Category Archives: General

Ellie’s true story : Our holiday 2001, Part 4

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
We arrived at Park Headquarters and discovered that we were unable to stay in Kinabalu Park, the accommodation being fully booked. We decided to join the rest of our group at Poring Hot Springs, as we had rooms waiting for us. After talking to the park warden who was co-coordinating the rescue and learning that they intended to send a helicopter up to look for her as soon as the fog cleared. We left by minibus for Poring. It was getting dark as we began the ninety-minute ride. We all sat silently, praying and weeping to ourselves. It was a very sombre journey after two weeks of camaraderie and fun.

Poring is beautiful, although we were in no mood to enjoy it. Henry had been found, but despite assurance that he was fine, we just wanted to see him for ourselves. Ellie, darling reckless Ellie, was still missing, cold alone and frightened on the highest mountain in South East Asia. We had a lovely room but could not sleep for thinking about how she must be feeling. It was the first of many agonizing nights. At four o’clock we walked in the grounds and listened to the rain forest waking. We thought that she would also be waking and prayed that she would feel energized by our prayers. The hibiscus bushes were exquisite and reminded us of the huge one we have in a pot on our balcony in Germany. We suddenly felt very homesick and wanted everything to return to normal. It never did.

Jacquie, our tour guide, met us with a minibus at 07.00 and we travelled back to Mount Kinabalu. It was a shame that we could not appreciate the drive, as there were dogs and cows lying at intervals across the road, something that we would otherwise have found amusing. The park headquarters’ staff was kind and discreet. They moved quietly around us, bringing coffee and sandwiches to a comfortable lounge and giving us regular updates on their progress. The morning seemed endless. We received phone calls from the High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, the Chief of Police and the Sabah Tourist Board.

We also understood that the local and British press had got wind of a story. We were anxious that nothing should be released until we had been able to contact Tom at work in Kinarut and our families in England. We felt like caged lions in the lounge, so went downstairs at 11.00 to look at the museum. It was beautifully arranged and worthy of a visit. We should have gone there sooner as the time started to pass more quickly and it would soon be time for Henry to arrive.

Henry walked towards us looking surprisingly normal after such an ordeal. We had an emotional reunion outside the building and went back into the lounge. Henry sat close to us and was able to give a remarkably lucid account of what had taken place. I felt so proud of him. It was astounding that a fifteen year old, who had endured what he had, could behave in so mature a manner. Henry drew diagrams to show how they had sheltered together and the terrain that they had crossed. By looking at the topographical maps displayed on the walls of the lounge, he was able to give us a much clearer picture of where Ellie had gone. He had been absolutely right in the information he had given to the guide who found him. Surely, it was just a matter of time before she was found.

Jacquie returned shortly afterwards with the news that we were to transfer to the Tanjung Aru Resort in Kota Kinabalu. This is the most expensive hotel in Sabah and definitely out of our price range. We felt rather embarrassed by this kindness. Travelbag thought that we could wait comfortably for news of Ellie and once found she could spend a few days recuperating in luxury. She would be able to enjoy the swimming pool, go wind surfing and even dive off the nearby islands. We agreed, but were still praying that the cloud would lift from the mountain, so that the army helicopters would be able to join the rescue and bring her to us at Tanjung Aru.

The next few days were the strangest we have ever spent. We were prisoners in a five star detention centre. We had two adjacent rooms with a connecting door, so rarely needed to venture out into the corridor. Torn came to stay with us and gave tremendous support to Henry who had begun to question why Ellie, who had been so brave, had been the one to get lost. He felt guilty and kept re-living the events of the last few hours he spent with her. It was awful.

Once we had broken the news to our families and closest friends, the phone never stopped ringing. It was wonderful that so many people wanted to speak to us, but exhausting to say the same thing over and over again. Jacquie was phoning from the mountain at regular intervals, but each time it was the same. The weather was still bad due to the typhoon centred over the Phillipines. We could see that by the waves on the murky sea and the cloud that obliterated our view of Mount Kinabalu.

Each morning that dawned brought new hope, each evening brought despair. Perhaps the worst time of the day was four o’ clock as we knew that there were only two hours of daylight left in which to find Ellie and certainly insufficient time to begin a helicopter rescue. During the day we would escape the luxury hotel compound for an hour at a time and walk two miles down the public beach where nearly everyone would greet us with delightful smiles and say: ‘Hello. How are you? Where are you from?’

