Image

Loka Made: A Homegrown Creative Promoting Malaysia Through Art

It’s not easy to turn your passion into a business, whilst also spreading a positive message in the process. Meet the folks from homegrown creative Loka Made, as they highlight the beauty of Malaysia and its people, one inspiring artwork at a time.

When Chong Fei Giap and Audrey Chew first thought of  publishing an artbook back in 2015, they never intended to create a brand. At the time, they ran a studio called Running Snail, which did mostly corporate illustration projects for blue chip companies like Petronas, specializing in artwork with local elements.

Fei Giap had been working on a series of illustrations on the side since 2011, which were inspired by a visit to his father’s hometown in Kuala Pilah, a small town in Negeri Sembilan. The unique artwork combined a Japanese anime art style with scenes of rustic Malaysian landscapes, local architecture and fantasy elements – and it quickly caught the eye of local art enthusiasts and corporate brands. With the support of fans, the pair decided to expand on their passion project by publishing an artbook. 

MSP39_FAOL

“Our initial idea was just to publish the artbook. We were young and crazy; we poured all our savings into it!” Audrey says, adding that they spent about RM40,000 on the project. Since they already had a lot of material and concepts in hand, it felt like a waste not to expand on them, so the duo decided to go the whole hog and create a few more products to sell. Their first merchandise was a series of quirky Malaysian-themed pop-up post cards. 

To launch the book and their new items, Audrey and Fei Giap had the support of Kinokuniya Bookstore. The retail giant was not only willing to put the artbook on their shelves, but also provided them with window display space and a place for them to do the book launch. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Today, Loka Made makes art books, pop-up postcards, notebooks, puzzles and other souvenirs inspired by everyday Malaysian life and culture. The designs are often whimsical and nostalgic, and feature everything from scenes of small-town sundry shops and heritage buildings, to iconic Malaysian landmarks and traditional dishes, sometimes interspersed with fantasy elements.

IMG_4339 (1)
The Loka Made team with Audrey (third from left) and Fei Giap (fourth from left). Photo courtesy of Loka Made.

In the brand’s early days, Audrey played a more hands-on role in helping with the illustrations, but has since moved on to a more managerial role. She oversees a team of four artists and one designer, and handles the sales and marketing side of things while Fei Giap spearheads the brand’s creative direction. Although Loka Made has a retail arm, a significant portion of their business involves creating artwork for corporate clients. 

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and despite its current success, Loka Made was no different. Audrey shares that in the early days, it was very challenging, not only because they were a small indie studio, but also because there were no other companies that had a similar concept of making Malaysian-themed artwork and products for sale. Coming from art backgrounds, the pair had to adapt and learn things quickly on the job. For example, Audrey shares that they actually went door-to-door in order to introduce their products.

MSP38_FAOL
Illo courtesy of Loka Made.

 “We’d go to tourist spots in Penang and Melaka, and pass out samples of our work to shops. Although there was some interest, not many businesses called us back,” Audrey recalls. (This was before the boom of the domestic travel in recent years, which has seen a heightened appreciation for local products and art.) She adds that this was partly the reason why they started Loka Made – to promote what the country has to offer, whether it’s amazing culture, food or scenery.

20201014_163130

The pair’s persistence seems to have paid off. Today, you can find LokaMade products in many local independent bookstores and art stores such as Stickeriffic and Salt X Paper, as well as bigger chains like Kinokuniya and Popular. Aside from their studio-cum-physical store in USJ9 Subang, they also have a shop in Central Market Kuala Lumpur. Items are also available online at lokamade.com. 

The products are affordably priced, with postcards going for as low as RM2 per piece, while the pop-up pieces range between RM10 to RM20. “If we’re going to educate the public as part of our vision, it has to be accessible to everyone.” Audrey says.

Untitled-2-02-600x600
Illustration courtesy of Loka Made.

Just a look at any one of their pieces and it’s easy to see why their designs have captured the hearts of many. They are all painstakingly detailed; and while the fantasy elements are the products of creativity and imagination, a lot of research is also poured into creating each artwork. “We have a catalogue of photos that is this thick,” Audrey spaces her hands apart to illustrate. “They’re sorted according to different themes, time periods.. so for example, if our artist needs to draw a scene from 1960s Malaysia, they’ll have to refer to that catalogue. It helps us to accurately portray the local architecture and subjects in our artwork,” she explains. The team also works with local historians and professors by conducting interviews, like with an upcoming project involving the different Malaysian Chinese clans.

