Babymoon in The Netherlands

My office is somewhere here

I got a job-attachment for 1.5 months to Leiden, South Holland. I am delighted that my work as a research chemist does not confine me to the laboratory (which I initially feared) but also beyond the four chemical-laden walls. I am now doing computer simulations and modeling of chemical structures, so basically there’s a lot of software/programming work to learn for a dead-wood-in-computing like myself. Oh well, gotta survive in this industry by learning new knowledge every time.

Hi from Amsterdam!
De Valk  windmill in Leiden
One mustn’t miss the Leiden market on Weds and Sats.
Al fresco is what everyone here does. It’s summer!

One thing I felt blessed is that this job attachment-cum-training coincides with the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy. If you didn’t know, this trimester is the most comfortable for a pregnant woman to travel because of decreasing morning sickness and stabilization of the womb inherently associated with this trimester. And another blessing: the appetite has escalated these few weeks!

Mum and I in the apartment

Leiden is located approximately 35 km south of Amsterdam. It’s a large university town (like Serdang), and here lies the oldest university in The Netherlands, of course: Leiden University. Leiden is also the birthplace of Rembrandt van Rijn, the world’s most famous painter. Personally, his painting makes more sense than Van Gogh’s (but that’s just me). Leiden town is basically sustained by its locals and university students alike. It’s so much cleaner and fresher than hectic Amsterdam, and it’s just a 15-min bus ride to the beautiful tulip gardens of Keukenhof. Leiden is peaceful; it’s not that small nor large that you can’t enjoy the entire town by foot, having very considerate drivers and cyclists and has some established Asian restaurants here for my baby just in case he craves for some gu lou yok rice (well, that did happened ok. See pic below).

This is gu lou yok rice my little baby craved. Ordered for 1 pax, but came a portion for three (no wonder Dutch people are tallest in the world).

My baby is good boy, I guess. Although the nausea is still here some times, my baby allows me to walk between 2-10 km around Leiden town and its vicinity. He does not complain because somehow baby knows that mummy here was a marathon runner and wouldn’t let him complain anyway, because I want to walk as exercise. A walk from the my accommodation to my workplace within the university is approximately 2.1 km (one way), and if I feel tired after work or when the temperature drops to <10 deg C, I will take the bus. But of course, I would prefer to walk back to my accommodation to clock in another 2.1 km, but somehow the weather is still erratic. I am not impressed that summer temperatures can range from 7-23 degC. It’s sunny in the afternoon, and bamm, you get rain (the drizzle type) in the night. Some rain has got me into shivers and some had me run for shelter.

Chow mien, and tasted authentic.

Parents are here but only for 3 weeks. They make full use of the apartment by cooking chinese dishes for me. Yes, WARM dishes is what I deserve: ABC soup, bakkutteh, ginger chicken with rice, stir-fried (not broiled) broccoli with garlic, etc. The Dutch eats bread and sandwiches every single day – breakfast, dinner, lunch, and I wasn’t complaining in the first week as I love bread and dairy products such as Dutch gouda cheeses and milk, but I think I have had it too much. Sandwiches here are frequently served with cold-cut meats; it looked and tasted raw. Doubt there’s any bad bacteria in there but I think better avoid for pregnancy-sake.

Went to Amsterdam but was not impressed with the crowd. Amsterdam was very crowded on that particular holiday weekend, but more so, the people, cyclist here are less considerate and looked angry. Think KL vs. Ipoh drivers 🙂 In spite of that, Amsterdam is still worth a visit and has pretty with nice churches, architecture, and great museums. Made some milestone here: Walked 20 km(!) in total around Amsterdam, managed the famous Dutch pancake pannenkoek, went to eat at an Argentinian steakhouse, raked in some (free) cheeses, picnic by the park, and was part of the 500m queue to museums, not!

