Aug 10, 2015

One off the list - Diving!

First things first: diving is hard work

Okay, maybe i didn't really think about it, but same like most others in our dive team, we expected it to be a holiday by the beach and the sun and the sea. la la la la la. 

We couldn't have been more wrong. 

Let me rewind. This trip was initiated by matt (also known as nian fong), organized by ze kai, and participated by me, bun bun, johnson, soon yik, and at the very last minute, soon yik's cousin, ah thai. 

When matt asked if i wanted to join them for the trip, i had to, since no one else i knew was interested in getting a diving license. Plus matt and bun and ze kai are like my island buddies lah. we've been to so many islands together! One of the main reasons we wanted to get a diving license is also because we got bored with snorkelling. 

Then it turned out that once i started telling people i'm going to get my diving license, at least two other friends told me that they really wanted to get their diving license too! cheh. 

So that's how i broke my 'no travel for 2015' rule by going on this diving trip with these guys! :D 

We went to Tioman. So the night before matt came to kl from terengganu, bun went to johor from singapore. then the next morning my dear sister eunice koh dropped me off at soon yik's house in nilai, then we all departed to kluang, had breakfast, met up with bun, and also ze kai's gf & her friends who will be joining us to tioman but just for snorkelling, then all went to mersing for the jetty together. whew. the mind-boggling logistics made me miss those days back in inti so much. where everyone would just roll off bed and amble from our hostel rooms to the meeting point within two minutes. :'(

Back to my topic: diving is hard work. Our first day was spent in snorkelling gear by the beach, learning the basics of breathing, mask changing, swimming without a mask, paddling, and generally getting comfortable with the idea of the ocean. I had a bit of trouble learning how to free dive (sort of like tilt yourself downwards, feet skywards, and dive right to the bottom), but all of us managed it in the end! 

and when you do it, you go right up to the bottom of the sand and see all the fishes up clooooose. that's the fun part. seeing things in the sea closely for the first time. 

Day two: time to don fins and tanks! But before that, we had to learn how to set up our dive equipment, attach this to that, check the air pressure, check this check that, and i didn't know tanks were this heavy! but yeah, we had fun. 
Plus, in order to make sure we can wear and take off our masks easily underwater, we had to keep our hair out of our faces. my boss who got her diving license told me that she wore a swim cap. but i didn't have one! luckily our dive instructor Burger (yes, people call him that) has his ways. that's bun bun's hair in sellotape! and it's really easily removable.  
nah. our handsome instructor. this is Burger writing down everything he wants us to achieve later.
my mask! hehe. also, luckily they provided nice new masks with power. so at least my astigmatism didn't get in the way. 

We spent the rest of day two by the beach, lugging our diving equipment about and learning more new things like taking off your buoyancy control device underwater, reattaching your air tank underwater, expelling water in your breathing device, etc. 

Basically, it all boils down to this: BUOYANCY CONTROL. 

which i kinda suck at :( 
Day three! we were getting ready to finally go out and see the open water, i think. hence those excited faces. (from left: soon yik, johnson, nian fong, bun bun, ze kai!)

We went to a few different dive sites, and it's majorly fun. i quite like the backward flip water entry thing. It's fun lah, but our buoyancy control still needs some work. 

When we emerged from the water, some snorkellers saw us and were all 'eh got diver got diver!'. and we all felt like laughing because that was our first dive outside. They definitely have no idea the amount of scolding we got underwater HAHAHAHA. 

after the dive, it's time for some photos! I didn't take much photos at all this trip because all our time is spent taking lessons, swimming, setting up equipment, and by the end of it, you're too tired to take photos any more. and i didn't want my camera to get wet lah. salt water is crazily harmful to cameras, man. 
from left: nian fong, johnson, soon yik, and bun! this shot was taken as our dive instructors pushed the equipment by. hehe. 

evening sunlight, best lah. 
this is matt! he's the hyperactive diver; always abandoning his dive buddy, and taking everything in with his GoPro. i think Burger confiscated his GoPro on this dive. lol. 

haha thanks for organizing this trip, bro. more dive trips to terengganu next time! :D
we barely had time to take any more photos as we were summoned to clean up our equipment. haha. 
you can see them hard at work already. 

after that, we went back to our rooms, had a quick shower, came back for a seafood barbecue (the playlist basically consisted of only Jay Chou which made the night very enjoyable heeheehee), then around 10:30pm, it's time for our written exam! 

