Retrospective Entry

Posted in Random, Thoughts, Travel by Alvin on May 12, 2011

I loathed March, April was ironic, May was/is mundane.

and I say, I need doses of enthusiasm and insanity.

I had a good ole’ treat last month. Packed a sack of book, sleeping bag, camera, a few T’s and shorts an hour before departure, I hopped on a night bus, up North and heck, best weekend spent! Logged 5 awesome dives, ample of sleep, ate a lot and chilled to the max.


Nothing beats the tranquility, 18 meters under the South China Sea.

I can’t wait for more, no plans because spontaneity rules.

Almost a year ago since I last backpacked and am still amazed by the experience, perspective and fun I’ve had. Time and opportunity are luxuries I cannot afford. Hence, making these acquaintances illustrious and memorable.

Time marches like a laser beam trajectory and all I could do is a retrospective entry.


When I Wasn’t Surfing

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on September 13, 2010

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I caught the famous barong dance at Batu Bulan as the first stop, the day I ventured out of Kuta. It was a showcase of local myth and culture with flamboyantly exaggerated  apparel. A few kids cried at first glance.

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Clad in red sarong, I went to one of the few temples open for public visitation. The Hindu temple in Bali is one of its kind, with slight resemblance to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The rituals and religious procession looks interesting from the description board, I wish I could catch a live ceremony.

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I had lunch overlooking Mount Batur at Kintamani with the company of 2 gorgeous Brazilian who shared the same 4wd vehicle as me, going around Bali. Best meal in Bali! 😛

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I finally saw, smelt and almost drank kopi luwak, the proclaimed world’s most expensive coffee. The owner of the plantations was proud to say we speak the same language when her fellow countrymen in Jakarta were burning Jalur Gemilang and hurling feces at the Malaysian Embassy.

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I went to Tanah Lot for sunset. I found a  grassy spot towards the end of the sunset terrace, away from the crowd and annoying restaurant owner peddling drinks. It was a breezy evening accompanied by the sound of waves and picturesque silhouette of Tanah Lot temple against the orange hue.

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I stopped by the bomb memorial in the town of Kuta, just before grabbing a cup of coffee and leaving for the airport. The monument was erected on the site of the destroyed Paddy’s club on Legian St. as a memory of the deceased from the terrorist bombing in 2002.

When I wasn’t surfing, I saw a fair bit of Bali. I shall be back for more surf, adventure, underwater galore and babi guling!

Sun, Sea, Surf

Posted in Travel by Alvin on September 9, 2010

I flew to Bali a day after I got back from Taiwan. Things got even more intense than the travel itinerary when I almost missed the check-in time. I sprint towards the counter only to be told that there is a 45 minutes delay.

Bali airport wasn’t grandeur but security was tight. I headed straight to the backpackers den in Kuta right after clearing the checks and it took me 2 freaking hours to find a place with empty beds. Snoozed off just before midnight as the party street came alive with speaker box and rowdy crowd.

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Surf and beach wear store,  international coffee and ice cream chain.

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The coolest surfer around.

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I spent 4 out of 6 days in Bali surfing, gotten myself a second roast after the trip to Kenting, and certainly enjoyed the thrill of waves riding. Oh, and lots of clumsy fall too. 😛

Yet another solo trip logged.

Formosa Rendezvous

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on September 4, 2010

I kicked off awesome August after dully July with a grad trip to Taiwan. 10 of us, 10 days of shopping, sun, sea, food and more food!

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Our nest in Taipei

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RaoHe night market

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On the way to break fast, day 02

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Xi Men Ding

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Rice vermicelli with pork intestine

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Kaohsiung city at night

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Formosa Boulevard

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Hostel at Kenting

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Kenting National Park

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Sun Moon Lake

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Sunset at Ita Thao, Sun Moon Lake

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Smelliest chou tou fu that we had

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Ching Jing Farm

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If only the sky was blue. Still, we had lots of fun 3000 meters above sea level

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Reflection of Taipei 101

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Bo Pi Liao street, Manka

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Dan Jiang Senior High School

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Dan Shui Sunset

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Shi Lin Night Market

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National Palace Museum

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Fong Da Coffee and little Taiwanese treats at Xi Men Ding

And the best of the whole trip:

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Great travel mates! =)

Halong Bay

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on September 1, 2010

A backdated memo of a trip that was.

Halong Bay was one of the few last places I’ve been during the trip in June. It was an impromptu decision because my initial plan of a longer stay in Sapa foiled due unavailable accommodation.

A day trip started with a mini bus ride to Halong City, 170km away from Hanoi. The junk boat sailed off the pier at about 10am, cruising into the bay and the limestones archipelago.

and it wasn’t as impressive as I thought it would be.

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The bay being labeled as one of the best of its kind, but I thought Langkawi geosites were better. No?

I stayed another day in Hanoi, before a long day of flying and waiting and flying. 3pm flight from Hanoi to HCMC, a 4 hours transit, then another flight from HCMC to Singapore which marked the end of trip.

