Maybe I'm Too Idealistic

Hello guys, how is it going? I shouldn't be blogging right now, but here I am doing it. There were many thoughts swirling in my head these past few weeks that I really wanted to put it down, but as usual laziness took over. Of course it's always a good thing to have a delay before saying everything that pops into your head. We'll see if those thoughts make it to this post. Let's begin.

Finished my 5-book a year goal last week. I am currently reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which will be the first Vietnamese descent writer whose work I read. Chose this to keep the tradition going of reading the year Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Though if I don't finish it by this year end, I guess I'm not keeping with tradition. We'll see if I make it. Anyways, here are the list of books read this year:
  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Started this late last year and completed it this year. I never intend it to, but many times I ended up reading books with very strong female characters. A Thousand Splendid Suns are centered on these 2 females who bonded under male oppression and Taliban rule. It ends on a hopeful tone, but there's just so many tragedies that I left still feeling really sad.
  2. The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. I watched the movie too, starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth. As usual, the book is much better than the movie. Overall this is not a thought-provoking book. I don't find myself highly entertained as well because there's one tragedy that just closes out all hope of a happy ending. It also ends in a hopeful tone, but by that time I didn't care much anymore.
  3. Rain by Barney Campbell. Gosh, another sad book. I love it but it was also sad. I definitely shed tears in this. It tells the story of a UK soldier fighting wars in Afghanistan. It's another book set in Afghanistan that I read this year.
  4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a weird one for me. I don't really get all the symbolism and such. I've never been in a book club and I don't know if I'll be able to keep up with the pace, but this book might be a good one to discuss with people. It also has a sad ending. I don't know why I end up reading many sad things this year.
  5. Jejak Langkah by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. This and the next book completes my wish of reading The Buru Quartet by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. It has been lauded as an exceptional collection of work internationally, but I'm sure not many Indonesians have read this. It is not an easy one to read because it has a lot of nation building thoughts being put into it. It's not done in a lecture kinda way. In fact I think it's trying to make the readers think about these issues too. The story took place long before Indonesian's Independence. In this book the people of Indonesians were learning to organize, but they were also fractioned by things that differentiate them instead of uniting themselves to fight the greater injustice. The quartet is really interesting and I would like to see a TV series on this, but Indonesians film makers tend to ruin things by making them unnecessarily sentimental. I think it's also quite hard to adapt this because though you could just condense the story about the characters, I really think the most important things about these books are the thought-provoking issues and these would be very hard to convey in films without being boring.
  6. Rumah Kaca by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. This book is the last in The Buru Quartet. It took a different approach by telling the story from another person's point of view. One interesting part about the story is that we could see the destruction of a man as he struggled to do things he knew was not the right thing to do. Many times you would want to say to the character, just stop and leave as what your family did, but he stayed on and be miserable throughout the book. There's also a tragic sad ending for the main character. It's one of those thing you know, sad things need to be told as well. Pramoedya Ananta Toer also wrote a strong female character in this book and when other perished, this lady stayed on until the end of the book and regardless of what life threw at her, she just kept on flourishing.
I am fascinated by men who wrote strong female characters. My favorite is of course Ursula from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Why did these men choose to write about these strong women, did they do it subconsciously? Maybe they're just acknowledging that women can just take on some much more. Unfortunately that's not what's happening in America. Last week when the election result was out, it was so depressing that I seriously felt like crying and I'm not even an American. It's not that I'm a big fan of Hillary Clinton, though you gotta admit that she is so admirable. She's taken so many shits in life and she doesn't give up and keeps going. As one of my french teachers would say, elle est formidable (she is formidable). What's sad about the whole thing is that I see those people voting for Donald Trump to have no qualm whatsoever to all the things he said or didn't say and that makes me think they're not good people. I was very sad finding out the Duck Dynasty family endorse him. As the title said, it made me wonder if I was being too idealistic. In the last Indonesian presidential election, my decision was made easy when the presidential candidate, Prabowo, was supported by FPI (The Islamic Defender Front), an organization I viewed as intolerant and should not have existed in Indonesia, but they exist because like in America, we do have freedom of speech in Indonesia. At that time, Prabowo happily took the support and that made it easier for me. Whichever side the FPI supports, I will sure be on the opposite side. So when Ku Klux Klan supports Donald Trump, shouldn't the choice be clear to Americans? Whichever side racist groups stand on, go to the opposite side.

Right now in Indonesia, Jakarta to be exact, we're waiting on the investigation result of whether our current governor (an Indonesian Chinese non-muslim) is guilty of insulting the Quran. Now I have watched the video in question, both the long complete one and the short one. From my point of view, he's saying don't be fooled by people using the Quran verse that says they cannot vote for a non-muslim leader. He didn't say that the Quran verse is foolish. However this was taken by many of his detractors as insults. They rallied the people and so many of these easily flamed out people staged a big protest in Jakarta around 2 weeks ago. Seeing the tweets about this protest is very depressing for me. People are saying things like, we may not pray regularly but when our religion is being attacked, we need to stand up. Seriously? What the fuck are you talking about? If you think Islam is being insulted, you should protest every time a terror group carries out a terrorist attack in the name of Islam, but where are you guys then? Yes, perhaps this is not about the religion, as we know it's all politics. That makes it even more depressing, these power hungry people galvanizing the mass on a weak argument which is bound to destabilize the country. Perhaps people may fault me for using syntax to defend the governor especially since I am also Indonesian Chinese non-muslim, but seriously you should see if there's any ill intent from the governor's side and I would argue there isn't and his actions so far have shown he's unbiased to muslims.

I find what happens in Indonesia currently is similar to what happens in America right now. Many people say it's the white Americans who brought the victory to Donald Trump. White Americans and Indonesians muslims are the majority in America and Indonesia. They already have the most representation everywhere. They don't get hassled as much as the minority. They never experience being targeted simply for being the minority. So why on earth these people still feel like they're being victimized, that they haven't been treated fairly? What's with the anger and all the aggression? Are they just plain selfish, mean, and bad at the core? Yes not all white Americans or Indonesian muslims are bad and intolerant, but right now seeing all these people be open and proud in their intolerant thoughts and actions just give me despair. I think it would make the world a better place if these 2 hate groups could just meet in a field and battle it out. That'll be perfect, they truly hate each other and what each other represents. They can fight it out and leave the rest of us in peace.

Let's change topic. I haven't been going to the cinema much. The last few movies I watched was The Accountant and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. I truly enjoyed The Accountant though the movie has one big flaw, don't tell me the brother took an assignment to kill a person without having a photograph of said person. It's silly, but I guess they needed this lack of information to build the climax. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk was so so for me. What's weird for me and this is a big question I have, do the US military really allow their soldiers to participate in a Halftime show in a way that seems really silly? Love Garrett Hedlund in this movie though, he looks really handsome. The next movie I'm really looking forward to is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I'm glad Eddie Redmayne is in it and he looks great in all the trailers or posters I've seen. He's a really good actor.

I've been feeling rather down these past few ... well years if I want to be honest. Maybe decade if we want to get to it. Seriously though something is wrong with my body internally and this makes me more despondent. I tried to change my diet a bit. It was showing some improvement for a few days, but right now it's going back to being bad. So I'm quite down these days :( I should start plotting on what I want to do next year, but I just don't have the mood to do so. I haven't even planned my Chinese New Year trip back home. I think it would be good for me to spend some time with the family even though they would drive me crazy, but I am thinking of just running away and go somewhere else and be alone. Being alone again after being alone for most of my days do not sound healthy to me, but right now I would like that very much. Yes, mentally I think right now I am spiraling even deeper into that depression hole. I hope you guys are having better days. Take care.

:) eKa @ 7:17:00 PM • 1 comments

Bottom of the Zombie Chain

I once wrote before about being at bottom of the zombie chain, a string of words that makes no sense, but since I have nothing interesting to write this October, I'm just gonna use that weird combination of words to start writing about something. Why do I think it makes no sense? Well a chain doesn't have a bottom, unless you set it vertically I guess. I could easily just say bottom of the totem pole, but I think I just started saying bottom of the zombie chain to really emphasize how shitty the situation is. Anyways if you think of a totem pole as being constituted of several pieces or blocks, being at the bottom is actually crucial for the whole totem pole. When you try to remove the bottom, you may cause the whole totem pole to crumble (think Jenga). Now if you're bottom of a zombie chain (though as I established there's no bottom on a chain, actually last would be a more suitable word) and you get eaten by a zombie, you actually give time for the rest of the chain to escape and escape they will and should. Your tragic, painful, and alone demise is actually benefiting others. What I want to say is being bottom of a zombie chain is worse than being bottom of a totem pole.
Side note: The Walking Dead is returning this coming weekend. I usually get to watch it on Monday evening and that's something that helps me get through Monday, something to look forward to, but in this new episode, we'll find out who die and that would sucks!

