Soup Kitchen – It is more than food

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We don’t see them. We might see one, or two, here or there. But, really, mainly, we don’t see them. They are invisible. Or rather, forgotten. Forgotten by the society, their families, their friends, to the point where they just blend in… and disappear. They? The homeless.

They are all around us, and yet we fail to notice them. That is why a group of volunteers go out on the streets at night. To provide food, drinks and, more importantly, love.

When I say I volunteer at Soup Kitchen, people imagine me putting on a pair of plastic gloves, dragging a huge cauldron and starting making my own potion, adding ingredients to my liking, before splashing it in bowls and handing them out to a crowd of grumpy and ragged homeless.

After all, it is called Soup kitchen, right? Right. But, hey, we are in Malaysia. We don’t give soup. We give nasi lemak. Do I cook the nasi lemak? Oh my god, no, no, no way, I have no idea how to cook it. Well, maybe I do, a little. But let me tell you what happens.

This is how it goes. At 8.30pm, every Wednesdays and Sundays, I hop on my motorbike, catch a friend and whizz my way to Bangsar. This is where we meet. We check the van, the food that has been delivered earlier by a caterer. We greet newcomers, and then carpool together to the first stop.

We make two to three stops each night, according to the number of homeless who come. Lately, we have been distributing 350 bags of food in the areas of Chow Kit, Kotaraya and Masjid India. And, yes, sometimes, 350 bags of food is not enough.

I still remember my first time. I had been invited by my friend Zuhri and had arrived, all fresh and innocent, directly in Chow Kit. The van arrived… and the frenzy began. I was greeted by a tornado of a woman. “Hi! You’re new? Good. Follow me, come here. You will be giving the bags. Open it completely, give it to them, make sure it stays well open so that others on the line can add biscuits. Don’t slow the line. And remember to smile. It’s really important. Ok?” Err… Ok.

And it started. Bag after bag after bag, smile after smile after smile. The homeless were flowing in front of me, one after the other, too fast for me to actually give them an identity. And then we went to Kota Raya. And then, the last bag of food was given. But there were still people in the queue. And this man came to me, as all the others before him, and I had to look at him in the eyes.

Sorry bang, makanan dah habis.” (Sorry brother, the food’s finished.)

The look of understanding in his eyes. He would not eat tonight. And the next one was just behind, and the scene repeated itself. And again. Before the message had reached the queue, I had seen a life of hardship in the eyes of 10 people. And I felt powerless.

Yes, not everything is always pink in the life of Soup Kitchen. But the problem doesn’t come from the homeless themselves. They come from freeloaders. Let me tell you one example. I was at the beginning of the line, regulating the flow of homeless. This woman, well dressed, visibly without any kind of problem, passes by. She sees us, realizes there is free food, and put herself in the line. I am one meter away from her.

“Excuse-me, madam, this is only for homeless.”

She looks at me with a sullen look. “Can I just have a glass of water? I’m thirsty.” I’m human, I say yes, I let her stay in the line. The next thing you know, she got her glass of water… and grabbed a bag of food and walked away. As if nothing has happened. As if a real homeless has not just been denied his dinner. I was so mad. It is not just one example, it happens so often.

People who hide their car keys in their bags. Youngsters with the shape of their iPhone bulging through their pockets. We can’t search them, we can’t deny them the right to take a bag. We can’t prove anything.

Oh yes, not everything is always pink in the world of Soup Kitchen. But then, we do have our upsides. Those moments that surprise you, put a smile on your face and make you feel light and grateful for the rest of the day. Or the rest of the night, for that matter.

Having an old wrinkled man come to you and shake your hands, looking at you straight in the eyes, without saying anything. Sometimes, words are not needed.

Being in the line, giving out hot coffee on a rainy night and having each and every one of them greeting you, thanking you. Knowing you are helping people who need it, not some sulky middle-class primadonna.

Seeing a father push his 3-year old daughter forward, and she looks at you, and she just has this innocent bright smile that only kids know.

Meeting one of them in broad daylight and, wait, he doesn’t shy away. “Hello miss, how are you doing?” Just a simple greeting, shy but strong. An acknowledgement.

Another night, observing a man give up his bag of food to a woman. She has arrived too late to get food. But he, is in a wheelchair.

Or this other man, helping a young Burmese who can speak neither Malay nor English, and who is lost and alone.

Can you see the beauty in those people? We can. That’s why we keep on going.

