As Promised…Girls Out & ABout: Japan March 2008

Travel is more fun when it’s with your good pals 🙂

My travel Buddies
Shibuya
Sakura - Cherry Blossom blooming at Ueno Park
UENO: I'm so in love with takoyaki
Metro Station in Tokyo
H A R A J U K U - Japanese boy in Traditional attire
Newly Weds
All dolled up!
Asakusa: great packaging
Kaminarimon, Sensōji, Asakusa
Asakusa: shrine
Tokyo tower
Close up but didn't climb up!
Shinkansen from Hakone to Tokyo

This post will be updated frequently, thanks to my gal pals….had kindly requested them to pen a few words about our trip to the Land of the Rising Sun….

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What’s Going On?

Yes, I know I’m guilty for neglecting my digital abode. So, what’s the cause @ who’s to blame?

Darn, this isn’t going to be easy. How long has it been since I last jot anything down, in this humble blog of mine? Has it been a year? How time flies!? So much has happened in the last 12 months or more. I’ve left my teaching post for a DESK job and has been left thinking whether it was/had been a good move. Obviously, there are the UPs & DOWNs of making such a life turning decision! Should I weigh the GOOD & the NOT so GOOD, should I share it with you here? Maybe NOT, each and everyone of us will have to make our own decision, what ever it is we will have to make the best of it…it’s a learning curve! The decision was mine, thanks to the little nudges from Mom & Dad =)

So enuf pondering of what had been @ should have been!

Life as it is at this far away place is kind of how would you say….similar to F1 season! Do you get what I mean? We have this in and off season, at times you’re BUSY like HELL, you’d be sitting there praying to god that he’ll give you extra hours to KILL! Loads of work but so DAMN little time to accomplish ALL. When that happens, I lose my appetite, what more SLEEP! You’ll know when I’m feeling DOWN, forget make-up…that would be the last thing on my MIND! But I GUESS, every job is like that. Nothing comes in a silver platter…I know that how it has been for me, I’ve never had it easy. Although, some may find it had to believe! I worked my heart out, poured it all out to reach here. I went through all the blood and sweat and at times tears, to be where I am today. I know my ranting may cause some uneasiness to some of you out there (at work). But, it’s just me! I’m sensitive & emotional…sometimes I do spit out something without thinking, and regrets it a second later….that’s how fast my tongue & my brain works! So, do forgive me for such a self-centred act!

Yes, my life can be a BITCH, but I have to admit it does bring some joy…especially when you’re given an opportunity to develop yourself…I for one have to admit that there’s so much to learn, in fact education is a lifelong process. Learning does not stop once you’ve received your scroll, it goes on and on till every breath has been squeezed out of your soul! It comes in various forms, hands-on, trial & error etc. I think I’ve gone through all.

Anyway, I should thank God for the beautiful gift he had presented to me, my 2nd trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend a 10 day course organized by MEXT. It was an unforgettable experience, as this was a first for me, to attend a course abroad with colleagues/fellow programme officers from Asia.

That’s where I met these beautiful people:

Our 1st Lunch Date =)

Visit to ACCU, Tokyo

Welcoming Reception
I MISS them KIDS
Nara School Kids
United Nations University (UNU), Yokohama
With Prof Kato

Ueno

I should thank the Japanese Govt for sponsoring us and for being such a great host. We’ll definitely make use of what we had learnt through out our stay there.

For the past year and a half, so much had happened…friends come and go, but I do cherish those friendship I’ve made along the way. I thank you all for the guidance and your patience =)

P/S Humm…sorry for not keeping my promise, I may have shared my UPs & DOWNs..it’s unintentional, REALLY!

