Glamping Part 2 – Of Masterchef Challenges & Archery Sessions

I have non-existent cooking skills.

The most I can come up with is pasta, instant noodles, fried bacon and eggs or sausages and ham… which is what I subsisted on during my student days in the UK. Yes, I ate that almost throughout my entire stay. It’s a wonder I only gained 5kilos.

Coming from a traditional Chinese family, I’ve always been chided for not having cooking chops. Most  women during my mum’s time were expected to cook, clean and maintain a house in perfect order. She was born in the baby boomer generation, so in addition to knowing all the home skeelz, she was also working.

Meanwhile – I am 25, and cannot make a decent meal to save my life. I think a lot of girls my age (or at least some of whom I know of..) cannot cook. The convenience of takeout has contributed to this lazy trend. I also keep telling myself that I will help out more in the kitchen but…… yeah.

Anyway, I’m digressing again.

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I had to put what little cooking knowledge I had to good use during the glamping /team building weekend in Taman Wetlands Putrajaya with the rest of my (now ex, already left the company) editorial team.

Glamping is like glamourised camping, with most of the stuff like food provided and tents are set up for you to give you a ‘luxurious’ experience. Basically for useless urban folk like myself who want to ‘play’ around in the outdoors, not the ‘roughing-it-out camping’ camping.

They split us up into groups, each to cook a particular dish, but there’s a twist – we had to barter with other teams for essential ingredients. My team got chicken chop, but…..you guessed it – no chicken. And no oil either! We started off at a real disadvantage. The time limit was a tight one hour, and we spent close to 30 minutes haggling for items. It was bedlam, with people talking loudly over each other while shoving bottles of stuff in each others’ faces. I don’t think it was very fair either because some teams got easier stuff like fried noodles and we actually had to debone our chicken thigh (when we finally got it from the other team!)  which took up a lot of time.

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Utter chaos. Bruce is like a bidder presenting his bottle of oil to the highest barterer.

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We had to cook our chicken chop in a wok over a small portable gas fire, using bricks to prop up the sides so the base wouldn’t get burnt. By the time we had prepped the chicken – rolled it in (really hard earned) flour and egg batter + sliced the potatoes for chips, there was only 20 minutes left. Glancing over at the next team (who got fried noodles), they had a really nice presentation with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes as deco, so we attempted to do the same (?). My teammates did most of the cooking while I sort of hovered around lol (okay I did help out with peeling and slicing the potatoes, so.)

Towards the end the dish was actually looking really good. We were surprised by how well it turned out. The last thing to do was to put a name for it. One of the subeditors decided to call it Orgasmic Chicken Chop. Men…

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Other teams had to prepare fried noodles, fish and chips, and fried rice. The fried rice team had it bad because they didn’t have a pot to boil their rice in so they actually cooked it IN THE WOK WTF. The funny thing is the glamping facilitators had leftover white rice from lunch.. all they had to do was ask. The fish n chips team didn’t have knives so they filleted their meat with some utensil.

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Judging time! For our judges, we had my boss as well as a chef from a hotel nearby who was actually there to help with the night’s dinner preparations.

When it came to our turn, we were nervous as to whether the chicken chop was even.. edible. I mean, it looked good and all, but there were just so many challenges during the prep that we were worried it was gonna be undercooked/wasn’t seasoned well enuff, etc. Turns out, the judges gave it a big thumbs up and even a ‘restaurant-quality’ compliment! Needless to say, we were surprised but pleased. We only got to try out our own creation afterwards and it was indeed pretty good. The skin was crispy and crunchy and well flavoured, the inside was tender and cooked, and the fries were flavourful (because we actually fried them together with the chop).

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For our efforts,we each won a commemorative gold medal and a trophy, which will be proudly displayed at our office lol. I kinda wished my boss had given us buffet vouchers instead (what? It was a cooking contest. The reward should have been food. I keed.)

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After washing up, we had an archery session. Everyone had three arrows to try out. The bow was quite heavy (30kg) and almost everyone except the large men had trouble holding it steady. There were no Katnisses among us, but a few did pretty well and won some prizes! It was fun practicing with the bow and arrow, but since archery is an expensive hobby, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up anytime soon.

Dinner that night was a nice barbecue with lamb, melt in the mouth salmon and herb roasted potatoes. I didn’t take a picture because I was starving from all the activities we had to do that day, but the food made up for it.

I tried to sleep early that night but woke up at 2am drenched in sweat because it was so stuffy in the tent. I couldn’t stand it, so I grabbed a lazy chair and attempted to sleep in the open hall where it was much cooler. The men were still drinking and talking until close to 5am, and mosquitoes were biting my face so I couldn’t sleep a wink. Giving up, I trudged back to camp and for some reason, it was freezing then. After drifting off uneasily, I started awake at 7am and had to prepare to go to work (yes people! I had to work on a Sunday after barely getting four hours of sleep over the past two days).

