Bako National Park: The screaming tour guide

It happened after lunch.

Lunch looked kinda cool but it was awful.

Lunch at Bako National Park

There’s a canteen in Bako National Park which serves a variety of rice, noodles and local dishes. For a few dollars, I think, you get a plate which you can heap with as much food as you want.

Lunch at Bako National Park

But the food was cold, hard and tasteless.

There’s like fish, and chicken and a few curry things, too, but I didn’t take any of them because they looked dodgy.

Or maybe I just wasn’t that hungry. I was hot and tired after a morning of climbing mountains and trudging through swamps, and sleepy after not having slept much for a few nights in a row.

But what happened after lunch woke me up.

Our two tour guides wanted to show us more creatures, such as cute monkeys.

Here’s a picture of Anastasia, our main guide:

Anastasia and Sheylara

I don’t have a picture of Alex, our secondary guide, which is just as well (and you will find out why, soon).

We were trekking around the chalet grounds. Yes, you can stay in Bako National Park. But I wouldn’t because it looks really creepy, the perfect setting for a horror movie.

Bako National Park

The view from inside the chalet:

Bako National Park

And you have scary neighbours, such as an exceptionally large sunbathing monitor lizard:

Monitor lizard

It trotted off after a while, probably realising that it had paparazzi on its tail:

Monitor lizard

I’m getting to the story.

Shortly after, we came upon a green tree pit viper. Alex found it first. I mean, it’s really amazing how our guides are able to spot camouflaged creatures a mile away.

Tree pit viper

Tree pit viper

We spent the next ten minutes furiously clicking our cameras at the viper, while Anastasia went off to look for monkeys.

We eventually got tired of gawking at the viper, which fortunately didn’t jump at us or anything like that. Alex said he’d take us to Anastasia, so we followed him down this walkway.

Bako National Park

Suddenly, Alex let out a bloodcurdling shriek, jumped backwards very violently and started racing towards us, yelling all the time, like, “AaaaaH AAAAAHHH AAAAIIIEEEEEE!!”

Shocked, we all jumped back. I almost died of fright. I thought that maybe a hungry man-eating carnivore had strolled out of the forest in front of Alex or something like that.

He continued screaming and yelling and jumping as if a swarm of bees were attacking him.

Nothing was attacking him. We stood rooted to the spot in fright, waiting.

Anastasia appeared from the other end of the walkway.

“What happened?” she shouted.

To which Alex replied, very emotionally, “It’s a snake!! Arrghh! I hate snakes I hate snakes!!”

At this point of time, I burst out laughing. I was instantly reminded of that silly cult hit from years ago, Badgerbadgerbadger.

By the time I saw the snake, I didn’t have much time to take a good shot of it before it disappeared under the walkway. It was really quick!

Bako National Park

Bako National Park

Actually, what I managed to take was a photo of Javad and Lili taking photos of the snake.

Bako National Park

To be honest, I didn’t dare to go too near.

After the snake disappeared and we all nervously sprinted past the spot where it was hiding under the walkway, we were able to have a leisurely laugh while Alex explained vehemently that he hated snakes and they gave him goosebumps and so on.

That was quite funny.

In the end, we didn’t get to see any monkeys. We heard them, though. But they kept running from us and we could never get near.

There are supposed to be silver leaf monkeys in that area. I found this photo in someone’s Flickr:

Silver Leaf Monkey

Cute, isn’t it?

Following this, just about five metres from the snake, we came across pretty red dragonflies.

Bako National Park

Bako National Park

Which was a nice finale to our Bako National Park outing.

No, wait.

Actually, the nice finale was finding out that high tide had ENTIRELY covered our dock, so there was NO DOCK from which we could take a boat back to the mainland.

That meant we had to walk through a beach and then wade out to a part of the sea deep enough for boats to moor.

Bako National Park

The beach was very nice. We kinda hung out there to camwhore for a bit.

Bako National Park
From left: Juraida, Lili, Sheylara, Nicholas, Wai Kit, Soh, Javad.

Nicholas wanted to do some jumping shots.

Bako National Park

And then someone got the bright idea to do a group jumping shot!

We only did one take because we had to rush off to our next location.

Here’s the shot, taken by Javad!

Bako National Park

The journey out to the boats was actually quite fun. We had to remove our shoes.

And everyone had to stop for a while because Nicholas and Lili wanted to camwhore in the water.

Bako National Park

Deeper and deeper.

Bako National Park

And deeper.

Bako National Park

I tried to take a photo of my legs half submerged in the water, but it didn’t work very well.

Bako National Park

Lili’s parting shot:

Bako National Park

I have no idea what her expression meant. Maybe she was having a premonition of what was to come.

