Archive for November, 2010

Mamutik Island

November 29th, 2010 | Category: Malaysia

After the shows in Kuching, we returned to Kota Kinabalu to meet with more folks and potentially do some more shows.  We ended up performing no shows; everything was just too chaotic, air travel was becoming complicated, so we returned a little early.  But, at least we got a few hours of quality relaxation by going to Mamutik island for some snorkeling, swimming, and general relaxation.  One of the promoter’s sons, Quadee, accompanied us.  These islands sit just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu and are in plain site of the city.  They take about 15-20 minutes to arrive at using a speedy boat.

We were a little lazy and went fairly late, around 11 am.  It would have been better to get up early and get out there in the morning.  For one, the sun wasn’t as intense, but also we could have avoided a common afternoon rainstorm.  Storm or not, it was a good time.  We arrived at a small doc and paid a cheap entry fee to the national park service then made our way to the beach.  I didn’t have much of a sense of the size of the island, but it was quite small.  End-to-end was just a couple hundred yards or so; a five-minute walk would get you to the opposite side.  Only one side had beaches, the rest was rocky.

We started off right away by snorkeling.  I’d never done it before but it was pretty simple.  Once I got the hang of it, I swum out pretty deep.  The further I went, the more impressive the underwater sites were.  There was plenty of coral, brightly colored fish, and those weird undulating underwater plant things…kind of like sea anemones or something.  I was startled by one, having looked around to one side and returned my sight straight down, it seemed that the plant was reaching up to me with thousands of slippery tentacles.  So, I moved on.  Part of the ocean floor dropped away steeply.  I turned around and made my way back and saw more impressive fish including one 3-4 foot silver tube fish thing that also caused me to just slow down and let it pass by.

I’d been out here for quite a while and I felt a little dizzy, so I got out and just enjoyed the beach for a bit.  While we were trying to decide what to do next:  move on to another island, move to a new beach, or just go back for another round of snorkeling, the wind started picking up and the clouds darkened.  We could see rain coming from Kota Kinabalu.  Within minutes we were engulfed.  We thought it would last just a few minutes, but it just kept raining harder.  By now, most everyone had left the island while we just remained hanging out under a tree.  We would have gotten back into the ocean, but there was lightning too.

Eventually, one of the island “rangers” told us we needed to go back.  We got completely soaked running back to the boat.  As soon as we boarded, the boat sped away.  The high speed rain stung us.  The only thing we could do was hunch over our things (like cameras) to protect them as best as we could from the cloudburst.  By the time we arrived back, the rain stopped and it looked to be clearing up.  Oh well, it was still a great time.

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Kuching

November 28th, 2010 | Category: Malaysia,Performance

Apparently, “Kuching” means “cat” in Malay.  So, it’s basically the city of cats.  I believe Venice bestows a similar honor on cats, but in Kuching, the reason is that the geography of the land, carved with rivers and the coast, looks like a cat.  I believe that in Venice cats are still held in high esteem for helping to vanquish the rats during the Bubonic Plague.  There are several statues of cats around Kuching.  So, it’s a particularly friendly city for cat lovers.

Edwin, the owner of the BarZ!ing, picked us up at the airport and took us for an excellent late breakfast and early lunch.  I’d learned the dish “Nasi Lemak” from the plane and requested that.  It was the best Nasi Lemak that we had during the whole trip.  The dish consists of white rice and chicken cooked in a savory pungent dark sauce.  It’s often served with peanuts and anchovies along with cool vegetables like carrots and cucumbers on the side.

Drinks are also a great feature of Malaysian cuisine.  I remember lots of excellent coconut drinks during my brief stay in Kuala Lumpur but I was advised that the drinks in Kuching were quite different.  They were more concentrated on teas, maybe a little closer to the Chinese variety but still designed to be served cool and sweet.  We had a three layered tea.  The three layers consisted of:  tea, milk, and “special”.  The “special” was some sort of thicker sweet concoction, probably some coconut in it as well.  Regardless it was awesome.  We also later enjoyed peppermint tea, milk teas, iced lemon tea, and sweet and sour fruit drinks.

