Thursday, May 23, 2013

Monday, August 6, 2012

Musik, My Travel Therapy


I travel the garden of music, thru inspiration. 
It's a large, very large garden, see? - Peter Tosh


Music has been very much the core and foundation to my very being. It's important that I have it with me wherever I go to wherever I will be. Kinda like a friend I know that I can count on no matter what state of mind I'm at. It's my therapy. My anchor. Dramatic eh? Ah, what is life without a little bit of drama.

I've never failed to pick up a cd when I travel to new/familiar places. While others collect magnets, postcards or other souvenirs, I buy books and cds. I'm a dork through and through :)

Josh Rouse's Subtitulo was one of the discovery I made during my previous Euro trip which turned out to be my OST for the entire month. God, that album resonated with how I felt at that time - going on my first ever trip abroad on my own.

I don't know what is it with music but I'm somehow very connected to it. Not that I'm in any way talented whatsoever, it's just..let's put it this way - music saves my life and without it, I'm not sure if I'll be as sane as I am today. Even then, I do question myself somedays. Heh.

So these are my five main artists who'll be in my playlist through the 30 days across East and West Europe (I'll share with you the list I'll travel in the next post):

1. Paola & Chiara
I've been listening to this duo since 2000 and I've always wanted to get their albums but it's never available in Malaysia. At that time, I have this mad obsession about Italia (still do actually), I have no idea why. Listening to it again brings back so many memories and it's only right that I bring them along to my trip :) 

2. Coldplay
To explain the kind of impact this band has made in my life would take me forever to find the perfect words. To watch them play live in Stade de France, Paris next month is something I've yet to digest and I will promise you that there will be a moment when I would have tears in my eyes. Oh, I have no doubt about that. Ego aside.


 



3. Ellie Goulding
I could just picture myself playing her albums on loop throughout the journey. There's something about her words, her mood that strikes a chord with me and I know I'll be hunting down for her albums in HMV later.




4. Artful Dodger
I've always loved old skool UK garage band. I miss those days when music was just so good, so pleasant to the ears that it just never gets old. If there's a club still playing AD, I'd be over the moon for sure. 




5. Jamiroquai
There's no place I'd go without Jamiroquai. Full stop. Just a shame that his tour has ended before my trip. What I'd do to watch him perform again.




So these are some of the many song that'll accompany me while I find my home, myself and my inspiration. Travel and music to me goes hand in hand. One doesn't function without the other. It tears the heart, it speaks for the soul, it expresses love and it shares the joy.

Now, where's my shuffle again? Darn it.

Wings to Fly


Travel teaches toleration - Benjamin Disraeli

When reading this quote for the first time, it's understood that travel teaches us to tolerate with the things we don't know and would be experiencing for the first time in another place. But then, this morning I woke up and I had this in mind - it teaches me to tolerate myself when I'm put in situations, of consequences I'll be facing and most importantly, to lower down my expectation of myself to be who I see myself to be rather than who I will become.

Confusing? Totally. 

Lately, I've come to realised that I have put myself in such an "unrealistic" expectation of myself and for every time I don't meet that standard, I would berate myself for it. So what does this have to do with traveling then?

I've been reading, learning as much as possible and revising what I've forgotten to prepare myself for my upcoming backpacking trip to Europe and as minutes passes by, I'm no where closer to where I see myself to be. It's ridiculous to think that I'm running against myself. For what? No idea really.

So, even before I step foot in the aircraft, travel has taught me this:

1. To take my time in learning what is needed
2. To accept that you can never be too prepared
3. Enjoy
4. Live
5. Anticipate

I know at the end of the day, I'll make do with what I have while traveling but I'm not sure why this time around, this trip makes me push myself hard to be more prepared. All my other trips has never been like this, not even my last backpacking trip to Europe. I've always been that girl who just have what's needed and the rest will fall into places.

When have I changed and become an entirely new person?

When technology made it more accessible to travel I guess.

To be honest, this would be the first time I'll be traveling with a smartphone that has all the apps I need and even then I'm not sure if I want to use it. I have to agree, the apps and information made available out in the cyberspace are only meant for us to use it as best as we can but I feel as if I have this "need" to know it all.