Anyway why am I writing about all this zombie chain. Is life okay? Well life is comme ci comme ça, comme toujours (so so, as always). Really when I think about it, this time last year was much worse. It was shitty shitty bang bang then. So I should just be thankful that this time around it's much better. However I guess with all the restlessness that always surrounds me like dark shadows, I will forever and always feel uneasy :( This bottom of the zombie chain is right to describe many different situations I'm in, but I want to use it to describe my current Japanese class. I have been talking about how at the bottom of the class I've been feeling, like the song Fond de L'Étang (bottom of the pond) sung by the boys in the movie, Les Choristes (a really nice kinda sad french movie, do watch it if you haven't), well last time there were others who I felt were at the bottom with me too, but now it's no longer like that. We just started a new class last week and that other person left because he's just too busy too work. Seriously, though my classmates are nice, I get more nervous about class :( This current class will end in January next year and I don't know if we'll have the number to continue. One person is planning to leave because she has a good job offer back in her country. I wonder if this class will be my last :( which will be a shame, despite of me struggling in class. It's hard really and it's kinda enlightening to think of classmates in other languages classes that I've taken before who felt this way too, only back then I thought maybe they didn't try hard enough. It can be said of me too, I think I don't try hard enough. I should be more disciplined in learning Kanji and memorizing everything :(

Next week class has a break due to Deepavali and I am looking forward to waking up late. I may still end up doing nothing of interest. Most likely I would just go to the movies. I haven't been doing much of that lately, to my surprise too. The last movie I watched was Inferno and seriously it made me miss Italy, especially the Italy I visited on my first visit there, my first trip ever alone. Watching Inferno, I felt very blessed to have visited each and every place featured in the movie both in Italy and Turkey. I may complain a lot about things I have to do, but there's no denying that all that fund all the wonderful trips I've been able to make. I am really blessed in this case though I don't say my grace enough. Speaking of which, around 2 months left in this year, it's a good time to start thinking what we should do next year. I have some ideas. Next year I will be 35 (damn it) and I do feel like doing something major but there's always fear. We'll see where I'll end up. I have a feeling I may chicken out and choose the easy thing, but who knows maybe somehow I'll end up getting what I want. I really have nothing else to write peeps. Hope your days are glorious. Ciao!

:) eKa @ 6:58:00 PM • 0 comments

Hong Kong With The Parents

Before this trip, I prayed a lot so that I would be in my best behaviour and be kind to my parents. This is because I know that they can be very annoying and I have very little patience and my temper just flares up easily with them. I blame it on the fact that with other people, I have to bottle up what I really feel and be all cool. So when I'm with my core family, my emotion just goes all over the place. Also when I'm tired, I get cranky easily. When one prays for something like good behaviour, one would think that one would watch her own behaviour. Unfortunately I didn't really do that. There were moments where I was just exasperated with my parents and it was from the get go. We were all taking ferries to Hong Kong. I was from Macau and they were from Shenzhen. They should just be arriving like 10 minutes top before me but my dad had the bright idea to wait somewhere else instead of just outside the arrival area. So I had trouble locating them. Luckily I eventually did. I was already weighing my option to just leave them and hopefully they could figure their own way to the hotel when my mother texted me where they were. By the way by them, it's my parents and a cousin.

After we dropped our things in the rooms, we quickly went to uncle and aunt's place which was the whole purpose of us being there. My uncle wasn't as healthy as I saw him last year so that was rather sad. My aunt was kinda the same. We also met my other cousins and their little daughter who unfortunately since I don't speak Chinese, I couldn't communicate with them. We had dinner at my aunt's house and stayed awhile there.

The next day, I had made booking to go to Tsz Shan Monastery. It is free, but you need to book a time slot before visiting. I booked like 3 weeks in advance. You really need to book in advance, like if you want to go tomorrow it's pretty impossible because for all the time I checked the site, it's always fully booked. That being said, I don't think it's very difficult to get a slot, just remember to book at the site as early as you can, 1 month is recommended. There are more places which are harder to get into, Harry Potter Studio, Alcatraz. Booking a slot yourself to see The Last Supper in Milan is pretty impossible (take a tour peeps). Anyways, this is not a touristy place, its purpose is really for religious practice. There's a dress code you must follow and they sent me another reminder email closer to the date about the whole rules. It is really far from where our hotel was but luckily we arrived just before our time slot, 10 AM and we're allowed to go in. I like the place a lot. It's really nice. The view of the surroundings from the monastery is beautiful. It felt really peaceful in this monastery.

There's a hall with golden Buddhas and they're really majestic. You're not supposed to take pictures inside this hall, so I took pictures from outside the door, am I still guilty?

There's also a hall where you can do calligraphy and it really looks interesting, but we didn't do it because it will take like 1 hour. I actually really wanted to do it but we did have other places to go that day. So we just walked around the compound and I really like the whole spacious and clean feel to it.

The Guan Yin statue at the back is really tall and I wonder how they made that. There's actually a water offering that you can do, but we didn't know how to do that, so we didn't do it :( By the way, I'm not sure why there's a black spot at this picture of mine. My camera must be quite dirty :(

I know that there's a smaller van bus coming into the monastery at 11:30 AM. We were early so stupid me decided to wait somewhere else instead of the waiting area because it was hot. We went down at 11:15 and found out that there's not enough space for all 4 of us. It struck me that there's one difficulty of travelling with many people. If I had been alone, I would have made it into the bus. So we made the walk down the main road, but we always could not get into the small van buses that passed by because there's not enough seats for all of us. We ended up taking a taxi again just as we did that morning to the nearest MTR station, Tai Po Market. It seemed to me it's never difficult to get a taxi in Hong Kong, they seem to always be available. So anyways, we then made another long way to Po Lin Monastery to see the big Buddha. When we reached there, we were pretty tired but we made it up the stairs to see the Big Buddha up close. We're quite high up and it's misty in the area.

I've been there before in my first visit to Hong Kong with Dewi, but we didn't explore all the areas. This time I wanted to explore more. I know that there's a Wisdom Path and I wanted to do that. What I didn't know was that it would be quite far. My family was behind me and though I had tried to walk slower than my usual self, for some reason I was always faster. I couldn't really explain what we're walking to see, but I just walked even though I knew maybe it would be too tiring for them. After some time, I just walked on without even bothering to look back if they're still following. I thought if they're tired, they could just stop and wait where they are. Turned out they didn't stop and really walked all the way to where the woods with carvings of what I could only explain to my mom like bible verses for Buddhism are are located.

I was actually pretty proud that they made it. After that we went to the Monastery. Mom was actually not keen because she thought we're running out of time, but I'm glad we did. The monastery is pretty cool. It even had a hall of ten thousand Buddhas where it's all golden inside. In fact all of the Buddhas we've seen on this trip seemed to be golden. Again like in Tsz Shan, the monastery here follows the same layout in their compound. I guess it's because there are rules and it's universal all over the world. For example, usually there are 2 guards on the left and right of the first entrance and I remember seeing this also in Japan. Below is a picture of 2 of the heavenly kings. There are 4 of them, 2 at each side.

After this we continued on to the leg of the trip that I really didn't enjoy and really didn't want to do. We were going to The Peak. I really didn't want to do this, but my mom thought that Madame Tussauds would be interesting for my cousin, so off we went. The reason why I didn't want to go because I still remember of the long queue me and Dewi had to endure the last time. This time around was the same. We managed to cut a bit of the queue waiting for the tram because we bought 2 packages that included Madame Tussauds, but still the queue was very long. We had to wait for like the 3rd tram to come before we could get in. I think the whole operation was very bad actually. They just stuffed people into the boarding area without counting how many people could fill the tram. Then when the doors were opened, people were pushing and jostling to get into the tram :( When we were in the tram, I heard a lady speaking loudly, I think she's unhappy with the other tourists who pushed her mother or someone who's quite old that I think she got hurt. What should be a nice experience for them turned really bad :(

My mom and cousin went to Madame Tussauds and me and dad went to the Sky Terrace. I didn't notice the existence of a lift so we walked round and round, up and up using the escalators. I did find the lift later on when we're done. There's no queue going in, but up there there were so many people that I started to regret going there. It was dark up there and with the so many people, I'm just amazed no one fell or got their things accidentally dropped. The view was nice but the struggle to get through people was not worth it for me.

