Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bewitching Ba'kelalan

Recently, I went on an unconventional vacation with my sister in law, Hilda to a quaint little rural village in Sarawak called Ba'kelalan. Where? It is about a 40min flight south of Lawas, close to the Kalimantan border in the beautiful bewitching land of Borneo. Most people mistook that we were there for a mission trip or some kind of social work... because well, who would go to a place with nothing for a vacation? Vacations are supposed to be about self-pampering and why would you go where there is no phone or internet connection, wonky electricity supply, no hot baths, and terrible road conditions? There is a remarkable reason why everybody should go on these vacations. It gives you a different perspective of your life, outside your cushy city comforts. It was an eye-opening adventure for both of us city-girls.

Helpful and kind people

We had to layover one night in Miri to catch the connecting flight to Ba'kelalan. When we arrived in Miri nearing midnight, we bumped into a mutual friend, Calvin at the airport picking up his guest. As we walked out into the darkness to find our hotel, we sort of got disoriented and did not know how to get there. Calvin, who was still waiting for his guest, helped to drop us off at our hotel, Miritrail Inn. There was no receptionist there except for a number to call. When I called them ... Alas! The place was full and they disregarded our booking. He then hung up on me and switched the phone off as I was unable to call him back after that. We were left stranded without a place to sleep and decided to sleep at the airport. The night shift guard, Mr Bujang told us it was not a 24hour airport and they are locking up. We told him we had nowhere to go. He then offered to drive us to another hotel nearby, YS Inn, turns out it was full as well. We wanted to give up hope and told Mr Bujang we will just sleep outside the airport  but he refused to give up. He said that outside the airport is full of mosquitoes and it will not be pleasant. He drove us even further out to look for another hotel. Hallelujah! There was a vacant room! Thanks to the kindness of a total stranger, we had a place to sleep. We thanked him profusely and offered to host him whenever he goes to KL and exchanged phone numbers.

Journey to the village
The next day, we boarded our little MASWing plane and had to transit in Lawas enroute to Ba'kelalan. We could see the vast green mountains and plains below us.
 These little chickies were travelling with us in the plane

Upon arrival in Ba'kelalan, our friendly host, Carolyn and her husband Paulus was there to pick us up. We arrived at the same time as 2 of her other guests, Rick and Sham, who were teachers from an international school. We boarded Paulus's 4-wheel pick-up truck, and made our way through the rough terrains. This road was built several years ago by the army, not a very good job I must say. The worst road in KL cannot even compare to the bumpiness of this journey. Both Hilda and I got car-sick by the time we arrived at Carolyn and Paulus's home.
The holey road
Our abode, the home of Carolyn, Paullus, and Aunty Rose

Kampung Long Rusu
Mini-adventures in the mountains
Even from the very first day, we had the opportunity to experience the simple and natural life out in the village. Rick, Sham and myself followed Aunty Rose out to the riverbank to pick while Paku-Pakis for our dinner. Hilda was too sick from the car-ride to join us. Dinner was wonderful, we had our harvest stir fried.

The next day, we went on walks around Ba'kelalan. We went to the salt springs where they harvest the mountain spring salt-water to manufacture their own salt. It is said to be rich in minerals and is not just sodium like our mass produced table salts, therefore is healthier. The village people claims it to be tastier too and would never use regular table salt in their cooking. I bought 1 kg for only RM20, a very nominal price considering how much effort goes into its production.
Boiling the salt water with natural wood, takes up to 24 hours to get the salt crystals. A lot of work for RM20/kg of salt

The salt springs
If you think the grass is professionally cut, think again. The nice short uniformly cut grass is naturally cut, by the buffaloes in the village. The buffaloes are pretty good gardeners, I must say.

We also hiked up a small mountain to get to the viewpoint. There are several viewpoints in Bakelalan and there was a new trail which was only a week old but we were a little less adventurous so we chose the tried and test trail. The view from the top was no less magnificent.

The view from the top

Appreciate the little things
In the city, we have grown to take the little things for granted. Warm showers, phone reception, internet, electricity, and many many more. Here, we showered in icy cold water in the morning, which is a superb wake-up catalyst. There is 1 water-heater in the house, it is considered a luxury in the kampung.

