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Sunrise and evening at Angkor Wat

“Timeless yet timeworn, grand but intimate, oblivious to the passing centuries even as the jungle devours its huge stone walls, Angkor Wat and the scores of temples that surround it hint at eternity, only to remind us that nothing is eternal.” – Seth Mydans, NYT

Sunrise and Evening at Angkor 1

Angkor Wat (nickname City of Temples).
A 12th century temple built by King Suryavarman II. The height of classical Khmer architecture. A symbol of Cambodia, appearing on her national flag.

Amazing.
Extensive bas-reliefs and devatas (divine nymphs; celestial dancing girls) adorning its wall. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers.

Astonishing.
Forming a rectangle area of about 1,500 by 1,300 metres, covers an area – including its 190 metre wide moats – of nearly 200 hectares. The quincunx of towers rising 65 m from the ground. Water moat surrounding the temple has a perimeter of 5.5 km.

Unmissable.
Take several days. If you only have one day, it’s a must to visit Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

Angkor Temple Map

Angkor Temple map. Credit to Tourism Cambodia

We stayed at Mekong Angkor Palace (RM80 for a room inclusive of air-conditioning, wifi, hot shower, complimentary breakfast and pickup from bus station) and hired Mr. San Borin as our tuk-tuk driver who customised the day tour for us. San Borin’s price of $20 for a day was a steal for the four of us. You may contact him here, according to him the website was setup by a passenger who admires his friendly service.

Sunrise and Evening at Angkor 2

The best time to visit Angkor Wat is perhaps sunrise, the sun rises over the ancient temple.

He picked us before dawn, at 5 a.m., to shuttle us to the entry gate to buy the 1-Day ticket ($20) and came prepared with a cooler filled with bottles of ice-cold water to keep us hydrated and wet tissue.

Sunrise and Evening at Angkor 3

The Naga (a semi-deity, a serpent-god of the waters, depicted with several heads) greeted us at the entrance.

Pick up any guide book, read any online resources, any visitors recommendation on Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor, and your head will be spinning. Thankfully San Borin suggested us a route for us to conquer the significant sites and enjoy our day in Angkor.

The Angkor Wat Temple Complex for Sunrise
* Breakfast and a cup of Cambodian coffee

The “Great City” of Angkor Thom for Morning
(including Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of Elephants, and Preah Palilay)
* Water, cap, small change for donations

Thommanon, Chao Say Tevada, and Ta Prohm for the Afternoon
* Lunch break and beer, water

Angkor Wat again for the Evening
* Plastic raincoat and umbrella

shutterstock_110917883

Aerial view of Angkor Wat, showing the moat and causeway and the central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. Credit to Shutterstock @ Alexey Stiop.

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In the rear view mirror of 2013

Most would have written a good old post of the memories of 2013 on the New Year’s Eve by now, but I was greeted with fever on the day itself thus just spending the hours before midnight struck snuggling in bed.

It’s funny how time passes and how we choose to keep track.

In 2013, most of the 365 days passed at a much different tempo. While life in Kuala Lumpur has been a constant records of highs and lows, my pilgrimage plan to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day was put off for some personal reasons, but overall life was great. Jaunts east and west in Peninsular Malaysia in search for islands and sandy beaches from the Straits of Malacca to the beautiful South China Sea. Managed to realise my travel plans to Indochina where tales and legends live.

In 2013, a friend invited me to join the church choir team which I accepted with an open heart. It has been a year in the choir and I have so much to gain than to lose, our choir master is a great teacher. In a year my singing has improved considerably and was given the opportunity to sing the gospel acclamation in mass. Last month, we sang for the Christmas mass and the reception was welcoming.

Christmas Choir

Family. We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

No man is an island. “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods”, said the philosopher Aristotle. We live in a world where many of us have a lot of friends on Facebook or Twitter but yet we have lost human connection. Indeed I am truly thankful that I have my family and friends who are ever supportive and understanding, and fun to be with. But if you ask me personally, I prefer having few friends around rather than hanging out with a big bunch of friends. Having few friends allows me to put more value into each of those relationships. Also I’m never stuck having to juggle plans with multiple people. Just ask me out for coffee, I’m more than gladly to show up.

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Finding balance

Just read Robin Sharma’s The Greatness Guide, currently on Chapter 32 “Getting What You Want While Loving What You Have”.

For quite some time now I have been struggling with my personal philosophy – of finding balance. Balance between being contented with what I have and the striving to achieve more. Balance between living in the present and pushing for the future. Balance between the now and the then. The constant struggle to achieve a balance between the two extending pans of the scale is not easy.

I’ve been told by some gurus (from self-help books) that we need to enjoy the moment and appreciate what we have. And that constantly striving for more is unhealthy and is the primary source of discontentment. Others also said to me (through self-help books) that as human beings we were built to push beyond our comfort zones and reach for something higher, something greater. And that we ought not to complacent with what we already have.

