Monday, April 15, 2013

A Walk with Tennyson

The stream will cease to flow;
The wind will cease to blow;
The clouds will cease to fleet;
The heart will cease to beat;
For all things must die.

(“All Things Will Die”, 1872, Alfred Tennyson)

A troubled soul burdened with cares and woes,
Dear Alfred, why do you lament so?
In brighter mood, yesteryear you did say:

Nothing will die;
All things will change
Through eternity...
The world was never made;
It will change, but it will not fade.
("Nothing Will Die”, 1871, Alfred Tennyson)

Emotions flicker and falter,
Reflections of our vanity.
A noble spirit freed of self
bathes in light of infinity.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

One Previous Moment

Words deduce
images seduce
ripples rend Self.
Mind shifts and sieves
senses be calmed.
the soul tranquility embalmed
this precious moment achieves.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sungkai - Teluk Intan - Tapah cycling tour, Sat. 4 - Sun. 5 June -Mon 6 June 2011

Nine of us took part in the Teluk Intan trip. It was a first time for 3 of them: my friend, Kim Hwa on a mountain bike, Lee Chee Hin & Alvin Shen for the first time on their foldies. It was a great trip, especially fun during the ride through the Felcra Besut oil palm plantation, roughly about 35km. My friend Kim Hwa and I survive the gravel road well but those on foldable bikes had to ride slowly and endured the jarring and vibration of small wheels on rough stones. After we left the plantation it was another 15km. on tarmac and this part of the route was tough because of the hot sun. We were thirsty and hungry and finally made it to the hawker stall at Teluk Intan about 2.45pm.

Unfortunately, my friend Kim Hwa suffered severe cramps on both legs after we left the plantation. He still had stiffness on both his thighs the next day and did not have the confidence to continue on the second day from Teluk Intan to Tapah. I stayed back to keep him company and we explored the quaint town and enjoyed the local excellent food.

Siang called me on his phone to relate the folders' experience on the second day. He said that it was an easier ride, only 30km through mostly traffic-free kampung roads. The sky was cloudy and not so hot as compared to the first day. He thought that Kim Hwa and I should have come but Kim Hwa lacked confidence and it's not nice for me to leave a friend behind.

Alvin had a tyre puncture on the first night after dinner. Bil kindly repaired the tyre for Alvin. The group was really helpful to each other and those new to simple bicycle repairs have learned many useful skills.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Malapascua Dive, 10-15 Sept. 2010

The best photos were beneath the sea and these were by
my buddy and divemaster Ken Soh.

See his album at:!/album.php?aid=286812&id=653039679

This has been a most memorable trip scoring first for:

1. The worst checkout dive in 303 dives so far logged. A checkout dive is for divers to re-familiarise themselves with their equipment and the marine environment. It is always planned to be easy after a period of non-diving when anxiety is expected.

However, this checkout dive although never exceeded 20m. (average 16m) was against the current throughout the dive. The current got worse as the dive proceeded - what was the divemaster thinking?

I was in poor form, still suffering from a bad cough caught in the high passes of Tibet on the 12-30 Aug. trip, and it was unnerving to have to struggle even towards the end of the dive. I finished the dive completing my safety stop with a near empty tank of 6 bars (started with 200 bars, 1 bar = 14.5 lbs. per sq. in.)

2. My best cave dive (a gigantic swim-through to be technically accurate). Caves are prohibited for leisure divers unless certified for doing so after a special course (extremely demanding). It is extremely hazardous to venture into a cave and those that take up the special course are divers who have logged several hundred dives. However, this cave was open to leisure divers because the entrance was wide enough to enable five divers to swim abreast into the mouth. The exit on the other side of the island though narrower was also easy for an experienced diver.

Inside the cave the passage-way meandered and with my torch-light I could see the rich biodiversity of soft and hard corals, shrimps, craps, a giant puffer fish, a white and black banded sea-snake, three juvenile white-tip reef sharks and many species of nudibranch (sea-slugs).

3. The main aim of visiting Malapascua Island is the close encounter with thresher sharks. We have to wake up at 5am. to prepare for the dive. It took 40 mins. to reach the site at Monad Shoal and we descended at 5.50am to a depth of 17m. and just waited. Monad Shoal is a small atoll rising from the deep ocean floor of many hundred metres. Thresher sharks are pelagics and they live in deep oceans. Occasionally some would ascend and come to Monad Shoal to get rid of parasites infesting their skins by swimming around the atoll for small fishes like the bat fishes and Moorish idols to feast on the pests. It was just luck whether a diver could sight any and so we were on our knees, our eyes and camera strained in less than 10m. visibility towards the edge of the atoll - waiting and waiting.