We were pretty busy during the days of the shows.  The first day we went through the set during the sound check, which sounded great.  The second day, we tweaked the set based on ideas that we got from the show the previous night.  Needless to say, Saturday was a more rockin’ day than Friday, with the club being packed with lots of lively folks.  The contestants of the Miss Borneo pageant even showed up and we had our pictures taken with them.

The video will speak for the performance better than words can, but I was satisfied with it.  The song that we worked on specifically for that show was a tune developed out of an idea from part of “The Big Instrumental” from the Frozen Taco II album.  I actually started working on in at least a couple of months in advance but couldn’t seem to make progress on it.  The whole new House music genre was new to me and it just didn’t seem to be coming along at all, though I knew what I wanted to achieve.  The week before the show though, I realized that we had to do this new song no matter what, so I spent two long evenings in a row working on it, getting feedback from Davide on further ways to improve it.  I still didn’t have any guitar parts for the middle part.  That’s what the day before the performance was for.  The parts I came up with weren’t bad, but I’m going to redo them and make them more interesting.

Wanna hear a short sample?  Here’s the ending of Saturday’s show…I think we went out on a really high note.  I was pleased:

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Of course, after the Saturday performance, we went out to eat with the club partners and enjoyed some more great food and drinks.  We rolled into the hotel around 5am.  I didn’t sleep very much and, to my disappointment, woke up at 8am.  I at least lay in bed until 9am before I admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to fall back asleep.  I spent most of the remainder of the morning answering emails and catching up on some work.

In the afternoon, we went to a crocodile farm.  I’d seen plenty of crocodiles before but Davide and some of our hosts hadn’t.  Next, we enjoyed a thoroughly relaxing massage performed by Chinese girls living here in Kuching.  They didn’t speak a word of Malay or English so it was just like being back in China.  Finally, we ended the trip with a big seafood dinner.  Really awesome food they have here.  Thanks to our hosts for taking such good care of us!

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To Borneo

November 25th, 2010 | Category: Malaysia

When I was kid, my bedroom was adorned with old maps.  Hmm, I guess that’s still true with my place back in Seattle – maps of the Cascades, maps of the Rockies, and so on.  The largest map in my bedroom though was a “Wonders of the World” map that showed the whole earth with small thumbnail drawings of key points of interest.  One was Borneo and I can still visualize the picture and caption:  “Headhunters”.  That always weirded me out.  Now, I find myself in Borneo with Davide for some performances.  Never saw this coming.

We flew in to Kota Kinabalu just a couple of hours before sunset.  From the plane, we could see the small city nestled in the fertile green land and trees often obscured by wet swaths of clouds.  The granite-capped Mount Kota Kinabalu wasn’t visible.  This was the rainy season when the Borneo’s highest mountain (13,435 ft) is often hidden by the clouds.

We only had a short stay in Kota Kinabalu (or “KK” as the locals call it); we were due to take off early the next morning at 8am for Kuching.  So, we took off immediately and scouted around the town, picking up intel on different hotels (the Promenade was a rippoff), a Malaysian SIM card for making phone calls (I also set it up with Call Me in China, which worked like a charm – got a Thanksgiving call from my folks), and a nice Indian dinner served on a banana leaf.

One thing that struck me was the ubiquity of logos like Facebook and Twitter.  It was refreshing to see these corporate Internet logos about town reminding us that we were no longer in a country where half of the top ten sites in the world are blocked.  To me, it felt like we were back in civilization.

Around 11:30 or midnight we set the phone alarm and went to bed.  The following morning we were woken up by a horrible alarm.  It sounded like the fire alarm, but was coming from the wrong direction – from outside.  I tried to ignore it and continue sleeping but Davide got up and said, “Hey, it’s your phone!”  “No, it’s not”, I struggled to say, thinking he was joking.  But, sure enough it was.  I’d forgotten, I used the “airport” alarm where I’d chosen the worst sound possible so that I’d get up.  How ironic – that plan almost backfired.

Intent on not getting ripped off again, we walked down to the main busstop and hopped on a clanging bus for 1 Ringgit – thirty times cheaper than the day before not to mention more colorful.

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