The mountains in the background gave it away…
The mountains in the background gave it away…
”My Dearest” by supercell which is also the OP for ‘Guilty Crown’ by the godly animation studio, I.G. Productions (土下座).
The animation is not short of godly with massive CG effects and I.G. Production quality animation…Haven’t gotten around watching the series though.
I was abducted to the beautiful, chicken-shaped island of Bali by my German friend, Jenni, who spent 4 months living, breathing, eating and , of course, studying there. Having bade farewell to the cleanliness, order and modern comforts of Singapore, I found myself standing in the middle of the airfield of Ngurah Rai International Airport with other dazed tourists as A360s roared overhead. Bali may have been the perennial tourist destination for a romantic getaway, the logistical infrastructure and hygiene standards have consistently maintained itself throughout the years for a developing country (i.e. less insane than the urban chaos in South India. Refer to my Tamil Nadu travel post ). With exception to Nusa Dua and Tommy Suharto’s Dreamland, the narrow roads are clogged with blue taxis and motorcycles on which goods and pillion riders are balanced acrobatically between biker and machine.
From the car window, I see shops, shrine, shop, shrine, rice field, shrine, shops, shrine, Kerbokan prison, shops, shrine, rice fields… Bali is the only island in Indonesia with Hinduism as its mainstream religion however instead of the bells, smoke and fire we see here, Bali has modified the practices and decorum substantially. Ritual offerings were made many times a day at the shrine, the shop entrance and even at the traffic junction. I was told the bigger the shrine, the greater the family’s wealth and influence. Duh.
On the first day, Jenni brought me to Moka’s, a French cafe, for a nice European breakfast. I was already in paradise after being served a generous bowl of honey-drizzled yoghurt fruit salad, thick avocado juice (unlike the watered down version in Singapore) , a chocolatine bun and a cup of hot tea with milk (42,000 Rph=SGD 7). Fruit salad became my top breakfast choice for my remaining days in Bali.
We strolled along the shopping street lined with glass windows displaying designer summer wear, home accessories and funky jewellery before hopping into a Blue Bird taxi to see the Monument Nasional (National Monument) in Renon Square. Blue Bird is Indonesia’s major taxi company and not only do all the taxis run on metered fare, the drivers have some proficiency in English. Getting around by taxi is both convenient and cheap and probably the only transport option for a first-time visitor. We rented a non-metered taxi for a day at a dirt-cheap rate of 400,000 Rph= SGD 60 to travel to East Bali. Even when traveling to South Bali on meter, covering Tommy Suharto’s Dreamland and Padang Padang beach (Think ”Eat,Pray,Love”), the total fare was approximately 450,000 Rph.
The Monument Nasional is a musuem which houses a series of dioramas depicting the history of Bali. Ascending a spiral staircase (menstruating individuals are not allowed, don’t ask me why) takes us to the viewing platform where one can see the whole Denpasar city landscape. What surprised me was for such a magnificent architecture as this, Jenni and I were the only foreign tourists. I was amused when the local Indonesian tourists asked to have a photograph taken with us. I guess they don’t really get to see the blue-eyed and slit-eyed in these parts. We took a cab to the Bali Museum but it was closed so we strolled around Puputan Badung Park marvelling at the giant chess board and visited the temple next to the museum. We also decided to give Pasar Badung a miss thanks to the monsoon rains and the lack of parking space.
The next stop which left an impression was Pasar Burung, a one-stop market for pets and supplies. The first thing that assaulted my olfactories was the pungent stench of salt, ammonia and wet feathers. Then the sight of birds, dogs, cats, rabbits, lizards, fish, chickens all displayed in rusty wire-mesh cages and rattan enclosures. The whole bloody domestic zoo is for sale. Matt Damon could afford this one for his kids’ petting zoo.
