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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Life Without Distractions

We spent way, way too much on our gadgets these days. We almost forgot how the world used to function without internet or smartphones.

Our lives are constantly distracted by notifications from Facebook, instagram, messenger and other social medias. Sometimes it feels weird not having any sounds coming to remind or notify us about a friend's comment or status updates, so hence we stay glued to our gadgets.

I have years ago learned to dis-attach myself from these distractions. Many friends were bewildered when I slowly stopped checking my Facebook every few minutes of the day or not in the know of other friends' status. I then also stopped updating my own FB status because I felt that was not the 'real' validation that I craved for.

I learned that by dis-attaching myself from the fake world of Facebook and other social medias, I valued myself more. I am more confident with myself and I had more time to do things that really mattered like offering my time for charity work and enjoying quality time with people that I truly care.

The habit became more apparent nowdays (actually since a year ago) because I am always far away from my smartphone when I'm in the office. I rarely check my whatsapp when I'm working (to the irks of others) but I realized it has become a norm that friends/family/colleagues have come to accept.

By being away from my smartphone, it gives me plenty of time to focus and concentrate on my work and tasks that needs my immediate attention. I will from time to time check out for any urgent messages, but if nothing is that urgent, I am more than happy to leave it lying somehere far from me.

So when my team mates and I went for our unit retreat recently, we were placed in a remote place with no internet lines or even phone reception.

I was happy to just be surrounded by lush greeneries, with fun colleagues, great food and a good book. We had plenty of great conversations, games, team-building exercises and exchanges of gifts and affirmations.

Had I not had the years of practice of being far away from my smarphone, I would have been edgy, restless and would not enjoy one second of the retreat because I will be too anxious of not getting notifications on FB or Instagram. I will become nervous if I didn't see a friend's insta story.

Those days are gone. I am perfectly whole and happy with a life without distraction 😊

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Books, Books, Books

I promised myself every month to stop buying any more books until I have finished every single one of my unread books and yet every month I failed.

I can never resist or stop myself from entering into a bookstore. And of course every time I enter I will almost always end up with at least a minimum of one.

Who can resist the temptation of those exciting titles or those intriguing synopsis. Of course you must buy them all. If only I could read them as fast as I purchase them.

My interest in reading was inculcated mainly by my late father. As an educator he believed that they way to broaden your mind was to do a lot of reading. Since I was a child, I have always been surrounded by books. Reading was more of a habit than a hobby in my early childhood years. And that was how I grew up.

Our family used to have our own mini library at our old house. The shelves of books lined up against the walls excites me and the only way to get to those books, stacked on the higher shelves, was to climb a ladder. My sisters would always put their more adult books on the higher shelves, so I was unable to reach them.

As a kid I couldn't wait to grow up just so I could finally read those adult books. Those adults books were Sweet Valley High, which was only allowed to me when I was, myself in high school.

However as I grew older, more like after graduating and focusing more on my work, my habit of reading slowly diminished. Not that it was totally gone as I still had plenty of reading through law journals, case precedents but the interest wasn't the same. The motivation in reading to expand my horizon was no longer present. Reading became a mundane task and a necessary routine for my work at that time.

Years passed by and as I become more unhappy and restless with my career, I began to pick my old habits again, reading.

I promised myself that I will be more diligent in reading and it truly made me happy. Reading became my solace in this chaotic world called life. It was my escapism when I could not travel. It brought me to places I could never experience if not via the stories that I read.

This year I made a pact to read at least a book a month. Although I am behind by 2 books (only read 9 books so far despite already being in November), I vow I will finish 12 books this year.

Hopefully I can double this number next year as I have approximately 40 books (actually maybe more) yet to read. *cry*

To more reading!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Am I Ready To Travel Alone?



It's been awhile since I last wrote in this blog. I admit work has taken most of my time lately. Returning to full time job has its perks and disadvantages. A more stable income but less time. I am however grateful for everything that has happened this last 7 months.

During this last 7 months, I have done quite a bit of traveling. Mostly local places like Ipoh, Terengganu, Alor Setar and Melaka. I have also visited my friend in Palembang last April/ May. Will write a separate entry on that. Due to the nature of my work, more like my contract, I have been unable to take longer leaves and I had to cancel my Spain trip this coming June. Hopefully, Insha Allah I will be able to make it next year.

I have always all the time travel with someone, either with a group of friends/colleague or my sister, and I have always been surrounded with people in my trip. To be honest, those trips were great and memorable partly because those people were in it, but lately I have been yearning to travel alone.

I have been reading on so many female solo travelers and deep down I want to experience solo traveling too. I have traveled solo to Melbourne in 2015 but was then joined by my friends there, so it wasn't exactly solo traveling.

