Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Trip to the Maldives

After this introductory, free-and-easy 7D5N tour starting from 6 August 2017 with my travel buddy, KM Cheng and my wife, I have a better understanding of the Maldives. When one talks about holidaying there, one would think of the stunning white sandy beaches, water villas and paradise resorts; and of course, the expensive accommodation in US dollars.

Do CLICK HERE to view photos courtesy of yours truly, KC. For ease in understanding, each photo in the album has been narrated with description. Click/touch the 'i' (info) icon.
At the beach of Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island with a link road to Velana International Airport
Clear water at Villingili public beach which is just 10 minutes of ferry ride from Malé

In term of geographical location, the Maldives lie southwest of India and Sri Lanka; it consists approximately 1,200 coral islands clustered in a chain of 19 geographic atolls.
Geographical location of Malé, Hulhulé and Hulhumalé islands
Hulhumalé island has a long beach lined with numerous 4- or 5-storey hotels and inns for a comfortable stay

Malé – this is the densely populated capital of the Maldives with high-rises and narrow streets. Parked with motorcycles on one side of the already narrow roads, pedestrians have to constantly look out for cars when walking. Currently, a project is in progress to build a link road and bridge by the Chinese construction company to link up with Hulhulé Island for road access to the airport. Generally, the price of food in Malé and Hulhumalé is about 3 times or more compare to the prices in Kuala Lumpur. Almost all the people in the Maldives can speak English. 

At Malé ... Maldivian flag at the Republic Square
At the west side of Malé good for viewing sunset

Velana International Airport – it is the main international airport of the Maldives. Located on Hulhulé Island, it is connected to another reclaimed island, Hulhumalé island, by a link road. Outside Velana International Airport and across the road is a jetty for boats/ferries plying Malé, and other speedboat transfers to the various atolls and resorts.   

Across the road of Velana International Airport is a jetty for boat transfers to other islands and atolls

Rasdhoo Island – Part of the itinerary of this trip was to stay a night at Rasdhoo Island by taking the public ferry, a journey that required 3 hours. It is one of the most popular destinations among diving amateurs. And from there, we would transfer to the other water villas for day visits. Starting the journey at 9:00 a.m. from Villingili Ferry Terminal (southwest of Malé), the ferry journey was met with strong waves. With the ferry swinging from side to side, many of the passengers developed seasickness and were vomiting terribly, including yours truly. 

After 1.5 hours of travelling, the waves were getting stronger and it broke and shattered the glass door of the ferry with water and glass splinters scattered the front seats of the ferry. Luckily, no one was injured other than getting ourselves drenched. After 3 hours of journey, we were surprised to see an island full of high-rises – then only we realised that the skipper has steered the ferry back to Malé.

In a ferry to Rasdhoo island ... the skipper and the glass door that was broken by the strong wave

Main plan:
Day 1 (6 Aug 2017) - stay in Hulhumalé island
Day 2 - stay in Malé
Day 3 - stay in Rasdhoo Island
Day 4 - stay in Malé
Day 5 - stay in Hulhumalé island (for ease in transfer to airport).

 At Hulhumalé beach ... there are many Chinese tourists here; they even have a service centre for their countrymen

Air Asia operates direct flight from KLIA2 to Malé departing at 7:00 p.m.; returning flight from Malé is at 9:00 p.m. that offers sufficient time to return from the atolls. Time difference: Kuala Lumpur is 3 hours ahead of Maldives.

Best time to visit the Maldives – the best weather or dry season is between November and April. One could expect the increased in tourists and increase in price during the dry season. The monsoon runs from May to October, peaking around June. During my few days of stay there, there were two late afternoons with brief rain. On 10 Aug 2017, it drizzled the entire day with the gloomy weather. August is the lowest season for hotel rates. As one website puts it: "It is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season as there is nothing to do on a rainy day except drink, work out (in-door) or scuba dive."

Looks like KM Cheng and I need to visit the Meldives again: fine-tuning the visiting date, itinerary, focusing more on the smaller islands and atolls, and putting up nights in the water villas – the main purpose of visiting the Maldives for the sunny side of life.

Do CLICK HERE to view additional information (cost and hotel) and photos in KM Cheng's Travel Journal. (Note: in KM Cheng's journal, clicking any photo will expand them into bigger displays, with thumbnails at the bottom of the PC screen; to return, click X at the top right corner)

Posted by KC Leong

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hokkaido Lavender Tour (part 2)

Hokkaido Lavender Summer Tour from 15-21 July 2017 ... if you would like to see Lavender in Hokkaido, the full bloom period is in the week of 22 till end July, but weather is hotter (as hot as in Kuala Lumpur). During that time, the cherries would be fully ripened also.

