Forbidden

 

The love is forbidden, for I know you will never feel the same for me. I can only care from a distance. So very often I wished it is alright to give you an embrace when you seemed blue but I’m fuckin scared to lose you, to see you  freak out, to see you walk away, to see you feel disgusted by the sight of me, by my very existence. I hope I could be braver.

A million untold words, things get stuck at my throat. I had to swallow them back in and murmur random unintelligent ramblings instead. My heart beats a thousand miles an hour, my palms get sweaty. I find every excuse to spark a conversation with you but I became an infant losing my speech abilities by the time my mouth is open.

I damn miss those days when you actually cared.

The little things I gave you each tells you something very subtly that you mean a whole lot to me. You will see it if you look at them closely enough. They’ll tell you that…

.. You shine like the brightest star in the lonely night sky, a beacon of hope when all seem to be in despair.

.. You filled my empty heart to the brim. You just have to be there.

.. You’re the coolest and most stylish in my eyes. You’re top class. It reminds me of our first encounter when I lost one side of this, limping around in an embarrassing manner.

.. You rock my life. You’re my champion. You’re fucking awesome. You’re limited edition.

.. If I live, I want to see you live a happy and healthy life. Don’t you die on me.

I wish you’ll find happiness and simplicity in this very twisted world we live in. I’m glad that we crossed paths in our lives. You’ve earned a spot in my heart and you’ll always remain there.

 

Bangkok, the Land of Smiles

Planned 11 July 2016 – 14 July 2016.

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. 

Plane tickets, checked. Hotel reservation, checked. It would be a re-visit and also a short four-day get away to the land of smiles, unplugging myself from the mundane daily routines and live a fuller life. Travelling to Bangkok is like sprinkling salt onto your senses; amazing culture and endless selection of food all within your fingertips.

Opening life up to new experiences charge us with a whole new energy and give us realizations that cannot be attained behind desks and cubicles. Nine-to-fives are like a moratorium on freedom and enjoyment. Break free from it and every step taken further away from our old life is birth of new beginnings and opportunities. I do have this occasional fits to explore the fringes of cultures and dive into the unusual tradition different from home.

20150218_163606

I cannot wait to kick back and feel the breeze while cruising down Chao Phraya navigating through a labyrinth of old wooden villages, witnessing the everyday life of the suburban locals, noticing the small details we would never have expected to witness. Cruising on the longboat along Chao Phraya is like being in an orchestra play; the feeling and experience build up. You start off zipping along the laid back thoroughfare behind the riverside huts with the young and elderly minding their own lives, you see rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples, the grand palace and monuments.

20150218_163725.jpg

You eventually reach the wider part where the river mouth is. There you will witness and experience the urban cityscape over a sunset from afar with the sound of river rapids gently crashing onto the sides of the boat and gushes of wind rushing through your hair. There is a surreal feeling when being surrounded by well lit city of glass and metal buildings sitting juxtaposed to classical ones and sparred against the evening lazuli sky. The glitter is almost dreamy and timeless. Couldn’t think of anything better than enjoying life’s simple pleasures without the frills.

most-popular-historical

The water-taxi service ends at Asiatique the Riverfront, a night bazaar by the river jam packed with amazing food, colourful and exotic stalls offering crafty products, artistic materials, souvenirs, clothing and other bizarre knick-knacks worth sticking your nose into. What better place to talk, eat and linger, having lots of laughter and a good life?

20150218_183316

Probably might check out the ladyboy Calypso Cabaret show after having dinner. There wasn’t enough time to do that the last time I’ve been there. A trip to Bangcock wouldn’t be sufficiently satisfactory without checking out those gorgeous men ladies with their over-the-top drama and of course, perfectly sculptured bangers. There are of course other activities like going onto the Asiatique Sky Ferris Wheel and experiencing the YMax 4D cinema but I wouldn’t be bothered to spend a single penny on those attractions purposed to put a hole in our pockets yet not giving any localised experiences in return.

_MG_4237

Would crash into W Bangkok (check out the link) to end the night. These pictures will speak for themselves.

WOW-Suite-Bedroom

1600x900pxlwowsuite5

3732_10153954098171614_56566036789818541_n

1779831_10153954098691614_6414470604348853087_n

Starting the next morning (if I can get out of my slumber) with therapeutic relaxation will be amazing if i’m able to get a spot at the traditional massage school at Wat Pho. Myth or not, it is said that this is the original massage school where it all began. A good head, neck, shoulders and back rub will do me good, like making an old tiger purr for belly rubs. I’ve forgotten to check how much it will set me back when I was there February last year though. No naughty stuff involved, just real massages; you slap your tired worn out body onto the butcher table and the masseur will make sure you walk out of the parlour refreshed, calm and pampered like a fluffed up kitten wrapped in warm down and fine Egyptian cotton.

The neighbouring reclining Buddha temple complex, Wat Pho is just a minute of jolly stroll away from the massage school. The sheer size and majestic outlook of the Buddha statue will leave you astounded. The only drawback is that the structure housing the Buddha figure isn’t as spacious as you might hope it should be, so good photography might be a challenge here. The temple was built long before the establishment of Bangkok as the capital so you can expect intricate hand painted murals all over and fantastic workmanship on carvings and woodwork. You wouldn’t find any fake wannabe wallpapers or cheap plastic replicas here.

