Monday, June 29, 2009

My List of 28 Things - The Unedited, First Version

This was what I wrote some time back, perhaps just under a year ago. I didn't really give it much thought then, I wrote what I had on top of my mind at that time.

1. Mabul. Sipadan.
2. Tawau. Sandakan.
3. Learn to cook the perfect nasi lemak.
4. Read all Bryson. (ongoing)
5. Touch the stones of Borobudur. (planned)
6. Touch the stones of Angkor Wat. (planned)
7. Thaipusam at Batu Caves
8. Jason Mraz LIVE!
9. Run a marathon. (planned - half marathon first)
10. Travel solo.
11. Backpack travelling.
12. Learn a foreign language.
13. Get rid of credit card debt. (ongoing)
14. Healthy Eating. (ongoing)
15. Get Fit. (ongoing)
16. Write a column. or a Book.
17. RWMF, Kuching. (planned)
18. Read daily. 50 books in a year. (ongoing)
20. Learn to play the guitar - at least one song!
21. London 2012.
22. Sew something.
23. Grow own vegetables.
24. Step foot in all Malaysian states.
25. Borneo overland trip.
26. Volunteer.
27. Go green - recycle. reduce. reuse.
28. Take one photograph a day.

***29. See Jason LIVE again! (ecstatic and immediate addition after crossing out No. 8)***

Not so much of a life list like John Goddard's, more like what-I-want-to-dos for myself, at this point in life.

Of all the above that I've achieved so far, the one that I am most proud of?

My solo travels :). It is liberating.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Life List of An Adventurer

I used to be a To Do List person. Because I like lists.

I listed things, and get a high from crossing out items on them, especially those major, time-consuming things.

Not so now. I've stopped being too .. 'pedantic'? (I hate using the word 'anal') and am easier on myself.

Recent readings brought me to this man whom I have never heard of before this. But when I read his, his achievements are amazing! Funnily, he's not that well-known, even his Wikipedia entry is not comprehensive. Or maybe I'm the just that katak under that tempurung.

Have you heard of him : John Goddard?

He wrote his lifelist when he was 15, a list of 127 things he would like to do in his lifetime. There's like another 15 more or so to go. He sure does look old already, some sites list his birthyear as 1924/25.

What a list, what a list to achieve in one lifetime. May seem impossible but this man is close to achieving it. Not sure if he can still do Everest at his age, but hey, who am I to doubt him? In comparison, my aim to step foot in every Malaysian state suddenly vapourises into oblivion.

My own so called 'life list' done last year, is a little bit shorter at 28 items, and definitely not as adventurous and exotic. Heck I even have 'cook a perfect nasi lemak' there in my list!

Maybe it's high time for a thorough review.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Trip Advisor - Fake Reviews?

Most travellers are no strangers to Trip Advisor.

I use Trip Advisor to read reviews and get some ideas about properties and destinations, and have posted one review myself. The rest of my efforts are still in procrastination purgatory, sadly :P. Got to do something about that.

Anyway, I read this and this earlier in the week, and my initial reaction was, why would anyone post fake reviews? It's just so unscrupulous and so wrong.

Since Trip Advisor is quite liberal in its posting policy - anonymous reviewers are allowed - whatever opportunity available to boost ratings will be taken advantage of. As reviews are not vetted, property owners and perhaps even its employees can easily post good reviews about their hotel, and bad reviews for competitors. Desperate times call for desperate measures?

Thus the site has responded by putting up a warning label on properties which are suspected to have manipulated reviews.

TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that either this property or individuals associated with the property may have attempted to manipulate our popularity index by interfering with the unbiased nature of our reviews. Please take this into consideration when researching your travel plans.

Elliot's advice is to ignore both extremes; the 'best place on earth', and the 'never again!' reviews. We can still use Trip Advisor, however be wary not to rely 100% on its reviews.

I say, as with some things, take it with a pinch of salt.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Down in Turtle Land of No Turtles

The weekend was spent at Kampung Sawangan, Kuala Penyu. I woke early Saturday morning and took the 7:30 am bus from KK terminal to Menumbok, where I had arranged to meet with the sidekick.

The penyu roundabout. I am still not convinced the town got its name from turtles. The only turtles I saw were these.