I remember sharing an anecdote about my cat, Orked who hates fish and refused her Omega Oil supplement. The kids here do not even get such supplements. And the dogs here? They live free as a bird, eating organic food, and have never bathed. Yet they do not smell bad and have beautiful coats. Nature is a great caregiver.
Kampung dogs, hardy and resourceful... They have 12 of them.
Most of the people in the village are farmers. There are not many vocations available here and people are content to be able to work, provide for their families and live a simple life.
The paddy fields of Bakelalan

Peace be upon you
Carolyn's father in law told us, in the city there is no day or night but in the village, there is a clear day and a clear night to differentiate when we work and when we rest. Indeed it peaceful in the village. Even in a foreign place, in a foreign bed, I slept much better than I did at home. I suppose we do not realize the implication of all the light and noise in the city until we have experienced real peace and darkness.

Sometimes the beauty of nature is best appreciated, not captured. The sheer darkness of the village really brought out the beauty of the starry sky. They shone like diamonds in the sky. I tried capturing it with my phone camera... lo and behold, nothingness. I ended up just staring up at the sky and appreciating it using my eyes instead of my electronics.
I rest my case 

Everyone knows everyone
Every time we walked around the village, if we bump into any locals, they would stop to get to know us and offer us a free ride. Simply because, everyone knows everyone here and they really take the effort to know even the new people that arrive here. The safety and the trust level here is truly unheard of in the city. Everyone is hospitable and helpful. Such a wonderful culture!

We can already feel that warmth of human connection within the home we were staying in. Aunty Rose, Carolyn and Paulus are always humble, down-to-earth, helpful and hospitable too. They made us feel like family.  
Aunty Rose flanked by Hilda and I

The lovely couple who hosted us, Paulus and Carolyn
Right before we left the Ba'kelalan, at the airport, we met a man from Kuala Lumpur, Andy, whom like our host, is married to a local in Ba'kelalan and commutes to and fro every month. He said, "To appreciate the city, you need a place like Ba'kelalan and to appreciate the Ba'kelalan, you need a place like the city."

Indeed. Experiencing both worlds does magnify your gratitude and helps you appreciate everything in life more. Would I come back again? Most definitely!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Resolutions; A Revolution Against Routine

I know most people think that resolutions are pointless, but I believe that we should set targets not just for work but for our personal lives too. If we do not, the busyness of life will just push us around like a fierce river current to whatever direction it goes. Not having a target will not give us the motivation and discipline to swim purposefully with all our might against the current to reach your target. Often times, it is not as hard as we think. A few strokes later, you could find yourself reaching a riverbank of your aim. Take control of your life and do not let life take control of you.

This year, it will be about making connections and enriching myself. I shall set my SMART goals for each item. Deadline is 31st Dec 2016.

  1. More often than not, we only spend time with the people we have daily contact with out of busyness or necessity: colleagues, church-mates, nucleus family, etc. This year, I am making it a point to have face-to-face catch-ups with friends who have drifted to become acquaintances or merely FB friends because I no longer have daily contact with. Target: One friend per month. One caveat is that I cannot do it at the expense of time with the people closest to my life.
  2. Esya: The Musical, was a heart-wrenching story of a young rural girl tricked into prostitution and was trapped. Performing in it has got me thinking about the people who fall into the path of social ills: prostitution, drugs-abuse, crime, etc. Instead of shunning them and judging them, I want to look deeper and try to understand. Usually, it is their circumstances, their desperation that drives them to the path of being the predators or victims of these social ills. Nobody is born evil. There is a background story to each and every one of them. I picked up an co-written autobiography or memoir of a Thai prostitute when I was there for a holiday: Miss Bangkok by Bua Boonmee & Nicola Pierce. Reading it, she had so much in common with Esya! This year I aim to do two things out of the Esya experience: First Target: Read 1 book per month, autobiography books of people involved in social ills either as the predator or the victim. No fiction allowed. Second Target: Volunteer at 1 NGO this year, one that rehabilitates people who made the brave decision to get out of a social ill.
  3. Start writing again, to share about the things I read, my life, my work, my experiences or observations, or anything else that strikes me, I have stopped writing and my blog has been reduced to a cheap and ineffective medium to promote my art. I need to revive it and really write again. No rants or complaints allowed. Target: One post per month.
  4. The last time I seriously studied was for my MBA. This year, I aim to study again. I would love to attend a class or workshop in person but I could not find any in this region on the topics I seek. There is nothing like peer-to-peer face-to-face learning. However, I shall make a realistic demand of myself and allow self-study courses online. I have already found one that I will begin later this month: Health In Numbers. Target: Complete 2 courses this year.

