Borneo Day 5 – 07/09 – Mari-Mari Cultural Village and Surprise Dinner

With thanks to Caroline for journalling the activities for Day 4, it falls to me to tell you what happened on Day 5. Today, we were back on the coach to visit a Cultural Village. More about that later.

IMG_20140909_092727We started the day nice and early with breakfast at Coast at about 0730. I had the Grilled Sour Dough. It’s basically a piece of sour dough toast, with mushrooms and melted mozzarella, and topped with an egg sunny-side-up. It looked divine and tasted better! Caroline had the waffles, which she had to queue up for half a day to get as they made it for her on demand whilst she waited. And waited. And waited. Etc.

Then it was back to the apartment to get sunblocked and repulsive, to then go a grab a coach before 0900. The Mari-Mari Cultural Village, which was about a 45 mile drive away, was one of the key events that I was looking forward to on this trip, as it would give me an opportunity to see the real tribes of Borneo in their native settings, and discover exactly how they live.

DSCN0026Well, it’s kinda like that but totally not what I expected. I was expecting to see a living tribal village, what I ended up seeing was a (very well put-together) tourist attraction which showcased how the 5 native tribes of Borneo used to live. Including their cooking, weaponry, attitudes, territorialism, culture, music, and building techniques. As was to be expected with an attraction of this type, there were a fair few anachronisms in place: green garden chairs, a tattoo on a “warrior” with the name “Clare” on it, etc… but the performance of the tribespeople was really good. IMG_20140907_105828_1We saw two different types of rice wine being made (see Caroline’s reaction on the left), rice cookies being cooked, ropes being made, meals being cooked in short pieces of bamboo, fire being made with bamboo, and so much more. We also (well, I) elected Caroline as our tribal leader to meet the head of the headhunter Murut tribe – who, incidentally, scared the living crap out of the lass stood behind me when he jumped out of the bushes with a warrior cry! – and Caroline had to greet the tribal leader and convince to him that we (as a tribe) posed no threat to their tribe. IMG_20140907_114452The Murut tribespeople then started sniffing around us (no, literally) and making questioning noises about things we were carrying – umbrellas, video cameras, bags, etc – and generally being suspicious of us… which you would, of course, expect from the leader of a tribe who is duty-bound to protect his people.

See a video of the “welcoming” ritual below

Whilst we were in the Murut village, we had another opportunity to try out a blowdart. Building on my blowdarting success from Day 3, it was only natural that I had to show off once more. Sadly, my first attempt was off the mark, but by adjusting from the errors I made the first time, I tried again – this time my dart hit the coconut square on, but then bounced off. I took that as a hit and did my own little tribal victory dance… which I hope no-one saw,

DSCN0166After we met all of the tribes, we saw a performance from some of the tribespeople. Some of the people made miraculous transformations – e.g. the dude with the “Clare” tattoo who was one of the people cooking in bamboo tubes was now a tribal dancer, and the vicious headhunter warrior leader from the Murut tribe was now a musician – but the performance was really engaging and entertaining.

DSCN0157I, being totally jealous of Caroline getting a henna tattoo on Day 3, got a henna tattoo of my own! (Blurry photo!)

So then, after the music and dance performance, it was lunch time… so we headed to the Village buffet for some food. Finally, after a brief spell in the souvenir shop (Caroline’s greatest weakness, incidentally), we headed back to the main entrance to catch our coach back to the hotel just after 1400.

In the afternoon, we basically did nothing, choosing instead to take a well-earned break from the busy schedules of the last few days. I wrote and posted Day 3, whilst Caroline alternated between watching a film and dozing.

The evening was billed as a “Surprise Dinner” for our party. Pre-dinner drinks were on the terrace on the beach-side of Coast. I believe (or might have overheard) that it was a daiquiri of some description, although it contained gin. I don’t care what was in it or what it was called… at least I didn’t care after two of them in fairly quick succession anyway.

