Holiday and insights

I just returned from a week’s holiday in the Scottish highlands. Cold, yes. Very! There was a hailstorm at some point of time and it even snowed (for 5 minutes, that is)

Anyway, my last holiday was almost 4 years back and this was a much needed break – from my job and studies. I did not touch my books for the whole week and now is slowly getting paranoid. Gotta start moving again or I will never finish.

I went on a business trip to Liverpool in the middle of the month and spent one week getting to know the University and colleagues. Right after, I hopped on a train and went on a tour with a group of very young people, mainly Australians. I think I was the oldest of the lot and it certainly was a good trip.

The only different thing was this time, instead of hotels, I stayed in hostels and B&Bs. There I was, cramped up in a room with 4, 6 and sometimes 10 girls. Some were okay, some came back stumbling into the room at 3am in the morning, drunk. Initially, I thought it was going to be quite torturous for me, but then again, it wasn’t that bad. I would perhaps do the same again – it saves me quite a considerable amount of money.

The trip was something different from what ‘people like me’ would usually choose to go – ‘people like me’ would perhaps go to big cities, sleep in nice hotels, eat good food and shop till you drop.

But no.

I took the road less travelled. Opted for cold, morning walks in the jungle. Slept in cramped hostels and ate budget meals.

 It is different, really. Very different.

Sometimes, when you say you need a holiday, all you need is just go somewhere and be away from civilisation, away from trafffic, people and pollution.

I wake up every morning to cold, crisp air. So fresh you can’t smell a single hint of smoke. So fresh that one single breath eliminates the need for coffee.

And the walks, yes.

Our tour guide will bring us to at least one ‘long’ (translate: 20 mins minimum, usually up hill) trek. And by the time you are done, you will feel so fit. Lol..

Perhaps my holidays next time should be like this.

Go somewhere different.

 

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Yes, am alive! Am I?!

Aaarrgghh… these few weeks had been ultra busy!

I can’t believe that I have been flying every weekend for the past 3 weeks! Let’s see, it all started with KL-Singapore, then KL-Kuching, then KL-KK, then KL-Jakarta, then Jakarta-Medan then KL-KK again… Gosh.. AirAsia should probably give me an award for as the most frequent traveller of the month!

Ok, maybe this will settle down soon but it’s pretty tiring, if you ask me. A friend asked just recently – do you love this and are you ok with all these? My answer would be, yes, I LIKE but not love, and I am fine and ok with all these. At least I get to see places and meet new people, right? And the most importantly, I get to learn new stuff, right?

Gosh, I hope this is worthwhile.

 

Chinese New Year

It’s exactly a week before Chinese New Year and of all places, I am in Bangladesh. And I am feeling a bit melancholic and homesick. I don’t usually feel this way when I travel cos its my job anyway to travel here and there but the fact that I have to do it just before CNY is depressing.

Sigh.

I usually look forward to the week before CNY simply because it is the most festive period. Songs playing everywhere, spring cleaning, shopping, etc. Small things leading up to the big event is usually where the excitement is.

Anyway, can’t really do much and all I look forward to now is to get home for CNY.

Gong Xi Fa Cai, everyone!

Lucky us

It is really true when people say that you won’t appreciate what you have unless you have seen others who are so much more unfortunate than us. One visit to India and another to Bangladesh has reaffirmed my thoughts.

Of course, human nature tends to compare ourselves with the more fortunate but there are always those who are better off. So, when do we draw the line? When enough is really enough? The answer, most probably, is never.

However, when one learns to look at others who are more unfortunate, a whole new perspective appears. We learn to appreciate what we have and see how lucky we are. That is, us, Malaysians.

Yeah. We are underpaid. But at least we have jobs and a roof over our head.

Our kids may not get the best education or the newest iPhone or Nintendo Wii. But at least they don’t need to walk between heavy traffic, naked, pressing their noses onto car windows, begging for money.

Traffic is bad, yes, but at least drivers are still curteous, and somehow don’t drive like maniacs on the street, honking and squeezing past huge cars and lorries.

Yes, some of us may send our aged parents to an old folks’ home but at least they don’t need to go barefoot with torn clothings walking around aimlessly holding out their hands to passerbys for some spare change.

And while we dine, there are many out there who barely had enough to eat.

Or while we complain about our public transportation, there are those out there who had to endure worse.

We are so, so lucky.