This time I feel like I want to do it all alone, more like I NEED to do it alone. I miss my alone time. I used to work independently and was most of the time working alone, but since working in an office atmosphere with others, I realized I rarely get an alone time for me, just me. I share a house with friends which makes alone time less likely.

It does feel good to go somewhere, where only I can determine where I want to visit, what I want to do and how many hours I get to spend in a place. I long to visit a museum for hours without having to rush reading any parts of history, sit on a beach just by myself and reading a storybook, catch a sunset and thinking of my future without any distractions and many more things.

And so when AirAsia had another round of promotions (they have every month though), I decided to diligently find a ticket. I was edgy that I had no concrete plans of where to visit for the second part of 2017. I initially wanted to follow a friend to Melbourne, more like Tasmania but since the tickets were rather expensive, I began to search through every destination that AirAsia flies to. Yes that was how diligent I was. 

I knew what dates I wanted to go and was going through all the places that I wanted to go (my bucket list) and finally stumbled on a very cheap air ticket to Acheh.

I did ask some of my friends on whether they wanted to join me for this trip. Some did not respond and none could make it. I, on the other hand was determined to make this trip no matter what. And as fate has it, I will be going ALONE!!

I am super excited. I was a little nervous but after some research on the culture, places to visit and being introduced to a tour guide, I really think I am going to be fine. I know for a fact that this country/place is Insha Allah pretty safe. I know the language and this is the country that I have visited the most in my entire life, besides Malaysia. This will be the 9th time so it does make sense to start here for my first solo traveling. I also cannot wait to learn about their Tsunami history and just embrace traveling alone.

So here is to solo traveling people!! 5 more months to go!
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Monday, January 23, 2017

The Handbag Story


Almost all woman I know loves handbags. From expensive ones to non expensive ones. I love them too. They are a part of my daily life, and it carries my essentials all in one go. I carry them and bring them everywhere. Sometimes I wear them like a pair of shoe, so worn out but yet unable to go anywhere without them.

I cannot remember the last time I bought an expensive handbag, which cost me more than RM350. It was probably in 2012, a Braun Buffel pink bag which I craved for months.

Recently a friend criticized me right before I started my current job on how I have lacked style and elegance lately. In other words, I was messy. It wasn't the words that hurt me the most. It was the lack of understanding of who I was and how my handbag represented me.

This friend criticized me of being a mess just because I was carrying a worn out 5AUD tote bag whose picture of Flinder Street Station on the bag was peeling off. Despite the paint fading off, I truly loved that bag.

So you see I hardly wear branded bags anymore not only because one I cannot afford it and second if I could afford it, it just does not represent who I am at that moment. Those worn out tote bags tell people of places I have been and visited, things I have seen, places where I do my social work (including dusty and non-hygienic areas), people I have met and who I am in a deeper level.

I don't need a Gucci or Prada bag to tell people that I excel at my work or that I have seen some of the nicest places on earth. Handbag doesn't portray my level of faith to God nor does it justify who I am as a human being or a person.

So let's stop judging people based on appearance and let's learn to understand the beauty of someone's heart and soul as beauty will eventually fade with time.

* Please note that I am currently wearing a refugee handmade bag which cost RM60. Despite it's cheap price I am proud that by purchasing this bag I am helping to make a difference in someone's life. If you want to support them, kindly check out their FB page : Mangtha

Please also take note that my opinion of using cheaper bags is a personal opinion. It is not meant to criticize the choices of other women, so please don't take offence by my entry.
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Malacca, Malaysia

Malacca is one of my most favourite place in Malaysia, besides Langkawi and Johor Bharu.

My vivid memory of Malacca must be the one where my late sister brought my family for a short vacation in 2007, a year before she passed away. It was our last trip with her.

Malacca is a very historical place in Malaysia. It is considered as the most historical state in Malaysia. It is significant as a trading port in the early days of 'Tanah Melayu' or Malay Land. Malacca was also awarded as one of Unesco's World Heritage Site in 2008.

More of Malacca's history can be read here.

Below are the things that you may do in Malacca:

1.Visit all the historical places in Malacca, if not all at least some of it. Of course, one cannot finish visiting all the historical places in one go as there any many interesting historical places to visit in Malacca. Depending on the numbers of days you are staying, you can choose and decide which historical places that you do want to visit.

Here are my recommendations and reasons :

A. A FAMOSA FORT 

Image result for a famosa fort
 Credit : Google

This historical fort was built by the Portugese named Afonso de Albuquerque who came to Malacca from Portugal in 1511 with his fleet of army who then attacked and defeated the Malacca Sultanate's armies. He built this fort near a natural hill, as a place of protection and hiding. It is the only Portugese fort that still exist in Malacca till this day.

