Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007! WELCOME 2008 !

Here's Wishing all visitors to this site:



May you be richly blessed
May you have peace and joy
May you be successful
May you have abundant good health
May your store of Wisdom multiply !!!

From: The Wise Old Owl

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The 2004 Dec TSUNAMI

Photo: Top - Big Game Fishing in the Andaman Sea, off Phuket, Thailand. Bottom - At Patong Beach , Phuket. I befriended some locals who were fishing for "pasir-pasir"[ snelt]. I had my fishing gear with me and joined them .They provided me the live bait...sea worms. There was a plentiful supply of the fish that day.

It was only 3 years ago on Boxing Day 26th December 2004, that the greatest Human disaster in recent times, caused by natural forces took place, killing more than 240,000 people with 140,000 still listed as missing. No one can forget the great castatrophe that was labelled the Asian Tsunami.
A week prior to that fateful day, D2 and I had returned from an overseas trip. We were contemplating to take a short getaway break at Phuket, one of our favourite places. We like the relaxing atmosphere and the usually fine weather there as it allows us to partake in more than one of our luxuries....enjoying unending Thai food, enjoying the vast expanse of the sea and sand in calm waters, enjoying the various exotic and exquisite body and foot massages....and fishing!
If we had gone it would definitely have been over those 3 days, including that fateful Boxing Day.....26th December 2004. And we would most likely have been at the Patong Beach front at that time .....for 2 reasons. The 1st is we usually prefer a hotel that is close to the beach. And the 2nd was after breakfast, we would have headed for the was our usual custom.
However, we had a family Christmas eve party to attend and on the 27th there were work related matters to attend to. the end we abandoned the idea and kept Phuket for another day. I had often wondered what would have happened if we were out there on Patong beach when the Tsunami waves hit. Not so fortunate were the 5 thousand plus people who had no inkling what hit them that day. They lost their lives.
We were shocked at the almost complete destruction of the main Patong Beach thoroughfare. We had eaten at many of the cafes, restaurants,coffee -houses and patronised many of the other shops and businesses. The scale of destruction was hard to comprehend.
I remember that morning clearly. My Tv set was on....and remained on the whole day, overflowing with images of the death and destruction from so many places....Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Andamans, Sri Lanka, Burma, India, Maldives and even Africa.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Dear friends and readers of this Blog,

May I take this opportunity to wish each and everyone here a




From: Uncle Dicko

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Your Comments and far.

Photo: Main feature page 8 April 2007, Sunday NewPaper
Three months have passed since I started this blogsite recounting my true life experiences in travel and education. I would like to thank all visitors to my site and hope that you found something of interest, of knowledge or hopefully of your reading. There is still much more to come. My intention is to archive in readable story or anecdote form, all my various travels, trips and expeditions and to highlight certain unforgettable, some even unbelievable, moments or experiences. Nevertheless, all the things described really happened. Nothing here is a figment of the imagination.

I have received many comments and feedback from visitors who e-mailed me or commented on the site. Your kind words of support and encouragement will spur me to continue on my archiving journey. For that, you all have my grateful thanks. To show my appreciation, I have decided to reproduce briefly some of the comments here in this post.

I dedicate this post to all of you ......visitors!

  • " Good job for a start, Mr Yip!"........ Alice Lesmana, 21/9/07

  • " Interesting Blogspot. A good laugh in English Lesson. I think the site should remain as THE WISE OLD OWL . Wise indeed !"......... BaBajoe 21/9/0

  • " Not bad for a start. Must learn from you how to start a blog site." ......Ronnie 21/9/07

  • " Interesting blog you have here. Must have taken u some time to enter all the information. Thanks for sharing." .......K Heng 29/9/07

  • "It's great to see you are keeping yourself active 'post retirement period', in fact even more active judging from it. Cheers and keep up the activity.".......Winston C, 1/10/07

  • " Congratulations on your blog site. It's GREAT! "........Maree, NZ

  • " What a lovely entry....keep em coming!! ".........Ferunk, 22/10/07

  • " It's been great reading all about your South Island adventures. You really did well to cover so much distance in the middle of a cold winter. I haven't been on the Tranz Alpine yet. But I really want to go.".......David T, 3/11/07

  • " Congratulations on your very own travel blog. You truly are a well-travelled person. Perhaps you should consider writing a Singapore version of the Lonely Planet Guide. I especially enjoy your New Zealand posts." JackieY 14/11/07

