Thursday, April 30, 2009

Melaka River Cruise

Short note: Today is the 30th, which marks our 21st month together. It has been a long, long journey.
Since the inauguration of Malacca as one of the World Heritage City last year, there have been a lot of new projects carried out with the aim to attract and accommodate the increasing number of tourists to the city. From the surface, it may appears that it is a good thing to the tourism industry of the state and our country as a whole, but it is the opposite to Malaccan. Just ask any Malaccans what they think about the recent development in the town and you shall expect negative reply from nine out of ten people. The most obvious thing is the congested roads and heavy traffic during weekends and school holidays that I saw it myself during my short stay there late last year.
Anyway, this post is a happy post, so I will talk more happy stuff here. There are many stuff that I can relate my Sejarah book with Malacca. After all, the birth of our country began in this small town centuries ago. One of them would be Melaka River, or Sungai Melaka. It used to be just like any other rivers in our country, thick brown in color with an unpleasant odour and of course, full with rubbish many years back. That was until recently, when the local city council took the initiative to clean up the river and the state of the water in the river has improved very much.
With an improved condition, they are now able to introduce a new attraction along the river.
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Melaka River Cruise.
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Again without a tripod, the pillar came to our rescue.
The weather wasn't perfect, because it was rather cloudy and it appeared as if it was going to rain. But time was against us because I was going to return to Japan very soon, in a matter of few days. So, we took the risk and decided to take a ride on the boat on New Year's Day.
Despite it being a public holiday, they weren't many people spotted at the jetty, mainly because it was cloudy and people preferred to stay at home, I suppose. Nevertheless, we looked for the ticket counter and it was that time when I cracked a super lame joke on the poor lady there. You see, there wasn't a fixed schedule for the boats and they usually runs it when the boat is almost full. After getting our tickets from her, I asked the lady what time would the next boat leave.
"You tunggu-lah, bila orang tu suruh masuk, you masuk."
So, this is how I replied her. "Macam mana kalau dia tak panggil? Tunggu sampai esok yer?"
Haha, I know I'm so bad to act so stupid to that poor little girl, but she was sporting enough to take my joke and gave me a slight smile in return. I bet she must be thinking hard what to answer me back at that time. We weren't made to wait for long because there were quite a number of boats operating that day. After waiting for roughly ten minutes, we were asked to produce our ticket and hop onto the boat.
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"Visit Melaka Means Visits Malaysia" - lame enough?
When everyone had boarded the boat, we set off.
The people in our boat were so obedient that they didn't stand up from their seats when the boat had left the jetty. Everyone just sat there on their seat and enjoy the panoramic scenery of the town along the Melaka River which cuts through a huge part of the town. But with a mischievous boy like me there, how could I just keep myself on my seat without doing anything. That would be so boring.
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Those traditional houses in the background are among the rumah kampung at Kampung Morten.
The ride took us approximately forty-five minutes. The boat left the jetty until it reached the river mouth and then it will take a U-turn to return to the starting point. Along the journey, we passed through several small bridges across the Melaka River.
Take this as example.
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Jambatan Terminal (Cathay)
Besides that, there are also quite a number of famous landmark that are synonym with Malacca.
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There is a Malay village in the town that is popular among foreign tourist, Kampung Morten.
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Most of the people in this village take that extra effort to decorate their houses, just like this one. Candidate for the "Most Patriotic Malaysian" award.
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Anyone fancy a ride on the Eye On Malacca?
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Remember the story about the white deer who kicked the dog into the river, which happened under the Melaka tree?
Those are Melaka trees, planted along the Melaka River.
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Church of St. Francis Xavier, built in 1849, 160 years ago.
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How the boat looks like. By the way, the yellow building behind is a public toilet.
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Melaka Art Gallery and Christ Church, two red buildings near the Stadthuys.
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Maritime Museum and the 110m-high Menara Taming Sari on the right.
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The Dutch fort which was discovered recently.
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A giant windmill next to the fort.
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Quayside, where a number of restaurants offering various kinds of cuisine are available.
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This is not a famous landmark of Malacca, but Mich asked me to see this. She said the boat was peeing =.=
Being together with me for quite some time already, I think she is slowly turning into a lame person like me. I can feel that, as she has been cracking up super lame jokes lately. However, she still have a long way to go to match my level lol. Anyway, there were still a lot of spared time during the ride, so we made good-use of the time by taking more self-taken pictures a.k.a. camwhore.
You can skip this part if you feel like doing so (hint to Calvin LSH).
genting
Most of them are just plain stupid poses.
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Enjoying the slight gentle breeze along the river.
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My arms were too long, hence a failed attempt of portraying the scene in Titanic wtf.
Finally, I've come to the final entry of our trip during my winter break. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eye On Malaysia