B. STADHUYS (THE DUTCH SQUARE) 

Image result for stadthuys
Credit : Google

Now who wouldn't want to visit these beautiful bright red buildings in Malacca. Not only, it would make a nice background for your pictures due to it's vibrant colours, but these buildings were are part of the heritage left by the Dutch in Malacca when they defeated the Portugese over Malacca. These building have now been converted to a museum and was formerly used as an administrative building.

C. MALACCA SULTANATE MUSEUM


Image result for Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum
Credit : Google

This museum is actually really not the real palace of the Sultanate of Malacca but is a replica of what it looks like. Inside the museum, replica's of how the important leaders of the Sultanate are seated in a royal seating before the Sultan of Malacca/King of Malacca are placed. It in this manner, is how they discussed the affairs of the state.

The Sultan of Malacca had numerous trusted leaders. These leaders will take instructions for the ruling Sultan unconditionally. Among the most trusted and famous leaders of the Sultanate are known as Hang Tuah, Hang Lekir, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekiu and Hang Kasturi. They were known as the famous 5 Malacca warriors for their unconditional dedication and absolute faith to the Sultan's orders and safety.

There are other historical places that you can visit, depending on your time, but the above are the most recommended ones.

2. Stroll along and shop at Jonker Walk

Image result for jonker street
Credit : Google

Jonker Walk is one of the famous scenes in Malacca. One simply cannot miss going to Jonker Walk if you are visiting Malacca. The whole street is filled with food hawkers, to vendors selling toys, jewellery, paintings, t-shirts, and many other stuffs. The vendors operate only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7pm to 12pm on Fridays, and from 7pm-2.a.m on weekends.

Souvenirs and cheap items can be bought here. If you have nothing to buy, just embrace the lively and colourful atmosphere. Just be cautious of the crowd.

3. Take the Malacca Cruise 


Image result for malacca cruise
Credit :www.gogomelaka.com

Water transportation used to be such an important part of Malacca's history as an international business and trading port. Businessman and traders from China and India would travel to Malacca and sell or exchange their goods using the Malacca straits.

The cruise will pass along the Malacca river and as you pass along the river, you can see beautiful art work on the walls of the shops facing the river. If you are taking the cruise at night, the whole boat will be glittered with shiny and bright lights, creating a calming and romantic atmosphere.

Street art in Malacca/ Melaka
Credit : http://www.theculturemap.com/street-art-malacca-malaysia/

4. EAT SEAFOOD 

Because Malacca is situated along the Straits of Malacca, you may find that it is also famous for serving some of the most fresh seafood. Umbai is one of the known places in Malacca for it's fresh seafood. There are a few shops to choose from. The seafood are fresh and it is best enjoyed at night, with the cool breezing air from the beach.

Image result for fresh seafood display
Credit : Google

You may choose the seafood that you will like to enjoy and the price will depend on the size and weight of the seafood. You may also choose a variety of different styles of cooking for the seafood.


5. THE TAMING SARI TOWER

Image result for taming sari tower
Credit : Google

If you are interested to view the whole of Malacca town, riding this tower would be the best way to do that. The tower is a gyro tower, the only one in Malaysia. The observation deck will revolve 360 degrees to allow you to see the town of Malacca and beyond in 7 minutes.

This tower is open during the day and at night and the entry tickets are quite reasonable.

Image result for taming sari tower
Credit : Google


6. TASTE NYONYA'S FOOD/CUISINE


One of the best heritage in Malacca is the Peranakan or Baba Nyonya heritage. Their food is exceptionally unique as it is a mixture of Chinese, Malay and Indonesian cuisine. From their 'asam pedas' to their unique flavoured 'laksa', anyone who visits Malacca must try some of these cuisines. 

7. DRINK MALACCA'S KLEBANG COCONUT SHAKE

I totally lurvee the Klebang coconut shake, though sadly I only got to taste it once. But it was enough to last me a memory of a lifetime. If you are visiting Malacca for the first time, I highly recommend that you try this marvelous coconut shake. It is a combination of coconut juice with ice, ice-cream and milk. And although you may find there is a long queue for you to buy this coconut shake, then you may want to have it at their food stall. It will take less time as the long lines are usually for take-away. And you may want to just kick back and enjoy this drink for a moment longer.

Image result for klebang coconut milkshake melaka
Credit : Google

8. MALACCA'S SKY TOWER

This is the latest attraction in Malacca. This 42 storrey building is not for the faint hearted or for acrophobics, because the viewing deck is made of glass and can be a little eerie due to the heights. However, the view of Malacca city when viewed from above is priceless.

