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Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter travel 2010 - The Balkans (briefing)

For a student like me, the best time for travelling or just lazing around is the semester breaks. I've been travelling around the central and eastern part of europe since 2006, visited about 15 countries in 4 years.

It's the ugly truth that travelling needs a lot of money and time, but it's the experience which is crucial in this case because once you started to work, it's hard to get even a day-off for anything. Undeniably true that going back home to family is better for some of them, but I beg to differ. I just don't think that I should restrict my mind from reaching out the world.

OK, enough with the junk.

So it's my last winter break and I'm most probably not gonna have another winter anymore. I planned my trip, and this time it's the Balkan countries.

The Balkans aka southern-eastern Europe consists of countries including Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Romania, Romania, and Turkey.

So the plan of travel this time is so :

- We started off with Istanbul, Turkey. Not a place that amazed me, but it's a great city with alot of astonishing stuff and cunning people, but less cunning than the egyptians.

- Then we took a turkish train to Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I loved this place because it's peaceful and alot more like a European country. It's a small city that consists of 5 hills which made up the old town (previously was 7, 2 were flattened to be developed). Beautiful houses on the old town and very medieval kinda style. Loved it!

- The next day we rode on a train to Veliko Turnovo(VT),Bulgaria, which we luckily met Desi who helped us alot in our trip from VT to Bucharest. VT's a medieval town which is on 3 hills with big valleys. There's a big medieval fortress called Tsarevets which was really old but beautiful and well-preserved. We spent a day-trip there in VT. VT is still one of our favourite town amongst.

- We spent the night on train to Bucharest, Romania. Bucharest had left nothing but great memories with our hosts - Claudia and Stefan, and the shopping spree in AFI Palace. It's not that Bucharest itself offered nothing but it wasn't as impressive as the other capitals in the southeast Europe. The parliment was gigantic though :-)

- Next destination was Brasov, Romania. This city was impressive, in terms of landscape, natural surrounding and architecture. Then we took a bus ride to Bran to see the infamous Dracula's castle (the Bran's castle).

- Then we caught a train running to Sighisoara, Romania. It's a lovely peaceful town with the most medieval style of building I've ever seen after Tallinn, Estonia.

- We took a 10 hours train from Bucharest to Sofia, Bulgaria. It wasn't a good ride, the train was dreadful as we had to sit for 10 hours in the train, and my toilettries and medical kit got stolen by a gypsy. Luckily there was this good couple who helped out. If it wasn't because of them, my backpack, laptop, all important documents would have been stolen. Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria, wasn't as modern as you could imagine. But the national theatre was beautiful!

- The last stop of our trip was Thessaloniki, Greece. Indeed a nice place for a good rest and I wanna be a greek guy too. They're so goodlooking!!! Wild life, freedom, and open-minded place. Plus, the sea was clean. Too bad it was raining when we went there.\

The Balkans is certainly a good place to travel. Accomodation wise we did couchsurfing. So it really saved up alot of accomodation fee + met alot of nice people along way.

What's couchsurfing? Check it out here!


Monday, June 29, 2009

Group outing : Picnic in the park

Efenem in his ngeh-hek-hek time

I forgot when was the last time we had a group outing. But it seemed to be a long time ago. Basically because everyone was busy with their own "private" lives.

-Uncle is a family guy, keeps refreshing his blogstats every minute to see how many viewers visit his blog.
-Nantha is an indian head, and is restricted to mix with us.
-Ieja has too much shopping to do, too many people to visit.
-Rose has too many guys to flirt with, too much shopping to do as well.
-Faiz has to run his blogs, his MSA-stuff, running to-and-fro the Deans office.
-Fadzli is simply just carefree.....very very carefree.
-I am, however, don't know what am I busy with, just feel very very busy.

So finally, after our gynaecology cycle we suggested to have an outing since we would be having a few days of holidays after that.

The weather had been a JERK. One day it's hot as hell, another day was cold, the next day rainy...just unpredictable. We'd to use weather forecast to plan which day to go.

We prepared some food for our lovely picnic.
-curry chicken
-rendang chicken
-fried noodles
-egg and tuna sandwiches
-Sprite-pineapple juice mix for drinks

Just to name a few (or that's all?)

So we rode on bus to get to the other side of the park, spreaded open the straw mat, and started to eat. Food was delicious!!! Too bad no time for taking pics of food though. We got forgetful when we all saw the food.

Rose being hostile to Nantha
Rose : I'll spit on you if you kept talking.
Nantha : Hmmh! Like I care~

Weather was chilly. But that didn't stop us from having great fun. Fadzli brought volleyball. So after eating we played volleyball, dodgeball, football, monkey etc.

There was also some canine-camp going on. We could see beautiful (and some ugly ones) running around with their owners. Luckily none of us stepped on dog poo.

