Farewell

Hello again,

It’s the last day of 2011. Looking down the road, I did great for quarter life. Though not financially well off, I survived. Anyhow I have news to break. This is my last post for this blog. A blog that has been with me through the high and low of life. The only space I am complacent to share views, feeling and adventures.

When I hit the ground hard circa January 2010, I thought love had evaporated from my blood veins making me lifeless, but no, you readers kept the love flowing with wisdoms and care. And for that, I thank you.

You have also been with me for the first few years when I took off as a lawyer. The rants over demanding bosses, workload, case studies etc. I would not say being a lawyer is easy. By becoming a lawyer, I have made perpetual contract to commit to people’s problems at the expense of putting our own problems aside.

This blog has also seen me venturing into surreal adventure of solo backpacking. It was not meant to be called backpacking at first. It was more of pursuit of self discovery after a devastating break up that I went against the world alone. Ever since, I could not bring myself to a stop from backpacking the world. To those who were inspired by my adventures, who actually booked the flight tickets and re-lived my adventures, my spirits are with you.

And to you, readers, who have put my life under scrutiny and fancy my blog enough to follow me on every posts, I love you much.

Wait…

..

This is not a farewell speech for the readers, it’s for the blog.

So now you know, I’ll be moving to my own site soon. I’ll make announcement on 15/01/2012.

So long, farewell, dear blog…

Crazy Little Thing Called ‘Twitter Love’

Grandeur of life that was, laden with tech gadgets ranging from Android to iDevices, it is not a surprise to find yourself entangled with the crazy little thing called Twitter Love. While work has taken a toll on social life, virtual network has formed a necessity for many to connect with other people. With personal life updates, live political discussions and endless life principles retweets flowing over the timeline, ask any twitter addicts who would not have a twitter window running while busily attending to the demanding workload.

Twitter or tweetdeck is a permanent fixture on my computer by now.

Continuous tweet tiffs over petty topics like one’s take on marriage, excessive use of hashtags, and social ethics may span to close knit community to heart strings.

It may extend to one’s absence from your timeline that makes you wonder where she or he has been to.

It is not until recently that my interest is drawn to a certain someone on my twitter circle. Someone whose points of view, I always find myself don’t quite agree. As always, rule of opposites attract applies, and I find myself pursuing steadily; not even bother to express myself in disguise. I am straight forward. That’s the beauty of it all, you let loose your ego and crash the protection wall.

Here’s the tricky part. It might not be mutual. So there’s risks abound. There are times when you realize you are the only one trying to fuel the friendship or rather tweetship.

I quit the game for it was just me in the court playing. So I’m back aboard on the ship called Lone-ship.

And with the dream I have, the hope crashes.

New year’s resolution

 I have not been writing for so long. You know the moment you start typing something, your ideas cloud away. I had tried writing after tiring day at work but my piece went unpublished and straight to the saved folder.

 

We are closing the year so soon, have you sorted out your new year’s resolutions as just yet? It is time to reflect on what we planned to do, planned and done, done but not planned and planned but never executed. I am a true believer that we need goals to keep our lives focused. To tell you the truth, I did not have 2011 New Year’s resolutions as I had drawn a bucket list instead.

 

Life happens when you least expect it and so does the reverse un-life. It has been a year of perpetual loss for me. The only Atuk I grow up knowing left us. I felt devastated for the fact that I had failed to do my duty as grandchild. I hardly visited him in Kuala Pilah although it was just 2 hours drive from KL. And so I cherish the memories with him. Next was my uncle from Jitra. For all and for once, I hope we remember, the person who might be with us today will not necessarily be with us on the same day next year. Love your family unconditionally, that tops my 2012 new year’s resolution.

 

Career wise – I believe I have done all that I could as a second year lawyer. May 2012 be a better year for me as a lawyer. I’m going into my third year! I’m planning for a career break in 2012.

 

Love has not sparked in 2011. Not that I’m not trying, but I took flight the moment a man showed interest in me. Like seriously, I come out with 1001 reasons to evade. Most common reason I coined was I’m married with two kids. Heeee…. I have been a bit laid back these days considering how easy I give out my BBM pin and phone numbers to whoever that asked. When I thought I had turned to a complete stone cold person, I found myself flirting excessively. Oh well, that’s a good sign, really.  Oh just yesterday, I randomly propose someone to be my “acting boyfriend” to which there was no certain yes or no answer. I elect to live at present, not for the future. Dozen or so promises do not work for me for they broke my heart into tiny pieces back then.

