About Me

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I am married to my loving husband for more than 37 years now. I am a mother to 3 beautiful children, until 10 years ago when I lost my youngest son. Since then my life is forever altered but yet unbroken....

My Travel Journal

"There isn't much I haven't shared with you along the road and through it all there'd always be tomorrow's episode" - Elton John

I started traveling around the world since early 80s when I had the opportunity to combine business trips with vacations. Then later when my rezeki is in abundance, there were numerous other trips along the way for vacations, most of the time with hubby and the kids when the timing is right. I have also started to compile the journal and photo-pages covering almost more than 25 years of world wide travel. Some destinations I visited just once, others many times. Many of those places are the obvious famous places people would like to visit but some, the casual traveler doesn't even think to try. I have placed links to my travel at the side bar of my personal page, My Life Reflections, and will be updating them from time to time.

My wish is to continue my travel and complete circumnavigate the globe, insyaAllah…

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Betong Trip - September In The Rain

"Keep your eyes on the horizon and your nose to the wind..." - Clint Eastwood

(Ayer Weng Viewpoint)

Date: 15 - 17 September 2017
Distance: 940 km
KKB Gang: 5 bikes and a Ford Ranger

(The signboard has fallen)

September In The Rain

The leaves of brown came tumbling down
Remember in September in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying amber
That September in the rain

To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here to me it's still September
That September in the rain

That September that brought the pain
That September in the rain

(Our Ford Ranger climbing the steep road)
(The sun is breaking above the horizon)
(Drizzling and windy on the mountain)
(The gang at the Ayer Weng view point)
(The road to the Communist Pyamit Tunnel)
(Another tourist attraction)
(A place to offer prayers too)
(The gang at the Pyamit Tunnel entrance)
(The Blackfoot at a durian plantation)
(The gang is planning another trip soon)

Our original plan was to ride with the gang to Betong, Thailand. But as I was still nursing my lower back pain, we decided to drive our Ford Ranger instead. It was raining intermittently all the way to Betong and back. In Yala we visited the Ayer Weng Viewpoint and watched the sunset above the awan nano and later visited the Communist Pyamit Tunnel.

It was a relaxing jalan-jalan cari makan trip with the KKB Bikers gang. .  

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Tracing the Silk Route in Central Asia...

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone…”

We just came back from a 2-week trip exploring the Central Asia Silk Route crossing borders by land between Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

It was an unforgettable experience doing the overland border crossings. These borders are highly sensitive. Probably due to their experience living under the Soviet bloc, one do not go near a border unless you are planning to cross. Just being near a border is already suspicious, and having a camera on you is even more so. Visa between these countries must be good. If not you would be denied entry.

There is no clear queue line at the immigration counters. Queue jumping is rampant. All border crossings between Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan require a cruel march across no man’s land for a distance of about a kilometer. If you are lucky there will be a mini-van or a private car shuttling people between borders for a fee. No public toilets are available, or if there is any, it will be a makeshift toilet with no running water.

Once we crossed these borders we were safe. Transportation, hotel accommodations and meals were excellent. For this trip we were lucky to have three local tour guides with in-depth knowledge of the history. Each of them was of different characters, humorous and jovial.  

There was no untoward incidence that happened during the trip. Except for a few who got caught with the stomach bugs, everything went pretty well.


Towns visited along the Silk Route round trip between Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan:

Day 01: KL - Tashkent, Uzbekistan - The Stone City
Day 02: Tashkent - Khiva, Uzbekistan - The Secret Gem
Day 03: Khiva - Darvaza, Turkmenistan - The Gate of Hell
Day 04: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - The City of White Marble
Day 05: Ashgabat - Mary, Turkmenistan - An oasis in the Karakum Desert
Day 06: Mary - Bukhara, Uzbekistan - The City of Merchants
Day 07: Bukhara - Samarkand, Uzbekistan - Crossroad of Cultures
Day 08: Samarkand - Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan - the Birthplace of Timurlane
Day 09: Shahrisabz - Termez, Uzbekistan - A Place of Transition
Day 10: Termez - Dushanbe, Tajikistan - The Monday City
Day 11: Dushannbe - Khujand, Tajikistan -A City in Fargana Valley
Day 12: Khujand - Tashkent, Uzbekistan - An Oasis on the Silk Route
Day 13: Tashkent - Kuala Lumpur - Home sweet home

(Silk Route loop in three countries)

Next trip: Betong Yala, Thailand

Monday, 21 August 2017

Day 01: Kuala Lumpur - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

“If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else.” - Yogi Berra

Day 01: 11 August 2017 (Friday)
Route: KL – Tashkent
Flight: HY552 1145/1640
Hotel: Tashkent Shodlik Palace Hotel, Uzbekistan

Our group gathered in KLIA three hours before departure. Our Uzbekistan Airways flight HY552 departed at 11.45 am. We landed in Tashkent International Airport at 4.40 pm. The passport control was chaotic without a proper queuing system. By the time we passed immigration, our bags were already thrown out of the carousel.

