Thursday, February 12, 2004

Explorace 01-04, Airdate: 11 Feb 2004

Previously on Explorace, team Ayaz and Ahsan (Team DoubleA) competed against the team of Choon Heng and Phillip (Team Uncle) in last week’s race that started at the grounds surrounding Sultan Ibrahim Building, Johor Bahru. Route 1 took half of the two teams clue hunting at several houses of worship near and around Harmony Street while the other half of the team had to cycle across town to the Hutan Bandar Recreational Park to solve their task of finding the scientific name for a particular orchid plant for Route 2. At the end of their task, Route 1 competitors ended up at a Sikh temple where they were served a very difficult breakfast to finish before proceeding to the next task. To get the golden key, Route 1 team had to travel to Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort to participate in an obstacle course before diving into the cold waters of the waterfall to find it. Route 2 team had to travel to Pekan Nenas Pineapple Research Center and perform the easier task of harvesting 20 pineapples to get their gold boxes. Both teams were directed to their rendezvous point at Senai TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo where there race really got exciting. After completing a task that involved gulping raw ostrich eggs among other things, both teams were directed to make their assigned VW Bug road-worthy before racing to the finish line at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru. Team DoubleA crossed the finish line first but not before barreling their car into the other cars that were parked at the finish line. For a time, their win was still up in the air as they were previously warned that they could be disqualified from the race for their reckless driving. In the end the race marshals, in a controversial move, decided to declare Team DoubleA as the winners of this leg of the race and move forward to the second round on the condition that they had to pay for all damages that they caused.

Race 4 of Explorace Round 1 this week started at the grounds in front of the historic site of the Portuguese fort of A’Famosa in Bandar Melaka, Malacca. As it was with previous races, the two teams that were competing this week were the team of Yoges and Simon against the team of Shaiful and Keat. They showed some of the pre race chatter between the two teams this week which was a bit odd as I don’t recall they did at previous races. The pre race conversations focused more on how they were friends even if they had to compete against each other in the race which I thought was refreshing considering we only saw pre race trash talking between the contestants in previous installments at this point. There was also a notable absence of a local official to flag the racers off this time so Daphne had to start the race herself. I noticed that Yoges seemed to flinch visibly when Daphne started the race with the air horn which caused me to wonder if he was a bit nervous at the start of the race and was taken by surprise with the loud horn or if it was Daphne who blew the horn too close to Yoges’s ears.

In a refreshing change this week because the first clues did not involve visiting a place of worship for once, Route 1 contestants of Simon and Shaiful were directed to take a trishaw ride to the bus station and take a bus to get to Bukit Serindit where their first trivial question waited for them at a local terompah (wooden foot clogs) factory. From the very beginning both contestants decided that to think of a strategy of trying to get a lead over the other this early in the race was pointless and that it would be to both their advantage to cooperate to figure out how to get to their first clue. I have to say the decision of not working on a strategy to screw the other contestant over was quite noble of them but in the end didn’t really make for an exciting race. Both contestants arrived at the bus stop at 7:45 and found the correct bus to take to get to their next destination.

In the meantime, Route 2 contestants of Yoges and Keat were also directed to go on a trishaw ride to the taxi stand where they were to take a taxi to Bukit Katil where they had to find the Soon Hee Honey Bee Farm. Both teams were exceptionally friendly and chatty with the trishaw rider which further solidify my assumption that both teams were taking things easy for this part of the race. They were not too consumed by the race like the other racers that we saw before and I actually found this to be a bit refreshing for a change. After the short trishaw ride, both contestants arrived at the taxi stand at 7:55 and each got a taxi easily enough to get to the next destination. Yoges, who seemed to be savvy and familiar enough with the other more famous racing reality show, immediately asked the taxi driver if he knew where exactly was the place that he had to go to. After receiving a non-committal answer, he offered to use his mobile to find out but it was declined. Once the journey started it was clear to both contestants that the taxi driver could get them to Bukit Katil but was not familiar with the area enough to find the exact destination. Keat had to stop and ask the direction from a local shop while Yoges used his mobile to call the operator to get the number for the shop so he could call them to ask for directions. This turned out to be the better strategy as he was able to get the correct directions quickly and reach the bee farm first at 8:28.

