It Is Scandalous!!

I was referring to the attire that I wore when travelling to the two Holy Cities.

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On departure day.

HRB_abaya

The abaya/robe is just soooooooo pretty and amazingly cool to wear despite the outside heat.

However, travelling from KL to Jeddah is no laughing matter. That’s a good 9 hour flight not including idling time before and after. You need something comfortable to wear underneath that hijab and long flowing abaya. Something snappy to go to airplane’s toilet…

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Medina Al Mukarramah as seen from the plane as it descended.

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My phone camera could not capture the beauty of the moon that I saw that night. It was so beautiful.

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Just outside of the umrah/hajj arrival hall.

What’s in the closet?

Lots of long sleeves inner t shirts, tights, track pants, socks, disposal panties, robes that do not have front opening, head coverings or instant hijab. Malaysian and Indonesian ladies use “telekung” for prayers. I had two sets of this for our 7-day trip. As laundry is pretty expensive in these two cities, you may want to bring a few more if you stay longer. It is comfortable and prayer compliance.

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Instant hijab tutorial

Here’s another link

Abayas with front opening/buttons are pretty too but may distract you when it keeps snapping open as you sit on the floor or take long strides. Unless you are apt at wearing the long scarves around your head, bring instant hijab. Beautiful abayas can be bought at the souk. Some shops are offering SAR40/piece for any design. Grab those for you. Maybe a few more for gifts.

Uniglo should be your best buddy for travel t shirt. They are light, comfortable and reasonably priced. It comes with long sleeves too. I wore track pants underneath the abaya for ease of movement. Tights or casual pants from Marks & Spencer or Zara is good too. Whatever brand that you like, make sure it is breathable and comfortable. I had my leopard print tights underneath the cream coloured abaya as I circled the Kaabah 7 times. My running pair of Sketchers was a real great help to move about, travelling, walking the long airport corridors, climbing the various mountains during the ziarah/visits to holy sites. Try climbing Jabal Rahmah in slippers and you will end up with extra pedicure bills when you come back. You will still need a pair of comfortable sandal/slippers to flip flop around.

On some days, I would have a couple of pairs of socks thrown in the tote bag together with a plastic bag. When the time comes to make a quick dash to the mosque, I could just slip on the socks and place the slippers in the plastic bag for hygiene purposes.

Two things you must remember when choosing the correct attire here. It must be loose, covering your entire body (not provocative) and comfortable for walking. Trust me, you will have a lot of walking. Either back and forth from hotel to the mosque, or when you want to explore the surrounding vicinity. The building blocks surrounding the Nabawi Mosque are built in grids. The entire grid is made up of various classes of hotels – from 1 star to 5 star. Medina’s weather was a bit cold at the we were there. It was the end of the year so it was considered as winter. The night could be around 15C and the mornings might be a tad chillier than that especially with the wind factor.

One thing glaring about the area where we stayed was the lack of cafes or restaurants. Not even food stalls. There was only one shawarma stall nearby the hotel. We had a meal at the Movenpick cafe. About SAR99 later of two shawarmas, an Americano and a latte later, we were not very happy with choices of eating places.

Ok. I digress.

 

 

 

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Kuala Lumpur, My City

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur sometime in 1991 after living in Pahang all of my life. My then-husband applied for a transfer back to the city after he decided a transfer to the backwaters of Rompin, Pahang was out of question.

At that time, I was working for a well known travel agency and had no problem to land another equally exciting job in the city. The office, I remember was located in this building right smack in the middle of the city.

The first day of work was exciting. I was all dressed in my new attire and got to work at 8 am. Come lunch hour, I came down to explore lunch places. As I stepped out from that grey building, I literally stopped dead in my track. I was suddenly consumed with anxiety and shock.

The whole surroundings were full of people rushing left and right! The streets were choked with vehicle and I was in an instant culture shock. Never in my life had ever seen so many people walking so fast. The buildings were standing tall.

I felt like an ant.

The city has changed so much by then. The streets are now busier than ever. There are more tall buildings, apartments, LRTs, MRTs and monorails. New developments are all over the city for at least a couple more years.

The city is divided into 11 districts and covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq miles). The city now can boasts of so many parks, several iconic green buildings, top 10 biggest shopping malls and has about 1.6 million population, and climbing at a rate of 1.1%.

The KL Sentral, Malaysia’s largest transit hub connects many of the inter-city trains connecting points in the Peninsular, Singapore and Thailand. A massive city within a city, this RM1.7billion development is still in its building phases and will only complete sometime in 2015.

