July 31, 2013

A night in a comic book cafe in Tokyo, Japan

November last year, Rockstar and I decided to go to Japan. Three reason which lead to this was that another couple was going, flights are cheap (that's like 2 weeks before departure date) and it's gonna be our second honeymoon. So we rushed, got everything settled, visa, accommodation, etc and was on board AirAsia before we know it. It was a late flight and by the time we touch down in Narita Airport in Tokyo, it was almost midnight.

We took some time figuring out the train routes, payment system and platform information and the airport. Japan train system is the most comprehensive one we have ever seen. Even the few hours spent pouring over the maps and routes back in Malaysia didn't help. Here's me in my glasses - it's early in the morning; carrying my pink duffel bag. Rockstar and I tries to travel as light as we can. 

Guess what, we heroically thought that we could find a room just to spend a few hours before taking an early bullet train to Osaka to meet our friends. Big mistake ever!!!!!

After an hour of haunting the streets of Hamamasutcho, we found a McD at 1am, sat down and contemplate our situation. Few hotels were to be found. Reasonably priced ones are full and the only hotel that had rooms available cost us RM700++ per night!! We considered sleeping in McD but alas it was closing. The train stations was also closed by then. Bus stop was also an option but it was too cold to be outside. 

We almost settled on the RM700+ per night hotel but as we waledk up the street one last time, amazingly Rockstar spotted a signboard with a chinese character that represented book. 

Thank You Jesus!!! A comic book cafe!!! We actually read about it before and was hoping to find out. And we did! 

We paid for 2 cubicles. 5 hours each. Cost us 3200Yen = RM100+. 

Its small and cramp but I'm so not complaining. It's warm, there is an easy chair to sleep, free wifi and computer, tons of japanese books and comics, clean toilets, and free flow of biscuits, coffee, tea, juices. 

You cannot imagine how grateful we were. I was so tired by then. 

Lesson learned - Be adventurous but do proper planning beforehand. :)

* updated 7/8/2013 Here's a picture of the comic book cafe signboard. I was looking for it earlier but couldn't find it. :)

July 25, 2013

Scammed on Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the must visit in Cambodia is the Tonle Sap Lake. Why? Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
This lake is one of the most unique ecological water wonders in the world. It is the largest lake in South East Asia and changes in size and dimension every wet season. With a minimum size of 2,800 km² and about 1 m depth during the dry season, the lake is fairly small. During the wet season the water of the Mekong river becomes so powerful, that it reverses the flow of the Tonle Sap river and pushes the surplus of rain water back into the Tonle Sap lake. This transforms the lake into a huge natural water reservoir and the lake's size increases to approximately 15,000 km² with a depth of 8 m. The Tonle Sap River connects the lake with the River Mekong at Phnom Penh, in the south east. With the continuous change of the water level, the people who live on the lake have to move their houses away when the water level goes down. Whole villages including schools, shops, churches and pig farms are getting pulled away to a place where the water is still high enough to float.

Alas, we were there during the dry season and this is what we saw. Dry & dusty ground. Dirty, yellowish, brownish water.  We took a tuk-tuk there for a very cheap rate but it was the most dusty 45mins I ever been. We were shrouded in dust cloud almost the entire time. Should have rented an air-conditioned van. -_-

A trip for 3-4hrs cost us USD30 each. So total USD150 for 5 of us. Worth it? See for yourself. 

We were chugging slowly through the thick waters down the river towards the lake. Looks kinda like milky tea, but much denser and definitely unhealthier. 

We passed by a large empty floating boat and was told that its a basketball court. I got to give it to them for the ingenuity and flexibility. But I do wonder what happens it the boat hits a high wave. Do they factor in mother nature for points too? 

Anyway, after what seems like ages (close to 45 mins), we arrive at the the lake and saw small floating houses dotting the horizon. Tiny houses bobbing up and down, as far as the eyes can see.

This people live on boat houses all their lives. And it was interesting to watch daily lives on the lake as we 'drove' around in our motorboat. They even have a temple and the church. And some even have their own garden. Imagine have a garden or an animal hut that moves with you when you move. And not only that, if your neighbour gets on your nerve, you can just lift the anchor and move. Simple. 


And then the event turned. The tour guide keep asking if we want to see the school and if we do, why don't we buy a gift for them. He says we will be doing a good deed as the students need rice. They have shortage of rice and bla bla bla. He says we don't have to give money, just buy a bag of rice for the students to eat, which made it even easier. Who doesn't want to give rice to starving children. To cut the long story short. We went to this floating depot/ store, bargain for a small bag of rice which cost us 30USD and headed to the school. 

When we climb aboard, the 'students' started playing their instruments and i got to say that they are really good. Then we did usual tourist thing, distribute food, take picture, etc. Truthfully, I was against the whole idea since I've read about scams like this but there's not much I could do as the rest were not convinced by me. To me, even though its different from visiting an orphanage, its still not right. There was so many questions running through my mind. 

The 'students' are just sitting there, hanging around waiting for tourists to come before doing their performance. Isn't it like a circus or theater? 

The 'students' seems bored and they were good. Seems like they have been doing it for a long time. 

And most importantly, where are the tables and chairs and teachers and books and blackboard? 

It's too well put together. 

It's so totally a scam. The children are taken away from their parents, put in a disguise school just to gain sympathy of well-wishers and the money is pocketed by godknowswho. Children are not meant to be living away from their family and parents. Research have shown that they thrive better in an environment where there is family and parents love. The money that we paid for the bag of rice will most probably be split between the store owner and school. I don't even think the rice will reach the children. 

A lot of tourist/ foreigners will leave feeling like they had done a good deed. But you know what, its not. It's the opposite. You are destroying the children. All they will know is to wait for money from people like you. They don't get proper education. They don't have the right kind of upbringing. And that's because of us. So before you give money or even buy them gifts, stop and think. Do they really benefit? 