Tom and Henry flew to Sandakan on Monday 20 August to visit the orangutan sanctuary at Sepilok. This was to have been the final visit of our holiday and the one Ellie and Henry had been most looking forward to. There was no need for the boys to wait in our room for news. They stayed overnight and made a second visit to watch the orphans being fed on milk and bananas, telephoning every few hours. There were six flights each day so they could get back quickly if necessary. The weather was bright and clear at Sepilok; perhaps it would clear further west tomorrow.

To be continued to Part 5…

Ellie’s true story : Our holiday 2001, Part 3

Part 1 Part 2
They decided to make their way down again and had travelled for about ten minutes when they met Bruce. Ellie was delighted that he had ‘made it’. ‘Oh Dad, you’ve made it, I’m so proud of you’, she said, hugging him. Bruce said that he would go up to the top and then come straight down. He feels now that he should have just walked down with the children, but knowing Ellie as we did, she would have insisted that he complete the climb. As the fog swirled across the mountain, the wind howled and the rain lashed against his face, Bruce decided not to hang about, but get back to the shelter of the trail as quickly as possible.

This is precisely what Ellie and Henry were also doing at this time. Ellie rushed ahead and Henry lost sight of her. We presume that in her enthusiasm to get down, she just rushed past or followed one of the quartz ‘stripes’ in the granite that in fog could conceivably be mistaken for the white rope. They failed to turn sharp left, but went straight on towards St John’s Peak. She called out to him, however he was unable to hear what she was saying as the wind blew so strongly. Henry thought she had fallen and was crying for help, so stumbling in the direction of her voice, he also left the trail. He thought that he had broken his ankle as he fell against a rock.

Fortunately, it was only his trousers that were damaged. Finding Ellie, Henry discovered that she was not hurt, but lost. Now they were both lost and tried to find their way back to the trail. Being lost was one problem, they were also becoming very cold and wet by now and Ellie decided that it was most important just to get down. The mountain fell away very steeply at this point and after getting down a steep gully they realised that they could proceed no further so they agreed to stop for a while, build a shelter and rest.

A rush of adrenaline enabled Ellie to lift heavy boulders and build a wall. Henry was amazed that he could tear down branches from low-growing shrubs to line and cover the shelter. They tied a large yellow plastic bag to a tree in order to mark their position. This was subsequently found and reported in the press, although some reports placed its position further down the mountain. They crawled inside the shelter and curled up together, Ellie with her feet and legs inside her capacious rucksack. From time to time they ate nuts and banana chips and drank their water. They talked about what would happen if they were not found and tried to picture Bruce, Tom and me. They prayed harder than they have ever done before that they would be found and if they were not, that we would be able to continue our lives without them. Henry reports that he was very frightened, but that Ellie was extraordinarily calm. Several times, when he felt she was slipping into sleep, he woke her, as he was afraid she might die in his arms.

After waiting for what seemed like ten hours, but actually only six, the sky cleared and a layer of cloud rolled back, improving visibility for a short while. Ellie seemed instantly refreshed and decided that as it would soon be dark and nobody had come to find them, she should try to find the trail. They clambered back up the steep gully. With improved visibility, she could see where they needed to go and set off, rucksack on her back, across a steep ridge. Again, she cried out as she disappeared from view. Henry could not tell whether she was calling him to follow or shouting as she fell down a precipice. He tried to follow, but his bigger feet and less agile build prevented him from crossing the ridge. Henry had left the shelter and was unable to climb back to it, so he found himself as much shelter as he could and waited to die or to be rescued. He later said that his feet and legs were completely numb, his teeth chattering and his upper body aching with cold.

Henry was found by a mountain guide, who had joined the search on arrival at Laban Rata with his group. It was 14.30, about two hours after Ellie had left him. Henry had entered the early stages of hypothermia and needed to be helped to the hut at Sayat Sayat. He remained there, wrapped in blankets, until his body temperature had stabilized and he was able to walk with support to Laban Rata. Naturally, he was unaware that Ellie was still missing. He presumed that she had reached the trail and told the guides where to find him. Henry was given food, warm drinks and a change of clothes by other climbers and put to bed, where he slept until morning.

