Friday, December 28, 2007

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Let's go to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (named after a British Surveyor of the 1880s). First, let's visit the tea plantation. A British man started the tea plantation in Cameron Highlands in 1929. He named it the Boh Plantations totaling an area of 1200 hectares which accounted for 70% of the total tea production in Malaysia. The plantations produce about 4 million kg or 8.8 million pounds of tea annually which can make approximately 5.5 million cups of tea a day!

Here is the picture of a woman prunning the tender tea leaves with a pair of shearers that has an orange funnel like gadget attached to it. The leaves that she prunned will be trapped into the funnel and she then threw them over her head into the huge basket hanging on her back. The tea leaves are ready for picking 2 years after planting and the same bush is picked once every 3 weeks. I asked how many years of good tea leaves can a tea bush produce and if my memory doesn't fail me, it's either 16 or 26 years.
For those who are interested to know the tea processing details, click here. Other attractions in Camerion Highlands include the Strawberry Farms, Flower Nurseries, Markets, Vegetable Farms, Butterfly Farms, etc. which I do not have all the pictures, but you can find them here.

I would like to share with you the cacti farm. I had never seen so many cacti in my life. The center of attraction was a cactus which was 25 years old. Compare its size to my hand and arms.

You will not be left out on your food. Steam boat (hot pot) is very popular. I like my hot pot with lots of vegetables. This is a modern hot pot using gas with the soup in the pot and the raw meat, seafood, etc. on the table Picture from Wikipedia.

The steamboat below is outdated. It uses charcoal so you see the fire coming from the center. The outer ring is filled with soup which you cook your food when it boils.
Picture Source.

If you have a group, you may want to book for chalets or a bungalow depending on the size you need. There are some hotels there too. I went there a few times and we organized a church retreat there once where the guys planned on playing golf. Unfortunately, the king booked the whole golf course and the guys were disappointed. So we had time to go to places like the waterfalls and walked around the market.

On one occasion, I went on a small jeep and was driven from the bottom to the hill top terrain. I closed my eyes and prayed for our safety so I did not take any pictures to show you. We were cornering or going in circles as we went higher and higher up. I was afraid we would slide downhill. I wonder how the farmers did that for a living traveling up and down constantly on the hills with steep gradients. I wasn't sure whether I would survive on one ride up and down.

Other activities you can do in Cameron Highlands are camping, jungle treking, and mountain hiking besides golfing. My husband simply likes the cool highlands.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Virginia Beach, USA

Last week I worked at Virginia Beach. If you love the ocean, here are some pictures which you may like. Below is a picture which I took from my room balcony overlooking the ocean. The whole stretch of beach is occupied by hotels. During the day, you find people walking along the narrow alley.

Below is a statue and I have no idea whether it is a sand or solid statue. It was too windy to walk close to it. I don't understand why we have machines working at the beach. I had to rush for work and did not stay long enough to watch.

If you want to see the scene in summer, navigate the side bar for more pictures on this site. You will see how crowded the beach is. It is very clean and sandy. There is plenty of room to get your tan. Summer is a hot season and certainly the hotel rooms would cost more. If you like the beach, it's the experience that counts.

I went in search of seafood along Atlantic Avenue. Most of them close early in winter. My choice of restaurants was more limited as compared to summer. I ordered a seafood platter and paid about $33 for one dinner and $13 for another from two different restaurants. Of course the $33 was much better and more appetizing. I'm not sure whether it would cost more in summer.

Not many people go there for winter. I find the night view more exciting as cars drove slowly to watch the lights. Here are some pictures of the lights.

I like the lights in the form of Cane Sticks surrounded by Pointsettia. I think they are very pretty.

Hope you enjoy the lights from Virginia Beach. Merry Christmas to all of you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tumbulgum Farm, Australia

Welcome to Tumbulgum Farm in Western Australia! It has an area of about 80 hectares and is an award winning tourist attraction. See the cultural experience including Farm and Aboriginal shows, BBQ lunches, Aboriginal gallery and displays. There are interactive shows that give tourists hands-on experience as well. The history of the farm is interesting.

The farm shows include Australian sheep dogs at work where they respond to different sounds as intructions to do different tasks. Also watch sheep mustering with the stockman on horseback. I took two pictures at the show which I would like to share with you as below.

See the picture of sheep shearing. The suspension loop around the shearer's body serves specific functions such as control and protect his back (if I remember correctly). The sheep is meek and not difficult to handle. Probably the shearer's experience makes him efficient. He did not take long to do a good job. I would make a mess shearing my husband's hair let alone so much work on a sheep.

Here I am trying to milk "Bernie" the cow in an old-fashioned way. Hey, I need a bucket to collect the milk!

