Friday, 18 April 2014

BBC News: What makes Jerusalem so holy?

I saw this story on the BBC News iPhone App and thought you should see it:

What makes Jerusalem so holy?

As the Christian festival of Easter and Jewish holiday of Passover converge and a surge in pilgrims is expected in Jerusalem, the BBC's Erica Chernofsky explores what makes the city so holy.

Read more:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26934435


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Thursday, 17 April 2014

My Condolences to the Family of Karpal Singh


The whole nation was shocked to receive the sad new on the demise of noted lawyer and seasoned politician in a road accident early this morning. I hope his family members will remain strong in coping with this unfortunate event.

Despite his opposition to hudud, I personally consider him as a man of principles who was not afraid to speak up the truth and fight the injustice.

What a big loss to Malaysia.

Goodbye, Tiger of Jelutong.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Day Three in Bangkok

Today I'm on my own because my host is working. At first, I wanted to have breakfast at the halal foodstall in front of Tesco Lotus, but unfortunately it was closed.

So, I went to Tesco Lotus and bought myself some green salad, white bread, tuna spread, banana and low-fat milk. After that, I headed straight away to Abstracts, and having my breakfast overlooking Lad Phrao and Chatuchak from level 31 of Abstracts.

I received a text from my cousin, asking a favour to buy him an iPad Mini cover. But he asked me to get it from MBK Mall. Although the weather was not as hot as yesterday in Udon Thani, I was hesitated to go all the way to Sukhimvit. So, I just walked to Union Mall.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Day Two in Vientiane

I started my second day in the capital city of Laos with American breakfast - toast with butter and jam and a cup of black tea. Andrew had got up earlier and went out for a walk while Masahiede was still sleeping.

Just right before I chewed my last bite of toast, the Dutch lady (I'm so sorry, I really cannot recall her name) came and joined me.

We talked about work and of course, travel. She's a buying assistant (her own word) for a chain of departmental stores in the Netherlands. This is her second time to the Southest Asia region. She visited Indonesia five ago and now she is on a mission to cover Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Like Andrew and I, we're leaving Laos today but on different journeys. She will be taking a sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, the journey that I'm dying to go! While Andrew will be taking the 9.30 am bus to Vien Vang, I will be taking a two-hour bus trip to Udon Thani, before taking sleeper train to Bangkok.

At about 9.15 am, I bid farewell to Masaheidi, Andrew, Emma and the Dutch lady. Instead of taking tuk-tuk, I decided to walk my way to the Central Bus Station. On my way there, I stopped for a while at the Vientiane Jamia Masjid, which is next to the Ibis Hotel. The masjid was built in 1970 with the donations from Lao people. It's a small green-coloured mosque, but unlike Jamia Masjid in Bangkok or Yangoon, the nearby food stalls do not sell halal food :(

I also passed by the National Library and the Presidential Palace. Nevertheless, these two places are not open to public (tourists in the case the National Library) and I just took a couple of pictures from outside. Opposite the Presidential Palace is Sisaket Museum, which was in 1818.

Not far from this museum is Sala Tao Mall, and I guess it's the only shopping mall in the city centre because I didn't find any in my two days there. Next to the mall is the infamous Morning Market, which opens until evening every day. I did not give them a visit because I don't have much kip left. So, I went straight away to the bus station, which is just across the street. The bus station was built in 1990 with funding from the Japanese government. If I'm not mistaken, there were quite a number of development projects in Vientiane that were funded by foreign governments such as Japanese, Vietnamese, German and French.

The bus station is also small, which caters both intra and inter city buses. I bought a 10.30 am ticket which costs only 22,000 kip. The bus fare to Nong Khai is only 15,000 kip.

The 48-seater bus was full, with only four foreigners and the rest are Laotians and it departed at 10.30 sharp. It used the same Frienship Bridge as the shuttle train I took from Nong Khai to Thanaleng. The security process at both immigration checks were quick and smooth. Alhamdulillah, slightly over an hour, the bus sped up it way to Udon Thani after crossing the border.

Goodbye Laos, in shaa Allah, will visit you again.

A Day in Udon Thani

The bus that I took from Vientiane, Laos arrived at Udorn Thani Bus Station at about 12.30 pm.

