Thursday, June 08, 2006

Round 2 Explorace Season 3 : Bangkok

We reported at Sri Pentas at 5.00am on Saturday and we left TV3 by 6am. The ride to KLIA was uneventful, just anticipation of where we are going. Nevertheless, we all slept all the way to the airport.
Upon reaching, Nimni, our mummy for this league of race went to Counter E. All 4 of us, me, Azly, Reezman and Azahaari, ran to the screen to see where checking in at Counter E will bring us.
Fuh, giler... London, Newark and Stockholm!, exclaimed Azahaari.
Everyone shrieked with delight. Who won't?

There is always gold at the end of the rainbow

come, where is Counter C??, Nimni said as we lifted our bag onto the Counter E's conveyor for check in........
There were frustration that we aren't going West. I know, that's pathetic. Hahaha...
We rushed to the screen again and Counter C will bring us to Bangkok, Surabaya and Chengdu.
I know that China and Surabaya is totally out of the question and that leave us with Bangkok.
We were given the ticket by Nimni and Azly started laughing out loud. He will be in Bangkok again for a holiday with his family after the race!

Excited, as non of us went to Bangkok before. And we foresee the race will be fun and unpredictable.

Azahaari digging his ears in sleep

Amat sleeping...
Bangkok, here we come
We left Bangkok at 10.55am and reached Bangkok by 12pm. As Bangkok is an hour behind KL, we gained an hour flying up north. We were then ushered into a bus that will bring us to the hotel where we are going to stay for the rest of the trip here.

We went for our first Thai food, as all the participants were reluctant to try any spicy food, non of us had any tom yum. We had fried rice with exception of azly that had stew tongue rice. Nothing to shout about and all of us agree that we will eat all the tom and yum after the race. We were then brought to our hotel, the Royal Suite Apartment.
The Hotel
Royal Suite Serviced(sic) Apartment. The sign said. We know it's grammatically wrong. Anyway, we were assigned rooms in another building. It was raining heavily and we all know those were showers of blessings. We all just walked over to the next block and found our names on the notice board!!!
We were given room 4006. This place is Brand New!

The room comes complete with a complete kitchen enough to cook more Thai food than anywhere else (well, if we could cook Thai that is) and every room has a 34 inch TV with 5.1 sound system plus a dvd-r player that could also play digital tape....
I wasn't feeling too good later in the afternoon and was down with food poisoning, popping in 4 charcoal pills, going to the toilet and feeling nauseated, i skipped dinner completely to let the tummy rest. I had a cut of guava to fill my stomach.
Not having any mood to eat, i just rested...
Also, the room made quarantine so much more enjoyable!
You see, the participants can't leave the room on the eve of the race, for fear we might get kidnapped by the local katoeys and sent for operation to join their sisterhood.
Seriously, it was more of a fair-fair thingy for both teams, if both were given the oppurtunities to go looking, then it won't be fair, then it won't be any fun racing, right?
Wrong. Fast forward to race day.... read on, the journey begins.
Starting Point : WatArun
Wat Arun, which is situated along Chao Phraya was our starting point of this round 2. We were brought to this temple by 6am for the race to start at 7am. Sasha, technical and production crews, producers, press, Thai liaison officers, Thai helpers and basically a total of almost 100 crews were roped into this race.
By far, this is the largest and most stressful for the production team in all 3 season because of red tapes, language and uncooperative locals which changed their mind about their place being used for the race.(of course, these details we only know after the race...)
And so, sharp at 7am, we were again, called in by Sasha and was reintroduced to the camera. My race director this time around is Kerk and my cameraman, the most experienced cameraman, Jebat.
We were given the clue and the airhorn blasted.
And the way we go...
My first task was to look for Wat Po Pier, which was actually right next to Wat Arun. Not very hard, but i did find myself jumping over waist high hedges as i took the wrong route. At this point of the race, me and Reezman was next to each other but he reached the jetty first. It cost 3Bath for the ferry. We were both given 2 pieces of 500Bath each. Reezman was luckily as he was the first one and there was enough change for 500bath. I wasn't so lucky and found myself scrambling around to break the cash. I managed to get that done and dashed to the ferry. Yeap, like round 1, it's back to square one again as i stepped onto the ferry.
Fooling about and around with Reezman, which our next task is to take this ferry to Tha Tien Pier and get onto the Tuk Tuk to Pak Klong Talad flower market.
Both of us were neck to neck and we had to stop 2 tuktuk each, one for ourselves and one more for my race director and cameraman. Getting one is easy, getting two, and explaining to them to wait for a second one was tough. I remembered to haggle for the price, which was 30bath each tuk tuk.
It didn't take me long to get that done and i did shouted to Reezman's tuk tuk to go with shouts of Mai! Mai! (mai is no in Thai). Sabo. Hahahaha... but that was for TV... you all know i'm not that evil, ain't it?
We took the tuk tuk to Sum Nak Pra Rajawang,or in plain English, in front of the police station.
We were given a pic and we are supposed to locate/find Pida.
I hop from shop to shop and showed the pic and asked where is Pida. No one seems to know who is Pida. Those that claimed they know... well, lets just say that they don't understand that i told them i can't speak Thai... and i get them giving direction in, what else, Thai.
thum kap Khap Khun(thank you) all the way and sawadee kap all along... with Cai(yes) and Mai(no) inserted here and there... talk about communication breakdown.... hahahahhaha...
Reezman wasn't fairing any better but he did reached Pida before me. He was given his question and he got his wrong... i was given my question
Without hesitation, i answered Air Terjun Kota Tinggi
Well obviously the answer is wrong. Hahahahahaha...
then i was given the penalty task