DSC_0821

Setani topai, the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha is it. These two are the must-see sights that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without. The architecture, richness and intricacy are absolutely breathtaking. You cannot get enough of the grandeur and opulence. Regardless of your religion, when you catch a glimpse of the Emerald Buddha, carved out of a single block of jade donned with seasonal gold ornaments, you will find yourself literally left dumbfounded; the ultimate epitome of Siamese art and tradition.

DSC_0497 (2)

Grrr, growls the Garuda.

DSC_0463.JPG

Trying to look fly there.

DSC_0513

P/s: Photography is strictly prohibited on the inside. Shh..

There are a lot to do around here. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Bought loads of silver coins at the local mint last year and will be back to grab more of them this coming July.

When there is a sunrise, there is also bound to be a sunset where silver moonlight and a spectrum colourful neon lights dominate the city skyline. You will be engulfed with luring temptations of all sorts. Needless to say, the nightlife in Bangkok can go from laid back and exclusive to wildly untamed scenes. Depending how you’d like to end your day, either way you will be guaranteed an awesome time and experience. You’ll be having the time of your life; let the good times roll.

24-Bangkok-night-life

wrae_hard_rock

Bangkok-night

I can easily set aside a full damn day just for food, souvenir hunting, shopping, window shopping and people watching. With the convenience of BTS Skytrain and MRT to take for granted, it has gotten too easy to abuse the service to get everywhere. I don’t think there is even a need to write any further about shopping! Every square inch of the city is filled with either anchor malls, small roadside vendors, kiosks or specialty and novelty stores. Whatever that you have in mind, you name it and they have it. Its almost a sensory overload as there are way too much to see, experience and feel at Bangkok.

Post is getting too long and my memory is definitely getting rusty over time. I am sure that I have missed out many of the important landmarks in this post, and I haven’t even begin ranting about food. Until I’ve got my memory back up and running and until I’m back again from Bangkok in July, hopefully with a trusted mate, I’ll be ending this post here.

Life is a journey, don’t be lazy, be crazy. Celebrate life.

Below video: Ultimate dream.

Know Your Aquarius, the Nude Water Bearer

  • What’s Important

Unconventional free spirited freedom fighter by nature. I’m a hard core rebellion when it comes to liberty and independence. I would make the hell out of your day even if it means just to have a little piece of personal space. Let me be that free range lamb grazing grass peacefully while lost in my thoughts on that unchartered hill. I know perfectly what I am doing; go stick your nose elsewhere, no need to tell me where to graze. There is a saying that goes “As long as I can still feel the wind in my hair, my proverbial wings will remain tucked in. But remove the draft to my wanderlust and you might be left standing alone”. Well, of course unless a predator happens to come by and manage to capture my heart and get me all smitten – I’m all yours!

My mind almost always have something on. Most will believe I am in a perpetual daydream. I’m that person who’re living in the future that I’ve forgotten about the present. I often work on plans, problem solving, figuring things out or simply thinking about that person who warmed up my heart, and these are the times you will find me zoned out. My mind travels to places that would make very little sense to others, to the unconquered realms, beyond fathomable and imaginable thoughts.

Friendship

Simple, you wouldn’t see me hanging around if I don’t want to. If I stick around, I just love being around you and spending time with you, often coming up with silly excuses just to hang out. Start me with something more than a superficial discussion about the weather; I admire intelligence and wittiness. I am madly in love with excitements and spontaneity; I’d ask you out for last minute trips without itineraries or plans and be prepared to have a pinch of everything including some quirkiness and eccentricity. If I’m on my solo trips (an escape from reality in search for eternal wisdom and pure adventure), a very few people I hold dear to heart will always be on my mind and those are the ones who will be showered with unexpected gifts from my adventures.

Generally, I’m not talkative (I prefer writing and texting) and I believe the comfortable silence between two persons can be just as good. Simply spending time in the presence of each other is all cool. I’ll try to avoid awkward silences as much as I possibly could but sometimes I just run out of things to say. I particularly hate it when it happens with someone I like or fancy when I stand there thinking “Fuck I’m going red, think of something to say“. Then I pretend to look cool with an air of detachment. So I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that I’m cold hearted and inhumane with a stiff upper lip. But once I get to know you more and feel at ease to let go I can be more chatty. Then when I get comfortable around you, I’m uncontrollable to your annoyance. Understand this and you’ll get to grip on how I roll.

Well, maybe that is just my nature being generally more quiet and reserved. The folklore is true that opposite attracts, like the polarity of two halves making a perfect whole – I admire those natural conversationalist; they strike conversations like striking a match. Well, if you’re the one who love to do the talking, feel free and assured to spill, I’m all ears to your rants and problems. I guard secrets like a Swiss Bank. Your shit is fiercely safeguarded; I’ve been through enough to know how to respect privacy, secrets, personal space and confidentiality.

