Sunday, June 29, 2008
In the past, Balikpapan was a gulf. There are many stories related to the name
'Balikpapan'. Some people believed that it was named after the native tribe that lived there in the past. The native tribe that lived there known as 'Pasir Balik' tribe. This tribe was the ancestors of the 'Kayun Kulen' and "Papan Ayun' tribes. Then the gulf area was known as 'Kulen Papan' (in Pasir (local) language: 'Kulen means behind' and 'Papan means wood') - transformed into 'Balik (in Indonesian) means behind' and 'Papan (in Indonesian) means wood'.
Balikpapan became the entry point of East Borneo since Balikpapan was colonized and ruled by Dutch. The first oil exploration was carried out by Mathilda Company in 1897. The Mathilda monument as the tribute to Balikpapan history can be found in Yos Sudarso Street inside the refinery area.
There are some places of interests in Balikpapan. There are some monuments built in the city. Japanese cemetry memorial in Lamaru Village, near Manggar beach, and Australian memorial monument in a park in Jendral Sudirman street, were built to honour the both countries' army who died in the 2nd WW in Balikpapan. There is also a Japanese cannon from WW 2 in Margo Mulyo village, 30 minutes drive from the city.
Manggar beach was my wife's favourite place when she was a small kid. She told me the beach was clean with the white sands at that time and she loved to swim in the beach. However, when she visited the beach 4 or 5 years ago, everything has changed. The beach was dirty and there were lots of disorganized hawker stalls in the beach area. It was not comfortable anymore to visit the beach. She has never gone to the beach since then.
Not far from the beach, there is a crocodile farm. It was launched in the year 2000 and there are around 2000 crocodiles there, consist of 3 species: Crocodile Porosus, Crocodile Scheilles and Crocodile Siamlisus.
Kariangau Ulin bridge is located 11 km from Balikpapan. The bridge is in the Kariangau village and Ulin in English means 'iron wood'. This bridge is 800 metres long and was claimed as the 'longest iron wood bridge in the world. From the bridge, you can see the local fishermen activities - fishing, netting..
Bukit Bangkirai ecotourism is located in Km 38 on the way to Samarinda. You can find the canopy bridge here. The bridge hooks up between five Bangkirai trees. The length of the bridge is 64 metres and the height is 30 metres above the ground. From the bridge, you can view the Bangkirai forest. There is cottage for visitors who want to spend a night in the jungle. There is also deer raising area. You also can see the jungle orchid species, like black orchid, orchid tebu, orchid sisik naga, orchid joget, etc. You also can do jungle track and on the way along the path, you can see and find Enggang Bird, Surga Bird, deer, squirrel etc.
As like most of the cities in Indonesia, travelling and exploring this country are a bit challenging. It is advised to hire a local tourist guide as it is a bit difficult to have an accurate map of the cities, most of the people here cannot speak English and the sign boards is in Indonesian. If you plan to go around Balikpapan, for your own convenience, perhaps it is better to rent a car with the driver, because the weather here is too hot (in case if you think you can walk around the city) and all the places I mentioned above are not within walking distance.
Our family stepped back in time as we went on an excursion to the last village in Singapore, Pulau Ubin (Ubin Island) with Mountbatten Constituency Sports Club. As there were almost 150 members, we could only do a quick tour of the island.
We took a 10-min bumboat ride (S$2.50 each) and then a van to the Chek Jawa Wetlands where one can find Singapore's richest ecosystem. There are 6 different types of habitats in Chek Jawa.
The best and most popular way to see the island is on a bicycle. Near the jetty are shops renting bikes. It costs S$3 to S$12 for an hour.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore..... we spent time walking on rustic roads under swaying coconut trees, explore trails in rubber plantations half expecting a wild boar called 'Lucy' to come surprise us. hehehe...... We saw the flourishing mangroves.... need to return to check out privy info about nudist camp on secluded beaches. :P The air here is fresher and the sights and sounds are so soothing to one's soul!