Homeless people live in the shadows of the society. Getting food is a vital need, but the need for communication is equally important. It is what keep them going, connected. It is what makes them want to get forward and try to get out of the streets.

Soup Kitchen tries to provide this all. In spite of the rain, of the difficulties, of the freeloaders, we keep on going. For them. For people who are, in a way, already our friends.

A Wednesday night in Kota Raya

For more information, contact the Pertiwi Facebook Goup.


Note: This article is the written version of my 6th Toastmasters speech, focused on vocal variety. It forces me to approach anecdotes and leave other details aside, to reach the learning objective.

Tales of Mid-Ramadan

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I stepped onto the scale, cringing in advance as I heard the voices of my friends in my head, telling me they always gain weight during Ramadan. I opened one eye, then the other, and stared. I had lost 2kg. Either my scale was misguided, or there is something wrong with the way people eat at night. If you listen to the voices of my friends again, it is indeed the latter.

I am lucky enough to not be Malaysian, for once. I don’t have childhood memories to revive, I don’t have families, aunties and uncles, urging me to try one more dish, to take a bit more food, not to be shy. Though it does happen sometimes, when I have the chance to buka at a friend’s house.

I think it’s the lack of memories that save me. Not growing up with pasar ramadan, with huge long tables of varied dishes, with family warmth around me. They do say we associate food with emotions, and I think any cultural celebrations have a big role in it.

I guess I’m also lucky that it’s just so new for me. I can’t interpret Ramadan through my culture, so I can just follow what I think is right. Last night, a friend told me I was following the way of the Prophet more than he does. He was not the first one in telling me that. 3 dates here, a glass of soy milk there, a tomato salad and a cheese omelette. That’s how I buka-ed yesterday.

All the buffets and expensive meals would be such a waste for me. I can’t seem to eat a lot for buka, my stomach just fills up so quickly. The way people can splurge 80+rm on plates after plates is beyond my understanding, as I would just be full after the first one. Not worth the money, eh? :) But I do understand the need for a gathering of sorts, the “let’s make it special” kick we have during times of celebrations.

Some will argue that the celebration should be Raya, not Ramadan. I’ll have to agree with this.


“Puasa hari ni?”

“How’s the fasting going?”

There isn’t one day when someone is not checking up on me. Checking if I’m still ok, checking if I still like it.

The truth? I don’t even realize that I am fasting. Where is the pain, the hunger, the thirst? I don’t feel them. I usually have a pang of hunger around 1pm (at which point people around me will know it because I’ll always voice it out, like a kid discovering life) but it’s pretty much all there is about it. It doesn’t even feel difficult.

But then, I do miss eating sometimes. Just for the taste, not for the need.

I am constantly amazed at how little food I actually need. Man, had I been over-eating all that time?

There is definitely some things to ponder and to reflect on, soon, after Ramadan is over. Trying to find the balance between fasting and the previous amount of food I used to eat, this will be more of a challenge than the fasting itself. But it is a worthy one :)


Do I still like fasting? Yes. Without doubt. I find it an amazing experience.

I am a kid, in more ways than one.

I am given the opportunity to go back to the learning stages in life. Do you remember, as a kid, when you were surrounded by adults who knew. They had gone through the experiences, learned their lessons, spent time observing and making up their mind. You would look at them and, in your child’s mind, you somehow knew that, one day, all those things that excite you and make you wonder would not be new anymore. You knew that, one day, you would know, you would also have the experience, like the adults around you.

I feel like this kid.

I see my friends living through their Ramadan, going back to habits they have forged throughout their seasons of fasting, getting back into patterns, while I am wandering & wondering with big eyes, trying to understand how to forge my own patterns.

How often have I been voicing out something that has been so obvious for so long, for those around me?

How often have I said “I am hungry”, like a child explaining a discovery to his parents?

I am lucky. The people around me are amazing, whether they realize it or not.

A Qur’an given here, hours of questions answered there. A meal shared, a wake-up call in the morning.

Solidarity, community, sharing, love. And introspection.

A prayer in the mosque, me sitting at the back, observing, learning, reading the Qur’an in the darkness of the night.

I feel connected.

Thank you all, really.

Reflections – Masjid Putrajaya

(Thanks to Kenobi for allowing me to use his picture)

Ramadan 101

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Stop any passer-by in the street of my hometown and ask him. His knowledge of Ramadan? You don’t eat food from sunrise to sunset. Period.

I have to admit. I used to be this typical passer-by. As are still most people I know back home.

We just don’t know…

Short intensive course for you :) A few important facts, and a few miscellaneous thoughts.


