Friday, January 17, 2014

High Seas Cruise And Ride In South Johor

Group Picture at Pasir Gudang Ferry Terminal

It is a unique program comprising a tapestry of a high seas cruise voyage, bike ride, interesting sightseeing tour, magic & mask changing performance, food & more food and fun & plenty of laughter for a group of outdoor adventure seekers.  There were some who were meeting us for the first time but it took just a little while of warming up before everyone started to click like old buddies.

On way to Leisure World by BatamFast ferry 

The 2 days and 1 night event was scheduled on 11 Jan, Saturday and 25 were confirmed including some of my regular kakis like Kevin, Dora, CK, TS and Noelle.  However, Dora who was to bring her 15-year old son along fell sick at last moment had to withdraw, much to the disappointment of her son, Marcus who was looking forward to the trip.  I told Dora I can take care of her baby (son) in her absence but she just could not convince herself to let her son go alone.  True to his adventurous nature, Kevin who is still nursing an injured calf and walking with a limp did not cancel the trip.  He just opted out from cycling.

I have no idea how this event will turn up as it was a totally new program.  Leisure World is an out-and-out gaming ship and I was worried that some members will get bored immediately when onboard.  They could be in for a 'culture shock' but I did prepare them mentally prior to the trip.  Fortunately, Feri, the ship's magician and the program organiser was on duty and I can always rely on him to carve out a special program to entertain my group.  My trusted former comrade, Leong helped to co-ordinate with the ship and shoreside arrangement.  The program was ready to go.

Everyone was informed to meet at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on 11 Jan, Saturday at 1030 hrs and we were to take BatamFast ferry departing at 1200 hrs.  To make it easy for most, bikes will be provided for. Only three persons preferred to bring their own bikes.  Alisdair with his "Broadman" roadie while Calvin and Elaine with their "Brampton" foldies.  Check-in was swift and soon, we were ready for boarding but not after having a hearty breakfast at Killiney cafe.

Waiting for boarding at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

Once onboard Leisure World, everyone was ushered right away to the restaurant for lunch by Bear, a former colleague who was to help with taking of pictures while I sorted out the passports and cabin keys for the rest.  During lunch, Noelle offered to provide half an hour pilates lesson in the afternoon to those who were interested.  It was not in the program initially.  I managed to find a cosy venue at Treasure Cove for them and the lesson was arranged at 1600 hrs.  After lunch, it was still early and some headed to Paradise Lounge to watch the afternoon show.  The singing was performed by the ship's entertainers and it was sang in mainly Chinese save for one English number.  Alasdair, our English friend was comfortably seated in the front row when I walked into Paradise Lounge.  He had ordered a bottle of red wine and seemed to enjoy the occasion though I am very sure he could not understand a single word from the entertainers who spoke and sang mainly in Mandarin and dialects.  Husain, another jolly good fellow who was seated at one corner seemed to enjoy the show too.

Pilates lesson at Treasure Cove

When it was time for pilates lesson, some of us made our way to Treasure Cove but the most important person, Noelle was still nowhere to be seen.  When it was past 1600 hrs, I went to the reception to call for her.  She was still resting in her cabin and she told me that Amanda was the one who informed her that it was 1600 hrs based on Batam time (one hour slower than ours), aiyoyo!  The ship was stationed nearer to Batam water and our phone network system was auto-changed to Indonesia network and thus, the assumption made by Amanda.  She even told few others too.  I managed to get Detrea and Amanda and finally, the lesson can get started albeit a little late. I did not join in.  Kevin who has an injured calf did not join either.  It was supposed to be half an hour session but stretched to an hour in the end.  Noelle is a paid instructor and I must thank her for the complimentary lesson to us.

Mask-changing performance by Feri

Dinner was taken at 1830 hrs and after that, we adjoined to Paradise Lounge for our private program at 1930 hrs.  Thanks to special arrangement with the ship, beer was sold at S$2 and soon, some started to order Corona beer and other beverages.  After my short introduction, Feri took to the stage with his first act - the mask changing performance.  Almost immediately, he wowed some of us already.  This ancient act is typically performed by Chinese artistes but interestingly, Feri is from Indonesia.  He followed up later with some magic acts.  The flying table stumped many.  Elaine was pulled out by him to sit facing the audience for the flying tissue paper act.  When tissue paper was thrown over her head without her noticing it, she was made to guess which hand did Feri has the tissue paper.  She will never get it right, of course but she continued to pick the wrong hand despite having the paper thrown over her head again and again, much to the laughter of the audience.  But it was all for fun and all of us really enjoyed it.

Fun & game with Feri

After the private program, some went for karaoke while I joined Kevin, Noelle and some for supper before retiring back to my cabin to prepare another long day the following morning.

Mummy Competition

We were to leave by ferry to Pasir Gudang at 0730 hrs and all of us had early breakfast.  The ferry ride to Pasir Gudang Ferry Terminal took us an hour to reach.  Immigration and customs clearance went smoothly.  My old buddy, Chua Poh Kok who owns the travel and coach company in Johor and his team were ready to meet us.  Leong was at the terminal to help around too.  The mountain bikes are brand new type and everyone started to choose their bikes.  There were more than enough bikes for everyone.  I helped to pump air for some.  Though it was a Sunday but it is a working day in Johor.  I was concerned of the truck movements within the port premises and had to reiterate to all to keep in one line and to observe safety rules. At about 0930 hrs and after group picture taken, we were ready to roll off.

