A Travellerspoint blog

2012 New Year Celebration in Indonesia!

“Indonesia needs a good press agent as it always seems to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons.” – Lonely Planet
I couldn’t agree more with the statement…

About 5 months ago, I came across several amazing pictures posted by my friend in Facebook where I kept wondering where on earth this place is. To my surprise, it’s Mount Bromo in Indonesia! To be frankly, I’ve never heard of this place. However, this place is always ranked number 2 tourist attraction to go after Bali Island in most travel books and website based on the quick research that I’ve carried out. Shame on myself because as I do not know that is such a supernatural beauty in my neighbor country!

Without further delay, I proposed to my buddies that to have a 2012 New Year celebration in Mount Bromo! It should be very exciting, at least I believe! And I know there is another world well known Borobudur Buddhist temple nearby. Therefore I made up a travel plan to these two places and I hope at least some of them will show some interest as few in the group mentioned Borobudur before.
And here is part of the proposal’s content:

“ NEW YEAR CELEBRATION @ INDONESIA!
Have you ever thought of countdown-ing New Year in Indonesia? It sounds a bit freaky BUT in fact it is not! Can you imagine celebrating the last moment of 2011 and welcoming a brand new 2012 with a gang of BFF surrounded by breathtaking sceneries (just in case you don’t know, it stands for Best Friend Forever lol)? Don’t think too much, act now! ”

The reason why I said “freaky” is because I know my buddies well enough and I honestly do not think they will be thrilled to celebrate New Year in Indonesia. Another reason of organizing this trip is that I have never travelled with them to overseas except with one of them (that was already 5 years ago in Bali Island). In fact, they do have BFF overseas trip annually but it just that the destination they’re going always fails to excite me. lol

Luckily enough, the response was quite encouraging and there was LUCKY 7 of us “registered” for the tour. Thanks god! And I can’t wait to spend some quality time with my buddies that I’ve known for more than 15 years.

The day has come and here we go, Indonesia! (31/12/2011)

Before I further illustrate more of the trip, I should have made clear here now of what had happened to the two people that you might have identified gone missing later on. Unfortunately, something unlucky had happened where the two who is a couple did not turn up last minute due to the boyfriend had high fever and the girlfriend decided not to go but to take good care of him.

It was a two hour and forty minutes flight from Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya and we were welcomed by our friendly guide, Mr. Argus and cool driver, Mr. Irfan. After a quick lunch, we headed straight to our destination, Mount Bromo. It took about 4 hours driving from Juanda International Airport all the way up to the volcanic wonderland.

You might think it must be a long journey from Kuala Lumpur to Mt. Bromo. But not for me! We had so much chatter and laughter talking about the past as well as sharing each travel experiences during the journey. Further, I was pretty amazed by the surrounding sceneries on the way to Mt. Bromo and I felt thankful simply because this gem is not being fully discovered yet. What I’m trying to say is that it is not too commercial and touristy yet. Road is pretty narrow and the condition is rather unsatisfactory only, no cyber café spotted, not many cars but motorbikes, simple yet very clean squad toilet, not many foreign tourists too …

After unloading our luggage, we were brought to a cottage like restaurant for our New Year meal. The whole atmosphere was so inviting with the colorful decoration and lighting. More importantly, coming from hot tropical country, we certainly enjoyed the weather here (less than 10 degree Celsius I guess). Though it was a bit chilly, it was a warm dinner. There were moments during the dinner I’ve had the feeling as if they were my family members and we were celebrating big day together. In fact, I do see them as if they were my siblings.

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After the dinner, we walked around and you will definitely feel the New Year is coming real soon if you were there. Though there was a shower but it did not even have a slight impact from stopping the public to countdown-ing the New Year 2012. Local youngsters and families were everywhere, small live concert & fireworks, everything were just seemed to waiting for 2012 to come!

We were informed beforehand by the tour guide that after the hotel check-in at 6pm, the rest of the day is free at our own leisure. For the fact that there’s nothing much we can do, I suggested having a gift exchange session to kill the time. Also on the way to Mt. Bromo, we stopped by a grocery store to get some local snacks and beverages for this particular activity. Again, it was a warm and fun New Year celebration where we were laughing at the gifts of each other has prepared, looking at the TV and countdown-ing together “5 4 3 2 1 Happy 2012! Cheers!” (Just for your information, Bintang Beer tastes much better than Tiger and Heineken) Further, people’s excitement and live bands made lots of New Year noise to accompany the exploding light over a dark night sky. We just couldn’t feel any better.

1/1/2012
Though it was 3:30am in the very early morning, people were everywhere outside the lodge and everybody seemed to be ready heading to where we were going. We hopped on to the Jeep that will bring us to the world’s most famous view point at Mt. Penanjakan on the rim of the Tengger caldera to see the sunrise with its young volcanic including Mt. Bromo and an active Mt. Semeru in the background. It was absolutely adventurous!

