Thursday, July 30, 2009


My readings and site-hopping have brought me to this interesting picture, which in turn led to the discovery of lovelocks :

Credit :

Locks of love are the padlocks fixed by loving couples, on to a fence or a pole or metallic chain/string alongside some wall etc at a public place, to symbolize their eternal love. A couple would hang a padlock after inscribing their name or initials on it and throw the key away so that their love is locked forever. Some couple use two inter-twined locks, each lock bearing their name/initials. Besides lovers, often family members and close friends also put such locks at these places, to lock their relationship forever - CuriousJM

From Google Earth Community, in CuriousJM's Locks of Love Around The World, you can read more about lovelocks, and places around the world which have them. There are some great pictures too! This one in Ponte Milvio, Rome is amazing in the sense that people kept on putting the padlocks on the street light until it's bent due to the weight. The street light was later saved when the authorities provided chains for the padlocks to be hung from.

Image from Panoramio by psetron

Lovelock locations are in China (where this tradition is thought to have originated), South Korea, Estonia, Russia, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, USA and Guam.

I am sure there are romantic travellers around the world who will make it their mission to visit as many of the locations as they can.

Now, that's what I call passion.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Justified and Ancient

I once read somewhere that these are the top three ancient sites in South East Asia :

Borobudur, Indonesia

Bagan, Myanmar

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

I have made plans to travel to two of the above in the coming months, and would love to plan for the third sometime next year.


Because I like old stones :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

To The Lion, On The Tiger : A RED Weekend

Not quite the regular travel post, however since I did board a plane, use my passport and was out of the country (even if only for 19 hours!), I guess it counts as travelling! :)

This was an unplanned trip decided on a whim, just because the elements were all in place. Some divine intervention must have been at work.

About 4 weeks ago, I had the crazy idea to go watch Liverpool play in Singapore (got too inspired by my current favourite billboard in KK which featured a certain hawt, dark-haired Spaniard). My globetrotting friend Ms Tuty Fabregas got onboard the same train of thought; so we checked and called for tickets and they were available, checked for flights and it was available : this can only mean the green light for us to go!

So after 26 days of anticipation, off we went to watch the Singapore National team play against the real Reds, Liverpool FC, in their Asia Tour 2009. Yeah, two Gooners on the Kop :)

What can I say? This is my first live football match in 14 years. I enjoyed the match although the first half was a dum-de-dum, ho-hum affair.

The Kop was filled to the brim, a sea of red on an awfully hot, sticky afternoon. My face was an oil-slick, and I wished I had worn shorts instead! Thankfully despite entering rather late, around 6 pm-ish, we managed to secure two seating spots mid-level, overlooking the goalpost on the left of the East Stand.

The home team donned their red jerseys, hence Rafa's men wore their new away kit in black with gold and red trimmings.

Things got hot and exciting in the second half, with Torres and Kuyt coming in at the 55th minute. Yeay!

Both came on to the pitch to a rapturous standing ovation, the crowd roared with approval as Torres had only played for 10 mins in Bangkok earlier in the week.

(Heck, even the sight of Torres and Co warming up at the sidelines sent those at the Grandstand into a frenzy)

The final score : 0-5; courtesy of Voronin, Riera, Nemeth (2), and of course, Torres.

Finally, I have seen Fernando Jose Torres Sanz in the flesh, even if it's only from a distance. Next time :)

Outside the Stadium.

Ms Fabregas and Ms Torres :P

View of the crowd and queues outside

If only they were for real ....
The Kopites

You'll Never Walk Alone...

The giant LFC banner

We didn't buy any merch; got a complimentary LFC Asia Tour scarf that is given to Kop ticket holders :)

My originals fit into the colour theme for the day :)

Euphoria when the third goal was scored! Don't have too many pictures of the match as they all turned out too blurry or dark.

The electronic scoreboard. I was actually surprised that the National Stadium is not as modern as I expected. Reminded me of the old Likas Stadium.

The best banner of the lot, I thought.

Die-hard fans singing way after the match ended. The guy on the right background was holding a tee-shirt that read, "Support Liverpool, Hate ...." (*you know who, haha!)

Would I do this again? Definitely!

Footnotes on this trip :
Flew Tiger Airways for the first time. No complaints. On time. Efficient. We landed at the Budget Terminal. And I like the uniform. *rawr!*

I like their Budget Terminal.

