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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Diving with The Crown Prince

I've been scuba-crazed since I was 19 - the 'era' when diving was still perceived as a reckless sport unlike today, divers have proliferated like parasites. Back in the day, I would do shows, save every sen just so I can breathe like a fish. T’was therapeutic. The silent world takes pain away in a way I’m yet to fathom. Whenever I was heart-broken or just in a depressive state, I’d head out to sea. Maybe it’s the weightlessness underwater that relaxed me. Maybe it’s the beauty….you know, when you see beauty you forget ugliness… Or maybe I just needed some air! Literally.

Well, it may be hard to stay so positive when you’re not all that together, but once that barrier in broken, you’re in for a bolt from the blue. Heh…again, literally. In a positive way of course. Diving did make me forget to be sad.

Now before I story about my royal encounter recently, I've got to record my jet-set experience years ago. Once, I sneaked out of the house to go diving in Maldives. This time, I was NOT in any way emotionally-driven though. You see who in the right scuba-crazy mind could resist an invitation to go for a weeklong dive vacation in MALDIVES (hello...), to live on and dive off a friend's sickeningly ostentatious yacht named La Baroness which with a total of 18 crew including chef means I knew I wouldn't need to lift one finger for didly. Super glossy or what. On top of all that 'tai-tai-ness', totally FOC some more.

At that time, because diving seemed freaky to my dad hence didn't get much of his blessings, so I had to lie la. It may sound bad but I knew I'd be living with deep regret if I hadn't gone after my will. This was one such 'chance of a lifetime' experience that never quite came by again by the way... My first time ever on a live-aboard and already spoilt to bits with the sort of luxury that regular folks like me can only dream. For this reason, I’d be a complete idiot if I didn’t see it for myself, right? Ha! When membership DOES have its privileges, you'd be a total FOOL to not be privileged.

These days, despite the fact that I have such pristine waters in my frontyard, I hardly dive! And I've got my own underwater garden and I have the entire Tioman as my playground!

My home, an island unto itself
How crazy is that?! But convenience is a big factor la. Told you I'm spoilt...
I wish I have tanks and equipment on-site at all times but unfortunately I don't. So I go snorkeling around our house reef, for hours sometimes... or I'd swim miles away towards the next beach - I've swam with turtles, stingrays, sharks, played with puffer fish and even seen dolphins. I've seen so much more snorkeling than I had all these years diving! But I tell you, hanging out at the bottom with breathing aid is still a different high....

Ok now my royal encounter recently. It's not however, quite like the case of 'The Prince & The Showgirl' la... I know I'm easily misunderstood but don't misunderstand ya... As a matter of fact, the endeavor had a rather serious tone to it.

The Crown Prince of Pahang was in Tioman last month to launch his My Reef Foundation. The project involved planting artificial reefs on one of the smaller islands called Soyak, intended to build a 'Fish City'.

Growing corals means growing habitats for our underwater friends to dwell in. Great! Any conservation work has my support and participation. Privileges DOES have its responsibilities too you know.

I went on the police boat with gal pal Datin Rowena, her kids and some bodyguards. Rowena's husband Tengku Intan was onboard the royal vessel with Tengku Mahkota Pahang and his entourage which also included Minister of Science & Technology Dato Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis.

Many more boatloads of other divers and the media were hovering about near us, all waiting for Tuanku to decend.

On the seabed were these underwater 'bungalows', some clusters of PVC grey pipes forming literally fish 'houses'. The night before, Federico together with Tengku Intan and the Crown Prince had already done one dive at Renggis Island (where i often snorkel at) to check on the reef balls they had planted a few years ago. So while the men went diving, we the ladies (Rowena's sister with fiance also came along) and kids went back to JapaMala and feasted!

Anyway, after the project dive that afternoon, Tuanku came to our resort for lunch. The first time Rowena and husband Tengku Intan stopped by our resort the week before, their vessel almost took our jetty down! So this time they came by a slightly smaller boat (though still gigantic by our standards...).

Room Tour : Tuanku checking out the open-air bath tub in our Sarang Villa

We took Tuanku and his entourage on a short tour and chit-chatted casually about subjects of sorts over pizza and tom yam at Tamarind Terrace. He was impressed with our property as much as we were amazed by his immense love for his island. Despite having recovered from pnuemonia just months ago, he couldn't not dive for a cause. He said he felt a little nervous this time because he hasn't dived for 3 years.

Totally guarded even underwater, the prince was flanked by fully armed navy divers - above, below, left and right plus more surrounding him. I would've felt terribly claustrophobic too but for safety sake, the prince was in good hands.

lunch at Tamarind Terrace

After lunch, Tuanku invited Federico on a short tour by boat to check out adjascent villages and beaches for possible future resort developments.

Federico onboard royal vessel on island tour

This day was as 'a chance of a lifetime' as my Maldives escape. A royal encounter that's pretty hard to come by, we were privileged to have the crown prince grace our home. T'was definitely a bolt from the blue.

From left : Head of Navy, Dato'Seri J.Jarjis, Tengku Mahkota, Federico & I, Tengku Intan

dropping us a personal note
That night, we were invited to attend the finale dinner in Salang village. Song, dance and authentic Pahang cuisine, the royal table was flanked by ours. A nerve-wreck when it comes to protocol, I was especially at ease this time because I was in good company. Thanks to Rowena.

1 comment:

juicylicious said...

I love the diving and snorkeling pix. Stumble upon your blog through vernon.
I've heard of japamala and really want to explore it one day but it's kinda way outta my budget :)
Yeah the sarang villa is so tempting hehe. Keep on writing and sharing your wonderful experience!