The meal in the morning is called “sahur” and the meal in the evening is called “iftar”. In Malaysia, we typically call it “buka puasa” (break fast) or just “buka”, and it’s cool that way :)

Ramadan is based on a lunar month (the 9th one, to be specific) and starts with the first sighting of the new moon. It lasts 29 or 30 days, and runs from August 1st to 30th this year.

Fasting doesn’t start at sunrise but just before the beginning of dawn, i.e about one hour before sunrise. The idea is to start fasting before the first prayer, called Subuh (at least here). To put this into context, in KL, the call for the prayer is at 5.52am, while the sun rises at 7.12am. Trust me, it’s a long period to resist falling back asleep in the sweet darkness of the early morning :)

We fast from 5.52am to 7.29pm in Kuala Lumpur.

It’s not all about “no eating”. You also need to include “no drinking”, “no smoking”, “no sexual contacts”.

Wait, more to that! Ramadan being a month of spirituality and closeness to your god, Muslims should also refrain from cursing, lying, gossiping, acting bad, etc., and this at whichever time of the day or night. Replace it by doing good, talking good, and increasing your spiritual activities.

Not everyone has to do it. Pregnant women, sick & elderly people, young children and travelers can have a lighter fast or no fast at all, if their condition calls for it. It’s all up to interpretation & personal boundaries. Women in their period also don’t fast, hence they have to “catch up” during the following year, fasting for as many days as they missed during Ramadan.

There is an additional prayer, called Tarawikh. It happens after Ishak (the last of the 5 prayers, at 8.40pm) and is special to Ramadan. Friends told me some people don’t really perform the 5 daily prayers but like to do Tarawikh. It probably has a lot to do with the community feeling of special spirituality you get during Ramadan, but it might have something to do with it being “optional” (you know how something optional always appeals more to you than something compulsory?)

You will find lots of Ramadan markets selling food from sometimes as early as 3.30pm. We call them Pasar Ramadan in Malaysia, or Param for short :)

KL roads are even more packed than usual, as people rush back home to buka with their family or friends.

Your day suddenly becomes way too long.

There is a decrease in productivity nation-wide. At least, that’s what they say ;)

You can sleep in the mosque during the night, which you can’t do in other months, and my friends enjoy this opportunity to strengthen fellowship.

You are supposed to give more donations during that month, so calls to donation bloom everywhere.

In Indonesia, there are “optional tolls” with kids handing out buckets asking for alms near the mosques.

You suddenly realize you don’t know how to catch-up with people, as you can’t have lunch or coffee… (Oh, the drama of my life!)

You don’t sleep enough. Seriously. But you should…

And, sadly, people are starting to mix up fasting and feasting. More on that another day…

As customs wants it, break the fast by eating dates

Picture (C) blog.outlet.co.id

Travel 101 – Going to Kinabalu

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Going to Sabah, one can’t help wondering at the possibility of climbing the top of Malaysia. I learned during my travel that it was not the top of South-East Asia, as we all seem to believe it here… Some wrong teaching in Malaysian highschools? :) However, Kinabalu remains a pretty mighty monster to conquer.

If the price (and the difficulties ahead) hasn’t deterred you yet, you are faced with a choice: going as an independent, or going with an agency / travel group. It all depends on your own preferences, but I do tend to avoid big groups and mass tourism, so being solo is my thing. And off I was, googling my way in search of information. How do I get to the bottom of that mountain?

Curiously enough, there was close to no information. Talk about frustration! There you are, knowing you need to start climbing on a Monday morning around 9am, at some place 2 hours away from Kota Kinabalu, and you have no idea of how or when to go there.

You will find a lot of information on the climb itself on those two websites and I’ll let them do their part on this:

* Mount Kinabalu Borneo

* Climbing Mt Kinabalu

But when you check the “Getting Here” tabs, all you discover are the ways to go to Kota Kinabalu by plane.

Oh really?

I had to go to KK first? I hadn’t noticed this point at all… But after that, the last 90km?

Let me tell you about this :)


Where do you need to bring yourself:

At the HQ of Kinabalu Park, situated a short flight of stairs from the main road between Ranau and KK. This is pretty convenient, as you don’t need to take some secondary road: you are straight at the entrance of the park. From there, you’ll get your meal vouchers, guide, etc. and only then take a shuttle (frequent one) to the beginning of the trail.