Postcard_Dropping by to say HI (1)
Tapir Man. Courtesy of Loka Made

To keep things fresh, Loka Made has their own in-house projects each year. Fans who have been following their releases might be familiar with the Tapir Man – a cute character based on the Malaysian tapir, which was conceptualised during Malaysia’s Movement Control Order back in March. There’s also the “Ride MY Wave” series which includes T-shirts, bags, notebooks and customisable Touch N Go cards. The illustration features fantasy elements. The Malayan tiger, our national animal, captains the ‘ship’ that everyone is sailing on and there are people of all races on the boat. You will also spot iconic landmarks such as the Stadthuys in Melaka, and Malaysian wildlife like the orangutan and hornbill. The theme was created in response to the current pandemic, serving as a reminder to fellow Malaysians to stay strong. 

Malaysia Shaped postcard (1)
Cute cat-themed postcards. Courtesy of Loka Made.

“2020 has been full of ups and downs, and we’re hoping to weather this storm together. In the artwork, you will see lots of details which we think people will enjoy looking out for,” Audrey points out. 

Audrey is hopeful for the future, despite the uncertain economic outlook right now. “We had a lot of plans before the pandemic, but we’re still grateful for how the business is doing. But on the bright side, more people are travelling locally – which is what we’ve been promoting as a brand all along. Malaysia has so much to offer. It would be great if more people can see this,” she says.

Support your local business and order online from Loka Made at https://www.lokamade.com/

20201014_163414
My personal haul from their shop. 😛

Note: I did this story for the November issue of Fireflyz, the inflight magazine for Firefly Airlines. This article features a few tweaks and some additional info I wasn’t able to fit in to the story.

Note 2: A big thank you to Audrey for her time and patience in answering all my questions. I truly enjoyed doing the interview 🙂

Help a Girl Out ! 

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

$1.00
$5.00
$10.00
$1.00
$5.00
$10.00
$12.00
$50.00
$120.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Image

I Interviewed My Husband on his Typhoon Ulysses Experience

November has been an awful month for many Filipinos. 

The island nation has been battered by consecutive storms and typhoons, with five within the span of the last few weeks. Earlier this month, super typhoon Goni – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded – devastated large swathes of Eastern Philippines, leaving 25 dead with thousands more displaced. 

And now another one has struck. 

Named after the Latin moniker for the Greek god Odysseus, Typhoon Ulysses made landfall on November 11 on the island town of Patnanungan in Quezon, before steadily carving a path of destruction across parts of Luzon with winds reaching up to 105 kph. As of November 13, Reuters reported at least 42 dead and over 75,000 packed into evacuation centres. Of course, this doesn’t bode well not only because of hygiene and sanitation, but also because of the current pandemic. 

Typhoons are very common in the Philippines,  so when I heard about the news, I asked N if his area was going to be affected. This was on Wednesday night, and he was pretty nonchalant about it, so I thought there was nothing to worry about. 

We  usually message each other the first thing after waking up, so when I didn’t hear anything from him at 11am on Thursday, I began to worry. Shortly after, I got a message from my sister-in-law, telling me that their house was flooded. Since there was no electricity, they were turning off their phones to conserve battery, and would update me on the situation as it went.

received_2752512784963910

She also sent me a few photos of the interior. I’ve been to N’s house several times, which is located in Cainta, about 12 kilometres from Metro Manila. Since it’s in a low-lying area, the house is prone to floods during the rainy season, so the main floor (living room, bedroom, kitchen) is slightly elevated above the entrance by about a foot. From the photos, I could see that water had already seeped into the upper level, so there was probably about three feet of water. 

received_857164848366923
Water at its highest. You can see how much it rose compared to the previous photo.

Now.. this might sound super ignorant, but living on the west coast of Malaysia, which has zero natural disasters (we’re blessed), I’ve always imagined floods to be this super swift rush of water, obliterating everything in its path and sending people and things to a watery grave. This is the case in some scenarios, but there are also floods where the water level rises over time. Not that it’s any less dangerous; if anything, I think these are actually more deceiving – you think the water isn’t that high and boom! You’re suddenly stuck on the roof. 

