Monday, January 30, 2012

CNY 2012

I guess before I get too busy with my studies I should finish my posts on my holidays, final one would be on Chinese New Year (CNY)!

For CNY this time, my whole family went back to Saikei (mentioned this in my previous post). The good thing was it has been 3 years since we last went back. And some Uncles and Aunties barely recognized us. Also visited an Grand Aunt who last saw us when we were still lil kids.

Usually my family don't really follow Chinese Custom. Only my Dad is a pure Chinese anyways, and he spent half of his life in Canada so there goes the customs and believes. But my aunts and uncles still follow the custom so here is Mee Sua from my Aunt who owns a Coffee shop in Sarikei. I miss this... drooling now :( Everytime we go back to Sarikei, we get pampered. Which was why I gained 4kg after CNY FML.

The first day of CNY we drove down to Sibu, actually I did. Only about an hour but the road was not in a very good condition so it was quite tiring. Drove randomly in Sibu because none of us knew the road. And went around the market 3 rounds because we couldn't find the exit back to Sarikei wtf.

Dabai, Sarawak own traditional food/fruit :)

Sibu Kampua mee is a must have!! Drooling again... =.='' How to resist such yummy stuffs!

And in Sarikei-Sibu region, many people are doing this bird nests business because of the increasing amount of these migrating birds. 1 kg of bird nests minimum RM4k, earn big money...

Chocolate liquor! Got tipsy on only 1 night because of liquor. Luckily parents were there, else drink until drunk. I know many who got drunk during CNY. Driving to Sibu that day was scary because a Hilux in from of me swayed from left to right. Dad said probably sleepy or drunk so asked me to overtake the Hilux to prevent accident.

This is probably the most successful CNY convoy visiting since High school ended. Visited 10 houses on 3rd day of CNY and with all the luck of CNY, we managed to book a room at Kbox even though at the very last minute.

Just for laugh :)

Friend, Lya studying vet so her Shihzu dogs are all well groomed. Her puppy Shihzu so cute!!

On CNY 4th day we went for Rollerblading and supper. After that I had to pack and board my freaking 6AM flight back to UTP. 4 months holiday ended T__T  Now saving up for a more awesome holiday. Hehehe

Sunday, January 29, 2012

all over again

Back to UTP.....

Feeling so dead because tomorrow will be the first day of class,

and I am down with flu and sore throat.

And I believe I will be having fever soon.

This week is hectic because there are many things to settle...

Clashing timetable

Internship application

Cope up with more-than-enough credit hours

Clean up the freaking dirty fridge

Adapting back to UTP life FML

Friday, January 27, 2012

Guide to exploring Cambodia in a week

Warning: Picture heavy post.

This is a one week free and easy guide to travelling Cambodia on budget...a not so tight budget.
Estimated expenditure of RM1k including flight. Our flight was bought at around RM200 so the expenditure estimated to be around RM800 for that 1 week. This is a guide to only 3 Provinces- Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Mondulkiri. You will need at least 2-3 weeks to cover other places but these 3 are currently the main attractions.

In Cambodia, US Dollar is used together with Riel (Cambodian currency). $1 is equal to 4000 Riel. Coins are not common as changes will be given in Riel or rounded off to the nearest. Most countries do not accept currency exchange in Riel so it is advisable to finish off your Riel in Cambodia before flying elsewhere.

Our flight to Phnom Penh arrived at 4PM. We booked a backpacking hostel called NOMADS online and they arranged an airport pickup for us. The tuktuk we used took less than half an hour to arrive at our accommodation from the airport, maximum charge to or from the airport is $7. 

We booked a room with 3 beds and a private toilet which cost us $7 per person, per night. Room is furnished with beds (on the floor), so-called locker and with aircon.

After taking a quick rest, we decided to explore places around our hostel. Nomads is certainly a good choice for backpackers as the Night Market and Riverside (most happening place) are both in walking distance. If you prefer to take a Tuktuk, it will only cost you $1 max.

Most food sold at the Night Market were like such. Lots of fried and BBQ. The other part of the Night Market will be selling fresh vegetables, fresh seafood and other life poultry. You will notice unique Khmer food at this Night Market

The next day, we took a bus (booked through Nomads) to Mondolkiri. There are many bus companies you can choose from but our hostel has a contract with Sorya, which include a pick up from our hostel to the bus terminal. There is only 1 trip per day to Mondulkiri, which is at 8.30AM. The bus terminal maybe a bit messy so be careful with your belongings and be aware of the announcements made, else you may miss you bus. Never hesitate to ask the people at the counter on whether your bus has arrived because most of the time the buses arrive much later than scheduled and keep you worried.

Journey to Mondulkiri takes 8 hours, which was really a pain in the ass. Make you you prepared some snacks, maybe a reading material, fully charge you music player and if possible, get a comfort kit. If you read old blogs, many would have said to take bus halfway and change to a taxi. But that was before the new road was built. The new road was recently accomplished and ride was very less bumpy than described before. However, it was a really tiring ride. For me, I chose to listen to my MP4, and snooze off. Every now and then I woke up, looked out the window, "feel" Cambodia and snapped a few pictures. The bus will take 2 stops, each being only 15-20 minutes. You get to stop for lunch but make it really quick, or mind as well just pack your food and eat in the bus (since you got nothing else to do).

