31 December 2009

Last post from 2009

First of all, let me say I’m quite sorry there has been a lot of silence in this blog for the past few months. If only you knew the hectic pace of life, the worries keeping me awake, the running around I’ve had, and all the changes that had happen. Well, I suppose I could have blogged about all of those, but life’s priorities shifts with time, and with circumstances.

Let me begin by saying that this has been at best, a year of dreams being realized, and at worst, a year when dreams were also destroyed.

2009 saw some pretty depressing things happening to our economy, and to the global financial situation. Working for a foreign company, I nearly felt the full force of the dip in economy – my company filed for Chapter 11. That immediately cast a really dark shadow over my working situation.

Uncertainty, anger, frustration and ultimately, despair of the situation resulted. I really wanted to motivate myself to greater heights with the company, but it wasn’t to be. Working for a company in Chapter 11 is like driving on a busy highway whilst stuck in reverse gear.

I had a lot of dreams with the company – it wasn’t to be. And since I put so much prominence on what I do, it goes without saying that I felt like it was a huge setback.

On a more personal note, aside from work, my dreams for 2009 materialized. I was able to achieve my childhood goal of visiting Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples. Walking amongst the ruins of perhaps the greatest religious monuments ever built was electric.

Other notable happenings in 2009 included my losing 10kgs through a disciplined regime of dietary changes and regular workouts. I know I wouldn’t be growing any younger – it’s time to start caring for my body. It’s the responsible thing to do for my loved ones.

I also took a trip to Bali with The Girl Friend. This was one trip I’ve always wanted to do. It was again, fulfilling on so many levels – being able to explore Bali again is a joy. But being able to share it with her makes it all the more sweeter. We came to know each other because of Bali related chatter.

And finally, I made a job switch that I thought was not possible to me any more. 10 years ago, I was interviewed and accepted to work for a technology giant. Due to reasons beyond my own control, I wasn’t able to accept that position. I’ve always wondered if there would be a day again when I get a second chance to work for this company that I’ve always admired.

I was nearly in tears when I heard the news that I was accepted. I am now doubly motivated to do well here, and I think there’s something electric about working for a company that you admire.

In reality, 2009 had its ups and downs. I will choose to remember the downs, and take those as lessons for a rainy day, when I’m sure I will need to call upon those lessons to take me through them with less pain, and perhaps more hindsight. And I will choose to remember the ups, and take those joys as motivations and memories that will energize me to scale to a higher plane in 2010.

To anyone who still reads this blog, thanks ! Your blog-friendship is much appreciated. A very Happy New Year to you, and a very successful year ahead !

04 July 2009

Angkor Adventures: Dinner while appreciating Apsara's !

After having what can only be described as a splendid first day of sight seeing at Angkor, marveling the beautiful temples at various temples around the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage park, we just had to tick off another item on the must do list - Apsara dance !


Once we were done with the sunset at Bakheng, Sukkung was nice enough to drop us back at the hotel so that we could freshen up before taking us to a restaurant to watch an Apsara performance !

Apsara dances were once reserved for royalties only, and was so treasured that when the Thai defeated the Khmers in the 15th century, they didn't just take all the treasures - they even took a troupe of Apsara dancers back to Ayutthaya.

DSC_8292 As a dance, it was nearly wiped out during the dark years of the Khmer Rouge rule, and was only revived when a princess from the royal family, who had learnt it, revived it - combining her own learnings with research into ancient texts and carvings.

It is only the last decade or so that Apsara dance has been reintroduced to the public. Nowadays, as tourists flock to Siem Reap, there are Apsara dances in many restaurants and dance halls.

We ended up in one such restaurant, which served buffet dinner (USD 12, not inclusive of drinks). The whole place was quite packed with tourists, and served a very international fare - western, Thai, Viet and Cambodian food were all available.

Apsara Show

And as you might imagine, there were a host of filler dances before we even got to the Apsara  dance. A few filler dances, some of which bear a striking resemblance to Thai dances, filled the time before the main draw appeared on stage.

Apsara dance is graceful, and I'm very glad I managed to watch it. I'm not sure if this is the best performance there is of the art form, but it was full of graceful movements, with subtle hand and body gestures played out to communicate the story line (of course, we understood very little of it).

The costumes were brilliant as well, and I can well understand now why bas reliefs of Apsaras fill the walls of many temples !

I'll let photos do the talking here :)


Elaborate costumes ...


That's the principle dancer ...


