Category Archives: Events

Escape Room Miri: The Real-Life Puzzle Game

One of the popular activities that is catching up in Miri is the real-life escape rooms.  There are already some misconceptions associated to these escape rooms that has hindered many to experience what could be a fun-filled time for them.   Some of these common misconceptions includes “Eee.. don’t want.. I’m scared”, or “Aiyaaaa… only for kids la”, or “Safe or not oh?”.

Generally, the escape room is all about teamwork and working together to solve puzzles that comes in many forms (number locks, key locks, jigsaws, deciphering codes, and many more).  As you progress, solving one of the puzzle will bring you to many other puzzles, essentially bringing you to the last puzzles which will lead to your final escape from the room.  Sounds fun and easy?  To add to the already challenging puzzles, you are given a 45 minute time limit to solve the puzzles and escape the room…. or else a monster will come eat you (just kidding!).

Escape Room Miri has given me the exclusive opportunity to review and uncover the mystery behind what exactly is an escape room all about.  A few things to note before going into the story:

  • The pictures featured here does not show a whole view of the rooms; there are clues to solving some of the puzzles on the walls, therefore those areas were  avoided.
  • Not all puzzles and mysteries are featured to preserve the element of surprise and fun
  • The pictures were shot when an actual session of Escape Room was ongoing.
  • As much as possible, I tried to preserve the atmosphere and ambience of the rooms; only using flash where necessary to light up certain areas where it was too dark.

By the way, please read on all the way to the end, there is a special offer waiting for you and your group!

Now Let’s have a look at the some pictures of Escape Room Miri.

Escape Room Miri Building

A view of Escape Room Miri’s building located directly opposite the new Permaisuri Imperial City Mall.  The building is painted with very contrasting yellow and black theme.

Lobby

Here’s the main lobby of Escape Room Miri which offers ample space for big groups.  Posters of all the different available themes are seen hanging on the wall; some looks kiddish while some looks downright scary!

Shelves

A look at the shelf behind the counter reveals some very interesting props.

Torchlights

Torchlights are the essential items needed in most of the rooms as the rooms are mostly extremely dim on purpose to add to the atmosphere of the session.  NOTE: Not all players in the group are provided a torchlight, making it even more important to work together.

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Picture: (Left) Combination locks are one of the obstacles you will meet in the challenge.  The combination to these locks are usually given in the form of clues or puzzles scattered around the room. (Right) Even the decorative clock in the main lobby is themed yellow and black!

BUT WHICH ROOM SHOULD I CHOOSE?

This is perhaps the hardest decision your group will need to make.  Currently there are 5 themes to choose from ranging from beginner to challenging fun to all out scary.  Let me help you categorize these themes for you so you have a better understanding.

  • FUN & EASY:  ‘Up’ theme room.  Suitable for beginners and kids.  If you come in a big family, and you have around 4 or more kids, put them all into the ‘Up’ theme.  They will for sure enjoy themselves!
  • CHALLENGING THAT IS NOT SCARY: ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Mysterious Room’ will be the best for this.  Many teens, and some adults have the fear of getting shocked in the game.  These two rooms are the most suitable for those who has this fear as it is quite mild in terms of its scariness yet quite challenging for most people.
  • BRING IT ON! I FEAR NOTHING!: If adrenalin rush, body parts, ghosts, sudden loud cries are things that turns you on, then take on the ‘Slaughter House’ or the ‘Heaven & Hell’ themes.  These two rooms has all these elements enough to make some people want to pee in their pants (literally).

I hope that with my review here, it will give you a better understanding on the different room themes in helping you to choose your team’s challenge.

THE MUMMY

If your group consist mostly of adults or teens, then I suggest going for ‘The Mummy’ room.

The Mummy Room

Here’s an overview of how ‘The Mummy’ first room looks like.  This is typically how you will start the game; you are locked inside the room and must first explore the surroundings for clues.  The countdown timer starts as soon as the you are locked inside.

Mr. Skeleton

Nothing is left unturned when looking for clues.  Mr. Skeleton is finally getting the attention that he seeks after so many centuries of waiting.

Just like in a movie!

Advancing to the next room brings you to more puzzles and clues.  The Mummy room is one of my favourite because of the sophisticated equipment (see a green beam laser? Just like in a movie!)

THE MYSTERIOUS ROOM

‘The Mysterious Room’ is a bit harder than ‘The Mummy’, so it would be good if you try ‘The Mummy’ first before going for ‘The Mysterious Room’.

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Picture: (Left) We stumbled upon a A bookcase full of books, which one of these books would hold the clue needed to open one of the combination locks? (Right) When we finally managed to open the chest with the combination lock, we found more clues!  Sunglasses in a chest?

Crawling

We finally reached a point in the room where we literally had to crawl under beams of lasers.  To make matters more intense, smoke starts to fill the room!  We were careful not to touch the lasers which will result in an automatic deduction of time left to escape the room.

A card reader

Every room uses some form of sophisticated equipment.  In the Mysterious Room, we found a SD Card from inside the chest.  Eventually we found a table with a card reader which contains a video clip that makes no sense to us at first.

Opening a safe

A person with experience in opening a safe would definitely be a benefit to the team.  Michael tries his luck at the safe with the combination of numbers which we found from some of the clues.

THE UP ROOM

Before going into the scary rooms, let me share with you how the Up theme room looks like.  If you are coming to play escape room with in a big family, I suggest the adults take on the more challenging themes and let the kids take on this ‘Up’ room.  They will really enjoy themselves.

The Up Room

The ‘Up’ room gets its name from the animation with the same name, ‘Up’.  It is a very colourful themed room with many cute and lovely props and lots of balloons!  Jesse and Alina examines the life-sized toy-soldier for clues.

