Tuesday, June 25, 2013

India in Eight Days

They say the number eight means great wealth, good luck and all that positive vibes as also taught in Feng Shui. Though I'm not really that superstitious but I love this number anyways. :p

The initial plan was to travel with Alid, a good friend of mine from Indonesia and we were suppose to have this competition on whose itinerary was the best. I actually worked hard on mine so that the places I wanted to visit were on it. Guess it paid off (or Alid got lazy in planning his own version, haha) that my itinerary won without much protests. Hahaha.

And I later believed that this star itinerary of mine also attracted another traveler from Indonesia to join us! *gushes with pride* This was maybe my best planned itinerary yet! I was also highly influenced by another travel blogger of Philippines who just came back from India. Her famous blogpost on her own experience getting harassed in India during Holi heightened my survival instincts for this India trip. But actually, I was getting worried if Alid was the protector type. Thankfully, god planned that we had THREE other protectors as well during this trip. :)

My India trip was made more awesome with Addy, Yayan, and Mukhlis as our extra protectors. :) 
Day 1 - Touchdown at Kolkata International Airport

It was Alid's and I first time in meeting up with Suntea and also with Addy (Jakarta), Yayan and Mukhlis (Batam lads). We weren't going to travel together but every little moments we had together always meant something fun and a blessing. So only Suntea, Alid and I were together until the end and here were our itinerary. India at that time was peaking at 50 degrees during daytime.

  • Board overnight sleeper class train from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri (10 -12 hours)

Day 2 - Darjeeling

A quaint town up near the Himalayas. 
  • The train arrived late to NJP by two hours! hahahaha! 
  • After the train ride, we rode a shared jeep (have to wait till it is full before they take off) up to Darjeeling, costing us 200 rupees per person and takes around two to three hours to reach. It was a damn bumpy ride!
  • Stayed for a night at some guest house that has free wi-fi. =P
  • Nothing to do during that day as all the stores and restaurants were closed due to some political chaos earlier on that day. T__T
Day 3- Darjeeling Sight Seeing! 
  • Read this here -->> Alid's post 
  • We left Darjeeling to NJP to catch our train to Varansi at 17:15 pm. This time it was an overnight sleeper class ride that took around 14 hours to reach Varanasi. Muahaha!
Day 4 - Varanasi with Padhaaro Greeter and Couchsurfing Host

  • Reached Varanasi at around 9 am and taken a sort-of mini van to our CS host named Arihant.
  • Read more of our Varanasi experience here --->> Alid's post  (I'll bliog about mine later. haha)
  • We also had the pleasure to meet up with Mr Gaurav who gallantly showed us around Varanasi via auto-rickshaw. You guys can arrange for a local greeter at this website http://www.padhaaro.com/ and it's for FREE!
  • Watched a spiritual event called Gangga Arte near the ghat Dasasmawedh. Said to be held every evening at 7pm.
  • That night was spent at an Indian wedding which Arihant brought us to. I "accidentally" videotaped Alid showing his Indian moves here. Hehehe. 
The young and vibrant Gaurav at Ram Nagar Fort.
Day 5 - Ganges River at Varanasi 

Morning activities at Ganges River.
  • We took a boat ride at Ganges River and watched the sun go up. (alid's version)
  • After that we traveled to Sarnath, a holy place for Buddha as this was the place where Gautama Buddha held his first teachings.
  • Left varanasi for our next train ride to Agra at 17:20 pm. This time it will take us around 13 hours to reach Agra. :)
Day 6 - Agra with Addy