The monsoon rains started to pour again and we headed south to Nusa Dua to purchase a ticket (US$ 65) to the Devdan musical for Jenni’s cousin. Nusa Dua was where the ASEAN summit was held, graced by US President Barack Obama and I was excited to find dustbins lining the neatly trimmed hedges of the area. It felt like I was back in Singapore where the streets are clean, toilets are brightly lit and restaurants ridiculously expensive. Back in Kerobokan, we had a nice dinner at Warung Sobat 2 which is situated just behind the prison. The main course is served on banana leaf, sate is served on a mini charcoal grill and it comes with a free dessert of either black rice with banana and coconut milk or a scrumptious slice of sweet banana cake.
My personal favourite is the grilled squid with avocado salad and mashed potatoes. The grilled pieces of squid was succulent and juicy and it goes very well with the creamy mashed potatoes which is not in the menu. After a satisfying meal, we headed to the airport to receive Jenni’s cousin, Dani. It was hilarious to see the looks of anticipation on the arriving visitors change to shock when they see the hordes of people greeting them behind a metal barrier ( think Chennai airport at Arrivals/Departure) and the gradual slackening to an expression of dazed exasperation. Jenni brought us to a beach club for some drinks. Along the way we saw sexily clad transvestites grabbing the arms of motorists and gyrating to the music from the clubs that lined the road.
The dance club at the beach had really bad music and crawling with inebriated Australians who don’t exactly seem to know how to work their bodies to the music. That concluded my Denpasar experience for the day.
Day two (24th Dec 11, Christmas Eve), we hired a driver for 400,000 Rph for the entire day to drive us to across the emerald terraced rice fields of Tabanan to Tanah Lot temple, one of the 6 most important temples in Bali (hence visitors are advised to cover up and leave their bikinis behind). Tanah Lot is one of the few places I would like to return for its breathtaking beauty, an epitome of paradise on earth where the azure skies and the turquoise sea are separated by the brilliant shades of blue and quartz-white sea foam. It’s a pleasure to see and hear the powerful curling waves crash against the rocks and dissolve into foam and spray. The unadulterated photos speak for themselves. Taken with my humble iPhone 4 and my crummy Casio 5-Megapixel digital camera.
The rolling waves seemed intent to swallow my hapless flip flop into the blue bowels of the sea. Dani stepped into the waters to rescue my flip flop in a Cinderella-esque act of chivalry. The amazing views do not stop at the temple. As we crossed to the other side of the shore, an exquisite sight greeted us. And again, these photos have not undergone any photo-editing.
I was so awed by the sights and the sensation of the sea breeze on my face I totally forgot about the harsh burning sun. My arms, nose and scalp were thoroughly roasted to an angry lobster red. It was so well grilled by the scorching sun that raindrops felt like bullets on my arms and head. After getting soaked in UV rays and sea water, we headed back to the villa in Umalas to dress up for the Devdan musical at Nusa Dua. We ended the night with a nice Christmas dinner at the same restaurant behind the prison.
Waking up to a Christmas morning, we found a drunk German kid asleep by the pool (wished he was sleeping inside the pool for the bloody racket he made every night).
We headed eastwards to the chicken-butt of Bali towards Gunung Agung, barreling through rustic rice fields, circling the twisting roads around the mountain which had me reach out for a barfbag. The beautiful landscape offered a brief respite before we roller-coastered towards the foot of Besakih Temple.
The Mother Temple of Besakih is the holiest and largest temples in Bali. After hiking up a slope flanked by shops peddling sarongs and souvenirs for 10 mins, we finally reached the temple where we see the tour guides a.k.a. Temple Guardians (or so these guys claim) swarm towards foreigners. Pilgrims and worshippers filed along the flanks of the main shrine with colorful offerings balanced on their heads.Peep,Peep,Peep… There were little sacrificial baskets containing a duckling and a chick cheeping away, probably aware of their fates. The monsoon clouds hung ominously overhead and when we reached a souvenir shop beyond the first shrine, it began to pour. This is when hawkers gathered around us offering to rent their umbrellas for a sum (should have brought a raincoat or an umbrella).
