Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Greece, Day 2 - Athens City Tour

Day 2 - 1st June 2008, Sunday

Greece is a land of deities and philosopher. I am one of the weird person who is so enthusiastic with its ancient history and the movies of Greek Mythologies, Zeus and the Olympians, Primordial Gods and Titans, Apollo and Dionysus, Sea god and earth gods etc etc.  And for those who has read "Sophie's World" would agree that coming to Greece, it feels like entering the land of Philosophers. Greece has Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. A radical philosophers like Xenophones of Colophon, label the poets' tales as blasphemous lies in the 6th century BC. He complained that Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods as "all that is shameful and disgraceful among men; they steal, commit adultery, and deceive one another". This line became a thought found its most sweeping expression in 350 BC by Plato's Republic and Laws.

Our first day tour package includes only a half day trip around the city which ends at Acropolis. The bus made a numerous stop to pick up the rest of our tour group, including the 2 Singaporean who were on business trip to Athens. Our tour guide was a lady Historian who is so passionate and proud with their great ancient mythology. Greeks regarded mythology as part of their history. That was her seated on the rock bench, in below photo ready to do her briefing when our group reached Parthenon of the Acropolis.

The bus stopped at 3 places only. Our first stopped was at one of the oldest stadium in the world, the Panathenaic Stadium. It is also known as Kallimarmoro, meaning of "beautiful marbled" which was built entirely of white marble. This athletic stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, being reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek Olympian stadium.

In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honor of the Goddess Athena. During classical times, it had a wooden seating. And in 329 BC, it was rebuilt in marble by the Archon Lycurgus. It was enlarged and renovated in 140 AD by Herodes Atticus, giving a seated capacity of 50,000.

The second stop was at the ruin Temple of Zeus, Olympia.

It is located in western an ancient Greek temple dedicate to their main deities God, Zeus in the 5th century BC. It used to house the big statue of Zeus (13m in height), which became 1 of the 7 wonders of Ancient World. It suffer heavy damage from a series of earthquakes. In addition to that, tribes invaders had robbed the site of its ancient material from the monument in 269AD.

Among the principle Greek gods were the Olympians, residing on top of Mountain Olympus under the eye of Zeus.

Acropolis of Athens is one of UNESCO world heritage sites, our last stop for the day. It is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens. It has a remains of several ancient building of great architectural and historic significant. The famous one is the Parthenon. The meaning of Acropolis is "the edge city" of which the flattened rock house a 3 acres area of ancient development.

The Erechtheion, shown in below photo is an ancient Greek temple seated on the north side of the Acropolis. The temple as seen today was built between 421 and 406 BC. The temple name is derived from a shrine dedicated to the legendary Greek hero, Erichthonius.

Some facts to share how the Arcopolis is now a ruin citadel. The Persians sacked the city in 480 BC. The building was burned and looted, along with the Ancient Temple and practically everything else on the rock. It was gradually being rebuilt till the 3rd century. In the Byzantine period, the Parthenon was turned into a church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the Ottomon conquest, the Parthenon was used as the garrison headquarters of the Turkish army. The buildings of the Acropolis suffered significant damage during the 1687 siege by the Venetians in the Morean War. The Parthenon, which was being used as a gunpowder magazine, was hit by artillery fire and severely damaged.

The Acropolis restoration project began in 1975 till present.

After we were done exploring the top of the Acropolis, we walked down to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It is a stone theatre structure located on the south slope of the Acropolis, built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodus Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-sloped amphitheater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive, cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000 audience. Elton John was performing here in 2000 and Andrea Bocelli held his concert in 2010.

The scene that I wont be seeing in my town, very pleasant sight indeed .... How I wish to have a big grapes tree in my yard!

A lady tour guide had informed us to wait for certain hours at the bus stop but when we got there, the bus had left. We had no choice but to walk back to the hotel guided by the city map that we carried along. Along the way, we found a Sunday Bazaar along the road. In Karachi, been to Sunday Bazaar is 1 of the main activity we had during a weekend.

For lunch, we chooses Subway and had a great lazy day sitting down by the Subway Restaurant outdoor. It has been a long walk from Acropolis to Subway.

Byzantine church located next to Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens.

This photo does not focus on me but the object behind, a beautiful Tower Clock!

On finding our way back to the hotel, we chooses a short cut through the wet market. After we passed the market, we took a narrow street and had a shock of lifetime experience. It was a scene of crowds of teenager and adult selling and taking drugs openly in daylights. That was a real weird scene of what we never expected to see. It was saddened to watch a teenage boy who at the time when we passed him, was sitting on a staircases looking so high. He slowly felled down on the pavement when he was on top of his ecstasy, no ability to control himself nor knowingand what's going on. How pitiful.. couldn't imagine what will the mother feel if she saw him at that point of time.

3 of us could not utter any words as we were too shock of what we saw. As soon as we reached the hotel, we slept and when we woke-up we couldn't even discussed about it.

to be continued...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Greece, Day 1 - Travelling day and the preparation

Day 1 - 31st May 2008, Saturday

After numerous months of working and endless waiting for my 2nd leave entitlement to come, I finally found a suitable date duly approved. From 31st May 2008, not a day to waste I took leave until 9 June (officially 7 days). The children's school was over and they were waiting to sit for test papers of their extra curriculum of the Australia programme. They were both studying in Washington International School since January 2008. It was tough changing school from Malaysia education to International syllabus. Language is a bit problem in the beginning but they were both improving slowly. It was their first summer break in Karachi.