While the contestants in Route 1 were waiting for their bus, they were told that their teammates in Route 2 failed to pay for their trishaw ride and now they had to pay for them. I’m sure that it was an honest mistake on their part but this incident made me wonder if the race officials didn’t have any sort of pre race briefing for the contestants to tell them that they were responsible for all the expenses incurred during the race. Simon called Yoges, who was on his way to the bee farm at this point to confirm about the non-payment and reminded him that he should ask the driver next time if he was suppose to pay for the trip. I would think that this is a good strategy because the last thing you want to happen to you in a race of this nature is to build up bad karma from not paying the person who was giving you the ride so that you can win the prize money. Just before getting on the bus, Simon went around to ask what a “terompah” was which I found to be quite funny as I would think that most Malaysians would be familiar with what it was. From what I could tell, Simon was genuinely in the dark about what it was and had to take a few minutes before figuring what it was after having it described to him by a local. This unintentional humorous moment was only the first of many for this hilarious installment of Explorace.

After getting off at Bukit Serindit at 8:25am, Route 1 contestants were told that they had to wait outside the terompah factory for at least 5 minutes as the factory’s operating hours only started at 8:30am. I found this to be a bit funny as this reminded me of the ‘bunching’ that always happens to the contestants in the ‘Amazing Race’ just when they were trying hard to keep their lead. It was also hilarious to see how everyone was just standing around waiting for 8:30 to come around. While waiting, the two contestants were trying to guess what they had to do there if they fail to answer their trivial question. I would have imagined that it would be clear to anyone seeing this that they would be making terompah if they fail their trivia test but it seemed that this option never crossed their minds when they were trying to guess what they might have to do. After guessing badly about what they might have to do, the contestants were given their trivial question which they both fail to answer correctly. At this point, I was wondering how the race marshals would decide who gets to answer the question first if both contestants reached the checkpoint at the same time. Regardless how they chose who goes first to answer the question, both contestants had to complete the penalty challenge which involves them making 10 pairs of terompah from scratch.

While his partner was trying his hand at terompah making, Yoges had to search for the next clue envelope in a marked honey bee hive as the penalty challenge for failing to answer his trivial question in the allotted time. We did not see the briefing given by the beekeeper on how to handle bees but I would guess that the briefing was either too short or Yoges forgotten most of the briefing in his hurry to get to the clue envelope from the way he kept getting stung. It took him at least 3 false starts before being able to carefully remove the hive frames from the box in order for him to get to the green clue envelope which he finally did at 8:37. While this was going on, Keat was looking for the honey bee farm at the wrong place. In fact, the show editors even put a really hilarious caption that said ‘8:29 Keat – Lost in Bukit Katil’ to tell us that he was still unable to reach the next checkpoint. It took him an additional 5 minutes before he found the correct honey bee farm and began his penalty task just as Yoges finished his. The clue that was hidden in the bee hive told them to go to the Melaka Raya Bridge using the marked bicycle assigned to them and get the next challenge envelope there. Keat seemed to take longer than Yoges to complete the bee challenge as he spent nearly 20 minutes at the bee farm compared to Yoges’s 9 minutes. When Keat finally began his cycle to the next checkpoint, Yoges was already in the lead by 20 minutes.