Be genuine, no one person is perfect and it is only through a multitude of failures and vulnerabilities you are able to make progression. I’m comfortable with people from all walks of life. Be it the beggar from the streets, rape victims, drug addicts, cross-dressers, royalties, ministers or mobsters, I do not judge and I’m happy to get to know you only if you are genuine while extending that hand of friendship. Gain my respect and trust and I will be that loyal friend of yours, accepting you for who you are and that includes your flaws and vulnerabilities no matter how twisted or fucked up they are. Never treat me as an option though, walking away when a “better” fun is around is just plain selfishness. I want friendships that last, not as your spare tyre.

Put away those shiny trophies and medals, I’ve seen them all, I’ve already peeped on them from the corner of my eyes under your nose – I want to know the REAL you. You do not need to try very hard to impress an Aquarian. We’re those visionary people who’ve seen better days, beaten ourselves down on purpose in the name of experience, stripped off ego and pride in exchange for knowledge and wisdom. There are very few things in life that I’ve not seen. If I decide to be friends with you, it means I see some qualities in you and that you are a gem up for keeps close to my heart.

Emotions

There are generally few facets of life that I live in. If I am merely an acquaintance or a new friend, I may be all smiley and polite, avoiding any discussions on feelings or emotions. Sometimes, if I’m not feeling all bright and sunny, you’ll get a sense that hell has frozen over for eternity as I pass by; aloof, detached, unemotional, a heart made of stone, and blood so cold running in my veins that you’ll begin to shudder in my presence – a full set of heavy armour I’ve build and worn over the years. Deep under these layers of armour, I struggle to quickly and silently pull myself back together while trying not to let my emotions and vulnerabilities get exposed.

While battling in pursuit of perfection and success, dealing with losses, heartbreaks and failures, the armour has grown so thick that I’ve learnt to take it as my very own skin. Very few has ever managed to pierce through the shield to find my true self, my weaknesses and my fears; the fear of rejection, criticisms, and ill intentions. I sear through those who try to get too close to where I hide my fears to keep my sacred heart safe and a test to your true intentions. Stand your ground and gain my trust, then slowly but surely I will crack my chest open and show you my raw, beating heart. If you happen to be the one I choose to allow a glimpse into my heart, do not take it for granted or consider me as being that crazy emotional bloke as it is not easy for me to open up to people. When you begin to learn what my troubles, weaknesses and fears are, it would mean that you have gained my trust enough for me to drop my armours and that you mean a whole lot to me, not being needy, weak or to devalue myself in your eyes. Accept me wholeheartedly and never be judgmental then slowly but surely I will reciprocate.

Love

Be bold with me. Turn on that predator instinct of yours and get things going. Conquer my heart with your zest for life and warmth. Show me your life including the ugly side, bring me to places you frequent to, share your ups and downs, your interests – get me involved but don’t be hot and cold (it drives me nuts). Teach me how to live, and live with passion. I yearn not for a castle on a hilltop, but for a cabin in the woods, so that we can sit by the river that runs through the land and listen to the lessons the four directions has to share together. We could roll around in the morning dew in endless friendly banters or travel the world and conquer the uncharted territories together.

I suck at expressing emotions – I need time to warm up with you. I may be having a dead straight face but trust me, I’m searching for words, my palms will be sweating a river, my heart pounding in madness and my mind explodes like Krakatoa but once I am comfortable, you will know that you’re the most important person in my life (no doubts or qualms), the centre of universe, the ultimate one and only ad infinitum.

Well, having said that, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to stick together twenty four seven. At times, you wander in your ivory city while I roam the forest of mystery, then we share our experience, discoveries and adventure at the end of the day.

Religion

I believe in it all – Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism but minus the rituals, blind faith, violence, ignorance and materialism. No one god will demand blind faith, material or monetary gains. I am devout to good teachings on life and morality but I’ll mentally filter out illogical things like obsessions, rituals and rites, ethnic customs and practices and any racialised or localised ideologies. God doesn’t have a race. Those golden bells, rosaries, incense, amazing robes, places of worship built in grandeur simply mean to me some creations to instigate an unwarranted sense of belief and develop human attachment. I dig things like “thou shall not kill” but not the expiating of sin by sacrifice or threat to send murderers to eternal hell. I believe one should not kill is simply to maintain peace, harmony and a notion of non-violence. I’m a vegetarian not because I’m a Buddhist or Hindu, or that I fear being punished for going against religious teachings by eating meat. I am because I simply respect life and I believe in peace and non-violence as preached. It is the heart and intention that matter, not what religious institution I am affiliated to.

This is an Aquarius, you will experience LOUDNESS in all silence and subtlety, know my mind and you will know me.

All Aquarians out there, say aye in agreement if you feel the same way. And to all other signs who love us Aquarians, drop a comment or two below to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Sunglasses On! It’s Ko Lipe! เกาะหลีเป๊ะ

Early May 2015 – Imagine lazing on a low hammock sipping on cold thirst quenching fragrant coconut, kicking into fine powdery white sands, enjoying gushes of gentle sea breeze overlooking an ocean of crystal clear turquoise water towards the horizon with an unobstructed view of the clear blue sky, and oh, not forgetting the unlimited mood lifting sunshine. Time no longer have any significance, away from deafening screaming motorways, bustling cities of concrete jungles, problems in life seem to be fading into distant memory. Sounds too good to be true? Break pass that imagination and realise it! It takes just a plane ticket, a pair of sunglasses, and a whole lot of sunscreen. With less than 15,000 Baht you will be able to experience the magnificent coastal lines of Ko Lipe, Satun, Thailand. DSC_0373 (2) My dreamy friends and I had enough of our nine-to-five seven desk job and decided to escape to this island paradise we’ve came to know as the Maldives of Thailand. The timing was perfect as the masses of tourists are receding and monsoon is lurking round the corner but the downpour has yet to arrive. It is the small timeframe that offers exclusivity, privacy and good weather. DSC_0254 Being part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, there is no direct flight into Lipe Island. Unless you’re the rich and famous planning to cut across the Andaman Sea with your private yacht, local ferries or speedboats are the only way to reach the island. It was pass mid-day when we boarded an old but still functional ferry from Telaga Harbour Terminal, Langkawi. The not-so-exciting part: there will be some waiting before the ferry arrives so I’d suggest you get your passport and entry forms sorted out at the ferry terminal and explore around somewhere close by while waiting. Get your currency changed before entering Lipe Island as the exchange rate on the island isn’t attractive. DSC_0100 (2) The journey on the ferry took about two hours plus. Do not sandwich yourself seating with the rest of the passengers on the lower deck, get your lazy tourist arses up and explore the top observation deck (it’s worth it!). What you are about to witness and experience is an unparalleled view of the Andaman Sea with strong winds like 10,000 knots. Okay, that’s over-exaggeration but keep your fancy hats back at your seat to be safe. DSC_0128 (2) Time passes before you know it, and as for the fussy ladies, it’s time to get rid of those dainty stilettos and put on some fancy flip-flops – it’s time to get the feet wet! It’s impracticable for the ferry to navigate too close to the shores so we will have to transfer to smaller longtail boats near the shallow coast. We were greeted by a few funny and friendly Thai-Malaysian Queens at the transfer. Have a casual chat with them and they will give you tips to the best hangout places. They’re surely the men ladies in the know. I always have this belief when travelling: having an open mind constantly opens us up to unprecedented experiences and we see the world a whole lot differently. DSC_0211 (2)

Just look at the amount of luggage!

You get the first dip into the crystal clear water the moment you hit the shore. Goodness, it is picturesque; the pearly white sands are in stark contrast with an endless stretch of turquoise water. It is almost like you’ve jumped into a picture postcard. The feeling is surreal. The scent carried by the ocean breeze makes you realize it is all real. DSC_0593 (2) DSC_0668 We got all crazy mad the moment we arrived and got so excited that we’ve forgotten all about our passports! Just look at the pictures, how can you not immediately fall in love with such jaw-dropping scene? It is amazing! We felt like plunging into the water and not care if tomorrow never comes. DSC_0216 (2) The “passport control” is actually a hut where they called out for our names and we collect our passports (do expect another long wait). After we got our passports back, we hauled our ever burdensome bags through the Walking Street to our hotel. We were on a budget trip so the only hotels that are within budget are slightly further away from the beach. If you have a few extra quid to spare then the villas by the beach are spot on.

So let’s have a breakdown of the places we’ve visited.

The main Walking Street – Alongside the winding walkway, you will find many tiny shops selling souvenirs, snorkelling and diving equipment, food stalls, bars, cafes and restaurants, massage parlours and agencies offering attractive snorkelling packages. I must say that the souvenirs are slightly overpriced but if you stay alert and bring out your bargaining skills, you might end up with a slightly better deal. DSC_0570 (2) DSC_0584 (2) Pattaya Beach and Sunrise Beach – Superb view but evening lower tide brings you closer to the sea urchins (ouch!). A snorkelling programme is ideal to escape the mass of tourists. I guess the main reason why it is often packed with tourists is the refined sand. It is so fine I’d describe it as powdery (literally!). It’s pasty and white like dough when you grab it out from the seabed. Perfect! DSC_0690 DSC_0106 DSC_0074 Sunset Beach – Significantly golden and coarser sand compared to the other beaches but it offers beautiful sunset to compensate for the lack of finer sand. Probably the golden rays of sunshine are trapped for eternity in the sand. Definitely a romantic scene suitable for couples hoping to have quieter and quality time together. We were there earlier and managed to dominate a wooden sitting platform until the sun sets. It’s somehow like a VIP area to wait for the sunset under a shady tree without being charred in the oppressive summer heat. DSC_0334 DSC_0874 DSC_0936 (2) DSC_0441 (2) Ko Tarutao National Park – About 45 minutes by speedboat from Lipe Island. We had our packed lunch there and began submerging ourselves in the chilly water by a rocky corner away from the sun. We had a full day under the sun snorkelling and I began to feel a burning sensation on my neck and shoulders. Separate charges might be imposed to enter the National Park; 40 Baht for locals and 200 Baht for foreigners. We pretended to be Thais with hopes to get the hugely discounted rate but it didn’t quite work out as we expected. We weren’t able to speak or understand their language except for our other Thai friend. We ended up adopting some funny sounding Thai names instead; I got ภู and my other friend got ณี. Our Thai friend got a Chinese name instead – 小吻. The whole snorkelling package drew us back about 550 Baht per person. You can find many different packages at the Walking Street and most prices are ranged around 500 to 700 Baht. We chose the simpler ones as it was going to be our very first time snorkeling. DSC_0817 (2) DSC_0603 (2) Ko Adang – The water is so pristine you’ll be amazed with the marine life that lives down under. It’s damn fascinating to see live corals, aquatic plants, schools of colourful fishes and a whole lot of sea urchins! As a first time snorkeler, there is a slight uneasy feeling to kick around much as I’m not all that experienced at estimating how far away my feet are away from the urchins. We had Nong ณี to drag us around to the deeper ends to explore more of the natural wonders as she was the only one who are able to better swim wobble around. Kob Khun Krub Nong ณี! DSC_0404 (2) When the world is silenced underwater, I am lost in my thoughts, my mind is clear, breathing is focused, and a never before experienced awareness developed; every intricate movement on the seabed is interesting. I can see how people can get addicted to snorkelling even if they cannot swim!

