Hiking the Bukit Shahbandar “14 Hills” Trail

We’ve lost count the number of times we had hiked up to this Pondok 4 guide pole, started at it for a moment and succumbed to defeat by mere threat of the distance, time and effort it would take for us to complete. Yet on the morning of October 27th the morning when we were only going to hike the usual 9 Hills trail we started at this pole again, the three of us briefly looked at each other — we’ve done this many times except on this day, none of us was going to back down. So here I am, on the eve of my second 14 Hills hike tomorrow, writing about my epic first attempt. Tomorrow’s hike is going to be our largest group hike yet — a total of 13 members.


More pictures from our first 14 Hills hike on Facebook


It took the three of us 4 hours to complete 7.39 kms burning 2000 calories along the way. It would have taken a slightly shorter time had Eric and I not stopped between Pondok 8 and 9 for a 15 minutes photography lesson using his Samsung Galaxy S4.


My morning fuel before the 14 hills hike — two eggs, 4 broccoli flowerets, smoked beef, smoked salmon and MrBaker’s delicious Muesli 80% wholemeal bread along with all the healthy grains. Not pictured is my usual shot of CBTL espresso


The trail between Pondok 4 and 5 poles normally takes no more than 5 minutes. The extended loop between them is a whole different story — distance itself measures longer than the usual 9 Hills.


Eric snapped this photo of my wife and I as we reached the first of a series of poles on the extended loop. 370M to head back to Pondok 4 and be on the way out or soldier on.


Once on the extended loop, a view from across the green landscape is the red soil vista from where we had taken numerous group photos, giving us a sense of scale and distance somewhat.



There are three wooden crossings like this on the extended loop unlike the bridges you’re accustomed to seeing on the 4 and 9 hills trail.


Eric had asked me many times since we first met more than a year, maybe 2, earlier to give him lessons to improve his photography. No better opportunity and timing to learn and have some fun right at Shahbandar. More on Facebook.


My lunch at MOD in Jerudong after 4 hours of intense hiking had left me with a significant increase in appetite — Thai cuisine (chicken basil rice and broccoli mixed vegetables).

Photographing Bottled Beverages: Guru Fresh Break

Photographing bottled beverages is not in the same league and complexity as photographing food. Bottled beverages in all their shapes, sizes and curves attract highly undesirable bright spots and reflections. When Bahagia Distributors contacted me about their photography requirement — I accepted the assignment, fully aware of the lighting challenges I had gotten myself into. In order to minimize eye straining efforts during post-processing I arranged with the client to scrutinize the sample selections I was to bring back to my studio. We went through a few boxes and picked the bottles that had near-perfect text, brand logo and shrink sleeves alignment. Fast forward a few days of work and several editing revisions the finished files were handed to their design team for the graphics layout and finishing touches that you see here.


A View of Miri City From Canada Hill

After weeks of planning to hike Canada Hill with buddies training for our December 17 Mount Kinabalu climb, the day finally came and kicking off our late morning hike is this landscape of our neighbour’s bustling city from the top of Miri’s hiking hot spot.


Image © Jan Shim Photography

Stop Facebook from Flooding Your Google Calendar with Birthday Notifications

If you use Google Calendar on your Android smartphone like I do on the Samsung Galaxy S3 and have been victim to Facebook making a mess of your Calendar more than once, here’s a fix. Buried in the depths of obscurity is a Facebook Birthday notification feature that is the root cause of randomly corrupting my Calendar. Before this solution I have had to uninstall/reinstall Facebook app — it had happened numerous times since I got the phone. At the same time I have Google Calendar and Facebook app installed on the iPad 2 and have never seen this happen so I got curious and began comparing setting after setting until I came across the Mobile Push setting.


A common reaction to this problem is to disable Facebook Sync — this does not work!


What finally worked — uncheck Birthday Reminder option that’s buried under several menu settingsFacebook-Android-1

Go to Account Settings




While I was here earlier, I also unchecked Gifts, Activity You’ve Missed and Application Invites .

Gaining Traction for First Ever Mount Kinabalu Climb

In approximately 2 months, I’m going to attempt my first Mount Kinabalu climb ever. I was offered a spot to join the December 2012 group but declined not because I wasn’t physically fit but I wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with the prospect of mountain climbing even though I had something like 6 months prior notice. As a regular singles and doubles badminton player I deal with sustained energy bursts that would last up to 2 hours or so at each game which really just means intense cardio workout. Gradually I added running and hiking to my weekly workouts which by now included regular trips to Sungai Liang forest and Bukit Shahbandar 9 hills and over time the appeal of climbing Mount Kinabalu grew more and moreto the point a two months wait seems torturous.


When I first started running in the forest, I wore Nike running shoes designed for flat surfaces. I’ve lost count the number of times I slipped at both Sungai Liang and Bukit Shahbandar. It never occurred to me to look for appropriate shoes because I was looking at the wrong places. Also, my idea of hiking shoes are those bulky ones that you would have difficulty just walking in them much less run. Decision to climb Mount Kinabalu made me look harder for a pair of shoes that would give me the best of both world and I came across these: GoLite XT80 so light, comfortable and designed with “Rock Absorber” technology to handle the punishing, unpredictable terrains of the great outdoors — some prefer the gym, I just prefer nature!


“We designed and built a shoe that absorbs the uneven terrain with the “Rock Absorber” materials, rubber and polyurethane or EVA close to the ground and the protective “chassis” close to the foot … reduces the motion and wear and tear on your ankles and body by 33%.” — GoLite

Ethereal Landscape: The Perk of Outdoor Exercise

Ethereal moments like this are neither rare nor common in Brunei but it helps to be camera-equipped when they do  appear. Which is why I make sure my Samsung Galaxy S3 is within reach whenever I would go hiking at the Sungai Liang forestry park. This evening rolled like any other day — wife got home from work, changed and off we went — a twenty five minute drive — to where we regularly hike. As soon as we got out in the open, a short uphill climb revealed this magnificent landscape: combination of rays of light, heavy silhouetted trees and a fiery horizon so awesome I would kick myself silly if for any reason I did not have my phone with me or that battery was so low camera use was disabled. That would suck but maybe some day, just not today.

Hard Rock #PINKTOBER Breast Cancer Awareness

How time flies! A year ago this month, I received an media invitation from Resorts World Sentosa to attend the grand opening of Marine Life Park in December. This was my second invite from RWS, the first being an unforgettable grand opening of Universal Studios Singapore, and had arranged accommodation for me at Hard Rock Hotel (previously Hotel Michael). Cut a long story short, I walked past the Hard Rock store numerous times I just had to step inside to get something for my wife and kids at home. Of the items I came across, I thought this limited edition bracelet was a unique fashion accessory my daughter would love to have — and the global importance of raising breast cancer awareness — hello October!
hard-rock-pinktober-bracelet hard-rock-pinktober-bracelet-logo