I tell you ah, the schedule here is punishing. 
Morning: Lessons in the classroom then lessons in the water. 
Afternoon: More lessons in the classroom and then lessons in the water. 
Night: Classroom lessons. 

There's no time for what relaxing sun sand sea vacation. be warned! 


Day four: our last dive! 

Once again we went into the water by the beach, and this time we learnt things like what to do in case your air tank ran out of air, and more buoyancy control practice. halfway through i swallowed a bunch of seawater plus i had too much milo for breakfast so i felt like vomiting hahaha. 

So after soon yik and i completed our routine, the instructor told us to get onshore to start packing in case we miss the ferry. 
me with my dive buddy!  

the rest finished up and came back too. then we all packed and got ready to go home :((((

a few final shots:

ze kai doing some weird posing. 
bye burger dive team! thanks for all the help, patience, and fun!

turned out the ferry was so crowded we had to wait for another one. 
lots and lots and lots of fish. 
till next time! 

Aug 7, 2015

The guide to stop thinking about travelling

Quote of the month: 

'Everyone can fly, but not everyone can spend. Malaysia ringgit like diarrhea!'

The above quote supplied by a facebook friend's status update. You know that feeling when you get overwhelmed by a giant crashing wave of wanderlust but your bank account gives you the side eye? That's how i feel for most of the year, as my starving writer salary can only afford to let me go on mini road trips or short trips in southeast asian countries once a year. 

So, as my dear friend and solo traveller extraordinaire Anis wrote, if: 

A. you want to travel 
B. you don't have a trust fund or extremely generous parents
C. you are an asian living in a third world country with extremely low exchange rate and low minimum wage which makes it impossible for you to follow the advice of those American bloggers who can travel for months in asia after their summer job or something

then just save up for it. work and save up until you have moneh.

You can't expect to obsessively share those instagram-filtered romantic tumblr-y images of wanderlust/roadtrip-related quotes, passive aggressively 'like' photos of your friends' travels and then expect someone to magically sponsor you a trip around the world. hahahha. but that's a nice thought, though.  

Anyway, once in awhile i get hit by this crushing urge to live an instagram-filtered experience, buy a ticket and just go, all to a feelgood romcom soundtrack about my whirlwind adrenaline-charged life, but my bank account says no. no no no no no. 

if you're like me: a twenty-something person who's still scrimping and saving, what to do? 

Here's what to do: 

The Guide to killing (or temporarily deadening) wanderlust: 

1. Stop reading travel articles
Alright. maybe it's my self-fulfilling prophecy behavior, facebook algorithms or just a media trend, but my facebook wall is usually awash with articles proclaiming why you should travel before you're thirty, travel before you have kids, travel to these 100 places or you'd never die in peace, and so on, and so forth. 

Making things worse are those articles on how they managed to take the plunge, quit their horrible 9-to-5 cubicle job and travelled on odd jobs for five years, and how they plan to continue doing this for the rest of their lives while hahahah you in the cubicle is reading this. 

These people either had crazy high-paying jobs that allowed them to take the plunge, or they're prepared to go the extreme hitch-hiking-couch crashing-busking for money route. if you, like me, doesn't earn a lot but also doesn't dare to go that way of extreme skimping (i still want some good local food la, not just subsisting on apples and instant noodles the whole time i'm in Europe), then stop reading them. 

Unfollow these media sites. Close the webpage, count to ten slowly (until your breathing has slowed down), think of your bank account, calm down, then distract yourself with cat videos and raccoon videos. 

baby panda videos help too, but those might make you want to visit China. 

