsive acts, and it took a mere 15 minutes to remove the straps and pull the inner vest off the bladder & backplate.

But of course I wouldn't be posting this on here if I didn't fuck up. And that's exactly what I did... I fucked up. Thinking that I'm brilliant, I didn't bother to document which straps go where, and how, and wound up spending a good 30 minutes trying to piece everything back together.

It still didn't look quite right though. A closer examination showed that the straps were simply too loose (means the tank would probably swing around when I put it on). Spent another 15 minutes trying to tighten the straps as best I could. It took that long because some of the straps go in really hard to reach places (sounds like some toothbrush ad).

End result - looks as good as new (I know it's a stupid thing to say when it really is new). What's lacking is the confidence that it won't give me problems when I'm lugging 25 kilos of scuba gear around. *fingers crossed*

20 November 2006

Resolutions for 2007

New Year resolutions seem to be a fad around December to January or February. And like any season, it comes and goes and no one really thinks much of it after, until the next time it's in season again. Don't believe me? How many of you can remember (without checking) the resolutions you made when kicking off 2006?

I'm starting my resolutions a little earlier this time. Actually this would be the first time I'm actually setting resolutions. And as recommended by all wise people, goals & targets should be written down. I choose to pen mine down here so that you guys can poke fun at me.

I just collected my medical report after a series of tests at Damansara Specialist Hospital. No, I didn't contract STD or some form of terminal illness... you needn't worry. Call it an annual 'employee benefit' working where I work.

From my meeting with one Dr Azmi Abdul Rashid, Consultant Neurologist at DSH, I'm inclined to have the following medical resolutions for 2007.
  • Gain weight - Yea, I'm underweight. On seeing me without my shirt on, the doc instantly commented and insisted on measuring my waist size. That obvious apparently. 23 inches, shiiiiiettt!. 172cm & 54.5kgs. Target for 2007 - 58-62kgs! Hopefully can achieve that without ruining my perfectly good cholestrol levels.
  • Spectacles - It seems my eyesight has deteriorated further. I'm short-sighted but I gave up wearing specs when I bought my Oakley sunnies. It was just too expensive to get ice blue Oakley power lenses, and too troublesome to swap between the two. Target to get a new pair of specs before 2007 Chinese New Year. And of course, must pakai la!
  • Hepatitis B vaccination - plain and simply, it's necessary, but I don't have it yet. On asking, Hepatitis B is contracted through injections or sexual intercourse. My colleagues are harping at me - "no sex till you get your vaccination done". That shouldn't be too hard, I guess. Haha!
The weight gain target might take as much as the entire year to achieve. Getting spectacles should't be much problem. Vaccination needs to be done over a course of 3 months so I guess I should start now just in case I get 'lucky'.

Other resolutions will come in December.

19 November 2006

Devastating Combination of Passions

The shopaholic in me never dies and this time the damage was intense. I've been set back by another MYR2,280.

On the bright side, the following have been added to my collection of diving equipment and can now be struck off my shopping list.

Suunto Mosquito (White) - MYR1,380

Tusa Passage BCJ1600 - MYR900

I know some of you may have come across some better offers or bargains elsewhere. But I'm quite comfortable with my source so what's an extra buck right?

This session of overspending was followed by a quick trip to Divers' Den's swimming pool to test and adjust to the new gear. It felt great to get back underwater and breathe air from scuba again. My new toys added to the excitement. The silly thing was that I didn't get a chance to go through my mozzie's user guide before its first use. And thus I had no idea what it was (and wasn't) supposed to do. I can't wait to get underwater in Phuket.

There's only one more item on my shopping list for diving equipment - a regulator. This would of course also be the most expensive item on the entire list. Ranging from MYR2,000 and up, I'm going to have to wait awhile before completing my set. Oh and of course the miscellaneous knick-knacks for diving such as torchlights, surface float & reel, knife, etc will be collected over time.

I love shopping! I love diving! What more is there to say?!

16 November 2006

Basketball vs War... I Choose War!

It must be at least 4 years since the last time I played a decent game of basketball. And that's not to say that we had a decent game of basketball during the friendly sports meet between NMM & Sony. Frankly, savage doesn't even begin to describe the experience. Here's why...

The organizer from NMM doesn't know all that much about basketball (choice of game was GM's idea... not that she knows anything about basketball even). So I did what I could to help.

I randomly sorted the participants into teams for a half court 4 on 4 competition. It was generally a good mix of male & female from both NMM & Sony. We ended up with 8 teams, and got prizes for the supposed champions & 1st runner-up. Alas it never got that far. Actually, it didn't go anywhere at all.

Sony members arrived late due to the traffic so we didn't start till late. The organizers (me excluded) decided to change everything to fully utilize what was left of available time on the court.

They decided to combine 2 teams into one to form 4 teams of 8 players instead. And they even had the nerve to announce 8 on 8 half court matches. 16 players on the court... HALF the court! Wtf?!?!?!?!

I finally managed to knock some sense into them and we kicked off a game of 8 on 8 full court.

The original "first team to make 7 baskets wins" was greatly downsized to 3 baskets only. I guess that wasn't such a bad idea afterall since no one had the stamina to run around like they did.

Did I mention that the game was nothing less than savage? There's just no way to politely describe how brutally the ball & court were abused. I think the only rule in effect throughout the game was "out of bounds". The rest of it was a nasty free for all.

To refrain from being a bitchy twerp, I'll just leave it at that. Although slightly traumatized, I still had fun. There was also a good laugh when after the game, some people complained that they didn't even get to touch the basketball... what did you expect with 8 on 8?!?!

Oh and once again, there's no escaping age... the aches & pains didn't even wait for me to reach home. I was having problems getting up from my seat at the end of dinner. And my left leg gave way while walking back to the car and I collapsed against a tree. Glad there was no one around to notice.

Yea... these days war is a safer activity. Go figure!

