Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy 牛 Year

Once again, we’re giving farewell to another year, & ushering in a NEW (牛) year! Time really flies, so fast another year gone n it’s 2009, year of the OX!! This year, we had a super long weekend as the 1st 2 days of CNY fell on Mon & Tues, making it a 4-day break (Sat to Tues)! So how did u guys out there spend the long weekend? How did I (& my family) spend? This year, we did something we couldn't do last year, we rented a car over the 5-day period & went on a ‘Discover Singapore’ expedition (sorta, a smaller scale). Of cos, not to forget the mandatory visit to JB (Ah ma’s house) for the CNY eve reunion dinner. Long story to tell, here goes!

We talked about renting a car last year for the CNY period but alas, all cars were rented & we cldnt find a good deal so it was off. This year, we decided to start searching early & got a really good & cheap deal for a 1.6l ford car at $80/day! Of cos, the catch is u have to rent for 5 days cos of the long weekend, so it turned out to be $400 for the whole period (still cheap deal) + $20/day for entry into M’sia. So the expedition started on Friday (23 Jan) with my bro picking the car & driving my parents around to do some new year shopping (while I was slogging away in office as Friday is no half day). I was picked up for dinner at Hol V famous fish head soup stall. & after a rest of >1year, I finally drove again, 1st time in Singapore! Started abit shaky & rusty (that’s why the phrase ‘Practice makes perfect!’) but I think I did alright, & progressed as time went by.

The rented car plate.. GO buy 4D!!! haha i didnt

Me with the car!! Yes i did drive!

Later at night, we (bro, little sis & I) went for a drink at ‘Gone Fishing’ cafe, but alas! When we reached, the owner really ‘Gone Fishing’ cafe was closed. So sad. Heard they have a really fantastic Hot Chocolate drink (MY Favourite drink) Damn, I must go back again to try. Ok any volunteers or kakis to go? I dono the way to there cos I was driven there haha. Ended up we went to Railway mall for coffee bean.

Sat was more of a quiet affair. Started off late afternoon with a dessert stop at Red Hill hawker center. Then dinner was at ABC food market (Alexander area). After which we made a short stop at Alexander food center for the avocado drink (My favourite drink as well!!) It was nice, but abit too sweet for my liking. Think they put too much Gula Melaka. Ended the night with a full stomach, & the urge to exercise off the excess intake.

Then came Sunday, CNY eve when we had to prepare to head off to JB to visit our Ah Ma & relatives. We set off house after 3pm via Tuas (2nd link). It was a smooth easy ride via 2nd link cos there were no cars, no traffic, no Q! Passed through the customs in record time! Then we hit the Malaysian highway, with a sloppy map. Thanks to our (or my bro) instinct we made all the right moves & cut into the right lanes! If not, we would have ended somewhere else cos the road signs in M’sia only appear when u have to make the decision & not b4 to give u a heads-up on what’s ahead! Moral of the story – Never trust road signs in M’sia. Either they give the wrong direction or they come too late, which end up being NOT helpful at all.

Anyway, the whole journey took abt 1hr (super fast) & we ended up spending 2hrs shopping at Giant Hypermart near my AH Ma’s house, stocking up on biscuits (my standard purchase of McVite’s & Sunsweet prunes) & snacks, before heading to the house for the dinner.

Ah ma with her proud aloe vera tree with blossoming flower!
Having steamboat

Ah ma looking so happy
My little cousin who looks so much like me!

Dinner as usual was steamboat! Everyone gathered at the tables & started eating & ‘steaming’. Atmosphere was nice! My Ah Ma was so happy to see e’ryone gathering ard & eating the food! The night went by peacefully with fireworks outside the house set by other families. Before u know it, it was 26th Jan, Chinese New Year had arrived!!!

As usual, we set off back to Singapore the next day (Monday) late afternoon. The return journey was alright, met with a slight traffic at the Singapore side but nothing serious. After a break & wash up when we reach home, we headed off to Bugis for our own reunion steamboat dinner!
FOC yusheng by the owner of the steamboat place
Steamboat of chicken soup & tom yum
Sis using chopsticks & spoon to deshell prawn..Duh!!
After 1.5hr of eating....