Hot hot sunny weather. Arrived in Menumbok at a minute before 10:00 am. I was sorry to leave the bus as the onboard movie had yet to end; they were showing PotC : Dead Man's Chest. Yupp, nothing like watching Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom first thing in the morning :)

We left Menumbok after a quick drink and headed to KP. This is where we stayed:


Our little lodge.

The owner plants various local vegetables in the backyard. We took some belimbing besi to make a simple appetiser.

There is a common kitchen just outside in the main house that is occupied by the owners. We decided to have BBQ for dinner instead. Arriving early afternoon we quickly settled in, had yummy pulut panggang bought in Menumbok for lunch, and took a nap. Easily fell asleep lulled by the sea breeze. Late afternoon was spent at the beach - bathing, seashell collecting, walking - till almost sunset. No pics though as I didn't bring the camera along. The beach was deserted save for one or two fishermen at the other end.

The seabed was rocky in some parts, sandy in some parts. Shame there's debris here and there on the beach. Well, at least the water quality was good and quite clear.

The common kitchen.

Dinner.. and er, drinks.


Hammock. For me, the symbol of an unhurried life.
And of course I tried it out.

The next morning, after breakfast we went for a beach walk again however it was really hot and humid so bathing was out of the question. Back at the lodge, took a nap as it was nice and breezy. I read my book and managed to finish it. Decided to make an early move so we packed and left just after noon.

Reached KP town, I went walking around the shops while waiting for the ferry.

Soon, old shophouses like these will be sadly gone.

The only shops open in this row at that time were 2 sundry shops and a billiard saloon. I peeked behind the back of the shops and saw that the families still lived there, saw some ancestral altars and modest living arrangements on the ground floor. Furniture from 50-60 years ago I think.

I decided to forego the ferry and took a shuttle boat instead for 50 sen. It takes less than a minute to the other side,while the ferry takes about 7-8 minutes.

The ferry. Free of charge, can you believe it. Operates from 5:30 am to 9:30 pm daily. Takes about 6-8 cars per trip, depending on size.

The shuttle boat I was on.

I paid 40 sen as I didn't have exact change.
It was unmanned anyway. The horrible thought of not paying
did go through my mind very briefly, but I couldn't do it.

Wooden kampung house on stilts in Kg Palu-Palu.
I love it when they have a lot of plants and flowers,
no matter what the setting may be.

One of the small, almost hidden roads in Purun.

A peek at Binsulok Training Centre.

Brown selipar shot :)

I collected some nice seashells at the beach just before Binsulok. Then, we made a quick swing by Binsulok Training Centre, then the Borneo Golf Resort at Bongawan, then straight ahead to Papar, stopped by Beringgis for a late lunch and reached home at about 5 pm.

One of those lazy, do-nothing weekend; next time, another new place beckons.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hot 'Summer' Travels

Been occupied with travel research and planning the past few days.

I've decided to be on the move for the next few weekends, and I suddenly realised, it seems like there's not enough weekends to go around. I counted, there's about 29 weekends left in the year, and I have made plans for 16, with at least one weekend in a month reserved for homebase. Reserved, for household chores and all that otherwise I might get kicked out :)

For now, it looks like June, July and August are good to go. And it's going to be the hot and dry season, last night's news said. Hail, El Nino : I thought he never left. I just worry it'll be hazy and dusty, and bush fires can happen. Just the other day some inconsiderate poop put a tree on fire near my house. A tree, can you believe it. I still don't get it.

Maybe we can pretend that summer's here. In our tropical climate.

So, boys and girls, make sure we have our sunblock, hats and shades for the hot sunny days ahead. I am not too keen on umbrellas, only for rainy days. Stay out of the sun if you can, between 11 am to 1 pm, when it's the harshest. Stay in the shade, where possible.

To keep a cool head : Stay hydrated. Get a bottle. Water is good for you. I love my Platypus.

Other than that, have a good summer, safe and happy travels! Enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Have Map, Will Travel

I got myself a travel map last Saturday.

A map of the country so I can plan my backyard travels whenever I have free time.

Brings back memories of yesteryears when the Atlas was one of my favourite books. I enjoyed poring through them and identify the capitals of each country. That's where I learnt of Ulan Bator, Calcutta, Tierra del Fuego, Rio De Janeiro, Vladivostok  - very exotic names, I thought. I also learnt from the map, that Sabah looks the the head of a dog. Palawan like a dagger; Sulawesi a mirror-image of a K. And Italy, of course, looks like a boot. 

