Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some amazing people who don't exist

A new tag from Amrit - my 10 favourite literary characters...pretty challenging one this for me...Just because I read so bloody much...anyway here goes nothing and I am certain I will be second guessing myself the minute I press that 'publish post' button

1) Aslan - I had to start with my favourite character growing up. The Chronicles of Narnia were my favourite books for a very long time and I loved the character of Aslan. So powerful yet so gentle. So wise yet so mysterious. With an aura that makes everyone love him yet be scared at the same time.

2) Othello - This is one that will forever remain on my list. There is something about this play that makes it my absolute favourite - and this coming from a die hard shakespeare fan says a lot. It's such a tragic story yet I can read it any number of times - and the character of Othello - I want to hate him for he killed his true love, yet I can't help but sympathize. "I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this. Killing myself to die upon a kiss"

3) Karna - Since the Mahabharata is a book I think I can include this here can't I? The best character in the Mahabharata for me - and the only completely honourable one.

4) Josephine March - I can't remember the number of times I have read Little Women and I remember stopping and wondering about being Jo. What a girl...! Though I'm not sure I would have the courage and compassion to make the decisions she did...

5) Elizabeth Bennett - I think when I was in my teens I constantly lived with a hope the world around me would be that of Jane Austen's books. And what better book than Pride and Prejudice and who better to be than Elizabeth Bennett. So full of life, so simple yet complex.

6) Hector - While the world talks about Odysseus and Achilles, the character of Hector to me is the real hero. A great warrior who gave up his life in the war he thought unnecessary.

7) Connor Fitzgerald/Florentyna Kane - I thought at least one character from my favourite author has to be in this list and I can't for the life of me decide which one I like best. Both just amazing characters. Connor is probably the most honourable of any modern characters I can think of - there is something about men that are patriotic and serve their country that i really admire. As for Florentyna Kane - she is the ultimate heroine to me - amazing aspirations which she finally achieves, yet so grounded into her personal life - and with such a beautiful love story too.

8) Ebenezer Scrooge/Miss Havisham - I've always found Dickens' characters fascinating - particularly the ones you want to hate - yet you know there is something else there. I again couldn't pick between these two.

9) Gerry and Holly Kennedy - This is from one of my most recent reads - PS I Love You. I don't know how long it will actually remain on my top 10 - its just that I read the book only a few days ago and as of now am enamored by these characters. I am not usually one for romantic novels but the way these characters are portrayed and the love between them is absolutely beautiful. I kept going back to parts of the book and rereading just because I couldnt let them go. I would have said just Gerry - but it feels so wrong because they should be together - if only in this list.

10) Severus Snape - This one will seem odd to many but I couldn't not put this in because I spent most of the latter half of the series really believing that there was something truly intriguing and inherently good about him. I remember arguing with all and sundry between the release of the 6th and 7th books that Snape was the good guy. And I cried in the 7th book when his past is revealed...and when his character comes to an end. For some reason, I think he is my favourite character of the Harry Potter series.

phew! done

ok i'm pressing publish before i start thinking about this too hard!

I pass the tag on to whoever wants to do it! :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lovely Lovely Halong Bay

I can't stop thinking of this place...it was so incredible. So just to relive the memories - some pictures - during the afternoon, night and early morning


unfortunately my photos dont do justice...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I left with great looking feet and a happy tummy - Kuala Lumpur

Following a trip to Vietnam was my two day stopover in Kuala Lumpur where I had two lovely hosts - a friend from New Zealand and his total sweetheart wife. My trip started with a slight glitch - with a delayed flight - but everything was smooth from there - owe that completely to my hosts!