  • " Your Blog has received votes today !"........Fuel My Blog website, 21 and 22 Nov

  • " If you ever make it back to New Zealand again we would love to meet you! " .......Glynis, owner of Albatross Inn, Dunedin, 22/11/07

  • " Your Blog received votes today ! ".......Fuel My Blog website, 29/11/07

  • " Your incredible but scary adventure in Lake Toba and Medan makes great reading". ......TF Chan

  • " I enjoy viewing and reading about places, events, people, life and culture"......Evelyn Chin

  • " Your terrifying escapade in Medan airport on the day of your departure and what followed is much like an extract from a 007 movie clip: exciting, gripping, absorbing, fascinating....your presence of mind and the ability to stay calm saved the day. It's a "miraculous escape". I wish to commend you for your beautiful narration and crisp writing. You are blessed with a photographic memory, every tiny detail adds spice to your greatly engrossing encounter. Thanks! ".........TF Chan, 16/12/07

  • " Really impressed by your Blog pages on your encounter with the customs of Indonesia. Very Wise and Knowledgeable indeed ! ".....LeeSY, 18/12/07

There are many other messages and comments I've received but not included here yet. Will include as many later. Thanks for your comments....keep them coming!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Heaven and Hell ( almost ) ! Part 4

The concluding story.....

The events which unfolded previously had pushed me into a most terrible predicament, an unwanted major crisis and a potential hell-hole. I was at the tip of a disaster. The entire heavenly holiday trip was turning into a huge nightmare. My entire tour group, including my family, had cleared customs and immigration, without any problems. But I was driven back to Medan city in a jeep and now approaching the main office building, escorted by 2 customs officers to have a face to face meeting with the Director of Customs.
As we ascended the lift to the Directors' office I already knew what had to be done, what needed to be done....on my part. [ In case anyone here thought I would "buy" my way out.....I can assure you that I am TOTALLY against offering of bribes and totally ALLERGIC to Corruption. Those who know me well will and can attest to this.
On many of my travels both long and short, I have been subjected to unexplained, irregular stops, checks, roadblocks, etc..purportedly for " something nebulous". I HAVE NEVER GIVEN A CENT AWAY despite all sorts of threats and accusations...with some openly asking for bribes as a way to "release" me/us....especially in a neighbouring country.] I will share some of these later.
As we entered the Director's plush office, the customs officer escorting me, closed the huge door and greeted the big boss.....and began to speak or rather make the accusations about why we were there. I gave him no chance to influence the boss. No chance! It would be dangerous for me had he succeeded in making a mountain out of a molehill over this Blunderbuss thing.
So I went into overdrive mode.
I must state here that I cannot reveal the entire details of what and how I put forward my position ( note....I did not use the term"case"here as it was 100% apparent to me there was no case at all in the 1st place ). Suffice to say that firstly....I only spoke in ENGLISH although I could speak Bahasa. I asked the Big Boss, " Can you speak English ? "
He answered ," Certainly "....that's why he was sitting in that big armchair!
I said," Excellent! Then let me tell you exactly what this matter is simply about before your
man here confuses you and get You and the others into any unwanted trouble."