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Picture: (Left) A lot of attention has been spent on the details of the room. Every corner is just as colourful and lovely as the other.  There’s even a lovable and huggable teddy bear sitting at one corner.  (Right) Alina tries the combination of the lock with the clue that Jesse discovered.

More puzzles

A chess board, some alphabets and a calculator?  What to do with these clues?  Part of the challenge is always to determine what to do with the clues, especially when there’s more than one clue involved.

Balls balls balls!

These coloured balls makes me feel like jumping into it and relive my childhood days.  The only thing that’s stopping me from doing is the fear that I might destroy any clues in there. (Actually I shy… don’t want to show my true colours to the kids! *Maintains adult mature look*)

HEAVEN & HELL

Are you ready for the scary stuff?  Heaven & Hell is a moderately scary theme.  There’s only a bit of body parts littered here and there but that is not the main scare!  Leave it to you and your group to experience it!  😉

Heaven & Hell Room

This is the first room of Heaven & Hell theme.  Not so scary right? This is actually just the ‘Heaven’ part of the whole theme, hence the dropped angel feathers and bright light from up above.  As usual, your team has to start by exploring the area for clues.

Examination

No object is left unturned.  Achi examines the candles on the altar while Fysza examines the bouquet of flowers.  But wait, did they notice the two big red buttons behind them?

Into hell

Finally found our way into hell.  Look what was waiting for us as we entered!  Almost had a heart attack myself.

Do we really need to go in there?

What? Another room? This time the gate is locked with a padlock that needs a key.  The question is, do we really need to go in that room?  There seems to be more scary stuff waiting inside; its quite faint, but I can just barely make out the creepy shape.  Proceed with caution!

THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE

This, my friends, would be the scariest of the lot.  Not for the faint hearted, and not for those who wants to be able to sleep peacefully at night.  Chopped up body parts, blood splatter everywhere on the floors and on the walls, smell of rot sounds like things that will make you nauseous, then please do not take on this theme!

The Slaughter House

Here’s a picture of the first room of the Slaughter House theme.  The picture is black and white on purpose; so that you get to experience and feel for yourself the real grotesque atmosphere in the room.  What do you expect from a SLAUGHTER HOUSE; blood everywhere and body parts kept in unexpected places.

Keep Out!

The doors to the big freezer is sealed.  There are already many dismembered body parts laying around the room, what other horror awaits us behind these metal doors?  Are we really going to open this door when the bloody sign on it says “KEEP OUT”?

Read Aloud

What about the inscriptions on this fridge door?   Fysza reads the sentence aloud for her teammates to listen.  Perhaps its the clue needed to open the freezer doors?

The opening

Finally, the freezer doors are opened.  What other horror awaits us in the freezer?  A silhouette of something frightening hangs right in front of us, swaying slowly with its blood covered plastic.

So there you have it!  The 5 different rooms that I have conveniently categorized into 3 easy categories for you.   Needless to say, I was really impressed with the amount of attention given to all the room decorations and props.  Even the puzzles of each room has been very well thought of and researched before being implemented as part of the theme.  All these factors come together to make a perfect experience for you and your friends to enjoy!

EMERGENCY? STUCKED? Don’t worry!

Emergency? No worries.

For emergency purposes, an intercom is provided to every group that are playing.  Each group is also allowed to ask for a maximum of TWO hints if they find themselves stuck and out of ideas on how to proceed.

THE BRAINS BEHIND IT ALL

The Brains

This is the CPU that powers every room.  It is programmed to react to the activities of those that are playing in the room.  For example, when the participants reaches a certain area, it will activate a sound, or if the participants managed to solve one of the puzzles, it releases a latch that will open a door to the next room.  It is with this central processing unit that makes it possible the players to have the best experience of a real-life escape room.

Hall of Fame

At the end of it all, if your team manages to escape within the 45 minutes, you guys stand the chance to have your group picture taken and pasted on the WEEKLY CHALLENGE’s Hall of Fame according to each themed room.

Group picture

Regardless of whether your group successfully escapes the room or not, you will get your group photo taken at the Escape Room’s wall.  Get creative with your poses!  The group of people in this picture are the dedicated staff of Escape Room Miri which motto is to ensure that each one of you leaves Escape Room Miri with full satifaction and great memories!

Insane

Not satisfied with just wacky poses?  Get even more creative with the many different variety of props available at the counter to make that perfect group picture!  Here’s the Escape Room Miri’s team version of silliness.  What do you think?  I’m not sure if they were going for the scary look or the scarily insane look!

 THINK YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BEAT THE CHALLENGE?

Call now!

What are you waiting for?  Mr. Skeletor is waiting to give you and your group a thriller of a time.  Call +60 16 886 0606 or +60 11 1989 2505 to make your bookings now!  Don’t make him wait too long!  He’s ‘dying’ to meet you!

SPECIAL PROMOTION WITH CYRIL’S CANVAS!

Good news people!  Escape Room Miri has teamed up with Cyril’s Canvas to offer you a package which will benefit you when you come with your friends.  Buy 3, Free 1!  Which means, if you come in groups of 4, the 4th person will be free!  Just inform the staff member that you are there for CYRIL CANVAS’ promotion, and each one of you will also need to show that you have LIKE Cyril’s Canvas Facebook page which is at: https://www.facebook.com/cyrilcanvas and also show that you have SHARE this Escape Room Miri’s post on your own Facebook!  This offer is only valid until 31 July 2015, so please hurry!

