August 13, 2016

A different kind of travel

Alhamdulillah.. I got to spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in Mecca and Medina recently. 
Truly a moment to remember.

After Subuh prayer at Masjid Nabawi

 
One of the entrances of Masjid Nabawi

 Garden of Paradise, Raudhah 

Thank God for these giant umbrellas cos it was sooooo hot! 

King Abdullah Gate, brand new expansion of Masjidil Haram

 ♥♥♥

tawaf crowd after buka puasa

And I did umrah on my birthday. Best birthday gift ever! 

The weather was super hot, reaching 45 degrees Celcius and the air was not healthy as it was very dry and there are a lot of constructions going on around Masjidil Haram now due to its expansion project.

I was down with fever, flu and cough a few days after we reached the Holy Land because my body was shocked with the condition I guessed. But Alhamdulillah I still managed to perform all my ibadah without problem.

Being there, I was really moved. You can see that everybody there just wanted to perform ibadah, and to do good to earn as much pahala as they can.
.
I hope Allah will murahkan my rezeki and ease everything for me to visit the Holy Land again in the future. 

Will write about this trip soon, Insya Allah.

May 18, 2016

KL Tower Sky Box

There's a new attraction at KL Tower, guys!





 This transparent box, high up above the ground!

Called the Skybox, this exciting new attraction will offer visitors breath-taking view of Kuala Lumpur city. 



It is suspended 300m above ground, so you can imagine how scary it is to look at your feet when you're in it. But of course I was more excited than scared hehe.


Got to try it last weekend since there's promotion during KL Tower International Towerthon Challenge. Officially it is expected to open on 20th May 2016, in conjunction with KL Tower's 20th anniversary.

The queue was rather long when my sister and I was there and it was going to rain, so we were given only 5 minutes inside the box. Tak sempat nak pose bermacam gaya ;p






Due to security, the Skybox only allows up to 6 people at a time, and we were asked to take off our shoes and left our bags outside the box. Just bring in your camera!

Entry tickets into the Skybox cost RM75 per person for MyKad holders and RM105 for non-Malaysians. The ticket is inclusive of entries to the SkyDeck, SkyBox, and the Observation Deck.

If you are not scared of heights, go to KL Tower now and give it a try!

May 2, 2016

Hiking Mount Merapi

Just finished this entry which I started drafting in January.. haha.
---------

So I started the year on a high.

Travelled to Yogyakarta and hiked a volcano. An active one!

Honestly, I was nervous cos as you might know, Mount Bromo has been erupting since late last year. And Mount Merapi has an eruption cycle of about 5-10 years. It last erupted in 2010 which means it could erupt any time now...

Of course you can climb the mountain on your own, but I took the easy option. I booked an all-inclusive tour at my hostel one day before the hike. At Rp 450,000 which includes return transport, guide, entrance fee, snacks, and insurance; it was a pretty good offer.

It was the first day of 2016. That morning, I went sightseeing to several places around the city. After a late lunch, I went back to the hostel to get some rest and sleep cos we're climbing after midnight to catch the sunrise.

At about 10.45pm, I was picked up by the tour operator at the hostel with several other climbers, and we drove approximately 2 hours to Selo.

I sat at the front seat of the van, and as we made our way to the foothill of the mountain, I tried to find the summit - lava flowing down from top of the mountain or some fire somewhere. You know.. it's a volcano! But of course there were none, all I could see was darkness and some lights from the villages.

It was quite a huge group that night, about 15 climbers altogether with 4 guides. We were gathered at one of the local homestays, where we had light supper and prepared ourselves before the climb. Each of us were supplied with headlights and a bottle of water.

At around 1am, we started walking to New Selo, the gate to the summit of Mount Merapi. The real path hasn't started yet but I was sweating already cos the paved road was so steep!

Once you arrived at the big Hollywood style sign of New Selo, the adventure begins.

Climbing Mount Merapi is definitely challenging. The trail is a killer from the start cos the angle of the slope is rarely less than 45 degrees. I had a hard time climbing thanks to my poor stamina. Yeah yeah.. I had zero training prior to coming here.

During one of the stops, I told my group to go ahead and I'd catch them at the next stop. So off they went with the guide. Hmm.. the guide was so different from the guides at Mount Kinabalu. My guide then would always be the sweeper, patiently climbing with the last person in the group.

