A Travellerspoint blog

Hello Sri Lanka!

sunny

Have not even thought of going to Sri Lanka until I joined my company trip there recently. Albeit some hiccups here and there in the tour, our group of 19 people enjoyed it nonetheless. In fact I think only our group out of the 10 groups enjoyed the trip the most. Contributing factors maybe because there were a lot of fun personalities and jokers in it :p

Our trip started when our captain of the group gave us all a morning call at 4am to reach the company on time. The bus was scheduled to depart to the airport at 5.30am. ... yawn ... Reached the airport and met with our tour guide, checked in and off we go on a 3 hours flight to Sri Lanka on Sri Lankan Airlines.

We reached there around 10.30am (Sri Lanka time) and were greeted by our Sri Lanka guide. They welcome us by giving each of us a fresh flower garland. Outside the airport, the weather was hot, similar to the weather in Malaysia. Along the highway, it felt quite similar to the sceneries along the highway to the north or south of Malaysia. Felt like home except for the difference of food and people there.

We stopped at a local restaurant 'Lemongrass' for lunch and started our city tour immediately after. We passed by some...no... a lot of Buddha statues around the town. Not too surprising since 70% of their population are Buddhist.

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Went to the Independence Square and passed by some other buildings, monuments and Pettah market. Pettah market somehow feels similar to the Masjid India or is it Majid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. A lot of cheap stuffs can be found here. Some shops I saw, they are selling saris, household goods and toys. After our city tour, we checked in to our hotel for the night, Global Towers Hotel. This hotel has an amazing view of the sea and railways beside it. Dinner was buffet of a variety of Indian dishes, curry, dhal and other food cooked in spices.

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The next morning, we departed from the hotel to Kandy, a lovely town about 3 hours bus ride away. Along the way, we stopped by at the cashew nut stalls, fruits stalls and a spice garden. Their coconut drink is nice.

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After lunch, we went to the temple of tooth. There was a cultural performance with the attraction of it was the part where they performed with fire and walk on hot fire walkway.

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Then the beginning of our nightmare when we went inside the temple to catch a glimpse of the sacred tooth. The sacred tooth was kept inside a small room and only open for viewing for a certain period of time. By the time we went in there, the place was packed to the brim filled with all kinds of people waiting to catch a glimpse of the sacred tooth. After a minutes of pushing and waiting, me and one of my colleague decided to get out of the place not wanting to wait for the tooth any longer. Luckily for us that we got out early as I heard from my other colleagues who waited for the viewing of the tooth that the people started pushing when the sacred tooth door open. All wanted to see the tooth but some were not able to as the container that contain the tooth was so shinning bright in gold that all they could see was a shinning gold thing. The viewing we waited for was at 7pm, so if you do not intend to see the tooth, you can come at an earlier time to avoid the crowd. Entrance to the temple was at 1000 rupees. After an eventful day, we checked in to our hotel at Oak Ray Regency. This hotel rooms are spacious, even the corridor between the hotel rooms are spacious. One could even do a somersault across to the other rooms...no kidding.

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Early the third morning, we started our day by shopping at 'Isini Gems' just across our hotel. These gems are really beautiful and most of my colleagues had bought something in there. I didn't bought anything as it was too expensive. Price range from 50 USD and above. My colleagues bought one blue sapphire for USD1000, one pink sapphire for USD1200. There are also colleagues who managed to bargain the price for 38USD for 4 different gems. It all depends on what type of gems and quality that you want to purchase.
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The wood carvings is right next to the Isini gems store. We almost spent half a day in these shops alone. Only after that we departed to the tea plantation at Mackwoods.

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Along the way we stopped by for lunch at Tea Rhamboda where there is a platform with a great view. Be prepared as the roads are winding. At the tea plantation, we were given a briefing on the processing of the tea leaves. We were treated to a nice cup of tea and moist chocolate cake amidst the cooling weather.