This is how court entertainment was like back in the old days ...


Dancers striking a pose in unison !


This is the most famous Apsara pose, but I have no idea what it means ...


And finally, a look at the costumes from the back !

Next up - a grand circuitry of temples !

14 June 2009

Angkor Adventures: Completing the Small Circuit

Continuing from our previous post, where we spent the morning admiring sunrise at Angkor Wat, and then dropping our jaws at Angkor Tom. This next part will chronicle the rest of the day.

For the benefit of our friends - the temples of Angkor is spread over a very large area - most of the famous ones just north of the present day town of Siem Reap, but a lot others are all over an area a few hundred kms square.

The essentials of Angkor can be experiencing through a journey on the Small circuit - a clockwise route starting at Angkor Wat, traversing northward to Angkor Thom, then eastward to Ta Phrom, and then completing the circuit looking at smaller temples, gradually turning south and westward and ending the day at Phnom Bakheng, just north west of Angkor Wat, where you can try your luck at a sunset view. This is called the Small circuit loop. There is a Grand circuit, which extends the route further eastward, and covers a different set of temples - we'll cover those the next day instead.

Chau Say Tevoda & Thommanon Moving on from Angkor Thom after lunch, we depart through the Victory Gate (the second Eastern gate at Angkor Thom), and find ourselves at the small temples of Chau Say Tevoda, and Thomannon, just across the road from each other. Both are small temples, built in the 12th century, and of similar styles. Visit the recently restored Chau Say Tevoda first - you can see clearly where they have been restored by the Chinese team. In my opinion, it was quite poorly done, but then, time will tell. Then, walk across the road to admire the better restored Thomannon - check out the lintel carvings there.

Moving on, we passed the stone bridge which used to span the Siem Reap river - today, the river has, over thousands of years, changed its course, making the bridge look strangely out of place - the river is now a few hundred meters further to the east. Not long after, we reached the imposing Ta Keo.

Being told that there are no carvings, and because Tyko was worried of the really imposing looking steps, we decided not to make the climb up Ta Keo, and would instead, just walk around its walls - which wasn't such a bad thing, after all. I would have liked to climb it, but heck, we'll be climbing quite a few temples over the next few days still, one less is ok. It's a temple that was never completed - historical records suggests that construction was stopped when it was struck by lightning - which was then considered an extremely unlucky omen.

ta keo & banteay kdei Next, here's where a driver / guide comes in useful. We wanted to go to Ta Phrom first to see the majestic trees growing over the temple ruins, but Sukkong, our guide, suggested to us to visit the broadly similar Banteay Kdei first - so that we can see how the temple should look like, minus the forest invasion!

Banteay Kdei is often overlooked in favor of the largely similar Ta Phrom, especially short of time. A beautiful temple largely in ruins due to what conservators believe as poor materials and over ambitious expansions - it was renovated many times and extended. And herein lies the beauty of the temple - atmospheric ruins, coupled with the usual great carvings you find elsewhere in the Angkor ruins. And it really gives you a good idea of how the temples will look like minus all the trees growing on top of it over the centuries as the jungle reclaims the temples after they were abandoned.

That whet our appetite for Ta Phrom, and we're quite happy to head there, after a short trip across the street to take a quick look at Srah Srang, the Royal Bath, a small reservoir of water. We just had a quick peek because we knew we'd be back tomorrow for the sunrise view. This is the site of our only encounter with a rude vendor.

When visiting Angkor, you should not be surprised to find young child peddlers trying to sell you everything from bracelets to cold drinks, but what you'll quickly find is that they are all largely very polite, and once you enter temple compounds, they will leave you alone. Here at Srah Srang, we came across a child peddler who actually accused us of lying - she was upset we said we might drink at her stall and ended up not having a drink. We quickly shrugged that incident off, promising ourselves not to even say anything the next time we're approached.

ta phrom Next off, the jungle temple itself, Ta Phrom. Ta Phrom is quite a beauty - similar to Banteay Kdei, but was left on purpose by the Angkor conservators the way the found it. Basically, most Angkor temples were 'discovered' with jungle reclaiming much of it in the late 19th century. For purpose of conservation, most had the jungle removed so that they can be conserved, and what you see today are the temples minus most of the trees and overgrowth. However, Ta Phrom was left mostly alone, so you can get a good sense of how the temples of Angkor would have looked like minus all the clearings.