Something I love about a getaway is that it sucked me away from reality, and in the midst of denial, physiological senses seemed to be at its best, absorbing essence of every nook and corner. Like what they say, ‘you are a snail, rucksack is your home, carry-n-go.’ 🙂

Sapa Adventures

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on August 5, 2010

This tiny town is located up on the mountain, 9 hours train ride away from Hanoi, and an hour bus/van on the winding road. It was an ideal hideout from the humid weather, exploring ethnic mountainous life, forest and rice field terraces.

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I forgo luxury, clean boutique hotels and opted for homestay instead. We started trekking into the village at about 9 in the morning.

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A group of ethnic minorities followed us along the way

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The scenery is a combination of high green mountains, tiny huts and scattered rice field terraces where the local minorities make a living and stay.

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The locals speak decent amount of English and they learnt from scratch through conversing with foreign travelers. Despite them being rather pushy and demanding when it comes to hard selling their crafts, I find them quite capable.

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From handmade crafts, field work, to their determination and effort to earn a living. Poverty realistically forced every men and women, young and old to slog their lives out in the field, farm or the town of Sapa selling crafts and crops. Education is extravagant, and what we deemed norm, is their luxury.  Albeit harsh living conditions, they are all chirpy, happy and grateful.

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We had lunch at Lao Chai village and continued trekking to the next village, where I stayed for the night.

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My host is of Chinese descendant, hence the calligraphy in mandarin characters but they are unable to speak or comprehend the language.

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The only stove and fire. With such mediocre facilities, they whipped out a table of delicacies for dinner.

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Spring rolls, chicken, pork, sweet potatoes, buffaloes and no doubt, my best meal throughout the trip. The host then dished out a few plastic bottles filled with rice wine and started serving in shots glasses. The brew was strong, that we did not want to have a refill after a few shots. They insisted, reaffirmed us with ‘good wine, no hangover’. I think we had no less than 15 shots, with each going at 35%.

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Most were drunk and left before we could grab a picture with everyone present that day.

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We continue trekking the next day and surprisingly, no hangover. It rained the night before, causing the trek to be wet and muddy. Completed the trek with a broken sandal and soiled clothes.

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Sapa is truly a paradise with surreal scenery. This is truly the first countryside I’ve been with very basic living environment, paddy fields, water buffaloes, lush green forests, crystal clear river and abundant farm animals.

The culture, experience and landscape is what to me, luxury.

Xin Chào

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on August 3, 2010

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I was stuck in this tiny space for 24 freaking hours. Boarded the inter-nation bus at 7pm and arrived 7+ pm in Hanoi the next day! My first time on a bunk bed bus and as usual, driver picked up random people along the way. So, even the aisle was filled with people. The trip was oh-kay, at least I arrived in a piece.

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Lao-Vietnam border

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Hanoi’s hustle bustle

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Hoan Kiem Lake

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St. Joseph Cathedral

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Best treat when the sun’s merciless at mid day


Source: Nagai Keita

My ice cream mates. Met them on Halong Bay junk boat and bumped into them again in the streets of Hanoi.

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Vietnamese coffee; strong, bitter, black and served at a portion insufficient to quench thirst, but more than enough to perk me up for the day

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I spent only a few days in Hanoi. I thought the streets and building were quite cool. Different trades nestled in different streets hence a cluster of the same trade on a single street. The buildings in the old quarters, are literally old, giving a nostalgic touch to the town. Motorbikes are abundant and it was quite an experience crossing the road with bikes swerving around you. 

Best thing about Hanoi: Free Bia Hoi (local brew) every night at the hostel I stayed! Out at the streets, this thirst quencher goes around 5000VND or less per pint.

That’s RM 1 for a glass of 3%. 😛

Laos: Randomly, Brief

Posted in Diary, Thoughts, Travel by Alvin on August 1, 2010

Random thoughts and incidents in Laos, which worth to pen and remember.

Crashing a Laotian wedding

Last day in Vientiane, a few of us decided to hit the bar after dinner. I couldn’t remember the name of the bar, but we somehow got hold of a promotional pamphlet which says happy hour: buy 1 free 1. BeerLao for half the price, why not?

As we were making our way to the junction, we heard loud speakers playing Laotian songs,  and one of us suggested that there’s where the real party was. We stood in front of a live band belting out traditional songs, and 2 canopies filled with guests, and a buffet line. We gave out an awkward smile and in split seconds, we were ushered to a table, and the locals started popping bottles and bottles of BeerLao, filling out glass to the brim and dished out plates after plates of food.

‘Welcome to my wedding’. A lady who looked a little tipsy, spoke to us in Laotian accent. The real party starts after that brief introduction. We had unlimited flow of beer, dragged out to try out Laotian dance with the guests and a kid who kept us entertained despite speaking zero English.

Guests left not too long after, and as the band disassembles, and we were asked to join the host and a few of her close friend. ‘Lao style, Lao style’, a man started pouring a glass of beer and it went down at one go. That’s ‘Lao style’, he says. We went a few rounds of yam seng, before he brought out a bottle of Black Label and goes ‘Lao style’, grinning.

That was the night, we first tasted what’s truly Laotian hospitality. And we had our free flow beer, whiskies, got really drunk and a bad hangover the next day.

