Anxiety

Continued from here.

July had been busy, like it has always been since I started working. This year’s July, the annual travel was planned just right after the annual deadline at work, instead of around October.

Having not been travelling overseas since October 2015 and not doing as much research as I would normally do, I was actually quite nervous on the travelling day. A lot of thoughts were hanging in my head that I prayed more than I ever did before.

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The 6 month passport expiring period fell on the day I would be flying back to Malaysia (if I counted the “6 month” definition correctly). I thought it would be just fine, until the moment when we were about to board the plane from KLIA2 bound for Haneda. The airport security staff reminded me that my passport would be invalid in 8 days. I nodded knowingly, until the moment it struck me that we would be in Japan for 9 days. I prayed that I would be fine.

While trying to catch some sleep on our flight to Haneda, I just remembered that I had not checked in our flights to Sapporo the next morning. I had not even printed our flight itineraries. I would normally always had all the printed papers in my file but decided to “save some trees” by having them on soft copy. Hence, forgetting to print the most important papers of all – my flight itinerary. Again, I prayed that I would be fine.

All the way to Haneda I could not really sleep. Lessons learned – it was better to be safe than having to worry during travelling.

My immigration process went through. I am in Japan! Alhamdulillah.

Our original planned time of landing in Narita, Tokyo was early in the morning of 30 July. The re-routed flight left us in Haneda, Tokyo late at night. There we were in the middle of the night at the airport, waiting to board our next flight early the next morning.

Unfortunately, the international terminal was pretty crowded for an airport at such wee hours. Probably because it was a summer weekend. Imagine if one person took 4 seats to catch his sleep, how many seats left for the rest?

After killing time walking around the lively airport in the middle of the night (lively with people, but the shops were closed), we settled at one of the seats nearby the praying room. That was immediately after a person taking the 4 seats left. The rest of the unfortunate passengers settled on the cold floor of the airport.

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Our checking in of ANA flight to Sapporo the next morning was also smooth. There was nobody at the check-in counter and immigration. After showing my flight confirmation numbers from my mobile phone, boarding passes were printed and we boarded the plane safely. All is well. So far.

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つづく

Vacation

It was not that long ago that the regular girls who were always on budget trips every year, went for our first vacation together. As one of our mutual friends (whom we knew out of our love for travelling) managed to get a discount at a Taj Hotel, we grabbed the opportunity and off we went for our girls-only vacation in Langkawi.

Located in less than 10-minute boat ride from Cenang jetty, Rebak Island is a private island housing Rebak Island Resort. It was probably my first kind of vacation (no family involved), so budget was not the main concern this time. Well, it was my concern but had to close eyes for this rare trip.

I was probably went so jakun the first time we reached the island by boat. Everything was well taken care off by the resort staff – the luggage was transited before we boarded the small boat up to the room. Welcome drinks. Golf cart service. Things that seem luxurious if I was on my usual travel.

But then, it was a nice pleasure to go for a vacation for unwinding and pampering one’s self. Of course it should not be regular, perhaps once in a blue moon?

 

4 Seasons in a Day

A continuation from the previous entry.

The weather at the end of winter, like any part of Victoria was unpredictable. On our first day after touching down at Melbourne airport, the sun showed up for a split second, just enough time for us to drive to Anglesea and walk to the Split Point Light House. Then it rained in torrents, leaving us running for shelter in the windy and cold afternoon. Not prepared for that kind of weather, I put on layers and layers as I did not bring my winter coat. On other times, the sun hid behind the cotton grey clouds. In my thin and wet shirt, I came to realise what the Australians meant by having 4 seasons in a day.

On our morning walk at Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Walk, the weather was cold and cloudy. The small town was practically empty, with a few locals having finished their services at the small church, whilst a few were walking their dogs on the well-maintained pavement. The residential properties facing the sea were empty, most probably because these were only “vacation houses” of the riches and it was not even summer. Some were put up for sales. Some were turned into guest houses. I could not help dreaming of building beautiful houses like these to grow old in.

Well, dreaming is free. Building a house is not.

En route to the famous 12 Apostles, we stumbled upon Princetown Camping Ground in the middle of nowhere with a breathtaking untouched view. There was nobody in sight. The weather was chilly but the view was so serene, just us and the dancing grass.

With that view, without a doubt, I could spend a night under the starry sky. We could make a camp fire, sing a song or two, to our hearts’ desire.

