Beijing wins to host Winter Olympics 2022

Beijing Winter Olympics 2022

Chinese captital celebrates victory

The National Stadium, or Bird Nest, is seen with giant illumination showing a message celebrating Beijing and Zhangjiakou’s winning of the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Beijingers celebrate Olympic victory

Beijing last night was the scene of jubilation and cheering. People celebrated the news from Kuala Lumpur.

Games offers new drive to opening-up

Beijing and Zhangjiakou have won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. It’s great.

Seven years after Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games, Chinese people get to embrace the Olympics again. Many still remember the passion and joy after winning the 2008 Games. Our optimism and happiness has come alive again. Chinese society is still actively seeking to host major international sports events. Such sentiment fits the country’s rising momentum.

Countries in the developed world are no longer enthusiastic about holding the Olympics like they once were. They have their own calculations. But over 90 percent of people in Beijing and Zhangjiakou support their cities’ hosting of the Winter Games. Such high rates of support is generally true in other parts of the country in hosting major international sports events.

Chinese people long for progress and more contact with the outside world. Many people consider the hosting of major sports events an opportunity to enhance a city’s development level and help it become more international.

But there are also many who oppose hosting the Winter Games. Some of them are just following the voices of popular Western-style opponents. Others have their marginal reasons. But these opinions are not mainstream in China.

It is great that many stadiums and other pieces of infrastructure built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics can still be of use for the 2022 Games.

The 2008 Summer Games can be seen as a coming-out party for China. China has made significant progress in the seven years since it hosted the event. China’s GDP leapt from the third place globally to second. Chinese people have seen more of the world.

To be frank, when Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games, many Chinese people were nervous that they might mess up the event. That is why the 2008 Games emphasized pomp and ceremony in order to demonstrate China’s capabilities.

This time when we host the Winter Games, we may be able to be more relaxed, focusing on the beauty of the sports instead of laboring ourselves in ensuring a perfect event. We can try to make the 2022 Games a big party.

The 2022 Winter Games is also likely to bring concrete benefits in the coming seven years. “Olympic blue” may become a new target in dealing with air pollution. A high-speed railway between Beijing and Zhangjiakou is likely. Winter sports may become more popular.

The Winter Games will become a lasting drive for China’s further opening-up. Chinese society will seek greater balance between outside criticism and China’s own principles and traditions. This project will help China further integrate with the world. – Global Times

South Korea cuts interest rate as MERS contagion as threat

korea-mers-flagSEOUL: South Korea reported a 10th MERS death as the outbreak of the potentially deadly virus forced the central bank to cut its key interest rate to ward off greater economic damage amid a slump in business.

In what has become the largest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outside Saudi Arabia, a 65-year-old man died yesterday after being infected with the virus while receiving treatment for lung cancer at a hospital.

Seoul also reported 14 new cases, including the first infection of a pregnant woman. The new diagnoses brought to 122 the total number of confirmed cases in South Korea, the health ministry said.

Businesses including shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas have reported a sharp drop in sales as people shun public venues with large crowds.

Bank of Korea governor Lee Ju-yeol said slowing exports and threats to business from MERS were central to the decision to cut its benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point, to a record low of 1.5%.

It was the first cut since March, when the central bank made a surprise cut of 25 basis points.

“The full impact of the outbreak still remains uncertain but we thought it was desirable to act pre-emptively to curb its negative impact on the economy,” Lee said.

More than 54,000 foreign travellers have cancelled planned trips to South Korea so far this month, according to the Korea Tourism Board.

Hong Kong has issued a “red” alert warning against non-essential travel to South Korea.

However, Seoul says World Health Organisation guidelines do not warrant such action.

Taiwan raised its travel advisory level for South Korea but stopped short of warning its people against going at all. Other governments in Asia are urging caution but none has gone as far as Hong Kong in warning against non-essential travel.

Residents of Hong Kong are particularly sensitive after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed 299 people in the city in 2003 and sparked global panic.

The MERS virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of SARS.

On Wednesday, the area around a health clinic inside a metro station in Hong Kong was cordoned off and officials donned protective gear after a woman returning from South Korea showed flu-like symptoms.

Surgical masks reportedly sold out in shops around the station, but Hong Kong officials confirmed yesterday that the woman had tested negative for MERS.

Growing public alarm has forced South Korean President Park Geun-hye to cancel a planned June 14-18 trip to the United States.

