Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I Almost Conquered Gunong Brinchang

Last week I took my family on our annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Ipoh. Every year, around Christmas time, 3 families on my wife’s side; 2 from Singapore and 1 from Kuala Lumpur will gather for a ‘reunion’ in my wife’s home town, Ipoh; joining the 2 families that are there. Of course, top on the agenda is to pay respects to my aged mother-in-law. In order not to inconvenience my relatives in Ipoh, I actually bought a small terrace house in Ipoh, right next to my sister-in-law’s house in Pasir Puteh, Ipoh. In case you think I am very rich, please let me declare that the 2,100 sq ft, free-hold, corner terrace house costs only RM105,000, which in 1996 was only about the price of a COE.

While we were there, my son, who is crazy about pitcher plants, convinced us to go for a jungle walk up Gunong Brinchang, in the Cameron Highlands to look at the natural flora. So we spent 1 night in Brinchang, the highest town in Cameron Highlands and set off the following morning for our jungle walk. Of course, only the 2 families from Singapore were crazy enough to take part in the walk, which turned out to be more of a mountain climb.

The trek to the start point already tired me out!

Altogether, there were 8 of us in the team, comprising my family of 5, plus my sister-in-law and her 2 sons. The oldest member was aged 53 (yours truly) and the youngest only 12. Midway, my sister-in-law found the going too tough and gave up, and decided to stop and wait for us. When we reached about 600 m from the peak, many of us were exhausted and debated whether or not to continue because the path had become more difficult. My 15-year old son, who was the fittest in the group, being a kayaker, wanted to continue. I too did not want to give up so near the destination. Someone suggested that we split; one group to continue, and another to return to where my sister-in-law was waiting. That I absolutely forbade. I didn’t relish the idea of reading newspaper headlines that say; “2 Singapore Families Lost in the Mountains of Cameron Highlands”, or “Minister George Yeo Thanks Malaysian Government for Help in Locating Lost Singapore Families”. In the end, we made the painful decision to turn back, which turned out to be the right decision, because, by the time we reached the main road, I could hardly walk.

Although somewhat disappointed, I was quite proud that I made it thus far. What surprised me too, was that the descent turned out to be more difficult than the ascent. This was probably due to my problematic knees, which caused me to lag behind the rest.

The trip up Gunong Brinchang reminded me of a similar climb up Mt Ophir in 1980 with the Philips Recreational Club. At that time, we camped overnight on top of Mt Ophir. I remember sharing a basha with my colleague and old friend Roger Lee. As he was quite tall, his feet protruded out of the tent, and were exposed to the strong mountain winds. Throughout the night, I could feel him shivering beside me.

During this trip to Ipoh, we also got to visit a pomelo farm. We met a friendly fruit stall owner, and she happily agreed to bring us to her farm about 3 km away. It was a very good education for the kids. We met a couple of farmers who were still fit and strong despite their age. We bought some fresh vegetables from them – when I say fresh, I mean fresh from the ground. This reminded me of my kampong days. It gave me another opportunity to tell my children about life in the kampong.

During this trip, I also found time to bond with my children, especially my son. While my wife went shopping with the 2 girls, I accompanied my boy to go fishing. This time around, we managed to catch 4 fishes, as compared to last year when we ‘suffered’ together, because, whilst everyone around us caught lots of fishes, we returned empty-handed.

On the last night, we had a great time viewing old family videos; laughing at how cute the children looked a few years ago, and marveling at how much their appearance had changed. I am proud to announce that I was able put my video editing skills to good use.

I must say that although my family missed many opportunities to visit other countries due to our annual trips to Ipoh, we always had a wonderful time there. One year, we went to New Zealand instead of Ipoh. After spending a tidy sum, my children’s verdict was that they did not enjoy themselves, and much preferred Ipoh. I guess, they always looked forward to these trips because they loved to play with their cousins. The way I look at it, I should cherish the opportunities while it lasted. It is a matter of time before they grow out of it.

As it is, we were able to enjoy warm fellowship with our Malaysian relatives, and strengthen our family bonds. I thank God for the joys of family life. On occasions like this, I often wonder why young Singaporeans deliberately choose to remain single, a topic I frequently read about in Singapore blogs. (Examples here & here)

3 good reasons for marriage


Chris Sim said...

Wah, Chun See, you looked quite fit leh in the photo? I think you could have gone all the way! And if you were really lost and the Malaysian government had helped in the SAR mission, it would have moved our bilateral relationships up one notch, don't you think? hehehe.

I can really feel the warmth that comes with one who really loves his family while reading your post. Ya, there's nothing like spending time with your loved ones.

Lionel Tan said...

wah! hpe you have a nice trip.

Lam Chun See said...

Actaully, the title of this blog is an exaggeration. Because of the tough terrain, the remaining 600m would be quite difficult. We know because from 1,080m to 600m took us a very long time. It is not uphill all the time - some parts its down and then up again.

Also, I was worried that my sis-in-law, who was waiting for us would start worrying as I could not contact her on the handphone.

Anonymous said...

Chun See
I would like to join you to Ipoh and climb a few hills the next time you go there okay??

Simon Chu

Lam Chun See said...

Simon, Actually I wanted very much to bring your mum along; but afraid she would be out of place with my relatives. Plus my MPV already full with 6 people - my family plus maid. Also there are 3 families staying in my Ipoh house - 1 family squeeze into 1 room.

As my son was disappointed in not being able to go all the way to the top, I was thinking of bringing him to Mt Ophir one of these days. But if its a tough climb, I don't think my knees can take it. Keep you posted.