Our femme fatales
Four gutsy ladies make up the two Malaysian teams.
For sisters Pamela and Vanessa Chong, getting picked to compete in The Amazing Race Asia Two (Tara 2) is possibly the most amazing part of the whole race experience.
“When we found out that we got in, it was ? it was better than falling in love. Really, it was,” says Pamela, 24.
The Strong Chongs: Sisters Vanessa (left) and Pamela were over the moon about being in The Amazing Race Asia 2.
“Yeah. Once we got the call, I was like, 'O my God. Is this real?' It was amazing,” adds Vanessa, 29.
If you think the Chong girls look familiar it is because they resemble their famous brother – singer and Akademi Fantasia (season one) winner Vince Chong.
As fans of the Race (both the American versions and the Asian one), the Chong sisters are confident that they will make a good team.
“We know each other really well and have known each other for ? 24 years! We each have different strong points and I think we complement each other. For example, Pam is stronger and is better at tasks that involve strength like climbing,” explains Vanessa.
Though they trained – they started hiking, jogging, swimming and kickboxing to build up their stamina – they are apprehensive about how they will perform in the race.
“We are confident by nature but sometimes you think you can do something and then, when the time comes you begin to have doubts.
“And, because the all-girl Malaysian team won the last time, there is some added pressure ? what if we don't do as well.
“But then we decided we are going on this race for ourselves. It is not like it’s the Olympics,” says Pamela. They also tag themselves as the “Strong Chongs”.
As the Chongs are a close-knit family, keeping their involvement in the Race a secret was quite a feat.
(To maintain the suspense, teams could not let on to anyone – family, friends or employers – that they were part of the Race until the entire race had been taped).
“We became really good storytellers. We told them we had to be in Dubai to train for an airline job,” says Vanessa.
Adds Pamela, “Our stories evolved along the way. When we told them that we could not bring our handphones and when they saw us packing our sneakers and sports attire they questioned us. We said that we had to do combat training,” says Pamela.
To explain why they had to remain incommunicado for a month, Vanessa says, “We said it was because we would be flying with celebrities and politicians and other important people ? so privacy was important.”
Prior to running the race, teams had to sign a confidentiality agreement with the producers, which, among other things disallowed them from revealing details of the Race (locations, participating teams and other details, especially which team won).
The fine for breaching the agreement is a hefty US$5mil (RM17.5mil)!
Hot mammas: Douglas (left) and Tan definitely challenge the stereotype of dumpy, harassed housewives.
With such a stiff penalty, keeping their mouths sealed was pretty easy, says Diane Douglas of the second Malaysian team, tagged the Desperate Housewives aka The Dancing Mums.
“When we came back a friend of mine offered to give me a platinum card if I told him who won ? and I told him that if he had US$5 mil to spare, I'd tell him right away!” laughs Douglas.
Cooking up an alibi for their month-long absence was simpler for Douglas and her teammate Ann Tan than for the Chong sisters.
“We just told them that we were going to Australia for a dance boot camp,” says Douglas, 33, who, being an Amazing Race fan, invited Tan to be her team mate.
The two dance enthusiasts are hoping to show other mums, housewives and everybody else that the fun does not stop when you have a family or children.
Unfortunately, they could not train or prepare much as they were only notified three days before they were due to leave for the Race.
“We basically had just enough time to sort out our family and work commitments,” recalls Douglas.
The duo, however, did not see this as an obstacle as “physical fitness was only one aspect of the race”.
“You don't really have to be super fit to run the race as there are other challenges that do not require physical strength alone.
“What was important was that we were willing to do anything ? dig trenches, eat anything, climb walls ?,” says Tan, who teaches dance at her studio in Kuala Lumpur.
“The best part about the race for the two hot mammas was the anticipation of what was ahead of them.
“We really had no idea what to expect ? we never know what we had to do or even where we would be headed.
“We had absolutely no clue what was about to happen and that was exciting. It was like an adventure holiday, but better because nothing was planned,” says Tan, 40.
“Yeah. I loved the adrenaline rush that I got throughout the race. It just drove us on,” adds Douglas.
Is the race really as intense as it appears on TV?
“It is 10,000 times more intense because one leg could sometimes stretch over two or three days. On TV it is all in one episode!
“Also, we only got 12 hours rest in between legs and we had to do our laundry, rest and do whatever else within that time before we were racing again. It was really intense,” says Tan, a mother of three children aged 16, 13 and two.
“Most times we don't have time to think about anything else other than the race.
“Many people asked if we missed our kids, and to be honest, maybe at night when we were resting, we did. But the rest of the time we had no time to miss anyone,” says mother-of-two Douglas.
Vanity had also to be left behind.
“Because we were on a race, we could not check in our bags. Our backpacks were our hand luggage as we had to be ready to dash all the time.
“So, because of the new (travel) requirements on the amount of liquid we could carry we had to limit what we could bring.
“We shared our shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion and moisturiser and of course we had to leave our bath salts and face masks behind,” says Tan with a laugh.
So what can viewers expect on Tara 2?
“Look out for lots of action ... and humour too,” says Douglas. http://www.star-ecentral.com/news/story.asp?file=/2007/10/19/tvnradio/19135171&sec=tvnradio