Thursday, April 29, 2010

Running in Yellow - The Beautiful Run 2010

Three days to go!

Here's the race pack this year :

Bright yellow vest sponsored by DiGi.

Not much, it's okay with me cos I can understand how tough it is to get good sponsors these days. After all, the proceeds are for charity.

I really like getting the same eco-bag sponsored by Sabah Tourism! They look good when I go shopping for groceries, much better than the supermarket ones.

Am trying to get a running playlist in order, otherwise I'll just leave my ears naked :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green is Not Just For Today

It surprises me (hmm, on second thoughts it doesn't) that Earth Hour (60 minutes of self-imposed darkness) gets more PR than Earth Day (24 hours, 22nd April. Today).

That's why I am always skeptical of overzealously-promoted 'events'. Yes, the intentions are very good and noble, but what consequent and consistent actions follow after that? Like, during Earth Hour events what do people do? Drink from plastic cups, and leave the rubbish behind? Burn candles? I'd rather they organise some kind of clean-up, tree-planting or something like that. It's turned into shameless self-promotion and trying to cash-in in the name of 'going green'.

Does is have to be an event endorsed by celebrities and cities and whatnots to result in affirmative action? Where are our leaders and industry in this? Err, Copenhagen Global Summit? What's that?

If we were to imagine Earth as a living thing (it is, duh) then imagine too that angry volcano Eyjafjallajökull is one giant pimple abscess that's bursting because we can't get our dirty hands off Earth's face.

It starts with each one of us, no matter how small your contribution. If you have not 'pledged' any action yet, today will be a good day to start.
  • Stop using non-biodegradable plastic bags. Decline plastic bags when buying small items. Better, bring and use your own bag when shopping.
  • Go paperless as much as possible. Recycle paper.
  • Plant something good. Like your own herbs and chillies and stuff.
  • Conserve water and energy. Turn off, switch off.
Do all this (and more) consistently, consciously. Not just for an hour or for a day. Little you and me (I?) make a difference, even though it's just a tiny little dent, it is still a dent :) Unless of course you feel no guilt at all then to each his own.

What will it take then for you to act?

*bows to imaginary audience and steps down from soapbox on a balmy Thursday afternoon*

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

One Angry Volcano

I'll be taking a break from travelling for a few weeks. God-willing, will pack my backpack again end of next month. Brown selipar gets to rest.

I've made the decision to forfeit two flight tickets to KL in the next few weeks, to reschedule them means extra expenses incurred. Do you know that the change fee for AirAsia is now RM90 per way? Ouch. I am only comforted by the fact that the total for the 2 tickets cost me just about the same, so it's not too painful.

Anyway, the travel crisis caused by that volcano-in-Iceland-that-has-a-long-name-I-don't-know-how-to-pronounce-it is interesting, don't you think? As of today, airports are starting to open across Europe. I asked myself, would I be angry if I were stranded like the tens of thousands in Europe as well as in other cities around the world?

Maybe - but then again, who are we to be angry at a force of nature? And see how ignorant I am, I don't even know if delays and cancellations in this kind of situation are covered by travel insurance. What are the obligations of the airlines? Are they supposed to provide you with food and lodging? (I keep thinking, no shower for days?) Good to know. Someone might have written about this already.

By the way the name of the volcano is Eyjafjallajokull. What a mouthful. I still can't pronounce it. And as we speak, volcano jokes are surfacing on the net. Bad taste? Yeah, maybe ... they are still funny though :).

Anyway, have you made any travel plans for 2011 yet? I have not, though I have India, Turkey and Australia in my wishlist.

Am t-r-y-i-n-g to get ready for the BIM in two week's time - eeek!! I'm running the 10K, so it should be no biggie right? Finish in good time, my humble target.

Enjoy the rest of April!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Food Trip : Tawau

A short post on my weekend in Tawau.