I briefly recounted the Blunderbuss buy, check-in, commotion created by his men, his customs chief declining to make any decision, and me being whisked away like a common criminal to appear before him right then. I urgently impressed upon him that should I miss my flight home because of all this nonsense...I can almost assure him that the following things will happen...
(a) and (b) and (c )....part of my 3 step checkmate.
Meanwhile, the escorting officer who had not spoken out yet...opened his mouth to speak.
The Big Boss yelled at him, " Diam !" [ Silence or quiet! ] .
He waved the chap over and asked for the Blunderbuss to be placed on his desk.
Big Boss held the antique gun, looked it over carefully and asked me just one question....ever so politely that I was impressed.
" Will you allow me to use a key to scratch my initials on the butt of the gun ? "
I replied, " Go right ahead. No problem to me at all. "
He took a key from his desk and made some tiny marks scrapping off the tiny bit of surface wood from the butt.
Photo: [ see the previous blog picture of the close-up butt of the gun ]
He then said," It's ok now."
The escorting officer, who was standing at attention, and watching all these must have been briefed on what and how he should make out the case against me. He began to speak again..and was " Diam!" a 2nd time by the Director.
Now , the Director showing this nincompoop and "the others" who was really Big Boss ordered him to return me to the airport safely and to further escort me to the plane and ensure I did not miss my flight! The Nincompoop, turned around and saluted to his Big Boss who thrust the towel wrapped gun into his hands.
The final order by Boss, " Cepat !"
The shuddering and non-plussed nincompoop asked in a soft voice what should he do with the gun. " Return it to him. It's his. He can bring it home with him. I don't want any more problems you understand? "...said Boss.
" Yes Sir!" ...the deflated and demoralised nincompoop answered. Obviously, he and the others must have thought they were to be hugely complimented or rewarded for "this case". What a dressing down he got and the others may yet received.
I thanked the Director of Customs and shooked his hands warmly. I felt that he knew that I knew he had openly shown a strong hand to his nincompoop as I was critically assessing the situation and his leadership and how I would evaluate the whole matter later.
Nincompoop and the jeep driver then drove me back at breakneck speed to Polonia airport.
We rushed through all the checks, collected my suitcase and when I was standing before the last X-ray scan machine as my suitcase went through, the monitor screen showed the image of a gun.....and the security officer manning it shouted," Senapang!"
Not again! My Goodness, I thought.
Then the nincompoop yelled at the X-ray officer to ignore the image and just let me through.
" On whose orders?" X-ray challenged.
" Director Besar!" nincompoop answered with a full air of authority now.
"And we are to assist him into the plane ! " Poop added.
" You have written orders?" X-ray added.
" Director's initials on the gun Butt !"yelled Poop.
And so it was fated that the SIA plane on the tarmac, engine thrusting, about to take off, still had one final passenger....yours truly! When I entered the plane, everyone looked at me in total disbelief as though they had seen a ghost. They thought I was a "goner". Many had thought they might not see me again for a long time.
My family members were relieved and estatic.
I was gone for an hour but the weight of that experience felt like an ETERNITY!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Heaven and Hell ( almost ) ! Part 3