Penning Down on Phnom Penh

A continuation from my previous entries.

Travelling from a touristy town of Siem Reap and a sleepy town of Kampong Cham to the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh seemed too developed, noisy and busy. The moment we stepped out of the bus, we were crowded by the locals offering a ride on their motorcycles and tuktuk. I did not understand how they thought the two of us with our big backpacks could ride on their bikes. We initially thought of walking to the hostel that we have booked for a couple of nights but we could not get our bearings right. So we agreed of taking a tuktuk that cost about USD3.

The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

After having our lunch at the nearby KFC, we went to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center by a tuktuk that we have arranged with the hostel. It costed USD15 for a round trip for a 30 minute journey. Visiting the killing field, it was impossible to imagine how a Cambodian could ever kill (or think about killing) another Cambodian, all in the name of an ideology, or a utopia.

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On our way home, our tuktuk driver left us at the mosque as we thought it would be easy to find halal restaurants at the mosque area.

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There were in fact plenty of halal eateries but we stopped at this decent place selling halal local food. This bowl of noodle soup costs USD1.50 and fulfilling it was on that tiring first night in Phnom Penh.

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Day Tour

We started the next day with cafe hopping, at Pheapbol’s Brewhouse – Vimol Thoam Thong Street. It was only within walking distance to the royal palace, hence we took our time having our sips of coffee.

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The rest of our day was spent by making a few stops for photos around town at other touristy places, thanks to our tuktuk driver. He even dropped us at the Russian market and expected us, like any other female tourists he brought, to spend at least a few hours shopping. We came back at the spot where we agreed to meet after less than an hour, only to find him sleeping in his hammock. We should have told him earlier that we just did not like shopping.

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I do not find many people falling in love with this place but how I was glad that the two of us made the trip happened. It was an eye opening and I’ve heard people comparing it with other nearby cities like Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok. For some reason, it was great to see the past of what Cambodia was like a few centuries ago at the museums, to what it has become today. Of course, there are so much history can teach us.

The charm of Kampong Cham

A continuation from my previous entry.

We initially planned to spend half of our Cambodia trip in Siem Reap, another half in Phnom Penh and on a sleeping bus in between. But then I got chickened out from what I read on the internet about the drive on a sleeping bus, what with the potholes, the speed of the drivers and the high chance of bus broke down in the middle of the journey. So we decided to include a night stay in Kampong Cham as our transit.

We took an early bus from Siem Reap and arrived at Kampong Cham at noon. We were the only foreigners at what appeared as a bus terminal (bus terminals in Cambodia differ depending on your bus operators and they are normally a shop lot or nearby a pump station).

The first thing to do when arriving at a new place is getting my bearing right. The bus dropped us a pump station, unlike what I had imagined when I studied the map, so we tried asking a few locals but nobody spoke English. I started doubting our decision of staying at that small town.

As our lodging was located in front of the Mekong river, we navigated our way towards the river and found the first foreigner on a bicycle smiling at us. At that time, it was comforting to see a fellow tourist/traveller. We then found Moon River Guesthouse & Restaurant where we paid USD10 per night for a really small room. When we arrived, there were other foreigners nestled at the restaurant. So I guess this was where the tourists resided.

Choosing a place to stay in Kampong Cham was not a heavy task as there were not much choices found on the internet. It would probably be easier to just scout for a room there and then and you would end up at cheaper rooms.

After taking some rest in our small-but-dirt-cheap room, the guesthouse staff got us a local tuktuk driver to bring us around town. He first brought us to French tower overlooking Mekong river. It was not that tall but I happened to have a phobia of height and the stairs were so narrow I could really see the ground. So I braced myself to only go half of the tower and watched Huda going to the top of the tower – with no view at the top.

Our tuktuk driver then brought us to a local Muslim village where the villagers were excited seeing our faces. They sent a few villagers who had worked in Malaysia to meet us and welcomed us.

 

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The French Tower

 

Interestingly there were 2 mosques in that small one-road village. We understood that there were different preferences on the imams, hence the villagers were praying in 2 different mosques for Friday prayers.

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We was then brought to another Muslim village, a temple and around town to see how different people were living their lives. It seemed very much like a communist country, where the rich owned mansions while the poor barely had enough food to last for the day.

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Our tuktuk driver brought us to a small halal food stall, and feeling not so hungry, we bought a pack of chicken rice. We left it for a while in our guesthouse room and after an hour or so, ants were all over the pack. So, out we went that night to search for food.

