Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

After spending every year since 2000 counting down at Times Square in NYC, this year I decided to do it in Tokyo. Went to a temple (増上寺 or zojoji) that was over 400 years old for the count down. The Tokyo Tower next to it made it quite a sight. It's indeed a different way of ushering in the new year ... :-) Have a Happy, Healthy, and an Eventful New Year!!


video

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Trip to Death Valley National Park

Together with Xin and Shwe, we began our 4 days/3 nights road trip to Death Valley National Park during this recent Thanksgiving holiday break from Sunnyvale, CA with our rented SUV.

Thursday morning, November 22nd, 2007
In about 3.5 hrs of drive, we were at Bakersfield. Our initial plan was to meet up with Lalit and had lunch here. I guessed we got there a little earlier than expected, and at the same time found out all the shops were closed. So... change of plan: we picked up Lalit at Mojave and had lunch at Denny's instead; KFC at next door was closed. Anyway, it took us almost 3 hours to a small town called Lone Pine, just West of the Park, with a spectacular view of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental US. It was our first stop before we head into the park tomorrow morning. After loading our stuff, we checked out the close by Alabama Hills before we headed back to the motel room to prepare our Thanksgiving dinner -- steamboat/hot pot! Yup, we brought all the stuff in cooler with us! Though we forgot to bring "sha cha" sauce, it's still yummy! We were so stuffed!

Friday morning, November 23rd, 2007
...was dedicated to drive around the desert park.
- 1st stop:- Furnace Creek visitor center (we found out that our SUV is not "hardcore" enough to drive the dirt road to Racetrack Playa) :(
- 2nd stop:- Devil's Golf Course. (rugged salt crystal rock)- 3rd stop:- Badwater/salt field; 282 ft below sea level, lowest point in the National Park/US.- 4th stop:- Natural Bridge Canyon. By the time we were about to leave, we knew that we probably couldn't make it to the Sand Dunes during sunset; not to mention that we had to stop by at Dante's View before that. It was dark very early. Instead of attempting to wrestle with time, we took a slower route to our next destination, passing by Artist's Palettes.
- 5th stop:- Dante's View. Excellent view, but it was windy and COLD!
- 6th stop:- Stovepipe Wells Sand Dune; one of the most accessible one. By the time we got close to the Dunes, the sun had set. We did a moonlight hike instead. It was GREAT! The weather was perfect! Of course we all rolled down the sand dunes. :D- 7th stop: - Stay overnight at the other side (East), outside the park at Beatty, Nevada.

Saturday morning, November 24th, 2007
...we drove west into Death Valley Park again. Trip to Racetrack playa was cancelled :( because the road was too rough for our SUV. :(
- 1st stop:- Mud flat. This stop was not in our plan. We drove by and found it interesting. So we decided to drove off road and stopped by. It's one of our highlight. :)- 2nd stop:- the volcanic Ubehebe Crater.- 3rd stop:- Mosaic Canyon; beautiful trail- 4th stop:- back to Best Western @ Lone Pine, CA. and crashed for another night.

Sunday morning, November 25th, 2007
It’s nice to be out in the wild for a few days... after our complimentary breakfast at the motel, it was time to pack everything up and get ready for another lonnggg drive back to civilization. Traffic was bad when we were about to get off Highway 5. We left the motel around 11am. By the time we were in the Bay Area, it's almost 7pm. So, we headed straight up to Sushi Tomi @ Mountain View, and treated ourselves with spiciy tuna donburi, handroll, chirashi donburi... :) yum....!

I'm sure there are a lot of places, and smaller hiking trails that we would like to explore... Perhaps some other time... (no lOnG hiking; i'm NOT a fan!) Anyway, this has been such a fun vacation!! :D


more pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/peisunl/DeathValley2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Si Tung Ku Cheun ( Old town )

2. Si Tung Ku Chen

On our way to Suzhou, we visited this 800+ year old water city, made famous by Mission Impossible 3 a couple of years ago.
The first thing that catches our eyes are real fishermen fishing using Cormorants.
The interesting thing about this place is that there are real residents staying, and we can witness their daily life.
That is why this sign is necessary to warn them, and us too, not to simply do our business anywhere :)
This old men sells 'fried rotten tofu'
We could not gather enough courage to try it as the smell was too strange for our appetite.
However, these meat dumplings look delicious ...........
We took a cruise and trailed the path where Tom Cruise walked.
It's beautiful...................
Apparently, Tom Cruise fell into the water several times during shooting, thus, a sign was put up to warn him, and subsequent tourists, to be careful:)
It reads:
Fall into water carefully
Till then, bye........

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shanghai 1-3 Nov '07

Now that we have recuperated from the hectic tour in the past 1 month, let's slowly recap what happened.........

