Written by Junita Hood

September 9,2016

Our guest didn’t arrive on time! We needed to drive to Gambang, since our take off spot was at the Mokhtar Dahari National Football Academy. Gah! I know how much the pilots stress on punctuality and this did not look good at all. They decided to make haste to the site and our guest, Farisha Mazlan will just have to drive there herself. By the time we arrive the sun was already up. 

 On top of Mokhtar Dahari National Football Academy

On top of Mokhtar Dahari National Football Academy

In Gambang, we only have a short window of time to fly and while we were still able to fly, it would have been better if we could take off earlier. The area was wet from last night’s rain but without any further ado, the experienced crew quickly got the balloon up. Luckily, Farisha arrived in time, and Atiqah together with Izzati, Hanini and Farisha flew off to the sunrise.

The sight was beautiful as we cleared up our stuff, getting ready to chase the balloon. From afar, we could see the moon, the sun and the balloon up in an orange coloured sky. It was a cold misty morning and the clouds were low. Soon after, we started our chase. Upon starting our chase we realised that if we followed the balloon, we have to get into the highway with no access roads. 

Thankfully, after waiting awhile, we saw that wind was not blowing the balloon across the highway, as it steadily maintained its course nearby the hill, on top of the oil palm estates. We found a road parallel to the balloon and prayed that we could intercept the balloon 5 kilometers down the road. The balloon had roughly 3 nautical mile radius to fly, so we knew that it cannot go beyond that. Fortunately, once we arrived at the point of interception, we found our beloved AKA hovering on top of the trees, looking for a good spot to land. 

The place it landed was not in the GPS but quick thinking pilots deduced that, well if the lorries can have access to the area, the chase crew might have a pretty good chance too. Both team shouted with joy when we were reunited with each other! Farisha, who at first looked petrified to be in the balloon had the most joyous expression on her face.

“I never knew Kuantan looked so beautiful!”

Everyone understood her excitement. The view from the balloon, is something else. Not only was it Farisha’s first time on the balloon. It was our videographer, Hanini’s first time as well! I knew their lives would change forever from that trip. We packed our balloon and headed to the hotel again to catch breakfast. where again, everyone rushed to the egg counter.

We had our rest and later some of us had an encore session of Ikan Patin for lunch. We rested some more and in the afternoon we went to Kula Cakes to continue our interview with Farisha. Farisha was my junior from primary school up til high school. Our mothers knew each other since before we were born as she was the first Malay dentist in Kuantan. 

We picked Farisha because she’s a total Kuantan girl, she loves to surf and now she owns one of the must-eat places in Kuantan, the famous Kula Cakes. While she has that babyface charm and high pitch laughter during our conversations, her tone grew serious when she talked about conserving the nature in Pahang. With the bauxite mining, the clearing of forest reserves, the development of new hotels at the best spot to surf in Cherating, you could see her maternal instincts starting to kick in. 

“I want my daughter to be able to enjoy all this. But from the look of all the overdevelopment, I don’t think even I can enjoy it for long.”

The similarity with the guests we had so far and the balloon sisters are uncanny. They love nature. The sports and passions and livelihood depends on the wellbeing of their natural environment. Greedy capitalists are taking any chance they get without even considering the negative impact it will have for the future generations. 

In fact, this kind of thinking, being one with nature seems unnatural for the masses. For example, during the Fiesta, I will get people asking me. When will it stop raining? Where will the wind blow the balloon?  It’s raining? Such a lousy day. The sun is out, it’s too hot. 

We keep complaining and insisting that nature follow what WE want instead of us following her lead. Ballooning has taught me to understand nature. It looks like surfing has taught Farisha the same too. It also made me realise that while some wait for the sun to come out so that they can fly their kites, other wait for the monsoon so that they can surf the waves. 

In the old days for example, people know that in a certain time of the year, there will be flood. They don’t ramble about it. They do not make permanent structures at the riverbank and complain when the water floats it away. The people know that when the river floods the bank, it will provide fertiliser for their crops next season. 

You see the good in everything. And most importantly, you don’t force nature to comply to you. 

I grew up in Kuantan, and I admit after the beautiful Kuala Terengganu, I was almost apologetic to my team as they find themselves here. I wish I had more to offer them. 

Our last night in Kuantan, we decided to have seafood at Sri Mahkota, a place recognised for its Salted Egg Crab. Yes guys. Restaurants in houses, Salted Egg on everything; we had this long before it was cool. Haha. By this time it was clear that most of our energy has depleted and everyone was looking forward to go back home.