Category

Travel

Category

Hong Kong

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It’s been a while since we last went on a trip together especially after the opening of Sabroso. So I thought it would be nice to go on a short trip to Hong Kong, a country that we both have not been during the long weekend in conjunction with the Queen’s birthday.

For me, who grew up watching a lot of Hong Kong dramas, listening to Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Anita Mui, Leon Lai etc.. And going to a country that speaks my language and the origin of my all time favorite ‘Yin Yang tea’ excites me lots.

But Hong Kong ended up to be quite a let down.

We stayed at Yau Ma Tei area in Kowloon. The area was full of local eateries, shops selling medicine, dried food, clothing, cosmetic.. With huge neon signage that comes to life in the evening. Think of it like as huge china town and you’ll get what I mean.

The food in Hong Kong was a disappointment. And after a while we agree that Mc Donald’s and Burger King would be a better choice for our pallette.

Before going to Hong Kong, one of the thing that I really looked forward to was the tea restaurant (known as Cha Chan Teng) which the locals frequent during breakfast. So I foursquared and found this Mido cafe from the 50s which received quite good ratings.

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We ordered the famous French toast, pineapple po lou bun, beef Minnesota soup, vegetable stir fried noodle, braised pork in tomato gravy and yin yang tea.

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The bill came up to approx $215 HKD with is close to RM90. Honestly the food and drink was really bland… And I would say that Malaysian Chinese food and Teh Tarik is so much more better compare to these…

When I learned that Hong Kong is the land of 7/11, I got really excited. Probably because I am spoiled in Bangkok for the variety of stuff that they sell in 7/11 with very very cheap price. But Hong Kong turned out to be a disappointment again… The 7/11 was extremely small and food items were like 3-4 times more expensive. For example, a box or Pokky cost about $20HKD which is RM8 where in Bangkok it is only RM1 or RM1.50. And a small sandwich is $12HKD which is RM5.

I was ready to splurge in Hong Kong. Bu when it comes to shopping, the only thing(s) I bought was a stethoscope at a local pharmacy, Nioxin shampoo, a Longchamp bag, a novel by Khalid Hosseini, and two chocolate bar at the airport. Temple street where most people raved about was a disappointment. Nothing much to see and buy, I think I’ll have better luck at Patpong night market.

The other touristy thing that we did was taking a stroll along Avenue of Stars along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, in a sea of very loud mainland Chinese.

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We also stayed for the Symphony of Lights, a 15 minutes display of coloured lights and laser beams involving 40 buildings from both sides of the harbour. Sad to say, I wasn’t really impressed.

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In all…I didn’t quite enjoy Hong Kong. It didn’t wow me like how I expected it to be.

But I did enjoy the time spent with Jorge and little Jorgito, whom behaved really well during the entire trip 😀

When the sun goes down in Pattaya

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Half past 3pm.
Got up, freshen up.
It’s time to make a living,
when the sun goes down.

A very tight off-shoulder pink blouse,
A mini distressed jeans,
Cellulite-free butt cheeks come out to play,
And a 4 inch silver coloured heels,
To score any men I fancy.

I let the Johns hold me.
Grab me wherever they fancy.
As long as they keep buying drinks.

Do not look at me with those pitiful eyes.
I do not comprehend your world to mine.

For this, is how I stay alive.

>> Nakhon Pathom >>

“Why oh why did I choose to come to Nakhon Pathom?”

That was what flashes through my mind when the minivan announced our arrival and asked us to get off out on the main road heading towards Kanchanaburi.

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I almost went into panic mode, then I saw a farang and I breathe a sense of relief (auto reflex, don’t ask me why). Then I managed to calm down even more when I saw Big C on the opposite site or the road, as I remember reading an article about catching a bus from Big C back to Bangkok from Nakhon Pathom. Suddenly, must have been a KM or two from where we were standing, a familiar sight came into view. It was Phra Phatim Chedi…

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There weren’t any tuk tuk nor songtheaw so we decided to continue walking towards the direction of the Chedi.

We walked passed a Suzuki carnival, then miraculously ended up in a farmer’s market.

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We continued walking…and jumped for joy when we saw this road sign.

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Finally! After walking for about 40 minutes, we finally reached our destination!

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Phra Phatom Chedi definitely did not disappoint us. The stupa was magnificent!

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Wat Phra Pathom Chedi (Holly Stupa) definitely did not disappoint us. It is said that the stupa is the tallest in the world and stood 127 meters in height. A quick check on wikipedia said that the stupa was first mentioned in Buddhist scriptures in year 675 but archaeological findings dated back to the 4th century.

In the 11th century, the stupa was overbuilt with a Khmer style prang and later overgrown by the jungle. King Mongkut (King Rama VI) during his time as a monk visited the stupa several times and ordered the building of a more magnificent chedi a the site which was completed after 17 years of construction in 1870 and became the royal temple of the King.