Efenem : Nge-nge-nge the ball is mine

We then shifted our site to a place nearer to a football field where we all played football. Then I came up with the idea of playing "3-2-1 Red light!" after we were tired with balls. Since none of them played before during their childhood, I had to teach them LOL.

We called that "AEIOU" though. So the rule is one has to read AEIOU in a distant and the others have to move to touch him when he's chanting. When he's done chanting, and turns around, no one is allowed to move at all. If one moved, he's outta the game.

Ok, so what happens if one touched the guy? He had to run as far as possible away from him until he's finished with the AEIOU. The AEIOU guy has to try his best to catch the naughty boy in 3 steps, large or small he decides for himself in order to catch. If caught, the naughty boy would be outta the game. If not, he escaped, and the guy has to catch another one.

Just very childish game...but fun!



Wah! Still so far~

Ieja : Ergh~
Uncle : I can see you~
Fadzli : Teeeheee~

Uncle in action!

Efenem : My turn now, nyah nyah nyah, Ah-Eh-Ih-Oh-Uh!

I of course took some photos for edits.

And lastly, before heading back home, we saw the cutest thing ever on Earth.

A HUSKY named Andiosha? Adriana? ....I forgot >o<

Adorable right?

Shut up if you've seen a better one!!!!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Expedition : Shatki

*Photos at the end of the entry*

Wow it's been a while since my last entry. So I'm gonna blog about many things (if there's any) from now on.

Exams were difficult. But now I'm free, perhaps too free. That's why I blog.

So I'm gonna tell about my expedition to a small city called "Shatki", which is one of cities of Nizhegorodskiy region. It's situated next to Arzamas, another great city with numerous amazing cathedrals.

Sergey invited me to join this expedition. He asked his friend, Galina to allow me to go because he knew that I could take good pictures for an exhibition. He told me that usually people who wanna join must pay 2000 roubles. I, till now, don't get why people would join this kinda activity.

The journey to Shatki was far, I forgot how long it took to get there. But it was ass-painful far. But it's actually called "near" to the russians because, pfff RUSSIA IS SO BIGGG!!! I thought it was far because I was from the little Malaysia.

The expedition was meant for an exhibition about the heritage places around the Nizhegorodskiy region that have been forgotten by the generation X and generation Y.

My expedition was about a Municipal hospital that existed from 1895-1995. It's more like a combination of hospital and rehabilitation centre. The hospital was surrounded by a huge park with abundance of floras, ranging from food to medicine.

But now it's just a piece of wasteland like jungle. It was kinda creepy when we reached there. The weather changed. Gloomy and rainy. You know, like the House on Haunted Hill. There's even a graveyard of the owner of the park!!!! Which really creeped me out~

However the air was fresh after the shower stopped. In the park, there were 5 lakes interconnected by pipes to prevent them from overflowing that might just flood all the sick patients away. But nowadays, the pipes were stuck, I guess. So one lake had a higher water level than the other one which was almost dried up. It's like, you look to your left, you're hydrophobic; look to your right, you're acrophobic.

They even had their own sauna there. But it's closed now.

But it's a great natural park where people could rest their minds.

Below are pictures that I took during the expedition. Some of the pictures will be shown during the exhibition and will be published on the website, which I've forgotten the website (will keep you guys updated anyway).

Really, really old glass


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Just for Laughs

I received this forwarded email from my little sister. It's just hilarious. LOL.




I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this true?

Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a MIXED GRILL can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

Aren't fried foods bad for you?

YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!!... Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger.. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Is chocolate bad for me?

Are you crazy? HELLO. Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Is swimming good for your figure?

If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about
food and diets.

And remember:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to
skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO, What a Ride"




Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Wesak Day

Wesak Day was yesterday and I, for the first time, decided to attend the weekly Buddhist gathering at the 1st hostel.

It's been such a long time since I chanted. Yunci, the cute freshlady who's the leader of the group invited to attend since the last semester. But somehow I couldn't manage to attend, reasons were wake up late and early outing.

So back to the story, I attended together with Willy, Murphy, Shuyu, Justin Tan, Su Wei just to name a few. We were supposed to prepare food to share, but I didn't know about this until the night before going.

Willy and I planned to cook something but after a while, Willy told me we just go for it without food.

On that day, we chanted for god knows how long, but I was sure that it was long.....LOL Perhaps I haven't been chanting for a long time, but I always lose patience while chanting is going on. HAHAHA and my stomach started to growl like thunder clap inside.

After the chants, we watched a BBC's documentary about Siddharta Gautama's life story and teachings. Then it was time for makan-makan~ Yay!

Oh yes, also it's a tradition for us to bathe the Buddha with flower water. Back in our place, we have fragrant water with little flower petals in the water. After bathing the Buddha, we must take a packet of the water to bathe at home.

But here we didn't have the particular perfume for the water, and the flower petals here were hard. The petals stuck on the Buddha's head.

The purpose of bathing the Buddha was to cleanse away our sins, 3 times.