Suddenly there was some whooping and hollering from the beach area, and we were then treated to our second tribal music and dance performance of the day. These tribespeople were very inquisitive. Oh, and very noisy. They shouted tribal obscenities at us for a while, and then ushered us (all the while screeching and shouting and drawing a lot of attention to us from the other resort guests!) into the main hotel lobby for the official Elite 2014 group photoshoot. Then, we were ushered once again down the stairs into the hotels main function room which had been totally transformed into a jungle setting for our surprise dinner. It was very well done, and it was clear that a lot of effort had gone into recreating the jungle setting for our benefit.

DSCN0179There was more music and dancing from the tribespeople, which included a blowdart display where one of the warriors shot a dart which popped a balloon being held in the mouth of one of the other warriors. I wasn’t watching the balloon, I was watching the blowgun… and there was definitely a real dart involved… very impressive display.

IMG_20140907_200519Then Pete, one of our corporate hosts, gave a good speech about why we were there, and once again recognised the partners and supporters of the winners.

IMG_20140907_203403The food was great – although Caroline’s main course (her being one of those awkward vegetarian types) didn’t arrive until most of us had finished theirs. Whilst the starters and mains were appreciated by most, the dessert – which was a random offering of either melon or a kinda of coconut blancmange – wasn’t. Shame really, I enjoyed mine!

IMG_20140907_210604The drinks were flowing fairly freely and, even after the complementary time had expired, there were clearly still some bottles of wine left over, ‘cos there was some magic fairy keeping all of the glasses topped up for us. After the plates had been cleared away, we had a cover band live on stage playing some popular numbers. IMG_20140907_235453The musicians were spot on, and the vocalists also, but the mic balance between the three vocalists was off, so it didn’t sound as great as it could have done. No-one appeared to mind as the dance floor was soon utterly crammed with people. Even I got up and danced for a while, and that’s not usually my thing. Caroline was up there shaking her booty well after I’d wussed out.

We had to stop for a while as we had to videocall our kids, so we combined the two events and gave them a live telecasted performance of what was happening in the function room. The video feed from their side was a little blocky, but you could definitely make out their heads bopping back and forth with the beat!

After some really good (and at times very geeky) conversation Bryan and his wife – more about that in a bit – the music changed back to the tribal stuff again… but this time with a dance beat behind it. Now we all thought that it was a backing track to which the instrumentalists were playing along to. Whilst that was true to a point, I noticed this dude in front of a touch panel tapping away whilst the music was playing. I quickly realised that, aside from the basic boom-tish-boom-tish beat, everything else in the percussion session was being played by him using this touch panel. I was utterly blown away by this chap’s ability. I nudged James sat next to me and pointed out what this chap was doing, and his jaw hit the floor as he realised that most of what we were listening to was Touch Panel Man!

So, long story almost over, we headed back to our apartment at about 0030. We knew we didn’t have to get up too early on Day 7 as we didn’t have any activities booked for the early morning, so we set the alarm for 0845 and collapsed into bed.

Anyway, a quick bit about some of the people we’re on this trip with. There are essentially two groups of people on this trip – Sales Elite and Heart Elite, I’ll call them. As far as I can tell, most of the Sales Elite know each other, or at least of each other. However, I’m one of the Heart Elite people, and when we first got here there was definitely a feeling that we didn’t fit into some of the cliques that had formed naturally due to the normal social gelling of the people who were here. This worried me a lot. I had met some of the other Heart Elite, but only as part of the Heart Elite programme, and not through normal working channels. However, during the course of this trip, we’ve been forced together (and I mean that in a nice way) by events and activities that have been arranged for us, and the teams that we’ve been placed in for them. Let me tell you, I can relate so much better to people in a group of 6 or 12 that I can in a gathering of 100 or so. There are certain couples on this trip who have really made a difference for us on this trip, as they’ve taken the time to talk to us and be friendly. To those people, we are both really grateful.

Headhunter Tribe Warrior Ambush

Rungus tribesman creates fire using only bamboo

Borneo Day 4 – 06/09 – Our Borneo Adventure

Today’s post written by Caroline

Today involved an early start. We headed for breakfast early and enjoyed another high quality breakfast, we met with the others on the lawn behind the main entrance to get into teams for the day ahead.

