MH17 Crashed in Ukraine

#PrayForMH17

18 July 2014 – Woke up to a tragic news this morning. Flight MH17 carrying 280 passengers and 15 crews en-route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down and crashed at eastern Ukraine. I am totally lost for words and shocked. Our nation has not even recovered from the mystery lost of MH370 on 8 March 2014. #PrayForMH17

My condolences to the family members of the passengers and crews. May they rest in peace.

Pictures pulled from Malaysian Insider.

Tour Trip to Canberra

Throwback Australia

Early summer in 2011. My parents and I planned a trip to Adelaide-Melbourne but an unforeseen circumstances had us dropped Adelaide. My lovely aunt and cousin Dilys suggested that since our stay was two weeks long, we should at least visit Australia’s largest city Sydney and her capital Canberra. Sounds brilliant!

Tour bus

The tour we joined consisted mostly of Chinese nationals, a few Hongkies and four Malaysians. I have to say they were pretty shocked when they knew I speak fluent Mandarin, Cantonese and English – that very proud moment to be a multi-lingual Malaysian.

Along the way to Canberra

The journey from Melbourne to Canberra took about 8 hours, the scenery along the journey were mainly dried grass with some patches of green visible. Passed by Albury, the common boundary of Victoria and New South Wales. We reached Canberra around 5 o’clock in the evening. Since it was summer, the days were longer than nights, which means more time to explore.

Canberra is a planned city, very much like Putrajaya. It is a very visual appealing experience to see how the city was planned in such a way that from the Parliament you can see the National War Memorial at the end of ANZAC Parade, vice versa. In Putrajaya, a similar concept was drawn – Prime Minister Office overlooking Putrajaya International Convention Centre and in between lies a long boulevard.

Inner Canberra Triangle

Lake Burley Griffin is a man-made lake. The two bridges crossing the lake form the Parliamentary Triangle – connecting the Parliament with the City and Defence Headquarters. Where as Putrajaya has a man-made lake and 9 bridge crossings!

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin

It was a fine evening, the lake provides a very scenic place for one to enjoy the breeze and evening sun.

People at the park

Strolling at the park

The Australian Parliament sitting on top of Capital Hill.

Capital Hill

I managed to capture a few pictures of the Malaysian High Commission as the bus maneuvered around its way to the city centre.

Malaysian High Commission

Malaysian High Commission

Canberra is a much smaller and relatively new city as compared to Melbourne. It’s peaceful here and has fewer places to hang out.

Canberra

Friday night

Bicycle

Also saw this restaurant serving Malaysian food called Rasa Sayang.

Rasa Sayang

Checked in at Rydges Eagle Hawk Resort.

Rydges

As soon as I dropped my luggage, I went out to the surrounding compound for a walk. Luck was on my side to see a few kangaroos in the wilderness.

Kangaroo

Ripe acorn on the ground and young acorns on the tree.

Acorn

Young acorns

Shrubs.

Shrubs

Will update on my visit to the Parliament and War Memorial soon.

Overnight train to Sapa

Toot toot... tooot tooot...

vietnam-map

Months ago, the idea of sleeping in a train was so foreign to me. The thought of sleeping in a moving carriage for 11 hours was worth it considering the beauty that Sapa has to offer. Sapa is located in Lao Cai (pronounced Lao Kai) province, some 350 km northwest of Hanoi. Bordering China’s Yunnan, the mountains dominates the region and is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. Sapa is some 1500m above sea level, there’s really no problem of having to adjust to the change of attitude as my body is able to handle the gentle ascend within that 11 hours in the train.

Most of the trains start from Hanoi station (Ga Hà Nội) in the evening from 8pm to 11pm and arrive at Lao Cai station early next morning. JF and I had initially booked our train ticket from the tourist information centre at the airport upon arrival. The cheapest ticket for a sleeping cabin is around USD40 – saved a few bucks for accommodation.

After spending a day sightseeing in the city, we decided to have our dinner at Quan An Ngon, a popular place among the locals and tourists.  The service and food was good, so as long as you speak simple English your order will be taken. We ordered a plate of spring roll (steamed and fried), morning glory and coffee.

Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi

The train station is just a walking distance from where we had dinner. It does not boast of modern design and facilities but an old yet practical station.

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Signage is mostly in Vietnamese, not really of help to tourists, so it’s best to arrive early to look for the train at the platform.

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Our train attendant was a young lady. The train departed at 8.30pm.

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Wondering how the 4-bed cabin looks like?

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It’s a double bunker! The bed was not as hard as I’d imagined, neither was it fluffy soft. It’s fully air conditioned and there’s a common toilet for each compartment. The bed fits just nice for a 170cm guy like me (you can see my toe touching the end of the bed when fully stretched).

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I didn’t get to explore the rest of the train, was simply too tired and needed a good rest for the next day in Sapa. We reached Lao Cai around almost 9 o’clock in the morning, well more than the usual 9 hours ride. The weather was cooler than in Hanoi.

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There were quite a number of touts targeting the tourists. Since buses and vans are the only mode of public transport to Sapa, prior to our arrival we’ve made arrangement with our hotel for a van. The guy who were supposed to handle us handed us to another van and left us. And then we were told to switch to another van and another van. This time they wanted to charge us even though we were told to only pay direct to the hotel.

I got really agitated. A local SIM came in handy at this time, we called up the hotel and told them what was going on. We spoke to our hotel manager who speaks fluent English, he insisted that we pay not the driver, then he dealt with the driver. Having peace of mind after spoken to our hotel, we were transported to Sapa town. The journey took about half an hour.

During that dawdling period, I saw the dishonest tout trying to pry open luggage that were tuck behind the van. Seeing me standing behind him, he ordered me to get back into the van which I declined. If there’s one bad experience in Vietnam, it has got to be the incident in Lao Cai railway station. Just please be extra careful!

Quantly Hanoi

Gracious, polite and generous people with chaotic traffic on the street in an attractively unusual or old-fashioned city. Hanoi has her charm, it was the familiarity of the Chinese heritage and the unfamiliar language that made me felt pleasantly strange when I set foot in this city.

To reach Hanoi, the two of us took the airport bus to the city centre, bus fare D14,000. Got ourselves a local SIM for D250,000 which we shared so that we could connect with our friends and family while on the go.

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There are a lot of people walking on the street, young and old, happily talking to each other in very animated ways. Some are sitting on a low stool drinking coffee or slurping a bowl of beef noodle to keep themselves warm since it is winter.

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Banana Leaf Rice

Banana Leaf Rice

The banana leaf rice is among my favourite local Indian food. Rice is served on a banana leaf with a variety of vegetables, pickles and papadum. The papadum (giant round crackery thing) and mor milagai (sun dried chilli) is my must have. I’d be much happier if they have the mango chutney. To make up for the lack of mango, I ordered a plate of mutton instead.

Did you know that the rice and dishes are refillable?

Restaurant: Chennai Kitchen @ Sentul Boulevard
Price: RM 14 (banana leaf rice with mutton)