If you want to see more pictures and activities on the farm, here is the photo gallery. Enjoy the fun from the pictures. Then go for a traditional billy tea and Australian damper.

How do you like the Australian Farm experience!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia

Let’s guess what you can find other than butterflies on the Butterfly Farm in Penang, Malaysia.

As the name implies, it's not surprising that the Butterfly Farm has possibly close to 4,000 butterflies from over 120 species flying along the footpath around the enclosed landscaped garden. They like to rest on colorful flowers, plants and even rock surfaces. The lifespan of each butterfly is approximately 2 weeks! You may have a chance to see a female butterfly trying to lay eggs.

Besides the butterflies, you will be able to see white tree squirrels, scorpions, millipedes, snakes, iguana, lizards, oriental water dragon, ducks, tortoise, finches, insect museum, etc. There is a little insect zoo where you will see different kinds of bugs.

The most unique bug which I am introducing to you today is the human face bug. I saw a face bug crawling on a branch. See picture below.

Here is the picture of a female face bug guarding its eggs.

Now you should be able to differentiate between the male and female face bug from the picture below.

The moving leaf bug is also something unique which I had never seen elsewhere in my entire life. Take a look at it below:

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Oldest City in the World, Bremen

Let's see the oldest city, in the world, Bremen, Germany (source: Wikipedia). It is a port city and I went there to follow up on a marine insurance claim. The best way to see the city is by bicycles. There are guided cycling tours too. I walked. I met cyclists cycling to work and back from work. Most of them speak good English. The overhead bridges are bicycle friendly with a flat surface at the side for the cyclists to push their bikes without dragging over the steps. You can find some information on the cycling tour here.

According to Wikipedia , Bremen is the tenth populous city in Germany. It is situated along River Weser about 60km (or 57mi) south from the mouth of Weser from the North Sea. It is the longest river to reach the sea.

River Weser has cruises and you can see some beautiful views along it. There is a list of attraction including different kinds of cruises here . I crossed a bridge from the hotel to the insurance company and took the picture below.

Below is another picture along the river view from the Stephani-Bridge in the direction of the Cathedral
Picture Source

The hotel management recommended me to visit Rathaus Dom Buergerschaft which means Bremen town hall, St. Peter's Cathedral and parliament if I remember correctly.

Picture Source

I like this old but pretty windmill at the Bremen Rose Garden which has a very nice landscape surrounding it. You can see it from the main road.

Although there are many old buildings, they are well maintained to preserve its historical heritage.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Treble Cone Ski Resort, New Zealand.

After Mt. Cook,, my siblings and I proceeded to Treble Cone, Wanaka Ski Resort. It has a skiable terrain of 550 hectares (1359 acres) with the summit height of 2100m (6888 ft). The terrain is divided into 3 different grades; 15% beginner, 45% intermediate and 40% advanced.

It had a total lift capacity of 6200 people per hour with 4 different types of lifts;
1) 1 Six seater high speed detachable chairlift
2) 1 double chair lift
3) 2 T-bars
4) 1 Platter

First of all, we went for a ski tour. Here we are at the top end of the six seater high speed detachable chairlift line. You can see a man behind us who just got off from a chair lift and he was all ready to ski.

Now we are at the advanced ski terrain and made way for those experts who came by so swiftly though we knew they would know how to avoid hurting us.

Then we toured the facility. Below is a bird's eye view of the ski equipment rental building, restaurant, etc. which we took while we were on the chair lift.

It was our first ski adventure and we had to enroll at the Ski and Snowboard School. Here we are waiting for our instructor.

We learned to balance ourselves, glide, turn, and stop. Then we pulled one of the T-bars and rode to a higher elevation for beginners.

My sister who was in front of me called for help as she wasn't sure whether she knew how to get off the T-bar safely. Our instructor took this picture of me at the same time. We must have driven him up the wall.

Now is the fun time. I was like a Humpty Dumpty who had too many great falls. I knew the the DOs and DON'Ts but knowing is different from doing. See how I progressed. This was how I started by maintaining a slight inverted V and learned to stop as well.

As I progressed, my feet are now parallel to each other.

I'm about to make a V, ready to crash and fall like the man on the right!

My sister did a good job balancing as she bent her knees and use her hips skillfully. My brother has always been above average in sports so we could not compare. I was the worst ski student. My instructor fell along with me at one time. Look how I was about to knock him down.

It was already 4:30pm and I was on my way to remove the glasses and return them along with all other ski equipment.

