About Me

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I am married to my loving husband for more than 38 years now. I am a mother to 3 beautiful children, until 11 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…

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Hola, South America...

"The moment you're ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens..."

South America is in fact the top in our bucket list...

We have been waiting for this trip for almost four years and have developed severe anxiety every time the trip was cancelled. So, we are not surprised when friends and family are worried and concerned for our safety. We shouldn’t let ourselves be deterred by negative news or hearsay about the supposed dangers. Some countries do have safety and security issues and we should be extra careful and exercise precautions. But guess what, we’ve also heard bad stories about Paris, London and New York. We can recount many horror stories at places all over the world since we started travelling in the early 80's.

Hubby and I have never been to Latin America, the nearest we ventured was Tijuana, a small Mexican border town in 1989. This time, our experience is limited to a number of Latin American countries, specifically Argentina, Peru and Brazil. The list of natural wonders found within these countries is endless. Nevertheless, during these two weeks we are going to visit a few of the famous ones.

Please pray for our safety!

(Machu Pichu in Cusco, Peru)

(Iguazu Falls bordering Argentina and Brazil)

(Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

South America - Exploring the Wonders of the World
Argentina - Peru - Brazil
(16 -30 October 2017)

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Buenos Aires, Argentina

"A little impatience will spoil great plans..."

(The Obelisk in Buenos Aires)

Day 01: Monday, 16 Oct 2017
Route: KL - Dubai

Our group of 15 gathered in KLIA for group check-in then boarded the 02:10 flight EK343 to Dubai, UAE. Arrived at Dubai International at 04:55 and performed our subuh prayers. We transited for about 2:15 hrs before we boarded our next flight to Buenos Aires.

Day 02: Tuesday, 17 Oct 2017
Route: Dubai - Buenos Aires

Boarded the 07:10 flight EK247 to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Arrived Buenos Aires at 19:45 and met our local guide Mr. Alejandro and Mr. Caesar, the driver. From the airport we were transferred to the hotel by bus. Checked-in and overnight in Buenos Aires Anselmo by Hilton Hotel in San Telmo.

The San Telmo, is a well-preserved area of the Argentine metropolis and is characterized by its colonial buildings. Cafes, tango parlors and antique shops line the cobblestone streets, which are often filled with artists and dancers. San Telmo's attractions include old churches of San Pedro Telmo, museums, antique stores and a semi-permanent antique fair in the main public square, Plaza Dorrego. Tango-related activities for both locals and tourists are in the area.

Day 03: Wednesday, 18 Oct 2017
Route: Buenos Aires City Tour
Hotel: Buenos Aires Anselmo by Hilton Hotel, Argentin

At 08.30 am we started Buenos Aires city tour. Buenos Aires is Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital city. Its center is the Plaza de Mayo, lined with stately 19th-century buildings including Casa Rosada, the iconic, balconied palace. It is the official residence of the President of Argentina, characteristic pink color and is considered one of the most emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires. The building also houses a museum, which contains objects relating to former presidents of Argentina.

Other major attractions around Plaza de mayo include Teatro Colón, a grand 1908 opera house, and the modern MALBA museum, displaying Latin American art. The Town Hall is the executive seat of government of the Argentine capital.

Next we visited Puerto Madero Waterfront, a district of the Argentina capital occupying a significant portion of the Río de la Plata riverbank and representing the latest architectural trends in the city. Puente de la Mujer, a bridge with contemporary design is Spanish for ‘Woman's Bridge’, is a rotating footbridge for Dock 3 of the Puerto Madero commercial district. It is a swing bridge, but somewhat unusual in its asymmetrical arrangement. It has a single mast with cables suspending a portion of the bridge which rotates 90 degrees in order to allow water traffic to pass. When it swings to allow watercraft passage, the far end comes to a resting point on a stabilizing pylon.