Kit was the first of our party to arrive at 07.40 in the restaurant at Laban Rata. I asked if Ellie and Henry were with him. He replied that they had been just behind him at the summit, but that they had stopped to talk to Bruce and he had carried on, as it was so wet and windy. When they did not appear we assumed that they had stopped at their overnight hut to collect their things. This thought was endorsed by someone from another group, who claimed to have seen them there. Bruce arrived, soaking wet, a few minutes later and went down to our hut to change his trousers. He came back to the restaurant and drank the coffee I had ordered for him.

We began to worry when Ellie and Henry still did not appear. Surely it could not take them that long to get their things together? Bruce went back up to their hut to find Henry’s rucksack on his bed and panic really set in. He told our guides that they had not arrived and another climber reported that they had been seen going into the hut at Sayat Sayat. Bruce and the guides set off for the hut more than a kilometre back up the mountain. Henry and Sugarah being much faster were already on their way down, having found no sign of the children, as Bruce approached the hut. The guides returned to the restaurant at Laban Rata. The alarm was raised and three guides started to retrace their steps to the summit.

By 11.00 eight guides, arriving with new groups of tourists, had joined the search. The park authorities had been notified and a group of rangers sent to add their knowledge and expertise to that of the Dusun guides. Their work was hampered by the weather, which by now was atrocious and the ‘red herrings’ that kept filtering through. Apparently, claimed one climber, ‘they’ had been so cold that they had not bothered to stop at the restaurant, but just kept walking down. This was plausible, but unlikely, as they had been so keen to see me and talk about the climb. A phone call from Park Headquarters reported ‘they’ were sleeping in a chalet in the park. It was very confusing. Our hearts and minds lurched between optimism and desperation during those five hours in the restaurant at Laban Rata. All the while cheerful people burst into the rest house, excited by their individual achievements. It was ghastly; we felt so helpless. We could not join the search for fear of getting lost ourselves and could not eat anything as we felt dreadfully sick.

Bruce and I were advised to start walking down to the Timpahon Gate. He was very tired from the morning’s exertion and my foot was still sore, but our condition seemed unimportant as we rushed down the mountain. It was no longer raining and we gradually removed layers of clothing as we descended through the climatic regions. We did not stop to admire the scenery this time.

Half way down we met a park ranger who stopped us and asked our names. I suppose we fitted the description of the missing children’s parents. He made numerous radio calls, advising us that there was some news. We waited anxiously as his radio lost contact with someone on Low’s Peak and after several minutes the signal was received again. Henry had been found! Our joy at hearing that news was soured by the realization that they had separated. ‘Oh Ellie, what have you done?’ we both cried. We tried to imagine what had taken place up there and prayed to thank God for his help in guiding the rescuers to find Henry and to ask for strength to wait patiently for Ellie’s return.

We raced down the trail in a daze, not knowing what to think. At the Timpahon Gate the other older members of our group were waiting for us. We had persuaded the younger ones to leave as soon as the search was started. We felt dreadful as we had wasted half a day of their valuable holiday time and caused them unnecessary anguish. They were wonderful. Lynn, Adrian, Pat and Alan hugged us and said that the only thing that mattered was that Ellie was found.

To be continued to part 4…

Ellie’s true story : Our Holiday 2001, Part 2

Part 1
We set off at 08.30 after a breakfast of rice and vegetables, carrying water bottles and snacks such as dried bananas to eat on the way. The younger members of our party rushed off determined to arrive at the rest house at Laban Rata in record time. They were less interested in comparing the changes in flora and fauna on the trail, than overtaking other walkers who had set off before us. At the Timpahon Gate, the entrance to Mount Kinabalu, is a board detailing the times taken by the fastest runners up to the summit and down again. Some have realised unbelievably short times, which spurred Ellie and Kit to climb even faster.

Bruce and I took our places at the back of the group. I had hurt my heel at the beginning of the holiday and hiking in heavy boots had not given it the chance to heal. Every step was painful, but like Ellie, I never complain and was determined to reach Laban Rata at least. Bruce stopped to purchase new batteries for the camera from the kiosk at the Timpahon Gate, as he was afraid they might just give out at the summit and we would miss the opportunity to photograph the amazing sunrise we were bound to see.

