Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PART 2 - CLOSE ENCOUNTER AT BUKIT LARUT (MAXWELL HILL)

The story below is Part 2, and a continuation of the earlier posting published under "Perak Filming Part 1". (All pictures featured below are actual snapshots from the film on Perak that we produced).

Bukit Larut 
We proceeded to Bukit Larut which is a short distant from Taiping. This is the oldest resort in Malaysia, founded in 1884, and named after William George Maxwell, a British Assistant Resident in Perak. This hill is about 1,250 meters above sea level, and located in the wettest part of Malaysia.

Private vehicles were not allowed, so we parked our vehicles at the foot of the hill. We then traveled a 30-minute ride by government owned 4-wheel drives. The uphill access road to Bukit Larut is narrow, steep and winding, and is around 13 kilometers long. I am writing in the present tense as I've not returned to this place to know if changes have been made.

This is a protected area. There are many jungle trails accessible for people who wish to view and explore the National forests with its flora and fauna, numerous species of birds and wildlife. As we approached the hilltop, I observed that the place had retained much of its colonial charm. However, most of the wooden-structured buildings were not maintained, and some were badly neglected.


Here, we stayed at the government-owned Rest House for a couple of days. The weather up here was cool, breezy and the air was fresh, much cooler during the nights. The clouds passed by continuously right before us, and occasionally entered our veranda.

Unusual changes
When we arrived, I noticed a slight change in the behaviour of one of the girls. We assumed that she was home-sick, or upset with someone. When comforted, she confided that she could not understand why she felt depressed. We adjourned for an early night. The following morning, some complained of restless sleep, unusual dreams and nightmares. I did not have a good sleep either because I often take time to settle-in, especially in new places.

Most memorable 
This was unanimous. The hot spicy chicken curry, mutton curry, vegetables, and fried fish, etc. prepared by the Rest House caretakers were the most delicious meals that we had tasted throughout the duration of our filming. Perhaps it was the environment, or the cold weather that made us exceptionally hungry, that everything we consumed here was truly the "best".

Special props
Many props were created for filming purposes, and one in particular was a campfire scene in the compound, where the girls enjoyed a barbecue, and another lazing by the fireside.

Close Encounter
Filming continued throughout the duration. Then came the final day. I wanted to enjoy my last evening here walking in the mist, and breathe-in the cool air rather than be cooped up indoors.

Dusk was approaching and no one wanted to follow me, not even my husband, or daughter. They wanted to play some indoor games before dinner was served. I was reassured that it was perfectly safe to be on my own.

I joyously ventured into the woods, and I could feel the cool mists brushing my skin. While walking,  I could feel extreme serenity surrounding me. I then walked further and further, with no concern for time or where my foot would lead me to. I then noticed from afar, an empty bench overlooking the jungle. I then sat down relishing the beauty of nature around me. My eyes were content just soaking in the greenery around me, as I watched the sky slowly changing colours, far across the horizon. The feeling of being surrounded by nature with the mists occasionally clouding my vision was an experience that I had never known before in my life.

Suddenly, I was overtaken by a sudden depression. Then, all kinds of depressive thoughts raced through my mind - of death, and misery, and I began to cry.

Then, behind me from afar, I could hear footsteps of someone shuffling and dragging the feet over dry leaves that dropped on the ground. The footsteps were heading towards my direction. I did not turn around because I assumed that it was my husband's footsteps. I felt silly, and quickly wiped away my tears, as I did not want him to see me crying, for no known reason.

I then realized that the shuffling footsteps sounded more like the footsteps of an old, or sick person, and had just stopped right behind me. I felt a sudden gush of cold wind brushing down the back of my neck and arms. I immediately turned around, and to my utter horror I could see no one. My feet were frozen. I sat rigid, and my mind was blank. It took 5 seconds for me to realize that the situation I was in was REAL -  that something invisible was actually standing right behind me. I jumped out of the bench and ran as fast as I could, occasionally turning my head to see if I was being followed.