PAWS’ Dog-A-Walk

Many of my colleagues know me as the ‘father of the cats’.  We get a lot of stray cats taking shelter at our hostel, mostly ‘dumped’ by their masters thinking that the ‘gerai’ (malay for stalls) next door is a good dumping place for unwanted cats.  Although it might be true that the cats are capable of scavenging for leftover or unwanted food there, it is also a place filled with bacteria which leads to all sorts of commutable disease for them.  It is made worst by the fact that there are so many strays there, they just transfer their disease to one another, especially mange.  A few of them, for whatever reasons unknown to me, maybe they just don’t like the conditions there, flock towards our hostel for shelter, which are fed by me.

Be that as it may, I’m actually a lover of pets, not restricted to just our feline friends.  So when PAWS Miri announced that they will be having their regular dog-a-walk, I immediately checked my calendar, and was delighted that I am able to attend the event for the first time ever.

PAWS Miri (short for Piasau Animal Welfare Support) is a non-profit organization aimed to reduce the number of stray animals in the ultimate goal to have a stray-free Miri.  PAWS Miri has grew and expanded since 2008, totally on donations and sponsorships from individuals who share the same love for animals.

It was a bright and clear day, a menagerie of clouds littered in the skies.  Perfect for a walk out at the beach.  When I arrived, a few four-legged friends were already there, accompanied by their two-legged best friend.

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So many different breeds all gathered together on this bright sunny afternoon.

Common love

The event brings together individuals who are strangers to each other initially but friends thereafter because of their common love for canines.

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Just like their sapiens friends, these canines also get a chance to make new friends.  Since they do not have hands to shake like the sapiens do, they touch noses and smell each other as their way of a friendly greeting.

Animal Instinct

To make friends with a canine, slowly reach out your hand for the canine to smell just as it would with a fellow canine friend. It’s just that easy!

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Various colourfu souvenirs and merchandise are also available for purchase.  The funds from these purchases are one of the ways in which PAWS generate income, although a small one.

And then we're off!

And then we’re off! The dog-a-walk starts, lead by our fearless leader Natalie with her ever-so-calm Lady leading the way.

Strategic venue

The venue chosen for the walk this round was extremely strategic such that the beach was just across from where we were gathering.

Breath-taking

The short walk towards the beach is a scenic one, where we had a brisk walk through a small forested area before the the path opens up into a breath-taking lagoon that is made complete with the sunset.

Stroll along the beach

Even if this was not dog-a-walk, coming here for a stroll along the beach, or just simply spending time with loved ones would be simply amazing.

Obstacle Course

But first, before anyone (including those with fur) has to get through the first obstacle. Climbing down the stones, which to our four-legged friends especially those who seldom gets the chance to ‘get out’, would be quite a huge challenge.

Hesitation

He hesitates to go down the stones.

O Fearless One

Our fearless leader waits patiently for everyone (with and without fur) to get down.

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Our fearless leader decides to give a helping hand to the little ones, beckoning the others with the little ones to do the same.

Even the big ones

Even some of the bigger ones needs a little help.

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For many of them, walking in water is no big deal.  Been there, done that.

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Whereas for the first-timers, they would just react the same as any human being would: It starts with him stopping the friend from going any further and just get ‘down-and-dirty’ to have a dip in the water.

Salt Supplement

For some others, it makes them just want to … eat water??? After all, it is fact that the human body cannot produce its own salt yet salt is required to perform a variety of essential body functions so maybe they need salt in their system. Scientist says we need 6 grams of salt per day.

Enter the Huskies

The energetic and athletic huskies, a breed that hails from the cooooooooooooooold climate of the Artic can adapt itself well to our tropical climate.

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Walking a dog is an easy thing to do, just follow his lead.  This was the first time my son experienced walking a dog.

Fresh gentle sea breeze

One might lose his breath with breath-taking views like this, but the gentle blowing sea breeze is fresh enough to balance it out!

Check-in

That’s the former Holiday Inn, now known as Parkcity Everly Hotel, hidden behind the tall pine trees.

End of the road

At the end of the path, the doggies was allowed some time to rest and to bond with one another. It was a great chance for us to get to know each other as well.

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Our four-legged friends posing with their two-legged best friend.

A Proud Young Master

A proud boy with his dog. Having a dog means teaching our children about care and responsibilities. This fine young boy obviously knows what that is all about!

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Rare breed

Huskies are an extremely rare breed to find. I was lucky enough to meet two on that very day!

Turning point

The sun was almost set… it was time to turn back and make our way back to our starting point.

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As the sun sets into the horizon, everyone took their time to enjoy their last few moments walking their best friend.

Run Lucky, run.

It was time to let loose! Lady runs to her heart’s content.

No doubt about it

It would be hard for anyone not to see how much Lady has thoroughly enjoyed her day.

Obstacle Course Part 2

The dogs had to go through the ‘obstacle course’ again to climb back up. It’s actually very good training for them.

Beautiful creation

The sunset… the canines … the people… the moments… are among many of God’s many beautiful creation.

Rest

Now that everyone is back on the dock, it was time for the dogs sit down, have a drink of water and rest.

Exhausted

By now, most of the dogs were exhausted… same goes for their best friend!

Giving water

The master giving life giving water to man’s best friend.

Even two-legged needs replenishment

Even the two-legged ones need replenishment.

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The many different tired but happy faces.

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The fearless leader wastes no time.  She is already discussing and planning out the next big event of PAWS Miri: the PAWS Dogathon where dog owners will walk their dog around Miri City to raise funds for charity and the PAWS Doggie Show which will include many competitions such as the obedience, musical chairs, agility, dress-up and eating competition!

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Many photo opportunities for people to take a picture with other pets.

Back rub

Meanwhile, some dogs get to enjoy a nice back rub…

I love you this much

Nothing says ‘I love you’ than more than a hug.

Bit more to the left

Or a scratch behind the ear… they love that too!