We were assigned to the RED team and were pleased to see a few people we recognised from previous days, plus a few others we hadn’t yet spoken to. Once in our teams we were given a bit of a briefing of what to expect and we did a bit of a team bonding exercise to break the ice. Now I should probably point out just now that the information we received was:

“You might want to take some swimwear as you may get wet and flipflops were not suitable footwear”

Then the chap doing the briefing pointed out that we will get wet and that he hoped we had a change of clothes, well we had our swim stuff, but only one pair of shoes and there wasn’t anytime to go get them.

DSCN0022Our coach had our team (Red) and another team (Green) and our coach guide was brilliant, giving us some history of Sabah and borneo and information on the tribes and mount kinabalu. The roads were a little scary in places, imagine a narrow road with a drop at one side, then imagine half of that road had disappeared leaving a small sliver of road and then driving a coach over it! Also some of the hills seemed to be such an effort for the coach, we had wondered if we’d need to get out and push.

RiverbugWe found out that we were doing white water rafting first and arriving at the starting point we were introduced to staff from ‘Riverbug’ the company doing the white water rafting. Sadly we were advised to keep our cameras on the coach because they would get too wet during the rafting, so this isn’t an action shot, just a shot of the company doing our rafting with us.

Changing into our swimwear was interesting, the ‘toilets’ were a little, flooded and not somewhere we’d want to be in for a long time. Once we were kitted up and had the saftey talk, each team were provided with a sheet of ‘challenges’. Three of our team had to cross a suspense bridge and I was one of those three, for someone who hates heights, it was an experience. When I got back the rest of my team were already in the raft and any hopes I had of keeping my trainers were dashed when the first thing I did was step into the water!

The white water rafting was great fun, the route we took was only a Grade I and II so there weren’t any strong rapids. We had some challenges such as turning the boat 3 times one way, then the other, we had to all stand in the raft for 30 seconds and go backwards at some point. All of which seemed fine, our boat guide, Edward, was amazing, he was very funny and chatty and a bit crazy, every so often you’d hear a splash and he’d disappear into the water before getting back in.

One challenge was a big challenge for me in particular, we got points for every member who got into the river and body boarded for a while, I was going to wuss out, but after Dave did it (in an amazing fashion!) I decided to go for it, but I didn’t stay in for long.

All told the rafting lasted about 90 minutes or so and it was really great, a real pleasure to be part of, when we disembarked we did our best to dry off, unfortunately, drying off consisted of dry pants, bra and trousers, but wet t-shirt and trainers for me and Dave just didn’t even bother changing. We had an amazing lunch and chatte with others before being rounded up for some ‘games’ having to try and solve a puzzle, walk on stilts etc.

DSCF3149Then our team was told to grab a bottle as we were Jungle Trekking (Unable to take photos so here is an image we found on google for trekking by the Kiulu River). Before I continue I should probably point out that during lunch the heavens opened and it absolutely poured it down with rain, so we were all sat there, eating and slowly digesting the fact that we were about to go in the jungle after a downpour and we were going to get rather muddy! Now again we were advised not to take our bags for safety so we couldn’t take photos, but we jungle trekked on the Kiulu River with a guide. It seems after talking to other groups, there were several routes and the route we took saw us heading left from our base and crossing a suspension bridge before walking through thick undergrowth, there was a reasonably defined path in places and we did pass a few houses, it seems a lot of the paths we were taking were used by people who were ‘tapping’ the rubber trees. At first aside from being a bit muddy the paths were okay, but soon after our first task we found the path to be a bit steeper and then we got to a really steep part which was very difficult, the path was slippy, our shoes were slippy and it was really quite challenging, added to the fact that being a complete idiot I left my inhaler in the bag, which I wasn’t allowed to bring on the trek and I started to struggle, the one good thing was our group had a real sense of camaradre and we all looked after each other. Finally we reached a high point and some of the group used a blowpipe to fire at a target, Dave was particularly good at this and got two bullseyes. After we had done that our guide told us we were going back down, now our group, which had struggled up a slippy steep path were not amused by this!