Short note: This is a pre-written entry which is so long back that I might forget totally about it if I don't post it sooner than later. There have been too many events over the last four-month period that I didn't manage to post this up, but here it is, a sequel of my winter break in Malaysia with Michelle late last year. Well, a lot of stuff happened for the last few days, but I hope this entry will be able to put a break to everything.
P/S: I love you.
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During our last few days together, we let our schedule to be loose and practically just do whatever we felt like doing. After our first time meeting at Hoe Kee porridge stall in Petaling street two years ago, the next place we went was the Eye On Malaysia at Titiwangsa Lake Garden. However, it has since been shifted to a new home, the historical town of Malacca, late last year.
That is why you will notice that they had replaced the word "KUALA LUMPUR" to "MELAKA".
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This gondola is actually a counter ticket in front of the main entrance to the giant Ferris wheel.
We wanted to try something different this time, so we chose to go there during sunset. However, it was so cloudy every evening that we kept on postponing our ride from one day to the next. because it would be almost impossible for us to watch the sunset when the sky is covered with thick clouds. Fortunately, it was a clear weather in the evening on the second last day before I return to Japan.
Perhaps we were given a chance after all, and we of course, didn't let it go.
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Unlike the previous setting at Titiwangsa Lake Garden, they tilted the Ferris wheel at a certain angle to give it an artistic look.
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There are 42 gondolas in total, including one VIP gondola.
Standing at 60 meters high, Eye On Malaysia is still considered a small one compared to the Singapore Eye which measures 165 meters and is the current world's tallest Ferris wheel. Well, it is not surprising for a kiasu country, isn't it? Anyway, it has since been closed indefinitely due to a breakdown at its control room late last December.
Who ask them to build such a giant one? Kiasu so much some more, see now who are the kiasi one now?
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We requested the guy to take a picture for us before we hop into the gondola.
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Ticket girl.
Tickets are priced at RM10 for adults, and RM5 for children, provided you are a Malaysian. But on that day, we only paid RM16 for two because we got student's discount. Not sure why is that though. Anyway, the price is double for foreign tourist. The school holidays has ended on the day we were day, and it was a weekday. So, we were the only one there, and were later joined by another family. For that, we got a gondola to our own without having to share it with other people. In other words, more space and privacy.
Imagine how crowded it was during the Christmas and New Year's Day. I bet it was crowded like crazy.
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It was still a bit cloudy, but it was not too bad. That's the Straits of Malacca in the background.

From the top of the Eye, we could see almost all famous landmark in Malacca town, including the Porta de Santiago, St. Paul's Hill, the Stadhuys, the Clock Tower, Independence Memorial, and Menara Taming Sari. In fact, Michelle's house in Taman Kota Laksamana is so near that we managed to spot her house as well.
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Blurry picture due to the zooming I made.
I tried to make a bet with Michelle about how many rounds we would we taken. During our previous ride, it was four, I think. So, both of us agreed that it would be the same again. if not more. Every time our gondola passed the bottom station, we kept hoping that it won't stop and we would be taken for another round. I suggested one stupid way by acting as if we were enjoying ourselves looking at the scenery around (although there is nothing to be seen) and when the worker see us, he might decide to let us have another extra round. Yes, damn lame, right?
But it worked. My stupid actions got us a fifth round and our money was well worth spent.
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That's the gondola we took - #23.
Before going back, we took a picture with the Eye in the background and yet again, Michelle forgot to bring along her tripod. Left without any option, I just placed my camera on the ground and used the timer to have our shot taken.
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We ended our day by walking to the seaside nearby and watch the sunset together. How I miss those moments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sakura

