Thursday, 29 October 2009

St Paul's Cathedral - A Tough Climb to the Heavens

St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the famous buildings in London.

When you step into this Sir Christopher Wren masterpiece and marvel at its magnificent architecture, be prepared also to heed the challenge that the Cathedral holds for all who dare – to climb to the top of its famous dome.

View of St Paul's famous dome from the Millennium Bridge

Now … to me, this climb made climbing Batu Caves in Malaysia look like a piece of cake.

Let me tell you why.

The climb from the Cathedral Floor to the topmost part of the dome which is called the Golden Gallery can be divided into 3 levels:

1) Climb from Cathedral Floor to Whispering Gallery (257 steps)
2) From Whispering Gallery to Stone Gallery (376 steps)
3) From Stone Gallery to Golden Gallery (528 steps)

That’s a total of 1,161 steps, which makes St Paul's Cathedral the highest and toughest religious man-made structure I've ever climbed to date!

(Note: Click here for illustration of the 3 levels)

By the time you reach the Golden Gallery, you would be 85 metres from the Cathedral Floor and definitely out of breath.

I would love to show you the lovely interiors of the Cathedral, but photography is not allowed inside.

Anyway, if you’re wondering why do they call it the Whispering Gallery, it’s because when you whisper against one wall in the Whispering Gallery, whatever you say can be heard 32 metres away on the other side of the dome.

So be careful if you want to use profanities here. At the Whispering Gallery, the phrase “the walls have ears” is literally that.

What made the climb difficult was not only the sheer number of steps, but something else. We had to pass spiral staircases, low doorways and narrow passageways like these

Watch your head, John!

Another narrow passageway

Would be difficult to climb if you're horizontally challenged.

John is definitely not claustrophobic

The narrow passageway above made me feel like I’m in an Indiana Jones movie where the booby trap has been triggered and the walls were closing in.

As we were reaching the Golden Gallery, I saw this hole in the floor

When I looked closely, I realised the hole is directly on top of the dome and looks down into the middle of the Cathedral.

The ring where the blue tarpaulin is is the Whispering Gallery. The tiny brown thingies in the middle of the photo are chairs for the congregation. That's the view from 85 feet!

When you reach the Golden Gallery, you'll be rewarded with a bird's eye view of London. You get to see

Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge that leads to it

The River Thames and the London Eye. Can you spot the Houses of Parliament in this photo?

I also saw this obelisk-like structure surrounded by buildings and thought it looked cool.

Later I found out the obelisk-like structure is called the Paternoster Square Column in Paternoster Square, which is situated beside St Paul's Cathedral.

If you visit London, I don't think you'll miss St Paul's Cathedral and its dome which is one of the biggest in the world. After all, it has been on sitting on this site since 604AD, majestically and silently looking after the city of London.

The official St Paul's Cathedral website has a beautiful description of it: "St Paul’s is not only an iconic part of the London skyline but also a symbol of the hope, resilience and strength of the city and nation it serves. Above all, St Paul’s Cathedral is a lasting monument to the glory of God."

To me, St Paul's Cathedral is a gentle reminder that the search for God is sometimes not easy - just like climbing to the top of St Paul's dome.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Boat Ride in Oslo

David was supposed to take me bike riding to Bergen. But he hurt his back a couple of days before I got to Oslo. So in the end we decided to cancel the trip as the 489 km journey on a bike to Bergen through bumpy and winding roads would make his back worst.

Instead we went boat riding in the fjords near Hovik.

We left the apartment towards the later part of the morning. I put on my riding gear,

hopped onto the Honda Goldwing

and zoomed off. Of course I didn't ride the bike myself cause I don't have a motorbike license. I just hung onto David's tummy and pretended to look like a hot biker chick.

Soon we reached the marina where there were rows of different types of pleasure boats.

Luckily there's a special name where you dock lovely boats like these. Otherwise it would be sacrilege to call a place like this a 'jetty' because to me, the word 'jetty' conjures images of dirty ships and sampans floating on equally dirty water.

We met up with Richard who was the one who invited us to ride in his super cool speed boat.

Soon we were on our way.

As we headed out towards the fjords, the boat ride was so bumpy that I had to hang on for dear life.

I remember the last time I had a similar bumpy boat ride was a couple of years back when I was in Sabah. I was travelling in a small boat from Manukan Island to Kota Kinabalu during the monsoon season. It was drizzling and the weather was dark and stormy.

The waves were strong and huge and were banging onto the boat in a head on collision. Even the scariest rollercoaster ride is nothing compared to being in the middle of nature's fury.

By the time I reached Kota Kinabalu jetty my body felt like someone had taken my organs out, kicked them around a bit and put them back into my body again. I was completely drenched and my cellphone was wet and spoiled.