Picture credit to Suntea featuring the four of us on our Agra trip together.
  • We got hold on to Addy by dropping by his hotel and ringing his room from the receptionist desk. Haha. We didn't have any working phone at that moment. Luckily Addy was still there!
  • Hired a non-air-conditional car to take us to Fatehpur sikri which we successfully came in using local fares!! Then to Taj Mahal but only two of us succeeded. And lastly to Agra fort where all of us failed.
  • This Agra trip marked the most adventurist and daring trip ever for trying to scam the entrance officers that we were locals. haha! Though sadly we weren't 100% successful. :)
  • It was only a day trip and that night we had to catch a train to Jaipur via the 20:10 pm train. 
Day 7 - Jaipur with Hussey
  • The train was horribly LATE!! And we didn't have no way to inform our couchsurfing host in Jaipur that we;ll be arriving late by almost 2 hours! I felt horrible!
  • Reached Jaipur at almost 3 am.... but thankfully Hussey was still there waiting for us. Almost cried with joy when he showed up. :)
  • Hussey brought us sight seeing around Jaipur as he now has a legal license as a tour guide and it was for free. We only paid for transport. 
Alid and Hussey enjoying the view of Jaipur from above at Tiger Fort during sunset.
  • We enjoyed a sunset at Tiger Fort and later enjoyed a dinner of Nasi beriyani with another of my friend, Tanveer.
Day 8 - Back to Kolkata and then Malaysia
  • We had to catch an 8:20 am local flight via Indigo from Jaipur to Kolkata. The flight took only 2 hours ++. 
  • Stayed at the airport until our afternoon flight back to Kuala Lumpur. haha.
  • Suntea was going to continue her India trip without Alid and I.
  • Reunited with the Batam lads and Addy. :)
Reunited at Kolkata's international airport. Hehe.

Thus I end my short entry on my most recent India trip in May 2013 that covered five cities in 8 days. If I'm extra hardworking, I might blog about my personal experience in each city. But that will be much, muchhhhh later.

Till then, happy traveling!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Angkor Wat from Sunset to Sunrise :)

Cambodia was one of the countries that I-had-to-go-alone-cause-nobody-wants-to-follow trips. I started in Phnom Penh and ended in Siem Reap. In between was an 8 hours bus ride. I reached Siem Reap around 1 am in the morning and was waiting silently at one side while touts gathered around larger group of tourists.

Nobody came to me to offer a ride. I was being ignored so I continued looking on, amused. You no want me money?

Suddenly a boy shorter than me by a few inches with messy hair came to me and asked, "Where you go?". I showed him a piece of paper with a Malaysian owned hostel address on it and he says USD 4 per motorbike ride. I refused, I asked for USD 2. 

He agreed thus started our two days driver and tourist relationship. :)

I decided to hire him for the next two days to tour me around Siem Reap, an offer he was too happy to decline. It was mostly pity from my side seeing how diligently and dutifully he was in sending me safe to my destination that night. 

The trusted motorbike he owned during our Angkor Wat site visit.
Angkor Archaeological Park

I bought a one-day entrance ticket - USD 20 and it comes with a free entrance to view sunset and ONE full day entrance the next day. Luckily, my hired motorcyclist brought me to watch sunset that very afternoon AND also the sun-rise the next day! Haha. Let's call my young driver, Bae. 

Sunset was viewed at Phnom Bakheng temple while sunrise was viewed at Angkor Wat itself.
I felt like the luckiest person in the world to strike such luck in being able to catch both sunset and sunrise at Angkor Archaeological Park. Bae was such an agreeable young lass. He agreed to everything I had to say. If I wanted to go here, he'll take me. If I wanted him to buy me mineral water at the cost of 500 KHR, he'll go buy it for me. Never once did he take my money to buy himself food or water. Huhu.

How to prepare oneself when visiting the temples? First, get yourself a map. I got mine from the hostel I was staying. :)

A scanned copy of the map in my possession. I have highlighted the temples I visited with red colored numbers from 1 to 9. 
Number one on the map was the first temple I visited to catch the sunset. The temple, Phnam Bakheng [1] is situated on a hill, and I had to hike quite a distant to reach there. So be prepared with enough drinking water and perhaps a pair of hiking shoes.

There are a lot of temples in the park within an area of more than 800 square acres. And being me that doesn't take a lot of pictures, I was able to cover 8 temples (excluding the sunset temple) in 7 to 8 hours. But if you're on a tight schedule, these following temples are must visits! 

