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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hello world! ;-)

Hi there
Thanks for dropping by. If you like my blog, you are welcome to visit my personal blog http://cheahoylee.com for the latest updates. I'll see you over there ;-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tibet


Tibet, the "roof of the world" is simply full of unspeakable charm! I was very lucky to witness the most spectacular views I've ever seen, namely the solar eclipse and sandstorm. We've visited Lhasa (the capital city), Potala Palace, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Jhekong Palace, Yamdrok Yumtso Lake, Shitgatse and others.

One sunny day, we visited Yamdrok Yumtso Lake. It was a long crawling drive up the mountain. But when you got to see the view, it was all worth it.
It was the most breathtakingly beautiful lake that I've ever seen.

On our way down, we experienced sandstorm and while we visited the mill where the Tibetans make their joss sticks, all of a sudden hails started falling out of nowhere! All these happened in a couple of hours. It is not uncommon that you experience 4 seasons in one day in Tibet. Weather is totally unpredictable!

As we continued our journey to Shitgatse
which was about 4 hours drive from Lhasa, guess what, our bus broke down near a cliff! That was around 6pm where all the passengers were stranded. The tour guide left us to ask for help, then later the driver left us too!

Some guy from Hong Kong got agitated by the situation and said that it could have been a plot set up by them, they might get someone to rob us. We were all worried. My four brave male friends went down to the river within walking distance to buy some fish to eat for dinner. Apparently, the river is where the Tibetans have their water burial when they die. Eeeewwwwwww but my friends were too hungry that they couldn't be bothered.

We were just hungry waiting for our driver and tour guide to come back. Luckily, the sky didn't turn dark unitl 10 at night. When I looked up, the sky was filled with beautiful starts. That must have been the most starry sky that I've ever seen at night! The view was simply amazing!

Around 11pm, our rescuers finally came with another bus which was in an even worst condition that we had. It was already half full so when all of us squeezed into the bus, some of us had to stand to get to Shigatse which was another 2 hours drive from where we were stranded. When we got to our destination, it was past 1am and only then we had our dinner for the day.

I must say the day was very eventful but surely was the most memorable trip that I had and enjoyed every moment of it!

Club Med Bintan Ria, Indonesia

Bintan Island in Indonesia is less than an hour of ferry ride away from Singapore. Club Med Bintan Ria is an awesome getaway spot where we headed for. I had a wonderful fun-filled, relaxing and action-packed trip with tug-of-war, trapeze, swimming, sailing, traditional spa and massage. They also have kayaking, water polo, wind-surfing, archery, paf paf (crafts), yoga, gym, golf and lots more.

The environment is free and relaxing, food is excellent and people are friendly. However, some of the male staffs (G.O. - Gentle Officers) are super-friendly and aggressive if you know what I mean which you just have tell them straight in the face "no thank you" to get yourselves out of troubles :-) Apart from that, I had a blast!

I have been advised to visit Club Med Cherating in Kuantan. It is the best oneaccording to the CMB (Chief Member Business) manager who has worked in nine Club Meds in different countries!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cambodia - Siem Reap & Phnom Penh


This was the most eye-opening, enriching, emotional and adventurous vacation that I've had in my life so far after Tibet. We bought the open-jaw tickets, in from Penang to Siem Reap, out from Phnom Penh. From Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, one can either fly (one-way ticket is USD 71, takes only 30 min), take ferry (provided that the water level is high) or bus (only USD 5, takes 5 hours). In the interest of time, we flew to Phnom Penh instead. You can hire a chauffeur-driven Toyota Camry for USD 20/day to move around anywhere you want in Siem Reap, hiring a car is more prudent than "Tuk Tuk" (motor taxi) if you have 3 or more to share the bill.

Siem Reap is a safer touristic place compared to Phnom Penh. In Siem Reap, we went to the floating village and encountered a storm on the way to Tonle Sap Great Lake on our first day. We saw shacks in devastating poverty, kids running naked, child labours, beggars, shabby houses and dirty water. It was an unpleasant scene and I realised how lucky we are to have taken these things for granted. You can give some money to the kids but watch out that they'll most likely swamp you after you give it to one of them.

Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, South Gate, Bayon, Ta Prom (the Jungle Temple) are the main highlights in Siem Reap. Bayon and the Jungle Temple are my favourite among all. I managed to take some pictures of Angkor Wat with sunset and rainbow which I was quite happy about. We also traveled out of Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen which took 2 hours up the deep mountain jungle to "One Thousand Lingus", Phreas Thom (Reclining Buddha) and the refreshing Theank Tnank Waterfall, also met a dying man on the road.

After Siem Reap, we flew to Phom Penh, a very "raw" place. We felt unsafe to walk on the streets at night in Phnom Penh, be sure to watch out for pick-pockets. Our friend heard 6 gunshots from the alley of our hotel at night. We wanted to go for massage and the "Tuk Tuk" driver took us to a whorehouse which he probably earned some commission out of it, so we decided to find a "clean" massage parlour on our own which we finally did after a long stroll around the town. We bought the kids some ice-cream, they were very thankful, kissed and hugged us when we left.

There are homeless people sleeping on the streets and kids carrying and selling heavy books with them. Phnom Penh is the city where the Khmer Rouge took place from 1975-79. Visiting Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Cheong Ek Killing Field gave me creeps, disgust and discomfort, I felt sympathy for the victims and their families. The Royal Palace is a total contrast of these horrifying places that you can visit in Phnom Penh.

Overall, I like Siem Reap more than Phnom Penh but I really had a terrific time in Cambodia. It was my best adventure and I wished to go back there again some day. Here are some shots of Cambodia, hope you enjoy viewing them.

Jiu Zhai Gou & Huang Long


I have always wanted to visit Sichuan province in China with the most famous Unesco World Natural Heritage Sites gathered in one province, namely Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic & Historic Interest Area , Huanglong Scenic & Historic Interest Area, Mt. Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area and Dujiangyan Irrigation System built more than 2000 years ago, yet still in service till today.

No other place is better than Sichuan to experience colorful lakes, astounding waterfalls, beautiful forests, crystal clear water, calcification ponds, panda bears, rich Tibetan culture, awesome “changing masks” performance, spicy hotpot, ancient city, quaint old temples and many others. It is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth with so much to offer.

Jiu Zhai Gou is one of the few highland remains of the glazial ages in the world above 3,000m above sea level. The name in Chinese means "Nine Tribes Valley". Historically, it has been inhabited by minority tribes and was only discovered by the government in the late 1970s. The place is now identified by China as a Class 1 Environmentally Protected Area.

Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area enjoy the names of the 'World Wonder' and 'Fairy Land on Earth', which is well known for its colorful lakes, snow clad mountains, valleys and virgin forest.

Philippines


The Best and the Worst
In my 2 weeks’ vacation, I’ve learned a lot about the Philippines. I’ve seen the best and the worst. The best includes the beautiful Boracay beach, Taal Lake, Tagaytay, shopping at Divisoria to stretch you bucks, helpful people amongst the poor who help one another, the Jeep driver gets a cigarette from the seller and driver gives him a free ride like a barter trade, Greenbelts night spots, nice beautiful shopping malls, tasty local food like Sinigang, Buco Pie and Ensaymada. The worst includes smelly squatters, kids running around without clothes, pollution, traffic jam in Manila.


Transport
Cabs are cheap and abundant in Manila, Jeeps are easily available, fare starts P40 and train is another great option to move around to beat the traffic jam during rush hours. Flights are very affordable using Cebu Pacific low cost carrier, besides the usual 30 min delay, the experience with the airline has been positive, no complaints for the low price that one pays. It has the youngest fleets of less than a year old and flies to most cities in the Philippines.

Shopping

If you have a few days in Manila and love shopping, be sure to go to 168 Mall at Divisoria for great bargains, it is a local bazaar (“tiangge”) from clothes to shoes to accessories to tools to home furnishings to pearls, you name it they have it! Prices are very good, haggling is a norm here and you will surely get a good price if you know how to do it right ;-) There are also many nice shopping malls where you can get signature goods like Mall of Asia, GreenHill, Eastwood, etc but of course prices are more expensive.