Hong Kong – 7 May 2009

Arrival

After a 6-hr flight on board AirAsia, I finally touched down in HK and met up with bro who was already waiting. Can’t wait to get to the hotel, check in and get some food!

When I was clearing customs, I was stopped and the guy actually asked me, in Cantonese, “Excuse me, ma’am where did you come back from? Did you buy anything?” and proceeded to direct me for my luggage to be checked. Obviously, I was mistaken to be a Hongkie and I was so close of telling him that I haven’t started buying yet!

Hotel

We took a cab directly to the hotel and thanks goodness, check-in was quite swift. We were stayed at the Cityview and the nice people there gave us a free room upgrade. The hotel is located at Yaumatei, the Kowloon side of HK and costed HKD600.00 per nite. Not too bad since both of us are sharing the costs.

P/S: I discovered much later when I returned to Malaysia that there are many more hotels which are cheaper, actually, albeit extremely small. But, one advantage that Cityview has is convenience.

Plasma

I don’t know what difference it made when they say our room is an upgraded one – but it was equipped with a TV, a small writing desk, cupboard, safe and all the necessary toiletries. It is, of course, very, very small, but since we are not there to spend the whole day in the hotel room, I guess it’s alright.

Beds

The beds were quite small – in fact, the whole room is small, but clean enough for us. We settled down, looked at the map and set out looking for dinner. Cityview is located quite near Temple Street and the Ladies Market, so, we chose Temple Street and headed there for dinner.

Dinner

As a matter of fact, there is nothing spectacular about Temple Street. It felt just exactly like our Petaling Street, littered with vendors selling fake designer goods and oriental trinkets. There were a couple of road-side restaurants, as well, and recognising that we are tourists (with cameras and all) ushered us to sit down.

We were too hungry to explore further and settled for one. Together with two cans of Coke our meal came up to a whopping HKD200! Talk about cut throat prices!

Write-ups described the haunt to be a must-visit for their cheap goods and everything Chinese. To us, however, it was nothing extraordinary. Most stalls were selling about the same thing and we do not really trust those fortune tellers who each claim that they are ‘the one’ to consult.  I was hoping to try some stinky tofu but didn’t see any.

Dinner - Fried rice, sweet & sour pork, stir fried greens

It was already quite late after dinner and since there was not much that we could buy or see at Temple Street, we went back to our hotel. It was going to be a long day tomorrow (with a lot of walking, too!), so, a good night’s rest is much needed. After all, I was badly in need of a shower!

Temple Street

A  last photo of the day. LOL… Proof that we were at the famous Temple Street in HK! Most roadsigns in HK are of the same ‘design’ – with English language and Chinese characters and unit numbers pointing you to the right direction. Very, very useful for tourists!

Hong Kong – 8 May 2009 – am

Breakfast

Well, when you are in Hong Kong, what else is there to have for breakfast if not dim sum? We didn’t really have a particular restaurant in mind, so, we’d just approached the Concierge and asked for his advice. He pointed out that there is one just one block away from the hotel, so, we went looking for it.

Just before that, we went and purchased an Octopus Card meant to be used for all our MTR travels. I didn’t keep that one as a souvenier though, as it had to be returned for our HKD50.00 deposit to be refunded. After this mission, we went to this restaurant by the name of Yaumatei Ho Choi Restaurant and embarassingly enough, had to ask for a English Menu!

English Menu

We noticed that there were no tourists but a lot of pakciks and makciks taking their own sweet time sipping tea, reading newspapers and gossiping. Well, a sign of the right choice, perhaps? Good food is usually where the elderly locals go, I would say.

We ordered the usual:

Lo Mai Kai (Glutinous Rice)

Ha Gao (Prawn Dumplings)

Siew Mai (Pork Dumpling)

Cheong Fun

We ordered more, of course (including chinese tea, porridge, xiaolongbao)  – and the whole meal came up to about HKD160. Not too expensive, though, considering it being an air-conditioned restaurant. 

The food however, was nothing spectacular. Taste the same to me as some of the better dim sum restaurants in KL. Compared to us, theirs is pretty bland, less salty, which I don’t think is too bad – cos Malaysian dim sum is overloaded with sodium.

One thing I learned from this visit was that their food no longer tasted as extraordinary as what they were 15-20 years ago. I wouldn’t say it was because of deteriorating quality, but perhaps the influx of Chinese chefs and Hong Kong themed restaurants in Malaysia has made access to quality HK food so much easier.