When we're done, it was a really really long queue to get on the tram back. I was really tired and annoyed but somehow I survived the 1 hour plus queue. Seriously I think The Peak and its tram is overrated. I wonder if there's a timing where it is not crowded and things can be more civilized, but overall I think the effort to visit it doesn't equal the satisfaction. My mom often tells me that I'm somewhat selfish, well she just likes to criticize me on everything, she'll be on everyone else's team before she be on mine. Anyways, I'll be putting this as an example of me doing something that I didn't want to do, but do it anyway for others. If it's left to me I would have just gone to see the mid-autumn lanterns outside the Hong Kong Space Museum. The grand one is actually at Victoria Park, but strangely this is only held for a few days starting the evening we left, so I wouldn't have been able to go. Very strange, things like this in Singapore will be held for 1 month at least for the tourists.

It was a long day that day and I was just glad when we made it back. The next day was our last day in Hong Kong. We had some time in the morning before heading out to the airport. I wanted to go Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. I've only heard of this vaguely when someone told me about this when I was in Hong Kong last year and the more I read about the good things people wrote about it, the more I wanted to go. Nan Lian Garden is pretty new and the design is pretty Japanese. It has this golden pagoda like structure which would remind you of Kinkaku-Ji in Kyoto.

There were not many people there as I have read people writing about this place, which is quite a shame because it's a really nice place and it's free. I guess its location which is not really in the center of the city may make people feel lazy to go to it. We found our way to Chi Lin Nunnery easy enough. Very lucky because I started to wonder if I missed a sign or something which I am prone to do. Recently I read that it's built in 1934 so it's quite old compared to Nan Lian Garden who's 10 years old this year. However Chi Lin Nunnery is so well maintained that it doesn't look old at all. Again the layout of the compound is the same as the monasteries we visited the day before. The Buddha statues here are also golden. Its courtyards are really nice, they looked bright white under the hot sun and they're dotted with the greeneries of a lot of bonsai-styled plants.

After this we went to see my aunt and uncle again to say goodbye and had yum cha. First my aunt brought us to a Chinese shop and market nearby because my cousin wanted to buy some things. It was quite interesting seeing the market where actual Hong Kongers go. It was also interesting going to the yum cha place. I don't know if the one we went to is popular but there were many people. This is like what I have seen on TV. A place where I'm not sure I can handle going on my own because the menu doesn't come in English and I think many of the staffs don't speak English either. My aunt ordered way too many things. Some are common like what I have seen in Singapore. Others were quite unique. I like the whole experience. After that we went to the airport.

It was really nice meeting my aunt and uncle again. Last year when I met them, I didn't think I'd meet them again this soon, though soon is almost 1 year. Who knows maybe the next meeting will be soon too. My aunt is disappointed that I don't speak Chinese :D Yeah, it would make it much easier to communicate with my cousins and my uncle's wife who is super nice. My aunt asked me if I like Singapore or Hong Kong better. I said Singapore. Are you surprised Singapore? Especially with the many bad things I say about you? My aunt said people there said they like Hong Kong more. Well here's the thing. As mentioned I've experienced the unfriendliness of the people in the service industry in this trip. I also would seriously not be able to handle the small size of their flats. However I didn't say all these to my aunt. I just said, I don't speak Chinese and many people don't seem to speak English (at least not as widespread as in Singapore) and this will be very problematic for me. The more I think about it, the fact that Singapore is close to Indonesia and some of its cultures are similar to Indonesians is a plus point. I know where the good Indonesian restaurants are when I really need to eat some comfort food, though I guess these are also available in Hong Kong and I just need to do some searching. Another thing about Singapore is that for instance if I miss speaking Indonesian, I can just speak Indonesian to some Malays which I often do or watch some Indonesian programmes that they sometime show in the Malay TV channel here. I guess in Hong Kong, I could just approach any Indonesian maid and start talking to them. However my point is Singapore has more aspects which are similar to Indonesia than Hong Kong and that makes it easier to adapt here.

Talking about Indonesian maids which I think are some of the most resourceful and bravest Indonesians out there, they often amazes me. They go to a country so different and that being their first trip oversea and then they make it work. They're not highly educated and all they have is guts and I know many people, perhaps me included, who are not this brave. Anyways, I have seen some Indonesians maids in Hong Kong who seem to be able to speak Cantonese and I just admire that so much. So that's the Hong Kong story. If there's any regret and things I am embarrassed about is that there were moments where I was not nice to my parents and cousin. Shame on me, really :( For pictures please go here.

:) eKa @ 4:46:00 PM • 0 comments

A Weekend in Macao

So this post will be about last weekend which I spent in Macao. What happened was, mom and dad was going on a tour to China then they found out that they'd be transiting in Hong Kong and then they wondered if they should spend some days there to meet my aunt and uncle. I said tell me when and if I could, I'd join them. At that time I didn't think that financially this will be quite demanding. When they finalized their plan, mom said I should go too since they wouldn't know their way around there. Since I have stupidly said I might go, there's no backing out now. Macao got into the plan because I found out that last Saturday my Japanese class was on break and there's also the fireworks festival in Macao last Saturday. So it's like go big or don't go at all. I didn't go big actually. The trip's expenses have gone way beyond what I was comfortable with that I had to rein myself. I so wanted to watch The House of Dancing Water, but I didn't because it's expensive and I just couldn't bear spending more money. So in the end it would be me going to Macao alone for the weekend and on Monday I would go to Hong Kong and meet up with my parents.

I took quite an early flight on Saturday. It's 8 AM and that's early for me. It was still dark when I went out that it felt like in one of those movies when someone is running away from home. I was quite worried because it took some time to get a taxi, but I finally got one. That was just the first of my many prayers in this trip, I had so many please please God help me. Got into the plane on time. The plane arrived later than scheduled though so I was quite worried if I could make it for the ferry that's departing Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Macao. Walked as fast as I could and prayed to God to let me make it. The ferry from HKIA is not as frequent as the ferry from the city and I really didn't want to make my way into the city or wait 3 hours plus at the airport for the next one. I think I arrived in the ticket counter around 30 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to leave and thankfully I could get on. It helped that I didn't have checked-in luggage. So all was good there. Arriving in Macao, I had difficulty finding my hotel shuttle. I think I missed one actually. Eventually I found out it parked itself not really in the area where people were waiting. I only managed to see it because some buses moved. I was quite annoyed with that and the waiting, but at least I made it.

The plan for the day was actually to just relax and take it easy because I needed to walk some distance to watch the fireworks at night, but then the weather forecast showed that there'd be rain the next day so I thought I should try to do some outdoor activity on that Saturday. The weather forecast was so wrong, but anyway, so I first had something to eat at Wong Chi Kei in Senado Square which was mentioned a lot in people's blog. I didn't have to wait long for a seat, but I was seated with a Korean couple. The shrimp roe noodle I had wasn't amazing for me. I also had the fried dumplings which I think I only finished 4 out of 5 because they were just too big. Overall I think Wong Chi Kei is expensive. They don't even provide tissue, you gotta pay for them. After the meal, I made my way to the ruins of St. Paul in which I had to brave many many people. It was so crowded that I was just hating the whole walk up there.

I think the most interesting thing about the whole thing is that all around are just buildings where actual people live. I don't know if I can handle that. Living near a tourist attraction where there are so many tourists all the time, where it's always crowded and noisy. Below is a picture of the buildings by the side of St. Paul's Ruins. I spotted some people sitting around a table. You could see it too in this picture, second balcony from the top. Immediately I knew they must be playing something and funnily in the midst of all the tourists' noise, I faintly heard the sound of tiles being moved around and I guessed it right, they must be playing Mahjong.

So anyway, I was eager to leave all these crowds and made my way north where the crowd were lesser and there were more buildings where the locals live and truly this fascinated me most about my time there. I am truly curious how the local Macanese live. What the inside of their houses look like and how they really think about the so many tourists around. Eventually I reached Camões Garden where I think I was the only tourist there. There were many locals just enjoying their Saturday evening. I was trying to take picture of the nice tile and this boy and his ball came into shot. Then he looked at me and I took another picture of him and showed it to him and he smiled :)

Deeper into the garden there's more greenery, less people. The only ones were just locals hanging out or exercising. I walked round the garden a bit. Reached a point quite high to see the view of the buildings below. It's really nice in that garden away from all the tourists' noise. When I made my way back from the garden, again I found it horrible having to go through so many people around St. Paul's Ruins and Senado Square. All the while I was thinking how I hate people. I spent some time in my hotel room before heading out at around 08:30 PM to see the fireworks. The best place to see it is in Macau Tower. I followed the direction from google map to go there. Passed Nam Van Lake where there were many people milling around and I took some pictures of the buildings and casinos across it.