The temple complex has a calming effect. Monks of all ages were spotted around the temple complex. There is also a cave at the temple ground which houses several Buddha status. We went into the cave and was blessed by an elderly monk ^^

After spending about 30 minutes in Wat Phra Pathom Chedi, we walked back to Big C and took a minivan home (THB80).

What an experience 🙂

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More on Wat Phra Pathom:
http://www.tourismthailand.org/See-and-Do/Sights-and-Attractions-Detail/Phra-Pathom-Chedi–5111

>> Kanchanaburi >>

I vaguely knew about Kanchanaburi.

All I know is that it’s famous for the Tiger temple that people raved about so much, with close up photos of the tigers in front and beside them in a sleepy, lazy position that defies the true nature of a tiger.

Whether the tigers has been drugged, too well fed or as some might claimed…vegetarian (as to being raised by temple monks), I really don’t know.

Anyway, the reason why I chose Kanchanaburi for a short weekend getaway was simply because of its close vicinity to Bangkok, which is approximately a short 2 hours drive.

We begin our journey after I finished work on Friday. I figure that if we travel by night we could have an early start the next day to roam around Kanchanaburi.

To get to Kanchanaburi, one can either take a minivan from Victoria monument or a bus from The Southern bus terminal.

The Southern Bus Terminal Is located at a remote aread in Northern Thonburi and serves Western Thailand (including Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi) and Southern Thailand (including Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thani, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Hat Yai, and many others)is far from Bangkok city. .

Getting to the terminal is a bit of headache. We took the BTS to On Nut and took a metered taxi to the bus terminal. In all it took us close to an hour from Bangkok City. We arrived at about 8pm and searched frantically for the ticket counter to Kanchanaburi, only to be asked to go straight to Platform 10 by a cardboard sign at the counter.

We got to platform 10 and paid THB110/person. A local bus, nothing fancy. But cheap, fast and efficient. Which is why we very much prefer to travel by bus.

We reached Kanchanaburi bus station about 11pm. The weather was chilly and the town was already in a sleepy mode. We paid the songthaew THB80 to take us to Tara Raft Guest house – Almost triple the normal rate but I guess beggars can’t be choosers…

Tara Raft Guest House
I am not a fan of Raft or staying anywhere near the river. Call me paranoid because I have little tolerance towards the stench from human waste that goes into the river. But Tara Raft surprises me! The rooms were compact yet comfy! With wooden flooring, very thick and soft mattress, flat screen TV and friendly English speaking staff. I have nothing to complaint… well except the smell from the toilet due to the piping. But that’s tolerable 🙂

There is much to do in Kanchanaburi with plenty of Tour packages that can be arranged from any hotel or guess house. Some of the highlights include the Erawan falls, Elephant trekking, National parks, and a walk down memory lane to World War II along the infamous Deadth Railway.

I wanted to see Kanchanaburi at our own pace so we rented a bicycle for THB50 (each). Went to the War Museum for some history lesson, visited the war cemetery (Which was the final resting place of almost 7,000 POW’s who lost their lives during the construction of the “Death Railway”.), almost shed a tear or two looking at the inscription on the tomb stone, and cycled all the way to River Kwai where the Death Railway is under the hot blazing sun.

In all, it was great experience and I am glad that we spent our time to learn about the war, the struggle and hardship of the prisoners of war in Kanchanaburi.

Definitely warrants a second visit soon.

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More info:
Tara Floating Raft Kanchanaburi
15/1 Soi Rong-Heep-Aoi Ban Nua Kanchanaburi 71000 Thailand
E-mail : tararoom@live.com
Contact : +66(0)86-3967349 , +66(0)81-8563587 fax +66(0)34-512542
Website: http://www.tararoom.com/raft.html

Pulau Ketam

I’ve been trying to plan for a weekend getaway to Pulau Ketam because I thought it would be quite an experience for a foreigner to experience a local chinese fishermen’s village. However, my suggestion never fail to fall flat on my face everytime I suggest Pulau Ketam for a weekend getaway. Firstly, being my boyfriend is not an island junkie and secondly, he has worked and lived on Koh Samui for 3 years which failed to impress him. But soon after boredom kicks in over the long stretch of Raya weekend, my boyfriend finally gave to Pulau Ketam

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That’s me and him. We desperately need to lose some weight! =_=|||

It’s quite easy to reach Pulau Ketam via public transport. We took Putra LRT to KL Sentral and boarded the KTM train to Port Klang (last station on the Port Klang line) And from Port Klang, we walked to the jetty and took a speed boat to Pulau Ketam for RM10. Or you can opt for the ferry at RM7 if you can’t stand the heat and want to enjoy aircon throughout the 45 minutes ride.

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Boats at Port Klang’s jetty

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Speed boat from Port Klang-Pulau Ketam-Port Klang: RM10 per pax

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Ferry from Port Klang-Pulau Ketam-Port Klang: RM7 per pax

We checked in to Sea Lion Hotel, which is located few steps away from the jetty for a standard double room at RM68 per night. The room was basic with attached bathroom. Has air-con and a small TV with local channels.Breakfast is not included but fret not because its walking distance to the hawker center. I would recommend that you do some research prior to your trip as there are some better guesthouses and homestay on the island which are not widely advertised.