We arrived at the foot of Mt. Penanjakan after 30 minutes ride. Mr. Argus asked if we need the horse riding service and the answer was of course not. The place was just breathtaking! The left hand side looked like Switzerland for me, the front view looked like Tibet and the right hand side looked exactly what we have imagined, volcanic wonderland! We spent about an hour hiking up to the view point to appreciate the beauty of nature around us. According to the tour guide it should be 40 minutes instead but my buddies who love to take pictures couldn’t resist the magnificent scenery that lies in front of their eyes and kept clicking their DSLR camera. It thus explains why we were taking more time than norm.

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The adventure continued to an active Mt. Bromo. First, we were brought to a Tibet like place. The place was full of people, tent, horses and colourful Jeeps. At one point, girls in our group decided to go for horse riding due to the lower energy level. The price was 2USD, which we think it’s absolutely affordable and reasonable. After that, we climbed up 245 steps of stairs to see the large “hole”. It was superb! I would rank this the 2nd amazing scene that I’ve ever witnessed in my life after Niagara Falls. For me, it is even more impressive than the Great Walls! You might want to consider putting this on your bucket list.

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Time to say goodbye to Mount Bromo...

At 10:30am, we started our 4 hours drive to the town to catch the 5:15pm train to Yogyakarta. Not long after we embarked our journey, our car stopped moving due to a super long unmoving traffic queue. At first, we were thinking 3 hours buffer should be okay and so we waited in the car patiently. Tik tok tik tok ... It was approaching 1pm and all of us started getting worried because our car has only travelled for merely few kilometers away from the point of origin. Our tour guide jumped off the car and walked to the front to find out what had caused the massive traffic jam. After 30 minutes he appeared to us with a bad news. According to him, there was a road construction and as a result cars were moving extremely slow. All of us were like: “What the heck! You must be kidding with us! Road construction being carried out on 1st January at one of the Indonesia’s popular tourist attractions? It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

The tour guide suggested us to walk pass the construction side and take a motorcycle ride to the town if we did not wish to miss the train. Without much deliberation, we jumped out from the car and run as fast as we could. I bet it must have been some kind of entertainments for many passengers who were waiting in their cars to see the 5 tourists to scuttle across them. Some of my friends even put the luggage on their head given the very limited space we have between two vehicles.

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Just about to jump on the back seat of the motorcycle, one questioned: “Don’t you guys think it will put the girls in danger?” We were taken aback by the sentence and agreed that we should let go 40USD worth train ticket but to prioritize their safety. It was confirmed by the tour guide that we will miss the train. Therefore he suggested us to take an overnight bus for 7 hours from Surabaya to Yogyakarta. I believe Mr. Argus must have reported to the tour agency of what had happened on 5 poor guys. Guess what? The agency bought us 5 free bus tickets with meal included even though we never asked for anything as that was not their fault. Can you believe it? We couldn’t thank you enough for the arrangement.

In the mean time we were told two travellers from Thailand faced the same situation like us. They visited Mount Bromo on the same date as us; got stuck on the way to the town and they even bought the same train ticket as us. What a coincidence!

I like travelling by train and I wanted my buddies to experience it too as they have never tried before. But things just happened. Well, that’s alright! If we look at the positive side, we made friends with travellers from Thailand who later on joined us for the Borobudur’s day trip. In fact, I’m glad that we had such an adventure and 1/1/2012 is a date that I will never forget. It was a “great” kick start of the brand new year, wasn’t it?

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2/1/2012

A very early hotel checked in followed by a quick freshen-up we headed straight to Borobudur which is the largest Buddhist in the world at 6am with our new Thai friends, Tar and Jas. Borobudur is one of world's truly great ancient monuments and it’s the single largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth. Borobudur with the backdrop of mighty active volcanoes was impressive!

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Initial plan was to visit Prambanan (a ninth century Hindu temple compound in Central Java) after Borobudur but the plan forced to call off due to the heavy rain. Since it has been a long day for us, therefore we decided to go back to the hotel and rest for a while before dinner time.

We walked along the Malioboro Street which is a major shopping street in Yogyakarta to search for a nice restaurant for the last dinner of the trip. After few minutes walk, we spotted a restaurant in a warm and cozy setting along the street, Legian Garden Restaurant. Food served was absolutely delicious and I in particular liked “ayam Legian” very much. What I did not expect from this dinner was that my buddies had an early birthday celebration for me. Everybody put on the little hat they brought all the way from Singapore. That’s my buddies! They always have many extraordinary ideas to make one’s birthday special and unforgettable. It was a blast!