So following the map I had, I reached this small grassy field near the tower where there were already many people waiting. I still had time to make it to the tower, but I wasn't sure if I should because I couldn't see a direct path to it so I decided to just stand there and watch. Macao Fireworks Festival runs over several Saturdays. In each Saturday there are 2 teams performing, at 09:00 PM and 09:40 PM. Each Saturday there's a different theme for the teams. The theme for the Saturday I was there was Tribute to Bond. It was a weird experience watching it there because it's like watching fireworks without context. Maybe because I wasn't near enough the tower, I couldn't hear any accompanying music. I also don't know if there's any music. Anyways who need context right, just ask the Indonesians in my neighborhood in Jakarta who like to set off fireworks without any apparent reason. Another curious thing is I wonder how this is judged. Is it by choreography and how do you exactly choreograph some fireworks to fit a theme like Tribute to Bond or is it by the actual design of the fireworks, how the colours and explosions are formed and the duration they last after explosion? Side note: I would be so interested to learn how to make fireworks. So yeah the whole thing was rather weird, but the fireworks were awesome and it's amusing hearing the kids and adults say wow whenever there's big colourful explosion in the sky.

The whole thing lasted 15 minutes or so. Again without music and all, we didn't know if it's actually done. So after some time not seeing anything, everyone assumed it's done. For the second performance, I decided to go to another recommended place which is by Sai Van Lake. This is because there's some time until the next one and the area would bring me nearer to my hotel. Along the lake, you have this nice view of the tower and bridge.

The area around the lake was very dark and there were already so many people there with their cameras and tripods. I thought the vantage point was not as good with the fireworks being blocked by some building and this perhaps contributed to why I thought the first performance was much better. It was again weird watching the whole thing there without context. People wasn't sure if it was really done too so we just waited a bit until there's really no more fireworks.

I took another shower when I got back to my hotel. I really struggled with the humidity in Macao. I sweated a lot. The next day, the day which should have some rain according to the weather forecast turned to be a really hot and humid day without even a drizzle. This is good news, but I almost passed out from walking in the hot humid weather. It was just brutal. I don't know if something was wrong with me, but I was just sweating a lot. So anyways, breakfast was egg tarts and milk tea from the famous Cafe e Nata Margaret's. This was one of the famous egg tarts sellers in Macao. There was a queue and already there were people not queuing properly and this annoyed me so :( Inside the auntie wasn't very friendly. Gosh, seriously I found many of the service people in Macao and Hong Kong are not that nice :( So anyway the egg tarts were warm, freshly baked, and the egg filling was definitely soft and custard like but the auntie really annoyed me. There wasn't enough place to sit so I walked and ate and that got me quite lost for my first destination, A-Ma Temple. It's all because I ended up not really paying attention to the map I had. As I didn't want to walk aimlessly, I stopped for a while by Nam Van Lake where apparently there's a dragon boat race. No wonder I saw some people carrying paddles the day before and the boats at the lake the night before.

I sat by the lake awhile taking pictures while figuring out the direction I should go. I managed to get into the correct direction with the correct milestone like Lilau Square and finally I arrived at A-Ma temple. It's quite an interesting temple on rocks. Wanted to pray but I didn't understand how to buy the joss sticks and all and I wasn't keen on trying to ask and getting things lost in translation. So I just went up and explored the temple.

After I was done, I found the very recommended A Lorcha restaurant. It was near opening time and there's not many people waiting outside so I thought I could get a seat easily. How wrong I was. By opening time, so many people with reservations came and then the seats were filling fast. Many of the waitress are Philippines and one of them took down my name and told some of us to wait. By the way, there are many Philippines in Macao which I think shouldn't be surprising because there are many of them everywhere. In a way I think it's very resourceful of them to always be able to find work all over the world. Anyway here waiting outside A Lorcha, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. I don't know if it's the heat, low sugar, or dehydration. I started to get worried I would collapsed. I haven't started seeing black spots, but I really didn't know if I could last. Again it was time to pray please please God help me. After some time, the waitress came and asked if I was okay about sharing a table with another person. I just needed to eat and sit down so I was okay with that. In a romantic movie, the guy would be handsome and sparks would fly, but this was not a movie and we didn't speak. I quickly had some coke in hoping the sugar would help me and I also ate some of the bread slowly. I ate very slowly because I was also feeling rather nauseated. I ordered the African chicken which had tones of deliciousness, but I thought it might be better if it's spicier. It was half a chicken which I finished and I was in the middle of finishing my fries and thinking if I should eat dessert. However in the end I didn't and I also didn't finish my fries because the nausea was real that I thought I might vomit if I overate. I was feeling better after lunch, but not 100% that I sat on the bench under the tree in front of A-Ma Temple finishing my coke and waiting until I was sure I would be okay. After some time, I thought I could go on. So I continued on. The next stop was Mandarin's House in which I got lost a bit. Stupid me, I walked further than I should have gone because I didn't see the sign. Mandarin's House is very interesting. It's quite a big compound and it's pretty nice. There were not many tourists there but darn the day was really hot.


I also stopped at other points like churches and stuff and eventually I ended up at Senado Square again. Went up to St. Paul's ruins again because I was feeling better. This time I could go down to the Crypt which I couldn't do the day before. After I was done, I went inside a bit to Mount Fortress garden but I thought under my condition, I shouldn't waste energy going all the way up. I think I also stopped at some other places as I made my way back to the hotel. I also stopped at a few Pastelaria Koi Kei and tried many of their samples. They are like everywhere sometime just across from each other or separated by 1-2 shops. Their sample sizes are big. I wonder how good their business is to afford all these. I bought some snack and walked back to my hotel to drop them. Lied down a bit, then I made my way for the next in the plan. Outside my hotel, there's a shuttle to Studio City and City of Dreams, so I took that. My plan was actually to go to City of Dreams, but I ended up at Studio City first. It was weird because the doors were covered up that it blocked the outside view. I entered my first ever casino here. It's not very crowded. Many of the staff looked rather jaded sitting at empty tables. It's quite nice though. I think it smelled nice and no one was smoking. Even the food courts were rather empty. So I wondered how they're sustaining their business. I didn't stay long and next I took another shuttle to City of Dreams.

Again this place was also not very full with people. I went to the Casino too. Many of the tables were empty too. By the way in these 2 casinos, there wasn't a queue to get in and no one checked ID and stuff. Like the casino in Studio City, some of the tables have like 500 and 1000 written on them which I think is the minimal bet (500 MOP or 1000 MOP), which I think is really high. I really do want to learn how these games work. A good thing that I don't understand I guess because I get addicted to things easily. Anyways, had dinner here and had my second can of coke which is way too much sugar for one day but it was not a normal day and I thought I really needed the sugar. After this I went to The Venetian.

The Venetian had more people. I didn't enter the casino because it looked like it had more people (and I hate people remember) and also because the security here seemed to check people and I didn't want to go through the hassle. I just walked the canal area which is perhaps amusing for some people. It's just I've been to Venice and seeing all these fake things just made me rather gloomy. The whole area is very big though and one could get lost easily. Somehow I found Lord Stow's Bakery which is the other famous place for egg tarts in Macao and I had that. Comparing this with Margaret's, I may like Margaret's more. It seemed to me Lord Stow's ones have thicker skins. These two are like ruling the egg tarts business in their own territories in the different islands. Again I just walked and ate. I tried to walk to the Parisian, but the walk was much longer than I would have liked, so I just turned back. I was curious because outside I saw a model of the Eiffel Tower. Here's a picture of a model of the Eiffel Tower inside the Venetian.

It was already dark when I left. I took the shuttle from the Venetian to the Ferry Terminal and the plan was to take a shuttle from there to Wynn Macau, the last thing on my list that day. The plan was to watch the fountain show. When I arrived it just ended :( So I went inside to see the Dragon or Tree show thingy. I waited some time and it was the Dragon. It was very short and not very meaningful. A dragon with lotus flower emerged from the ground below, made a turn, and went back down. The only nice thing was perhaps the zodiac animals on the ceiling, those were cool.

After that, I went outside again and waited for the fountain show. It was really good. Not very long though and it's using Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube as the accompanying music. Seriously this song is like default fountain song, don't you think?

Then I made my way back. I was thinking it's 2 days in a row now I was out in the night. Whenever I'm travelling alone, I tried my best to be back in my hotel by sun down. Of course there were times when I was out after it's dark and I've been fine but one can't help wondering if my luck would run out like I was that day. Luckily I made it alright and didn't get lost. Thank God again. I really cannot do any of this without Him.

The next day was the day I was to leave Macao and go to Hong Kong to meet my parents. I still had some time in the morning. Had a porridge breakfast at Wong Chi Kei again. This time I had to wait for some time. Ended up seated at the same seat as before along with another couple, not Korean though this time. After the meal, I also spent some time in Saint Dominic's Church. If there's any last thought on being in Macao is that and this is maybe very bad of me to say, it's just there were many people who didn't shower so I often smelled things which I didn't like. Maybe it's not the locals, maybe it's tourists from some places whose cultures just don't put much emphasis on showering. It's just I stand by my argument that in the tropics, it's important to shower regularly because we sweat more. You should do it at least when you're going out into the public. I also realized more than I hate the bad smell, I hate it when I suddenly bumped into these people in crowded places. I feel sorry when people accidentally rub skin with my sweaty self because you don't know what kind of disease I'm carrying. By that argument, I hate it when I rub skin with people who don't shower because I see them as less clean and that equals more diseases to me :( You may think that it's a very mean rant I just did, but yeah that's how I feel and I'll never stop be annoyed with people who don't shower enough. Another thought I have about Macao is I wonder if many of the locals speak Portuguese. All the signs and information are also written in Portuguese. I'm also wondering if it's standard Portuguese like the one used in Portugal or it's more of a variation of it, like the one used in Brazil. Well that's it peeps, my 2 days in Macao. For pictures, please go here.

:) eKa @ 4:40:00 PM • 0 comments

August Summer

Hello guys? How have your summer been? Does it sound weird to you? I have had 2 people said, hope you have a great summer so far. It was weird for me hearing that because in this part of Asia, we don't have summer. It's either it's a hot day or a rainy day. So anyway, I'm writing not because I have any interesting thing to say (as usual), but it's because I realized I haven't written anything in August and we only have 1 week left, so I might as well do it now. When I logged in to Blogger just now, for some reason I clicked on the blog which is shared by me and other people. We don't stay in touch anymore, well I don't know if the rest do, I don't. I even had to think when I saw a name posting a post, trying to remember who that guy was. Now I'm remembering the group of people he used to hang out with and how they're pretty tight back then, but now I'm pretty sure they don't talk anymore. It's how life is, isn't it? That when life takes us to different directions, we end up just like strangers who never spent days or evenings together. The last post in that blog was in 2009 and I saw a post from Ash back in August 2007 and it was about Astley who started the blog. He died a few days before Ash posted her post and I got to thinking, next year it will be 10 years since he passed away. I also got to thinking if things would be different if he were alive now. He's being alive now wouldn't change the fact that people go to different directions, or would it? I don't know. Some things are bound to happen I guess, but he's being alive may cause certain things to happen later or perhaps sooner. Anyways that's not the part I'm thinking about. What I wonder is if he were alive, would this group be still in touch? There's a good chance, because he's usually the one who cajoled people to do stuff, #vodkaShotEveryone.

Now that got me thinking, that time of my life I had more friends that I do now. I talked to more people than I do now. I remember the pointless walks around the floor just to walk and talk. Now I don't have many friends and I am silent most of the time, except in my head. It may sound sad, but it got me thinking about how before that time I also had my sad lonely period and before that was the period where I was surrounded with people and we always did things in group. So maybe it's a cycle, the periods of many friends and no friend come and go. It may not be like that with everyone, but it seems like it's always like that for me and I even can trace this back to 4th grade primary school. Some people may never know the loneliness I know. That sounds super sad but I realize that I may never know worse loneliness and despair that some people may feel every day. By the way, reading the blog posts about Astley's death still get me teary eyes even after all these years.

So yesterday, I went to watch The BFG. I was actually unsure if I was going to love it, but in the end I thought I should just go and watch it and it turned out to be so so for me, as expected. The most entertaining part was when the big friendly giant was having breakfast with the queen. That part was great. The rest wasn't inspiring. I have so many questions that I wished were addressed like why was the friendly giant smaller than the other giants? Because he didn't eat human? Why were the big giants scared of water? Why can't the giant live with Sophie in the end or at least hang out more. The end seemed to indicate they just went their separate ways. Anyways, I guess it's really hard to amuse me these days. Some time ago I watched Jason Bourne and though I like Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, I was also not amused much with the movie. There was a long car chase in Vegas and my mind seriously drifted off at that part that when suddenly I realized I was watching a car being flipped or something like that, I was like wait what, how did that happen? Who caused it to happen? I guess the why, who, how don't matter much in action movies anymore. Who cares who cause the explosion and such, it just is and will have to happen. Movies these days are just different iterations of each other and this is just so uninspiring. Yesterday before The BFG, I saw the trailer for Pete's Dragon and there was a boy in a jungle and it's reminiscent of The Jungle Book (which I didn't watch), the boy even had similar haircut. Yes perhaps the story is different, but there will still be jungle, animal, special effect, fighting, etc. When I was a child, I couldn't get enough of movies but these days I'm thinking hmmm, I don't know if I can sit through all that. I wish I can get that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt when I watched some movies back as a child. These days none of those feeling ever come. The closest was perhaps watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 which wasn't even shown in Singapore I think (I didn't watch it in a cinema). I love it and I feel sorry that it didn't get good reviews.

Okay, that's about it peeps. Next month I may have more interesting things to write, but they involve some unexpected expenses. So I'm having mix feeling about it, hope it will be okay. Talking about expenses, I got a shock some time ago finding out the amount of tax I have to pay monthly. I totally didn't expect this new monthly amount and it kinda throw me off balance in my monthly expenses :( Now I also have this thing in September and thing broken down that I have yet to replace because I don't have enough fund. My mom asked if she should give me some money and I told her I'm not poor poor, it's just I hate touching the so called emergency fund. That being said, unlike la Gioia who's very disciplined and strict with her emergency fund, I do touch my emergency fund, but that's only for the yearly travel and while I don't cap it or anything, I do hate to use it for any other thing, but this September I must :( This makes me wonder if next year I will have to scale down on the travel :( One step at a time, I guess. Hope you have a great summer people, see how weird that is!

:) eKa @ 4:56:00 PM • 0 comments

Singapore Garden Festival 2016

So I thought I wouldn't have anything interesting to write in July, turns out I had. As the title indicated, it's about Singapore Garden Festival which I went to yesterday. Yesterday was the social activity thing that I mentioned in the last post. It started very embarrassingly for me. I got into the wrong station because I never read the email properly. I ended up 30 minutes late. I was seriously beyond embarrassed. Perhaps now it makes sense to you when I often wrote how I'm directionally challenged and got lost a lot in all of my travels, it's simply because I don't read things properly. Anyway, so yesterday mom asked if it's fun. I told her I was just relieved when it's over. It was not bad. I guess I had some fun. I tried bowling for the first time ever and every time you get to try something for the first time in your life, it's always a good feeling, at least for me. I would say I still don't know how to bowl. I took many steps before I rolled the ball and I didn't even bother to learn how the scoring works. I managed to knock down some pins and in the group I played in, I didn't do badly, though there were times when my ball went to the gutter. The competitive me got annoyed. Overall it's pretty fun and I seriously do want to learn how to do this properly, but I don't think I'll have the chance. I don't see me doing this often. This place we went to was far for me.

So Singapore Garden Festival, I was kinda in a dilemma about going actually. I wasn't blown away by the previous festivals. In fact I think I wrote I may not give it a go again, but since social engagement finished not so late and it was a sunny day yesterday (compared to the heavy rainy and cloudy days we've been having in the previous days), I thought I should make full use of the rest of the day. Mom asked if it was good. I think it wasn't bad. Maybe because I came in with so little expectation, I didn't get disappointed much. It wasn't mind blowing, but I did see some things that I like. It helped that I paid the local residents rate, which is half of what the tourist would pay. I thought a lot about Chelsea Flower Show as I walked around the area which is very very big. It was a hot day yesterday, people were walking with umbrella. Here in the tropics, you need umbrella all the time, rain or shine. There were people, but it wasn't full or overcrowded like Chelsea Flower Show, so that's a plus. There were more crowd though in Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome which host the winning orchid winners and this did make the visit to be not as comfortable. By the way, since I was still on the fence about going that day, I only brought my ixus instead of my dlsr. I struggled in getting good photos, but I thought I should use this as a challenge. As expected many of the pictures weren't great, but I did surprise myself when I saw decent pictures.