So I climbed slowly following my own pace. There were other groups behind me so I wasn't worried. When I wasn't sure of the correct path to follow, I stopped and waited for the group behind me.

Since I was rather slow, I caught the first light here instead at the summit.





Still beautiful though.

View of Mount Merbabu, a neighbouring dormant volcano.





route to the summit


climbers camping on the path


The lunar landscape, this is the area most affected by the last eruption.



view of the last part of the climb to the summit of Mount Merapi


While the climb up through the forest trail is difficult, it is nothing compared to the final push to the crater peak. It's a 200m elevation up a slope of loose volcanic rocks and ash.

My feet penetrated deep into the dust and I kept slipping back with every steps I took. You take 3 steps forward and you slip down 2 steps backward. Felt like you're still at the same spot, hardly making any progress up the summit. Gahhh!!

Thank God I brought a pair of gloves with me so it made the climb easier. I was practically down like a goat walking on all four hahaha. Oh I was reunited with my group here. They were on their way down already. One of the guide asked me to go down with them cos it was dangerous for me to go up on my own. But another guide just said to me, "Go on.. just a little bit more."

I didn't climb this far for nothing, did I?

Luckily there were many other climbers so I just followed their footsteps.

After 6 hours of climbing with numerous stops, my perseverance finally brought me to the top.

The views were Masya Allah so beautiful. So so so worth it.



The bottom of the crater is covered with ash, no lava visible

Though I was excited reaching the top, honestly I also felt a bit disappointed cos I had a slight hope to see lava inside the crater. Baru la Lord of the Ring. But come to think of it, if there was lava, for sure we weren't allowed to come near to the volcano.






with some local climbers

Done enjoying the view and taking countless of selfies, I started my climb down.

The way down was trickier than the way up. The volcanic rocks slid away as soon as I stepped on them. I imagined sliding down on sand dunes, minus the board hehe. A bit dangerous but it helped me to go down faster. What took me more than half an hour to climb just now was just a few minutes journey to the plateau.

On the way down from Pasar Bubrah, my guide came to look for me and I was reunited with the group again. It then took us about 2 hours to reach back the homestay in Selo.

We were treated to tea and pancakes before being transported back to Jogja.

Climbing a volcano was never in my bucketlist, but I was so proud I did it!

April 23, 2016

Stay Connected in Japan with Yokoso Sim


I used portable wifi to stay connected during my last trip to Japan.

One day while out shopping at Isetan KLCC earlier this year, I came across this advertisement.


Off I went to i-Club and enquired about the sim card.

So here's the details;
* The sim card cost RM 120.
* You get 3.5GB data with 4G/LTE network speed.
* It is valid for 15 days from activation date.
* Comes in nano sim (micro sim adapter included).

If you're interested, you can get it at i-Club Isetan KLCC or if you live outside KL, you can contact sales[at]yokososim.net for delivery to your doorstep.

Do note that this is data-only sim, no calls available. But no problem la.. if you need to call someone, you can use Whatsapp or Line call.

Sounds expensive? If you are going to Japan for less than 7 days, yes it is a bit expensive cos you can rent portable wifi for RM15/day during promotional period.
But if you plan to stay longer (not more than 15 days), this is probably your best option.

I went to Japan for 10 days last February and as usual, #foreveralone. So yeah.. the sim card was my best choice cos it was only RM 12 per day. 

Bought it about one week before my trip. Don't buy the sim card too early cos it has an expiry date. Do check the expiry date before you buy. It is written at the back of the sim card pack or you can just ask the staff during your purchase.


Setting up
After you insert the sim card, go to your phone settings. At mobile network settings, enter the APN, username, password and authentication type as listed on your sim card pack. So easy!

Overall experience
Setting up was straight forward.

It was much more convenient cos I didn't have to bring pocket wifi everywhere with me. Less device to carry, less device to charge.

Coverage wise, Yokoso Sim uses NTT DoCoMo's network so the coverage was very good. I got LTE connection even during snowboarding at Gala Yuzawa in Niigata prefecture.

December 26, 2015

Travel 3Sixty 100th issue party

Earlier last month, I received an email from AirAsia, inviting me to be part of their blogger community, #AABC. As someone who loves travelling, of course I joined it!

Fret not, if you didn't get any invitation, you still can apply to be part of it.
Just email the team at maa_corpcomm@airasia.com .

About one week later, I received another invitation from them. This time, I was invited to Travel 3Sixty 100th issue celebration party.