The first thing we did after we have checked in was to hunt for food! We rent a bike for RM8 from the hotel because we wanted to explore the island after lunch. However, walk a little bit further and you can even rent bikes for RM5 each.

We chose the restaurant with most patron. As they said, when in doubt, go where most people go and do what most people do. Here are the dishes that we ordered. I wouldn’t say it’s outstanding but the seafood was really fresh.

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Clockwise: Fried oyster (RM10), fried rice, steamed crab and butter prawn.

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First time having someone peel off the outer shell of a crab. Bliss….hahaha

After lunch, we took a stroll on our bikes and took some pictures of the island.

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Colourful houses built on stilts. The only mode of transportation on the island is bicycles.

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Sunset at Pulau Ketam

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Couples selling really delicious Takoyaki, 4 for RM4.

This is my 4th trip to Pulau Ketam and I would recommend this for a short weekend getaway for seafood lover and for those who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Remember to leave your computer and wifi at home and enjoy the simplicity of what Pulau Ketam has to offer.

Read more about Pulau Ketam here.

A rail world

I have a confession.
I am insanely in love.
With train travel.

The sound of the swaying wheels on the rails.
That magical haunting whistle.
The anticipation of arrival in a foreign land.

First train travel
2006.
20 hours.
Second class sleeper.
Penang – Bangkok.

I remembered.
The beautiful wide-eyed Indian boy.
With a ray of sunlight planted on his soft cheeks.
The invasion of local vendors at stations.
With cold drinks, dried pork, fried noodles and other delights in styrofoam packs.

I remembered.
Romanticism fills the air.
At the break of dawn.
To the choo choo sound.
And the sweet aroma of coffee from the snack car.
A book in my hand.
Watching the sun rise from the break of dawn.

An unforgettable ride.

City of monks in Saffron robe

It felt good to be back in Luang Prabang.

After 5 years since my first visit in 2007, there were only 3 things that I wanted to do in Luang Prabang. Ironically … this is what I had in my itinerary.

-Read The Godfather
-Visit the night market
-Overdose on Lao coffee.

Joma
My fav thing to do in Luang Prabang. Hanging out at Joma.

The sun came out at 5am in the morning.

By 6am, Laotians were up and about for the alms giving ceremony, which was performed religiously every morning. Rain or shine.

It was a bit chilly that morning, it was still drizzling and I had just finished another chapter of The Godfather at the comfort of my bed in Sayo Naga Guesthouse. It was my last day in Luang Prabang and knowing very well that I would not be back for a while, I reluctantly drag myself out of bed to witness the much raved about alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang.

I walked towards Sisavangvong Road and saw an army of monks in saffron robe walking into the city from nearby monasteries.

Barefoot. In solemn. Each carrying an alms bowl. Marching towards a handful of tourist, who stood in a very close proximity with the monks and locals performing the alms giving ritual.

City of monks in Saffron robe
City of monks in Saffron robe

I took out my camera, took a few shots and felt like shit.

I really felt like shit.

I felt intrusive photographing the monks. And hated myself for dragging me up 5am in the morning for something that I didn’t really enjoy doing.

After observing the alms giving ceremony, I headed over to my usual spot. Ordered a tuna baguette and a hot cup of Lao coffee, socked up the street vibe, basked in a language that I don’t understand, and flipped through the pages of The Godfather.

And I felt better instantly.

You know why I love Luang Prabang? Apart from Laos Coffee, the magnificent wats and the night market?

Because it’s so manageable by foot. All the city highlights practically situated at Sisavangvong Road. No haggling with touts for tuk tuk rides and no wasting time looking and trying to understand maps. Besides, long walks are therapeutic. Especially in a foreign land.

Without a care in the world, I momentarily pushed my emails, the impending proposals and just bask in the notion of the much needed me-time in a city that exude so much charm.

Joma Cafe
I spent a lot of time in Joma, the Starbucks equivalent in Indochina reading chapters after chapters of The Godfather. It’s not surprising that Joma has been touted as the best café in Laos. There’s a huge selection of F&B that is well prepared. The Caramela and coconut cake is out of this world. If I had to tag #foodporn in my instagram, eateries from Joma would fall under this category. Just because it gives me orgasm in every bite and sip from the cuppa.

Joma
Heavenly coffee and pastries

The Mekong
I spent some time at the Mekong riverfront, admiring the quiet Mekong river and remembering how it was once bustling with long boats transporting tourist to Pak Ou caves during the high season in December in 2007.

I noticed a few notice monks in saffron robe bathed and played in the river. They saw me, and starting whistling.