 

This brought us back to my next new year’s resolution, to love and to be loved.

 

Of course, the only item from last year’s bucket list to surface in new year’s resolution list is to be debt free and to live frugally.

 

I don’t want to have a lengthy list for new year’s resolution for I have clear conscious I might not be able to fulfill all of them. I like to keep it simple and realistic. My new year’s resolutions appear basic. Of course, it shall be read together with the bucket list. If I can do all the above, 2012 will bring fortunes to me. I will then be content with life.

 

So what would be your new year’s resolution? If you do not hear from me for the next few days, Happy New Year everyone.

 

Kiss, hug & abundance of love,

Farah

Sunset from Balut Island, Philippines

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Island vacation is not complete without sunsets. As my first attempt to capture sunset moments at Doljo Beach, Panglao Island was devastated by heavy clouds, Alex the boatman offered me a trip to Virgin Island when I got off boat from Balicasag-Virgin Island one day tour. He told me a group of travelers wanted to spend their last evening in Virgin Island to enjoy sunset.

My money had dwindled as my trip neared the end. I honestly told him I could not afford to pay big sum for the sunset trip. Smiling nonchalantly, he said, “No problem. Pay what you can afford”. He asked me to wait for him at 4p.m. which I did after my 1 hour nap.

Not long after I arrived, 3 Germans came. Altogether, there were 6 of us on the boat, inclusive of 2 boatmen. Virgin Island doesn’t need more explanation as the name says it all. White sandy beach, unhabitated by human beings.

When the banca pushed forward to the open sea, I could feel the sun glazing my skin turning it to a perfectly sun-kissed brown colour. The wind was so strong; there were times when we were jolted by sudden motion of the banca due to strong wind.

As soon as we arrived, the island appeared quiter than during the afternoon trip. What was left was boatman collecting sea urchins. No travelers around the beach and in fact, the small stall selling coconut fruit at a hefty price was no longer there. It was just us conquering the island. It was as if we own the island. The German travelers walked to the other side of the island while Alex and I walked to the other end of the island.

Alex pointed his finger to what appeared to be another small island within walking distance from Virgin Island. After convincing me it was safe to cross over, we walked to Balut Island for better view of sunset. On our way there, Alex catched a slipper fish using his hand for me to touch. Who wouldn’t get excited when the water bed was full with colourful starfishes?

Lucky, it was low tide. I spent practically 30 minutes for the sunset.

Going back to Bohol Divers Club was in deed an experience. The boatmen did not bring a torchlight or headlamp. Our lives were put at risk. The boat was navigated in dark and the only source of light came from Alex’s old Nokia phone. We needed light to look through the water to avoid coral reefs!

I could not speak for the rest of the travelers, but I held on for dear life. I was worried sick when our banca got stuck in between coral reefs. I tried to spot life jackets but I could not see one. After surviving the journey home, I thanked Alex for trip of my life. It was all worth the journey.

Hiking 101 : What to bring?

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Hiking is never an easy hobby. It requires mental and physical preparation. Hiking involves long-hour walking through jungle terrain and mountainous range. More often than not, steep terrains are involved. So much so, when I left hiking for full concentration on career 3 years ago, I put on more weight and engaged with little exercise. When I decided to make a comeback, I had difficult encounters to switch to hiking mode.

I lost most of my hiking essentials leaving me with one backpack which I traveled with across the globe and a pair of rubber shoes I bought in Seoul, South Korea. During the last hiking trip, refer previous post, my energy drained and my motivation thinned out. With improper hiking accessories, I knew my preparation then was below par.

Hiking Accessories Selection
In selecting your hiking accessories, you should consider what kind of jungles you will hike. If it’s tropical jungle like here in Malaysia, you have to consider climax-dry materials for trekking uniform. Then consider how long you will spend in the jungle. The longer you go, the bigger your bag should be. What you wear at night to sleep is important. Good socks and gloves would do in times of cold. Make sure you bring a fleece too.