We wasted one rainny day and ran out of time. So we did not make it further south to Milford Sound. If you are planning to visit New Zealand, try not to miss Milford Sound.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Picture Source

Let's climb the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was built in 1932 and was not opened for climbing for about 7 decades. I am glad to be able to climb it. Here I am, with my waist strapped to the railing standing on the catwalk at the summit of the bridge. I am the last lady on the front row. I was so excited and happy that I made it! Can you see the Opera House behind us?

The above picture was taken by the Bridge Climb tour operator. All our personal belongings including our clothes, watch, jewelry and camera had to be stored in our personal locker during the climb.

For those who have children, bear in mind that all climbers must be above 12 years old. Those between 12-16 years old have to be accompanied by an adult.

Upon registration and payment for the climb, you will attend a briefing and simulation. Each of you will be strapped around the waist with a metal gadget that will lock and glide onto the railing throughout the climb. You have to watch it as you turn.

The above diagram is an illustration of 3 main points. Number 4 is the start of the climb from the eastern arch. Number 5 is the summit of the bridge where your group picture will be taken. After you have reached the summit, you will cross the bridge and return from the western arch at number 6.

You will see cars, road and water below you. If you have a phobia for heights, try to concentrate on the climb and don't look down.

At the end of the climb, you will receive a climb certificate and purchase the photos of your choice.

I enjoy the adventure. I hope that you will enjoy it too.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sheepdog At Work in New Zealand!

My siblings and I were very excited to get to our next destination at Mt.Cook, New Zealand. We had driven a long way from Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and then crossed a ferry to Picton (the car cost alot to cross between islands on the ferry. If you have time, pick up another car on the other island). Below is a map which will give you a better picture of places. Picton is the ferry terminal on the south island of NZ.
Map Source

After Christchurch, we proceeded to Mt. Cook. My brother was driving and suddenly he stopped and woke us up from our nap when he exclaimed, "Oh, sheep jam!"

The sheep occupied the whole road and then came a black sheepdog to herd hundreds of sheep to the side of the road. There was no human shepherd. As we waited for the dog to clear the sheep off the road, we started to take pictures. We were amazed by what we saw. Seeing is believing.

Later we drove passed a building that sold fruits. We pulled our rented car by the side of a barn and was greeted by a friendly dog which wagged its tail. As we walked to the stall where all the fruits, money and weighing scales were, the dog barked and disappeared almost instantly and got its owner out. We asked questions and learned that the sheepdog is a rare breed that herds the sheep by its "voice." We forgot to ask whether her dog at the fruit stall was also a sheepdog.

In New Zealand dogs are widely trainned to herd the sheep and cattle in huge farms. It's not surprising because there are about 75 million sheep and only 4 million people. Dogs can learn to do human tasks. They run faster than humans. There is no need to pay for its salary or health insurance. Just take good care of it and feed it well and you get a good job done without having to deal with labor or union issues. How smart and efficient!

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

London Bridge

When I went to London sometime in summer, it rainned throughout the day for the whole week. So I bought a T-shirt which showed "rainning in London." I waited for a long time to get in, and took some indoor pictures of the great wax figures at the Madam Tussard`s Wax Museum but I'm not proud to show them.

This is the picture of the real London Bridge. Sorry that I could not do anything about the rain and gloomy weather.

The London Bridge has a long history. It has been rebuilt a few times. The present bridge we see today was constructed from 1967 to 1972, and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973. It is 928 feet (283 m) long and cost £4 million. For more details and history ob the bridge, click here. The tower part of the bridge called Tower Bridge, opens up in the center to allow ships to pass through. You can see the pictures of how it opens and shuts here.

Some countries built replicas of the Tower Bridge for tourist attraction. The sunny weather and blue sky provide a sharp shot. The one below is in Shenzhen, China just across the channel from Hong Kong. There is another one in Taiwan.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Boat House

Well, the cable cars from my previous post is located in Ocean Park in Hongkong. The park is enormous. You find several long excalators too.

Moving away from the modern city, you will find some secluded homes on boats. The boats are their homes!

If you visit a Chinese restaurant in the US, chances are you may find a picture of the floating Jumbo Restaurant hanging on the wall. The food at Jumbo is so good but you must be willing to pay for the price. Take a ride further behind the restaurant and you will find the boat houses.

What a contrast between the restaurant in the fore front and the floating houses behind it.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cable Cars

Can you guess these cable cars are in which country? You are invited to make a guess.

If there are comments on this post, I will share more story.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Unique City of Venice

Let's go to Venice! After a day's tour in Rome, I left for Venice by the night train. Venice is a magnificient, unique lagoon city with several islands interconnected by bridges and canals. It's amazing to note how a swampy region could become a world famous tourist attraction destination.

Picture Source

After I left the railway station, I came to a huge terrace with youths loitering around the steps. I looked at some sovenir items, got a Venice tourist map and then strolled on my own because it was already too late to join a tour.

