Thursday, February 14, 2008


I have heard a lot of beautiful things about Bali when I was young, miles of wonderful sandy beaches, crystal clear water, smoking volcanoes, rich cultural heritage, friendly people and breathtaking sceneries. Bali is a magical and mythical tropical island of paradise. Everything about an ideal vacation destination, but 2 terrorist bombing in 2002 and 2005 has changed all that. I had dropped Bali out from my vacation list but in 2007, I was tempted with the very attractive value 4 days 3 nights package (Air Asia DIY holiday package). I managed to convince my wife and 2 of my friends to join me on this 4D3N trip.

Day 1
We took off from Penang at noon and arrived at LCC terminal about 1.00 pm and then continue from LCC terminal at 4.20 pm and arrived at Denpasar 7.20 pm. Our prearranged transport was there to pick us up and we arrived at Rama Beach Resort around 8.00 pm. After checked in we had our dinner across the road (which was much cheaper than our hotel). Rama Beach Resort is situated in Kuta, the main tourist attraction of Bali. The October 12th, 2002 bombing that killed 202 people and injured another 209 happened right here in Kuta. Kuta is a bay area with miles of fine black sandy beach. The main street of Kuta is concentrated with Beach hotels, resorts, restaurants, discos, bars, and shopping malls. It was once packed with thousands of tourist (mainly Australian) everyday and night but ever since the bombing, the numbers has dropped significantly. Rama resort is quite nice and the room is very spacious with full amenities. The only draw back is the water supply is very hard with high dissolved solids, not good for bathing and definitely not for drinking. I get a sticky feeling after taking the bath.

After breakfast, I negotiated with the tour agent at the lobby for our 2 ½ day’s travel itinerary. I have done some homework prior to the trip and I know what I want to see and where to go to places of interest. I did some bargaining and got a 2 ½ day package for Rp1,400,000, equivalent to RM560.00. Cost includes an air conditioned car, driver, and petrol. Entrance fees and meals are not included. Our driver is a young Balinese named Pudu. Speak some English but not a good guide. First day itinerary covers some temples, Gua Gajah, Gunung Batur in Kitamani, Tirta Empul, Ubud and end at Tanah Lot.

First stop was at a temple in Mengwi, one of many thousands Hindu temples in Bali. They say that there are more temples than houses in Bali. To enter a Balinese temple, one must wear clothing long enough to cover the knees. Entrance fee is Rp6,000 per person which include the rental of sarong if your cloth is not long enough to hide your knees. Next stop was Elephant Cave "Goa Gajah", a hermitage from the 11th. century used by both Buddhists and Hindus. After that we drove all the way up to Kitamani. From Kitamani view point, we can see Gunung Batur and its surrounding lake, Gunung Abang, the adjacent mountain and Gunung Agung the highest peak at 3,142 meter in the distance. Both Gunung Batur and Gunung Agung are still active volcanoes. Gunung Agung last erupted in March 1963. We had our buffet lunch at the view point restaurant.
Outside Gua Gajah

Gunung Batur

After lunch we proceed to Tirta Empul. The most striking feature of Tirta Empul is the holy bathing pool for spiritual cleansing. With a small donation of Rp10,000, one can perform the spiritual cleansing at this holy pool. On our way back we passed thru some rice terrace farms in Ubud. Ubud is the center for art galleries and museums. We end our day one at Tanah Lot, Temple in the Sea’. Tanah Lot located north of Kuta and is built atop a huge rock surrounded by the sea. The best time to see Tanah Lot is in the late afternoon when the temple is in silhouette with the setting sun. I had a couple of beers at one of the cafĂ© watching the sun set. It was the best scenery of the day. In the evening after dinner, we took a stroll along Kuta main street.
Spritual cleansing at Tirta Empul

Tanah Lot 'Temple in the sea'

Day 3
We started day 3 at 9.15 am and our 1st stop is the Royal Temple of Taman Ayun. On our way to Bedugul, we made a stop to have a panoramic view of hill terrace farming. Bedugul is quite similar to our Cameron Highland with lots of vegetable farms but no tea plantation. The weather turned bad when we reach the peak of Bedugul. There is lake and a temple at this peak. Weather was not conducive for photo taking and we go straight to the view point restaurant for our buffet lunch. We also skip the visit to this lake side temple and headed straight back down hill to Uluwatu. On the way to Uluwatu, we stop by a small town to witness a holy celebration at a temple. There were Balinese women with a decorated fruit baskets well balanced on their heads entering the temple. These fruit baskets are offering to the temple. We tried to enter the temple for a closer look but were stopped because we are not wearing the proper attire. We also made a stop at one beautiful hotel situated on a hill top facing the sea at Nusa Dua. The view from this hotel is spectacular but unfortunately this place is a bit isolated and virtually no occupancy after the bombing incident at Kuta.