Before rolling off at Pasir Gudang

Our first stop was the horse farm owned by Mos, an Iranian who lives in Malaysia.  It is about 5 km from Pasir Gudang Port to Tanjong Putri Country Club where the horse farm is located.  I led the way to the farm. When we arrived, Mos was doing some training.  A short introduction was made and everyone was free to roam around.  We spent about 20 minutes before resuming our ride again.  Our next stop is the kite museum, less than 10 km away.  We spent another 20 minutes at the museum and we were not even half mark.  We were running behind schedule and I expected late lunch.  We still have charcoal factory to visit and crab catching activity but it was already past 1130 hrs.

Getting ready at Pasir Gudang Ferry Terminal

I led the way to Kong Kong.  After passing each traffic junction, I stopped so that everyone will gather before resuming.  This is to ensure no long break up in between.  The support vehicle was covering the rear. Suddenly there was a heavy downpour.  We decided to stop for the rain to clear.  Everyone was drenched. There were few who decided not to ride at that juncture and they then hopped onto the waiting coach.  It was still drizzling and we decided to continue on.  We still had less than 10 km to our destination in Kong Kong.  In my email to all, I did inform that the road is fairly flat but it is not exactly flat.  To those who are not regular cyclists, this proved to be quite a challenge but nonetheless, doable.  Michael, our most senior cyclist at 70 and a little more was mostly at the back who told me that he last rode a bike was when he was a school boy.  Boy, it must be more than 50 years ago and here, he was seen tackling the undulating road.  He did not want to give up though he was seen struggling at times.  He earned my full admiration for his perseverance to the end.

First stop to the horse farm

It was close to 1330 hrs when we reached Kong Kong and I decided that we will not visit the charcoal factory which is near to our eating place.  We cycled to the seafood restaurant.  Everyone was wet and hungry.  The tables had been arranged for us but in the air-con room.  We had to switch off the air-con and opened the window for ventilation.  Some managed to change to dry clothes though.  When food was served, we tucked in quickly.
 On way to Kong Kong in single file

During lunch, I sought the group consensus if they would like to go for crab catching but at the expense of shopping times or cancel the crab catching altogether.  Only CK wanted crab catching but the rest opted for shopping and massage.  It was already 1500 hrs.  The coach ride to Bukit Indah for shopping took an hour. With the crab activity cancelled, we will not catch the crabs but had the crabs delivered to us instead.

One of the pit stops 

After lunch, we headed to Bukit Indah for shopping and massage times.  We spent an hour and a half at the shopping centre and finally re-boarded the coach at 1800 hrs for home.  I didn't buy anything except chewing gums for Dora messaged to ask me to buy for her.  Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the tour.  Oh ya, the crabs were delivered to us while we were at the shopping centre which were then distributed to those who wanted to bring home some live crabs.  Traffic was smooth at both sides and by about 1900 hrs, we had crossed the Woodlands checkpoint.  Great bunch of people, I enjoyed as much as them.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Handling Special Need Passenger

I was a young passenger handling officer with KLM at the airport in the swinging 80s.  I was on duty to meet a special need passenger who was on wheelchair and breathing on an oxygen apparatus at the transit. He was flying in from Australia onboard Qantas and to re-board on our flight to Europe via Amsterdam. Between the incoming Qantas flight and our outbound flight, there were few hours in transit for him.  Then we have only one terminal at Changi Airport and the boarding gates between the two airlines was one end at the east wing to the other end at the west wing.  

When he was pushed out from Qantas' arrival gate, I took over.  He had a big breathing apparatus on him and he was totally immoblised but can still sit instead of lying flat down.  He was not the usual wheelchair passengers that we used to handle.  Admittedly, this was my first experience handling such special need passenger and I was not even first aid trained.  I thought my job was just to push him to the boarding gate and it should not pose any big problem.  He was quite a friendly chap and I remember I was chatting merrily with him. There was no rush as we had few hours of transit time.  Then in the midst of it, he told me he needed to use the toilet.  I did not think much of it and very quickly, I pushed him to the handicap toilet.  I then carried him onto the water closet. Assuming he should know what to do next and I then walked out.  He called out for me again.  He said he needed my help to pull his pants down.  Oh no, I thought to myself then.  Biting my tongue, I then helped to pull his pants down.  I told him I will wait for him outside.  When he was done, I had to flush for him and of course, pulled up his pants.  All the while, I was holding my breath for the longest time and not looking anywhere.  Carrying him was easy but I had to be very careful not to mess up his breathing apparatus.

When it was time for his re-boarding, I pushed him to the aircraft and together with the crew helped to secure him on a row of seats which was converted into bed for him with the breathing apparatus installed next to him.  I heaved a big sigh of relief that he was safely onboard and on the way home.

Thank you for flying with KLM and we are here to serve you, regardless of who you are or where you come from.