Her administration has faced a storm of criticism for perceived slow and insufficient response to the crisis.

Of the 14 new cases, eight were infected at Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul, a major hospital where 55 people have contracted the virus. That is the largest cluster in the outbreak.

A 39-year-old woman in her final trimester of pregnancy was among those confirmed yesterday to have acquired the virus at the hospital.

Another victim contracted the virus at a hospital in Hwaseong City, 40km south of Seoul, and five others are under investigation to discover how they were infected.

More than 3,800 people who came into close contact with those infected are under quarantine, either at their homes or at healthcare facilities.

The first infected patient was diagnosed on May 20 after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The 68-year-old man visited four medical facilities, infecting other patients and medics, before he was finally diagnosed, sparking criticism that authorities had bungled the initial response. — AFP

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Science on high intensity interval training: HIIT, or SHIIT?

Man_30-minute-hiit-mainLet me pose you a question: would you rather go down to the video store (if it hasn’t yet gone bankrupt) to hire a DVD, or stream it from the comfort of your own home? You’ve probably answered: the comfort of your own home, unless of course you get all nostalgic about walking down the street to hire discs. I know I do!

Okay, okay, now let me pose you a further question: would you rather spend one hour exercising, or 30 minutes? Stop, don’t answer that just yet. What if I were to say that both workouts would give you equivalent results? Unless you’re a time wasting enthusiast, pain junky, or DOMS devotee you’re probably going to answer 30 minutes. Well a new (old) exercise regiment known as high intensity interval training (HIIT) is offering just that.

Yes, if you believe one of the internet’s many great fitness prophets, then you will be aware that HIIT is the shit! Slow endurance training is the DVD for hire and HIIT is Netflix, which is of course, the shit. So is HIIT truly the shit, or should you beware of false fitness prophets?


What is HIIT?

Before I answer your previous question. What is HIIT? Simply put, HIIT involves performing intervals of highly intense exercise followed by either complete rest, or low intensity exercise. The high intensity-low intensity combination seems to be the more popular of the two currently.

How about an example? Sure, here’s one. Let’s say running is your game. Your HIIT may involve a ratio of a one minute sprint, to 45 seconds of slow jogging, repeated for a total of 15 minutes. It certainly doesn’t have to follow this exact ratio, or duration and these variables change greatly from protocol to protocol, that was simply an example. I should note, however, that scientific data to date has found minimal difference between different interval ratios thus far (9).
HIIT (1)

Why HIIT might be the shit?

HIIT is proposed to lead to multiple complex physiological changes to the skeletal muscle system that promote fat burning efficiency and preference, and more efficient oxygen utilisation. In turn, this is proposed to: make you skinnier, fitter and it will likely give you the ability to fly! But probably not the last one.

Science and HIIT (SHIIT):

Of course theory means little unless it translates to real world, real life changes. So, does it? Spoiler, it generally does.

Aerobic health:

A review paper analysing studies on individuals suffering from various different lifestyle diseases found HIIT to be effective. Specifically, cardiovascular fitness, as measured by Vo2 max, was 9% higher when individuals performed HIIT as opposed to moderate intensity continuous exercise (1). Another large scale review paper on scientific studies to date found HIIT to improve: aerobic fitness level more so than normal, moderate intensity exercise in both sedentary and active individuals. But it was only as effective as continuous exercise training in athletic persons (2). If that wasn’t enough science for you, a third study found HIIT to improve aerobic fitness as well as moderate intensity continuous exercise in a relatively fit group of people (3). This basically tells us that the lower your fitness level is, the better you will respond to HIIT and if you only want to do one sort of training, HIIT will be more effective than continuous training for aerobic fitness. Conversely, if you’re really fit and only want to do one form of exercise, then HIIT is as good as continuous moderate intensity exercise for aerobic fitness.

beautiful fitness woman

Muscles, muscles, muscles:

What about those muscles? Can you skip the separate weight sessions and do an all in one HIIT session? Well, the scientific data is very limited on this. But the one study that does exist on this topic, found that when having an active rest period was compared to having complete rest, complete rest won. Yes, complete rest led to greater work output, which in turn would likely mean improved: muscle mass, strength, power, looking shredded bro (4)! This makes sense and says that resistance training HIIT will likely provide you with some nice adaptations, but not as good as traditional weight training where proper rest between sets is taken.