Slow boat at the mekong river
Slow boat at the mekong river

Then, I was approached by a boat man by the name of Khampong asking if I was interested to crossed the Mekong River to the village of Ban Xieng Maen to visit several wats on the hilltop on the opposite side of the river for 60,000 Kips. I tried to bargain for 40,000 Kips, he said 50,000 Kips. I was feeling exceptionally generous and said ‘OK’. Although I was well aware that I’ve been overcharged. He had a good heart, a decent man, he named a price and I was willing to pay.

Boat man and mekong river
Boat man and mekong river

Life on the other side of the Mekong looked as though it has frozen in time. 5 years old children ran freely without a single care in the world.

novice monks
novice monks

How wonderful if I could stay a bit longer.

And I dreamt a little dream…

Eat, drink, sleep Luang Prabang

The year was 2007, in the month of December.

I was all set to paint the skies red; riding along the wave of the low cost travel revolution that hit Asia by storm with AirAsia’s rapid route expansion.

The most memorable event from the my travels to Luang Prabang in 2008, was enduring a crowded 14 hour local bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang in total darkness up the hilly, long winding road with numerous deep pot holes scattered randomly on route 13; in the bus that can miraculously fit more passenger than it should (sometimes accompanied by chickens and farmer’s produce). With plastic chairs and cane stools placed in the bus for excess passengers to sit in the isle.

What’s fascinating and made the 14 hour bus trip worthwhile though, was the breathtaking landscape, mountains and valleys in all kinds of greens at the background of the Lao rural life with water buffalos and playing children at the foreground.

After a torturous and dangerous 14 hour bus ride passing by sloppy and dangerous corners without any road lamps; sans the infamous bandits that rules the mountains and rob off tourist along route 13. I reached Luang Prabang with icy blue fingernails, cracked lips and a bladder so full it hurts every part of my lower abdomen.

[typography font=”Vollkorn” size=”18″ size_format=”px”]The return[/typography]
Luang Prabang has always tops my favorite city in Indochina. Perhaps it was a fascination with the ancient wat(s) that stood sturdily among the French influenced architecture of guesthouses and cafes, sitting in the café spotting for a perfect shot of monks in saffron robes; sipping a cup of strong Lao coffee sweetened with a few teaspoon of condensed milk that had me yearning for a second visit.

Wat Pa Phay
Wat Pa Phay

I started my trip with much excitement on 6 September 2012 with AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane. Then off to Luang Prabang with Lao Airline.

Surprisingly USD168.40 for a return flight was worth every dollar. Especially with the very clean and very new Airbus 320 that comes with an excellent crew, and pilot that was trained for superb landing! The flight from Vientiane to Luang Prabang took approximately 40 minutes, and passenger were served with wet towels, a bottle of mineral water and a packet dried fruit crackers.

Luang Prabang was not quite what I remembered how it used to be. I expected to be greeted by sweet kisses of chilled air but instead greeted by the blazing hot sun at 30ºC. The roads were invaded by Honda(s), building’s looked so old, as though a vibrant young lady that was robbed of her beauty and left a lethargic old maid throughout the years.

My heart sank a little.

[typography font=”Vollkorn” size=”18″ size_format=”px”]The Sayo Naga[/typography]
The van that picked me up from the airport for a fare of USD10 entered along Sisavangvong Road, a familiar area that I used to walk to early morning in the chilled December morning before settling down by the roadside for a tuna baguette and a cup of hot Lao Coffee.

Sayo Naga was a very pleasant, nice, cozy guesthouse for only USD15 (after the special discount due to wet season). The standard double room comes with a personal terrace, air con, cable TV, bath room with bathtub, hot shower, minibar and wireless Internet! It’s also a better choice for me because it’s tucked away from the main road and a stone throw away from my favorite cafe – Joma and main attractions like Mt Phuosi, National Museum, night market, and mekong river.

Guesthouses were abundant in Luang Prabang along Mekong riverfront and Sisavangvong Road with prices ranging from USD2-USD1500 to suit any budget.

[typography font=”Vollkorn” size=”18″ size_format=”px”]Noodle soup, baguette and Lao coffee[/typography]
Lao coffee has become an obsession ever since I had my first taste of Lao coffee in Luang Prabang 5 years ago. Though its full flavoured coffee with a hint of sourness, it tasted heavenly with sweetened condensed milk, minimising the heftiness found in Vietnamese coffee.

The best coffee in Luang Prabang can be found on the street next to Haw Kham(The National Museum) leading down to the Mekong riverfront by a elderly Laotian who’s ever so generous with her smile.

Lao coffee
Lao coffee
stainless steel pitchers
stainless steel pitchers

Noodle soup is a staple food that I can’t live without in Indochina. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s filling and they let me throw in as much basil leaves, lime wedges, cilantro, bean sprouts that I can fit in the bowl. The glass noodle in clear broth soup never fail to ignite my taste buds and appetite. And what I love about it is that it gives me a lot of freedom to transform my bowl of noodle soup into a personalised bowl of noodle soup with chili paste, soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce to taste.