I didn't do anything there that is worth posting, did no touristy stuff. Except, makan! Tawau is definitely a heaven for seafood lovers; fresh and much much more cheaper. I can be very happy eating fish every day if the prices are like that in KK! I can't help but feel that those living on the east coast are so lucky in this sense, food prices are still very reasonable.

Here are some of the pictures that I managed to take:

Went to Sabindo for dinner. It was just after 8 pm and the place was packed to the gills. We had to wait a short while for a table. Went to Good View instead of Kam Ling or 101 mentioned in most guides cos the two are now considered ' tourist traps' by locals :).

Fresh fish - hmm don't know what it's called. Had it steamed with ginger and soya sauce, yummmmmmyyyyyyy over hot rice.

Fresh seawater prawns, steamed ("pak cho har"). Finger licking good!

The only vegetable I order when having seafood - Sabah Veg stirfried with garlic.

My favourite shellfish - in the bill it's always stated as Top Shell? I call it 'Tung Fung Lo', correct me if I'm wrong. Pull it out and dip into mustard, yummmmmminess to the max.

These are some happy prawns, prior to ... (someone's) happy stomach.

View of Tawau town, taken from Cafe@Seven, Promenade Hotel Tawau.

When in Tawau, must eat the famous Nasi Kuning, which I always enjoy. In KK, the best Nasi Kuning is at Kepayan.

Fish meehoon soup for lunch, 'ka liau' (extra). On the background is a half-eaten keratang fish fillet in black bean sauce, this dish is seriously droolworthy. My tastebuds were overjoyed!

Went to the Sunday market where all sorts of fresh produce and seafood were sold. Kind of like a mini Gaya Street. Look at how much the prawns cost.

My search for avocados got me here - RM6 for 1 kg. Of course I bought some.

Fresh prawns - RM15 per kg.

I don't think I can find any vegetable at 50 sen per bunch any more in KK.

That's all I'm afraid - next time I get to go to Tawau I'll play tourist, I promise; because there are actually many interesting places just out of the town area.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mi Biblioteca : April 2010

Was away briefly last weekend, will write about that next since I didn't bring my camera today.

Anyway, on my other hobby : books.

Am currently reading Theroux's Dark Star Safari, his journey overland from Cairo to Cape Town. Very detailed, and humourous at times, will see how long I take to finish this as the text is smallish, just under 500 pages. After that, I'm out of books to read, so next hunting session at the bookstores will be for these babies:
Maybe one or two more from Murakami.

This one in paperback, the 3rd in the Millenium trilogy.

This compilation from Murakami.

Haven't read Dahl in a long, long time. Need to revisit his darker works.

This caught my eye the other day, will check it out again.

I also want to try reading other authors - Jonathan Safran Foer, Chuck Palahniuk - to see if I like their works. I briefly read a bit of Jhumpa Lahiri's book and it was quite engaging.

Any other book recommendations?

Book hunting season is on, please let there be a booksale here soon!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Interesting Things #99

Look at No. 9.

Does that mean it's allowed if one asks for permission?

Oh, the fixation with No. 9 is because of this man.

And I just realised, today's the 9th!

Monday, April 5, 2010

In Love with Hue?

The next day I started early and managed to get the local bus to Hue at only 35,000 VND, but that takes 2.5-3 hours. The bus station is located about 15-20 minutes away from where I stayed so one of the hotel staff offered to send me there on his motorbike for a small fee.

The mini bus took so long to depart after leaving the station proper, it was taking more and more passengers than legally permissible! I say so because after all the seats were taken the bus conductor - a feisty lady who practically pulled passengers in when they showed initial hesitation to board. She placed plastic chairs in the aisle between the seats, and later she had them sit at every available floor space including the steps! Sardines would feel very much at home.

Feisty lady conductor in red. The man behind is a vendor who was selling paus/steamed buns. At least 3 vendors came on board selling stuff, and some more stood outside selling everything from newspaper to drinks to sweets to other local snack stuffs.