The first morning I was told that I was going to be taken to a fish spa - what's that you say? So apparently many years ago in some country (I forget where now) someone discovered (I would really like to know how this discovery was made!) that there were certain species of fish that feed on dead skin. So the concept of this spa is you put in your feet and legs (knee down) into a tank of water and the fish will come and eat at your dead skin. Yes I know - scary thought. But then - must try everything once right (that concept should have been thrown out of the window after the Turkish Bath experience!). So I started with the tank with the small fish - I tried not to look down first but when I did I was freaked out - more than a dozen little fish on my feet nibbling!! My friend then went to another tank which had fish up to the size of my palm - there was no way I would try that - apparently women aren't allowed to put their feet in that one more than a minute or two because of sensitive skin. On being dared I put it in for 5 or 10 seconds but no more! Went straight back to my small fish - and sat there for the rest of the half hour without looking down. It wasn't too bad then - just felt like my feet were tingling and vibrating. I have to say the feet did feel really nice after!

Following this very umm interesting experience we went to a local eatery (apparently called kopi shops) and followed up with some shopping. I managed to stick to my resolution of not buying more than one or two pieces anywhere - I had even taken a very small bag on my trip to force that. It was hard but I did it - so proud of myself! Walked around town - saw the Petronas which are more standout in person than any photo I've seen. On to Chinatown for some more walking around and shopping. Oh and another food massage - foot reflexology apparently! I really did come out of KL with my feet in their best shape! Then an indian place for food - where you're served on banana leaves! I definitely ate more than my fair share!!

The next day we went to a place about an hour outside town where there are temples built into caves. So another thing I left KL with is some good Karma - does visiting temples give you good Karma btw? The temples were beautiful and very different from any I had seen. And right outside the caves was this HUGE HUGE statue of Lord Kumaraswamy. Also on the agenda was a tour into a dark cave - which is just that - a dark cave. But it was an interesting experience - for a little while we were told to turn off our flash lights and not make any sound just to experience what the creatures inside do. And wow I never knew such darkness existed.

My last evening was spent relaxing - and eating. And thus ended my short but memorable trip of KL. Again all thanks to my two wonderful hosts!

Yet another country, yet another story - Vietnam

-- I wrote this a few days ago but couldn’t connect then to upload here, and then forgot about it till now --

As I sit here at Hanoi airport waiting for my delayed flight reflecting on the past week the song that plays on my mp3 player is so fitting - 'Yaaron'. Yaaron dosti badi haseen hai, yeh na ho to kya phir bolo zindagi hai. Truly what would life be without friendship. The past few days have been so much fun - great friends, great food and a great new country. What more could you want in a holiday? Except a few more days to stay and savour it. If only…

The trip started in Ho Chi Minh - quite an interesting city but probably not my favourite place in the world. The traffic, the noise, the craziness was possibly a little much for me. It might also be because I sometimes am in denial of the sadness and the pain that the world often sees through war and Ho Chi Minh reminded me of that. The war remnants museum while likely biased towards the Vietnamese was very powerful. The photos of people dying, a lifesize model of a jail cell, a guillotine that was used on thousands - the very idea that these were real people - it shook me. The museum was great no doubt but I'm not sure I could take more than a certain amount of time in there - we walked into the museum a chatty bunch posing in front of the tanks and being silly - but walked out quiet and completely overwhelmed. The day after brought on more reminders of war with a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels which were used by Vietnamese guerillas during the war and also by children and women to hide. We were shown traps and mechanisms used to kill people - all by a tour guide with the weirdest sense of humour (a guide who called himself Stifler - as in American Pie). Walking just 30m in the tunnels made me so claustrophobic - how must people have spent days in them? War causes so much suffering - why does it keep happening then? The most ironic part of the tour was that after two hours of seeing this and being reminded of how bad war is we were taken to a shooting range and told we could now use AK47s, machine guns etc. WTF?

Anyway, enough about the war. On a brighter note, Ho Chi Minh - and well all of Vietnam - had some of the most delicious food I've ever had. It felt like we created our itinerary around all the food we wanted to eat!! Oh not to mention a fantastic massage - that's my one must do every time I visit asia - even one in a great salon is so cheap!

