City treasure hunt

•August 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As they say, the best way to explore a place is by foot. That explains why I enjoy walking (so long as permissible) around the places I visit. Before my first anniversary here in KL, I and my former colleague and good friend visited some places around KL before he left for his very short stint here in Malaysia. It was a long but worthwhile walk (except for taking the KTM in one leg of the trip).

Batu Caves

I have visited this place with another set of friends beginning of this year (see previous post here). The place deserves a second look for further admiration.

This is the leg where we took the KTM from KL Sentral down to the last Station: of course, Batu Caves. this time around, I took few pictures and didn’t attempt to climb up the hundreds of steps to the cave. I was more than happy to wait on the ground watching people and fellow tourists.

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KTM Kuala Lumpur Station

The original plan for this walk was just to visit Lake Gardens. But since there were still plenty of time on that fateful Saturday, I decided to bring my friend to Batu Caves. So after that midday (imagine how hot it is in KL and more so in the Batu Caves area) visit to the caves, we took the train back to the city as the access to the Lake Gardens that I knew is near the historic KTM Kuala Lumpur Station.

I’m a sucker for old buildings and I’ve been wanting to stop by this station every time I view this place from the LRT/ bus window as I pass by. Finally, I got my chance. The architecture of the building is amazing and the preservation of this place is admirable.

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This is the headquarters of KTM Berhad across the station. This is equally (if not more) lovely as the old train station. The archaic design truly brings me back in time.

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The National Mosque

Of course, what’s the sense of touring a Muslim-dominated country without visiting the symbol of its state religion? Thankfully, the vast surrounding of the National Mosque is open to tourists and non-Muslims like us. Let me show you around.

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Lake Gardens

And now, here’s the main attraction: The Lake Gardens or Taman Tasik Perdana. According to virtualmalaysia.com, this is the oldest and most popular park in KL. There are other attractions in the area like the Deer Park, Bird Park and Butterfly Park but we just went straight to the majestic lake. Guided by Google map on our iPhones, we found our way to the lake by passing through a close-gated pass with a view (and smell) of the Deer Park.

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It was getting late but the sun is still up (the sun in KL sets at 7ish). One interesting part of this walk tour is our discovery of a shortcut back to KL Sentral. That is via the tunnel that connects the park and the National Museum [and a future MRT station (?) that is currently under construction]. Across the National Museum is KL Sentral. If you find yourself in this area on your visit here, just be careful in crossing the highway. Who says hunting by foot is easy anyway? One thing is for sure, it’s fun!

The simplicity of greatness

•August 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.

-Atisha

Refresh

•August 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes, we take for granted the things that have always been there… until we take the view from another angle.

After more than a half year, I was able to travel back home and visit the usual places in July. Except that this time, I was amazed by new experiences brought by two old sites.

A walk in the clouds: The Taal Volcano – the world’s smallest volcano by the Taal Lake

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City after dark: Manila

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The beauty and nostalgia of all these and those that were left behind are more than enough reason to come back home.

The Magic of Melaka

•March 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

One weekend in February, we travelled two hours south of Kuala Lumpur to visit the historic city of Malacca or Melaka (in Malay). I remember from my history classes way back in grade school that this was where Magellan was supposed to go when he accidentally discovered the islands now known as the Philippines.

This historical city centre of Melaka has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008. (source: Wikipedia)

My Melaka experience is like a visit to a theme park – from the welcoming Victoria Regina fountain to Fort A Fomosa to Jonker Street. The only thing missing is carnival rides. But wait, there’s the Melaka Revolving Tower, which has revolving observation cabin which provide 360-degree view of Melaka including the Malacca Straits and the historical places.

I’m sharing here some pictures taken during my visit using my ever reliable iPhone.

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The Malaysia Truly Asia Show

•January 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Last night, when we were about to leave the Bukit Bintang area, we chanced upon a free show at the Pavilion tent. The Malaysia Truly Asia Show.

I think the show is sponsored and organized by Tourism Malaysia in coordination with Pavilion Mall. It showed the sounds and sights of Malaysia via some projectors flashing images around the dome-shaped tent. They actually call it a 360-degree show but I’d rather call it 180-degree as nothing is shown on the floor.

Right before the show started, images are already being shown. During the show, there were more pictures and this time a voice over was heard describing the stunning places, the exciting celebrations and the colorful culture of Malaysia. All under the local tagline cuti-cuti 1Malaysia (read chu-ti chu-ti sa-tu Ma-lay-sia).