As we begun our descent we were pleased to see that it was a slightly different path, our guide, who was pretty fast lost some of us and we had to shout for him to find out which way to go, we found the others and they were watching another team doing a ‘spiders web’ challenge, it looked liked they would be a little while yet and in all honesty, we were all pretty shattered, not only was it hot, we were tired, achy and we were in mosquito central. We voted as a group not to do that challenge and just carry on. This is were the real fun started, if we thought climbing up was slippy, that was nothing compared to going down, we litereally skidded down the path was just sludge. I’d already fallen two of three times and were past caring, I heard Dave going down with a bump, but he assured me he was okay, a few others all fell too, but finally we were at a suspension bridge, ready to cross back over the river and get back to the main area.

zip-borneo-041A much needed drink was had and we all got kitted up for zip lining, now for me personally, this was what had me nervous, but having been through what we had done today, there was no way I was not going to do it!

borneo-zip-01First there was the climb, which was suprisingly hard (for me), it wasn’t the most stable of stairs and it was pretty high up and my feet didn’t want to work, infact I had only just reached the top before Dave joined me and we had to space out our ascent between people who had ziplined ahead of us. At the top they were very safety conscious, they put a clip onto my back at the harness whilst getting the rest ready, having set me up and clipped everything in place they got me to sit down in the harness and then I had to do the really hard part, I had to lift my feet up so that zip line would start, at first it was scary, but have to admit that even for me, who is afraid of heights it was exhilirating. It’s just as well really, because after doing the first bigger zipline, we had to do another shorter one to get back aross the river.

All in all it was an amazing day, we were wet, muddy, achy and tired, but we were also bloody proud to have done it. A real sense of achievement and it was really good to bond with the other team members.

DSCN0024Arriving back at the hotel, we headed to our hotel room and peeled off our clothes and took a much needed shower, the fact we couldn’t take photos today was a bummer, but I understood the reasons why. We did take a photo of the aftermath though, to at least prove we got rather muddy.

We had quite a tight turnaround to get to our restaurant, but we needed to nip to the hotel lobby to let them now that the little bill we were left with for the mini bar beer wasn’t us (we’d been switched rooms due to a leak affecting our orignal room). They amended the bill and mentioned that we were to be sent a bottle of wine to apologise for our inconvenience and was told it would be there by time we got back.

img_44292We had booked in to Kozan Teppin Yaki restaurant, which is really quite cool, the chefs have live cooking stations, each can serve approximately 8 diners and our young server was a really cheerful chap, he clearly loved what he did.

IMG_20140906_190851Dave ordered the normal set menu and I ordered the fish set menu, we both got brought the same starter … A Beef stew! I reitereated the fact I didn’t eat meat and the returned with some endame beans instead. The food was brilliant, very well made, tasty and well presented, but the truly special part of it was the showmanship from the chef. He really entertained us with his skills and seemed to have great fun doing it. There’s a special video at the end of this post.

IMG_20140906_191855After a very enjoyable meal with some good company, not just our chef but those sat at our station (an Australian gentleman and a young America couple) we returned for a really well deserved (and needed!) soak in the hot tub. It was soon time to rest, because we have another early start tomorrow for the Mari Mari cultural village, which Dave is writing about.

Special Video featuring our Teppan-yaki chef, Malius

Borneo Day 3 – 05/09 – Day at leisure

Day 3 was a day of rest. It’s surprising how stressful a long haul flight actually is, particularly with a far-from-straightforward transfer between two flights. As our lovely trip organisers were clearly in tune with our needs, they arranged for the extension of our breakfast until 1100. I’m sure there were a good number of people who took advantage of that to gain a very welcome additional 30 minutes in bed.

IMG_20140905_100403We surfaced around 0830, and were at breakfast in the Coast Restaurant before 0900. Having already experienced the concept of a Malaysian breakfast on the flight (see Day 2), we certainly went with an open mind. We sat down and ordered tea and coffee, and were handed the hot food menu. For the life of me, at the time of writing I can’t remember much of what what is on the menu, I’ll try and get a photo for Monday’s post. Caroline had the Salmon Eggs Benedict, and I had the Eggs Benedict. My dish came with beef bacon, instead of the expected pork bacon, but as Malaysia has a very strong Islamic following, it’s not surprising that I’ve not seen any pork products at any of the restaurants we’ve been to so far. They do – however – have very good pork substitutes, like chicken sausages and beef bacon… both of which were available at breakfast this morning.