Besides the plantations and mangrove swamps, there are granite quarries, fish and prawn farms, and traditional fishing "kelongs".
Seagrass Lagoon - One can see lots of seagrasses and seaweeds. Find marine creatures during low tide in this shallow lagoon. Try to look for secretive crabs, snails, colourful sea cucumbers (seasonal), sea hare, squids and mantis shrimps.
Coastal Boardwalk and natural Rocky Shore - It looks barren but many living creatures are hidden beneath the rocks or wedged in the crevices. I was told to look for barnacles, crabs and shell-boring snails called drills.
Scale 20m high Jejawi Tower to get a panoramic view of Chek Jawa. I raced my son to the top. My lungs were almost bursting when I reached it! Oh dear! Got to hit the gym.
Bird-watching will be fun, I forgot to bring my binoculars. The view was not that fantastic. I'm scared when the tower sways in the wind!
My hubby was left behind at Pulau Ubin Jetty because there were only places for two more in our bumboat! ta-ta....
I have to go back to the island again .... No, not to get my hubby. There is the info to be verified ....... hehehe.......
Saturday, June 28, 2008
KL Sentral Station
My first destination was Bukit Bintang, the well-known tourist shopping centre. From KL Central, I crossed the street to take KL monorail going to Bukit Bintang. Beside shopping centres, you can find hotels and entertainment outlets here. You can walk around, do window shopping or even shop at the big shopping centres, Sungei Wang Plaza, Starhill Gallery, Bukit Bintang Plaza, Lot 10, KL Plaza, Berjaya Times Sq etc. I had my lunch at one of the small restaurants in Jalan Alor/ Alor Street. It is cheaper compared to if I have lunch at a shopping mall. The food was also very good and decent. I had seafood noodle and my wife had seafood laksa. All together I paid around RM 10.
Alor street is very famous with its good food, especially Chinese food. I love it. During midday, this street is quiet and not many restaurants open. But you have to go there at night, the street has a wonderful lively nightlife. Go and have your dinner there ... you won't regret it.
The next morning of my visit, I woke up really early in the morning, because my second destination was The Twin Tower. I took komuter/ the train from Pasar Seni station to KLCC station. I had to leave early, around 7am, to queue for the entrance ticket to the sky bridge of the Twin Tower. It is FREE. The sky bridge visit is open Tuesday-Sunday, 8.30am-5pm. When, I reached there the queue was not that long, there were around 30-40 people were lining up before me. There are 1,300 free tickets given out daily. They start to distribute the ticket at 8.30am and the first visit is at 9 am. So, you better queue early to avoid disappointment.
The Twin Tower
Petronas Twin Tower has 88 levels with 452 metres height. It has been recognized by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as the tallest buildings in the world. The building was designed by the US architect, Cesar Pelli. The sky bridge is located at levels 41 and 42 (170 metres above the street level) which links the Twin Towers. You can view KL from these levels.
From KLCC, I went by cab to KL Tower. The train station is not in walking distance to KL Tower, so to save time, I decided to take a cab instead. Using cabs in KL is another thing you should know. They do not use the taxi metre to charge you. Most of the time, the driver will inform you how much you have to pay. If you think it is too expensive, you need to bargain with the driver.
At the KL tower, you do not have to queue for the tickets because you have to pay to go to the observation deck. The ticket was 20RM per person for adults. KL tower is located at the top of Bukit Nanas. KL tower is 4th tallest telecommunication tower in the world. The tower total height is 421 metres. The observation deck is 276 metres above the street and from here you can view all the places of interest in KL with the binocular provided. I think the KL view is better here than the Twin Tower. You will also be equipped with an audio tour to help you to identify all those places. It is recommended to visit this tower in the evening, so you can see the beautiful sunset. If you have enough time, try to come to the tower before sunset to take pictures and then just wait to get the beautiful view during sunset.
