Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Not a crisis. Nope.

I envy people who are doing the things they love especially as their career. Truth to be told I have been thinking and asking myself "What do I like?" so many times for the past few days.
No answer came...and I was slightly disappointed with myself. 

I look around and found myself surrounded by people who are actually doing things that they love and when they talk about their passion, you can see that sparkle in their eyes. I have that journalist friend who knew exactly what she was talking when she talks about the business and the economy in the country. I have another friend who knew exactly what to say when you asked her about the health status of our coral reef. 

Is this some kind of late twenties life crisis? I don't know. 

I don't hate my job but I want to be able to feel passionate about it. I want to be able to talk about it with that kind of sparkle in my eyes and that when people ask me "How is work?", I would be able to answer with more than just "Oh, you know... just the usual."

This is definitely not a crisis, I'm sure. I just need a little more time to think about this. Hopefully the answer will come soon. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Taroko National Park

In my early stage of planning for my solo trip, I knew I was going to go to Hualien. What I didn’t know yet was what is in Hualien. A couple of searches through Google and there were mentions about Taroko Gorge and how beautiful is Taroko National Park and after looking at all the pictures online, I was sold. I knew I just have to go.

Taroko National Park, one of the nine national parks in Taiwan and it is named after Taroko Gorge. There are a few must-see sights which includes: Tunnel of Nine Turns, Eternal Spring Shrine, Swallow Grotto, Tiansiang and Buluowan, just to name that few. Initially I was a little worried about how to go about Taroko National Park. The park is huge and there is a shuttle bus that goes into the park daily on scheduled basis from Hualien bus station. Paul from Sleeping Boot Backpacker was kind enough to roughly tell me what are the must visit stops and how to go about the shuttle bus.
Taroko National Park is a place full of walking and hiking and steps-climbing so make sure you come prepared with proper shoes, bag and water! The night before I get to know this girl from Cheng Du and her name is Xiang Lei. Xiang Lei expressed her interest to tag along but I was a little reluctant about it because she didn’t really seem like the hiking type. In the end I let it be because who am I to judge, right?

I bought the one day Taroko pass at the bus station. This comes with a shuttle bus with the hop-on and hop-off service. The ticket costs me NTD250. Taroko Gorge is part of Taroko National Park that has plenty of interesting stop. Before boarding the bus, make sure you check which stop is close to the public due to falling stones or unfavourable weather.


My first stop was Shakadang Trail. I was supposed to hike 4km to the 3D cabin which is I heard is the favourite spot for hiker but my company couldn’t stop saying how the scenery at China is nicer and kept asking me if I want to turn back already. China may have better scenery but I am at Taroko and I love this place and it has its own charm so I had to turn on a deaf ear. It was a blissful walk with rushing stream of water though I wished I was alone and do not feel the need to keep talking but just soak in the nature.



The walk at Shakadang trail is easy but quite a bit of distance but along the way, you will appreciate the cool breeze and just take in nature's best.



We turned back and made for the next stop called Tian Xiang. 


Tian Xiang is the last stop if the inbound and outbound of shuttle busses. The inbound busses do not stop by the same place as the outbound busses. Only one or two are the same so make sure you plan your journey ahead. I had fun taking my own time at Tian Xiang. I climbed the stairs and at the top was this beautiful temple facing the mountain.




My final stop was at Yan Zi Kou (Swallow Grotto) as I heard it is really pretty but Xiang Lei wasn’t interested in it. So I decided to go alone. 


But guess what happened? The outbound bus that took us forgot to shout or stop at Yan Zi Kou. The drivers normally will shout for the stop name and asked if there are anyone who would like to get off but this one just went all the way to Taroko HQ until someone asked the driver. He got scared and said he was new and not too sure of the stops and just dropped us off at Taroko HQ! I got off and thank goodness the inbound busses do pass by Taroko HQ as well as Yan Zi Kou so that means I can straight away catch the next coming inbound bus to Yan Zi Kou! I had to wait an hour plus but I guess that’s the thing about travel; getting lost and that is part of the adventure.

Finally the bus came and I did not regret going through all the hassle to get to Yan Zi Kou. The place is breathtaking and beautiful. 


There were a lot of tourists buses so be caution when walking along the route. It is very beautiful to walk along to the route and one will enjoy Swallow Grotto. Now I understand why it is one of the popular spot.