I ventured further than I imagined, and had difficulty finding my way back to the Rest House. I also did not realize that I had been away for awhile and my husband was worried and had gone to search for me. When he found me, I was in a dumbfounded state. I rushed straight into the Rest House, where all eyes were on me. Everyone looked anxious, as the hot food on the table was beginning to get cold. The following day, the girl confided that her depression was similar to what I felt when I was sitting on the bench.

Would I visit Bukit Larut and walk the same path again - alone? Needless to say, it would be a surprise if I do venture alone again. However honestly, the experience really did me no harm. The reason that I may not visit the place again is that, I now prefer to avoid uphill rides, and winding roads to begin a stress-free holiday - but not for any other reason.

Epilogue
Mysteries of Nature do exist, even though in many instances cannot be proven scientifically. Believe or not to believe, matters of the supernatural continue to intrigue the inquisitive minds (I've written previously on this topic).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

FILMING IN PERAK - PART 1

It's been awhile since I wrote my last story. Time flew by, far too quickly. I was occupied with other priorities that needed my attention. Today, I tell myself that I need to spend some time to myself and continue writing as it's relaxing and helps to sharpen my memory.

I'm now recalling some of my experiences when my husband and I were producing the documentary film for the Perak State Government.

Something interesting and extra-ordinary happened when we were at Bukit Larut and this, I will relate in the next post - Part 2 Bukit Larut Close Encounter.

A Film Production House
The Company we incorporated (a combination of my husband's name and mine) specialized in the production of documentary films for the State Governments, Statutory Bodies, and Corporate organisations in Malaysia.

We produced more that 25 major documentary films, and several short films.

Scripting, cinematography, directing, were my husband's forte, while I complemented his work with editing, music compositions for sound tracks, and post production works.



I wrote the lyrics, and sang the opening theme songs in several tourism films that we produced. It was nostalgic for me, as my involvement in this line of business meant that I did not totally divorce myself from the arts. The wonderful change was that, I was no longer in-front of the camera.

We traveled to different States, filmed in numerous locations in towns, remote places, jungles, seas, on roads, in boats, and from helicopters. We touched base with the people from different walks of life, that we would never know otherwise. We had great times, and filming was more a family vacation as it often coincided with the school holidays, so that our daughter could be with us.

(All pictures featured here are actual snapshots from the film on Perak that we produced).

Perak documentary films
In 1989, we were assigned by the Perak State Government to produce two documentary films - one on tourism, and the other on investment promotion. The films were dubbed in 6 foreign languages with the objective of enticing foreign tourists and investors to visit and invest in Perak.

The story-line written by my husband for the tourism film, was about 3 young women of different ethnic backgrounds - Malay, Chinese, and Indian. They were close friends and had not seen each other for sometime. They decided to spend their holiday together exploring different parts of Perak. They had the time of their lives, free and undisturbed. The theme was to convey a subtle message that Perak was a safe destination for all - even for 3 unaccompanied young women.

Filming & locations 
Filming was not confined to tourism locations around the sea, jungles, lakes, caves and waterfalls. The film highlighted other aspects of Perak - its historical backgrounds, heritage, people, cultures, costumes, food, gourmets etc. The weather was mostly kind to us throughout - something most essential for good cinematography.

Crews and casts
The crews and casts got along well, which made filming enjoyable for everyone. Schedules were hectic, as the casts were only available for two week's filming. So, there were no breaks in between locations. Although tiring, everyone was eager to fulfill their obligations to return home without delay, even though this meant that the two weeks of bonding would come to an end.

Lata Iskandar Waterfall - Tapah
We traveled in a convoy in the early morning from Kuala Lumpur, and headed for Pangkor. There were several stop-overs along the way.

The camera rolled its first morning shots with scenes focusing on Lata Iskandar Waterfall and the surrounding forests. The scenery provided a beautiful backdrop, as the girls teased each other
by the river side.


