Untitled Journal

What's the story, morning glory?

Category: Travel

To My Sister

It has been more than two weeks gone since I hugged you tight in front of the bus door and told you nothing else but what you needed hear, that I love you. I won’t tell you anything else but that, because on everything else, I’m quite sure you know what to do. You know that you should pray 5 times a day, take care of yourself and study like a geek you already are. OK, maybe you don’t know how to do your laundry yet or cook a good sambal like I can but I’m pretty sure in time you will do.

You need to know that this needs to happen in your life. This phase where you part from all of us, from your comfort zone, from your little bubble must happen as a turning point of your life. It’s scary, its horrifying and there’ll be times when you need us to be there but we won’t be there for you. But you’ll get through all that and when you do, it will be life altering and soul founding like nothing else. You’ll realize there are strength you never knew you had and you are not the same person who left me crying a bucket at Heathrow Airport the other day. So remember to endure, all the hardships that you will face and the study you must finish.

Endure. With positivity, the love you have and the strength you possess. And you must finish. Whatever happens, no matter how hard and how hopeless it seems to be, you must finish.

I’m glad that Allah has destined this to happen to you because you will be able to relate with what I went through. Maybe not the exact experience but its great that we can relate to each other much more than we did before. I admit the 10 days that I had to separate with Daisy & Fakhrul was really, really hard, suffice to say not something I’ll consider doing again. I went anyway because you needed me to carry the burden of going off alone and the heavy load of your many luggage.  But mostly I’m also very glad and thankful I had another chance to properly catch up, revisit and reminisce with the place and people I was so fond of at some point in my life. If it hadn’t been for you, only God knows when will I return back to Oxford, eat at my favorite places, meet all of my friends, sit in South Park or take a drive around Headington. For that chance, I have to thank you.

So go ahead and have a great next two years of your life. Enjoy the travels, the extraordinary encounters, the people you never knew existed, learn the stuff you won’t know if you hadn’t gone and especially enjoy the occasional lucky moments of finding unbelievable bargains at the shops. When you do, don’t forget to buy them for me.  To miss you is a serious understatement. Just come back when you’re done as we are all already waiting for you to be done with it.

When in Bali, Again and Again

One of the things I learned from one of my stop during biking tour was the community concept in Bali. All families have family leader (normally a couple of man and woman) who acts as representative in their group of social community. Their full-time job is to contribute man power in gotong-royong for activities like wedding ceremony, funerals, refurbishing temples, road, cleanliness of the area, security protection and do all the activities together in economic, social and ritual field. The other family members are obliged to contribute financially to their family leaders, because these people work for the community – for free!

Those who do not contribute are said to be banished from their villages. No wonder tradition and culture still runs like the old days with them. The community kinda make them!

I am especially amazed at Balinese landscapes. Everything seems to be blooming and more alive there. Like Nizam said, even the palm trees that we see almost everyday here in Malaysia are more beautiful in Bali. I did ask our tour guide, Ketut Bagi, whether they usually plan before they plant something in their gardens. He said they simply plant and maintain. Its part of what they value in life, to be creative and artistic with everything they do.

And OK, I admit. I think I have a thing with paddy fields. Or in case of Bali; terraces – carved hills that form beautiful green steps that makes the amazing landscape. There’s something about being in the middle of the greens and feel at peace. 

Kecak Dance. In Pura Luhur, Uluwatu.

It does make a lot of difference to see the performance at a great setting, on top of cliff, overlooking the sea, during sunset. Not only the setting was breathtaking, the Kecak ritual is almost as good as any other music with instruments! Even now I can still hear it in my head. I still remember the eye-play of the dancers. The comic of it, the suspense when they lit up the fire, the curvy bodies of the girls and the curl of their fingers. Watching that was even better than those theatre shows I saw in London. And I’d pay to see that again, anytime.

And then, there’s the rest of it. The friendly faces, the polite gestures, the white washes at the beach, the beautiful light, the unforgettable sights… that makes up my memory of Bali. That will  make me ache to return again. Because quite truthfully, I don’t think I will ever be done with it.

Or how can anyone, really?

When in Bali Again

There were many reasons why we revisited Bali. There was something about the previous trip 2 years ago that didn’t quite complete. And almost all the time since then, we thought about returning. About what we would have done different, about the other side that we didn’t see. About all the things we saw and we wanted to see again.

And I had always thought about riding a bike in Bali. You can say I was trying to be Julia Roberts in search of my Ketut. But I actually had thought about it even from previous trip, which most of the times were spent in the van, travelling from a place to another, experiencing Bali at the comfort of my seat and the fast moving visuals from the window. There was no way in I was going to do the exact same thing again, otherwise what is the point of returning? Most roads in Bali are narrow and you can almost see life happening immediately next to it. People selling, carving, building, worshiping, bathing, eating, planting.. all within your grasps if you’re close enough to them. All friendly enough if you want to talk to them. All welcoming enough if you want to photograph them. Which were all I ever wanted from any of my travels, really.

