Thursday, 27 January 2011

CNY Wishes for You

Have a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Note: Please be careful if you're travelling during the hols. And go easy on the grub!

Petra Trail

If you're researching for a trip to Petra, you may find this map useful.

This map is distributed to all visitors at the Petra Visitor's Centre when you buy the tickets.

More to come about my adventures in Petra ...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Chinese Influence in Syria

As we were walking through Souq Al-Hamidiyyah in Damascus, Audrey wanted to buy some tea. So we dropped by one of the shops there.

The shop sold some interesting stuff like this tea container/cup:

The idea is to put the tea into the container and pour hot water. Then use the special spoon cum straw to sip the tea.

Notice that the spoon has tiny holes on one end to prevent tea leaves from being sipped in too.

As I was looking at the rows and rows of containers on sale, I noticed something odd in the display ...

Can you guess what's odd here?

It's the Chinese motifs on some of the containers.

So I asked the shop owner why are containers with Chinese motifs sitting in Syria, a country in the Middle East where there's no pork and no gambling?

He explained that because Damascus is located along the ancient Silk Road, merchants from China brought along their wares to trade in each port-of-call that they visited.  

"Oh ..." I nodded my head as I listened to his explanation. And soon after that, I found myself staring at this car that was parked near Souq Al-Hamidiyyah:

Take a closer and see why I was intrigued by this car.

Can you guess what's odd with this car?

Chinese influence has indeed reached the shores of Syria, but they just need to get the words right side up!

Hahahaha ...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Travel Photo - Tanah Lot in Bali

When I first started travelling, my trusted Canon A80 was my travel companion. It was heavy and bulky, but it took great photos, just like this one here which was taken in Tanah Lot, Bali.

I thought the photo would be more interesting with waves in the background. So I squated under the hot, blazing sun to wait for the right moment when the waves crashed onto the shore. I also had to be careful not to scare the birds away with my presence.

The hot, stinging rays were excruciatingly hot and my skin nearly got burnt. But whenever I look at this photo, a sense of pride fills me up. It was worth it.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

5 Reasons Why Malaysians are Obese

Towards the end of 2010, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia placed adverts in the local papers stating that 2 out of 5 Malaysians are obese.

Obesity advert in Malaysian newspapers

I know most Malaysians are obese, but I didn't realise the statistics were this high! Here is my take on why Malaysians have reached this point of no return:

Cannot stop eating
Malaysians live to eat rather than eat to live. One of the main culprits is because of the glorious food that is available 24 hours in most parts of Malaysia. Did you know that Malaysia has one of the best hawker food in the world? If you're not familiar with Malaysian food, click here.

All these eating and feasting is a good tourism boost for the country, but a detriment for its people.

Not enough exercise
How many Malaysians you know make exercise part of their lifestyle? The figure is very small. They would rather spend time at the shopping malls and at the mamak stalls.

Lazy lifestyle
Ask most Malaysians to walk a little bit further to reach their destination and they would complain incessantly. They would rather drive everywhere and that's why cars sell like hot cakes in Malaysia.

One of the most blatant forms of Malaysian laziness is at the parking lot in shopping malls or hypermarts. They would rather sit and wait in the car for somebody to vacate the spot right in front of the entrance rather than parking a little further away and walk the short distance.

Whenever anyone ask if they can join me on my travels, the first question I would ask them is whether they can walk for long distances because I don't take the cab unless I really have to. Most people can't do that and that's why I travel alone most of the time.

Late dinners
I read somewhere that a certain Malaysian supermodel takes her dinner before 6pm everyday. Well, there's a logical layperson's explanation for this. If you eat late dinners or supper and hit the sack immediately after eating, the food will stay in your stomach and the fat will get absorbed into your body making you a fat blob in the long run.

Poor eating habits / Pressure to follow the majority
I was having dinner with an acquaintance and he recommended I take the mango lassi. I decided not to cause I had already burst my calorie quota for the day and it was already dinner (read Point 4). And then he asked me, "Are you always this regimented?" That almost blew my top and I wanted to reply, "Cause I don't want to end up like a fat blob like you!"

So you see, Malaysians have poor eating habits, and sometimes when you don't eat or drink like they do, they will say you're regimented and all. It's not easy, but you have to hold your ground, and think of the benefits of having a healthy body and slim figure as a motivating factor.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Where We Stayed in Damascus & Aleppo

After telling you about the rip-off hostels in Damascus, I would like to tell you about the hostels where we stayed in Damascus and Aleppo. These hostels are not listed in Lonely Planet but were good finds nonetheless.