Sapporo Odori Park Beer Gardens – this is a special event held during summer time that starts from 20 July for about three weeks. The 1 kilometer venue seats about 13,000 people, and one can savor beers brought directly from breweries in Sapporo and its suburbs, as well as beers from around the world, are on sale; one can order food too to go with the beer. Sapporo View Hotel, where we stayed for two nights, is just conveniently situated across the street.

Hokkaido’s melons – this is the season for the orange-flesh melons, touted to be the sweetest melons available. Selling at around JPY3,000 (RM120) each for an ordinary fruit, we were tempted to try; and each slice is selling around JPY500 (RM19). On the third night where we stayed in Sounkyo Choyo Resort Hotel, this fruit was served as dessert during the buffet dinner, and we were pleased to have a chance to taste it.

Next Japan trip – picturesque Kyushu 九州 in autumn (not in 2017); do let me know if you are interested to join.

Do CLICK HERE to view part 2 of photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).
 Visiting Shikisai No Oka Farm ... a warm-up floral tour
 Rows of neatly arranged flowers
Good timing to see the flowers blooming
 Chris and Celine ... Furano, a town famous for flower fields, particularly Lavender
 Lavender almost in peak bloom
Farm Tomita, the best spot to view Lavender with the Takachi Mountain range as backdrop; besides the flower fields, there are cafes and shops that sell wide range of Lavender products 
 Furano Cheese Factory and participate in a DIY ice-cream session
 The fun of picking cherries and eating for 60 minutes – all you can eat
Abundance of sweet and juicy cherries 
 Visiting Ishiya Chocolate Factory that looks like a mini Disneyland ... famous for its "White Chocolate in between smooth cookies” 
 Back in Sapporo ... visiting the first office with the ancient clock still accurately run
 Visiting Odori Park with TV Tower in the background 
 Yours truly (KC Leong) posing with Henry, the experienced Japan tour guide
 End the day with a stroll along the famed Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade, the longest shopping street in Hokkaido
The tour ended with a delicious dinner savoring the long-leg big crabs – eat to your heart's content (free-flow request allowed). When exiting the restaurant, we saw the price list at the entrance that every plate of long-leg crabs cost JPY9,000 (RM340)
At Odori Park Beer Gardens with the guys on the final evening (before returning to Kuala Lumpur) ... When we returned from the suburbs to Sapporo on 19 July evening, we were surprised that there wasn't a single person at the Beer Gardens at 8:45 p.m. Later, we learned that the special event only opened a day later, from 12 noon to 9 p.m. daily. It was a stark contrast compared with the previous evening – the entire Beer Gardens were packed to the brim with people. At 8:45 p.m. the young sales ladies were walking around with placards signaling the last call to order drinks. . (this photo courtesy of Frankie Yap)  

Do click here to view Part 1.

Posted by KC Leong

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hokkaido Lavender Tour (part 1)

Hokkaido Lavender Summer Tour from 15-21 July 2017 ... the group really enjoyed ourselves in this 7D5N tour in Hokkaido. we were having a good time staying in the 4- or 5-star hotels in Hokkaido that come with the onsen hot spring and bathing facility. We enjoyed the Japanese food very much, with a vast variety of choices. 

The weather was kind to us with the cooling temperature of around 25°C. The tour guide, Henry, informed us that in the preceding week, the temperature shot up to 35°C. 

As informed by Henry, most tour groups would only visit Farm Tomita; but our itinerary has an additional flowers field to visit: Shikisai No Oka Farm. According to plan, most flowers were blooming, and we were really excited seeing so much flowers blooming together. We were also very excited visiting the cherries farm, plucking and eating cherries for one hour - eat all you can. 

With 25 years of experience, Henry is from Hong Kong and speaks fluent Cantonese, Mandarin, English and Japanese. He even participated as a Cantonese-English translator for a few of the famous Hong Kong film stars. The 44-seater tour bus was only a few months old driven by a diligent and responsible bus driver, Mr Kawasan, ferrying us around for the entire tour. Every time we alighted from the bus, Mr Kawasan would wish us in Japanese "have a good day".