Ankor Wat [2]

Built in the first half of the 112th century, Angkor Wat is an architectural masterpiece! It was initially dedicated to Vishnu but later converted to the Theravada Buddhist monument. Visitors go here especially during the mornings to catch the sunrise. I was here as early as 5 am! It was an exhilarating feeling groping my way in the dark into the complex, alone and depending on other people voices to be sure I was on the right path. Haha. *scary*

The sun was still rising when I went to explore the insides of Angkor Wat.
I had nobody to help me take my picture so I resorted to putting my camera on autocapture mode and place it on some high flat slab in the complex, and voilla!

Yeah, guess the camera was not high enough and I couldn't position it correctly. Hehe
There are also some shops at the sides selling Cambodian wear and handicrafts. This is where I bought some pair of buggy pants costing me USD 6 each. Hehe. Bae was always waiting patiently outside the complex. I have no idea what he does to kill his time waiting for me.

Bayon [3]

Built in late 12th century, Bayon fascinates visitors with its more than 200 large faces carved on 54 towers! That's a lot of faces! 4 faces on each tower, one on each side. 
The entrance into the complex. Surreal right? 
This is where I first met with Ms. Ivy who is an American but grew up in Malaysia. She spoke to me first and we spent the time exploring and helping each other taking pictures at the complex. It was adorable to hear her say, "satu, dua, tiga" in her American accent every-time she took pictures of me. Hehehe. Nice to know she still had some Malaysian in her. :)

Ms Ivy and I before we said our farewells. She bought the 3-days ticket and had all the time in the world 
Moga dapat jumpa lagi Ms Ivy! I had a great time with you there!

Ta Prohm [6]

The Buddhist majestic complex of Taprohm is one of the largest sites at Angkor, having been left untouched by archaeologist. This Bayon style temple is ethereal in every aspect with its stone pillars and tree roots intertwine in this impressive complex.

OMG! Look at those tree roots! This is what the tourists came to see. 
So there, that's the top four temples that are worth visiting in my humble opinion, Phnam Bakheng [1] for sunset, Angkor Wat [2] for sunrise, Bayon [3] and Ta Prohm [6] if you have limited time and loves to stay longer periods of time in each temple. Or you could follow my style, walk through, take some pictures and move to the next one. I was lucky to have a willing Bae that obeys my silliest command. Thanks to him I covered a lot more area than normal tourists with their hired tuk-tuk or bus drivers. =P

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Preparing for my Korean Trip :)

Aye, who would've known, three years later after my last trip to Seoul, Korea that I'll be greedily traversing the world on my own? It took some needed push, new dreams and having a whole new group of friends to finally find my courage to do so.

Watching the famous Nanta show at Seoul, Korea, 2010.
And now, year 2013, I have no desire to wholly depend on my job to travel overseas as I did with my previous trips to Korea, Japan and India. My only wish is to continue stalking AirAsia's website for flight deals, pay via debit visa card, click "confirm" and plan the itinerary. Surprisingly I think I'm getting good at this. LOL. =P

Here are some links that might help me on my next trip:

  1. 10 Things to Get Absolutely FREE in Seoul!
  2. 7 Days Itinerary in South Korea (Seoul & Busan)
  3. Free Walking Tours in Seoul

I've also became a notorious cheapskate! And the word FREE is the most magical word to my ear. :P

Costs for my trips on the other hand, sadly requires me to starve myself unnecessarily and depriving myself from worldly possessions. All for the love of travel. I'm going to stay away from some bad habits for now and focus on finding extra income to cover my next big trips this year which includes improving my story telling skills, (wekk) finishing up posts for my sponsors (another wekk) and activate back my blogging addiction (this is going to be a challenge!).