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Mention spring in Japan, and people often will associate it with cherry blossoms, or more commonly known as sakura.
Before I came to Japan, the Japanese lecturers who taught at the preparatory center back in KL used to tell us how beautiful the flower is. Back then however, we didn't have the chance to see real sakura flowers. It wasn't until the first day we reached Tokyo where we got the chance to see rows of sakura trees around the Narita International Airport proximity.
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Taken from the bus just after we left the airport back in April 2007.
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One of the alleys nearby Toko Hotel.
But we only got to see them from afar, and it wasn't until later that evening that we had time to wander around Toko Hotel in Tokyo, that we saw sakura in full bloom along the roadsides. Since that day, although I've seen sakura countless of times already, I've not got bored with this flower just yet.
Sakura is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and holds a very prominent position in Japanese culture. There are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in Japan; well over 200 cultivars can be found across the country. Most of the sakura bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blooming sakura trees.
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Stage 1 - Still in buds.
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Stage 2 - The flowers begin to bloom.
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Stage 3 - Sakura at its full-bloom.
Now that it is already heading towards the end of April, the cherry blossom season has come to an end in many cities across southern and central Japan, including Tokyo and Kyoto. In the meantime, the blossom front is moving into northern Japan and higher elevations like Hokkaido. The blooming process of the sakura is tremendously affected by temperature, rain and wind; for example, they can delay or shorten it considerably. On the contrary, when there is a huge temperature difference between days, the sakura will bloom much faster than predicted, which was seen in Nagaoka this year.
Every year, the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura front as it moves northward up the archipelago. The blossoming of sakura will begin at the most southern island of Okinawa in January and typically reaches the middle part of the main island, Honshu where Kyoto and Tokyo is located at the end of March or the beginning or April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaido a few weeks later.
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There aren't any leaves on sakura trees when it's spring.
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Canopy of sakura.
Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties, commonly known as hanami here. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the sakura and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. The custom of hanami dates back many centuries in Japan: the eighth-century chronicle Nihon Shoki records hanami festivals being held as early as the third century CE.
Sakura trees are often spotted around Japanese schools and public buildings. Since the fiscal and school year both begin in April, the first day of work or school coincides with the sakura season in many parts of Honshu, the main island of Japan.
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Close-up shot #1.
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Close-up shot #2.
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Close-up shot #3.
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Close-up shot #4.
There aren't many sakura trees in my college, just a few trees here and there. Nonetheless, we have something else to make up for that. There is a park behind our college, Yukyuzan Park which is only about ten-minute walk away. There is always something different that the park offers every season of the year, but I would say the best season to visit this park will be during the spring, when sakura is at its full-bloom.
Every year during the sakura season, we visit this park at least once to have hanami parties. This year was no exemption and in fact, it was one of the most interesting party I'd had till now, which I'm very glad for because whether it's a coincidence or not, this would be the last hanami I have in Nagaoka.
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Rows of sakura trees along the roads with the pond on the left.
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One species of sakura which has branches hanging down like a curtain.
To be fair, it is not all about sakura in Yukyuzan Park.
There is a Shinto shrine at the main entrance of the park, a castle which is turned into a museum standing on a hill, and also a small mini zoo in Yukyuzan Park. What I never know before this is a Japanese garden which was hidden at one section of the park that I only noticed it recently.
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The pink sakura gives a contrasting view of the garden.
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A common decoration made of stone in a Japanese garden.

Walking up a hill will take us to the Nagaoka Museum of History.
It is just not a big building, but there are two watch towers at both ends of the building. I have never been inside the museum myself so far, but I suppose we will be able to view the whole city of Nagaoka from the tower.
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The entrance to the museum.
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Another higher tower at the opposite end.
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Same tower, different angle.
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A small lane behind the castle; while some parts of the Nagaoka city can be seen at the left.
Although there are many other parks in other parts of Japan which offer a more beautiful sight of sakura during spring like Ueno Park in Tokyo or Takada Park which I visited recently, Yukyuzan Park has a considerably quite a number of sakura trees in the park which makes it a popular spot for family and friends to have their hanami parties here.
As for the photography enthusiasts, this park definitely provide a great chance for them to have sakura shots they would love to.
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The sakura flowers here aren't as compact as other places that I've seen like Ueno Park in Tokyo for example.
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Rows of sakura trees in front of the castle.
Perhaps I have never been to many other gardens so far, because I hardy get the chance to see plum blossom. But this year, I managed to spot them at the Japanese garden in Yukyuzan Park. They remind me of the fake plastic plum blossom petals I always put on the branches for decoration purposes during Chinese New Year.
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Compared to cherry blossom, plum blossom has more petals and they are in layers.
But don't you think they look so fake?