Offerings to temple

We arrived at Uluwatu a little passed 5.00 pm. We quickly bought our ‘Kecek’ Dance show ticket @ Rp50,000 each. This ‘Kecek’ dance is a local Balinese cultural dance highly recommended by friends. This is a big group of about 70 dancers in trance portraying the story of The Ramayana Epic on a hill top with beautiful sunset background. It’s a one hour show which starts at 7.00 pm every evening. We still have about an hour plus before the show to explore the temple and surrounding. We were forewarned about the notorious monkeys at this place. They are known to snatch things from tourist like spectacles, foods and bags. True enough, just minutes after the warning, out of nowhere came a big long tail monkey, snatched the spectacle of my friend. The monkey was so fast and appears to be a ‘professional’. It got my friend’s spectacles, ran to the brick fence, sits and waits for us to react. Then one of the locals came and throw some food (pineapple cubes) to the monkey in exchange for my friend’s spectacles. The monkey dropped the spectacles and grape the food thrown to him. Now my friend is obligated to reward (pay) the local for his service in getting back his spectacles. We highly suspect that the monkeys in this place are well trained by the ‘owners’ to prey on visitors. These monkeys are big, fat (obviously over fed) and very bold. After this incident, we were extra careful. I had my wife watching over me with my tripod in her hand while I take photographs. The ‘Kecek’ dance show performed in open air was very nice to watch indeed. This colorful dance together with the natural beauty of the surrounding environment was our high light of the day.

Notorious monkeys of Uluwatu

Sunset at Uluwatu

Day 4
Day 4 is ½ day city tour cum shopping at Denpasar per the package. Our return flight to KL is scheduled at 8.20 pm and that means we still have ½ day free and easy on our own after the city tour. We have to check out and store our luggage at the reception area after our breakfast. The city tour and shopping trip was a bad decision. Nothing much to offer in Denpasar and we were hassled by some locals who keep following us everywhere offering their service in return for some tips. We had to cut short our shopping trip and return back to Kuta instead. We took the remaining morning to explore the famous Kuta beach. The beach was very nice indeed, long and wide but unfortunately, the weather was bad. No blue sky, no surfer, not much people at the beach. We had fast food lunch at the mall and took a slow walk back to our hotel via the beach.

We spent the afternoon at the swimming pool of our hotel. In the late afternoon, we went to the convenient store at the corner of the street and bought some souvenir. We had some Bali coffee and Chicken Bakso (chicken dumpling noodle). Bakso is the most favorite dish in Bali. It’s cheap (Rp5,000 per bowl) and good. After this tea break, we went back to the hotel to get our luggage. We did some re-packing of our luggage while waiting for our transport to the airport. We arrived at the airport 2 hours before flight time. The return flight to KL took off on time and we arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cheese Prawn

I'm going to introduce a very simple recipee of my own and most children will love it.


600 g of prawns washed and peeled.
1 can button mushroom, sliced into small pieces.
100 g of mixed colored vege (jagung beans, green beans and carrot cubes)
1 onion, sliced into small pieces.
2 table spoons of creamer (coffee mate) or ¼ cup of UHT milk
½ tea spoon of salt.
3 table spoons of oil.
5 slices of Kraft cheese.


1. Heat 3 table spoons of oil in pan and fry the onion.
2. Add in the prawns, mushroom, mixed vege cubes, creamer, salt and stir fry until prawn is just cooked.
3. Transfer the above into a bowl and place the cheese evenly on top.
4. Put the bowl into oven, set 200 C and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted.
5. Remove and serve while it’s still hot.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Lijiang Old Town.