The temple itself is very beautiful, with beautiful carvings very much intact all over, and with ruins on the outside and inside. I don't know about you, but I seem to think that the disorganized chaos of befallen Ta Phrom beautiful. It's almost like nature has taken over and decided to decorate the temple with trees.

Take your time in this temple, it's quite easy to get lost in the ruins, and I think that's the beauty. We went in without any plans or any knowledge of the layout. All we did was to wander around, and try and cover as much of the ground as possible. There are surprises at every turn, and do take in the sights, and not get caught trying to just take photographs.

While the famous 'Lara Croft' tree takes a lot of attention, and can be a maddening mix of photo snapping tourists and gawking spectators, if you venture a bit , there are plenty of trees and photo opportunities elsewhere in Ta Phrom. While the tour buses do come, it's not hard to avoid them, since they are always in a hurry, and will quite efficiently horde tourists from one sight to another without really doing justice to the place.

I learnt to just avoid them by being totally random, just walking away whenever you encounter a big group, and you'll be rewarded by your own piece of Ta Phrom. We spent a lot of time here, because there are just so many spectacular sights here - gigantic trees supported on crumbling temples - in some cases, the temples themselves are supported by the roots of the very trees which grow on them.

After Ta Phrom, we had a bit of time on our hand, so Sukkung had us visit Preah Khan. Already quite templed out for the day, we just went in to have a cursory look, knowing that we'll be back the next day anyways. So, more on Preah Khan on a future post then.

phnom bakheng After our temple visits, we wind down the day with a visit to Bakheng. Bakheng, or Phnom Bakheng (Bakheng hill), is the site of the first of the Angkor temples near Siem Reap, built on top of a hill. A 20 minute hike took us up to the hill, where more climbing ensued before we reached the top tier of Bakheng. There, you have vantage point - after all, it is the highest point around the whole area - you can see Angkor Wat to the southeast, and you can can see the sun setting over the West Baray, a huge reservoir dating back to Angkorian time.

As luck had it, due to the start of the rainy season, heavy clouds at the horizon made sunset muted. We waited for a while, and despite some promising breaks in the clouds, ultimately, we left without seeing any of the brilliant sunsets we have heard of. Having said that, it was still a great day out in Angkor.

Also, I overheard this classic bimbo line at Bakheng, while a group of American teenagers arrived at the top of the temple, when I was already there, waiting for sunset to arrive. One of the teenagers asked her friend aloud: "Do they have sunsets everyday, or does it only happen on special occasions?"

I don't know about sunsets, but I happen to think of my visit to Angkor so far as a special occasion, something I'll cherish and remember for a long time yet.

06 June 2009

Angkor Adventures: Sunrise over Angkor Wat & Glorious Angkor Thom !


After touching down in Siem Reap, and experiencing a sunset at Angkor Wat, we settled down for the night after dinner at the great Dragon Soup Restaurant at Old Market, followed by some great ice cream at Blue Pumpkin.

Next morning, at around 5am, our driver, Sukkong, was waiting for us at the lobby, ready to take us out for our sunrise experience at Angkor Wat.

DSC_7140 A short 15 minute drive takes us to Angkor Wat. We took our time, and took lots of photos of the temple from the various vantage points. Being the start of the rainy season, the crowd was 'thinner' (looks very crowded to me, but was told it's at least 5-6 times more crowded in the peak seasons), and the sunrise wasn't so good (which I agree, since it was cloudy, making those dramatic colors muted).

Spending the next hour or so there, Tyko and I managed to sneak in plenty of photos - while the sunrise itself wasn't the spectacle I think many would expect, just the experience of starting a new day at this ancient temple did it for me. If you seek, you shall find quiet corners where you can enjoy the experience minus noisy Asian tourists ...

After having our share of photos and having soaked enough of the Angkor atmosphere, we returned to the hotel for breakfast to refuel ourselves for the full day ahead !

After breakfast, we headed past Angkor Wat, to the fabled walled city of Angkor Thom.

If Angkor Wat is majestic due to its soaring towers and symmetrical construction, Angkor Thom is famous for it's many different attractions - the South Gate - the terraces - various temples within, and of course - Bayon, the ultimate expression of egomaniac.

South Gate @ Angkor ThomFirst up, the famous South Gate. Being a walled city, Angkor Thom has 5 gates which were gateways to the city - the South Gate is the best preserved, and invariably, part of every tourist itinerary. Scenes from the Churning of the Ocean of Milk were replayed at the causeway leading to the gate, and the gate soars high into the sky, with faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara facing the four compass points.

