Our Day at the Khmer Kingdom

Once again, we are up and about in another story which brings us to the cultural temples of Cambodia, particularly the ruins of the Khmer Kingdom. For a start, this giant empire ruled from the 9th to the 13th century and most of its population were loyal followers to Buddha. The kingdom ruled parts of present day Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. The kingdom fell when a successful Siamese invasion caused the fall of the city of Angkor, the Khmer Kingdom’s capital.

 

With that, I was awaken by bright light from our room at 4.30am in the early morning of our adventure. I had a quick change into my hiking gear after a hurried wash-up. We went to the lobby where our ‘Tuk Tuk’ which actually means a tricycle, was waiting for our arrival. Once ready, we set off with a light breakfast packed in a plastic bag along with water.

The ride was quiet as I felt like dozing off. Fortunately, the journey to the ticket office was short. So, by 5.15am, we had bought our tickets and where making our way to the biggest temple of the batch, Angkor Wat. The ticket office opens at around 5am and you would have to wait for an estimated 15 to 30 minutes before it’s your turn to proceed in your transaction in buying the tickets. The staff would take a photo of you before processing your ticket and receiving your money.

Known for being an Indianized temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat has a huge reputation and I could see that there were a lot of fellow tourists visiting the extravagant temple. It is also known for being one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is definitely a fine piece of architecture.

We sat down and watched as sunrise began illuminating the surroundings and the revealing the breathtaking façade of the temple to us. After the sunrise, we started having our light breakfast, which were some simple croissants, boiled eggs and bananas. With the monkeys which were commonly found roaming around the temple areas still asleep, we knew that was the best time to have our meal.

With little leftover, we advanced for the gates of the famous landmark through the gates surrounding the main building which was more of rubble and ruins through the years of exposure to the elements and wars. Despite that, the compound is still a present day praying area for Buddhist monks!

Once we were through, we were right in front of an amazing architectural monument which was the holy temple itself. The temple was a tall one and had a strange structure, consisting of a wide bottom and a smaller top. Surprisingly, much of the building seemed to be intact though there were a lot of signs that disintegration was taking place.

The queue to the flight of stairs leading to the top level of the temple was approximately 30 minutes, and observing the temple was the only thing that seemed to be time consuming. However, we eventually got our turn to make our way up the steep steps to the top which…is scary if you turn your back when your done getting yourself up. So, if you have a fear of heights, I suggest you remain calm and careful. The stairs seem to be approximately 60 degrees, which is considerably steep.

Upstairs is a small but seemingly detailed area where you could see extremely accurate carvings on the side walls. Though the carvings might have a complicated meaning, the accuracy made it easy to visualize the events in my mind as we looked through them, one by one. Some might mean war while others could mean something like celebrations. There were also great sights to see from the highest level of the great temple and it was very lush…the blessing that helped me relax after a long way up. There were also Buddha statues which could be seen every now and then. Most of them were made of stone and gold-colored and were really beautiful antiques which were used for prayer.

Once we were done exploring the top levels of the humongous temple, we went down the fearful ‘slide’ back to the ground. So be weary and do not lose your footing!

As we left the temple with an excited feeling, the monkeys commenced an ambush on us as they try to steal the remaining banana’s my mom had. So, she passed the food to my dad whom made a dash from the monkeys. However, the monkeys have a good sense of smell. They were able to use it to follow him all the way to the tricycle. Thankfully, we escaped and headed for the next temple, Bayon Temple. It was like my dad had a real game of Temple Run!

This temple is not tall, but takes up a lot of space. This temple seems to have short posts which have faces pointing out of them at each direction and based on a glance, you could already tell there’s a lot of them. As you go around the temple, you could see tons of rubble of fallen bricks that were once intact as walls, I presume.

This smaller temple has a second level, just like Angkor Wat. However, to get up there, you only need to go through a few steps. So…no worries! Upstairs, you could see more carvings on the walls and see the faces in detail. From my perspective, they look like monks. Before I forget, I have to say that this temple and the 3rd temple I’ll be talking about have areas where you have no access.

Once we were done exploring Bayon, we went back to our tricycle that sent us to the last temple of our journey, Ta Prohm.

The most damaged temple of the three, Ta Prohm has a lot of obvious fixing needed to be done. There is a lot of rubble and debris obstructing the pathways but is still a beautiful temple, just like the others. From where the tricycle will stop you, whether it is at the East Gate or the West Gate, you will have to stroll on a sandy road to the temple itself which will take around 5 minutes. From there, you could take any other path you may choose. But here’s one tip, pass by the temple under the mangrove tree. As it is very iconic for its part in the filming of Tomb Raider.