(Uzbekistan Airways)

Our young local guide Mr. Maarof was waiting for us. We were transferred to our hotel for prayers then later went to Afsona Restaurant for dinner. Dinner was ok if not for the intermittent power blackouts. We ended up having a candlelight dinner in the stuffy dining room full of smoke.

We stayed overnight in Tashkent Shodlik Palace Hotel, Uzbekistan.

(Tashkent Shodlik Palace Hotel)

Day 02: Tashkent - Khiva, Uzbekistan

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.." - Jimmy Dean

Day 02: 12 August 2017 (Saturday)
Route: Tashkent – Urgench – Khiva
Flight: HY051
Hotel: Khiva Malika Hotel, Uzbekistan

Wake up call was at 4.00 am, breakfast was at 5.00 am and airport transfer was at 6.00 am. At the domestic terminal, we were subject to a few levels of checks. Group checked-in was smooth though. Our 7.30 am HY051 flight to Urgench was surprisingly punctual. We arrived in Urgench at 9.30 am and boarded the bus to Khiva.

(Urgench International Airport)
(Eager to explore the Ancient City of Khiva)

The distance from Urgench Airport to Khiva old City is about 25 km. Khiva is one of the old cities of ancient Khorezm, the pearl of eastern middle age architecture. According to the legends Khiva was founded by a son of Noah, Shem when he dug a well in the middle of the desert and became a caravan destination. Khiva was located on the crossroad of The Great Silk Road as an important post that connected two powerful lands, China and Rome.

(A famous mathematician, Al-Xorazmy)
(Exploring the Silk Route in Central Asia)

The Arab geographer Ibn Batuta visited Khiva in the 14th century. The city was divided into two parts: Ichan Kala, the inner city with 10 meters high wall and Dishan Kala, the outer city. At the same time the entire city was surrounded by several settlements and villages. In Khiva we visited the many attractions in the fortress ancient city.

(The Kunya-Ark Fotress)

Kunya-Ark ‘old fortress’ was Khiva rulers’ residence and citadel. The fortress had a developed infrastructure for the convenience of administration, and entertainment of the khan, his family, officials and troops. Since the end of the 18th century the fortress had been a guarded and hidden behind its own castellated adobe wall, not to mention the 10-meter-high and 5-6-meter-thick fortification wall of Ichan-Kala itself.

(Mohamad Amin Khan Madrassah)
(Unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret)

Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah is the biggest medieval madrassah in Khiva, located opposite to Kunya-Ark at the gates of Ata-darvaza. The Madrassah has 125 hudjras and could receive up to 260 pupils. The portal is crowned with five domes and flanked by corner towers. An inscription reads: "This perfect building will eternally stand, enlightening our descendants". The rich decor includes brick mosaics, majolica, ornamentally carved doors and lattices of windows.

(A 44 meter high Islam Khoja Minaret)
(Bustling bazaar in the walled city)

Islam Khoja Madrasah consists of 42 hujras and a large domed hall. Mihrab niche is decorated with majolica and ganch. The facade is decorated with glaze. Islam Khoja minaret, built near the madrasah is the highest structure in Khiva, and has become its symbol. The minaret is 44 m. high; the diameter on the foundation is about 10 m. The shaft of the minaret diminishes in its diameter as it rises, and produces an unusual impression.

(The gate of Palace Tash Hauli)
(Walled palace and mausoleum)

The name of Uch Avlioli mausoleum means ‘Mausoleum of three Saints’ and it is located in ancient city of Khiva. The current location of the mausoleum is the rear courtyard of the palace Tash Hauli. Wide hall of the mausoleum has arch-dome-shaped roof with stalactites as a decoration.

(Wooden columns in Juma Mosque)
(The original pillars still standing strong)

There is a Friday Mosque in the center of Ichan-kala. It was erected at the end of the eighteenth century over the ruins of previous construction. This is an original building without portals and cupolas, without galleries and yards. One can enter the mosque from four sides. From the northern facade, facing the one of the main streets of the city the mosque faces a minaret, 52 m high.

(Khiva green dome and the tall minaret)
(Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum)

Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum  is a beautiful emerald green dome topped with a gleaming gold orb. It is the holiest site in Khiva. Many visiting pilgrims pass through a wooden door carved with the Islamic creed and enter a sublime courtyard. Here the slanting shadows, the musical strains of a mullah-s prayer and the glinting of the majolica and daisy-patterned tiling in the afternoon sunlight create a magical effect.