Sorry, there will be no underwater photography as I haven’t got an underwater housing for my Nikon. Waiting for a sponsor *hehe* DSC_0435 (2) 11221301_10205589210881768_2417279726339363262_n Ko Hin Ngam – A bizarre tiny island of black and white pebbles. Caution: stones and pebbles can get extremely hot under the sun so wear your flip flops before deciding to run around with your bare feet. Don’t try to do any stunts there; you literally get cooked alive lying onto those sun exposed pebbles like a lump of fresh touristy grilled pork. We decided to have an unofficial competition to see who is able to stack the tallest pebble tower. Observe closely and you can see some tiny yellow-green fishes swimming around here. DSC_0320 (2) DSC_0355 (2) Night Scenes – Stretches of local bars playing lazy jazzy music with local fire jugglers performing. We had our drinks sitting on mats facing the night sea watching the hypnotic fire jugglers perform while chatting casually. Then something happened; it rained! That was the most memorable moment (at least for me) – We started running and soon gave in to Mother Nature and enjoyed the walk in the rain instead. DSC_0236 (2) DSC_0561 (2) DSC_0565 (2) DSC_0567 (2) Delicacies

We had the upper hand as we have with us a sassy Malaysian Thai who is able to converse in Thai fluently – wink wink😉 We tried Thai pineapple fried rice, Som Tam, Seafood fried noodle and of course famous Cha Yen and fresh cold coconut water. Devoured without hesitation – Come on, it’s Thai food! There is also a Halal store available. Be prepared to spend around 150 to 300 Baht per dish.

Something of an unexpected twist here, many tourists or travellers wouldn’t be bothered to mention about a well-stocked convenient store called 7-Eleven (Note: vegetarian/mangsewiraat selection available!). There is a HUGE selection of packaged food to go. You pick it up, pop it into the microwave readily available in store and you’re all ready to enjoy your meal wherever that is convenient for you. The best part is yet to come, they’re unexpectedly delicious! Yes, I mean those packaged food! I personally recommend the coconut cendol. Definitely worth a try. Price ranges around 50 to 150 Baht.

Getting around Lipe Island

By foot or local tuk-tuks if you’re being lazy. Tuk-tuks from the Walking Street to the Sunset Beach set us back 150 Baht due to our laziness. I agree with the limitation on vehicles as it’s a good way to prevent unsightly urbanisation from overpowering the beauty of nature. Hopefully the entire Tarutao archipelago will not end up like Hawaii, engulfed and fell victim to the bourgeoning masses and economic powerhouses. May the enduring beauty last for an eternity. Sathuk Sathuk.

Other companions worth noting

Dogs, friendly school of fishes puckering around your feet, plentiful of sea urchins and hermit crabs. Of course, Nong Nee being a cat lover, wasn’t all excited when seeing a handful of dogs. DSC_0591 DSC_0692 (2) The negative sides

Very touristy, increasing number of visitors, pricey souvenirs and everything costs money. Lastly, sea urchins!

So that was it, our three days of amazing trip at Ko Lipe and some of the surrounding archipelagos. Skin went at least five tones darker, got severe sunburn and peeling skin for weeks but it was all worth it. Would love to visit the other surrounding island that we didn’t manage to visit but with a truck load of sunscreen the next time around!

Coming up next: Can you hear the wooden clogs? It’s Amsterdam!

Eid Mubarak’ to all Muslim Readers!

Salam and greetings to all fellow Muslim readers and followers.

To mark the beginning of Shawwal, let us reflect and ponder upon our past actions and deeds on this joyous occasion and repent from the mistakes that were made regardless of our religions or beliefs. With hopes that humanity will be able to live by each other in peace and harmony without war and prejudices.

EID_2015_2

Huge appreciation goes to those who faithfully follow and continuously support this humble blog I’m trying to maintain.