1. SHANGHAI

First big impression is the MagLev ( Magnetic Levitation) train from Airport to Pudong, which touched a maximum of 431KM per hour. I remember Jap's shinkansen was around 230KM/hr.
Our hotel, Sofitel, is located in Nanking Road, a fairly touristy location.
It is a short walk to the Bund, the famous Shanghai Beach featured in the famous Shanghai beach drama, with main theme song sung by Francis Yip.
This part of Shanghai is where foreigneers used to patronise when China started to open to foreign countries.
This is also the place where there used to be a notice stating that 'Chinese and dogs are not allowed!'. Currently this notice bord has been removed and kept in the museum.
Shanghai shocked us with its modern, expensive life style.
Things are expensive, especially imported staffs.
Food too!
Our dinner for the first night, in a respectable restaurant, HuangPu Club, overlooking the bund, was in excess of 3300RMB for 8 persons!
In front of the hotel is like La Rambla in Barcelona.
Lot's of tourist walking along this road where vehicles are not allowed.
This very old hotel at he background, "Chat Choong Th'ing" is where Hey Mun Keong and Ting Lek used to visit in the Shanghai Beach Episodes.
Being a big city, Shanghai has nothing much to offer, except 'Cheng Hwang' temple, where many small stalls sell local food, traditional goods, and small souvenirs.
Mummy bought from this shop, a silk 'Cheng Sum' for Ah girl's wedding next year ;)
Apparently, Shanghai is home to the world famous dumpling 'Sheow Loong Pau'.
There are a couple of stalls here too.
However, many claimed the taste is not as good. Uncle #9 insists that Joe Shanghai in NYC is better. Ah Bee should be happy ;)
Nevertheless, there are long queues here everyday. And they even have some dumplings staffed with crab roe.
Look at what they wrote on the window, it's frightening.!
Should you five difficulty reading the last few words, it says
" Dumpling stuffed with the ovary and digestive glands of a crad "
That's all about Shanghai.
Cheers.........
We then leave for Suzhou.
En route we will visit somewhere for interesting.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Khao Lak, Andaman Sea

This is our first trip to Khao Lak, 85Km north of Phuket.
It's a huge resort, isolated, quiet, and bulit on a long stretch of fine, white sandy beach.
Excellent place for honeymooners.
However, the once crystal clear waterfront is now 'bad', after Tsunami, by Andaman sea's standard.

During the 2004 Tsunami, this place was badly hit, including our hotel, Le Meridien.
Thousands of lives perished.
They took 19 months to rebuild the hotel, and right now, it's fully booked almost everyday!
Can't imagine the business.
Dinners need to be booked well in advance, despite having 7 restaurants.
Most tourists are from Europe, and 65% speaks German.
97.25% are white.
In our 6 days here, we saw merely 1 Jap couple, 1 Korean couple, and an Indian family......
We are among the privileged few..........;)


We shared a nice quiet time with Tze Ping, staying 5 nights here, just relax, stroll, swim, eat, sleep, nap, and relax.......;)


White endless beach, miles after miles.
I love those blue sky.....



When night falls, we just laze around by the pool.........











As a Starwood preferred platinum guest, we enjoyed special welcome :)
Thank you! Ah Bee.




Daily buffet breakfast is a sin ;p
Though I am never a believer of healthy food, but such tempting yogurt is difficult to resist ;)


Nightly, we enjoy freshly caught seafood, especially steam fish and tomyam kung.
Not happy with the Thai food we took in Bangkok last month, we requested for very hot, and spicy food.
Indeed, the food came with lot's of cabai burung, and needless to say, we cried, fumed, and yet longed for more, hehe.
More ice-water, I mean ;)




Tze Ping went for 3 days' dive in the Andaman Sea.
Similan Island, Ko Kak(?) and some ship wreck.
It was interesting, as he made friends with Leopard sharks, Giant Murray eels, Honeycomb eels, Scorpion fish, Lion fish, Sea turtles, Spotted eagle rays, and learned to dance with Durban dancing shrimps.........

While he is away, our daily activities include combing the white beach for shells, and hermit crabs, etc ;)
You can see how long the white beach is. Looks endless.
We tried, but can never finish walking this beach!
Perhaps ah girl should train here for your marathon.


Suddenly, we encounter more than we expected.
Don't worry, it's just a friendly long tail friend.
At one part of the beach, there are weird rocks.................
As this is a spa resort, mummy went for her spa facial, and happily charged it to the room, with generous tips. Poor Ah Bee had to foot the bill, not me, hehe :)
As we explored the beach, we found this nice restaurant,
and this giant tiger prawn alone cost us RM20, but other foods are reasonably cheap.
As we have nothing better to do, quarrelling is also a past time.
This is how we look after a fight.
As night falls, we will just lie down and enjoy those beautiful sunsets.........
and the hotel again turned into a paradise.......
Nevertheless, every nice holiday has to come to an end:(
This is the last meal before leaving.
Look at mummy's face and you know how much she enjoyed Thai food.
This one is Thai papaya salad. Excellent!
Cheers....................,
Khao Lak, we will be back!

