Notes From Pamukkale

Amidst dusk
Overlooking the horizon
Under skies so vast
She stood chilled
Feet nearly frozen.

Warmth was her heart
Blanketed with moments
Of falling apart
Of words unspoken
Of a fresh start
Of a future to awaken.

Four thousand miles away
On a setting profoundly wonderful
She vowed to remember
That wondrous day
And always be thankful
For some things may go astray
Yet life remains ever so beautiful.

This piece is originated from one my fondest memories of 2018. I can still vividly remember the color of the sky, the misty dusk and how chilly the stone on which my feet stood. I pray that I’ll be back one fine day in the future to do it all over again.

Travelog: Taiwan

(All photos were taken using Huawei Mate 20 Pro without edits) (Nobody remembered to bring an actual camera along LOL) (Kindly pardon any blurry photos) 

March was super hectic with chasing deadlines at work, forcing me to work around 40++ extra hours. This month, the days leading to my departure to Taiwan got me working an extra 20++ hours that I barely had time to study the itinerary and pack my bags. Fortunately, my work was successfully completed on time and I could get a short break from all the stress and worries, at least for a little while.

Just like my trip to Bali 2 years ago, this trip to Taiwan, specifically Taipei, was pretty sudden and last-minute. The flight ticket was booked in early March, a month before departure. And since it was basically an unplanned family trip, my sister willingly took the honor and responsibility (she actually loves this kind of stuff) to prepare an itinerary for the whole 5 days we were there. The flight departed on April 9th to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, a 5+ hours journey. We reached Taipei around 2pm and headed straight for our hotel.

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Blue

April 9th, 2019

We reached the hotel around evening, 3pm. After settling our bags and all, we went out for dinner. We planned to travel by car to Hui Guan, a Muslim restaurant in Songshan District. But the restaurant was closed when we’ve reached and our Uber had to turn back.

We ended up having dinner at a Halal Beef Noodle restaurant in Shinkong Mitsukashi A8, which is basically among the shopping malls located within 10-15 minutes walking distance from our hotel.

We had Beef Noodles in both spicy and clear broth, some side vegetable dishes and some sort of Pratha wraps that were eaten together with thin beef slices and stir-fried ‘bean sprouts-egg-glass noodle’. And of course, Chinese tea.

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Dinner

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, with the magnificent view of Taipei 101 looming high and lighting up the night sky.

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Hey there

April 10th, 2019

After breakfast at the hotel, we walked out to explore the city. Apparently all the shops open at around 11am. The place we were staying at, Xinyi District is kinda like Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur. The shopping malls are mostly high-end and sells branded goods. So yeah, we were mostly just window shopping our time away.

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A peeping tom

While doing so, we found ourselves some bubble tea and seafood snacks for lunch.

After lunch, we spent some time at the hotel pool.

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pool time

Then my little brother (who did not join the trip) texted asking for a new jumper from Taiwan. So, we headed out to Wufenpu Shopping District, famous for its Garment Wholesale Area. We took the MRT to Songshan Station. It started to rain when we reached and the temperature dropped to 20 degrees.

 

After walking through the shopping district and eventually bought the jumper my little brother yearned for, we travelled back to Xinyi district for dinner, at the same restaurant as last night.

April 11th, 2019

We visited the National Palace Museum, Shilin District, travelling by the MRT and bus. The museum showcased Chang Dai-chien’s art, celebrating his 120th anniversary of birth. I bought some bookmarks for myself.

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We had our lunch at the Silk Palace Restaurant, which somehow had a Muslim-friendly menu. We ordered some noodles and a plate of vegetables.

For our prayer, we headed back to Taipei Main Station, which provides a small prayer room for Muslims. Although, we had to walk to the nearest toilet for ablution/wudhu’. They provided some sort of an ablution space in the disabled toilet room so those who needs to take wudhu’ can ask the cleaning lady for the keys as that particular toilet are always locked.

After our prayer, we spent some time shopping at the Taipei City Mall, located at the underground of the Taipei Main Station. The shops sell a wide range of goods such as garments, toys & games, souvenirs, phones etc. I ended up buying some souvenir key-chains and fridge magnets from one of the shops.