“I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not yet ended.” – Nelson Mandela

The late Nelson Mandela has this to say in his reflection, “After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not yet ended.”

To me, Mandela suggest truly what we call balance. Enjoy the view, savour the moment, be grateful that I have come this far in this life journey and the gifts and grace that I’ve received. And then be reminded of my responsibilities as a citizen, a community, a son, a brother. Look back at the lemons life has presented but linger not on past failure nor success for this journey has not yet ended. Most of all not to lose sight of that goal – to make more of this life.

I’m grateful that this chapter serves as a self-reminder in my struggle to find a balance. Love what I have, go for what I want. Enjoy the climb up the mountain but never take my eyes off the summit.

Cambodia: Siem Reap

Continuing from the previous post, after having some local Angkor beer and a good sleep, we hopped on a tuk-tuk to get to the bus station.

We took the Rith Mony bus company since that was what the airport taxi driver recommended us when we sent us to the hotel yesterday. The bus was supposed to arrive at 8am but ended up arriving an hour later. Very much to our surprise, the passengers were mostly locals. The bus ride from to Siem Reap was exceptionally long considering the bus often made frequent stops to pick up passengers along the way. I remember there were even women who got on board to sell locally grown produce when the bus made a stop.

Rith Mony

Unless you want to travel with the locals and don’t mind the longer-than-usual ride (usual ride is around six-hours), always ask for an express bus. These buses only stop in the major town and once for a comfort stop and are more reliable. I would recommend taking the Mekong Express, it is on time and only stop for lunch, on top of that there’s an attendant on board who can speak English.

Mekong Express Limousine Bus

There’s nothing more comforting than to arrive at Siem Reap. The hotel that we stayed for a night, Mekong Angkor Palace, provided us pick up from the bus station to the hotel. It is a really decent hotel with a reasonable price, we booked via Agoda and it cost us only USD 48 (MYR 160) for two rooms.

Mekong Angkor Palace

Mekong Angkor Palace

Mekong Angkor Palace

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Pebble: Precious Stone

“Hey, what is that on your wrist Daniel?”

“Wait, wait… Is this that cool smart watch from Kickstarter?”

Pebble4

These are the questions I always get whenever  people around me see my watch. Pebble!

This is my 4th timepiece since I started buying my own watches. The first was a Nike+ Sportswatch which was a total disappointment, it lasted for slightly over a year. Then I switched to an analog watch (Crocodile), sadly it lasted only for a year too. I was almost convinced not to wear watch anymore when my third analog watch (Esprit) also failed on me.

It’s safe to say that Pebble made it to my selection at a time when I have given up hope on analog watches, citing parts failure. I decided to get a digital this time. It’s an timely Christmas gift as a reward for the achievement earned and hard work for the year.

At first I have some reservations paying $150 for a watch. However I held back my reservations when most reviews I read are mostly positive. This is not some mainstream smart watch nor a fashion statement or timepiece. This is an extension to my phone where I can have notifications, shortcuts and apps on my wrist.

I placed the order on Friday, it was shipped on Tuesday and received my watch on Wednesday. Delivery took less than 5 working days. Pebble price of $150 is inclusive of free shipping via DHL express. It was an exciting moment to unbox the watch, mainly because there’s none of my friends who has a Pebble watch. I consider myself an early adopter and tech enthusiast.

Pebble1

It comes in a very nice cardboard package. The packing is minimalist! Inside the package lies the watch and a magnetic USB charging cable. I chose the Jet Black colour as it’s easier to go about with almost any attire and situation.

Pebble2

Setting up was a breeze. The ‘drift’ (jargon I learned from Pacific Rim) was almost instant. At the time of installation, the firmware received a new upgrade – version 1.14.1. The watch works well with my HTC One. I use the Pebble for its notifications for Facebook messages, Twitter mentions, SMS and calls. When I’m  wearing my Pebble, my HTC One is always unlocked while I’m carrying it.

It is basic, plasticky and has that rubberised feel. I can change the black rubber strap to metal/leather strap if I want to. Despite its simplicity, it’s rather attractive and sleek.

Pebble3

It uses the E-ink technology, hence making it less battery consuming, even with Bluetooth on 24/7 it only needs a recharge every 7-9 days.

I think wearable technology is slowly gaining its ground after smartphones and tablets. Do I think Pebble is for everyone? Well, yes, if you’re sick of analog watch, you want to be non-mainstream and is a tech enthusiast (hipster). I would say that Pebble is a chic-looking digital watch that lets users customise the clock interface and sends notifications for alerts.

Get your Pebble watch here. Get a trusted screen protector as companion from GadgetWraps.

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