Weight loss:

What about weight loss then? The data ain’t crystal clear on this. One study found HIIT boxing was better than continuous brisk walking at improving body fat percentage (5). Another study found participants had a decreased waist circumference following HIIT, but not following moderate intensity continuous exercise (6). Yet, in complete contrast, continuous moderate intensity exercise was found to decrease trunk fat more so than HIIT in another study (7). All in all, the science isn’t certain on whether HIIT or continuous training is best for weight loss. But if you base your workout on the number of calories you’re burning, based on average heart rate or a similar method, then you should be no worse off than performing continuous exercise, as average heart rate tends to be higher for HIIT and stays elevated for longer following exercise.


If HIIT is quicker to do, then you’d think people would do it more and stick to it. And they do! High intensity interval training led to a greater level of adherence (89% vs 71%) than moderate intensity continuous training (8). Grouse!


Is it healthful? 

Ladies and gentlemen, HIIT is the shit! Or at least it is pretty darn good and very relevant to our time-centric society:

  • HIIT is likely as good as endurance exercise for aerobic fitness and if you’re of a low fitness level it’s probably better.
  •  Resistance training HIIT won’t get you as ripped as traditional resistance training with structured rest periods. But it’s probably not a great deal worse.
  • HIIT will lead to at least equivalent weight loss to continuous moderate intensity exercise in a shorter period of time, likely due to an elevated average heart rate.
  • HIIT generally leads to higher adherence, so you’re more likely to stick with it.

Our verdict :Highly healthfull. If you’re time poor and unfit, HIIT’s the most effective way to turn things around. Although if time is less of a factor and you really want to optimise your health you should combine HIIT, anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise as part of a proper periodised program. Especially, if you have sport related goals.

I hope this has been healthful!


I hold a Doctor of Physiotherapy, Bachelor of Exercise Science and am a qualified personal trainer. I have extensive clinical and research experience and a strong passion for all things health. This has driven me to write the blog: Is it healthful, in order to analyse sound scientific research to determine if a product, service or intervention is healthful, or simply a waste of money or time.


Yoga Facial Exercises To Help Lift Sagging Jowls / Jawline – VitaLife Show Episode 93

Trees and plants can feel stress, need time to recharge like humans


KEPONG: Trees feel stress and need rest the same way humans do, and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) is playing doctor to keep them healthy.

FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mohmod said trees in the cities were the worst affected.

“It causes them to fall sick, making them susceptible to attacks from fungi and pests,” he said at the institute’s open day and World Environment Day yesterday.

He said a tree that looked healthy on the outside could be hollow inside, making it hard to diagnose its problem with the naked eye.

Dr Latif said FRIM used sonar technology as an “X-ray” machine to diagnose such trees.

Research officer Ahmad Aza­ruddin Mohd Noor demonstrated the use of the device called the Picus Sonic Tomography.

“The device generates a 3D image of a tree’s insides, effectively identifying decay and cavities in the trunk,” said Ahmad Azaruddin, a certified arborist (professional in cultivating, managing and the study of trees) who has helped local councils manage trees.

“A tree that has become 30% hollow can fall in the event of a thunderstorm. If that happens, it can be very dangerous,” he said.

To prevent this, his team would usually prune it to preserve its structural integrity.

He said the team would do its best to preserve a tree due to its benefits to the urban ecosystem.

“We will be forced to cut it down only if the damage is too severe,” he said, adding that less than 20% of trees faced such a problem.

“In the cities, it only happens to trees that are more than 100 years old or those with roots that have been damaged.

“In the forests, the usual culprits are termites,” he said.

Dr Latif said as trees feel stress, FRIM closes its canopy walkway on Mondays and Fridays to let them rest.

“Our canopy walkway can accommodate 200 visitors a day. We don’t want to give the trees too much stress,” he said.

He also said Malaysians should be proud of FRIM’s man-made tropical forest as it was the world’s largest and oldest.

The forest covers seven arboreta (repositories of living plants) and a botanic garden.

He said it was originally an abandoned mining land and that the Forestry Department, which owned less than a hectare of it, planted its first tree there in 1923.

“Today, it spans 544.3ha and houses 73 out of 92 critically endangered plants in Malaysia,” he said, adding that more than 1.3 million people visited FRIM last year.

Dr Latif said FRIM prided itself as a community-friendly institute that facilitated learning and embraced outstanding universal values.

“Because of this, we are working towards being gazetted as a Unesco World Heritage site by 2020.”