When we returned to Route 1 contestants, we see the still deep in their terompah making. We saw them painting the terompah base with the traditional red color as well as cutting up what I assume was the inner tube of an old bicycle tires into smaller pieces. I have to be honest that I still can’t figure out where the small pieces of tire go on a terompah. I don’t think that they go on the top part of the terompah as they usually use plastic for that part at least on the terompah that I’ve seen before. (Anyone who can enlighten me on where those tire pieces go on the terompah is welcomed to leave a friendly comment at the end of this transcript). In a later confession, Simon complained that making the terompah was not as easy as he thought as he had larger fingers that he kept accidentally hitting with the hammer. We also saw that both contestants got helpful pointers from the factory workers on how to make the terompah although I have to say that Simon really got the short end of the deal in this case. I’m not trying to be mean but I have to say that I laughed out loud when I first heard the old man who was teaching Simon how to make the terompah speak. This old man was mumbling the instructions like a person who had lost all his teeth and had a swollen tongue. I could not understand a word he said and I wondered how Simon could make heads or tails of the instructions. Simon was still making his 10 pair of terompah when Shaiful finished his at 9:30 and was given the clue to the next check point. The clue instructed them to use another set of marked bicycles to cycle to the Crocodile Farm at Ayer Keroh.
Somewhere between the honey bee farm and Melaka Raya Bridge, Yoges must have took a wrong turn or something as Keat was able to catch up with him even when Yoges started this leg with a 20 minute lead. Both Route 2 contestants arrived at the Melaka Raya Bridge at the same time at 9:25am. When they arrived at the bridge, they were directed to don the provided wet suit and abseiling down the bridge to the base where they had to find their golden box hidden somewhere among the craggy rocks at the bottom of the bridge. It took both of them nearly 20 minutes before they reach the bottom of the bridge and began their search for the golden box among the rocks. It was Keat who found his first at 9:47 and he was the first one to go off by jet ski to Pulau Besar where he will rendezvous with his teammate before beginning the team challenge. Yoges found his golden box three minutes after Keat and quickly jumped on the jet ski to try to catch up with Keat who was currently leading. In a confessional, Yoges related how he was told by the jet ski instructor to take the jet ski out to deeper waters as it was easier for the jet ski to pickup speed on deep waters compared to shallow waters near the shore. By following this tip, Yoges managed to close the gap and arrive at Pulau Besar at exactly the same time as Keat did at 10:30. For most of their time in Route 2, both contestants were racing neck to neck with neither holding the edge over the other. They now had to wait for their partners from Route 1 to arrive before then can begin the next leg of the race.

For most of the bicycle race to the Ayer Keroh Crocodile Farm, Shaiful was able to maintain a respectable 17 minutes lead in front of Simon. He arrived at the Crocodile Farm at 10:10 which meant that he had to cycle for almost 40 minutes. In a confessional, Shaiful remarked that he had not cycled that long before and it was lucky for him that they were provided with police escorts who help stop traffic for him as he raced to Ayer Keroh. The next challenge that the contestant had to do here was to get the clue envelope for the next destination. The problem was the clue was tied to the tail of a crocodile and that the contestants had to walk up to the crocodile to get it. Since Shaiful arrived first, he was in the crocodile enclosure first to get his clue. The contestants were briefed about how to approach these crocodiles safely and I’m sure that medical personnel were on hand nearby but I couldn’t help thinking that this was really risky. In his first attempt, Shaiful managed to bring the crocodile up to shore but it snapped to when Shaiful tried to reach for the clue envelope. It was only after the second attempt when Shaiful manage to get the clue envelope off the tail of the crocodile and was directed to find the golden key in the nearby ‘haunted house’ fun house. After a short search in a surprisingly bright ‘haunted house’, Shaiful found his golden key and was on his way to the Anjung Batu Jetty for a ferry trip to Pulau Besar. Simon was trailing by 25 minutes at this point and had the same reservations after seeing what he had to do for the next clue envelope but he was able to complete the given task just in time to catch the same bus as Shaiful who unfortunately lost the lead that he had built up to that point due to bus schedules. Both contestants reached town on the same bus at 11:25 and got on separate taxis to get to the Anjung Batu Jetty to catch the 12:00 ferry to Pulau Besar.