Thursday was spent on tenterhooks as I waited for updates. Watching the news didn’t help, as media outlets showed devastating scenes of people stuck on rooftops, submerged homes and vehicles, uprooted trees and damaged infrastructure. I went to the FB group for residents of where N lives, and some areas were so badly affected, they had to use boats to get people out. 

I was relieved to hear that the flood waters had subsided by 6pm. N and my in-laws spent the night in the attic. It was very uncomfortable because they didn’t have electricity, but I was glad that they were, at least, safe. 

I didn’t hear much from N until Friday evening, when he got the electricity and Wi-Fi back.  He spent the whole day cleaning up; there was a lot of mud on the floor, and some items had to be thrown away – but the important thing is that him and his family are safe. 

received_3570026833076040
Kaya the doggo looking down from the attic.

During our call that night, my inner curiosity won out (once a journalist, always a journalist?) and I plied him with questions lol. It was actually a pretty insightful conversation and helped me to understand better what I should do in case of a flood (or any disaster for that matter). 

So, what actually happened? 

N: It had been raining throughout the night. I think the water started coming in around 6am. I was sleeping. 

What? How can you sleep through a flood? 

N: It happens all the time here. If it was serious my family would have woken me up, lol. I think they were also deliberating if they should pack up and go to a hotel, or stay behind. In the end they just started moving some of the appliances and stuff to the attic. I woke up around 9am and the water was about an inch-high in my bedroom. I helped my brother stack the bed up onto chairs. 

received_795751574329395

Was it worse than Ondoy (2009)? 

N: In terms of wind strength, I think this was more powerful. But Ondoy brought a huge volume of rainfall with it, so the floods were worse. This house was almost submerged. I can’t really tell you how that was though, because I was living near campus at the time and wasn’t affected much.

So the waters were rising. How did you prepare? 

N: You should watch the Korean movie Alive. It’s on Netflix. 

Isn’t that about zombies? 

N: Yeah, but it’s still super useful for disaster situations. I learned that you should get your earphones, because the 3.5mm jack actually doubles as a radio antenna. If you don’t have a radio, you can use your phone’s radio function to tune into the news. My mom also has a small transistor radio for emergencies. The night before, when we heard that there might be a possibility of floods, we charged up all of our devices and power banks, coz we knew electricity might be cut. Then there’s the usual; batteries, flashlights, emergency first aid kit. Electricity companies will automatically cut off electricity, but we turned off all the switches just in case. 

FB_IMG_1605264313916
View from the roof of N’s house. Uprooted trees

What else do you think one should do when preparing for a flood? 

Perishables won’t keep if your fridge is submerged, so have some processed food and canned food on standby. The water wasn’t that high this time so we could still use the gas stove to cook all the perishables for dinner. As for clothes, you can pack them into waterproof bags. Previously we used garbage bags because they float, but the material is thin and if it tears your stuff will get dirty and wet. If you have a vehicle, you should remove the car battery. Also, if you have important documents, put them all in an envelope so it’ll be easy to carry and keep safe.  

What did you do while waiting for the water to subside? 

I went downstairs to observe the situation, my family stayed in the attic. I fell asleep again and woke up around 1pm. 

I am astonished you can sleep in the middle of a flood. 

Well, it happens all the time so I’m used to it. We get floods very often; I used to call it ‘annual general cleaning’ because we’d have to clean the house from top to bottom afterwards. I was a little surprised that the water rose fast though. Like two inches every 20 minutes. I think it reached about three feet. 

What did you do at night? 

Just had dinner, talked. We didn’t use our devices to save battery. It was very hot and difficult to sleep with everyone in the attic. S (niece) kept tossing and turning, so my brother had to fan her.  The next morning we started cleaning up. We couldn’t move the fridge because there was no place to put it. Thankfully it’s still working.  

Okay, I have to ask this. Since everyone is in the attic, where do you go when you need to pee? 

N: You pee in the flood water. 

Come again? 

