Mount Cook – Hooker Valley

 

 

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It was a chilly morning when I stepped out from Mount Cook Youth Hostel Association. fresh mountain air made me felt I could stay here forever. My mission on that day was to hike the Hooker Valley. It was more to sightseeing than hiking, since there’s no real steep inclination along the trail, but it’s a real achievement for a non-hiker like me.

The ultimate goal was to get to Mount Cook as close as possible. With it standing bravely in the distance, I just couldn’t get my eyes off it. It was like you putting all of your energy to reach for something so great. Along the walk, I thought of it as me going after my life goal, enjoy the view even though you’re tired and eventually, all of the effort would worth millions.

But of course, I was not climbing to the top of Mount Cook. Hooker Valley track is a 11 km round trip track, and it ends at the Hooker Lake. I crossed three swing bridges, where you can see the fast flowing river underneath. The sound of nature really calmed me. And the non-stop mountain view was just magnificent. I bet it’d look better during the winter, where the mountain would be covered with soft white snow. It didn’t matter, the tallest mountain in the Southern Alps has its magic that mesmerized us, despite the season.

When I finally reached the Hooker Lake, where Mount Cook stood in front of my eyes, I felt so relieved, speechless. It was as if you had reached the final destination in your life. Since it was during summer, no ice glaciers were in sight. Just a few traces of them left, waiting to sink. Personal achievement unlocked!

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy”

 

Chiang Mai, Thailand – Great Food 

Early May I went to Chiang Mai for a short weekend getaway. I just needed some time away from office every now and then. So my friends and I planned the trip and booked the accommodation with flight tickets for RM 250 by AirAsia Go. Cheap right! It was a budget trip and we reaally wanted to save as much as we could. And off we went to the north part of Thailand – Chiang Mai.


When we arrived at Chiang Mai Airport, we grabbed a taxi or they called it airport limo (Toyota Fortuner) to get us to the hotel. We were offered some tour packages by the driver, a chirpy man I’d say to bring us to explore Chiang Mai. Our plan was to visit the Doi Suthep National Park and to go shopping at the night markets. And we thought it’s better if we had someone to tour since we’re not Thai-speaker and the only word we’ve known was “Sawaddeka” Haha! And the deal was not bad so we agreed.

The hotel we stayed located in the old city near Thapae Gate, the east gate. One of the top attractions in Chiang Mai is the Old City. The city was once a square-walled city surrounded by a moat. The remainings of the wall can still be seen today, with some of it was rebuilt for tourists attraction spot. 

The hotel was a budget hotel, or should I say hostel for backpackers. The owner speaks little English but it’s not that hard to communicate. BB House – not bad for a short stay with dorm rooms with shared bathroom. The building was pretty new, maybe newly renovated so it’s comfortable. The room with two bunk beds fit us four girls just nice for a 3 nights stay, even though we pretty cramped ourselves with our bags and of course, our shopping stuffs. It was a budget trip after all so we didn’t really mind.


What I love most about Thailand was its cheap fruit juices. It was just heaven to have pineapple or mango freshly blended with no sugar added for just 40 baht! Imagine how much would it cost in a hipster cafeteria, well because you pay more for Mango Tango since it is more healthy than sodas. Not only fruit juices, you pay for the same price for a large cup of cappuccino and mocha! And their coffee was the best! Don’t forget their matchas too, they’re just too good! 

We tried a lot of food in Chiang Mai. Of course our main objective was to try Thai’s most famous cuisine – Tom Yam. They added coconut milk in their tom yam to give it a creamy taste. You could taste the sweetness coming from the fresh prawns and mussels, the tangy tomato soup complimented with a nice kaffir lime leaves smell. 


Another well known Thai cuisine we tried was Pad Thai. It’s basically rice noodles fried with fish sauce, egg and shrimps added with chilli flakes and lime juice. The final plating was topped with bean sprouts to make it extra crunchy. This was a simple but filling dish.


I tried this delicious egg porridge during breakfast and it was so good I wish I could ask for more. The porridge itself was so rich in chicken flavor, perhaps cooked with chicken stock, and a half boiled egg was added to it just before serving. Fried rice vermicelli and spring onions were the sidekicks for this porridge. It’s just perfect for breakfast because you felt just like home!


These were the desserts. They were egg custards with caramel sauce topped with fried onion, egg custard with glutinous rice and coconut milk, tapioca cakes with coconut, and steamed banana with sugar. Another dish which was not captured was the Mango and Glutinous Rice, just remember to grab one when you’re here okay!

We had so many good food in ChiangMai. Hopefully we can come back for longer stay in this subtle small town. 

My Favorite thing

My favorite thing in the world, is the stars. Songs, quotes, movies, anything with stars in it, I will just love it. It is so magical that, something so distant and tiny from our view, can make us realize how small we are in this universe. All of the stars unite with each other, and mesmerizes people with their twinkles and dazzles. The fact that I am living in a city full of lights, and stars are not within my vicinity. I know they are out there, they always do. But still, they are like the hidden gems, which can only be seen when there’s darkness.

