happiness

The United States Declaration of Independence has an oft quoted line – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It’s misunderstood by a lot of people. Your happiness is not guaranteed…the sentence is supposed to give you the basic unalienable human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (emphasis mine).

What is happiness? Well, it depends on the individual but it is your right to seek your own happiness. To me, happiness is a state of mind where you’re content with everything in your life.

flying

Happiness is something money cannot buy. A lot of people are unhappy about their financial situation but I believe that’s an unnecessary worry. The Chinese has a proverb that goes “Money is something that you can always earn back when you lose it”. There’s another phrase that goes “There will be water if God wills it” but that comes from the less reputable and more modern Dark Tower series of books by Stephen King. ;)

roman bath

Happiness is a state of mind that I always try to strive for. I’m happy when I’m doing the things I like such as travelling. It enriches me and makes me a more understanding and better person when I meet new people and learn about new cultures. I’m even happier when I’m spending quality time with loved ones – friends, family, my girlfriend.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget about the simple things in life that lifts your mood:

  • Finding a parking space as soon as you enter a full car park
  • The smell of freshly cut grass
  • Laughing at corny jokes
  • Having a baby smile at you
  • A fellow commuter stopping to let you drive out of a particularly busy exit
  • Waking up and realizing it’s the weekend so you can sleep in
  • Watching a sweet TVC that makes you smile

These are all little things which makes yout day just that little bit brighter. It has a cumulative effect and happiness is highly contagious – it’s like laughter. It’s meant to be shared. :)

I watched the Cadbury TVC and repeated it twice coz it was just so sweet. I found it adorable – the simple sweet joy (pun not intended) that permeates the entire commercial. It has all the elements done right – the humor, the camaraderie of neighborhood love, and a dash of romance.

resort

I took it upon myself to make a video similar to that. I was in Miri, Sarawak at that time to help my girlfriend move her stuff to KL. We spent a weekend in the Marriott Resort and Spa in Miri. It’s located right on the beach by the South China Sea and we booked a chalet facing the pool and sea.

You just need to open the sliding glass door to get out. There’s a balcony which is less than 10 meters from the pool – it’s almost like having a pool right at your doorstep!

view

I thought up the idea of having a series of unfortunate events much like the original TVC. The entire video was shot over a period of 2 days. I didn’t have a professional videographer so I had to think of how to get the scenes right.

I also wanted a “happy” vibe so everything is shot in daylight – it’s bright and sunny with no indoor scenes except the initial phone call. I’ll go through the more interesting bits to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the video. :)

The splash

tripod

The first mishap you see (the one where I exit the house just to get splashed by a wayward neighbor’s dirty mop water) is done using a tripod. The one holding the bucket is…*drumroll*…Jeanie herself. The bucket was too heavy for her and we had to do two takes. I ended up changing coz the first splash totally failed – she went into the scene, propelled by the momentum and weight of the bucket of water.

We filled it with less water in the second take. I didn’t want to use up the rapidly dwindling backpack of attire I brought along. :x

The car not being able to start

You’ll see the same car in the next scene so I did an extreme close up so you won’t see the make, model or color of the car. :)

The accident scene

car

This one wasn’t too hard to do. It only required the two of us to pull it off. I filmed Jeanie driving towards me. I told her to put her foot on the gas and not worry about hitting me.

After that part was filmed, I passed the camera to her and she filmed me being caught like a deer in the headlights as the car (apparently) came barreling down on me.

The next scene was me twitching on the car bonnet after being “hit”. It took some video transitions to make it look comically realistic (without actually hitting me with the car).

It was originally longer but I thought the bit where I ended up wandering about dazed after being hit was a little too much so I cut it from the editing board. You can watch the full original scene here:

I spent a lot of time editing the videos – it’s a good learning process but it took me the better part of 3 days of almost continuous tweaking to get the timing and synchronization right. I’m a newbie in video production, thus the learning curve.

The sea

beach

This is one of the scenes that I took out of the video as I thought it won’t contribute much to it. The beach walk also had to be sped up 4x so it won’t drag on.

The underwater scene

underwater

This is a bit of a retrofit. It was meant to be all fluff – a cool video taken underwater. I have a waterproof digicam and I figured it would be nifty to take a video underwater. I knew it won’t make much sense since I appear with my shirt on in the next scene…until I saw someone being escorted out by security.

pool

The Marriott has a strict policy – only guests are allowed to use the resort facilities and The Proverbial Light Bulb (TM) came on. It shall be the scene where I evade the guards! smirk

I put that in the caption (used the Confucius angle), and the rest, as they say, is history.

