Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best of 2009

It's coming to the end of 2009, and I only managed one long trip (2 weeks) to Morocco, and several short trips round the region (Fraser Hill, Hongkong/Macau, Bali). Nevertheless, there are images that have left lasting impression in me, and I would like to share some of these favourite travel images of 2009.
Happy travels in 2010!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Otaru (小樽) is a small port city northwest of Sapporo in Hokkaido Japan. It is only about half an hour by train from Sapporo, and thus it is a popular day trip for many. In winter, there are also ski-slopes at Mt Tengu and special winter festivals to further entice you here.

But what left a deep impression in me when in Otaru is the music boxes that they have here. Besides the Otaru Music Box Museum, there are also pockets of little shops around that also specialises in music boxes. When you step into these shops, you enter a world of crisp clear melodies that seems to twinkle your worries away. Coupled with Japanese quality craftsmanship, intricate, exquisite and/or kawaii designs, it was an absolute delight browsing through the museum and shops.
Your music box is also "customised". You can browse through a huge selection of tunes available and choose one that you would like to have in your music box. Then you can choose your favourite music box. In a couple of minutes, the staff will have your customised music box handed to you. Sweet. And if you just love the music box melodies, you can purchase their music CDs too!

While the famous Otaru canal is Otaru's most famous landmark and attraction, it's the music boxes and its melodies that left the most impact to me, not just on my ears but in my heart!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ubud, Bali

In the middle of the island of Bali lies a town that has resisted somewhat to changes that fame had brought to the island. Ubud has remained largely laid-back, and while many resorts and villas have upgraded in terms of facilities, the services are still friendly and cosy.

Surrounded by pretty rice paddy fields, central Ubud makes an excellent base for Bali exploration. Whether it's the mountains to the north or the beaches to the south, transport arrangements can be easily made. Backpacker friendly outlets are also abundant, and the town itself is also well known for its arts and culture. Also, right at the edge of town, there is a simple walk/hike that brings you right into the heart of the rice paddy fields. An activity I would consider a must-do in Ubud! And of course, loads of spa and massage shops to choose from, to complete your day!

My first visit to Bali, and I must say, Ubud impresses!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mount Batur, Bali

It was again, one of those unplanned things. While I could be lazing at one of the beaches in Bali before my flight home, I decided, instead, to do something more active. And so, I decided to summit a volcano.

Mount Batur is an active volcano in Bali, and is one of the easiest ones to climb. It's last eruption was in 1804, and while active, you won't be seeing any red flowing lava :). We were picked up at our villa in Ubud at 3am, and the journey to the start of the trek takes about 1 hour. When we arrive, there were already several groups preparing to set off. The air is cool and slightly chilly, which is really great for the trek. The initial part was a really nice walk, until the actual ascent. While the slope is gradual, the ground is covered with many small rocks which makes it easy to slide and slip. However, slow and steady, we eventually reach the summit.

At 6am, the sky has already brightened but it was really misty. While waiting for the sun is rise above Mount Agung, there is a concrete shelter built up there where food and drinks can be bought. Once the sun burst out of the mountain range, our guide brought us around to show us some steaming fissures and caverns, although I had a hard time trying to understand his English. The descent started at 7-ish through the same ascent route, and before 9am, we were back to our transport, ready to go back to Ubud. Afterwhich, a bath, some sleep, before catching my afternoon flight back to Singapore......