Even though this town is famous for being the centre of the Muslim community in Cambodia, it was not easy to find halal stall. While we were walking to a nearby restaurant that I read had a Muslim cook, we found a girl clad in hijab sitting at a cafe with another guy who we later found out was the owner of the cafe. It was such a rare sight at that part of a country, so we just had to stop and smile to the stranger.

The girl was happened to be a solo traveller from Singapore and I was immediately interested to find out more about her travel. So we joined her at the table and talked until the restaurant closed. I guess that chance encounter reminded me of why I travel the way I travel recently. I tend to be more comfortable travelling in small groups and meet new people along the way, perhaps one day I should start my solo travelling and just go without any proper planning. We exchanged contacts before parting (well, “contacts” in this age may means Instagram accounts) and left feeling inspired more than ever.

Kampong Cham turned out to be sweet and inspiring. Who knows what Huda thought of our stay but I wish I could stay longer at that small and friendly town.

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While waiting for our outbound bus to Phnom Penh, I managed to complete a draw of that girl in a white dress who looked at me and smile as if she wanted to strike a conversation but was just too afraid because I did not seem to speak her language.

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Where we waited for our bus.

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Photos taken by Huda with her GoPro.

That Well Thought Plan

Having to do my own research about my past trips to both Korea and Japan, I must say Japan is much harder than the former. If I could compare those two to guy types, Korea is like that friendly-but-humble guy everyone wants to be his friend, whereas Japan is that mysterious-yet-interesting guy you want to find out more.

My experience with Japan was not as perfect as I would like it to be. My memory of Japan in 2013 mainly consist of crowded places and lots of rushing here and there. Whatever zen I experienced was when I went to the Tokyo Imperial Palace and when I was strolling alone on Kyoto’s streets.

I thought I could have a second Japan time, and a meaningful one. I also thought that I had enough of the metropolitan cities of Honshu, so I was eyeing for the least inhabited island of Hokkaido.

So I booked an Air Asia X ticket sometime in July 2015 to Narita Airport, Tokyo with the hope to transit via one of the budget airlines to Hokkaido. At the time of my flight booking, Narita, the lesser busiest airport after Haneda has just been made a hub for budget airlines to domestic airport around Japan. With the government initiative, they wanted to promote Haneda, which is nearer to the city as the gate for international travellers, hence, most international flights are landing in Haneda. I was given the option between Narita and Haneda when I bought the ticket and chose Narita because of the cheaper transit purpose.

A couple of weeks later, Air Asia hinted its new route and subsequently (or rather, unwelcomingly) announced its inaugural flight to Sapporo. To make it worse, they re-routed their flights from Narita to Haneda, which changed my arrival time from a Saturday morning to a Saturday midnight. My initial plan was all messed up.

If I could be given a choice to travel to Hokkaido from Kuala Lumpur, I would have chosed a straight flight that could have saved my budget and time. Now, I have spent more for that domestic flight between Tokyo and Hokkaido and an additional day worth of annual leave.

Sometimes, buying a flight ticket too much in advance has its disadvantage.

UEM Charity Run 2016

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It’s interesting sometimes to run on a deserted highway that would otherwise be full of motor vehicles bumper to bumper everyday. I bet other non-participating road users were cursing that the NKVE was closed from Shah Alam to Bukit Lanjan last Sunday.

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UEM Charity Run 2016, organised by United Engineers Malaysia Berhad for its 50th year anniversary was a very organised and neat one. First, the race kit collection at Shah Alam Stadium was smooth, especially pertaining to discerning information about the venue of the event. Being a rare venue at PLUS Persada (NKVE Subang Toll Exit), runners were particularly concerned about where to park as most of them were not familiar with the place.

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The 12km category was flagged off on time at 6.30 am and as the dawn prayer was quite late nowadays, I was 10 minutes late to start. To make it worse, I was about to start my race when I realised that I forgot my running bip with its timing chip. This is the second time it happened.

 

The route was pretty boring, with no wind and scenery to make me divert my thinking. Well, what else to say, it was an 8-lane highway. It was only about an hour after the start of the run that the sun finally showed up.

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Overall, kudos to the organisers and the volunteers who ensured of having a smooth event. It was. Sometimes, it’s the organisers that make a run a pleasant one. And what better way to celebrate the post run then having a sinful nasi lemak with ayam goreng at Oasis Damansara.

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