We continued the trek upwards to the shrine at the peak of the hill after the rains were reduced to a drizzle. We met a tourist who was making his way down towards the shop and he told us there’s a lot to see at the top. He was right and to make it even more awesome, the only tourists were the three of us. The first thing we saw at the base of the shrine was a pile of offerings and a carcass of a white chicken with it’s rear facing the shrine. The view which the sacrifice was facing was magnificent, especially when the sun offered a brief respite from dull grey Kodak moments.
I watched a Rakugo performance by Tatekawa Shinoharu (立川志の春) this evening at the school and boy, I was laughing till tears came out of my eyes for an hour. It is quite astounding that the art of story-telling with over 400 years of Japanese history could be so entertaining. When asked about how his apprenticeship was like, Tatekawa san likened it to the Jedi in Star Wars, only that his master, Tatekawa Shinosuke, resembled more of Darth Vader.
Apparently, this is not the first time Rakugo is performed in English. In Japan and the US, there are a number of Rakugo masters who successfully tickled English-speaking audiences. One of them is the late Katsura Shijaku who broke the language barrier in 1983 for non-Japanese speaking audiences in the US to enjoy this art form. There is also Katsura Kaishi who travelled the whole of US with his family in a caravan, splitting sides of every audience he performed for. Do not watch with a full stomach. You’ve been warned.
The anglophile inside has revealed itself even before I arrived in the fair city of London. For starters, Malaysians do not need a tourist visa and an adapter for my chargers which saves a lot of pain. And oh, the many lessons I have learned in this dreadfully short one-week visit.
Lesson 0: Get a smartphone, sniff for wifi and switch off the cellular data function at all times. I got an iPhone4 for this trip and it became my laptop-cum-camera-cum-telephone box (you can’t carry a red telephone box with you for starters. Her Majesty’s bobbies would come after you with their truncheons). All the photos were taken with the iPhone4 and I could do so discreetly (very useful in museums, the tube, meal tables, hurhur) and beautifully ( brilliant colours and focus). Perfect in every way, except of course, I wish Steve Jobs could extend its short battery life. <全部アイフォンでとった。アップルすごい！>
Tower Bridge and cloudy skies at Tower Hill where it began to drizzle soon after.
Armour galore in the White Tower!こんなプラモがいいんですね！
The famous Greenwich Meridian Time line.↑GMT+-
Relaxing on the cool grass and feeding pigeons while enjoying the warbling waters of Princess Diana fountain in Kensington Gardens(^^)
The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. Lovely weather and colour isn’t it? Thanks to iPhone (>w<)
National Portrait Gallery next door: Portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles, the colonial visionary who founded Singapore.
The grand Aquarium and London Eye along the Thames (as my own eyes began to swell…(3A3))
Queen Boudicca、an example on why you shouldn’t fuck with women, more figurative than literal. Check out the thong <0><0>.
The eminent King’s College in Cambridge.
The architectural marvel at James Street in Covent Garden.
Twinings at the Strand, since 1706. The varieties of tea blends are astounding.
If you see Big Ben, you know you are in London.
The back entrance of Westminster Abbey where HRH Prince William and Catherine were wedded on 29 April 11.
Westminster Abbey holds a memorial service for the East Japan earthquake on 5 June. 六月五日ウェストミンスター寺院が東日本大地震追悼礼拝をする。
The grand British Musuem, where the history of the world is kept.
Inside the British museum. Isn’t the roof marvellous?
British museum: The Elgin marbles which was taken from the Parthenon… Greece is still pissed.
British museum: The amazingly dramatic depiction of the Royal lion hunt by the Assyrians.
British museum: One of the many well-preserved mummies around.
British museum: Japanese British tea house. 本田菊ｘアーサーカークランド ｗｗｗ
Harrods: Oh my god, Hello Kitty x Harrods?!イギリスもキティに嵌まってる？
Harrods: The famous bears of Harrods.かわいいいいオマワリサンとソルジャー♥
To get to London, what better way than to fly in its national carrier, British Airways? Just 13 hours from Singapore.