Overall, do allocate one whole day for Taroko National Park if you do not wish to rush through the place. Some prefer to hire their private transportation and some like me, prefer to just hop on the shuttle bus. It is definitely worth the visit if you are the sort that love walking and nature. 

One last picture of Swallow Grotto...


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My 2014

It's the time of the year again, the time where I mostly think about how time has flown by so quickly and reflect on the year. I backtracked a little to the end of 2012 and 2013 and found that both the years were about happiness and forgiveness respectively. Wah, every year got theme, not bad! No lah, I didn't come up with a theme on purpose but it so happened it was like that and same goes for this year.

A year of self-discovery and acceptance
I made a lot of self-discoveries and I am sure this is a non-stop journey and along the way, I came to accept certain things just the way they are. I was not happy for some time in the previous years. Work could be the cause and there are very little sense of achievement and satisfaction in life. For once at the start of the year, I decided to break free of the pattern and do things a little out of the norm. I mostly have some attitude makeover mostly towards life in general and I am glad I did. Instead of being stuck in the rut, I am on the highway to better and happier places.

Seeing the world differently
Traveling used to be my means of escaping reality (i.e. work). Despite having to only travel to one country this year, it was fantastic! It was more than I could ask for, to see the world my way in my own time frame. After having a mini chat on last year's new year's eve with Mr J and after plenty sessions of "If I can do it, so can you!", I booked a flight ticket to Taiwan and I solo traveled for the very first time. No words can describe the feeling of having your own freedom to choose the place you want to visit (or not), changed plans in the very last minute just to join a newly made friend for an exciting excursion or even just to sit in a random cafe in a middle of a foreign city for hours with your coffee and your journal. Nothing can beat the experience and that solitary feeling. It was all worth it and I will definitely to do it again.

I like what I do
Not many can say that for their work but I finally can. I have no regrets making that decision to stay and try a new position but for now, I am even more sure of what I want ahead of my career path. I am not at the privilege of disclosing more but it's all good. It is all good. :)

Family and friends 
I will not be where I am without their love and support. I am glad Dad and I are on better terms now. I try (and will try harder) to spend more time with them as well as friends that matter. Unfortunately this year is also the year I decided to severe ties with one or two friends. They could be toxic and already is dragging me down and bringing the worst out of me so  I couldn't be any happier to be where I am right now.

Making a choice in love
I am rather skeptical to people falling in love blindly. I believe it is also by choice you fall in love. I met the most amazing person, I made my choice to tell him how I feel and later, he becomes my significant other (SO). We were strangers became friends and got closer and fell in love. I learn a lot from him and from him, I learn a lot about myself.

We are already standing at the end of the year, preparing to bid goodbye to 2014 and welcome the New Year. I have long forgone resolutions and goals as I find it frustrating not being able to tick all of them off the list. Also, I have learnt that it is much more meaningful to be in the present and live life to the fullest.

While the clock slowly ticks towards the end of the year, I will be sipping my favourite cup of coffee surrounded my friends and love ones. I am contented, hopeful, filled with love and positive vibes. There are a lot more to see in the world, to discover life magical moments and to learn from our own mistakes.
Till then, see you next year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Staycation at The Ascott Residences, KL

I have never really had a staycation before. That is until Sharpay decided to fly in from Singapore for the weekend and PeiX decided to fly down to KL. It was like a gathering of the four of us. These three girls are my closest girlfriends from Uni who have stood by me all this while especially during my most un-loved moments.

Justin is kind enough to book three nights for us at The Ascott Residences, KL (just opposite the KL Convention Centre). I have to say, I love love love the place! He booked us the two bedroom service apartment and they have everything complete from range of toiletries, kitchen utensils and even umbrella! And their indoor slipper is so so comfy!


I haven't even got to the part of their bed. Everyone agree that the bed is super comfortable that you just drift to slumberland the moment you hit the sack. On one of the evenings, we couldn't figure where to go for dinner. Inspired by my favourite indie magazine, Kinfolk, I suggested let's stay indoor and cook and it was the best decision ever. We walked to Cold Storage which is located inside Suria KLCC to get do some groceries shopping.





I think it's pretty obvious to all of you what were we going to cook. We did not want to buy a whole new bottle of oil so we pan fry the streaky bacon first and took the oil. For your information, you do not need to use oil when cooking bacon as the fats will produce the natural oil. As for the salt, we asked from the cafe downstairs. Hehe!