I had to fold 20 buds of lotus flower perfectly before i could do the next task.
Pida showed me once how to do it. This is my first time holding a lotus bulb, lotus root I've eaten a lot, lotus seed is almost everywhere in Chinese medicine halls, but lotus buds??? (how it looked like? Look at clue 1, the buds behind Pida belongs to the lotus!!!)
So, i paid attention to the whole process and devised something that i will remember. So, it's the folding the petal out, in and out IE 3 folds. Repeat this for all the petals on the lotus bud and present it to Pida for her to decide if it's perfectly folded.
I had some problem initially, but not as much as Reezman, which had 5 out of 10 initial buds rejected. I had none.
I spoke to Pida through a translator and was told that a bunch of lotus flowers were sold for 30bath unfolded. It will be used by the buyer for religious ceremony.
By the time reached my 19th buds, Reezman's basket of rejected and passed folded lotus were of the same amount. I completed the folding with ease and in advance. I took the time to joke and to pass sarcastic remarks (again, this is for TV y'all!!!)...
And so, the next task is to push the coconuts in the cart, which was easily close to 100kg to uncle sangaim. I let Reezman lead the way as i was actually tired because i didn't have anything since the night before. The cart were hard to manourve and it washeavy. Feeling a bit small, but i know it's not worth risking overtaking him, what's better to let him find uncle sangaim. We reached uncle sangaim the same time and our task next was to peel 10 coconuts with the correct technique.
Not so much of peel, but, if any of you go to those supermarket which sell fresh young coconut which we aptly call kelapa botak, yes, it looked something like that.
To save everyone a trip to the supermarket, here it is, a fine sample of how not to cut the coconuts....
Not the way to do it bro!!!
The coconut above were given to the crew to be brought back after we complete our task... we need to ensure the coconut are cut in perfect cylindrical shape with the top portion in perfect cone shape. Well, apparently, i did it so well (and faster than Reezman), they decided to keep what i cut to sell... and gave what Reezman cut to be brought back FOC.. hahahahahaha...
By the way, i asked Uncle and he say it cost 20bath per coconut.
So, i was in the lead as Uncle Sangaim gave me the next clue