Arrived in Mondulkiri around 6PM. Here we booked a 2 person chalet at NATURE LODGE, around $7 per person, per night as well. A lil further from Mondulkiri town but it has a very nice view and a relaxing feel. Just look at the chalet, the bed and the bathroom. How adorable! Everything is made of wood. The bathroom is outdoor, very nice and cool. also as in it gets very chilly when you shower in the morning or at night, when it rains, and when the wind is blowing non stop.

They let the cows, horses, dogs and cats run wild on themselves around the compound. One night we were sleeping and heard a horse made some noises beside our chalet. One of the worker said maybe the horse slept under the chalet =.=

Took dinner at Nature Lodge because it was already very late and we were quite far from the town. Read reviews that they have good Western food so we gave those a try. And they were yummy! Food in Mondulkiri are a little bit pricier than Phnom Penh. Prices at Nature Lodge minimum averaged around $5.

The next day we woke up early because we booked a day for elephant tracking. Elephant tracking in Mondulkiri is the most famous activity, and it can occupy a day of yours. Ours cost $35 per person including Lunch near the waterfall. Perhaps that was because we booked last minute (during our dinner the previous night, you are supposed to book a day before) and because we booked through the Lodge, we got extra charged. You can easily get $25 per person through other agencies. If you are lucky, you may even get an English speaking tour guide. The key is, be friendly and bargain! :) Had heavy English breakfast and left for the minority village at 8AM.

The elephants are considered wild because most of them are released into the wild and caught when their services are needed. The "sedan" chairs are all removable. When we arrived, there were 3 elephants and their trainers were busy fixing the "sedan" chairs. After a while 2 other elephants joined us. Meaning all together, there were 10 of us who rode on the elephants. All the other 4 pairs where Europeans and Italians. They must be thinking why are these Asians (read: us/we) riding on elephants...

Below was the elephant we rode. The youngest of all, 26 years old, also means the least trained. And it really gave us lots of heart attack moments. It was hungry so sometimes it just walked into any path it wanted and we had to put in extra efforts avoiding knocking into branches and ants' nests. Oh God, I absolutely definitely hate big red ants. A British lady who sometimes ride her elephant behind us with her boyfriend said we (me & my friend) were hardcore because she will never choose to ride on our elephant FOL. So just make sure you get a good elephant and you'll avoid those extra adventures, except if you want them. And, bring your swimwear because you get to swim at the waterfall and get an experienced bathing the elephants.

During our lunch break at the waterfall, the elephants were also released for their lunch break. After 3 hours, we had to hunt them back. This was another pain in the ass because we practically walked in the jungle, without a human visible path (because duhhh the elephants can go anywhere). So we followed the trainer who tracked them through the elephants foot steps and poo =.=

And I oddly being brave wanted to ride on the elephant without the "sedan" chair. And after that kinda regretted because it was so dirty.... Because naturally, elephants put mud on their body to avoid being bitten by insects. T___T I was practically sitting on a pile of mud. I dirtied my shirt, pants and cardigan. Washed them all 3 times but still got stain. So if you choose to do this, wear something dark colour. 

The reason why I sat there and not helping to bath the because I cannot swim. T___T The water there was at least 1.5M deep. And I am only 1.56M  FML

The elephants poo-ed the water. Ewwwwww.... Immediately after that I feel so ewwww and I can't wait to go back to shower. I actually swam in that water and washed my mud covered clothes using poop water. Warning: If you have skin allergy or sensitive skin, avoid the water by all means. My friend got some rashes each time she enter dirty river.

On our way back, realized our baby elephant has a heart shaped mark on her back. Hopefully she grows up to be a little less aggressive.

I was kicked by an elephant. Kicked by an elephant. An elephant. Adult elephant. wtf. Not push, kicked. And I flew around 2 to 3 meters away from where I was standing, flat on my back. No joke. This was the last photo taken before I was stunned and my friend almost had a heart attack. Swear to God I was absolutely grateful to be alive. This fella, will forever be remembered.

Had light breakfast with homemade cakes before we head to Phnom Penh again, the only bus from Mondulkiri is at 7.30AM. Pick up from Nature Lodge to Bus terminal using...motorbikes. It has been a longggg time, I guess 5 years? since I rode on a motorbike. I remembered it was less scary, but on the non-tar orange-soil road, it was a bumpy ride. So, another 8 hours ride to Phnom Penh, this time, slept more.

Arrived at Phnom Penh, check-in NOMADS again. Met up with other friends, including some Cambodian friends. Had yummy Khmer food (at last) and visited the infamous Blue Pumpkin for desserts. I am so sorry I didn't take note of the food names #phailedblogger. But you must try the Tomyam and Amok (you get to choose from chicken, beef, pork, fish).

After dessert we proceeded to a lounge. There are many to choose from along the Riverside. Happy hour at Cambodia is awesome! Besides, beer and liquor in Cambodia are dead cheap. Friend said will come back Cambodia just to party ngeh ngeh ngeh.. A jug of beer, buy 1 free 1. Frozen Margarita (must try!), buy 1 free 1.