Lesson 1: For solo travellers who’d like to have the opportunity to sit next to children or even babysit them, choose the front row seats where the cots are. On my flight to London, my fellow passenger was an Englishman with his toddler, Mr B. Mr B was an adorable little gent who strews die-cast cars and carrot-cucumber sticks around him, has an incredibly tough head and has a preference for inner seats. I was really impressed by the attentiveness of Mr B’s father and the air stewards who made sure that Mr B has a comfortable overnight flight. I’m privileged to babysit Mr B temporarily and watch his “butlers” attend to his needs. (/w\)
3 friends in the Tube. London is in the Oyster card (Suicaと同じ用のカード).
Faeries do exist in London and they take buses! 夜バスで妖精さんが乗った！
Lesson 2: Stand on the Right. Mind the Gap (and the cow!). Watch out for Station Closures. Carry a Map. While on escalators in Singapore and Tokyo, keep to the left. In London, keep to the right. The platform gap of London’s stations could be as abysmally wide as 15cm! Now that is what I call a gap worth minding. With the 2012 London Olympics looming, the city is preparing to expand key stations such as Tottenham Court with lots of construction work on weekends and throughout the week. We wouldn’t want the Londoner to risk getting his toes rolled over by the vicious wheels of the tourists’ Samsonite now do we? Another thing that surprised me while commuting on the Tube is the only time I heard the English language being spoken is when there is a public announcement being made. Tourists and immigrants have helped make the train ride a multi-cultural experience. On my arrival to Earls Court, I feared the place would be similar to the labyrinth-like cities of Japan that even a map is useful as an accessory to show that you are a hopelessly lost tourist. In London, there are street signs clearly marking the direction and area. With a map in hand, I am confident to say that a friendly Londoner would approach a hapless tourist to offer help. After I was discharged from hospital(we’ll get to that in a while), I shuffled to Embankment station for bearings, trying to find my way back to Leicester Square in the rain. I had a Lonely Planet guidebook in hand and was scrutinising the map on the information post when a kind Londoner approached me and asked where I need to go. He looked like he was on his way home with his bag of grocery. He walked me towards the direction of Leicester Square in the rain, he didn’t have an umbrella mind you.
Monster blister, the boil that started it all.
Warded：Tuna salad pasta and a jug of water.
Warded: ”NSAIDS” to notify staff what NOT to give me. The staff took good care of me, a tourist (3w3)キュン
Lesson 3: I am happy to pay the whopping 16% VAT because it contributes to the NHS (national health service). The medical services are priceless. The thought of getting a tax refund never crossed my mind after I admitted myself to St. Thomas’ hospital for an eye-popping allergic reaction. It all started after I took ibuprofen as recommended by a kind Englishman whom I met along the streets of St Pancras at midnight. After the horrific discovery of a monstrous blister on my left little toe and thanks to the uncaring, apathetic staff at the Generator hostel, I made my way to some hospital which I have no idea how far it would take. The pain took all caution out of my mind and I trotted the dark quiet streets alone, and cold, in search of a clinic or a hospital. I was fortunate to approach an Englishman (ティムさん) from Manchester who happened to be an army medic and he took a look at the monstrosity and advised me not to walk the streets in the area alone and recommended some anti-inflammatory painkillers and remedies. He and his Canadian friend chatted with me in the cold and it made me forget about the pain and piss. Despite the disappearance of the suit and bowler hat ensemble, the English Gentleman still exists in England! I took some ibuprofen the next morning and headed to Leicester square to purchase a ticket to see Les Miserables in the evening. As usual I rambled on aimlessly and found myself in the magnificent Trafalgar Square, trotted further along the Thames to see Big Ben. It was then my eyes started watering and my gut told me it could be a reaction