Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Daily SHOOT! - The Berlin Wall

What is Left of the Berlin Wall, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

After i shot this picture (taken near Checkpoint Charlie), i realised that there are other places around Berlin where the wall still stands proud, masked by pretty and tasteful graffitis. This is a little dodgy... but it is still what remains of the Berlin Wall.

Who doesn't know why the Berlin Wall was constructed? Its politics of course!

For more than 25 years, the famous wall separates West Germany (Soviet Sector) from East Germany, with the latter being further separated in British Sector, American Sector and the French Sector. It was reported that more than 200 people were killed while trying to cross the Wall into West Berlin.

The Wall finally came down in 1989 and since its fall, Germans have been chipping off parts of the wall for all kinds of reasons including as souvenirs. Some even sold bits and pieces of concrete, citing it as "remnants of the Berlin Wall" ... God knows its authenticity really (probably just a chip of his bedroom wall...).

When you visit Germany, do not miss Berlin. Its constantly on the move, constantly developing... TTT were there in 2005. Who knows what Berlin will look like 5... maybe 10 years down the road.

That is what we love about charming Berlin :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Angkor Wat & The Temples of Angkor - PART ONE!


Back on track...

Angkor Wat has always been one of our top list of "must see" "must go" destination. And when we finally took the courage to do one of those "just book and go go go" attitude, we find ourselves packing for Cambodia!

We were supposed to only be there for 3 days, which were enough (by our standards) to settle for Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and the Temples of Angkor. But TTT won't settle for 3 days! Instead we stretched it to one week exploring both SR and Cambodia's bustling capital, Phnom Penh.

The Travelling Teddies are not temple buffs but Angkor is a whole different spectrum. And as much as we didn't want to miss it, we didn't want to be too ambitious by spending too much time just exploring the complex. Heard there were more than 50 temples all around. We settled for 5, maybe 6 - and that was enough for us because after the 2nd, everything starts to resemble similarities!

And so we bought a One-Day pass which incidentally includes a free sunset! Well, not that i think we have to pay to watch sunset (duh...) but it was a treat all on its own. Not only do you have to climb uphill to watch it, you will have to fight for a spot from the possibly hundreds that shared the same motive and sentiment.

BEAR NOTES: This "sunset treat" is not mentioned in travel guides, but purchase after 17:00hrs, the day before your intended temple tour, and you'll definitely get your money's worth.

Angkor Entrance Fees:

1-Day Pass - US$ 20 per pax (includes free sunset if purchase day before intended travel, after 17:00 hrs)
2-Day Pass - US$ 40 per pax
4-7 Day Pass - US$ 60 per pax (consecutive days only)

Only cash (USD ONLY) is accepted, no plastics :)

This is the map of the complex (click to enlarge). From the city centre, it takes at least a good 40 minutes by tuk-tuk to get to Angkor.


Our first stop is the majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat which is the nation's pride and joy - and with good reason why. Tourism is predominantly the country's most lucrative source of income and a good motivation for its people to bank on improving themselves (like taking up English lessons so they can participate in the industry), which to me is a progressive start to development :)

Quite a fair bit of the temple were under "re-construction" when we were there. This "disturbing condition" of the temple is largely due to natural erosion and deterioration of the stone as well as massive tourism. As you may know, ancient temples are put together using natural adhesives like egg whites and animal by-products so they tend to be very fragile too.

And because of this restoration work, we were not able to see the entire display of the much famed Churning of the Sea of Milk gallery.

But! We did manage to snap the bas-reliefs on the other side of the gallery!

And a whole lot of other Apsara reliefs...

which is fast becoming part of the ruin..

There are quite a bit of walking to do in the main Angkor Wat complex itself, but nothing can actually compare to the massive beauty and marvel from the first sight. It is a massive structure covering 500 acres of wonder, and as you get closer, it only gets bigger!