The end scene

people

After all those trials and tribulations, we finally shot the last scene beside the pool. There’s this comfy sofa and we enlisted the help of a kind lady from France who was more than obliged to help us film this scene. The inter-cuts you see at the end is filmed by us – I did her and she did me.

The chocolate

cadbury old

I swear this was the hardest part of the video – we went to several different shops in Miri but none of them had Cadbury Dairy Milk. They have others – the ones with nuts, Old Gold, and others…but not the original. It took us 2 hours before we stumbled upon a shop that sells it. I bought 5 x 75 gram bars.

cadbury new

I then realized that it was the old packaging when I chanced upon a shop with the new packaging. I bought more of it and re-shot some of the scenes again. I have a lot of chocolate now but I love Cadbury Dairy Milk so it’s all good. :D

cadbury dairy milk

We actually did share it – there were a couple of kids running around in the resort and I passed them several bars. I thought their parents would balk – candy from strangers and all that, but they thanked us for it and one even bought us drinks from the poolside bar.

poolside

The kids loved it. One of them came up to me and she showed me her toy – a launcher she was playing with beside the pool that launches a baby dinosaur up into the air by pumping air into the tube. That was the highlight of doing the video – sharing the Cadbury chocolate and seeing the little ones enjoying it by the pool during their holiday. :)

Here’s my masterpiece:

What do you think?

Do you need a dose of happiness? Join the Cadbury Facebook page and get some! :)

barcelona soho

It was a lazy Friday night and we got a call from Wendy asking us if we would like to join her for dinner. She’s buying and we headed down to BARcelona for food and drinks. BARcelona is a place that serves Spanish food and the best thing about the place is that you can order stuff from SOHO (which is next door) too!

barcelona us

BARcelona and SOHO are located in adjacent lots and belongs to the same owner – you can sit at either one and order food from the other. SOHO specializes in Irish food and I’m pretty sure both establishments share the same bar.

There’s an outdoor patio type canopy that allows you to chill al fresco style. It’s Miri so there’s always a nice sea breeze going on at night. ;)

barcelona facebook

I am intrigued by BARcelona’s concept – they have different seating arrangements to suit everyone. You can have a private dining area or sit in one of the side booths where there’s a computer screen on the table. I saw a lot of people logging on to Facebook and showing their friends photos.

I facebook-like the idea. :) It brings social media back to the real world.

Anyway, the photos I took are really horrible coz I didn’t bring my dSLR here so I’ll use a thousand words instead. Heh!

Jeanie had the broccoli soup from SOHO. I like it – it’s very creamy and rich. I’m not a big fan of soups in general so that’s saying a lot.

barcelona salad

The other thing that surprised my friends was the large Cobb Salad (RM 15) which we ordered for starters. This also came from SOHO and contains organic mixed greens, honey roasted chicken, tomatoes, onions, bacon with blue cheese crumbles and hard boiled eggs. I don’t eat a lot of veggies but the salad uses a balsamic vinegar dressing which hits the spot and the bits of bacon inside helped a lot too. I ate quite a bit of the leafy greens – enough to hit my usual monthly quota. smirk

The chef also recommended several tapas dishes that we had. The most memorable one is Albondigas Picante (which will hereby be referred to as the meatball tapas). This is quite surprising since it looks rather plain at first glance. However, when the Taste Test (TM) is applied, it turned me into a believer. The meatball is firm but literally bursts with juicy goodness when you bite down into it. Nice!

barcelona tapas

There’s also the Patatas con Alioli Picante which all the others liked but I didn’t care much for. It does have very nice dressing but eating potatoes just doesn’t do it for me. To each his/her own!

The Baranjas con Salsa de Pimentas (eggplant with Spanish sauce) was good though. I love eggplant. It’s one of the few vegetables I like, mostly due to it’s creamy and rich texture. The tapas dishes all come with slices of bread to soak up the gravy.

barcelona paella

I love the Paella Marisco (seafood paella) too – it came with huge prawns, mussels and squid. You can request for them to use the more authentic Spanish rice instead of the regular rice tailored to local tastes – it tastes much better this way.