Because, a minute after this shot was taken, she fell into the water while trying to get into her boat.


Well, she didn’t hurt herself, just got drenched. Hehe.

I didn’t actually witness her accident because I was at that time trying to get into my boat. I only found out when we arrived at the mainland and saw her dripping wet. Haha.

The journey back was quite uneventful. No crocodiles this time. Just a few playful dolphins too quick to photograph.

And that concludes my three-part Bako National Park report.

I wouldn’t have gone there on my own because parks are not normally my thing. But I was glad to have been made to go. It was truly an experience!

If you’re interested in paying a visit, more info can be found here.

God is a Woman — Day 4

Filming in KL — Day 4
Oct 9, 2008

KL (Malaysia) has so many beautiful grungy places. Although quite scary, they serve as exquisite backdrops for films and photoshoots.

I would love to go back to this place to do a fashion photoshoot.

Or maybe not.

It’s a big abandoned building with all kinds of crazy junk heaped around the compound. It’s like a rubbish warehouse.

And the mozzies had a field day when tourists came to visit.

The native mosquitoes rolled out the red carpet to welcome us.

Welcome! they cried, Please make yourselves at home while we drink your blood!

They huge, they’re enthusiastic and they’re hungry.

They’re also ninjas.

I swear.

Big as they are, you don’t feel them land on your skin. You don’t feel them feeding.

You’re minding your own business, looking around casually. And then you chance to glance at your arm, and there’s a teenage mutant ninja mozzie shaking salt and pepper on your hair follicles.

In alarm, you swing your arm violently to shake off the TMNM. But, with all the years of gruelling ninja training under its arthropodal belt, it is prepared for the assault.

It clings onto you with its hooks for feet, all the while laughing maniacally at the folly of homo sapiens. You consider thwapping it flat but you don’t want mozzie guts all over your arm.

So you scream at it.

“My blood is toxic and will kill you dead, you dumb shit!”

Miraculously, the mozzie flies off at that.

And then you realise that that’s only because it’s already had its fill. A pink welt develops instantly on your arm where the TMNM had last roosted.

And it’s itchy.

Beware of teenage mutant ninja mozzies.

We should have heeded the warning.

Luckily, I didn’t die of dengue fever after this encounter.

I wonder how the resident artists survived the TMNM attacks. They must have some kind of permit to stick around unmolested while they complete their artistic masterpieces.

We didn’t stay around for too long. Perhaps 40 minutes or so. I could feel my cells screaming in agony just being in this waste.

You might think that this building is in some remote no man’s land, 3,000 kilometres away from the nearest civillisation.

It’s not.

It’s just minutes away from civillisation. I don’t suppose the residents in neighbouring buildings take a leisurely walk to this dumpster every evening after dinner to dispose of their trash?

After doing our scenes in this building, we strolled over to another compound with even more abandoned buildings.

It was better this time. We didn’t have to enter any of the buildings. We shot everything outdoors.

And that’s the end of my shoot in KL!

We drove up to Penang on the same day. It was a nice journey that took us from daylight to nightfall. I can’t remember how many hours it was.

Along the way, Dean, who was at that time the driver, suddenly turned around and said to me, “You must take a photo of these buildings!!”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said.


He’s always saying things for no reason. So, Kan took over the wheel and made him be the cameraman.

It kept him occupied for a good while.

Every time we went through a toll booth, he had to hold up the sensor unit for access because someone couldn’t be bothered to stick it to the windscreen.

And then we were in Penang!

My first impression of Penang:


I didn’t know Penang is a resort city. It took us more than an hour to find our hotel because Kan was looking for a specific hotel and we were led on a wild goose chase by well-meaning locals. Finally, one savvy local told us that the hotel we wanted had already closed down.


We settled for this small resort hotel called The Lone Pine Hotel which is, frankly, a bit creepy because of the name and the way the sign looks.

It brings to mind B-grade horror flicks where unsuspecting backpackers get eaten by giant mutant bugs while being raped by bored psychopaths.

Okay, it’s not that bad.

It’s a cosy resort with friendly service. It also has a nice pool, which is a redundant fact because I don’t swim.

I don’t like wearing swimsuits. =>

Alright, then. That’s all for today. More adventures in Penang next time!

Why all food tastes good in Malaysia

No more negative talk! Today, I shall talk about Singapore’s favourite topic: FOOD!

Yeah! Doesn’t that make you happy? =)

When I was filming in KL, we didn’t always get to eat at popular food places. Because of our tight filming schedule, we had to eat at nearest available places.

But that’s alright because EVERYTHING TASTES GOOD IN MALAYSIA.

One night, I asked everyone, “How is it that you can walk into any random coffeeshop in Malaysia and order anything and it will taste better than its Singapore counterpart?”