Energetic Pipi

Pipi still seems to be as energetic as ever. Perfect companion for the young children with equal enthusiasm.

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Pipi is up for adoption and is currently, one of the many strays taken care of by PAWS Miri.

One for the album

One for the album. All the participants, two-legged and four-legged alike posing for a group picture at the end of the successful PAWS Dog-A-Walk.

A big kudos to the team of PAWS Miri for a splendid job trying their best to keep Miri city free from stray.  They need all the donations and sponsorship that they can get, that and not to forget the moral support for their continuous fight to rid of strays and to instill awareness and educate everyone about responsibilities of having a pet with the ultimate goal of showing how these lovely furry friends need our love and support.  Please take some time to have a look here for other dogs that need a home.  You might just be the next best friend for one of them!

The Sounds of Toyota Classics 2012

No, I’m not referring to the sounds of Toyota engines roaring by.  The Toyota Classics refers to an annual event that has been on-going since the 90s, which sees different world renowned chamber ensembles having a tour in the major countries in Asia, which of includes Brunei, and is fully sponsored by Toyota Motor Asia Pte Ltd and NBT Sdn Bhd of Brunei.

I am thankful to my friend Jan for inviting me to shoot along with him and Gavin this year.  Before this, I was oblivious to the existence of Toyota Classics and what it is, ignorant to the point that anything to do with the word ‘Toyota’ has to do with cars.  Having learnt the piano since I was young and achieving my Grade 8 ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) Piano Examinations, and hours and hours of jamming with my Church band eventually acquired me the skills to play the other instruments such as the keyboard, guitar, bass and drums; the Toyota Classics 2012 which presents the Vienna Chamber Orchestra this year, is certainly my cup of tea!

Vienna Chamber Orchestra

The Vienna Chamber Orchestra presented by the Toyota Classics 2012 performing in the newly commissioned Arts Centre Building in Jerudong International School which was the perfect venue for the occasion; a comfortable concert hall with elevated seats, perfect noise dampening, and artistically designed interiors.

Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah

The Toyota Classics is also an event meant to raise funds for charitable bodies. Gracing the event was Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah which presented a total of $81,000 to Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam, Dana Ihsan Annur Harapan and the Learning Ladders Society.

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All smiles as the members of the orchestra prepares to bring us on a journey filled with the harmonic sound of music

Eye contact

Conductor Joji Hattori (right) and guitar soloist Soichi Muraji (left) smiles at each other indicating that they are ready to begin the piece.

Intense

Soichi Muraji plays his solo section with intense feelings and full of concentration; his fingers running on the guitar strings like they were playing on a piano – fast and accurate to the note.

The journey begins

And so the journey begins, each instruments telling their own stories, united as one voice by the skills of the conductor.

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The low hums of the contrabass (left), the exciting beats of the drum (middle) and the angelic sounds of the violin (right).

Man of many expressions

The many expressions of Joji Hattori, respected and known internationally for his interpretation of the Viennese Classics, the place he grew up in.

Energy

Joji Hattori emphasizes the virtuosity of the moment as he swings his arms and head with full force and energy.

Standing Ovation

The audience was totally captivated by the performance of the orchestra and gives a standing ovation, asking for one more piece.

Surprise! Surprise!

The conductor Joji Hattori, touched by the response of the audience, decides to perform another piece; this time shocking the audience with his own solo skills on the violin. (Joji Hattori was first a concert violinist having won many competitions before he developed into directing chamber orchestras)

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At the end of the event, both Joji Hattori and Soichi Muraji was presented with beautiful flowers from a pretty flower girl.  All the audience was deeply impressed and moved by the performances of the evening.  The orchestra members were all smiles as they are glad and thankful that they have given yet another breath-taking performance.

Honestly, I have to say that this is the best photographing event so far throughout my career as a photographer.  I found myself truly enjoying the whole function.  But it is not because there were a lot of ‘moments’ to capture (in fact I had less pictures compared to my usual events), instead I found myself teleported to heaven, with all the sounds of God’s creation and instruments playing their tune.  I was captivated and mesmerized by it all!

Valaikappu

A baby shower is a tradition practiced in the modern-world today which is based on the idea of ‘showering’ the expectant mother with gifts suitable for babies.  It is both a social gathering for the mother-to-be with her relatives and friends as well as a celebration of a new life.  However, the original purpose of this gathering was for the women to be able to share their experience and lessons on motherhood to the mother-to-be.

By the way, have I mentioned that baby showers are only attended by women?  Baby showers are practiced by almost all races and religion today.

The Tamil Indians celebrates this occasion as well, in a ceremony called ‘Valaikappu’.  ‘Vala’ means bangles and ‘kappu’ means security.  In plain English, it is described as ‘the bangle ceremony’ as the pregnant mother is ‘showered’ with glass bangles which is slipped into her hand by close family and friends.  It is usually performed during the odd months of pregnancy, preferably the fifth or seventh month.  The event celebrates the joy of the upcoming motherhood and ensures the welfare of both the mother and the baby inside her womb.

Kolam

In front of the ceremonial area lies the Kolam (some call it Rangoli), which is a decorative design made on floors of living rooms and courtyards during festivals.

Sacred Area

The designs are meant to be sacred welcoming areas for deities.

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The Kolam is a traditional art form originating from India, which is created with coloured sands.

Sandalwood paste

Sandalwood paste and betel leaves are always integral parts of Indian rituals and ceremonies, and is used here to mark the forehead of the expectant mother.

Gifts for the visitors

These colourful gifts are given to each of the women at the end of their turns after they have completed the ritual as a sign of gratefulness and thanksgiving.

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At the altar, these items are part of the ceremonial ritual.  Other objects include many food offerings, bangles and oil lamps.