The rice is firm and each grain is distinctive. It’s flavorful and goes very well with the seafood. Trust me on this – ask for Spanish rice. :D

barcelona pizza

Next came another one of their specialties – the Valencia Pizza (RM 19). It’s 10 inches, made with a topping of onion, chilli, pepper, bacon and minced beef and comes in a proper thin crust. I had my doubts initially upon setting my eyes on it. Chilli slices on a pizza? It looks like the product of an overzealous fusion chef but when I bit into the thin crust and tasted the pizza, I fell in love with it immediately. I eat a lot of pizza and I usually forgo it when I’m eating out but this one tastes exquisite!

barcelona pizza closeup

It’s one of those rare moments when fusion cuisine works very well. I can see why it’s on the recommended list in the menu. I would recommend it too. :)

barcelona maghrita

Down to the cocktails, I had three – this is the Ultimate Margarita (RM 20). It’s done well and I love the sea salt lining the rim of the glass. It’s a small thing but you’ll be surprised at the number of places that don’t do it, especially in smaller cities. It’s not a proper margarita unless there’s sea salt on the rim. I like the attention to detail in BARcelona.

barcelona tea party

I also had their signature BARcelona Tea Party (RM 25). It’s listed on the alcohol menu as “Star & Strong Alcohol”. It’s true, the alcohol content is rather high in this long island tea variant. I love it! :D

barcelona wings

The best dish that we had that night was hands down the humble chicken wings. It’s oven baked and marinated with juices which complement the chicken very well. The skin is crispy but the meat tender – a wonderful experience. Do not miss this one if you’re ever in BARcelona. It’s perfect as finger food or a main course. Succulent.

barcelona neon

BARcelona and SOHO is located diagonally from Mega Hotel in Miri. It’s outside of the main clubbing distinct and as such, provides a nice change of scenery. The bill is affordable too – the tapas ranges from RM 5 – RM 10 and the mains are reasonably priced. It’s a great place to have dinner or drinks with a couple of friends.

barcelona me wendy

Thanks for picking up the bill Siaw Yin! You’re too kind. Next meal is on me. :)

latak panorama

It was a boring Sunday and we decided to get ourselves acquainted with nature by heading down to Lambir Hills National Park. Lambir is a 31 km drive from Miri (according to the roadsigns) and is said to be one of the most bio-diverse parks in Malaysia.

lambir hills national park

We departed a little bit late due to some domestic issues but managed to reach the park at about 12 pm.

tickets

We were a bit apprehensive about getting down with nature at that hour, considering its fiery temper – namely, the sun, but surprisingly the sheer amount of trees in Lambir Hills National Park totally negated any heat from the sun.

trail

Lambir Hills National Park is home to a few waterfalls, but the most popular one is Latak Waterfall. There’s a good reason why Latak Waterfall is so popular – it’s neither the highest nor the most tranquil waterfall in Lambir but it is the nearest. smirk

main trail

It only takes a leisurely 20 minute stroll to reach Latak Waterfall in Lambir Hills National Park. You’ll pass by two smaller waterfalls on the way but it’s not accessible unless you’re willing to scale over untamed forest brush to get to what amounts to a glorified puddle with a trickle of water from above.

smaller falls

Latak Waterfall on the other hand is a comparatively majestic 25 meter wall of water rushing down from a cliff above. You can hear the roar of the waterfall before you even see it…which is true of most waterfalls anyway so I don’t know why I’m mentioning this.

latak waterfalls

It is however quite grand, better than my expectations. The pool of water created by the waterfall cascade starts out shallow and quite suddenly drops down in depth.

latak falls

I guess a trained eye could see it from above based on the color of the water but it surprised me when I stepped from waist deep water into what seemed like an abyss.

frolicking

I think the buoy line warning swimmers not to frolic beyond a certain point is there for a good reason. smirk

latak falls pool

I would guess that it’s about 5 meters deep just before the buoy, it’s bound to be deeper at the base of the waterfall but unfortunately there was a guard on duty that day so I couldn’t venture there.

bbq

The place seems rather lively even for a Sunday – there’s family bringing their kids swimming, a couple of giggling college girls (and one shemale) plus your regular assortment of the dredges of humanity making a ruckus.

jeanie latak

This is Jeanie doing some sort of yoga pose in the water and failing badly.

falls closeup

Latak Waterfall has BBQ pits for your use and changing rooms are within walking distance from the falls. The water is VERY COLD and that’s a great thing. The only downside is that there’s a lot of stones which can cut your feet and random flotsam drifting around the outer fringes of the pool.

trees

I don’t think the water is the type you bottle and ship too coz we both got very itchy soon after coming out of the pool.