However, if you are not interested of seeing it, there are still many sights and sounds to see around the temple’s compound. And besides, the trees there are very interesting as they have a strange way of growing for their roots seem to be growing on the temples walls!

Like the other temples, there are also detailed carvings on the walls!

Once our roam around the jungle-like temple was completed, we made it back to the tricycle and decided to go back to the hotel for lunch as our feet were already very sour to do anything else other than have a good lunch and nap at the hotel.

Overall, the experience at the temples was very breathtaking and we were happy to learn more about Cambodia’s culture and Buddhism through the exploration of the Khmer Kingdom. Moreover, all the temples would always have a special trait under their sleeves ready to be revealed so I guarantee you that your visit would be utmost enjoyable!

Our Stay at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort and Spa, Kota Kinabalu

With the overwhelming experience at Mount Kinabalu over, we took our luggage which was longing for us from the storage room and got into a small shuttle which sent us to Tuaron, the town where our hotel was located. Our hotel was Shangri-La, a well-known hotel chain around the world. It was near a golf course, which was called Dalit Bay.

After passing through the security gates which lead into the resort, we arrived at the reception, which was a vast lobby with a small café at the corner. We checked-in at around 5pm, tired from head to toe. However, we pushed on to make it for the rest of the day. The resort has 4 restaurants. Despite that, only one was open that day. The restaurant is called Tepi Laut and it served different kinds of Asian food. It is a hawker-styled eatery where you get the food by going to the different kaleidoscope of food stalls. In some of the stalls, you choose raw ingredients and pass them to the chef who will cook them for you on the spot!

The food was sumptuous, as we also ordered two drinks, which were orange juice and hot chocolate. The food I got for myself was chicken rice, fried chicken and some stir-fried veggies. For dessert, I had 2 slices of cake and a scoop of chocolate ice-cream. After our unique dinner, we went back to our room and ended the day.

During our meal, we were also entertained by an extravagant performance by a group of daring hotel members who put up a really good cultural show and entertained us! I volunteered to assist them in their performance, which was really cool! The experience was really exciting as I got to shoot with an ancient blow bow and did a stick dance. It really kept my adrenaline pumping!

 

We woke up quite late for breakfast the next day as we were still very tired from the two days of hiking. We quickly changed and got to the breakfast hall, which was downstairs, and began having breakfast. Their dining area was very spacious, and there were a lot of food choices, just like the restaurant, Tepi Laut. There were many typical breakfast foods such as French toast, loaves of different breads and a variety of eggs…

As I said, we woke up considerably late. Thus, our breakfast was quite rushed to finish in the nick of time. Anyways, after our quick meal, I decided to go to the hotel’s archery range to try archery as that is an activity that does not require the use of one’s feet as mine’s were still aching!

I had three rounds. One of them was complimentary, while the other two were paid. So in total we paid a reasonable 88 ringgit which came from my 100 ringgit budget. You might be wondering what the budget was about. Well, as we are loyal Golden Circle members of Shangri-La, we are given a free 100 ringgit voucher each day which we could spend on numerous activities!

After the meaningful aiming session, we went to the coast and tried out the hotel’s kayaks, which were in sleek condition as we explored the tranquil seas. During the hour of exploration, we chanced upon a group of people who had just caught a shoal of gargantuan fishes. The scene was interesting as we examined the types of fish they caught from afar. With an hour almost gone, we headed back to the watersport center and returned the boats to the managers on duty.

We then went for lunch. With our legs still aching, we had a slow but worthwhile walk to the resort’s Italian Restaurant. We had a quick glance at their Italian Menu and made our delicious choices and ate them with no regrets!

With lunch over we had a long nap until late afternoon, when we decided to swim at the hotel’s pool for the rest of the day. We had dinner at Tepi Laut…again! But still certainly had a great meal!

Anyways, Thursday we had a similar schedule, but actually also went to Dalit Bay to try out the hotel’s driving range. We were given 100 golf balls, which was quite a plenty, as we struck it out at the range, where the balls would land in water! Yes, as the balls had the ability to float on water, the Golf Staff would collect the balls after opening hours! Thus the name of this venue is Aquatic Range!

