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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sri Lanka : Day 2 - Sigiriya

It got bright really early. So we showered and went out to explore the property.

The hotel 

Walking towards the beach

Small beach in front of hotel

The beach looked small and wasn't suitable for swimming. We had no intention of swimming, anyway. We headed back to the terrace for breakfast. There was a good buffet spread of fruits, breads, cooked dishes, deli meats. I decided to try Dosa, an Indian-style pancake made with fermented batter. 

Dosa with fish and chicken curry, sambar, coconut chutney, coconut sambal and fresh grated coconut, and a slice of bacon

I liked the curries a lot and had my fill of them. I had probably 2 helpings of the fish and chicken curry .... and at the end of breakfast, I knew I had too much because it felt like I had enough of curry to last me the next 6 months ...

Breakfast with a view
There were so many couples getting married here at this hotel on this particular day ... it was apparently an auspicious day for Sri Lankans to get married. 

We checked out soon, and went to Negombo Fish Market. It was a really hot day. As soon as I stepped out of the bus, the heady smell of salted fish hit me.



Fish drying in the sun .... 

Next we had a quick stopover at St. Mary's Church, Negombo. It's a Roman Catholic Church, built in 1922.



After that it was a long drive to Sigiriya. We had a late lunch at one of the local cafes. I couldn't eat much at that time. I think my tummy was bloated from breakfast. 

Sigiriya was the highlight of my entire Sri Lankan trip. It was an ancient rock fortress which comprised of a massive column of rock, about 200m high. On top of this rock was a palace built by King Kasyapa in the 5th century, and after the king's death, was used as a monastery till the 14th century. Today, Sigiriya is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sigiriya, looking so majestic


The ancient gardens flanking the pathway ....

Steps leading to the palace ...

The steps led to the wall paintings. No photos of the frescoes on the walls because photography wasn't allowed in a bid to preserve the artwork. We were warned that our gadgets would be confiscated if we were to disregard the warning.

The stairs leading to the summit

Yay! I made it to the top!



A swimming pool

The throne

The lion's paws - gateway to the palace on top of the rock, and from which Sigiriya got its name

Tired, hot and sweaty from all that climbing, we were glad to proceed to our hotel. We checked in to Paradise Hotel and Resort, Dambulla. The hotel was in the middle of nowhere ... there weren't any shops or walking streets nearby. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a hot towel and a glass of refreshing calamansi juice. Yums.

After everything was sort out, we went to our rooms. We got a shock because of the huge room. It had a round dining table, and even had an upstairs! There was a lounge and a sofa upstairs, but it was a bit dim and we preferred to hang out downstairs where the beds were. 

Our room for the night

Dinner was at the same hotel, served buffet style. There was plenty to eat. I was still feeling very bloated, but I enjoyed the Western-style spinach soup, some cakes and sour sop. The chefs here recommended us Kottu Roti. 

Kottu Roti was essentially chopped bread, mixed with vegetables, meat and egg and served with dhal.

After dinner, we retired to our rooms to rest.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sri Lanka : Day 1 - Kch - Kul - Cmb

There were 8 of us who signed up for the trip. 2 cancelled at the last minute, and so there were only 6 of us left. They canceled because just days before our departure, a tropical cyclone hit the island, causing parts of the island to be inundated by flood.

We read about it on the news on Friday, and tracked the progress over the weekend. News was slow to come by as there weren't current updates. But by Sunday, I felt that it was safe to go ahead with the trip. There was no travel advisory issued by any of the airlines. And there were no alerts issued by the country too. So it had to be safe to travel there.

On Monday, I made up my mind to go. I collected by trip documents on Monday. The most important document was my visa, for which without, I could not enter the country. I also started packing for my trip that day.

On Tuesday, we found out the name of our tour guide - Mr. Don Buddika. We contacted him and he said it was perfectly safe to visit. According to him, the floods hit only the Northern and the Eastern side of the island, and we were not even going there. I was even more assured.

In fact, the trip to Sri Lanka turned out to be wonderful. I found the Sri Lankans to be very warm and hospitable. Service was excellent at all hotels. And there wasn't a single drop of rain throughout the entire trip. :))

***

On Wednesday, we departed Kuching in the morning for Kuala Lumpur and then on to Colombo. We flew Malindo Air all the way. I had gotten a window seat, but when I reached my seat, it was already occupied by a child. His mother sat next to him, so I settled for the aisle seat. Gladly, in fact. I much preferred to have access to the toilet at all times.

Nasi goreng kampung and chicken satay on board

The journey was 3.5 hours, and there was a time difference of 2.5 hours between Colombo and Kuala Lumpur. So we landed at Bandaranaike International Airport before midnight.