Shoes – walking and running shoes tend to make you slip to fall. And it’s a definite NO for hiking. Bear in mind that the branded hiking boots from Europe might not be practical in our tropical rainforest, most of which are meant for high alpine mountains. When choosing a quality hiking shoes, I would go after the one that offers good ankle protection, waterproof feature and light weight. For tropical rainforest, mid cut is sufficient to provide ankle protection.

If costs is your concern, then rubber shoes is another bet. Cheap and perform relatively well. The last time I checked, it costs only RM7.90.
Mine: Hi-Tec Sofala Mid WP (Women) *brand new – will write a review

Sleeping bag – Something that I can’t afford to travel without. Traveling for ardous hours, light weight sleeping bag and space minimization are the way to go. One way to select a sleeping bag is to choose the appropriate temperature rating provided at the cover of the sleeping bag. Temperature rating indicates the lowest temperature at which a bag will keep the normal sleeper warm. For example, a sleeping bag of 5 degree celcius means the user will remain warm at 5 degree celcius. All these assuming that the user is wearing a layer of clothes inside and using a carry mat/tour mat under the bag.
Mine: Vaude Sioux 100

Here’s a list of things to bring when hiking Malaysian mountains:-
1. Backpack 40L onwards;
2. Rain cover for backpack;
3. Climax dry shirt;
4. Climax dry pants for trekking;
5. Waterproof hiking boot;
6. Socks
7. Carry mat/ Tour mat;
8. Sleeping bag;
9. Jacket/Fleece;
10. Toiletries;
11. Towel;
12. Clothes;
13. Foldable waterproof bag;
14. Camera;
15. Food;
16. Foodware – Spoon, Fork, Plate and Cup;
17. Contact lenses & mirror;
18. Wet tissues;
19. Headlamp & Torchlight;
20. Ear plug (to avoid snores);
21. Small first aid kit – Muazam Hadi;
22. Whistle – Muazam Hadi;
23. Pocket Knife – Muazam Hadi;
24. Raincoat/Poncho – Byyakudos;
25. Loads of plastic bags;
26. Anti-leech socks;
27. Water container/waterbag.

If there are things I miss out, please feel free to add.

[Malay Post] Mendaki Gunung Hantu

Setelah lama menghilangkan diri bagi dalam aktiviti mendaki gunung, dengan kudrat yang ada dan kemahuan yang memberontak, aku merelakan diri untuk bersama rakan-rakan mendaki sebuah gunung yang namanya cukup menakutkan, Gunung Hantu. Kesibukan kerja menyebabkan aku tidak punya banyak masa untuk membuat kaji selidik berkenaan dengan gunung ini. Yang pasti, ianya gunung yang jarang didaki kaki-kaki gunung.

Disebabkan ianya satu keputusan yang drastik yang mana aku langsung tidak tidur dihari sebelumnya kerana bekerja hingga jam 3pg dan kemudiannya terus ke Ipoh untuk menghadiri urusan kerja, maka badan aku sedikit kelesuan dan mata yang agak berat.

Aku dijemput di rumah oleh dua orang rakan yang baru kukenali dan kemudiannya kami terus bergerak ke tol Senawang dan sampai kira-kira jam 10.30 malam. Selepas kesemua rakan-rakan lain tiba, sembilan orang kesemuanya, kami terus berangkat ke Kg. Chennah, Jelebu yang mengambil masa kira-kira 1 jam 15 minit. Kami kemudiannya terus parkir kereta berdekatan dengan pejabat polis Kg. Chennah sekaligus mendaftarkan nama kami untuk mendaki gunung di pejabat polis tersebut. Bukan apa, sekiranya berlaku kecemasan, pihak polis akan lebih bersedia.

Bagi seseorang yang dah lama tidak mendaki, 3 tahun gantung beg, perasaan aku lebih confused daripada biasa. Adakah aku mampu menaiki gunung tanpa menyebabkan kesusahan pada orang lain? Mampukah aku menanggung bebanan beg dalam jangka masa yang panjang? Semua itu menjadi tanda tanya.