Shared the briyani special at the famous Zam Zam restaurant.

Next time, for a football match, must buy binoculars to feast your eyes on hawt players watch the match better with. I didn't expect the Stadium not to have the giant screen. It is an old venue, surprise surprise. However it's the island's biggest. Apparently.

Slept at the Ground Floor (?) of Terminal 3. First on round plastic seats. Then moved to a row of waiting seats. Got woken up every hour. Gawd. And that weird piped-in music played on a loop was like the ringtone for the Addam's Family doorbell!

(*Pics will be uploaded soon as possible; am facing a technical hitch with Blogger - update : done)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Delhi Belly and Things Like That

A former boss once said of people who suffer diarrhoea, 'Aiya, you people have weak stomach. Not strong!'


I am lucky that I do not have a weak or a sensitive stomach. *touch wood* Reading about Delhi Belly and other such sufferings when on the road does make me worry sometimes. The last time I suffered a bad one (not from travelling though) I was in bed for 2 full days and thought it was the worse kind of suffering due to the dehydration and erm, frequent visits to the loo.

Every time I'm somewhere else, I will try the local food. As in, eat what and where the locals eat as long as it looks reasonable in terms of cleanliness and presentation. Usually I'll venture out and try the hawker stalls/street food, as well as the food courts.

In Bangkok, I found the most wonderful, pile-it-high som tam and various sweet desserts at the night market. In Phuket, I had a most flavourful pad thai and other stuff in the Old Town. Even in KL, I love the Nasi Lemak Jalan Alor and the Petaling Street Air Mata Kucing. Penang, Malacca : needs no introduction nor explanation.

So far, so good.

I am cautious with drinking water though, so usually I'll go for bottled, canned or hot drinks most of the time. To be safe, I'm thinking that I should also bring some of those Lomotil pills and rehydration tablets, just in case.

Looking forward to sample other street foods in other places in the next few months!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Be Still and Soak in the Moment

An excerpt from the aforementioned Shapiro's book A Sense of Place :

"When seeing a new place, I often think : I am going to come back here later - when I am rich, or when I have more time, or when I have a purpose, or when I am with someone I love - and do this right. But it is self-deception. More often than not, my feet lead me somewhere new rather than somewhere I've already been. And as I sat at that window watching the train bore through the heart of China, I had a different, more probable thought, and I wrote it down : I better remember what this place looks like. I will never be back."

- Brad Newsham, All the Right Places

Don't we all think like that most of the time? I'll come back when _________ (insert whatever). This thought crossed my mind a few times during my travels. Most notably, I am reminded of my first trip to Bali.

Standing on the cliff off the fairways of Nirwana Golf Resort, overlooking the sea and Tanah Lot; the evening skies starting to filter in the various shades of gold and crimson, making me squint; the warm salty breeze blowing in my face; the waves splashing on to the rocks in some kind of rhythm; I thought to myself : I must come back here when.....

Then, I couldn't finish the sentence.

Because I don't know when I will come back. Or why.

It was then that I understood what a seasoned traveller meant when we had a short unexpected encounter. He has travelled to many exotic and historic places around the world - Egypt, North and South America, all over Europe, Asia and so on. He's done almost everything from climbing mountains and bungy jumping to riding camels and swimming with sharks.

I asked him : How come you didn't bring along your camera? His answer : It is all up here (pointing to his head). It took me a few seconds to respond : I get what you mean. He said : Besides, I don't have room for all the pictures and wouldn't know what to do with them.

Now, what I really want to do when I'm struck by the awesomeness of God's creations, is to be still, soak in the beauty of the moment, and let my heart have conversations with itself. Let the moment be imprinted in my mind.

I want to remember how each place made me feel.

Who knows, I might not be back.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Up North in The Big Island, Banggi

I've always proudly thought my geography knowledge was very good (one of my favourite subjects in school), until I read recently that the biggest island in Malaysia is Pulau Banggi, in our own backyard.

And I did not know that?! So I embarrassingly admit that I thought wrong of myself (*quick slap to the wrist*). My Malaysian geography sure needs to be improved. This makes me even more determined to make sure I go around all of Malaysia and not be ignorant like this.