We were greeted by our guide, driver and his assistant from Jetwing Travels. 3 staff serving 6 tourists. Lol! We got a mini bus with plenty of seats for us and our bags. The best news was there was wi-fi on the bus! 

We were brought to our hotel, Pegasus Reef Hotel. Check-in was quick and effortless. I dumped my bags, changed my clothes and slept.

My room at Pegasus Reef Hotel


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Old Friend & Colleague

I'd just finished buying some medication from Watson's. And I saw him. He was walking towards my direction, but he was pretty distracted, looking into the phone in his hands. He walked past me. Obviously he did to see me. So I tapped him in the arm.

Huh? He was surprised to see me.

I was glad to see him too. We'd not met for a long time. End of 2015? I think that was the last time I saw him. At that time, I bumped into him and his family at Viva City Megamall. This time apparently, he was alone.

He showed me the letter in his phone ... he was supposed to attend a meeting at 2.30 p.m. Ok, I'd send him, I said.

M was my former colleague. He started as our counselor then our Senior Assistant. I'd worked closely with him for 14 years.

Anyway, we'd developed a camaraderie over the course of so many years, of course. I could speak to him about a lot of things - because well, he had many ideas and opinions. He was very critical too.

I thought of you last week. Now I meet you.

It sounded ominous. But it wasn't the first time I heard him say that. Over the years, I'd heard him say this about a lot of people. A bit mystical and scary at the same time.

We caught up on a lot stuff ... and what had happened since we left our old school - who else we knew who was left there. I groused about my new school while he shared about his appointment at his new school.

I sent him to the airport .... don't know when we will meet again. :))

Monday, November 20, 2017

Angels Watching Over Me

I've been suffering from a series of unfortunate incidents, which left me feeling really baffled. Why are they all happening one after another? The scariest of all would occur today ...


20 Nov 2017
I was heading home from work, driving along my usual route. The sky was grey and it was raining, and I was about 1.2 km away from home. I normally exited the main road and turned into a commercial area of about 3 rows of shops. I would exit from the back of the commercial area into a road leading to my house.

As I turned into the junction, a large lorry appeared from a lane at the back of the shops, and turned into my pathway ... it was an illegal turning for the lorry and to make matters worse, it was turning and coming so quickly. I steered and veered towards my left to avoid a head-on collision and I let out a scream as the lorry did not seem to show any signs of stopping ...  I veered more to the left and managed to steal a glance at the lorry. I saw the passenger in the cabin of the lorry alerting the driver .... and we both stopped our vehicles.

THE LORRY MADE AN ILLEGAL EXIT FROM THE LANE.
IT WAS DRIVING SO FAST.
THE DRIVER PROBABLY DID NOT SEE ME. HE WAS WAY UP THERE AS THE LORRY WAS HUGE.

If there had been a head-on collision, given the speed, and the mass of the lorry, I'd most probably be suffering massive injuries or I'd probably just die there and then. And I'd die in vain.

Praise the Lord for sending angels to watch over me!! 


18 Nov 2017
I was going to attend a dinner function. I got ready quite early. I thought I'd be ready early, and then spend some time marking before I go to the function. I'd bathed and dressed and thought I'd style my wet hair. I'd just use my round brush to shape my bangs to frame my face.

I was right handed, so I started with my left bangs. I rolled the hair around my round brush as taught by my hairdresser, Peter, and then blew at the hair with my hairdryer. Only that it wouldn't unwind. The brush got stuck in my hair .... and the more I tried to disentangle my hair from the brush, the worst it got.

I panicked. Never mind if I could not make it to the function. What I feared was the possibility of having to cut my bangs to get the brush out. I'd look really hideous for months! I called Mom for help. She tried to get the brush out but after 5 minutes, she gave up.

We went to the hairdresser's. We went to the nearest one to us. Nearby my house was a salon - the salon was actually located inside a house. I'd never been there, but Mom had. So when we reached there, Angie - the hairstylist, and her assistant managed to slowly remove the brush. It probably took about 10 minutes.

My hair was frizzled upon release ... so they sprayed some water on my hair and blew it nicely for me for just RM10. I was not only in time for my dinner, I went there with my hair looking great.

When I told my friends about it, we had a good laugh .... but at that moment when I was going around with a hair brush stuck in my hair, the fear was real.

Thank God for Angie! She's really an angel! 


7 Nov 2017
I'd reached school. I exited the car. I went to the passenger side of the car and took out my bags. Then I went back to the driver side, I shoved down the lock and closed the door. Then, I glanced at the car ignition. Darn. The car key was still hanging there.