Visit to the Historical City of Melaka

Melaka @ famously known as the Historical City of Malacca has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with Georgetown, Penang on 7 July 2008. Melaka was once a very popular and busy port, with ships coming in from Europe, Arab States, South Asia and China. It’s strategic location between the East and the West made it an ideal site/stop for these traders. The Portuguese, the Dutch and the Brits once colonised Malacca and left behind their heritage and culture. Tourists, local and foreign can find and see beautiful architecture (of what’s left of it!) left behind by her conquerers! Melaka is famous for the A’Famosa, the St Paul’s Hill as well as the Stadthuys….

A Whole Different World — Morocco

Across the Gibraltar Straits lay the land of Kings, a kingdom called Morocco. The harsh land with its mountain range cutting across her. She is also covered with soft golden sand in the south, the Sahara Desert. This land has been explored and discovered long ago by merchants and the Romans, the Umayyads who also ruled the Iberian Penisula and now frequented and flocked by tourists. This western kingdom is famous for its spices, ceramics and of course leather. In short, it is a shopper’s paradise!

My adventure to Maghribi began once we disembark from the ferry to Tangier, a Northern port city of Morocco. I have no idea what it is like out there or what to expect. Once the hot air hit our faces, then I realize that I am no longer in Spain. The stark difference of these two countries was obvious, one very rich, green and clean while the other is the opposite. This may be harsh to some, but it is the truth. The hardship faced by these people has opened up my eyes to reality. Then only did I cherish what was given to me (the whole package).

Before going through the arduous journey to Fes, we were taken on a bus ride around the city of Tangier.

It’s lunch time, thanks for the entertainment!

The journey to Fes was a torturous one, the road twists through some of the most beautiful but sometime barren countryside for more than 5 hours. It was pitch dark too and we were afraid for our lives as there were no street lights along the country road. We were thankful once we arrived in Fes, the new part of the city. In the late evening we were entertained at a local restaurant not far from the hotel.

Magic Show – Guess what did he pull out? Naughty, naughty boy!

The picture below is for you, PC

Trying to teach us to shake our booty! I nearly died out there!

A Moroccan Wedding

A night to be remembered … sigh

… to be continued …

Have boots will travel … SPAIN

Time flies … my adventure has ended. What’s left are memories of the very short trip to a foreign land, an escapade of sorts. One day, they may fade but hopefully the memory will etch in your heart forever.

Madrid was great, one of the cleanest places I’ve been to. The beautiful sculptures, monuments and buildings were simply captivating. They took my breath away as there were so much to see and so little time to savor them all! The must-see places include:

Puerta del Sol – shopping paradise, but beware of pickpockets. A guy from the same tour group lost 1000 Euros but nothing else was taken, not even his wallet. Other than that, you’ll enjoy yourself there if you ain’t claustrophobic! In fact, I did not even carry any purse just cash in a secret place ;-P

Royal Palace – be sure to be early as there’s a long queue to enter this huge palace. No photos are allowed to be taken. A few blocks away is the Royal Theatre, where such performance such as the opera is performed.

Madrid is a shopping haven, be sure to bring enough cash or plastic money as I can guarantee that you’ll go shopping crazy here. Items such as handbags, purses etc by Spanish designers for instance Tous can be bought at a cheaper price.

Madrid and Spain in general is a pretty safe place for tourists and travelers alike. I have no qualms of exploring the city on my own at night. In fact, I had no problem walking from my hotel “Hotel Atlanta ” to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, which isn’t far at all – it may have been a 15 – 30 minute walk.

Madrid by Night

 

2 nights in Madrid may not be enough but we had to continue our journey to the city of Toledo, a World Heritage Site. It was foggy and we were unable to see the beautiful city of Toledo from the hill top. We were then taken to tour Toledo on foot. Pathways were covered with cobbled stones and the forts and buildings still stand strong. Church bells could be heard ringing in the middle of the windy day to signify the time for service. I observe the priest, vicars dressed in black robes enter the doors of the church while the rest of us the tourists and locals enjoy the view and fresh air. After the long walk and many stops it was time for lunch, so we found a great halal place to have a large platter of doner kebab. Umm the crispy & crunchy vegetable and juicy lamb meat sliced thinly in this fabulous flat bread. Every two bites is downed with a sip of Cola to quench our thirst.

