Peachy on the Beach

Batam was supposed to be Cambodia. Or Laos. Or even Vietnam. But if you plan to travel during a public holiday in Singapore, you can’t leave such decisions to the last minute – or even a month before the last minute. So Batam it was.

We stayed at KTM Resort which is a five-minute drive from the Sekupang ferry terminal. The staff were nice, the room cozy, and the hot water in the shower woefully limited. The food at the hotel’s restaurant was quite decent albeit starvation-inducingly slow to appear. There was also a bar that’s open in the evenings and plays good music (I heard what is purportedly the new Coldplay; it seems like they make club music now), from where you can order food and eat by the poolside despite a sign that clearly prohibits the consumption of food and drinks by the pool.

We stayed in one of these "seaside" villas. FYI, that water body is not the sea.

The first afternoon found us signing up for massages, which turned out to be pleasant enough that we booked them again the second morning. It was quite peaceful – lying in a cottage listening to the waves gently crash along the walls, an Indonesian lady deftly cracking my toe joints while simultaneously failing to avoid coughing on me. So it goes.

Being by the sea and all, the resort had a bunch of not-cheap water sporting activities. Since we had nothing to do on the second day, we quickly signed up for all the ones that didn’t depend on one’s swimming skills (which I still lack). First up was something called “hammerhead” – a round floating bed-like device roped to a motorboat. You (and friends) grab on to a couple of handholds and hang on for dear life while the boatman tries his level best to throw you into the ocean. Thumbs up, would recommend it be tried at least once.

Next we tried paddling. This was pretty fun, and quite an exercise in balancing on a board floating on its merry way in the sea. You are given a piece of glorified wood to provide an illusion of control over the board’s destiny but worry not, for it will do as it pleases including crashing into the wooden beams on which your resort’s restaurant stands. Also quite fun.

The last activity was easily the best though – jet skiing! Unsurprisingly it is not as easy as it looks since the sea attempts to unseat you with every wave, but it’s oh so fun! Going really fast with the wind whistling in your ears and the water spraying in your face and being launched into mid-air whenever there’s a medium-sized wave – I have to say it’s quite exciting.

And that’s about it for yet another long weekend gone by!

The non-rules of table tennis

One thing I miss about working at Autodesk (yeah, that happened) is playing table tennis regularly. I used to play a fair bit when I was in school but almost entirely stopped during the four years of university. I’ve been trying to join some table tennis meetups recently (Meetup is awesome in that regard), but it has been pretty sporadic so far.

When I started playing again, I was a little surprised to learn that the rules had changed somewhat. After a bit of research spurred on by an office tournament that I took part in, I realised that all of the “rules” below were made up! Here’s the list (the explanations are thanks to some Googling and the official ITTF handbook):

  1. Deciding who will serve by playing a rally

    This one felt wrong even when we were doing it all those years ago. Basically, deciding which player will serve is done by a toss (or something similar). Choosing by playing a single point doesn’t really make much sense, especially when you think about all the other silly rules tacked on top of it, e.g. you can’t smash in this ‘deciding’ rally.

  2. Allowing re-serves up to a maximum of three times

    If the ball touches the net when serving, the player serves again. Turns out there’s no limit to the number of times this can consecutively occur. I suppose the limit of three came from lawn tennis or something.

  3. Losing the point by banging the racket on the table

    Sometimes when returning an especially short low ball, the racket can accidentally end up hitting the table. This is perfectly fine, unless it causes the table to move in which case it is perfectly not-fine.

  4. Losing a point by accidentally hitting the ball with your hand instead of the racket

    This I suppose is only partly true – it’s fine insofar as the part that touches the ball is below the wrist.

  5. Catching the ball after tossing it when serving

    I’ve seen variations on this one – some folks consider it a ‘let’ if the server’s racket moved but didn’t hit the ball, others allow the server to catch the ball after tossing it up as long as they didn’t move their racket. Both are illegal serves.

  6. Returning a shot that goes out/volleying

    As long as it happens outside the playing surface (i.e. the table), this is okay.

Interestingly, these so-called rules weren’t local to just my group of friends in school – coworkers I recently played with followed some of them too. I even found folks from some other countries following them, which makes me wonder if perhaps they used to be rules but no longer are.

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