The problem was that Dad was in KL at the time, so he couldn't bring me the spare car key. Then, my house keys were locked inside the car too. Or else I could have asked someone to drive me home to get my spare car key.

I went to the staffroom, dropped my bags on the table. Actually, I had a spare car key in my handbag. This spare car key was the one I duplicated when I lost a whole pouch which contained my keys back in 2011. This key was always hung together with the keys to my desk drawers. Unless I had forgotten to bring my drawer keys, I would have that spare car key in my handbag.

I searched inside my bag frantically, and found that spare car key - The key was now slightly bent, probably from being caught as I opened and closed my desk drawers. If I straightened the key, I could, by right, use it to open the door.

I told my colleague D what happened and showed him the key ... he bent it a bit and it straightened. And he walked me to the car. He inserted the key into the lock. He turned it. It opened.

Phew! Thank God for the spare key in my bag. Thank God for D for being so helpful!


5 Nov 2017
I was cleaning my room. It'd been in a mess since I'd returned from my trip. I organised my wardrobe and drawers and packed my winter clothing back into my luggage. The luggage, now filled with my clothes, was heavy. So as I tried to put the luggage back to its storage place on top of my cupboard, I twisted my right wrist. I was in great pain that day, my right hand was rendered useless. I couldn't do the most basic of things with my right hand. I couldn't open my door. I couldn't wash my crockery, I couldn't hold my cutlery properly, and I couldn't even flush the toilet. I had to consciously tell myself to use my left hand. I couldn't drive at all on that day ... so I was glad that my cousin T was around. We went out that evening and I bought a compression wrap to put on.

The next day, I felt only slightly better. It was very dangerous but I had to drive myself to work with 1 hand - my left hand. My wrapped hand drew much attention and sympathy. There wasn't much I could do - I didn't think there were medications to take except for painkillers ... or I could go for alternative therapy - acupuncture? traditional massage?

My colleague, D, offered to massage my hand, but I turned him down. I wasn't sure whether he was skilled so I was afraid that he'd make the condition worse. He offered to help me many times, but I kept deferring it. But as I talked to D more, I was convinced that he knew what he was doing. Finally, last Friday - nearly 2 weeks after I had twisted my hand (I was still in pain even after so long!), I let D work his magic on my hand. He felt my wrist and said there was a bit of swelling there. Then he said he would realign the nerves on my hand. So he massaged my the back of my hand, my palm, my arm. His touch was firm but reassuring. And the effect was immediate! My right hand could function more normally.

Today, D massaged my hand for the second time and according to him, the swelling had reduced a bit, but for it to completely heal, it would take some time. I'm wearing the compression wrap even today.

Thank God for D! He's my very own healer! 


04 Nov 2017
I was on duty that morning. I had to be at school, watching over my students and giving them moral support, as they were sitting for their exam that day. At school, I went into the exam hall and helped with the final preparations. Then I went to the canteen to be with the students in case they had any last-minute questions.

Finally, the student were called into the hall. I walked back to my car to get my bag .. and I noticed that my front left tyre looked flat. How was it that I drove all the way to school that morning without feeling anything odd ... was it punctured? or just depleted of air? Hmn ... I wasn't sure at all ...

So I drove to the nearest petrol station and tried to inflate the tyre ... but there was no reaction at all ... worried, I drove home slowly. If Dad was home, he would help me bring the car to the service station right away. But since the folks were away, I had no choice but to wait till after work.

Back home, I exchanged cars. I took Dad's car back to school. It was about 2 p.m. when I'd finally got home again. I took my car and drove it slowly to the nearest tyre shop, all the while worrying that I could not make it. The worst thing was being stuck on the way to the tyre shop. I'd hate to be rendered immobile along the way and then to hold up traffic because of me.

But thank God, I made it. The staff at the tyre shop took a look at my tyre, removed it and then inflated it. He dropped the tyre into a pool of water, expecting bubbles to come out .... but there was none. There was no puncture. The tyre just had no pressure.

The owner of the tyre shop came out and looked at my tyres. After asking me a few question, he said that my tyres looked new, but had in fact, hardened. He advised me to have them changed if I had the budget.

Then he inflated all the other 3 tyres, and charged me RM5. I was good to go.

* * * * *

That's a series of 5 incidents that jolted me. November is certainly not my month .... I do not know what lies ahead of me in the days to come .... but I pray that God will always watch over me and send His angels to help me cope. :))



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Vietnam : Day 6 - Nha Trang Beach

C and I woke up early. We went to the beach at about 3.20 a.m. We were crazy to be so early, but surprisingly, there were so many people at the beach. Some were even playing and swimming in the sea!