Food
There are many franchises in Manila where the food you get at one place tends to be the same as what you can get elsewhere. Popular food chains besides McD, KFC are Jollibee (serves Pinoy food), Chow King (Chinese take-aways), Greenwich (Pasta, sandwiches) and Kopi Roti (toast, coffee). Just one bite of Ensaymada got me smitten, the texture is between bread and cake with cheese, it is so soft and cheesy, yum yum!!! If you'd like some local Pinoy food, you can try their Sinigang (sour soup) and barbecue pork.


Tagaytay
If time permits, you can travel out of Manila to Tagaytay, a nice cooling place where Taal lake is situated. Tagaytay is about 2 hours from Manila. Buco (coconut) pie is a must-try delicacy. There is a popular local restaurant, Josephine’s that overlooks the volcano, the view is amazing while you savour the great food! Batangas beach is about 2 hours drive from Tagaytay, it is a great chill-out place if you need a get-away from the city’s hustle and bustle. The sunset on the beach is just so beautiful!


Boracay
It is in the south of Manila. One could either fly to Cataclan or Kalibu to get there. Kalibu is a 1.5 hour drive from Cataclan where one could take a 15-min motor boat ride to the famous Boracay beach. It has the whitest and finest sand that I’ve ever seen, the water is crystal clear. For those water sports lovers, Boracay is a paradise for them, from diving, surfing, parasailing, kayaking, and the like.


I stole some sand back in a water bottle, when I showed it to my mum, she told me “Don’t put this on the table”. So I asked, why. She said, “If not, people may mistaken it for pepper!” How true, I looked at again and I think she is not exaggerating at all, it is really as fine as pepper powder :-) For those beach lovers, this is the place to be. There are many shops and restaurants on the shores where you can walk from Station 1 to 2 to 3. If you want internet access, go to 168 Station at Station 2, price is 70 peso/hour.

Jony's restaurant at Station 1 is a must-go which serves excellent Mexican food. Challets and hotels are easily available along the beaches. Sunsets are lovely in Boracay, check out some shots!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Harbin & Northeast of China


Harbin is famous of its ice festival. If China map is a chicken, Harbin is its eyeball near the Russian border. On Christmas eve 2004, myself and 4 other friends headed for the coldest place in China looking forward for our white Christmas. The places we visited were Harbin (Heilongjiang Province), Changchun (Jilin Province), Jilin, Shenyang (Liaoning Province) and Beijing as our last stop.

The weather extremely chilly up to -35C. We'd experienced the coldest temparature that all of us had never felt before. It was really biting cold that you couldn't feel your fingers, ear and cheeks turning red, feet feeling numb and stiff, I ain't kidding!! If you plan to visit there, make sure you get a pair of good gloves, ear muffs and snow boots. You can also buy the snow boots there for about RMB40 (USD 5) per pair. I used to love 4 seasons' weather, but now I guess I have learned to appreciate Malaysia's climate more since I don't have to put on multiple layers of clothing before I can go out :)

Remember to check if the ski equipment is in good condition when you rent them. Some hiccups happened along our trip where one of my friends was asked to pay for the damage though it was already broken when she rented it. That was an unscrupulous trick to make money from tourists. In the end, she lodged a complaint, got her money back and they had to apologise to her. Happy ending :)

We visited the St Sophie Church, Stalin Park, Ice Lantern Festivals to enjoy all the ice carvings in Harbin. Witnessing the amazing winter swimming by the old folks, we also visited the Changchun Film Studio where we filmed the sound effects of a short video clip which was great fun!
We also visited the Puppet Emperor's Palace in Changchun, the Imperial Palace in Shenyang, etc. Beijing was great place for shopping at Yaxiu Market and the Temple of Heaven. Time flies and we're now home. Still thinking of snow in our minds.

Overall, it was a great trip seeing different things and trying out the great food. The best of all, the laughter we had during the whole trip!!