Dutch pancake with strawberries and syrup in Amsterdam – pannenkoek
Rijksmuseum featuring most of Rembrandt’s work.
500 m queue to Rijksmuseum. Also same length for Van Gogh Museum
Park in front of the Rijksmuseum having a picnic of a time!
Bitterballen is a Dutch snack
Steak and pasta, for a change

I was also in The Hague, which is this the administration capital of The Netherlands. Just 15 min by train from Leiden, it offers much better supermarkets and shopping escapades. Of course, it is a very very much larger city compared to Leiden – with an established China Town there. There’s an asian supermarket there but was ultimately disappointed there wasn’t bak kut teh mix sold. I am happy I made a quick trip to The Hague as initially I was just thinking of lazying in the hotel, reading some journal articles. Milestones in The Hague: Maruitshuis Museum containing Rembrandt’s self portrait and Vermeer’s Girl in a Pearl Earrings, Parliament house (Binnenhof), ChinaTown, Grote Market, Chinese restaurant (Fat Kee) and Primark to buy some quality baby clothing.

The Maritshuis
Like Mona Lisa, everyone wants to see her. But I am not quite sure why.
Got near to the very famous Vermeer’s Girl in a Pearl Earring.
Rembrandt’s last self-potrait before he died the same year he painted this.
Dutch Parliamentary area

Babymoon, it is.

I will be alone once again when they return to Malaysia very soon. But I am not quite lonely because for 2 weeks already, I started feeling my boy kicking. At one point, he kicked me so damn hard to request for me to rest from the over-walking around The Hague. I am so enjoying the freshest of air and good quality of life here, but this is not home. Where’s the teh tarik and nasi lemak in the morning? Where’s my bakkutteh and Sentul hokkien noodles? My heart is still back home, and my heart is now where my hubby is who could be lying there reading his economic book, or maybe ironing his own clothes, or giggling at some funny Cantonese movie. Miss you much, hubby!

Here are some photos of me and my parents Keukenhof, four days before it closes for the rest of the year.

The tulips has bloomed, indicating end of the season.
Can you believe the various colours of lilies here. I thought they only come in white and pink.

Holiday Milestone in November

Holiday milestone achieve all in one month! November.

But NOT forgetting my holiday trips to Bangkok in May and Chiang Mai in August.

Entering November, it started with a Beijing business trip which I missed-out because my Chinese visa has expired and I was not-in-time to renew it due to the absurd short-notice for the trip. What I missed was the thousands of Enrich points that could be collected from this trip. Not entirely a loss, as I felt restless knowing that I will be going onto the equivalent of the doomed flight MH370 (albeit now a different flight code). And with MH17, who dare say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place?

1. Melaka over-night

Being denied Beijing, Melaka trip was next. I was excited because husband good friend from UM, Janice, was getting married. We were there over the weekend and were so lucky to have Siow Nee and the bride & groom themselves(!) to bring us around jalan-jalan cari makan. I love the chendol in Melaka more than that of Penang all because the santan at the former is more lemak. I had satay babi (just next to Melaka river), Donald and Lily’s mee rebus (many fresh cockles) & rojak. The last makan-stop was the longest queue ever coconut shake at Klebang,15 minutes car ride off Melaka city. Of course, hubby and I took our own time out roaming Jonker street to have lunch and coffee. Certainly a memorable trip.

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Janice and Ivan’s wedding
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Nasi Ketuk at Donald and Lily
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Fresh juicy cockcles at Donald and Lily
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The infamous satay babi near Melaka River
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Klebang’s infamous long-queue, sweaty but worthwhile coconut milk shake and other Malay delicacies.

2. Grand Lexis, Port Dickson

Just the next morning(!) after returning from Melaka, I had to board the company’s bus to Grand Lexis, Port Dickson for a short team-building event there. The water villa was huge and unsuspectedly beautiful beyond words. The catch is that each villa has their own swimming pool! Yes, private swimming pool in your room. How about that for a Monday! My roommate ended up making a day trip (her baby’s ill), so the entire king-size bed was mine. Mine!! I highly recommend this hotel to whoever wants to have a relaxing vacation with a family of maximum five.

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One of the Water villas with a view of the ocean and from the floor
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Each room has its personalized pool and open shower.

Since this is a team-building, there were games and surprisingly, I had a marvelous time. They were all indoor team building games, and one of it was a Trading Game where we trade with other countries’ based on commodities selling prices, information of the countries and collaboration, etc.

Another game was a Masterchef Black Box challenge, where my team (out of 40 teams) got 2nd placing!  We had access to a small kitchen, and just cook whatever was given to us, and we cooked a perfect Curry Chicken and Pengat Pisang (which I contributed the most) and Pineapple juice in 1 hour to win second placing. We were commended and honoured with a 4 star certificate by the real Head Chef of Grand Lexis. I was proud because it felt like you could even please the hellish Gordon Ramsay with your normal Pengat Pisang (I watch too much TV). Should I lose my chemist job in Petronas, I am pretty sure I could make it as a chef of Pengat Pisang and Curry Chicken :-P. Naturally, hubby don’t quite believe my achievement.

