Sunday, April 5, 2009

Darwin Northern Territory Australia

I had a chance to visit Darwin on March 2009. This time, only Noy and I went together without any of our friends and entourage. When I asked some of my friends who love travelling if anyone had been to Darwin, non give a positive response. In fact some even ask why I choose Darwin.
To tell the truth, I'm sick of shopping and would love to be near nature. I knew, I knew, some of you must be thinking, why so far, Taman Negara in Malaysia is so much nearer. I choose Darwin partly I had a personal mission to complete my travelling pin on Australia map. I had been going to some other Australia city before and several times transited in Darwin. Plus, I really wanted to visit Kakadu and Katherine Gorge. So when Noy asked where I want to go for our March trip, I chose Darwin and its had bring a good and memorable memories. Plus this trip is totally brought us out of our comfort zone, so much things to learn and new experience gained.
We departed at 10.40 pm on 12 March via Jetstar from Singapore and arrived in Darwin at 4.40 am. Once we cleared the immigration, we proceeded to claim our luggage. Here, there was a custom officer with a dog waiting to do his work. Every passenger will be greeted by the dog and its caretaker (the custom officer) and the dog will start sniffing and following you around. Being a Muslim, being near a dog what more dog that sniff and lick tends to be a traumatic experience. Luckily, the dog only sniff at me. I couldn't imagine if the dog sniff at Noy or come any near her. I just hope that the Australian custom at Darwin be more sensitive on the Muslim travellers and would not let the dog sniff or lick at us. Perhaps they could have warn visitors on the dog issue and have a special counter in case some of them have phobia of dogs. Due to the dog licking at me, I had no choice but to qada my subuh prayer until I had the chance to change and wash myself.

To all my Muslims friends, just be aware and mentally prepare that you will have the same experience here. If you are afraid of dogs, please seek advise from the immigration officer before coming to the area to collect your luggage. This is to avoid any inconvenience or wrongly suspected from carrying anything illegal.

An airport transfer service is easily available at the airport itself. If you are staying in the city area, this is the convenience and cheapest mode of transportation if you do not have any plan to self drive. Do buy a return ticket to save you A$2 per trip. We paid A$40 for return ticket for 2.
We had booked at Mediterranean All Suite for our stay in Darwin. It cost us A$109 for a spa room which sleep three. Here are some photos of the hotels.

The hotel has a swimming pool, tour reservation service and a restaurant. Reception time is from 7am to 11pm. Do indicate if you are checking early or later than the reception time when doing booking. They will leave your room key and give you an instructions when you request for the late check in when making your reservation.
This hotel is located at Cavenagh Street which is about 5 to 10 mins walk to Mitchel Street, where most of the happening happen in Darwin city. We choose this accommodation cause its near a bus station and not so noisy compare to those accommodation at Mitchel Street. Another reason for choosing this accommodation is its near a bus station. As we do not drive around while we were there, the hotel is so conveniently located and accessible to public transport in Darwin.

Day 1

We reached the hotel at about 6.30 am and had to wait outside as the reception only start at 7am. The check in time is supposed to be at 2pm. But we were lucky as the hotel staff, Ms Helen has promise to let us check in at 11am. We left our luggage and headed for a simple breakfast of coffee and rolls. After that bite, we headed to Mitchel Street to look see the area. We headed to Cole's to get some groceries for our stay in Darwin. Since only 2 of us, we did not buy much, only some egg, bread, vegetables and rice. We picked up some brochures at travel agents while we were at Mitchel Street.

There are several travel agents that operates internal tours to the places of interest in Darwin like the Jumping Crocodile tours, The Litchefield Park, Fishing Trips, Katherine Gorge tours, Kakadu National Park and many others.

We managed to check in at 11 am as promised. I cleaned up the utensils at the hotel with a sabun sertu that we brought and whipped up some simple noodle for our lunch. Noy meanwhile, unpacked our clothes and take a shower. After the simple meal, we thought of resting a while and plan to go for Darwin city tour in the afternoon. Guessed we were too tired and slept until 4 pm. Ah there goes our city tour plan.