My dad and I took turns to hit the balls away into the lake as we did many far shots, with some even near the hole! With our shooting practice completed, we left the majestic golf course to have dinner at the usual place…

The next day was our last whole day in the resort. So, I decided to have a visit to their nature reserve, which was nearby the hotel. It was called Rasa Ria Nature Reserve. I was there to act as a Ranger by feeding the different wildlife that dwell there. Along the way, we explored the flora and fauna of this interesting place and took the different and short pathways which led to adventure!

 

We fed the chickens, squirrel, monkeys and fishes with the friendly trainers, which was lots of fun! With that done, I joined the kids club, where I got to make my own Olympic Badge logo and Swim! When I returned to my room, I realised there was a celebration going on as the hotel staff were singing happy birthday! They also gave a birthday cake to us for a treat!

Night time, it was time for the greatest feature during our luxurious stay in Shangri-La. In case you were wondering, we chose this majestic hotel for one big reason. It was a very special occasion for us: it was my dad’s birthday. The whole day, we were waiting for an anticipated dinner at the Italian Restaurant. However, due to the fact that the seafood restaurant would open instead of Tepi Laut, we changed our mind on where to eat and it was truly worth it. That was also the first time where I ate a fish still intact and freshly cooked! And it was like a minefield. My parents ate similar dishes to what I had chosen. For dessert, we finished it off with a surprise birthday song from the staff and a big complimentary birthday cake which was another sumptuous masterpiece. That was my dad’s second birthday cake! With the birthday memories taken we went home for a good night sleep!

With the last day upon me, I just swam since breakfast all the way to lunch on the last day, which was sad…

 

The Coldplay Concert

It was 31st March, a big day for many. If you live in Singapore, you should know that Coldplay’s here! They would be holding a concert (Head full of Dreams Tour) at the National Stadium on 31th March and 1st April!! Well, we would be watching them on 31st, which was on a Friday.

So immediately after school, I scurried home with excitement shown all over my face. I had a quick and good refreshing shower before leaving our doorstep for Singapore’s national stadium!

We took public transport, ready for a whale of a time amongst the crowd. But before that, we obviously had to have dinner first. We arrived at the Stadium’s iconic Kallang Wave Mall which was just outside Stadium MRT. There is a considerable abundance of food and beverage in the mall. However, we decided to have a typical dinner at the mall’s Foodfare food court.

After our dinner, we headed to the stadium gates! Kallang Wave Mall is near our gate, which was gate 19. We took numerous photos together outside the stadium before heading to the gate itself. We got our tickets ready and successfully went through security. We were officially inside the stadium premises as we continue striding to our seats which were quite far and high from the stage.

Though our category was meant to be restricted, our seats weren’t too bad after all! Aside minor obstructions, we were still able to see the band perform.

Anyways, with still an hour left before the concert began, we took our seats as my dad bought some refreshments in case we became hungry or thirsty in the midst of all the fun.

Opening performance

There were many benefits of taking the sides on the high ground:

1: You could see when the band is coming in through the back of the stage.

2: How the crew works behind the scenes.

3: You don’t feel hot and perspire like all those in the standing pen!

As we adored the chaotic surroundings the final announcements were made to take to your seats as the concert began! From the back, we saw the longing and anticipated Coldplay stars!

Once they took the stage, you could expect the utmost best from them!!!

They played all their famous hits everyone knew, such as Paradise, Hymn of the Weekend, Adventure of a Lifetime, Yellow and much more. Every song they played, I felt I was drunk as I was having too much fun, I didn’t feel like sleeping at all! With the help of the LED lights produced by xyloband, the stadium was like glittered with thousands of stars!!

Xyloband colors

As the concert ended, the band said their thanks they played a great grand finale!

Overall, I enjoyed Coldplay’s style of sing-along with their popular hits and the fact there was no intermission! My favourite performance throughout the concert was Paradise, which is also my favourite Coldplay song!

As the concert has ended, we left the stadium and went to Starbucks for a good dessert with smiles on everyone’s faces. It was a concert worth watching as we took a late train home!!!!

Videos from the concert:

Expedition to Mount Kinabalu

We woke up at 5am for an arduous adventure. We were in the city of Kota Kinabalu, and after 2 days in the bustling streets, it was time for a getaway to the highest peak in Malaysia. You should have guessed it. We would be climbing Mount Kinabalu. And I really have to admit it was already quite a difficult challenge. In fact, it pushed my body to its limits.

After a quick and light breakfast, we changed into our comfortable hiking wear and headed to the big shuttle bus that would bring us to the base camp of the mountain. Though there were more people to fetch from neighboring hotels, we were out of town by 7am and were ready to begin our journey by 10am, after filling all the important documents. That day, it was raining intermittently, which was going to make us struggle a lot as the ground was going to be slippery and wet.