Back to comparing this to Chelsea Flower Show. Singapore Garden Festival actually perhaps has more things to offer. It has the outdoor garden landscape designs, the usual rooms or balcony garden designs, the window of the world (which looks more like installation arts with flowers), the fantasy garden designs (though I feel the number of entries kinda decreased), a good portion of bonsai exhibits, other flower arrangements designs and competitions, learning garden portion where you can see the plants that give us food here in Asia, orchid sections (which again I feel kinda decreased in size compared to previous festivals), and there's also talks and demonstration about gardening (which I didn't watch). The festival even has a bigger market place area for food and stuff, which by the way, this year they don't seem to have the stalls with people selling gardening or flower related stuff. Maybe because of the poor reception in previous festivals, the sellers didn't feel like coming back. Anyways, what the Singapore Garden Festival is lacking compared to Chelsea Flower Show is perhaps the many different kind of flowers that you see in Chelsea Flower Show. I think I wrote this before, it somewhat cannot be helped. We live in the tropics, some flowers, beautiful delicate ones just cannot survive here. In Chelsea Flower Show, I think the flower exhibitors sell out seeds. Here in Singapore, I didn't seem to find any. I guess if you attend any of the demo or talk, you can get some advice and buy something. I don't know if my perception of this is wrong because I didn't go and explored everything in details. It's just I think in the first Garden Festival, they dedicated a whole floor for community gardening and there's a lot of people so willing to talk to you about how to start gardening in your flat and stuff. This time around, I didn't feel so. Anyways, here are pictures, lots of them.

My first stop was the terrariums showcase. There were many interesting terrariums with very cute figurines inside them. The room is dark though, so many photos were just blurry.

This is a picture of some sculpture near this dome like structure they built. I don't know if it's permanent, but it looked pretty nice.

In the community garden sections, there were some harvest in competition. There were not many of them, I saw like 2 tables of this below. Still it's quite impressive that people took time to grew these.

The pictures below are from the Floral Windows to the World Exhibition. As written above, this feels to me more like installation arts with flowers, always unique, strange, whimsical. There were 2 displays that I really like this year. One of them is the one exactly below here with Japanese origami like structures. The other one is the second picture, because I love curves and the flowers choices were just great with the white wall.





This one below is from one of the bonsai from the Penjing and Artistic Stone Exhibition and Competition. I seriously had to google just now to learn what Penjing is. I just called these as bonsai and I like those with little figurines like this one below. I guess if they add figurines into it, it becomes Penjing, not just a bonsai? Anyways, there was one which was really amazing because it looks like a whole mountain.

This one below is from the Fantasy Gardens. The bench and gazebo is up side down. The gazebo is actually only half, there's a mirror reflecting it to make it whole. The exhibition area here is very dark that I couldn't enjoy some of the exhibits much, also photos coming from here are not amazing.

Outside, there were some strange things, like this one from the musical flower field.

Lastly, I went to the Flower Dome. The ticket includes this. I didn't realize that the flower dome has this cool dragon. Super cool and I so want to have one myself.

So by this time, the camera's battery was dying and with the so many people jostling to see the orchids, I couldn't really take many pictures. The orchids were okay I guess, I didn't see anything that was particularly stunning.

I spent around 2 hours there. It was hot and I was quite tired. I'm kinda glad I went, it wasn't bad. For more pictures, please go here.

:) eKa @ 5:02:00 PM • 0 comments

Surviving July

Hey peeps, how has your July been? I had a bad flu when the month started. So bad I had to visit the doctor twice because after one round completing the medication the doctor gave me, I wasn't getting better. I had quite a few rest days, but then since I was really sick I couldn't enjoy it. Then there's also some annoying things that happened. I still can't get over one of it. It's something that makes me feel like I had been lied to and betrayed. Seriously if I can, I really don't want to talk to the people involved anymore. In fact if it's been any other people, I would most probably not talk to them anymore. However in this case, it seems I just have to pretend all is cool when it's so not. It's a very ass move that they did. So pissed I am that I do hope bad things would befall them. To add to all these sad things was that because I was sick at that time, I couldn't just eat all the sorrow away. I couldn't eat junk food and I couldn't have ice cream when I really really wanted or perhaps needed too. I'm okay now and I have had my ice cream and comfort food, but I still feel I haven't been having enough ice cream.

Today as usual I had Japanese class. We're in Pre-Advanced now and today is lesson 3. Since lesson 1, I have been feeling like I'm drowning even more and everyone is so far ahead. There are more kanji. The classmates can guess the meaning and understand sentences faster and I always have to search what something means. Then also when my sensei starts writing Kanji without the hiragana, I'll be lost. In the toilet this morning I met one of my classmate, who's the motherly one because she is a mother. She remarked of how the class is getting difficult and I concurred. I said something like I felt so behind. I forget the exact word she used, but she said not to be discouraged and work hard. After every lesson where I felt like I have been smacked by a tornado, I did feel if I should just stop because it's not working for me. Today hearing my classmate said that, it felt good, comforting. Maybe I should hang in there, maybe I'll get through this okay. I wonder if things would be so much different for me if I were in a class where everyone don't have any Chinese knowledge and be as blind as me regarding the kanji. The kanji itself is not the only problem. Everyone seems to be speaking Japanese and I'm not like that. It takes me longer time to compose sentences so I wonder what happened, why is it I'm this behind. Truly, I am so demoralized.

I really don't have any interesting thing to say people. This coming Wednesday I have to participate in a social activity. I'm really not looking forward for it. I think it's because I don't see me having fun in it. So I'm hoping something will pop up which will stop me from participating. I don't write about the things I do day to day, but the fact that I hope something would come up so that I end up doing the same boring thing instead of doing something that could possibly be fun is rather sad. I know it is so unhealthy. I haven't been doing any social thing since perhaps my dinner with la Gioia almost 2 months ago. I should surround myself with people, but all I want is for people to get off me, let me be alone :(

Talking about sadness and isolation, there's this old uncle living in the same block as me. He uses a walker to walk and he walks really really slow. I usually see him on Sundays when I go to the other block to get food. There was one time I saw him sitting at the stair case looking really tired. It's worrying that the mean and evil me think he should just stay at home and not go out. I think it's a mean thought because just because he's old doesn't mean he shouldn't be seen in public. Then I also started to feel sad and heartbroken seeing him because one Sunday when I was getting my food in which I think it only took me 10 minutes or so, he only moved like 2-3 m. The other day I saw him trying to get into the lift and I wondered if he managed to make it. The evil me didn't make sure he could get in. It seems he has the strength to lift his walker, but he couldn't really lift his feet much that he drags them. These days when I see him, aside for the sadness, I start to think it's good for him for still be trying. I couldn't imagine how long he takes walking from this block to the other block where there are shops around. Does the 5 minutes I take mean 1 hour for him with many stops along the way? You may start to wonder if it's worth it. Worth it or not, he's doing it and so I begin to see him as being tenacious. I still get really sad when I see him, but at least now it's tempered with admiration for his persistence and I do hope God will take care of him and let him be alright.

Well that's about it peeps. I really have nothing interesting to write. Hope your days are great.

:) eKa @ 5:09:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 10: Last Day in London

all you have is your fire
and the place you need to reach
don't you ever tame your demons,
but always keep them on a leash

Arsonist's Lullabye - Hozier

This is the last post of this trip peeps. I don't think it's going to be long. You know I often feel that I cram all my physical exercises requirement in a year when I go travelling. I was outdoor a lot, I walked a lot, especially when I got lost. I even sometime felt that I got home skinnier. Now I start to feel that I cram all my writing requirement in a year when I write these posts about the trip. It's not like there's a requirement or anything, but I do think it's important to write. It's forcing my brain to think of words and be creative in putting my thoughts and opinion. Not that anything I write is beautifully phrased or any thought I have is sound and logical. I just always feel it's important to get my brain challenged. I guess that's why I've been taking language classes one after another, despite of me having days when I was just so frustrated of it all and felt that a 1-2 week break is too short. So after this post, I think you will not be seeing a new post soon due to my laziness. If you miss it (I doubt you will), don't worry, I force myself to write at least 1 post a month and so far I've been keeping it.

