Archive for the ‘Globe Trekker’ Category

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

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My trip to the Land of the Maharajas was a trip of both worlds, familiarity which is of Delhi and Agra, as well as of the unknown, Srinagar, Kashmir. I hadn’t plan to go away, it was one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions! I had to go away, to reenergize & find the meaning of life, that’s when I decided I need to take a break – away from work & the mundane, routine tasks! I never thought that it would take me to this Sub Asian continent, for I have thought of going to Turkey this autumn.

Our journey began on Saturday, 20th October:

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1530 – met Amy, my ex-schoolmate at KLIA. We were requested to meet up at Counter L.

1630 – briefing by our tour agent & group leader (Counter F18)

1700 – immigration check by a stone faced & unfriendly officer. Should have gone through the Autogate instead!

1730 – coffee break at O’Briens and performed Asar prayer

1800 – boarding MH 190 to Delhi.

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it was a 4hour and 20 min flight, was served chapati, rice & chicken curry. Spent my time napping, watching Travel channel & part of Snow White

2100 (local time, 2300 Malaysian time ) – arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport, immigration check, baggage claim. Pretty clean airport = clean toilet, so I was satisfied!

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Our local tour agent was already at the airport, waiting for us – a small group of 18.

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2300 – checked in at Hotel Grand Sartaj, Delhi & served Indian cuisine for dinner.

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21st October, Monday:

Woke up early and decided to jot down a few notes about my trip to India.

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Checked out early as we have a flight to catch – off to Srinagar, Kashmir!

…. to be continued when time permits!

Thank you, Bobby Chinn, for your show “World Cafe Middle East: Istanbul” has brought back memories of my short trip to Istanbul!

The places you’ve been, the food you’ve tasted, the people you’ve met & the culture you’ve experienced instantly took me back to the early Winter of 2005! I never imagined myself setting foot and breathing in the air of the once famous and fearless Byzantine Empire as well as the birth of the every powerful Ottoman Empire!

Istanbul is a mixture of the old and the new, the modern and the traditional, of European and Asian, the religious and the liberal, just look all around you. It’s a melting pot of culture! Why not? It connects the East to the West or specifically, Europe to Asia or vice versa!

Istanbul is rich with History and Culture, you’ll find historical sites within distance of each other. Sites left by the Romans, such as the Basilica Cistern that lie beneath the city itself, not far from the Hagia Sophia, which is within walking distance to the the Sultan Ahmad Camii or also famously known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles inlaid in its interior. If time permits, spare some Turkish Lira YTL and go on a tour of the Topkapi Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit its many chambers from harems to stables and galleries. Immerse yourself with history, transport yourself back to the Ottoman Period. Imagine what would’ve become of you, if you’ve lived then!

If you love culture, go ahead and experience Turkish dance and tradition at the Orient House, Best Western Hotel. Catch the belly dancing, whirling dervishes and enjoy Turkish cuisine at the same time! It’s quite an easy place to locate if you’re staying within the area of the Old City of Istanbul. Just 5 minutes walk from the Grand Bazaar and the other historical places! I remember it took us about 15 minutes walk from the Royal Hotel, Laleli, Istanbul to reach our destination! In fact, Istanbul is pretty safe compared to Madrid, as we were always reminded/warned about pick pockets! So far, we’re pretty lucky!

Another must not miss place to visit is the Galata Tower, built on a hill across the Bosphorus River. An ancient Tower with a restaurant on its upper floor which provides visitor with a 360 view of Istanbul and its surroundings! Go ahead and try to locate the Hagia Sophia, the Queen’s Mosque, the Goldern Horn etc. Down below, explore the avenues of Istanbul. As for me, I found İstiklâl Caddesi by accident. We were being adventurous or maybe brave or actually a little thrifty by deciding to walk back to our hotel! It looks simple from the top of the tower, imagining the route to take home, it didn’t look far either! In actuality, it wasn’t far! Anyway, we took the stairs, no it was the lift down. Bought some souvenirs from the Galata Tower Shop including a pair of evil-eye earrings (which I’ve lost during my 1st trip to Japan). Walked down an avenue, turn a few corners and realized that we’ve lost our way! Somehow, God must be on our side, we took a turn or maybe two and found the main street with shops and restaurants the whole stretch. With the number of people going through it, we’re confident we’re on the right track. In fact, we stopped by a few places to get Turkish Silk Scarves for me and Turkish Glassware by their ever famous glass maker, Pasabahce and then stop for lunch since we’re famished from all the adventure! Sated, we made a move and found ourselves at Taksim Square and realized we had just left İstiklâl Caddesi, one of the famous avenues of Istanbul! I guess that’s what you call adventure!