Ta-da! The end result! I was in-charged of the pasta and sauce as well as the mushroom soup. PeiX did the bacon bits & cheesy portobello, sauteed mushroom and baked potatoes. We spent the evening talking and relaxing over these awesome food.

It has been awhile and I miss them.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Food & Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014 (Part 2)

Note: For the first part of the entry, click here

The next morning, we walked to The Mugshot cafe.


I insisted that all of them have to come at least try this place out. The Mugshot cafe serves bagel, coffee and their awesome homemade yogurt. Even writing this now makes me crave for one.

Jackfruit & Gula Melaka (RM10)
Walnut & Mango (RM10)
I tried jackfruit & gula melaka yogurt (top) this time round and Cherie's friend took the walnut and mango. I personally still feel that kiwi and honey yogurt is the best.

Bagel Muffin Bacon & Egg (RM10)
Bagel Muffin Turkey Ham, Cranberry Sauce (RM10)
I also ordered the bagel muffin turkey ham cranberry sauce but felt that the bacon and egg is better. Still, this place is awesome! And finally...the obligatory mugshot!


We went to collect our race pack after our brunch and oh lord. There were not that many people but their system is just very slow. They will need to improve on their efficiency if they want to organize an event this scale. Our hungry stomach brought us to this famous teo chew chendol place which never fail to have people queuing for it. To be honest, I think the island is rather jammed up so we basically spent most of our time in the traffic jam.


This Penang Teo Chew Chendul is next to a coffee shop name Joo Hooi. If you ever bring it in, bear in mind that the people inside will charge you an extra RM0.50. These were the people queuing for char kuey teow and the line next to it was for the famous teochew chendol. All of us took different line to speed our order up.


We stood outside the kopitiam while eating this to avoid the whole RM0.50 extra charge per bowl. After finishing the chendul only we got into the coffee shop to have our meal.
Char Kuey Teow (RM5.50)
You had no idea how relieved we were when we got our food. All of us devoured one plate each and let's just say, the table was pretty quiet.

Laksa (RM4.50)
We were also craving for laksa so decided to order it. I still prefer the Air Itam laksa. Sigh.

While Cherie and her friend were off to a wedding dinner, my brother and I head over to PIKNIK,


They are famous for their waffles! They are always packed what more it's a weekend night with everyone in town for the marathon. We were lucky to get a place.


A place where you absolutely have to give it a try if you are a waffle fan!


I ordered the Waffle Bacon & Egg and it was gooooood!


Also ordered their signature wintermelon lemon drink.


Brother add on another spaghetti bolognese which is just alright in my opinion. Stick to the waffles I would say!

I love how they present my bill. In an old vintage tin box! So cute!

That night, I was down with cramp. Talk about bad timing. The next morning I just had to drag myself off the bed and having to forgot to set the alarm, I was 15 minutes late.
By the time I woke my brother and Cherie up, we reached Komtar slightly later. That was our pick up point and thank goodness it was just right behind the guesthouse I stayed. Which is very lovely by the way.


My run was lacking in stamina compared to last year but to be fair, I wasn't feeling well. But I admit, I also lacked in training. The organizers this time round did a poor job I would say. When we reached the mid-point, there was a massive human jam and it cost us about 15 minutes of our time! That would certainly affect your running time overall.
The organizers have a lot to improve if they want to make this an international event. The place was in a mess and sponsors this time round is not as good as the previous year. Even flag off was very messy due to people coming in very late. The shuttle buses were stuck in heavy traffic therefore delaying the runners' arrival.

Oh well. I am glad I managed to complete and came back with this.

Till the next marathon!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Food & Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014 (Part 1)

I didn't train this time round for the marathon. The consequences for that was that I had to walk like a crippled woman for three days. Before I go into the whole marathon story, let's talk about the trip up north this time. I am always excited for a trip to Penang. I just love it there. The people, the food and the culture. I just love Penang. This is my second time joining the marathon and this time round, Cherie (my colleague) came along. It was fun to have someone extra tagging along. Made the journey more interesting. Due to some bad jam, we reached Penang around 6pm and by that time we were super hungry. Oh not to forgot, we took the new bridge!

Nothing fancy, really. I prefer the old bridge.