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There goes our New Year trip in Indonesia. I’ve been to Bali Island for twice and it did not really live up to my expectation. Perhaps the place was way too commercial for me. But here in Surabya, Mount Bromo & Jogyakarta were so much more only one of its kind. Price charged for goods and services were reasonable and you just have to smile and say: “No, thank you!” if you do not wish to buy. This is because the merchants will stop nagging you and smile back. Further, local people in general demonstrate great culture of hospitality to the tourists. And if you were to visit the places mentioned here, be more respectful and please help preserve the local culture.

In a word, I would describe apart from the amazing sceneries that what Indonesia can offer; it is also a place where I felt so safe and comfortable during my travels even though my buddies and I were among the only few “aliens” in the public.

Indonesia will touch your heart…

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Posted by Hengman 06:03 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

河南省大逃亡记

真是乌鸦嘴!昨天还在怀疑自己是否做对了决定到郭亮村旅行,果真不幸地遭殃了。。。

将近七小时的漏夜火车从湖北省武汉到河南省郑州、两小时从郑州到新乡、接着另一小时到辉县、再来最后一趟一小时半到郭亮。眼看就快到达目的地了,谁知道在半山时天空突然降起大雪来。当然来自热带国家的我是异常地兴奋因为我这一生人当中到目前为此就只有见证过一场在美国宾州一场既短暂又大的雪。 只不过这一场大雪却导致交通状况近乎瘫痪!巴士就因此卡在半山两个小时,动也不动的。期间我也忍不住到外在众目睽睽下“拔枪”方便。一脚踩在户外时,积雪都已经超过了我的脚踝。 在大雪纷飞的情况下尿尿对于我来说是再新鲜不过,因为这些事情是不可能在马来西亚发生,所以体验下偶尔会在电影里出现的情节还真的别有一番滋味!

在继续等待的时候,我着急了起来因为雪越下越大,积雪也相对的越来越高。交警的出现也许能说明事情的严重性。只是他们的出现并没有对当时的情况解决什么,而我乘坐的巴士和两个半小时前所在的位置依然一样。忽然心想:“完了!我不会就死在这里吧?”我会这么想是因为巴士上没有暖气、户外温度肯定零下、我已经超过八小时没进食了。 我背包里除了有一瓶表面已结成冰的水(夸张吧!)之外根本没有任何食物, 手脚非常冰冷身体一直在抖个不停。

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我不想坐以待毙!还在犹豫是否应该坚持下去时我发现反方向往市中心的车有缓缓行驶的迹象。当时的我非常不甘心因为依照司机的说法如果不堵车的话,还有大概45分钟就可以到郭亮村了。再加上我花了半天的时间奔波劳碌地去看看我梦想已久的郭亮村,就差那么的一点我简直就要被气疯了!
其实我心里已经决定放弃了,只是需要另一方的支持来证明我的决定是对的。正巧坐在我身旁的是一家三口(一对将近30岁的年轻夫妇和一个非常可爱的三岁半儿子)和我一样要到郭亮村出游,然而随着情况逐渐地不妙而打算不前进了。我们三人经过一场分析以后决定

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我们拦截了一辆开往市中心的巴士,依依不舍的离开那这么近那么远的郭亮村来个“大逃亡”!庆幸的是我们的决定是明智的!往市中心的方向虽然行驶速度好像乌龟似慢的,但总好过原地踏步不知道要等到何年何月才能到达目的地。

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我们也在巴士上大聊了起来,原来他们和我一样都是姓王!真巧!王爸爸是来自河南省的商丘而妈妈是来自江苏的徐州,他们夫妻俩分别在深圳和上海上班。长得有点像老外的儿子则和爷爷奶奶住在老家。他们俩告知我最近生活不怎么如意所以才出来散散心。

两个小时之后,我们终于离开山区来到辉县小镇,大家道别之后就往自己的目的地出发。
没想到的是我们之后不谋而合地再次在往郑州的巴士站上遇见。我觉得大家太有缘份了所以我提出了晚上回到郑州以后一起吃顿饭,反正我相信大家因为一场大雪而打乱了各自的计划然后晚上也应该没什么可以做。但是他们给我的答复有些含糊,所以我也不确定是YES还是NO。 

晚上八点钟终于到达郑州了!下车时,我已比较婉转的方式打听他们是否赏脸一起吃晚餐。我问道:“你们去找住宿吗?”
王爸爸答:“应该是,小孩子也累了。”

