Xia's Journey

Mt Ophir & Malacca ExploreRace

on February 2, 2013

Sometime in Dec 2012, I saw a posting by SANL organizing a trip to Mt Ophir and Malacca for an ‘ExploreRace’. Both the activities looked interesting and I wasted no time in signing up for the activity, without having a closer look at the details.

I missed out the most important liner, which resided in the first paragraph, second line; “This is a leisure and recreational event organised by a dating agency accredited by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.”  Few lines down, there was a link to SDN dating deals and a link for Registration to be an SDN website user. Despite the many indicators, it didn’t occur to me that it was an SDN event (formerly known as SDU).

The Social Development Unit (SDU) was formed in 1984 to promote marriages among graduate singles, while Social Development Services (SDS) was set up in 1985 to promote marriages among non-graduate singles.

The two units merged on 28 January 2009 and was renamed as Social Development Network (SDN) on 16 October 2009. The new SDN forges an extensive network of singles to create an overall environment conducive for singles to meet and form meaningful relationships.

However, despite the many branding and re-branding exercises at SDN, many (like me!) still tremble or crinch at the term “SDN”.  The social stigma of going to an SDN activity still lingers on and many were shy and unwilling to be associated with any SDN activities.

Somehow down the road, when I received queries and replies from the organiser asking for more details, only then did I began to suspect something was amiss. I went back to the SANL page only to re-read and realise what I had mis-read the first time round.

Since I had unknowingly signed up for it, I decided to go ahead with it despite that I had very much wanted to remain in Singapore to shoot Thaipusam on that Sunday. I came out with a plan and decided to break away from the group after the ExploreRace in Malacca on Sunday and head back to Singapore on my own to catch Thaipusam.

26 Jan 2013, Sat, 1pm

IMG_8373Came 26 Jan, 1pm; 15 ladies and 15 gentlemen boarded the chartered bus from Newton Hawker Centre carpark. Glad that Mark, (my event host from Gopeng trip) was also the event host for this trip.

On-board the 4-hour coach journey, we were entertained with some introductory games, different variations of charade; from back of the coach to front, vice-versa. Although they were very simple games, that helped to break the silence on the coach and got us mingled around.

IMG_8386Upon arriving Mt Ophir Resort, we were allocated our rooms.

I shared the room with Jessie – a really pretty and sweet angel.

We hit it off really well and had a great time sharing our little ‘secrets’.

We had an hour to shower and freshen up before heading to the dining hall for dinner.

The dinner was a huge spread of barbequed items with skewers of prawns, chicken, hot dogs etc done up by the staffs at the resort. Although it was not fantastic, it was palatable for a short getaway stay.

IMG_8409 IMG_8405

After the dinner, we had an ice-breaking session and more games. That really got us mingled all around and by the end of the night, we knew almost every single person in our group.

Some of us decided to go for the karaoke whilst some settled for board games. Unfortunately, the karaoke system was down and I decided to trek to the waterfall instead. A couple of guys; John, Keh Han and Dave felt that it was unsafe for me to be travelling to the waterfall alone and decided to keep me company. We trekked and trekked in the super pitch darkness and were soaked to the skin with all that trekking. We did not get to the waterfall and neither did we get to see the milky way, unwillingly, we decided to turn-around and head back to our rooms for a good night rest.

I got back to my room, had a good shower and went out to the front porch in a last frail attempt to get some shots.

27 Jan 2013, Sun

HSH_1460I got out of bed at 6.15am attempting to shoot sunrise. By 6.30am, everyone was up and on their way to breakfast! I had thought being typical Singaporeans, most will sleep in and struggle out of bed at 8am for breakfast before meeting the group at 9am. I left for the waterfall after my breakfast at about 7.30am.

When I arrived at the waterfall, many of my team mates were already there. By 8.30am, I had to rush down the hill quickly so that I could get a quick shower and meet up the group by 9am.