After the voice over, a group of dancers entered the stage with their graceful moves. After a while, they started chanting and singing. The rhythm is very easy and encouraging that it made me follow them sing as I seat on my chair.

After the first round of entertainment number which ran for minutes, they started the next set by inviting foreigner audiences to join them in the stage for another set of a song and dance presentation. The song and dance steps are very easy to follow.

As I watch this presentation, I can’t help but to admire how Malaysia gives an outstanding way of handling its tourism program–being able to show to the locals and visitors alike what Malaysia really got. This specific show is nothing grand but I think it is very effective.

Relating it to Philippine tourism, I believe that the Philippines’ own places, celebrations and culture are equally amazing. My reactions during the show would show that I have seen all these in the Philippines and at some point I can say that what I saw there were actually better, more exciting and more inspiring.

But when I took some time to pause and think: If I were to bring home to the Philippines a foreigner friend, do we have a similar place for him to see and appreciate the Philippines in one place for a few minutes? I can’t think of one as of this moment.

Nonetheless, after all I’ve seen and experienced in the Philippines, considering the pictures and sing and dance presentations I just saw last night as well as the places I have visited in my short stay here in Malaysia, at some point I can say, it’s more fun in the Philippines. We just don’t have a structured campaign YET. But given a chance, I think the Philippines can do equally outstanding.

In this light, however, I think we should all support a campaign with a regional perspective. Promoting ASEAN as a whole. Especially in these times of global challenges, a regional act to move as one is highly encouraged. We are the same Asians of the southeast corner afterall. TRULY ASEAN.

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Focus on Fun

•January 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Finally, the Philippines is getting more serious in its tourism promotion to remind and invite the world to visit the country and exeprience the beauty of its places, people, and culture. Yesterday (January 6, 2012), the Department of Tourism, with the help of a private advertising company, relaunched the country’s tourism brand with the refreshing, hip, and catchy tagline: It’s more fun in the Philippines (visit the website here, although it’s still in the early stage of development).

The local social network scene, with the participation of Filipinos from other parts of the world, showed excitement through discussions and sharing of pictures from travels within the country indicating the new tagline logo. Some even created their own sub-taglines (both serious and funny) by riding on the new campaign.

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Hope this brings the country back in the tourists’ radars. Behind and beyond the traffic jams in the capital and the sub-standard condition of some infrastructures as a developing country, there’s indeed more things to do and see to have fun in the Philippines. Seriously.

Starter: Batu Caves

•January 2, 2012 • 1 Comment

Kicking of my travel year 2012 is a visit to a natural religious shrine a few kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur. Batu Caves.

According to Wikipedia:

Batu Caves (Tamil: பத்து மலை), is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district, 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.

We took the KTM train from KL Sentral.

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With 7 stops and after 20-minute travel, we reached KTM’s Batu Caves Station. A huge religious statue and a temple welcome the visitors taking the KTM right after getting off the station.

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From the temple, we braved the heat of the afternoon sun to walk towards the caves’ entrance. Walking through the brick roads, you’ll get a taste of Hindu designs, architecture, and landscaping.

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Indian stores selling souvenirs, drinks, and food such as Indian sweets can also be found along the sides of the bricked walkway. These help in case one wants to “gas up” before climbing the 252 step stairway up the mouth of the caves. Beside this stairway, welcoming pilgrims and visitors alike, is the giant and golden Murugan statue.

During our visit today, the statue is being prepared for the Thaipusam later this month, hence, there are some structures at the lower part of the statue.

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Inside the caves, there are a number of statues representing some Hindu Gods and temples, where devotees are religiously chanting or praying.

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Interestingly, when the Hindu devotees started chanting and ringing the bells in the two temples inside the caves, wild monkeys started climbing down from the daylight hole. They started looking for food from the garbage cans and then eventually went to some of the surrounding people watching them in amazement to ask for food. Some even started grabbing plastic bags held by some visitors.

These are wild monkeys but they somehow act like humans in some ways. I think they are able to co-inhabit with people in these caves. I’m not sure if they are considered sacred but one knows how to open and drink a bottle of milk.

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On our way back to the KTM station, the huge green statue that greeted us on arrival is now bidding as farewell like wishing us “selamat jalan”.

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This half-day trip is an interesting commencement of another year of travel opportunities. A mixture of cross-cultural and ecological exeperiences quite provide an appetizing starter.

 
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