Oil platform with Lego building blocks - one of the exciting Team Building game.
Oil platform with Lego building blocks – one of the exciting Team Building game.
This Cert means more to me than any sports achievement. Because it's rare that I get to show off cooking skills openly.
This certificate means more to me than any sports achievement certs. Because it’s rare that I get to show off cooking skills openly.

3. Penang

Upon retuning from Port Dickson, the same weekend itself, Hubby and I drove to Penang for his inaugural Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM) at the Second Bridge. This is the first time PBIM is held at the new bridge. We stayed at Equatorial Hotel which room is so comfortable, I didn’t want to move out of the bed. Hubby and I loved the swimming pool, and we had a short dip to relax both our minds and body. I did not run, but since I played supporter this time, I need to wake up as early as 4am to wait at the finish line for my hubby, which I estimated would finish at 6.30 am sharp. So, there I was taking the shuttle to the finish line about 10km away, and spotted Ling Ling in the same bus! What got me surprised was that she is running 10km, like for real….

We did savour some Penang cuisines at Bayan Lepas, courtesy of hubby’s bosses and managers which were also runners and doing various distances at PBIM. We joined them for some great chit-chat and at the end, went to bed early with stomachs full (even I carboloaded). Hubby woke up 11 pm to catch the 12.00am bus to the starting line for Full marathon. Crazy! I am so proud he did sub-5 hours this time. Guess what, I missed my husband at the finish line. Just tooo many people finishing the same time as him.

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Ohh-chien
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Frantically looking for my hubby, I was already glad this nightMARE wasn’t him
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On Penang’s Second Bridge

4. Turkey Honeymoon

And then, not even 2 days later, we board an Etihad plane, on business class(!), to Abu Dhabi (transit), and then to Turkey for our honeymoon. That shall be a 8 days trip, which I shall describe in my next blogpost. Wait up!

Four holidays in a row. Who needs a breather when it comes to holidays. Nope, not tiring at all.

Bangkok – a gift to my parents

I knew I would return to Bangkok one day for a shopping spree. The last time I was in Bangkok was with my bestie Jonie during Hari Raya Year 2005. This time, I bought the trip for myself and my parents as a gift, or let’s just say…for the heck of it  Tix are cheap to Bangkok with Malindo. Unlike rival AirAsia, Malindo has free 20 kg luggage per person and also tidbits/water are served on board. Prices are lower than AirAsia. In short, Malindo is a budget airline with better on-board perks.

 

Selfie with parents= groupfie

One day before we depart, the military junta in Thailand took over the country’s (coup d’etat) “temporary government” after the fall out of the previous prime minister. There has always been demonstrations or protest here and there in Bangkok, and this seemed like a usual scene here, and to me, this is democracy. In fact, the military take over is actually a ‘good’ thing (not for democracy per se), but to remove demonstrations from the roads as some demo can turn violent (e.g. scores of deaths recorded in Jan 2013). Also it this military wants to set the record straight between the opposition and the temporary government so that democracy can be installed again (i.e. election) in the kingdom. But all sides won’t give in.

Headlines on the day of our arrival

Sounds serious, but this demonstrations and coup d’état over the several decades in Bangkok has never hampered tourists coming into Thailand. In fact, the only impact of the coup is that a curfew between 10pm – 5am was implemented to prevent illegal demonstrations on the roads. Tourists will definitely suffer a shorter nightlife (which is what Bangkok is famed for), but otherwise, nothing much has changed. I see ZERO army on the roads at the area Sukhumvit where our hotel is, and 1-2 army guys at Chatuchak market area. Otherwise, life goes on in the city. To the people of Bangkok (Thailand), tourism is no.1 contributor to its GDP and no local would want to hurt their tourism. Oh well, probably Hatyai is the exception.