There is a parking lot & a restaurant on the side of the road, opposite the stairs to the HQ, so you can get breakfast over there before heading to the mountain :)

****

When do you need to bring yourself there:

3 options of which, obviously, I have tested only one :)

* Sleep in KK and take an early morning bus for the 2 hours journey

* Sleep in Ranau and get a bit-less-early bus for the 30min journey (my friend actually drove me – I have awesome friends)

* Sleep in one the lodges on the side of the road within a few kilometers of the HQ. Either they are walking distance, or they have a shuttle to drop you. Check with them by phone before booking. A list can be found on the 2nd of the link above, but there are other choices.

****

How to get there:

From KK : Buses leave from KK to Ranau at 7am apparently, but I couldn’t get confirmation. Anyone who got confirmation of this, please leave a comment so that I can edit this post :) If that’s true, you would thus arrive at 9am – 9.30am, in time to start the hike. Going to the Inanam station before 7am could be tricky though, and you’ll probably need to get a taxi.

From Ranau : the day before the hike, get a bus from KK in the afternoon. They leave around 2pm and then 6pm, 7pm, 7.30pm and 8pm if I’m not mistaken (night buses going all the way to Semporna probably). It takes 2 hours and a half to get to Ranau. If you want to stop at a lodge on the way, you need to ask the driver, and probably to keep an eye on the road as well. In the morning, go to the Ranau bus stop a bit before 7am to hitch-hike one of the local buses. I couldn’t get any timetable, so you need to plan some extra time to make sure you arrive early enough at the HQ.

****

How to get back to Kota Kinabalu:

Tricky part. You can’t book a bus from a bus station so you have only two choices.

* Talk to a tour driver in one of the mini-vans and see if they have a spare seat that you can buy. I don’t have any idea of the price of those, and how flexible they are.

* Go to the side of the road near the restaurant and flag any big buses coming your way. Chances are, they have dropped one or two passengers along the way and will have a seat available. It can take a bit of time, which is tough when you have already been awake for so long. As an indication, I waited 30 min, and the 3rd bus to pass took me, at 1pm. It costs 15rm.

A third option, but not one you want to consider, is to take one of the mini-van taxis, which costs 150rm.


A few more tricks:

* You can buy a walking stick for 3rm at the headquarters. Get one. For 3rm, it will save your knees during the descent!

* You can rent a sleeping bag (20rm) at Laban Rata but they are in limited supply. You also have a blanket in the room, but it can get REALLY cold!

* A towel is provided, don’t bring yours, it is a waste of place & weight.

* You can rent a jacket, for 20rm also, and I highly, highly advise it. It went down to -10° with the wind factor, and the extra layer was a blessing.

* If you don’t have gloves, bring another pair of socks. I’m not jocking :) Better be ridiculous than being cold to the point of being oblivious to anything around you.


On the way to the top, first day. Still easy, but you know what’s in store for you! :)

Don’t trip, take your pace and pick your steps

Views on the ricks from Laban Rata. They are just so powerful…

Waiting for the sunrise, 6am, at Low’s Peak

On the way down the mountain, 6.30am

Don’t lose the lifeline

Sea of clouds :)

4 days of fasting, and counting

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Those last few days, I have been asked the same question, again & again. People were sometimes genuinely intrigued, and sometimes downright defensive.

“Why are you fasting?”

Why? For so many reasons. Be it pure curiosity, health experiment, personal challenge, opportunities to share moments with my Muslim friends or to slow down the pace of my life, spiritual time for myself… You name it! You could even sneak in a diet attempt if you wished ;)

What I find really interesting is this: I am not fasting out of religious convictions and, yet, Muslims are the ones who accept it the most easily. I knew it from previous experiences but, as a Westerner, many would think that religious people could see it as a lack of respect (“Just an experiment? Man, this is a holy month! Don’t fool around.”) On the contrary, I have found them open-minded, supportive and really caring.

The response from non-Muslims has been much more nuanced. More often than not, people are pretty neutral. Once they know your reasons, they let you alone and live happily without thinking more about it. But I have encountered more resistance than I thought I would. Some would just be sarcastic, throwing jokes on me. Not frankly criticizing, but making fun of it all. Others would be plain defensive, asking “Where’s your scarf then?” or having that look on their face. I’ll ignore those, but it always makes me sad that some people don’t want to create bridges with each other.


Fasting has been pretty effortless so far. I remember last year, when it went about that way:

First day: body doesn’t notice anything wrong, still stuffed on food & water from previous days

Second day: body screaming “What the hell are you doing to me?? Eat! Drink NOW!”. Head ache & weakness

Third day: body starting to get a sense of it but still weak

Fourth to seventh day: roll on, hunger & thirst on a subconscious level, I don’t notice them anymore.