Next destination was La Boca, Caminito Street neighborhood famed for its colorful houses and its tango. Its soccer team, is the one spot that makes every visitor’s agenda. The one-time railway route is lined with the bright facades that make La Boca postcard perfect.

The Stadium 'La Bombonera' is the official stadium for Boca Juniors team. It is chocolate box shape, with a flat stand on one side of the pitch and three steep stands round the rest of the stadium.

Next attraction was Floralis Generica sculpture situated in the middle of Plaza de Las Naciones Unidas. The sculpture was designed to close its petals in the evening and open them in the morning.

We had a hearty lunch at Chef Eusef Restaurante Arabe. The owner of the restaurant was kind enough to clear some space in the dining area for us to perform our prayers.

We had ample time to visit the Distrito Arcos Factory Outlet for some shopping then later visited the Hard Rock Café Beunos Aires and bought a few t-shirts.

We overnight in Buenos Aires Anselmo by Hilton Hotel. There was an optional tour arranged to watch the Tango Dance at La Esquina deb Carlos Gardel at USD100/pax but none of us was interested to go because Tango Dancing could be seen everywhere on the street for free.

Day 04: Thursday, 19 Oct 2017
Route: Buenos Aires, Argentina – Lima, Peru
Hotel: Lima Jose Antonio Deluxe Hotel, Peru

This morning we checked-out of the hotel and had a tour of another part of Buenos Aires city. We had a photo opportunity at The Obelisk, a national historic monument and an icon of Buenos Aires. It is located in the Plaza de la República and was erected to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of the city.

We had ample time at La Florida Avenue for last minute shopping then later visited the largest Mosque in Latin America, Mezquita Rey Fahd Ibn Abdelaziz. Inaugurated in 2000, the Mosque and cultural center, was constructed as a gift of the Saudi government on land donated by the Argentinian government. It was designed by Saudi architect Zuhair Fayez, with a prayer hall with a capacity for 1,600 worshipers.

After our prayers, we visited the grave of the famous Eva Peron at the La Recoleta Cemetery. The cemetery contains the ornate marble mausoleums of notable people elaborately decorated with statues in a wide variety of architectural style.

We had seafood lunch at La Parolaccia Restaurant situated on the Río de la Plata riverbank.

Lima, Peru

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one…” – Chinese Proverb

(The Huaca Huallamarca in Lima, Peru)

After lunch we were transferred to Ministro Pistarini International Airport to board the 19:40 flight LA2466 to Lima, also known as 'The City of the Kings'. Arrived in Lima, Peru at 22:30 and were met by our local guide Mr. Alberto and the driver, Mr. Carlos. We overnight in Lima Jose Antonio Deluxe Hotel.

Day 05: Friday, 20 Oct 2017
Route: Lima Tour
Hotel: Lima Jose Antonio Deluxe Hotel, Peru

We started the tour of Lima early in the morning. Lima is at an altitude of 1,550 meter. It is the capital of Peru, lies on the country's arid Pacific coast. Though its colonial center is preserved, it is a bustling metropolis and one of South America’s largest cities. It is home to the Museo Larco collection of pre-Columbian art and the Museo de la Nación, tracing the history of Peru’s ancient civilizations. The Plaza de Armas and the 16th-century cathedral are the heart of old Lima Centro.

We travelled to San Isidro town to visit Huaca Huallamarca, a historical pyramid structure located in the heart of San Isidro. It especially stands out because of the sharp contrast it forms with the modern buildings surrounding it. It consists of a temple, a cemetery and an urban area surrounded by many embassies. The pyramid building was constructed with hand-made mud bricks, stacked to make platforms creating several levels. The design enclosed squares, patios, corridors and restricted areas, all painted with an ochre yellow. Considering the size and characteristics of Huallamarca it is believed that it was a temple of high rank.

Next we visited Pachacamac, a pra-Inca archaeological site 40 km from Lima in the Valley of the Lurín River. The site was named after the "Earth Maker" creator god Pacha Kamaq. Pachacamac covers about 600 hectares of land.