We were about fifteen minutes behind the rest of our party and Henry, our guide, walked several paces behind us. He was very professional in his manner. He stepped forward to tell us about the plants we could not identify and explained how to make infusions for stomach cramps from long, feathery lichen. Each time we paused for a drink of water or to rest at the shelters positioned welcomingly at the top of a particularly steep stretch of trail, Henry would also stop and wait discreetly until we were ready to proceed.

We took exactly five hours to complete the ascent to Laban Rata. Admittedly, Henry took us off the path several times to look at pitcher plants growing secretly away from the trail where only those walking with a guide would ever see. They were stupendous! Huge jugs filled with a sticky liquid and so well camouflaged amongst the grass and leaves. I had imagined that they would be dangling from high branches and be much easier to spot. Bruce and I felt very privileged to have been shown these treasures.

It was bitterly cold in the rest house. We changed into our warm clothing, ordered a hot drink and waited for Ellie and Henry to appear. Ellie had been the first to arrive at Laban Rata that morning, much to the surprise of the restaurant staff who were still cleaning after the departure of the previous night’s guests. Ellie had taken only two hours and forty minutes to complete the six and a half kilometre climb. It does not sound far, but at times the steps cut into the trail are very steep and widely spaced. We could see why there were few young children attempting the climb.

On arrival, Ellie had put on her warm clothes and sat on her bunk to play cards with the other younger group members. They came down to the restaurant at about 17.30 and all twelve of us enjoyed a delicious meal together. It is incredible how the rest house can provide such a varied menu as every gas bottle, sack of rice, can of cola etc has to be carried up by porters. These are often tiny women, hardly bigger than the wicker baskets strapped to their backs. It made us feel very humble.

Ellie was the first to go to bed. Bruce and I would be called at 02.00 as we were staying in a hut adjacent to the rest house. Ellie, Henry and the rest of our party were sleeping in a hut a little farther up the mountain, so would join us at 03.00. It was extremely busy on the mountain that night as there was a party of about eighty Taiwanese tourists and about forty members of a Malaysian hiking club who had booked early and reserved most of the accommodation. The restaurant staff served everyone in record time. I wondered how they could be so cheerful. Ellie kissed us goodnight and as usual, told us how much she loved us. That was to be the last moment I spent with my darling daughter. Henry, our son, kissed us and followed.

I hardly slept during the night as my foot was painful. I lay in bed listening to the wind blowing through the slatted windows and across the corrugated roof. Henry and Sugarah, our guides, said that we would not be able to climb to the summit if it rained overnight. It had not, so we were called to join the procession with our torches, warm clothes and water bottles. I did not go with them as I felt that my injured foot, in the dark, on a mountain might constitute a liability. I made a cup of tea, waited until the first pink light of dawn appeared and then went outside the hut. I had no idea how much windier it would be 800 metres higher up the mountain. It was not excessively cold where I stood and the sky was still clear. As it happened, I had a better view of the sunrise than those who had reached the summit. I briefly saw the villages below bathed in a pink/orange light, but the wind was becoming disconcertingly loud. The cloud thickened and the wind started to blow more strongly up on top, making Low’s Peak an unpleasant place to be, I was glad that I had made the decision to stay behind.

The Travelbag climbers were more than adequately clothed for a normal morning on Mount Kinabalu. It was about 5°C with a clear sky and the wind had dropped considerably. Setting off at 03.00, Ellie was sad to discover that I was not with Bruce and began to cry, saying, ‘It’s not fair, Mum has come all this way and she loves mountains so much and now she will never see the summit.’ Bruce gave her the camera, just in case he found the going too tough and failed to reach the top. She was keen to get up as quickly as possible and get down to tell me all about it. That is why she was so anxious to overtake the large party from Taiwan, festooned with imaginatively arranged bin bags, as protection against the elements. They were somewhat less prepared for the harsh conditions than our group. She and Henry managed to pass most of them when the trail flattened and widened a little.