A giant statue of Buddha on the outskirts of Da Nang.

It was a non-happening journey. Oh, except we went through this tunnel that was 6.28 km long, through the mountain range. Later I found out it's called Hai Van Pass, the longest in SEA and completed in 2005. And up and down hillsides this view 'emerged', nice. And apparently this road is one of the most scenic in Vietnam.

Reached Hue's ben xe buyt - guess what this means :) - and the language challenge started again. I needed to go to the old city, and as usual there were many moto-drivers trying to offer their services. I drove them away when I asked, you speak English? There was however one that was very persistent and he kept following me. In the end I asked him, can you bring me to someone who speaks English? He seemed to understand and practically pulled my arm to go to a small office of some kind of travel agent or maybe it was the bus station office. A young girl there translated for me and we agreed on a price for a tour to the Imperial City and the pagoda and one of the tombs.

It was about a 15 minute ride to the old city.

The giant flagpole.

First pose. Pic snapped by driver. Fail.

Second pose. Okay much better.

The entrance building to the palace complex. I first thought, is this it? And was pleasantly surprised later after I entered.

All written in Vietnamese. I think it has got something to do with their anniversary end of March.

Steps to the first level. I did not go up as there were too many people there.

Bronze plaque for Hue Imperial City.

A layout of the palace/city complex.

Entrance arch.

Part of the courtyard. The purple pillars are replicas only since the complex was almost wholly damaged during the war.

It's also called Forbidden Purple City.

Fake purple pillars in the courtyard.

Taken from the shades.

A toppled dragon? It's actually like a stamping block.

The courtyard was much bigger than I thought.

The courtyard was quite big.

A smaller version of the Forbidden City?

Brass pots in the courtyard - there were two, each weighing more than 1500 kgs.

What do you call these - dragon balustrades?

This is a series of nine brass pots in another adjoining courtyard - symbolising something - I cannot recall now :(

Wide shady avenues, very nice to walk around although it was quite hot.

One of them.

And another.

This is one of the 'plain' buildings, not painted.

Yellow and red seem to be the dominant colours for some of the entrance gates.

This was not painted - but looked beautiful even in its crumbling state.

Asked one of the tourists to take a pic of me here.

This gate led to a small garden and a temple.

Venturing further into the complex.

Another hall in the distance.

A pretty Vietnamese lady in ao dai who walked briskly hence the half-pic.

One of the temples.

A garden behind one of the residential buildings.

Not sure what's behind those doors. One of the smaller palaces I think.

Abandoned tourist info booth.

Information was readily available - in Vietnamese, English and French.

A picture of Emperor Khanh Dinh, in one of the display halls.

The ceiling and an ornate lamp in the royal hall.

What were they busy with?

Well, you can play dress up and take your picture on the throne! King for the day! This was very popular with the tourists.

There was a huge mirror on one side of this royal hall so...yeah, I took a picture of myself :)

An intricately carved ladder in one of the main halls.

This was in one of the royal halls as well - we're not supposed to take pictures inside. But I realised (as with a few other tourists) that once outside I can actually zoom in and snap a pic or two ;P

The colours were dominantly red and gold.

I love this red door.

Another old red entrance door to one of the temples. There are actually many buildings inside the complex to house not just the royal family, but also their servants as well as the eunuchs and concubines.

This fascinated me. Don't know why.

Tourists taking pictures with men dressed in army regalia.

So that was my hot sunny day spent in Hue Imperial City, you can cover it between 2-2.5 hours, maybe more if you wish to enter all the buildings. The ticket costs 55,000 VND.

I did not quite fall in love with Hue as I did with Hoi An, just didn't feel the vibes that much. Later I proceeded to Thien Mu Pagoda and Emperor Tu Duc's tomb, decided to be selective and not spend too much time travelling as I had to catch the afternoon bus back to Da Nang.