Overall it was an okay trip. I enjoyed some parts of it, but I really wished the accommodations had been more comfortable. It can’t get more comfy than this because it is a form of camping after all and camping is never supposed to be comfy. Which is why I am never going camping, or glamping, ever. Unless you drag me there. I prefer urban dwellings and my own fluffy mattress with my fortress of pillows, thank you.

Glamping in Putrajaya Wetlands

Every year in January, my (now ex, since I left the company) editorial team organises a team-building session over the weekend to chill from work, have some fun and bring us all closer together. The previous year, we went white water rafting in Gopeng, Perak and stayed at a nice, comfy resort in the middle of the jungle. Quite the experience!

That was hard to top since the company was cutting budget and we had to fork out our own money this time around.. Still, we made do with what we had and 40 of us ended up at the Putrajaya Wetlands – armed with clothes, essentials and lots of mosquito repellent – for our first Glamping outing.

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So how is glamping different from conventional camping? A combination of the word ‘glamour’ and ‘camping’, glamping aims to provide a ‘luxury’ camping experience where everything is catered for.

Our Glamping experience was at Taman Wetlands, Putrajaya. It’s a really large man-made wetland ecosystem that acts as a filter for the Putrajaya Lake and a buffer in case of floods – more a park than a jungle. There are various small wildlife around the park, including birds, insects, monkeys and a lot of mozzies. Upon arrival at the campsite, we saw that the 20 or so camps we’d be sleeping in for the night had been set up in a sloping field. The grass was slightly wet because it had rained the night before.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that our tent was spacious – I could stand up inside, and we were provided with a tiny lamp/fan device that can be attached to the roof. There were two air mattresses, albeit super narrow, for us to sleep on, as well as sleeping bags. The mattresses were ofc not as comfy as the beds at home, but they are as good as you can get in the outdoors (?). The sleeping bags were soft and insulated; probably more suited for cold weather. Then there was a small box thingy with complimentary soap bars, a gas lamp and tissues. Not too shabby.

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Outside the tent there were two canvas folding chairs which were super comfy. I could even sleep in the ones that had a higher back; the short ones didn’t have a place where I could lean my head back. Wanted to steal one home…

Tent had two side flaps for air and mosquito netting that could be separated.

All items and gear were provided by Coleman Malaysia, which sells outdoor equipment and also runs Glamping activities around Malaysia.

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The campsite was actually nicely decorated with a lot of gas lamps and bulbs around the trees, as well as a large bonfire. Hipster music blared from the loudspeakers. There was a proper canteen/kitchen and hall area just up the hill, and a building for showers and toilets. The downside was that they were really far from the tent so we had to trek up and down the hill every time we wanted to go. Tables and chairs were scattered across the lawn.

True to the whole glamour camping spirit, food was provided. We didn’t have to do any cooking at all because they had waiters assisting at the buffet line.

Some of the group went night trekking around the park while the rest of us enjoyed a ‘moonlight cinema’ at the hall where they played us movies in the dark. The guys mostly stayed up til the wee hours of the morning drinking beer. I only fell asleep at 4am because it was stuffy in the tent and the mattress was weird. At 6am they started blaring Coldplay music to wake us up, so I barely got any sleep and had a throbbing headache the entire day.

The next morning we had to play some games to build ‘team spirit’, like memorising messages while doing tasks that distract you like Sudoku and Jigsaw puzzles. It was hilarious because the messages were quite long and funny. I think my team did pretty well though we didn’t win anything.

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After lunch, we went for a tram tour of the Wetlands. Our guide explained to us about the ecology of the Wetlands, one of the largest man-made wetlands in the world. The weather was surprisingly good – it had been raining for the past few days. The view can be quite charming for a marsh; the water was a murky milk chocolate brown but turned clearer as it headed to the Putrajaya lake.

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Another stop where we got to see some ‘wild’life…. nah. They were mostly ducks, geese and an occasional swan. The guide said they used to have Mandarin ducks as well but they got stolen and eaten wtf who eats Mandarin ducks?

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This guy was doing some underwater stunts by diving into the water, presumably for fish or just to cool itself in the hot weather. Maybe he was trying to impress the ladies, because the gaggle of geese on shore started honking(?) really loudly.

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There was a small ‘museum’ of sorts in the centre of the Wetlands. Not much to see, but we were just glad for the air conditioning! The place guides visitors through the functions of a Wetlands and some of the flora/fauna you can find here.

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We were also shown a documentary on a 240 degree screen. At first we thought the round wooden platform would rotate, but… nah.

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Flamingo pond. The birds were imported from America but were not very healthy as can be seen from their white feathers.

Second part of the glamping trip coming soon. 🙂