Bangkok is tourist-friendly and English, albeit it’s Thai sing-song slang, is widely used. We made into various shopping malls, and of course the Chatuchak market where shopping are easy-breezy. The exchange rate Ringgit-Baht is quite alright, but mind you, the luxury goods in Thailand is not worth buying. All luxury good in Bangkok is as expensive as in Kuala Lumpur. So are the cuisines and food. Conversion shows that a bowl of beef noodles is RM5.00, which is similar to KL rate. Using the Big Mac as the benchmark, their BigMac set is slightly more expensive than in KL.

Chatuchak market needs no explanation!

 

Beef ball noodles with raw vege
Can’t get this delicious milk in KL. I drank so many bottles in Bangkok. Crazy fats.

Using Viator.com, we booked a tour to the infamous but super commercialized and touristy Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak, 100km off Bangkok. Recently only I realized that Viator has many great deals and very reliable site for tours at any nation around the world. We love the tour guide which was very good in English, which the whole journey enlightened us about the country, tourist traps and the political situation in Thailand.

Our half-day tourguide designated by Viator.com

Selfie

 

Authentic but quite pricey pad thai at floating market

Back to the floating market – it was indeed a very touristy area, but since we started the trip early we arrived early at the location with a lesser crowd. It was a very interesting experience for me, and my mum (who initially wanted to have this tour) had a good time buying and eating at the floating market. Yes, pushy sellers are everywhere but they are actually making an honest living, so what’s there to complain? Our tour (consisted of 5 ppl including myself), also made a detour to the coconut processing factory, and also the wood-carving factory. All interesting stuffs!

If there’s a thing to complain, it’s the sunny and hot weather in Bangkok. My Accuweather warned me of sunburn at the average daily temperatures of 36-37 degCelcius in Bangkok. We sweat like a pig at any hawker/outdoor eateries. I really like Bangkok’s shopping malls esp. Siam Paragon. 4 days in Bangkok: I went there 3 days to eat, shop and walk at Siam Paragon. The curfew only affected us in terms of BTS and shopping malls’ early closure. Actually we were not affected at all by the curfew to say the least, as my old man always wants to rest early at the hotel as he is….oh well, OLD. Nightlife is totally not his thing.

Kyo Roll En is this Japanese dessert cafe in SiamParagon that has a long queue, we thought we need to try what’s the hype all about!
Kyo Roll En is famous for their cream Swiss roll with a Japanese twist- green tea

 

The food is a fusion of: Swiss roll, green tea gelato and honey, snowball dessert,s and frozen green tea candy. Sooo delicious. No regrets!
They hold hands and hug whenever they go with no embarassement. My parents as a great example of lovebirds at golden age.

 

Another round of my fav dish in Thailand – PadThai.

Our hotel also upgraded us to a super large room and beds due to the low tourists turn-out that week and/or cancelation upon hearing of military coup in Bangkok. Oh, what silliness… no way any demonstration can affect us. If you can imagine, you are protesting in say…Dataran Merdeka, and I am sitting in my house in Puchong, what fear do I get? Exactly…NONE. Plus, the protest/demonstrations in Bangkok area mostly centred at government buildings area, which is pretty far off our hotel.

Bangkok, albeit the unbearable heat, is a great place to eat. I dare not recommend luxury shopping for us Malaysians (due to prices almost similar for luxury goods), unless you are looking for some specialty Thai brands like Naraya. The bags at Naraya is so sweet and cheap there, I bought so many ’til I drop.

Farewell Bangkok. Next vacation is with my beloved Hubby. Can’t wait to go, post and boast!

 

Sports vacay

Hey, dive trip (e.g. Tioman) don’t count as vacay in my dictionary. Dive trips are dive trips, while vacations are defined as trips where your luggage is void of fins and masks. Let’s not talk about BCDs, yah.

Welcoming mascot from the resort

Fong’s company had their company trip in Vietnam last year, and this year the bosses want to do it locally. I have been to Pangkor Island many times and to Pangkor Island Beach Resort, is my second. It was previously known as Pan Pacific Hotel. This hotel is situated at Teluk Dalam and is the only hotel in that area. We’ve got ourseves the sea-view room, which is absolutely gorgeous. I could just wake up everyday to the twinkling sparkles of sunrays over the horizon.