IMG_20140905_100351Pete, one of our corporate hosts for this trip (also one of our MDs), suggested that I try the fish curry as part of my breakfast. Say what now? The buffet section of the breakfast layout – where your continental options would be if you were in a restaurant in the UK – had some incredible dishes available: chicken soup, curried vegetables, exotic fruits, many different breads and muffins, pancakes and waffles, sushi, curried chicken, to name just a few.

Going back to the Eggs Benedict though… just wow. The poached eggs were perfectly cooked, and the whole dish was well-prepared. That, combined with two cups of coffee, some fruit juice, and some samplings of the more… uh… unusual items on the buffet, really made for a good start of the day and recovery from the previous two days of travelling.

IMG_20140905_122652After breakfast, Caroline and I went on the obligatory exploration of the resort, checking out the pools, restaurants, and other facilities, before finding the place that we were due to have lunch at.

A brief segue to mention our room. Very early this morning (around 0200) there was a large amount of rainfall. We heard a dripping noise after a while but, having spent some time looking for where the dripping was, we were satisfied that it was on the other side of the wall, and thought nothing more of it. However, when we got up for breakfast this morning, we noticed that the carpet on my side of the bed was damp. Knowing that I didn’t have a problem with incontinence (not yet, anyway), and there was no sign of any water entry from the ceiling, we figured that the dripping noise – which was still happening, even though it hadn’t rained for hours – was the cause of the damp. So, we reported it to Guest Services before we went to lunch.

Lunch was for our entire party at the Tepi Laut Beach Restaurant, for a buffet-style hot lunch. The food was excellent. A brief speech by Steve, the other of our corporate hosts, was well-received, and included recognition of our partners/+1s who had accompanied us on this trip and the role that they have played in supporting us in the award that we have won, and the reason that we’re here in Malaysia at all.

After lunch, and a bit more free time, we all met up on the beach for some games which were run for us by the resort staff. I joined the Pink team, and Caroline was Red. The games were incredibly silly, but great fun.

  1. Hat, Sarong and Ball*
    This was where each team member had to take it in turns to don a sarong and hat, and then carry a football between their knees to the other end of the games area and back again.
    Pink came first, Red came second
  2. Run Around Your Finger*
    A variation of a drinking game where each team member had to put their dfinger in the sand, and then run in a circle 10 times.
    Pink came first, Red didn’t.
  3. A Banana Feet*
    This was where each team member had to take it in turns to run to the other end of the games area and open a very unripe banana with their feet.
    Neither Red nor Pink want to talk about this one
  4. Tug Of War
    As the name suggests. Six teams played 3 knockout matches. Obviously, you can’t have a final with three team, so there was a game of Quartz, Parchment, Shears to decide who went straight through to the final, with the other two teams in a play-off to decide the other finalist.
    Pink came first, Red got knocked out in the first stage

(* denotes where I made up the name of the game!)

Now, where it comes to the Tug Of War, yes the Pink team won, but not without controversy. During the final match between the Pink and Blue, Pink made a decision to swap one player half way through the match. Then another… and then one more. Blues took severe exception to that decision and complained to the referee. The referee and marshalls considered the complaint and ruled that the Pink team should sacrifice one player. No, not literally. So the match was restarted with Pink team having one man down. Unsurprisingly, Pink lost that match.

However, Pink had the highest number of points over the 4 games and thus won overall! Our prize was a box of Malaysian chocolates, with some very interesting centres!