Kellie's Castle
We then proceeded for Kellie's castle. It stood elevated and distinct from a distant. As we approached the castle, I noticed that the place seemed run down, and abandoned. In a way it was ideal for us, as we were able to commence filming without any hassle. It was an amazing experience for the girls, as they stood at the edge of the rooftop while the gentle breeze cooled them down.

The castle was built by William Kellie Smith "as a testament of his love for his wife". Sadly she died before the castle was completed. When filming of the place ended, I explored every nook and corner of the dilapidated building, out of curiosity. I imagined the sadness that surrounded the castle, and his sorrow in not being able to carry his beloved wife across the threshold.

Many years later, my family and I visited the place again, and noticed pleasant changes had taken place. The castle was restored, and turned into a tourist destination. Surely, William Kellie Smith and his family, would have been happy to know that the castle had served its purpose, and made many visitors happy.

Teluk Intan
It was a quaint-looking place, simple and undeveloped. However, the people there were friendly, and hospitable. As we began filming, curious onlookers began to gather to see the excitement of how filming was taking place. The girls thoroughly enjoyed the attention and the sudden limelight.

It was amazing to see right before my eyes a mini replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I had never imagined that this unique place actually existed. Everything in this place was cheap - food, clothes, handicrafts, etc. compared to the prices in the city. So, it was no surprise that everyone was tempted to do what little shopping they could, after filming completed at this venue.

Lumut
We then adjourned for the next destination. By the time we reached Lumut, it was almost dusk, and time to freshen up for dinner, and a well-earned sleep.

The late Sultan Azlan Shah

Here we were privileged to film the late Ruler of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, and his family. He was officiating the launching of the Annual Water Sports, participated by several countries.







The  late Sultan "formerly a Supreme Court Judge, was the pride of the people". He was warm and kind to his people, and judging by the way the crowd reached out for him, they were extremely proud of their Ruler.

Terrapins
My favourite shots were those of tiny terrapins as a hundred of them were let loose to find their way into the sea. Surprisingly,

Lumut turned out to be a very interesting experience for everyone. Here, we also filmed several historical sites that we were not aware of.

A snake expert
The following morning, arrangements were made for an early filming session with a man known by the locals as the "snake man" for his expertise in taming snakes. This day, I excused myself and stood at an extreme corner with my eyes half closed, blurring my vision. Later when I edited the film, I did just the same. There are more dramatic shots in the film, which I am not keen to upload here, as snakes are certainly not my favourite.

Pangkor
This was my maiden trip to Pangkor and I was really looking forward to this moment. The island is accessible by ferry, and the ride was pleasant. There were fishing villages along the way, and as the ferry moved along, beautiful scenery shots were taken, as the girls enjoyed their ride.

Boats were hired to capture different shots of the island, and many secluded shores. The sea waters of dark green and blue in colour, were crystal clear, clean and unpolluted.

No wonder there were many tourists vacationing in different corners of the island. The Pan Pacific resort was then fully booked as it was a peek period, and reservations were made many months in advance. Pangkor earned its reputation  internationally, as an undisturbed haven for hibernating.

Ipoh
The next destination familiar to all was Ipoh. It was not as busy then as it is today. There were lesser cars, and roads were lined with matured trees providing the environment with a natural cooling effect.

The former Chief Minister
Many activities within and around Ipoh were filmed to showcase its facilities, recreations, and activities that were available for locals and foreigners to partake - including a stud farm for horses.

At the Polo Club the following morning, we filmed the former Chief Minister, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib, enjoying a game of polo, and some shots were taken of his children riding.

In the evening, a cultural dance was staged for filming purposes. Together, a display of Perak's exotic food, and other specialties. These were hosted by the Menteri Besar at his Residence. When filming wrapped up for the evening, we were treated to a feast, and afterwords for the next few days I felt guilty for having overindulged.

