Wow, already half way into Tech Ed Malaysia, and I'm finally getting a blog entry done. We're having waaay too much fun.
After flying 13 hours Vancouver to Hong Kong, followed almost immediately by the three hour Hong Kong-Kuala Lumpur leg, I arrived in KL short a day... got on the plane late Thursday night, arrived the afternoon of Saturday. Those darn date lines.
It didn't take me long after arriving to find Tim Huckaby (who was good enough to leave me a message at the desk) and Goksin Bakir (he just called me on my cell phone)... we hung out at the pool and drank beer, complained about jet lag and soaked up the indominable KL heat. That night Brian Noyes join us as well for a trip across the lake to a nice Chinese dinner where they have one sneaky Peking Duck.
Sunday was the super tour day - from 7:30am to 9pm we were out and about with our guide Razali and the fabulous elephants of Kuala Gandah. Tim, Brian, Goksin, Kim and I were made volunteers of the sanctuary, rather than visitors, which gave us more access, but we had to do some work, too... here's some examples:
This is Cek Mek with our guide, Razali. One of our first stops at the sanctuary was to go out in 4x4s to feed Cek Mek... she spends most of her time away from the rest of the herd, hanging out in the jungle. She's one of the two “working” elephants, who are actually used to assist the team in moving wild elephants. The other working elephant is Cek Bunga, who doesn't like people all that much, so we didn't get anywhere near her.
Back at the sanctuary proper, we got into the main compound to visit with more elephants, some big:
...and not so big...
We also got to visit with Lasha, a 2.5 year old male who has been fighting intestinal parasites. He's very weak and thin, so he's being kept from the rest of the herd for his own safety. We went into an area behind the compound to visit with him and give him some goodies to eat.
Kim was especially fond of him...
Later, Kim and Brian brought Lasha out from the holding area in the back to the main area for feeding.
As volunteers, we helped visitors feed the elephants... there is a technique and some safety tips involved!
Later in the afternoon Razali took us on a hike through the jungle, to a little village... maybe a dozen people lived there total, the patriarch of the family is a master blow-darter. He put on a fine display firing a foot long dart into a banana tree a good fifty feet away... after a couple of tries, anyway.
Then Goksin took a shot at it... apparently Goksin is a blowdart shark, nailing the tree on the first shot!
After that, we weren't allowed to play with the blowgun any more. We hiked back to the village. Along the way Razali pointed out and offered up some food from the jungle, including heart of palm and water from a vine.
Between the five of us, we took about 400 pictures, I'll put together a full storyboard one of these days.
So that was Sunday - after returning to the hotel we headed down to the bar and consolidated pictures, plus Steve Forte showed up. We made plans for the next day, taking a tour of the Batu Caves and other religious sites. Kim had to do a pre-conference seminar the whole day, she's still annoyed with us for having fun while she had to work.
This is the entrance to the Batu Caves, all 272 steps of it.
Did I mention there were monkeys (long-tailed macaques, to be exact) everywhere? These are the rats of the monkey world, stealing off of anybody who is slow enough to snag. We saw monkeys running off with bags of peanuts, ice cream bars, you name it. One little bugger grabbed my water bottle, I shook him off, and as he prepared to give another go, I flipped the bottle around and gave him a face full. Yeah yeah, I'm fighting with a monkey, but hey, he started it!
The Batu Caves are ancient limestone, filled with Hindu shrines. And they're huge!
This is the view from the top of the stairs looking into the caves, you can see the first chamber, the roof is 250 feet up. Beyond is stairs into a second open air chamber.
After taking a look at the rock formations, the shrines and the macaques scattered throughout the caves, we headed back down the many stairs and into our taxi for our next stop on the religious tour... the museum of Islamic art. However, the cab driver was a bit confused and took us instead to the National Museum of Malaysian Art... its a nice museum, full of stories of the heritage of Malaysia. But it didn't fit with our theme of all Malaysian faiths, so after a quick walk through we headed back to the cab.
On the second try the cabbie did find the Museum of Islamic Art, and also found out it was closed on Mondays. Ah well. Third stop, a Buddhist Temple. This place was open, and fabulous.
Our cabbie came with us to give us basic instruction on how to get around the temple, including proper observations of lighting some incense, and getting your fortune.
Here Steve and Brian, shoes off, are getting instructions on using the luck sticks. You pick up the sticks in a bunch, then drop them back into the bin a couple of times. Then you pick one, and match its number with a little drawer in the bin. Inside the drawer is a bit of paper with your fortune on it. Those towers with the ladder beside them are wish towers, in a different ritual you put a wish on a bit of paper and the temple staff put the wish in with one of those lights on the towers.
That was enough fun for Monday, we headed back to the hotel.
On Tuesday Steve and I headed back to the Islamic Museum of Art, which was now open... only to discover that you weren't allowed to take photos inside. However, it is an amazing place, lots of old copies of the Quran and other artifacts from the history of Islam. There was a big screen tied to a computer in one room that would read the Quran to you in Arabic, showing simultaneous English translation. Very cool. And the favorite part of the museum was the model room, full of 1/100 scale models of the major mosques around the world, including Mecca and Medina. Incredible structures, temples with room for two million people!
Tuesday afternoon was my first bit of work, a SQL Server “Ask the Experts” panel I sat on with Kim and Steve, along with Rodney Fournier (the cluster god!) and Prakash Sundaresen... Joe Yong from the SQL team showed up to field all the “When is SQL Server 2005 shipping” questions.
Its now early Wednesday morning here in Kuala Lumpur, and the real work begins. I have a session every day til the end now, two on Thursday.