13 November 2006

Gearing up for 2007

Have you received a copy of your company’s working calendar for the year 2007? Here’s a summary of mine:-
Total working days – 243
Rest days / Public Holidays – 122

I counted 18 days are either National or State holidays – it’s good to be in Malaysia. The f*cked up part about 2007 is that 5 of the 18 days fall on Saturdays. We don’t work Saturdays. And we don’t get replacements. Wtf man… WTF!

On the bright side, we are fortunate to get 4 off-days from the company – usually during festive seasons or between the weekends & holidays. And then they impose one day compulsory leave as well.

Speaking of leave, I get 12 days next year. If nothing else fucks up in 2006, I will also have 2.5 days of 2006 annual leave to carry forward to 2007, bringing a total of 14.5 days. That’s pretty decent but I want to try saving up my leave and see if I succeed (probably not) in carrying forward the maximum of 6 leave days to 2008. Not that I have anything big planned for 2008, but I figure what the heck!

So effectively… 14.5 days minus 1 compulsory leave day, minus 6 days to carry forward to 2008, leaves me with 7.5 days of annual leave for 2007. That’s a sucky budget to live with. And to think that some of my colleagues have problems clearing their 30 days/year annual leave (perks of loyalty)… 4 times what I have to work with. This is making me feel miserable… I’ll end here.

07 November 2006

Random Thought - Gorgeous Malaysian Women

Over the years, I've been fortunate to meet a whole lot of women. Due to obvious reasons, they're mostly Malaysian. One interesting observation I've noticed is that the gorgeous Malaysian women I've met usually come from one of two places - up north, or far east.

Women from East Malaysia (Borneo) are simply hot. Their looks, their figures, their dressing, and all other things physical.

Women from Ipoh & Penang... well... they aren't drop dead gorgeous like those from Borneo. But the thing about northerners which really attracts me is their personality... the expressions they show, the way they talk, smile, laugh... the way they dress, the way they dance, the things they talk about. All this can make a plain looking lady look anything but plain.

I haven't made any conclusions yet because contact with women from way east is still infrequent. Hopefully my circle of friends from over there will expand in time and I'll be able to form a decent, unbiased conclusion.

Disclaimer - I'm not saying that there aren't any gorgeous women from other parts of Malaysia, like Klang Valley and all. I have met many from these other places, but in terms of population density, I think there are more up north and way east.

Maybe I should start looking for women with mixed blood... with roots in both North & East. I wonder how I'd feel about them.

06 November 2006

Kippas - M'sian Passport Renewal

The process of getting my new passport is finally done and over with. What I have procrastinated since early this year went very smoothly, much to my surprise. Reason I kept dragging this item on my to-do list is because Malaysian government agencies have made quite a name for themselves in the area of efficiency.

Having a job like mine, I cannot afford to disappear from the office for too long. Short of taking the whole day off, I just couldn't bring myself to get this out of the way. I guess anything is possible with the right incentives. My incentive - Phuket Dec'2006!!!!!!!

Travel dates - 7'Dec - 10'Dec. Old passport expires 5'Dec. Quite a predicament huh?! I'm well aware of the 6-month validity ruling. Just lacked the incentive.

Anyway, KIPPAS (whatever it stands for)... basically is a new system for renewing your Malaysian chip-based passport. The process was simple enough...
  1. What you need:
  • 1pc MyKad
  • 1pc old M'sian chip-based passport (assuming it's not all moldy & warn out)
  • 1pc passport sized photo (hopefully something which remotely resembles you)
  • 2 thumbs (preferrably on different hands)
  • Lots of cash (32pg - RM300; 64pg - RM600)... decent condition RM50's only.

2. What you do (took me 5 mins):

  • Make your way to the immigration department... do check which branches have KIPPAS first.
  • Speak to the attendant monitoring nearby. They will check your old passport, MyKad & thumbprints to make sure they correspond.
  • Place your photo into the envelope they give you, fill out your name, IC & phone number.
  • Proceed to the ATM-like machine
  • Insert passport & MyKad into designated slots
  • Follow on-screen instructions
  • Choose between 32pg or 64pgs.
  • Insert corresponding amount of cash (it was a bit sensitive with my money, but I managed)
  • Insert envelop (with photo only) into machine
  • Remove old passport & MyKad
  • Collect receipt

Your new passport will be ready within one working day. Go back to the same immigration office and head for the counter as indicated in the receipt. You will need to bring your MyKad, old passport & one thumb (I will say nothing should you decide to leave the other thumb at home).

They'll collect your receipt and give you a number in exchange. I waited about 10 mins for my turn. Spent 2 minutes doing verification over the counter then walked off happily with my new passport.

Glad to see the government is making good effort to improve... Malaysia Boleh!

The only drawback to this entire process is that there's just not enough information available over the Internet. Don't believe me? Go ahead and do a search!

01 November 2006

Tripping Thailand

It's on - we're going to Phuket. Although details are still sketchy, there's so much to look forward to and the excitement is seriously building.

Here's the messy pre-travelling plan:
  • AirAsia to be booked within the next 1 week... passport (exp Jan'07) needs to be renewed before that (thank willies the immigration dept has upgraded their passport appication system)
  • Annual Leave application for 7 & 8 Dec already submitted and approved a month ago (it took friggin 3 weeks to get one blardee signature)
  • Research - accommodation, sights, divesites, transportation, other random activities
  • Rob a bank - for the RM300 new passport fee, RM1,000 travel budget & RM3,500 dive junk... who can recommend banks which are easy targets?
  • Get my new dive junk together - BC, mozzie & regulator

Here's the rough itinenary:

  • Late morning flight on 7/Dec, return 10/Dec evening... delays expected with AirAsia.
  • Massages - this'd be the first time I have to pay - must blog later.
  • Bars & clubs - to compare to the KL nightlife scene
  • Trigger happy with the camera so that I can display more than just text here
  • Change of scenery - DIVING... and test out my new dive junk
  • Buy t-shirt(s) with 18SX content, which Mum will probably throw out after the first wash.
  • look into the possibility of a money-losing business venture

Companions - Robert, SY & Simon. I've never gone on an all-guys trip before - ever! It's kind of refreshing that I'm not bringing some gal along for a change.