to the ibuprofen I took. Lady Luck smiles on me again when I found St Thomas: hospital just opposite the bridge where Big Ben is. The medical staff directed me to the Accident and Emergency to take a queue number to be registered. By this time, my eyes have swollen to the point where my vision was only 70%. The black admin staff took my particulars down and I highlighted to him that I’m not a UK citizen. Contrary to the complaint of our mentor minister perhaps it’s just his luck that there were alot of patients on that night), it only took me 15 mins before I was taken to the consultation station where the doctor diagnosed my condition as an allergic reaction to NSAIDS. A nurse (Amy) led me to a room where I was given some antihistamines and steroids and I was put under observation for the next few hours to ensure that I did not get an asthmatic attack from the ibuprofen. Later, they put me into a ward where I was very impressed by the care and attention given to the patients by the nurses and doctors. I told the nurse that I would like to be discharged as soon as possible as I had a musical to catch. The kind nurse (Katy) brought me lunch that is available in the pantry and a jug of water. The doctor discharged me upon my request and advised me not to take NSAIDs (anything that ends with -fen). At the pharmacy, I collected the steroids and antihistamines and asked how much they were. The pharmacist told me I do not need to pay for anything and sent me off with a smile. From what I described, it seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? Excellent medical treatment, compassionate staff and it is all free, even for non-UK citizens. That made me fall in love with London even harder than before.
Lovely performance at the Vortex jazz bar. The bass player was cute. (♥w♥)
Blood Brothers:The only musical that made me cry.(;w;)
Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. The best of the 5!
Inside the Victoria theatre where Billy Eliot was performed. Love the dances!
We Will Rock You where the script is badly written around the music of legendary Queen.
Lesson 4: Be Nice. Smile more. Speak proper English.You might get a good seat. In just 7 days, I managed to squeeze 5 musicals into my itinerary. I burnt almost 200 quid on the tickets but you can’t experience the grand old theaters and ice cream during intermission anywhere else (perhaps the States?). In chronological order, I watched Les Miserables, Billy Eliot, The Lion King, Blood Brothers and We Will Rock You. I tried those discounted ticket booths at Leicester Square and managed to get a seat for 18 quid but with 70% view. Then I tried purchasing from the box office itself in the morning when it opens at 10am. The tickets cost up to 50 quid and depending on the person at the counter, they could actually put you in very good seats for the same or lower price. The best deal I got was for Blood Brothers where the lady seemed quite terse at first but after making small talk with her while fumbling at the coins, she put me into the center seat, 4 rows from the stage with a really good view of the cast. A good thing too because the musical was one of the best I’ve ever watched. There was emotional gravity in the performance and when it came to the tragic scene, I started crying with the audience. (;w;)
The famous English breakfast to start the day right…
Enjoy some Afternoon Tea at one’s leisure…Mmm Lovely scones.
What better way to end the day (and trip) in London with a roast beef dinner?
Hearty soups, crisp sandwiches and free wifi at Pret a Manger.
A calorific takeaway lunch on board the train from Cambridge to London. Colossal Cornish pasty…（凄く大きいです；）.
Light lunch of clam chowder soup and a scrumptious chocolate and orange muffin at the courtyard of Westminster Abbey.
JK Sheeky’s famous fish pie. The food and service is worth the 30 quid.♥>゜)))彡♥
Dining at JK Sheeky’s. Walls are covered with photos of celebrities.
Cheese and Bacon chips with a refreshing pint of Magner’s cider to wash it all down(including the bitter defeat of Man United to Barca).
…Fish and chips with pie in Greenwich (まずい！＞＜；). No wonder British cuisine gets such a bad rap.
One of the gourmet highlights of my trip in London- Salmon and Teriyaki chicken bento (ちくしょ!何でロンドンにこんな美味しいものがあるの？！はぁはぁ).