Before I start with this last post, let's talk about the UK leaving the EU. Man, I didn't think they had it in them. I thought they're going to chicken out and remain. So they're leaving, congrats I guess. The markets around the world as CNN put it are freaking out. If only they're not. Perhaps people need to chill. Yes, things are going to change. It may go downhill, but hey be positive, be resilient, get back to work, and make the best out of the decision. The ride downhill will eventually stop and things will start looking not so bad. So unlike me to sound positive. Right now things may seem disastrous. There are already talk from politicians in the Netherlands and France wanting to get out too. There's also talk about Scotland wanting to vote for their independence again. Then David Cameron is resigning, goodness right now everything does seem so nightmarish. I have to say he may have made the wrong move by allowing a referendum to take place in the first place. It's like opening a Pandora's box. Again it brings me to mind a conversation in the book The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anyways, one good point is with the pounds going down, it might be a good time to travel to the UK :)

So my last day in London. My flight out was at 8 pm, so I still had time to explore the city. The plan was to visit The National Gallery and Westminster Abbey. I took my time that morning. I checked out from my hotel and went out to a rainy morning. The evening before as I checked the weather I saw that there's a 12-hour yellow weather warning until 12 pm of my last day. Finding out there's a warning, it seemed serious to me. I didn't know what yellow warning meant. When I went out that day, I had to use the umbrella (again it proved that my decision to bring one was correct), but the rain was so-so for me. It wasn't heavy. It made me think of being in Singapore, I don't think we have weather warning and we often have big heavy thunderstorm rains with lightning and thunders. If there is warning, it's not something that appears in the news. So the whole thing was a bit strange for me that day. I did hear a tree fell on the track somewhere though and some train wasn't operating, but all and all it was an okay manageable weather situation for me.

The National Gallery is this awesome museum in Trafalgar Square. I say awesome because it's free (again the UK is so awesome about their museums) and the collections are great. I read that you can not bring your backpack so I put it at the cloak room, but then I did see people with their back pack :( So anyway, I started at this special exhibition of flower paintings. You can't take picture here, so I don't have any. I think they're all by Dutch painters and they're all so so beautiful. The museum is divided into different styles: Early Renaissance, High Renaissance & Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, post-1800, Impressionism & Post-Impressionism. When you enter the sections, you really do see the different styles. Unfortunately my knowledge on this is still very very limited. The Early Renaissance section is kinda further off and you go through High Renaissance first before getting there. I thought it might be better if it's the other way around. This picture below is from one of the room in the High Renaissance & Mannerism section.

This is from Early Renaissance. I think all if not most of the works are about Jesus, the angels, and the saints.

This one is from the Baroque era. Looking at the picture, the kids look so happy. For a more detailed explanation of the painting, you can go here.

Here are paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Left is Dancing Girl with Castanets and right is Dancing Girl with Tambourine and I think they fall under Impressionism.

For more pictures from the gallery, you can go here. I forgot how long I spent here. I had lunch at the gallery, had Guineafowl. It's not bad, I actually enjoyed it and I actually googled what it looked like alive while waiting for my food. Leaving the gallery, it was still drizzling a bit, but I still walked around Trafalgar Square a bit. Seeing this picture, I think the weather that day is cliché London. It's like England was saying, you cannot leave yet without experiencing this :D

Next stop was Westminster Abbey. Again I have booked for this, but they didn't seem to have a dedicated entrance for people who already had their tickets :( You can't take pictures inside the Abbey, so all have is the exterior pictures.

Inside you are given an audio guide. I listened to all the stops. There are a lot of important historical things inside the Abbey. A lot of tombs. A lot of people were buried there, of course some of the Kings and Queens of England, but there's also people like Isaac Newton. There's a Poet Corner which contained many famous writers. There was a Shakespeare statue and I also saw a memorial for Jane Austen. I wonder if the Abbey is still used to bury famous people. If yes, I wonder if they really just start making a hole on the floor to bury the person. When I was there, lucky me, the garden was opened that day. So I went there too. It's not very big though and since I was running out of time, I didn't linger. This below is among the last pictures I took in London. It's a picture of the Big Ben that I took before I dashed to the tube station.

As you can see, it shows 03:30 PM. I had a ticket for the bus to Heathrow at 4 pm. I needed to rush to the hotel, get my luggage, and go to Victoria Coach Station. Victoria Coach Station is very near my hotel, but with 30 mins to spare I was cutting it close. When I arrived at the coach station, I got confused with the TV boards so I just asked one of the staff there. He was taking his time examining my print out, but luckily the gate wasn't far and I made it. As I sat down, I saw the clock in the bus showed 03:58 PM, that's how close I was cutting it in. When I booked the ticket, I thought I may have made a mistake, I could have taken a later bus, but then as the bus struggled with the traffic in London I thought I may have made the right decision after all. It made me think of how it's the same in Jakarta. When I need to get to the airport from home, the struggle is to get from my house to the toll. The distance is short, but the traffic can be a killer. In the end though, the bus arrived at the stated time, so really they have calculated the journey time to include traffic. I arrived with a lot of time to spare but as my mom always says, it's better to just wait at the airport than be late. The airport wasn't busy and after passing security check, I just spent the time walking around. Somehow I found out that I needed to take their internal train to get to my gate and I thank God that I didn't find that out at the last minute. I would have been in such a panic then, like the few passengers who seemed to be quite panicky about it. The section where my gate was didn't have a lot of shops, only a Starbuck and something else so yeah it wasn't much fun waiting there, but at least it was quiet. Perhaps that day really made me tired that I was able to sleep on the plane, as mentioned in post 1. At the end, I really thank God for this blessing and opportunity. It's another adventure done and each time I am always still in disbelief that I did it, that I am still blessed enough to be able to do all these. It's humbling and my gratitude to God is never enough. For pictures of London, please go here. So that's it peeps, we're done. THE END :)

:) eKa @ 10:06:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 9: Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio London & The Tower of London

in the wandering city you're free
with mountains made of gold and silver
you'll find who you're meant to be

Navajo - Island Cassettes

I have 20 pictures planned for this post. That's too much yes, let's see if I can edit myself and cut down on a few. One of the thing I really wanted to do while in London was to visit Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio and I did just that (mission accomplished, thank You God for the blessing). To visit Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio London, you have to book the ticket beforehand, you can't get it on the spot. I booked more than 1.5 months before the day of visit and many of the time slot were already sold out. I ended up choosing the first slot at 09:00 AM. I would have liked a later option so that I didn't have to wake up early, but alas such was the decision that God made for me and I do see that God chose this so that every other things can work out. To make me more excited about this time slot, I think of my mom who would think 09:00 AM is not early at all and would chastise me for being lazy and wasting precious time during holiday :P I think if you cannot get the ticket on your own, you can take any of the day tour that would include transport from London to the studio, but they cost like more than 2 times than when you book the ticket yourself. I paid 44.95 GBP for my ticket which includes digital guide and a guide book. I was quite in a dilemma if I wanted the digital guide and the guide book, but then I thought I should just get it, I didn't want to miss out.

I was quite worried if I was able to arrive on time. London tube website is very useful, when you google journey planner, they also give you the timing of the train. First I had to make my way to Euston station. That was easy. Then I had to take a train from there to Watford Junction. Arriving in Euston, the TV board confirmed the train that I should take and I found out which platform it was. Then I got confused because there's no gate in accessing that platform, so I wasn't sure how I was supposed to pay for the fare using Oyster card. I asked a random guy and he told me about the small machine at the corner where I had to tap in. He reminded me that I could use the oyster card to Watford Junction only. Nice guy. So I went to the machine and tapped my card. This reminded me of years ago, first trip to Italy in which I had to remind myself to find the machine to validate every train ticket I used. That really felt so long ago as it really is. Side note: I do miss Italy sometime. So anyways this train I took was the express one, it skipped all the stops and went directly to Watford Junction. It took around 20 minutes, maybe less. Watford Junction is not a very big station and that's good. I was worried I would get confused in this station. Found the bus station easy enough because it's just outside on the left and as googled the Harry Potter shuttle arrived as expected and all of us Harry Potter fans got in.

When you arrive, you should use the machine and scan in your print out to get the actual ticket. It was straightforward to use. I actually arrived there before 09:00 AM and I have to say it's kinda nice to be on the first slot. It's not as manic with the so many people which I saw later in the day. That being said, the first slot itself had a lot of people. I saw some little kids in robes, the cutest thing. Being first, you had time to slowly take your time, use the toilet, or have breakfast at the cafe. The reason why they have to divide it into slots is because the first thing we do is enter the Great Hall and each time the doors are closed and each group enter together. If it's your birthday, I think you can tell the staff and they let you open the door. This simple act of opening the door and bringing you into the Great Hall is enough for people like me who's a fan to like gasped in awe and I don't even think I'm that big of a fan. I give myself like 7.5 out of 10. The digital guide I had gave explanation on each of the stop point and there were also additional videos in there that you can watch. There's actually some staff in some of the point and they gave explanation at some time interval. You can also ask them question if you like I think. The whole thing is extraordinary. As a person who loves Harry Potter, I was just giddy with excitement in everything that I saw. The studio is big but it's also not that big when you think about it. So each time when they have to reset the studio for a scene, it's kinda amazing to think of the logistic and such. The creativity in each of the craft is as they say magical in itself. When I saw all of these, I thought of the amount of work done and felt kinda sad to think the people working on it didn't get paid the millions. So anyways here are some of the things I saw. They're just so amazing and hence I had difficulty not putting them here. If you're not a fan, all these things might be so boring for you.