Nevertheless, we change our plan and decided to go to Casuarina. Casuarina has the biggest shopping mall in Darwin. We asked the receptionist (not Helen though) and she told us that probably most of the shop in Casuarina is close at 5pm as its was Friday and the late nite shopping is on Thursday.
Hhhmm, now what to do then? We looked at each other with question mark on our face. Hahahh..serve you right, who asked you to sleep?..that's what trigger in my heart and mind.

Since we are eager to explore Darwin, we headed back to Mitchel Street and surround. We walked till the other end of Mitchel Street and only see some souvenirs shop and eateries joint that were opened. Bars were crowded and noisy. We don't have to enter to hear the noise. I wondered how the people can enjoy their conversation inside there plus the music at some pubs were blabbering loudly.

We reached the Esplanade and decided to stroll there. The weather seem to be in our favour and we can stroll the park with a nice evening breeze and sunset view.

The sunset view taken from the esplanade.
We had to leave Esplanade earlier as its started to rain. We rushed towards the nearest building to get a shelter. Fortunately, the rain stop and as its almost 7.00 pm, we decided to walk back to our hotel.
While I was preparing our dinner - a stir fried cabbage, an omellete and rice, Noy had her bath. I finished cooking just in time as Noy finished. Its my turn to take a shower, while Noy set the table with our dinner. Since its hard to eat outside due to our diet, a simple meal can be very sumptuous at this stage of situation. Noy cleaned up after that while I busied myself reading brochures that we picked up at those travel agent and planning for our next day trip to the weekend market.
I will share more on our trip to the famous Parap Market on my next posting.
Some tips for those who want to visit Darwin.
It is cheaper to take Jetstar than Qantas to fly to Darwin from Singapore.
There is not much activities for children or teenagers in Darwin.
If you are looking for budget accommodation, be prepared to stay in a backpackers type, motel or camping site.
Darwin is the most expensive city in Australia. A can of coke can cost you A$3.50 at most convenience store and a bottle of 500ml mineral water can cost you approximately A$3.00.
Be prepare to expect rain at any time of the day.
Darwin had only 2 seasons - The Wet Season - (Oct to March) and Dry Season (April to Sep).
If you plan to visit Darwin during the Dry Season, do book your accommodation way in advance.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Genting Highlands - Trips with Nieces

Its had been years that I last visited Genting Highland in Pahang, Malaysia.

In the middle of December 2008, together with Noy and my four nieces, Naz, Yaya, Amira and Azila, we headed to Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highland.

We departed from Singapore Budget Terminal on 11 December 2008. I had managed to 'kidnap' Amira and Azila for this trip. Its hard to bring these 2 gerls as they are more attached to their parents. Since my brother and his wife are doing their pilgrimage, its just right that I scooped his daughters away. To make the trip more merrier, I decided to tag Naz and Yaya. Btw, Its Naz and Yaya first time too not going with their parents. So good ya my nieces, they kindda of obedient. Never go with others except with their parents.

When Noy and I reached Budget Terminal, the gerls were there together with some of my sisters and brothers. Aiyah, damn difficult for my siblings to trust me with my nieces. I suspected that they kindda of reluctant to let their children go with me, but the gerls were all eager to hangloose without their parent.

My nieces waiting at the Budget Terminal listening to my eldest brother (Naz's dad) lecturing.

We took Tiger Airways to Kuala Lumpur LCCT. I had arranged with some friends to pick us at LCCT. We gonna overnite at their place. Not that I cant afford to pay for the hotel, its just that such a waste to check in a hotel when we plan to go up to Genting early in the morning. The girls never complaint even we had to share a room. Infact they were giggling till early morning even we were just like a sardine pack in a tin.

My Malaysian friends, Ida Suraya and Jun were good host. They sent us to LRT station for us to catched it to KL Sentral for the coach ride to Awana Genting Highland. Ida Suraya or for short IS, had to drive twice to the LRT station. Thanks IS for the effort though with those mini Snickers given free at the LRT station.