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Preparations of the altar are almost complete, all that is left is the lighting of the lamps.  The pictures shows the lighting of a simple bronze oil lamp (left) to the lighting of the beautifully detailed ‘Kuthuvilakku’ lamp being lit (right).

Kuthuvilakku

The lit ‘Kuthuvilakku’ lamp has a circular base with five wicks. Oil lamps are an important aspect of the ritual and are there to to ward off any evil.

During the Valaikappu, the expectant mother is dressed in a new sari and new jewelry specially for this day, accompanied with fancy head-dress made of beautiful flowers, worthy of a princess.

The very expectant mother

The art of contemporary tattoo, also known as ‘Henna’ can be seen marked on the hands of the mother-to-be as a sign of blessings and beauty.

Henna Body Art

The Henna body art is done by using the dye preparations derived from a Henna tree which is commonly found in tropical regions.

Peacock Henna

The image that is painted with henna art is of a peacock, which is associated to the deity and represents patience, kindness, grace, pride and beauty. The peacock is also the national bird of India.

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The Valaikappu is a very colourful ceremony.  The pictures above shows the different gifts that are offered to the mother-to-be, many of them contribute to the colours of the ceremony.

Just like in the modern baby showers, Valaikappu is also a ceremony that concerns only the women (with the husband of the mother-to-be) only appearing during the beginning and the end of the ceremony.

Women Only

The ceremony begins with a procession of the women bringing all the gifts into the ceremonial area and placing them on the altar. As soon as the altar is ready, the expectant mother will be brought onto the altar by her husband and then seated at the center of the altar for the part of the ritual.

Forehead Marking

Each of the women, at the beginning of their turn, will mark the forehead of the mother-to-be. A giant mala (flower garland) was put around her neck prior to the start of the ritual, which adds on to the colour of the ceremony.

Using sandalwood paste

Sandalwood paste is a very common item used in Indian ceremonies and it is used to mark the forehead of the mother-to-be in this ritual.

Cheeks

Apart from the marking on the forehead, the sandalwood paste is sometimes also marked on the cheek and arms.

Putting on the bangles

Glass bangles are then placed on the wrists of the pregnant mother during the ceremony by her close family and friends.

Baby simulation

Part of the ritual involves passing a heavy larger-than-usual pestle to the mother-to-be to hold and to lift as a simulation to handling a real baby.

Let it rain!

The sprinkling of water on the expectant mother’s head happens towards the end of the ritual.

Wish you well

One of her close relatives wishes her well and blessings after completing the steps of the ritual.

Thank you

As a sign of gratitude and thanks, as well as a remembrance for this joyous occasion, each of the women are given gifts to bring home with them.

Eenie meenie mienie moe

The last bit of the ceremony involves the expectant mother being asked to pick one of the three bundles of white muslin cloth. In it are ponggal (sweet) rice, pulli (tamarind) rice, and tairu (yogurt) rice. It is believed that if the mother-to-be picks the tamarind or yogurt rice (both of which are sour), then the coming baby will be a baby boy and the sweet rice, a baby girl.

Peekaboo

Opening the bundle is probably the most suspenseful moment in the whole ceremony. In it holds the gender of the baby. From the face expression of the expectant mother, which rice do you think she picked?

Spoonfed

After the opening of the rice bundles, the husband will take the first turn to feed her the rice, followed by her other family members.

Handfed

The mother-to-be gets hand-fed with some desserts of her choice.

Safe journey

Part of the ceremony also included three female relatives who took turns to drizzle a little milk against banana leaf on her back. This act signifies wishing a safe journey for the newborn during childbirth.

Prayer offering

The finale of the ceremony involves a few of the women joining together to hold the bowl containing lit sandalwood paste and betel leaves while offering prayers.

Bangle glory

At the end of the day, the expectant mother would have more than a hundred bangles on her. The sound of that these bangles make when they clash which each other are supposed to heard by the baby in the womb.

After the rituals, the family holds a feast for all relatives and visitors and everyone share in the joyous occasion together.

Hapy Couple Satiaselan & Girija

It is indeed a very meaningful ceremony and joyous ceremony.  If one was to ask me what Valaikappu is like, I would explain it in these simple words:  Colourful & full of joy and laughter.

Special thanks to Satiaselan and Girija for giving me a chance and trust to shoot in this important celebration of theirs. Good luck and all the best for the coming of the little one into their family!

The Winning Spirit

A healthy body, a healthy mind.  That is one of the principles that I have always believed in.  For the teachers of the school, Sports’ Day has always been very taxing to organize.  Apart from their daily routine in preparing their lesson plan, setting test papers and a whole lot of marking students’ exercises which can get as high as the teacher’s head… literally.

Teacher preparing the participants' numbers.

Teacher Chin Mui Choo preparing the participants’ numbers, without which the participants will not be allowed to compete.

Sports Day, for the teachers, is not just a one day affair.  It involves months and months of sweat-filled supervision of the students.  For most schools, Sports Day is only held once every two years.  Yet, Chung Hua Middle School has their Sports Day every year without fail, and they are willing to go through all that hardship, time and time again, and still manage to allocate some of their already-packed time to ensure that Sports Day comes true every single year for the students.

For the students, they look forward to Sports Day every year, as they want to win.  For some students, it might seem like getting a gold is only but a dream, but they try their best anyway because they know that in the end, they will regardless of the outcome, they have embraced the winning spirit.

Stretching

Yellow House’s Nyiau Wen Jun does some stretching before going into the battlefield.

Come the big day, everyone’s excited, especially the students.  Which house will emerge the overall winner of the year?  Which student will be awarded the Best Athlete award?