For dinner, we proceeded to NingXia night market in Datong District. It rained quite heavily so we had to buy ourselves raincoats for 20 NTD each. That was the first time ever that I did my shopping in a night market in a plastic raincoat under rain (#gigih). Since it was raining, a few number of stalls were closed so there were not much choice for food. Regardless, we had our fun in the rain.

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April 12th, 2019

It was super windy when we were at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. The place was crowded with tourist too. It was too packed that we could not really enjoy the marching performance in the memorial hall but to view it from another tourist’ phone, behind a whole bunch of people. We did saw the statue though, which is huge.

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After taking photos like nobody’s business, we went to get ourselves lunch at Chang’s Beef Noodle in Zhongzheng District. We also bought some Taiwanese famous snacks aka the Pineapple Cakes as souvenirs from Vigor Kobo. They sell Halal cakes.

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We took the MRT back to Taipei 101 to enjoy the view from the observatory. Luckily, my sister decided to buy the Priority Pass so we did not have to queue up and wait for a long time. The Priority Pass costs around RM 135.00. It’s actually funny that I’ve never set foot on the KL Tower or Petronas Twin Towers observatory, but I’ve been to Taipei 101’s.

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Despite the cold weather, we went to Ice Monster in Shinkong Mitsukashi. It’s basically one of the best shaved ice dessert in Taiwan. They tasted good.

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For dinner, we went to Hui Guan in Songshan District. We decided to ride the MRT so we had to do a lot of walking to reach the restaurant and back to the MRT station, in the cold.

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the only photo out of the many dishes in my phone LOL

 

April 13th, 2019

Packed our bags for departure. Spent more NTDs at the airport, for last minute shopping. Our flight reached Kuala Lumpur at around 9pm.

In a nutshell, I think the experience would be different if I traveled to the deeper parts of Taiwan like Jiufen, Kaohsiung etc where nature is the main attraction. Taipei is pretty much like every other city in the world. It’s a concrete jungle, with efficient public transportation system and clean streets which are also bicycle friendly. The people there are relatively nice, although some sellers were pretty ‘harsh’ with their words especially the old ones. Since we opted for Taiwanese cuisine, they dont have a wide range of Halal food, which is totally understandable.

It was fun and I got to break free from the pressure at work, even if it was just for 4 days. And now I’m back at the seemingly never-ending work load plus the extra hours in the office.

Nevertheless, here’s to more wanderings in the future.

P/S: I was really enjoying the moments with my family hence the lack of photos. 

Travelog: Japan.

*This is my first travelog. All the pictures I took were either using my sister’s Nikon 1 series or my phone, Huawei P9 (in Panorama mode). Kindly excuse my poor photo-taking skills. 

So, I’ve been aching to write this as soon as the plane landed in KLIA2 but yeah. I guess I’ve been postponing as my heart felt heavy somehow. Because I know I’ll be missing Japan. I knew it right away on my last day there. And I’m still missing Japan now.

Writing this while listening to Radwimps make it worse though. But I cant help it.

Basically, I joined the company trip to Japan, specifically Osaka & Kyoto, spanning for 5 days, starting on the 30th of November to 5th of December. Our flight was at 2.00am and we reached Kansai International Airport around 8.00am in the morning. From there on, we rode the bus, who was driven by a Japanese Ojii-san called Yoneda-san (or something that sounded similar, I really forget about his name though), who was apparently around 66-years old but looked 40. He was our dedicated bus driver for the whole 5 days we were there.

Day 1

Anyways, from the airport we went straight to Nara Deer Park, which is one of the main attractions to tourists. I honestly thought that the deers would have antlers, but somehow they did not have any, at least not at the area I went to. Anyways, I did not buy any biscuits to feed them but I did get to pat them on the heads (I’m not sure if they were supposed to be patted on the heads like cats) and they were really really tame.

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Shika-chan

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Look at the those leaves!

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Shikas just chillin’

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Lunch

From Nara, we went to the Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in Eastern Kyoto. We had to walk up a hilly street surrounded by shops on the sides. Apparently, the Kiyomizu-dera was undergoing some sort of a renovation so the view was quite ‘scarred’ there. Our guide bought us tickets so we could walk in, which was really nothing special as it was pretty dark we could barely see anything and like major parts of the temple was closed for renovation works.