Let’s just say, after this steamboat dinner, I need to go for extra exercise & detox to lose the calories. So damn full were we that we decided to go for a long long walk along Henderson waves & Mt Faber to aid the digestion.

At Henderson Bridge

Along the 'waves'

It was a nice walk, & a 1st for me & my family (except my bro). The Henderson bridge was fantastic & beautiful. Made of only 1 layer of wood, walking along the bridge with wave-like structure was a great experience. We walked along & up to Mt Faber for a fantastic view of the night lights.

View of the night lights from atop

Arrow signs on top of Mt Faber

The last day of holiday (Tuesday) was another all out excursion. After my gym session (had to after all those ingestion of calories), I was picked up to head off to Casuarina for the famous prata! Yes, makes me guilty again after gym. At least now, I can say I have tried the famous prata in Singapore!! 1st time eating the famous prata & well it’s not bad at all!

Casuarina Curry, the famous prata shop

Eating the famous prata

After devouring 2 plains, 4 paper, 2 egg onions, 1 floss egg, 1 beehoon goreng & 1 chicken masala

After the calorie-laden & guilty pleasure of eating prata, time to walk off the guilt abit along lower pierce reservoir! It was a bloody HOT HOT HOT that day but the reservoir was nice!!

Lower Peirce Reservoir

Moi with the backgrd of the beautiful reservoir!!!

The pier...

My sis, trying to act modelly, or maybe it's my skill that makes her look so...

After reservoir, it was off to Marina Barrage! Hehe yea another exploration of famous sights in Singapore! I had a minor incident while trying to park the car (as I said, driving the car I’m ok, but parking ehhhh I SUCK ok!!) cos confusion arose due to multiple voices instructing me on how to park, which way to turn which led me to turn the wheel the wrong way n ‘BUMP’ hit the kerb. Damn paiseh hahah but heck la, there’s alwz a 1st time! Ok, I need more practice on my parking, so any kind soul to lend me the car?? I promise to treat it well & not hit the kerb hahah…

Marina Barrage – Nice place for some R&R. Strong winds at the top though, so take care of ur hats!! U get a great view of the Singapore flyer (FYI, it opened finally on the 1st day of CNY), & a great place to fly kite (literally)!

View of the Singapore Flyer from the Barrage

Marina Barrage

Vast amt of green grass!!!

Sail like cover

Mum & my sis

Me & my sis

Flushing out salt water to balance out...

My sis, looking so in real

After Marina Barrage, it was time for a light dinner somewhere in downtown east. It’s hard to find makan place during the CNY holidays cos a lot of stores were closed!! Wana go hawker center also cannot cos u’re likely to face empty stores. Then at night, another walk it all out excursion to Alexander Arch!

Alexander Arch in violet!!

In Pinkish violet!!

Orangey red!! I like

PHoto taking time with the Arch at the back

The view of the metallic bridge walkway nice!

View of the walkway...lit by lamps along the way

It’s part of the nature walk that starts from Harbourfront, but we only visited parts of the whole walk. Alexander Arch is a metal bridge, unlike the wood-laden Henderson Waves. The design of the Arch is nice & futuristic & it changes colour e’ry so often!! I prefer the violet & fiery red colours. We took a 1hr walk across & back & off home we went. It was a nice walk & i think it would be nice to walk in the morning along the forest trail below.. I think I really worked my legs that day. A 1hr gym workout on the legs in the morning, followed by loads of walking in the afternoon.. Good job!

I should do the whole walk from Harbourfront someday.. Joiners??

It was a good CNY. Better than last year. At least we did some meaningful stuff this year. At least we had a car this year. At least... Haha no asking of 'got bf or not', 'when getting one', 'when getting married' etc...

Next year what will happen... No one knows... Maybe....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

10 day solo Travelogue to Pai - Adventure's End

The Adventure’s End, haha very movie title right! Haha, trust me to come up with such a title to end my travel blog. As this is the end, it’ll be slightly longer a blog bear with it.