I too, will continue what I started last year be it in personal health and fitness, or going eco-friendlier.

That is a lot to do in one year. So, I better get started swimming against the current!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Whenever my husband and I collaborate, amazing things happen. True story. "The Geongxi Is A Vamp", "300 million: The Reconceptualization of a Conception" and now, "Hungry".

We've always been regulars in the Short + Sweet Musical Category. But this year, we teamed up again in Short + Sweet Song instead. We wrote somewhat of a one-song-musical about 2 ghosts, disgruntled about the food they are being served during the hungry ghost festival that did not match their tastes when they were alive. After all, the Short + Sweet Song festival coincide with the actual Hungry Ghost Festival month!

We never thought we'd win anything in a singer-songwriter competition because let's face it, we're not actually singer-songwriters. We are musical actors, who happens to be very experimental. We love the Short + Sweet Festival as it is our playground platform to experiment. We wanted a very traditional Chinese feel for the song but we both don't play a single Chinese instrument, nor could we find a Chinese instrument band in time. Instead we got help from a super talented musician singer friend, Jee Yan to arrange the backing track for us, which he did beautifully with the full glory of guzheng, pipa, dizi and all!!!

As typical actors, we were super excited about creating our characters Hu Ah Yew and Soo Fah Nee. We really went all out to look like actual Chinese ghosts for the performance and stayed in character during prize-giving and even backstage once our full costumes were on.

From left: Soo Fah Nee and Hu Ah Yew
As it turned out, we won 1st Runner's Up in the Short + Sweet Song competition this year. On top of that, we won the Glitz & Glamour Award too (that one was a no brainer, just look at our costume!).

A double award!
Other than the performance itself, we met many awesome people back-stage... newbies and oldies, comedians and other singer-songwriters. Oooooh, just think of all the possible collaborations!!! We also accidentally scared the shit out of an intern who thought she really had a paranormal encounter backstage. Sorry!

For all of you who missed the show, here's a video of Hu Ah Yew and Soo Fah Nee's performance!

Hungry (2015)
Lyricist: Alvin Looi
Composer: Karynn Tan
Musical Arranger: Choong Jee Yan

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Watch us haunt klpac!!

Come and watch us haunt klpac this week at the Short + Sweet Song and Short + Sweet Comedy festival. 9th - 12th September, 8,30pm daily.

Or we will come and haunt you at home...

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Catch us in The Dollmaker's Daughter

We open tomorrow!!!!

Other than supporting a friend who's involved, why should you come and watch this show??

  1. It is a great STORY; a perfect mix of love, hope, tragedy, mystery and plot-twists.
  2. The MUSIC is pure genius, how all the melodies can standalone or be intertwined to weave the story forward. Nick Choo is an amazing composer, and Mervyn L. Peters, our musical director has really helped us bring the songs to life.
  3. Stunning VISUALS, with 1910 period costumes, props and sets, and of course, the real carved wooden puppets! Puppets have had their reputation ruined due to the many horror movies... here, they can finally get the place they deserve as toys or works of art that bring people joy. 
  4. It is for the whole FAMILY, with clean language and scenes, and it even involves children in the ensemble. People of any age can enjoy this together!

Do get your tickets from Ticketpro online, from any of their outlets or even at the entrance of the theatre itself. See you and your family there!!!

Friday, February 06, 2015


Not quite what I had in mind
Just read the story of Choo Ling Er, and I feel super inspired to train for a triathlon now. It's so going onto my Wishlist or Resolution or something along those lines! I haven't even completed a full marathon yet and I wanna do a  Triathlon. Hhmmm... deathwish? But, sometimes we should just allow ourselves to be inspired to do stupid crazy things. Being cynical and skeptical in the name of pragmatism may prevent any down moments of disappointments, but it will also prevent the high moments of achieving the crazy stuff. A straight line is not living k, you need both the ups and the downs... just like the ECG of a living person.