Setelah siap membawa beg masing-masing masuk ke dalam 4wD yang disediakan, kami meneruskan perjalanan yang lebih kurang 1 jam ke kawasan air terjun Sg. Kijang Jatuh, memang gelap gempita kerana tiada langsung lampu di kawasan tersebut. Kedengaran deruan air terjun dan bunyi sang cengkerik. Disebabkan sudah lewat, kami terus membentang “ground” atau hamparan dan tidur berbumbungkan langit dan bintang.

Keesokan harinya, organizer trip, Nabil dan Bob menghidangkan nasi lemak buat sarapan pagi kami semua. Lebih kurang pukul 9.30 pagi kami memulakan pendakian. Tersergam air terjun setinggi 40 kaki yang tidak mempunyai sungai yang lebar. Selepas merentasi sungai, awal-awal lagi kami telah disajikan satu rintangan yang cukup menduga akal, tangga besi yang mencacak setidak-tidak 90 darjah.

Setelah mencungap mendaki tangga besi yang sekurang-kurangnya 200 anak tangga itu, kami melalui laluan balak yang mana treknya separuh hancur dek penangan sukan motorcross yang berkongsi laluan. Trek licin dan hancur tersebut menyukarkan perjalanan. Setelah berjalan hampir 2 jam, kami tiba di Kem Hantu Air.

Kami kemudiannya meneruskan perjalanan antara resam pokok paku pakis untuk sampai ke destinasi seterusnya iaitu Sg Ijin. Kami berhenti makan tengahari dan bermalas-malasan yang menyebabkan kami terlajak masa. Kami hanya meninggalkan Sg Ijin sekitar pukul 4 petang.

Setelah bersuka hati melayan trek laluan balak yang landai, aku telah diberi amaran laluan seterusnya memang menduga fizikal dan mental. Mencacak dan terus mencacak. Ianya seumpama apabila kita menegakkan jari, nak kata tegak tak tegak, itulah trek laluan kami sehingga ke puncak.

Dalam keadaan renyai-renyai, lutut yang berdenyut-denyut dan nafas tercungap-cungap, aku gigihkan juga mendaki. Kumpulan 9 telah terpecah kepada dua kerana mungkin aku yang terlalu perlahan. Sebelum ini aku pernah ke gunung-gunung yang baru diteroka treknya, namun gunung Hantu ini yang paling mencanak laluannya.

Perjalanan diteruskan selepas Maghrib. Hujan yang makin lebat menyukarkan pandangan mata aku yang sememangnya memakai spek mata. Aku pula tiada headlamp, yang ada entah ke mana. Yang ada hanyalah satu torchlight. Torchlight pegang sebelah tangan dan walking stick sebelah tangan. Bila memanjat tempat tinggi, memang tak nampak apa di hadapan.

Selepas kami mengendong bekalan air masing-masing ke puncak, aku mendahului rakan-rakan bagi kumpulan kedua. Semasa hendak memaut tangan sambil sebelah lagi memegang torchlight, aku hanya menyuluh pada tempat yang aku akan berpijak. Jadi apabila sampai di kawasan rata, aku terus menyuluh ke arah hadapan yang gelap, terus aku nampak lembaga putih bertutup keseluruhan tubuh kecuali mukanya. Pocong, ujarku dalam hati dan tidak semena-mena aku mengeluarkan kata, “Oh, shit. Tak nak lead, pergi depan dulu”.

Mengigil tubuh badanku sehingga ke puncak, pada waktu itu, aku seorang sahaja yang nampak pocong tersebut. Mungkin kerana aku yang paling lemah antara semua, aku juga uzur. Aku terlalu takut sehinggakan tidak terdaya untuk meneruskan perjalanan. Lalu kami berhenti di tengah hujan lebat, dan rakan-rakan membuat air nescafe panas untuk kuminum.

Kemudiannya, trek yang lebih mencabar daripada yang selepasnya adalah trek ke puncak. Kumpulan di hadapan telah terlepas satu campsite jadi mahu tidak mahu, kami semua terpaksa bermalam di puncak. Kesukaran mendaki paling maksima dalam gelap pernah aku lakukan. Memang mental. Bukan sahaja gelap, trek mendaki tersebut tidak punya trek langsung! Aku hanya semata-mata berpegang pada akar-akar pokok dan batu-batu di lereng bukit. Sekiranya terlepas,memang ke gaung lah jawabnya.