Once Route 1 contestants arrived at Pulau Besar at 12:15 and once they were reunited with their teammate, they were tasked to find 4 Explorace tags on the island which would be exchanged with 4 items that would be part of the next challenge. Both teams start off this tag hunt at 12:20 by trying to find the water tank where one of the tags was located. Both teams were given a map of the area but I assume that the actual locations of the tags were not marked on the map since the contestants still had to ask from directions from the locals to locate these tags. For most of the time, it seemed that Shaiful was luckier in finding the tags as he was able to find 3 of the 4 tags single handedly thanks to the help of the locals. It was actually funny to see how the locals reacted to the contestants’ request for directions. The most memorable reaction I remembered from the episode was when Shaiful asked for the directions to the wishing well from a local who asked him if he actually believed the stuff about the wishing well. It doesn’t sound that funny when you read about it but trust me that it was really hilarious on screen. Both teams managed to find the 4 tags at about the same time and exchange them for a water tank, rubber hose, wet suit and compass. They were taken to their next check point on what has to be the worst looking van still moving in the country. It was really hilarious to see this wreck of a van with absolutely no windows at all tooling on the road to the next check point. This van scene came so far off center that it just underscored how wacky the race was this week.

Once they reached the checkpoint they were allowed to open the golden box which contained the next clue that told them to use the items that they got from exchanging their tags to prepare a jet ski for a quick trip back to the Anjung Batu Jetty before catching a bus at 16:15 to go to the final race destination at the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort near Alor Gajah. After the buildup about finding the 4 items in the previous task, it was disappointing for me that we did not get to see how the contestants used the items to prepare their jet skis. At least we were told that at the end of the jet ski trip, Shaiful somehow lost his glasses which would really be a major hurdle to overcome coming this late in the competition. For the first time in the competition, all four contestants were on the same bus going to their final race destination which was the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort which they arrived at 17:20. At 17:35 the two teams began the race to complete their final task which involved solving several clues given to them by using the compass that they got in Pulau Besar. Team Yoges and Simon ran into a slight disagreement with each other when they ran into problems trying to figure out how to work the compass but they managed to solve all the clues at 17:50 which sent them to the nearby small stream where they had to build a raft from the bamboo and tire tubes provided to them there. Team Shaiful and Keat was still trying to complete their clues when Team Yoges and Simon completed their raft and was already in the water by the time the other team arrived to build their raft. After the short raft trip, Team Yoges and Simon reached the other end of stream and were escorted to the finish line at the Resort’s Cowboy Town where they were greeted by Daphne with a somewhat out of place sounding “Howdy Boys!” greeting. I have to say that I always thought that the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort Cowboy Town was tacky and seeing how they decided to end this week’s race did not change my impression of the place. They had a bunch of people who dressed up as American Indians dancing around the wining team who were presented with something that I guess was suppose to be a medicine staff accompanied with a blast of confetti as they are declared the winners for this race by finishing ahead of Team Shaiful and Keat by a measure of 10 minutes.

The way the race ended this week, while I thought was unnecessarily tacky; further underscore my assertion that this must be the wackiest race we have seen so far. Not only was it the wackiest race but with the race clocking in at close to 11 hours it has to be the record setter for the longest race ever on this season. I would doubt that we would see the rest of the races running this long. While I must say that the race was a bit drawn out due to the distances that the contestants had to travel, the funny moments, both intentional and unintentional; really made this episode memorable for me. Both teams who were in this week’s race was surprisingly refreshing in their good guy approach to racing but in the end only one good guy team can win the race. This time around, that distinction fell on the team of Yoges and Simon whom I will fondly remember after this race as Team Chatty. They will follow in the steps of the previous three teams into the second round where more challenges will await them.

Next week, Explorace moves on to Georgetown, Penang where two more teams will compete against each other to secure their place in the second round.

No comments: