Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taiwan Backpacking Holidays

I am back. It is fun to be part of the 8-person team going for backpacking holidays in Taiwan for two weeks (11 to 25 April 2010). We traveled from north (Taipei) to south (Kaohsiung) via east coast railway line and back to north again via the famous Alishan National Forest Recreation Area and Sun-Moon Lake route. I wish I am 20 years younger to travel and see the world using this method... :-)

Posing next to a replica of Queen's Head, the symbol of Yehliu Geopark ... Hui Min, Su and Hui Mei

Please click here to view Part 1 of the photos taken by yours truly (KC)
Yours truly (KC) and the Queen's Head
At National Palace Museum ... Huey Ling, Su, Hui Min and Hui Mei

Though it is spring in Taiwan, the weather was cloudy and gloomy with limited hours of blue sky. Most of the time, it is cool, and occasionally, cold. At certain places, it was hot in the afternoon.
Night view of Tamshui Fisherman's Wharf

The tourist spots are scenic but not the city view that is typical of any established towns or cities. The Night Market in Taiwan is unique offering lots of delicious Taiwanese cuisine. So far, I did not notice any curry or spicy food.

The group is cycling to the beach while stoping at a junction

The people of Taiwan are courteous and very helpful. Mandarin is widely spoken. We feel safe walking at the streets of any towns.
Oh! What a feeling ... strong winds from Pacific Ocean

At the mountainous areas of Alishan, I was a bit disappointed not able to see the cherry in full bloom and also to meet the pretty Alishan girls, as sung in the famous song describing the mystic place and tribe people. Instead, I was greeted by the elderly and oversized tour agents and shop assistants ... :-) I enquired and the best time to see cherry blossom is from mid-February to mid-March.
Taroko Gorge

Staying in the budget hotel is cheap, clean, and comfortable. At around RM 30 per pax per night, the facilities include air-conditioned room, hot water bath, soap, towel, hot water, flat screen TV, etc.
Hui Min and Hui Mei

The public transport is clean, fast and on time. We travel to places by the spacious trains, public buses and high-speed trains.
Beach at Kenting, the southern tip of Taiwan

Will I go again? Yes, I shall organize a nature and trekking trip to Taiwan in three years time focusing only on Alishan mountains and Sun-Moon Lake for about one-week’s holidays. With a flight time of 4.5 hours (takeoff and touchdown) via Air AsiaX direct flight, it is indeed a must-go holiday destination.
Yours truly (KC) at left ... Chen Hock (at right)
Without any tour guide for the guided tour, backpacking trips require considerable amount of time to identify places of interest and read maps as to how to arrive at the destinations. We constantly have to ask the local people where or how to go. So when we asked for direction, we address them as "lao xiong" (old buddy) or "da ker" (big brother). The word "lao" (old) does give some hesitation to the person who was addressed (the guy may be thinking: am I that old?). Nevertheless, the 'da ker' gives more motivated responses.

Hui Mei, Hui Min, Su and Huey Ling

Group photo taken at Kenting National Park, the southern tip of Taiwan Island.
(L-R): Back: KC, Chun Lian, Chen Hock
Middle: Su, Hui Min, Hui Mei, Huey Ling
Front: Donny

At Love River @ Kaohsiung
According to Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, there are countless places to see in Taiwan. But the following eight sites are among the best to experience the island's natural and cultural charms. Out of the 8 places, we managed to visit 7.

At Fo Kuan San
Top-8 Sites are:
1. National Palace Museum
2. Taipei 101 Building
3. Sun Moon Lake
4. Taroko Gorge
5. Alishan
6. Love River in Kaohsiung
7. Kenting (pristine beaches)
8. Yushan (Jade Mountain) - Did not manage to visit.

Arriving at Alishan ... at 14 degree Celsius.
To be continued ... click here for part 2
Posted by KC

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix 2010 (Part 3)

Please take note that the next posting shall resume on 28 April 2010. I shall be away for a free-and-easy backpacking holidays to Taiwan with other trekkers for two weeks.

More Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix 2010 photos ... the following photographers are processing and uploading the photos:

Photos from Shukri: Please click here later to take you to the main photo album.

Photos from Jason Lee: Please click here to Hon You's main photo album; click here to Weng's main photo album.

Photos from Wei Liam: Please click here for the main photo album.

Yours truly (KC)'s main photo album: click here

Another photo album containing Jason Lee's runners in action: click here

Click here for Part 2, click here for Part 1 of the Petronas Malaysian F1 GP 2010.

Posted by KC

F1 Petronas Malaysian GP 2010

Please click here to view photos (Album #2) taken by yours truly (KC) on Sunday, 4 April 2010 - F1 Race Day
Lots of passionate F1 fans waiting for the Driver's Authographs session

"Are you the guy from the Sunshine Runners blogsite? You look familiar ... " A tall, young and good looking Malay guy inside the barricade area asked me. Together with the F1 fans, Jason Lee, Shukri and I were standing next to a railing patiently waiting for the F1 stars to arrive for Driver's Autographs session at 12 noon on Sunday, 4 April 2010 -- the final race day. It was announced that the passionate fans actually started to line up as early as 8 a.m.

Initiation of Starting Grid Parade

I was pleased that someone could recognize me from the blog. It sounds like I also have a fan. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, I asked him why he was there. Due to the loud environment with radio DJ from Hitz FM entertaining the crowd, I could only see that his gesture pointing to a Maybank foreign exchange outlet about 10 feet away. After knowing that his name is Afig, I thought that this name is unique.

Huge crowd at the C3 Hillstand

When I read in the Star newspaper on Tuesday 6 April 2010, I saw a familiar face: AFIQ is one of the rising stars of drivers in the Formula BMW Pacific Series. Now it makes sense why he is inside the restricted area. I should have known that he must be of someone special in this F1 motorsports, and get his autographs and take photos with him... :-) When he is as famous as Michael Schumacher one day, that photo with Afiq would be valuable.

The 1Malaysia F1 car

Afiq in the Formula BMW Pacific Series

Written and posted by KC

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Petronas Malaysian GP 2010

Saturday 3 April 2010: Pre-qualifying Race

Arriving at Sepang F1 Circuit at 10 a.m., the crowd came in slowly since it is considered quite early. This time, the photo kaki group is getting bigger other than Jason Lee and Shukri. In order to support the Malaysian Grand Prix 2010, we went to Sepang F1 Circuit for two days: Saturday and Sunday; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Please click here to view photos taken by yours truly (KC).

Photographers and F1 Supporters: (L-R) yours truly (KC), Shukri, Melvin, Lam, Wei Liam, Jason Lee
Outside of the Circuit, the familiar sight is the Marlboro booth and the elegant sales girls that provide good opportunity for photographers to show off their skills other than targeting the extreme fast moving cars. Another favourite station is the LG booth demonstrating the latest technology on electronic gadgets and simulated F1 racing cars even those under-aged drivers are able to negotiate tight corners safely.

The Marlboro sales consultants

Life is Gooooooood

Kangaroo TV – This is an excellent gadget where one can rent the handset for two days for RM 300. Not only one gets to see the moving images on a 3"x3" small LCD screen, one can chose the preferred TV cameras (as there are a few of them), and get to hear the live commentaries of the latest happening. The audio version is just the radio headphone which rent at RM 100 that can double-up as earplugs.

Air show -- it was a pleasant surprise to hear the deafening roar from the sky high above as four fighter jets from Royal Malaysian Air Force were performing acrobatic stunts on the sunny sky. While three fighter jets were flying in unison, the fourth and the lone one is spinning around, performing stunts of vertical climb and dropping vertically from the sky. BRAVO to the pilots !!

Yours truly (KC) posing with a retired F1 car
History of F1 cars -- there is an exhibition of a few past F1 cars. The design of modern F1 cars, not only practical and aerodynamic in design, are most pleasing to the eyes. During F1 races, with the parts flying all over during crashes, one would think that they are flimsy in build. Testing them with a few knocks (with my bare fist) on the exhibition units, they are as solid as rocks !!
Wet ground that increases the challenges
Pre-qualifying Race – Just after the pre-qualifying round of race was initiated, it started to rain; at times, it gets heavy. It was during that time we got to see F1 cars start to spin around though they were not like in Australian F1 (a week ago in Melbourne) with accidents and smashes. A few of the top racers actually made the wrong judgment (thinking that the rain would stop) and did not change into tyres for wet conditions.
After going to Sepang F1 Circuit for a few times, I begin to appreciate the saying of one of our F1 photography guru, that it is a serenely conducive place to relax and unwind amid all the deafening roar of the mean machines. Sitting there in the hot afternoon under the covered grandstand with the gentle movement of air, it is the perfect formula for dozing off. And later, feeling very much refresh and energize after waking up from the nap.

Sunday 4 April 2010 – Race Day

Arrival of the F1 stars greeted with warm welcome and cheers

Driver’s Autographs Session – Jason Lee, Shukri, Melvin and I spent some time waiting for the F1 stars at the Driver’s Autographs session. The crowd was entertained by the DJs from Hitz FM. It was announced that the fans actually started to line up as early as 8 a.m. The excitement intensified with the arrival of F1 stars in a few black Naza MPVs at 12 noon. The star that garnered the loudest roar has to be Michael Schumacher. The Malaysian fans like him.

Michael Schumacher - walking tall

F1 Merchandise – One T-shirt cost RM 300; one cap cost RM 150: they are really not cheap to Malaysians. But for staunch supporter, it is worth the money no matter how much is the price. On the other hand, with the strong foreign currency rates, I presume the prices are okay to mat sallehs.

KC posing with supporters from UK
Supporters from Britain – We saw the same loving couple from UK. They were here last year. According to them, they come every year to support the F1 event. BRAVO to the staunch supporters.

Lunch Packs – This year, there are more choices for food. After looking around, we like the lunch pack (sandwiches) offered by Coffee Bean. The choice of sandwiches are chicken, ham and tuna that cost RM 20 each; a can of drink is RM 5. The only satay stall there is doing a roaring business judging from the amount of smoke that went up into the sky; from far, it could be misconstrued that the smoke came from the engines of racing cars that malfunction.

Sugarcane juice – A stall operated by a group of Chinese, it cost RM 6 for a small bottle. When I chat with one of the partners, he said the rental is about RM 30,000 for three days. Most likely, they will make a lost. Anyway, the mat sallehs don't drink the sugarcane juice; that left with a small segment of Chinese customers.

Hillstands – There are many spectators at the hillstands taking advantage of the lower entrance fees. The popular ones are C3 and C2 which is a covered hillstands. It is a must that spectators at the hillstands come equip with umbrellas to ward off the sunlight and also when it rains. Looking through our telephoto lenses, a group of Ferari supporters even set up a tent that read " Welcome Back Michael Schumacher". BTW, he has switched camps.

Designated Seats – This is the only moment that sitting is according to the numbering on the tickets. However, as for those who are busy taking photographs, we don’t sit at our designated seat; we just walked around taking photos. Together with the deafening roar, I notice that the cars are moving at much faster pace whether it is hard breaking or lightning-speed acceleration.
. .
The weather for the final race was superb with the overcast sky and as such, it was a dry day for the race. There was a bit of mishap but the one that attracted our attention is when Michael Schumacher’s car was moving slowing in front of the C2 hillstands and finally came to a halt. After waving hands in acknowledging the fans, he was ferried away in a slow-moving kap-chai (small sized cc motorbike) by the F1 workers.

After two days at Sepang F1 circuit, I was roasted and my face is very red with the sun tan. This event attracts many mat salleh spectators, as well as the locals. One fan said it is better to shift the Malaysian F1 one week later to avoid the convectional rain in the late afternoon. On the other hand, the additional obstacle – the unpredictable rain – is something unique to a tropical country that makes the event more challenging. After all, this is the sports that challenge all obstacles and impossible.

Written by KC
Stay tuned for more photos ...

Monday, April 05, 2010