How You Can Bearishly Enjoy Angkor Wat & The Temples of Angkor:
  1. START YOUR DAY EARLY, but not at the expense of a good night's rest! When we told our driver to meet us at the hotel at 7.30am, he was wide-eyed in disbelief. NOT because it's too early, but usually people will want to be there as early as they can to avoid the crowd and the blazing sun! (it can get bi**hingly hot!)... But TTT needs sleep. Good sleep will almost promise a good day and a good journey! :)
  2. GOOD WALKING SHOES are a necessity. You will walk a lot on ruins that are uneven. So a good walking shoe will ensure you get the support you need. It will help to bring a face TOWEL and SHADES as the walking will sweat you out and the shades are to protect you from the sun, as you stand high up on the temple towers!
  3. If you have only one day, exploring 3 most important temples are a MUST! The three are: ANGKOR WAT, TA PHROM (where Tomb Raider was shot) and ANGKOR THOM (Bayon).
And last word for my fellow Muslim travellers... even though there are some Muslim restaurants readily available in Siem Reap, there are NO MUSLIM food vendors, restaurants or stalls available in the complex (or even near it). And since Cambodia is big on meat and pork, our advice is to bring along snacks with you on the trip. Get a good breakfast before you go, pack some snacks like Granola bars (like we did!) and enjoy the entire day exploring the ruins.

The best part about this is that between 12pm and 2pm - the crowd goes out to lunch! So you can practically get the entire temple to yourself! :P

We ended our trip at close to 17:00hrs that day and went straight for a good dinner at D'Wau Restaurant, which we will speak more of on Part Two of our Angkor journey!


The Daily SHOOT! - Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust are grey concrete slabs, probably about 2 to 4 metres long with varying heights. Called the "stalae", the slabs are designed in such a way to emote unfamiliarity, unease, confusing atmosphere, representing an ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.

The memorial's inaugural opening was sometime in May 2005 (which was around the same time that TTT was there).

Located near the buried remains of Hitler's underground bunker and the Brandenburg Gate, the memorial has sparked its fair share of criticisms and controversy - from the memorial remembering only the murdered Jews to the lack of representation of German guilt.

This is definitely worth a visit.

A recommended tour is the 4-hour long Berlin-Walks tour, that will take you to these places and offer interesting insights (from mostly non-Germans living in Germany!), and cost approx. 10 euros each.

Its like a maze in there! A few people in our tour group got disoriented at the memorial and lost their way. So by the time we got out of the site, we were missing at least 3 people - but the guide couldn't wait, so we got with the program! :)

Admission for this is free of charge. A good thumbs up and worth a good walk, even though you may not feel directly sympathetic towards its real cause.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Dilemma of A Travelling Journal


Just thought of getting myself a small journal. Something small enough (but not too small for my fat paws...) for me to write my thoughts on during my travels - leisure or for work. It will be my travel companion, when Meebops (my travelling buddy) is not with me.

It does help to gather your thoughts during your journeys; the experiences, your thoughts, feelings, encounters... that you'd probably forget when you return home.

I met someone who gave me the "undeserved" credit of having passed on the traveling "fever" to her. An associate i met last week for an assignment here in SG, she came from Boston and had never thought that she would get bitten by the "travel bug" until she met me (so she said...). And i am honoured, of course :) Never knew my influence on the "religion of travel" is that strong to begin with and yet to have someone thank me for it, really made my efforts worth (not that i was seriously preaching anyways...).

As a small gesture of appreciation (as well as in the spirit of giving this Christmas), i got her a 2009 Calendar Journal - which featured a nice, thick and heavy set of brown recycled paper, hard-bounded by a shiny, globe and compass motif. Its actually quite pretty and serves the function of both a calendar-diary as well as a travel journal. She absolutely loved it of course! :)

Got me some pictures of the journals i intent to get... preferably one that comes with a slot for me to keep a pen or pencil in.

Okay, here's Travel Journal #1...
Meet Travel Journal # 2...
And finally, my Travel Journal #3!... Aren't they all pretty?

Yes... Yes... So they're all leather-bound journals and look very similar to each other. But aren't they adorable? Very rugged and rustic all the same. Mmmm... Me likey!

Gonna get me some of those but in the meantime, i will be posting my long-due entry on The Temples of Angkor, my day at the Singapore Zoo, as well as my "fantastico" journey to KL with Meebops to celebrate my coming of age... 2 Years Old! Hah! We had a blast!

And we are off to KL again next week, for a day of celebration for the coming 2009!