Kuala Lumpur city at duskThis pix was taken when I was driving along the Elevated Highway or known as AKLEH, a 7.7km elevated highway from Ampang to Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur cityscapeI always feel awe of the sheer vastness of the city. It is so beautiful when seen at dusk like this. The buildings gleam in the fading sun light as the night creeps in.

Flag pole Dataran Merdeka IloveKL Sultan Abdul Samad building Sungai GombakI love this city for its uniqueness.

But, I think it is time to make a move elsewhere to a quieter place where we dont have to fight with constant traffic jam, gadzillion people and high cost of living……

Lanjut beach, RompinThis…my friends…is looking better and better…..

Do You Remember Your First Road Trip Or Even Your First Trip On A Plane?

PART 1 – The journeys of past

I was inspired to write down my thoughts today after reading a blog by the CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson. He asked a simple question – “Do you remember your first road trip or even your first trip on a plane?”

What a thought provoking question.

I cannot really recall my first ever road trip because I grew up in a family who loved travelling whenever we could especially during school holidays. These trips were all extremely exciting because you just did not know where you will end up at! My parents usually did not tell me about all these plans. Our road trips will usually involving them picking me up after school session ended, usually on the last Friday which was the last day of school. I will see the big travelling bag already in place on the back seat. I was supposed to change from the school uniform into something more comfortable at the back seat of the car and all the while excitement just get built up depending on what I saw in the bag….

Plenty of beach towel, swimming suit, slippers meant we will be heading towards somewhere with PLENTY of water, usually the beach. Sweaters and socks meaning were will be heading towards the mountains.

And mind you, these trips will take days and days and days. My dad with his trusty big camera will snap away plenty of pictures (back then they were in black and white). I usually get confused using his camera because the focus frame will show an upside down image. You can now imagine how many years ago was that….

Big trips to the beach will usually see us ended up in Penang, Port Dickson or Kuantan. The drive took forever as there was still no big highways back then. Those long, winding roads that passed through tiny villages and small towns were interesting. Sometimes we had to over night at some of these tiny places as it was already so late at night and Abah was too tired to drive. Remember, in the old days, the cars had no air cond and power steering.

Accommodation was usually something basic such as government rest houses. We could not afford expensive, fancy hotels although sometimes we ended in some Chinese-owned hotels with names such as Ak Keong Hotel, Excelsior Hotel, Champagne Hotel or whatever, where the bathroom is usually located at the end of the corridor. They will provide you with these basic necessities such as a room with a fan, tiny Lux soap bars and tiny guest towels. The room slippers, if provided at all, will have its back-end snipped away to discourage pilferage.

Meals were simple, usually eaten at simple restaurants or rest houses. No fancy fast food outlets back then. Or, my mom will pack some rice and dishes from home and this will be our journey meals where dad will stop at several places. Sometimes we will stop near a river and this became a mini picnic of sort.

Will keep all of you posted on Second Part of this blog. Will talk about my experience travelling on a plane for the first time…..

For those who wants to read Arne’s blog, click below:

Blog by the CEO of Marriott International

One Of Them Trips To Historical Melaka (Post Holiday)

Our room has a balcony with sunlight and shielded away from the noises of the busy street by green plants and tall bamboo trees. Pretty. Check out Pergola Hotel, Melaka.

Part of the alleyways of the famous Jonker Street.

Moi with the famous Malaccan artist, TiTi at his gallery in Jonker Street. We always stop by at his place each time we visit Melaka. He is well known for his contemporary art pieces. I so love his “Cat” series, a series of ink on paper depicting cats of various sizes and positions. A few pieces of his artwork adorned our walls and display cabinets.

A must visit – the Limau Limau Cafe in Hang Jebat Street. Very artsy cafe with old chandeliers adorning the ceiling. Serves simple, hearty meals with good coffee. Funky wall decor, warm and cosy. Owner is a cat lover and a rescuer too, hence the kitty pictures framed prettily on the wall.  

Can’t resist taking picture of this old-school bicycle. Reminds me of an uncle who used to work as a sawmill guard for years. The mill was a good 20 miles and he cycled to work on a similar bicycle like this. His tiffin carrier snugly placed at the back of the seat. My uncle worked for many years with the mill, hardly missing a single working day, ever.

George chilling by the Melaka river. Way behind him is the old water mill.