Hello, my friend

It was raining that night in VangVieng. Rain got heavier near midnight and the whole town blacked out, probably due to storm. The bar counter at Island Bar was fully filled with party peeps sheltering. I bid an early goodbye to the rest, making my way back to the guesthouse, wading through wet road and drizzles. I was soaked wet half way through the journey before I heard a motorcycle from far, slowing down as he approaches me.

‘Crap’, I thought. Having to live in KL for the past few years, dark quiet alley/roads + motorcycle = snatch thieves/robbers. The bike stopped in front of me, with a local guy who looked pretty tipsy and wet.

Biker: Hello, my friend. You ok?

Me: Hi. Yes I am.

Biker: Where you stay?

Me: Just right in front (Randomly points at the nearest building)

Biker: Ok. Take care my friend. Good night.

Me: …….. Oh..err..good night!

I stood there, as the bike made a left turn, and disappears into the dark. I sucked a mouthful of chill cold air and laughed at how I paranoid I was.

Khob Jai Lai Lai

One of the best thing about traveling alone is randomly meeting other travelers. Apart from what Laos had to offer, other backpackers I’ve met made my trip in Laos more enjoyable. Company aside, I’ve learned a lot from random travelers I’ve met and spoke to.

Icing on the cake!

Luang Prabang

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on July 28, 2010

Luang Prabang is a place of mists and temples in the mountains of central Laos, where Nam Khan and Mekong River meets. I thought this UNESCO heritage site is one of its kind. There aren’t any majestic architecture which spans over acres of land, rows of ancient structure or stunning nature wonders.

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The main street with a stretch of French influenced buildings, temples and a few minor streets next to the river.

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I traveled up north to Luang Prabang from VangVieng with two other English backpackers and we ticked the tourist cliché to-do-list; museum on the first day.

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The main streets came alive at evening when craft vendors set-up a traditional handicraft and souvenirs  night market. Albeit named the craft market, it was also the place where we hunt for cheap dinner.

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Meat galore, 2 legged to 4 legged delicacies. Dinner was an all-you-can-fill-in-a-bowl meal, at 10,000kip with barbeque pork as an extravagant side dish.

We headed out to Tat Kuang Si on day 2 for the famous fall.

072 - Kuang Si Waterfall (LAO)


Extract the people, it is as amazing as the picture above. We hiked up to the top, to a pool less known to the majorities.


Source: Flickr: whereareyoumurphy

That was the exact spot where we spent the rest of the noon dipping, jumping off rocks and watched young monks doing stunts off the rocks and trees.

The only temple I went was the one erected right at the top of Mount Phousi. Very much like Batu Caves, temple accessed via a flight of stairs from the foot of the hill. The temple wasn’t the greatest I’ve seen, but up at the top of Mount Phousi, the panoramic view of the town of Luang Prabang was stunning.

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

I love the vibe of this city. Tranquil and sleepy riverine lifestyle. It balances up VangVieng, the party town, making my week in Laos a hodgepodge of crazy, wet, drunk, serene and fun. Every nook and corner of this town is a picture. After a week of scorching sun, it drizzled on my last day in Luang Prabang. Thanks to the weather, the river and mountains were misty, temperature was cooling, and I had the best walk I’ve had over the whole trip, despite just around the town.

Everything was just perfect for a quiet walk, absorbing the quintessential beauty of this town.

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Laotian coffee and a French baguette in Laos. An assimilation of culture, a great way to just eat, drink, stop, rest and drift away.

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I caught an evening bus back to Vientiane, to transit over-land to Hanoi, Vietnam. 

Despite the contradictory intellectual debate over tourism sapping traditional culture, invasion of tourism driven cafes, eateries and guesthouses, I thought the preservation effort by the local council was commendable. The name might sound comical if I were to comprehend the pronunciation using the Hokkien dialect (reads: randomly swatting mosquitoes), the long winding journey definitely has its worth.

In The Tubing

Posted in Photography, Travel, Youtube by Alvin on July 16, 2010

I headed up north from Vientiane, to Vang Vieng,  the heaving backpackers hub as a stopover for Luang Prabang. This infamous small town witnessed throngs of travelers, thanks to limestone crags, riverside scenery, and definitely Nam Song river which flows through the town of Vang Vieng.

The van stopped at a riverside guesthouse which I eventually stayed with a few other English backpackers I met in Vientiane. Apart from good pad thai, the sunset was picturesque.

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I snapped this with bulb speed of approximately 3 minutes just before pitch dark.

Bar hopping after dinner before calling it a day.

We woke up early the next day to tube down Nam Song.


Individual tags for tube.

We started off at noon, and practically started drinking since then. Shots, whisky buckets and beer. There were bars at the river bank with swings, slides, and lots of party. I did the swing even before started tubing, and landed face down with a great splat.

I found the journey after the last bar quite serene. Far away from blasting speakers and alcohol, tubing down Nam Song river offers great view of limestones and faraway hills.

So, this is similar to what we did, captured in motion. 🙂

This ain’t Laos, culturally but definitely a quick stop for limestone, sunsets and tubing!