Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fraser's Hill Landslide

Just saw in today's newspaper pictures of the landslide that caused the road closure up Fraser's Hill. My friends and I went on a trip up Fraser's Hill in early May when we encountered a road closure forcing us to double-back and take the road from Tanjung Malim instead. At the time, we were told a boulder had landed on the bridge... From the picture below, I think that was quite an understatement...

Picture courtesy of Stephen Hogg/Aerovision

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chagar Hutang... Here I Come!!

2 more weeks to go and I'll be off... My 5th tour of duty as a volunteer for turtle conservation at Chagar Hutang over in Redang Island. I can't wait. 1 week of utter isolation... no handphone... no e-mails... Woo Hooooo... Almost every year when it gets closer to my volunteer slot, I start thinking of the 300m long beach reminiscing of past memories and I've been going through some photos as well... Thought I'd share them...

Dawn at Chagar Hutang (CH). This was taken in 2005 and was taken in the wee hours of the morning using a long exposure. It was an eventful night as the speedboat used to ferry us between the mainland and CH had sunk. It was nearing the monsoon season so the seas were choppy and water collected in the boat causing it to sink... no thanks to the full tanks of gasoline that had not been offloaded. Fortunately, we realised what was happening and managed to get all the gasoline tanks before we were faced with an ecological disaster.

Sunrise in Chagar Hutang. This was taken just last year.

When the weather permits, we would just spread out the carpets on the beach and gaze at stars and just monitor landing turtles. This my dear friends, is not an experience you are bound to get in many places. A private beach... no tourists walking by... waves lapping... this is the pinnacle of relaxation and stress therapy... And a perfect place for meditation... No handphone signal... no SMSes... No lights apart from the torchlights and moonlight... About the only thing that would probably bother you are mosquitoes...

This was taken in 2004 by my friends. A turtle that came ashore late in the morning around 5 - 6 am... so by the time it was done, it was daylight and everyone managed to get good pics. We are not allowed to take flash photography at night.

Tomorrow's hope reaching for the open sea... One thing that amazes me is how the hatchlings are able to know where the ocean is. Even if they are in a tub, they are all clambering in the direction of the open sea. When we release them at night, they will always crawl towards the sea instead of haphazardly in all directions. A miracle of nature.

New life emerges. This was taken in 2005. We knew from the last evening's excavations that the hatchlings in this nest would be emerging any time. So we waited and waited and waited... And they did emerge... 4 am the next morning... But even then, the hatchlings were pretty much in this stationary position till about 6:30 am to 7 am before they started crawling out and into the South China Sea. This was one of the memorable moments of my time at CH.

Turtle tracks. A dead giveaway that a turtle had landed.

Turtle Rock hike. A planned activity where volunteers are taken on a daytrip to a rocky outcrop at the eastern tip of the beach.

Torchlight Uno... Few years back, there was no such thing as solar powered lamps so we relied on torchlights and candles while waiting for the tide to rise and patrols to start.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Say "No" To Turtle & Terrapin Eggs Consumption

A campaign has been launched by the Turtle Research & Conservation Group to get pledges against consumption of turtle & terrapin eggs.

In many parts of the world including Malaysia, turtle & terrapin eggs are still being collected for the purposes of consumption in the belief that it is an aphrodisiac (means it will make you more 'keng' in bed ler) more so in fishing communities. In Terengganu, although the government has banned the collection of eggs in Pulau Redang and also some beaches on the mainland, one visit to Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu will show that eggs are still available readily. A quick check showed that eggs are being brought in from other states and some possibly poached as well.

The consumption of turtle eggs has been a tradition among the fishermen and is thought to have health and aphrodisiacal qualities. However, as with sharks fin, bear bile and also tiger testicles, medical experts have proven this to be untrue.

Realistically, the chances of ever being able to convince the older generation is slim however, the outreach program at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu is moving in the right step by having turtle camps for school-going children at Redang island, therefore trying to eliminate it with the next generation and also with the hope that some of them will be able to convince their family members.

The group is also launching a bid to get one million Malaysians to sign a pledge and that starts with each one of you so please do your part by sending an email to with the message “I pledge NOT to eat turtle or terrapin eggs for the rest of my life” together with your full name and MyKad number (needed for authentification).

Thank you all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fuel Increase

It Begins!! Effective midnight yesterday the government announced that it would be increasing petrol prices to RM 2.70... a hefty 0.78 sen by any standard. The thing is, I'm not actually griping about the increase. To be honest, I understand the need to gradually reduce the subsidies... the keyword here being gradually.

The fact that the increase came is not a surprise... The government had already held it back before the elections (gee.. I wonder why) but in the face of global fuel prices, it's tough to keep subsidizing to maintain the prices as it is.

2 Main complaints here...

Firstly, why not gradually increase it? If you need to increase it by 0.78 sen, fine... Why can't it be done gradually? Let's say 0.20 sen/ month over 4 months... You achieve what you need minus the hardship on the masses.

Secondly, for crying out loud, why not give advance notice? It's the same thing that our 'beloved' PM did during the elections... "No! No!... Parliament not dissolved tomorrow!!". Next thing you know, it was dissolved. And now, petrol prices will be increased by August... The fact is, I gave our government the benefit of the doubt and said "Nolah... by August.. means anytime between now and August... won't be so immediate wan...". Next thing I know, the New Straits Times stated that it would be by midnight.

Is it any surprise that our PM is losing credibility among the population. Anyway, as you all know by now it caused a massive jam everywhere. Even at 11 pm, most petrol stations were jammed and the congestion spilled over to most of the main roads... And who are the ones inconvenienced? That's right... The people.

Ultimately, it's true that not everyone will be pleased but a lot of us realise that the hike is necessary. Just that it should have been implemented gracefully. By giving advance notice, there would not have been a mad rush to fill up as everyone could have staggered it. Of course, there would be those who wait till last minute... Their pasal la... Why make everyone suffer!?? In addition, by staggering it, at least people don't feel that big a pinch... 40% increase is big man... Even for my 1500 cc Wira, we're talking RM 100 for a full tank!! Wahlaueh!! Ride bicycle already la...

The thing is, this is just one aspect of it... Word has it that electricity tariffs will be increasing as well by about 20% and you can expect that traders and manufacturers will now be increasing prices.

Shouldn't the rakyat also be entitled to better public transportation as the fact is, the situation in Malaysia is it's not that we don't want to car pool or make use of public transportation. Just that it's neither efficient nor convenient.... Not to mention dangerous...

And furthermore, if fuel prices are going to be increased to the market value how about motor cars? The excise duty on motor vehicles is among the highest in the world... Shouldn't it be reduced now that subsidies have been reduced?