***

This year, it somewhat feels easier than last year, in the sense that I don’t really feel the hunger or thirst that much. I do have a few pangs here & there, but nothing big. Thirst is always stronger than hunger for me in any case, but even this started to subdue today. Getting there :)

Where I’m having problems is actually with my sleeping pattern. Work had me staying up until 3am on Sunday & Wednesday nights, which doesn’t help when you have to wake up for sahur (breakfast) at 5am. Tuesday & today, I was so out that I slept more during day time than during night time (Monday was spent working as well so I couldn’t spare too many hours). My sleep schedule is really screwed up but, at the end of the day, I feel pretty ok :)

As an example, the last 24 hours have been : sleep from 2.30am to 5am, eat & roam around 5am to 7am, sleep 7 to 9am, errands outside 9.30 to 11am, sleep 11am to 3pm (yeah, I know :o) and then up the rest of the time. It’s now almost 1am and I’m planning to crash soon for 4 hours of sleep. I’ll see how tomorrow goes!

I don’t feel like exercising yet but I can see it coming :) I’m getting about 3L of water per night and enough food, so running just before buka puasa (breaking the fast, at 7.30pm) should be fine. Just need to find the days when I don’t have buka puasa appointments :)


So far, Ramadan has been really enjoyable. From friends bringing me food or checking up on me during day time, I find friendships strengthen. Going to the mosque and meditate 45min while my friends chant & pray, give you an insight into their life that you are usually not that familiar with. And I am both really grateful & honored for this opportunity. Probably more on that another time :)

Even when taking naps, days are so much longer & I usually finish all I wanted to do by noon. Which leaves me no choice but to tackle all the things I have been procrastinating on the past few weeks. Much needed, again!

Going to the pasar ramadan (Ramadan market) is a feast in itself. I can’t believe how much food I still haven’t heard of. I am considering giving up being vegetarian for one week, just so I can try a few of the dishes around. It does feel like I am missing a bit on the cultural experience here…

Having a restricted amount of food also forces me to be more conscious of what I eat, because I can’t imagine gorging myself on deep fried food or junk after 13 hours of fast. It just feels wrong. So I have to reconsider a few of my choices, which I am also grateful for :) All in all, the change in routine does make you more aware & conscious of what you are doing & why.

More updates later on, in a few days :)


A quick look into the Pasar Ramadan corner

Ayam golek, a kind of roast chicken

Fried springrolls at the Param (pasar ramadan)

Extracting sugar cane juice, a favorite for buka puasa

Pizza style, or how to make a murtabak

The best smile of Kg Baru param, at a watermelon stall

Spread the happiness :)

Experimenting Ramadan

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When I was living in Europe and Canada, Ramadan was one of the biggest mysteries of Islam. How do they do it…? How do they starve themselves from sunrise to sunset, for a whole month?! There are so many misconceptions about Ramadan in Europe? Some think it’s a total fast, many think you only eat dinner & not breakfast. Most, if not all, know only of the food aspect and have no idea whatsoever that Ramadan includes much more than being deprived of food.

I had my first encounter with Ramadan when I was in Sumatra in September 2007. I decided to fast a few days, to blend in the family who was hosting me. They were pretty much worried about me, and kept on asking me “Are you sure you don’t want to break up the fast? Aren’t you thirsty?”

Yes, fasting includes both food AND drink. That was my most “what the….???” moment about it. No drinking, in a 35°C environment? Isn’t it dangerous?

I managed pretty well those fasting days, as we took it really easy & slept a lot :)

Last year, I decided to take it a bit more seriously and fast one week. A sort of personal challenge at doing it on my own, without in-house support, and to discover more what it feels like. It was a bit tough at the beginning and then, after the 4th day, it all started to fall in place. It was not that difficult, wasn’t it?

I had to stop after one week though. Some planned activities, mixed with a non-supportive environment, and I decided to go back to eat & drink normally. But I felt like I could have kept on going. After all, I was already settled in a routine, even though my energy was visibly slightly lower (what a surprise!).

The question was: was it going to feel as effortless to keep on going for a full month? Don’t you get a total energy drain after, say, the second week? I felt I had still more to know.

So here we are. Ramadan is starting on August 1st, and I’m going to fast for the whole month, like all my Muslim friends will. Having them around will definitely help, but I have to admit I am a bit anxious. I am planning different experiments during that month, discovering the limits of what I can do without pushing myself too much either.