The next day we bought an afternoon bus ticket to Siem Reap. In the morning, we had a $1 breakfast at a stall nearby (food are usually $1 to $3) and went to the Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda (side by side). After Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, we went to Russian Market (famous for imitation goods). We were told by Mr. Martin, NOMADS caretaker that Tuktuk around the town will be charged at maximum $3. We rode a Tuktuk and booked him for Russian Market as well (as in he waited for us after we toured the Royal Palace).

Met a fellow Malaysian here and he mentioned that Central market has better deals. So you can choose to shop here or Central Market. Central Market is nearer compared to Russian Market and it also looked more organized. We went to Russian Market just because we were told that stuffs are cheaper here (or maybe we got tricked T__T).

Rode 1PM bus to Siem Reap and arrived after 6 hours. Super tiring bus ride. P/s: advises are the same with what you need to do during ride to Mondulkiri. Took a Tuktuk to Angkor Pearl Hotel (at least it was extra comfortable here, at last a proper hotel), comes with the cost, $9 per person, per night. Asked the receptionist to book a Tuktuk for a day at Angkor Wat for the next day. Basic fee is $15, to watch sunrise, additional $5. So we paid $20. But the Tuktuk driver spoke English, was a nice guide and very friendly, so we tip. Highly recommended, if you stay at this hotel, ask for Mr.Vuy.

Payment to enter Angkor Wat for 1 day pass is $20. They have 3 days pass and 1 week pass as well. For 3 days pass and 1 week pass, you need to bring your own passport size photo (one for each day). For 1 day pass like ours, your photo will be taken on the spot.

We woke up at 4AM to catch the sunrise. Our Tuktuk driver said we need to depart at 5AM because there will be over 300 people going at the same time. But we were unlucky because it was too cloudy to see the sun.

Beware of this stall opposite Angkor Wat. This stall slaughtered us, charged us $5 for bread omelet. We can get a proper rice meal with that price! Some more it was so unhygienic, there were 4 people at the stall and all 4 of them touched the breads barehanded. I even saw the girls long hair "sweeping" the bread when she was making it wtf. I know it is common in Cambodia (i mean unhygienic food, but then not when your customers are looking at you making it)

Our Tuktuk driver stopped us at a restaurant nearby for our lunch break, food prices averaged at 5$ to 6$.

At night, we headed to Pub street and had dinner at Temple Club. Temple Club and Angkor What? are the most famous club in Siem Raep. And Pub Street is a very happening area in Siem Raep, just like Riverside in Phnom Penh. The Night Market is also at a walking distance. They have free Khmer dance performances from 8.30PM- 9.30PM (if I am not mistaken).

The next day we went back to Phnom Penh on Limousine Bus at 9AM. This bus is far better than the other buses, why? This is like a VIP bus, they have "bus stewardess" cum tour guide, they give free wet towels, free mineral water and free snacks. Must importantly, they have functioning toilet in the bus. And of course it comes with the cost, this bus is the best Express bus and it costs $11 compared to the $7 of other normal buses. And the bus stopped for half an hour to let you have a proper lunch.

They sell these a lot at Kpg Thom (if my spelling is right) Province. Also sell Tarantulas which I kinda regret not trying.

Arrived late afternoon and grabbed a Tuktuk to Riverside for a sunset cruise. We got cut throat, again. Paid $9 for the stupid cruise and after that found out from a man (from China and working in Cambodia) that maximum charge should be $5 only, and can still bargain lower. Luckily the view was great and it was 1 hour long, else I will totally regret it.

Took dinner at Riverside, one of the restaurant there called River Star. There are many to choose from, depending on what you favour. We wanted Khmer food for our final night in Cambodia. Food here were yummy and reasonable, all around $5. Must try the fruit shake here (actually around Cambodia, mostly we tried were all yummy and cheaper than juices) !


At night we stayed at The Monkey Hostel, which cost $7 per person but was quite far from Riverside (we didn't know initially that Riverside was the "hot" area). We had to use a Tuktuk. Our night ended with our Cambodian friends brought us for fresh beer at Munich Beer Restaurant. Beers come in 3 sizes, small, normal and jumbo (which was really huge). Also finally get to wear our dresses we bought for $5.5 each at Russian Market. The skill you need to acquire before coming to Cambodia is to bargain, some even can reach up to 80% discount.

Preparation: Be prepared for beggars and being pulled/followed by Tuktuk drivers. If you dress up exceptionally tourist like or out of place, they will bombard you with whatever English words they know. Dress code there for both male and female that we noticed, they all wear long pants, and just simple shirts. Some have sweater or jackets on because the main vehicles are Tuktuk and it does get a bit chilly on a Tuktuk. If you need to explore at night, avoid bringing bags, bring important stuffs in pockets or travelling pouch. When buying roadside goods, look around before paying. If you are carrying a camera and need to snap at night, just make sure you have friends to look out for you.

Cambodia is a must visit and 1 week is definitely not enough. For any questions on my travel in Cambodia, just click "contact me" button on my sidebar or send me an email :)