Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Day We Took The Bus & Headed Straight For Malacca!


So this trip was impromptu - we didn't know what to do over the weekends, Meebops and I. So she suggested that we take a bus down from Johor Bahru and headed straight for Malacca, which is roughly a 3 hour journey on a nice, air-conditioned and comfortable coach.

So that's what we did. We spent just a night there, exploring Malacca Town. It was an interesting journey considering that i haven't been there in more than 17, maybe 20 years. I don't remember anything about Malacca except the Red Church and the thirst-quenching Chendol from the makeshift Mangosteen stall.

The first time we were there was very overwheming for me. We took lots of pictures, walked from one end of Jonker Street to the other, mingled around the Amsterdam/Venice-inspired river walkway and even took a hop-on-hop-off bus to explore Malacca Town i've not seen in 20 years! It was amazing of course! Especially when we were there while love was still blowing strong in the air! *winks* Yup, we were there on Valentine's Day!

We stayed at a slightly posh hotel, which is the Holiday Inn Malacca. At approx. S$140, it was a good steal considering we were upgraded to straits-view deluxe for free. The room also came with free breakfast. Being the lazy teddies that we are, we decided to order-in our breakfast. This is the view from our room:

Isn't this simply amazing? Endless horizons.. It was very calming.

This is the pool view... Oh! The pool by the way, is infinity-edge (the kind i love to swim in!) so that's pretty neat!
I just had to put this up. I don't think the mosque is operational yet... But if it is, i will want to visit. I think its really therapeutic to do one's prayers, especially if it faces an endless sea :)

After a short rest, we were out exploring Malacca. We took the hotel's free shuttle down because we were quite lazy to walk. But if you have the energy and time, you can cross over the bridge and make your way down town on foot. Probably will take 15 to 20 minutes. They drop us off at the Red Square because we wanted to explore Jonker Street. We had a little bit of time; so we decided to get on the hop-on-hop-off bus and let them do the "walking". Very nice! Here's the ride:

And here are the views... Well, not all, some of it...

Oh! the bus will take you around town and come back to the Red Square where it started. Anyway, once was enough.

When it was starting to get dark, we strolled along the river and off to Jonker. Wanna see what Malacca town riverfront now looks like?

From this:

To this!!!

Isn't this just simply wonderful? I think its beautiful! And even though Malacca Town is very touristy, it still retains some of its old charm.

I'll do the Jonker Walk post next. This one's getting a little too lengthy! ;)


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earth Hour - Sign Up Today!

Be a part of the movement and conserve in the name of Beautiful Mother Earth.

She's the only one we've got.

8:30PM local time, wherever you live on Planet Earth.
Saturday, 28 March 2009.

The Travelling Teddies are a BIG FAN of the Earth
We support the Earth Hour!

paw,recommended,approved,bear tagged,travelling bear,teddies

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Daily SHOOT! - The Hong Kong Rush Hour

The Hong Kong Rush Hour, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

What can i say? The rush hour here in Hong Kong is like all rush hours the world over. People find places to eat, queue for tables, slurp here, slurp there, perspire perspire and go for a short walk, then back into the office.

Causeway Bay at lunch is a MUST. Stop, in the middle of the street if you have to and people watch. Like Cubbies said, "You haven't seen chaos if you haven't seen Causeway Bay!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Daily SHOOT! - Sasak Village Chief

Sasak Village Chief, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

90% of Lombok Island's population are made up of people from the Sasak indegenius tribes and is related to Balinese in race but religion-wise, comprise of a mixture between Hindu and Islam.

The tribe mixes basic islamic beliefs together with Hindu beliefs and created the evolutionary Wetu Telu religion. It is believed that Bali was the force of influence of this "mutant-nised" 3rd religion.

Whatever their practices are, visiting the villages "as part of your local tour itinerary" is, to me, a too-commercialized affair that should be avoided, if at all possible. They make you pay mandatory donations when you leave and most of the dwellers are probably those you can already find at Mataram's central market every morning.

Nonetheless, seeing first-hand how their huts looked like and their actual living conditions are least to say, enlightening.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Traveller, Not A Tourist...? What's The Difference?!