Nevertheless, it’s a nice diversion on a weekend and well worth the RM 10 entrance fee. There are better and more private waterfalls in Lambir Hills National Park but you’ll have to be prepared to walk 3 hours to get there.

feet

Take only photographs, leave only footprints. smirk

latak us

It was a well spent Sunday – relaxing by the waterfalls with an occasional dip into the cold natural pool, looking up at the foliage above.

nasi lalapan

Nasi Lalapan is an Indonesian dish that’s very popular in Miri. I went to Muara Restaurant just now based on Jeanie’s recommendation to check out this unique incarnation of Indonesian cuisine. Muara Restaurant is self-dubbed “The Founder of Lalapan” – very lofty claims indeed. smirk

muara restauran nasi lalapan

This is the original restaurant at Miri Waterfront Commercial Centre. There’s another newer establishment in Miri but the first Muara Restaurant is located at a much more appealing location – it’s right beside the river!

nasi lalapan river

There is a very nice breeze and you can see the bustling activity of the river right from the vantage of your dining table.

muara restaurant

Muara Restaurant is supposed to serve the best nasi lalapan in Miri and coming from Jeanie (who doesn’t like spicy food) it was intriguing enough for me to check it out.

nasi lalapan crowd

We went there well past lunch hour (it was around 3 pm) and there were still heaps of diners eating nasi lalapan – a great testament to its popularity.

nasi lalapan tofu

Nasi Lalapan is basically a dish of vegetables, tofu and meat arranged around a unique sambal based sauce. You can choose the meat that goes with your nasi lalapan – there’s everything from chicken to prawn. The rice is served separately on a plate and there’s also a bowl of soup to go with your meal.

nasi lalapan stuff

Jeanie had the Nasi Lalapan Empal (beef) which costs RM 8. Here’s a top view of what nasi lalapan is all about – starting from the 12′ o clock position, there’s tempeh (a soy product which tastes like nuts), a piece of deep fried tofu, the meat (in this case, beef), some greens (spinach if I’m not mistaken), cucumber slices, uncooked long beans (called ulam in Malay), a lime, and some cabbage.

lime

You start eating nasi lalapan by squeezing the lime into the sambal based sauce and mixing it up. The sauce is the cornerstone of lalapan and it tastes great – spicy, with visible flakes of chilli and a tangy finish.

dip vegetables

The vegetables can be picked apart using your fingers and dipped into the sauce. I saw people eating it this way so I emulated them.

eat veggies

It tastes much better when you use your hands to eat. Primal. :D

nasi lalapan beef

I really liked the beef in Jeanie’s Nasi Lalapan Empal – it’s smoked beef and tastes delicious, with a lingering sweet aftertaste.

huge catfish

I chose Nasi Lalapan Keli (RM 10) for my late lunch. Ikan keli is catfish and I was surprised when the plate of nasi lalapan came out – the fish is humongous! I forgot to use something as a reference point so you can’t appreciate the sheer size of it, but trust me, it’s gigantic!

nasi lalapan catfish head

It’s deep fried to perfection. The skin is crunchy and the flesh is tasty – delectable! The presentation is awesome too! They must have a really huge wok to be able to fry that mutant catfish wholesale. I particularly liked the precision in which they sliced the fish so that you can easily use a fork to spear a segment of the fish.

nasi lalapan chicken

We also ordered a chicken drumstick – you can order the meat in the nasi lalapan variants separately. I saw a lot of people eating the chicken nasi lalapan and wanted to try it. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to write home about – I preferred my catfish and Jeanie’s smoked beef tastes much better.

nasi lalapan meal

Muara Restaurant has really good nasi lalapan. You can determine the authenticity of the food based on how many Indonesians visit the joint and the spicy tang of the sambal goes very well with the vegetables and meat. The dishes range from RM 8 – RM 15 depending on what you choose as your meat and the entire meal just set us back RM 21.80.

nasi lalapan us

I only realized that they forgot to charge us for the chicken when I looked at the receipt. :x

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