Back to the room situation for a moment, we’d been back to our room a couple of times during the course of the day. Guest Services had moved the bed away from the wall, showing the true extent of the damp… the carpet was absolutely sodden, and the room smelled strongly of damp/mildew when you entered it. On the last occasion entering our room before going back out for dinner, I noticed that Guest Services had slid a note under our door saying that they’d been trying to get hold of me, and could I contact Guest Services as soon as possible. So I called them and got put through to a really nice lass called Selena. She explained the situtation that the apartment above the one next door to us had a burst pipe in the room. They were already aware of the burst pipe and had closed off the room next door. They hadn’t, however, anticipated that the water would breach into our room. She apologised profusely and offered to move us to another room which they had already prepared for us. Well, as we were on our way out to a planned dinner, we said we’d call them when we got back.

Dinner this evening was a barbeque on the beach… but not the image that your mind has just conjured up. Gas lamps around the dining area, ornately set tables with covered chairs, buffet stations on two sides of the dining area, and a bar on the other. It was like a posh meal, but on the beach! There was also a bonfire set up, towards the sea but quite a distance from us. I must admit that I was just a little disappointed by the bonfire. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting something of the magnitude of The Wicker Man, but it just seemed like about 20 thick branches, joined at the top. Maybe it’s just me?

IMG_20140906_001443We had a really nice chat with three other couples during this meal. It was really good (and quite useful, actually) to find out about the other areas of the business that these guys are from. We didn’t talk shop though. Much. We didn’t stay late, as we had to get back to change rooms, but Caroline did visit the henna tattooist as we were leaving… a beautiful ornate design.

IMG_20140906_001245So, back to the room, we called Guest Services. From the time I made that call, to us being totally transferred to the new room and unpacked, took no more than 10 minutes. So we fired up the hot tub and soaked for a hour or so before video calling the kids back in the UK.

I’m sure that I said at the top of this post that today was a day of rest. Heh.

(Day 4 will be journalled by Caroline because a) to give me a break, b) it was my birthday, and c) I’m going to try and journal Day 5 tomorrow!)

Borneo Day 2 – 04/09 – Heathrow to Kota Kinabalu

So, on Day 2, we find ourselves sitting on an Airbus 388 departing from Heathrow, bound for the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

There’s not really a lot we can say about a 12½ hour flight, followed by a rushed transfer, a further 2½ hour flight, a 45 minute coach journey, and collapsing for bed.

IMG_20140903_215124The journey from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur took just over 12½ hours. We were fed well, looked after well, but the seats were really uncomfortable to sleep in. So for the most part we just watched films, listened to podcasts, watched old episodes of Mr Bean, or tried to get a small amount of sleep. I think that, in this flight, I might have had 2 hours sleep tops, and that was very light. And, of course, there was time for a quick selfie too.

IMG_20140904_153831IMG_20140904_153901Breakfast on that flight was interesting, with a choice of macaroni cheese which I had, or some vegetable stack thingy that Caroline had. This was effectively at about 1530MST/0830BST so the idea of having breakfast – and the choices they had available – seemed really odd. However, the food was again really good.

So we arrived at Kuala Lumpur around 1800MST and had to run for the transfer as the gate for our onward travel was due to close at 1840MST. Well, firstly we got our instructions wrong and was waiting at the Transfer desk for about 5 minutes before we realised that we didn’t have to. So we got on the SkyTrain, which is an automated monorail shuttle between the main airport and the terminal. Down the stairs where we joined a long and very slow-moving queue for passport checks and security. The queue for passport checks was so incredibly slow that we thought we might miss our transfer. But after all was done, and I ended up with no belt on (again! – see Day 1) we ran, with me trying to hold my jeans up, to the boarding gate where we actually made it with time to spare.

An uneventful flight on a Boeing 737 for 2½ hours with a meal (no pictures though) we landed at Kota Kinabalu. We virtually sailed through customs and baggage, and were met in the arrivals lounge by a representative from our company and a couple of coaches for the 45 minute journey to our resort – Shangri La’s Rasa Ria Resort here in Kota Kinabalu – where we arrived at about 2230MST/1530BST. We were met from the coach by a drink and an incredible welcome from the resort staff, and we then went to our rooms. Incidentally, because there are 50-odd rooms in our booking, they actually checked us in and gave us our room keys whilst we were still on the coach, which I thought was a really nice touch.