Noodle soup vendor
The noodle soup stall opposite the National Museum with only 10,000 Kip per bowl.
Noodle soup
Noodle soup

Other than noodle soup, baguette is my go-to breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner! Yes, my love affair with the french baguette is deeply rooted in my heart ever since I had my first taste of french baguette in Laos. For 10,000 kips, you get to choose from a variety of filling (bacon, chicken, tuna, omelette) for your baguette topped with pickled carrots, daikon radishes, cucumber, cilantro, and Chinese celery with chilly sause and mayonnaise.

The french baguette to me, is possibly the best culinary legacy that the French left behind for Indochina!

Baguette stall
Baguette stall
Tuna baguette
Tuna baguette

Restaurants and cafes are of abundance in Luang Prabang along the Mekong riverfront and Sisavangvong Road which serves up traditional Laotian, French, Thai, Western dishes. For a cheaper option, head over to the market stalls set up along the alleyway next to the Tourist Information building. That serves everyday Laotian dishes like fried noodles, friend rice, BBQ chicken, buffalo sausage and an array of vegetables dishes.

Another popular option among backpackers is the buffet stall that offers a dozen of dishes for 10,000 kips per plate. Word of caution though that dishes are displayed on aluminium basins and by 8pm, it would already turn cold dead.

10000 Kips buffet
10,000 Kips buffet

Coming up…what did I do in Luang Prabang for 4 days 3 night.

The quest

So here’s the thing…

There are 12 months (maybe less, maybe more), USD15,000 (or something like that), a 60 liter backpack, a sleeping bag, an iPod & iPhone, a Mac Book Air, a Starbucks tumbler, a DSLR, an international passport and the freedom to choose wherever I wanted to travel to from April 2012 – March 2013.

And yet, I couldn’t make up my mind -_-|||

There are so many suggestions, so many ideas…

“You’ve been traveling in SEA, why don’t you just do Europe?”

“Go to USA, rent a car and drive cross-country!”

“What about Japan and Korea?”

Wow…it’s a little tad overwhelming. Honestly.

I sorta understand now, how all these work. It’s not so much of how much do you need to have in your bank account to start planning. Money is secondary, some people I know hopped on a plane with only a few hundred bucks in their pocket and yet managed to travel for 12 months cross-continents!

It’s about deciding on the purpose of your travel.

See, when you figure out the purpose, then the how-long and the how-much will fall into place and not be an issue anymore.

Although I’ve blog about reasons to travel, I’ve never really sat down and thought about my purpose of my travel.

Sure, wanting to get out of the rat race, wanting to experience different culture tops the chart of ‘Reason why I want to quit my job to travel‘. But it has to be more than that. It has got to be a QUEST, that will help me brave through adversity in my travel instead of taking the next flight home when I am bored or run out of travel fund.

Finding the best burger in the world. That’s a quest.

Help build schools in poverty stricken country. That’s a quest.

Finding the most well-preserved, ancient shrine. That’s a quest.

Finding the best beaches in South East Asia. That’s a quest.

As for me, I am currently driven by being a beach bum in Southern Thailand, hibernating up in the mountains in Luang Prabang and stuffing myself silly with pasta in Italy!

That’s hardly a quest.

At all.

Damned I’m screwed.

48 hours in Cameron Highlands

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. — Jawaharal Nehru

Cameron Highlands has always been a romantic place for me. Chilly with temperature less than 25’C during the day and as low as 12’C during the night, I could picture myself spending a month up here doing nothing but drinking hot black tea the whole day with a book and my Mac to keep me company.

The ride up to Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur took about 4 hours. Instead of taking the route from Tapah, my parents and I drove all the way up North and exited the expressway at Simpang Pulai to Cameron Highlands because road condition were better than Route 59 from Tapah. Driving up to the highlands on a long and winding road with sharp corners couldn’t have been a breezy affair. Especially with vegetable trucks driving down from the highlands in the morning.

It’s great to be back in Cameron Highlands after 4 long years. The weather is not as chilly as I can remember from 4 years ago. In fact, I had no problem walking around with my t-shirt, shorts, converse shoes and a scarf in day time without freezing myself.

Cameron Highlands is made up of 8 neighborhoods. The 3 townships are Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang. While the settlements are around Bertam Valley, Kea Farm, Tringkap, Kuala Terla and Kampung Raja. Being Tanah Rata and Brinchang the most popular towns of retreat for holiday makers, with abundant of hotels, guesthouses, resorts, restaurants, cades and souvenir and convenient stores.

We stayed at a family-run guesthouse called The Caremonian Inn at Tanah Rata. Rooms are pretty basic with private bathroom but what I like most is the spacious garden to laze around in early mornings and afternoons with a hot cup of tea. (The homemade scones are to die for!) Not to mention that it’s a stone throw away from the main street at Tanah Rata full of cafes, restaurants, convenient stores, banks, clinic and massage parlours!

Caremonian Inn
Caremonian Inn

A visit to the lush tea plantation, strawberries farm, rose gardens, farmer’s market, bee farm, butterfly garden and cactus valley were some of the activities that I have planned with mom and dad.