My last adventure of the 10 day trip, ended with a 3D2N jungle trek in Pai! Highly recommended by travelers & internet (travelfish website), I headed straight away to Mr Chart to book my trekking trip! He runs his own adventure, with only his bro & himself leading trekking groups into the mountains for trips lasting 1-7 days! Although slight more expensive than others, it is worth the $$ cos he does his way differently! Nobody treks through his path except for his company – Mr Chart Adventure.

Mr Chart with his trekking get up! That's REAL gun!

Anyway, a slight hiccup to the start of the tour. Initially, I was the only 1 booked on the trip, which will only run with at least 4 pax (if u don not wana pay extra). So the night b4 I was scheduled to go, I went to confirm & was happy to find that there were 4pax which means the trip can go ahead!! However, on the morning itself, we found out that the Canadian couple did not show up (they didn't pay deposit earlier as well), n suddenly, we are only 2 (with Mr Chart). Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't run the trip with 2, unless u pay extra to cover the expenses, but as we HAD to go on that day & it was unfortunately incident, we went ahead. Hence, to cut cost, we had no helpers (not enuff $$ to pay for helper) so we had to carry the things among ourselves (food, & stuff).

So here we are, a group of 3 – me, Angie (Canadian who’s been working in BKK for 5yrs in WWF) and Mr Chart! Angie reminds me of my ex EY snr JT. She talks & look abit like her! She’s like the gentle sort, one look at her & the way she talks, u noe she’s those noble kinda person! N she really is very environmental man!! Too holy hahha! Started trekking through the jungle. Our aim for the day is to reach the Lisu village, which takes abt 6hrs of uphill trekking at a height of 1700m.

Oh crap! Loads of buffalo shit!

Our simple lunch of tofu & pork, BBQ over campfire started by Mr Chart

When I say uphill, I mean really uphill not steps! Not like when u climb those mountains, where the tracks r sorta well walked, this is totally not well walked! U’r just basically climbing up the mud slopes, so if u slip 1 step, 一失足成千古恨!That’s it for u. Luckily, I pride myself on good balancing & firm steps, with my hardy strapped sandals, I endured the climb. I tell u it’s worse than step climber, 100 times! After the 6hrs climb up to the village, I feel I have totally toned legs!

Scenery from above!

Lisu village

We reached the village b4 sunset, so it was a pretty great feeling & view to watch the sunset at 1700m above sea lvl! So surreal! It’s so nice & beautiful feeling, with the cool air surrounding. I just sat there, all dirty, sweaty & smelly but doesn't really care, & stared at the sun setting. It made me realize that all through my 26 years of existence, I have NEVER once watched the sunset in Singapore. Not even when I live in the west, which shld have made it even easier. But ask me & I wun have any idea where to go for sunset in Singapore! Dear dear, & to think that I always crave for sunset viewing overseas.. Eh don even mention sunrise (who can wake up tt early to view the sunrise, Somemore it’s in the east). Anyone has any ideas for sunset view in Singapore? Wana go watch??

Beautiful sunset! Mesmorized

Anyway, we spent our night with 1 of the family. As mentioned earlier, this is not like those commercialized mass marketing trekking trip where the accommodations are nicely furnished. Nope. We just arrive at the village & knock on the doors of anyone of the villagers for 1 night to sleep. In a sense, it’s like intruding on them, but they were really friendly & kind! They’re like totally untouched by tourists, no selling of beers or souvenirs, just totally sincere hearts. Was very touched that the mother went all out to make our bed comfy, laying down all the blankets & mattresses. They totally DO NOT understand English, but it doesn't matter. We learnt ‘Ah Ku Bo Mok’ which is greetings in their native tongue. Looking at them live, u just realize how lucky we are back home. We have everything we need, & yet we somehow still want more! They have no electricity (only solar powered lights), not much money but that’s not impt to them! As long as they have enuff rice or food to feed the family, they’r fine & happy! U can just feel that they’r really happy the way they are!

The family we stayed with!

Coffee tree (hmm some1's eyes just lit up!)

Our bed, neatly laid out by the mother

We found out that the girls in the village get married at the age of 12-13, and have kids 1-2yrs later! We met this one girl, with her baby & she’s just 14!! Wow, their sex education is so much more advanced than us! But well, sorta expected cos in the village, they don get much education, & their means of living is farming. So for the ladies, early marriage is sorta like the course of way!