I've checked it out. The Malaysian event is too soon and clashes with my rehearsals and my show in early May, plus I don't know how to lug my bicycle all the way to Terengganu. But, the Singapore one... is in July. And, unlike the Malaysian competition, they provide bike rentals. And, they have the Sprint Distance competition to cater for beginners. And, that gives me 6 solid months to train. 

Should I?? 

25-26 July, Singapore

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Belated New Year's Resolution

I did not make a new year's resolution this year. It's not my normal practice to list it during the transition between year but rather, I list it here on my "Poco a Poco" section by the side whenever a new resolution pops into my head. So it adds on or drops out once I no longer have that desire.

This year, I had several resolutions that popped into my head for no reason. Write a song a month for 12 months. The next year I'd have a whole album! But I didn't want to put this in my resolution list... as I want to enjoy the process of song-writing rather than a deadline stricken stressful process. So I put it in?? But but I need to write 2 songs in the next 2 weeks for a musical project anyways... at the very least I will comply first two months. But but but... I am performing this year, with crazy rehearsals I won't have the time. Let's just park aside this first.

Secondly. I want to revamp my home!! This is the wish list:
1. Get pest control services - I have some minor bugs problems.
2. Get a regular part time maid - my home is dirty and I am lazy, nuff said.
3. Get the peeling ceiling in the guestroom repaired and repainted... in case ever I have guests.
4. Get some nice potted plants, orchids perhaps? Or some practical herbs? Live green and contribute some O2.
Orchids or herbs? Whichever is easier to maintain of course!
5. Buy new curtains. Because the old one is... erm, old.
6. Repaint my bedroom turquoise and ivory... because I like turquoise a lot a lot.
something like this!
7. Redo my wet-kitchen... get those induction/electric stoves. Motivate myself to cook more & eat clean!

Lastly, I want to seriously put some thought, analysis and action into my entrepreneurial dream. I have absolutely no idea where to start but I must start somewhere. At the very least, think of what I want to sell? A physical product? A service? Or the ever so popular business model in the i-generation; middle-person or connector app/website?

So, 2015 seems kinda scarily full now. Maybe a month down the road I will drop off 70% of these resolutions. As long as I am happy, kan??

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thank yous for 2014

I have adopted this habit from my younger sister to count blessings at the end of every year. I did it on FB only to realize some of the people I want to thank are not there, hence here.