After our lunch at a Chinese Restaurant at Tanah Rata, we made our way to Kok Lim Strawberries Farm to pluck some strawberries. We were greeted by a friendly Burmese worker who showed us the biggest, the juiciest and the sweetest strawberries. Mom got so excited with strawberries plucking and ended up plucking 900gram worth of giant strawberries.

Giant Strawberries at Kok Lim Strawberries Farm
Giant Strawberries at Kok Lim Strawberries Farm. Actually, it’s just camera trick!

A vegan’s haven, Kea Farm Market (next to Equatorial Hotel) is a must-visit for veggie lovers. My jaw dropped when I came across vendors selling 10 packets of vegetables of any choice for only RM10! From cherrie tomatoes to long beans, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower and many more! I couldn’t help thinking that with only RM500 a month, I can live like a queen in Cameron Highlands!

Kea Farm Market
Kea Farm Market

Corn lover like me would go berserk with Cameron’s sweet corn. These corns can be eaten raw and it’s oh-so-sweet! At Kea Farm Market, it’s selling for only RM10 (for 14 corns). A far cry from the ones sold at super market in Kuala Lumpur. With at least RM3 per corn.

If you think that Cactus are thorny and ugly, then a visit to Cactus Valley is a must! It’s looks as though Picasso has waved it’s magic brush and had the cactus turned into such beautiful work of art!

Beautiful cactus at Cactus Valley
Beautiful cactus at Cactus Valley

A visit to Cameron Highland would not be complete without a visit to the tea plantation.

On our way down from Tanah Rata this morning, we made a stop at Bharat Tea Plantation. Perfect way to end our 48 hours in Cameron highland.

Bharat Tea Plantation
Bharat Tea Plantation
Tea leaves
Tea leaves at Bharat Tea Plantation

So there you have it, my 48 hours in Cameron Highlands with my parents. Here’s a map for you guys who intend to plan a weekend getaway to the highlands.

Why I choose to quit my job to travel

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Every one of us has a personal dream. A dream that belong solely to us. Not our parents, not our friends nor our society.

I too have a personal dream, and that is to travel the world.

Travel the world
Travel the world

Wanting to travel the world did not come after reading a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love or some pop culture travelog made popular by some Hollywood script writer. It started many many years ago, when there was so much angst, after being punished for dirtying the wall, bullying my younger brother, and writing something stupid that I shouldn’t have in my diary. The need to travel the world then was a form of escapism to an unjust that was felt by a 7 year old. But 28 years of pre-programming later, still no amount of money and material comfort could replace the burning desire to travel the world.

I want to learn to trust my intuition
Traveling in a foreign country can be brutal. Especially when traveling to a country where street vendors and bus drivers couldn’t understand the most basic form of English sentence. Yes, try getting into a cab in Ho Chi Minh or try ordering a bowl of pho from street vendor in Hanoi with no pictorial aid on the menu. The amount of innards that comes with it will shock the bejesus out of you. And don’t get me started with touts who’s friendliness appear to be all too inviting for one who is desperate for someone to talk to.

When I am on my own, I have only my instinct to trust. I learn to listen and pay attention to that pinching feeling and that little voice at the back of my head; on who to trust, what to do and which path to take.

I want to learn how to be in control of my finances
Contrary to what was said on people born under the Scorpio sign, I’m terrible at managing finances. When you have more than enough, you fall into the trap of not understanding the value of money. Yes, I’ve fallen into the trap. Had too much, spent excessively on others and myself on things that I don’t need.

I’ve never had to save money for something that I really want. Not because I have a lot of money, but I do have enough. Besides, there’s always credit card laying around, waiting for me to exploit.

The planning stage for my round the world trip in 2013 has taught me how to re-evaluate my priorities when it comes to my finances. For the past 1 month, I’ve only bought one DVD (usually 4-6 a month), I’ve refrained myself from shopping at Zara, Mark & Spencer and Kinokuniya bookstore. And most importantly, I’ve only visiting Starbucks twice in a month! (as compared to at least 3 trips a week). And that’s not all, I’ve also managed to save 50% of my monthly salary for my travel fund for the past 2 months!

I want to free myself from 9-6 job
Ever since I came across Tim Ferriss’s book, ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, I now understand that we can get so much work done and be more productive if we are not tied to our 9-6 job. I puzzles me on why do we have to spend one quarter of our life slogging in the office. If the purpose of our being is the have fun and to explore the wonders of this huge playground, then the concept of 9-6 defeat the purpose of having fun. Because, most of the city dweller work more than 8 hours a day, spent an average of about 3 hours stuck in the jam, and the remaining hours in front of the telly. Can you imagine living the rest of your life this this? I can’t.

That’s why I choose to leave.

I want to fall in love with all that is different from me
We will never understand the real meaning of compassion until we are put in a situation where we have to learn to trust people who are of different background, skin color, language and culture.