Anyway, enough about my boat ride story in Kota Kinabalu. Let's continue about boat riding in Scandinavian Norway.

The Norwegians are great boating people. Many people own a boat here - wheather it's a sampan, a kayak, a speed boat, a catamaran, a yacht or even a luxury cruise liner.

Their great passion for boating is probably due to their viking heritage; think Hagar the Horrible cartoon strip.

Because of the fine weather and being a Saturday, many Norwegians were hanging out with family and friends on their boat.

Some took the opportunity to go kayaking:

I like this yacht cause it reminds me of the movie Mamma Mia!:

I also saw many beautiful houses like this one:

There were also pretty houses on the hills overlooking the fjords:

I saw this sign (guess why it intrigued me) and asked Richard what it meant. It means to go slowly. I couldn't help chuckling to myself.

After almost 2 hours riding in the boat, we reached Aker Brygge where we had a late lunch before heading back to where we started.

I didn't take any photos at Aker Brygge cause I left my camera in the boat. What to do ... by the time we reached Aker Brygge it was already 4.00pm and we were starving. So the only thing on my mind at that time was food.

Nevertheless, I'll leave you with a picture of me camwhoring on Richard's lovely speed boat.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

7 Eating Habits to Lose Weight

I had wanted to lose weight since as long as I can remember. But living in Malaysia where nasi lemak, roti canai and char kuey teow are in abundance has made it an almost impossible task.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not some bum who don't exercise and laze around all day. I go to the gym regularly and do cardio workouts on the treadmile. Apart from that I am active and walk almost everywhere as I don't have a car. However all efforts were futile - my weight remained the same because I have stubborn body fat.

There were times my weight went down a bit but then up it went again as I was on a yo-yo diet.

Moreover I put on weight easily. If I eat rice for lunch and dinner consistently for 1 week, I can put on something like 2kgs. So I have to really watch what I eat.

The turning point came a couple of months back when I was at Pavilion and saw a promotion by a certain slimming company. What attracted me to the booth was the free body fat analysis.

When the lady explained my readings, I was horrified as I didn't know my body had so much stubborn fat - almost double the percentage of a normal person.

I realised I must do something to address this problem. I figured that since I had been exercising all these while with no change in weight, it had to be the diet. After all, I had not taken my diet seriously all these while.

After 1 month of following these 7 tips diligently, I lost 2.5 kgs permanently. You might think it's a small figure, but it's a huge accomplishment for me since I have stubborn body fat and I put on weight easily.

Here are the 7 tips:

1) Stop eating when you're full. But please don't waste food by ordering only the minimum portion or share it with somebody else.

My ex-boss kept her slim figure by not finishing her food everytime she ate. I felt bad seeing her throw food away when there are millions in this world who go to bed hungry every night.

2) Always be a little bit hungry. This is difficult to do if you like to gorge yourelf at each meal and only be satisfied if you're full to the brim.

If the hunger pangs get worst, eat fruits. You don't want to end up having a gastric problem.

3) Avoid carbohydrates and fatty foods - eat whole meal bread instead. I found this the most difficult tip to follow. During the 1 month diet, I got up early to prepare lunch which consists of steamed carrots and long beans with oyster sauce and sesame oil. Sometimes I would add a hardboiled egg.

But if I'm too lazy I would buy 2 dishes from the vegetarian stall in my office foodcourt.

4) Eat a light meal for dinner - Soup and fruits are the best.

A light meal is important for dinner because you'll be hitting the sack soon and you don't want fat cells growing in your body as you sleep.

5) Keep a daily calorie quota.
If I had eaten a nasi lemak for lunch, then I'll eat a salad for dinner because the nasi lemak would have taken a bulk of my calorie quota for the day. So if you want to have a nice meal all the time, you've got to ensure that all your meals have an equal low calorie count.

6) Weight yourself daily. By doing this you can gauge if your diet is working and learn more about your weight. If you see the scales tipping to the heavier side then you know your diet is not working and it's time to change it.

I used to weight myself in the morning and in the evening. I learned that I am lightest when I had just get up from sleep and I can weight up to 1kg heavier after a heavy meal.

Indulge yourself in a gorging escapade, once in a blue moon. You must do this to keep your sanity. Otherwise you would curse yourself for putting your body through so much torture.

Losing weight is never easy and I struggled in the first few days. But determination and will power did it.

Now my body feels light and I feel comfortable slipping into anything I wish to wear. The feeling is tremendous!

Friday, 9 October 2009

My First Time in a Mix-Dorm

During my time in Bath, I stayed at the Bath Backpackers Hostel on Pierrepont Street, which is a stone's throw from the bus station.

I stayed in the cheapest dorm there - the mix dorm with 10 fellas in one room. Costs me 13 quid a night.

I have stayed in an all-female dorm before and this was my first time in a mix-dorm. So I was expecting farts and snores from the guys.