他的答复让我觉得他们不这么想和一位陌生人坐在一起吃饭。
无所谓吧,心想以我这样旅游的方式时常都回遇到许多萍水相逢的人,看似很有缘份然后大家都会说一定要联络但最终也都没联络。 没礼貌地我也没和他们说再见然后一声不响地往火车站走。在郑州和郭亮徘徊了超过12小时的我只想赶快离开这稍微落后的河南省到比较文明的下一站-北京-寻求一些安全感。所以我直奔到火车站换票,提早一天到北京去。

在换过火车票和入住饭店以后,我就直奔一家小店把肚子填饱!在我用餐10分钟以后发生了一件难以置信的事情!王家三口竟然出现在我面前。我们看到对方时都楞着了,接着他们非常兴奋地跟我打招呼。说真的我当下我真的反应不过来因为很难相信我们走散了以后在一个说大不大说小也不小的郑州市里其中一条街道里的几家小食店的其中一家再次碰上!大家都非常激动尤其是王妈妈!大家坐下来以后,王妈妈告诉我说心情已经非常不好的她一直责备王爸爸为什么没给我留住然后一起吃顿晚饭。她当时觉得非常遗憾因为大家都没给对方留个联络方式。说毕,王妈妈立刻递上她的名片给我,而刚刚离职的王爸爸也向我要了纸和笔留下他各种的联络方式。 

她说在往郑州出发的巴士站发生了一些小插曲而觉得我是个大好人。
当时在等待巴士的空档时他们到了附近的小店吃些东西。只不过巴士提早到了,无理取闹的司机说:“我谁也不等,先在就要开车!” 我死缠烂打地说服司机给我五分钟因为还有三人和我同行。说毕,我就冲出去四处地找他们,王天不负有心人我谨用了两分钟就找到正在吃着面汤的他们。然后我再直奔回巴士站拦着司机。谁知道这时候司机说因为引擎发生故障所以不开了所以得等下一辆。我又再一次连忙跑回去小食店通知他们可以慢慢吃因为还要多等一回。她说这些事情是不这么可能发生在中国,因为中国人根本不会有那么好心帮一个萍水相逢的陌生人。我本身觉得也不算帮上什么忙,我只是不想内心觉得过意不去而已。

他们一家三口是非常典型好客的中国人!换言之,餐桌上少不了酒尤其是经历了那么峰回路转的事故!最搞笑的是就连和我熟络了之后的王俊也一样继承了中国人好客的美德!一直拿着茶杯以茶代酒猛敲我的酒杯然后说:“叔叔,你喝啊,你喝啊!”中国的文化就是杯子敲响了就要喝完。就这样我和这个小伙子敬了5杯酒下肚,更别提和他爸妈喝了多少。就糗的事,喝了十杯之后我再也忍不住跑到厕所吐了,而这一幕因为我来不及把门关上而被王俊目睹了。他应该是把这一幕告诉王爸爸王妈妈因为我回到餐桌上他们都问我吐了之后会好一些吗?真丢脸啊!

人们常说酒后吐真言,我想也是。。。 前面所提到的生活不如意其实是指他们俩夫妻婚姻出现了问题,王妈妈要提出离婚。所以这次出游是想看看能不能挽回些什么。我这回给王妈妈的话给吓到醉意全散!我在想:“糟糕!为何在我已经快要随时随地要倒下的时候聊到这么劲爆的话题?我该怎么打圆场呢?” 反正后半段的谈话我都无时无刻地确保自己讲些正面的话免得搞砸了这么美好的晚餐。

晚餐无惊无险地渡过了。。。 道别之后,回到酒店就一觉到天亮!
我花了老半天的时间到不了那期待已久的郭亮村看看这个大自然的神斧鬼工也许真的有那么一点的遗憾。但是这趟河南之旅是我这些年以来个人旅游经历里所遇到最刺激和最有趣的一次因为它有点像电影里死逃生的情节、我也见证了2011年河南省的第一场雪、最庆幸的是我在这场大逃亡里结交了和我同姓的一家三口的好朋友! 很多时候每当我在回想起过往旅行中所看到的人事物,往往最印象深刻的不是当地的景点而是旅途当中人与人之间的交流与启发,而这大概也是我个人“旅行的意义”。 非常期待在不久的将来与他们聚一聚!

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“我们都是一家人” – 王妈妈

3:30pm, 30th November 2011
写于 郑州往北京西动车上

Posted by Hengman 05:31 Archived in China Comments (0)

Brodie & V in Malaysia!

About a month ago, I received a message from V in Facebook asking me where am I as she will be backpacking with her boyfriend, Brodie, to Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia region soon. I was so excited to see the email from my long lost friend. We knew each other in summer camp (Camp Shawnee in Waldron, Missouri) 3 years ago. V was a CPR certified instructor for the camp counselors. I’ve seen her few times in the camp but I only have a nodding acquaintance. But my impression of V is that she is very caring, friendly, sociable, and always have a great smile on her face.