Lantau Island – Cable car

Our next stop was Lantau Island where attractions like Ngong Ping, Po Lin Monastry and the Giant Buddha sits. We made use of our Octopus Card of course and travelled using the MTR. One thing about HK is their wonderful and efficient MTR service. Nobody ever needs to drive and the trains are clean, fast and on-time.

MRT ride

We reached Tung Chung, a station near to the cable car station which was supposed to take us over the sea and hills to Ngong Ping Village. The cable car ride took us across the Tung Chung Bay, with a spectacular view of *almost* the whole of HK, including their International Airport.

Cable car pose

Bright blue sky and sea

Can’t remember how long the ride took but it was enough for both of us to snap loads of pictures. Thank god we didn’t freak out – both of us are afraid of heights. The panaromic view wasn’t really breathtaking but beautiful enough. Haha.

We were among the first in queue, so, other than the two of us, there were just another two guys from Canada sharing our cabin/capsule.

Lantau Island – Ngong Ping

We were the very first people to reach Ngong Ping Village and businesses were just starting to open. There wasn’t much to see or do in the village, unless you want to spend some money going in and out multimedia shows, nature walks, etc, etc, which we happily skipped. Of course, we did buy some souveniers and took photos around the area.

And oh, entrance fees to each of these attractions are not included in your cable car ticket, so, you’ll need to pay up.

Village map

Monkey's Tale Theatre

Didn’t visit the Monkey’s Tale Theatre, cos don’t want to waste money. We just ‘monkeyed’ around taking pictures with this fella, proving that we’ve been there. The Village is Chinese-styled, so, do expect lots of cultural replicas and themes around. Like these:

Finding enlightment under the Bodhi Tree

Wishing Shrine

These people with their wishes tied to the shrine actually paid money to display their foolishness sincere wishes here. But just in case IT IS a wishing shrine, I silently made a wish – I wanna become rich! – haha – am sure the shrine has heard this gazillion times.

Lantau Island – Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastry

We’ve grown up watching TVB serials where, along the scenes, some one will surely make a trip to Lantau Island and give offerings to the Giant Buddha. So, how can we give it a miss? Furthermore, we are sure that mom will be happy to see pictures of these.

Ready to climb those steps

Ready to climb those steps

The Buddha sits at the Po Lin Monastry. The monastry is just a stone’s throw away from the Ngong Ping Village, accessible only on foot. The sun was extremely hot by the time we were arriving, so, please, if you are thinking of going there, bring an unbrella. I did bring mine, but happily left it at the hotel.

There is an entrance fee which costed us HKD60 inclusive of one vegetarian lunch. There isn’t any restaurants in sight around the area and unless you want to go back to Ngong Ping and eat at one of those overpriced restaurants, you might as well pay and go vegetarian. If it makes you feel any better, the money you are paying for the meal will go towards the monastry’s maintenance.

The Buddha’s name is actually Tian Tan (malas wanna explain, click on the link to read yourself) and my, oh, my, the steps leading up to Tian Tan reminds me of Batu Caves.

Thank goodness it wasn’t THAT hot in HK at that time. Although it was sunny, the weather was still bearable compared to Malaysia. There weren’t so many people there and we made the climb bearable by taking photos after photos at certain points.

Finally!

We finally made it huffing and puffing. So, this statue is just one of Buddha sitting on the lotus. Nothing special but if you want to offer some joss sticks and what-not, you could buy those from the little shop underneath the Buddha. The shop was air conditioned and we went in there just to cool down.

There were a lot of souveniers on sale as well, but we didn’t get anything. The sales assistants claimed that the souveniers – which are mainly pendants and bracelets – are blessed by the Buddha. We were quite sceptical about it since the whole place is a tourist attraction meant to ‘earn’ from tourists.

Moving on quickly (cos we wanna go Disneyland later!) we took a quick tour of the Po Lin Monastry, just beside the Buddha. Lunch was also supposed to be served there, so, we walked around leisurely, snapping photos where necessary.

The Po Lin Monastry

The Po Lin Monastry was not too busy, so, we were able to stroll and take pictures without anyone blocking our view. Luckily though, cos the day after our visit was the 15th day of the month according to the lunar calendar and I am sure this temple will be packed to the brim with devotees.