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Next stop was Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka 'Little England' as they say. We went for a boat ride on the lake there. The weather was very cold there. After that, we began our arduous journey of 6 hours back to Colombo. The road was winding on the way down and some of my colleagues felt unwell. Luckily no one in our group threw up. However, on some part of the journey, some were even energetic enough to sing songs and DANCE in the bus! Entertaining it was, I dozed off amidst the loud Hindi songs and their dancing in the narrow walkway of the bus. The bus stopped at a shop along the way for us to buy some foods to fill our hungry stomachs. Finally reached our hotel in Colombo at 11pm (Sri Lanka time) and had our late late dinner.

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Our last day in Sri Lanka was filled with more shopping. Went to the 'Barefoot' which sells hand woven products, another gems shop, Noritake shop and lastly a shopping mall there. 2014-09-01_15_23_08.jpg We even had the chance to experience the tuk tuk ride there which was scary as the tuk tuk manuevered its way through the other vehicles on the road. Finished all money and finally we departed to the airport for our flight back home. Even there was a lot to shop in the airport. After the imigration, the shops there only accepts currency in USD. So better be prepared in hand some USD currencies or you'll be like me who need to borrow some USD from colleagues to shop...

Overall for my trip to Sri Lanka, I felt blessed that I was put in this Group E, we had a great Sri Lanka tour guide, Mr Asangka and our Malaysian tour guide Ms Jocelyn. Thanks for the tour guides patience in managing us and trying your best to accommodate all our wishes. You did a great job! Wonderful memories of this trip and can't wait for the next one! Stuti (which means thank you in Sri Lankan) and Ayubowan (May you have a long life in Sri Lankan)

Posted by puileng 22:30 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Conquering Mount Kinabalu

sunny 2 °C

I just came back from climbing the highest mountain in Malaysia, Mountain Kinabalu in Sabah. This was my second attempt to climb to the highest peak of the mountain and with lots of help from my mountain guide, Mr Suhaldin who's 35, I finally made it this time. No words could express my gratitude to Din who helped and encouraged me throughout my climb to the peak. During the final 2 km of the climb, he helped carried my backpack, took my hand and guided me up all the way to the top.

My journey started when we (me, my aunt and my cousin) finally landed at Kota Kinabalu airport on 14 July 2014 after a detour to Labuan airport due to heavy rain in Kota Kinabalu airport. We landed at Kota Kinabalu airpot around 12.30pm, two hours after the original scheduled landing time. We checked into Promenade Hotel in the town area. After freshening up ourselves, we wandered around the town area shopping and eating the seafood there which was very fresh and cheap compared to those sold in Kuala Lumpur. Night time was spent unpacking and packing our clothes in preparation for our trip to the mountain.

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The following day, we began our journey to Kinabalu Park around 1pm and reached around 3.30pm. We stopped by a market along the way. A must try is their pineapple, which was so sweet and juicy….yummy. We registered ourselves at the Kinabalu Park headquarter and checked into our lodge for the night, Peak Lodge 1. The place has a hearth in the middle of the living room, a kitchen, two rooms, a bathroom and a fantastic view of the Kinabalu mountain. We attended the briefing at 6pm at the Liwagu Basement and proceeded to the Balsam Restaurant for our dinner.

I was staying in a room with my aunt and my cousin was staying in another room. We left our room door ajar to let some lights in while we were sleeping. Close to midnight, the door suddenly closed on its own and the two of us who were half asleep had this conversation. Aunt: “Think it’s the wind that closes the door”. Me: “Aunty, you just closed the window before sleeping. Where does the wind comes from?”….silent…..

Anyway, back to our climb the next morning. We headed out to the Kinabalu Park Headquarter to get our tags, sticks (rent at RM10 per stick) and met with our guide, Mr Suhaldin. We called him Din. RM11 per kg for the porter to carry our bags up. After our breakfast and getting our packed lunch, we proceeded to the start of the trail at Timpohon Gate. There was also another woman porter with us who was carrying one of our luggage. She leaded the way and we followed. The guide was behind us. The three of us started off happily along the trail around 8.30am and Din finally caught up with us at 2km after given us a head start. Around the third km, I was walking alone as I couldn’t catch up with my aunt and cousin. Luckily the guide was behind me and caught up with me once in awhile to check on me. The trail although not as much to see as Mesilau Trail but beautiful and scenic nonetheless. Along the way, I chatted with the hikers climbing down and follow others who were also on their way up to Laban Rata. I finally made it to Laban Rata around 2.30pm. My aunt and cousin reached Laban Rata around 1.15pm.