As they say, if you start off the year on the right foot, everything will follow suit! :)


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Daily SHOOT! - Berliner Dom

Berliner Dom, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

One of the many beautiful cathedrals found in Germany, the Berliner Dom is a sight not to be missed.

Facing a small park (open space) where Berliners can sit to read a book, the cathedral was almost destroyed during WWII and remained a ruin until 1973.

Like many churches and synagogues all over Europe, the Dom also houses graves of over 80 members of the Hohenzollern family (noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania).

TIP! Do not miss the roof promenade after climbing up the endless steps leading to the coupole.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Booyah! All Cubbies Need To Eat And Got To!


My weekend in Jakarta went extremely well. I mean, the business was good, the company was amicable and i had the most wonderful time catching up on my eating.

Yup. Catching up on eating all my favourite foods in Jakarta. Well, i do have a favourite on my first visit, which was the lip-smacking wonderfully huge bowl of Bakso, eaten street-style, at Plaza Senayan - (and i promise to revisit when i'm there the next time..)

Anyway, having promised myself to travel around Jakarta independently this time, i went everywhere with my trusted Blue Bird and had an excellent time doing so. Yes, i am proud of my little achievement! Hah!

First up, welcome to my lair at the Hotel Mulia Senayan. This is the aerial view from the room. See the little made-up hut with green roof (on the bottom left)? That's the security area before cars are even allowed into Mulia's lobby. Security were especially heightened ever since the repeated bombings that caused carnage all over Indonesia in 2002 / 2003.

Now, make no mistake about Mulia. It is a wonderfully rich (and i mean that, literally...) establishment with exquisite, large furnishings meant for royalties.

I am no royalty of course (except being the King Cubbies...) but the company put me up here so i relish on the idea of staying in a large room, sleeping on a HUGE comfy superduperking bed, looking at my cute paws on large mirrors and in addition to that, they have a big huge tree on the side of the room (to add the flora and fauna factor). It almost felt like i was a born royal highest-ness! ;)

OK, i'm gonna start showing off now - so don't who can't stand it, please look away! Haha!!

This is the SuperKing SuperSized SuperCOMFORTABLE bed i was talking about. You just have to try it to know what i'm talking about... It sinks. It just sinks in with you when you lie on it. Unbelievable.

Ahh.. and from the bed, you can watch all you favourite TV programs on cable, on the SUPERBIG plasma TV. As for me, the newscaster on CNN will look much much bigger and of course, all my favourite TV shows on Disney will be almost 3D to my little eyes! (OK i'm exaggerating...)

To the other side of the room, there is a study and a full-sized couch for you to R&R after a hard day at work. Sweet.. I just love it.

What did i tell ya about the mirror... Huh huh huh???

OK, we're getting a little private here... This is the shower. Haven't tried the standing jacuzzi before but from what i heard, its pretty relaxing. I don't like it when water pokes me everywhere because it hurts! I don't even like the sitting jacuzzi (because it bubbles up funny places if you know what i mean...) So yeah... And the last, is the safe deposit box, which was conveniently hung on the wall in the wardrobe. I took a picture of this because it is so convenient to have a safebox at your standing eye level. Most other hotels does it on the floor, which after frequent bending, will hurt my poor back. But this, this is eye-level baby... And me LIKEY.

Ok ENOUGH is ENOUGH ranting about the hotel. Now, let me show you what Cubbies ate in Jakarta, as she bragged about in her earlier entry.

As promised, i paid Ayam Goreng Nyonya Suharti a visit when i was there. For all you calorie-watching freaks, this may probably be the most sinful fried chicken you'll ever have... but Oooohhh.. the taste is simply divine.

Had this with rice, sayur asem, which is a simple tamarind soup, very tasty and moreish - and a cup of home-made iced lemon tea.

The Ayam Goreng... the meat is so tender and juicy... and the bones... Ohhh the bones.. you can bite through them, nibble on them and suck out all the protein from them!!!

Having said that, i found this, "camouflaged" in between its hind legs and buried deep in its mount of crusts - its tiny Chicken Head!!! BAH!!! I don't remember them being there the last time i ate this but WHY! Why do they always have to remind us that a poor innocent little chicky sacrificed a life for our pleasure and enjoyment! Bleargh!