Wish me luck! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bagan, the Ancient City of Burma

A message we'll be seeing at all the temples/pagodas visited in Bagan. 
We reached Bagan from Yangon via train. A long, overnight 17 hours train ride that costed us USD 55 (but if we bought without an agent, it would've costed us only USD 40). Expensive yes, but having limited information on the net didn't give us much choice. My experience on the train can be read here. :')

Thankfully, pick-up was provided by our hotel at Bagan's train station which looked equally ancient as its city. We met other backpackers there who were still negotiating with the drivers on the prices while we got on our pre-arranged ride.

Bagan Train Station, the one and only.
We were tired and couldn't wait to get a proper bath after that long, extremely bumpy train ride. On the ride to the hotel, we managed to arrange a day tour with the current driver and left it at that. He'll come pick us up later once we all have settled in our hotel rooms and freshly bathed. It was expected to be bloody hot that day. Hehe.

So here we were... in Bagan, the former capital of the magnificent Kingdom of Pagan that once had around 10,000 temples and pagodas. This empire was neighboring the great Khmer Empire to the East. Now what's left of this ancient empire after years of earth quakes and handling of many leaders, are only about 2200 temples. Some rebuilt with modern materials, thus deterring the original design of its first builder.

Munuha Guphaya Temple.
Please ignore the green person in front. Surely she doesn't know how to pose for the camera. T__T

Munuha Guphaya Temple was the first stop for the day. Besides enjoying the splendor of the ancient Buddhist architecture, one could also try shopping for lacquer or tin based products, paintings and other local made souvenirs similar seen in other temples of Bagan. The thing about Bagan is that nobody checks if you bought the Bagan Archaeological Zone Entrance Fee of USD$10. (I didn't buy it). And they don't provide a map and names of temples on it as done in Angkor Wat. We were basically depending wholly on our driver and what he says.  

If all else fails, we depended on signboards at each place that the driver brought us to. Oh.. I googled some of the names read here and I'm not sure if all were correctly named. Hikkss.. Hopes some-one can help correct me.

Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba) Temple
We noticed that almost all of the temples had big archways of an entrance like the picture above. It was pretty dramatic when being pictured from inside it towards the temple. I think I caught dozens of pictures like this one. Haha. Here are the lessons I learnt from this trip. 

Sulamani Guphaya
Thatbyinnyu Temple
Yeahh.. guess I'm playing "guess the names of the temples" with this post. It was basically just a day of sight seeing and the dusty, dirt roads weren't that organized. Of course, logically saying, Bagan having 2200 temples made it impossible for us to visit ALL of them! But I'm certain the driver have brought us to the more important, flamboyant ones for picture purposes. *pasrah*

We eventually bought some postcards at one of the temples and decided to post them right away. But beware!

Lily, my travelmate, checking out the mailbox we found at the road side.
Never put your mail in any of the red mailboxes you spot on the road sides. It's highly unreliable as it's not even locked!

We also found similar temples like the one below with white walls emblazoned with dark molds, looking hauntingly beckoning under the evening sun.
The dirt walls of Thatbyinnyu Phaya Temple 
The leafs-less trees at the sides making Thatbyinnyu Phaya Temple even more eerily, scary. 
Our day was getting darker and the driver brought us to the last temple for day to view sunset. This temple is best-known as the sun-set temple among tourists as hundreds of visitors flock this temple just for that reason. Including me. Haha.
Shwesandaw Pagoda (Sunset Viewing Temple)
Only Fie and i attempted the climb to the very top whil Lily and Anna stayed at safer heights because one of them were afraid of heights. As we struggled upwards on the steep stairs, lo and behold, we were awed by  the view from the top!
A fraction of what I saw from the top, the whole city of Bagan! 
Sunset in Bagan. :)))
It was damn beautiful! We got down with all the hundreds peoples who came up with us and it started to get really hectic! The temple has only 4 stairways, one at each side and we basically had to wait a long while before getting down. There were only one arm rail for support on the left, but I decided to scurry down without it. :P

Crossing out Bagan from my UNESCO list. Finally! ^__^

note: good source of info on Bagan --> http://www.baganmyanmar.com/index.php