I was warned before by my parents of its apparent infestation of little jelly fishes of Pangkor beaches. Which was true because I saw them with my own eyes (15 years ago?), a school of jelly fishes, transparent and as small as your thumb clouding the seaside area, basking under the rays of the sun. It’s seasonal, I believed.  I was unpertubed by warnings, and jump straight into the waters with my amazing new red bikini. I somehow felt liberated because it has been some time since I swam in the sea without the ‘straight-jackets’ (read: BCD) and I should say, inconvenience of dive masks and fins and stuffs dangling all over. The last time I sensed a similar ‘freedom’ was in Phuket beach.

From our balcony

Of course, people like us would never be satisfied, given the ample time for pure relaxation and given the luxuries of an amazing hotel room, if without some outdoor activities. To us both, and that’s how our relationship remain sustainable, are the similar demands we see in our lives: SPORTS.

First up, canoeing. Hardest sh*t you’ve ever done. Case close.

Second, bicycling. Second hardest sports I’ve done. We’ve gotten ourselves a BMX each (FOC by the company) and ignoring the advice to only cycle within the vincinity of the resort, went beyond the boundaries. Not too long after cycling, I had crotch problems. I supposed that’s normal if you don’t wear specific cycling pants with crotch-padings? Yes, hard sports.

   

Third, archery: I was really keen to shoot an arrow or two, but once I saw the blue-blacks suffered by our local Legolas-es, I pulled out from the sport immediately. I guess sitting aside, being Arwen and maintaining my classic beauty ain’t too bad. Sometimes, we can’t have it all. Supporting my hubby, he sure did well. Amongst his colleagues, I think he had quite a good chance of killing more trolls than the rest of the heroic men of middle earth (though I wish he were taller, he would look more like Orlando Bloom, rather than the haflings. Opps! :-P)

Fourth, running: Of course, running! Why would we ever miss OUR sport out even if it’s vacation, eh!? I doubt we can never give this sport a miss even in our romantic honeymoon. Since we’ve already had a good overview of the whole island from the resort’s van who took us out for ikan masin shopping and luncheon, we anticipated the hilly routes of the entire island.

We started of from the hotel lobby of course (warming up at the lobby area), straight to Teluk Dalam, and then ran non-all the way to Teluk Nipah and lastly made a pit-stop (fora  much needed teh-ais) at the infamous Pasir Bogak beach. Total 7 km. Felt like 10 km because the slopes and hills are really unforgiving. Double hill is airplane runway compared to the island roads. Then, all the way back to the hotel again for a full 7km. Grand total: 14 km (felt like 20km).

Of course, sporty people like us have some downtime and coffee too: We enjoyed our romantic dinner on the first night; second night was barbeque buffet by the pool while the last night we gathered for 2 beer towers over an entertaining Filipino live band.

Coffee is a must have, anytime, anywhere

By the pool

Monkeys are a nuisance here. Well, having no fear whatsoever of humans, these monkeys enters rooms and stick to the hotel corridors in anticipation of generous guests offering food (please don’t!). One of our friends was attacked as she was entering the hotel room cause…maybe the monkeys smelt ikan masin she brought back from the market…kott? And some birds here are also friendly (read: peacock and peahen). These birds may just perch on your baclcony and leave a poo poo or two as a daily welcome gift.

The queen’s perch

Okay, food wise – fresh and taste good. I am not such a foodie, so my vocabulary for food is very limited,  but I am glad we were given a sumptious seafood luncheon at one of the Chinese restaurants at Pangkor town. As usual, I sat back and relax while my hubby peels all the prawns for me to eat. Can I hear an Amen to that?

Other pictures:

Some temple

Some taxidermied, bloated porcupine fish

Some ikan masin factory visit: original satay ikan, ikan masin basking, etc

Some kota.

First Vacay of 2013 – Tioman Island

Finally, my first vacay of the year 2013. And what’s better – it’s a dive vacay! Weee! My logged my last dive in August 2012, at Phuket – Kho Phi Phi which was to say the least – epic because of the ‘shit’ weather (as termed by my Japanese Divemaster) and we ended up puking more than diving. Read about shit weather diving here.

My colleague, whose dive nickname is Fox, organized this Tioman dive trip for us and we stayed at the most happening area in Tioman, called Salang. It has duty-free shops, several reknown dive centres, and of course, restaurants and pubs. People who enjoy night life prefers Salang to Air Batang or Tekek which are relatively quieter.