After that, we were dropped at the north end of Angkor Thom, where we explored Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Phimeanakas and Baphuon before we made our way to Bayon.

Terrace of the Leper King @ Angkor Thom Terrace of the Leper King is a beautiful mound with walls filled with sandstone carvings on the outer and hidden inner wall. Walk to the side, and you'll find the hidden wall within - the carvings there are much nicer ! Perhaps because the carvings on the inner was weren't as exposed, they are in better state of preservation - you really need to check this out, best in the late morning when the sun is higher up to give some light ...

Terrace of the Elephants @ Angkor Thom Right next to it, Terrace of the Elephants is a 300m terrace with near life size elephant carvings. The beauty of these carvings is the little surprises - after the initial wow of seeing elephants carved into bricks, you really enjoy finding geese, crocodiles, and other animals. Also notable are the many garudas sculpted onto the walls of the terrace. The two terraces makes up what is know as part of the Victory Square.

Baphuon @ Angkor Thom Baphuon, sometimes called the world's largest puzzle - is a temple under restoration - most parts of it is closed - but do check out the 200m long causeway (restored), which leads to it from the main road. While most of it is under restoration, you should still check it out - the portions that are open have some interesting carvings, and it's quite atmospheric walking around pieces of dismantled temple.

All the dismantled pieces show restoration in progress - the majority of temples are restored using a method called anastylosis, where each piece of the temple is taken apart, analysed, and then put together like a huge 3D jigsaw puzzle - precisely what Baphuon is.

Soaring towers with smiley faces ... Bayon at last ! And finally, we reached Bayon itself - where 54 soaring towers at the central sanctuary, each with 4 faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara gazing upon visitors. The result - the famous Bayon smile - all 216 of them! And it's no coincidence too that the faces look a lot like King Jayavarman VII who built it ...

DSC_7464 I find it hard to imagine what Bayon really might mean - creative genius, inflated ego of a Devaraja? The soaring towers are sometimes said to represent the 54 districts in the ancient Khmer empire, and with an inscription found in one of the bas relief carvings reading "The King will seek out those in hiding", those faces were probably meant to show that the King is omnipresent, there is nowhere anyone can hide from his steely gaze.

Smile ! Big Brother (King Jayavarman VII) is looking at YOU ! Regardless, today, it is a favorite amongst the tourists, and it's hard to find a time when there aren't any tourists posing with the Bayon smile, or trying to walk across your line of sight when you are posing for a photo. Still, visit in the morning or mid afternoon (before the sun disappear behind the tree line) is best, when sunlight is softer and brings into view most of the Bayon smiley faces :)

DSC_7454 While there, check out the carvings along the walls surrounding the temple as well. We missed a bit of this during this trip, which meant we came back on our last day ... more on that later :)

After Bayon, we took lunch nearby (forget about stall No. 19 - food isn't too good, and a bit pricier - although the price is the norm for areas around the temples of Angkor). A short respite later, we went onwards to complete the small circuit in the afternoon ... please join me in the next post as I venture into the famous Ta Phrom (tree temple), and other beautiful temples ...

And you can find more photos here on my Facebook page ...

Next stop - the rest of the small circuit ...

04 June 2009

Angkor Adventures: Angkor Wat at Sunset

Continuing from the previous post, where I talked about arrival in Siem Reap, and a bit on the town, plus the Angkor National Museum. After

The Tara Angkor hotel is around 15 minutes from the Angkor ticket booths. We had the hotel bellboy help us negotiate with a tuk tuk driver to take us to firstly, buy the pass, then go to Angkor Wat for the sunset experience, then take us back to Old Market for dinner. The bellboy helped us negotiate a $7 deal, which we thought was great !

Departing at 4.45 pm, we arrived at Angkor Wat way before sunset, so we had some time to explore.

Angkor glowing in the late afternoon My first view of the beautifully symmetrical towers of Angkor Wat from the tuk tuk as we approached the western gate gave me the chills. I was so touched to finally make a childhood dream come true !

Angkor Wat is a bit of an Angkorian anomaly. Angkor temples, both Hindu or Buddhists, face the East, to catch the morning sun, thus symbolising life. Angkor Wat on the other hand, faces west. Historians believe this is because the temple is built as a funerary temple for Suriavarman II - dedicated to him as a state temple while he was living, and as his mausoleum after his death.