Do CLICK HERE here to view part 1 of photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).
 Visiting Chitose Salmon Aquarium ... Salmon fill the 20 tanks here, along with 60 types of northern freshwater fish that are bred and available for visitors to view. 
 Visiting Noboribetsu Date Jiadaimura to see the Edo era style buildings and to relive the history of samurai. In the photo: Camellia and Ronnie
 Visiting Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley ... the sulphurous valley with boiling ponds and steaming streams 
 Overnight at Noboribetsu Manseikaku enjoying with the onsen bath ... (left) Tung, Kheng Lian, Annie, Eunice, Joanne, Alice, KL Tan
 Visiting the Bear Ranch which is located at the summit of a 550m mountain, and feeding the Ezo brown bears with biscuits.
 Passing by Lake Toya ... Celine Gan
 Otaru Canal .. where charming century-old stone warehouses lined the canal
 Visiting Otaru Music Box Museum ... and make a stop at Otaru Kitaichi Glass Factory, a famous glassware handicraft in Hokkaido.
 Putting up a night in Jozankei Milione and enjoy ourselves with a second onsen bath
 Visiting Asahiyama Zoo, a municipal zoo opened in July 1967
 Visiting Otokoyama Sake Brewery where we can see brewing equipment and sample Otokoyama sake for free
 Visiting Ryusei and Ginga Waterfall where one is a male waterfall; the other, a female waterfall
Putting up a night in Sounkyo Choyo Resort Hotel and enjoy ourselves with the third consecutive day of onsen bath. The hotel is just 10 meters from a river; opening the window at night when sleeping, one could hear the flow of the water and the air was extremely fresh.

Do click here for Part 2 (the flowers and cherries).

Posted by KC Leong

Monday, July 10, 2017

USJ Zhineng Qigong Pangkor Trip

Zhineng Qigong USJ Centres organized a 2D1N tour to Pangkor Island on 8-9 July 2017 with 80 chi gong members travelled in two tour buses. One of the highlights was to practise chi gong by the beach amid the sound of wave hitting the shore – a different kind of practice experience. The chi gong practice session was led by Alan Yu laoshi. 

Do CLICK HERE to view photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).

 A main group photo at Fu Lin Kong temple, Pangkor Island

The attractions covered were:  
Pangkor Island: Dutch Fort, Fu Lin Kong temple, Lin Je Kong temple; buying of local produce;
Sitiawan: Tua Pek Gong temple; 
Teluk Intan: Leaning Tower (TILT); buying of local produce.
 Sunset at Pasir Bogak beach

In Pangkor Island, the group stayed at Coral Bay Resort, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Pasir Bogak beach. And for this short trip, five sumptuous meals were included: Saturday lunch at Bei King Restaurant, Sitiawan and dinner at Pangkor Island; Sunday breakfast at Pangkor Island, lunch at Sitiawan and dinner at Tapah.
 Pangkor Island in big letters

The group bought the famous Teluk Intan Liew Kee chee cheong fun in bulk with a whopping 200 packets! One can imagine the effort involved in taking the order from members, tallying the money, taking delivery, and dishing out according to the correct orders. But once we started to eat, it tasted so delicious and that justified the extra effort. We also went to buy the famous Tiger Head brand heong peah, until the mau san wong durian flavoured heong piah was out of stock. I could see the happy faces beaming with smile after the shopping.
 Practising chi gong by the beach; the group travelled a few hundred kilometers to arrive at this location

The organizing team was:
a. Tan Choon Huat, PSZQM President
b. yours truly, KC Leong
c. Alex Lim and Grace Lim.
 Good experience amid the sound of wave hitting the shore

Just before the practice session, I quipped that when they harvested the abundance of chi from the ocean, if I could see the fishes jumping up when taking photos, that means the chi was really strong.

We truly enjoyed the short trip with the good food, good camaraderie and getting to know other chi gong members.
 Spotted a hornbill flying above?
 Visiting Tua Pek Gong temple, Pasir Panjang, Sitiawan ... (left) Elaine, Lee Choo, Lew LW
 Happy face and beaming smile at Tiger Head brand confectionery
 At TILT (Teluk Intan Leaning Tower)
 The weights are used to balance the load so that the structure would not continue to tilt
 The famous Teluk Intan Liew Kee chee cheong fun ... it is really nice to eat; each packet sells at RM5.20
One of the delicious dishes of the five meals that span across three towns: Pangkor Island, Sitiawan and Tapah.

Do CLICK HERE here for other Zhineng qigong activities (scroll down the postings).

Posted by KC Leong