Changes in OMF Bungalow, Cameron Highlands

The main bungalow building
The linked bungalow wing
View from the bungalow’s rose garden 

I felt tired and I needed to take a break, have a good rest. So I tried OMF Bungalow. Usually at such late notice most rooms would have already been taken but thankfully and incredibly, there was “room in the inn” for the dates I wanted.

Payment

It wasn’t easy for a Singaporean to pay upfront as one would have to access a Malaysian account. Especially when you do not have much time to make the payment. Thankfully in my case I was given a reprieve and I paid up when I arrived at the bungalow.

Taking a bus there

I took the SGD99 Konsortium return night bus. It left Golden Mile at about 10pm, and after a stop at Yong Peng and several pee stops, we reached Brinchang, Cameron Highlands at about 7- 8am in the cool morning. The 27 seater bus had spacious and reclinable seats, so we had no difficulty sleeping. For an additional SGD30, I could have stayed a night (with breakfast) at Strawberry Park. It’s a tie up between the hotel and the bus company. The return trip is in the morning from Strawberry Park hotel at about 10am. The hotel is a short 5 minutes walk from OMF Bungalow.

Many changes but Mrs Chye remains the same

There were many changes that have taken place. However,  Mrs Chye the person in charge there provided an unchanged comforting presence. Her warmth and hospitality is OMF Bungalow’s vital advertisement.

Some of the changes we noticed included:

  • All the rooms now have attached bathrooms.
  • The dining hall and the sitting area were switched so that there would be space to serve more diners.
  • The TV-games room has been converted into a twin room with attached bathroom.
  • The pricing has moved upward too, including an end to discounts for pastors and missionaries.
  • There is no tea time. However you can help yourselves to free coffee, tea and biscuits anytime.
  • There was no TV, but now they have installed decent wireless.
Comforting unchanging Mrs Chye
New dining room
New sitting room
New furniture in the rose garden
With Chong Swee Tshung & Tau Fan former pastors of Community Baptist Church, Puchong

During this stay with my wife we slept, ate, rested, read, walked and prayed and met whoever was there during mealtimes. We also met with a few other guests at the bungalow and shared stories and encouraged each other in the Lord.

I returned feeling refreshed and more relaxed.

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Bukit Timah Nature Reserve re-opened: the experience

When the Bukit Timah Hill first re-opened, I was not happy with the changes. Some of my favourite routes were blocked by fences. Old routes were re-routed for some good reason that I do not know. The old rugged, uneven, muddy paths had been made straight and flat and staired. Other hikers in the group were not happy too. The muddy and natural hill paths of the past had allowed us good realistic training for what we would find in many tracks and paths in the mountains of Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. Now it looked far from “natural”.

The Visitors Centre was the old one spruced up.
The new restrooms were airy and larger and moved to a better location.

After many months

Now months have passed. I have been hiking these trails again. My feelings of annoyance at the insensitivity and intrusiveness of the park authorities have subsided. I wished they had interacted with and consulted the hikers who used the place frequently. Or at least they would bother to explain why things have been changed, and why they needed to be changed. Maybe an exhibit or video at the Visitors’ Center to explain the why of the changes. Or guided tours by park of rangers for those who want to learn more about the logic behind the changes.  It was a great chance to educate the public about conservation and care of the forests. This was not done as far as I knew. I give them the benefit of the doubt though. They must have thought this through thoroughly.

Straighten the paths!
Make more steps, smaller steps, thousands of steps

There are advantages 

Over the months, I have gotten used to the new trails and find them convenient. On Saturday, we hiked in the drizzle and I certainly appreciated that my boots were not muddied, and I did not slip, and it was very safe to walk even in the drizzle. The new paths made the trails more accessible to more people because they are now easier and cleaner and safer. Most people used the main road to the summit and never ventured out to the side trails partly because they did not know the way, and partly because the paths used to be muddy, and uneven, and had twists and turns. am sure they will venture to the side trails now that they have been upgraded. These side trails are definitely more fun and work the muscles better and exercise your heart more.

Say Goodbye to muddy paths
Old path to the right fenced up. Turn left!
Use of the granite stones add variety to the paths
The greenery did not change. Thank God.
The miniature world is beautiful. God is into the details.

Accessible via MRT

If you have never hiked the Bukit Timah Hill, I encourage you to do so, especially now that it is more accessible by public transportation via the Beauty World Station of the Downtown Line. After you have had a good 1-2 hours hike, you have a good choice of restaurant or hawker food in the many shopping malls and hawker centers and restaurants, all within 5 minutes of the MRT station.

One of the things that puzzled me was why they did not build a multi-storey carpark like they did at MacRitchie. Why? I wonder if you had any questions after your visit to Bukit Timah Hill. Do write them in the comment box below.

 

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Holy Week: contemplative and charismatic

The theme of our Holy Week was The Gethsemane Journey. Can the Pentecostal and contemplative blend? Why not? Although  the practices of the Pentecostal and the contemplative seem to be incompatible opposites they actually enrich and deepen each other! I saw this in our experience of Holy Week 2017. I handed the planning to our young pastoral staff: Ethel, Tom and Sarah. I told them the parameters was that we share with the church different practices of prayer both contemplative and charismatic. This was what they came up with.

Monday: Lectio Divina

Tuesday: Praying the Psalms

Wednesday: Prophetic prayer

Thursday: Intercessory prayer

Each evening would begin with time for people to be still and wait on God in silence with background instrumentals played over the speakers. Then there would be brief explanations of the prayer practice we would be doing. Followed by an hour for people to actually enter into the practice of prayer. The last segment would be a partaking of Holy Communion.

The worship hall would be made conducive with dim lights, devotional  instrumental music (except of the last evening when we had a live band), and the hall would be cleared of the usual auditorium seating so people could sit anywhere on the floor or chairs along the edges.

Personally I enjoyed each and every evening of Holy Week. It was no chore. The Lord was present each night to impart different insights and experiences. The first night a Scripture portion lighted up and shifted my posture towards a ministry matter. The second night I felt I was crying out to the Lord on behalf of the sick. The third night, I composed and sent prophetic prayers and words to three friends. The last night, I had to facilitate the intercession evening. However I enjoyed the soaking session with the live worship band. Whether contemplative or charismatic practices are used the common element is the presence and power of God.

Some of the participants who attended the Holy Week wrote about their experiences in this article in our church website: Holy Week: The Gethsemane Journey.

The whole Lent and Holy Week can possibly be a seasonal “curriculum” for personal and church renewal. How does your church use this season for God’s glory? Share with the readers what your church has done.

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