On the way back to Lima city we had photo opportunity at Chorrillos, a beautiful beach served as a deluxe beach resort until the late 19th century, when it was almost completely destroyed by Chilean forces during the War of the Pacific.

We passed by Barranco, a beautiful colonial and republican town considered to be the city's most romantic and bohemian, being the home and working place of many of Peru's leading artists, musicians, designers and photographers. There are homes and restaurants in and around a ravine near a cliff overlooking a sand strip which runs from the Miraflores District to Chorrillos. There is a walkway to the sea that runs through Barranco, called the Bajada de los Baños. Crossing over this walkway is the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs, a bridge which crosses the ravine itself.

We had lunch at La Rosa Nautica Restaurant, a beautiful floating restaurant and watched the surfers braving the huge waves while we had our lunch.

After lunch we drove to Saint Martin Plaza through Miraflores town, a residential and shopping centre in Lima. Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima.
It is an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district south of downtown Lima. It is also one of the most affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. It has various hotels including the Hilton, the JW Marriott, and the Belmond, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and department stores. Our hotel Jose Antonio Deluxe Hotel is situated in this area.

After visiting the Saint Matin Plaza, we walked to the market place at Artesania Santo Domingo for a shopping spree of varieties of local products and colourful handicrafts.

It was already late when we visited the Magdalena Mosque and the Association Islamic Del Peru for Asar/Zohor prayers. We waited for a while and performed the Magrib/Isya prayers in the mosque before we travelled back to our hotel.

Tonight we spent another night in Lima Jose Antonio Deluxe Hotel.

Pisac, Peru

“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever…” - Chinese Proverb

(Pisac Market selling local handicrafts and souvenirs)

Day 06: Saturday, 21 Oct 2017
Route: Lima – Cuzco – Pisac - Sacred Valley

Hotel: Sacred Valley Sonesta Posadas Del Inca Yucay, Peru

We checked out of the hotel and were transferred to the airport to board our 07:37 domestic flight to Cuzco. Unfortunately the 07:37 flight was cancelled and replaced with the 9.00 am flight instead. The group was split into two group flying half an hour apart. Arrived in Cuzco at 10:00 and were met by our guide Mr. Willington and the driver.

From the airport we travelled to Pisac enroute to Sacred Valley on Peru Andean Range with an altitude of 3,399 meter. Acclimatization is needed as the air is thin and cold. The Sacred Valley is a region in Peru, along with the nearby town of Cuzco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu, it formed the heart of the Inca Empire. Stretching roughly 60 km, it is an area of fertile farmland and Spanish colonial villages like Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Pisac is known for its Sunday handicraft market and hilltop Incan citadel. On the way to Pisac, we stopped at a viewpoint to have a panoramic view of the Sacred Valley. 

We had lunch at Ulrike’s Cafe, a restaurant at the centre of Pisac Market. Lunch was grilled pink trout and pumpkin soup, very tasty and delicious.

Visited Pisac Market, one of the most famous markets in the Cuzco region. The market draws many visitors to its famous Sunday market when indigenous Quechua communities from the surrounding highlands come to Pisac to sell their produce and stock up on supplies for the week. A large section of the market is dedicated to tourist-oriented souvenir stalls where you can find weavings, jewellery, ponchos, hats, Andean instruments, ceramics, alpaca products and a whole range of other gifts and souvenirs. The handcraft market is open every day from 09:00 to 16.30 and is a good place to pick up some gifts all in the one place.

After spending a few hours in the Pisac Market, we travelled up the mountains to visit Pisac Ruins known as Inca Písac which lie atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. They are separated into four areas stretching along the picturesque ridge- Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa, and Kinchiracay. The settlement is built on row upon row of fine stone terraces, laid out on a natural balcony. The layout is thought to represent a partridge’s wing. Visitors to the upper sector are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the Andes Mountains. The main Temple of the Sun is built on a huge protruding spur of volcanic rock. There are also baths, altars, water fountains and a ceremonial platform whilst above these ruins lie several ancient burial sites, many still unexcavated. 