Since the restaurant is about 15 minutes drive from Senayan, i had opted to take my Blue Bird down to the restaurant, fighting against the roaring thunder, the rain and lighting as well as the notorious Jakarta "mah-cet" - or traffic jam just to get my chicken. What's consoling was that my Blue Bird driver was willing to wait in the cab (with the meter on of course) without making the slightest complain, while i make my order in the restaurant and then happily ferried me back to my hotel. Try doing that in Singapore, people... It isn't Singapore cabbies if you don't get the angry face, the attitude, the F-Word or the Middle-Finger up yours - but like everything in Singapore, we do it with absolute subtlety...

Ayam Goreng Suharti (Jakarta Branch)
Jln Kapt. Tendean 13
Jakarta Selatan
Opens Daily - 11:00am - 10:00pm (+62-21-5206-955)

And to create the mood for Din Tai Fung...

I felt compelled to show pictures of the foods i ordered at DTF before i actually give my take of the food, ambience and overall satisfaction of the restaurant. And so here goes...

That's what i ordered... a bowl of noodles and of course, my beautiful Xiao Long Bao. There's also the duck.
Ok, here's my take...

The food at Din Tai Fung (Jakarta) was, at best, forgettable. I had a bowl of interesting looking noodles, called the Cha Jiang Noodle - which is a handmade spinach noodle topped with brown, almost tangy sauce consisting of tiny little cubes of braised tofu, meat, salted soy beans (tauco) and Japanese green pod beans. I won't say that this was disappointing... but i must stress on the fact that it was bland and ordinary.

Next i ordered the Crispy Roast Duck (instead of my initial choice of Drunken Chicken). These are basically foods that you cannot get halal back home (or at least, didn't taste as authentic). Now the Crispy Roast Duck, i have to admit that i actually enjoyed it even though i'm not a big fan of duck meat.

The meat was quite tough and chewy, but there was no foul smell or odour (meant that it was cooked well, despite the texture) which was welcomed of course. The treat was in the skin - roasted to golden perfection, crispy with every bite.

And of course, the very reason why i came to this restaurant in the first place - is the Xiao Long Bao - which is Steamed Chicken Dumpling.

While the baos tasted ordinary, the gentle excitement of having soup with every single bite i took, won me over. Yes it was mediocre, partly to blame was my acnticipation and high expectations of the poor little bun. Be careful - the soup is hot and your tongue and lips may burn!
I ordered 6 pieces - 3 of it i had it neat, while the other 3, i had it with ginger strips and soy sauce. No difference between the two but i suppose, if i really had to choose just one way to eat it, i'd say take it with the soy sauce and ginger strips. It accentuates the flavour and overall, it tasted far yummier.

To me, Din Tai Fung is like every other Chinese cuisine out there - mostly over-hyped. Maybe i'm not a champion of the art, but i do love them most (as compared to Malay, Indian or Western cooking) and to my untrained palate, i am my own guru.

The next time i'm in Jakarta, take me to an Indonesian restaurant where i can lap up sambal terasi with piping hot white rice and sup buntut (oxtail soup) - simple pleasures. Banquet chain of food courts can pull this Chinese trick off anytime but its definitely worth at least, one try.

Din Tai Fung
Plaza Senayan Arcadia
Ground Floor X 101-103
Jln. New Delhi #9
Senayan, Jakarta Selatan


Monday, December 1, 2008

Still Got The Blues...


What a Monday.

Monday is probably the suckiest day of the week, where i literally had to lift my paws off the bed, drag them with minus-zero gear into the shower and sit on the bowl like forever before i get the different parts and mechanisms in my body functioning properly again.

What a drag! Baaah!

I was just telling Meebops how i wish we were some place else - didn't matter if we were travelling or working - just wish we're somewhere else, exploring different things; seeing new and different people; working on new projects... There is always a longing in our hearts. A longing to be far away... far far away from home. Now wouldn't that be a treat :)

In the meantime, this is how Cubbies is feeling today (picture is from here).

Just bleargh. Just bleargh bleargh bleargh bleargh bleargh :(

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