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We rested and waited at Laban Rata guesthouse until the dinner started at 4.30pm. One can of 100 plus up at Laban Rata costed RM10.50 but for the effort it took for the porters to bring the food and drinks up there, this is the money that I'm very willing to pay. After we finished our dinner, we proceeded another 200m up to our stay for the night at Panar Laban Hut 1. It was a dorm with six beds. The three of us were sharing the room with three other hikers from Denmark. The washroom was outside of the room and you could imagine us going out in the cold to relieve ourselves. Quite an experience I must say, especially if you have to go during the dark and cold windy night.

We shut out the lights at 6.30pm and try to get some sleep. However, I couldn’t slept well the whole night. The wind outside was blowing so strongly and I scared it would blew away our small little hut. We woke up at 1.30am to prepare ourselves for the final stretch of the climb to the peak.

Din met with us at our lodge and we started our climb to the peak at 2.30am. The journey up was dark, windy and lots of hikers at the beginning of the trail. I climbed and I rested. Climbed again and rested again. The strong wind did not make it easier for us throughout the climb. I got exhausted due to the cold and strong wind. Sometimes I was on all four just to get myself up another step. And then I saw the stretch of the trail with rope and steep stone path. I remembered staring at the trail for awhile thinking “How am I going to get up there with that rope?”. Luckily, Din was beside me reassuring me that I could do it. He took my backpack and urged me to climb. At some point of the rope climb where I felt like I couldn’t climb up another step, Din was beside me and pulled me up. I realised from my last climb in 2008 and now that these mountain guides do not even need to pull the ropes to get themselves up there. I finally reached Sayat-Sayat Hut, the last checkpoint of the climb. After resting for awhile there, I gathered all my courage and energy to proceed with the last stretch of the climb to the peak. All I can say that it was not easy with the wind blowing against me as I climbed. I climbed a few steps and stopped to rest and it continued for another kilometres or so like that. Along the way, there was another guide who took my hand and walked with me the journey up. He left me where the slopes were not too steep. I continued with my stop, rest, breathe and crawl until Din reached me. He kept urging me to go and grabbed my hand to walk with him. It was easier when he walked and pulled me along but even with his help, I also needed to stop him and let me rest awhile to catch my breath. He stopped with me and after a few minutes urged me to go again. He said not to stop for too long as it will cool the body and make it harder for me to get going again. I proceeded after his small steps and kept thinking that I will reach the peak even if I have to crawl on all four to get up there. Din was very enthusiastic about getting me to see the sunrise up there to which I replied that I was happy enough even to reach the peak without seeing the sunrise. Finally after the 8 kilometres, we saw the peak but it was another of those ‘so near yet so far’ location. Another 500m to the peak. Walked with Din and finally managed to reach the bottom of the short climb to the peak. With no more energy left, Din pulled me up to the Lows Peak. My aunt was already waving at me from a distance before I reached there. My aunt was 57 years old and she had so much stamina. My aunt reached the peak at 5am, my cousin at 5.30am and me at 5.50am. I’m so happy to finally reached the peak that all tiredness was forgotten for awhile until we needed to climb back down. Arrghh!!!

I left my camera with Din who helped took most of the scenery photos up there as we began our descent back to Panar Laban Hut. The view was absolutely amazing and breathtaking. As we were going down, I was wondering how in the world we managed to climb up all the way.

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We finally reached Panar Laban Hut around 8.30am. Packed our bags and climbed 200m to Laban Rata Guesthouse for our breakfast. After our breakfast, we continued our descent of the mountain at 9.30am. We reached Timphon Gate at 1.45pm. Went back to the headquarters to get our certificates, our remaining luggage which we stored at the headquarters, had our late lunch and proceeded to our hotel in KK town.