Our guide was called Roy, and was a very nice guide. He gave us our packed lunch before we began our trek. We would be walking to a guest house called Laban Rata, which is 6km from the base, but not a flat 6km. It was an uphill 6km walk, which would be a totally tiring and different story.

As the first 2km were as easy as pie, I overexerted in strength so that we could get away with them quickly. However, the difficulty increased, and I started to feel fatigued.

Types of paths

Though we had plenty of time to rejuvenate at each stop, the pressure was overwhelming and we got little energy back for the next kilometer or so to the next stop. Despite that, we pushed forward, only to encounter rough boulders which were a huge obstacle for the last 2km. I had to stop like every 100m or so as I had little energy left. Although there was only a kilometer left to go, we could not hasten the pace. It was already 3.30pm.

I kept on drinking gulps of water as the guest house  begins to be in our site. We did not give up as we remained positive. Soon enough, our perseverance paid off and I felt like kissing the ground. It was paradise to finally arrive at the dorm.

However, the bloodbath was not over yet as we still had about 3km left to go which we would cover the next day early morning provided the weather conditions were fine. So first things first, we ate a heavy dinner and went to bed early as we, particularly my dad, looked like living zombies!

Photo credit Lim Kai Xiang Facebook

The next day, we were woken up by the sound of the alarm at 1.30am, not lightning from the outside! We were very jolly for this miracle as it had been raining for the past 3 days before our arrival! Quickly with enthusiasm, we dressed up after a short rinse before heading downstairs for a light, in fact too light supper! By 2.30am, we were up and about with our guide who fetched us for another 4 hours…of death!

It’s 2:30 am and we’re going there to the peak under the moon!

The first part of the 2nd course was mostly made up of man-made wooden flights of stairs, which were certainly my area of expertise. From now to the peak was 3km away! So near yet so far, and every breath you take counts! The checkpoint is approximately 1km from the guest house. There, you have the last proper break and toilet before you are all on your own for the race against time to reach the peak by 6am! The next half almost killed me! As we were above 3900 meters from sea level, I had a higher chance of getting altitude sickness, which I unfortunately got…

However, despite that, we made it after overcoming a lot of steep slopes with only a white rope in handy. The view from the peak, which is called Low’s Peak, was breathtaking, I couldn’t take my eyes of the lower mountains around us and the blazing hot and cool orange sun…it seemed to be like a fantasy!

Anyways, with all the selfies and photos taken we scurried at a faster rate for the guest house so I could go back to bed and have power nap.

We arrived back at the guest house at around 8.30am, where I had a quick nap to rejuvenate my energy levels, before having another light meal, which was breakfast, with Coke! We packed our bags, took breakfast, check-out and begin another big descent back to the base camp!

Before long, we had all our things packed and were ready to get going to base camp, which was another 6 excruciating kilometers downhill, at least. Before we left the dorm, we decided to take a photo with Roy as a remembrance.

As we strode down, we realized that our rate was a kilometer per hour. So, we tried to hasten the pace across the rough ground. Unfortunately, my mom was soon in trouble when her knees started aching…

As the distance decreased, it seemed it was just increasing. Our bodies started complaining as my mom started to become fatigued. Her body seemed to be giving up but even with only a kilometer left to cover, she was like thumping the trekking sticks to the ground. Soon enough though, she was on the same boat as me. I was also facing the problem. However, we eventually arrived there at 3pm! We were so elated that in the bus, we were dumbfounded. And that was the end of the journey. We had a simple buffet lunch before getting our certificates for this honorable achievement!

Overall, our trek had a lot of countless challenges. We overcame all of them and had an enjoyable trip with nature as we concluded the climb with a lot of pain, memories, photographs and stories to tell!

I made it! We made it!

 

Leaving Mt Kinabalu

Our First Whole Day in Bohol

My parents were early birds and woke quite early for a good jog by the sea at the beach while I was asleep. At 7am, they woke me up for breakfast. There breakfast had everything I wanted. (Scrambled egg, Pandesal, Filipino dishes, etc.) And indeed, it was sumptuous.

 

For that day, we would be staying at the hotel. So, it would be visits to the recreation center and the beach, but would still have adventure, though.

After my heavy breakfast, with the help of my mom, I had to recall on how to properly control a bike as I never drove a bike for a long time already. I was certainly afraid to fall as I rode the vehicle once again. In fact, this unique bikes have bamboo body frames.