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You can see there’s some renovation works

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The entry ticket

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Walkin’ around

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Still walkin’ around

After walking around and taking photos like nobody’s business, we walked back down. And it was around 5.00pm but it gets dark fast in Japan, so it felt like it was 7.00pm. As I walked down, I heard this Japanese promoter speaking in Malay, ‘mari mari, cuba cuba‘ (come and try) while holding a tray of Mochi. And I was quite shocked so I went to him and asked if I could try any, worrying that it might not be Halal and he was like ‘yes, yes, daijoubu’ which I knew meant ‘it’s okay’. So, I tried some but did not buy any lol.

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Street facing the Kiyomizu-dera

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Bustling

Instead, at like 10 degrees celcius, I bought a Matcha Vanilla mixed sundae, which cost me 300 yen. My hands were almost frozen by then. Bad idea, but the taste was totally worth it.

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Only remembered to take photos after eating half-way

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Dinner

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Bumped into Kyoto Tower after dinner

We spent the night at Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo.

 Day 2

We had to pack our things in the morning and went to Kinkaku-ji, another Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Got our tickets and took photos. The scenery was amazing and it would definitely be a great place for wedding photo shoots. Since we went there in the morning, it was super cold I had to wear my gloves but eventually took it off to take pictures.

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Entrance pathway

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Look at the reflection though

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Scattering leaves

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The trees though

Next, we went to Arashiyama, a bamboo forest. Another beautiful venue for wedding photo shoots. Anyways, we were pretty much scattered here, as some of us decided that it was boring and walked back to the restaurant we’ll have our lunch in and some of us was really into taking hundreds of photos. This is where I decided to walk by myself, back to the our supposedly meeting place at the restaurant. Bored of waiting on the others who were busy taking shots, I decided to walked ahead of them, thinking that they saw me (they did not and ended up wondering where the heck I went to). So I walked through the bustling street, amongst a group of Japanese school boys, which really put me out of place. As the directions to the restaurant were obvious enough, I reached there, bumping into my boss who were slightly angry that I walked alone, worrying that I might get lost.

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Too many people to comfortably snap photos

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People again

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The lake nearby

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Vegetarian lunch

We spent the night at Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel, which was located somewhere within the vicinity of the Kanazawa city. Hence, after checking in, we took a stroll along the streets clad in our jackets as it was 8 degrees celcius. It was here that I saw a man who looked like a street beggar, holding a guitar with a cardboard on the pavement and some coins scattered on it. He saw us and spoke in Japanese, of course in words we could not comprehend. And he raised his palm to me, like trying to get a ‘high-five’ or something but I ignored it. And I felt bad but oh well.

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Buffet dinner

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Night life

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Exploring Kanazawa city

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I love the lights

Day 3

We were honestly pretty excited for this day as we were about to go to Shirakawa-go and from our research it was supposed to snow there.

Before travelling to Shirakawa-go, we went to to the Omicho market in Kanazawa in the morning. It was 4 degrees celcius, the coldest temperature we experienced from all 5 days we were in Japan. Basically, it was a seafood market, with lots of fishes and crabs and squids etc. We did not buy any of those, so we just strolled through in the cold.

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Omicho market

From Omicho market, we went to Kenroku-en Garden. We did not get to fully explore the whole place as it was huge. We get to take pictures with breath-taking backgrounds though.

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Entry Ticket

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Breath-taking landscape

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You can see the city

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The sun was right on time

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Beautiful

Next stop was Shirakawa-go. It took like 3 to 4 hours to reach there from Kanazawa. I used those hours to start reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and successfully reached half of the book.

Anyways, Shirakawa-go was super awesome. It did not snow like we had gleefully expected, which made it quite disappointing to most of us who wanted to enjoy the snow. Regardless, it was still cold. Somehow, the snow just decided to melt when we reached, and we could see like bunches of snow by the roads. Funny thing was, it began snowing again the day after we left, which made it far more disappointing. Well, luck was not really in our favor I guess.