What is the origin of the name Blunderbuss? The term has Dutch origin. The Dutch called it the Donderbuss or the "thunder gun". Donder means thunder, buss means gun. The Blunderbuss was a favourite weapon of pirates. Why? It was an effective weapon for close quarters fighting as it fires a load of shot pellets much like its modern day cousin....the shotgun. The loading of shots and powder is done from the front end of the muzzle which is flared like a trumpet. Then an iron ramrod is used to ram all the stuff deep inside the gun barrel. The firing mechanism was a superb piece of middle -age technology incorporating a metal striker, a tiny bit of flint, a flashpan and gunpowder. And this technology invented in the 1500's, perfected by 1630, lasted for over 300 years until the American Civil War in the 1860's when another new invention revolutionised gun warfare.
Though use of flintlock guns soon faded away, they had already left some lasting marks on the landscape of history, particularly in the English Language. The terms, " lock, stock and barrel" and " flash in the pan" as well as " going off half-cocked" are still very much in use today. All originated from the association with the flintlock gun.

Nightmare at Polonia Airport, Medan

The story continues from Part 2. From Parapat, we soon arrived at Medan and checked into the Garuda Plaza upscale, classy hotel which had a swimming pool too. D3 and D4 enjoyed the food and comforts of this place most. The next morning, after breakfast, our tour guide ensured that our tour group left on time for the airport for our return flight to S'pore. On reaching the airport, we headed first for customs clearance with our luggage. It was very crowded that morning being just 2 days before Christmas. We stood in the queue, waiting for our turn. Soon we found ourselves before the uniformed customs officers who signalled for us to place our bags and suitcases on the long table. They told us to open our luggage for inspection.
D2 and my daughters' bags were checked. No problem. They were zipping up their bags when my own suitcase, which was opened caused an immediate stir! One customs officer pressed on my clothes and found something very hard, wrapped in a towel and paper. He asked, without first opening it, " Apa ini ?" [ What's this? ]
I replied that it was a souvenir I bought in Parapat.
Slowly, he peeled off the towel and paper and blurted out just one word when he held the Blunderbuss for all to see, " Senapang !" [ gun ] . The eyes of everyone there were trained on him, the object and then me. Immediately, like a magnet, other customs officers drew near.
Then the questioning started....right there and then, in full view of everyone, my family and fellow tour members included.
One over zealous officer rubbed it in saying, " ini senapang antique !"[ this is an antique gun ] and required an approved permit. " Have you got a permit for this?" I gently replied that the genuine antique shop I purchased it from had stated categorically that no permit was needed for this particular Blunderbuss...and gave reasons why. I fished out the written address slip and showed it to them. They were all unimpressed! The zealot upped the tone and tempo when he said," Ini banyak mustahak !" [ This is very SERIOUS !]
Another asked, "why were you hiding this in your bag?" [ So, the accusations had started ].
I explained that it was no hiding. The gun is very old, rusted in some parts and must be wrapped up to prevent soiling my clothes and also to protect it too. None of my explanations impressed them at all. Meanwhile, my family was waiting for me to join them as they waited nearby. The officers did not release me. They upped the ante!
They took my suitcase and placing the Blunderbuss in a plastic bag asked me to follow them.
I told them to hold their horses first. I asked, " Where are you taking me to ?"
To see their Chief Officer they told me, who was in his office. So, I promptly spoke to D2 nearby telling her " Not to worry. Just look after our little girls well.....even if the plane takes off without me. I can handle it."
They escorted me to their Chief officer in an office nearby. He was a surly fellow who did not want to take responsibility for making a decision, any decision at all. He did not even give me a chance to speak. He gruffly instructed his men to take me to see the Director of Customs !
Now, I had no inkling where this Director was located presuming it was likely nearby within the airport premises. You can imagine my great shock and disbelief when the same officer ordered that the 2 men take the customs "jeep"[ landrover]. Surely, I thought to myself...I must impress upon these chaps that I'm just an innocent traveller with his family to boot and happened to buy a souvenir, a inactive firearm... and now about to board my flight home. And I must have some basic rights!
I fired the 1st salvo. I told this Chief whether he was listening or not this.
"I bought this from a souvenir antique shop for $ 40. Not thousands of $. The owner stated no permit necessary. No need to declare. He even gave me his hand written shop address here. What is the big deal? If it is so much trouble you can have it! But my plane is taking off soon. I cannot afford to miss it ! My family is waiting for me."
He did not respond to me... but one other thing I said must have impacted on him for he chased them all out with the order" Cepat!" [ Fast!]. I am afraid I cannot divulge what I told him openly, here.
The 2 men escorted me out of customs clearance to their vehicle bay area. I was asked to get into a jeep. I was not told where we were going at first. When the jeep moved out of the airport itself onto the main road I was concerned. Multiple questions and possible scenarios flashed through my adrenalin charged mind....most were unpleasant, I should add.
But I DID NOT PANIC....never did !
Rather than waste my energy speculating on unknown outcomes on what was to befall me, for example....detain for further questioning, pay a big fine, hold till everything is cleared , etc...etc.., I used the approximately 20 minute drive to plan a double quick checkmate.
The driver told me we were going to see the Director but his office is in Medan city, not at the airport. He drove very fast. So, I was going back to the city again! Unbelievable !
He said it would take about 20 minutes to get there. And not forgetting the return trip...if they allowed me to return at all. Our plane was taking off in an hour's time or less.

Follow the dramatic conclusion tomorrow !