Let's go back to basic. A month in Europe all requires me to bring 2 pants, and 5 shirts, a cardigan, a jacket and one pair of shoes. A book, some music, camera (yet to fix the comatose dlsr) and a lost soul. Everything else, I will have to reconsider. I know I'll be bringing my trusty o' Sony Eriksson phone from the past to last me through the trip. 

Reading back what I've written here just opened my eyes to who I need to be when I leave in  17 days. For some reason, I feel so much lighter on my shoulders now. 

I've never been ready in any of my travels and I came back happier than ever. Therefore, this trip shouldn't be any different yet it is. 

Close an eye and take a leap of faith Dian.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Home is Where the Heart is


I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. - Maya Angelou

There are many reasons why people like to travel - see the world, meet new people or even to start fresh. Whatever your reason is, go for it. Maybe for some of us, we can only go so far, but even then, I would definitely encourage all of us to go out. It doesn't matter if it's a 10 minutes walk out to the park or moving to another country. The point here is so that you'll have a broader mind to understand how the world works. 


I for one find travelling therapeutic. 

It's when I find myself in places where I don't feel so strange or out of place that I know I've finally arrived. Finally have a place to call it home. That's when I know I can just be myself, away from things I don't have to deal with at the moment. 

Rolling down the hill in Ludlow, anyone?

A running away scheme sort of. 

I understand myself deeper when I travel, emotionally and spiritually. Maybe because I get to put reality on hold. Able to explore the possibilities of what I could do, much like an idea of what my alternate universe would be like. 

You would say it sounds like a soul searching path.

In a way, yes.

Breathtaking view of Jaipur
On a more direct approach, I'm searching for that home feeling. Places that has a sense of belonging to me. Safe to be me.

I remember when I was in Jakarta when I discovered that home feeling. It wasn't the first time I was away but it was certainly the first time when I didn't feel like an outcast. I suppose it has a lot to do with the people there. They don't judge you on your looks or status. You are human, much like them. What separates the good ones from the bad is the character.

Oddly enough, I don't feel the same here. I came back feeling dumbfounded for a few weeks after that. Never thought there is such a feeling. Ever.

Perhaps some people may think I'm not patriotic about my own country. On the contrary my friend, if you know the work I do, then you will know me better than that. I just don't know what went wrong. Either I was born in the wrong century or so happened to be an alien. Either ways, I find difficulty adjusting despite living here all my life.

Hanging out in Bingen
I guess different people have different strokes?

Dunno.

What I know is, since then, the places I go to, I have moments of being at home. At ease. And that's my motivation to explore and be away. Often, this feeling occurs when I'm in old cities. It could be because I have an old soul..or associate the feeling with the books I've read while growing up. 

Old cities makes me feel home. There I've said it. 

Ludlow reminds me of The Secret Garden, Montserrat of Indiana Jones and Hardy Boys for Haarlem. 

It's kinda like exploring my own mind actually. Things I've only read and imagined actually existed in some parts of the world. 

Cozy looking house in Haarlem
I'm still looking forward to the day when I find the place that reminds me of the movie My Girl. That would be the ultimate home I'm sure.

Why do I feel this way? While growing up, these are the places I wish to have, to run away to; just a place to call my own. To be honest, I'm still finding my way in this world. Most of the time, I create this place in my head to go away. Now that I have the means, I search for these places. More often than not, I usually stumble upon those places.  

It's interesting to know that I feel home when I'm away.

Travel helps me manage my tendencies. Keeps me grounded and gives me a peace of mind. Overall, it teaches me to be receptive of Mother Nature, Him and people in whatever condition. 

An endearing moment at Lakeside
In a lot of ways, I can go as far and say that travelling save me from many things. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mein Freund in Bingen (Part 1)

The language of friendship is not words but meanings. - Henry David Thoreau

I will forever look back to this day on how I decided to take my 14kg backpack to Mainz.  It's a journey I'll always remember about one of my most eccentric friend, Farah.

The trip started while I was lounging on Nad's couch in Tooting; I received a surprised message from Farah saying that she was able to spare time for us to come over. It was really a no brain-er visit this one because UK and Germany isn't that far and while we're at it, we decided to do the entire Benelux (short for Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) before we head to Frankfurt.