Working as an engineer, on an offshore platform, I had the best chance to do stargazing. After work I’d go to the helipad, lie down, and just look at the stars. Look how they are shining, and look at the constellations they are forming. It’s just wonderfully magical, after having a long day on the platform, far from home.

The most beautiful stargazing experience I had was during my trip to New Zealand. At the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo, pick a comfortable spot to lie down, and there you go, the great Milky Way is right above your head. I wished it was a little quieter but the tourists were too loud, messing with my concentration to enjoy the view. And it was freezing cold, but it didn’t stop me from having the best night of my life.

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The image is taken from Google, since I did not have a good camera to capture the Milky Way. The view will always remain in my heart. I wish that one day, I could go stargazing with you, stargazing with love, so that I could have both of my favorite things in the world, at the same time 🙂

 

Mount Kinabalu, Sabah

If there is any crazy thing I did in my life, it would be the decision to climb up the tallest peak between the Himalayas & the New Guinea – the majestic Mount Kinabalu. The word “Kinabalu” comes from a Kadazan word “Aki Nabalu” which means “the revered place of the dead”. Hiking is not my passion, I mean I’m not even athletic enough to jog! But my opportunity to stay in this peaceful land Sabah made me thought, why not give it a try? I wasn’t really aiming to reach the peak anyway, I just wanted to experience how hiking is like. So, I paid my insurance and fees, together with a group of 14 friends (some of them are marathon-runners, real hikers, and of course me).

I did not do any preparation for the hike, hiking gears, fitness, and also mental readiness until 2 weeks before the real shit. My friend and I, who would not even climb the stairs, let alone the mountain went really nervous. Because we knew we were not prepared! We thought of chickening out, but we didn’t want the money went to waste so we just stick to it.

We departed for the hike on 28th April 2015, in the morning. Our mountain guides briefed us about the trail route, resting check points, and all other safety precautions. We basically packed our bag with energy bars, water and a pair of clean socks and shirt, oh and a rain coat.With a climbing stick, we started off our hike via the Mesilau Route, the route which a fitter and adventurous hikers would choose, if you know what I mean, yes it’s the tougher route (steeper, more slippery and longer). The view along the trail was just spectacular, we couldn’t help to take tonnes of photos!

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On the first day, our target was to reach Laban Rata before the sun set. The journey was long but the view was breathtaking. It was the most tiring day in my life, I couldn’t feel my legs when I finally arrived in Laban Rata Rest House which was at 6pm. Right after grabbing dinner, I had painkillers and went to sleep right away. Because the journey for the next day was at 2 a.m! That’s just few hours sleep!

At 2 a.m, freezing cold, and dark, we put on our head lamps, with extra clothes to keep warm, and continued hiking. The target was to reach at the peak before dawn so that we could watch the sunrise. It was so tough that I almost gave up. I couldn’t stand the cold, my legs were hurting, I was out of breath (which became worse at higher altitude), and my hands were numb due to coldness.

Narrow and steep rocks, abseiling in the darkness, I really thought I was going to die.  I actually wanted to stop when I could already see the peak, which was about 700m away. It was the longest 700 m in my life!

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The Donkey’s Ears – This was when the sun was rising, as I was resting with my friend. I almost quit.

My friends and I kept going and we managed to reach the peak as the sun was rising. The peak was just there, right in front of our eyes, calling us. And up there, it was the most beautiful view ever.

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It’s like you could walk on the clouds! It’s like a dream, it was a dream.

“Tinggi-tinggi Gunung Kinabalu, tinggi lagi saya sayang kamu

Tinggi-tinggi Gunung Kinabalu, tengok dari jauh hati saya rindu”

 

Koh Lipe, Thailand

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I am someone who constantly needs an island getaway. I long for the fresh sea breeze, whispering on my face while I’m relaxing on the white sandy beach, on a perfect sunny day. And of course, the colorful corals and fish underwater. I love the underwater world because it is just magical to view so many creatures living together in a quiet ecosystem. My trip to Koh Lipe, Thailand was 2 years ago. The sunset view was taken at the Sunset Beach, as the name suggests. Magnificent, peaceful evening was the way I could describe it.

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This was taken at noon, look at the blue sea! After strolling at the seaside, you can just go to the center of the island which is 10 minutes walk away. Just a suggestion on what to do after a long day on the beach in Koh Lipe, go grab a Thai’s banana pancake on the way to the Thai masseuse for a massage. And the Thai body massage I had was excellent!

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I wish I could go back again to Koh Lipe, for a short vacation. Just need a break from office..

 

It’s that place!

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It was a bright and sunny day in the South Island of New Zealand as I drove my way to the infamous Mount Cook. My eyes caught sight of  a field of purple lavender at the side of the road. I thought, this is it! I found it, my dream place.

I bought a paper card when I was 13, it was a light purple colored card used to cover my essay writing pad. And at the bottom part of the card was lavenders, and I knew right away that it’s gonna be my favorite flower. And I have loved lavenders ever since. Malaysia is not a country where you can find them that easily hence the excitement when I went to this lavender field. The buzzing bees, the dreamy scent, the gentle breeze made it the perfect day ever.

And happily, I crossed off my so long bucket list.