We overnight in Sacred Valley Sonesta Posadas Del Inca Yucay. Tonight, some in our group started to experience Acute Mountain Sickness and were having severe headaches and nauseating.

Macu Pichu, Peru

“The broad-minded see the truth in different religions, the narrow-minded see only the differences…” – Chinese Proverb

(The Ancient City of Machu Pichu)

Day 07: Sunday, 22 Oct 2017
Route: Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu - Sacred Valley
Hotel: Sacred Valley Sonesta Posadas Del Inca Yucay Hotel, Peru

Early in the morning we travelled by bus to Ollanta Train Station at an altitude of 2,790 meter. Boarded the 09:30 Peru Train to Aguas Calientes. The train is modern and the carriages have large panoramic windows for passengers to appreciate the scenery of the countryside. In the train we were served with light meals of sandwiches and drinks. The train journey took around 2 hours. At Aquas Clientes Train Station we performed our prayers at one of the restaurant.

Later, from Aquas Clientes we boarded a shuttle eco-bus to Machu Picchu peak. We had our packed lunch while the guide bought tickets to enter the ancient city. We had to show our passports and tickets at the entrance.

Machu Picchu is at an altitude of 2,450 meter. It is a 15th Century Incan Citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley. A UNESCO site, Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley. Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, it is renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. Its exact former use remains a mystery. We had a guided tour of the ancient city at our own leisure time. The weather was cool and bright. We were lucky that Machu Pichu was not so crowded during this time of the year and we have the whole place to ourselves to explore. 

We stamped our passports after we completed the Machu Pichu tour and boarded the bus back to Aquas Clientes. We returned by train to Ollanta and had light meals, accompanied by a fashion show on the train. From the Ollanta Train Station we boarded the bus back to the hotel.

Tonight we skipped dinner and went to bed early. We overnight again in Sacred Valley Sonesta Posadas Del Inca Yucay Hotel.

Sacred Valley, Peru

“A smile will gain you ten more years of life…” – Chinese Proverb

(A beautiful resort in Sacred Valley, Peru)

Day 08: Monday, 23 Oct 2017
Route: Sacred Valley – Chinchero - Cuzco

Hotel: Cuzco Eco Inn Hotel, Peru

We checked out after breakfast and boarded the bus and travelled out of Sacred Valley and headed towards Cuzco. 

Sacred Valley was formed by the Urubamba River. It is fed by numerous tributaries which descend through adjoining valleys and gorges, and contains numerous archaeological remains and villages. The Sacred Valley was the most important area for maize production in the heartland of the Inca Empire and access through the valley to tropical areas facilitated the import of products such as coca leaf and chile peppers to Cuzco.

Chinchero, Peru

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same…” – Chinese Proverb

(At the highest viewpoint of Chinchero, Peru)

We stopped at the highest point of the mountain range for a panoramic view of the valley. We bought a colourful shawl and had photo shots with the decorated llamas.

We visited Chinchero, a small rustic town off the main road between Urubamba and Cuzco. Chinchero is home to the famous Peruvian weaving and also has a colourful market. After watching the weaving demonstration, we bought two alpaca sweat shirts for a reasonably cheap price.

Cuzco, Peru

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones…” – Chinese Proverb

(The Fotress of Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco, Peru)

We arrived Cuzco early noon and checked in Cuzco Eco Inn hotel. After performing our prayers and had lunch in the room, we were ready for a tour of the many attractions in Cuzco.

The city of Cuzco, at an altitude of 3,300 meter, is a city in the Peruvian Andes, was once capital of the Inca Empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Plaza de Armas is the central square in the old city, with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins. The baroque Santo Domingo Convent was built on top of the Incan Temple of the Sun, the Qoricancha, and has archaeological remains of Inca stonework.