(Tash Hauli Palace)
(Puppets and ceramic souvenirs)

Tash Hauli Palace which means ‘Stone House’, contains Khiva’s most sumptuous interior decoration, including ceramic tiles, carved stone and wood, and ghanch. Built by Allakuli Khan between 1832 and 1841 as a more splendid alternative to the Kuhna Ark, it’s said to have more than 150 rooms off nine courtyards, with high ceilings designed to catch any breeze.

(The palace beautiful courtyard and garden)
(Artifacts in the museum)

Alla Kulli Khan Palace and Madrasah complex was built by order of Allakuli Khan, in order to make Khiva one of the picturesque and attractive cities of Asia. Having demolished decrepit and collapsing old madrasahs made from framework and adobe, he asked skillful masters of those times to build new madrasahs from baked brick.

(Local delicacies)
(Vibrant local designs and colors)

After visiting the historical sites inside the fortress city, we had lunch at Tasavul Boshi restaurant. Lunch was elaborate with starters of salad dishes followed by hot soup, then the main course. Dessert was sweet rock melons and honey dews. The meals normally ended with green or black tea. Coffee was served upon special request only.

(Dinner under the sky)
(A Museum Restaurant)

After lunch we continued the walking tour of the old city. Then we checked-in Khivac Malika Hotel and had a refreshing nap till it was time for dinner. Dinner was at Tolib Museum Restaurant in the open air next to the minaret.

We stayed overnight at Malika Hotel in Khiva, Uzbekistan.

(A modest hotel in the walled ancient city)

Day 03: Khiva, Uzbekistan - Darvaza, Turkmenistan

"Travel is the healthiest addiction..."

Day 03: 13 August 2017 (Sunday)
Route: Khiva - BP Shavat – Dashoguz - Darvaza – Ashgabat
Distance: 440 km
Hotel: Grand Turkmen Hotel, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

By 7.00 am we boarded the bus and headed to the Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan border. The road to the border was bumpy and full of potholes. We reached Uzbekistan Border Point Shavat around 10.00 am.

(Overland border crossings with heavy luggage)

Passport checks and luggage scan were done simultaneously but still it was a long tiring process. We had to wait under the shades in no-man's land in between borders for the rest to clear border formalities Some had a go at the makeshift toilet in the bushes while waiting.

(A park in Dashaguz)
(The upcoming Indoor Asian Games)

We made three trips from Uzbekistan border to Turkmenistan border on the one and only shuttle bus operating between these two borders for a fee of USD3/trip. Border clearance at Turkmenistan was again long and tedious. There was only one counter and one scanner. We had to rush as there was another big Italian group behind us eager to push through. There was no queuing system and the locals were merrily jumping the queue. We cleared border formalities at 12.30 pm. Beyond the border, our chubby, cheerful Turkmen guide Miss Ilyana and the bus was already waiting for us.

(A 5-star hotel in Dashaguz)
(Beautiful interior decor)

From Border Point Shavat to Dashaguz town is only 36 km. We had lunch at a posh Myhmanhanasy Hotel and performed our prayers there.

(Lots of salads and fruits)
(The main dish, flattened whole chicken)

Our initial plan was to visit Kunya Urgench but the only road to Kunya Urgench was in a very bad state. The tour guide advised us to skip this trip and she would change the itinerary to replace the attractions missed.

(Riding the undulating and bumpy road to Darvaza) 
(Driving across the Karakum Dessert)

From Dashaguz we were transported by 10 4x4 vehicles 180 km away to the gas crater in Darvaza also known as ‘The Gate of Hell’. The Gate of Hell is situated in the hot, expansive Karakum desert in Turkmenistan, near the village of Darvaza. It is a crater of 230 feet wide that has been on fire for over 40 years. Its glow can be seen for miles around.

(The sun was setting at the horizon)
(The tents and Yurt at the campsite)
(It was burning hot near the crater)

The Gate of Hell was created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. Having punctured a pocket of gas, poisonous fumes began leaking at an alarming rate. To head off a potential environmental catastrophe, the Soviets set the hole alight. The crater hasn’t stopped burning since. The Soviet drilling rig is believed to still be down there somewhere, on the other side of the Gate of Hell.

(Our Yurt on top of a hill)
(A BBQ dinner in the middle of the dessert)

We had chicken BBQ and lots of fruits for dinner while watching the sunset over the burning crater. After photo taking of the crater and the surrounding desert, we drove out of the Karakum Desert around 9.30 pm towards Ashgabat 267 km south. The road was not in the best of condition and it took us nearly 4 hours to reach the city.

(Reflection of the sunset on a hill)
(Standing close to the The Gate of Hell)

We checked in the Grand Turkmen Hotel around 1.30 am and stayed overnight there.