I ran back to the police station as per instructed and hop into the explorace taxi. I chose the taxi wit the number 2658, taking it because it has the number 8 behind it. Typical Chinese... hahahaha...
My next destination is to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand. It is a good 80km away from Bangkok itself. Our journey took us almost 1hour 30 minutes plus jam on the Bangkok highway itself too... unbelievable.
I called Azly and was told he was trailing Azahaari by 30 minutes as his first task was very physical, he had to run up the Wat Arun's pagoda for his next clue... and i was told that you must ascend the pagoda in clockwise fashion... so, it's up one level,run around the level in clockwise manner, then go up the stairs (which were knee high) until you reach the top.... i told him not to worry as i'm in the lead.
10 minutes later, i tried calling him but to no avail. I found out from my race director that Azly capsized in one of the floating market canal. Completely drenched and phone malfunctioned. What luck!
I reached the hospital and i ran to Bang B, which is actually a shop name, i stopped and asked around and was again, spoken to in Thai... which was frustrating... very! After a good 500meter run and and seek, i found Bang B.
KhunAoun greeted me and as usual... it's me sawadee kar (for girl) in the most slutty way possible... She gave me my next clue
A demonstration were given on how to cook roti saimai, which is essentially, popiah skin. Again, i'm dumbfounded... Drink coconut, YES... Eat Popiah... Yes... make popiah skin... NO!!!!! The lady showed me ow it's done, looked very technical.
So, there i am, sitting on a stool, with a 1 meter diameter hot flat pan at stool level, dough on my right and scraper on my left.
i'm supposed to dig my hand into the gooey flour mixture, pull some out and roll it in my right hand, then press it on the hot pan in circular motion, pull it off and let it cook before i scrape it off from the pan, hoping it will be perfect...
and i need to make 50 of those.
My first saimai failed miserably. Khun Aoun rejected any saimai which were too big (perfect size is about 25cm in diameter), not cook (the flour are gooey, had to flatten those overly press quickly or it won't cook nicely) and with holes (problem arise when you try to scrape it and end up making holes in them).
I managed to make up till 12 saimai when Reezman arrived. He again, had trouble getting it right, which was to my advantage. After my 30th saimai, i got tired, sweat was dripping onto the hot pan, sending sizzles while adding extra flavor to the bread. Khun Aoun was getting impatient and rejected almost everyone that i made... maybe Reezman was playing his charm by singing for her...
"sabai sabai, saya tarak cakap Thai", Reezman keep singing in offtune harmony which entertained most of us there... i can't deny i was entertained too. It took the stress out of competing.
I found myself handling the flour rather clumsily, getting chunks of flour on my trousers and shoes, while flinging some to Khun Aoun's hair, pants and blouse. ahaahaahhah
I lost focus but managed to complete 50 pieces perfectly and went on to roll sugar hair using the saimai. We had to make 10 and offer it to the public. Which we later had to ensure that they finish before we can get our next clue.
We clown around again, with me and Reezman hijacking each other's completed saimai, much to the amusement of everyone.
I ran across the street and offered to all passerby, the worse mistake i made was actually offering it to kids, which took ages to finish! Reezman was smarter (and more cunning) by offering to the people outside the shop itself! Can't say it's unfair if the race director lets him, right?
As my last saimai as chewed and swallowed, Reezman dash off with the next clue and i ran to the shop for my clue

I ran back to the hospital and rushed the taxi driver to Wang Chang Ayutthaya. Along the way, i saw big elephant being ridden. and my guess were right...
Khun Tamaporn is a female baby elephant which handed me the next clue