After changing into my swimming outfit, I got the hang of the bike and suddenly liked cycling. I decided to cycle to their 2nd deluxe swimming pool which has no beach views unfortunately but is distinctly bigger. However, I still prefer the first pool to this one as it is surrounded by many rooms!

There, I started swimming a few laps with daddy from one end to the other. We then did a few laps of cycling so that I could get full control of the bike. And well…back to swimming for a few more rounds before making a pace to the beach barefooted which was a little painful.

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Once again, I tried there kayaking services solo and also tried there stand up paddles. Though a little scary, it was challenging as the controls are complicated. I had a great time figuring and mastering the controls of this boat. Using my knowledge, I helped my mom get the paddles under control.

For lunch, I had a delicious Four Cheese Pizza with a thin crust once I had a fresh bath.

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Napping

With our tummies full, me and my dad went to the recreation area for another game of table tennis before having a long nap all the way till 4pm. We then had a quick swim before having a rushed bath as we had to catch a jeep sending us to Alona Beach where we would have a sumptuous dinner.

When we arrived there, we made a wrong turn and went to the wrong direction where there were fewer restaurant options. For dinner, I ate pork barbeque. At the right side, we had Halo-Halo for dessert before buying some snacks to eat back at the hotel.

As the time to take the ride back came, we waited for the jeep patiently as we went back to the hotel to sleep. The next day would be a day tour which would have many ups and downs.

Our Start in Bohol

After checking in, we headed down a path made out of small stones to our room. The room was actually by itself like a villa. Its roof was made from native materials which my dad said was a kind of palm tree. We just had a delicious lunch and were ready to start fresh with some physical activities. We changed and started the afternoon off with a game of table tennis with my dad. My dad easily won a straight 2-0 though I gave him a tough match. We also played a game of futsal where dad won through luck, literally.

 

With that done in the recreation center, we walked down to the beach which gave me a sense of calm and serenity though the tide was high.

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For a good start, I myself decided to try the hotel’s kayaking services alone. Well…not for long. Anyways, I had to take a few seconds to remember the maneuvers of a kayak when paddling it along the beach. However, I soon got it and was on my way to exploration of the shores.

As I said, I wasn’t alone for long, my dad joined me on my kayaking spree as we kayaked by the beach at a distance. At the end of it, I really felt the tone in my muscles.

With that done, me and my dad put on snorkeling gears on our faces as we swam for the distant waters. We were cautious at the same time as there are sea urchins lurking in the ‘not so friendly waters.’ We snorkeled and bumped into numerous starfishes and other sea creatures.

We also had a quick swim in their first small pool which was facing the calm beach. (There are 2 pools in this hotel)

As that was completed, we ended the great day. We had a quick shower before eating a sumptuous dinner at the same restaurant we ate for lunch. Oh, and the hotel restaurant’s name is Oceania Restaurant.

For the day was closing, we had another quick visit to the recreation center to play ping-pong once again along with billiard. In my opinion, I like this hotel as it has many facilities. And, much  more was about to come…20161213_194659-our-start-in-bohol

The Ride to Bohol

It’s time to say goodbye to Cebu as we start our voyage to the wonderful island of Bohol.

In the morning, we went to the hotel’s gym for some morning exercise. At 8am, we immediately went for a quick breakfast. We had to be fast as we were worried we would not reach the ferry terminal on time. Despite our worries, the opposite happened.

After checking out, the ride to Cebu Port was quick, so we were an hour early! After going through security, we checked in our luggage and our tickets were given slots in the ferry at 10.40am! (We were supposed to leave at 11.40am)

In glee, we got ready for a two-hour journey to the small island of Bohol. At around 12.40pm, we arrived at the small port of Tagbilaran City. To get things going, we went to the exit, searching for a cabbie to send us to our hotel, South Palm Resort.

Within minutes, we found the perfect driver. He drove us go through the small city of Tagbilaran, across a bridge to a smaller island called Panglao Island. Though the journey was long, it was all worth it. When we finally arrived at the hotel itself, we checked in and learnt all about the hotel’s facilities.

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To my amazement, they have a gym, a recreation center with a variety of sports such as table tennis and billiard, 2 swimming pools, an office room, kayaking, stand up paddling, snorkeling and diving services, an area to play beach volleyball and a vast beach. They also have gazebos and a vast restaurant. In my opinion, this hotel was almost perfect and I was already ready to try all their services in store for us with my parents.

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