Based on the email conversations we had, I can roughly tell Malaysia was not in their initial plan as they will travel up to Thailand only in Southeast Asia and move on to New Zealand after that. But after she confirmed that I’m from Malaysia, she and Brodie decided to make a trip down to pay me a visit since Malaysia is not really far away from Thailand. I felt grateful and appreciate their efforts. And of course I’m more than happy to host them and show them around.

Actually I’m not surprise why Malaysia is not in their list. I was travelling in Goldcoast & Brisbane early this year and I stayed in youth hostel throughout my whole trip. I figured that most backpackers that I’ve met see Australia as their 1st stop since they can participate in the work and travel program and eventually make their way to Southeast Asia countries using the money they earned in the program. However, many backpackers that I came across have no idea about Malaysia. They definitely have much ideas of culturally rich Thailand and know where the vibrant Singapore is. Unfortunately not many of them know there is a Truly Asia Malaysia located in between these two countries. I wonder is Malaysia a Muslim country that makes it less attractive for western tourists but Brodie and V commented that the Malaysia Tourism’s advertising did not reach them successfully as they barely see any form of advertisements promoting Malaysia in their country. If you’re reading this blog and wonder what uniquely Malaysia could offer to you, please take a look at the link below:
http://www.touropia.com/tourist-attractions-in-malaysia/

The day has come! Hooray, Brodie & V are finally in Malaysia.
I picked up the lovely couple in the train station. After giving a big hug to V and a formal handshake to Brodie who I meet for the 1st time, we moved on. When I look at Brodie, I was like: Gosh! He’s going to draw people’s attention when I show them around in my hometown given the fact he is at least 6 feet 3 inches tall and has a well built body! Anyway, this is not the first time I host friends from overseas. The guests before the American couple were friends from the UK and the Netherlands (The Dutch girl was at least 6 feet tall, so I’m prepared for people’s curiosity and attention!). Since Brodie classified himself as a traveler rather than a tourist (as explained by him and V, experiencing a country and its culture from the inside, rather than simply taking pictures of it) so I guess to have a local from countryside to show them the true Malaysia fits their travelling purpose the best. In fact, I can really tell both V and Brodie are the real travelers where for them it is not necessary to make it to all the MUST GO attractions in the travel guide based on the conversations we had.

** Some information of my hometown

There is really nothing special of the place where I’m coming from but it’s definitely a peaceful small town with friendly people and most importantly the surroundings offer the clean & fresh air that makes you feel healthy! Apart from that, my hometown is near to few tourist attractions such as Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, Gua Tempurung, and Teluk Intan.

We always have interesting conversations during the road trip. Even the first one (2 hours journey from Kuala Lumpur to my hometown) we were talking and joking like old friends. I remember answering their question “How should I greet your parents?’ was freaking hilarious seeing their facial expression especially V. I guess she must’ve freaked out after I told them that if they were to greet my dad “hi Mr. Heng” and my dad will most probably not giving any response not even a nod of his head. But I further added on that “Don’t worry, that’s my dad! He is a very shy person yet a generous man! He just doesn’t know how to show his hospitality and a friendly attitude towards guests in a proper way” to re-assure them everything will be fine. In fact, my mum already called me one day before their arrival that my dad is going to treat them a sumptuous meal. That’s my dad practice and that’s how he welcomes friends of any family member. Also, I shared with them in the car that Chinese or Malaysian Chinese do not normally greet people “How are you?” but rather “你吃饱了吗?” (Translation: Have you eaten?) Food is our passion and we care about is your stomach being filled with nice food.

I actually tried before to apply the culture of greeting people “Hi, how are you today?” in Malaysia after few years living in overseas which I think it’s a good culture that Malaysians should adapt, but it just didn’t work somehow. People will normally get stunned by my question: “How are you today?” and it will lead to an awkward situation. I remember I was so amazed by the British culture when using the public transportation –bus! When passengers get in the bus, either the passengers or the bus driver will start greeting each other “Hi” or “How are you today mate?” and when passengers got off the bus they will say “Cheers mate” to the bus driver. For me, it just makes the whole atmosphere so much friendlier.

Here we are in my hometown!
To my surprise, Brodie enjoyed the food that my parents prepared so much! I’m glad that friends from overseas that I’ve hosted before (every single one of them) have a high acceptance level of Asian food and never really feel hesitate to try something they have never had before. It’s a pleasure to see the guests enjoy the food prepared for them. But I’d have to say Brodie is the man! He has the highest acceptance level among all thus far until at times I wonder is it because he wants to make the host feels good, so no matter how freaking weird the food is he will just finish all the food. Anyway, I really hope that wasn’t the case because I always tell my guests “just leave the food if you don’t like the taste, that’s fine with me”. But based on my observation, I draw a conclusion that those that are from Western countries in general do not like ABC (Ais Batu Campur or “shaved ice” for V) and Nasi Lemak. Americans will comment the food “Interesting!” whilst Europeans will say “Not my cup of tea!” See the difference?