For the first time in my life, I flew to a dive destination. First, it was safer and economical. Second, it was less exhausting. Tioman was way too far to drive; I had experienced going on a road trip from KL to Lang Tengah and also Langkawi which I found too taxing and tiring even if I was just a passenger at the backseat. During our trip to Lang Tengah via Kuantan, one of our drivers in the convoy of cars dozed off and skidded, but nothing happened as he self-consciously slammed on the breaks. At one point, the car in front of us slammed on the emergency break because in the middle of the morning, approx. 3 am, there were a herd of cows and buffaloes crossing the village roads.

When I landed on Tekek air strip (which belongs to Berjaya), I was pretty surprised to see how coffee-shopey the airport was. Technology was so minimal, I smiled gingerly when I saw how simplistic the baggage collection procedure was. Just take from the buggy….and go! I am not complaining, of course. I am just tamed by the fact that many times, things just work out perfectly and smoothly if we don’t involve technology. And I thought Kerteh Airport was minimal.

This plane is smaller than the one to Kerteh

Gostan! gostan! Gostan
 

No frills baggage handling

Jetty to Salang

Made 5 dives in this trip. The dives were so-so as nothing fascinating about the fishes, except for a school of barracudas was spotted very near us as in one of the dive spots. One non-scary shark spotted. The most memorable dive was at Pulau Labas where there were several caverns in between rock-fall formation (my colleague is Ph.D. in Geology, he told us about the terms. ZzzZzZZZz). We had to swim in between those small caves which was quite interesting as this is where your buoyancy skills is put in used. Excellente!

Day 2 – Impending storm

Day 2 : Choppy waters + lightning. From our dive boat.

Rain also dive. Just do it.

Although it’s the hot/dry season in Malaysia, Tioman saw thunderstorms on the second day of our dive. Lightning and thunder can be seen from our dive boats, and it was raining incessantly til nightfall. Visibility was bad in several of our dives which was basically contributed by the full-moon this week. Ohh well….another ‘shit weather‘?

Batu Malang. Supposed to be a great dive, turned our to be okay-okay only due to poor visibility

Yes, it’s full moon = tidal

I think accommodation was great for the price we paid. It’s peak season, but I’ve got this cozy room with great air-con working and fan in place (just in case it gets too cold). But my hotel room was the hub for mahjong every night we were in Tioman. We have 4 Mahjong kakis…and they are basically professionals/Gods/Kings…whatever you wanna call it. I just charge them rent/tax for the use of my hotel room as gambling den.

At night activity: Dry swimming.

Third day: back to hot weather. The sun was high up and the clouds were gone. Yah, I don’t get it either. Extreme weather back-to-back. Made 2 dives in some bay, but again, visibility sucked. Didn’t see anything significant but some regular skunk clown fishes. Did see a shark, but it swam away swiftly after seeing us approaching. Sissy shark.

Basically, a pretty laid back vacay in Tioman. I slept like 10 hours a day including naps. You must forgive me, but I haven’t had evening naps for a very looong time. So, this Tioman trip gave me soo much hours of sleep and meals, I felt…..hmpphh….guilty. Busy corporate women is like dat wan…dunno how to relax/sleep/be wasteful.

This cat sleeps every time we sees it. I need this kinda good life! – Sleep Sleep Sleep

Red Snapper

Sotong bakar

Oh yah, meals!!! Seafood was so fresh I had a spike in my cholesterol (I think!). The fish (red snapper) was soo large and fresh, I fainted in awe even before it was bbq-ed. It was grilled ngam ngam hou. And so were the prawns. The grilled sotong was done beautifully, but self-control got the better of me. I also had way too many ice-creams in this single trip alone. Two-three sticks per day, everyday in Tioman.

I finished a beautiful book which talks a bit of Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, and why dogs listens to him and not you….bla bla bla. OH, BTW….I’ve got a new family member! Yes, for real. My family has gotten ourselves a cute doggyyyyyy called Pei Pei and we love her like mad.

Back to reality. Back to the city. Back to my money-making routines. Back to whitening cream on my tanned skin.

So, Sunset, when will I be seeing you again?

 

(Boat) Rocking Phuket

“Sawadee ka!”

