Friday, December 30, 2016

My New Year Resolutions For 2017

The whole year 2016 had come and gone in a fast blink. It was the most tiring and eventful year in my whole life. Honestly, I was mentally drained and struggled sanely to stay positive after losing my mum in 2015 and my dad in 2016. Both were long ailing, aging and fading each day. It was both a very sad and relief period to pray so hard for them to depart for better places, after all they both had lived a meaningful life and enjoyed fullest as what anyone would have wished. My mind, body and soul have some void feelings now as if the chords have been cut to release me like a bird to fly on my own.



Besides going through the 2nd year of mourning period now, I still had time to fly off for some vacations. They were all planned trips like many months ahead to take advantage of cheaper flights, hotels and everything. In December 2015 & February 2016, we both flew to Japan again as we never had enough of this beautiful country. We paid for the tickets to Tokyo while we were given complimentary tickets to Osaka in February. During the Chinese New Year, we could not celebrate yet as my mum's mourning period was still ongoing, so we headed to Yogjakarta as it was nearby and cheap for a blissful and enjoyable vacation.

We were in Penang and Singapore for brief visits in September and October. By end November, we left for the long planned trip to China, followed by my trip to Jakarta to accompany my friend Peter Tan. Along the way in 2016, I have met many new friends and lost several friends too. They had sudden deaths resulting from heart failures while 2 friends had heart surgeries and survived. All these incidents frightened all my ex school mates.


My 2017 New Year Resolution is to BE HEALTHY! 
I will spend more time to exercise and watch my health!



Wishing you all a Happy & Healthy New Year 2017!



Thank you very much for reading 
all my blog postings.




****





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Silk Road Attractions - Xi'an to Dunhuang

We just got back from Xi'an a couple of weeks ago. It was our second trip to Xi'an in China and I truly enjoyed every minute of this ancient city which was the first capital of China. Its old name was better known as Chang'an where all the tourists today, could see the famous Terracotta Warriors besides the tomb of Emperor Shi Huang Ti and many other famous sites like the ancient City Walls. During our first trip in 2014, we stayed a week to visit many places and climbed up the most dangerous Huashan Mountains too. You can look up my previous Xi'an trips at the side bar of this blog if you are interested.

Many authors of Genghis Khan and Marco Polo's history, had written that Silk Road is an ancient trade route between China and Europe in 200 B.C. It all started from Xi'an in China and the route spanned across many countries including Mongolia, India, Russia, Persia until Africa before ending at the Turkish empire in Europe. Along the route, Chinese traders barter traded their many products in every little towns and the most prized items were the original China's Silk that attracted the foreigners.


 Xi'an Railway Station 
(Shaanxi Province - China)




This trip, we took the 24 hour train ride from Xi'an to Dunhuang because their internal flights are often over priced to cost a bomb! We wanted to see Mogao Caves since a decade ago and it was like a dream come true, with a price too. You will never get bored with Xi'an which is a huge ancient city since the Han Dynasty when the Silk Road started.




We stayed 2 nights at the Grand Soluxe Hotel in Xi'an which was just 2 minutes
walk to the railway station. We got there an hour before the gates were opened.


 

We booked the soft bed sleeping berths which had 4 beds. 
It was a hell ride as they allowed smoking at both ends
of all the coaches. They Chinese men smoked from sunrise till sunset
and until next sunrise. The filth of their nicotine smoke penetrated all
our lungs and it was a terrible journey. May they all rot in hell. 




It was quite comfortable with closed door privacy
to enjoy the scenic view for the next 24 hours!
It was a long shaky ride.

 

I am a 6 footer and the beds are 7 feet in length.
 So I had no complains. It was minus temperature at
Winter and they turned on the central heating at dusk.


 

We tried eating their meals at the restaurant coach.
There were over 20 coaches running but less than 1%
of the passengers ate there. Guess why?


 

Their mainland Chinese cooking always looked messy
with very bland taste. I just swallowed them with the help of
water and told myself to just do as the Romans
do when you are in Rome. Bluek!




Now look at the prices in their menu! No wonder all the other passengers
ate the cheap huge cup noodles with the free flow of hot water!
On our return trip, we bought ahead, plenty of bread, snacks, fruits
and our own cup noodles instead. All eaten happily ever after.



After makan, my wife was restless and took out her Korean
charcoal masks as the air was very dry. She looked like the
Black Face General and should have walked around to scare
all the smokers to death.



I spent hours looking at the country sides of China which
were all in grey and brown shades as it was Winter.
We passed through a hundred tunnels, many mountains, canyons
including the Gobi Desert. It was a spectacular sight to
see the melted snow everywhere.