True enough, there were snores during the first night. On the second night the snoring continued and some farts were also heard. I couldn't tell if the snorer and the farter were the same person.

But the most interesting thing is what these guys wore when they slept.

Since these fellas were sleeping in the company of ladies, I thought they would be dressed decently. But no ... they slept only in their undies. John said I was lucky they even had undies on.

My first encounter with a guy in undies happened when I went to the dorm to retrieve some stuff. Nobody was there when I entered save for this middle age guy who had just checked in. We spoke briefly and he asked if I'm from China. He's from The Netherlands.

My back was facing him as we were talking. When I turned around, he had already stripped down into a pair of dark blue undies. And while still talking, he nonchalantly got into bed and pulled the covers to his chin to get ready to sleep, as if though he was born to strip in front of stranger ladies.

I was surprised he didn't have the decency to cover up. But I guess that's how guys dress when they sleep in dorms in Europe. They don't give two hoots about who's around them.

Heck, I wish I could sleep in undies only. Less clothes used would mean less trips to the laundry and more money saved.

So If you are a female sleeping in a mix-dorm for the first time, expect snores, farts and half-naked men.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

5 Tips to Travel Economically in London

(Updated December 2017)

Many people think that a trip to London is almost impossible because of the mighty Great Britain Pound (GBP) that has reduced all other currencies to pittance. But you can stretch your money and enjoy London at the same time, if you know how. Here are 5 tips to do it:

1) Visit the Free Attractions
There are many paying attractions in London. However, the best ones are free - British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, Westminister Cathedral, Victoria & Albert Museum, etc.

Unless you must visit a certain paying attraction, visiting all the free ones is enough for a memorable trip to London.

You get to see naked statues for free at the British Museum!

Don’t worry about missing out if you don’t visit a certain attraction because eventually everything will begin to look the same. For example, visit Westminister Cathedral which is free instead of St Paul's Cathedral (GBP16.00) and Westminister Abbey (GBP20.00) because when you visit one church, you’ve seen 'em all.

2) Book Online
Attractions like Madame Tussaud, St Paul's Cathedral and Tower of London offer discounts if you book your ticket online. The discounts are not much but it’s still savings which could be used for food and transport. So remember to check the website of the attraction you wish to visit. You could save a couple of quid.

3) Bus Instead of Train
Using an Oyster card, a bus ride would cost GBP1.50 while a tube ride would cost about GBP2.40 (depending on the zone). There are also Travelcards and Day Passes. Read all options available and see which one suits your travel itinerary best.

Bus ride in London

But the downside about taking the bus is that you must know which bus to take and where to get off.

With the tube, you just get off at the specific station mentioned in the guides and look for the attraction you wish to visit. But the tube system in London can be confusing and overwhelming with its numerous lines running in different directions, and not to mention the human traffic at peak hours.

Remember to use the bus for long distance travel too because it's cheaper compared to taking the train.

And here's another tip. easyBus offers one of the most economical transfers from London to airports like Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead. 

4) Vespers - Your Free Entry into Paying Cathedrals
Vespers is the evening prayer service held in churches and is open to the public.

In St Paul's Cathedral and Wesminister Abbey where there are entrance fees, vespers are held after the last tourist has been ushered out at closing time. Attend the vespers at these places if you want to save your hard earned money. You not only get to hear the angelic voices of the choir, but you also get to step inside these awe inspiring houses of worship - for free.

St Paul's Cathedral

However, don’t think of roaming around after the vespers because the popular tourist spots within these places would have been cordoned off. For example, you would not be able to climb to the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral after closing time.

5) Survive on Sandwiches
One proper meal in London would cost an average GBP10.00 per person. In my country Malaysia, I could feed myself for half a month with that kind of money.

This egg & mayo sandwich costs 1.35 quid which made quite a substantial meal

The best way to reduce food expenses is to prepare your own meals. But if you do not have the time or cooking facilities, then I would recommend surviving on sandwiches. Shops like Pret-A-Manger and Marks & Spencers Food sells cheap sandwiches and these shops are available on almost every street corner.

If you’re horizontally challenged, think of surviving on sandwiches as a new crash diet; and if you're the type who likes to gorge at each meal, think of all the glorious food waiting for you when you return to your homeland.

Enjoy London!

Friday, 2 October 2009

This Calls for Dieting Again

I just got back from the market near my office. I went there to buy lunch, apples and oranges.

About 2 months ago I subjected myself to a strict diet which I'll share with you later. As a result I had lost about 2kgs.

However during my trip to London recently I had put on a bit of weight because of the numerous types of cheese that was available cheaply there. I'm a cheese lover!

Now I need to do something about my weight before it reaches the point of no return. So it's time to go on a fruit diet again!

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