We sat down on the damp sandy beach and watched the waves. The waves were pretty huge! We were going to wait for sunrise .... but too bad .... we couldn't see the sun rising as it was blocked by an island ....

Daybreak 

Big waves at the beach ....

The Vietnamese were early birds and were exercising just after 5.00 a.m. 

The beachfront esplanade .... 

The quiet street and the symbol of Nha Trang - the incense tower

Thi was where we ate our dinner the night before ... 

View from the top floor of our hotel 

Behind our hotel .... 

Breakfast ... 

After breakfast, we went to the airport. Check-in was quite efficient, perhaps because we were very early .... 

Last glass of Vietnamese iced coffee at the airport ... 

My friends even wanted to eat before we flew ...

Finished the last of our Vietnamese Dong by buying souvenirs ....

And that's the end of our short holiday in Nha Trang and Da Lat, Vietnam. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vietnam : Day 5 - Vinpearl Land

We had one extra day at Nha Trang. But there was nowhere to go. My friend W said we would go to the market ... hmn .... we couldn't be spending the whole day at the market, could we? So I decided to go to Vinpearl Land, a theme park located on Hon Tre Island, just off the coast of Nha Trang. Apparently, everyone else was interested ...

So off we went to the travel agent opposite our hotel ... and we paid VND795,00 per pax for entrance. It was inclusive of transfer from hotel, cable car, and all the rides at the theme park.

Vinpearl Land is no Universal Studio or Disneyland. It's certainly not as nice. Despite that, Vinpearl Land was enjoyable and I did have a wonderful day there.

Paradise Cable
Access to the island by cable car

The cable car transported us from mainlain across the sea in 15 minutes .... I enjoyed the ride. It was kind of exciting to ride over the sea. Great 360 degree view. 

There were many rides at the theme park. We did not have to wait that long for each ride as the crowd was just not big. I rode the Giant Sky Chaser, the Pirate Ship, Mine Adventure. My friends tried the Sky Drop and the Roller Coaster. But for all of us, the best ride was the Alpine Coaster. 

Compared to the rest of the rides, we had to queue quite a bit for the Alpine Coaster ride. So we sat in a coaster, secured ourselves and the coaster would pull us to the top of the hill. Then came the fun bit because we had to control the coaster when it slid down the tracks downhill. The view was splendid because we could actually see the sea from the tracks. Then there were many sharp bends along the track .... and I was screaming away as I slided downhill in my coaster. Fun. I wanted another ride ... but did not want to wait another 40 minutes in the line. Heh. 

Colourful Vinpearl Land

There wasn't much to eat at the island. Much food was sold out at the food court. C and I merely ate an ice-cream each. 

My friend, W's lunch

After lunch, we watched the 4D show. Honestly, I fell asleep during the show .... heh .... the story did not engage me at all. 

We also visited the King's Garden, which was an animal park ... 

View of the Giant wheel from the animal park ...

We watched the bird show ... and then proceeded to walk around the park. There were quite a number of animals .... like giraffes, rhinos, bears, monkeys, birds, and so on. 

 Ostriches

Majestic white tigers

Next to the King's Garden was the Blooming Hill .... and there were 5 domes here, each containing specific flowers and plants. 





The landscape here was also beautiful. 




I enjoyed the ride in the Giant Wheel ....

Each cabin was air-conditioned .... and the view was beautiful! I could have gone in the wheel for a few more rounds ....

Next, we visited the aquarium ...  



And then went for a few more rides on the Bumper Car,Balloon Tower, the merry-go-round, and the music express. Finally, we ended the day by watching the musical fountain.

5 songs were played for the water to dance ... 

Us at Vinpearl Land 

We took the cable car back to the mainland, and then took a taxi back to our hotel. We dumped our bags and went out quickly to search for our dinner. C and I hadn't eaten since breakfast!

Drip coffee 

Premium beef pho 
I found the cut of beef a little tough, but the noodles and soup were delicious! 

We went to the night market again ....

Loving these iced lollies! I had the jackfruit flavoured one! 

For our final night in Nha Trang, we  checked into the New Sun Hotel. We stayed in Room 302. There was a king-sized bed which pretty much took up the whole room, so there wasn't much space. The wall plug was spoiled so I could not charge my phone by my bed side. Because of that too, we could not use the bed side lamp and the room was pretty dim. The toilet and bath were separated by a glass wall, a modesty curtain was provided though. Heh.

C and I set our alarm clocks at 3.00 a.m. We were going to the beach! 

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