Lucky Shoes

Every participant would have their own ritual before the race. Blue House’s Wendy Chua puts on her lucky shoes.

All smiles

The Green House girls posing for the camera with full confidence… and style!

Show of discipline

The disciplined Green House emerged the winner of the March-Pass.

Let the games begin!

Chairman of the school’s Board unveils the Sports’ Day Logo for the year while the management cheers on.  In the background are the four Sport Houses of the school; the lovely Blue House, the peaceful Green House, the trustworthy Yellow House and the loyal Red House.

Taking the oath

Green House’s Soon Yen Ching represents the entire participants in taking the oath, pledging to play fair and obey all the rules of the sport. Behind her stands the official Sports’ Day flag of the school which is only raised once a year.

And as the runners take their place at the starting line, so does all the teachers take their place at their allocated duties.  Everyone, indifferent,  working together in one perfect harmony.

Digital Scores

Results of all the events are entered into the system and calculated automatically so that participants can know their placings in real-time.

Time watchers

Teachers standing ready with their stop-watches, each one taking the track time of each individual runner in the event.

And the race begins

Runners taking their time, sticking to their own houses, conserving their energy for that very last lapse in the 800 meters event where they will then sprint for the finish line.

Skipping

The unique event in the Sports’ Day where we don’t normally see is the 80 meters skipping event, which is only opened for the Primary School students. Blue House’s Chong Ching Wen skips her way to the finish line, making sure her legs does not get tangled up in the rope!

Making sure there's no lumps

Student helpers preparing the long jump pit, making sure the sands are evenly distributed, with no lumps and holes to prevent unwanted injuries during the competition.

First Flight

The ‘first flight’ of Red House’s Chua Zheng Hong taking the leap and flying high in the Long Jump event.

Defending Champion

Defending Champion Red House’s John Jose throwing with all his might to defend his title of Champion from last year.

I will be strong!

Green House’s Christopher Sim giving out his battle cry, throwing the discus.

Ready, Aim, THROW.

Ready, Aim, THROW as Blue House’s Goh Yea Wen taxi the lane to throw the javelin into the air.

Not as easy as it looks

Green House’s Jason Lam makes throwing the shot put seems so easy when preparing for the throw itself is hard enough; feet positioned properly, while shoulders wide apart, making sure to leave a slight bend in the knees.

Dive Dive Dive

Red House’s Woo Pak Chung dives into the sea of sand while the spectators looks on.

Everyone has their sunblock ready and their caps ready.  This would probably be the one and only day that everyone would wish for the sun and not the rain.  The sun brings out the shine in everyone, the bright smiles, the joyous laughter and the glorious win.

Taking shelter

Blue House girls taking shelter under a farmer’s over-sized farmer’s hat, which is actually mine. I’ve found the farmer’s hat to be most useful for out-in-the-blazing-sun events compared to any other hats or caps which shelters the head but not the body, unlike the farmer’s hat, which can be seen in the picture sheltering three people!

Wear and tear

A farmer’s hat finally gave in after years of service to its owner.

Unique style

Every participant would have their own unique style which they feel would give them the advantage over the others, even if the style does not conform to the ‘Standard Operating Procedures’.

Everybody look to their left...

As Jessie J says, Everybody look to their left…..

Everybody look to their right

….. Everybody look to their right.

Maybe will stumble and fall half way through the run.  Some might even suffer injuries in the process.  But they push themselves, reminding themselves that they have gone through so much just to reach this day, and it would be a waste to give up now.  So they pick themselves up, shrug their pain aside, brush the sand off their shoulders, can push on.

First Aid

Chairman of the School Board, Mr. Lau Shiew Yien gives a new definition of ‘first aid’ as he was the first to rush in to aid Green House’s Kylie Chiam when she fell to ground before any other first aider was there.

Down and out

Red House’s Max Wong took a nasty fall in the high jump event, hurting his back bone when he landed with the pole still under him. The paramedics was rushed in to rush him to the hospital. Miraculously, the next day he was back in school, up and about, just like any other normal day in school… with the difference of being hailed as the hero of the day.

Finished at the finish line.

Every athlete who gives out all their best will most probably ‘meet’ the ground at the end the race when their legs has given out all it can…..

Finishing Line

….. but even with the awareness impending ‘blackouts’ at the end of the finish line, everyone still gives out all their best anyway, for this last few seconds of the race; the touch of the body against the finish line then the roar of the crowds crowning you the champion even before the official results are out.

Pleasant encounters

Sports’ Day also provides very pleasant encounters as students are brought down memory lane at times when they have the chance to meet up with old friends from other schools as they come participate for the invitational relay event; as they had one such opportunity this year in meeting ex-Red House’s Liew Shi Wen.

Just like a storm, all the months of preparation comes down to flash of a day, which will portray the fruit of their labor.  The winning spirit is not just about the trophies or the medals that a person wins.

The glory

The victorious feeling when you step on prize giving podium, holding up your medal in glory.

A running winner gets a trophy much bigger and glamorous than that of the second place, yet that does not mean the winner is ten times better than the second place winner.  Nor does it mean that the winner had ten times better running shoes than the second place winner.

Huge differences in results cannot come from techniques or equipment only.  The most important factor is the mental attitude.  The winner had maybe the ability to do one or two changes in his thoughts during the last few seconds.  The winners are the ones who are willing to give it their best, not only in the competition day itself, but all the way from the beginning where everything began, the practices.  All the time spent training and training.

That is the real winning spirit.

Systems of Values

Behind every great sportsman is a system of values; hard work, self-improvement, service to his house, etc which in the end, can be summarized as the title of this post, The Winning Spirit.