I remember we rushed from Centraal Station in Amsterdam to catch the train to Frankfurt. We were always rushing when it came to trains. With heavy bags and all, I think we were lucky to get pretty good seats. Some of which were upgraded along the way. So on the way to Frankfurt, I managed to keep in touch with Farah and she had instructed me to get a connecting train to Mainz where she'll be meeting us that night.

With a discman and Valentino Rossi's autobiography book to keep me company .. I'm reminded that there was a reason why I wanted, no..needed to be in Germany.

Prior to my Europe trip, Farah and I had been keeping in touch via emails. I had such fond memories of us writing long emails to each other, talking about anything and everything surrounding us. And in that moment I knew that I had to see her. Had to talk to her. For what reason, I'm not so sure.

As far as I know, Farah is one of the most brightest person I've ever encountered. So bright, she'd give you a run for your money when you speak about philosophies and theories. I call her a genius. She of course will deny till she dies. But that's who she really is, one who need not have to study, do homework and still manage to pull off a pretty amazing result. With a glance through, she could tell you the gist of it. For many years, I admire her talent. While she has her own temper to tame, I think it's what makes her all the more interesting. She's kooky yet funny. Sarcastic as hell but also down to earth. There are a lot of things about her that's amazing which she's not really aware off.

Anyway, so as we got off from Frankfurt and heading to Mainz, we met Farah and she then led us to another station, one where we would be heading to her home - Bingen. She said it's a very small place. A very small place I find very charming indeed. However, that realisation only occur the morning after.

To think I was thousands of miles away from home, we were approached by other Malaysians in the train that night. Who would've thought? Then an Indonesian came to us and had a chat, sharing with us his 20+ years of staying in Germany and how he miss being back home. I thought that was a nice touch to my first visit here. I couldn't believe how easy it was to strike up conversations with other people. People we might not even see tomorrow but is more than happy to fill you in for present.

It's the one thing I love about being in Europe. Just the feeling that you're able to make someone's day by greeting them. As much as I would wish the same thing could happen in Malaysia, it's not in our culture (I guess) to do it. At least not in the metropolitan areas. Everyone's so hung up about their own world, there's no time for other things.

The best part about it all is that, Farah said "In my years of living here, I've not met other Malaysians in the train!".

When we got off the final station, we met with one of her housemate who happened to be dropping someone off. So hey, we got a free ride back! The best part was, her housemate was driving my first car - the VW GTi MK2. It's a legendary car that one and boy, was I happy to jump in and be in the car with the sunroof opened!

Just recalling it right now is already making me smile. Oh how I miss Bingen.

The thing about Bingen is that, you could sleep on the road and you don't have to worry about getting hit. It's so quiet yet wonderful at the same time. We all bunked in Farah's room which is the attic. This was when she shared with me her little escapade - out of the window, seating on the rooftop and be captivated by the view in front of your eyes. The best part is, you could even lay your head and look at the sky. No one will noticed.


It's these moments, this kind of hide outs I've always loved doing since I was a kid. I love having a tree house, love having a secret garden no one knows..I just love having a place where I can call my own. And that was her space, her little corner of the world where no one else can take it away.

This was also the time when I discovered how fast internet could have been! Although Zoel had told me many times before when he lived in Stuttgart, I never actually knew how fast he had meant. The noob that I am. There's a Malay word for it, "Jakun".

Once we've settled down, refreshed ourselves.. the host slowly pulled out a box in front of me. I wasn't sure what it was until she reminded me of a certain purchase I made a month before through her. Slowly, I unwrapped the bubble wrap..making sure I didn't ruin it, lo and behold..it was the XJ200 scale model I've been hunting for someone's birthday. Why did I put so much effort to look for this? It's a rare piece and now that I have it in my hands, I was beyond happy. I knew I owed Farah big time for troubling her. And till this day, I couldn't thank her enough.

See, that's who Farah is. When you "get" her, she's the kind of friend who would almost do anything for you without so much hesitation. But if you don't, hey it's your loss really.

Oh! And she even bought a bag of gummies knowing full well I had mad craving for it while I was in London. She actually managed to sourced out for Halal gummies somewhere in town and.. wouldn't you know it..I happily ate them away :) It's a simple gesture but it meant so much to me.