The last place I would share is China Town. It is located at Petaling street. I stayed at one of the hotels there. I chose to stay there because you can find budget hotels there and the train station, Pasar Seni, is within the walking distance. So it is very easy to go everywhere you want. Oh, one more thing, the food at the stalls is okey with reasonable prices. At night, this street is very crowded. At the both sides of the street, there are shops selling anything, t-shirts, jeans, bags, purses, souvenirs, Chinese medicine etc. If you want to do budget shopping or buy souvenirs, then do the shopping here, but you have to bargain so you can get a good price. Happy shopping .....
Well, that is all for now. Enjoy KL...
Friday, June 27, 2008
You will be given the necessary direction what you should do in the wind tunnel by the instructors. Then, you have to change and equip yourself with the safety tools. So, basically you will enter a wind tunnel and the instructor will lift your body, give you instructions and that's it you are flying in winds of 193km/hour... just like a skydiver.This is a safe game and there are instructors who will direct you and take care of you so you can enjoy the game without worries. It is highly recommended for you who like a challenging moment. At the end of the game, you will receive a flight certificate with your name on it.
The flight cert
The other thing that I would like you to do is to visit Chin Swee Caves Temple. You can take the shuttle mini bus from Highland Hotel. The mini bus operates hourly. It costs 5RM per person return ... cheap, right? Or alternatively, you can take a cab to go to the temple. It is located about 5–10 minutes’ drive down from the Genting resort. On the way down, you can enjoy the scenic view of Genting Highlands. This temple as well as Genting resort itself were founded by Mr. Lim Goh Tong.
The temple is designed in Chinese style. So, besides the Reverend Mr. Chin Swee statue, who is worshiped because of his abilities to summon rain and drive away evil spirits, you also can see Buddha, Kuan-yin, the eight deities playing chess and Goh Tong statues. The other thing is that you can climb the-9 storey pagoda located near to the Kuan-yin statue.
The view of Genting Highland from the top of the Pagoda
Visitors can also follow the journey from hell to heaven 'the Journey of Enlightenment' based on Chinese beliefs. There are ten Chambers of Hell. The visitors only need to follow the path and walk up path to a hill. The journey shows us what it would be after our lives in the world for good person and evil person. Go and see by yourself...
Do good grades determine how bright and worthy a child is?
When my son was in primary and secondary school, his teachers constantly complained about him not doing his homework. He was punished countless times for that. He was denied breaks and detained after school to complete his homework.
My husband and I punished him whenever the teachers complaint. When asked,"Why didn't you do the homework?" He replied it was too easy and therefore boring to repeat the same type of questions every time. Whenever a teacher gave him a surprise test, he could do it and pass. He was always the Top student in Chinese language in class.
For a year, an angry teacher named him 'Stupid' in class because he was always getting detention. His classmates laughed at him and followed the teacher's name calling. He used to come back with the word 'Stupid' scribbled on his uniform in coloured ink. A happy-go-lucky child, he just smiled and wasn't bother by the teasing. My husband stopped me from confronting his teacher and classmates. My heart aches even until today. He was only 8 then.
In a group of 23 during his school's educational exchange trip to China, he learnt fast and was not only able to finish his Chinese knot-making craft first, he helped the others complete theirs. He appeared on their local TV news. He was 14.
Jaymes with members of Lions Club (Fukuoka) on a private trip. The members are CEOs, Chairmen and Presidents of Japanese firms. He was 15. He was the youngest and only Singaporean youth on the trip. For his 12-day stay in Fukuoka, the members took turns to wine, dine and bring him sightseeing.
Meeting with the officers and Chief of Fire Brigade (Fukuoka). Later Jaymes toured the station, went through its fire-fighting course and was awarded a certificate.
Jaymes with the Mayor of Osaka who gave him Japanese crafts, made by his wife.
My son is not bright. His ambition is not to be a doctor or lawyer or architect........., he wants to be a chef.
My son is not bright. He tends to sleep whenever he opens his textbooks. But he has other talents which his teachers could not accept. As a parent, how do you feel when your child's form teacher told you in your face, "Your son is not Express-class (below average academically) material."?
My son is indeed not bright. He scores only 170 in Mensa International's IQ test.
Don't put down young children if they cannot score good grades in school. They are talented in other areas.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
It is very easy to go to Genting. You can buy the bus ticket at the bus counter. The counter is located at the 2nd floor of KL Sentral Station. The ticket price (for bus and cable car) is 8.30RM per person for adult. It takes 45 minutes to reach Genting Skyway Lower Station. From the lower station, then, I took cable car going up to the resort. It takes around 10 minutes to go up to the resort. On the way up, you can enjoy the scenery and the view of rain forests below you.
The cable cars
Genting skyway is claimed as the fastest and longest cable car in South East Asia. The maximum speed is 6 metres/second and the distance between the lower station to the top of the hotel resort is 3.38 km. The Genting skyway was formally opened by the Ex-Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1997. It can carry more than 2,000 people per hour each way with 8 passengers per gondola. The cable cars do not operate the whole year. There is maintenance schedule for one month and last year (2007) it was on August. So, it is better for you to check the maintenance schedule of the skyway, otherwise, you will be disappointed.
1st World Hotel scale model
I stayed there for 3 days at 1st world hotel. This hotel is unique. The building is so colorful. There are six hotels that are attached one another, so you can walk around all the hotels, with some of the entertainment activities inside the buildings. So it basically is a huge building divided into compartments with all the entertainment activities inside the building. There is also outdoor activities.
First world hotel is a three stars hotel, so it is the cheapest hotel, with 6118 rooms (can you imagine 6118 rooms?? Because of that, this hotel has been awarded by the Guinness Book of Record as a hotel with the greatest number of rooms). Eventhough,this is a three stars hotel, this is hotel is comfy and clean. You can get a good rate if you do your reservation in advance far before your visit. This hotel is also very close to 1st world plaza. It is easy for you to enjoy the indoor entertainment activities, shop till you drop at the shopping centres; and stop and take a break while you are eating at a restaurant or coffee shop, if you stay at this hotel.
I think the name 'Genting' is from chinese pronounciation of 'yinting' meaning: cloud. Genting is well-known as Malaysia 'Las-Vegas'. Lots of people come here just to gamble. There are international gambling games offered by the Casino de Genting, such as roulette, baccarat, blackjack, poker, jackpot machine. To have permission to enter the casino, you have to be 21 years old (from your passport), dress formally, non-moslem, and should not bring camera or video recorder. Unfortunately, I do not know how to play all the games. So I just saw people spent their money in the casino.
I also visited Chin Swee Caves Temple and did play some games and enter places of attraction; bowling, archery, snow world, ripley's, flying coaster, genting sky venture etc. The most impressive one for me was genting sky venture and the least interesting was the snow world... to be continued...
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Mt Maisan, on the east of Jeonju, is about an hour away by bus. It's famous for the twin rocky mountains that look like Horse Ears. The mountain is famous for Tapsa Temple.
Horse Ear Mountain (马耳山公园) & Tapsa Temple ( 马耳塔寺)
Mount Maisan (马耳山公园) , "Horse Ear Mountain,” named because of the split part way up the mountain. Koreans claim that the taller half of the mountain belongs to the husband while the smaller is the wife.
A legend says that this couple were mountain spirits on their way to heaven. They must make it to Heaven before dawn so that no humans would spot them. Unfortunately, a housewife saw them early in the morning on her way to get water. The wife asked her husband to stop, but he refused and ignored her. As he moved on even higher and faster they were instantly frozen into rocks.
A long climb up to pray... so as to get closer to Heaven.
On Mt. Maisan, you find some 80 stone towers or pagodas that were erected in the early 1900’s by a hermit named Yi Kap-ryong. They were made by piling hundreds of rocks on top of one another without any use of mortar. Some are as high as 10 metres!
Hermit Yi Kap-ryong piled the stones over a decade as a personal prayer for peace. The prayer rocks are engineering marvels. Yi piled these natural stones up one by one without any mechanical help, working only at night, without electricity. Although the highest stone structure is over 10 m high, they are as solid as if they were stuck together by mortar. The stone towers have stood for over 100 years withstanding the forces of strong wind, rain and typhoons that have uprooted many trees in the area.
The stones used for each tower were chosen from mountains and rivers throughout Korea. Yi died at the age of 98.
I was told, during the colder months Maisan experiences a strange "magical" phenomena where if you place a bowl of water outside, an icicle will form and grow upwards. Though there is obviously a scientific explanation for it... I don't know what it is......
It was -4C when we were at Mt Maisan. It was quite difficult for me to climb the rocky steps to Tapsa Temple. Initially I didn't want to, luckily my student was there to helped me. I looked like an old woman being helped up the steps. And it was embarrassing because there were many elderly Korean women in their 60s or 70s who climbed all the way from the foot of Mt Maisan to Tapsa Temple without panting!
The view was so beautiful up there. It is so amazing to see the work of one single man. It's incredible & awesome, simply breathtaking! I feel so small among the stone structures.
KLIA Train ...
Putrajaya is the new Government Administrative Centre. In the past, the administrative centre was in Kuala Lumpur. It is about 135,000m2. The areas in Putrajaya are divided into precincts and consist of government offices.
After a long walk from nowhere (I did not manage to identify the place where the bus driver dropped me off) I arrived at Taman Putra Perdana. Taman Putra Perdana is located at in Precinct 1. It is quite a big park. I walked around the park and I found the Prime Minister and his staffs offices building, known as Perdana Putra. Perdana Putra is the main administrative offices of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, and Chief Secretary to the Government.
Prime Minister Office
I walked across the park and I saw Putra Mosque. Putra Mosque is one of Putrajaya’s icons. The mosque has a pink dome and is built from rose-tinted granite. The mosque accommodates 15,000 worshipers. Another place that is nearby to Putra Mosque is Dataran Putra. It is a 300-metre circular area with concentric stars shape. This landmark is a symbol of all the states in Malaysia.
Me & Putra Mosque
I also visited 'Tasik Putrajaya/ Putrajaya Lake'. There is Tasik Putrajaya Cruise. The cruise will take you around and see the city’s landmarks from the comfort of an air-conditioned passenger boat.
Basically, Putrajaya is a new developed city. Not much you can see here. As long as I know, you can only find parks, bridges, and buildings. However, they are modernly designed and unique. But if you do not like buildings, then I suggest to place this city as the least priority.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Hanok is the Korean traditional house.
Jeonju is the most traditional Korean city..... a city of traditional culture & art. It is famous for Bibimbap and Hanji Korean paper.
There is the Korean Tradition & Culture Preservation Area which is located just behind my modern Core Riveria Hotel.
Jeonju Hanok Village (全州韩屋村庄) has about 800 traditional Korean-styled houses (Hanok). In the village are Jeonju Traditional Culture Centre, Jeonju Korean Traditional Life Experience Park, Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum, Jeonju Traditional Craftswork Exhibition Hall, Jeonju Treasures Centre, Gyeonggijeon and Omokdae... etc. There is so much to see and learn, one day is not enough to feel the traditional culture here.
This village is the largest concentration area of Korean-styled houses where the culture of Korean ancestors is preserved completely. Hanoks are simply beautiful.
Actually there are about 14 places that you can visit, Melaka Sultanate Palace(Cultural Museum),The Stadthuys, Christ Church, St. Paul Church, Porta De Santiago(A’ Famosa), Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, Hang Li Po’s Well, St. John’s Fort, Portuguese Square, Maritime Museum, Bukit Cina, Mini Malaysia,Melaka Zoo, Cheng Ho Cultural Museum. But because I run out of time, I decided only to walk around the heart of the city. I visited Stadthuys, Christ church, St. Francis Xavier church, and Porta De Santiago (A Famosa), and walked around the China Town.
A monument dedicated by the People of Malacca to Victoria Regina, the Queen, in 1904
Melaka is famous with its historical reputation. It was a maritime trading centre in the 16th century. Because of its strategic role, Melaka was colonized and ruled by the European, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. Melaka obtained its freedom together with other state in Malaysia on August 31st, 1957.
The damage fortress
Porta de Santiago or known as A Famosa was a fortress built by the Portuguese admiral, Alfonso d’Albuquerque in 1511. It was badly damaged during the Dutch invasion in 1641. Then, it was reserved by Sir Stamford Raffles, a British, in 1808.
Stadthuys is one of Melaka's icons. Stadthuys was an official residence of Dutch govenors and their officers. It was built in 1650. Originally it was white, but then it was changed to salmon-red colour to match the Christ Church. The church is pretty close to Stadthuys.
Christ Church is a bright red building with Dutch style. It is an Anglican church. Interesting features include the church’s handmade pews, ceiling beams (constructed without joints), brass bible, tombstone and ‘The Last Supper’ in glazed tiles.
Church of St. Francis Xavier. It is a roman catholic church. In the past, St. Francis Xavier was buried here when he died in 1553. After that, his body was moved and buried in Goa, India. In front of the church you can find his statue and his disciple's statue.
After my visit to those places, I had my 'late' lunch at Chinatown. I had laksa and cendol ... not my favourite obviously as the laksa is a bit sour and the cendol is too sweet for me. What a combination, isn't it??
I enjoyed my trip at that time. Next time I definitely will come early in the morning, so I can visit all the places I mentioned above...
Monday, June 23, 2008
I enjoy watching Korean TV drama and movies. I am smittened with a couple of Korean actors. I travelled to South Korea to experience their culture and traditions. Though similar to the Chinese culture, there are still differences which I cannot accept.
I hate washing up after cooking and meals. At every Korean meal, lots of crockery are used. And when they are throwing a feast, there are so many dishes!! At least 30 dishes of food, no repeats!
Imagine the amount of crockery and utensils you are going to wash after these meals! Oh no!
I spent the night by walking around china town and orchard road on my first day of visit. They are just okey for me. Not too crowded ... may be because it was not holiday season during my visit. I had my dinner at the food court at the basement of Takashimaya shopping centre. The food was not that special.
On the second day, I planned to go to visit 2 Singapore's landmarks, Esplande and Merlion; and some shopping centres, Raffles City Shopping Centre and Suntec City. I took Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) from Clarke Quay to City Hall Station. Then, I walked around 10 minutes from the City Hall MRT Station through an underpass which connects 4 shopping centres - Raffles City, Marina Square, Suntec City and Millenia Walk. From Esplande, I walked around 5 minutes through a bridge to Merlion Park. Merlion is the famous icon of Singapore known worldwide. It is the statue of the lion head with a fish body resting on a crest of waves.
Fountain of Wealth
I visited Suntec City to see the fountain of wealth. It is supported by four 13.8 metres high bronze legs and located on an area of 1683.07 metres. The Fountain of Wealth has been awarded as the "World's Largest Fountain" in the 1998 by Guinness Book of Records. The fountain represents wealth and life. I spent the night walking around Suntec City and had dinner at 'Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao' restaurant at the Fountain terrace. The food is good and the price is not that expensive. If you like chinese food, it is a recommended restaurant.
A dancing fountain coupled with laser
In general, Singapore is a nice and safe place to be visited. It is very easy and convenient to get around the city. Everything is very clear and I guarantee you will not get lost in Singapore. Have a nice trip to Singapore...
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Lunch consist of Seafood Noodles, Squid Balls, Seaweed wrapped Chicken, Chocolate Eclairs, ondeh-ondeh (Sweet Potato Balls) and sandwiches. Oh .... plus hot beverages or chilled orange juice.
My one year old digital camera is giving me problems now. Lines appear in all my photos.
I hope to get a sponsor. hehehe.....