First making it's debut in August 2007, it's amazing to see how the magazine has grown over the years. Never missed to read it every time I was on board the plane. And yeah, guilty to admit that I've stolen a couple of issues as well. Ooppss!! I am sorry! The digital version wasn't available yet at that time! ;p

It was held at one of the coolest bar in town, Marini's on 57.





One cannot miss this amazing view of the Petronas Twin Tower. ♥



Met a friend from Jom Jelajah Koperasi Johor trip. Surprised she still could recognize me with the short hair. hehe..





Oh that's Dato' Shake.. but I am not a fan of him, so don't care hahaha.

We were entertained by Tune Studios artist, De Fam. Honestly I've never heard of them cos I was ignorant of the local music scene, but they were not bad at all. If I hear them on radio, I might think they're one of those new and upcoming foreign artists.


Dato' Aziz Bakar, Board of Director of AirAsia Berhad revealed the cover of the 100th issue.

 


He later launched a special contest where readers of the magazine have the opportunities to invite Travel 3Sixty team to visit their hometown and be featured as the cover story. How cool is that!



Here's to 100 more issues! 

December 7, 2015

Indian e-Tourist Visa

India has introduced Indian e-Tourist Visa (eTV) last year and Malaysian can take advantage of this starting from August 2015.

You can apply for this eTV if your purpose of visit to India is for sightseeing, recreation, visiting relatives/friends, short duration medical treatment or casual business visit.

I am in India now for work meetings. Business visa needs invitation letter from the company I am visiting in India, my company letter and some other documents so I would need longer time to prepare for it. And existing visa needs you to go in person to the visa agents to submit your application and register the biometric data.

I have no time for all that!!

So relieved the Indian government introduced this as it's really convenient to apply it online.

What you need to do/prepare:
1. Fill in the online application form
2. Upload your visa photo
3. Upload the front page of your passport
4. Pay the visa fee - USD 48 for Malaysian (fees vary according to country)

Check out this website to apply for the eTV and for more details on eligibility, requirements, fees etc.   

Once approved, the eTV will be emailed to you.

It is recommended to apply the eTV minimum 4 days in advance from the date of your arrival. I applied on Saturday afternoon and I was actually quite worried cos the website does not mention the minimum 4 days in advance includes weekend or not, and I was scheduled to fly on Thursday.

Surprisingly, my eTV was approved less than 24 hours! Received my eTV on Sunday morning.

This is how the eTV looks like.


Print it out and carry it with you when you travel to India. 

Then at Indian airport immigration area, follow the signage for the e-Tourist visa cos there are separate lanes for eTV holder to capture your biometric data.

Reference : My visa application in 2011.

November 3, 2015

Spending time in Manchester

Continuation from here ...

My train back to London was at 6 pm so after I was done with my mission at Old Trafford, I took my own sweet time sightseeing in the city center.

Didn't walk far though, just around Piccadilly Gardens and the Albert Square. Didn't wanna miss my train later cos if it happens, I'd be stranded here cos the trains won't be operating on Christmas day.

It was Christmas eve so the area was buzzing with last minute shoppers. Surveyed some items in Primark. Fuhhh.. everything was so cheap! No wonder all my girlfriends who went to UK were crazy over this retail outlet. Clothes, bags, shoes, scarves, accessories.. mostly going for GBP 10 and below. Almost went crazy but I held myself cos it's better to wait for the Boxing Day Sale! hehe..



To add to the joyous atmosphere, there were many performers at the street market and groups performing Christmas carol.
 




Walking around, I couldn't help but fell in love with the city. The city has rich variety of architectural styles; modern, contemporary, gothic, roman etc. The buildings were beautiful.
 
Manchester Town Hall


The Albert Memorial
 
St Ann's Church

 not sure what is this building

There's a giant ferris wheel at Piccadilly Gardens. I love ferris wheel. Wanted to ride it but after I went to the counter and looked at the ticket price, I slowly backed away. It was GBP 9 for adult, and the ride only lasted about 10 minutes. Quite expensive for what is a fairly short ride, no?
 


I read in the news that the ferris wheel was dismantled last June. You won't see this Wheel of Manchester anymore..

Anyway, I came across one halal food outlet in front of Piccadilly Gardens.
 

Tapau-ed some food for my ride back to London.

One day was not enough to cover everything in Manchester. Next trip, I should spend a night here (and make sure I get to watch a game in Old Trafford!).