Island Hopping Tour In Langkawi (And Why Monkeys Drink Beer On Pulau Beras Basah)

The Daughter and I arrived in Langkawi in the early morning of that Sunday. Took a taxi from the airport to the chalet and dropped off our bags before getting ready for an early morning island hopping tour.

I love the ocean and have gone for this island hopping tour for many times. I just love the smell of the ocean and wondered who will join my group for that morning.

The first stop was at the Pulau Dayang Bunting (Island of The Pregnant Maiden). Saw the swimming monkeys looking for crabs on the shore of the island. It was low tide. So many boats with tourists.

Can you see the outline of the pregnant maiden?

The minor trekking uphill to reach to the Lake of The Pregnant Maiden was alright. We stopped several times to capture the pictures of the monkeys found along the trail. Some were seen busy grooming each other. So cute!

Lake of The Pregnant Maiden is a fresh water lake found on the island of the Pregnant Maiden. On days when there are not so many tourists, the lake looks so calm, reflecting shades of green and blue from the surrounding lush jungle and the sunny sky.

The cat fish pool which used to attract so many people is gone. I was told that the otters would come to eat the cat fish, and they just disappear.

The trip took us to see an eagle feeding session as well. There were less eagles that morning as I think they were already full by the previous feeding sessions that may have started since early morning. I caught sight of a few of this majestic looking eagles. Big, with powerful wings, the eagles flew in circles, occasionally sweeping down near the surface of the water to catch fish and the chicken meat thrown in by boat men.

The last stop was at Pulau Beras Basah (Island of The Wet Rice). The island is one of the accessible jump-points in Langkawi. Years ago, I recall of pristine, white beach with beautiful clear water and lush green forests. Now, the beach is littered with garbage, dead corals and a stretch of beach that does not look appealing at all. Hungry and thirsty looking monkeys were on the beach, rummaging through garbage and soda cans.

We saw a group of young local boys taunting a few monkeys by throwing several beer cans towards them. Feeling upset with what we saw, we told off the boys. So no cool. I just felt like throwing cans to their heads and telling their mothers about their sons’ behaviour.

There is no real fresh water supply on the beach so toilet is a real issue. How can you have a popular beach filled with people, and NOT have a toilet? I wonder whether they expect people to get inside the water to poo and pee? CRAZY!

Not only that, there is only one small fresh water well that is filled with floating Styrofoam and cans. The Daughter gave up her mineral water to a young looking monkey. I filled up a few buckets of the fresh water, filled up a few cups fashioned from several mineral water bottles with this water and gave to the monkeys. Several mommy monkeys with tiny babies clinging down from their bellies came out from the bush.

Poor things.

 

I have a suggestion. This suggestion is addressed to LADA, or Tourism Ministry, to the Fishermen Association whose members ply the islands with the tourists dollars, or whoever who has financial agenda deriving from tourism in Langkawi :-

Create a small fund to manage the cleanliness of these popular islands. Now, dont bicker over who should be running the fund. Create a consortium instead with voting rights to manage the fund. Remember, the beauty of these islands are your source of income. When the beauty is gone, so is the tourist dollars. When there is no tourist dollars, no income.

Simple maths.

To the local tourists who thinks it is cool to feed beer to monkeys, to treat our nature like giant dumpster:-

STOP ACTING LIKE STUPID ASS!

Fixing A Daughter With A Broken Heart

(Hanie blogging from the dining room while waiting for The Daughter to eat her very late lunch. The smell of gulai tempoyak ikan tenggiri and timun tua wafting in the air, threatening a hunger pang in my tummy wummy……)

Ok, so she isn’t exactly a teenager anymore..but if all else are left to me, she will always be a baby in my eyes.

It must be hard having a heart broken at a young age. Being in my twenties resides in another life time for me but I remember clearly those years. If I could turn back time, I would want to go back to my school days. Those were carefree days with so much of promises for the future ahead.

But, instead, I got married at 21.

Back to The Daughter. She was in Splitville with her on-again-off-again high school bf of 5 years and it is time for mama to the rescue. When she was young, it was much easier to pacify a crying toddler or a youth. You buy them stuff-toys, ice cream, Barbie Doll, and they forget why they cry in the first place.

Unlike young kids, you cannot really control young adults like this on where they want to hang out to trash out what’s in their mind with BFFs. I am also not quite sure what kind of advice she would be getting. I told her that the world is an oyster and she can go to anywhere she wants to. No boyfriend to limit her from doing what she loves, to be where she wants to be or to travel to places where she wants to go. It is an open world. Go see the world, meet new people, find new friends, explore places, do new things.