2. Stay away from airline sites
Low cost airlines love sending you deals on their latest zero-fare offers, free seats, anniversary celebrations, etc. it's their job, after all. 

Do not, i repeat, do not fall for these. While you're saving up for your blowout trip to Iceland, that free ticket to Hanoi will only serve to delay your Iceland adventure. Yes, free seats are all very good, but how about the accommodation and food and transport? 

Noh noh noh. 

So, unsubscribe to Skyscanner. unsubscribe from everything. Un'like' Airasia on facebook. Unfollow all of them on twitter. Stay away. Breathe slowly. in... and out.... deeeep breaths....

3. Stop reading travel blogs
Those pesky travel blogs teaching you how to do house sitting like a pro, how they did Asia on a shoestring, and their Guide to Luang Prabang over five separate posts complete with absolutely amazing photos and one click will lead to another and this wonderful lifestyle will make you go... hmmmmm maybe i can do this too. Then you'll be awash with wanderlust but your bank account sneers and says:

'surprise, you can't even afford the flight tickets to go house sit for others HAHAHA!'

4. Cut all ties with travel-loving friends
These friends are the worst of all. They talk about their latest escapade to this amazing place, spam-instagram their family-sponsored trip to beautiful places, or mysteriously post #latergram pics of their trips from three years back but you have no way to be sure that they aren't travelling all the time. 

Anyway. they are the worst. They bring on the wanderlust symptoms like crazy and before you know it, you'll be shakily clicking your way through Airasia's website. 

These friends will also be the ones cajoling you to join them on this trip and that trip, while your carefully-fattened account will shrink speedily.

Cut all ties with them until you go on a trip yourself. 

5. Go on mini trips
What i personally do is, i go on walks. Everywhere. It sort of helps when you discover something new in your city. These walks serve the purpose of feeding and nourishing the insatiable wanderlust bug. 


After you've followed all these steps for a year (or two), you'd probably have saved up enough for the adventure that you'd always wanted. hehehe. Until then, let me know how it goes. It hasn't worked for me though. My resolution to 'not travel until i managed to save up RMxxx' is failing miserably so far. Maybe because i love my travel-loving friends too much to ignore them :( 

psst. by the way, check this out! :D

Siem Reap - An overview

Hello from Siem Reap (The Hive cafe, to be exact)! The wifi here is pretty good so I'm taking this opportunity to escape the afternoon heat, get good coffee and do some blog updates while I'm at it. Heehee. 

Me and Danielle (high school bestie whose college mates bailed on her to Siem Reap so I get to go instead) are here for four days to explore Angkor Wat and the lovely little town of Siem Reap. 

It's been great so far! Today's the third day and since we're flying out first thing tomorrow morning, so technically, this is our last day here. Marilah recap what we've been up to (in lovely Instagram-friendly square pics format for your perusal):

Day one: 
The first day was kinda relaxed; we took the six am flight, touched down local time eight am (which was already crazy hot!). 

Took a tuk-tuk for two dollars each (yes, they use usd for everything here which is a crazy pain for us Malaysians but more on that later), checked in our nice little boutique hotel, took a shower, did a little itinerary planning on Danielle's MacBook (yes she brought one along to keep up with work; I didn't. sorry boss!), and decided to rent a bike for the day!

Danni with her prewar bike; complete with a wicker basket. 

We cycled around town; the receptionist told us not to start off with a bike on the first day as we're not too familiar with the town's layout yet, but we did just fine with the town map on the tourist brochure hehe. 
This is a cafe facing the riverside called Sister Srey. They serve good coffee! 
After a visit to the Angkor National Musuem for some pre-Angkor Wat prepping, it's sort of time for dinner so we got some Cambodian-style banh mi (called num pang), then stopped by a roadside stall for noodles. According to the nice local girl who helped us order the bowl of noodles, they call this borborlut (I'm not quite sure how to spell it. Google didn't help in this case). Anyway, it's like loh shi fun. 