Yes yes, its an old adage. "Be a traveller, not a tourist..." so said traveller come celebrity chef and foodie Anthony Bourdain. But really, the traveller-tourist dichotomy has long been one of the most talked about, most discussed and argued "controversy" of the travel world.

Honestly, is there really a difference?

Not much, according to me. I mean, regardless of the kind of vagabond you think you are, or whatever label you place upon yourself (i.e. backpacker, budget traveller, shoestringers, luxury, pleasure, business etc etc.), you are still universally called a TOURIST (except if you are travelling into the United States - they just completely remove all labels and call you, Aliens... err.. thanks *snort*).

Meebops said: "To me, a tourist is someone who is snap happy and will go all out, at all expense, in order to visit popular, must-see areas within a city. It can be up the Eiffel Tower, or into the Pyramids or even a picture of them standing at the Taj Mahal. They care less about how it came to be, or what was sacrificed in the process and worse, they care less about the surroundings around them - poor people, beggars, locals... They don't bother to create conversations or make friends along the way..."

"A traveller is someone who is there with an open mind and someone who wants to do what the locals do... immerse in their culture, make new friends, volunteer if they have to and just have a good time mingling with like-minded strangers... that's me, that's us..."

Well said Meebops, as always... The Wiser One of the Two :P

Vagabondish wrote this piece of article i came across a few days ago while researching on my trip to Melbourne. Pretty insightful tips that, amusingly, many are aware of.

What we really want to do is get to know a country, rather than just visiting it.

But often, due to home-bound commitments (like work, and limited annual leave entitlement, finance etc), we get so bugged down by the limitations of time and budget that we find ourselves covering all the tourist hot-spots and hardly had time to sit down for a cup of coffee at a local sidewalk, people watch, talk to locals and do what they do... Simply becoming an audience to a culture is different from participating. I suppose the latter, brings greater appreciation...

But does that make us any different a traveller to a tourist (or vice versa)?

The idea is simple really, you travel to another country, immerse yourself in another culture, talk to locals and snap pictures of their properties and their people - what makes you any lesser a tourist than someone who probably paid more, make an effort to talk to locals too (esp. when in McDonalds or when asking for the price to the cute little handbag) and snap all the pictures they can in 10 minutes before boarding the tourist bus (according to the itinerary..)?

Its the same to me...

The only stark difference i can see is budget. One sleeps at cheap hostels, eats at cheap places and uses a public transport to move around. The other sleeps in hotels, takes a tour to move around and dine at restaurants.

Whatever you do - "tourist" or "travellers" - keep an open mind when travelling and appreciate the grandeur of what others, outside your world, has to offer. If you have to take the bus to blend in with the locals, do so. If you paid more than you can afford just so you can live it off at the Hilton's Waldorf Astoria in NYC, then by all means. Just be respectful to the cultures and societal beliefs and ideologies that is different from yours. The more you travel, the wider your perspective of life and the world around you is and the more you appreciate what it's like to be alive and be human ;)

Most importantly when you travel, Take Your Time... What you can't do during this trip gives you all the more reason to come back to the city again in the near future ;)


The Daily SHOOT! - Hong Kong Trams

Hong Kong Trams, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

One of my MUST-DO while in Hong Kong - is to take a step back in time and hop on a HK$ 2 ride aboard the Hong Kong Tram.

TIP: Be sure to sit next to the window for the best views of the bustling city. Besides, the trams are non-airconditioned, so good for basic ventilation too.

Trams passes through colourful Wan Chai district, bustling Causeway Bay and North Point (as well as other spots too). Enter the trams from the back and pay two bucks upon alighting at the front.

Definitely must hop on one of these when you are in Hong Kong :)

Have Coffee, Will Travel...


I smelled black coffee on the bus on the way to work this morning. Found a kindred spirit with a stranger, holding that steaming hot cup of black coffee, sipping it ever so slowly - savouring every burst of thick, full flavour tickling the tongue............... The aroma lingers in my mind, all the way to work.

