Saturday, February 20, 2010

More mountain biking action!!

Mountain biking is something new that I picked up for the SAC's sake.. but am starting to fall in love with it. It's a healthy but at times painful sport... punctuated with falls, bruises, lacerations, abrasions, cuts.. and sometimes fractures, but is filled with joy, camaraderie, confidence, and the adrenaline rush that makes it a very interesting extreme sport. Ever since I got my bike, haven't used it much in the trails.. well .. I have almost zero trail knowledge after all. So.. time to learn sth for real, and signed up with the YMCA Beginner's MTB course.

Woke up late (it's a Saturday) and cabbed to Changy Jetty. Met up at 8.30 am... and met GN from the previous NUS - MIR ( NUS Student Mountaineering Team; she's my senior). Surprise surprise.. another prev MIR member was also coming.. S.. whoa.. keep the adventure spirit coming guys!!

Our instructor of the day was CDS and he is one super uber fun guy with amazing skills and confidence. So.. once everyone has gathered.. off we went. The Bumboat was SGD2.50 one way, and for the bikes, an extra SGD2.

CDS,,, Dun let his appearance and age fool you
Once we arrived, those without a bike went to rent the bikes. We started with simple technical instructions.. and off we went once everyone was comfy with their bikes. CDS took us at a very comfortable pace.. those who were on to try more intermediate techniques were allowed to while those who wanted to opt out were given a chance to. Nevertheless he was very encouraging.. and well.. practice makes perfect :)

This is how we rest it on the ground :)

We practices a couple of Downhill slopes to get rid of that downhill fear. And it worked.. I'm more confident in going downhill without stopping to push my bike.. tt's said.. I still need more practice :)

We had multiple stops.. and one of the better ones were the stop at the lake for some food and drinks... nice...
Short Break to enjoy the view

View of the lake and branches sticking out

We ended with a short stint at the Pulau Ketam trail... where.... a lot of things happened.... one person flipped and we were joined by another enthusiasts.... something that was long and greena and slithery...

Rock Garden in The Pulau Ketam trail.. I shall conquer it!

The Green Snake the dropped from the trees.. only to be ran over by S

OK.. this time.. I did not fall.. but injury count.. two person crashed.. one person flipped over.. which reminds me.. I need to go get a MediKit ready later...

Group shot after the trails!!

We all finished with smiles on our faces and the determination to go on more trails :) I'm onzz for more MTB-ing already!!! It's really the first step that is scary, but after conquering it.. hmm.. it gets easier. So let's go!!!

Trudge on...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Siem Reap, and the Wats.. Part 2

From Part 1....

OK.. now hungry.. lunch time!! We went to a restaurant in Angkor itself, a tad bit more expensive but better than going out of Angkor just to save a few bucks. Food was good... but later on we realised that the food was toned down, and not as spicy as we wanted it to be cos the chef usually makes it less spicier for tourists.. ok.. so next time, gotta ask them to spice it up more.

After lunch, we went to Preah Khan, where we did our pre-tomb raider shots (stunt shots with climbing and jumping and.. hmm.. acting silly most of the time). Here, there were some amazing trees and the sky was just perfect to grab some nice shots to accompany the action shots.. hehe..

BK and titties

A major discovery... I think

Ready to fight!!!

Yeah,,, heavy alright...

A short stop at Bayon after Preah Khan for more photo shots.. and....

Finally, to end the day, our first sunset view, and we went to Bakheng Hill, prob the most crowded area to grab sunsets in the whole of Angkor. Yup, it was a hill, so to get up there, either take the elephant or climb the hill.. we did the latter. There were many people at the top.. and sunset was indeed beautiful. The one thing that amazes me about the ruins was that when the sun shines on the buildings, it looked like it was glowing and basking in the glory of the sun.. I think that's what attracted people here, in that this really looked like a the city of gold.. something like the South American counterpart (if it does exists.. ). It's really amazing to see the ruins change colour.

Ok.. let me stress here.. I DON’T EAT EXOTIC FOOD. I can do everything in the world, but ask me to eat even frogs, and my stomach WILL churn. In Siem Reap, the locals have a delicacy which was similar to the Philippine’s half formed duck embryo egg… this one is chicken. We saw it all along the way to Angkor and well, BK and WX were really onz to try it. Short to say, they described that it tasted like egg.. with some extra parts in it.. hmm… and I’m happy to just know tt.. .