I’ll be giving some daily or weekly updates about it. If you’re a non-Muslim out there, why not giving it a try? Just one or two days? :)

It’s by living other people’s reality that we can start understanding each other.

Travel 101 – Semporna

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How I got there:

By plane. Air Asia & MAS have flights directly to Tawau on the south coast of Sabah. Internet will tell you there are 2 options from there. One is to take a taxi to Semporna (95rm) or to take a van to Tawau and then a bus to Semporna (10 + 10rm?). The most cost-effective is actually to just walk out the airport gate. Drivers from resort shuttles usually try to make pocket money by taking unofficial passengers in the then-empty resort shuttle. Tawau Airport – Semporna: 30rm, about one hour, private van for myself alone.

Leaving to KK on a 75rm – 8 hours bus ride. Lots of turns and curves, and lots of palm trees to be seen… The bus station is easy to find and is located just behind the Maybank building (look first for the mosque if you can’t find Maybank). A few minutes from the market.


Where I stayed in Semporna:

Scuba Junkie is ideally located halfway between the market / bus station / restaurants and the jetty I used. Dorm costs 40rm for non-divers, 20rm for divers. The place is typical of any backpackers place, with free wifi & breakfast. Showers could be improved, as everywhere. Dorm was pretty quiet, a nice bonus :)

I have heard good reviews for the diving equipment & divemasters, so I’ll probably choose them when I come back. To note: they have permits for Sipadan (now strictly controlled).


What to do in Semporna:

Any reviews I read before arriving talked of the same basics: poor, dirty, filthy and boring. Wow, what a prospect!

My own review: a typical small town on the fringe of Sabah. This does include poor people, who I believe are Bajau Laut. A few kids running barefoot and sometimes asking for money but who drop the matter and start happily chatting with you if you say no. “Trying never harms”… As for the dirty side, well, it could be better but, then, you are not here to judge sternly on people’s way of life. Are you?

The market area is really lively and most people smile at you as soon as you look at them. Semporna actually now ranks one of the top position in my list of friendliest cities. You can virtually strike up a conversation with anyone. And if you don’t speak BM, you will still get your weekly dose of smiles.

Behind the mosque and farther away, you’ll find a village built on stilts. I believe they are Bajau Laut people, please correct me if you know otherwise. A simple “Uncle, boleh jalan-jalan ke?” will be greeted with a smile and a sign to keep on. You’ll find markets standing above the water, kids eager to talk to you, adults waving at you. Not many tourists dare going on the planks. Be one of them!

Entrance to a neighborhood

The Bajau Laut used to live on house-boats but they resettled on the “land” pretty recently, with houses on stilts & whole villages standing above the water.  Their lives still revolve around the sea, be it fishing, shells collecting, etc.

A marketplace above the waters

Kids will always gather, smile and play. Don’t be a voyeur, but don’t shy away from interactions. Anytime, anywhere.


Which resort:

I stayed at Singamata House Reef Resort. They offer the PADI + 2-night accommodation for 900rm, one of the cheapest around the area. What’s more, the instructor (Ryan) was very knowledgeable, made us repeat skills multiple times to check we were comfortable with them (at different depths), took every thing at heart. He was a good example of “doing things seriously without taking himself seriously”. I would recommend him any time. His French girlfriend, Alexia, was also a good instructor.

The diving equipement was good. I had a tiny leak on the inflator, but nothing major (I used only 110 bar when my buddy would use 160 anyway), and everything else worked perfectly. All safety procedures were respected as far as I’m aware.

Rooms were basic but clean. Showers could have been improved easily, that’s the only downside of an otherwise lovely resort. The food was really good, and included in the price. Plenty of tables, seats and deckchairs in all corners; colorful fish swimming all around and an enclosed seawater aquarium where you can go snorkeling for an up-close look.

Here is the website for more information: Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort

View of the resort (restaurant & reception of the left)

View on the resort from the restaurant, 8pm. Sun sets really early on this part of Malaysia


Resorts offering permits for Sipadan:

While getting 3-dive days in Mabul is easy, Sipadan is now restricted to visitors and you need to get hold of one of the 120 daily permits awarded. You can either stay at one of the resorts offering some, or choose to dive with them but stay elsewhere. Options are yours, it all depends on your budget.

The list of resorts offering Sipadan permits can be found on this page. You’ll just have to do a bit of research on the price of the dive package and on the reviews (be cautious as some are known to have equipment in poor state)

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