I was talking about normal, everyday local favourites like chicken rice, roti prata, mee goreng, prawn noodles, ban mian, and so on.

Dean, our Malaysian host (cum actor cum camera assistant cum chauffeur cum gofer cum court jester), said, “The ingredients in Malaysia are fresher (since they’re all locally grown) so food tastes better.”


I always thought that the quality of food is mainly dependent on the skill of the cook.

Divine mixed vegetables (above)!! I relegated the poor black pepper steak to the background (even though it was good, too) because the vegetables really killed me, being buttery and impossibly fragrant.

All the dishes pictured above are from a food centre two minutes’ walk away from Istana Hotel. We ordered about 10 dishes between us and they were all good.

(I think I’m going to be taxed for using the word “good” so often.)

I’m not saying that Singapore doesn’t have good food. I’m saying that Malaysia does not seem to have substandard food.

Or maybe I just need to visit Malaysia more often to get a more accurate sampling.

I took quite a bit of food photos while in KL, the first one being my squashed Gardenia bun.

I bought it at a petrol station during our drive up to KL and it got forgotten and squashed by my luggage.

Okay, that was a joke photo.

Here’s something I want to recommend. This coffeeshop in KL boasts bland-looking but very delicious dim sum.

Maybe Dean was right about the ingredients. The dim sum just tasted fresh.

Here are some pictorial clues where this place is. Sorry, I don’t know the full address.

The road sign says: Jalan Merak.

I love the free-flow sauces!

Did I mention I’m a sauce addict? Sometimes I eat more sauce than the main food itself.

Mix the garlic chilli with the sweet sauce. Heavenly!!

We also ate at Old Town White Coffee. (There’s an outlet in Singapore, at the newly renovated Big Splash, but I haven’t tried it so I don’t know if the quality is the same.)

I ordered the asam laksa. I had to, even though the other dishes were so tempting, becasue asam laksa is so hard to find in Singapore. And the ones I’ve found aren’t really worth the calories.

The curry noodles and nasi lemak are apparently killer, too.

This makes me want to visit the Singapore outlet!! Soon!!

I have a couple more food things to talk about but they belong to Ipoh and Penang so I shall save them for another day!

For now, please share your views. Does food generally taste better in Malaysia? If yes, why do you think that is?

God is a Woman — Day 2

For the record, I’m now back in Singapore, so don’t get confused when I talk about my Malaysia filming trip.

Filming in KL — Day 2
Oct 7, 2008

I was able to sleep an extra hour today, waking up at 6 am. The best sleep you could ever have is when you’re so exhausted that nothing short of a banshee wail could wake you.

The first scene of the day was shot in my room. It was a scene between me and Dean.

Dean is quite an awesome fellow, really. Not only is he our male lead actor, he also doubles up as camera assistant, tour guide, chauffeur, gofer and court jester. (I’m serious about the last one.)

He took this photo for me:

Not bad, huh?

Dean is the kind of person you can’t help making funny faces at.

We were travelling in the car at one point when he said to me, “You must talk about me in your blog today.”

“Okay,” I said. “What do you want me to say about you?”

“That I’m super handsome, charming, irresistable, talented, charismastic, funny, intelligent…”

Kan (our director) cut in at this point: “You really want her to say all that?”

“Yes! Why not!” said Dean with a serious face. “We must be very transparent.”

And then Maria hit him on the head with a cushion.

Dean cried out, “OHHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! You just ruined my feng shui for the day!”

“What?” we said in unison.

Gesticulating wildly, at times with his hands dangerously off the wheel, he cried, “I have already set my hair today for good feng shui and you just ruined it!!! Now I have to go back to the feng shui master again to reset my hair!”

Kan then threatened to kill his character off in the film if he continued being a nutcase, so we managed to arrive at our intended destination without any further incident.

This photo was taken in an actual casting house in KL, where models go to get in line to be slaughtered.

Well, at least, that’s what I feel like each time I go for a casting.

Fortunately, today’s casting session wasn’t real.

Here’s Kan setting up a shot in the props room while I wait outside:

Nash posing with a bicycle:

Actually, he wasn’t posing. That was part of the scene.

After the casting house, we went to a Chinese temple.

It’s such a big temple that there’s even a food court in the basement.

There are also stalls selling I dunno souvenirs or religious artefacts.

There’s even a marriage registration counter.

While Kan set up for the next shot, the rest of us enjoyed the silly antics of Dean and Nash.

I told you he doubled as our court jester.

I tried to blog but it was very hard to, with crazy people beside me doing crazy things.

See what I mean?

After our temple scenes, we went back to Dean’s apartment in the heart of KL, where he has a rooftop garden.