...pardon the mess above. I'll post another entry once we get organized. Feel free to give advice!

30 October 2006

Show Me The Money

This blog seems to be clocking up more & more readers, and there seem to be local logins as early as 6am. WTF?

Recent discussions about my blog & blogging in general highlighted a very interesting area - what should a blogger blog about? I don't think there are any restrictions on this. What's important is your reason for blogging. Do you blog for yourself, or for your readers?

While I blog both for my readers as well as myself, I think it's more for the former than the latter, which explains why blog entries are far in between. I try to only deliver content which can capture my readers' interest, instead of just "I woke up this morning, brushed my teeth, washed my face, took a shower, surfed some porn, blah blah blah..."

And so, here's a topic which might (or might not) interest you - my sex life!

Nah, better to keep this page away from the 18+ rating. You're welcome to assume that my sex life is as dull as yours. ;o)

Do you ever find that social activities can be hell painful for your wallet/purse? Random stuff random people do socially - smoking, drinking, gambling, drugs - all bound to break your finances!

Ok, realistic examples & estimated expenditure on per session basis:
movies - RM10
shopping - it varies from zero to a couple of hundred bucks
breakfast/lunch/tea/dinner/desserts - RM10-RM50
bowling - RM20
snooker/pool - RM20
karaoke - RM20-RM30
mamak - RM5-RM10
designer coffee - RM10-RM15
clubbing - RM50-RM100

All the above are very general social activities everybody does. Only difference is how frequently they do it. In any case, it still costs money.

Here are my suggestions for cheaper activities you can try with family or friends, and even when pakthor-ing.
  • Scrabble and/or other board games
  • have a few friends bring their cars over to your place and team up for a private car wash (can do the same for pets - gather your friends & their dogs and let hell break loose. Bathe cats if you're crazy enough)
  • walks in the nearby park; jogging if you're enthusiastic; fly a kite to add a bit of 'spice'
  • do arts & crafts together, or on each other.
  • reorganize each other's rooms, move some furniture around & give some decorative suggestions
  • a dvd (or Chinese/Korean drama series) in the comfort of someone's home, but avoid porn.
  • picnics not too far from home can be quite cheap too.
  • community service - it doesn't always require money. A bit of time and a lot of heart can do wonders.

So next time your out of cash, it's not the end of the world (or your social life) until you get your next paycheck. Imagination knows no limits!

23 October 2006

Language And Such

Being Malaysian, speaking more than 1 language is the norm. I speak English, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, and a bit of Hokkien. I once attended a course on sign language, never practiced though. I'm also taking Jap class now, for business (and hopefully leisure/pleasure) reasons. And of course, vulgarities can be a whole other language on its own. Being able to cuss in all the above languages in just one breath, I consider myself a pro!

I recently chanced upon an article on social behaviour. One interesting topic which really caught my attention was body language. For guys who want to leave a good first impression on a gal... try the following:

  1. Eye Contact
    Most of us are too shy to openly check out the hot gal sitting across the room. The norm would include stealing glimpses through the corners of our eyes, or by using the reflection on a coincidentally strategically placed window/mirror hanging somewhere in the room. And what do we do when she notices? Look away as quick as possible and put on an innocent face, as if we were minding our own business the entire time. COME ON! As if she doesn't know!

    Tip: If you think she's hot, and she notices you looking... make eye contact and hold it until she shies and looks away. And if she doesn't shy and look away, give a friendly smile! If you're comfortable enough, wink even! This shows that you're confident and comfortable in the presence of beautiful women... and not the chicken shits that most guys are. And don't forget to go over and seal the deal... get her number/email la!
  2. Posture
    Yes posture! Men who women want don't walk lazily dragging their feet; they don't slouch; they don't walk with their eyes glued to the floor two feet in front of each step as though dying to find a penny. Many of us have our own styles of standing, sitting, walking, etc. Try to be conscious of the kind of posture you have, and ask yourself whether your posture exhibits strength & confidence.

    Tip: Hold yourself authoritatively... like you're the most powerful being around. Suck in your 3-month-pregnant tummy. Hold your head back, chin up, shoulders back, back arched... yea, like in the army. You think women like men in uniform solely because of the uniform?! It's all about power & authority! Fixing your posture is sure to be hard at first, but you'll live... and it'll soon be very natural.
  3. Gestures & Movements
    Some guys tend to be very animated and 'alive'. Giggling & laughing at your own jokes is a definite no. And laughing louder than the whole room put together is also a no. Swaying your body from left to right nonstop - no. Control your hand movements and gestures to avoid looking like some traffic police officer. And don't fidget.

    Tip: Move slowly. Walk a slower, comfortable pace. Any arm and body movements which are necessary, do it slow. Basically, you want to communicate that you're comfy, and just chilling... not an overzealous kid jumping up and down waiting to get on a themepark ride. But don't over-do the slowness and wind up looking like some street performer miming words & verbs.
  4. Speech & Conversation
    Your most important tool of communication requires just as much attention. Like all the above, speak slowly, speak confidently. Nervous people have the tendency to 'chase trains' when they talk. And don't let the occasional awkward silence bother you. If you really don't have anything better to say, don't say anything. If she's being quiet, tease her about it. Make the conversation fun. Don't start talking about marriage & growing old together, unless you're really good at joking about such stuff. Talking about your stamp collection or how you adore Jessica Alba isn't going to impress her either, unless she's into the same stuff.