Dare to try?
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Below are some memorable moments from this trip with Brodie & Vee…
1) I enjoyed drinking BOH Cameronian Gold Blend tea & listening to their thrilling adventures in Asia while admiring the beauty of tea plantation at Cameron Highlands
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2) I enjoyed seeing the couple had so much fun in karaoke room in Tesco supermarket which is something they’ve never tried before back in their country. They really can sing!
Brodie: One Two Three Four I know you want me you know I want cha
V: uno dos tres quarto
Wonderful times!

  • *Want to know more of karaoke in Malaysia?

http://www.redbox.com.my/redbox/eng/com_intro.asp

3) It was funny too to see big Brodie in Gua Tempurung because throughout the trekking people kept questioning "Is this “guei lou” (foreigner) going to make it? He is huge!"
I can tell ALL my friends from overseas love the 4 hours caving experience in Gua Tempurung so much! Ironically, part of the reasons why they like it so much because there is no safety precautions such as no helmet is required, no railings etc that makes the adventure more challenging in the cave. But for me, the authority must have provided first-aid-kit at some points in the cave which I did not identify any just in case someone gets hurt.
So if you were here, go for the most extreme package which costs you only RM22 (USD7). http://www.guatempurung.com/main.php
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4) I’d say the song “Rain Over Me” depicts the situation of our road trip to Penang on a rainy day the best! When the radio starts playing the song, we will sing it together so as to celebrate the “best day ever” in their trip in Malaysia because the rain never stops on that day!

“Girl my body don't lie
I'm outta my mind
Let it rain over me
I'm rising so high
Out of my mind
So let it rain over me
Ay ay ay
Let it rain over me”

So much laughter in the car! Even until today, if I listen to the radio and hear this particular song, I will automatically think about all the memories with Brodie and V in Penang.

5) Not to forget drinking a small bottle of Carlsberg which costs 10 USD with them at Skybar while looking at the impressive Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur!
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Time flies… There goes their 5 days vacation in Malaysia!
A close friendship is built during these few days time and I see them as my buddies. Therefore I feel like there is something missing in my life and I feel bored after they’re gone. I guess perhaps we spent much time together and had so much fun in these few days. Speaking of which, I do feel bad for them too because I think their ears must have suffered a lot listening to my broken English. But sometimes I wonder if I speak a perfect American English or British English, it is not ‘local’ & “Asian” enough. Just an excuse to make me feel better! Haha

45 days to go for my 10 days trip in China, from Guangzhou I’ll move all the way North to Beijing! Can’t wait to see the hidden village of Guoliang, the Great Walls of China, etc. Yahoo!
Stay tuned!

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Posted by Hengman 09:45 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

South China

sunny

There were times during the long journey from one to another I tried to recall my travelling experience for the past 3 years which I’ve travelled quite extensively and sadly I did not remember much. You’ll have no idea how depressing it is when the precious moments were slowly fading from my memory. That’s why I encourage myself to start writing travel diaries from the beginning to the end of each trip. I came across Travellerspoint.com where a friend of mine shares her travel stories from time to time during her backpacking in Asia. I like to read how others travel since small because I find it is absolutely inspiring. I feel like I should make a little contribution and so here I am!

Funnily enough my 1st ever entry here is not about the stories of backpacking alone but rather a free & easy family trip which is planned by me as per the instruction from my parents. My parents have been to China few times by following the travel agency as they are very much fascinated by its natural beauty. However, they get annoyed recently by how the travels been conducted by the travel agency. For example, they have been forced to visit outlets that sell souvenirs like jade, silk, etc at a very high price not knowing the quality of the products sold few times per day. Besides, I understand that they wish to spend some quality time together so I try my best to work things out even though I know to travel with them is never really easy.

To digress a little bit from the main topic, I was reading “The Last Lecture” - titled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams co-authored by Randy Pausch during the 4 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to ShenZhen. The book is highly recommended by my colleague and indeed this is an emotionally provoking book. I personally think this is a must read book and I’ve got an important message after reading this book: “Have a go! Discover the World!”

I’m very much using the travel guide 中国自助游 2009 version for this family trip (direct translation: China self-backpacking). It’s actually a bible for me when I was working in Shanghai from 2009-2010. However, I found that most of the information in this book is no longer useful. For example, the name of the first tourist attraction we were visiting in ShenZhen was 新安古城 (XinAn GuCheng) in the book but it has now re-named to 南头古城 (NanTou GuCheng). We felt quite disappointed by the so-called most historical tourist attraction in Shenzhen. For me, the outlook looks pretty inviting but when you step in it is rather unexciting and nothing really much to explore.