Yes, I was in the land of yummy spicy food, absolute friendliness, and vibrant culture. Also a land where no other Ronald in the world poses with both hands clapped. I like that; it’s just how the Thais and Ronald here say “Hello”, You are welcome “or “Thank you”

 

 Last time I was in Thailand was in Bangkok with my bestie, Jonie during 1st day Syawal 2005. It’s also a coincidence that this Phuket trip conincided with Syawal as well. What I really like was that it was low-peak season, which means….less tourist = less crowd! I personally think that if there were a crowd, the crowd would be all focused on Bangla Road. That road never seem to be void of people, even if the night before our arrival to Phuket, there was a huge fatal fire at one of the clubs. Four dead, but people are still walking in front of the cordoned area as if it’s still up for business. Spot a few police (or are they mafia?) with their notepads. I busy-bodied for a while there as I’ve always wanted to know how it feels like to be in a actual CSI situation.

 (Oh, in case I forgot: Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, readers!). 

A lagoon, Viking Cave. Actually our boats are hiding from the huge wave.

  
       Viking cave, Koh Phi Phi island – near 2nd scuba dive site

The main reason for this trip was to just hang out doing nothing. I wanted a relaxing trip, but the diver-in-me wanted more than just jalan-jalan or snorkle. How can I be snorkeling at James Bond Island, when I can go deep into the blues at Koh Phi Phi. Kan? kan??! I mean, think about it: you have your diving license sitting at home rotting, and the view is said to be extraordinary….so why wait?!



I just wanted 3 dives on a 1-day boat trip. When we left the jetty, our Japanese divemaster, Fumiko already warned us of the stormy weather the day before, and could probably hit us today. She also said that Asians are more prone to sea-sick compared to the bigger European divers on the same trip, and so we took seasick pills like they’re vitamin tablets 😛


Dive no.1 and no. 2 was absolutely brilliant. Happy with my dive log. But come evening, dive no. 3 became a big no-no for us (Asians on the boat), though a dozen of Europeans (gila babi gung-ho ke ape ni?) braved through the stormy(!!) and 2-meter wave for their 3rd dive. Divemaster Fumiko was the best when it came to safety: she said, if we don’t want to take dive no.3 because of the absolutely-ridiculous-storm-and-I-would-have-died-diving-at-this-2-meter-wavey-sea-couple-with-absolute-armagedonic-sky, we don’t have to. Of course we don’t have to!!! Gila ka?!?!  Fumiko herself called it = shit weather. I vomitted 3 times on the boat but which I was never been this happy vomiting: it’s better than dying in a foreign country.  I’ve never known or experience a more tragic weather than this. I really thought, our boat would have broken into half and I am already on Titanic2’s making.

            In front of noisy Hard Rock. Quiet streets…hmmphh.

The day of our arrival, we started exploring the whole Patong. If my maths don’t fail me, 80% of people in Patong are either Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepali (Central Asia). Phuket even gave them their own road (read: Bangla Road). I might spend quieter times at Karon or Kata beach if I were to return to Phuket in the future.

 While out Patong streets and beach are packed with stalls and shops, you can never miss JungCeylon, the biggest mall in Phuket. Being the shopaholic that I am, and at the first spot of chic coffee joints (e.g. Starbucks), I never fail to go there every day I am in Patong. 

 


On the first day, there was a futie tourney between kids from different schools, as well as a cheer-leading/colouring contest if you are a girl or kaki bangkus. What’s cool is the commitment by the kids and their (cheering? more like screaming) mums. Literally you’ve got whole bunch of soccer mums being more enthusiastic than their kids, probably. And what’s cool is the constant drum beating by this guy during the whole competition – that provides you a samba feel and the relevant mood to play your ball. (= dragon boat).

                 I LOVE PHUKET with Kenny Sin

I‘ve never thought I would meet my ex-housemate, Kenny Sin in Phuket. Out of the myriad of colours and people, Kenny spotted me whilst we were eating Phad Thai at the same shop! He called me upon hearing my ever-recognizable voice. It’s like, “we’ve never got to meet in KL after he moved out, but here we are in Phuket after yearssss” He looks great and frequents Phuket at least twice a year. He’s here on some charity thing. Well done!  

Fresh fruit juice. Chill!
                                          
This is one of the 20 over pics of my full bod on bikini. Old already, paiseh to show closer shots of myself
                   Now, this shot is better! 😛

After chilling with some mix fruit juicy tutti stuff, we headed out to the beach to receive our ‘natural’ massage/spa by the huge waves (again!) and to check out the sunset. The beach was considerably errr…empty, to my delight, as I am a bit self-conscious of my current body-shape as I grow older with age, esp. when on bikini. 😛  Ah well….stuffs happen when we age gracefully. I’ll take it.