Sincerely,

Achmedius, Author

Helsinki, Daughter of the Baltic

June 2015 – SPop should be the next major wave! Before I go on rambling about Finland’s wonderful capital Helsinki, I need must first spare a word or two about my favourite Finnish pop singer, Jenni Vartiainen! (Skip to the 4th paragraph below if Suomi Pop music isn’t your thing). I have been playing her songs on repeat for months and never got bored. It was the 12th day of June, just a day before I left Finland and I wasn’t aware of this concert being held in Kaisaniemen Puistossa (Kaisaniemi Park). Luck was on my side when I was exploring around town. It was odd at first when approaching the park; more and more people are appearing and being nosy as usual, I marched ahead and realised I found myself in the middle of a concert called Radio Aallon Helsinki-päivän konsertti 2015 (Radio Aalto Helsinki Day Concert 2015).

DSC_0289 (2)

Still wasn’t getting excited, I wandered around and found the entrance after surpassing a huge mass of appreciative audiences. It was FREE entry. Hauling along a bag of yummy Fazer chocolates in a touristy manner along with my bulky DSLR, I got myself all civilised and waited in a long line queuing to enter the fenced and heavily guarded park. Unfortunately, my Nikon DSLR got my access denied at the entrance! I was told that only phone or compact cameras are allowed! I’ve caused a big scene there because the guard couldn’t speak a word of English. It’s really trying on my patience. Well, rules are rules and I shouldn’t allow anything to kill that travel bug living in me.

DSC_0293 (2)

I skirted along the fence and found a spot amongst the mass of crowd where there is a not-so-bad view of the stage so I stayed there while the audio visual crew did their tests. Then something struck me, it was on the giant LED screen. It is none other than Jenni Vartiainen! I could have gotten closer if not for the camera but I was all smiling learning how lucky I am to be able to watch Jenni perform live. I wished I could get better photographs and of course her autograph. Go go Suomi Pop!

DSC_0299 (2)

Do try out the below songs (my personal favs). They’re links to Youtube:

Duran Duran

Nettiin 

Missä muruseni on

So I was in Helsinki or Helsinfors for a day. Not much time to explore but just enough to have a glimpse of what the city has to offer.

Well, despite the description above, the first impression is that Helsinki is not as populous as other European cities so you still get to have a very pleasant and less congested carefree trip. It does not really matter that you do not speak Suomi. Thanks to the free Finnish education, most Finns are well educated and are able to communicate flawlessly in English.

DSC_0659 (2)

I stayed in Glo Hotel Art for the night. It is a one of a kind hotel and its interior is really worth a mention. It is unique as the lobby is actually in a twentieth century Art Nouveau Castle but fitted with modern amenities. Adjacent to the lobby, rooms are clean, ultra-modern with motorised adjustable beds, lots of glass and slick under-bed lighting. The only drawbacks were the room size and power sockets. You would wish that the rooms are larger with more closet space. European two pin sockets are expected BUT what you do not expect is that it is faced down to a glass cabinet with actual glass cups. Those who travel with international chargers will have trouble sticking their international chargers into the socket upside down. Newton’s gravity had mine falling down shattering the hotel cups into a million pieces and my phone tagged along the fall. Wi-Fi is free as expected but there is a limit set. The hotel is located conveniently a few blocks away from the city centre and about 15 minutes’ walk to the harbour. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the hotel as I only had a few hours left before night falls.

DSC_0686 (2)

DSC_0685 (2)

I grabbed a free map from the hotel lobby and shot out onto the street in the quest of discovering amazing things. I started off admiring the socialist Nordic architecture, taking many photographs as usual. All the alleys and turns look almost similar so reluctantly I took the map out to see where I was. It is complicated, especially to non-Suomi speakers (maybe only me as I have no sense of direction). I had to ask the poor pedestrians to go everywhere.

DSC_0316 (2)

I headed first to the Western harbour as it feels like it is close by as I see a number of arrogant and annoying yet adorable seagulls.

DSC_0925 (2)

Look at the way they look down at you worthless tourists.

DSC_0377 (2)

There aren’t very much to mention here other than a few huge industrious vessels, private yachts and boats at bay but the midsummer weather is really mood lifting. Casual walks around the harbour can be really relaxing.

DSC_0902 (2) DSC_0899 (2) DSC_0866 (2) DSC_0841 (2)

After some distance I realised I haven’t bought any souvenirs for my family and friends, and that my tummy is growling mad so I went over to Stockmann in hopes to find some good food and nice souvenirs. I got to know that it is the largest department store in Nordic countries to date. You can expect any imaginable luxury brands to be there so if you have loads of money to splurge then Stockmann is exactly where you should be in Helsinki.

DSC_0436 (2)

I had an impression that Stockmann is like a Finnish version of Harrods or Westfield in London. I found an area where some good quality souvenirs are being sold coupled with an endless selection of Moomin merchandises.  I picked the mini “I❤ Helsinki” mug fridge magnet for a chosen few friends (and one for myself of course). It cost me a bomb. Then I head to Stockmannin Herkku at the basement. Read that they have the best selection of foodstuff and true enough I was spoiled with choices! I didn’t know what to pick; everything look amazing and desirable, especially when their awesome lighting made everything dazzle. Kudos to their visual merchandisers – I stood there like a kid in a candy shop. I ended up choosing Fazermint® boxed in exquisite dainty looking silver boxes, some choco waffles, and more cocoa related mouth-watering products.