My restless wife could not sit still. She climbed all over the
place like a cute monkey. This area is the cheaper sleeping triple
decker with hard beds and no privacy doors.

 

I saw many poor farmers along the way. They lived in wooden cottages
with mud walls and reared skinny looking goats. 

 

My restless wife who goes hiking daily at the Kiara Park hills
had to do some exercise. Here she did push ups in the mid air.


 Dunhuang Railway Station 
(Gansu Province - China)

 

We arrived Dunhuang after 24 hours train ride.
Look at our 2 cabin bags!
We had little clothes for 10 days trip.
 
 
 
 

 It was -4C and freezing outside the Dunhuang Railway Station.
It was Winter and the whole town was almost dead
with little or no foreigners. I guessed we were the
only 2 foreigners! Well, everything is at the cheapest
in Winter with cheap air tickets, hotels and
entrance fees with no crowds to push you.




 The arch along the highway to the city area of Dunhuang.




 Dunhuang is a very neat & spotlessly clean city with much Buddhism influence.
Here you will see many sculptures and statues of
graceful Boddhisatvas every where.




We stayed at Tian Run International Hotel
after reading so many reviews as a guidance
for my bookings. It is perfectly located right in the
heart of the city.





We paid less than RM150 a night for a big and comfortable
room with modern glass walled bathroom. Comes with
central heating and a fabulous TV box that airs hundreds
of good movies in Chinese and English. Their internet wifi
was too weak and slow like a dying snail. Pfftttt!!!


 

We hurriedly got to the site of Magao Caves to purchase our entrance tickets
and attend to their preview showing the dark interiors of the
caves. All the caves are dark with no lights or windows.
The coach transported us to the actual site of Mogao Caves
some 3-5 kilometers away.


Mogao Caves - Dunhuang
(Gansu Province - China)
 
 

 The front view of the whole Magao Caves with frozen river 
which consists of over 1000 caves. According to legend, 
in 366 C.E. a monk named Yuezun had a vision of a thousand 
radiant Buddhas on the cliff face, which inspired him to begin 
 excavating the caves. Today there are many more than a thousand 
painted and sculpted Buddhas within the caves.





From the 4th to the 14th century, hundreds of caves were 
painstakingly hand carved out of the alluvial conglomerate rock 
cliff face, under the sponsorship of Buddhist monks, local officials, 
and wealthy families who wished to build karmic merit and perform 
an act of veneration. Nearly 500 of the elaborately decorated 
caves remain today.



  
The caves were carved by hand, complete with altars and statues
at around 1,700 years ago.



  
The tour guides would just carry a small torch light to show
the interior and wall of the caves which are opened
to visitors in random numbers of 8-10 daily.
The caves contain the world’s largest collection of Buddhist art.   




The decorated caves’ walls and ceilings, totaling close 
to 500,000 square feet, are covered by elaborate paintings 
depicting stories of the Buddha, Buddhist sutras, portraits 
of cave donors, ornamental designs, and scenes of social 
and commercial life.







The Library Cave (Cave 17), which was unsealed by Wang Yuanlu, 
contained nearly 50,000 ancient manuscripts, silk banners and 
paintings, fine silk embroideries and other rare textiles dating 
from before the early 1000s, when this cave and all its contents 
were concealed for reasons still unknown.





 The caves also contain more than 2,000 brightly painted clay 
sculptures of the Buddha and other figures, the largest sculpture 
being over 100 feet tall.





Hope you enjoyed the photos. The next post will share the
camel rides across the desert at Mingshan Mountains.


****





Thursday, December 22, 2016

Human Rights Training In Jakarta

I came back from Jakarta over a week ago and my office's jobs piled up my head till I had terrible mental block. It was like a revenge for going away to China and Indonesia for too long. Today I feel almost back to track with my demanding work and strict Japanese clients who actually help to keep me on my toes.

I was happy and honoured to be invited by my old friend Peter Tan, to be his P.A. and accompany him to attend the recent ASEAN Secretariat Human Rights Training where he was invited to speak in their workshop. My friend Peter had come a long way after his swimming pool tragedy when he was only 18 years old, where he had dived at the shallow end by mistake and suffered from serious spinal cord injury which affected his limbs and mobility. He has struggled a lot to adapt to his fate and needs to use a wheel chair all his life. We lost touch briefly after I went to US and he got married later to a lovely banker wife who has a heart of gold. She was busy lately and unable to accompany him for this trip, so I tagged along instead.




1. We had a quick lunch at KLIA as we didn't expect MAS to serve us
lunch for this short 2 hours flight to Jakarta. Our friendship spans over
30 years today and it was very good to catch up again.




2. It was an eye opener to understand how passengers like Peter, with
special needs are being escorted to their seats in the aeroplane
using the special very narrow wheel chair, provided by the airlines.
Sadly, our AA do not have this special wheelchairs till now.