Our first visit was to Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, meaning ‘Royal Eagle’, a fortress-temple complex at the northern edge of Cuzco. Its massive, well-built walls remain today as a testimony not only to Inca power but also the skills of Inca architects and their approach of blending their monumental structures harmoniously into the natural landscape. The Sacsayhuaman is still used today for re-enactments of Inca-inspired ceremonies. The fortress was the largest structure built by the Incas. It was constructed on an elevated rocky promontory facing the northern marshy ground outside Cuzco. The panoramic view of Cuzco from the Christ Statue was beautifully magnificent.

In Cuzco town we had a walking tour of the city and passed Hatunrumiyoc Street, an ancient street that once led to the Antisuyu quarter of the Inca Empire. It is one of the best preserved original Inca roads in Cuzco. We had a glimpse of San Blas Artisan Quarter, which is definitely one of the most beautiful streets in Cuzco.

Our last visit was at Qoricancha or Temple of the Sun, Convent of Santo Domingo and its beautiful courtyard. Qoricancha is the most important temple in the Inca Empire. The temple was mostly destroyed after the war with the Spaniards. Much of its stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and convent.

From the Temple of the Sun we walked back and overnight in Cuzco Eco Inn Hotel.

Foz De Iguazu, Brazil

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today…” – Chinese Proverb

(At the Devil's Throat, Iguazu Waterfalls)

Day 09: Tuesday, 24 Oct 2017
Route: Cuzco - Lima - Foz De Iguazu

Hotel: Foz Iguazu Wish Resort Hotel, Brazil

This morning we were transferred to Cuzco Airport for our domestic flight. We boarded the 07:25 flight LA2010 to Lima. Arrived in Lima at 09:00 and transited for almost 3 hours before we boarded the 12:35 flight LA2443 to Foz De Iguazu. Arrived Foz De Iguazu about 19:30. Our guide Mr. Marcus and the driver were already waiting for us.

Checked-in and overnight in Foz De Iguazu Wish Resort Hotel.

Day 10: Wednesday, 25 Oct 2017
Route: Foz De Iguazu - Puerto Iguazu - Foz De Iguazu
Hotel: Foz De Iguazu Wish Resort Hotel, Brazil

This morning we travelled to Puerto Iguazu to visit Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side. Border crossing was simple. We waited in the bus while the guide arranged for the stamping of passports. We could view the Iguazu Falls, one of the wonders of the world, bordering two countries, Brazil and Argentina. 

The Iguaçu National Park is a World Heritage property located in the State of Paraná, in southern Brazil, adjacent to the Iguazú National Park, also a World Heritage property in Argentina. Both properties, together with some protected areas, are contiguous major remnants of the interior Atlantic Forest, once a much larger forest area, along the junction of the Iguaçu and Paraná rivers where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil converge. We explored the Lower and Upper Circuit from a few panoramic viewpoints.

We had to board the Eco-train to The Devil's Throat, the highest point of the water falls. Even though it was raining very heavily and the water was murky like ‘teh tarik’, it is very deserving of the title, the biggest waterfalls in the world.

We also visited Iguazu National Park on the Brazil side. Border crossing here was even simpler. We walked along the Cataratas Trail with a good view of the magnificent waterfalls. It was raining intermittently and we were soaked to the skin at the end of the tour. 

We overnight in Foz De Iguazu Wish Resort Hotel, Brazil.

Day 11: Thursday, 26 Oct 2017
Route: Foz De Iguazu - Rio de Janeiro
Hotel: Rio de Janeiro Americas Copacabana Hotel, Brazil

After breakfast we checked out and boarded the bus to the airport. On the way we stopped at Artesanato and Chocolate Caseiro, a visitor centre where handicrafts, souvenirs and local-made chocolates are sold, at premium prices of course.