I have to admit, i am addicted to Coffee since way back when. Plain old, black "piping-hot" coffee - a sip will send me straight to Coffee-Heaven; where Angels in black get together with Dancing Espresso machines, for a musical rendition of "The Coffee Song" (by Jars of Clay by the way), while i swim, butt-naked in coffee lake... Ahhh... What coffee paradise :)

So out of pure boredom again, i did a "Coffee Personality Test" to identify the Coffee in me. Interesting results:

I am a White Chocolate Mocha:

You are a White Chocolate Mocha through and through. You are a combination of adventuresome and sweet, hardworking and social. The confident espresso and cocoa stirred with milk and topped with tantalizing whipped cream make for an interesting person. Fun-loving and not too serious, your stable taste but special topping shows that you are flexible to the needs of others. Your balance of strong and fun make you responsible but risk taking. The side of you that is slightly thrill-seeking and active is displayed openly. Others may have to dig a little deeper to get to your rich and deep interior. Your all-around sweet taste of white chocolate is surprising and calming. You generally are service oriented and like to be around people; but you need to relax by being away from it all. The bottom line is that you are fun loving, not afraid of challenge, like being active and outdoorsy. Your uncomplicated twist on the ordinary is exciting but calming. Your enthusiastic and friendly mocha nature warms anyone in your company and uplifts any occasion.

Hmmm... Strangely though, i have never tried White Chocolate Mocha before - and don't think i ever will. I hate White Chocolate and i'll only have mocha when someone else is having it and it "looks good"... Hehehe... Oh well.

Anyways... back to my back stroke swimming in a pool of black coffee (not piping hot though, that'll hurt...)

Ooo, good coffee
Strong coffee
I need to have some
Ooo, good coffee
Strong coffee

- Jars of Clay, The Coffee Song


Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Daily SHOOT! - Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong Island, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

As seen from Kowloon Island, Avenue of the Stars. They also have nightly 10 minute "Victoria Harbour Light Show" (or Symphony of Lights) from this side of Hong Kong, along the Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront.

A spectacular display of pyrotechnics and laser beams, 8pm nightly. A must-see in Hong Kong that brings the statement, "good things in life are free..." to another level.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Short Post On My Obsession & My First Trip To KL In 2009!


Huh! I realise this will probably my very first post on my many many KL trips. And i don't intent to make it complicated. I am proud to say that i survived the ordeal of having went through immigration and not get caught for using my mom's much less than desirable, unattractive luggage. Here is a photo of how it looked like:

And just to show off my new shoes, here is the photo of the luggage and me and my new Crocs Explorer Meebops got for me for just S$30 during an Expo sale. Schweet! ;)

Just to show off some pictures i took after my maiden flight on Silkair from Singapore to KL, here is my ride on the KLIA Express, which is my favourite mode of transportation to KL City Centre. Cheap (at only RM35 one-way), comfortable (most of the time you get the entire 'cubicle" for yourself), fast (they take you to Sentral train station in precisely 28mins) and best of all, i get to listen to my i-Pod and keep my peace. Of course, there are times when i ge lazy and just want to be driven from the airport to my hotel for RM 70; that's when a taxi comes in. Anyway here are the pictures:

The KLIA train. Picture is a litle blurry because i'm in one of its siblings, on my way to the city! hehehe...

This is a little of what the interior looks like. Clean, executive-feel (just lacks Wi-Fi services) and roomy. Per 'cubicle' sits 4 but you can only get away with 3 at most, unless you're a Hobbit (or a midget for that matter.. hehe!).

And of course, best of all is the view :)

The company put me up at the JW Marriott (like they always do anyway...) and i was quite pleasantly surprised that even though the room stayed the same (the bed is simply gorgeous), they "refurnished" the TV to a flat screen one (like about time!!!). A sampling of how their cosy rooms looked like:

This is the gorgeous bed at the Marriott:

And here's the working / relax area, with a nice couch for 2:

I didn't go out much at all when i was there. It rained all day (thunderstorms, lighting... the works) and there wasn't anything i was looking for in particular anyway. Here's what the weather looked like every day. It gets worse by evening. I have no complaints for the weather though, i love the rain (except when i'm expected to fly!) and cold weather makes me a happy, bouncy Cubby :)

So the first day, i had Subway - no pictures of Subway cos that's quite common, everyone knows Subway. Second night though, i got a little greedy and craved for something noodly and fried and hot, and at the same time i crave for rice, fatty chickeny duckie roasted skin type.