                                                                                A sunset at Patong 
                         
To my delight, this restaurant gave us manggis as dessert. To them, it’s cheap. For us, it’s rare.
                                     Complicated beauty

Patong is full of complicated wirings if you look up. This really amuses me. We’ve found beauty in randomness.  

One thing I didn’t like about Phuket is that the whole city is NOT WIRED. Even if it is, they charge the customers. Starbucks, Subway, True Coffee, kopitiam, restaurants….no FREE wi-fi. I think we KL people are spoilt for free wi-fi. 

                                      Farewell, Phuket.

I don’t know if I will be back any time soon, but I have logged in many good (and scary) memories from Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. Especially when spent together with Fong.


“I LOVE PHUKET”

 

The Lazy Diver

Diving is one of those things that tempt me like crazy. My sheer stubbornness to go diving betrays my own need for a moderate lifestyle. But why do I need to change my exciting life (wow!) to a so-called “moderate life” (blehh!), when I can de-stress, relax, and build relationship with my colleagues and bosses in a dainty secluded island, right? (ok, not what you think). Sometimes I bitch-slap myself to ask if I really need to go for a dive trip cause diving is a very expensive sport (and dangerous), but I tell myself that if I keep thinking about this I will NEVER go for one. So believe it, I went for Lang Tengah w/o much deliberation and hey…did not regret it. 🙂

We started our journey approx. 10.30 pm from Karak in a convoy of 4 vehicles. I get the to sit the super-cool Pajero, built for invading jungle trails which belongs to an ex-colleague. This ex-colleague is now doing full time leisure-, teaching- and commercial diving. Yup, the guy with the white hoodie printed ‘DIVE’, that’s him. He’s also into 4WD challenges, which make him one of the most adventurous guy and well-prepared-for-any-dive-trip I’ve ever met.

Luggage bag is a no-no in dive trips – cause it doesn’t make you look like a diver, and I am like “WTF!?”

From Maran jetty, we took the ferry to Redang-Lang resort. Once we had lunch, the evening itself, I went for a shore dive. After the dive, I relaxed upon the beautiful sunset and have short chat with my colleagues. Reading a book (Girl Who Played with Fire series), I gazed far toward the horizon, to catch blinks blinks of ray seeping into the sea (hehe, I suck at descriptive essays) 😛

Silhouette of the resort the afternoon sun, surrounded by crystal-clear water

Cute garden display with encouraging words.
 
Now, this IS very ‘encouraging’!
A tame bamboo shark hiding from us.
Preparing for one of our dives

I did 7 dives in total for this trip. There’s nothing to shout about in all dives – no weird creatures, did not spot any turtles. Maybe because I’ve seen sooo many odd creatures in my previous dives in Bali, Indonesia (manta rays, pipe fishes, cleaner shrimp and lobsters) and Perhentian (turtles, nudi branches, etc.) that the sea creatures in Lang Tengah look quite hmmphh ‘normal’. Not that I am complaining, but I think I’ve seen way too many Nemos and their anemones, even trigger fishes to say that Lang Tengah is different.

Actually, it’s not what you see in those dive spots which makes you go crazy-happy, but the relaxation and the sense of belonging and mindfulness in this earth – our planet which is under-explored, mysterious and awesome! I applaud James Cameron and his submarine (and his desire to explore and learn) going down to the deepest trench in this earth – The Mariana Trench. As a scientist myself, I love to understand and document some rare species, but that might come after I makan-gaji more first and ‘collect’ enough money to feed my curiosity, 😛 (well, let’s see….I am not earning like a hollywood superstar).

After one of our dives.
Air hostess pose. Everyone hates my luggage bag, as it doesn’t epitomize a diver. WTF

There’s no future dive trips being planned yet. But each time you return from one, you hope for the next. Addiction. Thank God money (and time) is the limiting factor, if not, I might go for one every 6 months. 😛 Well, fingers crossed, I thought of going for a dive trip to Thailand…and maybe log in 2-3 dives with Fong, can? can?

Fishes all lari because LAZY DIVER sitting and taking up lots of seabed space.

JOM! Be a lazy diver….asyik nak relax je…