Friday, October 30, 2009

Angkor Wat Part 2, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Here are some of the friezes and bas-relief in Angkor Wat. If they whet your appetite, there is no shortage of reference materials you can dip into.


Angkor Wat temples are scattered over a vast area. It reminds me of  Bagan in Burma where I saw thousands of pagodas.

A 1-day, 3-day, 1-week pass costs US$20, 40 and 60 respectively.

I bought the 1-day pass. For me it was enough. With my bicycle my range was extended but to cover the whole area would have taken me days.

(BTW, have you booked your ticket to Siem Reap? Seems air tickets from Singapore at least are selling out very fast.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Angkor Wat Part 1/3, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Locals making their way to the temple complex.

The causeway to the temple complex.

One of the many balustrades lining the causeway.

The most famous image in Cambodia.

The courtyard in the temple.

I'm no expert in Angkorian history. The basic facts are that Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century, and gradually expanded with each successive king.

Angkor Wat  is only one of the several temple complexes in the area which is really huge. A bicycle or motorbike is the ideal way to move around.

For the casual observer one day is enough.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cycling to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cycling to Angkor Wat gave me the rare opportunity of observing the Cambodian way of life. I was quite nervous about taking this shot of these two Cambodian cops, fearing I might be sent to the killing fields. Here they were simply gazing at the river and gossiping.

Cambodian kids tried to sell bananas to passers-by on the road to Angkor Wat. No, not for you but for...

your long-lost cousins. At the sight of monkeys people always get excited. Perhaps, this has something to do with the fact that monkeys remind them of their ancestral roots. To demonstrate my empathy with them, the monkeys I mean, I bought a bunch of bananas. NO, not to feed them but to feed myself since after all that cycling I needed the carbo!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Road to Angkor Part 3, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cycling to Angkor Wat, I noticed harried parents with their kids hurrying to hospital. Initially I didn't know what was going on. Gradually I understood the reason for the commotion. There was a severe outbreak of dengue fever.

An appeal for blood donation.

The eye-catching children's hospital in Siem Reap

When you cycle, you see more and pay less and exercise more. LOLA. A win-win situation, don't you agree? No?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Road to Angkor Part 2,Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cycling to Angkor Wat gave me the wonderful opportunity of observing the Cambodian way of life, Here are some snapshots. I'd stop riding the moment I spotted anything interesting.

A no-frills barber shop.I almost wanted to have the experience.

A "shopping mall" by the dirt road. Dust is part and parcel of the shopping experience so don't fret.

A Siem Reap High School.

A busy Cambodian village outside town. Small businesses have mushroomed along the roadsides. A slice of Cambodian life not seen by those on packaged tours. No problem for me to pretend I was a Cambodian as I looked just as scruffy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Road to Angkor Part 1, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I cycled on this lonely road to Angkor Wat, 5.5 km from town.

There are three ways to get to Angkor Wat  5.5 km from town.

Tuk-tuks in town

The most popular way is by tuk-tuk. I was the only crazy foreigner cycling to Angkor Wat. Westerners in tuk-tuks gave me pitiful looks as they roared past me, leaving me behind in a cloud of dust and exhaust fumes.#*!@

Barely 12 years old, and already a seasoned rider.

Or rent a motor-bike.

Hey, that's not me!

The best way in my view is to rent a bicycle for about US$3 a day. It was slow but it gave me the opportunity to observe the places and the Cambodians at close quarters. Besides, it was excellent exercise for me. Pay less, see more!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Mini Bus or Bas Mini of Sabah, East Malaysia

Wawasan Terminal: mini buses

Visitors from mainland Malaysia or West Malaysia will be disappointed with the poor transport system in Sabah. This is why mini bus or bas mini in Malay is the king of the roads. It plies almost everywhere in Sabah. It's actually a van converted to carry passengers.

It won't leave the terminal until it's full. There are no designated bus stops. You can hail one from anywhere you happen to be.

To add to the confusion, small buses are also called bas mini.

In Kota Kinabalu, all bas mini end up at the Wawasan Terminal next to the Wawasan Plaza (nice foodcourt on top floor)

Wawasan Terminal: destinations are indicated at the top.