N: You pee in the flood water. You can’t go outside because snakes might swim into the house when you open the door lol. And the toilet is flooded anyway. So you just kinda go downstairs and do your thing. You know, the first night, I had this overwhelming urge to poop and I kept holding it in the entire night. The next morning when I could finally go to the toilet, nothing came out. What the effing hell. I guess if you really need to do a no.2, there are plastic bags… 

Typhoons are so common in the Philippines. Do you think that the government should improve on their disaster prevention measures? 

N: I might get a lot of flak for saying this, but I actually think there isn’t that much the government can do. I think they’re doing okay with what they have.

(note**: While writing this, I read some articles about how more money should be allocated to improve housing for the poor. Many Filipinos from the low income bracket live in flimsy wooden homes, which are easily flattened by storms – as is the case with Haiyan in 2013. N and I did not discuss this, but I think we should expand on this after more research).

While the worst of Ulysses seems to have passed, relief might take a long time – especially with government agencies and facilities overburdened as it is from COVID and previous disasters. It’s 1AM and I’m still seeing cries for help on social media from areas like Cagayan and Isabela, which are located in the northern part of Luzon: there hasn’t been much media coverage and apparently aid is slow in coming, and many people are still stuck, with flood waters rising.

I’m glad N and my in-laws are safe, and that there isn’t that much damage to their home. -Ber months in the Philippines are when the La Nina phenomenon occurs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if another typhoon decides to make a visit. 2020 just sucks in general.

I know it’s a difficult time and there’s nothing that I can say that can help make it easier. But to those affected, please stay strong, and keep each other safe. For donations, Philippine Tatler has compiled a list of organisations that you can contribute to. Link here.

This photo of a dog stuck on a roof broke my heart. There’s a happy ending though – it was rescued and reunited with its owner.

Work Trip To Perlis – Interviewing the Royal Fam

Hey guys!

Sorry for the lack of updates – currently on holiday in Manila 😀

I’m taking some time off from exploring the city (it’s been raining like crazy the past few days) – so here’s my recent experience traveling to the northern Malaysian state of Perlis for work.

You can read the full story here  – but it was basically a collaboration between Malaysia Airlines and the Perlis Royal Family, to bring Perlis cuisine to passengers flying with the airline during the festive season of Eid. The Perlis royal family shared a palace favourite recipe – the Kurma Daging Perlis / Kurma Ayam Perlis – and the Malaysia Airlines kitchen would recreate it and serve it onboard selected flights for the first three days of Eid.

My job was to do a story on it for online, whilst the Malaysia Airlines video production crew I traveled with did photos/videos for social media.

The above video (which is less than a minute!) took us hours to film and get right lol. Some of the interviews (the parts with the palace chef, for example) didn’t even make it on film. And people think video production is easy work!

We arrived at Istana Arau, the official residence of the Perlis Royal Family in the evening for a site recce, but ended up doing the palace chef’s interview on the spot, which was initially scheduled for the next day.

Interviewing for video is way. more. difficult. than for print because you have to get the interviewees to say full sentences, and most people are nervous in front of a camera, so you have to repeat takes. It was a good thing we didn’t have to jump into interviewing the royal fam straight away – the palace aide had to give us barbarians a crash course on proper etiquette while meeting the Crown Prince and his consort.

20180531_082646

Breakfast at The Putra Regency Hotel Kangar was a simple affair – canned beans, sliced bread, fruits and sunny side up egg, served with coffee and juice.

Then it was off to the palace again for the ‘real’ work – shooting footage of the dishes that would be served onboard, and interviewing the Crown Prince.

20180530_163711

The exterior of the palace. The compound is not normally open to the public except on special occasions. The Istana itself dates back to the early 20th century and has beautiful architecture.

20180531_093546

Nicely landscaped gardens.

20180531_093557

20180531_100455

Not sure if palace protocol allows me to post any photos of the palace interiors. We only visited two rooms: the dining room where we did the food shots, and the holding room where the royal family receives guests.

Helped set up the props such as dry ingredients, plates, etc.; and then the film crew started to do the shots. Because we couldn’t film in the kitchen, they flew in a ready made kurma daging dish, reheated it and used that for filming. I was nervous interviewing the royal couple because there are protocols to be followed, such as the ‘sembah’ (salutations? where you place your palms together on your forehead and ask for permission to speak) , but once the ball got rolling it was me, the interviewee and my notepad again.

The entire shoot took us close to four hours – and all for less than a minute of footage! It was an interesting experience nevertheless, and everyone was fun to work with.

….Welp, that was my little ‘diary’ entry that’s not the usual travel/food stuff.

Back to regular programming. 😀

 

Change or Be Changed: The Marketing Mantra in Today’s Business World

First published in EFY Magazine Vol.3 2016

Adapt, or lose out. This is the philosophy when it comes to marketing in today’s world, according to Celcom Axiata Berhad chief executive officer Dato Sri Shazalli Ramly. Speaking during the recent Asia Pacific Marketing Congress (Appies), he shared his insights on marketing in a fast-driven, rapidly changing consumer market.

By Eris C

Business today is not like it was twenty, ten, or even five years ago.

Relating how much the landscape has evolved, Shazalli recounted his days while working at Unilever, managing a ‘big change’ from bath soap to shower gel products. Back in the days, the market was 90% bar soap and only 10% gel – the opposite of what it is today. But in today’s world, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the speed at which consumer trends change is staggering. And for companies to stay on top, they have to be faster and better than ever.

“Many apps are coming up, killing earlier apps. Now (at Celcom Axiata), we deal with app development for about 35 apps at the same time. Back then, I hardly handled the marketing of one shampoo product a month!” he chuckled. He cited some examples of how technological advances have displaced older consumer models over the years.

“Just five years ago, the day before Raya saw some 185mil SMSes sent out. This coming Raya, you’ll be lucky to get 1mil. Things change very quickly,” he elaborated. Another example was vape, which Shazalli pointed out holds 16% of the market share, a significant dent in the tobacco industry. “Back then, nobody would have imagined you can smoke a steep pipe,” he mused.

But were these technologies disruptive? Gel displaced soap, the same way it did with film and digital cameras. New consumer driven apps like Uber are driving some taxi companies into a corner, while crowd sourcing has helped self-made entrepreneurs remove the need for bank loans. Do they spell the death of conventional marketing as we know it?

Gone are the days of waiting for data to be keyed in and taking years for results and trends to come back to you. Today you have data scientists and analysts at hand, and a small window of opportunity as with so many choices, consumers get bored fast before they move on to the next shiny new thing.

“You can only convert them when you’re at the right place at the right time; and in most cases, consumers behave in a completely different way than what you expect them to be,” he said. To lead the charge for change, Shazaly stressed on the importance of good marketing, with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of a company taking the helm.

Some of the traits that a CMO must have, he opined, was the ability to be dynamic. While acknowledging that tech plays a crucial role in today’s markets, he emphasised that it was equally important to go back to basics.“As a marketer, you have to really understand what your job is about and not get drowned in the latest apps. One should have clarity of vision, and know it better than you know the technology,” he quipped.

A word of advice from the man himself: don’t let ego get the best of you.

“I have 35 years of experience, but learning is synonymous to my name. When you’re agile, you embrace new living better.” He added that he did not look to hire people who claim to be experts, as those are the ‘building blocks of ego’. “I’d rather look for interesting characters who are willing to learn,” he said.

Shazalli believes that as CMOs, it’s a balancing act: being sensitive to unserved customers’ needs, plus being aware of tech trends and how it can help to serve a business. “It’s no longer enough to simply look at a customer’s needs. Marketers and businesses need to respond to things faster than ever before. New products can be replaced instantaneously because tech is made available so quickly,” he said.

Granted, there are still some which combine the best of both: such as the conventional bookstore and Amazon, or patients going to doctors for check-ups whilst monitoring their own progress with Fitbit devices. But Shazalli’s point is clear: it’s sink or swim and for folks who have missed the boat – like Nokia’s inability to provide data plans, which provided an opening for iPhone into the market – it spells bad news.

 

 

 

 

Drift Like A Pro @ BlastACars Malaysia

*first published on http://www.efy.com.my on January 30 2016.

*2017 update: BlastACars Malaysia has moved to a new location at Sungei Wang Plaza, Kuala Lumpur.

Watching the Initial D movie will make you want to whip out your steering wheel and go cutting corners like a pro. In the film, racers pit their cars in street races against each other. There was an emphasis on drifting – a flashy technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels.

Today, drifting is a motorsport of its own, with tournaments and races around the world. Malaysia even has its very own female drifter, Leona Chin.It’s too bad we (regular) Malaysians can’t do that on the roads without getting a big fat saman or causing accidents!

….. or can we?

A Need for Speed

BlastACars Malaysia opened its doors to Malaysians in May 2015. Here, drivers fulfil their need for speed on drift karts – specially designed karts that are made for drifting.The indoor race track in the industrial area of Balakong, Selangor covers two acres of land, with a track measuring around 200m. Originally from New Zealand, BlastACars has been around for 27 years before an ingenious young Malaysian decided to bring it to local shores.

“Regular gokarts run in straight lines. It can’t drift as it will lose its pickup power when going through corners,” BlastACars Malaysia chief executive officer John Wong explained. Drift karts, on the other hand, are heavier at the bottom with a more powerful engine, more torque and higher capacity (up to 390 cc). “When you accelerate, it will lose traction almost immediately, allowing the kart to drift,” said Wong.

It all started with Wong discovering BlastACars through social media. “I thought it has a lot of potential, especially in the Klang Valley where everybody is finding new things to do,” he enthused.

“Go karting is mainstream and has been around for some time. I wanted to do something that is really different and stands out from the crowd,” said Wong, who also has an avid interest in motorsports.Deciding that this would be a good and healthy place for people to hang out, Wong flew to New Zealand to discuss the business deal. It took over nine months for him to seal it. Prior to opening BlastACars Malaysia, Wong was in the sales and marketing line for more than 10 years. Currently, this is the first and only BlastACars franchise in Asia.

The center has 10 karts, but only six are allowed to run per session. “If you see some players on track, it might seem easy. But it’s not!” he laughed .“Some players might end up driving all over the place. When there are more karts inside the tracks, chances are they will bump into each other.

“Although our safety system is good, too many karts on the track will spoil the fun as every time you come to a corner there might be someone there and you won’t be able to do drifting properly,” he elaborated.

Sessions are divided according to ranking – Novice, Intermediate, Advance and Pro. Karts for each category have different speeds. A standard run is 12 minutes. For beginners, Wong recommends they play two to four rounds to really ‘get the hang of it’. “It’s common during the first run to just apply what you know about driving. The first round will always be ‘kelam kabut’ (messy)!” he chuckled. “Practice makes perfect.”

Test Run

Enough with the banter – can I go live my dream as a master drifter now?

The friendly staff led me to a briefing room where I watched a video explaining rules and safety. Once that was done, I walked down onto the track where I put on a helmet, got into the kart and strapped on the seat belt. Then I had to demonstrate to the staff that I knew how to reverse the kart with a side handle, in case my vehicle knocks into something.

Red, yellow, green, go! Once the light turned green, I pressed the pedal and the kart zoomed forward. The feeling of going at a high speed on a track was exhilarating!  I had to avoid tyres which were placed to form obstacles all around the track. Drifting is not as easy as it seems. It was very hard to control the steering and make the kart drift around sharp corners. One round is definitely not enough for a beginner.

After many laps, I slowly got the hang of it. I left the track with adrenaline pumping in my veins and a sense of accomplishment.

Rules and Regulations

The minimum playing height is 120cm. There is no maximum age, as long as drivers are in a healthy condition.“We provide them with helmets. It’s best to wear shoes when playing. Our karts also come with seatbelts. They are built to be very tough and won’t flip, which is a common thing in the go kart world.

If someone really can’t handle the kart well or in case of emergencies, staff can use remote control to slow down the karts or cut off their engine.

The place accepts walk-ins and bookings. A major part of the clientele are working adults. They also do corporate events such as team building and product launches.It seems that many people come here to blow off steam after work, as prime hours are after 10pm. The center opens until 2am, with last call at midnight.Other than locals, Wong claims they get a lot of Singaporeans and Bruneians, especially on weekends.

“We hope to push this to become one of the hot tourist destinations in future, as you can only get BlastAcars here in Malaysia,” he added.

If you’d like to get a feel for the track before actually going onto it, there are racing simulators in the comforts of an air-conditioned room. With triple screens, it feels like you’re in a cockpit of a car. “We have loads of international tracks in it so you can drive a lot of different cars. It’s 80% similar to driving a real car,” Wong claimed.

On future plans for the company, Wong says that they wanted to focus on the current outlet first.“We’ve had enquiries from other countries. We hope that by the end of the year we might have some good news,” he said.“We want to push this to become an international sport, so we definitely need it to be in a few countries,”

Prices start from RM50 (Novice), RM60 (Intermediate) and RM80 (advanced). They are currently running a Happy Hour Buy 3 Free 1 promotion from 6pm – 9pm daily. This session is 15 minutes each, which gives you one whole hour of drifting!

BlastACars Malaysia is located at Lot 72887, Kawasan Industrial Balakong Jaya, 43300, Balakong, Selangor, Malaysia.

Opening hours are from 11am til late daily. For more details, visit www.blastacars.my

And this is how professionals do it! 

Red Bull Air Race Putrajaya 2014

Skill. Precision. Speed – all that and more at the three-day Red Bull Air Race 2014 held in Putrajaya last weekend,which I had the privilege to attend! 😀 I also got to interview pilots from the Breitling team, Nigel Lamb (who has over 30 years experience as an aerobatics pilot) and Francoise Le Vot.

I met up with a group of international journalists at the nearby hotel before we set off for the race track, which was held over the 3km man-made Putrajaya lake. It was drizzling slightly, but luckily the rain stopped around noon for the race to proceed.

SAM_1016-tile

SAM_0985-tile

First, a visit to the hangar area where all the pilots were prepping for the day’s race. Our destination was the Breitling pitstop! You can tell it apart from its bright yellow and black colours.

10250247_10152391381058058_3499329985617092954_n-tile

SAM_0998-tile

Nigel Lamb and French aviator, Francoise Le Vot. Lamb was very approachable and friendly, constantly cracking jokes and wowing us with his expertise from years of flying. Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he joined the Air Force at a young age after being inspired by his pilot father.

They explained to us about the dynamics of the race, including how weather can affect flying and how it was like in the cockpit. They have to wear suits that weigh 6.5kg – but due to strong G-forces in flight, can weigh up to 65kg! The reason why is because the suit is filled with fluid which compresses their body, preventing blood from flowing downward in the flight. Lamb also said that pilots don’t look at their controls until after the flight, because every split second counts – so they maneuver based on experience.

Speeds can reach up to a whopping 300 knots, so pilots need to be fit and know techniques to stabilize themselves, such as breathing exercises in flight.

Some of the crew were fixing up the plane behind, which Lamb would be using for the qualifying race later in the day. It’s an MSX-R model designed for speed and dexterity.

SAM_1000-tile

We had a few minutes to walk around the different hangars and see the other pilots/crews in action as they made final adjustments to their aircrafts. There were lots of news staff walking around with cameras, some doing on-cam interviews.

 

 

 

 

SAM_1004-tile

Then it was off to the actual viewing area, which was near the Marina Putrajaya building lakefront. We were given tags to be worn before entering. Since the competition is organised by Red Bull, there was free flow of the drink at several booths, plus a buffet lunch. There weren’t enough seats so some visitors sat on the staircases or standing while eating their food. There was roast duck, lamb ribs, and very delicious otak-otak popiah (deep fried spring rolls).

The rain had cleared up by the time we finished our food, so it was time to watch the exciting race!

SAM_1006-tile

That’s the timer floating on the lake’s surface, so spectators can see the time for each racer.

They started inflating the pillons, which the pilots will have to fly through or around. The difficult thing about an air race is that unlike a 2D track like motorsports or the F1, the ‘track’ is pretty much invisible. As Lamb said, “Pilots can be two or three meters off the track and not feel it,”

SAM_1011-tile

Andddd take off!

 

SAM_1020-tile

The speed and precision was amazing. The pilots were flying through the gates within seconds, turning and twisting around the pillons with perfect accuracy. The difference between them were mere seconds.

SAM_1030-tile

It was a very interesting experience and I’m glad I got to see it. 🙂 Wonder how it’ll feel like to speed through the air like that? Guess I’ll never know… but it was nice to watch!