After dinner it began raining so we ran to the Angkor Trade Centre (some sort of tiny mall with Swensen's!) right opposite the road to do some....pointless walking. It is a small mall.
A selfie dangerously taken while cycling hehe. 

After that we decided to brave the relatively tamer drizzle back to the hotel, so it was really fun to cycle like crazy in the rain which got progressively heavier. Heheh. 

After that, we spent the night in reading, chilling, then going to bed as we have to wake up super early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat!


Day two! 

Woke up at 3:30am, refreshed and ready to go. 

Some pics: 
You know, the temple where Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider? Yeah. That one. I'm going to watch it after this. 
Pretty impressive though. Look at these huge old trees growing on the ruins, without a care for the centuries of history they're crushing with their roots. There's a certain beauty about it.  
Walking around the Angkor Archaeological complex is no joke; I felt like dying already. And that was like only nine am. We had been walking since six am!! 
More temples. Here's Danni.

I shall post more temple pics in other posts (hahaha fake promises).

Day three:
Ahem. What do you do when you eat yeast and shoe polish everyday? 
You rise and shine! 

(Yeah. That's a lame joke in airasia's travel three sixty magazine's August issue. What were they thinking?)

So we rose and shone this morning for a food tour! Steven from Siem Reap Food Tours picked us up at eight am.
Lots and lots of yummy food. The glossy stack on the top right is a rice flour doughnut with palm sugar glaze. Incredibly delicious. 

Also this photo illustrates the weirdness of Siem Reap's markets: they have no system to selling their stuff. You can sell doughnuts with garlic, no problem. I've seen people selling grapes along with catfish. Weird. 
Then it's off to the village!
Where we had yummy fresh rice noodles right off the pot. 
More sweet things. This is made with lightly fermented palm sugar. 
Ironing your clothes the Siem Reap way. 

After the tour, we once again rented bikes and embarked on a hipster cafe tour of town; plus some shopping for elephant pants on the side. 

So yeah. Here I am, leeching wifi off these perfectly kind people. Mind, their wifi is better than KL's hahahah. 
And this is The Hive! Pretty cool, eh? 

Ok it looks like it gonna rain. Time to balik hotel. More updates next time! 

Ho Chi Minh - L'USINE, Le Loi

I'm back from Siem Reap and I guess it's high time (as good as any) to resume writing about my trip to Ho Chi Minh back in.... 2014. Eh, that's not tooo bad.

Today I shall write about cool kid on the block, L'USINE. 

After a few days of trudging through dirt and sand and dust and sweat, we were craving some  sort of refuge in the form of.. hipster cafes. HAHA.   
Meaning 'factory' in English, L'usine is one self-assuredly cool cafe-art gallery-home decor-fashion boutique space in Ho Chi Minh. Apparently they have another outlet in Dong Khoi that used to be a factory in the 1800s, but we only had time to visit the outlet on Le Loi street after it was newly renovated.

On the ground floor, the shop stocks items from Happy Socks, Peter Jensen, Rains (their beautiful raincoats!), rifle paper co (!!!), comme des garcons, Mr Simple, as well as edgy (think reclaimed hardwood and cast iron) home furnishings and light fixtures from home-grown brand District Eight. 

Spot their glowing sign from the busy tree-lined (hahah which street in HCM isn't tree-lined) street of Le Loi. We'd basically passed by this cafe on our way to the post office and cathedral during the day. 

On the second floor! 

Siau Li reading the news about MH17.
We had a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato), and then apple crumble for dessert, plus a pretty good cup of coffee. To be honest, i couldn't remember much about the place any more. HAHA but i was happy with my food lah. and they have lots of good magazines. 

Would definitely go back again if i were to visit HCM. And maybe bring a bit more dong so i can afford the supercool stuff. 

70B Le Loi Street, D1, HCMC, Vietnam
Daily, 7.30am-10.30pm.