The trail beyond Laban Rata begins with more steps cut into the rock and climbs very steeply up through the forest. Above the tree line the way is marked by a white rope. This can be used by climbers to pull themselves up the steeper sections, but generally serves as a marker defining the trail itself. At this stage the path becomes much less steep and starts to level out as the terrain becomes fairly smooth granite. Climbers use torches on the ascent and so tend to follow the light in front. The rope is more useful on the descent. Guides are distributed throughout the procession. Some people employ their own individual guides, but the accepted ratio for a larger group is one guide to eight tourists. With two guides, Sugarah at the front and Henry at the back, our group of eleven was well within safety limits.

Feeling cold, despite four layers of clothing including a ski jacket and two hats, Ellie overtook Sugarah and followed the guide leading several Taiwanese climbers, Henry walked close behind. They reached Low’s Peak without suffering the effects of altitude, but were disappointed to see nothing but cloud. Ellie and Henry took photographs of each other standing by the sign at the summit, but it was too misty and windy for good pictures. Ellie shouted at Henry to remove his gloves as his fingers were covering the lens. He shouted back that he could not or his hands would freeze. These joking exchanges were misconstrued as ‘the argument’ that took place on top of Mount Kinabalu. This was complete fiction and caused considerable distress to Henry, as he most certainly did not run off and hide from Ellie.

To be continued to Part 3…

Ellie’s true story : Our Holiday 2001, Part 1

This is the true story of the tragedy in 2001, told by Ellie’s father from his email. It’s a long story. I have divided the story into 7 posts for easy reading. Take your time to read Mr. Bruce James 8000 words write up. Pray the Lord that her soul  will rest in peace.

Our holiday was booked in January 2001, but planned many months earlier. As soon as we knew that our elder son Tom was to undertake a GAP placement in Sabah we started researching the best way to visit him there and experience some of the landscapes and culture in which he would be immersed. We read every guide book about Borneo we could find and ordered several from our local library. After six months comparing itineraries and prices from British and German travel companies, we chose ‘Travelbag Adventures’ as they offered the most comprehensive tour, were committed to eco-tourism and our three children had thoroughly enjoyed trekking with them in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco with their school, the previous summer. It was going to be the holiday of a lifetime; little did we know how true that would be.

We had never been able to afford extravagant holidays, nor needed them. We lived close to beautiful beaches and countryside in Cornwall when the children were small and are fortunate to have family members living in Wales, the Scilly Isles and the London area, all ideal holiday destinations. Living for ten years in Germany provided numerous opportunities to travel in Europe, including driving to Madrid and back during half term and our annual snowboarding trips to Bavaria.

This was going to be a wonderful family holiday, as we would meet up with Tom several times during the three weeks in Borneo. It was, indeed everything we hoped it would be. We were travelling as part of a group of twelve people. Rather an unusual group for Travelbag as it fell into two halves, those under twenty one and those of forty plus. It was a lovely group, however, and we were all getting on so well. Ellie was very friendly with the other young people on the tour and kept them laughing as we travelled for hours upriver, pushing our longboats at frequent intervals when there was insufficient water to ride inside. She never stopped telling funny stories or doing impressions of people; her energy and enthusiasm for life were infectious.

We had already visited Sarawak and marvelled at the incredible sight of ten million bats spiralling out of the Deer Cave at sunset in Mulu, enjoyed the hospitality of Iban people in their longhouse and struggled up the Pinnacles, sweating profusely with every step. Needless to say, Ellie was the first of our group to the top of the Pinnacles and the first down in the torrential rain to wash in the river below. Ellie was revelling in the sights, sounds and textures of Borneo, taking photographs of rock and cave formations, plants and insects for her Art project on natural forms. She always thought ahead and had planned the artifacts and fabric she needed to purchase for her Textiles A Level. She was hoping to cram the two year course into one year as she had already learned and used so many techniques in her AS Level Art.

We arrived by ‘ekspress’ boat in Kota Kinabalu, the state capital, on Sunday 12 August and met up with Tom. He showed us the Outward Bound centre where he was working and introduced us to several of his friends. We enjoyed a very special evening together in KK. This included karaoke in a bar on the first floor of our hotel. Tom and Ellie sounded fantastic together, singing such old favourites as ‘Your Cheating Heart’ and ‘Yesterday’. Tom entertained the Malaysian patrons with his rendition of ‘Proton Saga Kelabu’; they were amazed that it was an ‘orang putih’ singing a local song, his accent was so authentic. Tom and Ellie were talking about the songs that they would sing together at the karaoke bar close to OBS (Outward Bound) when we met up again on Friday 17 August. This was going to be a celebration of Ellie’s AS Level results; they just had to be excellent because Ellie had worked so hard. Tom was extremely proud of his sister and could not wait to introduce her to the rest of his new friends. They met her at her funeral.

