FRASER’S HILL

It was one of those days when I was inspired to do something out of the ordinary. I wanted to go up Fraser’s Hill. Okay, so what’s the big deal, you ask. Lots of people drive up to Fraser’s, at least once in their life time; and I’ve been there a few times myself. But that’s just it, you see, I don’t want to drive. This time around, I want to WALK up and down it, plain and simple.

So on one beautiful Saturday morning (5th February 2012), I made the trip, with Yong Ann Nee. We drove from KL to the foothills, or better known as The Gap. It took about an hour and a half to get there. We almost didn’t make it that morning because half-way through, the road was blocked off by a fallen tree. That must have happened during a storm the night before. Lucky for us, a few other drivers there managed to clear up some of the tree branches to make way for cars to pass.

We got to The Gap in good time, a little after 9. After locking up the car by a food stall nearby, we proceeded to the gate. For those who have never been to FH, or have been out of touch with it, the gate at the Gap once served as a check-point for vehicles traveling up and down the Hill. For a long time, access to the Hill was possible only via a one-lane road. The road was used by uphill and downhill traffic in turns. A time-table was necessary for the journey up and down at an hourly interval each way. Nowadays, however, there is new road built on the other side of the hill specifically for downhill traffic, so the old Gap is now opened for upward traffic 24/7.

Truth be told, before that morning, neither I nor Yong knew about the newly-built road. I had expected a row of cars queuing at the gate. I recall the last time I had driven up to the peak, back in 2009, the gate was still operating, and there were a number of travelers and a couple of gate ‘jagas’ waiting patiently for the lights to turn green.

So there we stood, under the big blue signboard with a white arrow pointing up. It read: Fraser’s Hill 8 km. With a whisper of a prayer, we started our trek up the tarred road. It was around about a quarter to ten, and I figured it’ll take us between an hour to an hour and a half to get to the peak, God willing. The weather was calm and the air smelled sweet. Tall alpine trees and vegetation on the hillside helped maintain a cool atmosphere. We took a leisurely pace, not wanting to exert ourselves. There was very little traffic on the road, so most of the way we had the road all to ourselves, proclaiming it “our grandfather’s road”! The few cars that passed us actually slowed down a bit, some of the drivers looking at us sideways, perhaps wondering what those two women were up to! Even though we were the only ones on foot, we were accompanied by a group of mountain-bikers, who cheered us on. I dare say, though, we looked better off than some of the cyclists; they were straining to pedal up the slopes. Some parts can be quite steep and despite a clear pathway, there’s a lot of hard pedaling involved.

After about an hour of steady ascend, we decided to rest and eat. We chose a spot near a spring by the road side. We sat under the shade and ate our home-made sandwiches, courtesy of Yong. I was already nursing a sore toe by then, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the break while listening to the cheerful gush of the spring-water. It probably wouldn’t have been possible to do any of this had we taken the car. Stopping by the road side would have disrupted the flow of traffic, and that was certainly a no-no during the ‘one-way traffic era’. Even now I should think it’ll be a tight squeeze if a car or a bus stalls.

The clear cool water worked like magic against my aching muscles, and before long I got back my walking ‘rhythm’ and continued the hike with more vigor. Yong Ann Nee, the cili padi that she is, followed steadily behind. The weather, too, was holding up nicely. We followed the contours of the hillside, twisting and turning around its tight corners while taking in the quiet surroundings, occasionally stopping to admire a butterfly or two. The route isn’t exceptionally scenic. The ravine to our left is mostly covered with lush secondary forest. Super-tall trees tower over us on both sides of the road, so there wasn’t much view to be had beyond. Still, the greenery was pleasing to the eye and the trees provide a much-needed shade from the sun; and just by listening to the constant rustle of the leaves chiming harmoniously with the wind was enough to free my mind off of the whirlpool-like life at the office.

Before long the landscape cleared up to reveal decorative plants and lamp posts by the road side. Already I could hear voices and the hum of car engines in the distance: we have reached our destination, in one hour 45 minutes. Yay!

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The tiny village square was abuzz with tourists, local and foreign, arriving in cars and buses. The hard-to-miss Clock Tower which must be the most-photographed icon on Fraser’s, stands proudly in the middle of the square, ‘posing’ for families, school children and romantic couples alike. Tourists! As for Yong and I, we were happy just to have reached there in time for lunch. It seemed like ages ago since we last ate. All that walking has made us really hungry, so after a short trip to the rest room nearby, we sat down at the nearest food court for lunch. The place was crowded and service was incredibly slow, but we got our food soon enough.

We hung out at the food court for a bit, as it was too early to go back, and we still needed the rest. It was decided that we would start the trek down at 2 pm. I was keeping a close eye on the sky and was a little worried that it might rain. But the rain never came and we made it safely back to the car in one piece. The trek down was uneventful, but it got hotter as we got nearer to the foothill. We took the same route we came from and didn’t want to try the new exit road. Maybe on the next trip. The descend was much faster and easier of course, and we didn’t stop to rest until we got to the car. All in all, I was very happy to have made the trip. Would I do it again? Maybe not…this was just one of those days where the ordinary was just too mundane to handle.

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I’m sticking to FRIDGE MAGNETS!

A holiday trip will not be complete without souvenir shopping. A must-buy for me is fridge magnets. These funky magnetic trinkets are cool to look at and for $3-8 a pop, I tend to go overboard and spoil myself buying a couple of dozens at one go! And because they’re relatively small and lightweight, it’s simply a matter of stashing them in between clothings in the tote or backpack. My two old refrigerators at home are adorned with these little treasures. Of course I’d give away some to family and friends. It’s way simpler to pick compared than, say, tees or scarfs – no worries about size or color.

Sure there are other run-of-the-mill stuff you can buy like key-chains, pins, badges, or even chocolates. I’ve lost count of the key-chains I got from friends. I’m actually using one or two, but the rest are collecting dust somewhere… Just bring home a fridge magnet for me and I’ll be grinning like the Cheshire cat the whole day!

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My Bucket List

My Bucket List according to categories, and in no particular order:-

A. PLACES AND ACTIVITIES
Australia – ever since I met a gorgeous ship engineer when I was 15 (Hi Neal!)
Istanbul – to see Turkish men in skirts twirling like crazy
Live in a castle in the Sottish highlands
See the Aurora Borealis in Alaska
See all the Seven Wonders of the World
Mongolia
New Zealand – tramping at every National Park, see Moeraki Boulders (Otago) and whale watching
Nepal – trek to Everest Base Camp / climb Kala Pattar
South Africa – climb Table Mountain, safari
Venezuela – climb Mount Roraima
Tour Europe in super-motor home
Train Travel on the Orient Express and the Trans-Siberian Rail
Join a 4WD convoy on the Silk Road
Tanzania – climb Kilimanjaro
Climb a lighthouse

B. PERSONAL LISTS
Save a life
Become super-rich
Become a NatGeo wildlife photographer
Open a stationery store
Learn to swim
Meet Paul Michael Glaser and say I Love You!
Meet Prince Harry
To hear Robert de Niro speak Italian to me
Throw a spin ball in bowling and get a strike
Sing and perform in front of a sold-out concert audience
Do 10 ‘man’ push-ups
Speak French fluently