Aerial view of Lijiang Old Town
This is a continuation of my last post on Tiger Leaping Gorge. After our 3 days trek at TLG, we came back to Lijiang old town for 2 more nights. Lijiang old town is the best preserved old town in China and it’s more beautiful than Shangri La old town and Dali old town. Lijiang at 2,400 meters above sea level is blessed with clean fresh air, crystal clear stream and breathtaking Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as backdrop. The inhabitants of this area are mainly the Nazi which has a very unique Dongba culture. Till today, Nazi people still practice the pictorial Dongba script. Lijiang was once confluence for trade along the Ancient Tea-Horse Road. Lijiang old town became UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997. It’s now a tourist magnet and a paradise for backpackers. Lijiang old town is famous for its unique reticular aqueduct system that supplies water to every family and every street. There are about 350 bridges in this small little town and it’s sometime referred to as ‘Suzhou in highland’. Rows of widow weeps are lined along the main streets beside these waterways.
Another interesting fact to note is that this is the only old town build without any city wall. According to legend, Lijiang was ruled by the Mu family for more than 500 years. In the Chinese character, if 'Mu' (represents the ruler of Lijiang) is boxed up in a frame (represents the city wall), you have the character 'Kun' which means 'siege'.

The layout and architecture of Lijiang old town reflects a very rich historical background. Wooden houses with beautiful engraved figures of people and animals on doors and windows. The center of the town is Square Street (Sifangjie) and has 4 main streets that extend to four different directions. Countless narrows alleys and lanes from every corner of the town are connected to these 4 mains streets. These streets and alleys are packed with tourist from morning till late night. At night, the whole town is brightly lighted up with lanterns. Groups of Nazi women trying to out sing one another across the street. I had 3 wonderful days exploring this little old town. No matter where I go, I find the fusion of old and new in a pleasant environment.

Square Street (Sifangjie)

Main street

Dongba pictorial script

Waterway of Lijiang

Lijaing old town at night

Bar Street at night

Water wheels at entrance to old town

Friday, February 1, 2008

Trekking Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutio Xia)

I love trekking and one of the best trails I ever trekked is Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia) in Yunnan China. Tiger Leaping Gorge (TLG) is about 80 Km northwest of Lijiang and is the deepest gorge in the world. This 15 Km long gorge lies between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Xueshan) and Haba Snow Mountain (Haba Xueshan). Peak of Jade Dragon Mountain is about 5,600 meters and Peak of Haba Mountain is 5,400 meters. At the bottom of the gorge is the Golden Sand River (Jingsha Jiang) which becomes the mighty Yangtze River down steam. The narrowest portion of the gorge is only 30 meters wide with a stone in the middle of the river. Legend says that a tiger jumped across the river at this narrowest point to escape from a hunter and hence the name of this gorge. The inhabitants in this area are mainly the Nazi ethnic minority. The total length of TLG trail is about 40 Km long which starts from Qiaotao and ends at Daju. The trail can be covered in 2 days but we opted for a 3 days leisure trek. There are a few guesthouses along the trail. The best time to trek TLG is autumn or spring. Summer is peak season and may be crowded. We did it in late autumn of 2006.
Jade Dragon Snow mountain
Day 1
We left Shangri-La in the late morning and arrived at Qiaotao around noon. We had lunch at a nearby restaurant while our guide was busy negotiating with the locals for mules transport. Our team of 16 members includes tour leader and a local guide. After lunch we proceed to our starting point which is just a short distance from the gorge entrance. The local farmers with their mules were there waiting for us. 3 mules were used to carry luggage and 9 of us including me and my wife opted for the mule ride. The fee for mule ride is only RMB100 per day and we hire the service for 2 days. I have never ridden a horse or mule before and this is really a good experience for me especially when negotiating narrow winding tracks. Day 1 trek was easy, relatively flat with some slight ascent and took us about 2 hours to reach our first destination, Nazi Guesthouse. The weather is superb, cool with bright sunny sky. The trail was scenic all the way and the view was spectacular, with the majestic Jade Dragon Mountain on the other side of the gorge. We passed thru some farms and villages. The locals here are friendly and some waved their hands as we pass thru. We arrived at Nazi Guesthouse around 3.00 pm. Nazi Guesthouse is a typical Nazi family house with a courtyard surrounded by 4 blocks of buildings. The guest rooms are on the top floors and each with a window to a beautiful view. The amenities are very basic, no heater, no hot shower, 2 common bathrooms to share, one gents’ toilet and one ladies’ toilet. I quickly took a shower while the sun is still up. We took the whole afternoon exploring the guesthouse and nearby village. Our dinner at 7.00 pm was served on a long table. It was a simple Nazi dinner food and it tastes good. The temperature starts to dip when the sun sets and I have to put on my wind breaker. We gathered at the courtyard after dinner accompanied by 2 young friendly Nazi girls. These are the same 2 girls who make our rooms and prepared our meals. Tonight, they teach us how to do the Nazi dance. We had a wonderful time till late night.
Nazi Family House