We said goodbye to Tom at 13.00 on Monday 13 August and drove to the village of Kiau Nulu. This was the last time Tom saw his sister alive. He waved and turned away, anxious to get back to OBS as he had work to do. Mount Kinabalu appeared to move from one side of the minibus to the other as the road wound higher and higher through the countryside. We were all excited as this was perhaps the high point of our holiday; the opportunity to climb through five different climatic regions of forest on our way to the summit. There are species of pitcher plant, rhododendron and orchid that grow nowhere else in the world. We are all keen conservationists and very interested in geology and botany and were hoping to see all the plants pictured in our guidebook.

The village is situated in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, but down a steep and winding track that leads to the school in the valley bottom and up again as far the other side. The track is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only. The children walk, some barefoot, several kilometres down to school each day and back again at the end of the session. Like Ellie, the children are always smiling, friendly and eager to learn. Learning English is their passport to a job in tourism or as a mountain guide. I arranged to send English language materials such as alphabet friezes, nursery rhyme tapes and books to the teacher of the first class.

We spent a very enjoyable evening of conversation and karaoke with the villagers and slept in bunks in a wooden house adjacent to the church. We rejoined them for breakfast of fried noodles and eggs and then set off again down the track to the school and up the other side. Mount Kinabalu was always in view, looking more majestic than before as wisps of cloud swirled around its peaks after the unusually heavy rain of early morning. It seemed impossible that we would be able to reach the summit; it looked so steep and barren.

On arrival at Mount Kinabalu National Park, we left our bags in our chalets and booked a twenty minute guided tour of the mountain garden. We were all so interested in the plants and their history that the guide showed us tiny orchids the size of a pinhead that most people would miss and very rare species which survive only in the garden. Our tour lasted one hour and twenty minutes.

We rose early the next morning. We had been fully briefed about the climb by Jacquie, our tour guide, the previous evening. We were certainly not undertaking the climb ill informed or unprepared. It was windy, but dry, so we were advised to wear shorts and a fleece, taking thermal underwear, rain Jackets, hats, long trousers and jumpers to wear at the rest house and on our climb to the summit. It was considerably warmer and less windy than many an occasion when we had hiked up the ‘Brocken’, the highest mountain in the Harz National Park in northern Germany. Our idea of a family day out is a walk in the mountains, but until the children’s trek in Morocco and Bruce’s around the Annapurna circuit last year, we had never hiked outside Europe.

To be continued…

More photos from the past: 1960’s Jambatan Tamparuli

Courtesy of Mr. Anthony Catherall, he emailed me more photos of Jambatan Tamparuli in May 1960, during the big flood tragedy that had claimed the lives of 2 brave British soldiers and a local woman.

Please read his entry here if you have not read it. Enjoy the photos!
The Landrover emerges from Tamparuli River, May 1960

The Scammel hauls out the Landrover

The extension where the stretcher lay can clearly be seen

The investigation begins

Tamparuli Bridge 1960

Tamparuli Bridge from Kota Kinabalu

The memorial plaque to two brave soldiers

By the way, the photos are copyrighted to Mr. Anthony Catherall. Thank you very much!

The story of red durian seeds…

I didn’t know that my post about red coloured durian will be the most popular post of all time for Kinabalu Blog!

It started when I wrote about red coloured durian  couple of years ago, after a suggestion from one of my good friend, Cikgu Ismail from Kulai, Johor (an avid mountain climber).

Red coloured durian is actually a rarity, in which only few parts of the world have it. After publishing that post, I received 2 emails from two different place, asking me to send them the seeds…

The search begins
Last month (February 2009), while I was doing my usual weekend groceries shopping in Sunday Tamu (market), Putatan, I saw with my own eyes, the red coloured durian. It was nicely tide up with ‘tali rafia‘ (a type of rope). It was a surprise for me as I have been looking for it for the past few month in few different places.

Knowing that it will be difficult for me to find the seeds during off season, I grabbed the opportunity to buy it. I bought it because of the 2 special request email, from Thailand and US separately – asking me whether I could mail them some seeds for their garden.