By Adrian Chan The Star/Asia News Network


Trees can feel stress too’

FRIM to upgrade signs soon

Signs at FRIM need maintenance

Forget chocs, better to plant a tree instead

One to call their own: Residents and families posing with a tree they just planted for the programme. The particular tree will remain as part of each family’s responsibility and heritage in USJ Heights, inherited by future generations.

One to call their own: Residents and families posing with a tree they just planted for the programme. The particular tree will remain as part of each family’s responsibility and heritage in USJ Heights, inherited by future generations.

South Korea declares war on MERS

A family of tourists wearing face masks stand on a street in the popular Myeongdong shopping area in Seoul, on June 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

Seoul (AFP) – South Korea reported on Friday a fourth death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), as an infected doctor fuelled fears of a fresh surge in cases and prompted Seoul’s mayor to declare “war” on the virus. Five new cases overnight took the number of infected people to 41 in what has become the largest MERS outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, with close to 2,000 people in quarantine or under observation. The latest fatality was a 76-year-old male patient who died Thursday after testing positive for the virus on May 21.

Criticised for its lack of transparency in addressing the health scare, the Health Ministry finally confirmed the name of the hospital where the first patient to be diagnosed with MERS was treated.
The ministry said anyone who had visited the hospital in Pyeongtaek, about 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Seoul, between May 15-29 should report to a clinic for screening.

The government had initially declined to name any hospitals treating cases of MERS, for which there is no vaccine or cure, arguing it could cause them unfair commercial losses.

– Infected doctor fuels fears –

View gallery

Of particular concern was the positive test of a doctor at a major Seoul hospital who was understood to have taken part in public meetings attended by up to 1,500 people while infectious.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon criticised the government for not sharing information about the doctor’s movements, and said his administration would take the lead in ensuring public safety.

“From now on, Seoul city is embarking on a war against MERS. We will take swift and stern measures… to protect the lives and safety of our citizens,” Park told reporters Friday.

Health Minister Moon Hyong-Pyo apologised for the public anxiety caused by the outbreak, but rejected Park’s criticisms, saying the mayor was encouraging “mistrust and misunderstanding”.

The government had been handling the doctor’s case carefully to avoid public panic, Moon added. More than 1,000 schools, from kindergartens to colleges, have temporarily shut down across the country, while the government’s MERS hotline has been taking thousands of calls a day.

View gallery

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) MERS has now infected 1,179 people globally, with 442 deaths. More than 20 countries have been affected, with most cases in Saudi Arabia.

The virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds of people when it appeared in Asia in 2003.

– Possible mutation? –

The WHO has said it expects more infections in South Korea, while stressing there was currently “no evidence of sustained transmission in the community”.

A health ministry statement said a WHO team would visit next week, citing concerns that the virus has been showing a “slightly different” pattern from the one detected in Middle East.

“We have yet to determine whether there has been any mutation,” said Choi Bo-Yul, the head of a civilian task force set up to help with the outbreak.

Among the recent infections was an Korean Air Force chief master sergeant, who represented the first MERS case among members of the military.

The airman is serving at the air base in Osan, south of Seoul, which also hosts the US 51st Fighter Wing.

In a message to base personnel, the fighter unit’s chief medical officer, Colonel Krystal Murphy, said around 100 people who had been in contact with the infected man had been asked to remain at home.

“We recommend everyone exercise caution and use good hygiene practices to prevent any further spread,” Myers said. A large number of public events have been cancelled and organisers of the World Student Games in the southwestern city of Gwangju next month admitted they were “very anxious.”

“No country has cancelled so far, but obviously we’re keeping a close eye on what is a worrying situation and hope it will come under control soon,” an official with the Universiade’s organising committee told AFP.

Counterfeit medicines and drugs, a public health menance !

Fake medicines may contain toxic substances that include heavy metals (e.g. aresenic) and additives (e.g. steroids). – AFP

The drugs you are taking may be fake

Counterfeit drugs are a booming criminal industry with serious consequences for public health.

Many of us have a strong faith in the power of modern medicine.

We go to the doctor or pharmacist, get the prescribed pills, take them religiously and expect to be cured of whatever ails us.

Oftentimes, this faith is justified, but in an age where fake products abound, have you ever wondered about the authenticity and quality of the drugs that you are ingesting?