Got burned, but lesson learned. This trip was indeed an eye-opening, yet saddening as well. I really hope the government will work harden with NGOs to solve this issue. And everyone else, we all play a part. Spread the word. Let others know about this. 

You can read more here.


July 21, 2013

Sunday Morning & Self Portrait Challenge : Day 2 & 3

I love Sunday mornings! I get to laze in bed and not worry about my phone buzzing or emails to reply.

This morning, I asked Rockstar, "If you can have 1 thing in the world right now, what would you want?". 

He exclaimed, "Teh Ping!!!" (Ice tea)

Me : "-_-". 

So. Totally. Not. The. Answer. 


Anyway, here's Day 2 & Day 3 portrait. Seriously, its DAMM Hard!!! I got no idea how camwhores does it. I take like a gazillion pictures and none of them looks good to me. Now I know why models are so highly paid ;p

Anyway, I've done some editing to the photos. This is for Instragram sake, and of cos my own vanity. I know some photographers do not agree with photo editing, but please bear with me as the model in question is not very photogenic, hence the need for editing. 

But in case you are curiously, here's both the photos, edited and no edits whatsoever. 

Day 2 picture - I wanted to crop out the background as its distracting and focus on my 'gorgeous' face ;) And I made it black & white so that my eye bags ain't too obvious. 

 Day 3  picture - Sunset car drive on the way for badminton with the family. Seat belt was in the way, so it had to be cropped out. 

So what do you think? Any suggestions on how to take better self-portrait? 

For those of you who are bored with my camwhores pictures, be patient. Travel post coming up soon! :)

Happy working tomorrow everyone!!!

* 'A Beautiful Mess' 30-Day Self-Portrait Challenge.

July 19, 2013

Self-Portrait Challenge : Day 1

Today started out quite wrong. One of my eyes wasn't cooperating and it was red and painful and every time I blinked, I felt like something sharp was poking my eyes. I resolved to not meet anyone today, let alone take a selfie. 

But as the day turn hotter and the sun turned into a beautiful pink, glowy sun, it seems everything just became better. I decided to get out, put my game face on and meet the world. 

So here's why there is a selfie today.

1. I decided to take 'A Beautiful Mess' 30-Day Self-Portrait Challenge. This is super hard. I am always the one behind the camera and out of the thousands of photos I take the past years, I only have a handful of myself in them. Yeah, I suck.

2. I seriously do not know how to take pictures of myself. Every angle either makes me look fat, awkward or retarded. But then, as what Elsie + Emma said and I quote, "Self-portraits are a wonderful way to learn about photographing people because your subject is always with you!". And if I want to be a good photographer, I guess I have to learn. 

3. The red eye I had this morning disappear and I didn't have any other good reason not to take a self-portrait.

4. I am no chicken. I'm an adventurer, baybey!

5. I was trying out sunglasses at the store and decided why not here?

6. It's a beautiful day.

7. I want a signed copy of their book :)

So get ready people, you'll see more of me this entire month then you have for the last 4 years. Muahahaha!!! I promise pictures will get better *fingers cross* and I'll try not to hide behind big sunnies.

Let the games began!!!!

July 18, 2013

Food Hunt @ Jalan Telawi Ramadhan Bazaar

One of the best part of living in a multiracial country - you'll get to enjoy the custom/ celebration/ food of different races. Our neighbours, the Muslims are currently in the middle of their fasting month. And during fasting month, buka puasa ramadhan bazaar pops up all over. I like :)

Me twinnie heard about the goodness of the Singapore Rojak and Kuih Pelita @ the Jalan Telawi Ramadhan Bazaar over the radio and wanted to try them. So we decided to met up, incorporate a photoshoot (yes, right smack in the middle of all the food and people) and have dinner together. 

So here's some photos I snap during the hunt for food. 

Murtabak. So many varieties and stores selling them. My thing when I want something wholesome, fills my tummy up and leave me warmly satisfied. 

Food are cooked fresh, so you'll get them hot, steaming and smelling so good. I wonder how could those fasting bear the wait. 

Chickens after chickens. Ayam Percik, Ayam Goreng, Ayam Rendang, Ayam Tomato, Ayam Rempah, etc. etc. 

Eeekkks. One of my favourites - although its getting harder to find them nowadays. 

Kepak Madu Ayam a.k.a. Honey Chicken Wings. Going for RM1 each. So tempting. And satays!!! Arrgghhh!! There goes my diet.

Do you know what is this? Its a squealing chicken. The seller was pressing it over and over to attract attention. I gotta admit its kinda creative. 

Don't be surprised on how friendly people are. Most of them strike a post and ask me for a picture when they see me with a camera. But the entire place is filled with smoke that most of my photos turned out blurry :(

Sambal sotong with ladies finger! I stood in front of the stall with the pretense of snapping pictures but was actually contemplating on getting a portion. But my mind overruled my stomach and I walked away with just a lingering smell in my nose. 

One of my best moment on this food hunt, this little girl. She was happily helping her mum out and when she saw me with a camera, she hide behind her mum before braving herself, came out and gave me a big smile. Awww!!! And then a few seconds later, she was prancing around serving customers again. 

We only got half we came for as we couldn't find the Singapore Rojak. But the Kuih Pelita was perfect. Soft and gooey and fresh and delicious and yummy :p RM2 for 5 pieces. 

The crowd build up around 6pm and the stalls closes around 7pm. So get there early to avoid disappointment. If you have not been to a ramadhan bazaar before, please do so. This is what makes us so different and so Malaysian :)

Ramadhan Bazaars rocks!!! ;p *peace out*