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After 南头古城 (NanTou GuCheng), we moved on to 世界之窗 (Shenzhen World Miniature). For the fact that there are 5 of us and so we have to hire two taxis to move around all the time which my parents felt expensive, so I decided to take all of them to use the public transportation – bus! Part of the reasons I wanted to do that is because my dad has had quite the run of good fortune for the past decade and due to that I can feel his egotism is growing lately. Hence, I wanted to give him a “lesson” by taking him to use public transportation and hopefully he can “lower down himself”. Travelling in China could be extremely inexpensive if you rely on their public transportation. Back in the day, I have travelled quite frequent in JiangNan area which encompasses cities like Shanghai, SuZhou, HangZhou, NanJing, Wuxi etc; the fare for the buses travelled within the city is only RMB 2 per trip. So, it is the same in Shenzhen. In some places, if the bus is without air-conditioning it will cost you RMB 1 only.

Shenzhen World Miniature (entrance fee RMB140) is one of the highlights in ShenZhen. This scenic park set against the backdrop of Shenzhen Bay features miniature world wonders such as a replica of the Eiffel Tower where tourists can virtually visit those wonders of the world. Even though this man-made thing is not my cup of tea, but it was entertaining enough to test my general knowledge.

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After this, I took my family to experience another type of public transportation which is subway. It was a “joy” to see my parents felt so uneasy holding the rail. I talked to my mum: “Was it fun? This is how I usually travel.” I know it was a little bit mean to do that but the rationale behind of doing this is to let them know that travelling sometimes is not as expensive as they might have thought. I have a habit to send postcards home wherever I go for my own memory. When my mum received the postcard she will call me: “So you were in xxx 2 weeks ago, weren’t you? Wouldn’t you want to save some money for your future instead of spending all in travelling?” And I will revert the same content to her again and again “1st I don’t take taxi when I travel. 2nd; I don’t stay in hotel but youth hostel where normally I will share a dorm with at least 3 people; 3rd, I will only go for 1 or 2 proper meal to try out the local food in each trip and the rest of the time I’m eating bread or cookies only; 4th, I’m selective to the tourist attractions that ask for admission fee given the tight budget.”

It’s time to say goodbye to Shenzhen and we took the CRH (China Railways High-speed) train to our next destination, Guangzhou. Just for your information, in July 2011, at least 40 people were killed in a high-speed train crash and it raises concerns about high-speed rail system. Of course I did not tell this news to my parents before taking the train as I believe it will scare the shit out of them but I did tell them after we disembark from the train and I can see “relief” flood on my mum’s face. Anyway, it was a joyful ride and my family members were pretty amazed by how fast the train moves as well as the comfortability sitting in the train. My sister even made a comment that it is far more comfortable and relaxing than sitting in the plane. I actually have the same feeling like them two years ago when I took the CRH from Shanghai to Nanjing. I was like: “Wow! Nothing is impossible in China! Their public transportation system is so much more advanced compared to the US & UK! Amazing!”

When checking into the hotel in Guangzhou, my parents found a travel brochure on the receptionist desk. My mum came and told me that it’s too tiring for her to travel in my way and she would like to register for the day tour. However, I insist not to travel with my parents to ZhuHai the next day. So after a short discussion, we decided to travel separately where my siblings will follow me and my parents will join the day tour. However it was too late when my parents enquire that as the local agency has closed the registration for that particular day. So, the next day my dad suggested that we paid RMB 700 and hired a taxi driver to show us around in Guangzhou area from 10am till 8pm. Tourist attractions we’ve visited included:

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中山纪念馆 (SunYat-Sen Memorial Hall)

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越秀公园 (Yue Xiu Park)

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广州塔 (Canton Tower)

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白云山 ( BaiYun Mountain)

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夜游珠江河 (Night Cruising @ Pearl River)

The day tour in Guangzhou was an OK ONLY sightseeing tour simply because I have been to places which are much more exciting than the ones in Guangzhou. For example, SunYat-Sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou if compared to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum in Nanjing is nothing. BaiYun Mountain was another disappointment of the day as I expected it will be as astounding as Huangshan or Taishan.

The next day, my siblings and I hired a taxi to take us to GuangZhou South station for our next destination Danxia Mountain Scenic Area (丹霞山风景名胜区) which I don’t expect it will be so far away from where our hotel is located, Beijing Road. It costs us RMB80 which I personally think is very expensive because we later on paid RMB5 only for each person to take the metro from GuangZhou South station to Gong Yuan Qian (公元前), a stone’s throw to Beijing Road. We could have saved more if I study well before the trip to China but I have a bad habit for not preparing well enough if I travel with my family. My experience travelling with my family tells me that they will always rely on taxi and day tour. Therefore, as long as you know which tourist attraction you will be going is enough.