Image result for melaka sky tower
Credit : Google


Do share if you have any nice experience of visiting Malacca at the comment section below.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Beijing, China 2015

*Caution : This is a long entry*

The winter just ended about two weeks earlier when we visited Beijing for the first time. It was supposed to already be Spring but the chilly air told us otherwise.

Our flight to Beijing was a tumultuous one. A 6 hours flight from KL to Beijing, was not really a long flight but considering we were constantly shaken by air turbulence, we really felt that it was indeed one of the longest journey ever.

We arrived at the airport safely, and find ourselves greeted by the super chilly air. With limited Mandarin and their limited English, we managed to ask for directions at the airport. We needed to locate another set of visitors that will be part of our tour. And as we met them we found out that the girls and another pair of couple had a worst flight journey than us. We thanked God for the safe journey of both groups.

While waiting for the other group to arrive. Didn't expect it to be so cold...brrrr...

We headed to the hotel and slept like a baby the first night.

It was actually my first time following a tour in my adult traveling years. My verdict? Never again!

All in all we visited Beijing for 8 days, 5 days with the tour and 3 days on our own.

Below are the places that we visited during the whole trip:

1. Tiananmen Square
2. Forbidden City (The Imperial Palace)
3. The Great Wall of China
4. Hutong Tours
5. Summer Palace
6. Temple of Heaven
7. The Beijing Olympic Stadium
8. Niujie Mosque
9. Wang Fu Jing market
10.Yuyuantan Park

The Tiananmen Square, including Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, one of China's prominent leader

The looming Forbidden City. I actually took time to re-study about Forbidden City before I came here. It was worth the study. This place was huge and full of history.
The courtyard of the Forbidden City


Admiring the beauty and the pain of building the Great Wall of China
 

Temple of Heaven
There were also some significant points I wanted to share about our trip. I will list them down in an order and share the summary of it.

MH 370


Credit : Google
A year before we flew in MH360 from KL to Beijing, a similar flight like ours was also heading to Beijing from KL. And that was when history was changed forever. That particular flight never made it to China and has seem to never be found until this day. It was a really tragic loss, not only to Malaysians but also to the Chinese people. Around the same time a year later, we visited China in another flight now renamed MH360. Knowing the resentment and feelings of the Chinese towards the incident, we tried our best to keep calm as we've heard rumours that Malaysians were not really welcomed. But we were glad that nothing really happened when we arrived, although we did get pointed at, and yelled at when riding the trishaw at the Hutong area.

AIR TURBULENCE

We really experienced a strong air turbulence on our flight to Beijing. Not helping was the fact that the MH370's tragedy was still lingering in our minds. All of us pretended to be cool, when inside we were reciting zikr' and prayers for the whole 6 hours journey. None of us could actually sleep. We kept looking at the route map on the flight wishing that we will arrive soon. My eyes kept looking when our route showed that we were crossing the water near Vietnam and just wishing that we would not crash in the sea. Yes, that was what exactly I was praying for.

GETTING LOST

It lasted almost half an hour and scared my friends like crazy. My bag fell open in the van and somehow I was left alone in the van, picking up my stuff. When I finally finished, all my friends including the tour guide and the whole tour just disappeared. So being me and not getting panicked at the first instance, I made my way to Fu Jing market and simply took a stroll while looking for my tour group. I took the time to capture interesting things that I saw at the market and was devising a plan on how to get dinner if I actually didn't get reunited with the rest of the tour. I was quite confident I could survive on the basic Mandarin I learned on YouTube and get a taxi to at least go back to my hotel (didn't occur to me I could get kidnap, haha). But Alhamdullillah, as I was returning to the place where I started, I bumped into my teary eyed friends. Bless their hearts!

The night we were reunited after being separated
FREEZING IN THE CHILLY AIR (for hours)

On the 5th night, while the rest of the tour prepared to leave for the airport, we also prepared ourselves to move to another hotel. What we didn't expect to happen was that our Mongolian driver would just abandoned us by the side of the road after dinner. We pleaded with our tour guide, to at least send us to the nearest train station but she convinced us that the train station was just a few minutes walk.

What was supposed to be a few minutes walk turned into a 25 minutes walk. One of the worst experience ever in my life. The weather was so cold, around 11-13 degrees celsius, we were struggling to carry our suitcases (we had to bring lots of warm clothes due to the weather). After a long and difficult walk, we finally arrived at the train station. But our nightmare, didn't end there. That was just the beginning.