The wait was not in vain. I saw 2 threshers on 12 Sept. and 4 on 14 Sept. The second occasion was the better one when two appeared in front of me and one at the back. To those who have a phobia about sharks please watch this video by my friend, Lea Meng, to see that thresher sharks are completly harmless and admire their grace and beauty.!/video/video.php?v=10150090266987995&subj=53573104

4. My most scary wreck dive on 13 Sept. With strong surface current we had to descend using the buoy-line. This was a dive done with enriched air of 32% oxygen (technically called NITROX EAN 32) which limited a depth to 32m. The current was even stronger at the bottom where the Dona Marilyn sank on Oct 1988 during typhoon Ruby. My air gauge showed a rapidly declining level of air going against the strong current and with a breathing rate of 5 bar/min. this showed high anxiety. I did reach the divemaster Paul at the stern who pointed out a marble ray resting at the bottom but my dive-computer was beeping frantically. I had exceeded the depth limit below 32m. and exposed myself to oxygen toxicity. I gave the OK signal to Paul and swam away, now looking for the buoy line which was no where to be seen. The dive-computer showed that the air level had dropped to 48 bars with only 28 mins. of diving. I immediately ascended slowly to 22m and held onto a protruding part of the wreck (the passenger ferry was lying on its side).

Wondering what to do next as my buddy was not in sight due to the poor visibility of 5m. It was a relief to see another team-mate and instructor Lea Meng below me. She saw me and signalled whether I was ok and I signalled back that I was low on air. Blessed her - she signalled me to follow her and brought me to the buoy line. I slowly make my way up and completed my safety stop with 14 bar of air left, my shortest dive of 34 mins.

5. Among this team of divers were a sister and younger brother, Melissa & Marcus. I had never dived with them before. They were young, younger than my children, yet I felt an affinity with them. It was only while having dinner after the last dive, during a warmth conversation, that Melissa mentioned her family and I discovered that she was the daughter of a dear classmate of mine who had passed away of cancer. I was delighted to see that my dear friend has brought up such fine children.

Serendipity - such a beautiful word.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Report of 8-day dive trip to P. Dayang 23-30 May 2010

70km east of Mersing-Johore is the 5 km long island of Aur, surrounded by three small islands - Dayang, Lang and Pinang. It's more remote than the more popular islands of Tioman, Redang and Perhentian, taking about 4 hrs. by ferry. There is a chance of encountering large pelagic fish or even a whale shark during the opening season in March/April and closing season in Oct/Nov.

(Map and dive sites of P. Dayang P. Aur : )

It was an 8-day trip from Sun. 23 - Sun 30 May. I was with three instructor friends who were taking along seven students doing their first Open Water training, one advance student pursuing Rescue Diver certification and five leisure divers. I went as a leisure diver, assisting whenever my help was required and generally to keep an eye on the other leisure divers when we were in the water.

I came to the rescue of a frightened Malay woman diver whose tank leaked badly when the O-ring in the cylinder valve burst and brought her to the surface safely and escorted her back to the boat. More common assistance was to demonstrate good buoyancy skill underwater and offered tips to reduce the number of weights and anxiety attacks.

On Thur. 27 the students and leisure divers left with the three instructors after the training was completed while I stayed back alone on the island with the cook, his assistants and the boatmen. I had the island to myself for one day before the weekend crowd arrived on Friday in the wee hours of the morning beginning from 3am.

Before the crowds came on Friday I had the chance to dive by myself and this was one occasion when I did 3 solo dives on the house reef. It was a great feeling to be alone occasionally, doing the things you love best in life. The reef along the shore is mostly damaged by boats, swimmers and snorkellers. However, in the deeper part at 5-10 m. there are still unbroken corals and smaller fishes like a school of ten ikan todak (needle fish), trumpet fish, and many bottom sand dwellers such as gobies and blennies.

All too soon Thursday was over and a 15-member group led by another instructor friend arrived at 4am. on Friday I was awakened by the general commotion to greet my friends on arrival.