On to Hanoi - a much nicer and slightly less busy city - though still busy and crowded enough to make me pray for my life every time I crossed the road. We spent our days in Vietnam just walking around and exploring the city. Really quaint architecture - where all the houses have really narrow fronts but are deep and tall (between 3 and 5 floors). I was explained the significance of this on my way to the airport - apparently the french started a property tax where they determined the tax to be paid based on how much of the street a house took up and thus the people started building houses which only took up 4.3 - 5m of the street by were deep and tall! While the tax doesn’t exist anymore culturally people have become used to this style of buildings. Even the countryside had houses which had tons of land yet the front was less than 5m! I loved walking around Hanoi - where our hotel was close to a beautiful lake and a great shopping area. Across the lake was a temple that had an amazing atmosphere of peace - really strange in such a bustling city. We just sat around the temple for nearly an hour taking it all in - especially after the craziness of Ho Chi Minh. Next to the temple was a theatre which all the guides told us we must visit - for the ancient art form of water puppetry. Hmmm…perhaps it is really amazing but well it isn't something I would say is a must see (sorry lonely planet!). Maybe I'm just not cultural enough!

The next day was by far the best day of our trip - Halong Bay. Truly the highlight of Vietnam and the one place I really want to come back - and perhaps I will one day with the husband (if and when there is one). After a long slow ride to Halong city we were taken on a little motor boat towards Halong Bay which seemed crowded with many so-called Junks all the time with me praying that the junk I had picked looked good since the girls had won against the guys on getting a luxury one. As we approached - not bad I thought. The rooms were nice - well it was my first time on an overnight cruise so it's hard for me to compare and it had 2 beautiful decks. Lunch in an hour we were told - and what a lunch it was. They said with these boats - well Junks - you get what you paid for - and apparently we had paid for a 7 course meal of without doubt the freshest seafood I have ever had. I am usually not a big fan of seafood - save some types of fish and prawns. I'm usually wary of crabs etc - thus was skeptical when a whole crab shell et al was put on my plate. But well, I would only be here once (well hopefully not) and got on with struggling with my crab - providing some great entertainment for the rest. As for the prawns - oh man! - if I could eat those for the rest of my life I'd be a happy girl. Following lunch we got on another small boat and were taken to some limestone caves. While I have seen many of those before nothing compared to this one - it was HUGE and absolutely magnificent. The strange thing however was the stall of food and drink right outside the cave. Oh and I forgot to mention the little rowboats all around the bay trying to sell the people on the boat junk food and BEER! Though I'm not sure how they would have got it up to us - maybe I should have bought something just to satisfy that curiosity. We then got into some kayaks - this time just the six of us on 3 kayaks plus on kayak to guide us (and make sure we came back alive I suppose). After half an hour on the kayak something hit me - I am actually here Kayaking in the famous Halong Bay as opposed to Mission Bay back home like every other time I've been in a Kayak. It was beautiful and it was a completely surreal experience. Back to the boat for yet another 7 course meal and then we went up to the deck - being a bit loud we had the top deck pretty much to ourselves and we just lay there looking at the sky which was filled with more stars than I've ever seen in my life. The next morning I got up to see the sunrise which unfortunately happened behind some islands but still the sight was again amazing - so calm so beautiful - I don’t know how many pictures I ended up clicking. After spending the rest of the morning on the boat - including another fabulous meal - we were put on our way back to Hanoi.

In Hanoi first on the agenda was to pick up a dress that I had ordered 2 days before - something I saw on the window but obviously with the size vietnamese women are - it was something I had to have remade in my size. I was scared as I hadn't had the opportunity to try it on but as soon as it went on - oh my God. Its definitely now my most beautiful dress - but unfortunately I will have to wait a while to wear it since it needs a fairly special occasion - but I think it'll be worth the wait!! After some more shopping and walking around the city and eating (of course!) - it was time to return. Which I did with a very heavy heart and a longing to spend more time - and see the Sapa Valley - or Hoi An - or the Perfume Pagoda. There are definitely more reasons to return. The one thing I would say to anyone going to vietnam is with limited time it might pay off to only go to Northern Vietnam - Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An etc.

Anyway that's my account of Vietnam. And here I am at the airport waiting to fly to KL. Just been told that the flight will leave 4 and a half hours late! *Sigh*