Okay, it’s not exactly a garden. It’s just a rooftop area with a little bit of greenery around the edges. But the view is nice.

I thought it was a nice place to camwhore, so I did that while the rest were shooting stuff that didn’t require me.

Now comes the interesting location.

This place can be found about two minute’s walk from our hotel (Hotel Istana), and maybe just a litte more from KLCC.

It was fortunately drizzling at the time we went there, so there weren’t too many flies and rats and it wasn’t too smelly.

Dean says this dumping ground has been like this like, forever. The level of rubbish goes up and down over time but it never disappears. Apparently, the authorities do come to clear it once in a long while, but for some reason they don’t clear everything at once, so it piles up again.

And yes, there are people living in the buildings surrounding the rubbish pile.

On the first day of our shoot, Kan told me and Maria that we would have to wade into the rubbish pile for one of our scenes.

We believed him.

Since it was drizzling, I took out my umbrella to protect the camera. (I was the only one who remembered to bring an umbrella. Although, actually, it wasn’t so much of remembering as the fact that I always have an umbrella in my bag, anyway.)

Guess who had to hold my cute little pink umbrella? Hehe.

Last stop for the day.

Kan found this hawker who sells, among other things, char kway teow and bak kut teh. He set up his camera at the stall without a word and started filming this uncle cooking.

The uncle didn’t even flinch. Cool.

When he was done (I mean Kan), he thanked the uncle, shook his hand and gave him RM20 as a token of appreciation.

I thought that went pretty well!

Stay tuned for Day 3!

God is a Woman — Day 1

I wrote this post over two days on Notepad while travelling (and in between filming). It’s my third day in KL now but I feel like I’ve been here forever!

Because I have a lot of trouble getting an Internet connection in most of our filming locations and even at the hotel, even when I’m willing to pay for it, I can’t do on-the-spot live blogging in little bits as I originally planned.

So, here’s a delayed but extended blogcast.

Filming in KL — Day 1
Oct 6, 2008

9:20 am

I’m waiting at a bus-stop for my director to pick me up. I’m a little embarrassed about carrying so much stuff. I’m expecting him to gasp in shock when he arrives.

9:30 pm

He’s here and he’s not gasping at my baggage. Phew. We drive on to Maria’s place.

Maria is my co-actress and this is her on the right. She’s so pretty I could stare at her all day. ;)

9:50 am

After getting her, we shoot a short sequence.

And then I take over the wheel and drive us to the Tuas Checkpoint because our director wants to film me driving.

This is Kan Lume, our director, and an award-winning one at that. He’s framing a shot on his compact camera.

He’s a one-man-crew for this film because he enjoys DIY filmmaking. And we’re working on an experimental film with the working title of “God is a Woman”, about two women travelling to KL to seek their fortunes as models.

In the drivers’ seat, I manage to delay our trip by making two wrong turns, which is typical of me. (I had warned Kan beforehand and he was very aware of the risk of giving me the wheel.)

11:30 am

We get through both Singapore and JB checkpoints without much incident and stop at a nearby petrol station to shoot.

There’s a pink bus at the station. Cute!

I have a solo scene in a smelly male toilet while Maria has one in the car.

It’s really quite cool. I’ve never had an acting gig like that before, where we shoot while we’re travelling. Like a road trip movie.

It even feels like we’re really on a holiday.

12:20 pm

I’m now in the back seat of the car, trying not to get nauseous as I blog on my tiny MSI wind as we speed along the North-South Highway.

3 pm

We stop at a rest stop and Kan turns me and Maria into stuntwomen.

We climb up and down this treacherous hill (decorated with sneaky loose pebbles and mimosa) about three times. Kan sacrificed two of his t-shirts to protect our hands as we scrabble up and down the hill.

And then I get intimately acquainted with some tall prickly grass up on the hill.

What fun!

6 pm

We meet up with our Malaysian co-actors, Dean and Nash.

Dinner at a semi-posh Italian restaraunt which boasts strange toilet signage.

It takes me the second visit before I vaguely understand how either duck represents each gender.

8 pm

More filming at Dean’s apartment, which is just one minute walk away from Hotel Istana. Dean has wireless access so I snatch minutes in between shots to upload a short blog while the guys set up.

10 pm

Maria and I are released to check into our hotel rooms. OH MY WHAT A ROOM.

Maria and I have separate rooms.

Apparently, this hotel is a favourite among many dignitaries.

I have a view of the Petrnoas Twin Towers.

The broadband charges, though, are RM15 an hour. Might as well kill me now. Plus it is super problematic, with faulty network cables and dodgy connection.

2:15 am

I am ready to drop dead now but I have a restless sleep because I’m freezing. Turning the thermostat up by 10 degrees C doesn’t seem to do much.

5 am