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

A picture paints a 1000 words

Posted: January 15, 2011 in mi vida loca, passion

Sitting here, with only the sounds from the TV in the background accompanying me, my thoughts and my heart seem to be working over-time, incessantly telling me to go back to blogging. This forgotten or maybe neglected hobby of mine was once my passion, a place to pour out my feelings, a diary or a journal of sorts.

Photography is another passion of mine, however I need to constantly remind myself the importance of being patient, for a good picture I believe, is captured, when one keeps a clear head amid all the chaos or disorganization etc. As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. The photo you capture is self-explanatory, it tells a story of who you are, of your emotion at that particular time. Just look at the photos taken at war-thorn countries. These photographers have managed to capture the emotions of the victims of war, the sadness, the rage, the torture, the face of losing their loved ones, their homes….themselves, or even their identity. Looking back in time, I find photographs as a significant source of history, be it family history or a reminder of how the world has evolved. Who ever would thought that such an iconic building (I’m talking about the WTC) would simply disappear off the face of the earth? How many of you still have photos of WTC in your albums? Any regrets on taking things for granted, in this case, taking such iconic feature of your city or country for granted? I have!

I’ve been up the WTC back in the Spring of 97 @ 98, can’t remember exactly the year. To tell you the truth, my heart wasn’t in it. As I recall, it was located at the Financial District, so as you see, me and business is like like oil and water, we just don’t mix! Thus, the lack of interest in the building’s function, background and architecture. Nor do I have photos taken of it, may it be the interior or a close up of the exterior! But I somehow do have a photo taken from the Empire State Building, you could see the 2 towers standing tall in the background. Well, that was then, for today a different structure takes its place!

People create History, but photos tell a Story. Without them, one may never be able to visualize the scene or to live in the moment. Ahh…the importance of photography and that little or over-sized device you carry along with you, digital or simply the old-fashioned kind….Let’s roll film!

p/s: Don’t forget to pack your camera on your next trip out of town!

Life in Moments

Paul Oh Paul!

Posted: July 10, 2010 in sports freak

No this ain’t Paul McCartney nor Pope John Paul, it’s Paul the Octy!

Funny, I doubt that I’ve ever heard of you before this day (or yesterday), but you’ve became an over night celebrity when it was made known by the media of your “gift” & your prediction that Spain will be the WC Champ in 2010. Many have threatened to EAT you, I believe many have difficulty digesting the news (Spain winning) too, not because they’re ardent fans of the Oranje team but some people like ME don’t believe in oracles etc.

Such hype, to me, is created to capture the world’s attention towards the WC. Has it been a great one for you so far? With so many favorite teams being kicked out during the earlier stages of the games, some fans had claimed this year’s games have been a farce! Oh well, if it is, the news will come out sooner or later, watch out for controversies after the World Cup! Just wait and see.

Whatever it is, oracle or not, I’ll be happy for Spain if they win their 1st WC. They, as the reigning Euro Champ, deserve it. So, lets paint the town RED, aye!

Obituary

Posted: July 2, 2010 in mi vida loca

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn’t always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone.

If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

——————————————————–

Found this one the web & I thought I should share it with you guys. How far is it TRUE?

To me, it pictures reality….

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

New Week, New @ Fresh Start

Posted: June 28, 2010 in mi vida loca

It’s 7.34 in the morn and still eerily quiet except for the occasional sounds of colleagues coming in or going off to God knows where! In search for something to fill their empty tummy, perhaps?

Anyway, it’s nearing the end of the month of June. Oh how time flies, it’s already mid year! Argh….(imagines herself pulling her very short hair!!)…What have we achieved so far? Pray tell!!

I’ve got a few things which I’ve to settle by today (Reminder: Stop procrastinating!)…and am hoping that we’ll get to attend this so-called tea-party at one of the Teaching Centers, right here in city center…umm actually at the outskirts of the city center, to be exact! So, I brought my camera, just in case…to capture those important moments in our lives….(it’s for documentation, actually!)

So, I’m definitely looking forward to that to make it a good day!

Ah, we await no longer for it’s finally here. I should be jumping up and down, filled with joy watching fit men in colored jerseys running after a sole ball from one end to the other attempting to make their own HISTORY! However, I’ve lost the LUV for footie fever. It hasn’t been the same. In actuality, I don’t favor any team/nation. I actually am, let me humbly admit a LIVERPOOL FC fan, but I haven’t been a loyal one this past year. I haven’t been following their games or news as it frustrates me to see them struggle this season. I started to lose faith when LFC decided to let Xabi Alonso go. I believe he is an influential player. Look at him now, he is playing for the national team. His time at Liverpool & his natural skills has caught the eyes of the national coach etc. That was not the only reason for LFC’s downfall. P.O.L.I.T.I.C.S is the major culprit. It doesn’t help, when you over power others.

So back to WC’10, it’s been a lackluster event so far. (Maybe it’s just me, as you age beautifully you start to lose the interest in some things like FOOTBALL!) I don’t know how the others see it. Tell me! But it’s no secret that I’m rooting for Spain, the reasons being I LOVE Spain because of its vibrant culture & beautiful people. Yes NOTHING to do with football. Although I used to follow Real Madrid, until I lost interest once again. I want Spain to win, Torres, being a LFC player, to win and Fabregas to win just because he is HOT (that’s just a dumb reason, but who cares. You’d have to admit that he is one gorgeous dude!). I may root for Spain, but I doubt that they’ll reach the final. I guess it’s going to be an ALL South American FINALE. Do I need to mention the teams? I think not!

As you can see, or guess by now that I’m not much of a footie @ world cup fan. I guess I’ve been more of an F1 fan these days, McLaren to be exact. McLaren all the way, no matter the driver racing the fabulous race cars! I’m praying that this year will be the year for McLaren although they’ve got a tough fight in their hands in the form of the Red Bull team. RB has been totally transformed, all of a sudden they’ve been performing real well, grabbing the pole day in and day out. Must be the water they’re drinking (pun intended)! Hopefully, McLaren will have some surprises in the bag! I do hope to catch the 2nd street race of the season, tonight @ Valencia, Spain. Ahh, Spain again…& not because of Alonoso, Fernando Alonso…shish!

Spain…once more…..sigh! What’s with me & Spanish men? I don’t have an answer to that! =)

Talking about Spanish men, there’s one in action in the land of the Queens. Yes, it’s Rafael Nadal, reigning Roland Garros Champ (his 5th title) & former Wimbledon Champ (’08). He’ll be fighting / raging like a bull to win this years grass court title. It’s not impossible for a Spaniard to that at the least favorite court. But Nadal has proven it wrong. He has done it & will aim to win many more grass court events! Vamos Nadal!

So with so much sporting events in the calendar, should I be blamed for my lack of interest in the World Cup?

What’s Going On?

Posted: June 26, 2010 in culture, mi vida loca, Snaps

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!

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….