OK.. all done… back to the hotel for a short rest and dinner.
That night, we decided to eat something nice.. but it all went down the drain. First, we couldn't find the restaurant we initially wanted to go. Then, when we went to some posh looking place, the food took tooooo long to arrive that the guys got irritated, and we decided to leave. Then was off to KFC for some quickfood, but the guys took too long to order that by the time they got the order in, the last remaining chicken pieces were snapped up by some other tourists.
They finally had their meal at a restaurant at Pub Street that was affliated to our hotel. hmm.. oh well.. WX and me went shopping since we ate our fill at KFC already.. and I bought some nice and cheap clothes :) happy...

OK, the next morning was the sunrise morning. Angkor Wat has this sunrise shot that is somewhat, the shot that every guest here must take. And, as every tourist there ever was in this place, we had to get that shot too. We set out at 4.30am, had a chop chop brekkie and off we went in our groggy state. We arrived at Angkor Wat and there were already many waiting there. Found a good spot, got us some chairs and ordered some drinks. Here, we just waited and waited and waited and kept fiddling with the camera tiil we had like 100+ shots before the sun even rose. The only thing that irritated us here was some ABC that was so persistant on taking the so called best shot ever with his SLR's that he had no more normal human decency and was just plain rude to everyone else. Wished I had the Kalashnikov here to gun him down.. hehe.. OK back to sunrise.

The sunrise was so-so to me.. it was beautiful as every other sunrises are.. and it was nice to see the horizons changed color, but I still prefer my walks along Fort Canning on the way to work.. while enjoying the clean fresh air better :)..

After the sunrise, we toured the Wat and the place is amazing.. it's really big, and there were so much to see.. We had a fun time spotting the sculptures on the walls and identifying them to the characters we read in the book. Over and over again.. we saw the Naga, and the churning of milk and the Hindu deities, and the in some corners, Buddha. It was interesting to see how the Buddhist influence usurped into this predominantly Hindu area during the early years of Angkor. Need to brush on history already. After that, we went up the main temple area.. and yes.. must have no bared shoulders. Had to borrow a shawl to go up. Well.. spent the whole morning in the Wat and took a lot of photos again.

Studying in the ole library

One of the many corridors

Before heading to lunch, where we finally got the spiciness right, we stopped at a small ruin area called thomannon for more pics. Can’t remem much about this place tho.. but CW said we stopped there for a while.. and I think he has a better memory than me.

And after lunch, finally, the real Tomb Raider temple... Ta Phrom. This place has it's fair share of eerieness as it was the only ruin to be left on its own, and it has trees growing on it... really huge trees growing on it with it's roots holding the whole structure up. We really went crazy here..

Other tourists were laughing...

One of the most diffcult shots to take...

The best part is, we had a nice old caretaker to take us tombraidering around the place.. and past the 'No entry' signs :) :) We saw things that otherwise we would've missed like the hidden Buddha, and the still retained intricately crafted aspara.
We took some key shots here as well.. like the one where the tree roots were covering the doorways.. neat!!! I love this place!!

One of the Lonely Planet pic replica

And finally, our last sunset of the visit at Prae Rup.

We hiked all the way up the temple, and got a good spot to chill.

Nope.. not this spot...

Not this spot neither

While waiting for the sunset, we got beers.. and BK and I finished a can each. The rest weren't too keen, as we still needed to climb down later. hehe.. well.. safe to say, I got down alive still. Sunset was amazing...

Back to the hotel, tipped the driver and finally… massage time.. I was so waiting for this..

At night, some new Hungarian friends of RW joined us for dinner, and then clubbing at Angkor What?. We were lucky to get a table there as the whole place was already full. We downed two towers, and started to lighten up more. Everyone went wild here, and had a great time on the dance floor, esp BK.. who once started can-not stop :).. hehe.. A smashing time to a smashing trip..
Angkor What??

I just love this shot!!!

Went back to the hotel when I was gaga already.. haha.. (not enuff sleep can cause easy drunkenness.. and well.. the night before, only had 1-2 hrs of sleep) and zzz immediately in the guys room... haha.. while watching ?? Tropic Thunder.. hehe..I was out already by then.
Woke up fresh in the morning .. prob cos I got more sleep this time.. oh no.. time to go back already.. headed to the girls room.. cleaned up a bit, packed and time to go to the airport. Short, fast, sweet... trip...