    Tip: Speak with a lower, deeper voice. If you know how to, add more bass to your voice. Speak slowly, and learn how to use subtle but not obvious pauses to create anticipation and raise her excitement. Pick safe conversation topics, like friends & family, social activities, gossip, etc. Avoid politics & religion.

So far, that's what I've learnt. I have to admit that I don't practice all of it, but I'm probably not far off judging by my track record with gals. Will definitely try to use the stuff above now that I understand it better. Anyone else got any good tips to share?

20 October 2006

"I Like To Move It Move It!"

I got no rhythm, but I can dance... or so I'd like to think. LOL! Aiseh, with enough alcohol in the system anybody can dance! And if you still can't dance , make sure everyone else has enough alcohol in their systems so that you look like you can dance! LOL!

I tell you... some people look damn kao silly when they dance. Good for a laugh though. I've seen some hotties who can really turn heads on the dance floor while dancing with other guys/gals. But some try too hard for the attention and end up looking like sluts.

I've also seen average-looking gals who are just out there to have fun. And boy! They can really work the dance floor... to the extent that everyone just stops dancing and watches and cheers them on. That's what you call "murder on the dance floor"!

Ms.T: Mervvyynnnnnnnn!
Ms.T: Anything fun to do lately? Wanna learn Salsa?
Mervs: You going to teach me?
Ms.T: No. Learn together!

Hmm... now that's a thought to ponder on. Following a 20 year old female hottie for Salsa lessons is damn appealing. But if I decide to take up something new, I'll probably do it elsewhere, with strangers or something... so that if I end up dancing like a retard, not so pai-seh la! LOL!

Well, another new activity will be a whole lot of fun. And an additional group of friends to hang out with... why not. New places to visit... hell yea! My only concern is time & money.

Heck! I'm not going to be 21 forever (still in denial)... might as well give it a shot. Anybody want to walk me down this road?

14 October 2006

The Innocent Joy of Being a Kid

After a long week of work and more work, what would possess me to start my Saturday at 7 in the morning? Service of course!

This weekend began with an outing with many many many under-privileged children from various homes in PJ. Organized by AsiaWorks LP100, the event gathered about 60 children & over 50 adults, at Lake Gardens.

Today, with the time spent with this bunch of bright and cheery souls (both the members of LP100 as well as the children), I discovered the following...

  1. I don't feel as young as I should. Waking up at 7am is tougher than it used to be. Running around Lake Gardens on a scavenger hunt for 2 hours with hyperactive kids, it seems my batteries just don't last. And piggy-backing two 7-year-olds one after the other while running with the other scavengers is back-breaking.
  2. To keep 3 - 7 year olds entertained, just give them a bunch of crayons and a face to draw on. LP100 supplied the crayons... I just had to sit there. The first session of letting those cute angels conteng my face was great. There was a moment when I was actually proud to walk around with flowers, hearts & other random stuff colorfully drawn on my face. Unfortunately the kids went into a frenzy during the second session, and I wound up looking like an idiot (no change from the usual there). Pink on the left side, blue on the right, plus little dashes of yellow & green in between... it was horrendous! Good thing mum wasn't around to see me when I walked into the house.
  3. Do you ever think that children from homes for the under-privileged lack joy, attention and love? Spend a day with these kids and you might notice what I noticed today. The smiles on their faces and glimmer in their eyes are much brighter than some other kids I've seen from normal homes with normal families. They get so much care & attention, sometimes I wonder if there are other kids out there who feel jealous. I'm not saying that these kids don't deserve the love, care & attention. It's just an observation. Next chance you get, while playing with the kids, take a good look into their eyes. Then tell me if you really think they're under-privileged.

The angelic innocence, the adorable giggles, the playful antics, the psychotic laughters, the limitless energy, the endless dashing & jumping around. I miss being short, innocent & carefree. Joy came much easier & more often back then... wouldn't you agree?

13 October 2006

Random Thoughts

On success:
"People who quit while they're ahead lack ambition."

On persistence:
"The only reason why rain dances work is because they don't stop dancing till it rains."

And on a whole different page...
On HipHop:
You don't know the meaning of HipHop until you've watched 'Save the Last Dance 2' -

what she said: "HipHop is the convergence of the electronic musical movement and urban music culture... which happened after the world discovered that disco sucked."

what he said (with a lot of style): "(HipHop is) It's Rap. (HipHop is) Soul. (HipHop is) R&B. (HipHop is) Funk. To most people today, HipHop is about bling bling. But what was before the bling. What was before the Escalades and the 9millies and the hoochies..."

"It's a form of cross-cultural communication. It's a lifestyle. A Language. A fashion. It's simple and complex. It's about an individual questioning the establishment. It's about recombining combining everything that came before. HipHop is about finding a new voice. But what HipHop really is can be summed up in 3 simple words - I am here."

Boy... Izabella Miko is hot!

08 October 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival for 2006 fell on the 6th of October - the 15th day of the 8th month in the Lunar Calendar.

General practices during this festive day include praying to the Moon Goddesss, eating mooncakes & carrying lanterns around. For those non-Chinese who aren't familiar with the stories behind these activities, click here for more info by Wikipedia. For those Chinese who aren't familiar with the stories behind these activities, click there too. SHAME ON YOU!

So now that you know the background of the occasion (hopefully), notice how much it has changed?

The mooncakes...
Check out the variations of mooncakes now available. It has become so commercialized that even Hagen Daaz has dipped its hands into the pot. Ice-cream mooncakes - wth? Well, I can't say they're half bad... but the pricing - MY GOD!

Traditional mooncakes came with fillings such as kernels, jujube (red dates) paste, red bean paste & the most common lotus seed paste. Modern day fillings include ginseng, bird's nest, chocolate, cheese, green tea, pandan, tiramisu, and many more.

Oh, apart from the fillings, the skin/crust too comes in a number of variations these days. It's amazing!