The map below will give you a bird's eye view of the city of Venice and the waterbodies around it. Map Source

For those who are interestd to know about the Origins and History of Venice click here.

I lost count of the number of bridges and churches. I walked a long way to look for food, got lost after I found it as I was mixed up with the bridges. Rice and pasta were sold by the weight (in grams). The pasta was pretty good. I did not like the rice too much.

The buildings are quite close between certain stretch but boats can still make their way through the narrow waterways.

This section is broader and different kinds of boat berthed at the sides. A boat selling fresh fruits came by. I saw some strange fruits for the first time in my life.

There are many monuments such as the San Marco Square, the Rialto Bridge, the St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace and the prison adjoining it, some churches and their heritage, etc. St. Mark's Basilica is a popular tourist spot in Venice. It has a Byzantine architecure (picture below).
Picture Source

It would have been better to join a tour so that a tour guide would explain more interesting story about the history, buildings and monuments. Most tourists like to take a boat cruise on the Grand Canal or gondolas. The gondola rides are known to be pretty costly. Below is a picture of the gondola.

Find more information on Gondolas and other Boats

In the evening and at night, the atmosphere was very romantic. The lamp lights, the bright stars in the sky, the romantic lighting on the gondolas, the sound of the music coming from the gondolas in line, the sight of well-dressed rowers on "red carpet" entertaining couples on each gondolas were like a festival beyond description. I took some pictures but none of the night shots turn out. I can only share the vivid memory in words.

I would like to go back to Venice for a night's gondola ride with my husband some day. For couples who would like to enjoy the music and romantic evening or night ride on the gondolas, you can go ahead of us and come back to share the photos. Have fun!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Day's Tour in Rome

Welcome to Rome! After my work in Milan, I proceeded to Rome during the weekend break. Rome attracts a few million visitors every year with its rich architecture, history, design and art of different eras. You have to love history and art to appreciate Rome. Here are some of my pictures:Trevi Fountain.
There is a legend that if you toss a coin with your back facing the fountain, you will come back to Rome again. Was I doing that or just acting? I don't remember. What I remember is it took me a while to be able to get this shot. Why? See the crowd in the next picture.

For history and more information on Trevi fountain, click here

Some Sculptures and fountain Somewhere in Rome (See below)

Rome Pantheon, an ancient building (see picture below). Pantheon means "Temple of Many gods" in Greek.

If you are interested to know more about the Pantheon, click here

Better picture of Rome Pantheon:Picture Source

Map Showing the areas of the Vatican City open to Tourists:Map Source with Explanation

Within the city of Rome is a walked enclave known as the Vatican City. The Vatican City came into existence after the Lateran Treaty in 1929. It is ruled by the Pope (the Bishop of Rome).

St Peter’s Square (Piazza) and St Peter Church (Basilica)
St. Peter’s Square is situated in front of St. Peter’s Basilica (church) in Vatican City, Rome. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed and completed the square from 1656 – 1667 as a forecourt to enable the greatest number of people to see the Pope gives his blessing. Bernini also worked on the interior of St. Peter’s for decades. The trapezoidal shape of the square (piazza) created mainly as a result of site constraints from existing structures, has been praised as a masterpiece of Baroque theater because it provides a heightened perspective for a visitor leaving the church. (I paraphrased into one paragraph the information obtained from Well, according to my tour guide, the square is able to accommodate 500,000 people!

Panoramic View of St. Peter’s Square Picture Source

Aerial View of St. Peter SquarePicture Source

Picture of Fountain in St. Peter Square (above). I am not sure what other purpose it may serve other than being decorative.

If you need current information about visiting the Vatican, one of the best sources is here

The St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest Catholic church in the world which is famous for its interior design and architecture as well. It has many pillars. On top of each of the column (pillar) is a full scupture of a saint. Those interested to see the excavations under the church may have to make advance reservations for the tour.

St Peter’s prepared for outdoor Ceremony Picture Source

My picture at the square in front of the church

St Peter Doom Picture Source

The Vatican Museums
The highlights of the museums are the rich collections and culture. My visit to the Sistine Chapel was on the tour package to see famous fresco artwork of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Perugino, etc. You may want to visit the museum website to decide what you want to see in the Vatican.

The Ceiling of Sistine Chapel - Artwork of Michelangelo Picture Source

To learn more about Michaelangelo's work, read his assistant's story here

My professor who taught me art appreciation likes Italy because of its rich art heritage. We also watched a DVD in on the fresco works in Sistine Chapel and its restoration. We laughed when I shared with him that I left the Sistine Chapel within a few minutes after I stepped in. If I have had his class before my visit, I would have been more appreciative of the tour.

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