Just thinking about it all over again making me miss her quite a bit too. What with the kind of lives we're living today; she's still there in Bingen where I believe is where she belongs and me in KL. So we have small window of opportunity to catch up but somehow we'll make sure to drop a word or two saying "hey things are good. It's heading somewhere bla bla bla".

Maybe I'll drop her an email after this. Just because ;)

So the next morning, she took us out for a walk. As usual, it's a must to go to the supermarket and get what we need. If you want to stock up food for travelling, always head for the grocery shop. Especially mineral water. You'll save heaps I tell ya!

I remember being greeted by the cashier in the morning. How could one survive in Deutchland without speaking German? Eh, pretty alright I might say. Farah taught me a few words in German and I used 'em all the time. I had a lot of positive feedbacks too.

One time when I was in Farah's room sorting out stuff, I accidentally cursed in German. Instead of asking what happened, she said "WHOA! Did you just cursed in German? Cool!".

Yeah, that's my friend alright. She was the one who introduced me to the word - Idiosyncrasy. Apparently, that's how she describes my stories.

After our trip to the supermarket, we head off by foot to the ferry on Rhein River.

Rhine is the 12th longest river in Europe

Our next destination? Rüdesheim am Rhein.


We didn't know what the itinerary was since we left it in Farah's hands to bring us around. I didn't do much read up about this place to begin with so when I came, I had no expectations. So when we got on the ferry, she told us a little bit about this UNESCO World Heritage Site winemaking town. This place has a lot of events going on through out the year. One that's most known for is the Wine Festival which happens third weekend of August every year.

We took the cable car up to the top of the hill where we can witness the picturesque view of Rheingau landscape. There's even a hiking trail from the bottom of the hill and one can also pluck the grapes when the season comes. Too bad when we were there, there were no fruits.


Some of the views I remember from many years ago


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Grown ups can have fun too! Uluhati Edition.

Sometimes, in the midst of living; you tend to lose yourself along the way and having said that, it's the only thing I could say about myself. I'm not sure what it was but I did. I had lost pieces of myself while fighting, caring and growing up. I miss writing, be it poems or stories and I really miss creating art the most.

These are my tickets to escape, my secret garden to hide out.

When I stopped doing it, I felt as if I'm a ticking bomb. The past couple of weeks had been me suffocating only because I didn't know I was repressing so many emotions inside.

Today, I found the urge to write. No, actually I started writing a month ago..continuing a story I've abandoned. Slowly, eventually.. I'll get there. Just like everything else.

It's been a challenging year so far. What is only about 2.5 months since we started 2012 to others, it felt like I've been in it for 11 months. I've discovered so many things about myself. Forcing me to grow up a little bit more, if not be more responsible. And I won't lie, it has been quite a challenge. Mentally and physically.

So one day, last month, the day I've been waiting for had arrived. There's this gem in Hulu Langat, Selangor I went for a recce with a colleague prior to #TSDayOut called Uluhati. This little haven made me feel like I was revisiting a place in my mind that has not been attended for many years. It's like a ranch. A beautiful one.

So yes, finally got to share this place with others (thanks to Farhah who's been telling me about it months before) and I was really excited about it. We stayed over at the longhouse in Uluhati with the rest of the crew, Syidi came along too. In that brief moment, it felt as if we were on our way to "balik kampung". Despite the fact that Syidi and I only just got to personally know each other last year, it felt like we were all going back for Raya.

While Uluhati is only 40 minutes away from the city, I think it was my perfect getaway from everything. Honestly, it did felt like I was on a paid holiday. The bbq served by En. Shaipuddin and his wife were just beyond words. There were grilled lamb (which En. Hafeez happily gorged down a few), tilapia, mushroom soup, garlic bread, chicken, fries...oh it was endless.

We weren't ready for a feast but there it was, a celebration under the stars with laughter.

I couldn't have painted a better picture of that night. There were no mosquitoes too. So that's a definite plus. After a couple more plates of dinner (that turned into supper)..we played Chinese Poker and Bluff at the veranda as the wind whisper in our ears until 2AM. Retiring our bodies and minds on the comfy beds.

The next morning, we woke up to a cool breeze. So cool, I had the fleece blanket wrapped around me like a burrito. Just like waking up in the kampung, listening to feet stomping, alarm ringing and roosters crowing. The only thing that came to mind was "not to bathe in the cold natural water from the hills". I'm a chicken cat like that.