Terus aku terduduk bila sampai puncak, kepenatan dan masih kaget pertembungan dengan pocong tadi. Kira-kira jam 12tgh malam, kami membersihkan diri ala kadar dan terus masuk ke dalam sleeping bag masing-masing. Sejam selepas itu, kami bangun makan malam. Keesokan harinya, seorang pun tak bangun untuk melihat sunrise.Untuk memuaskan hati masing-masing, kami naik juga ke puncak teratas walaupun view tidak ada sangat.

Kami turun sekitar jam 10.30pagi dan group terakhir sampai lebih kurang pukul 7malam di persimpangan air terjun. Air terjun deras, memang gayat menuruni tangga besi yang telah putus tergantung.

Dolphin Watching and Snorkelling in Balicasag

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One of the must-do itinerary in Panglao Island is island tour inclusive of dolphin watching and snorkelling near Balicasag’s sanctuary.

I was a solo traveler, I accepted the deal for one day tour at Php1,000.00.

I was asked to come down to the seashore at 6a.m. for dolphin watching was best done at 6.00a.m. just after the sun rose. Alex Boy was nowhere in sight, I extended my horizon and spotted him bargaining a deal with a Filipino couple. Oh wait, I thought I charted one boat for myself. On board, I asked how much were they charged for the tour and they said Php1,500.00 for two person.

If you are looking for a guide in Panglao, contact Alex Boy, for I’d recommend his good service. His price is also negotiable. I was told booking directly from hotel and guesthouse doubled the original price. Alex Boatman Service at Panglao – 09274894985. Do me a favour if you call him for his services, let him know you know him through me? From 6a.m. to 2p.m. 1 person – Php1,000.00 and 2 person – Php1,500.00

Dolphin watching… It was a nerve wrecking activity as the last time I went dolphin watching, I saw none. Dolphins swim in group. Like any other wildlife, you need some luck to spot them. I spent 2 hours in Lovina Bali waiting for dolphins and I came back empty hearted. For all I knew, I put high hope to watch dolphins in Balicasag.

Our banca (boat) slowly cruised through the sea with one navigator and one boatman. One was tasked to manoeuvre the boat and another was on the look-out for dolphins. At the same time, they were alerted to the boats heading to same directions. I reckoned there were 15 boats in the sea. Kissed by the morning sun, I had my camera equipments ready. Only after 1 hour hunting, we spotted a school of dolphins. They were fast and on the move. I did not manage to even capture a picture of them.

Balicasag Island is famous for its marine sanctuary, diving and snorkelling. Snorkelling in Balicasag offers different experience from Doljo Beach. In Balicasag, it was more beautiful and colourful. Beware of the hidden charges, when you arrive in Balicasag, a small banca will transport you to the snorkelling area at the price of Php150. If you don’t have you own snorkelling mask, you have to rent the mask at Php150. Luckily Alex brought one mask for me to use.

You could even watch marine food chain where you can easily watch bigger fishes eating the smaller ones. I know it may mean nothing if you dive. But hey, this is only snorkelling and you can already see a lot of marine life. That’s something. Too bad, I did not have underwater camera to share the marine beauty.

After having our lunch in Balicasag, we were brought to Virgin Island. A really virgin island with white sand.

Tips:-
1. Never book the tour with your hotel, instead, find a boatman along the shore. Haggle your price!!

2. Bring some biscuits to feed the fish.

3. Wake up early. 6.00a.m. is best.

4. Bring extra money for the food, the small banca and the mask rental.

5. Spend more time at Virgin Island.

Beaches of Panglao Island – The Urchins Experience

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It was only on my 4th day in the Philippines that I could finally smell the sea by walking to the shore line. Too bad, my room was not sea-view. In fact, it was far from the beach that I could not even hear the waves hitting the shore. As soon as I put in my deposit, I was ushered to what would be my hide-out for the next 3 days.