DSC_6897Walking the causeway that takes us across the moat, I nearly burst out in happy tears. You can't see the 5 central towers while on the causeway, blocked by the Western Gopura (entrance gateway), so the sense of anticipation is heightened.

When I finally got a chance to peek through the final sets of doors at the western gopura at the golden peaks of Angkor Wat, I found my moment of peace and serenity. I have made one of my earliest wishes come true :)

Provision at least 1.5 hours for your sunset trip - excluding travel between your hotel. This will give you enough time to walk through the sights, take plenty of photos, and not feel so rushed to not be able to enjoy your Angkor Wat experience.

A time to reflect ? Angkor Wat is one monumental temple best visited multiple times - since like Ayer's Rock in Australia, it has a very different dynamic and feel at different times of the day.

During sunset, the towers will light up, basking in the golden rays of the setting sun on the western horizon. This is when you will be able to see the whole temple and its 5 towers glowing in soft sunlight.

During sunrise, the sun rises behind Angkor Wat in the east. This means you get the dramatic silhouette of the temple instead, with sometimes dramatic red skies in the background. More on Angkor Wat sunrise in my next post.

And you visit Angkor Wat in the afternoon, so that you can enjoy the bas-reliefs (carvings) on the walls in the relative cool of the shade, and taking opportunity of late afternoon sun to light up the carvings. You can then stay on to enjoy yet another Angkor Wat sunset :) ... I'll share my experience on this in a later post ;)

Am I happy? Anyways, Angkor Wat during sunset in magical. While walking on the causeway from the western gopura, you will notice two ponds on either side of the causeway - the best photo ops are right there, to take the temple reflecting on either of those pools. Also, by moving away from the causeway, you get to see all 5 Angkor Wat towers. If you approach directly, you will just get to see 3 towers, since the front left and right towers will obscure the rear towers.

Anyways, let's just enjoy photos and let them do the talking :) ... more of them here.

Next Post - Angkor Wat Sunrise & Angkor Thom

01 June 2009

Angkor Adventures: Touching down at Siem Reap


Picking up from my previous post, on 20th May, Tyko and myself found ourselves on a flight to Siem Reap, home to the world famous Angkor monuments.

Quick facts - Siem Reap is a landlocked town located in a province also called Siem Reap in Cambodia. It has an international airport, and is today a town built around the tourists who flock to the Angkor monuments. There are hotels for every budget, transportation options from bicycles to 9 seater vans, food for every tastes, and enough to occupy you for a while. You'll want for nothing ...

DSC_6702 If you're flying in from the south,  check out the large body of water - Tonle Sap lake, which should come in view on your final descent - it swells to a humongous 16,000 km2 size in the rainy season! Photo on the left shows the lake at the start of the rainy season, before it swells to its fullest - but you can already see floating villages and what appears to be fish farms on the lake already - these floating villages would normally be at the edge of the lake during the dry season !

Arrival at the airport was simple and straight forward, without any fuss. Immediately after clearing immigration and customs, we got ourselves a taxi to the hotel.

Tara Angkor Hotel We found ourselves a hotel through TripAdvisor, and booked it via Expedia. The Tara Angkor Hotel is great - 3 star price, 4 star rating, 5 star service. I truly recommend it to anyone wanting a bit of comfort in Angkor, but without paying the big bucks for it.

The rooms are clean, with your towels changed twice daily. It has a swimming pool, small gym, a restaurant, free wifi at the lobby area (it's not free in the rooms though), pleasant staff members - all of whom speak perfect english and a good location just 2km from Old Market, and just 4km or so to the temples of Angkor.

Check in was simple, and although we arrived really early, by 9am, before our check-in time, they had rooms available, so they let us into our room already. Godsent ! We decided some shuteye would be great, considering the early hour of our flight.

Siem Reap Day 1 am1 After that, we decided to venture out to the Old Market area. This is the center of Siem Reap's present day universe - you will find everything you need here - from restaurants, souvenir stalls, pubs, spas to pharmacies. It's not a very big area - the market itself is an interesting walk, but the streets surrounding it - Pub Street, The Alley, and Blue Pumpkin street are the ones where you'll find yourself exploring more.

After a great lunch at the Khmer Kitchen, we ventured to the Angkor National Museum. Angkor National Museum is a private venture, but it has access to some of the best artifacts from the Angkor Conservatory, and if you're trying to make sense of what you're about to see in the following days at the temples of Angkor, then you should plan on spending at least 2-3 hours there. A mix of interactive, multimedia displays coupled with beautiful artifacts will give you a crash course in Angkor appreciation. Cameras not allowed, so no photos from the inside. =( ... Would have loved to take some photos, but then again, if they let us take photos, we would never be out of the museum in time for our next stop ...