We checked in to 80s Guesthouse which is located at Love Lane and walked towards Chulia Street for some hawker food.

Chulia Street is famous for the wantan noodle and the curry noodle. But none of us ordered any of that. LOL! We were all craving for char kuey teow I think. Some say the pork satay is famous too so we decided to give it a try but I beg to differ. I prefer the one I tried in Kong Heng Kopitiam, Ipoh.


There was a nearby cafe called Love & Latte that caught Cherie's eyes so we decided to try it out while waiting for her friend to arrive at the airport.

Some interesting quote I found on the wall
The coffee here is alright. Nothing much to shout about actually. However, the brother mentioned their Nutella Signature is really good.


After picking up Cherie's friend at the airport, we head over to Pulau Tikus for MORE food. This time, it is the Lok Lok. Lok lok is where the food are serve with the wooden skewer and you would just have to cook them in the boiling water. They can be eaten with side condiments.

Decided to break this into two parts because it is too long. Part 2 can be found here!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scammed

Yesterday was frightening but thank goodness, the worst is over. I wish to share this so that everyone could learn from this lesson and please, please stay safe.

I was at work yesterday when I got a phone call from an unknown number twice around 12pm and I was busy so I did not pick it up. Minutes later, I got a call from my dad and I pick it up. My dad sounded really angry asking me if I could track the location of my mom’s iPhone 5S. I asked why and turned out something really bad has happened and now my brother is missing. I swear to god my heart stopped. I asked my dad to hand over the phone to my mom and I would like to speak to her. She was in tears and could barely tell me her Apple ID and Password.

I signed in to the Find My iPhone app and set the phone on “Lost Mode” and I swear I was shaking. Then I remembered that unknown number. I called back and a guy picked up. He told me my brother is with him and I questioned him his name, where is he calling from, who is he, why is my brother with him and I would like to speak to my brother.

My brother told me he was safe and that my dad is on his way. Later at night I got the whole story.

My mom and brother were driving to see the dentist. As traffic was rather slow, a car suddenly came to the back, hit her car and the force was huge enough that it jerked her car forward and hit the lorry in front. My mom got down and told my brother to call my dad. She thought the car that hit her would slow down and go to the side but unfortunately, that car went away. So I think this was where the panic mode set in to her. 

Suddenly, another car came up with a man speaking Mandarin proclaiming that he saw where the car went and that he could help my mom chase the car. His tone was hurried, set in a panic mode and he did not give my mom any second to think. He kept ushering my mom to get into his car but my mom said she couldn't. That man went on and said “Then, ask your son to come!! HURRY HURRY! And change phone with him because your phone can capture better picture!”  You have to also know that my brother is using an old battered Nokia. This was where things started to get fishy isn't it? But they were in the panic mode. So my mom asked my brother to get in that man’s car after exchanging phone.

Now according to my brother, that man later drove really fast as if he is on a chase with that car. Along the way, I think my mom realized how come it took them so long so, my mom called and ask my brother where is he. My brother said don’t worry he is still chasing. That man even had the cheek to say “Your mom think I am a bad guy is it? Don’t worry. I am not. I need to send my wife to the hospital later.” Next to him seated a woman. Apparently he drove really fast and reached this mall called AEON BIG and told my brother his friend told him that guy who hit my mom’s car just went in to the mall. That man acted as if he is frantically searching. He even got down from the car and then, he told my brother that he needed to borrow the phone to further contact his friend. My brother unlock the phone (my mom’s phone is protected with passcode and now that man knew my mom’s passcode) and gave it to him. 

Oh dear. I know right. 

He then told my brother “Oh that car went into the parking lot. Faster go and look for it!!”
My brother ran to find the so-called parking lot. After awhile, he checked with the people in the mall, there isn't any parking lot exists in the mall! So that was when he knew this was all a scam. He was smart enough to approach a Telco (Maxis) centre and ask the guy to help call us. Thank goodness he remembered mine and my dad’s number.

It was a horrible event and anything worst could have happened. Should my mom get into the car, that man would have wanted her to go and withdraw the money from the ATM machine. Anything could have happened. 

I am thankful that my brother is safe and no one is hurt. A lesson for all to learn here is that in every situation, remain calm. Listen to your own voice. People could take advantage when you panic. 

And as for the phone...this was the last location.