3. In Jakarta, the airport's personnel in pink uniform wheeled my
friend Peter from the plane all the way through immigration, baggage
claims until he got into the taxi to our hotel. I just tailed behind
and jumped through all the long queues too. Yay!



4. We stayed at this trendy upscale part of Jakarta City where
I could not see the slums or cardboard houses like my previous trip.
There are so many security and policemen guarding the city.
They strictly DO NOT ALLOW any photography of any buildings
yet I took them to share with you all. LOL





5. We stayed at this fabulous JW Marriott Hotel which has the
best and friendliest 5 Star services I had ever experienced.
Trust me, their services are really top notch.



6. The whole neighbourhood is very swanky with beautiful
buildings yet they stopped me from taking photos!
I should be sharing good things since I am not
a threat or terrorist.

7. One for the album by the Christmas Tree inside
the JW Marriot in Jakarta.




8. My room's window overlooked The Ritz Carlton Hotel
on the left.



9. Their F&B manager personally escorted my friend around the
restaurant and briefed him on all the exotic and delicious food.



10. I was not surprised that Japan has voted this hotel as
The Best Hotel in whole Asia! The photo is the Japanese award.




11. The whole buffet spread from breakfast to lunch and dinner
were all fantastic and good.



12. I had lots of fried pork bacons for breakfast!




13. At the 3 day event of ASEAN Secretariat Human Rights Training,
they focused on the Human Rights Mechanisms/Systems and Disability Awareness.
One excellent speaker HE. Dr Seree Nonthasoot from Thailand
shared many important demographics on the plight and needs of the disabled
population around the world. The other invited speakers touched
on other important issues too.



14. His slides pointed out that China has the highest number of
85 million disabled people! That is way higher than our whole
population of Malaysia.




15. Indonesia's disabled population is over 6 million people yet
there is so much to be done to create awareness to provide all
the assistance for the population with special needs in all
the areas from toilets, road accessibilities, public transports
and every where. I always paid attention to these issues ever
since my friend suffered from his spinal cord injury.




 16. It was Peter's turn to speak together with his partner from Laos.
He is Samnieng Thammavong who suffers from polio.



17. They gave an interesting question to all the participants.
It was an easy question, yet they were tongue tied before
giving various answers. I myself learnt something from this.
What is Disability and Where is Disability?







18. The whole group of participants from Asean countries took a farewell photo.
Yours truly sat on the floor at Peter's feet.



19. This place is the departure gate at the Soekarno–Hatta International Airport
which looks cosy! The flight home gave me a new opener on the issues
of the many people with special needs around us. Japan has one of the
best facilities in the world for their aging population which is
growing very fast. Someday, we will all grow very old and weak
where we need to have the right and proper facilities.
I am wondering whether our country will be ready
for my future needs?




Peter Tan is now a weekly columnist at
Borneo Post. You read his articles HERE.



****



Monday, December 5, 2016

Attractions Of Silk Road - Xi'an & Dunhuang

Yesterday I have just returned from China after being away for 10 days. I have experienced very cold winters and seen many new eye openers which were captured in over 1000 photographs. Honestly I am still mentally tired after the long train rides and flight home. In a few days, I will be off to Jakarta for a few days on my good friend's invitation. So I decided to post just some preview photos here before I find quality time to sort the photographs and compile them for your reading pleasure.

  
Greetings from our room at Ramada Hotel in Xi'an.
It takes 5 hours by plane from Kuala Lumpur to reach
Xi'an at the Shaanxi Province. The temperature was
like averagely High 7C and Low -3C.




 We took their normal train ride from Xi'an to reach Dunhuang
which is a very ancient city at the Silk Road journey. The train
took us 24 hours each way. Lots of sceneries of mountains,
farms and melted snow along Gobi Desert. Their average freezing
temperature was like High -3C and Low -7C. Dunhuang is
located in the Gansu Province.



This map illustrates the journey from Xi'an to Dunhuang.




 It was a very memorable trip to see the ancient Mogao Caves which we
had talked for many years. We also visited the Mingshan Mountains
and rode camels across the desert!




We took the miserable train back to Xi'an and spent 3 days
visiting the places & temples we have missed since our last trip in 2014.
We enjoyed riding bicycle around the entire city wall of Xi'an
and saw all the tall skyscrapers in the big city within 2 hours.
Xi'an City was the first capital of China and was better
known as Chang'an with a population of over 4.5 million
inside the crowded city itself! This is the most highly 
recommended place to visit after having visited
Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengde, Chengdu, Nanjing,
Jiuhuashan, Suzhou, Emei Shan and others!


*****


When you are dying......

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