Once again, ever lovely Riznida Eliza (En. Shai's wife) made us Nasi Lemak and some toast bread. Oh it was good to be back with Mother Nature, even if it was just for a while. While waiting for the other #TSDayOut participants to arrive from Bangsar at the river; we got to see the sun rise overlooking the Titiwangsa Mountains.

Rasyidi beautifully captured the morning sun at Uluhati
Breathtaking.

Did I mentioned that there are goats, deers, chickens, turkeys, dogs and cats roaming freely around this 2.8acre land? There are horses and ponies too! More about that later.. for now, we have to be at Langat River for bamboo rafting.

It's an adventure day, a great outing to get everyone out from the comfort zone and explore together. Each raft had one raft guide from the local Temuan tribe. Technically, we're in good hands because these people can survive in any parts of the world.


Little did I know I was up for a bit more adventure than anyone thought. And was very much unprepared for it too.

There were 20 rafts, 2 passengers plus one guide on each raft..going on a cruise along the river which took about 2 hours. If there was anything you should try in Selangor, and not wanting it to be too hardcore.. it would be this activity.


Half way through the journey, looking at the houses, little kids watching us city people doing what they do on daily basis..I realised our guide was slightly inexperience. But that's not going to stop me from having fun tho.


That's Salina, enjoying the breathtaking view



The first incident happened when our raft (Salina and I were paired up together) were stuck in between huge rocks in the middle of a very rapid current. While the young guide was trying to repositioned the raft, it was easier if we got off the raft and helped as well. From one thing to another, he had some difficulty and the raft floated even further away. Torn to save us or the raft, we all thought it was best if he took care of the raft first. However, if we made any kind of small move, we are sure to fall head first and that's not good idea when I was holding my dslr.


Seeing as Salina was frozen in her spot, I had to do the one thing I never thought would come in handy in my life. I fell backwards and body surfed along the river knowing that I'll grab the raft when I arrived at the end. My only reason for doing it was to actually my camera first and I knew I can't stand any longer with the kind of rapid pushing us from behind. Salina took a leap of faith and did what I did.

What luck, Syidi & Aida were there to see how the incident unfold.
Thankfully, we both were at Kuala Kubu Bharu last November for white water rafting and The Paddlerz suggested that we should do body surfing as part of the activity. This is when you allow yourself to float in the river face up.

Who knew such trivial activity had the potential to save lives?

Truth enough we arrived where our raft was at, except that my thigh had hit a massive rock underneath which resulted in muscle cramp due to the shallow river. Which made it worst because I couldn't support myself.

It may have looked like I was a klutz (and I am one) but this was just one of those where an accident just happened and all you can think about is saving your life (and the camera). I was pulled out from the river like a helpless body, walked a little bit on the river bank to sit on the raft. One of the guides told us that the river should be much more calm from here onwards.

Where the first incident took place before I body surfed.
"Good. If it was anything like that again, I don't think I could save myself again because of the cramp."

The camera was fine, miraculously! And we continued on our journey admiring the view. I had mentioned to Salina that our guide was actually lucky to have us because of the experience we had prior. Had it happened to other people, we're not sure what it would have been.

I spoke too soon.

Our raft got caught in between two massive rocks and stronger current. This time, I knew I will have difficulty to move away from the situation. True enough, the guide had to literally pull me out of the water and pushed me up the raft. It's during this struggle that my camera took a dip in the river before I managed to lift it again.

I got on to the other raft, the one where Tok Batin Andak, the head of the tribe was on while Salina went solo with the young guide.

From then on, I resolute to enjoy my scenery with my eyes and not behind the lens.

Sounds a bit dramatic doesn't it? Oh well, things happened. All we can do is do our best to avoid getting hurt. And I don't regret going on this adventure even if it had put my camera into comatose.

It's what I needed. A moment to wake up to feel like I'm still alive.

The best part of the journey is still yet to come. When we arrived at the end point of the river, there was only the Mazda pick-up truck and all 6 of us sat at the back, going all cowboy right up to Uluhati. It felt almost like going on a roller coaster, what with the corners and steep hill we had to go through.

It was truly a fun time.