Wu Chun’s Gift of Love

Thanks to Jan and Eric, I have reached another milestone in my life; I was fortunate enough to be able to meet Wu Chun up close and personal.  Eric is the founder and owner of Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop, which is very well known for their healthier cakes and pastries and trust me, does not mean less taste!

At first, when Jan told me about Wu Chun himself coming to promote Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop’s promotion, I was rather skeptical.  I tried not to put my hopes and expectations too high.  But when I saw this fantastic car in the entrance, it’s hard for the heart not to skip a beat!’ (Photo courtesy of Jan Shim)

Wu Chun's Car

Wu Chun’s Fitness Zone has teamed up with Eric’s Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop so that their members can enjoy a selection of healthy breads, which is freshly baked and delivered to Fitness Zone Serusop daily, thereby saving precious time and fuel without needing to drive all the way to the bakery!

Wu Chun speaks

“Fitness Zone chose Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop because they are the healthier choice and due to their strict policy of no added preservatives, dough improver and as much as possible, no added stabiliser or emulsifer is used.”

Fitness Zone & Mr. Baker's Bakeshop

Wu Chun and Eric posing together in front of the shelf displaying the freshly baked breads for the convenience of members and the public.

Wu Chun said, “We are thankful  to Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop for allowing Fitness Zone members to have the privilege of having their cakes made to order and have them delivered to Fitness Zone free of charge”.

Wu Chun interview

Wu Chun & Rano

Rano Iskandar of Ranoadidas spending a few minutes to interview Wu Chun.

And in conjunction with Mother’s Day, Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop is offering 15% discount on all their top selling cake; the Fresh Fruit Vanilla cake, and on top of that, the first 50 customers will receive a complimentary one-week free entry to Brunei’s number 1 Health Club, courtesy of Fitness Zone.

Promotion at Mr. Baker's Bakeshop

Promotion signboard placed outside Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop outlet at Batu Bersurat.

If that wasn’t enough, Eric is baking a record-breaking-biggest-ever-baked Fruit Cake specially for Fitness Zone’s Mother’s Day activity.  Seeing it with my own eyes, I dare say that it really is the biggest fruit cake I have ever seen.  I was at Mr. Baker’s Bakery to witness and document the cake being made from the beginning all the way up till its finishing, till the very last placing of grape on the cake.

Big cake

Big, right? The cake shows off at a record-breaking span of 15-inch, that’s equivalent to a car’s tyre. On the right is Eric, the founder and owner of Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop.

Big muscles

Other than the big cake, Wu Chun’s big muscles cannot help but to show itself! Wu Chun obviously lifts this gigantic and heavy cake without breaking any sweat.

According to Wu Chun, there is going to be a ‘surprise’ Mother’s Day promotion this weekend and Fitness Zone will have an ‘open house’ for all families to come and enjoy the state-of-the-art facilities plus some interesting free gifts as well.

Posing for Mother's Day

Wu Chun posing with the celebration cake and Fitness Zone’s promotional advertisement for Mother’s Day. (Picture courtesy of Wu Chun himself from his own camera!)

What was suppose to be a simple and straightforward shoot at Mr. Baker’s Bakeshop for their products and production team, turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime to not only meet Wu Chun in person, but also to stand next to him, talk to him, and of course, take a picture with him. For this, I would like to say thank you to Jan and Eric for this amazing and surreal time.

Surreal Moment

Surreal Moment. My gosh, I look like a midget standing next to him. So tall! ><

There’s no I in TEAM

Quite often, the word ‘team’ is used so much that people forget the real meaning of a team.  Many a times, the extend in which teamwork is taught has been taken for granted.

The members of Chung Hua Middle School Kuala Belait’s (CHMSKB) Badminton Team are constantly taught the discipline of a team.  To them, a team is not only for the mere purpose of going for competitions.  As a team, they go for training together; drills, push-ups, drills, running, drills, sit-ups, drills and more drills, all the hardship they endure together.  The teamwork does not end there, as they are taught to ensure they clean up training venue, no matter where, is cleaned up together before anyone of them can go home; nets, poles, used shuttlecocks, empty bottles are all kept away.

At the end of the day, they go home together, tired and exhausted, each of them pondering why they bother to go through all that torture, but all that thought is washed away by the the sense of belonging that they have for each other in a team.

Come competition day, they are excited and nervous, but never scared, because they know that they have each other’s back no matter what the outcome is.  Sharing is caring, hence their tears of joy and tears of sadness are shared together.

The recent competition organized by BSRC (Brunei Shell Recreation Club) Badminton Section has allowed the players of Chung Hua KB the chance to shine, not only in terms of their badminton skills, but more importantly, their teamwork.

Training Discussion

Coach briefing the Chung Hua KB players at the end of a training session as they prepare for the competition. Picture courtesy from Jan Shim.

Explaining the way it works

Main organizer Nur Liyana explaining the competition system to the ever-supportive parents that were present.

Flipping the coin

Flipping the coin to determine which side gets to choose to have the first serve.

Tossing the shuttle.

Or alternatively, tossing the shuttlecock to see which side it will point to after it lands.

Dive

Every point counts as Edward Wong of Chung Hua KB making a dive for the shuttle.

Every point counts

Partners Lau Tat Keen and Bryan Arden covering each other making sure no corners are missed.

Jump Smash

The player from Perdana Wazir initiating an explosive, yet somewhat graceful jump smash.

Best Player

Meet Samantha Lee of Chung Hua KB. At the tender age of 10 (Year 5), she has won the trophy for the Best Player for showing her courage and determination, despite her age and size against very opponents who were much older and stronger than her.

Killing the shuttle

Amalie Chin of Sayyidina Ali jumps to kill the play while her partner Chan Sin Yee stands by for the next hit.