Water visibility was poor, around 10m, at this time of mid-year. With a full moon the current was moderately to extremely strong. Worse, we witnessed extensive bleaching of staghorn corals and even the anemones were turning white. The cause - warm water temperature of 31 deg. which is about 2 degrees higher than normal. My instructor friends told me that Tioman's corals were also bleaching when they were there in April. This was bad news. I hope that this was seasonal and not permanent. I would be in P. Tenggol in July and back to P. Dayang in November to monitor the situation.

(To read about the causes and devastation of bleaching to the coral reefs, please see: )

During that weekend there were 135 visitors to the island, taking up every room to spare. Singaporeans outnumber Malaysians ten to one. However, there were several non-divers, mostly elderly people including a white couple. Some came to snorkel, a few anglers and others just enjoying the beach. There were 2 canoes, which had seen much better days, put to use by the energetic young.

P. Dayang was a regular diving site for me as my instructor friends gave me a free ride to Mersing and it was a pleasure to dive with friends whom I have met on other diving trips.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I am angry at my brothers for not caring,
I cry as species die.
I rage against injustice,
I am ashamed of being I.
How do I flee from a cage of "I, I, I" ?

Those who seek not to fly see no cage,
those who wish to soar, even Heaven confines.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

29 Apr - 4 May, Diving at the Similan Marine Park on a liveaboard, the MV Little Princess

This is a brief account of my recent 6d/5n diving trip, 29 Apr-4 May, to the Similan Marine Park on a liveaboard, the MV Little Princess, departing from the Tab-lamu pier, Phuket.

The highlight of the trip was the close encounters with huge manta rays.

Please click on the following URL to see a well-taken video of a manta-ray. You need to have a facebook account, or else sign up for a free account in order to access the video which was taken recently on 3 May by the instructor/organiser, Nick Khoo, during our trip to the Similan Marine National Park.

Five mantas were counted on the morning dive an Koh Bon, at the site known as the Pinnacle Rock. This was the same place where we dived on 1 May and saw two mantas. Pinnacle Rock on Koh Bon is famous for sightings of mantas, the probability of an encounter is high, elsewhere at the Similan Marine Park you may see one if you are very lucky. However, mantas come here because they can feed on the rich plankton brought about by the strong current that sweeps across the pinnacle. The current was much stronger on 1 May when we had to cling onto rocks and just waited for the mantas to pass us by and circle round. On 3 May the current moderated, thus enabling us to approach the mantas to about 4m. away for close encounters. Those with cameras had a field day clicking furiously away. Visibility was about 12m. at both times.

Though mantas were the highlights, on 2 May, there were other close encounters which were just as memorable. The 1.2m Napoleon (humphead) wrasse and 1.5m great barracuda, whom I approached to within 3m of the denizens, at Koh Tachai were much larger compared to the ones I had seen at Sipadan Island, the largest I have seen so far. The 2m.long leopard shark, encountered on the morning dive at Koh Tachai was the largest too that I have seen. Smaller wonders abound, the more impressive were the pink frog fish and the ghost pipe fish, both types of fish are rarely seen, and easily missed even by experienced divers.

Worthy of mention were the numerous challenging swim-throughs at West of Eden Dive-site No. 7 and Turtle Rock Dive-site No. 8. Several of the swim-throughs, which had moderate currents sweeping across the exits, were good tests of buoyancy skills. (For the uninitiated - swim-throughs are narrow passages in rocks and crevices, like swimming through a tunnel.)

Picture of a Napoleon wrasse is found at:

Picture of a great barracuda is found at:

Picture of a leopard shark is found at:

Picture of a pink frog fish is found at:

and a ghost pipe fish at:

I have to use other people's pictures as I did not have an underwater camera with me during the trip. Having lost 2 expensive cameras during the last couple of years due to flooding, I have not yet recovered from the phobia of losing cameras.

The 6d/5n liveaboard on MV Little Princess, ex-Phuket, costs RM3000 for food, airport transfers and 4 dives a day (including a night dive daily, except for the last day), a total of 15 dives. However, most of us could not do the 15th dive; because of bad weather the dive-in time had to be postponed. Those of us who had to fly the next day would be taking a risk if we took part in the dive as it was advisable to desaturate nitrogen for at least 24 hours after our last dive to avoid decompression sickness.

The food was excellent Thai cuisine, 3 big meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and an afternoon tea. Toasts and non-alcoholic drinks are available throughout the day.

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