Like it or not, every one of us is different. Our perception and our values are shaped by our education, social standing, religion, belief structure, past experience and a countless factors will affect human behavior and culture. If we are being surrounded by the same kind of people everyday, we will not understand and learn to love those who look, speak and smell different from us.

If we don’t travel to foreign lands, we would never know that in Russia, when a man peels banana for a lady it means he is romantically interested in her. Or the fact that it’s pretty common for men to hold hands in central Asia.

I want to be a better person than I am today
I believe that traveling can mold us into becoming a better person. To help us unlearn and relearn our values in life. So that we can be more compassionate, to have the ability to see the good in others and to restore our faith in humanity.

All these and more…which is why I choose to quit and my job to travel the world.

Damn, it feels good saying that! 😀

The now before 2013

Its hard to describe in words how I am feeling right now. Pretty much like having gazillion butterflies in my stomach, fluttering wildly every time I think about April 2013. Yes, April 2013. The date is almost set. I will be leaving Malaysia with my backpack for the next 6 months. Doing what I’ve always wanted to do…Travel.In life, we’ve got to have a purpose. It is with a purpose that we know passion, and to live life to the fullest. Traveling with a backpack, crossing continents, being out there to experience people and culture that I only get to read about in travel magazine has always been something that I’ve wanted to do. In my teens, in my 20s and early 30s. It’s like having that little flame in my heart that refuses to be put off by the comfort and security of having more money that I ever needed.Is it scary? Yes, of cause. Not so much of what’s going to happens during my travel but rather, what happens after.But lets talk about now – the planning stage. I’ve figure out how much I need to save in a month to have at least USD10,000 by April. Minus off my rent, monthly contribution to my parents and my credit card debts; that leaves me USD156 for food, transportation, and my phone bills.

It’s funny now that I have only USD156 to spend in a month, I am starting to realized how much I’ve allowed myself to splurge on material things that I don’t need. I have 25 pairs of shoes, way too much clothes that I don’t wear, way too many books that I don’t read, way too much coffee and canned food in my kitchen cabinet that is close to its expiry date, way too much pirated DVDs,  way too much souvenirs from my short term travels, way too many pair of glasses, way too much makeup and way too many Starbucks tumbler!

My mother is right. I am a spendthrift.

When we finally open our eyes to see who we truly are, the truth can set us free. And quite frankly, I am ashamed. While I am disgusted by those who splurge on Hermès Birkin bag that could feed the entire village in Cambodia. I am doing the exact same thing with my excessive purchases.

So, with only USD156 a month to survive and move around. I have no choice but to make do with whatever I have. Which means, no more shopping trips to Zara, Aldo, Mark & Spencer, Kinokuniya, Starbucks, Muji and additional purchases on stuffs that I already have. And I tell you this…ITS FUCKING LIBERATING! It kinda feels like going on a adventure, of self rediscovery and reprogramming.

Its quite awesome. Really. Can’t wait.

Finally, its happening

"China"

 

After 5 years of procrastination, I’m finally, FINALLY going to take 6-12 months off to see the world!

I am a believer that we all pre-planned our journey in this lifetime. And I knew I will take some time off to see the world, of countries and cities that I probably wouldn’t know how to pronounce. And it couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time. Especially when I am more financially secure, emotionally and mentally matured after being exposed to various cultures in different countries thanks to my glamorous stint in AirAsia.And the best part is, mom doesn’t think I am a nutcase anymore for wanting to exchange my comfortable life with a backpack, on the road for at least 180 days! 😀

Life is great. And I am the most luckiest gal in the world.

Yes! And the journey starts April 2013.

Its time

Its 11.10pm and it’s almost bed time.But I had to pen down my thoughts while I still have it fresh in my mind. Yes, from now onwards, no more procrastinating.

I believe everything in life happened for a reason to serve me. (Yes I am THAT optimistic!). But knowing that is never enough. The universe can give us as many hints as we would like to have but if we don’t start doing something about it, we are going to end up in the vicious cycle of everyday mundanity.

If you know me well enough, you would know that I absolutely love to day dream. My mind tends to have the ability to wander off as it pleased, in whatever situation. So the past few days has been a treat to my wandering mind. Thanks to Aric S. Queen. It just so happened that I stumbled upon his about.me page, which led to his (travel) photos, and his blog! Honestly, It’s been awhile since I last read something to raw, real and insightful. It was as though his entire being was on display, as though I am living his life through his writing.

Crazy shit…I know…In a good way that is.

And from that moment on, something in me shifted. I was concentrating on me, more. What do I have to do to get to where I’ve always wanted to do and be.

All of a sudden, I feel so alive again.

Because I now have a mission. And the mission is to pursue a dream that has been buried deep down for the past 5 years.

So thank you, Aric.

Bangkok, a shopper’s paradise

Time flies when you are having fun.

I had an awesome time in Bangkok by myself. A much needed solo holiday. Everything was perfect. I stayed in my favorite hotel – Ecotel hotel, which pretty much a stone throw away to Pratunam, Platinum mall, and 30 minutes walk to the shopper’s haven of Siam Paragon, Central World & MBK Plaza.