Bas mini fares are reasonable eg I paid RM 1.50 for distances of 4 to 8 km. The City Bus also starts here. It does a circuit of the city for 50 cents (free for senior citizens or in Malay, Warga Emas). If you are only 54 don't pretend to be one (akan datang lah)

TIP: Want to save some ringgit from the airport to the city? Just walk out to the main road 5 mins away, and wait for a bas mini. Hop in when one comes along, and hop out at Wawasan (fare: RM 1.50) Regular cab fare is about RM 20. Trying to save every cent? Ok , walk to the city - only 4 km away. By now you should have realised that bas mini is attracted to anything on two legs.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Manukan Island, Sabah, East Malaysia Part 3/3

World War Two bombs found on Manukan Island

Over high tea the other day, a friend asked, "I don't fancy the idea of being BBQ in the sun so what's else is there to do on the island."

"Go and look for bombs,"I said. "You'll become famous."

Trail up a hill

"Or walk up the hill. It's only 1.5 km, and it's an easy walk," I continued. I saw two monitor lizards about a metre long crossing my path. Monitor lizards are vain creatures, always emerging from the undergrowth when I'm near them. The bird life on the hill also attracted my attention. I came across a group of Thais armed with cameras and tripods. They said they were looking for wild forest fowl.
This sign greets you at the top of the hill.
The sunset from the top of the hill is supposedly jaw-dropping. Can you guess what's the yellow speck in the picture? Click on the picture to enlarge it. Don't cheat. Make a guess first.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Sabah, East Malaysia Part 2/3

Another side of Manukan island

Snorkeling area: the mainland and KK look beautiful from the island.

When I arrived at the island's jetty, I was surprised to see hundreds of fish in the crystalline waters.When I threw them a piece of bread, they went berserk.If you're the type who enjoys being BBQ in the sun, Manukan island will not disappoint. Go snorkeling or...

go scuba diving and earn more bragging rights for your next "teh tarik" (Malay words which loosely means tea drinking) session at the coffee shop or Starbucks.

No gear for snorkeling? Don't despair. They can be rented here at this shop which was the most welcome sight for me as cooked food and drinking water are available here. You see, since I left my room rather early, the shops in KK were still closed.

As mentioned earlier, Manukan island is just within a spitting distance of KK. No long tedious boat ride to your paradise island.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Sabah, East Malaysia Part 1/3

Jesselton Ferry Terminal

The good thing about KK, if you like snorkling and diving, is that the islands are only 15 to 20 minutes away by speedboat. Since boats leave only when they have about 12 passengers, I made sure I was at the ferry point by 9am. Already there was a sizeable crowd. A surprise since it was a weekday. I paid Rm17 at the counter for Manukan Island and at another counter RM6 port fee.

Manukan Island: sandy white beach and crystal clear waters beckon

The Park consists of 5 islands, the largest of which is Manukan Island. It's the most developed with chalets, a restaurant, footpaths, benches, a convenience store (selling cooked food too)  and don't worry if you have a bladder problem as there's a free toilet. (A conservation fee is levied for entrance to the island)

Footpath: for that leisurely stroll

A footpath winds its way through the island. With birdsong to entertain you, and the sea breeze in your face your stress level disappears (until you re-appear on the mainland). A magpie robin flew close to me as if to say Hi!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Best place in Kota Kinabalu for a drink, meal or satay?

Pub service personnel along Kota Kinabalu waterfront.

Do you know the best place for a drink or meal in Kota Kinabalu? It's along the waterfront behind the Arts and Crafts market. A beer and Thai food was the perfect way to end a day of exploration for me. The magnificent sunset was a bonus.

KK's waterfront

It's happy hour time but still early for KK folks. Only people like me would be wandering around here at this hour.

Satay (BBQ meat)

Never heard of "stomach satay", have you? Which stomach parts? Intestines, liver or just the stomach? Guaranteed to be stomach-churning stuff. Yuk!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stunning girls of Sabah, East Malaysia

Girl in Black (GIB)

Girl in Black's colleagues

On the way to Sandakan in eastern Sabah, I stopped for a meal at this remote restaurant. I approached GIB but she was preoccupied with her cell phone.

Me: What do you have today? (I spoke in Bahasa Malaysia or Malay, the national language of Malaysia)
She gave me a thumbs up, and continued chatting on her phone.