Lesson 5: Hardcore Vegan, Blood-thirsty Carnivore, Finicky Gourmet, Belt-tightening Budget, Anything Asian … London has everything to satisfy the Global Appetite. When one thinks of British food, one hardly connotes it with the word “gourmet”, thanks to a French official’s stark comment on the gastronomic value of the much maligned (maybe not) cuisine. The famous full English Breakfast, a plate piled with fried eggs, thick juicy sausages, artery-clogging-sodium-saturated bacon strips, juicy grilled tomato (probably the only healthy item on the plate) drowned in thick brown gravy sauce and partnered with crisp slices of toast covered in butter and jam, a hearty bowl of oats porridge, some fruit or yogurt and washed all these down with a revitalizing cup of English Breakfast tea. Then there is the oil-soaked newspaper which cradles crispy batter-fried fish in a bed of salt-sprinkled chips (thick fingers of deep-fried potato. The New World reshaped it into a dainty stick which they call
French Freedom Fries.). Despite the health-threatening high-cholesterol offerings the British menu has, who could resist the classic English tradition of Afternoon tea where one enjoys a lovely cup of tea with boulders of scones covered in cold clotted cream and ruby red strawberry jam, the assortment of sandwiches and cakes to complement the leisurely experience? Thank god and the immigration policy-makers, newcomers from all corners of the earth brought along with them their uniquely tantalising cuisines to make the global traveller feel right at home on the dinner table. The Teriyaki chicken and salmon bento by a native Japanese chef in Leicester Square was possibly the best I ever had in my travels. Huge hunks of fried chicken and a massive slice of salmon bathed in sweet, savoury teriyaki sauce is neatly placed next to a bed of fresh crisp salad and 2 tuna maki. Fish and chips in Greenwich was a real disappointment, it could hardly match the ones I have in Singapore. The saving grace was the heavenly fish pie from JK Sheeky’s at St Martins in the Fields where I unknowingly find myself in a respectable restaurant served by waiters and surrounded by well-dressed people. The luscious cream cheese potage with fresh hunks of salmon and cod swimming under the crisp fluffy potato crust was to die for. 30 quid for the experience and satisfaction was worth it. And on days where one needs a quick bite, I usually find the ubiquitous Pret a Manger outlet for some freshly made sandwiches and thick wholesome soups, AND (more importantly) free wifi. The perfect meal to conclude the trip was roast beef with brown gravy, mushrooms, potato and carrots for dinner on my flight back home. Absolutely wonderful! (^p^)
I’m not done with London yet. Just you wait, you’ll find me crossing over to Albion’s shores once more.
I’m glad my tikam queen powers has not failed me.
I was utterly worried when I saw posts of jubilation on facebook for those who passed the JLPT exams as I have not received the letter.
The test results were pretty good despite me screwing up the kanji section. I got A for both the kanji and grammar sections. WOohoo!
Next up, JLPT N2… … ちゃんまいさんが任せられたｗｗｗ
I thought of catching up on some history with no inkling that the Chinese movie filmed in 1988 could be so graphic. I thought it was going to be a documentary with photos and mono-color films retrieved from the history archives. I was mistaken.
For starters, I applaud the cast and crew for not holding back in recreating the atrocities which was committed and could be committed against humanity. Director T.F. Mou gave a stark portrayal of the horrific human experiments in Unit 731 headed by Lt. Gen. Ishii Shiro and no gory detail was spared. The first death at the start of the movie was a young Japanese soldier who ran into a high-voltage electric fence to escape from his superior. What followed was indescribably gory that had me skipping a few scenes. I’m pretty sure a bunch of rats were burnt alive in the making of this film.
My thoughts on the movie?
Grossed out. I’m completely grossed out. I don’t even want to write about it in detail but neither am I able to sit still without drumming up my keyboard to comment on this film. I felt that I had to watch to get a sense of what happened in the 2nd World War and what cruelty people could be capable of committing.
It is as stomach-churning as watching a PETA video where minks are skinned alive.
It is not for the faint-hearted or those with weak stomachs.
It is the kind of movie you should watch before you die (but only just once).