Arrived Kudat at noon on Saturday, and went round town to look for the ferry terminal as we had the information that it departs at 1:00 pm to Banggi. When we found it near the Jalan Imigresen, apparently the information is outdated. There are now two ferries servicing Kudat-Banggi route : Outward to Banggi is at 9:00 am and 2:30 pm, and return to Kudat is at 7:45 am and 3:00 pm. Be sure to be there earlier though as it will depart as soon as all passengers have boarded, both times we left 15 minutes earlier.

We got our tickets for 2:30 pm and spent time around the small Kudat town, had cooling drinks and sampled some local ABC (watermelon in ABC? weird taste) at this nice cafe called Selera Ria, located on the ground floor of Hotel Ria.

The journey took just about 1 hour 15 minutes, including docking time.

Here's some pics I took, not that many as I forgot to bring my battery charger ;P :

The ferry, Kudat Express - RM18/RM15 per way.

Arriving at the jetty in Pekan Karakit.

Long jetty towards Pekan Karakit.

Our first agenda was to find the resort; only a few minutes walk from the jetty. At the end of the jetty, turn right and walk straight on till you reach the small roundabout. Take the turn between two rows of mini-shops, turn right again.. will see the building. It's definitely not a resort and nothing like Bali :) despite the name.

The 'reception'

This was the room - aircon RM65/fan RM45.

I love this shot of the old jetty..

Kids were playing and doing some fishing on the jetty. I did not dare to walk on it as it looked so very fragile and had missing planks here and there..

Obligatory brown selipar shot..

A Bonggi tree-house on the grounds of the resort. I read that the local natives of the island used to stay in these kind of houses built on trees.

Everything is made of wood, rattan and palm leaves.
It's quite high up from the ground level..

Seating place inside the treehouse..

Sitting on the first level veranda

Attap and walls made from leaves from a type of palm - not the usual attap..

Up the treehouse ..

On the way down..

Afternoon tea after walking around the pekan - ikan belais panggang RM1.50, and putu ubi 50 sen. Not in the picture - Maggi Kari RM2.00 :)

The short cut to the warungs. After dinner we used this path, and abruptly turned back (I practically ran!) as we saw a log sea-snake. No wonder they put up a sign there : beware of poisonous sea-snakes.

Late afternoon, we walked along this almost completed road that sloped gently upwards and saw the schools and clusters of houses..

The row of 'floating' warungs on stilts..

The warungs..we had dinner here and got to watch some news on TV. The 'breaking' news was the result of the football match between the Malaysian Team and ManUre.

This is the Banggi Environmental Awareness Centre under WWF, which was sadly unkept and looked abandoned.

Side view of the BEAC, just next to the resort.

These signboards are quite new. Note building on the hillside; district office?

Main Street, Karakit. The multi-purpose open hall is on the left, and the pasar is on the right.

Banggi is mostly in the news in past years as it has been identified as having one of the highest level of hard core poverty in the country. In 2007, an RM167 million Agropolitan project under Felcra was launched (by no less than the then PM) as part of the 9th MP.

The island has a police station, an army base (lots of machine-gun-toting uniformed men), two primary schools; supply of electricity and treated water are also available (although I did see some villagers bathing from wells).

There is good potential for tourism in Banggi as there are a number of islands close-by; however there are no obvious efforts in this area for now. There's nothing to do for tourists or visitors right now, apart from trekking to the highest point and island hopping which need to be pre-arranged. I am sure the other side of the island which we did not venture into, has its own attractions. There isn't much to do yet in Karakit itself, sadly.

Hopefully once the development is in place a few years from now, Banggi will be ready to open itself up to tourists.

Any place with a hammock is alright with me :)

Travel Buddy - Part 1

Some time back I pondered on the criteria for the 'perfect' (is there such a thing?) travel buddy.

During lunch just now, some thoughts crossed my mind and I thought I'd make a quick post before I forget.

I've discovered a lot about others as well as about myself during the past travels.

My idiosyncrasies (in no particular order):

* Waiting too long is not enjoyable thing, unless there's an absolutely valid reason. Where possible, please let me know if you decide to wake up late/take a longer nap/etc so I need not wait.

* Insisting everything is perfect can be irritating; not all places have their maps/ signboards/information in order or updated. We can just ask :)

* Doing nothing can be just as enjoyable. We do not have to cram every thing into the itinerary. Just sitting there and looking out to the horizon is also time well-spent for the soul.