And have you seen those jelly mooncakes? Some brown, some pink, some green, some a rainbow of colours. Some plain jelly, some with filling too. And check this out - konyaku mooncakes... this one takes the cake (pardon the pun)!

Okay enough about mooncakes. Let's talk about the moon itself. The lunar calendar is based on the lunar cycle - duh! So of course on the 15th of the month (Lunar), the moon is at its fullest & brightest. This is when the believers come out to pray to the Moon Goddess, and the others just enjoy the sight. So did you notice how beautiful the moon was this time? I surely did NOT. I could neither see the stars, nor the moon. I couldn't see the clouds, and not even the sky for crying out loud. @$!%#$# haze!

Well, at least there's still the children carrying lanterns around the neighbourhood. Well actually no. Sure their parents buy the beautifully designed lanterns and all. But what seems to be the case now is the focus is no longer on the lantern. Kids these days just want to play with the wax, the wick & the matches/lighter. If you observe, the lanterns just sit in one corner, or hang on the clothes lines while the kids squat in circles around their little wax bonfires.

And I'm surprised to see that their parents/guardians don't seem to have much concern, unlike back in the day where I'd get pinched or yelled at for even thinking of such an act.

When I was below 4ft and still into the idea of running around with lanterns with my childhood friends, showing up with a battery-operated lantern was a huge no-no. You'd just get laughed at and teased all night through.

That doesn't seem to matter any more because battery-operated or not, the lanterns serve no real function except as an excuse to have parents sponsor endless supplies of candles. And who ends up scraping the wax off the tiles the next day? The parents of course (or if they're smart - the maid)! Poor souls...

That sums up today's Mid-Autumn Festival - not quite what it used to be.

05 October 2006

Surfing on "Waves" & Dancing In "Storms"

At the age of 21 I received a wedding invitation - the first which wasn't addressed to "Mr & Mrs Tan Tiong Hing & Family". This one was addressed to a Mr Mervyn Tan. Since then, I have attended at least another 5.

It wasn't till recently that it struck me. People around me are growing up, going places, finding love, living life, realising dreams... not necessarily in that order. What about you? Are you growing up? Going places? Finding love? Living life? Realising dreams?

In my case...
I'm growing old, but I refuse to grow up
I'm going places... 'crazy' is a place too you know!
I'm finding love - I love people
I'm living life, with a huge smile on my face
I'm realising dreams... and now it's time to dream bigger and badder!

If you've ever wondered how I'm constantly so positive & happy, here's a hint... "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf". Well-said PC!

When you start "surfing", you'll soon realize that the waves are what bring the ocean to life. And when you start "dancing in rain", you'll know that the sky would be dull and uninteresting without storms.

And so there you have it... I've learnt to surf on "waves" & dance in the "storms" of a beautiful life. So can you!

02 October 2006

Threading the Trail of MP3s and Discovering Malware

It's confirmed - being nice doesn't pay off. At least that's the case when someone came to me and asked for a 2 MP3s, and I agreed to scour the net for her. The silly thing was that I accepted the job even though I wasn't equipped for it. I didn't have any reliable download programs for downloading free music. And it was at an hour where no one who could recommend a program to me was awake.

So being the great surfer that I am, naturally the first thing that came to mind was "Google it"! That was either the worst idea any brilliant person could have; or the best idea and idiot could have. Either way, it's not something I'm proud of.

I successfully found a download link... the catch - must install plug-in. Of course I was suspicious, but it was late and I really wanted to get it over with. "What's the worst that could happen" went through my mind. And as you probably have guessed, as soon as the plug-in loaded itself, all sorts of popups appeared. My heart stopped for a quick moment as the size of my entire vocabulary was reduced to a single word – SHIT! My only consolation, the download went smoothly and I got the MP3.

I plead insanity!

But what’s done is done. I figured since I already fucked it up, might as well get on with the task at hand and figure it out later. While in the midst of the 2nd MP3, I decided to offer my friend 2 more songs, based on the time left before I turned in. The sad fact was I had to download each of the 4 songs from separate sources due to availability & connectivity. It couldn’t get much worse anyway.

None of my efforts to remove the spyware/adware/malware were successful. My antivirus is ill-equipped, and the free removal tools available online were ineffective. The last resort – FORMAT C:/. This is of course nothing new to me given my history of idiocy in the world of the Internet.

So I made a quick dash to Low Yat Plaza on Saturday to pick up the latest pirated copy of WinXP, with all the latest security updates. There’s even a crack for Windows Genuine Advantage… meaning I can get updates from Microsoft even though I’m using a pirated copy. Cool eh?! Cost – RM5. You really gotta love these software peddlers. They’re really up-to-date, the service is great, and the prices unreasonably cheap.

1 hour backing up files from the old platform, another hour formatting, installing & tweaking my newer Windows XP, and one final hour reinstalling all the essential software. Total 3 hours time expense for 3 minutes of stupidity. And you know me, there’s always a bright side. In this case, I’ve got a newer WinXP. I’ve also got a nice clean desktop again. I now have Media Player 11 which looks really cool. And… I now have reliable download software for movies (BitLord) & music (LimeWire).

Want any songs? I’ll be happy to get them off the net for you… at a price!

28 September 2006

Today's Star Headlines - "Desperate Ah Longs"... wtf?!

Did you ever realize how fast time flies? Take a look at the table calendar sitting on your desk. You’ve probably flipped it over to October already. And I’m guessing that you also have half of October already marked with appointments, birthdays, to-do’s, and whatever else.

Seems like just yesterday I was collecting AngPows from relatives and spending it on taking girls shopping & vacations. The current equation –shopping & vacations minus the girls. Go figure!

Where does the time go?! Lately, nothing much I do seems important. Nothing really leaves a lasting impact on me anymore. Maybe this entire care-free attitude isn’t such a good thing. Oh well, who cares?!