Tambun Inn
During the few days of filming in Ipoh, our accommodation was at Tambun Inn. It was a small 3-star hotel, without much facilities, but sufficient for our purpose. All we needed was a good night's rest after a tiring day of filming, which unfortunately we did not get.

The service was fine and the staff were obliging. However, the only complain we had was that none of us could get proper sleep. After midnight until the wee hours of the morning, there were knocking sounds, and  scratching, then of children giggling, and running around the corridors.

The following day, we mentioned this to the management and no one seemed surprised.  Apparently, the Inn faces the cemetery, and occasionally there were unusual sounds, and other guests have  complained of seeing uninvited guests, even in their rooms.

Kuala Kangsar

The Royal town is a short distant from Ipoh. We had an early start so that we could wrap up as much, before proceeding to our next destination. The most prominent shots filmed here was surely the Royal Palace with its grandeur. Other shots taken were the Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar Museum, Pasir Salak, etc.

The town holds fond memories for many as Kuala Kangsar Malay College was where many of Malaysia's renowned personalities received their education. In my early years before becoming a recording artist, I was invited to judge a Song Competition here, and later obliged the audience with a song. I met some nice people then, and wonder where they are today.

Taiping  
We then arrived in Taiping where beautiful shots were taken around the lake and within the vicinity. Taiping zoo was well maintained, and its occupants seemed content, and well fed.

When we completed filming here, and as we were heading for Bukit Larut, I was shocked to see that the left side of my jeans was soaked with blood. I thought that I was injured, but I was not in pain. I quickly got out of the car and I screamed in fright, when two huge well-fed leeches dropped off my legs, on to my feet. Obviously, they were hitching a ride from the Zoo!

From here we proceeded to Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill). The story on "Close Encounter at Bukit Larut" is now featured as a Part 2 story - in the next post. 

Epilogue
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the time that we spent, filming in Perak. I feel truly grateful and proud that we have been Blessed with a creative line of business and livelihood, that we both loved, and regarded as hobbies!

Friday, March 17, 2017

PRECIOUS BABY (1990 -1996)

The purest form of love is surely one that is given spontaneously without any expectation of reciprocation or reward. This love brings about joy and happiness to the giver, and the receiver.
A child not knowing what love means feels safe and secured when pampered with love by the mother. Likewise, this same love when showered on families, friends, neighbours, and even pets, can have the same positive effects.

Painful scars
I look upon life as a package, stacked up with piles of events and emotions. Painful scars are often set aside, as recollections would bring about more pain and regrets. For more than 2 decades this segment of my memory box was kept sealed. I now compel myself to write this long overdue piece, for she was a unique soul that brought immense joy into our home for 6 fleeting years.  

Her arrival
We assumed that she was a female by her mannerism, but it was immaterial. We loved her just the same like our very own, and we named her ‘Babe’. Her arrival in the year 1990 was by pure coincidence. My husband was at Peel Road in Kuala Lumpur City to have our car checked. He then spotted a homeless man carrying a garbage bag approaching his direction. From inside the bag came a screeching noise that sounded exactly like a printer. To his surprise, it was the cry of a hungry newly hatched bird. Apparently, the nest had fallen from a nearby tree. Touched by what he saw, he offered the man money and brought home the little birdie for our daughter and I, to care for.

I had earlier been attached to this sweet little angel (right) that strangely came tapping at the glass window of my office. It was a baby swallow that I nursed and tended to, for two weeks. Sadly, it died and I was extremely distraught.  

Understandably, I would not get attached to any new bird. For several days my daughter and our helper nursed and fed baby.  Finally, the day came when she caught my eye and instantly babe won my heart.