According to a 2013 Emerging Markets Health Network report, 3-5% of all medicines being circulated in Malaysia were fakes.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam has also been reported as saying that the ministry had seized some 33,704 unregistered products worth RM43.22mil last year alone.

While this is not high compared to other middle- and low-income countries – for example, the International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group in Indonesia estimates that about one-quarter of medicines on the Indonesian market are fake – it is certainly something to be worried about as it concerns our health.

University of Oxford’s Reader in Tropical Medicine, Prof Dr Paul Newton says that it is difficult to estimate the global size of the problem as there is not enough data.

According to him, there are very few studies, and very few of those are done in a scientifically-rigorous manner, adding that there are certainly hotspots of such problems around the world.

Pfizer Global Security director Mark Robinson shares that the pharmaceutical company sees the highest number of fake drug seizures in Asia, compared to the rest of the world.

But he adds: “That’s because we are targeting (illegal) labs, seizing the drugs before they reach the market.” He observes that in 60 countries around the world, patients went into a legitimate, licensed pharmacy and got counterfeit drugs.

In addition, he notes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over half of those who buy drugs online from unverified websites receive counterfeit medicines.

Two types of fake

Fake drugs, also called poor quality drugs, can be divided into two types: counterfeit and substandard.

Prof Newton explains that counterfeit medicines are made by criminals with the intent to deceive patients and healthcare workers for monetary gain.

According to Robinson, these criminals include entrepreneurs, terrorist organisations, drug syndicates and weapons dealers.

 Brick dust, used to hold the fake pill together, as well as boric acid, leaded highway paint to provide the yellow colour, and floor wax to provide shine, were found to be used in the production of counterfeit mefenamic acid by an illegal lab in Colombia. – AFP

They do it, he says, because it is profitable, because they are pretty sure they won’t get caught, and because even if they do get caught, the penalties are very low compared to the amount of money they can make.

The danger of these drugs is that they can vary from not having any active pharmaceutical ingredient to containing toxic materials. (See What’s in your fake drug)

Active pharmaceutical ingredients are the chemical compounds that treat the medical condition.

Unlike counterfeit drugs, substandard drugs are made by the original or licensed manufacturer, but do not conform to the proper standard of quality.

They are “medicines with mistakes”, says Prof Newton.

These medicines occur due to errors in the factories. Sometimes, they can be small errors, and sometimes, they can be large errors, like using the wrong active ingredient, he says.

He opines that this problem is more likely to occur in low-income countries where there is a lack of drug regulation and quality control measures.

However, as with counterfeit drugs, it is difficult to estimate the size of this problem due to the lack of data.

“Not many people are actually looking (for this problem), so we might have an unpleasant surprise,” he says, adding that in terms of public health, substandard medicines are as dangerous as counterfeit drugs.

He adds that some companies are very active in ensuring that their products are good, but, like any human activity, some cut corners and skip the quality control.

Poor regulation

According to the WHO, only one-fifth of its member states have well-developed drug regulation; half have varying levels of regulation and enforcement; and the remaining 30% have either very limited or no drug regulation at all.

In Malaysia, Dr Subramaniam was reported as saying that online drug sales are a particularly hard area to enforce as the Customs Department does not screen packages valued below RM500, due to the very high number of such packages.

“We have asked the Customs Department to screen all packages, and they are trying to do it, but I think it is quite expensive to put such a system in place,” he said after opening the Access to Safe Medicines Training Conference organised by Mediharta Sdn Bhd in January.

Prof Newton was a speaker at the same conference, while Robinson was a speaker at the launch of Pfizer’s anti-counterfeit technology, Patient Authentication for Safety via SMS (PASS), in Malaysia.

According to Robinson, the top three drugs produced by Pfizer that are found to be counterfeited in Malaysia are erectile dysfunction drug, sildenafil; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammation, celecoxib; and hypertension drug, amlodipine.

He adds that it is not only branded drugs that are counterfeited, but also generic drugs that are no longer patented, like the NSAID mefenamic acid.

“People just want to use our good name (to sell fake drugs),” he says.

Prof Newton notes that antibiotics and cardiovascular drugs are also being increasingly counterfeited in South-East Asia.

He adds that it is not only drugs that are counterfeited, but also medical devices like cardiac stents, rapid diagnostic tests and insecticide-treated bed nets – a problem particularly rampant in Africa.