At KL Sentral, the coach will only depart at 1.30pm. Damn, I dont want to wait another 3 to 4 hours for the coach. In the end, we decided to take a taxi up. Its cost RM60 for a taxi to bring us there. We then split into 2. Amira, Azila and I were in one taxi. Noy, Naz and Yaya took another. To consider paying RM60 in Singapore Dollars, its cheaper compare to taking a cab home at peak hours from my office on Friday evening. In about 1 hour, we reached Awana. IS and Jun were already there.

Noy did the checking in while the rest scouching around the lobby area. The apartment that we stayed belong to Noy's company. Its a privilege for staff to use as a vacation and it only cost her S$180 for the weekend stay from Friday to Monday.

The apartment had 2 bedrooms, a kitchenette, a dining and living area. The girls were so excited that they snapped photos of themselves practically everywhere in the apartment, and that include sitting with their clothes on in the jacuzzi. Such a jakunis.

After we had some light food, the girls were ready to swim. Naz, being the eldest was given the task of taking care of the younger cousins. I'm too tired to join them and need a little nap. After an hour, Noy woke me up to go look for the girls.

The girls enjoying themselves in the pool.

We headed to Genting Highland that nite cause my nieces just cant wait for next day. Since its already nite, we only walk around the indoor theme park. No one want to play any of the games. Then we decided to enter the Snow World. Its was fun. Since none of the girls including IS and Jun experience any winter, they were damn excited.

After the snow world, we went around First World hotel and later had a light late dinner at the staff canteen in Theme Park Hotel. Since we were chicken out to take the cable car ride back to Awana in the middle of the nite, thus we waited for the bus service that will bring us to Awana at 12.30 am.

The next day, we headed back to Genting Highland for the outdoor theme park. Naz treated us for the entrance fees which I cant remember how much. Thanks Naz! She just cant wait to try all those rides. I promised myself that I just wanna let the girls enjoy as much as they want. I do not want to stop them from experience all the ride. Aiyah since when this makchu so good ah...! That what Noy asked me when I told her my intention. I was known to my nephews and nieces as a strict person eventhough I always joke and teached them bad things at times..he hehee.

Its was a good day, not much sunlight, cold and luckily no rides were closed. I dont know how many times, Yaya and Naz took the most dangerous ride at Genting Highland. But I sure hell knew that Azila will never want to sit on it because of fear. Amira did once after being chided by her cousin. I forbid Noy from taking that ride cause from the previous times we went for the rides, the aftermath for her was fever. IS, suppose to be the most macho among us, chicken out even for the mild ride like hanging swing. Jun was not that bad ya. The only ride that IS enjoy and said the most thrilling ride everafter is the Merry Go Round. and that cause a big laughter from my nieces.

Naz, Yaya and Amira queing patiently for the Space Shot ride

The girls ready for the thrill.

A quarter way up ...dug dug dug
At the top of it....Ahhhahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!Yaya after the ride...Fulfilled and happy with the messy hair.

We spend the whole day at the theme park and only went out half an hour before closing times. We were worn out and hungry by then. Had our dinner at Kopitiam and took the cable car down. This time, we didnt felt chicken out though. I guessed fatigue and craving for the bed conquered the fear.

The third day was spent at Awana playing pools and video games. We were too exhausted to go up Genting Highland again.

We checked out from Awana and headed to Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at Ancasa for a nite and my nieces went shopping at Petaling Street and Sogo. We had a good dinner at Yuen Steamboat with the compliment from Is and Jun. We left for Singapore with so much memories.

Thank you Is and Jun for a nite stay at your placeand the pick up from airport. Thanks Naz for the entrance fee to the Theme Park, thanks Noy for the accomodations and thanks to all for the good vacations.

The trip to KL and Genting Highland was sure a memorable one for me as I had been waiting for so long for my nieces to grow up so that I can bring them to travel with me. I hope to have more trips with them the next time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bali Rendervous

Its seem my travel to Bali has not been updated. Sorry about that folks.

Bali land of paradise have so much to offer. As I told you earlier, I chartered a van to bring me around as I prefer to explore Bali at my own leisure. Here are the places that we visited.