excitement as i caught up back with Reezman, which is just a minute ahead of me. We both proceed to the elephants' enclosure and in came 2 major big mammal...
We weren't given any shampoo, but we have to give the big guy a rub down... now seeing elephant in the zoo and seeing them within arm's reach is awesome and scary.
Immediately, flashback of Animal Planet came to my head where a trainer was stepped, kicked and badly injured by an elephant... so, i was getting ready to roll into a ball, as that episode's tips to do so if encountered an elephant on rampage...
The elephant assigned to me keep moving closer to me every time i sprayed water on him, he came so close that i found myself being pushed to the railing. I found myself almost crouching every time...
his eyes were looking at me, and i keep talking to him in Bahasa, in English, in Chinese and in those lil Thai i know.
Then, i found out what was wrong. He is thirsty. His trunk keep trying to move closer to the hose i was holding, which explained why he keep moving closer to me...
And so, like a Man that had conquered the largest land animal... i felt in control... found the name of the elephant is Bhutan. So, from there on, it's Bhutan here and Bhutan there, it was hilarious as the mahmood, of elephant trainers taught me some Thai as well. Lim is drink... so, i did noticed every time i say lim to the elephant, he actually lifted his trunk higher than usual, tilting his head up, mouth wide open and sprayed water into his own mouth...
it was simply a-w-e-s-o-m-e!
Then after what seems like 15 minutes of bathing the elephant, making him crouch by pulling his ears, cleaning his eyes (yes, i was rubbing the mammal's weakest body part, the EYES!!!) The whole process was therapeutic!
But not as therapeutic as Reezman's elephant taking a dump while being bathed!
After that was done, i had to pull the elephant by his ear to the dressing area, which was 2 scaffolding high. So that's a good 8 feet or more!
Slowly, i climbed on to Bhutan's head, with my back facing the front (IE i'm completely facing the other way) and placed rugs after rugs as a buffer for Bhutan's back before the carriage was placed on his back...
Every time he moved, i freaked. Not gonna be a nice sight to fall 8 foot down...
After that was done, with the help from them mahmood tying the carriage down, i turned around, and sat on Bhutan's head.
Placing my legs behind his ears, i had to kick left if i want to go right and vice-versa, kick both side to go forward...
And there i am... being able to bathe, dress, and now, ride and elephant!!! COOL!
I had to go pick up two passengers and then i had to ride the elephant almost 700meters to Wat Phra Ram, where Khun Tai is waiting with my Golden Box!!! YAY!!!!
All the while, i was in the lead, with Reezman having slight problem with his uncooperative mammal. Perhaps mine was because i found out understand Mandarin! I assumed! The trainer spoke to me in broken mandarin and yes, he did indicate Bhutan knows... or so i think. Bhutan picked up speed and reach Khun Tai.
Using his strong trunk, he grabbed the box and pass it to me while i'm seated right on top on his head! It's empowering!!! I shouted with joy as i collected the Box!
Under the box was my next clue

And so, my journey of 700meters back to the Elephant Palace ended as i let the passenger down. I bend over and gave Bhutan a kiss on his head and ran towards my waiting Taxi.
Next destination is to Suan Rodfai, where I'll meet Azly in front of the sports center office.
I called Azly and was told that he led Azahaari by 30minutes. He is now looking for the Golden Key.
2 minutes later, he called again in ecstasy and told me that he found the key within minutes of calling me. I told him i'm in the lead, with Reezman a close maximum of 10 minutes behind. Feeling rather confident that we are gonna wrap this race up soon, i relaxed a bit and it will be a 60km journey back to the meeting point.
And that was what went wrong.
My driver, Anant, took the wrong turn and headed the wrong way. Instead of bringing me back to Bangkok in 30 minutes flat, he brought me deep into Ayutthaya, making 3 U-turns before stopping one motorbike-taxi to bring us out of that place.
I lost all my lead. I was frustrated. I called Azly and bitched to him about it. It's heartbreaking. My cameraman and race director was devastated, they couldn't believe their luck, what more me?
The next 30 minutes of getting lost in Ayutthaya was heartbreaking and frustrating, everything i asked was replied by Anant with a resounding Yes.
I recalled asking if we were lost, he say YES.
I asked if he knows the way, he say YES.
It was downright frustrating.
When we finally entered the highway to Bangkok, i called Azly and he told me that Azahaari reached the meeting point already, a good 30 minutes behind him. I apologized profusely but he was cool about it. Nothing we could do. I was lost. I felt i disappointed him big time.
Then, he called again, while i was caught in the notorious traffic jam in Bangkok. My taxi was weaving left and right and total displacement was maybe 10 meters after 5 minutes of weaving here and there. I know i'm fucked.
Azly called to tell me that I'll need to shave after this as he and his family are coming to Bangkok for a holiday and he do not want to be bald.
It didn't struck me until i put the phone down where i told the camera of how relevant of someone going bald and going for a holiday.
I was frustrated. Anant was still on the phone, obviously do not know where sports center were!!!!
I called Azly again and was told that Reezman reached a couple of minutes ago while i'm still 8km away from meeting point (or so say Anant). Azahaari is getting his hair shaven for the next task. And so will I.
I reached Suan Rodfai, frustrated and angry, i vent out my anger by shouting and received our next task as a team.
It sank into me. Wifey not gonna be happy with my new hairstyle. Out of anger, i screamed again, this time, Azahaari and Reezman was still within sight. But i was told they were 18 minutes ahead of us. I hope one of them will lose both the set so the time deficit could be reduced to 8 minutes, provided i win both the sets. I know i will, i'm desperate enough to ensure just that.
As Azahaari was getting his head shaven, i sat down quietly to calm myself down. We ran out of luck. Big time. But we are not giving up.
As the shaver went through my head, i felt a sense of enlightenment, perhaps this is all fated, that i get lost, and most probably cost us the race, then me having to shave bald, no point fighting fate. Just got to remain strong... and continue getting pissed with Anant.
By the way, the balding process wasn't going to involve the whole head. It's only the top... the side and back were left as it is. I looked like some man with male balding pattern and only having hair on the side and back. If i leave my side long enough, icould possibly go for a comb over hairstyle!!!