Bad effects

The effects of fake drugs can be felt both on the individual level, as well as on a wider scale. For the patient, taking counterfeit drugs can range from death to developing more serious health complications.

These health complications may be caused by the actual illness being untreated due to a lack of active ingredients in the counterfeit drug, or the drug containing either toxic ingredients or the wrong active ingredients.

The latter will also make it more complicated for doctors to treat the patients, as they might be confused by the incongruent symptoms.

Counterfeit or substandard drugs that contain less active ingredients than required can also cause drug resistance, particularly if they are antibiotics.

Prof Newton adds that consuming fake drugs also ends up incurring more expense on the patients’ part, as they don’t get better and keep on buying more medications.

Patients might also lose faith in the healthcare system, he says. “If you don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies or doctors, you won’t go back and might seek other alternatives.

He notes that fake drugs will also affect genuine pharmaceutical companies, as well as government healthcare systems and non-governmental organisations that inadvertently purchase these drugs.

Both Prof Newton and Robinson hope that governments around the world will take a stronger stance against counterfeit medicines, both in terms of enacting relevant legislation with much stronger penalties for those producing fake drugs, as well as in terms of enforcement.

Patients should also be more careful of what they consume.

For example, signs that a medicine could be fake include an excessively low price, flimsy or unprofessional packaging, and not requiring a doctor’s or pharmacist’s prescription for non-OTC (over the counter) drugs.

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo: Health Ministry

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo:

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo: Health Ministry

In Malaysia, registered drugs also have a holographic security sticker on their packaging.



The counterfeit menace – Health

Hiking with children is good for the whole family


Hiking as a family has built strong bonds, made beautiful memories and improved health. And everyone has learnt to be more creative in tackling obstacles as they are no longer couch potatoes!

THE day I traded my high heels for hiking shoes, the malls for hills and the stale city air for fresh jungle air, my life was never the same again.

It all began when my dear hubby Adrian Yeong took up hiking. He had been hiking close to six months to improve his health and fitness when I saw the changes in him: he had shed 13 kilos and was much fitter and healthier than before. Finally one day, I agreed to join him.

Wasting no time, he got me my first pair of hiking shoes. I had my first taste of hiking at the Challenger trail in Gasing Hill, Petaling Jaya, on August 1, 2010. Since then, Gasing Hill has become our regular training ground.

Friends who heard of our hiking activities thought we were crazy to hike three times a week and when they learnt that we also brought our younger four children along with us, in their dictionary, we were well…insane. Why bother doing such tiring activities?

Many would not consider hiking with kids, supposedly because: “They will complain!”, “They will cry!”, “They will not want to walk!”

Our children being city kids were no angels either. They were always trying to find excuses to escape from hiking so that they could spend time at home instead, watching television and playing computer games. But as parents, we had the last say and so our hiking journey began…

The writer carrying her youngest son, Joseph, on her back, while climbing Gunung Datuk.

By training our children, who were then one-plus, three, seven and ten years old to hike, all of us eventually got fitter and stronger. Our speed and endurance improved. In a short span of five months, Adrian and I did 50 hikes while our kids went on 30 hikes with us.

We had explored almost all the hills and a few waterfalls in the Klang Valley. After a while, it felt a bit boring hiking the same hills. I dreamt of exploring further but often doubted if we were up to the challenge of hiking more than an hour plus with our young kids.

Little did I know that one day I would get to know a Facebook friend, Michael Mui, and that our feet would soon hit real mountains. Mui got to know of our family hiking activities and invited us to join him to hike Gunung Angsi and Gunung Datuk (both in Negri Sembilan).

In his own words, he described these mountains as “a stroll in the park!” That was our first event with the Freewill Hikers Club, a dynamic hiking group based in Johor led by Captain Richard Yeoh. My husband, being an adventurous guy, took up the idea immediately and the rest is history.

On August 11, 2012, Adrian and I, together with our young hikers, hiked our first two mountains Gunung Angsi and Gunung Datuk, on consecutive days. My two kids Audrey (then aged 12) and Dylan (nine) hiked on their own accompanied by our new friends while I carried Joshua (five) on and off as he happened to be a bit moody in the beginning.

The writer with her husband, Adrian Yeong, and their kids on the peak of Broga Hill, Selangor.

My capable hubby backpacked Lil Joseph (three years old and 12kg in weight) up to the peak of Gunung Angsi and back. Hiking more than an hour with heavier loads than other hikers made it tough.