Torn? So i got both! from across the Marriott at Food Republic (Pavillion Shopping Mall). Its the foodcourt type of food - instant, usually laden with MSG but affordable and can be quite yummy at times. I think, i spent about RM 8 for the Thye Hong Hokkien Mee (near the escalator down and usually with long queue) and Roasted Duck Rice was about RM 9 or so. They satisfy my cravings but not as yummy as i'd thought they'd be. Anyways, this is the Hokkien Mee, which is basically stir-fried fat yellow noodles mixed with a pinch of rice noodles (laksa), with prawns and squid and and fish cake added in. This one tasted so-so (even though it received raving reviews from netizens in Malaysia). I've tasted better elsewhere but hey, food is subjective to the different taste-buds. You know your tongue better!

I kid you not. I finished the Hokkien Mee even though it was so-so cos i hate wasting food... OK OK, i'm just a glutton. Missing the prawns cos i think i'm allergic to it *scratch scratch*..

And that's that. Now after that's finished, i went on to have my roasted duck rice. This costed about RM 9 for a portion of the crispy roasted duck (not crispy :( ..) and white rice, topped with special "asam" sauce and soy sauce and whatever there was in there. I'd give this a pretty good rating because i love duck (since Din Tai Fung) and i was still only half satisfied with my cravings. ** Meebops don't quite fancy this though; said she didn't like the sauce... Anyway, here goes:

And the rice, which i must honestly say, looks gleamingly delicious and gorgeous in this photo:

And of course, i finished this too!

I bit and sucked and ate everything - right down to the very last morsel... Told you i eat a lot. Me likes! ;)

Latest Update! Haven't been to KL in yonks. I'm starting to miss everything :(

Monday, March 16, 2009

What A Bummer... I Failed My Driving Test!

Picture borrowed from motivatedphotos

I failed it. I failed it and oh boy did i cry... Hard. Everyone seemed to think that i have good driving skills, and a safe driver too but i failed it. Even my instructor thought that i could nail this test with my thumb (since i've been driving every single day for the past 1 month prior to the test day!) but i failed and disappoint mostly :(

Got 38 points for the tests. Nope, in driving, the lesser points you get, the better your chances of passing... and you need at most 18 points to make a scrape-through. So how did i successfully earned 38 points? Here's how I did it in probably, 3 minutes.

It all started fine that morning. I took half the day off, woke up early, did my prayers and had a nice hot breakfast, while watching TV. I looked calm, but the test and the anxiety and fear are all constantly at the back of my mind. I'm talking CONSTANTLY thinking of my driving test. It was so bad that my immunity levels dipped so low and i fell ill and developed severe gastritis - couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, was vomitting. I thought i had contracted some form of virus prior to the test.

And so we met at the Centre, my driving instructor and i, at 10am that morning. My test was set at 11am. Got into the car, drove around the vicinity to get a feel of road hazards and conditions just so i can be "mentally prepared". He said, "Tak payah drive banyak banyak, makin banyak makin tak bagus..." (Loosely translated: "Don't need for too much practice on the road this morning. The more you drive, the worse it will be..."). And as we were driving to test out the roads, he was telling me about a freak accident that happened just outside the driving centre that morning. Thank you for that "not helping at all" information, i said to myself.

We finally went into the Centre at 10 mins before the briefing, at 10.50am. (MY ADVICE is to: NEVER EVER do that... Always arrive at least 15 - 20 minutes before). That was when i told my instructor i wanted to pee sooo badly. I don't know what it was... whether i really needed to pee or it was just anxiety getting a hold of me.

Anyway, he was briefing me about what to do, where to go and the documents i needed to give to the traffic police in charge. I wasn't concentrating AT ALL because my bladder was full! I was literally jumping in my little bear suit, clasping my two legs together so i don't pee in my pants. When he finally finished briefing, i walked as fast i could to the holding room. And like as though it wasn't torture enough, the holding room was all covered in black tinted glass ... all but a piece of paper on the window that says, "Driving Test Holding Room" - if you don't look at it properly, you won't know where the holding room was. And i didn't... because my bladder has taken the best of my ability to think straight!