In Damascus we stayed at Al-Kindi Hotel. A double room with bathroom ensuite costs us only 800 SYP per night for the entire room. Eventhough the bathroom was in a bad condition, the location of this hotel made up for it - it's only a 5-minute walk from Souq al-Hamidiyya.

The daunting part about staying here is that only 1 of the staff is able to speak English. Whenever the other staff are manning the counter, we didn't bother to ask for anything cause we know we won't be able to communicate with them.

The other sore thing is that they charged us 100 SYP each for storing our luggage at the hotel for 3 days when we went to Aleppo.

Entrance to Al-Kindi Hotel

When we headed to Aleppo we didn't have any inkling of where we were gonna lay our heads for the night. By the time we reached the central area it was already late evening and we navigated our way to the clock tower area where most of the backpackers hostel are located.

The first hostel that we went to was Al-Gawaher. It was recommended by Kate who stayed there before. Unfortunately Al-Gawaher was full and we had to continue our search for another hostel.

In the next lane from Al-Gawaher, we saw Ammar standing in front of Hotel Radoun.  

He asked if we were looking for a room and when he informed that rates were 900 SYP for a double room, we asked to see the room first before making any decision.

The room was spacious and clean. And when we opened the balcony door and saw this view ...

... we immediately agreed to stay there.

Staying at Hotel Radoun was indeed a good choice because it's centrally located beside the clock tower and Sheraton Aleppo Hotel - both of which are good landmarks to navigate your way around.

Hotel Radoun is also walking distance from the Citadel, Great Mosque, souqs and Christian Quarter. So it was a good find, especially at 900 SYP per room per night. Moreover the owner Ammar can speak English.

 Room rates are displayed in Hotel Radoun's lobby.

So you see, the hostels that are listed in Lonely Planet are not the only hostels available. There are so many other cheap and maybe even better options. You just need to look hard enough and maybe let faith lead your path.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Gym Membership Expired

This story is probably gonna bore you to death, but I'm still gonna post it up to remind me of gym prices, just in case.

My gym membership has expired for 2010, and I don't think I'm gonna renew it for various reasons.

First of all, I don't think I'll have the time to go to the gym on weekdays after work, simply because my gym is located in the heart of the city (Lot 10), and my office has moved to the suburbs. So getting to the gym after work is a hassle, especially since I work late most days. By the time I hit the gym it would already be around 8pm and by the time I reach home it would be about 10.30pm; I'll be completely exhausted by then!

Secondly, the new gym fees are RM149 per month which translates to RM1,788 per year. I could use this money to do lots of other things like investing in unit trusts or buying penny stocks, hehehe. Worst come to worst, I could use the money to travel!

If I ever decide to join a gym again, I would most probably join the spanking new Elements Gym at The G Tower Hotel on Jalan Tun Razak. The hotel gym is open for membership to the public and at the time of enquiry, rates were RM155 per month for a 12-month membership. For new members, there's a RM99 Admin fee and RM250 joining fee. Admin Fees and Joining Fees are meant to drain our hard earned money, but what's best about this gym is there's a 100ft heated infinity pool!

Now that I've decided not to renew my gym membership, the biggest challenge is to maintain my fitness level without hitting the gym regularly. I need to stay fit because I lug a backpack whenever I travel; and it can be tiring if you don't have a certain level of fitness.  

But there's always a way if you put your heart to it. So you'll most probably see more of me in Bukit Gasing on Saturday mornings, or even at the sports complex near my other home on Sunday evenings.

It's not gonna be easy, but heck, if this fails, there's always Elements Gym.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Looking Back at 2010 ...

Just a couple of hours ago I was blog hopping to see what other bloggers wrote to close 2010. Most of them had something interesting going on in their lives. Some of them even had something interesting going on every month of the year.

And then I looked at my own life and realised that my whole life has revolved around work, work and more work. The only 3 exciting stuff I did in 2010 were:

1) Climbed Mount Bromo in Indonesia in March.
2) Day trip to Ipoh on Malaysia Day (16 Sept) for a food fiesta. And I still have not blogged about how I conveniently forgot about my weight and stuffed my face like there was no tomorrow!
3) Visited Syria and Jordan in September and October.

I see friends and family reach milestones in their lives like buying a house, getting married, having kids and getting a job promotion. The only thing that's exciting in my life is when I change jobs or when I travel. Pathetic.

I know I need to be thankful for so many things in life like my health, friends and family. But it's sad that my life revolves around nothing else but work. It's a lousy feeling to have on the first day of a new year, but I think I'm stuck in a rut.
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