Bathing

Why am I doing this? Don’t know cos I didn’t even bother reading this:

Explanation

Lunch was so-so, maybe because I wasn’t that hungry after the dim sum breakfast. To our surprise, it wasn’t those simple economy rice sets though, cos we were ushered into this confortable air conditioned restaurant.

Our lunch

The prepaid lunch came with soup, appetiser (fried spring rolls) , two types of vegetable dishes and one tofu dish. Of course, there were rice and Chinese tea. Still, compared to Malaysian food, theirs were extremely bland. Don’t even dare to ask for cili padi to spice things up. Heh. Wished there was some sambal.

We quickly made a move after lunch, cos it was quite late already and we wanted to go to Disneyland. We had to walk all the way back to Ngong Ping Village, passing by the statue again to get to the cable car station 😦

We noticed that it was getting busier at the Village, so, if you really want to join the crowd, visit later in the day.

Cable car ride back

This time, we had the whole cabin to ourselves and continued to snap photos. We could stand up and make funny faces to the people in the next car, but thought we should not go to far…

By the way, many may not have noticed, but towards the sides of the cabin, there is a sticker on the glass prompting you to stand up and smile at a monkey as you approach the station. It is available on both sides of the cabin, depending on which direction you are arriving at.

There was a monkey at the station but the photo it took wasn’t that nice, so, we didn’t purchase it.

Hong Kong – 8 May 2009 – pm

Shopping

Okay, this was not supposed to be on our itinerary but since we had to walk pass the Citygate to reach Tung Chung station, we might as well go in and have a look. Citygate houses quite a number of established brands and good thing is, they are all on cheap, cheap prices! I bought 3 pairs of Esprit pants for just RM270! A bargain… A highly recommended place to shop when you are in HK.

Disneyland HK

After some serious retail therapy, we went again to take the MRT to Disneyland. There is only one MRT route that everyone could take and jeez, what a beautiful train it was!

Mickey Windows

Mickey Windows

Mickey handles

Mickey handles

Everything in the train which drove us to Disneyland was not the same as the conventional one. Too bad it was just a short ride, or else we would have taken more pictures. But then nothing’s better than arriving at Disneyland itself!

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland

It was very sunny and hot when we arrived, and of course, that didn’t really stop us from going straight ahead. It was very windy, though, so that helped a bit. The theme park itself was located quite far from this entrance arch, so, be prepared to walk like mad.
Now showing!

Now showing!

Finally in the theme park! Paid a whopping HKD350 as entrance fees! Very expensive lor… but then again, it might be the cheapest Disneyland that I can afford to go to! 

Mickey and Minnie

Mickey and Minnie

Of course, a picture taken with Mickey and Minnie. We queued so bloody (sorry, I know there are kids around!) long under the hot sun just to take this picture. We can use our camera to take pictures but the staff would also take a couple with their huge ass professional camera. And yes, we bought their printed version which costed us HKD120.00!

But… if you don’t have a picture with Mickey and Minnie, you wouldn’t be considered having visited Disneyland, right?

We spent like ages here and took a lot of pictures. Can’t post them all here, of course. Disney HK is not too big and we didn’t get to go on all rides. All those terrifying ones, pass! All those too childish ones, pass!  Too long queue, pass! Too boring or similar to the last one we rode on, pass!

Cars!

Cars!

And wrapping up the visit was of course, shopping! Where else to get souveniers but at Disneyland? No need to think of what to buy later! Stuff were quite expensive and spent about HKD870 in total! Gasp….

Souveniers

Souveniers

What to do, this woman here ramai kenalan!

And when it was really time for us to leave, it had already gotten dark. Our itinerary said that we were supposed to head over to Tsim Sha Tsui fr the Symphony of Lights performance but we were too tired to even think about going there. So, both of us agreed to call it a day and travel all the way back to our hotel.

Disney at night

Disney at night

Dinner

We ta-paued food on the way back to the hotel and ate there. Too tired to bother with finding food or thinking of what to eat, so just settled for fast food. I was hoping that McDonalds in HK has some pork burgers but too bad, they didn’t. So all I got was grilled chicken.

McBurger

McBurger

Although I was supposed to be starving, I just didn’t feel like eating. However, the burger was good. The meat patty wasn’t processed meat but de-boned chicken thigh. It was juicy, too, although food presentation wise, I didn’t think it looked too appetising. Of course Coke and fries taste just the same.

Dinner

Dinner