The weather was hot and dry. I quickly walked to the nearby shopping mall i.e. Central Plaza Udon Thani. I was strolling the 5-storey mall with the intention to grab a quick lunch. Unfortunately, I didn't have much choice. The safest option is filet-o-fish at McDonald's. As per tips given by Encik OC, you just need to ask what kind of cooking oil they use, whether it's vegetable-based or animal-based. 

Next, I went to the Apple reseller store to recharge my iPhone before proceeding to the train station. Central Plaza is not that far from the train station, about 5-minute walking. The train fare is 669 baht, which means 19 baht cheaper than the fare from Nong Khai. Once again, I bought the upper berth because of two reasons. Firstly, it's a night trip so I won't be seeing anything much. Secondly, it will be less cool in the upper berth because cool air is heavier than warm air (if my secondary school Physics still do me justice).

I asked the tourist policeman whether there is locker for rental so that I could leave my bag while strolling along the nearby UD Town. He was very kind to offer to look after my bag himself  in his office. Alhamdulillah, there are still kind-hearted people around :)

Udon Thani or some may call it Udorn, is a city in the northeastern Thailand, in a region called Isaan. It's about 82 km from Vientiane and about 60 km  and 564 km from Nong Khai and Bangkok respectively. Beside bus and train station, it also has its own airport. Basically, the city is well-connected with various mode of transportation.

To be continued...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Day One in Vientiane

The train arrived at Nong Khai station around 8.50 am and I got about 10 minutes to purchase a connecting train ticket to Vientiane and get my passport stamped at the immigration check before boarding the train that scheduled to depart at 9 am. The ticket cost 300 baht, whereby 20 bath for the train and the balance for a bus shuttle from Thanaleng to Vientiane city center.

The immigration check at Nong Khai was fast, but its counterpart in Thanaleng was slow and directionless. I was queuing at the Visa on Arrival counter, but was told to go to the next window since I'm from an ASEAN country. When it came to my turn, I was told to fill up the arrival/departure card there and then. Would be more useful if we were given the card way in advance. All in all, the whole process took about 20 minutes, before getting the ninth ASEAN country stamp stamped on my passport. Yeahhh!!!

My happiness diminished slowly as I have to wait for my shuttle-bus-mates to finish theirs. At about 9.50 am, the bus departed and arrived in Vientiane city centre 30 minutes later. We're dropped off near the National Museum.

Since I have yet to arrange for my accommodation, I decided to tag along with another two first-timers to Vientiante. One is an American who is teaching English in Thailand and another one is a Japanese who is currently reading a law degree in Kyoto.

Andrew suggested that we take tuk-tuk to Sihome Guesthouse. The tuk-tuk driver asked for 40 baht each from the three of us, since non of us have kip.

To be continued...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Day Two in Bangkok

Sal brought me to Old Siam Plaza for fabric shopping. The two-storey plaza was not that big and seemed to specialise in mature Thais' fashion. There is one section on the ground floor that sells Thai's delicacies.

In terms of fabrics, only one store (on the ground floor too) that owned by a Punjabi family offers some varieties of fabrics.

On the second floor, a lot of shops sell either thai silk or women dresses. Again, they seem to cater for professional or mature women. Also, shops selling jeweleries, shoes and women assessories.

Overall, the place is very clean and offers pleasant shopping ambience.

From there, we took a cab to Platinum Fashion Mall to collect some goods that we pre-ordered yesterday. Once again, I was surprised with the varieties of clothing and assessories offered here.

On the way back to Abstracts, we stopped at Tesco Lotus to buy travel-sized toileteries and fruits in preparation for my trip to Laos.

After a quick shower, Sal sent me to Hua Lamphong train station. At first, I thought of buying pad thai rice in case I feel hungry on the train or I could have it for my breakfast next morning. I am sure whether the guilt feeling of eating rice or the worry that it will be sploilt that made me to change my mind to buy buns instead. Pandan and taro/yem buns each and a 1.5l mineral water, plus some apples and bananas that I've bought earlier to accompany me in a 12/13-hour train journey. I tried to buy a reading material or two but cannot find any English magazines or novels. All are in Thai. What a good lesson for me not to forget to bring some from home.

The train did not depart at 8pm sharp and unlike my Bangkok-Butterworth journey in October 2013, I didn't wander around, hence didn't make new friends on train.

Only at the Udon Thani station, I realised that I'd left the charger at Sal's place and iPhone has already dead.

Another good lesson for me, I guess :)