The place was nicely decorated by Kheng Huat, Yunci and company. Kudos to them though because it's hard to get resources from here.

I was happy to be religious and be a vegetarian for at least one day. I would attend for the next few meetings if I could make it at 9am.

Plus the food they prepared was delicious!!!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day Two - Hot and cold

On the second day, I decided to bring my friends to the Tsarkoe Selo (coz not everyone knows well about St. Petes other than Denis and I).

The initial plan was to go to Peterhof . But unfortunately Peterhof will start to operate only in May. So the plan B (cheh~) was to visit Tsarkoe Selo.

Tsarkoe Selo (Царское Село) was one of the beautiful suburb of St. Petersburg. It used to be the summer residence for the nobility but now it's a museum for peasants (I meant us).

I've been wanting to visit this place so much because I didn't have enough time to spend in this palace during my first visit to SPB.

Zhenya, who came from Moscow joined us to go to the Tsarskoe Selo, though he told me that nothing's much there to see before. Heeeeheee......Zhenya is my skype friend for almost 4 years and this was the first time we met up.

We took an intracity train aka Elektrichka by the russians. The trip to the destination wasn't long.

In the Elektrichka with Zhenya and Rose.

After arriving, instead of taking a bus or a minibus, Denis suggested to WALK again and saying that "it's not so far, about 1.5km". It was about freaking 4km away from the railway station!!!

We didn't go into the palace as soon as we reached there, but instead we took a long walk around the lake till the Catherine Park.

Denis and Zhenya resting while I was making some photos and doing something as below........

Catherine Park panarama

After a looooooong walk around the freaking huge lake, we reached the palace and there was a huge number of people queuing up to enter the palace.

Most of us were kinda reluctant to go in because of the long queue. Plus we could see a better one in The Hermitage. But Denis managed to persuade us to go in. He especially outlined the "Amber Room" inside which were kinda pretty.

Funny to me to think about, why were there so many halls in the palace and where did the Tsars and Tsarinas slept at? And all halls were connected by only one path. Sucks to be in the Royal family. I wonder if there's a secret passage like shown in the Disney cartoon "Anastasia", where she escaped the mayhem.

The day was so FUCKING HOT!!! That's how we got our perfect sun tan. Even Rose got her legs rested while waiting for the long queue to move an inch. The authorities allowed only certain numbers of visitors to enter at a time.

Long queue which took us about an hour (or maybe more) to get in

Guest room - Efenem called this as "show off"

Another show off, irregular dining table with custom-made tablecloth

The Amber room - Amber was one of the precious jewellery back then

Denis' shadow in the Amber room, shot secretly by me because it was not allowed to take pictures in that room.

Apparently, Catherine the Great had GREAT boobs too.

After getting out from the palace, we were again WALKING back to the railway station. Rose were starting to feel pain in her legs after lots of walking in the boots with high heels. The 2 russians didn't get the hint at first. So we had to explain about who and why and how and when and what happened. We asked Rose to take off the boots and we carried her on our backs. Then we found a footwear shop and went in to let her buy a pair of sandals. Everything got back to normal after that, she resumed her walking. Then Zhenya hailed a minibus and we got in and rode till the railway station. Good thing that he hailed one though, if not.....urgh~

In the train, there were many people sitting. Only a few seats were available, so we all were standing in front of the carriage. Then slowly number of people got lesser as the train stopped at different places.

At night, we decided to go out to see one of the drawbridges to open. Plus, Nantha had the urge to go out at night to walk since the first day.

We walked along the Admiralty Street till the center of the city, where the Winter Palace and The Hermitage were situated. We found lots of restaurants along the way, but unfortunately financial restricted us from going in.

When we reached the center, I brought my fellow friends to the Shaurma shop that I found during the last visit. It was cheap and affordable, tasty and tummy-filling.

Then we walked to the Palace Square to snap some nightshots, of us and of the palace.

To see the drawbridge to open, we had to wait until 1.30am. So we lingered around the palace square, then sat on the bench beside the palace and wait.

It was FREAKING COLD and windy, and IT WAS NO JOKE!

We all curled up to stay warm. Rose sat on Nantha's lap *tssk tssk*, then on Faiz's. Ieja was sitting with me because we had brought scarves and I brought gloves. But those didn't prevent the cold wind from blowing down the spine.

Then I felt the cold and apparently they felt worse. So I laid myself on their laps though not getting laid myself. They got the warmth from me and I felt like a proud daddy.

Travel buses arrived near the bridge one after another. We knew that it was almost time for the bridge to open. So we went there.

Yay!~ (What's the big deal anyway?)

After that, we walked back to our hostel along the famous Nevsky Prospekt. Eventhough it was as late as 2am, the street was still busy with cars, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians. We felt no threat walking at night.

That's when Efenem formulated his famous quote "This is not Russia!"

FUCKING HOT and FREAKING COLD were written in capital letters to coincide my title of the blog.

-End of Day Two-