Monday, October 31, 2011

Campervan outing at Cameron Highland

Cameron highland is one my favourite retreat destination. Although the place has been suffered over commercialisation, there are still places where I can get away from the maddening crowd. My destination this time is at the Malaysia's Nature Society chalet at Ringlets. The place is currently under renovation and it is closed, so it is perfect for parking my campervan there as I will not be taking up the limited parking space that would otherwise be used by the lodgers at the chalets.

The morning mist give the quiet and isolated place a surreal ambiance.

The view of the valley when the morning mist started to clear
The trail leading to the campsite, the extra width and height of my camper was bit of a concern. In fact I got offside rear wheel stuck in the soft soil at the shoulder. Thanks to the help of the plantation workers who helped to push my camper, I managed get my camper back on the hard surface. Note to self: next time bring some recovery equipment.

You will never get tired of looking at the tea plantation.
There are small nooks and crannies that reminds me of the hobbits shire
The grand vista of the valley when the morning mist was cleared

The following day I decided to visit Tanah Rata, this is the municipal council's car park. For those who prefer to camp closer to town, this is a good place to park your camper

Another good place is the forest park at Brinchang. Tucked away between Kampung Sedia and Tanah Rata, it is quiet and spacious, with public toilets. It's location is such that both Brinchang town and Tanah Rata town are within walking distance.

We met a Belgian couple who shipped their campervan to Malaysia. Frank and Alice have been travelling around the world for 6 years in their campervan.

Frank and Alice's campervan, it has been their home on the road.One day I would like to see the world in my campervan like them.

Frank's camper has a handy platform at the rear for carrying their bikes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Moulded fiber glass shell caravan

I stumbled upon a class of caravan called moulded fiber glass shell caravan. As the name suggest, it is constructed of moulded fiber glass instead of aluminium frame and panels seen in the more traditional type of caravan. The advantage of this material is lightweight but being a moulded construction, there must be some limit to how big it can be. However that is not necessarily a problem because the whole point of fiber glass shell caravan is to be light and compact so that it can be towed by smaller cars. Although small on the outside, the interior is surprisingly complete in terms of amenities, some even have sleeping berth for up to 4 adults.

In Malaysia, a trailer type caravan need to have a JPJ registration like a motor vehicle, except that you only pay RM50 per year, I am not sure if insurance is required. But once your caravan trailer is registered and issued with a trailer license plate, any car with a suitable tow hook can tow it on the street legally. The permission to tow lies in the trailer's registration and not the car. I can't help but think how perfectly suitable those fiber glass shell caravan is in Malaysia. Most of the cars here are of small engine variety, a typical fiber glass shell caravan weighs no more than 1000Kg, which a 1.5 Litre family car should be able to handle comfortably.

A model designed and built in the 70's

It has bunk beds for 2 adults at one end. The top bunk can be folded away to the make lower bed a sitting bench for day use

Microwave oven and a fridge

The table top can be lowered to create a sleeping berth for two adults
A more recent model probably year 2008. From this picture, it is easy to see how the caravan is constructed with top shell and bottom shell joining together. This particular unit is equipped with an aircon, this will make caravaning in a tropical country like Malaysia a much more comfortable proposition.

There's no bunk in this model, but the interior looks more welcoming than the first model. With some modification, a bunk can be easily added.
Dinner for four?

Another type of moulded fiber glass camper from EggCamper, this type features vertical seam with left and right half of the shell joining together. This model is not as compact as the other two, but it has full standing room.
The interior layout and furniture are all pre-moulded in monocoque fashion. It has compartment for storage and also a shower/toilet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Piyamit Tunnel

Hi everyone. This is Yiun Yee, and I'm going to write the next installment of the Thailand, Betong trip for my dad, from MY point of view.

  So, we last left off with my dad telling you that we were going to explore the Piyamit Tunnel. Now when we first hiked in, what struck me was that the whole place was so idyllic, peaceful and serene. Kinda hard to imagine communists squatting around, watching out for trouble. We even crossed a little stream along the way! But I could see why they built it here though. The foliage was incredibly thick, courtesy of your typical equatorial rain forests.

Some little bridge with statues of the twelve zodiacs. Mine's the rat. This is outside the jungle.

  Distractions don't last long though- the communists' hideout was very, VERY deep into the jungle. It probably took us about a quarter of an hour or more to even reach the entrance, and this was with a decently paved road and staircase, specially for the tourists. I pity those that had to hike the old-fashioned way. Oh, and did I mention the staircase was pretty wide? This was a good thing, since we had two-way traffic going up and down the steps.