Doing the Nazi dance
Day 2
Morning was broken by the call of roosters. I looked out my window and saw the most memorable view. The silhouette of the jagged peaks of Jade Dragon Mountain and the slow swaying trees under the crescent moon light was simply unforgettable. I watched and admired at this tranquil scene for almost half an hour.
We had simple Nazi pancake with coffee for breakfast. The Tibetan Yak butter tea is also available but it’s not agreeable with my taste bud. Day 2 trek is expected to be tough as we have to ascent 900 meters thru what the locals referred to as the ’28 bends’. We left Nazi Guesthouse at 9.00 am and were soon struggling up the ’28 bends’. More spectacular sceneries as we ascent higher. The snow jagged peaks of Jade Dragon Mountain with drifting misty clouds and the gushing Jingsha River below remind me of those ancient Chinese watercolors. The romantic colors of autumn are everywhere. Patches of green, yellow, brown and red vividly displayed on the slope of the mountain. Our shaded trail is paved with fallen colored leaves. We made a couple of stops on the way and many were busy with their cameras shooting the spectacular views. We arrived at our 2nd destination, Tea Horse Trade Guesthouse, around 1.00 pm. Our mule ride service end here and we bid farewell to their owners. Only 3 mules are left behind for the luggage. We had a late lunch and immediately after lunch everyone armed with their cameras again and starts exploring the neighborhood. There was a small waterfall nearby but the water was too cold for me to take a bath. The neighbors are really friendly and some even invite us to their house. Later in the evening a few of us gathered at a resting area just beside our guesthouse for a couple of beers. From the rest area we have a good view of Jade Dragon Mountain to the East. When the evening sun sets, Jade Dragon Mountain glows like a gigantic piece of gold in front of us. The shadow cast on the mountain then starts to inch slowly upwards till its tip and then disappeared into the darkness of the night. Dinner was at 7.30 pm and to night we had 2 more trekkers joining us. Both are female and if I remember correctly, they are from down south Australia.

Tea Horse Trade Guesthouse

Silhouette of Jade Dragon Mountain
Day 3
After a good night sleep, we woke up early at 6.00 am to catch the sunrise. The sunrise is not as spectacular as the sunset but we still enjoy the cool fresh morning breeze. After a simple breakfast we move on again. Day 3’s trek is equally tough and much longer than Day 2. The first part of the trek in the morning is relatively flat with a short steep descent to the service road where Tina’s Guesthouse is situated. As usual the trail is scenic and we pass thru villages and some nice waterfalls. We arrived at Tina’s Guesthouse at 1.00 pm and had our lunch here. Our mule service for luggage ends here. From Tina’s Guesthouse we took a short van ride, about10 Km down the road where we continue our trek to Daju. The most difficult part of today’s trek starts from here. It’s a half hour steep descent to the Jingsha River bank with heavy haversack on our back. We then took a ferry across the river. Luckily on the other side of the river, our guide had arranged mule service for our luggage. It’s another half hour steep ascent to a flat plateau. From here we can see Daju, a small village town, in the distance surrounded by farm lands. It took us about 45 minutes slow walk to Daju. Our 3 days trekking end at Snow Flakes Guesthouse.

Trek pass thru 'Kuan Yin' Waterfall

Sunset on Jade Dragon Mountain. Dinner at Tea Horse Trade Guesthouse
& Tiger Leaping Gorge. Daju