Heaven and Hell ( almost ) ! Part 2

This is the actual Flintlock Blunderbuss which I mentioned in my previous post. To continue the story...the shopowner asked me to quote him a price. I wasn't certain how to go about it. One common mistake most buyers or shoppers make in such a situation of uncertainty is to unknowingly offer a price, that is almost always ,way above the value of the item. And finding out later, with great regret, frustration and anger that the same item costs only a fraction of the price you paid for...further down the road! At the extreme end, being "kiasu or kiasi"by offering an unfairly low price may invite a scolding from the seller or worse, being chased out of his premises altogether. It has happened before!
So, using all my wisdom....I offered him $30[ Singapore] not rupiahs. He took it all in and asked me to make a "better" offer. No scolding, no chasing off for me...phew! Meanwhile, my family were in the shop and watching this to and fro bargaining. They have much to learn's definitely an Art or Skill worth developing. Like fishing, much patience is required before you land the deal. To be sure, both sides must be a little flexible. Some humour and understanding can go a long way in coming to terms.
I upped my offer to $ 33 then later $ 35. Still no deal but he would not give me a counter offer. I was stuck.
If continued in that pattern....I would be the "loser". So, I changed tack completely.
Thanking him for his time, I told him it was no problem to me...not something that I must have.
Before leaving, I mentioned that we will be checking out of our hotel the next day and heading back to Medan ( a long way off ) .
The next morning, after breakfast, we had 2 hours or so to spare before we leave Parapat. I decided to wait until we were almost boarding our coach before I popped into his shop again to bid the owner farewell. He was cheery and so was I. " So, how about this.?"he held up the Blunderbuss . I said , " It's too late now. All my things are already packed and I don't have the time to do the paperwork/permit part anyway". He said, " No need permit for this. I guarantee.
Only 100% antique must have permit." The tide has turned in my favour. He wanted to sell!
He was now making me various offers from $ 80 onwards. I declined. Finally he said," Last price I give you $ 40 ok? ". I grabbed it and he wrote his shop address as a reference point in case I meet with problemmatic customs at the airport.
I took the Blunderbuss and left it in my main luggage, wrapped in paper and a soft towel to protect it. We departed Parapat and headed for Medan. Stayed a night there before our flight home the next morning.
The nightmare....soon in part 3 of this story.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Heaven and Hell ( almost ) ! Part 1

This story took place in December 1983, almost a quarter of a century ago. The setting was Sumatra, Indonesia. Our two lovely kids D3 and D4 were looking forward to this trip very much.
It was to be their 1st ever trip overseas by plane. And it would only be the 2nd country they have visited, Malaysia being the 1st. Predictably, they were counting the days to actual departure and boarding our very own Singapore Airlines boeing jet...and experience flight for the very first time. It was also a trip that D2 and I felt most happy about as we were travelling together as a family, on a fabulous vacation to a fabulous place....Lake Toba.
The whole journey would last 5 days.
From Polonia Airport, Medan our tour coach from Worta Holidays Ltd, would travel to Berastagi, then to Sipiso Piso waterfalls, to Simalungun (the Batak King's Palace ) and finally to Parapat. The next few days were wonderful as we explored the lake which is the largest volcanic lake in the world. It is 100 km by 30 km in size and reaches a depth of 505 metres. Another little known fact......Lake Toba is actually 906 metres above sea level. In the centre of the lake is an island called Samosir which is roughly the size of Singapore !
D3 and D4 truly enjoyed the food, breathtaking scenery, language, songs, culture and history of the various towns and places visited. And all of us enjoyed shopping as the exchange rate of the S'pore dollar to the Indonesian rupiah allowed us to buy more than we can get, back home.

While we were at Parapat, by the Lake, we went shopping in our free time. D2 and the kids bought haversacks, bags, clothes, a lampshade, souvenirs etc. I had a good buy of 3 lovely batik shirts.
Top photo: Typical Batak houses

Lower photo: The clothes shop at Parapat with the owner.
Bottom photo: King's Palace at Simalungun
Next to this shop was a shop selling antiques. I have always been fascinated by history and the very nature of antiques is based on their past life and hidden history. I walked in and was confronted by many articles of interest. But the piece that caught my attention was an antique Flintlock Blunderbuss. It looked very old and was genuine, though not in mint condition. I could see a screw that was holding the firing mechanism, that was not originally part of the firearm. My conclusion then was that it is a real antique but not 100%...maybe close to 99 % [ the added modern screw ] . Otherwise, it was a most interesting collector's item with a very high value. I estimated the age of the gun to be at least 300 years old. Of course, it would not fire anymore although all the parts were intact mostly. I asked the boss to name me a reasonable price. He did not do so. Instead, he asked me to give him a price. In case you are not aware, this process is another method of " taking stock"of guessing what that item was of value ( can be very BIG! ) to me, personally.
The antique shop address written down by the owner himself can be seen here [ inset].
Our 5 days in lake Toba was Heaven ! But Hell was soon to come at departure for home, at Medan Airport. Catch the scary but true dramatic events in part 2 of the story soon.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Maldives....and one UGLY S'POREAN family