So what’s in store for the final quarter of 2006? Hmmm… tough question. I guess the phrase “SSDD” from DreamCatcher suits – same shit different day. Things to expect:

  • December vacation (Bali/Phuket) – SY should be shot for tempting me into this.
  • Less clubbing – no money le... heck, let’s just write it off and make it “no clubbing”
  • No shopping – sighhhh…a shopaholic who can’t shop no more!
  • The following dating scenarios:-
    Good: find a girl and start spending future earnings again
    Better: no girl walks into my life now
    Best: someone who’s willing to go Dutch comes along
    Priceless (pardon the pun): she insists on paying for me!
  • Possible new employment prospects – remind me not to quit before year-end bonus is declared (yea right… what bonus?! ptui!)
Damn it! All the listings above have something or other to do with me suffering from a lack of money. I change my mind about having SY shot. Instead, let’s pull him out of bed, hang him till he’s dead, cut off his head, fill him with lead, and then leave him to rot where vultures are fed! LOL!

"Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful imagination you have given me. But do you $till have the receipt $o I can exchange it for $ome ca$h to pay off my c.c. debt?"

25 September 2006

Mixing Business With Pleasure

How many of you are fortunate enough to have a career similar or related to your passion? I'm willing to bet not many.

And how many of you are in jobs you totally despise? "The job sucks", "the management is incompetent", "the company is lousy", "the pay - peanuts", "the benefits - what benefits?", "the colleagues are idiots"... these are probably some of the familar phrases many of you can relate to huh?

If you could choose between the 2 categories above, EVERYONE will choose the former. Anyone who picks the latter is either lying, or an idiot just like the colleagues he/she hopes to have!

Allow me to now introduce a third category - the job is "okay-la". Not fantastic, but not too bad either. It's got nothing to do with your hobbies and interests, but you're capable and trained to do the job you're paid to do. There's stress, but not to the suicidal extent. The benefits, mediocre. The colleagues, some are brilliant while the rest are idiots. The pay... enough.

So now with option 3, how does it appeal to you when compared to the first scenario I gave above? Still prefer having your passion integrated with your career?

I'm sure many of you would. To be frank, there was a time when I was hoping to find that kind of career too. The problem was that I never did find my passion until recently. Now that I've found that passion... drop what I'm doing and go look for something related?

Could I?
There's no one who'd be able to stop me.

Should I?
This is a little subjective. On one hand, I'd be giving up 12 years of public education and 4.5 years of private college. On the other hand, people always tell you to do what you enjoy doing. "Go for it!" or "Do what makes you happy!" I guess it can be argued both ways - no sense wasting time on that here because that's not the point I'm trying to make.

Would I?
I most certainly without a doubt WOULD NOT! Not now at least. Only after I've retired would I consider such a thought.

No matter how convenient it would be for me to have a job in the world of diving, the 3rd scenario coined will be my choice. I actually even prefer the 2nd scenario over the 1st too. Ranked in order of my preference it would be 3, 2 and then only 1.

I've probably jerked your curiousity by now. Leave some comments and we'll discuss this further at a later time.

24 September 2006

More than just diving

You know, I've come to realize that I'm living such a great life that it just has to be put into writing.

I'm loving everything. The job, although not perfect, could be much worse but isn't. My family, just great. My friends, I love them! My hobbies, fantastic! My past, a blast! My present, really pleasant! My future, I can't wait!

And with that, I'm deciding that this blog will tell of more than just my diving. Check in for more updates and easy reading from time to time.

05 September 2006

Malaysia Diving Community (MDC)

To all the divers or enthusiasts, if you're looking for a forum to join, MDC is the place. They have a lot of interesting topics being discussed and they even arrange dive trips every now and then, open to just about any diver. Why don't you surf on over to have a look and join in some of the forum discussions. There's a lot of non-diving related humour too! Funny people like you and me. :)


31 August 2006

Want To Dive But Don't Know How To Swim?!

Before I started diving, casual conversations with people who know a bit about diving led me to believe that you don't really need to know how to swim in order to dive. Fact or fiction? Now that I have some experience let's deliberate.

Let's talk about the gear
The human body is naturally positively buoyant when the lungs are filled and muscles are relaxed. Notice how you tend to float especially well in salt water. As technology developed, man built gear to help control their buoyancy.

Your exposure suit, in most cases here your wetsuit, is made of neoprene and other fabrics. Neoprene is kind of like rubber, and so it floats. Your mask, although has some positively buoyant materials, generally doesn't float because of the hard denser materials used to make it strong (so it doesn't break if you happen to put it through some rough handling). Your fins are likely to be neutrally/positively buoyant because they need to be slightly rubberized to ease your finning, but negatively buoyant fins are also available.

Your BC (Buoyancy Control Device), as the name would indicate helps to control your buoyancy. So it can be both positively or negatively buoyant depending on how much air you fill it with. Your air tank, of course will sink. Your weight belt & weights are there for the sole purpose of helping you sink. Other random accesories are negligable.

Now if you really think about it, it's much easier to float than it is to sink. You would have a hard time descending if not for the weights, so if you're having problems staying afloat, just drop them. That's why they're made to come loose with ease.

So technically, swimming isn't a prerequisite to diving. The most important thing is to not panic. As long as you can think straight, you're not going to drown.

Does this mean you can dive if you don't know how to swim?
Swimming and diving use different techniques, so you don't really need to know how to swim in order to dive. But food for thought - people who don't know how to swim are generally more afraid of huge volumes of water than people who know how to swim. The psychological factor cannot be avoided. When unexpected events take place while a person is in the water, a non-swimmer is more likely to panic.

You'll also notice how many non-swimmers are hydrophobic. This means it takes them a lot more time and effort to get comfortable in the water. I know of some people at least 5ft tall who won't even dare to get into a 4ft pool of water. Forcing it will only take the fun out of diving. Furthermore, it's not only your life that is at stake. When you panic, your inability to think rationally might cost someone else his/her life.