And so, there i was, bald, ugly, fugly. I faced my opponents, Uncle Chumritt showed me how it's done in Thai. I got down on all four, in a 3meter by 3 meter arena. My opponent, which has a natural bald spot, was in his early 40's. Experienced opponent. Azly gave me a few pointer and asked me to treat it as if i'm in a scrum where i need to push my opponents.
Whistle went off, my bald head met with the uncle's bald head, pushing using the head ensued, i used all my might and won the first round easily.
For the second round, i was asked to prolong the fight... buat drama la kira.
And so, i did the drama, put up a good fight this time, giving the uncle hope but only giving him that much hope, and when i felt it's enough, i gave him a heave and pushed him out. I won.
Our opponents lost one and won one, which resulted in a draw. They are penalized for 5 minutes. Bringing the deficit to 13minutes.
We were left there for 13 minutes, before we were handed the next clue (Azly took that piece of clue).
We had to run to Chatuchak market, locate the Market Information Office and look for an officer for our next clue.
And so, there we went, hopping into the Explorace truck and brought to Chatuchak Market. We went around asking and looking for the office, which wasn't easy. This weekend market is at least 6 times as big as our central market area! Maybe bigger! With close to 30 sections of shops, each sections having hundreds of shops, each section having their own Spi(or Lane) which is very much like some residential area!
It took us 10 minutes to locate the Information Office, after being led to a wrong one by one of the local.
Once inside he correct office, we were told to open the golden box for our last clue.
We look at the map and decided to go to get the bandana first, then the Thai cloth and lastly the rattles.
We found the bandana with ease. Section 25, Address 116, Soi 2/5.
We were told to wear it.
I was very very conscious as i'm now officially half bald, with a bandana, which was actually a piece of 1.5inch wide cloth with the word Bangkok stitched on it.
We then went for the Thai cloth at Section 11, Address 205, Soi 12/7.
The cloth were in 2 boxes, of which both were locked. We took one of the box and a ring of keys, totaling almost 50 on the big key ring. So, it's some sort of lottery case. I managed to open the box after 8 tries, but it was empty!
And we went looking for the second box in the shop, found it and i didn't get to open it until almost the very last key.
Going ahead, we found the rattle at Section 8, Address 463, Soi 15/1.
We grabbed it and ran to the boat jetty at Chatuchak Park. We know we lost. There is no sight of the Joker Boys. Knowing that it's the end already, me and Azly decided to do some post mortem, letting the whole experience sink into us for one last time. It's sad, we lost, but we are glad it's not because of our own inability.
We found the jetty, read the clue one last time, and paddle down the waterway around Chatuchak Park.
We reached the Explorace marked tree and ran and at the same time, shaking the traditional rattle to announce our arrival.
We ran next to Sasha, gave her all the items we have collected and was asked how we felt.
The Bandana, the Rattle and the missing thai silk which has to be returned...
Just like this morning, we said we are gonna get lost, well, that's what happened!, i said sadly.
Sasha announced the winner and that marked the end of our own Extreme Journey.
We were told we are only 5 minutes behind the boys.
I was close to tears, but i held back. I can't believe luck wasn't on my side this time around. I blame the taxi driver, but that, as far as i believe, is all fated. It's never written anywhere that me an Azly will be in the final, despite us, being the favourite to win in round 2.
Post note
After the race, and after exploring Lumpini Night Market in my semi baldness, me with the help from Azly and 2 pieces of new shaver, shaved the rest of the hair on my head off. And so now, i'm officially Bald.

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