IMG_8438Everyone ran late. We left the resort at 9.30am and arrived Malacca at 10.30am. We were split into smaller teams and I partnered with Jessie, Desmond, Hong Choon and Rebecca for the ExploreRace around Malacca.

It was a hot scorching morning and we completed a few questions before Desmond suggested we grab a drink and bond instead. All of us seconded for it. With such beautiful weather, it was such a shame that I missed the Thaipusam in Singapore.

IMG_8466As we ended our first segment early, a couple of us decided to check out Nancy’s kitchen before rushing back to the meeting point for part B.

Part B / Zone B brings us on a food trail. In our new groups, we were supposed to go around hunting for the locations and the variety of foods. However, our new team decides to forgo playing the food trail as well and with my ‘old’ and ‘new’ teammates, we ended up having a sumptuous meal at Nancy’s kitchen together.


Many of us got back to the meeting point punctually at 1.15pm. Unfortunately, two of our members; Jefferson & Mary went missing and it was a long wait till 2.15pm before we finally moved off to Mahkota. The traffic in and around Malacca was horrendous and we arrived Mahkota at 2.50pm. By then, it was so late that I had to jump off to grab a cab. The first cab wanted RM20 and so did the second one. I took the second cab and hurried to the bus terminal.

IMG_8492Getting back to Singapore had been such a total nightmare.

When I got to the bus terminal at 3.05pm, I approached every single counter and all tickets to Singapore were sold out.

They only had 5pm, 6pm, 8pm or later. And the journey from Malacca to Singapore would take an average of 4hrs. Gosh…. I would be better off taking a cab back to meet up my previous group to go back Singapore then.


When I went on a second round, I managed to get one that goes to JB Larkin at 3.30pm. I decided to hop onto that coach – last seat. We waited a good 20 minutes before 6 (irresponsible!) tourists came straddling up our coach. The driver started the journey at 3.50pm and sped the coach at 140km/hr! We arrived JB Larkin at 6.30pm. I was really glad we made it in such good time. Hehh hehh…

I bought tickets from the yellow JB-SG Causeway bus. As I did not have any small change, with only a RM1 and one RM5. I asked the gentleman following behind me if he had any change. He did not have any either and eventually helped me pay for my busfare instead. I was thankful and appreciative.

I got through the two customs, waited for the ‘yellow buses’ which snaked all the way to the back, survived through the traffic jams in JB, SG and Little India road. I finally arrived at Dhoby Ghaut Tank Road at 9pm to shoot Thaipusam. I paid an additional RM40+ (RM20 for cab from Makota to Malacca bus station, RM19 for coach from Malacca to Singapore, RM2.50 for yellow bus from Larkin to SG) and to miss the sumptous seafood dinner to only arrive in Singapore one hour earlier than the group. Despite so, I’m still glad that I did it…!! 🙂

HSH_1604When I got to Tank Road and shot Thaipusam, the experience at Thaipusam never fails to wow me ~ the amount of faith, strength, will-power and determination that I see in these men who carry the 60kg kavadis, walk barefoot or some that have footwear with spikes, from Little India to Tank Road.

I carry a 4kg camera bag, 2kg apparels backpack and a 2kg tripod ~ and I was already complaining. What about them ?

I saw one devotee carrying an 80kg kavadi that reminded me of a X’mas tree which is about 3m in height..!!

It was so scary – but yet so amazing!


HSH_1676He couldn’t get out of the temple with his very high high ‘Xmas Tree’ kavadi exceeding the height of the temple’s headroom.

He had to stoop and bend his body to get out of the temple. It was unbelievable!

I couldn’t imagine if he couldn’t stabilize and the kavadi fell off. I shudder to think.

I could literally feel his pain and relief when he finally got the kavadi off his body.

It is just surreal seeing people could actually do things beyond what we think our bodies are capable of…!!

I salute these men for their strong will and determination.

That is why the Thaipusam has always been one of my favorite festivals to shoot at and that was why despite the difficulties, I struggled to get back as soon as I can to do so… Haahaa… 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: