Thursday, June 17, 2010



I was walking along Rue de la Croic d' Or ( the famous shopping street of Bel Air) the other day when I noticed that near every street corner there were people who were putting a bet for a shell game.

What is a shell game, one might ask?

From Wikipedia;

The game requires three shells (thimbles, walnut shells, bottle caps, plastic cups, and even match boxes have been used), and a small, soft round ball, about the size of a pea, and often referred to as such. It can be played on almost any flat surface, but on the streets it is often seen played on a mat lying on the ground, or on a cardboard box. The person perpetrating the swindle (called the thimblerigger, operator, or shell man) begins the game by placing the pea under one of the shells, then quickly shuffles the shells around.

Once done shuffling, the operator takes bets from his audience on the location of the pea. The audience is told that if a player bets and guesses correctly, the player will win back double his bet (that is, he will double his money); otherwise he loses his money. However, in the hands of a skilled operator, it is not possible for the game to be won, unless the operator wants the player to win or if the player is allowed to touch the shells, in which case the player has a chance. The player must turn over any two shells saying that the pea is under neither of these. Since the pea is usually palmed, it is not under any of the shells and the operator has no choice but to pay up.

Read more here.

Its a con game, designed to dupe and win money.

These guys were everywhere in the city of Geneva. They can be found by the lakeside walkway, in the park, along the street, everywhere, during summer time. On the above mentioned street alone, I counted about no less than 15 shell game operators. The bet placed here in Geneva is CHF 100.00 per 1 guess. They usually will have 3 or 4 other guys around the operator who looks like they are also placing their bets but in reality, these people are part of the con, enticing and encouraging people to play.

The Wikipedia article warned that people never win in this game, and if they do, its because the operator allows the winning, to keep them continue playing.


A lot of people lost their wallets and handbags in Geneva.

Th stories that I gathered from those who had this unfortunate experiences, usually the will be a man will stop them on the street and pretend to ask for time. While doing this, the man will act friendly, putting his arms on the shoulders and before they know what happen, their wallets or handbags were already gone.

Other people had their handbags or purse snatched while having a coffee in the street cafe.


Some would thing that this is Geneva, so it must be safe. Unfortunately, like any other tourist attractions, there are people who prey on tourists.

I would advise people to be extra careful with their belongings and to be alert all the time while enjoying the sights of Geneva, otherwise the nice little Swiss trip would turned into a horrible one.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Last Saturday, I rode the Villeneuve - Martigny - Villeneuve route. This road is a small part of the Rhone Route, one of the 9 official Swiss National Cycling Route. (Details of other routes are in the following website, Cycling In Switzerland). Nestled in between 2 huge mountain ranges, this route climbed up until the small town of Brigs, where the the glaciers and ice from the all year round Alps turned into a raging river.

Villeneuve is about 102 km from Geneva, which is about 1 hour drive. Woke up at 4.00 am and went through the preparation again. I asked a friend to drive me there since I planned to start the ride at 6.00 am. We depart Geneva at exactly 5.00 am.

At 6.00 am we arrived in Villeneuve and unloaded the bike at Mc Donalds parking lot. Its still early, but the morning light already illuminated the country side. It was a cloudy morning, and I was afraid it would be raining since I didnt pack the waterproof windbreaker. Luckily the weather holds and although the sky was overcast, it did not rain through out the ride.


There were scarcely any vehicles on the road. I rode slowly, negotiating the corners of the small towns and villages along the route. After the small town of Roche, rode pass terraces of vineyards on the mountains edge at the left side of the road. Cycled through vegetables and wheat farms.

The river Rhone flows in the opposite direction beside most part of the road all the way to St Maurice. There are some hills and elevation but not difficult to climb.

Just before the medieval town of St Maurice I was pleasantly surprised when I found a 500 year old fortress. It was first built in 1476, and was reused as strategic defense point in World War II.

I decided to stop at the fortress to have a break and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.


After the break at Saint Maurice, continued the ride to Martigny passing by small towns of Monthey, Massongex and others which name I cant remember since theirs were a little difficult to pronounce.

Before the town of Vernayaz, I spotted a pretty waterfall and thought how nice it will be to have a picnic there. A few people were there in the parking area, complete with haversacks. I guess they were getting ready to go hiking. Stop and snap a few pictures for the album.

This medieval castle is located on top of a mountain overlooking Martigny. I imagined that in those days, those lords and knights must have a difficult time to go up there on their horses with their full body plate armor to rescue their damsel in distress. But its a pretty cool view, nevertheless.

I arrived in Martigny at around 8.00 am. It was still deserted, not many vehicles on the road. Saw a few other cyclist on the road. Theres a lot of tourists mingling around in front of a hotel, waiting to board their bus. I guest they were on their way to Zermatt, to view the world famous Matterhorn.

Took short break, and gulped down a power gel (which by the way taste horrible! And they labelled it as berperisa lemon.) This was a very new thing for me. Information gleaned from the Internet and a friend tells me the body absorbed and transformed the power gel into energy, faster than power bars, so I decided to do a little test to see whether if its true.


Rode back to Villeneuve using the same route.

After Saint Maurice, I stopped by a wheat farm beside the road to watch this farmer working on his land. Wheat, which gave me a lot of happy snack time moments in the shape of cekodok ikan bilis, cekodok pedas, cekodok manis, cekodok pisang (and loads and loads of other cekodok species as well) looks just like padi, minus the water and lintah.

My curiosity satisfied, I continued my journey back to Villeneuve. Traffic was getting heavier and other cyclists started to crowd the road with their MTBs and roadbikes. This is a popular cycling route after all.

I arrived at the Villeneuve's Mc Donalds at 10.30 am.

Loading the Colnago into the car, I saw these para gliders swooping down from the sky. Quickly snapped a few pics and thought how wonderful the view must be from up there. Winds rushing, adrenalin pumping, fantastic views, free like a bird.


Para gliding next?

The power gel, despite the yucky taste, did work. Felt re energized and alert after a few minutes.


Total distance : 82.04 km
Ride Time : 3 hours 28 minutes 07 seconds
1 Power Gel - YUCK!
3 Power Bars
4 stick of Dunhill
2 bottles of water

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Summer is here, finally.

Last year, in the same period, I was still working during weekends and the workload only eased off at the beginning of July. No weekends for 2 whole months. Seriously. But this time, I was spared the agony and the frustration of not having the weekends off thanks to the current economic slowdown back home.

In Switzerland, and in every other four seasons country (I think), summer is the best time of the year, where schools are closed for nearly 3 months, employees are given holidays and offices get by with only skeleton staffs. Even the United Nations Office here in Geneva, which are always crazy busy through out the year with meetings and conferences, stop their activities during summer.

Weather wise, its hot, dry and berbahang. I found it funny sometimes when meeting other Malaysians here in Geneva, being the friendly and concern lot they are, will offer thousand pieces of advises on how to survive summer time, "Eh you kena minum air banyak tau, nanti dehydrated" said one guy, "Sini panas bukan macam kat Malaysia, kering, nanti you tak tahan nanti" advised another, assuming of course this is my first time abroad. I just nodded and thank them for the being so considerate. And when they asked me whether this is my first time living in a four season country, I'll always feet guilty for making them a little embarrass since I have been doing this (living abroad) for quite a while. But thats how Malaysians are, always trying to help in any way they could.

The days are getting longer and nights are becoming shorter. Sun rises at 5.44 am in the morning and sets at 9.27 pm. At the height of summer it will be as early as 4.30 am and would only be completely dark at around 10.15 pm. In my first summer abroad, in Zagreb, Croatia, I remember that I had to hang a thick blanket over the window to block the sunlight, because the sun was already shining brightly at 5.00 am. (I am still doing the exact same thing).

The city of Geneva holds its annual Fetes de Geneve during summer at the shore of Lake Geneva. This year the festival will be from the 29th July - 8 August 2010. There will be free outdoor concerts, fireworks show, hundreds of stalls selling everything from food to souvenirs, amusement parks and thrill rides. This should definitely be fun.

Switzerland is a tourist friendly country, and they flocked here from everywhere. But the most prominent of them would be the those from the Middle East. They came to Geneva in droves. Some would even bring their own bulletproof and custom made cars from their country. Its no surprise to see a car with, let say, Kuwaiti registration number on the road here.

Parks and public places are full of people enjoying the excellent weather. Children took advantage of the longer daytime and stayed outside for as long a they could even if its already late and time for them to go to bed. People are exercising, running or cycling till late and determine to enjoy every bit of sunlight before its gone for the day.

Summer is the time to have a picnic outside, be it in their own private garden, or in an open field and public park. Barbeque is a must, and sometimes smells of grilled meat could be noticed from far away. People would find any excuse to hold a barbeque sessions. It is time to gather all friends and family members, enjoying the good weather, good food and good company.

One thing for sure is, people wear thin and loose clothing. Colourful shorts, skirts, and singlet is the theme of the current season. After almost 6 long months covered in thick, heavy winter clothing, it is the time for people here to expose themselves. And of course to get some tan for their pale skin. And yes, they like their skin tanned. And yet others would go to the extreme and sunbathe naked in the open, in the public park and on those many yachts and boats in Lake Geneva. It is attracting and jaw dropping to see them flaunting all of their private assets. especially for those who came from a conservative society like us Malaysians,. To the people here its nothing more than a normal accepted behavior every summer. They dont even bat an eyelid.

As for me, I will explore more of Switzerland this time, since last year I just arrived and did not have the opportunity to do it. I am planning to travel by train with my family, to see for myself the famed beautiful Swiss countryside. I will also ride the roadbike and follow the many available cycling route scattered all over Switzerland.

Its summer time!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


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I did it! Broke the 100 km barrier yesterday. Needless to say, I am so happy and satisfied. One year and seven months ago I was 104 kg, and the most I could do was walking for 7 - 10 minutes. Tu pun dah mengah giler, lidah terjelir sampai perut. High blood pressure, borderline diabetes, a high cholesterol level of 7.8, gout etc, etc were all lingering around then. Alhamdulillah, beat all that just with regular exercises.

I never thought I could ride for more than 100 km.


This time I chose the France's side of Lake Geneva to conquer since I am very familiar with the route here in the Swiss side. My goals were to;

i. Check out the lake route there since I am planning to ride the whole length of Lake Geneva.
ii. Break the 1ookm barrier. The furthest I rode was 60 km.

I was nervous the whole day on Friday just thinking about he ride. I don't know whether I have the stamina, endurance and the will to do it. I prepared myself by drinking a lot of water and ate high protein and carbohydrate food. Strictly no cili api.

Things that I brought along.

i. Passport
ii. ID
iii. Spare Tube
iv. Pump
v. Multi Tools
vi. Power Bar
vii. Water Bottles
viii. GPS
ix. Ipod
x. Camera

I retired early to bed to make sure I had enough rest.


I set the alarm at 5.00 am, since I wanted to leave at 6.00 am, but somehow woke up at 4.30 am. Tried to sleep a little bit more but then decided to get up and went through all the stuff again. After a quick shower, started my ride at 5.40 am. Here, the sun rise before 6 am during this time of the year.

Rode through Geneva to get the other side of the lake. It was really quite except for the occasional traffic and the early morning public city workers. Did not see other cyclist.

Evian-Les-Baines lies 44.5 km away. I rode on normal speed, bearing in mind I had a long way to go. The road was clear, and once in a while a car passed me by. No big hills to take on except for a few low mounds. Arrived at the Swiss/ France border after the Swiss town of Maison Neuves, which is about 12.3 km from Geneva.

Entering France, I found out that the road condition was quite bad. It worries me a bit and I had to look out for pot holes. The uneven surface slowed down my progress and pace. Traffic was still light. The day was getting warm and I stopped near Filly to take off my windbreaker since I was sweating profusely. I have been riding for almost one hour. On both side of the road, farmlands stretch for miles. Theres a lot of farming machines lying around the farms, some with weird shapes and quite huge. I continued the ride towards Thonon, about 11 km away.

In Thonon, riding through the town, I lost my bearing and was not sure which way to continue. I asked an old man who was just about to get into his car, "Monsieur, Evian?" with my right hand pointing down the road. He was startled but quickly recovered and said "Oui, oui". I guess that meant I was on the right track. And sure enough after a few kilometres, I saw the road sign to Evian. Good.

I arrived at Evian at around 7.50 am. I headed out to the Evian lake front and took a rest. The first leg from Geneva to Evian took me about 2 hours and 10 minutes of the 44.5 km route, more or less. Ate 2 power bars for breakfast. Evian seems to me like a standard tourist town with a lot of hotels by the lake. Saw a lot of tourist buses. It was still early. Not too many people around the park where I stopped. And yes, this is the place where the world famous Evian mineral water came from. A friend of mine told me to visit the place where I can get free mineral water, straight out of its source, but I decided not too, since I dont have a lot of time to search for it.


This leg consist of a long climb since the road was cut at the very foot of Chablais Alps.

After a 20 - 30 minutes break, I left Evian for Le Bouveret, Switzerland. The road started its ascend immediately and this continued until I arrived in small village of St Gingolph. Its not to too difficult to cycle but keeping my neck comfortable was the real challenge and it started to get stiff and sore. It bothered me a lot. Met a lot of other cyclist along this stretch of the route, but they were heading in the opposite direction. Perhaps it made much more sense, since the road was downhill the other way. Argggghhhhh!

Nevertheless, climbed all the way to St Gingolph. The view was breathtaking and I could see the other shores of Lake Geneva, running parallel with the road I was cycling on. The France and Switzerland borderline cuts through right in the middle of St Gingolph village, dividing the sovereignty and to a certain extend I guess, its people's loyalty. Interesting.

I left France and entered back into Switzerland in St Gingolph and proceeded to Le Bouveret. A few more kilometres and I will arrived in Villeneuve, the next stop. I rode through the farmlands there, stopped to take some photo of the Chablais Alps I just left behind before crossing the river Rhone. The Rhone emptied into Lake Geneva before continuing its course again at Geneva to the Mediterranean.

Arrived in Villeneuve for a well deserved break. Its been a long 28.8 kilometres. Neck hurt like hell!


I rested for about 30 minutes in a park at Villeneuve lakefront. Called and confirmed with a friend was going to pick me up in Vevey, the final destination of this whole ride.

Again, my neck was hurting badly, while other parts of my anatomy seems in good condition. A little sore on my behind as expected after a long period on the saddle. Did some stretching to loosen up the muscles. Applied muscles pain reliever cream to the back of my neck to temporarily relief the pain. Ate another 2 power bars to boost the withering energy and drank a lot of water to avoid dehydration.

Posted an update in the Facebook. My Iphone battery was dead and so did the Cyclometer, the Iphone GPS application to track and record the ride progress. From here on, I would have to depend on the Cateyes to tell me about distance and ride time. Made a mental note on my head, to check out Garmin GPS, which has a reputable battery usage of 15 hours.

I push on to Montreux, 4.9 kilometres away. En route, there was one small hill to conquer, and I continued to ride to Vevey.

What I didnt know, a friend who live in Vevey read my update in the Facebook and he decided to look for me and joined in. I was concentrating to take on the hill near Vevey when he found me and yelled "WOI!" from the other side of the road on the opposite direction. I told him Vevey was my final stop to which he replied "Lets ride until Lausanne. Its only about 2o kilometres away. And you could break the 100 km barrier". Total distance at Vevey was 89 km and seriously, I was tempted to continue riding to Lausanne. We went to Starbuck and discussed the ride plan. After much thought, and a high sugar content drink (cant remember what it was) I decided to push for Lausanne, with painful neck and all.


Applied some more of that muscle pain reliever cream to block the pain and proceeded slowly to Lausanne. The friend was already an veteran rider and he rode slowly to accommodate my tired pace. Its already in the afternoon and the day was getting really hot. I glanced over to the France's side of Lake Geneva shore that I rode earlier in the morning and realized it has been a very long way. 10 kilometres into the ride I noticed that the Cateyes has clocked over 100 kilometres, Yelled at the top of my voice "WOHOOO! YES!, YES! YES! A CENTURY! I DID IT!" Upon hearing this, my friend joined me in celebrating the achievement by chorusing similar kind of excitement much to the amusement of the people on the road side.

After 18.4 kilometres we finally arrived in Lausanne and headed out to the Olympic Park, where another friend was waiting to pick me up.


Total Distance : 108.47 km

Time : 4 hours 43 minutes and 54 seconds.

2 bottles of water.
4 power bar.
1 Starbuck drink of I dont know what.
7-8 sticks of Dunhill
A lot of under the breath mutterings of " I CAN DO THIS, I CAN DO THIS!"
2 friends.


I am 41 years old, was 104 kg a year 7 months ago, AND I JUST CYCLED 108 KILOMETRES.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Arriving in Geneva, I continued to ride the GT MTB during weekends. I noticed that theres a lot of people cycling but most of them use road bikes which is of course much lighter and faster than the MTB.

Since I had achieved my target weight at 80 kg, I felt confident enough that I have the stamina to go riding for longer hours and distances. After months of scouting around for a good and affordable roadbike, I decided to buy a Colnago. No Ah Chai this time, (damn!) so I had to do a lot of research and talked to a lot of sales people at the bicycle shop (using a lot of body language and hand signs plus a lot of guessing since they dont speak a word of English and I dont know French at all!) .


Roadbikes comes in different sizes and according to heights, theres the S, M, L sizes. Ladies requires a different bike frame because of the percentage of the woman's body proportions of longer leg length relative to torso length. Seriously. My love one had to shorten the handle joint a few times because of that. And thats how I knew.

The correct saddle positioned is very important and must be correctly positioned. Usually the people at the bicycle shop could do the adjustment or read the tips about this here (I am sure Ah Chai didnt know about this. Hmmm...).


With the new bike, I need these:-

i. Cycling Shoes - Paid CHF 167.00
ii. Cleats - Came with the shoes.
iii. Pedals - Pedals was not included with the bicycle. Bought a CHF 60.oo Shimano roadbike pedal.
iv. Cycling shorts with paddings - a must, or suffer the excruciating butt pains CHF 189.00
v. 1 long sleeves cycling jersey - Spring time, its cold. CHF 40.00 ++
vi. 1 short sleeves cycling jersey - for summer CHF 50 something I think.

Riding a roadbike was a totally different ballgame from the MTB. It took me a few days to be comfortable with the new riding style. I watched a lot of `how to ride a roadbike' videos easily available from You Tube. And read a lot of cycling blogs for cycling tips.

So there.

I am still new at this, okay (the cycling, not the blogging). If my facts are wrong, please dont be shy to point it out.

P/s: Mr Udinese. Pueh hati?