I walked at my own pace, I slept and ate whenever I felt like it, no pressure and no obligation. Haven’t felt like that for a very long time. It’s fun and definitely my kind of holiday.

It was my last free ride from AirAsia. And that made me kinda sad and I was feeling all so nostalgic, thinking about those days when I could just hop on a plane over the weekend for a shopping trip in Bangkok, a foodie trip in Penang and Sun sea surf in Bali.

The perks of working with an airline!

Anyway, I am glad I can made it to this shopping trip which I’ve planned for 6 months ago. The first shopping mall I head to on my first day was Central Chitlom Departmental Store, one of the oldest departmental store in Bangkok. The only reason why I was there was because I wanted to get the medium sized Organic Cotton Tote Bag from Muji. And of cause to stock up Muji stationaries.

Then I went berserk at Platinum Mall, the biggest Fashion Mall in Bangkok. Bought some lovely accessories, and lotsa clothing. The next day, I went to Chatuchak weekend market. Didn’t buy much but I am totally loving this H&M ring that i purchase for only RM28.

H&M ring

After Chatuchak I made my way to Siam Discovery Center to check out Jeffrey Campbell shoes. I’ve been wanting the Jeffrey Campbell Lita for the longest time! And when I held ‘em in my hands, I felt like I’ve gone to shoe heaven and back. But they are oh-so-expensive! A pair of Lita cost almost RM600! And after much contemplation, I opted for these pair of shoes from Top Shop instead. They are not Lita I know…and now I kinda wished that I’ve bought the Lita.

Killer heals from Top shop

Oh well, next time then 🙂

A love affair with Lao coffee, baguette & pho

If you were asked to associate a country with food and beverage, what would you associate Laos with? For me it has got to be Lao Coffee, baguette and pho!

Like any other country in SEA, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants in Vientiane that offers a wide variety of cuisine. From Laotian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Western, Italian, French to Middle Eastern. Side walk cafes with free Wi-Fi has also mushroomed to cope with the increasing numbers of travelers to the city.

If you are a coffee lover like myself, you would agree that Lao coffee (aka Pakxong coffee) is the best in the world! Taken either hot/cold, 1st first sip ignites all your senses, 2nd ignites all the ‘happy cells’ in your body and 3rd sip sends you to heaven and back… Yes, pathway to heaven in that particular order and can happen 3-4 times a day with every consumption of Lao coffee.

Lao Coffee
Lao Coffee with lotsa condensed milk. Yums! Price varies from 5000kip to 10,000kip. Click to check out coffee workshop in Pakxong

There are plenty of cafe in Vientiane, Joma Bakery Café being the most talk-about in Lonely Planet guidebook.  Tried their Latte and it didn’t tickle my fancy. (sorry!)

I would however highly recommend True Coffee (originated from Thailand). They are so creative with their coffee menu! I tried Peppermint Peddy Latte and it was just….marvelous. Baristas were friendly and the ambiance felt like Starbucks (which is a plus!). Only draw back is that it doesn’t come with free internet. *shrugs*

True Coffee Cafe
True Coffee Cafe

Another good place that serve tons of cakes, huge coffee menu would be Sabaidee Coffee at the river front. Best of all, they provide fast speed Wi-Fi and its definitely a good place to hang out during those lazy afternoons.

I am not a foodie and I definitely don’t have a must-eat food list when I travel. I am also not very fond of eating meat at food stalls when I travel because it taste funny and I have a weak stomach. Therefore, if I can, I would rather go for vegetarian.

One of the cheap eats in Vientiane (and Indochina) is Vietnamese-type noodle soup also known as Pho. There are plenty of noodle stalls by the road side and its easy to spot. But the best Pho in Vientiane has to be the local eatery opposite of Champa Spa behind Nam Phu fountain.(Remember to go easy on the chilly flakes, its crazy potent!)

Vietnamese-type noodle soup, cheap eats in Vientiane. Price range from 10,000kip to 15,000kip
Vietnamese-type noodle soup, cheap eats in Vientiane. Price range from 10,000kip to 15,000kip

 

A common sight at cafe/street stalls. Add chili flakes, fish oil, soy sauce, sugar to your heart’s delight

Baguette is another once of my favorite cheap eats in Laos. My love affair with the Lao baguette happened 4 years ago when I first visited Vientiane. One fine night while I was walking alone hunting for food, I came across a small sandwich shop at Rue Samsenthai (near the Nam Phu fountain) and fell head over heals in love with the toasted baguette topped with pickled carrots, daikon radishes, cucumber, cilantro, Chinese celery and pate au foie du porc (I presume this is pork) to tuna, egg, marmalade, vegetarian and cheese (La vach qui rit).

Lao baguette. Prices range from 18,000kip for a full baguette and 9000kip for a half baguette. The shop also serves the best Lao coffee from only 5000kip.

So there you you go, my love affair with Lao coffee, baguette and pho in Vientiane, Laos.