So i asked and asked around... After a good 5 minutes, i finally found the room (which was right before my eyes by the way) and hand over my documents for processing. I then excused myself, and went straight to the toilet. At the door of the toilet, a man asked, "Harlow... $0.20 to go toilet..." I looked at him with extremely pitiful eyes and said, "I don't have any money, its all in the car, i'm taking my test in 2 minutes and i really, really need to pee."

As far as i can remember, i have never begged for someone to let me pee. So this was a first and it had to happen on my big day.

When i finally get to release myself, to my horror, it was also a day when my "bestest friend" decides to appear. Because of all the stress, i've actually missed my period for over a week. I was stressed out too, waiting and hoping for my period to come before my test day. It didn't... And on the very morning, 2 minutes before my test, it appeared. I was so mad at myself!!! But what can i do huh? So i quickly did my thing and went back to the holding room, cursing under my breath all the way...

One by one, our names were called out by this white and blue uniformed men who looked like they kill humans as a pastime. My name was called out at about 11:15am by this thin, short, Chinese but malay-speaking man (who still looked like he kills for fun..) He looked friendly, i thought to myself. Until the first thing he did was to ask me my IC number to verify. "Sxxxxxxxx...," I said. Maybe out of anxiety, i may have said it out too fast because he asked me again, "Tell me your IC number again..." .. So i said it again. And for the third time, he asked, "One more time? What's your IC number?..." I was already skipping many many heartbeats. If that initial questioning was a tactic to make me nervous - it sure was effective. I was a whole lot nervous now than i was ever before!

And so we walked to the car at the parking lot. It was obvious that he was escorting me out and others who were outside looked on. They're probably saying, "Good luck to you... Not!".

When we got into the car, listening to the advice that my instructor and friends gave, i pretended to shift the rear-view mirror a little, the side mirrors, my seat, put on my seatbelt... While i was doing all that "pre-flight" stuff, the tester stopped me and said, "Enough enough... Just move. Let's go."

If one can die out of anxiety, i swear i could've...

And so we drove off, into the circuit area. I saw my instructor who nodded at me from the Centre and i nodded back, almost saying, I'll do my best. I said to myself, I must pass. I have to. Everyone wants me to pass. Even the tester wants me to pass. So why shouldn't i? I'm ready to drive. After all, learning to drive is expensive. I have spent close to my monthly pay just to learn to drive. I spent 2 hours, every single day just to go through the same route over and over again. Failing a test means that i have to fork out, for at least another month of lessons; another month of sacrificing my time, my hard-earned money; another month of moving through narrow courses and crank courses (which i hate so much!); another month of parallel parking, reverse parking, braking, getting the biting point right... I love to drive but learning it is just, a pain in the neck - both literally and financially speaking.

So our first Course was the directional change (or 3-point turn) course, which i swear to God, i have done so many times during my practical lessons that it was difficult to flunk this one. I kept reciting to myself (weeks and days before the test) when i should turn and what i should do after turning. But when we went into the course, i lost all sense of reason and direction.

My limbs were jiggly and my feet completely turned to jell-o. I put in my reverse gear, and turned the steering way too early that my right rear wheel almost striked a kerb. That's when he said, "You are going to strike a kerb you know. I'm warning you..." But i couldn't believe what i'm doing! I have completely lost my head! I forgot everything that was taught... EVERYTHING.

I adjusted the car and made a reverse again. That was when i really hit the kerb. Thank goodness i was reversing slow enough so i didn't mount it, just touched it. Again i moved forward and reposition the car. And then i made another reverse attempt. AGAIN! MY REAR WHEEL HIT THE KERB! By then i was so freaked i couldn't think straight no more. I wanted to stop the car, apologise to the tester and run out crying to my instructor. It was that bad... Instead i took a long deep breath and exhaled out loud and said to my tester, "I'm really very nervous Sir. I'm sorry..."