Our itinery for the first day were as follows:

We were picked up by Mr Suweca at our hotel in Kuta at 10 am. Our first stop is at a Batik Shop cum Factory. Here we learned how batik is produced with handwritten or block imprinted. Then, we proceed to silverware making. Seriously its for the commercial side that they are promoting not exactly for the arts of making batik or on the minting of silverware. We decide to skip the wood carving item as we are more excited to visit Kintamani.

We proceeded to Kintamani with a stop over at Bali House. Here Mr Suweca explained on the fundamentals of the positioning of a Bali House. At the main gate, there is a board inscripted with the number of people who stayed in the house. The layout of the rooms in the house compound is very unique. A kitchen is separated from all the bedrooms. In the centre of the compound, there is an open bedroom which comprised on a double bed and a curtain surrounding the bed. This normally will be reserved for the elderly (parents or parents inlaw) of the head of the house. Unmarried children are supposed to sleep with their parents until they reach the age of puberty. Balinese are very staunch Hindu. Every household will have a mini temple in their home ground. When we were here, we got the privileged to learn on the Balinese culture based on their calendar. Its very lengthy to explain it here, so if you ever visit Bali, try to ask the local to explain about their calendar. It very interesting how they see the calendar for birth, marriage, special occasion and so forth.

Our next stop is the Kintamani area. From here, we can see beautiful scenery of Bali. We had our lunch at the Halal restaurant there. Amid those illegal hawkers who were touting us to buys the goods that they peddled, otherwise this place is awesome for the view and the cool breeze. From where we sat in the restaurant, we can see Mount Batur and Lake Batur. The scenery is so beautiful. I just cant upload the photo here in this blog cause I think there is some problem with blogger. Couldnt see that upload image icon...:(.

After battling the touting hawkers to get a good spot for the scenic photo, we rushed back to our van to avoid the hawkers from touting us further. Ah! this is what I dont like about Indonesia. Anyway, just be careful when you are approach by them. One thing to remember, Never ever look at the item nor ask for the price if you are not interested at all. Once you open your mouth to ask or take a good look at the goods that they are offering, they will keep touting you until you suffocate. If you really want to get the goods that they are peddling, bargain as much as 70%. If you cant get at that price, leave them. See if they are willing to let the goods change hand at that price. You will be surprised!

Next we stop at the herbs and coffee plantation. Its is not big actually, but it is worth visiting. You can see all those herbs tree. Cocoa and local indonesia fruit tree are also planted here. Bali coffee which is famous is being serve here together with the local cocoa. There is a demo on how coffee being roasted the traditional way. A small shop selling coffee, cocoa and some spices can be found if you want to get that for souvenirs. Honestly, I find that their cocoa taste better than the coffee. So we decided to purchase 2 packet of cocoa to bring back to Singapore.

Our last stop for the day is visting Sukawati Market famous for their souvenirs. Time is quite limited there and we had no time to really explore the shops. But we manage to grab a few bags and tshirt for souvenirs. Anyway, no regrets though cause most of the shops are practically selling the same items.

Before heading back to our hotels, we requested that Mr Suweca drop us at Jimbaran for the sunset dinner. But we were late and missed the sunset. Anyway, we enjoyed the seafood and the atmosphere dinning at Jimbaran. We were then sent by the guy from the restaurant to our hotel after that heafty dinner.

On our 3rd day in Bali, we decided to explore the nearby area on our own. After breakfast, we walked to Kuta Beach which is only 10 mins from our hotel. But we didnt reached Kuta beach in 10 mins cause on the way there are shops selling DVD's at a very reasonable price. We stop at a few shop but decided not to get anything cause we do not want to burden our hand while strolling Kuta beach. It was at about 10 am, Kuta beach was already crowded with Bule (Indonesian slang for Whiteman) Wah! Its too crowded until you really got no nice spot to sit and enjoy the sound of the waves of Kuta. We strolled until our feet sore and decided to return to the hotel for a dip in the pool.

We had a short nap after swimming and then return to Jimbaran for the sunset dinning again. This time round we did see the sunset but its for a glimpse. Ah ha, I didnt realised that the sun set to fast and never wait for anyone. Serve us right for taking a nap after that lapping in the pool.

I had to stop now and will continue on the next posting. Got to run some errands ...laterz.