DSC_0093 (2)

I head upstairs to Fazer 8th Floor to try out their food and fill up my hungry tummy for dinner. Look, I’m not paid by Fazer nor advertising for them but their products earned them a mention or two and that they are indeed everywhere in Finland. Fazer 8th Floor has quite a good selection of grilled food and salad. Your meal is prepared right in front of your eyes to ensure freshness and quality. Being a vegetarian I was given the option of salad with grilled goat cheese or pasta. I went for the pasta and it is definitely not disappointing.

DSC_0065 (2)

With a filled tummy I walked around the stores a little more and head back out onto the street. Stumbled upon Hard Rock Helsinki. I wanted to get their ultra-cool winged Hard Rock logo tee-shirt very badly but I had to lightly pat on my wallet to remind myself that I’ve over-spent in Hyvinkää. I took another good look at that awesome tee, then reluctantly walked out to continue my exploration only to discover the Radio Aalto Helsinki Day Concert.

The weather at the park was getting unbearably cold so I went back to town to grab a warm drink and continued exploring elsewhere afterwards.

DSC_0075 (2)

Marimekko – One of the renowned Finnish design company selling apparels, household products, bags and many other things in wacky contemporary colours.

DSC_0497 (2) DSC_0516 (3)

Some nicer buildings along the way.

DSC_0076 (2)  DSC_0098 (2)

Stuck my nose into the Helsingin päärautatieasema Station (Central Railway Station).

DSC_0411 (2)

DSC_0133 (2) DSC_0141 (2)

Its a giant cone of green tea ice cream disguised as a clock tower.

DSC_0156 (2) DSC_0189 (2) DSC_0235 (2)

As I ventured further, there are more interesting buildings sighted.

DSC_0021 (2) DSC_0044 (2)

It started to get late so I had to head back to the hotel to start packing for the long journey back home the next day. I still kept my eyes wide open, ignoring the tiredness and lethargy that is beginning to engulf me.

DSC_0629 (2)

One of the many shops that sell interesting knick-knacks.

DSC_0984 (2)

Came across this beautiful park where the old church is built. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a decent photograph of the church.

It was really late when I finally got back to the hotel. Jammed everything into the luggage; dirty laundry, souvenirs, foodstuff and whatever still left lying around. Took a quick bath and collapsed in bed snoring the night away exhausted.

I woke up earlier the next morning to maximize the opportunity to see more of the wondrous city. Had a quick breakfast in the hotel and headed straight out to the flea market by the harbour. I cannot remember the name of the market but it’s just right outside Kauppahalli Saluhall (also near Mandatum Life).

Needless to say, Saturday morning summer sunshine casts a welcoming hue coupled with gentle sea breeze that gives you good vibes.

DSC_0707 (2) DSC_0711 (2)

A range of things that are being sold there are fresh vegetables, used clothing, antiques, collectibles; just any knick-knacks you can think of. I found myself a pair of old brass candle holder to bring home.

20150613_134455

After checking a couple more stalls I had to head back to the hotel to check out and head off to the airport hauling behind my gigantic baggage filled with the goodies I bought. Such monstrosity, it felt like I had a tonne of bricks packed within.

All around Finland where I have been to, not just Helsinki, I’ve came to the conclusion that Finland is a very friendly and liveable country. Definitely worth the 13 hours flight and a few thousand miles of flight with crying screaming babies on board (trust me, these babies have some devilish intents) but a little research before travelling would be beneficial due to language obscurity.

If Bangkok is regarded as the land of smiles then surely Helsinki is the land of arrogant seagulls. Too many things to discover with too little time to explore! I will be back, Finland! Kiitos for reading folks!

Coming up next: Sunglasses On! It’s Ko Lipe! เกาะหลีเป๊ะ

Hidden Gem in Hyvinkää – Piilolammi Forest

June 2015 – You wouldn’t believe what secret wonders Finland holds. She has a strange spellbinding attraction that gravitates all awesomeness towards her. It is a feeling you can never describe with words but you will have to set foot onto the wilderness and experience it for yourself.

DSC_0567 (2)

There is a sense of mystery, silent welcoming whispers that will calm and subside any inner anger, time ceases to matter, and there is a sense of awe that such wilderness still exist. It frees the mind and soul from the many troubles you accumulated in your lifetime. For once, you experience limitless freedom, individuality and freedom. There is no care for tomorrow. It is amazing what power mother nature beholds.

DSC_0443 (2)

It was midsummer and we had a short trip to the nearest forest in Hyvinkää, Piilolammi for a leisurely hike and barbecue picnic by the lake. It was a short 20 minutes’ drive from town (approx. 10 kilometres). We brought some food and our own firewood as it is illegal to cut down any trees or branches to start a fire. A mosquito repellent is a must especially during summer months (optimal 15 to 25 degrees Celsius).

DSC_0469 (2)

The view is astonishing! The calming still mirror-like quality lakewater reflects the clear blue sky and the arrow straight trees, creating a pristine and seamless blend of the sky, land and water; almost like an optical illusion.

DSC_0552 (2)

The surrounding trees and foliage effectively filters out any disruptive noises. The air is light and fresh. I took a few very deep and long breath, letting the picturesque view and peacefulness set in before we start setting up our camp fire for barbecue.