To make matters worse, wearing the new hiking boots I got him as a surprise, he twisted his ankle during the hike. Despite having applied some ointment over the night, he still had not recovered from the injury and so I volunteered to backpack Lil Joseph up Gunung Datuk the next day.

I remembered assuring my dear hubby that I would hand the little boy over to him should the going get too tough. My hubby agreed to my suggestion. That was my first hike carrying my son up a mountain.

It was my first experience and I found Gunung Datuk to be a steep mountain, with endless roots along the way. Carrying my little boy up weighed me down though I found it quite easy to go on all fours, pulling myself up by tree roots.

Our new friends from Freewill Hikers were very helpful and took care of our two older kids, Audrey and Dylan. While Audrey was slow and steady, Dylan flew up with them and managed to reach the peak in 1 hour 40 minutes; whereas, with my load, we took about 30 minutes more.

It was tiring and our friends kept bluffing us — “You are almost there”, “15 minutes more to the peak”, “Just another 15 minutes more” — in the name of encouragement.

To reach the actual peak of Gunung Datuk, the writer’s family had to clamber up these ladders.

Nevertheless, we made it. At the false peak, I told my husband: “Darling, you take over. I am too tired!”

I handed my little boy over to my hubby to tackle the metal ladder that leads to the actual peak of Gunung Datuk as I was just too exhausted. We had all made it up to Gunung Datuk!

Those were our first two mountains — tough but rewarding. The next few months that followed saw us at Gunung Lambak, Gunung Belumut and Gunung Panti (all three in southern Johor, near Kluang).

Our toughest hike with Lil Jo was Gunung Belumut. Our little boy now weighed 15 kilos and he had not been trained as he was small. He also often pretended to be a 4WD stuck in the mud whilst hiking with his siblings, an idea he got from the multiple off-road trips we had gone for.

I uttered a prayer in the morning, “Dear God, I don’t know how we are going to make it hiking up Belumut but I ask for your help and enablement, in Jesus’ name.”

I came up with a plan. Conserve our energies, get the boy who normally walked only for half an hour to hike as far and as fast as he could. Motivating him, I said, “Jo, you need to look for 10 ant trails and you will get an ice-cream.”

The writer (centre) with her children, husband (right) and Lee Keam Keong of Freewill Hikers at the peak of Gunung Belumut (1,010m) in Kluang, Johor.

So I promised him and we went hunting all the way. He played with twigs, pretending they were rifles and he was soon blasting and shooting away, chasing his brother Joshua and another a new friend, a boy about six, named Rain, who was the grandson of Captain Richard Yeoh of the Freewill Hikers Club.

He played all the way and when he was tired, I gave him some drinks to boost his energy. I also talked, joked and laughed with him in order to distract him from the distance we had to cover. Lo and behold, my four-year-old boy successfully hiked up to the peak in four hours without being carried. It was a miracle indeed. My prayers were answered.

On the way down, Lil Joseph was now tired and had to be carried by his strong daddy. Adrian later shared that it was easier to carry a 15kg bagpack rather than our little boy as he kept swaying to and fro in the baby carrier as he tackled the tough steep terrain, squeezing through tight spots and at times jumping over gullies and large tree roots. After descending for over two hours, his neck and shoulders were stiff.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and we’ve had to build up our strength as well as our endurance in hiking. Being positive has made us conquerors. With sufficient training and preparations, we’ve tackled various mountains.

Our conclusion on hiking with kids: it’s not easy and did not happen overnight. But it’s not mission impossible either as kids have new engines and are fast learners.

By clocking the hours and allowing them to master hiking skills, we’ve built up their fitness and confidence. After time, they have become capable hikers.

Hiking together as a family has been rewarding as we’ve built strong bonds and made beautiful memories. We’ve inculcated healthier lifestyles and our children have learnt to tackle obstacles, to never give up and be optimistic.

It has taught them outdoor skills and built their appreciation of nature. It has made them strong, courageous and creative.

This is a win-win situation and I strongly encourage families to take up hiking as a regular family activity. Just make a change in your life and that of your family. Bring them out hiking. All you need is a good pair of hiking shoes, determination and motivation.

Go for it folks, don’t be a coach potato!

Backpacks, trekking poles, head lamps, a dry bag, a sleeping bag and a poncho are among the prizes being offered for those who write in about their Star2 Adventure Challenge.

By JESSY PHUAH The Star/Asian News Network

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