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 13:25

“The diamond cannot be polished without friction, nor the man perfected without trials…” – Chinese Proverb

(Christ the Redeemer at Rio De Janeiro)

We boarded the 12:35 flight JJ3186 to Rio de Janeiro. Arrived Rio de Janeiro at 14:30 and were met by our guide, Mr. Ricardo. Rio de Janeiro or 'River of January' is the second largest city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breath-taking landscape, laid back beach culture and annual carnival. The harbour of Rio de Janeiro is comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear to be the mouth of a river. Additionally, the harbor is surrounded by spectacular geographic features including Sugar Loaf Mountain at 395 meter, Corcovado Peak at 704 meter, and the hills of Tijuca at 1,021 meter. These features work together to collectively make the harbour, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

We checked in Americas Copacabana Hotel situated in the Copacabana beach area. After a short rest we had a leisurely strolled along the beach and watched the sunset over Rio skyline from the beach.

Day 12: Friday, 27 Oct 2017
Route: Rio de Janeiro Tour
Hotel: Rio de Janeiro Americas Copacabana Hotel, Brazil

This morning we visited Christ the Redeemer, a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot. Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida fashioned the face. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is 30-meter tall, excluding its 8-meter pedestal. The arms stretch 28 meter wide. The statue weighs 635 metric tons, and is located at the peak of the 700 meter Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. A symbol of Christianity across the world, the statue has also become a cultural icon of both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, and is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. From the top we enjoyed the spectacular panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro.

After visiting Christ the Redeemer we had lunch at one of the famous restaurant, the Marius Degustare, an organic meat and seafood restaurant offering all you can eat. It is world renowned and a must visit dining established mentioned in Patricia Schultz’s book “1000 places to see before you die”. It is a place for an unforgettable gastronomic and sensory experience with unique décor of antique artifacts from Brazil’s farming past.

It was a free and easy afternoon and evening for a stroll at the beach or at the night market along the Copacabana beach. We overnight again in Rio de Janeiro Americas Copacabana Hotel.

Day 13: Saturday, 28 Oct 2017
Route: Rio de Janeiro Tour

This morning we boarded a 4x4 vehicle to visit Tijuca Forest, the World Largest Urban Rain Forest and visited Monkeys Waterfall, the Chinese Viewpoint, Mesa do Imperador and Taunay’s Waterfall.

After visiting the urban jungle, we visited Mario Filho Stadium also known as Maracana Stadium mainly used for football matches between the major football clubs in Rio. This stadium used to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, in which Brazil was beaten 2-1 by Uruguay in front of the home spectators. 

We also visited Masjid El Nur or Mesquita da Luz. After our prayers at the mosque, we visited Escadaria Selaron, a world famous colourful mosaic steps. Escadaria Selarón, also known as the 'Selaron Steps', is a set of world-famous steps in Rio de Janeiro. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as his tribute to the Brazilian people. The steps are in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag. There are also beautiful murals and paintings on the wall.

Next we boarded the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain for a good view of Rio, Guanabara Bay and the beaches. Sugarloaf Mountain is a peak situated in Rio de Janeiro, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rising 396 meter above the harbor, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. It is known worldwide for its cableway and panoramic views of the city. The mountain is one of several monolithic granite and quartz mountains that rise straight from the water's edge around Rio de Janeiro. The mountain is protected by the Sugarloaf Mountain and Urca Hill Natural Monument, created in 2006. This became part of a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 2012.

On the way back to the hotel we passed beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, famous official locations for FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

Day 14: Sunday, 29 Oct 2017
Route: Rio de Janeiro - Dubai - KL

We checked out of the hotel around 11.30 and were transferred to the airport for our International 03:05 EK248 flight to Dubai then boarded the 03:50 EK346 flight to Kuala Lumpur.

We arrived safely at KLIA around 14:55.


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)