I've seen some people who made it through their open water diver course, PADI certified. But it was only because they forced themselves through. And one major contributing factor is that they had a nice patient instructor around to make them feel secure. What happens after getting their certification? They're unlikely to find security in diving with other divers. And divematers won't always be so accommodating to be right by their side all the way through the dive. Are they going to have their own personal instructor/divemaster follow them on every dive? It just wouldn't make sense.

Mervs' conclusion
Diving is supposed to be fun, but the fun disappears when your mind is constantly troubled by the fear of drowning. Knowing how to swim gives you peace of mind so that you can focus on having fun. So put in some effort to learn to swim before diving. And if water scares you, avoid diving altogether. Stick to National Geographic, Animal Planet & Discovery Channel.

29 August 2006

The Next Dive Trip

To all readers who are already diving, or interested to pick this up as a recreational activity:-

I will be scheduling another 4d3n dive trip next year April, probably12th - 15th. My main purpose is to take the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course. As requested by some of you, I will also arrange an open water diver course at the same time for those who want to start diving.

Those interested are advised to book yourselves during these dates, and start saving up. It'll cost RM1,500, more or less, depending on which island/resort we pick.

If possible, we're going to fly with AirAsia based on their next promotion rates as soon as they become available so please let me know if you're joining so that I can give you updates.

Those who have expressed an interest so far:
Chee How
Chui Yin
Do let me know if you're name isn't already in the list and I'll put it in!

Updates will be available here from time to time, and I will also keep you updated through email and telephone.

A Moment of Reflection

The time and money spent completing the open water course was a huge eye-opener for me. With all the new knowledge comes new curiousity and interests. There's so much more to find out and experience in this amazing world of diving.

It's not just about going beneath the water's surface and exploring a brand new world. It's not just about doing something few others do. What I've come to realize is that for me, it's also about the time off from work; the vacations away from the city; the opportunities to meet new people from different parts of the world, with different interests and different backgrounds; the excuse to travel to places I wouldn't normally travel to if not for diving; the hobby to balance my social life and career.

That's more than enough to get me excited. I can't wait for my family trip to Perhentian next weekend. Although we only plan to snorkel there (because no one else in my family dives), I couldn't possibly pass up an opportunity to dive. So I'm probably going to make one dive on the first afternoon, and join them again for snorkelling the next day. I just hope it doesn't cost me too much.

Anxiously awaiting the rest of my life as a diver...

28 August 2006

Redang - 24-28 August 2006

The 4 days 3 nights visit to Coral Redang was simply amazing. It's my 3rd visit to Redang, but this trip was amazing because of my newfound passion - diving!

Day-1 - The boat transfer was scheduled to depart Merang Jetty at 10.30am. But we didn't make it to the jetty until 11.10am, so as you'd guess, we missed the boat. We were still fortunate that there was another boat willing to ferry our lot without charge, but we still had to wait for another car load who was also late because they got lost. Apparently they ended up at the wrong end of Terengganu. Can't even begin to imagine how that happened.

It was 12.50pm by the time we left the jetty. The 1 hour boat ride was pretty much on schedule so we got there just before 2pm. There was no way we could still make 2 shore dives on day-1 as originally planned. Since we only had time for 1 dive that afternoon, Chewy told us to check-in, get some lunch (but we already ate while waiting), rest a little and meet at the dive centre at 3.30pm.

Note: All dives & details of dives will be blogged separately. You may view them here.

After the dive, we basically washed up for dinner. We planned to have drinks for after-dinner entertainment. Andy, SY and I each brought a bottle of liquor for that purpose. We even went to the extra trouble of carrying along soda, coke and ribena as mixers. But instead of that, SY and I decided to join Joanna for mahjong at the next door resort - Redang Pelangi. Vincent and Joanna seem very well-known all over the island. They have friends everywhere, which was in a way beneficial for us. We were up till about 3am, where I lost RM128. That's more than I've ever lost in one sitting.

Day-2 began with breakfast at 8am. We were due at the dive centre at 10am. Our 2nd dive was also a shore dive so we didn't have to follow the boat's schedule. We were back around noon and had a quick lunch, a short break, and it was time for our 3rd dive - our first boat dive. There was a short break after that and we were back out at sea for our 4th dive the same afternoon. Time flies when you're having fun, and the afternoon came to an end before we wanted it to.

Dinner was as usual, but there was the added weight of having to sit for the 50 MCQ test which we had been procrastinating since the classes ended. We all got through it, although some took longer than others. With that complete, we officially graduated from diving101. The evening went on with some mild conversation over whisky and chips with Andy and Federica, and ended early as we were all pooped.

Chewy awarded us our temporary PADI Open Water Diver Certification cards during breakfast of day-3 and we were off to our first dive as graduates - dive 5. Nothing much was planned for the afternoon because our package only included 5 dives, and everyone else was too tired to accompany me out to sea again at additional cost. So we walked over to Redang Bay for a nice cold ABC during the hot weather. It wasn't fantastic, but it was perfect for the temperature.

A nice long afternoon nap followed, and when Chui Yin got back from her afternoon snorkelling trip (as well as trying out my fins), we went out to snorkel around the nearby reefs again. It was just for the heck of using up the last few shots in the u/w camera SY and I rented the same morning. Caught glimpses of 2ft black tip reef sharks... but I was snapping away with the camera without switching it on... yes I know I'm an idiot!

The evening ended at 4am with another round of mahjong with Joanna, thinking I could win back some of which I had lost 2 nights earlier. As it turned out, I actually lost twice as much that night. So total losses came to RM360. That was expensive entertainment. Oh well, we all had fun, except that now I'm so much more broke than I was originally. Hahaha. But it was still fun! :)

Other things to note for this trip:

The resort was nice, better than the other two I've visited previously. They have a swimming pool which I only swam in once, to cool down before a dive. The rooms were average, squeezing a 3rd bed in wasn't too much of a problem, and it didn't get crowded either. There were only some basics in there, i.e. toilet & shower, safe, hangers, dressing table and chairs. But they did have comfortable beds, clean sheets & towels.