Learn to swim or walk?



This blog has been sleeping for quite a while. We need some noises to wake us up. =P

Laughing Marcus

Monday, October 22, 2007

We did it!

Completed the Nike Women's Half Marathon yesterday in 2:23:59. I was quite happy with the time as Amy and I have been running at an 11min/mile pace during our training. Our actual pace from yesterday was 10:59/mile, wow, we sure timed ourselves pretty well.

The race was a lot of fun. On Saturday, when we had to go to Union Square to pick up our bib and timing chip, there was a whole party going on. There were booths for manicure, foot massages, whole body massages etc... The wait for each one is approximately 30 minutes, so we just picked to get a manicure.

Yesterday, we were in the city bright and early around 6:30ish. I must say, it's very different to be walking around the city when all the shops were still closed, but there were these 20000 runners congregating around Union Square, and with loud music playing and runners cheering, I felt a bit bad for the people staying at the Westin . I looked up, and for a lot of the rooms, the lights were already turned on.

The weather was mild, and I didn't even need my sweatshirt anymore by mile 2. The course was very scenic, which was a good thing, because it certainly made the run much shorter. We started at Union Square, and then cut through the financial district, and then ran on the Embacadero along the bay. So we got to go pass Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradhelli Square, and Fort Mason. It was such a clear day that the view of Golden Gate Bridge was simply amazing. Then, we started running uphill at the Presidio, that at one point, when we looked back, we could see skyline of the city. The view from the Cliff House was also very breathtaking, with the waves in the ocean. After that, we ran through Golden Gate Park and finished at the Great Highway.

The best part of the race was when we passed the finish line, there were these men dressed in Tuxedo giving out the Tiffany necklaces :) (One big reward at the end that motivated us to sign up for this race initially, hehe. )

Still can't believe we ran 13.1 miles yeterday!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Craving for "mee hun ge" - Slurp!

Dinner & Karaoke



Nicole's first visit to relatives in M'sia was last weekend. 3 yi + 3 yi tune threw a "party" for her at "Bei Jing Lou" in Malacca.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bangkok revisited

We visited Bangkok some 23 years ago, and then again made a short trip in 2004.

This 5 day trip last week saw Bangkok changed quite a bit. The sky train and metro has made travellers more convenient in today's Thai capitol. Despite all these, traffic on the road is still bad. We were on our own and selectively visited interesting sites of our choice.

This sky train station photo was taken from our room in the evening. The sky train is approaching from the far left. For 2 days, we made good use of the sky train.

Hotel is comparatively expensive, while public transport is cheap. Imported branded goods are higher priced compare to Singapore or HK. However, made in Thailand products offer good value for money. Food is reasonably priced.

An interesting 'Sunday market' which offers bargain hunting is 'Chatuchat market'.
It is so big that a map is available for tourists, lest you get lost inside.
Apparently 200,000 visitors patronise this market on Sunday.
You can practically buy anything you want there. Shoes, dresses, flowers, antiques, food, etc.
You name it, they have it.
We were pleasantly surprised to see kittens and puppies in some stalls. This one looks like young Marley :)

Any visit to Thailand cannot run away from temples( Wat).
We visited so many that I lost count of them.



















In the Erawan ( 4-faced Buddha ) temple, near to where we stayed, there are some Thai dancers performing almost every day.













The visit to the old capitol, Ayuthaya, took about 1.5 hour each way, but it is worth the trouble. It's like the Angkor Wat of Cambodia.


One of the many beautiful sceneries in Ayuthaya.






An open air sleeping Buddha under repair.












more ruins..............
This buddha is very high up on a pagoda.

An earth quake rocked and ruin this old city,and many Buddhas were left headless???
One of the the Buddha's head has been embedded among the roots, over time.















From here, let's go somewhere different, the famous 'floating market' Damnoen Saduak.
There is another small scale floating market around Bangkok meant for tourists only.
This 'genuine' one is in the far South(?) and it took us almost 2 hours by van.
We have to leave at 7:00am to beat the Bangkok traffic jam, and be there by 9:00am.
By 11am, boats may be difficult to get, and some traders are packing to leave.
We paid 900 Baht (~30US$) for 6 persons on a bigger boat.





Favourite goods are fruits, handy crafts, local produce, hats, food etc.

More fruits.......










Panda Express?


We bought 3 pomelos for 100Baht, or a mere US$3. Taste great!













Mummy and auntie Suan See bought some freshly made coconut sugar.














Looking at mummy's smile, you know it must be a good buy:)


OK, time to sign off. Going for a little bite now.

Will write more later.

Cheers............