* I can understand taking pictures is a must; but trying to take 20 perfect snaps of the same thing is time-consuming and zaps the fun out from the experience.

* Getting lost is part of the adventure. No explanation needed here.

* When it comes to eating, please eat anything you want. And sometimes when I don't feel like eating, I'll let you know; please don't feel bad about me not eating. Oh and if you're hungry and I am not (and vice-versa), let's tell each other openly. Nothing is worse than arguing about and over food. And, also if I feel like having something else, please understand; we do not have to eat the same thing/at the same place.

* Last minute changes can happen, so we learn to accept and improvise our plans. However, if you do know that you wish to do something else, have the heart to let me know earlier so I can make my own plans too.

* Budget-wise, let's agree in advance to go Dutch. Although I assume we won't be so calculative as to split bills to the nearest cent, let's make sure that we won't have any issues about money. If I am feeling generous and want to buy you lunch/an ice cream/anything, I will let you know.

* I won't place too high expectations on cleanliness, yet at the same time please at least be neat and respect common facilities and personal space.

* We watch each other's backs, okay?

Other than that I think everything else is fine.

Oh - one last thing, please let me know what you allow me to do if you snore too loud :)

(The above list is neither final nor comprehensive at this stage. Expect new entries as my travels plod along)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book : A Sense of Place

Currently reading :

Michael Shapiro's A Sense of Place -
Great Travel Writers Talk ABout Their Craft, Lives and Inspiration


Michael Shapiro's illuminating conversations with the world's great travel writers reveal deeply-held views about the craft of writing, the world, and home. Go with him and ride over dusty Montana roads to Tim Cahill's writing cabin, step into the Dickensian clutter of Redmond O'Hanlon's house in Oxford, visit Frances Mayes in her Tuscan villa, gaze at Peter Matthiessen's rustic zendo on Long Island, and empty a bottle of wine with Jonathan Raban in a Seattle study that seems like a ship's cabin.

So far I am enjoying this book immensely!

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Favourite Thing..

My favourite thing, too :)
Off for a short 'never-been' weekend.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stay 'Tune-d'

I experienced my first stay in a Tune Hotel while in Kuching last weekend.

I didn't have high expectations knowing that it will be a no-frills, bare minimum set up. Location wise it is perfect. Just opposite of the Hilton entrance, it is also near enough to the Waterfront, and eating places are available all around. I know some shortcuts already :). Scoops is just next door. 7-11 just up the road a bit.

Staff were helpful, friendly and quite efficient - I have no complaints on the services.

The reception counter.

The lobby waiting area; the tour desk on the left and the 'cafe' at the back.

The corridor for rooms on Ground Floor, Lobby level.
The hotel has 4 floors for rooms. I was on 2nd floor.

The lift landing. TV.

I was happy with the room, but I was disappointed with the shower. Floor tiles felt greasy, and wall tiles were yellowish with limescale buildup. Not upset enough though to go down and complain since I was tired. I just wore my flip flops while taking a shower. Not much to say about the power shower, it was alright. Later, on the way out I asked them to clean it the next day as I will be out then.

My room. Tiles, no carpet. Three anti-theft hangers are provided. There is also a safe deposit box in the room. The socket on the wall didn't work, apparently it's like that for the whole hotel? So I had to rely on the only other socket next to the bed.

The control panel, activated with a smart keycard. Shows you the balance of your air con credit. Keycard deposit RM5.00, refundable.

The bed, duvet and pillows were very comfortable. I like!

For RM5.00, you get a towel on loan, soap, shampoo and shower gel packets. Towel deposit RM10.00, refundable.

Filthy shower stall. Notice the black stuff?

Here's a close-up.

Dirty tiles.

The next day in the late afternoon the housekeeping were doing their rounds and I asked them to clean the shower stall again. It was cleaner afterwards, however they can't do much about the mouldy silicone.

Overall, despite the poor first impression, this has not put me off Tune. I'll still stay at another Tune Hotel if the price and location is right. They just need to get the cleanliness standards improved. Upon checkout, they give each guest a feedback form which is a good practice. I hope they take note of my comments.

Altogether I paid about RM150 for 3 nights, inclusive of 36 hours of air con credit (didn't use it all up unfortunately; no refund) and towel + amenities set. Good value, considering it's peak season due to RWMF.

I've made another 2 future bookings in other properties - stay Tuned :)