Other than that, the food was actually pretty good. All meals were served buffet style and the selection was quite pleasant too. Coffee, tea & sky juice were available for beverages, but orange juice was only available during breakfast.

The crowd you get at this resort were mostly Ang Moh, so the staff were also more polite and well-mannered than most resorts you'll find in Malaysia.

21 August 2006

As The Story Goes, The Money Flows...

Here's the initial budget before signing up:
RM800 for the course
RM600++ for the 3d2n island trip for open water dives
Total = RM1,400-RM1,500.

And here's the actual cost:
RM800 for the course
RM700 for 3d2n island trip (Coral Redang)
Extra 1d1n complimentary stay at the resort (no dive), courtesy of Andy (worth RM220).
Transport - expecting about RM100

And then there's the extras which I owe to my impulsive spending:

Atomic Aquatic Subframe Mask (red/black)

RP: RM330.00 DP: RM240.00

Gull Stable Snorkel (black)
RP: RM93.00 DP: RM70.00

SeaPro Eco Booties (size 8 black)

RP: RM80.00 DP: RM60.00

Atomic Aquatic Open-Heel Split Fins (red/black)

RP: RM499.00 DP: RM399.00

Bare 2mm Ignite Shorty (men size S red/black)

RP: RM319.00 DP: RM250.00

Akona Mesh Duffel (black)

RP: RM81.00 DP: RM63.00

Total spent on gear so far:
Retail Total: RM1,402.00
Discounted Total: RM1,082.00.

So now you can understand why I'm a little less generous when I go out.

I know I know! I make it sound like an expensive hobby. But if you're not so sure you really want to do this long-term, you can still go for the course, get your certification, and then plan dives using rented equipment. You can expect rental to add up to under RM100/day. This will definitely work out cheaper if you only dive once in a blue moon.

I, on the other hand, have set a target of 3 dive trips per year - 2 local trips & 1 foreign. The 2 local ones can be done over weekends along the East Coast, while the foreign one will probably be over a course of 4 to 5 days. With any luck, I could probably accomplish 10-15 dives a year. And thus the rational for investing in the basic gear.

Completed Theory & Confined Waters

5 modules of theory were covered over 3 classroom sessions, which totaled about 6 hours. Most of the time spent in the classroom was to watch VCD programs provided by PADI. They're very informative and not at all boring... there's even a touch of humour here and there.

The first major area covered was about the basic equipment we come to use during dives, such as the mask, snorkel, fins, exposure suits and the likes. They explain the concepts as well as features available in the market today. They also further discuss on bouyancy control device (BCD), regulators, weights and tanks. It was most interesting to learn how all this stuff works together to allow one to enjoy the wonders of the underwater world.

After the basic introductions of equipment, they elaborate on using the gear safely. Other safety issues are covered too. They then go on to describe different diving conditions, as well as things to expect as we enter a life of diving. Much of it fascinates me, which is why this has become such a passion at such an early stage. Just reading the text and talking to divers about this has got me all excited about doing it.

Upon completing the theory, we then moved onto the confined water (swimming pool) sessions. Main objective here is for us to get practical experience on setting up the scuba gear and then actually using it. At first, it looks really complicated. But after the 2nd or 3rd time assembling and disassembling the gear, it's pretty much child's play. But still, care should always be taken not to screw it up cos it could cost you more than just money.

Also learnt in the pool are the numerous safety procedures to go through before entering the water, before descending, while at the bottom, before ascending, and in case of emergencies. Although a bit tedious to follow, it's all for our own good so no complaints from me there. Besides, the essence and joy of diving still remains.

They say that breathing your first breath underwater is completely exhilarating. For me, it wasn't anything to shout about, but it wasn't boring either. It does take a bit of getting used to because you can only breathe through your mouth, and the air is quite dry. The mouth and throat tends to dry up which can cause you to choke too, but the important thing here is to not panic but continue to breathe.

Motion underwater is very different too. Everything is 'slower'. Balancing is harder. Turning is tougher. But you get used to these. Also, verbal communication is impossible - so we use predefined hand signals. Vision is slightly impaired due to perspective, and the mask tends to fog up - so we use salive/toothpaste/anti-fog, or a simple mask rinse while underwater.

Some of you may have reservations about diving because you can't swim. Here's the thing, with all the gear on, it's actually harder to sink than it is to float. We end up using weights to get us to sink to the bottom. Without weights, we might as well just go snorkelling.

With all the added gear and safety training, you seriously don't have to worry too much about drowning. Just make sure you pay attention to your training, choose a good dive buddy, and don't panic, and diving can be real fun.

17 August 2006

Getting Started

Since our earlier trip to Redang in May'06, SY and I have been pretty interested in taking up a course on SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Aparatus - thank god they shortened it to just scuba). I didn't expect it to be so soon, but barely 2 months later we found ourselves signing up for the PADI Open Water Diver course.

Of course it doesn't really matter which dive centre you sign up with, as long as you're comfortable with their location, their instructor, and most importantly their pricing, go for it. SY and I signed up under Dragonet which is located in Uptown D'sara Utama, just up the street from a popular mamak hangout - Dharoos. It's a pretty simple set up on the first floor, but it serves its purpose well.

The course we're taking pretty much introduces us to the world of scuba. In order to get our Open Water Diver certification, we'll need to complete 5 modules in a classroom, 5 modules in confined waters, & a minimum of 4 open water dives. The price - RM1,500, which also includes a 3 days 2 night stay at Coral Redang. SY also managed to get a friend from work to join us - Andy, an expat all the way from Switzerland.

So here we are, at the beginning of a journey... destination unknown.