Below are pictures of Toledo

Tagus River

Tagus River

An artisan hard at work

A different angle

The city of Toledo

Anybody home?

Take 5

What’s left of the fort

Once we’ve filled our stomach, we’re ready to proceed to Cordoba which is quite a distance away. The journey took us through hills and valleys covered with olive trees all along the highway. We had to make a few pit stops along the way for prayers as well as toilet stops.

Cordoba, a beautiful city known for its architecture, heritage & history. Once a place ruled by the Muslim empire for hundreds of years and finally fallen to the Christian rulers, namely Ferdinand and Isabella. (Let’s hope I got my facts right!) Not much is left of the Islamic monument, nor are there plentiful of Muslim of Spanish origin. Most of them have either migrated or converted to Christians.

Below are a few pictures taken of the interior and exterior of the Mezquita.

The oranges are bitter so no one actually eats them.

No pillar is the same as they were taken from Roman temples and other Roman sites.

Within the Mezquita compound

Alleys and houses not far from the Mezquita

What’s left of the Universidad Islamica Internacional Averroes De Al-Andalus

Our journey across Spain took us to the next city, the city of Granada famous for its Moorish heritage and landmark, the Al Hambra. We arrived in Granada in the late afternoon, took a quick shower and explored the city. Well, actually went last minute shopping for gifts. We’re quite fortunate that there’s a mall close by, the El Corte Ingles.

That night, we had planned to watch a performance made famous by the gypsies living in the South of Spain, the flamenco. The drive to the Gypsy cave was not a long one but we (the vehicle we were in) had to squeeze through the amazingly narrow and steep streets. Thank God for the ever efficient driver, we arrived at our destination in one piece. 😉

The performance was held in a cave-like room, it is a family affair (I don’t know if it includes the grandmother!). I was captivated by their elegant moves and how their feet move following the beat of the music. I could never do that. I must be born with 2 left feet.

He is HOT!

The granny?

Another HOT dude?

Ole!

Muy Bonita

Typical Granada homes (casa)

View from the top

La Al Hambra by night – after the show

That’s enough for the night!

We visited the Al Hambra & Generalife the next morning.

Generalife, a summer palace and garden built during the reign of Muhammad III. It’s situated not far from the Al Hambra and part of the garden is maintained by gardeners. It is best visited during Spring and Summer when flowers bloom. However, tickets are limited as the Spanish government tries to control the influx of visitors into the area.

Our local guide

Generalife & Al Hambra

A view of Al Hambra

After the grand tour of this fabulous landmark, we returned to the city center for lunch.

&

We are about to leave Spain for Morocco but before doing so we had to spend a night in Torremolinos which is a city not far from Algeciras and Tarifa, where we were taking the ferry to Tangier.

It’s time to make a move. While on the road, you could see hundreds of wind turbines.

Port of Tarifa

Punta de Tarifa

Leaving Spain behind ;-(

Adios for now!

A voyage to the unknown

It has finally arrived — I’ll be boarding the plane to Madrid via Cairo in a few hours time. Another journey to the world of the unknown, excitement fills me – curiosity builds into a desire to know more. What, when where … all these questions came into mind. They are yet to be answered. For now. But by the end of this 2 week journey, all of the questions will be answered. Most importantly, the experience will hopefully turn me into a more worldly person,  more knowledgeable and appreciative of God’s creations around her.

So, I hope to be back in 13 or so days along with hundreds if not thousands of pictures, maybe a video or two.

Eid Mubarak

eid

 

It’s the last day of fasting and preparations are being made to celebrate the end of the month of Ramadan.

Muslims all over the world will attend congregational prayers held in the local community Masjid, paying respect to their loved ones by reciting the doa and visiting relatives and friends. Do not forget to prepare duit raya, a common custom here.