DSCN0013Once we were in our rooms, we got showered (first time in about 32 hours – eww!) and changed, and headed to the Garden Wing Lobby for drinks and a buffet with some of the other members of our party. We didn’t last that long, and headed back to the room to grab some sleep.

(On Day 3, we had a leisure and orientation day. I’ll post more about that tomorrow. It’s currently 0200MST on Saturday as I write this, and we have an early start tomorrow)

Borneo Day 1 – 03/09 – The journey to Heathrow

(Sorry this is late, but our check-in on Thursday night was so late that we just wanted to sleep, and today’s been so busy!)

IMG_20140903_110549So then, Day 1 of the Borneo trip started with a bus journey from our little mining village on the outskirts of Doncaster to the city of Sheffield. From there, a short jog to Sheffield railway station to catch a train to Nottingham. IMG_20140903_120911Once we got to Nottingham, we intentionally sought out the nearest greasy spoon for a decent portion of fish and chips before heading to the outskirts of the city to meet up with more of our party, and to catch our coach to Heathrow.

IMG_20140903_170839The coach trip, covering 128 miles only took 2.5 hours, which wasn’t bad bearing in mind we caught most of the rush hour. We arrived at Heathrow just after 1830BST, and headed for the check-in desk where we met up with some more of the crew. IMG_20140903_185525The check-in process was very straight forward, and only took a few minutes. The security process, however, was a totally different matter.

First off was the “liquids” check. We had already put all of our liquids in a clear plastic bag in preparation for this exact eventuality. Then some jobsworth (only doing his job, bless him) told us that the clear plastic bag we were using looked like it was too big, so gave us another bag to use instead. In my mind, the bag we originally had was well within the regulation limits, and I’m pretty sure that the new bag he offered us was actually bigger!!

Then there was the baggage and personal security check. So our cabin luggage, mobile phones, and the contents of our pockets went in to their incredibly fashionable grey trays to go through the X-ray machine. We, on the other hand, went through one of those electronic doorway sensor thingies. Beep said the machine as I walked through it. Australian security guard guy said “do you have anything metal on you”. I’m like “yes, my belt. He says “ok, take it off… and your shoes.” Meh. So I do as he asks and then I move to go through the sensor doorway thingy again. Security guard says, “nuh uh… once you’re through, you don’t get a second chance… I’m going to have to search you now.” Meh. So he starts a search using one of those wand things, and then with his hands. If I’m honest, I would have preferred the offer of drinks and a meal first, but this chap was clearly a fast mover. Anyway, all was clear… but my dignity was left at the security doorway sensor thingy.

Next up was the murder of about 2.5 hours before our Gate was ready… so Caroline and I sat at a Costa and watched a couple dozen airplanes take off. IMG_20140903_201210Boarding itself was fairly uneventful, although there was a huge dose of trepidation with both Caroline and myself, as it’s been a long time since we’ve been on a plane!

We’re sat in our seats, and suddenly on the screens in front of us, we get an overhead view of the airplane doing its taxi and takeoff. Quite a remarkable thing to watch, I can tell you.

IMG_20140903_233107IMG_20140904_063205We’ve had our first meal… Caroline had a vegetable lasagne (after she was originally given something with beef in as a vegetarian dish!) and I had almond-crusted chicken with gnocchi “chips”

IMG_20140904_162417So it’s now 0100BST on Thursday 4th and all of the cabin lights are off and most people are settled to sleep or watching movies/listening to music. Me? I’m typing this, whilst listening to episode 6 of the Duffercast (at 39K ft!) – – and thinking about getting some shuteye.

(The post for Day 2 will be appearing soon)

Two days to go

So yeah, there are two days to go before we jet off to the super-equatorial jungle paradise that is Borneo.

We’ve got arrangements for the kids sorted, we’re 50% packed, we’ve got our travel and transfers sorted, we have passports and other ID, we’ve checked that all of our digital devices can be switched on, we’ve checked that our cabin luggage meets airline size specifications, we’ve ensured that our liquids and bottles are within guidelines, we’ve bought local currency, we have our tickets, we’ve mostly tested that we can video call the kids (obviously we can’t test properly until we get there!)…

There are almost definitely things that we’ve done that I haven’t mentioned above, but hopefully nothing that we haven’t done that we need to do.