Siem Reap Day 1 pm We finished the museum tour in time to catch a tuk tuk to the Angkor ticket booth. Here's the deal - you need to buy a pass to access the temples of Angkor. The pass comes in 1 day ($20), 3 days ($40) and 7 days ($60) validity, and must be used on consecutive days. If you buy the pass after 5pm, the pass will be valid from the following day - and you'll get free entrance for the day.

Our hotel bellboy negotiated a tuk tuk that would take us to the ticket booth, then take us to Angkor Wat to view the sunset, and then take us to the Old Market area after that for dinner - for $7. Good to have the locals bargain for us ...

The pass purchase itself was painless and fast. Pay up, have your digital photo taken, and you're done - in under 3 minutes.

Next stop - Angkor Wat sunset !

More photos can be found here !

30 May 2009

Walking back in time ... Siem Reap / Angkor Wat

Happy Moz @ Angkor Wat

Sometime last year, over a Yahoo IM conversation, me and my regular travel buddy decided that we really needed to go on a trip again. Between Luang Prabang and Siem Reap, we decided that perhaps Siem Reap would be the better choice.

Foolishly getting ourselves a flight at the end of May, we later discovered that it's really ... the start of the rainy season! Gasp!

Cutting a very long story short before your attention span expires, we did a lot of research, read up forums, gathered intelligence from other previous explorers, and put together a plan to enjoy Siem Reap to its fullest!

On 20th May, we both took off from the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal on AK280 to Siem Reap.

The following posts chronicle our little step back in time. I hope that it'll inspire some of you who've never considered visiting the Angkor Wat monuments to at least think about it.

The combination of great people - always smiling, ever friendly; astonishing food - blending Thai spicy and nous with Vietnamese subtlety; laid back town atmosphere with plenty to do if you want plenty to do, or little to do if you choose not to do anything - in combination with the often breath-taking monuments of Angkor made this a trip of a lifetime.

In my short 5 days and 4 nights (more like 4 days and 4 nights due to the flight schedules), I found a new appreciation for the master builders of South East Asia. Somewhere in Siem Reap, while fulfilling a childhood dream, I've found myself a little piece of history. :)

I will, over the next few days and weeks, publish more accounts of our trip, and share some of my experiences. Hope you'll like it !

11 May 2009

Moz: Where is he now ?

It's been a very long while since I last posted anything useful, interesting, or worth reading here on this blog.

Is it because I've gotten so busy with life that I have no time for blogging? No, not really. Since my workplace has been stuck in a semi bit of rut (no thanks to those free spending Americans who charge everything to their credit cards), in fact, work has been drying up a bit. But just a wee bit, and you know, bosses find ways to occupy you, and it's not good if you're continuously free anyways ... it makes you a little susceptible.

So, it's not work then.

Well, is it that nothing interesting has been happening? No, not that too. Since last year, I've stopped blogging about a lot of my trips, and my own personal discoveries, etc. Trips I thought were interesting that I never really blogged about included my trips to Sydney and Hunter Valley in Australia, my own little trip to Cameron Highlands in August and December last year, my Penang and Langkawi trips, my drives to Sekinchan, Melaka and Tanjung Tuan ... quite a bit has happened, and I've clocked in a bit of miles too. So, you know, I've been out and about ...

So, what is it then ?

I guess a bit of Facebook to blame, a bit of blog fatigue, and a bit of lack of blogosphere friends anymore. I notice a lot of my blogger friends have now migrated to using Facebook as a means to 'blog' ... it's more interactive anyways.

So I am still thinking if it will be a good idea to keep up the blog. I really want to, but I might turn this into one where I just blog about my trips and adventures ... just so that I have a place to properly write about where I've been, what I've learnt, and one day, when memories fail me, maybe it'll be useful - just maybe - who knows if Blogger would be around for that long anyways !

On a more personal note, I've made myself a personal challenge of losing enough fat so that my BMI reading will suggest I'm within a healthy range by the time I holiday in Bali later this year. I've allowed myself plenty of time, and I've finally found enough discipline to force myself into a healthier lifestyle. The story so far is that I've just about 2kgs short of my personal target ... so it's getting there. I've lost around 7 so far ... so, it's been doing well ! I hope to be well and truly at my target weight by the time I'm in Bali, hopefully, having the vacation of a life time !