The beauty of the sea atolls that make up the Maldives surpasses that
shown on these postcards. The beauty is both above and beneath the sea. To truly appreciate and enjoy nature's gift or God's gifts to us, one need to have enough time to simply relax and take in the wondrous and exotic scene and atmosphere around us.
Maldives is the same. D2 and I, together with 2 other Singaporean families we met there, got along very well throughout the trip. We even kept in touch long after that trip.
But, there was another S'porean family numbering about 7 persons that completely turned everyone off, including the local staff of the resort. Though basically English-speaking, they were nevertheless most uneducated and were a constant embarassment to the rest of us fellow Singaporeans. Their behaviour and speech were painfully obnoxious throughout. With my sharp senses, I had actually noticed them at the departure lounge at Changi Airport when the father was the only traveller in our Silk Air flight to carry his Golfing things and his son openly leafing through a Medical textbook. And other family members similarly engaged....everyone seeming to project and advertise they are well-heeled and perhaps super intelligent! What a LOAD OF RUBBISH they
all turned out to be at our resort! The mother, a well-oiled and dolled -up uppity type, scolded the poor washroom boys," What kind of soap is this ? In SINGAPORE we do not use such LOUSY soap! You all here GOT NO CLASS. NO STANDARD ! I want some BETTER soap than this ! "
When this was going on, I was actually at the common wash basin next to her. Looking closely at the 2 poor Maldivians and staring at her with my steely eyes, I could not contain myself any longer. I spoke...." Nothing wrong with this piece of soap. It is GOOD enough for me ! And I AM FROM SINGAPORE ! "
She stared at me with dagger eyes but not for long. Why?
Those who know me well can confirm that I NEVER BACK off from BULLIES of any kind,
whatever size or shape, colour or skin. My eyes pierced right through hers and made her realise that her uppity behaviour were all a facade and so much smokescreen to me and the other normal S'poreans. We saw through her and her obnoxious family. I took the incident further.
Sensing the need to set the record straight and to protect the good name of our country, I went straight to the manager's office and spoke up for the washroom boys. The office staff were most appreciative of my gesture and "big heartedness" and were even more pleased to hear that most S'poreans do not behave like them and that back home we do not condone such rude manners. We call them" Ugly S'poreans" in our travels. At dinner that night, we [ S'pore angels..ha ha! ] were served with a big platter of fried fish and curry fish in a pot and mineral water on the house [ very expensive]. The UGLY S'porean table, next to us were served ordinarily by icily cold waiters. They could not "Tahan" and the mother beast reared her ugly head once more. She pointed to our superbly set table and questioned the staff why " they have fish curry, water , etc,...and we don't have??"
We all chuckled and truly ENJOYED our dinner that night!
ps: BTW, our resort has no golf course.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Maldives.....Olhuveli View Resort

Our paradise resort in the Maldives was called Olhuveli View Resort located in one of the southern most atolls of that long chain of islands. Water is the most precious commodity on the island especially drinkable water which cost around $US 2 per large bottle. The mineral water was imported. Food was also quite expensive as all are imported.
I added fresh food to the dining table through some of my fishing activity.
There were plentiful fishes around the atoll.
Top Photo: D2 and me in our most common attire to"our" boat.
Lower Photo: Ourselves and our dearest new friend Ms Okabe from Japan.
She captured some shots of us during deep scubadiving.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


These are actual photos taken from our Kodak underwater camera as well as by our friend Okabe on her camera. The top picture was sent by airmail to us from Japan ...with a letter from Okabe recollecting her fond

memories of our trip. She too made the dive that day.

The cables attached to the sea bottom were aids to ascent mainly.

We dived to a depth of 0ver 10 metres, taking our time to enjoy the unique scenes before us, giant manta rays above us, sharks around us, all kinds of big and medium size fish frolicking amongst the coral reefs.

D2 had agreed to take this plunge into the depths of the unknown on one condition...that I should be holding onto her hand throughout the entire dive....come what may! I agreed as I had no other choice.

In the end whether she held onto my hand or vice-versa was inconsequential as it was apparent to me, at least, that she did not show

any sign of panic beyond the initial rookie fears. She took to the underwater world quite sublimally. I was greatly RELIEVED!

It took more than COURAGE to go to that depth on your very 1st attempt at ScubaDiving...and she accomplished that without any problems. On surfacing, her instant feedback was nothing short of the Superlative. Much later, when I asked if she would want another diving

experience her response was, " WHEN? ".

Top: D2 and me during our ascent. Picture by Okabe (Japan)

Centre: We are diving into the depths of the Ocean.

Bottom: I took this picture of Okabe earlier while we were snorkelling

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Maldives.....Snorkelling !