Back to the Danxia Mountain topic, I always have a thing for mountains in China but Danxia Mountain which is described in local signage as a "world famous UNESCO geopark of China” was a slight disappointment! Even my sister made a comment when we were there: “So, we travelled 4 hours straight just to see a mountain that resembles a man’s penis?” Or perhaps I should listen to those travelers and locals that I have met during my working life in Shanghai previously as they told me that if you have been to Huangshan or Taishan then you might perhaps ignore the rest of the mountains in China because these two represent the greatest in the country! However, I did enjoy the charming natural sceneries so much on the way to Danxia Mountain. I can feel the peace inside my heart. I giggled a lot too when in Danxia Mountain where I can tell many female tourists were pretty amazed by the mountain’s shape. I overheard the conversation of one group of female tourists where one of them said: 妈的,看的我心痒痒! (Translation: Damn, my heart feels “itchy” after seeing it!)

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On the way to Danxia Mountain …..

Travel tips:
1. Take CRH from GuangZhou South (广州南) to ShaoGuan (韶关); approximately one hour journey; RMB105
2. Once you disembark from ShaoGuan (韶关), proceed to the bus stop in front and look for Bus No. 17 / 22 (approximately 35 minutes, only RMB2) and it will bring you to the city center of ShaoGuan.
3. Get off from the bus and take another tourist bus in yellow to Danxia Mountain (approximately 1 hour, RMB16)
4. Entrance fee to Danxia Mountain is RMB125; RMB100 if you hold the student card.
5. The frequency of the tourist bus back to city center of ShaoGuan is not high but not to worry because there are many local that can offer you a ride with their own car at the same price, RMB16.

Having said all, Guangzhou will not be disappointment if you love shopping and Chinese food! The best Chinese food I’ve had thus far is in Beijing Road! Beijing Road is Guangzhou's neon-draped answer to Shanghai's Nanjing Street or Beijing's Wangfujing Street. This is where youth to buy sensible clothes and increasingly garish local brands. Noise and fun, here is lined with cheap food stalls, cafés, and ubiquitous fast-food chains.

During the 4 hours flight back to Kuala Lumpur, I had a long nice chat with a couple in their early 40s whom they sit next to me.
When I make my way to the window seat, the husband recognized my T-shirt.
He said: Young man, were you staying in xxx hotel?
I replied: Yeah!
He continued: I recognize your T-shirt “Live what you love”
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I’m not surprise if he has a strong memory because later on I found out that he is a lawyer. Three of us have the same interest- Badminton! I guess no one will deny the fact that this is the national sports of Malaysia and the only sports that brings fame to Malaysia (Ah, I almost forget that we are doing great in squash and bowling too but these two are not in Olympic Games). Malaysians are still waiting for their first Olympic gold since the country participated in the Games in 1956. So far, the best result Malaysian badminton team had achieved is only silver medal.

What really surprised me is that the lawyer has another identity – newly appointed Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) secretary. I felt so lucky to sit next to the VIP and discussed about badminton with him and his wife. His wife told me: We spent much of our time in badminton court since dating.

The lawyer is an absolutely sincere person. Take a look at the below conversation and you will know why.

Lawyer: Have you ever watched a live badminton match?
Me: No. I don’t know will it be clear enough to see the shuttle cock flying in the court than in the TV even though I believe the atmosphere with the cheering crowd is there.
Lawyer: You should go to see an international match live at least once in your life time. The next Malaysia Open Superseries Championships will be held next January in Stadium Putra. Contact me if you’re interested.
Me: Sure!

What I didn’t expect is that the lawyer immediately handed me his name card.

3 days later I saw his news in one of the newspapers! I scan & email the news to both them and he replied:
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“Thanks for attaching the Oriental Daily News report. I'm sure you've been reading more reports on statements made by me in the newspapers the last few days. What you said about it being stressful and challenging is true, but I'm taking it positively to do my utmost best for the country's badminton. Hopefully my dream of achieving our 1st gold at the Olympics next year will materliase and that more Malaysian players will achieve world class level in the next 2 years.”

Considering that there are so many people he has to deal with everyday and the strangers he will meet (like my case), I don’t expect this VIP will take time to reply my email. I guess the friendliness and professionalism demonstrated here to making him stands out & to be the newly appointed BAM secretary. So, Malaysia badminton fans please hang on! Let’s have faith on him and let’s hope the best for Olympics 2012!

More to come…

Posted by Hengman 23:57 Archived in China Comments (0)

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