The train station or lrt station were not equipped with any escalators or lifts. So we had to exchange about 5-6 train stations carrying our huge suitcases. I really believe I was going to break my spine with all the heavy lifting, because there were only long flights of stairs. When we finally made it to the station nearest to our hotel, there was no taxi around. Buses passed us by, none stopping in our way. We were so clueless, cold and worried.

Finally we met a few out of town girls who helped us to ask a local (using the local lady's GPS) to locate our hotel. And guess what, it was just across from where we were.

I forgot to mention earlier, a local lady in a red car offered to take us to our hotel. She said it will only be 30 minutes. I was cold and desperate and almost agreed to take the ride with the said lady but was stopped by my friend. Alhamdulillah, I am grateful I didn't go with the lady. I really could have been kidnapped because the hotel was just a 10 minutes walk from where we were. Lesson learned!

MEETING A BEAUTIFUL MUSLIM LADY

Out of all the not so nice and scary experiences I had in Beijing, there was this one incident that actually made me shed tears and really broke my heart.

We were visiting a masjid for our Asr' prayers and after taking photos of the beautiful architecture of the building, I stumbled upon a Muslim lady in front of the masjid. She greeted me with Salam and gave a toothless smile. I asked my friend to take a picture of us since it is rare to meet a Chinese Muslim lady in Beijing.

As I was approaching her, I could strongly smell that she had not bathed for days, (thanks to my experience of doing dock brief in my chambering months). My heart just broke and the moment I left her I broke into tears and wept uncontrollably. My heart felt for her. Here, I was complaining about my tour guide, the toilet and water system in China, this lady was too poor to probably have access to clean water.

That incident gave me a wake-up call and I promised myself, never to take anything for granted anymore and be grateful for every each and little blessings that I have been bestowed with.


MY TOUR GUIDE

This lady is one of kind. She probably is bored of bringing people to the same places daily, and have no patience whatever especially when we spent more than 5 minutes for photography, but she surely has lots of knowledge.

I enjoyed asking her about politics and the world economy of China, and the other international relations that China has with the world, political conspiracy theories and other political stuffs. She was more than happy to share this with me since she knows a lot. And surprisingly, it seems her information were quite accurate.


The wonderful people of our tour group
SPRING AND SAKURA

During half of the trip, the flowers finally bloom. Sakura was everywhere, pink, red and white. Subhanallah such an amazing sight! We enjoyed watching the flowers and just embraced the beautiful sights.






Here are some tips before you visit Beijing, or China

1. Find a good and reliable travel agent. Make sure all your needs are met. The agents can be a little disrespectful, so stand your ground.

2. Take the time to learn some basic Mandarin. I studied for weeks through Youtube, reading a book, asking a Chinese friend to correct my pronunciation. It helped me to bargain for shopping and also to speak to the locals, asking for directions.

3. Always have a Chinese-English dictionary with you. In case you have no clue how to pronounce the words, the least you can do is show the word to the locals.

4. If going with an agent, beware of them constantly changing the itineraries without consulting you. Do negotiate with them diplomatically as they can be quite harsh and rough.

5. If following a tour with the agents, be sure that they will bring you to their local government shops. If you feel like spending, do so, but if you don't want to, the choice is totally yours. Do not feel pressured or intimidated by the agent, to buy anything.

6. Please check the weather before you fly. It is really important to come prepared. Bring enough warm clothes for cold weathers and other necessities.

7. If traveling by public transport, do pay attention to your stop. Each station sounds similar, thus may create confusion.

8. Do if possible travel light if you are using the public transport. Bring sturdy walking shoes as there will be lots and lots of walking when visiting China.

9. Always know the name of the place that you are staying at. If possible have the business card of the hotel as the Chinese may not understand your pronunciation. Also because the card will have the address of the hotel.

10. Be prepared of the huge crowd. There are millions of people living in China. Even when visiting a park on a weekday, there will still be huge crowds of people. The throng of people can cause some annoyance, but have patience and do not let this hamper your mood.

11. If you are a Muslim visiting China, please google (if not following an agent) the Masjids and halal restaurants. There are a few halal restaurants in China where you can enjoy nice Chinese cuisines.

12. For Muslims, do be prepared to bring an empty bottle every time you go to the toilet. There are no water pipes in the cubicles, so you must take water from the sink before you do your business.

13.  Do take the time to study about the historical places of China. It is really worth understanding the history of the places that you will visit.

14. Shopping in China is wonderful as some of their stuffs are way cheaper than other countries. Their thermal clothes, winter clothes are reasonable and way cheaper than Malaysia. But do beware of some items being so cheap because they may contain dangerous chemicals.

If you have any additional info, do not hesitate to add in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
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