So we signed up for a bike tour, and I got on a bike with a seat too small for my big ass,  going through what our guide would call “secret back roads”, hiking off the contours, going through the muddy tracks of paddy terraces, pushing off the bike up steep hills, all dirty and sweaty out of the 24 km-route… not at all like Julia Roberts in search of her destiny. But man oh man, that is something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. There were times when I was riding and being amazed at the beautiful landscape and thought, “God. What did I do to deserve this beautiful sight I’m looking at?”

After the amazing time in Ubud we moved to Kuta and just for the record: I HATED IT THERE. It was like the opposite of Ubud – commercialized, fake, dirty, expensive and everything I imagine Bangkok would be. If that is Kuta, I didn’t miss much from my previous visit. But nevermind that, Fakhrul had an agenda for being there. An important one to him. Something he had been looking forward to for months. Something all he had ever talked about and what I had to listen to.

Yes Fakhrul, I know my beginner skill is pretty impressive

We took up surfing class in Seminyak since the beach there are suitable for beginners and safe for the non-swimmers, aka Mr. Overexcited himself. A lot of white washes, little waves with gentle slopes. On this bit I guess if Fakhrul had a blog, his blog entries for a month or two would have been on this alone. Quite truthfully, I was just there for fun and for this picture:

Surf dudes and duchesses 

And also this time around was my opportunity to get in touch back with photography. As obvious as it is, of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity for being hands free of a baby, so we’ll see. Honestly, I can’t wait to share what I’ve captured with you here. But let it ripe, give it a bit of time. Let me forget about Bali for awhile and revisit the memory of it in a different form other than words.

You see, in any places we’ve traveled to, there’s a great chance that the next person we know have been there also. Let alone Bali which is so close and undoubtedly a popular choice for many. But because we decided to do it differently and way out of our tourist comfort zone, it became something else. And in the words of my wise Fakhrul, “Its the unusual things you do, that you’ll remember the most in life.”


So true.

Reviving Memory: In Venice

2 April 2005

Venice is undoubtly beautiful. But like I’ve heard before, it’s true that it is too “touristy”. There were just too many visitors, and you couldn’t identify the real local of the island. When you were there, you know for sure that you will be in the pictures people take with their cameras, and vice versa. The hardest part taking photos there was having to disregard the crowd, but Fakhrul, Nizam and I were fortunate enough to see the real Venice when we went out at 1 am in the morning when the whole city was deserted. (Oh, Amer went back to hotel :D).

We were there for 4 days and God no, it wasn’t enough.

Ever since Amer wrote about his first backpacking trip, my hands have been itching to write the same – but not in a traveller’s context like he did, just sort of reminiscing the time when we were in Venice. I think Amer said it all in his post. None of us had ever really travelled before. I remembered the four of us sat in my room back in Oxford for hours, each with our own laptops or computers, refreshing Ryanair’s website over and over again, finding the cheapest tickets to anywhere in Europe, being really safe with our choices of destination, flustered to venture for the first time out of our comfort zone together. Until finally Venice made its mark on our minds.

I also remember, once we got to the “real” Venice from the mainland Treviso, we were unprepared about how expensive the food was. Well, what did we expect for such a touristy place during Easter break, right? So we walked for hours until I felt terribly exhausted (and terribly famish) and moaned about it in a way that apparently made Amer really snapped. He shouted something really mean to me and walked off. I was pretty shocked with it because I never saw him angry ever since I’d known him, and the first time I saw it, he was angry at me! After we had our cheap pizza and he came to apologize on a ferry, I was actually fighting back my tears. I managed to act like everything was cool because knowing Amer, it’s hard to stay mad at him.

We continued on our next 3 days really enjoying Venice and the companies of each other. I guess that was the starting point for me (or us, even) to learn how to tolerate with your travel buddies, to respect each other’s wishes or personal goals and gains because you’re not the only one paying for the trip. We might want different things out of the same excursion and travelling together make you see a different perspectives on each other. It can also either make you grow apart or bonded more.

Luckily for me, I think it’s the latter.

Accidentally Holiday

Friends from UK are visiting cum holidaying for two weeks. Took them to Rompin and treated them for some Malaysian resort experience, heard all about their monsoon diving in Tioman, book their flight to Penang, planning weekend trip to Malacca and most importantly, fed them with best foods in the world.

So ultimately and naturally, I’m on phase where I’m lost for words and up for pictures instead.

Who needs DSLR when there’s an Instagram?

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