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Lunch

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Road leading to the village

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At the village

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Calming

We get to climb up the hill to get a better view of the village. It was tiring but the view was perfect. And looking at some couples who were taking pictures together up top, I could not help but to fell a tinge of loneliness in my heart. But you know what, someday in the future I might just be taking pictures at the same spot, with someone really special by my side.

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Climbing up was totally worth it

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View from the hill

From Shirakawa-go, we had a brief stop at Takayama and went for some speed shopping at the Old Town. A group of us Muslims was just enjoying the architecture and the view of the old shops as most of the shops were famous for sake.

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Maneki Neko I found outside one of the shops

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Some historical facts

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Almost dark

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It was already dark

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Dinner

We spent the night at Gifu Miyako hotel, overlooking the Nagaragawa River.

Day 4

We travelled back to Osaka in the morning, that took us 3 hours plus.

We went to the Osaka Castle, which was full of people. Well, honestly, it was full of Santa Claus because all our eyes could see were probably hundreds of people in Santa Claus’s costume. They probably held a Santa Claus marathon thingy or something as they each wore their numbers on the costumes.

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Excuse the man’s head

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An army of Santa Claus

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View of the city

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Lunch

We went to Shinsaibashi and spent almost 4 hours there, just for shopping. Being in Shinsaibashi somehow reminded me of our Malaysia’s own Petaling Street and maybe Bukit Bintang. It was super hectic with foreigners and Japanese alike, we could barely walk without bumping into each other’s shoulders. Anyways, I could really say that 4 hours was super insufficient to thoroughly explore the shops. With the 4 hours, I only had time to explore one side of the two major shopping section. My leg was protesting like mad by the the time the 4 hour mark was up.

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Shinsaibashi street

 

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The shop name boards are really creative

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A ‘must’ photo venue

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Nino spotted

 

I bought some chocolates (Kit Kat, Meiji), a couple of collectible Takara Tomy toy cars to add to my mom’s collection of toy cars at home and some bookmark for myself as well as a book jacket for my sister. The paper store, where I bought the bookmarks sold a wide range of Japanese postcards and papers that I had a hard time controlling myself from spending a huge amount of yen on them. The bookmarks were so beautiful and exquisite as well. I did not jot down the name of the shop though. But it was very near to 3COINS.

We spent the night at Osaka Tokyu Rei hotel.

Day 5 

It was our last day in Japan. We get some free time before our departure to Kansai International Airport for our flight back to Malaysia.

We used the remaining time in the morning for last-minute shopping around the hotel area. We spent some time walking through the streets while waiting for the shops to open. Some of us went to Uniqlo to shop (apparently some items were cheaper than those sold in Malaysia), while others was scattered everywhere nearby. We had to find ourselves lunch before our departure so us Muslims ended up going into Lawson and munched on some Onigiri.

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Strolling for last minute shopping

We depart to Kansai International Airport at 1.00pm. I had some luck finding some mochi at the duty free airport shop, with the help of Japanese promoter who could speak English. She helped me inspect the ingredients of the mochi before recommending them to me, which was really kind of her to do.

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Gloomy, just like my mood

 

We boarded our flight at around 4.00pm and reached KLIA2 at 10.30pm.

All in all, it was an amazing trip. It was definitely my first time to Japan and it felt like home. I was very impressed with the politeness of the people with their never-ending greetings, the cleanliness of the streets, the fact that their toilets have water with deodorizer and warm toilet seats during winter, the small amount of traffic on roads, the efficiency of the traffic lights and availability of convenient pedestrian crossing AND cycling routes. The scenery on the other hand, was to die for, literally. Who would not love Japan, really?

I used to dream to travel to Japan. Back when I was consistently and religiously catching up on Naruto, Bleach, Detective Conan and all the other Japanese mangas, animes and J-dramas, my biggest wish was to go to Japan.

Flash forward 8 years later, dreams do come true.

I wish I could stay in Japan forever. Like leave everything behind and start fresh. But yeah, reality check. Maybe someday, I’ll have the courage to do so.

Or, I’ll just went back and enjoy my time once again, like I did the first time.

Till next time, Japan. Otsukaresama deshita.