Minutes later, I saw everyone's enjoying the cozy long house and greenery. It was also the first time the rest were introduced to this place. And while waiting for our next activity which was the blow pipe demonstration, we were welcomed with the yummiest home cooked food. It was so good, I didn't even think of taking photos. (All photos after this are from the iPhone)

The long house with the picnic benches. Love.
What I like about the food is that, it reminded me so much of Negeri Sembilan's food (where my dad came from) and I just love the fresh bite of the pucuk paku. If it was Pucuk Paku masak lemak cili api, I'd prolly grabbed the entire bowl ;)


About an hour after lunch, we were all listening to Tok Batin Andak explaining the entire process about blow pipe. We certainly enjoyed his brand of humour. The kind of accidents that had happened while were quite scary, he made it priceless.

Tok Batin Andak and his many funny tales
While I don't remember my experience with blow pipes when I was in Kuching decades ago, it was a good thing I get to experience it here. Tho, Syidi did mentioned that this particular ones are heavier compared to the ones in Sabah and Sarawak.

Yours truly's target..was anywhere but the target point. Some are elephant hunter and one could be a rabbit hunter. It all depends how good you are at blow pipe.


My favourite part has to be when the participants were submitting their photos for the photography competition. That's when you'll get to see all sorts of shots from different eyes. Things you might've missed or taken for granted, this is when it'll open your eyes (and mind). We even get to select the winners under a tree with En. Din. It can't get anymore authentic than that.
I'll come back again.

When everything was over, Aida and I hitched a ride with Syidi to Bangsar. Considering how hungry we were at that time, we joined Cal and Farhah for.. neither dinner nor lunch at G3 Kitchen Bistro.

The rest of the day was left dead.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Airborne-sick


So here I am.

8 months later. I am so sorry.

While it seems like I've abandoned Wanderlust Theories, I really haven't. In theory, it has always been in my mind. It was just never translated from brainwave to words. 

And that makes a lot of difference unfortunately. 

It's not that I don't want to write or that I had lost interest in this; I just went away discovering myself and then (hopefully when I've figured it out) share my theories about whatever I've been experiencing. So this entry is dedicated to everyone who's been reminding me to start writing (David of MalaysiaAsia, Fie, Alid & Wilson of PlacesandFoods) and those who happened to read this. Seriously, I can't imagine why anyone would read my rants but yeah, do know that every reader is special to me :)

Life has been quite the roller coaster ride; physically and (especially) emotionally. The thing is, I realized I haven't set foot in an aircraft since My Selangor Story started and I *think* I have forgotten what it feels like to take off. 

Dramatic right? I know. But it's the truth. Really. 

Honestly, I do miss flying away to places I deem my escapism. It could be the schedule or something else. Somehow, I just never got around to getting onboard. I have sent and picked up people to/at the airport many times tho..

However, I am having fun doing what I never thought is possible. 

Not in a million years.

Then again, I have went on a trip with Johan Farid Khairuddin (or affectionately known as JFK) and Fie in his Cessna around Selangor & Kuala Lumpur back in April. That was probably the closest thing to flying I suppose? 'Twas amazing!



When I said "I'd like to make Selangor as part of my journey", I never thought that my feet will be planted deep in the ground of Selangor! It's so deep, I feel like I'm the information counter for all things Selangor sometimes. Not that it's a bad thing actually ;) It's just that, this experience, this job (if you may call it) has truly changed my perception of traveling. 

I've learned so much about myself as much as I have been researching about Selangor every single day. A journey I'll forever cherish. 



Perhaps this quote by G. K. Chesterton said it best - “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.”

And in some twisted kind of way, maaaaybe that's what He's trying to tell me; that as much as I love traveling wherever, whenever, it is something else to discover your own country (or in this case, state).

I can't imagine thinking back that I've been to places, seen faces and listen to stories which I wouldn't be able to do without being part of Tourism Selangor. People who would just take me out and show me around Selangor as if I'm a foreigner. I can't say how thankful I am for having such awesome people supporting my dream.



The best thing is that, my friends are now even more excited to go on an adventure in Selangor with me like they've never been before. That alone I think is an achievement itself.

It has been a humbling and cool journey thus far.

One I keep learning and growing from experience to be a better person. 


Here's a big hug to everyone! Muah :)