I also told her – go cross the ocean because you can, go climb the mountain because it there.

In my mind, to go and see new places doesn’t limit her to a 10-km radius from our home!

So while she ponders on this new concept of being single again, I decided to take her to the North to volunteer at a local sanctuary called The Langkawi Lassie.  

A well known private animal sanctuary run by the Bon Ton Langkawi Resort, I was told that all the animals there are like living in a resort. They promote TNRM (trap, neuter, release, manage) for cats and dogs on the island of Langkawi. Lassie’s animal clinic has two full time vets and takes care of about 300 odd of dogs and countless cats.

On top of this visit/volunteer to Lassie, we will visit a few  friends of mine who are still working on the island. I plan to introduce her to these friends and check out the working and living environment on the island.

Many years ago while I was working with this tycoon businessman from Sarawak who owns a few resorts all over Malaysia, I had the opportunity to travel extensively to all of his resorts. One of my favourite properties is located in Langkawi. Each week, I spent about 3 days at the property overseeing some special projects tasked by the company. It was great.

The beach is dreamily beautiful. White, sandy beach at most places with the most breathtaking views of the ocean when the sun sets. Unfortunately over the years, I didnt really have the opportunity to travel to the island except for a few short trips for work.

However, I did return for my honeymoon with George. We spent a few glorious days in Langkawi, spending the time together exploring the island. We went island hopping, watched the eagle feeding session, singing to our hearts’ content at the hotel karaoke lounge and watching the sun sets.

I hope The Daughter would find some solace and do some soul searching while she heals from her broken heart.

Langkawi usually has that affect on people.

 

It’s Just One Of Those Days…..

……when I feel like leaving the hectic life of the city and enjoy the day in the sun.

 

 

…..when I feel like soaking my feet in the warm waters of the ocean

 

….when watching sunset followed a great seafood dinner sounds like a plan

 

It’s just one of those days………..

The 2nd Anniversary That Was

George and I were booked on a 3pm flight to KCH on that Friday. But plans changed at the last minute. Needed to do what I needed to do with a client. It was a tough decision as we had planned this trip for a long while.

And so we left for the East Coast, one of our favorite places to be. Instead of driving, we decided to take the coach instead for a change. Besides, Bessy-Bruce wasnt looking too well and so we thought she/he needed the rest. The ride went well and we arrived Kuantan around 6 pm-ish and the sky threatened to open up. It did and we scrambled to look for a cab to go to our hotel.

Now, this is the part where it makes me unhappy with the general taxi drivers in Malaysia. We boarded a non-metered taxi from the taxi stand and took the 5-minute ride to the hotel. RM15.00. We found out that regular ride in town before midnight was supposed to be RM10.00. Ok, so the extra RM5.00 was a sedekah? Self imposed tips?

The evening saw us walking towards Zul Satay, George’s absolute favourite satay place. Or should I say now used to be? The service was painfully slow and the satay wasnt marinated well as they should be. My order of the satay daging never came. I figured that it would be quicker if we had sit at the take-away area. This was the second time we had experienced slow service and decided to check out their Zul Satay Express located somewhere in town the next time.

We decided to walk (yes, walk…) to town and check out my friend’s makan place. Unfortunately, it was closed. There goes a grand plan of steak, pasta and jumbo juice for the evening. To get back to the hotel, we took a taxi and omg..we didnt realized how bad the condition of the taxi was until we boarded in. The taxi smelled of sweat. One side of the back passenger’s door was not functioning and so in case of emergency, I may see myself climbing to the front of the taxi and exiting from there. It was going slower than a snail and we feared that it might just collapse- body, chassis and all right there in the middle of Jalan Teluk Sisek. Is my home state authority going to check on all these facilities?

Anyways, things were looking up much better on the second day. We checked in to our sea facing resort on the second day. Enjoyed the warm waters of South China Sea, playing with the sand and figuring out why there were so many hermit crabs.

Sunset Trip

Watching sunset is quite an experience. Watching it alone is called “seeking for solitude”.

We recently did a short trip just outside of KL to sit on the beach and watch the sunset. The weather was hot but the beach looked trampled on. Apparently there were a few teambuilding sessions happening at the same time throughout the half of the day. 

We sat there on the beach, people watching and enjoying the sun and the salty air. The sunset was beautiful but I make a mental note to have a list of “sunset venue” where we can go to and watch the sun goes down, record them down and look at them while reminiscing.