THe mother & baby, she's 14 ONLY!!

FYI, we did not bath that night. But we don really care! It was cold, & bathing just did not cross our minds. & the villagers also lidat la! Too cold, they also nvr bath everyday.

The next morning, we went to another Lisu village near to the Burma borders, to witness their New year celebration! It was the last day of their 3 Day celebration. It was quite fun watching them so into their celebration, singing & dancing, & cooking. It was really a very nice feeling to be part of the celebration. That afternoon, we continued our trek downhill to spend our 2nd night in the jungle!

Dancing & singing. They were so energetic! Kept asking us to dance!

Cute little baby!!

Women gathering in the kitchen feasting on Meat Meat & more Meat

After abt 4-5hrs of trekking, passing through Mr Chart waterfall, we reached our campsite for the night. More of just a flat land for sleeping than a real campsite. Yes, we slept on the jungle floor, with just our sleeping bag around the campfire! No nice beds, or bamboo floors, but only the mud & leaves.

Mr Chart waterfall, exclusive cos nobody comes here!

We went to work immediately upon reaching our campsite, gathering firewood (loads of them), chopping bamboos for cooking etc. It was fun cooking in the wild, everything gathered from the wild, the wild veges, the bamboos for cooking water & soup, the ladle made of bamboo, eating outa bamboo. Nice!

Cooking water. The water tastes really refreshing & sweet!

Prepping for the dinner!

Cooking!! Yes I can cook!

Our sleeping area, just on the floor beside the fire!

Ah, u may ask, eh how abt if u need to relieve ursef (big & small biz). Just do it in the nature man! Find a tree or bush, hide behind & do it!! Haha, of cos I brought toilet paper la! And yes, no bathroom, so no bathing. But I did wash up abit la!

Bamboos all ard! Can shoot period drama here!

The end of the road...

Some farangs marking the intersection with stone structures!

We did it!!

The last day was rather relaxing. A simple walk back to square 1, passing by the Mae Yen waterfall & finishing at ard 3pm! Yeah! All exhausted & smelly, I rushed back to the guesthouse & had a long long bath!

One last look at the Pai River. So Beautiful!

Signboards all ard! But they cannot b trusted!! The distance only i mean

Lovely hosts - Peter & Darling! I will go back again!

Last night in Pai, I went out for a long walk in the town. Absorb the atmosphere one last time! Small little town, charming little place, but not too overrun by tourists! Looking ard, actually there are v v few asian tourists! Except for local thais, u hardly can find tourists from Asian countries! I’ve only met a small Taiwanese group, a few HKies! Most of the tourists are farangs or local thais! Hey peeps, abt time to discover this gem! The town is also v small that u bump into the same pple every now & then! This Aussie couple which I met at the trekking agency, we bumped into each other abt 3 times over 2 days!! This couple v cute ahah, they even invited me to Xmas dinner but I was on a rafting trip.

Of cos all good things must come to an end. My 10 day solo trip ended on 31 Dec, with a flight back home. Tired & mentally exhausted, I had a long long bath complete with extreme scrubbing & facial to clean up myself.

I really love the place! It has a very cozy feel to the little town. The pple r really nice there, & they do not tout! Travelling by myself, can be daunting & boring at times, but it’s an experience. It forces u to be more alert, to be more independent, & to NOT rely on other pple cos u gota take care of urself! It makes u more open to things & pple. The 10 days gave me time to think through my life, reflect on my past year & what to look fwd to in future. It gave me time to think through some of the choices & happenings in my life & to make some decisions too. Life is short, live it! Don’t be too hard on urself, & don’t hold on to sth too strongly & firmly. Sometimes, letting it go may be the best solution. Let nature take its course, I like to say. Sometimes, u really have to do it tt way. But of cos, sometimes, u have to persevere. Will i do it again? Maybe, nvr say nvr! Will i visit Pai again? OF COS!! I want to go back during the wet season for more action packed rafting!! Anyone interested?? Please let me know & we can organize!!