In the meantime, I won't promise more blog entries, knowing fully well that for whatever reasons, they may not be forthcoming. But if I will blog soon, my thoughts are that I'll just be putting in entries on my little travels - far and near. And those should keep me happy for the time being !

04 March 2009

Moz's doodle on recession ...

I've been talking to loved ones about the possibility of recession since end 2007 ... the signs were there, and for a while, the powers to be managed to postpone the recession, but now, it looks like it's hit hard, and like a wildfire burning through woods which hadn't had any controlled burn, it's burning harder and more intense than we all can remember.

It's real, it will hit us, it will affect you and me in some ways.

So, before I forget, I forced myself to write about my own plan for handling my finances during a recession ...

# Unlike some of them really lucky people, most of us will have finite resources. Live within your means. And always save up for a rainy day. We all know it'll rain someday, so why wait till it's already pouring before you do something ?

# Keep enough cash to weather your own worst case scenario. If you think the longest you will go without a job or income is 6 months, then save up so that you can pass 6 months comfortably without income. But at all times, have at least enough to live off for 3 months !

# Part of the reason why we're in this mess right now is because of the overuse of credit in the US. Don't let history repeat itself. Use credit card sparingly - it's an unsecured loan - it's like spending money you don't have ! You'll need to pay up eventually ...

# If you have credit card debts, pay up if you can, if you can't, talk to someone who can help you make a plan to clear it all off. Banks are businesses - they don't give you credit card if they don't think they can make money off you !

# If you still need the convenience of plastic, get a debit card. Then you can't spend like there's no tomorrow, because you're depleting your bank account the moment you swipe it !

# Pay off other debts if you have the means to. Having less liabilities is always a good thing!

# Even in good times, you will do well to remember that your health is the single most important thing you have in possession. In the bad times, health is even more important - you can't afford to fall sick, and you can't afford to pay expensive medical bills.

# In good times and in bad, remember your loved ones. They are the reason you work hard. So, don't do stupid things like drive dangerously, drink excessively, or act irresponsibly. You are obliged to live well for them. And most stupid things have expensive consequences too.

# Workout often. In good times and bad, this is your stress reliever. And less stress is a very good thing !

# Buy a medical card or medical insurance. You'll find one handy. And those your company gives you don't count ! Better have one in case the company isn't around, or if they decide to remove your umbrella when it rains (if you know what I mean).

# If you don't need it, don't buy it. And when I said need, that means if your life will no longer function normally, then you need it. That's my definition of need. Expensive shirts, that extra pair of shoe, that designer pen, that new f/2.8 lens, the 2 month trip to Nepal & Tibet, those all don't count as needs. Those are nice to have.

# All food, no matter how heavenly, will enter at one end and leave at the other. Once in your tummy, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. Eat sensibly, and forgo those expensive places where you will end up paying for the ambiance and also for the waiter who waits exclusively on your table.

# Eat simple food. Enjoy the simple pleasure of just eating. My parents grew up without ever chilling out at a coffee joint charging RM12 for an exotic coffee. And they're just fine - in fact, their generation has less diseases ... no harm going back to boiled veggies and simple stir fry dish. It's ok ..

# We've all got used to traveling to foreign lands with exotic names to get a 'holiday' or a 'break'. Perhaps you can see that Malaysia is a foreign land with an exotic name to many people ... try and go local too ... save some $$$ and help the locals for a change !

# Unless you carry a job title starting with 'Chief', you have very little control over many things in the company, so stop worrying about them, and stop gossiping about them as well. Do your job, do it well, and make yourself useful at work. In a downturn, you'll be surprised how many apple polishers are quickly rooted out.

# Appreciate what you have, and try and see the glass as being half full. It does your mind wonders ...

# If you have money, do your research, and invest. The recession is a good time to pick up some discounted investments ... but do it with a view of the long term. Expect no returns in the immediate future.

# Be flexible, and swallow your pride if you have to. If all 6 billion people on earth have ego just as big as yours, this planet is not big enough for us all !

This list can grow or shrink over time ... this is just a capture of my mind of my own little action plan if I find the big R hit me badly ... anything else anyone wants to add to this ?

** taken from my own FB notes **

02 January 2009

Here we go, yet once more ...