I think it is a very good habit. We always read inspirational quotes that tell us to count our blessings but literally listing it out on cyberspace, is far more practical than just thinking about it after reading the inspirational quotes. That way, we can always revisit the post and bring in the silver linings whenever we face the daily challenges, stresses and annoyances throughout our lives as we always do as human beings. A little dose of gratitude, goes a long loooong way. 
  1. I thank God for healing me of dengue after a horrible episode of prolonged decline in platelets, endless vomiting, high fever and chills. I thought that I would never pull out of it because I could not nourish myself to fight it. As those who know me would know, I am always over-confident of my strong immunity. Never in my life have I ever been admitted to a hospital for anything! Yet this time, I felt so helpless and weak. I thank all the people who cared for me while I was at my worst; my parents, my husband Alvin, my sister Yee Wean, my bestfriend Hazel, my cell-leader Elizabeth, my pastor Pr Lee Choo, my MTAS gang Mei Wei, Cindee, Vinsky, etc, my cellgroup Ee Vonn, Wendy & Patrick, my new colleague Christine, ... for being there for me in person. Every little bit of care and concern means the world to me! And thank you to those who couldn't be there but sent forth your wishes and prayers too! Nothing in modern medicine or technology could've healed me more than the cares of the people close to me. There is afterall no cure for dengue. I have never been more thankful to be alive, or to be able to sleep in my own bed, or to be able to eat without vomiting after.
  2. I thank God for the Short + Sweet journey this year with my hubby Alvin. It seems that whenever we collaborate, amazing things happen. We are better together than apart as S+S proves it. ;) I thank Ross for taking our "baby" to great heights and putting our vision into action!! Thanks to Shen for making the music sound superb!! Love it!! I thank the entire team from 300 Million: A Reconceptualization of Conception and A Woman At War for a memorable journey and for the endless commitment put in.
  3. I thank God for saving my dad's life after the horrifying heart-attack in April while both my sister and myself were abroad. It was a shock to us seeing how healthy and fit he is for his age. He's fitter than some 30year-olds I know! It really taught us how temporary our lives are in this world and nobody is immune to sickness or death and not take health for granted. It taught us to appreciate what truly matters in life and not just the passing distractions. I am just super glad and thankful I still have time to spend with both my parents and my entire family is still whole.
  4. I thank God for my husband Alvin, who stands by me through thick and thin... and walks all my crazy journeys with me; be it in the arts, in ministry, in life, this year... in sickness and in health. Thank you for making me laugh even when I can't manage a smile. Thank you for walking all our journeys together that deepens our understanding of each other's lives; we can talk about the stuff we go through to each other and really really relate!!
  5. I thank God for the privilege to produce More Than A Show for SIBKL. Thanks for your faith in my Pr Lee Choo and Ronny. Although, I kinda failed you guys at the very last lap when I got dengue, you guys took over the baton so readily and willingly. I could never have done it without you. Thanks to Mei Wei, Zara, Alvin, Janet, Charmine, Cindee, and the entire cast and crew of MTAS for your endless commitment to make the show work. You guys are so awesome!!! I love you and miss you all... post-production syndrome. :( :( I am so ready and looking forward to 2015's Christmas Production!!
  6. I thank God for opening up an opportunity for me in my career to venture out of my comfort zone in the world of the sick, into the big wide world of healthy people. It opened up my mind and my perspective of the way business or marketing is done. It gave me the opportunity to learn the true art of influencing people through mass-communications, touching emotions from afar and a lot of room for creativity exploration. I can clearly see how this wider experience in creativity will add so much value back to the emotionally compelling world of niche chronic diseases, which is ultimately still my first love and I miss it!
  7. I thank God for my sister, Yee Wean who shares my love for travelling... not-in-style. Whilst there are many people who crave luxuries while travelling, we share the same objective in travelling, just experiencing regular life in that place, eat their food, watch their people, see things and walk, a lot. Don't over-plan, and go with the flow... tripadvisor and googlemaps have not failed us. We don't need a tourguide. Our Italy trip was perfect that way!
  8. I thank God for my best friend in the whole wide world, Hazel who is always there for me through everything and supports me in everything I do. And makes the time to spend with me even with her crazy travelling schedule. This year, we managed to make a trip together to Krabi and it was the most relaxing, agenda-less trip ever. It was super wonderful!! In the world of so much busy-ness, it is a luxury to be agenda-less. I hope to take more trips with you!
  9. I thank God for the opportunity to serve in the SIBKL Creative Ministry as a Video Editor. I want to thank Wai Yan, Shu-Ling, Desmond and Mei Lee for being such patient and wonderful teachers that have unlocked a new skill in me as a video editor which gives me new perspectives to add on to my passion in the performing arts. Videos gives me a whole new basket of toys to play with in the performing arts and storytelling! Joining CM-Production team was initally just a trial as I had always been in the worship ministry all my life. But I am definitely here to stay. I love it here!!
  10. For the new colleagues I meet in my new job in this new industry; I have never met someone so remarkable as you, Christine; super objective minded, responsible and genuine. I am thankful and honoured to be your peer. You have my utmost respect as a person and I hope to see you go way further in your career. I am thankful to have a well-united team; Jocelyn and Jeslyn; both whom I can always rely on and have a high sense of team-unity even in challenging times. I really appreciate the sisterhood feeling that you girls give me and make me look forward to come to work. I am also thankful for my boss, David whom has a wealth of experience and is never selfish to share and mentor. On of being a nice empathetic person, he still holds high standards, principles and work ethics in his leadership... usually a very difficult balance to strike. I also appreciate his immense respect for our work-life balance.

See, you don't even need to look very hard, there is just too many things to be thankful for. Cheers to 2015, and bring on more of life to be thankful for!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Back on stage!

Finally, one fruitful audition!! I will be back on stage come May after more than a year's break from performing. For the whole of 2014, been backstage instead; as writer, composer and producer. It was fun but my first love will always be a musical theatre performer.

I cannot wait!!! :D

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reliving the glory

Every time I re-watch this, I still laugh ... hehehe. I suppose it's normal to appreciate your own art. Enjoy! I do. ;-)