Oh by the way, we managed to hail a cab back to the Grand Bazaar before heading home, oops hotel! I felt right at home, here…damn, there! What more can you ask for? The warm Turkish Apple Tea, the fresh bread, Turkish Delights to spoil you, and obviously the beautiful people and the culture and heritage!

Galata Tower from across the Bosphorus

A bird's eye view from the top of the Galata Tower

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….

Back to Nature

Posted: June 29, 2010 in Globe Trekker, mi vida loca, passion, Snaps

Living in a concrete jungle surrounded by “civilized” beings at times can be a torture. So, where do you escape from the dog eat dog world out there? Well, it’s back to nature in search for tranquility & fresh air. If you feel the need to do some soul searching, I’m sure you’d be surprised to find out there are actually a number of interesting @ unheard of places (for an ignorant local, like me) for you to do so.

If you love the waters and can’t stay away from the fishes, do visit Tioman Island. I find the water crystal clear and the view breathtaking. Go ahead & pack you scuba gear or snorkels and jump into the sea to capture beautiful photos of schools of fishes swimming about. Just beware of what you step on! I don’t recall seeing jellyfishes but there are some sea cucumbers.

Group Trip to Tioman Island back in 2000/01

Underwater view

Corals

*What’s left of my Tioman photos, will have to search from more, somewhere….*

For those of you who crave for some adventure, go mountain climbing @ hiking. My first experience was an excruciating one. Gosh, you couldn’t imagine the torture I went through climbing Mount Nuang! It was an all day affair. It took us 7 hrs going up & another 7hrs going down. We didn’t expect having to reach based that late, so some of us didn’t in fact bring our torch lights. One who did, lost it in the stream! So, we had to make do with our cellphones to guide us through! Thanks to the lads for having the patience with us gals!

At the start of an excruciating journey

It slowly start to be...a little....challenging

Watch out!

This is the way UP!

Short break....oh yeah

Break again

What a View!

Is this the way to the top?

We finally reached the Peak!

If that wasn’t enough, try going to Mount Datuk! It didn’t take us that long, but it’s no easy trip up either! This time we decided to build camp near the top of the mountain. That night it rained heavily, we just hope that our tents wouldn’t collapsed or sliding down the rocks in our sleep! So let’s see the journey of ours through the photos below:

A lil Background

Getting ready....

We can't help it....R&R

The joy of reaching there

Proud to be at the top

Look at that view

Some crazy dude

At dusk

Another CRAZY Dude, the next morn....

That's the way down, guys...enjoy the view

And, finally our trip to Bekelah Falls

The RED Team....Long Live LIVERPOOL..can't help it!

Group pix again

...and again...

You couldn’t imagine how many times we had to stop to rest due to lack of exercise, energy, low sugar lever & the extreme HEAT!

nearly there

this is one....

group photo once more...say cheese...

Another one for the camera

the beauty of nature 1

Beauty of Nature 2

our camp site among the rocks

All photos courtesy of Kojak. Author of Utara Selatan Timur dan Barat

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 …

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.

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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!

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.

The trip to Spain & Morocco will hopefully be fulfilled in early December this year. Down payment have been made today and the rest some time later. I’ve been itching to visit Al-Hambra for some time now. So, I hope nothing will come in my way.

Proposed Itinerary

  • Madrid – City tour of Madrid, Royal Palace & Military Museum.
  • Toledo – City tour of Toledo visits Santo Tome Church and Synagogua Transito.
  • Cordoba – Mezquita
  • Granada – City tour of Granada & Al-Hambra
  • Torremolinos @ Benalmedina
  • Algeciras
  • Tangiers
  • Fez
  • Marrakech
  • Casablanca

What makes it even sweeter is that we will be spending a night in Cairo. Yes, Cairo. I miss the desserts, this time I’ll make sure I’ll bring back boxes and boxes of halva.

Another thing which I had missed was visiting the American Univeristy in Cairo and the Egyptian Museum located at Tahrir Square

So, these two places will be in my list of MUST go places.

Some pictures taken in the Island of Tuba.

Day 1

 

Day 2

Day 3:

Day 4:

 

Day 5:

Back Then

Posted: February 17, 2007 in Globe Trekker, memory lane, mi vida loca, US

This was taken in 98, the home we onced lived in was no longer standing and was replaced by high-rised buildings.

 The building on the extreme right is now occupied by young professionals. Below is a  photograph taken of the ground level of Ballston Metro (at the foreground) and Hecht’s Departmental Store in the background.

Ballston