Well, map or no map, this girl will travel. 

Getting lost is part of the journey.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday Morning

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Forbidden Country

I remember many many years ago when our passports weren't valid for travel to a few countries. 

Now it's only one country : Israel. For reasons we all know (and won't discuss here) :)

I don't think it is impossible to go there though, since I've seen some Holy Land pilgrimage tour packages on offer. I can imagine that getting an Israeli visa would be a tedious process, one which requires us to go to either Singapore or Bangkok since there's no embassy here. I read that there's an interview process involved, with no guarantees for approval and takes about 30 days of processing.

The visa and Immigration stamps will be on a piece of paper, not on your passport. They won't stamp anything on your passport. Apparently if there is an Israeli stamp, the passport will be deemed  invalid, and confiscated upon your return. Next time I'm at the Immigration office I'll ask whether this is true. 

Going with church-organised groups is apparently the best way, compared to individual travel.


I wonder if and when the World can truly be without borders.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ain't No Rollin' Stone

I've got a thing for old stones.

(No, not Jagger and the rest of his rollin' geriatric mates)

Specifically, really old stones as in ancient ruins. I don't really know why, maybe because I always have this weird feeling that in a past life, I was an inhabitant of one of the ancient civilisations. Too far-fetched? I agree. Others think I've gone extremely loopy on the very rare occasions that I dare to mention this.

This also probably explains my fascination with archaeology, and why Harrison Ford is my favourite actor by virtue of him being Indy Jones. Yes, I know; that's fiction.

Nevertheless, my personal wish and dream is to travel to places like Petra, the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Parthenon or whatever's left of it, and the likes. Realistically, some places may be out of reach, some may be possible, but I'll keep all of them on my wishlist. I probably should map out a route to cover the Old Roman Empire and seek out the ruins or structures wherever possible.

Having said all that, I know I have yet to do a proper and thorough homework on this little dream of mine. I'm just reading up a little bit at a time.

Anyhow, regardless whether I had a past life or not, I would love to travel to these ancient sites, and see them stones with my own eyes.

That experience would rock my world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Inspires Thee?

In recent months I was asked this question a few times by friends, which in turn made me ask myself; what suddenly inspired me to go travelling? 

I certainly have not travelled as frequently as I have over the past 10 months. Truthfully, I guess this wanderlust has always been within me, dormant. The fact that I was shackled to a demanding and time-consuming job - which I loved nevertheless - meant very little time was available for proper travelling. We really can't have the best of both worlds, can we?

Prior to having the me-time now, apart from work-related travel and the odd trips to KL now and then for shopping and makan, the only 'travelling' worth mentioning were my hours spent on the couch, watching Travel & Living, Discovery, Lonely Planet, etc. The result of all that was usually even longer hours spent day-dreaming and planning my what-ifs and if-onlys.

A corporate training programme in my previous job introduced me to the concept of trip persona. That was when my mind went wide open, and discovered that it was something I could closely relate to. Once I'm on my own travels, I'm not the 'corporate me' anymore. I'm at home with my tee, shorts, selipar and backpack. My dormant travel bug started stirring.

Of course reading also exposed me to the adventures of other travellers, hence I sought Bryson and the likes even more. I also love travel quotes, I'm a sucker for those that make me stop and think. Some that I really like:

"Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” - Michael Palin 

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”Bill Bryson

“Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” - Aldous Huxley

My favourite one is very simple :

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”Henry Miller

So, in short, I want to travel because I want to experience new things - people, places, sights, smells, tastes, sounds - and everything else that comes with it. Including the possibility of experiencing some not-so-good things, like delays, cancellations, communication breakdowns, bad food, lousy bed, rude people etc; hopefully not all in one go though :).

And one more inspiration came from Discovery Channel's I Love the World commercial. The idea was to position Discovery as The World's Biggest Fan of The World.

The World is an Awesome place, and I'm a Big Fan, too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Backyard Travels - Recce Day

As my feet were itching to go somewhere, today we ended up going on a south-bound day trip recce to check out some new places to visit in the coming weeks.

Short crooked jetty.

Really looong straight jetty.

I stuck out like a sore thumb. Typical tourist/outsider-look.

Mandatary brown selipar shot.






This is my first time in these places; what a discovery. I find them very interesting, hopefully will be enjoyable when we're there!