It cost me RM30 for 4. I was lucky because I noticed that it was the last bunch of durian fruit in the whole ‘tamu’ (Sunday market). I could not find it anymore the following weekend.

Personally, the red durian is not as smelly as the one that I used to eat when I was young in my hometown, Bakri, Muar, Johor. Those days the durian cost only 50 cents each, and most of the time my mom will make a ‘bubur’ (porridge) out of it because we could not finish them all. The red coulored durian is also almost odourless and tasteless. I personally think that it taste horrible. Very bland indeed. I could not even finished a single bit of it!

Anyway, after bringing the durians back home, my wife (who hate durians) barred me from keeping the durians inside the house. Although I told her that this kind of durian is almost odourless, she insisted that the durians stayed outside the house. And it stayed there until it ripens and cracked opened by itself.

The journey begins
After getting all the information and suggestion on how to make sure that the seeds will not dies off in the journey across the earth, I started to process the seeds. As it taste horrible and my wife don’t eat durian, I have to manually remove the fleshy part of the seeds out.
I didn’t know that the durian was so ‘powerful’ until I chat with one of the local elderly here, after I felt giddy the next morning after I ate a piece of the red durian. To my surprised, he said that it’s a known ‘adverse reaction’ of this fruits. It’s very usual for people to felt a bit sick after eating that durian. Luckily I did not finished the whole bunch. Otherwise I could not even stand properly…
Following the suggestion, I packaged all the seeds properly, dividing all the seeds equally. You can see it how I processed those seeds…

Red coloured durians!!!

The close up of the red durian.

The left durian is slightly orange-pink in colour.

I manually remove the soft pulp of the fruit. It tasted really bland.

Washing off the mess...

The packages. One package arrived in Chiang Mai and the other arrived in Florida safely...

Few days after sending those seeds, I received an email from the friend in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Apparently, the seeds arrived safely. Some of those seeds were already germinated!

A week after that, my friend from Florida also emailed me that the seeds arrived safely with some of them were germinated! The photos below were sent by my friend from Chiang Mai, Thailand!

I wrapped the seeds with some wet cotton gauze.

Germinated durian seeds.

I hope that the seeds can live happily ever after in their new soil…

Durian: King of Tropical Fruit

How much does earn from donations?

I have never revealed how much I earned from donations to my main website, It has been running for the past 2 years, when I received my first donation on September 16, 2006 from a visitor from Thailand, Kamolwan Chongsrichan.

Since then, the website has been self paid by the donation money, i.e. I don’t have to fork out my own money to pay for its hosting. The webhosting fee is RM254 per year with Exabytes.

Do you want to know how much I earned on average for that 2 years time? Okay, let me just thank these 73 people who have donated their money to the website. I also put their name on the first page of, as their name deserve to be there:

  1. Robert Nash
  2. Maria Szymczyk
  3. (Chinese name character which I could not find the translation)
  4. Susan Falconer
  5. Asmah Yassin
  6. John-Paul Cusack
  9. William Baird
  10. Cleve Rynehart
  11. Siti Khadijah Jaaffar
  12. Julian Bode
  13. Luke Falvey
  14. Ally Spiers
  15. Zoe Gapper
  16. Rhys Arkins
  17. Becky Sundling
  18. Pang Sheue Fong
  19. Sarah Bte Aly Shun
  20. Mikko Manninen
  21. Mae Foon Wong
  22. Jan Kristian Rasmussen
  23. Jenny Dalrymple
  24. Fong Vins
  25. Young Catherine
  26. Adam Zubairi
  27. Matthew Leverett
  28. Bill Cohen
  29. Norman Brown
  30. Emy Castro
  31. Christoph Theisinger
  32. Scott McKinney
  33. Juneta Ideriyan
  34. Bob Pressey
  35. Norul Maslissa Ahmad
  36. Naveen Peter
  37. Mazlan Mastan
  38. Christoph Garditz
  39. Charles Warner
  40. Lily Lam
  41. Ainul Khalidah Idura
  42. Rob de Groot
  43. Gillian Anderson
  44. Simone Lehmann
  45. Francis Seynaeve
  46. Ian Vickridge
  47. Ismail bin Md Yatim
  48. Klaas Bart de Raad
  49. Sarah Hucker
  50. Adam Helman
  51. Bob Packard
  52. Robert Woodwall
  53. Kevin Christie
  54. Ng Alan
  55. Magnus Bertilsson
  56. Vince Jenkins
  57. Pik Kei Yuen
  58. John Simpson
  59. Anne Piyared Puthikarun
  60. Yong Chen Hui
  61. David Pieribone
  62. Guy Smeets
  63. Grant Knisely
  64. Jeevan Prasad Chandriah
  65. Anh Minh Le
  66. Mak Kai Kin
  67. Marilou Tan
  68. Keith Grunow
  69. Tan Suan Bee
  70. Gerd Islei
  71. Ismail Muaharan
  72. Kamolwan Chongsrichan
  73. Terence Neo