We’ll probably do a video (via YouTube) and audio (via AudioBoo) test on here in the next day or so, just to prove that we can update here with all of the main media: text, pictures, audio, video.

Watch this space, more soon.

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years ago today, an event happened that changed the course of my life.

What? Of course I’m not exaggerating… I’d call: meeting, getting married, getting our own home, having three gorgeous kids; all quite life-changing, wouldn’t you say?

So yes, it was on Saturday 22 May 1999 that Caroline and I met for the first time. I’d travelled 180 miles up the M1 from Slough to meet with Caroline at the place she worked. I picked her up from there and we went on our first date to Valley Centertainment at Sheffield for bowling, a movie (possibly?) and a meal.

Anyway, I’m not going to recount the events of that day because I’ll probably get something wrong (if I haven’t already!)

According to Wikipedia, the Gemstone Gift for a 15 year anniversary (ok, yes, it’s for wedding anniversaries… but what makes this any less significant?) is Rhodolite, a semi-precious gemstone with the chemical formula (Mg,Fe)3Al2(SiO4)3.

Wait, wut?

For our 8th wedding anniversary, I bought Caroline a Tourmaline pendant… so I wanted to do something different for today. By now, she’s hopefully already discovered the small grey box that I placed on her bedside table this morning, so she would have already found the 15 Rhodolite stones that I’ve placed in a cute little bag.

15-stones-on-a-table 15-stones-in-a-bag

Whilst 15 pieces of silicate pyrope may not be the most exciting gift in the world, the meaning and definition behind what it represents means a heck of a lot to me.

Windows Update – why?

Caroline and I spoke briefly about this on The Bugcast 288.

Consider this scenario (times are approximate)

If I was to take an old crappy laptop and an Ubuntu 10.04 CD, I could get that up and running within an hour. If I was then to apply all outstanding updates for 10.04 – i.e. to bring it to 10.04.4 – it would take about another 30 minutes max. Then, a full update to Ubuntu 12.04 would take about another hour. So, to be fair, let’s say 3 hours.

Now consider this scenario

If I was to take a brand new laptop with Windows 8 already installed, it takes about 5 hours, and probably the same number of reboots, to apply all of the updates to bring that installation of Windows 8 completely up to date. Then, a full update to Windows 8.1 would take another 5 hours, with about 3 reboots. So, about 10 hours.

Ok, now consider this scenario

If I was to take an old (5 years old?) laptop with Windows Vista installed, run system recovery on it to push it back to the original OEM installation of Vista, it takes about 30 minutes. To then apply all of the updates to bring that new re-installation of Vista completely up to date, takes about 8 hours (over 3 days) and about 12 reboots. I then decide to upgrade to IE9 from IE7 – can’t do that as I’m not running SP2. Really? So when I ask Windows Update to “Update” my “Windows”, it doesn’t even install Service Packs? So I kick off the installation of SP2. *boom* Sorry, you can’t install Service Pack 2 without installing Service Pack 1. I thought these were suppose to be cumulative? *sigh* Anyway, two Service Packs later and I’m able to install IE9. That’s probably another 2 hours on top of the original 8. So, about 10 hours.

My complaint

My complaint is not with the Windows Update process itself, but more the way that Windows update packages are deployed. With APT, the application of a single update – let’s say a new kernel update – takes about 1 minute, plus a normal reboot. In Windows, the application of a single security update takes about 3 minutes, plus a reboot that does about 2 minutes of faffing on the way down, and another 2 minutes of faffing on the way back up. Why are Windows update packages such a big chore for Windows Update to apply? Why, when I can apply a full update of Plank, Wingpanel, Slingshot – all core components of Elementary OS Luna – and not have to reboot. And yet an application update of Adobe Reader – a non-core component of Windows – requires a reboot. I think there’s an inherent flaw in the way that Windows handles the system files and updates, and I’m really surprised that through 5+ generations of Windows, they still haven’t got this right.

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