The journey back was uneventful, and we had a short transit at Pnom Penh airport.. so sad, a fun holiday was coming to an end. Well... went home... tired... laundry.. work.. and zzz

This trip really reminded me of the time when I wanted to do archeology.. and to explore long lost ruins with wondrous tales of mystery and adventure.. the Lala Crotch style. hmm.. to relive such fantasy was a great experience and can be quite addictive. Here's to a more adventure in the future.. and great company to go along with it!!

Trudge on....

PS : most of the pics here are courtesy of the amazing CW and his GF, the beautiful WX, and the ever courageous RW (who did a lot of rock climbing poses). BK, other than posing, also become the sub photog who took beautiful shots as well.. and well.. this trip was really FUN!!! Thank you all!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Catching the artificial waves...

Never been surfing, so what the heck?.. Just go and crash... that was running through my mind as I was prepping for the Sat's adventure in Sentosa. The Wavehouse one of Sentosa's latest attraction, brought in the Flowrider and Flowbarrel, which were huge shallow soft water pools designed to create artificial waves for the surfing enthusiast without a surfing outlet. Flowrider was easier and flat, while the Barrel was.. hmm.. a barrel.. the waves are barrels, hence you can actually go in and out of the wave. Beginners start with the flowrider and move to the Barrel when they are better... usually... Went this time with Ivy's SIF fellows that I met in Bali, CCh, RF and made some new friends as well, NatQ and DC, and came back with a possible new hobby, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Met up with Cynthia before heading to Sentosa from VivoCity... I was amazed that I can use the EZlink card now to get on the Sentosa Express to the island. Took to Siloso Beach, alighted and headed to the Wavehouse. We were early, so we sat on the beach for a while, taking in the quietness of the lagoon.We registered for the first session when the place opened, and in no time at all... all the slots were filled. Hahaha.. being the gungho fella we are.. we signed up for both Flowrider and Flowbarrel from the start. OK.. all hearts set to go on and fall as much as we can.

The first session was at 11am.. and off we were. The instructor gave some safety instructions and explained how things will go. Each rider will take their turns to ride the wave once, and when they fall, they have to queue again. Each side had about 6-7 riders.. and yes.. the queue was long. So.. started out with the body board.. and after 2 tries.. felt quite OK on it. CCh started with the flowboard first and ... hehe.. it looked fun.. so.. the next turn, I decided to go on the board too and my heart was beating fast when the instructor pushed me onto the water.. and.. hmm... kabishh.... I was washed up in an instance and went back into the queue. But it was BLOODY FUN!! OK.. went again and again and again.. and was getting the hang of it. Meanwhile, RF and NatQ arrived and went to register for the next session.

Time was up for me and CCh and we decided to switch our next Barrel to the Rider as we weren't confident of our skills yet. Unfortunately, the 12pm slots were full.. ok, we'll take the 1pm one.. at the same time DC arrived and registered for the 1pm one too! yay!!

RF and NatQ went on, but didn't have many turns as there were many riders now. Hmm.. note to self, come later in the day on weekends. Went again on the 1pm session, and did better this time. Can stand, and move left-right, but still can't correct and balance to perfection yet.. mebbe more practice.

Me standing on the board

After the second session, it was time to call it a day.. am tired after all, but still high with excitement. RF and NatQ went off first, and then the remaining 3 of us after a round of Ben and Jerry's.. yummy... went back to the mainland andmet up with ST after that in Vivo.. and was dead tired.. hehe

The Rider Team

All of us agreed that it was a great ride and was raring to go again.. it really is addictive and fun. CCh said it was harder than real waves, but at least no need to paddle. Now I am so on to try a real wave too soon.. but till then, this artificial one will do..

Hmm.. there's a 2 for 1 on Wednesday nights.. and hmm anybody on?

Trudge on..

Monday, February 1, 2010

Siem Reap, and the Wats.. Part 1

I've always wanted to visit Siem Reap as it was a place of archeological discoveries, a la Tomb Raider Lara Croft Style.. and well.. a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many friends have gone and rave about this place, and now that I got good company to go with, well.. hehe.. why not!!

So on the 29th January (Sat), I packed my bags and headed to the airport. Met up with BK, CW, AO, ET, WX and her BF there (only BK, CW, WS and I were going.. but we had a great sending off group with us). Checked in and decided to eat lunch at BK.. Burger King, as after all, it was BK's namesake food.. ok la, tasted the same as usual. It's a fastfood chain anyway.. :)

Chatted until it was time to go in and off we went. Got some CR2 batteries for my D70... (forgo the pana waterproof cam this time as I'm suppose to be a jap-ish tourist this trip) and BK bought a Choya for our goodnite sleep drink. OK.. boarding time.. went to the boarding area and off we went to Siem Reap.