A talking bird
She grew up pretty fast.  One day, I was seated on the balcony of our home and heard a male voice saying “Hello Baby”. I was shocked as it sounded exactly like my husband’s voice but he was nowhere nearby. To my utter disbelief, the voice came from Babe who was several feet away from me. We had no idea until then that she was a talking bird and could imitate exactly any sound that fascinated her. She was a specie known as the Indian Mynah  (Wikipedia)

A family addition
Baby became a new family addition – pampered and adored by everyone. We built an aviary in our garden, where she was free to fly during the day.  We would rotationally spend time with her there in her own environment. She really enjoyed her favourite unrestricted daily meals of fruits and meats.

Many times, baby escaped from her aviary, to venture into the greens to experience life in the outside world. The next morning, we found her perched on a nearby tree ready to fly into my open arms. Finally, after having spent a night in a severe thunderstorm, she ventured no more even when the door was opened.  She knew that this was her haven and within dwelled the family who adored her.
   
Baby was unusually possessive and protective of her family and territory. Only family members could enter her aviary and private room. A friend who once barged into her room was bitten by her and she refused to let go until I pacified her.
Baby assumed that she was a human. When exposed to other birds even one of her own kind she was totally disinterested.

Happy years  
Happy years flew by and baby enjoyed our company, vice versa. She would join in our conversations with her laughs as though she understood what we were talking about. The house was filled with her endless mimics, joyous cackles, and cheeky whistles. She enjoyed listening to music and was especially excited with classics and operas especially those sung by Pavarotti. She would often duet with me and knew exactly when to punctuate her whistles in between songs. I have many videos of her with me. Although these are still painful to view, I promise myself that I will soon upload them.

The very first time when I played the song (below) from my album, she was extremely excited, and she knew that it was the voice of her "mama". Thereon, this song became her favourite.


Visitors to our home were entertained by her humour and awed by her intelligence. Babe was the centre of attention wherever she went – on holidays with us, to the seas, hill resorts, etc. She was not left behind and although in a cage she knew that this was not to confine but to protect her.

It amazed me that on her own she would call out “hello mama” each time she saw me and no one taught her to say so. She would repeatedly call our daughter by her name and missed her terribly when she was at school. Her mimic of my husband’s voice fondly calling out “hello baby” left him amused and spellbound. She was more human than we could ever imagine.

Whilst observing babe and everything around me, I felt truly blessed to be a minute speck of the Infinite Creations of the One and Only Creator of the Universe.

Animal shelter
Thereon, many lost souls found their way into our home – dogs, cats, squirrels, different species of birds, a rabbit, even a snake, and a peacock.  We called the Wild Life department to take away the last two to a safer environment. Not that we were living in a remote jungle. Our home was surrounded by other houses, yet they never had such visitors. Perhaps these visitors knew that here they would be safe and cared for. For many years we sustained an animal shelter for the injured, the lost, and the abandoned.

Her departure
We then moved house and here Babe did not have her own aviary. The house did not seem safe to leave her alone in the garden and with the noise she made it could attract poachers. Instead, a room in the house was kept specially for her and she was just as happy here. 

One year after moving into our new home, on several occasions we heard Baby coughing and assumed that she was imitating someone’s cough. In actuality, birds too can be infected with cough and I blamed myself for my ignorance. I then appeased myself that life and death were not mine to dictate or predict. Every soul comes to this world for a purpose, serves the allocated life span, and eventually leaves.  

The last farewell
On that fateful morning in the year 1996, baby was extremely quiet and delirious. There was no “hello mama” greeting or cheeky whistle when we came out from our rooms. When I held her I could feel that there was no more warmth in her body. Despondent we were, we knew that the time had come for her to leave.

She could hear the loving words that my husband, daughter, and I whispered in her ears but could reciprocate no more. After a short while she moved slightly, tilted her head as though to bid us farewell and in the same familiar flying position, her soul gently left us. With heavy hearts we laid her to rest under a tree at our patio. 

Epilogue
The pain in losing baby never goes, although more than 20 years have gone by. Wherever Babe is, she will know that she was precious and irreplaceable and that we miss her extremely to this very day.

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