"Captain, my legs are sore!"
"Quit whining soldier, we still have 500 more miles to go! NOW HOP TO IT!!"

   Eventually, after a lot of huffing and puffing and hiking, we finally saw the first signs of human habitation. There was a man-made cave, with the bare earth showing. It was blocked though, by a door. No entry, I guess. A little further along the path and we found another cave. But this one didn't lead anywhere, and it was pretty small. Dad said it was a charcoal kiln.
Next to the little cave. I guess the sign's self-explanatory, huh?

  Our hopes a little more lighter, we finally reached upon proper signs of a settlement- we found a place where the communists would've burn charcoal. To our right and a little fenced off hut. No paths leading down there, but from what I could see, I assumed it was where they would split wood.

  A few more steps, and HALLELUJAH! We've arrived at the doorstep. There was a sentry's post, where a guard would've sat there, watching for trouble. The last few steps and we were at a clearing. Finally, the hideout!
"At ease, soldier!"

  The clearing was covered with a zinc roof, and there were some seats set up in front of a row of displayed items, such as storage bins and places where they would've cooked their meals. A map of the area was next to the tunnel entrance. And old lady, who was an ex-communist, was telling of how she and the other guerrilla members would have to take grading exams on first-aids, fighting skills, building skills, propaganda, and most of all, the understanding of their communist ideology.

An enthusiastic storyteller...

...and her captive audience. Well, some of it.

  Now for the tunnels themselves. There are 9-12 entrances and exits, and the tunnels stretched very, very far. This place was originally used to store supplies. The tunnels were about my dad's height- a little taller and your head would've brushed against the ceiling. And it was dark. Oh yes, dark. Even with these little lights lighting your way. The earthen floor dipped and rose a little, but it was mostly polished smooth by the hundreds of feet that walked around here. Here and there along the walls were dug-out hollows, used as seats or for sleeping. Comfy, no? And did I mention there were bats? I was scared stiff of them, despite them probably more terrified of me. Along one of the tunnels, we found a small room that presumably was once a communications center, with radio and whatnot. Oh yeah, we also saw a stretch of the original tunnel, which was even worse than the one we were in.
Definitely claustrophobic. And it's worse in person. trunk. For grains.

" 'Scuse me sir, but I'd like ta place an order..."

  Here's a little surprise- despite the lack of ventilation shafts, the air was fresh. A little heavy, but fresh. You could even feel a little cold with the breezes swirling around. Dad explained to my siblings and I that the communists had good knowledge of topography and wind directions, and thus they tunneled it out in such a way you don't need ventilation shafts. In fact, the closest thing to a ventilation shaft we came across was a delivery tunnel for larger items from above. It was even complete with a rough, old-fashioned wooden pulley!

It really is quite fun to turn the log thingy.
   Outside the tunnel, there was clearing next to a building with exhibits in it. The clearing was once used for drills and marriage ceremonies, judging by the cheerful-looking piece of cardboard a little up a bunch of steps. What astonished me was that, despite being so deep in the jungle, they were surprisingly self-sufficient. Dentists' equipment, printing presses, welding machines, communication radios, prosthetics, books, magazines, newspapers, guns, threshing machines, mine detectors, musical instruments, storage items, surgery tools, operation rooms... heck you name it, they most likely would've had it! These guys definitely knew their business, though I don't think I like the sleeping quarters, which were basically raised wooden shelves with zinc roofs.

Outside the exhibition hall. Sorry guys, no photos allowed inside.

  Our visit was cut short by the arrival of... RAIN! Yes, rain. It's why they call it a rainforest. So we started running back. Hooray for downhill paths! Makes our lives faster and easier. But, the funny thing was, once we were under the trees, there was almost no rain! The only signs of rain was the clear little stream we crossed earlier was now muddy. Oh and the occasional rain-drop that announced its presence on my head. In fact, the sound of rain itself was muffled, and only revealed itself when we neared the exit/entrance. The moment we stepped out of the covering, BROOMF!! Soaked. I had to take this moment to remind Dad of the fact he himself had chose not to bring umbrellas along, despite saying aloud that if we bring, it won't rain and if we didn't bring'em, it'll rain. Result- five wet people cramming into the taxi. What an experience!

Now for some random pictures-
"Hiya down there!" The gal in the pink shirt is my younger sister.

EEK!! A GHOST!! Oh wait it's just you...

I dunno what this is...

Some pots and pans on their stoves for display.

Oh look! A sign!
  Looking back, I don't think I would've wanted to live like that for an ideology. But you have to admire how far the communists had gone, despite failing in the end. Maybe we can learn a little from the communists, like their strong characters. Well, I'm done. =D

*Signing off now! Byeeee!!*