And then he said, "Start your engine and try again. Start your engine... and reverse." Honestly, he sounded kind. He sounded like as though he was giving me a chance. Hmm.. maybe i'm gonna pass after all. Then i ignited my engine. It went screeching... I then revved it up again and ignited. The screech was so loud, it was deafening. This can't be... I know how to ignite a car, i thought to myself.

He said, "Enough enough enough..."

You know what? My engine didn't die. That was when i realise... The MTF tricked me. What an a-hole! Arrrgh!

But i had to maintain my dignity (or what's left of it) and pride and complete the test i committed myself to. So for the probably, 5th time trying, i finally get to reverse my car properly into the area and turned left to exit. That probably took me 3 minutes or so, but it was the longest 3 minutes in my life.

I didn't see him writing anything - he was discreet. So there was still optimism. Maybe this guy's gonna give me a chance because i'm nervous. Haha!

The rest of the Course was marked for minor mistakes. We went up and down the slope (which i got 2 points for "incorrect breaking technique" - hit the clutch first then the brake), into the crank course (which i did 2 reverse manoeuvre and also got 2 points for), reverse parking (perfect), S-Course (perfect) and parallel parking (which i got 4 points for failure to confirm to safety... blindspot, my instructor said).

He then asked me to drive out on the road. I think i may have gotten one of the easiest test route that morning - been there upteenth time, i should know, i told myself. I still didn't know i was gonna fail when he cut short the test route and asked me to turn left (instead of going straight) to go back to the office. My general driving was quite good except at the traffic light, when my car stalled once, when i released the clutch too fast (because of some IDIOT who honked me the minute the light went green). So i was marked 2 points for "delay in moving off" - other than that, everything went perfectly smooth.

During the debrief, the tester told me with this, i dunno, kind but almost "i'm-mocking-you" look painted across his face, "Your circuit is very bad. Very bad... So i cannot let you pass lah. Your driving is also, not so good. Your braking quite rough (even though that never happened!) and when you went down the slope, you pressed clutch first and that's very dangerous you know. So you must practice your circuit some more..."

And so, that's how i got 38 points. One may say, wow that's a lot of points. I say, its not that difficult really... One strike, 10 points. I got 2 strikes, that's 20 points. Plus all 18 other minor mistakes - 38 points. Simple.

My face turned red. Literally red. I was holding my tears and when i said, "OK..." I turned to my right and saw that the girl next to me, was smiling in a kind of, "Awww... I'm sorry you failed loser." (she passed by the way) look - only then i realised, i freaking flunked. What do i tell my instructor? How do i break the news to Meebops? What about my parents?

My instructor was supportive even though he was clearly shocked that i failed. Meebops was kind, as she always is, and gave me a shoulder to cry on and the spirit to try again. My mom, was disappointed too but was also a kind gentle soul i could always lean on.

That night, Meebops, myself and a few of our friends went on trip to KL to catch a concert during the weekends. It wasn't the best trip for me but the test definitely made me grow into a more determined, and wiser, safer driver than i ever thought possible.

I will pass the next one, i promised myself. Less anxious i hope. Bleargh...

In the meantime, I WAIT. Bah!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Total Earnings This Month = More Than I Ever Thought Possible!

I emptied my Kuching Mentel today.

Ok before i declare the total savings for this month - i have a confession to make.

I haven't been saving as much as i should've...

My projected sum before i leave for Melbourne is approx. AU$1000+. But because i've been paying for a lot of extra-curricular stuff (like driving etc.), the moolahs' a little dry and a little slow.

But that didn't stop or immobilised my spirit to save for my trip though! Every $2 note in my hands, i go, "Aunty... can change $2 note to 2 sets of $1 coin? Ummm.. If you don't have, 50 cents also can!..." I was determined and finally, today - Friday, 13th March 2009, my total earnings for January / February......

Is a whopping... $142.50 cold hard coins! Bwahahahahaha!!!

So its less than last month's by S$1.50. And yes, i took 2 months to get to this... But it sheer is worth every effort, blood, sweat, tears etc. etc.

So rolling $2.50 in KM's tummy...

With this month's takings, i now have a total of 130 + 130 + 96 + 140 + 140 = S$636

That's roughly, AUD 630. Doing good... :)

Great, in fact. Just great :) *grins grins*

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