Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Street paddlers hustling a gwailo

I was in Hanoi sometime in September. This was a personal trip. I did know much about the city, and this was my first time to Vietnam. Hanoi was almost like every other ASEAN cities, with dusty roads and crowded building filled with shops and the roadstalls, where the Hanois eat their daily meals, perched on low stools.

Midday meal by the roadside

I've also discovered that Hanoi retained some of the French influences in its everyday life. From the casual manner in which baguettes are sold by the roadside, to the small French cafes dotted around the city and the exquisite embroideries on linens.

Halong Bay
On our third day, me and mum visited Halong Bay. The journey takes about 2+ hours out of town. The roads were bumpy once we get closer to the countryside. Then we took a junk out to Halong Bay, which was maybe about 45 minutes out from the jetty.

The junk

Our junk inching closer to the entrance of Halong Bay

Voila! Halong Bay.

Oddly this is a scenery that I've set my eyes on before. If you've been to Langkawi at Sg Kilim, this is the exact scenery that you can see.

Fruit paddler catching up on us via bot, then my mum bought some bananas

Fruits paddler at the makeshift jetty, using a traditional boat.

Fresh seafood for our lunch onboard the junk

Bevy of activities as tourists were ushered to the smaller boats for cave exploration

Same like in Langkawi!

Island of Man

The famous fighting cocks island

Halong Bay

Too bad I didn't have the chance to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Next time, I would like to visit Ho Chi Minh city, I hear the embroideries are much cheaper than Hanoi.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

New Moon

I've read the book, and I've seen the movie. I hated both of it. The movie was too long and to many mushy moments that made me rolled my eyes. But being a fan of the original Twilight movie, I forced myself to finish both the book and the movie.

Twilight defies all the typical traits of a vampire such as sleeping during the day and hunting at night, they become creatures that never sleep and that if they were exposed to the sun, their skin twinkle like diamonds. New Moon just takes the absurdity up a notch. Jacob turns into a werewolf, joining a pack of werewolves, who were to protect the area from vampires. Bella is so clumsy, you could not believe how a pretty girl like her is so dumb and weak. She is the typical damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued. She got both a vampire and a werewolf vying for her love, but she loves the undead even more. Bella's father, Charlie the Sheriff, is so clueless about Bella and what's happening with her life. On his defense, how was he suppose to know that vampires exists? Heh.

I am still a sucker for vampire stories/movies.

By the way, Taylor Lautner/Jacob Black is hot.

Go Team Jacob:)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

My Sister's Keeper

Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper

I have just finished reading this book last weekend. Verdict: Awesome! Can't wait to see the movie version. I especially love the style of writing - light and fast paced, even though the whole book revolved around issues like family relationship, lawsuit, designer babies, organ donation, sickness and death. Yes, all in one book.

Contain spoilers.

The story is about Anna, conceived as a perfect DNA match for her sister, Kate who suffers from a rare form of leukemia. Anna, who is 13, wants to seek medical emancipation from her parents because she feels that her body was being used to save Kate without her total consent. She is torn between saving her sister and also saving her own life. She is torn between loyalty and love to her family but freedom to her own body. What brought her to this decision was because Kate's condition grew worse and the only solution is to harvest a kidney from Anna. Anna feels a violation of her own body but have no choice but to go along with her parents' suggestions. This is basically the premise of the story.

The story gives the reader a lot to think about. Saving a life is important but one must also think about saving oneself or should we put these selfish thoughts away and save the one we love selflessly and unconditionally? Perhaps Anna feels these things because she is young and felt that life had been unfair to her, all she wants is a normal childhood and that her parents would love her rather than just look at her as a cattle for harvest.

Being parents are hard. But being parents to terminally sick child is hard work. They have to make hard and unpopular choices just to save their child. But will this be a conflict of interest when they use their other child to save their sick child? Would you have another child just to harvest her organs to save her sister? Isn't that ethically wrong? I feel that this was not explored thoroughly in the book, but was covered by so much drama going around with the lawsuit, the complexity of the trial because Anna's mother, Sara was a lawyer and became the defence attorney against her daughter, everybody's emotion in the story, the subplot about the lawyer and guidance counselor, etc. I feel that Sara is concerned only about saving Kate but neglect both Anna and her oldest son, Jesse, who become rebellious and started to become an arsonist.

But read the book to find out more about the story and how it ends. It has a surprising twist , but still a sad ending. The ending is a convenient ending, I must say, because everything just falls into place. You either love or hate the ending. I did not like the ending, but I suppose it gives hope to something which feels impossible at first glance.

But Cameron Diaz as the mother??? I don't think she is suited to play a mother, but I might be wrong. I still want to see the movie and see if it is as good as the book.

Now reading another of Jodi Picoult's book: Second Glance.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Frolicking in Firenze

Santa Maria Del Fiore - front

Firenze or Florence is a dream destination for any tourisst who loves art. It has gothic bulidings and rich with history and culture dated back during the time of great artists like Michelangelo, Leornado Da Vinci, Boticelli. The great Galleria Uffizzi which housed the works of arts such as paintings and sculptures by those great artists was already functioned as a gallery sometime in 1550. Its amazing to discover that some works of arts were done as early as 1100, to see those life like paintings, its very eerie and magnificient at the same time. Those days people don't have camera or video, so they value works of arts that capture the imagination and the life like qualities.

I was there attending a conference in early November. It was already very cold and windy, less than 10 degrees during the day and at night maybe about 1-2 degrees. The wind bit my skin, and I had to cover my face with cream and scarf. I was wearing long johns and had to bought some scarf and mittens in Florence to keep me warmer.

Santa Maria Del Fiore

The three buildings above are part of UNESCO World heritage buildings
Left: Baptistery (minor basilica) is one of the oldest building in Florence, was built in 1059-1128
Middle: Facade of the cathedral of the Santa Maria del Fiore made from red, white & green marble
Right: Giotto's companile (giotto's bell tower)

The dome was designed by Fillipe Brunelleschi in 1296
We had to pay Euro8 to climb up to the top of the dome, which contained more than 400 steps!

To reach the dome took more than 400 very narrow steps to reach the top for a breath taking view of Florence. Not advisable for those who suffer from claustrophobia and acrophobia.

Enjoying the view from the height...

Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" 1486.

I have seen this painting upclose and it is magnificient and more beautiful than this replica. The actual painting is quite huge, covering more than 1/3 of one of the wall at the Galleria Ufizzi in Florence.

Street artist recreating Vermeer's "Girl with A Pearl Earring"

Across the river Arno

Our dinner - halal kebab everynight! Costs about Euro5 each

Leather jackets made from lamb skin can be bought at Euro120

Ponte Vecchio, "ponte" meaning bridge used to be a butcher's market but now turned to a shopping are especially on jewellery.

Replica of the statue of David by Michelangelo at Palazzo Vecchio (city hall of Florence). This is the orginal place where the statue was erected. The orginal statue was moved in 1873 to the Galleria del Academia to protect it from deteriorating.

Yours truly in front of another naked statue in Florence :p
The Fountain of Neptune

Florence is the best city that I'd ever reached in Europe. To me it is ideal as a tourist destinations because everything is within walking distance, the gallerias have superb art collection, and everywhere you walk you feel that you are transported back in time, and can totally imagine the great artists working at their new paintings or sculptures...

I would love to go back to Florence for another visit...