All along the way of the climb and after it, I reminded myself not to do this again and has almost wanted to give up at many point of the climb to the peak. If not for the help of our guide, Mr Suhaldin, I would not have reached the peak. My heartiest and most grateful thanks to him if he is reading this. However after I was back home, I ached to go and do it all over again. Maybe next time through the Mesilau trail. Am I crazy???

Posted by puileng 01:01 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Macau

First thing I wanna say about this place is that is that it's hard to pay anything with a HKD1000 bill there. Hardly anyone accepts it except probably the banks and casinos there. So if you are exchanging notes hkd notes to Macau from your country, make sure you don't accept that big a bill too. Otherwise, you will end up looking for places to exchange your HKD1000 to small notes.

Overall it was an enjoyable trip with cooling weather. A lot of police presence during our trip there, making us feel a tad safe and secure. The only downside is the crowd in the city. Lots of people everywhere especially in tourist attractions area and casinos.

There was a lot of free shuttle buses from hotels, so we manage to save quite a bit on transportation using their shuttle buses to get to where we want to go.

From the airport, we took the Venetian shuttle bus to their hotel. Actually we were suppose to go to city of dreams but their shuttle bus from airport only starts operating at 11am. Anyway, the city of dreams is just opposite the venetian. The only problem is that we need to walk a much longer distance using the walkway provided instead of just walking to the opposite road. Better take the city of dreams buses next time. Their buses is purple in colour.

We deposited our luggage at city of dreams and then took another free shuttle to galaxy. And from galaxy we took free shuttles to Rua Da Cunha. This street is filled with lots of bakery, snacks and food.

Later at night, we watched an amazing performance at the house of dancing water theatre. This performance was packed with a lot of wow factor, It was a jaw dropping performance and I wouldn't mind to watch this show again.

After the performance, we took the free shuttle from city of dreams to Hotel Sintra which is on the old side of Macau. From there we walked about 15 minutes to where we will be staying, London hotel. A nice and clean hotel. Good location as well as it's on the quieter side of the town. It's actually not far from most of the tourist attractions, just need to walk abit up and downhill.

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Posted by puileng 23:55 Archived in Macau Comments (0)

ChengDu China

JiuZhaiGou, Huang Long

What attracted me to this place was the place called 'JiuZhaiGou' in the itinerary. JiuZhaiGou was a really beautiful place with vivid colour ponds and lakes amidst a serene landscape. And what somehow spoilt the wonderful place is the dirty washroom and rude tourists who do not queue to get on the bus or even to use the washrooms. It was snowing when we were there, making the landscape a beautiful white for as far as the eye can see. I should count myself lucky as although there were a lot of other tourists in the area, it was still pleasant to walk around.

Huang Long is another tourist attractions that we went to, a mountain more than 4000m above sea level. We took the cable car to the mid point and climb the rest of the way up. The level of air and oxygen began to thin as we went up higher making me exhausted and gave up to get to the highest point of Huang Long. I took a short cut and waited for the rest of them at a temple instead. The view was nothing short of breathtaking.
On the way down, we passed by a lot of clear water ponds some similar to those at JiuZhaiGou which were just as beautiful. It was a long way down back to the entrance at Huang Long.

It was snowing heavily even as we boarded the plane that was supposed to fly back to Chengdu that night. However in the end, we were asked to disembark the plane as the aircraft couldn't take off due to the heavy snowfall outside. As I got off the plane, I felt faint as it was quite stuffy inside the plane.

I really don't have much to write for this trip as it was all planned by the travel agency. Let the photos speak for itself...

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Posted by puileng 23:21 Archived in China Comments (0)

Muar Johor

With a group of friends, we departed to Muar, the lovely hometown of a friend in Johor.

Her hometown was actually in Kundang Ulu, about 45 minutes drive from Muar town. Although having to wake up early in the morning, all of us were quite awake and chatted all the way to our destination. Our first stop for breakfast was at my friend's family coffee shop at Kundang Ulu. We had our breakfast there and went for a walk along the river just behind the shops.
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Lovely durian that we had there.
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Food, food and more food...
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Posted by puileng 21:17 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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