The Great Hall is in the actual size one would imagine it to be. At the end of the Great Hall is the teacher's tables. Here you have all the costumes that the teachers wore.

This is the room that Harry and Ron shared in Gryffindor. The beds became too small for them as they grew.

This is the Gryffindor common room with costumes worn by Hermione, Harry, and Ron. Painting on the left is the picture of Prof. McGonagall in her younger days.

These are the different important items in Harry Potter universe. You have the philosopher stone, the shell that Harry used to made Dumbledore drink the potion in the inferi lake, the golden snitch, and many others.

Here's one of the cupboard in Dumbledore's office. It contains many curious things. One thing that really made me excited was seeing the pensieve. Obviously there are so many things in Harry Potter world that I would want to have, but a pensieve would be quite top of the list.

These are the different paintings that adorned Hogwarts' walls. Fun fact: some of the people in the paintings are the people in production.

Potion room. It's pretty big and I did get quite sentimental a bit because Prof. Snape is like my favorite character in the whole thing. Never doubted from the beginning that he was evil. I think it would be a twist for me if he's evil instead. Seeing the room and be reminded that the actor Alan Rickman has passed away, well it's rather sad.

Below is a picture of Hagrid's hut. By the way as you can see we're allowed to take as many pictures as we want. I remember when there was a Harry Potter's exhibition in Singapore way back years ago, we weren't allowed to take any picture at all. How mean. What I remembered from that exhibition was that Hagrid's sofa was very big and for some reason I think we're allowed to sit on it. Anyway here I learned that there was a body double for Hagrid.

The snake door of the Chamber of Secrets. It looked menacing and cool at the same time.

The Weasley's dining room and kitchen. Here there were some items that moved by themselves like a pair of knitting needle which were moving as if knitting a scarf, a knife which was cutting a carrot, and a pan being washed.

The Black Family tapestry. Very cool. Another example of how detailed the craftsmanship on these things are, things that didn't appear for a long time on screen or even things that only appeared in the background.

The Hogwarts Express. It's an actual train. You can get on it. It didn't have many compartments and they're all dressed with items from where they appeared in the movies.

After this Hogwarts Express and platform part, it's actually the end of section 1. I went for lunch before continuing. You could get butterbeer too. I didn't because I had read some people saying it tasted very sweet and not very nice. I had butterbeer ice cream instead. I can't remember, it may cost 4.95 GBP or perhaps 3.95 GBP, point is I thought it's quite an expensive ice cream, but there were a lot of it. It tasted okay. Not the best tasting to die for ice cream I have ever tasted. It's just okay I think. Anyway the second section begins with the outdoor lot where there's the knight bus and the Hogwarts Bridge. There's also the Dursley's house. We were allowed to enter it and see its living room. In this picture the envelopes are being hold by transparent strings and as you can see they're invisible. By the way it's been 15 years since the first Harry Potter movie. I feel extremely old :|

By the way, back in section 1, as mentioned some points have staff manning them and they would give explanation from time to time. Well there's one point on the mechanics of some of these magical effects and there was a demonstration of how the many envelopes could fly out from the door slot. We're allowed to take the envelopes that flew out and of course I took one. While section one was about the sets and items used in the movies, section 2 was the production side of things - the research, the experiment, the blue print for the sets, etc. It was truly mind opening. There's a lot of work involved in all these. The people doing all these worked so hard and I truly doubt they get paid the millions. Made you wonder why movie stars deserve the millions they're getting and the people behind the stage who work as hard, if not even harder, don't get that kind of money. Anyways, the last thing we saw is this model of the whole Hogwarts castle and ground and it was big and majestic and awesome. They used this detailed model to film the exterior of the castle and ground and using special effects they put everything together with the live action. It's totally amazing.

Then it was the gift shop. I bought perhaps the most useless thing ever. Please don't tell my mom. I was in a dilemma about it, but then I decided to give in. I bought Prof. Snape's wand. Again he's my favorite character and his wand is black in color, so it's nice and it's also cheaper than what I saw during the Harry Potter exhibition in Singapore. At that time I remember I found the wands to be so expensive that I just couldn't. This one is still expensive at 20 GBP plus for a stick made in China (no surprise), but ultimately it was cheaper than when they're sold in Singapore then. Even though it doesn't have a purpose, I was really happy when I got it :D In the end I think I left at around 1 pm. For more pictures from Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio, you can go here.

The plan for that day was to visit the National Gallery after Harry Potter Studio and the next day to visit the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. Direction wise, they all made sense. However then I'd been hearing that the next day it would be a really rainy days in London, so it's better to do outdoor activity before that day. I hate having to change plan, I'm not very good with changes, but I had to. You can't be stubborn all the time, because you'll end up being stupid. So the plan next was to go to the Tower of London instead. Unfortunately the stupid me still did a stupid thing. I had actually googled the journey back and got the schedule. When I arrived in Watford Junction I was in such a hurry and stupidity that I didn't consult the TV board to confirm the schedule and check the correct platform and train. Instead I just walked on. I saw the train, seemed like a correct one and indeed it was, but it wasn't the express one. This one was the one that stopped at every stop, arrrghh!!! Okay the good point is at least I was in the correct train. However instead of the 20 mins or so, it took me so much longer.

I still arrived at the Tower of London and I should just be thankful for that. Just like everything else, I have booked for this. The staff didn't seem to scan the print out. It made me wonder if I could still use the ticket again. Unlike the other things I booked, the ticket for the Tower of London is valid for 7 days from your selected date instead of for a specific date. So anyway, just like everyone recommended, the first thing I did was to queue up to see the Crown Jewels. As expected the queue was long. People were writing that you should do this first to make sure you can get in. In retrospect, perhaps it's better to go see it nearer to closing time because I saw the queue was much shorter then. I really didn't enjoy being in the queue. I didn't like the noise, from the horde of French teens on a field trip to the 2 American girls behind me who couldn't stop talking. The queue moved pretty fast but it still took a lot of time from waiting outside to actually seeing all the crowns and all the other regalia. You can't take any picture here. There's a lot of gold and everything are impressive. Below is the building that houses the Crown Jewels.

The internet also recommends taking the free Yeoman Warder tour. However after I exited the Crown Jewels, I saw that the tour was already started. I didn't feel like joining them and so I went to see the ravens and then I explored the compound by walking the walls. Walking the walls bring you to the different towers and there's some exhibitions in them. After I was done I saw that there's another Yeoman Warder tour. Again I found them when they're already in the middle of their tour. When I found out they're visiting the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, I joined in. You can only enter this church with the Yeoman Warder tour. I couldn't remember much of the explanation in the church. After the church the tour was done, so yeah sadly I didn't experience the complete Yeoman Warder tour. After this, I went to see the old torture devices that they had; they're medieval kind and they were really scary. I also went to the White Tower where there are armouries on display, but I didn't feel like exploring this much. When I left the tower, I took another way to get to the tube station and I took pictures of the Tower Bridge.

It's been a long day, but considering the next day was my last day in London, I still had things to complete. I still needed to see the important sights. If you've been reading, I haven't gone to see Buckingham Palace yet. So I stopped at St. James Park. I was very tired and quite worried that this walk through the park would be long and I may not make it to the palace. Turns out St. James Park is very charming. It's quite small when you compare it to Hyde Park, but small thing can be better too. It's definitely pretty and it made for a really nice walk. I love it a lot. There's a lot birds, ducks and all and there's also some flower beds.


There's a bridge in its lake. Standing on the bridge, you will see the London Eye peeking from all the trees on one side and on the opposite side you will see the Buckingham Palace also peeking from all the trees.

I made it to the palace. There were a lot of tourists as expected. There were the guards. As you can see, the one on the left was marching. I don't know why he did that. Maybe they're allowed to do that when they're getting bored? The queen is not around because the flag is the UK flag.

I walked around the area a bit. Walked up to the big Victoria Memorial and that's pretty much it. The next day was my last day in London. That means I only have 1 more post to write people *phew* We're almost there peeps :D

:) eKa @ 9:53:00 PM • 0 comments

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