What did I do on 1st Jan 2009? Nothing unusual - there were no wild celebrations, no countdown parties, no resolutions, no partying ... I think age does that to people ... done it once, done it all ... it's just the start of yet another day, really. And if we didn't live in a world of western influence, it would have been just another day, you know. The Chinese Lunar calendar says that the new year is still nearly a month away ! =P

I did have a little drink myself in my room, just because there's a lot of liquor there I haven't touched for a long time now.

2008 was a great ride ... here's a short recollection of the things I want to remember from 2008 ...

Releasing turtles into the South China Sea

This trip nearly didn't happen ... and I don't quite remember why already ... but boy, was I glad I went anyways! The feeling of releasing precious little turtle hatchlings into the sea ... I think I caught of glimpse of the feeling a parent will feel when they put their child at school on the first day of schooling. There's pride, mixed up with some uncertainty, with a prayer thrown into the equation. It's a nice feeling, really.

The food is quite good too - look out for Pak Su's restaurant in Kuantan - and just order crabs - and lobsters if you don't have budgetary contraints!

Taking a boat ride in the storm from Penang to Langkawi

[Sorry, no photo for this section, was busy hanging on for dear life in the boat !]

Alicia and I had this short trip to Penang and Langkawi, and the plan was to drive to Penang, then to take a ferry over to Langkawi. The weather wasn't supposed to be bad that time of the year, but we didn't really factor in the global warming situation - cyclone Nargis hit Myanmmar just days before. When we boarded the ferry, we didn't know we were going to be in for the worst boat rides of our lives. Nearly from the start of the journey, the boat was rocked side to side in the stormy seas. An Arab couple on the boat who had prepared themselves for a smooth, comfy rides (with Pringles and other snacks) found themselves hogging the rubbish bin instead, furiously throwing up. When the boat crew started handing out vomit bags, it really hit home how stormy it really is.

Alicia slept through the whole ordeal, while I peeked around from time to time. Once, the boat rocked so far (or the storms surged so high), a school of fish actually slammed into the window next to our seats. We were both really pleased to be back on terra firma in Langkawi, as is, I presume, the rest of the boat !

Penang & Langkawi !!

Finally took Alicia to Penang & Langkawi ! We enjoyed the food (three cheers to Char Kway Teow & Assam Laksa), walked the historic Georgetown, visited the hills in Penang, and then drove around in a ricketty Proton Wira around Langkawi ... food is great, scenery excellent, the experience - simply unforgettable.

One thing's for sure, we'll be back! Penang for the food and the history, and Langkawi for the natural beauty. Just don't make me take a boat to Langkawi anymore !

Hong Kong Meet

I met a whole bunch of my peers in Hong Kong, part of a leadership programme meeting. My job takes me travelling to a lot of places, but I normally meet customers and other technical people. They're all great, and I am thankful for that experience, but meeting people in the company who're all in the same leadership development program is such an eye opener.

It's great to learn that corporate giants are humans in the end, and that there isn't really a substitute for hard work, common sense and decency. It made me feel a lot better about my own ambitions, that it won't necessarily turn me into some cold corporate monster !

I definately felt re-energized after this meet!

Sydney !

Spent nearly a month in Sydney - and got reacquainted to its sights and sounds. This time, I decided to venture further, and also visited Hunter Valley as well. It's always good to be back in Australia. I really consider Australia a home away from home after my uni days there.

Other honorable mentions:

The Cameron Highland vacations was quite good too - I just had to over do it by going twice - and the experience we had on our second trip wasn't all that good. Someone explain to me again why did I pay high prices for hotel rooms when the whole place was choking with traffic and school holiday crowd?

My decision to put together a workout plan and to stick to it is starting to pay off. I'm definitely feeling more energetic. This means better concentration at work, and better all round personal life too.

I've always voted, so voting on 8rd March wasn't a big deal in that sense. But when I cast my vote that day, I did it with hope. I could sense the quiet discontent, and I decided to vote with a clear mind instead of with fear. I hate to say this, but previously, my votes have been swayed with fear - certain people have always told me if I voted differently, the whole country will descend into chaos. Well, it looks like it's going to descend into chaos no matter how I voted, so I might as well try out something new. I am still feeling good about it !

In 2009, I decide that I will put my own health as my first priority. I realised in the past year that I am not that young anymore, and I definately can feel the body giving me messages, telling me to look after it better. You know, it's cliched - but there is but only one me. Better look after that me better. In a way, it's my responsibility to the ones I love - I'd hate to see them suffer because I'm not in good health !