Her colleagues: She's talking with her boyfriend.
They giggled and laughed.

Me: No wonder.
GIB: They're lying.
Her colleagues: Yes, every day she's on the phone.
GIB blushed and giggled.

GIB: Marry them.
Me: Ha, ha, they're too young for me.
More giggles and more laughter from her friends.
GIB: No problem.
My eyes rolled heavenwards, beseeching Providence for guidance.

From my chat with these people I learned that their monthly salary is between 400 to 500 ringgit. (US $116 to 146)

(In South-east Asia, it's not considered rude to ask a person personal questions as long as your concern is sincere.)

Man from Zamboanga in Sandakan, Sabah, East Malaysia

Why do people travel? For the usual reasons like seeing new places and having new experiences, isn't it?

For me personally, travel also is an opportunity to learn more about the culture and way of life of the locals. Whenever I have the chance I'll try to interact with them.

I chatted with many people in Sabah. One such person was Hadi from Zamboanga in southern Phillipines whom I met in Sandakan. Short, dark and wiry, Hadi is one of the thousands of Filipino working in Borneo - many of them are illegal immigrants.

Me:  What do you do in Sabah.
Hadi:   I work in the plantation.
Me:  Where do you live?
Hadi: I just come back from Zamboanga. I go back for cyst operation. (removes his shirt to show the bandaged part on his chest).
Me: Zamboanga? Isn't it a dangerous place?
Hadi: No, Zamboanga not dangerous. Zamboanga people call ...
Me: Latin city?
Hadi: Yes Latin city. In city it safe but not outside city. Terrorists the Abu Sayyaf you know, they kill kill.
Me: How did you go back to Zamboanga?
Hadi: I take ferry. 250 ringgit. 18 hours to reach.
Me: Big boat or small boat?
Hadi: Big boat. Can take 450 people.
Me: How many children do you have?
Hadi: Six.
Me: So many?
Hadi: Yes. I 20 already marry.
Me: What do they do? In school or working?
Hadi: One working in plantation also. Another a driver. All in Sabah.
Me: Is it safe to travel in Zamboanga?
Hadi: No problem. Inside city safe but not outside city. Ok, now I must go see if got transport to the plantation.

(Abu Sayyaf terrorists kidnapped an elderly Catholic priest a week ago, and they have yet to release him.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SK Ketabuan, Sabah, East Malaysia

From Sandakan it's a combination of car and boat ride to reach the island school. Teachers posted there are on a 3-year stint. Cikgu Farhana on the way to the island to meet new challenges.

When heavy rains coincide with high tides, the school compound gets flooded.

This is the reason why the teachers are here: to give the island's kids a good education so that they'll not be left behind.

The school staff with guru besar (headmaster): These are the professionals who have to sacrifice a lot for the sake of the children. Cikgu Farhana tells me four new teachers from West Malaysia have joined the school.

School website:

Images: Courtesy of Cikgu Farhana

Sepilok Nature Reserve Part 2, Sabah, East Malaysia.

As you stroll in the beautifully landscaped Sepilok Nature Reserve, you''ll not fail to notice an orchid garden. Words fail me to describe the beauty of the orchids!

Here in the nature reserve you have the time to stand and stare. If surrounded by the beauty of nature at every turn, and you still worry about unfinished work at the office then you're at the wrong place!

With a good book and a drink in this restaurant, my stress level plunged to zero (sorry, not trying to make you envious).

Remember, I mentioned the other day about my humiliation in not being able to spot a single bird though Sepilok boasts of about 300 species?

Well, here I spotted 5 species. Haha, dignity restored! The best was a reddish woodpecker I saw at close range with my trusty binoculars.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sepilok Nature Reserve, Sabah, East Malaysia Part 1

After saying Hi to Uncle Harry (see his pix at bottom of page), I walked over to  Sepilok Nature Reserve next door. I was surprised to see a packed carpark. Then I saw the banner "Welcome to the Minister for Tourism". Although I was dressed like a beggar, Security didn't make a big fuss.

I walked around the lovely lake edged with lush greenery.

This charming chalet overlooks the lake.
Flowering plants abound in the nature reserve.