DSC_0461 (2)

I had Perunarieska (potato flatbread) to wrap my vegetarian sausage, some wild rockets, generous amount of garlic butter and a decent squeeze of a local mustard. My friends had real meat sausages so I stole a bite and they’re awesome too! We also had eggs garnished with my favourite fresh white mushroom grilled and stirred with birch branch on aluminium foil (my innovative invention). It just feels great to have fresh air without the need to fill a river full of sweat.

DSC_0475 (2)

We chilled and rested for a bit before we start hiking.

DSC_0590 (2)

There are amenities such as public restrooms and cabins for sawing firewood so there isn’t a need to worry about bringing your own tools. It has sufficient established trails and information board (though mostly in Suomi).

DSC_0599 (2)

There were unbelievably green moss moist with fresh evening dew growing everywhere especially on large majestic boulders of rocks. Some fallen trees complement the natural setting.

DSC_0546 (2)

We saw a woman picking wild herbs on the trail back to our starting point. This is when the thought of global warming and urbanisation comes to mind. It is grave to know that inches and inches of such wonders are being destroyed by our very own hands. Decisions are made in the name of profit, politics, economy, GDP growth and ever recurring warfare. My heart sank and silently ache knowing that it is our own ego, selfishness and ignorance that quickly destroy our mother nature.

DSC_0611 (2)

It’s great for a desk-bound worker like myself to experience nature at its best every once in awhile. It is sad to leave at the end but nevertheless it is a magical place that I will never forget in years to come.

Next post: Helsinki, Daughter of the Baltic. (also featuring Jenni Vartiainen!)

Lost in Hyvinkää

June 2015 – Endless green blades of pasture lands, towering birch, maple and pine trees, clear blue sky adorned with fluffy clouds, soothingly still and calming lakes, melodious chirping birds, mild midnight sunshine with gushes of fresh air. It is summer in HyvinkääFinland. Breathtaking.

DSC_0617 (2)

Hyvinkää is a small and peaceful town with everything you need from small grocery stores to a good sized mall called Willa. Transportation might be a little rare if you desire to venture further. If there is a need to get out of town, Hyvinkää Railway Station is just right round the corner at the heart of everything.

Residents here are generally polite and helpful. Finns tend to respect your privacy and individual space. You will hardly find congested places or nosy strangers staring at you. Traffic and everything slows down here; you are expected not to rush. Cars slow down from afar when they see crossing pedestrians – probably this is not unusual but it is uncommon from where I come from. Drivers speed and curse almost everywhere.

Hyvinkää Railway Station.

DSC_0643 (2)

Took a few good photographs before I put aside all my electronic devices.

DSC_0758Just lying down on the grass silently gazing at the sky while enjoying the midnight sun is therapeutic – a little retreat and escape from the city buzz. I had nothing in mind, all worldly matters does not seem to matter anymore. Occasionally a few people whom I hold close to heart comes to mind. How I’d wish they were by my side to experience such wonders. The combination of wilderness, solitary and peace is amazing.

DSC_0401 (2)

Unlike other travelers, I have not had a map nor any idea in mind of where to head to. Equipped with just a jacket and my loyal camera I head out walking aimlessly without a clue what I might encounter. For me, every place has its story to tell, and usually those stories can only be discovered and not told. So tourist guide books are something I would usually not have unless it is really necessary. I’d rather ask the locals where the hidden gems are located.

Spell bound by the wonders of nature I found myself lost in a park somewhere in the neighbourhood but it did not bother me at all.

DSC_0411 (2)

DSC_0380 (2)

Lutheran New Church of Hyvinkää 1961. It was a bizarre find at first, not knowing what it was. The first thing that came to mind was extra-terrestrial but logic told me an art gallery would be more sensible. But I was wrong!

DSC_0256

DSC_0288 (2)

Hyvinkään vanha kirkko 1896. I was thinking “There must be an old church when there is a new one built!” and true enough I caught a glimpse of the red wooden old church set by the roadside.

20150608_173502 (2)

Came across some sweet smelling flowers along the way.

DSC_0704 (2)

I ventured on and soon I realised that it is past midnight and there is no sign of any other person nearby. Luckily the midnight sun is still illuminating and it had some calming effect while I find my way back to the hotel I snoozed in, Cumulus (It took some time before I found a local to get some directions back).

The next morning, I had my final hearty but bland Finnish breakfast in Hyvinkää before I head off to Helsinki during noon. Not the Finns to blame but myself for the poor food review as I am a fulltime vegetarian. They almost always have vegetarian options but definitely the taste is incomparable to continents with long established history of spice trade. I had karjalanpiirakka (rice pies), Ruisleipä (Rye bread), Hanna-tädin pikkuleivät (aunt Hanna’s biscuits – I thought they were rather delicious), eggs and all seasoned with our ever friendly butter, salt and pepper! Milk and juices are needless to say, fresh and unsweetened. Healthy!

Well, to sum up my 5 days of stay in Hyvinkää, it is simply incredible.

Next post: Hidden Gem in Hyvinkää – Piilolammi Forest.

Garbles of Everything Under the Sun