Sunday, 30 December 2018

Highlights of 2018

Lo and behold ... I've not updated this blog since August, and that's a long period in the social media universe.

So what have I been up to lately? Let me share with you in a flashback post since it's already end of the year.

1) Visited Boracay in January

It was my first time in the Philippines and I was lucky I made the trip because not long after, the island was closed down in April 2018 so that environmental problems on the island could be fixed. Air Asia also terminated its Kuala Lumpur - Kalibo route not long after. Anyway, Boracay has since reopened early this month.

The most popular beach in Boracay is White Beach which had lovely soft, white sand, and the waters were crystal clear. The locals were also friendly. However each time I lay on the beach, there would be an endless stream of locals asking me to buy souvenirs and snacks. In the beginning it was ok, but then it started annoying me.

Sunset on White Beach in Boracay.


2) Visited Redang Island in April

Because my trip to Boracay was so-so, I compensated with a trip to Redang Island in the state of Terengganu in Malaysia.

It was a very relaxing trip. No locals bugged me to buy stuff and I could sleep for hours on the beach and hammock.

The crystal clear waters of Redang Island never fails to amaze me.


3) Visited Taiping in May

This was a road trip with my family. This was my first time to Taiping and I enjoyed the laidback town that Taiping is. In case you don't know, Taiping is a town in the state of Perak in Malaysia.

We visited the Taiping Zoo Night Safari, Taiping War Cemetery, Lake Gardens and Antong Coffee Mill.

I enjoyed the Night Safari the best. The highlight was seeing one of the elephants wash its food in the pond before consuming it. After the meal, the elephants gathered in a circle and emitted weird sounds as if though they were talking to each other. I could hear all this clearly because it was night time when the slightest sound is accentuated.

You can see how powder is prepared at the Antong Coffee Mill in Taiping.


4) East Europe & St Petersburg, Russia in September

I was away for 20 days when the weather was not too cold and the crowd manageable.

From Kuala Lumpur I flew to Helsinki (Finland) via London.

In Helsinki I visited the Suomenlinna fortress and ate salmon soup at the Kauppatori. The weather was chilly and becomes very cold when it rains which was quite frequent. I had come prepared with three jackets and was wondering whether I could survive a winter in Finland.

From Helsinki, I took the ferry to Tallinn to visit the holy trinity of the Baltics, i.e. Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania). Amongst the three cities, I like Riga the most. Don't know why.

One of the squares in Old Town Riga.

The Three Sisters is a popular attraction in Riga.

Then I moved southwest into Poland into its capital city Warsaw and then to lovely Krakow where I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mines Salt Mines. Many people had told me not to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau because it's a sad place filled with restless souls. But it was an eye opening experience which I'll remember for a long time to com; from the lady who burst out crying after listening to how the Jews were murdered, to the lingering smell of the chemicals used to preserve the hair of the victims.

From Krakow, I flew back to Helsinki and took the overnight Princess Anastasia ferry to St Petersburg in Russia.

The Russians really know how to build grandeur and magnificence into their buildings. I was astounded. In that magnificent city, I watched a ballet performance called Le Corsaire at the legendary Marinsky Theatre.

I had so much fun during this trip that I didn't want to come home.


5) Chartered Banker qualification

I progressed to the third and final level of the Chartered Banker professional qualification.

There are three modules for this level. I sat for the first module (Professionalism, Ethics & Regulation) on 24 November 2018 and currently awaiting exam results which will be out in February 2019.

If everything goes according to plan and I don't have to resit any module, I would be able to obtain my Chartered Banker qualification by end of 2019.

Completing assignments and studying for exams has been the main reason why I didn't update this blog since August.


6) Tried volunteering for 14th Malaysian General Election

I registered as a volunteer PACA (Polling Agent Counting Agent) for the 14th Malaysian General Election on 9 May 2018.

However I was not assigned a polling centre due to a blunder on the organiser's side. What a bloody waste of time and effort to attend PACA trainings which were usually held in the evening after work.

Eventhough the candidate I volunteered with won her parliamentary seat, I don't think I'll volunteer again for future elections after this bad experience.


7) Knee problem

I gave up running for almost 6 months due to a knee problem.

Each time I hit 2km - 3km at a certain speed, my left knee would start having a discomfort which leads to pain.

After recuperating for almost 6 months I'm trying to start running again. I'm hoping that my knee won't let me down or else I would have to seek professional help.


8) Hard Rock Cafe bottle openers

Added six new bottle openers from Helsinki, Hong Kong (two different types), Houston, Krakow and Warsaw.

I could have collected more because Helsinki alone had like six different types of bottle openers. But I didn't want to spend so much on a single outlet.

The most disappointing was Hard Rock Cafe St Petersburg in Russia. I had walked almost 2km to the outlet only to find that the bottle openers were sold out. The sales assistant tried to convince me to purchase other stuff from the Rock Shop but my heart is with the bottle openers.


Looking forward to 2019

I've booked a trip to South Korea in May 2019. Tickets on Air Asia were bloody cheap to not book it. I'll be flying into Seoul and flying back from Busan. Gonna skip Jeju because I would need to drive around the island which is not economical since I'll be travelling alone. Ah some of the perils of solo travel.

A friend has mooted the idea of travelling to Morocco in September. So I hope that materialises. But you know when we plan so far ahead and depend on another person, most of the time it doesn't happen. That's why I prefer solo travel.

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