Universal Sign

This universal sign is used when a player, from all the adrenalin rush, accidentally hits the shuttle unto the body of the opponent (sometimes the face) causing injury. "Sorry!"

Hi-five

Partners Eunice Lou and Kimberly Law hi-five each other after winning a play.

Can't Believe

Nicholas Lee of Chung Hua KB breaks down on the court after winning a long and hard match against his all-time foe.

Congratulations

It is customary for both sides to shake hands and congratulate each other after having played their best in a match.

Cheering crowds

Teammates and parents alike clapping and cheering on.

The crowd goes wild

The crowd goes wild as the players give out their best performance and giving the audience an exciting game to watch.

Chung Hua Middle School Kuala Belait's Team A & B

One for the album as Team A & B of Chung Hua Middle School Kuala Belait, after winning the 2nd and 3rd place positions, poses with Principal Hong Geok Cheng and members of the BSRC Badminton Section Committee.

Best Team Spirit

The Best Team Spirit Trophy

It is with the genuine teamwork that the Chung Hua KB team has displayed that won them the trophy for the BEST TEAM SPIRIT award.

Lastly, to the people who must not be left out, without which all these display of teamwork, competitive spirit and togetherness would not have been possible; well done to the BSRC Badminton Section committee members!

Committee

The capable BSRC Badminton Section Committee Members posing for a group picture as the month long BSRC Inter-school Competition comes to an end.

The full collection of pictures for the BSRC Inter-school Competition 2012 can be found here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150827865341285.467970.99062946284&type=1

Philip’s Big 3

We celebrated our friend’s birthday today.  This is a milestone, not only because this is the first big gathering that we have had in our new hostel flat; but also the fact that it is celebrating Philip’s arrival to earth for 30 years!

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Philip's Big 3

It was a simple, but joyous occasion… just deliciously simple food and tasty ice-cream cake and most important of all, company of friends; the joy and laughter we share together. These precious moments cannot be acquired through any form of currency.

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"Yes that's it, rub it in.", thinks Philip.

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Nothing but good company as you celebrate another decade of growth.

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Lighting the candle.

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Make a wish and not waste it!

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Cutting the cake together; the little one just felt like helping out big brother.

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Happy faces.

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More happy faces.

Brunei Strongest Man 2011

Whenever I see a newspaper article with headings of “Strong Man” or the likes, I immediately have the glistering image of overly muscular men flexing their muscles on stage, at the same time, having to smile like they are in Colgate advertisement with their heavenly white teeth against their tanned and toned body.  This was SO NOT the case for the BRUNEI STRONGEST MAN 2011 competition that was held recently on the 18 December 2011 at Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifudden.

Brunei Strongest Man 2011

See anything interesting in this poster? 🙂

This strong man competition is actually quite interesting, where it is divided into 3 categories: The tyre flip, the dumbbell lifting and the car deadlift.

Tyre Flip

Tyre as gigantic as a human

Dumbbell Lifting

These dumbbells are 40KG each side. Altogether making it 82KG including the steel bar that holds the weights.

Car Deadlift

Do you think you can move this gigantic beast? The floor is smooth as silk.

The tyre flip is actually quite simple;  flip the tyre from the starting line to the finishing point as fast as you can before the time runs out.  THE PROBLEM: the tyre is as high as a human body and weights about 300 whooping kilograms.

Tyre Flip

This is how it is lifted. Looks easy?

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Seeing the facial expressions from these buffed participants gives you an indication on how heavy it is.

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Not as easy as you think… participants catching their breath.

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This is how many people it takes to lift the tyre back to the starting position.

The dumbbell lift is also quite simple; lift the two dumbbells continuously as far as you can without placing the dumbbell back on the ground once you start. If as soon as the dumbbell touches the ground, distance is measured from that point. THE PROBLEM: the weights are 40KG each side, making it a total of 80KG, in addition to the 2KG metal bar that holds the weights, and one needs to carry them without wearing any gloves, which is extremely painful even for the regular weight lifters.

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It’s not easy lifting these 82 kilograms of solid steel while walking the distance.

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The agonizing pain as the steel starts sinking into sink.

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Time's Up! ... disappointment.

The car deadlift; pull a Ford Everest that is attached to a rope as fast as you can within a certain given time. THE PROBLEM: The tyres of the car has been slightly deflated so that the car does not continuously move so easily from the momentum plus the floor on which the participants are standing is slippery smooth.

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Simple objective, pull the beast all the way to the finish line within the given time.

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Reality starting to sink in as participants struggle with moving it even for an inch.

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Never giving up, giving it all their might.

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The sweet smell of victory only inches away.

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A well earned rest as the participant continues to lie on the floor after pulling the beast all the way to the finish line.

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Participants showing us how ‘easy’ it is to move the beast.

I had no regrets covering this function.  It was definitely a very interesting day.  I’ve found that the term “STRONGEST MAN” in this aspect does not only refer to the physical strength of the person, but also the determination of the person.  I’ve seen participants with the strength of a grizzly bear, but just could not complete the circuit without a strong determination and will.  I’ve seen participants with the body size of a deer, but impressively aweing the audience with his determination and will.  Truth is, to be Brunei’s Strongest Man, you need to have BOTH.

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The events are not without its dangers; participants risk serious injuries taking part in it.
The two picture above shows one of the participants losing his balance,
as a result the heavy dumbbells landed on this leg.

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Injured participant being carried away on a stretcher by the first-aid team.

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Winners and some of the judges

At the end of the day, everyone was impressed with the show of might and determination from all the participants.  Their family members are definitely proud of their achievement on this day… win or lose.

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At the end of the day, everyone was impressed with the show of might and determination from all the participants. Family members are definitely proud of their achievement on this day... win or lose.