The flight was short and had some inflight meal.. whoa.. super full already.. standard airfare food. At about 2 hrs + later.. finally arrived at Siem Reap airport and alighted the plane..
Firist impression : HOT and HUMID!! the air was heavy and was sweating in no time. Passed the immigration without a hitch and and collected our bags. We are here!! YES YES YES!! Bought Kahlua as our morning drink as it was quite cheap, and soon met our cab driver outside.

We then went to the Hotel : Golden Temple Villa, which was a moderately cheap and clean hotel, in the middle of the small town itself, within walking distance to the eateries and convinience stores.
The roads in Siem Reap reminded me of Bangkok.. with it's Tuk Tuks flashing by and horns blaring all the time, but not as 'sophisticated' as Bangkok that has the rail line and mega shopping malls everywhere. The area was perpetually dusty, and ppl could be seen driving, riding bikes, bicycles and walking everywhere. The Tuk Tuks were different from Bangkok’s, being only a small little carriage pulled by a motorbike (think horse carriage with a motorbike). And well, as nicely put by the guys, the drivers horn so much that you'd think they can't survive on the road without one.

Well.. checked in, and shared a room with WX.. we got a room with a balcony.. well.. sorta balcony. The only thing separating 'our balcony' from the shared balcony next to ours was a flipdoor that says 'For room 72 only'.. err.. not the best way to keep the 'private' balcony discreet. But anyways, the room was clean and neat with cable TV and a DVD player.

So, checked in, rest a bit and off we were to hunt for food. We wanted to catch a traditional Cambodian dance at the same time, the Aspara dance at the same time, so with recommendations from the lobby ppl, we headed down to Pub Street for Temple Club. The food was... OK... not something to shout out aloud about, the dance was nice, (I somehow like Indochine cultural dances.. like trad Thai dances and all) but the dancers looked bored. At the end of it, took some pics of the dancers.. and headed back to the hotel for rest .... and Choya... and.... Zombieland. We made reservations at the counter to get a driver for the next 2 days to ferry us around, and since there were 5 of us, we hired a van. There were other options too.. like Tuk Tuk, cabs, cars, motorbikes .. and for those feeling more adventurous.. bicycles. yup.. even bumped into a cyclist who was cycling all around South East Asia.. super super cool.

The next day, we all started about ??.. early.. but not for the sunrise. We haven't gotten the ticket to get into Angkor itself, and well.. the sun will always rise tomorrow. Got ourselves a hefty breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel.. and the food was yummy. I opted for the more "angmoh" food as I wanted the fruit platter, and the baguette was just oh.. so good when it's fresh.

Met up with the driver.. same guy from yesterday.. and handed him the plan for today. He said alrite.. and off we went!!
First stop, the ticket counter. Here, we got ourselves 3-days passes that ensures unlimited entries to all the ruins in Angkor.. but we had to keep showing them to the guards who checked them. I don't really want to elaborate much on the archeological structure of each temple, but rather the things that striked me most and the things we did there. Most of the information can be wiki-ed :)... Anyways, after that, our first stop was at Banteay Srei, on the northeastern side of Angkor. Being the first temple of the whole visit.. this place was huge and we took time explaring it.. and snapping photos.. Here, we were introduced to the real Aspara sculptures, and they were beautiful, but not very detailed due to erosion. Nice place though.. and is really worth a visit.

Next, our guide brought us to a hush hush site where we were offered a chance to shoot from real guns.. and of course we said YES! It was an ?army training ground, that the locals turned into a business for the tourist. One glance at the wall.. and whoa.. a lot of guns/rifles/uzis.. we weren't very sure of what to try out, so we asked for the one with the least recoil, and we got hte AK-47 aka The Kalashnikov. The guys and I shot about 7-8 rounds each.. and it was fun! The target was the piece of paper far far away, about ?100m away.. but I doubt I got any points. I went first, and was scared of the recoil.. ok.. finger in the trigger, take aim.. and .... pull!!! The shot went off and .. wham.. smoke in the air.. shell on the ground.. and wow.. little recoil.. it was fun!!. Each of us took turns to fire and well.. it was an experience though I don't think I'll ever shoot a gun in real life.

The target... from far far

The baddie to shoot

(courtesy of RW)

to be continued....