Lets calculate together:
(a) Minimum donation for the PDF copy of the ebook is USD7. It means; USD7x73=USD511 for 2 years.
(b) For 1 year, the donations would be USD511/2=USD255.50 (around RM860 per year)
(c) On average per month, USD255.50/12=USD21.29, i.e. or about 3 donors per month.

Although on average visitors donate USD7, there are donors who donate USD10 and USD15. In one special occasion, Adam Helman donated USD300!!!

What was the secret that they want to donate their hard earn money?

Provide them ‘value’ for their donation. Putting a donation button with “Please donate for my Nikon D40 fund” is not a good move as it sounds self-centered. That sentence shows that the potential donors will not earn anything by donating. If you look closely, it’s a win-loose situation.

But if you provide value to the donors like for example a PDF copy of the website that I give out without the ads, easy reading and printability, donors will want to donate, as they will get something for their donations. It’s a win-win situation.

Try doing that to your website and blogs. You may be surprise that there are people out there who are looking for something that you have, in which, you may give it with a small donations.

Happy 51st Merdeka Day for Malaysia – Hopefully a ‘new’ Malaysia

I never write about politics in this blog. It is not that I don’t know about it; I just don’t want make my blog looks like ‘rojak’. But when the results of Permatang Pauh by-election came out, I could not help but to write something about it. Congratulations to DSAI and his voters.

His winning reminds me to the year 1998 when he first involved with our country’s turmoil. I was there during that time, right in the middle of everything that happened. I was a third year medical student for UKM, in which my faculty was situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city.

It was just a stone throw away from Masjid Kampung Baru & Dataran Merdeka. I can still remember going to my lecture with half a dozen of FRU trucks parked just outside the faculty. The police were there for almost everyday and every night. I sometimes had my dinner or late supper with my friends after a long study group at Kampung Baru with policeman hanging around.

I could still remember the havoc that happened when few of my friends (yes, we are an ‘active’ university students that time) get caught by police and have to sleep in police lock-up after they were caught around Dataran Merdeka and Masjid Jamek area because they involved in the “Reformasi” gathering. For those of my friends who survived the FRU’s water canon, came back to the campus wet.

Me? I did not personally joined them, as I was actually ‘ordered’ by my father (he is a retired policeman now) not to get involve. Apparently he was also in the team of policeman & FRU that were assigned to take care of the area during that same time. So, it was like “I don’t want to see you get caught in my FRU truck while I am on duty” kind of order.

As a policeman, he has got to do what they have ordered him to do. And from what I could gather from him, he is not that fond of DSAI as he was also involved in the police team to control the situation during DSAI’s university student days in 1970’s.

Time passed. It has been 10 years since I really attentive to what DSAI did. He never give-up. Although he was assaulted, kicked, stripped and spent years in jail, he never give-up. His fighting spirit really struck the chord in me. No matter what happened, he just don’t give himself up. And with that, people of Malaysia (in hope for a new beginning) love him. They sent the message to the existing government that they need somebody “new” to give Malaysian a new HOPE.

Although I am very thankful to my father’s generation whom gave me the opportunity to get me to where I am now, I don’t think that staying the same will bring us anywhere. We have to take the challenge and dare ourselves to change, if we think that changing is a better option.

About DSAI’s sodomy charges? You know the answer, right?

Happy 51st Merdeka (Independence) Day, Malaysia! Hopefully a new hope for Malaysian will be born this 31st August 2008.