When I skewed away from paying a bomb for a sea-view with glass door luxury cottage, I did not expect my stay in a relatively cheap pension house, as commonly being referred to in the Philippines, would involve some sort of muscle stretch due to climbing a flight of stairs high up. However, along the way to my room I did peep over the dive schools for handsome dive masters. That sort of, eased the pain, really.

My room had two single beds with a bathroom inside. No TVs or desk. Just a simple room for sleeping and that’s that.

Settled and well-rested, I headed to the beach for a desired serenity. I had my camera with me, so it was impossible to dunk myself in the sea. It was the time of the year when the seaweed occupied the seabed with the dead blacky seaweed drifted to the shoreline making it looked, as if it was a polluted beach. I heard beaches in Dumaluan are better off than the in Panglao area.

Panglao Beach Front

Lined with different size of bancas, Panglao Beach has much to offer

Under a shady tree, I took shelter from the scorching hot sun. I was frequented by several boatmen whom I shoo-ed away uninterestedly. Then came a man with a different approach. Someone who got it right that I am a Malaysian at first attempt. He asked if I had booked island tour for the next day. He proffered a reasonable price of Php1,000.00 for one-day boat tour. That was a fair price I would not be getting from other boatman. Btw, his name is Alex.

Then I started to ask where could I best shoot sunset in Panglao. Doljo Beach. Not within a walking distance. He said he could bring me there for a photography-snorkelling trip for Php200. Oh, how could I refuse. I said yes instantly. I hopped on his motorcycle and was brought to his house first to take snorkelling mask. I mingled with the surrounding children who enjoyed having their photographs taken. They even posed for the photo.

Snorkelling at Doljo Beach took me to a higher standard of snorkelling. Having snorkelled in many Malaysian islands and Bali, this was in deed a different experience. Instead of being thrown in the middle of the sea squinting over the left-over coral reefs, we started off from the shore. With sea grass taller me, I felt as if I was trekking under water. I was asked to wear my sandal so that I would not step on urrr… Urrr-what,I asked. Urchins. Those small, spiny, round animal lying on the seabed. Those in red, black or purple in colours! They look like hedgehogs.

I was all paranoid with water so he held my hand tight convincing me he won’t let me drown. At first I had my glasses on for I did not plan to go snorkelling on the first day. When the water found its way near the tip of my glasses, I decided to put my glasses on the bamboo hut where I placed my waterproof bag.

Even when my vision was limited by half, I was mesmerized by how beautiful it was down under. The fishes, reefs, marine plants, urchins, sea stars etc. I wanted to have a diving licence straight away.

Do you know that the gonads of sea urchin i.e. sea urchin roes are culinary delicacies in many parts of the world? I am glad to inform I was lucky to have been able to eat the sea urchin roes fresh from the Philippines sea. When we made our return to the bamboo hut, Alex started to find sea urchins for me. More about sea urchins on next post.

Sunset was clouded by comulonimbus, I did not get a good picture of sunset at Doljo Beach. But Muro Ami’s Bamboo Hut was enough for me to be happy with good photos from Doljo Beach.

We used a different route by passing by a fishermen’ jetty. Managed to shoot few pictures of the sun setting down.

One Step at a Time #03

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Grassland is the new dreamland.

The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the third largest province in China has much to offer for a grassland experience. Scattered over 1.1 million square kilometres with little population, the vast grasslands include Xilamuren Grassland, Gegentala Grassland and Huitengxile Grassland. The mountaneous greenish pastures are inhabited by 24 million people comprising of Mongolian, Daur, Oroqen, Hui, Han, Korea and Manchu ethnic group. The capital city of Inner Mongolia is Hohhot.

Xilamuren grassland is the most visited and tourist-oriented grasaland some 80kilometre nortwest on the road to Bayan Aobao, Gegentala grassland is 170kilometre northeast while Huitenxile is 120 kilometre west. Huitenxile is the least visited grassland making it the most authentic one with area of 99 natural lakes.

Hohhot is connected with Beijing by 11hours overnight train ride, for a cost of USD24 (hard sleeper).

For Gegentela Grassland, take a bus from Hohhot to Wulanhua. (2 hours) Then take a minibus (RMB10 per person) to Gegentala.

Complete the experience with an overnight stay in yurt, a Mongolian traditional tent.

That’s all for your little prairie experience.

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