The waters in the Maldives are probably one of the best in the world for snorkelling and diving.
There is plenty of cool, clear water where safe skin diving can be done. As you can see from the

top photo, I did not put on any diving shirt or suit. In the lower photo, D2 had on a long-sleeved shirt more as a protection against scrapping the corals on the reef.
Water temperature is really good for even children to have a go at this activity.
I brought along our own snorkelling gear from home.
Otherwise, one can still rent from the dive centre.

I started learning snorkelling on my own, back in the mid 1960's, when there was a small group of us who used to dive either in the Southern islands and at Pulau Ubin.

On one of those southern diving trips to Sisters Island, I could have and should have drowned had I not developed a knack of NEVER to PANIC, even in extreme conditions and situations...a personal trait that has saved me from CERTAIN DEATH many, many times....since then.
I will likely recount all my TRUE -LIFE ESCAPADES at this blog site. THEY ARE NO ORDINARY RUN OF THE -MILL INCIDENTS.
I can only thank my Heavenly Guardian for my still being here to tell my story.
Cross my fingers but I hope not to encounter any more death-defying situations from now on.
I have had more than what most normal persons would have experienced in one lifetime and many of those unfortunate ones did not even live to tell the tale.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Maldives....Pre -Diving

We had booked a deep sea dive for the two of us. It will be at a popular dive site off our resort. But the earlier sessions were carried out right at the dive centre located close to the long jetty, by the beach. This was a not the usual scenario back home which requires learners to have compulsory lessons in a swimming pool before they can go to open water diving.
The instructors here were confident in teaching one to dive... all in one day. I strongly believe them. D2 can be their testimony to that....all in one day, from learning about the diving equipment to be used, to using it comfortably and safely, and gaining deep water confidence.

The photos showed us in our boat heading for our dive site.
On board, we had a fellow traveller from Japan, a very nice
girl called Okabe. She was travelling alone...most adventurous!
Okabe was with us for this dive and she snapped a couple of underwater shots of us.
I had a Kodak deep water camera too and did likewise for her.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Big Surprise at Bintan Island, Indonesia.

In December 1996, my former colleague and close friend from HJC Arts Dept, Lee Hoon Cheong
had needed a helping hand for staff to accompany his Geographical field trip to Bintan Island. He approached me and I immediately agreed. Not only that I told him I would ask for D2 to come along too. And so it was, that we left for a 3 day visit together with about 20 odd students of HJC [ Bottom pic: Group pic ].
We had been given a 1/2 day city tour of the place covering the main historical and cultural sights which included remnants of the old Dutch fort [ Top pic: D2 and me at the fort ] temples and kelongs. Then the kids and Lee went on their field trip to study the eco-system. D2 and I had time to soak in the sun at the resort. I was just beginning to survey the sea front, looking far to my left and right, when I spotted a lone angler on my far right among a rocky outcrop. I told D2 to let us go check up the fisherman. He was too far away for us to discern anything, let alone whoever he was.
As we narrowed the distance between us, I could make out the general appearance of the angler.....and there was a 2nd person, probably his wife, I thought.
Then came the shocker!
All at once...we all recognised one another and called out to each other.
The angler was none other than Mr Cheong Cheng Swee and his wife Anita was with him. [ Centre Pic: CCS in Blue T-shirt and wife, Anita ]
CCS, a retired Insp of School, was not only my Primary 6 form teacher but my former Scoutmaster of the 19th Owl troop, Geylang English School. His wife, Mrs Anita Cheong, also taught me in Primary 5. They both met while at the school and I played a small but nevertheless important part as a courier of messages between them. Why me? I was only about 11 then. I suppose I could be trusted scrupulously to keep my SCOUT's HONOUR. I never told anyone, not my classmates, neither my schoolmates, not my scouting one. I'm only telling this sweet story now. CCS was a former S'pore National Doubles Champion with Ronnie Oon and also National Coach in Badminton.
He and Anita were the Best teachers I ever had.
I learnt much about many things from CCS.
From him, I improved on my fishing skills especially the technique for fishing ikan pasir pasir [snelts ]. In later years, we fished together at Changi, Loyang,Pasir Ris, Ponggol, etc..
Fancy meeting an angler who happens to be your form teacher, scoutmaster, Badminton teammate (MOE), friend and MENTOR in the most unlikely of places.......secluded Bintan!