Greece, here we come!
We left our apartment at 3.45am in the morning to check-in at the counter, 4.30am. At the immigration, I was told to get my visa renewed as it was 90 days overstay. It did not crossed my mind to get my business visa converted to working visa though the process was already initiated. My mistakes! Had huge issues as the immigration officer was adamant to let us throught until the Qatar Airline officer bring some sense on our behalf. After so much pleading and promises not to repeat in the future, the immigration officer finally allow us to board. It was horrible experience and we were scared to encounter same difficulties in Doha Airport. We departed at 6.20am from Jinnah International Airport, Karachi to Doha. It was a 3 hours journey. At 7.10am local time (9.10am Karachi time), we safely landed in Doha International Airport.

Despite our fear, we transit peacefully in Doha Int. Airport without immigration interrogation. God Bless. We transit for almost 6 hrs. Met few Malaysian and Sudanese family in the prayer hall. At 1.15pm, Doha local time, we depart to and landed at Athens International Airport at 5.50pm local time, again without hassle and ugly scene with immigration. It was a great relieved to be able to get out of the dust and smelly environment of Karachi.

Dorian Inn had provided a pick-up service from the airport to hotel. We sat and relaxed in the nice taxi and a Greek hunk driver. We saw donkeys tarnsported in the lorry, unlike Karachi where people use donkey to lift heavy thing such as steel bars and other means of transportation. Lets not digest on the differences. I'm here to talk about my vacation. After we checked in, Nasrul immediately went up to the top floor for swimming.

When he returned to the room, we went out for dinner. Syahirah encountered a shameful experience with the local boys that made us decided to just ordered pizza and drinks dined in our room.

To be continued...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gerber Daisy

On 22nd September 2012, I invited my fellow Malaysian for dinner at my place. Second important thing that cross my mind during preparation day was to decorate my apartment with lots of flowers just to cheer everyone up.

I decided to go for Gerber Daisy and a dozen of Pink Roses to match my new vase. Deepika helped me to purchase them from Guntur Flower Market.

Yellow Gerber Daisy
Orange Gerber Daisy
Pink Gerber Daisy
My dining area looks exactly how I pictured them when I plan for the dinner.
...and a cosy area where I use to lying down, reading while listening to birds singing outside the corridor, my peaceful cosy area...
The last photo of white Gerber Daisy on its 7th day inside the vase that beautify my bedroom!
My assignment is ending on 30th November 2012. It's gonna be hard to leave my apartment, 129 of Rain Tree Park Dwaraka Krishna where I spent lots of peaceful time alone, enjoying my freedom away from my family and friends :(

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seafood in Sandakan, Sabah

Event date: 2 June 2010

I was invited by IJM Plantation to attend meeting with their subcontractor over a disputed issue in Desa Talisai Plant civil works. It was a 1 night stay in a small town. In the evening, after the meeting was over, minutes was prepared and quick freshened up, they took me to a famous seafood restaurant by the seashore.

After showing the menu, the restaurant owner invited me to their seafood tanks (plentiful of them), next to the kitchen for me to choose and decided what I want to eat. The items that I have chosen was weighted before sending to the kitchen for the chef to cook. Eric & Mr Madu only advised me to go after the snails. This are the snails before it was cooked (do not mistaken my word, not all, only a plate ok!).

True to their words, the snails turn out to be something very very extraordinary which I never tested before in my life. 

A closer looks of the poor creature before it settled inside my stomach :(

For better taste, you may dip the snail into a simple but tasty sweet sour sauce.

That night, both Eric & Mr Madu saluted me and certified that a small figure person like me can actually able to eat like a dinosaur. I take it as a compliment as the food is not supposed to be wasted after 1 full day working, right?

The 2 photos above were what I took in Desa Talisai Oil Mill. Glad to learn about palm oil industry from my fellow colleague in IJM Plantation. Our oil palm was processed in the mill up to 5 products (see sample bottle on photo no. 1) before it was exported to the manufacturer for end product. What most interesting is that, everything can be recycle in oil palm industry including its waste which was turn into as energy burner. No wonder, they are our biggest profit contributor.

Remarks: At the time of my second visit, the same year, Mr Joseph Teck has been recognised as the most youngest Malaysian being appointed as CEO in the newspaper.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seoul, Day 8 - Farewel Korea

Day 8 – 23 March 2011, Wednesday

3 of them were so excited for shopping, immediately after breakfast they went ahead. Naim, did very little as he promised and Nasrul...hmm, you cant expect him to help except ensuring his soccer boots is in a safe place. The hotel has given us until 3pm to check out but allowed us to store our luggage at the lobby, very nice indeed. 

At 11am, I called Naim and Nasrul from the hotel business centre (free Internet at the lobby) for a walk to enjoy the weather. First stop, was having a last meal by the road side. In here, a nice and pretty Korean lady was nice to have small talks with me by asking where we from and where have we been in Seoul. She speaks very well English, as she informed that she was studied and worked abroad before. Naim lost his appetite when the lady was telling us that 1 of the food in the picture was actually Pork, though we never ever took them before. Sigh!

We bought some of the Korean snacks on our way to Paris Croissant, a coffee shop. The seller made a daily round in his van where he parked by the roadside nearby the hotels. This area apparently been occupied with many offices in a day time. We hardly notice as we were out most of of the days.  When they were coming to office, we went out and they left after office hour. We normally gets back very late at night.

How can I describe the coffee shop here? I was telling Naim & Nasrul of my wishes to spend hours and hours with Aunty Maznah in a coffee shop like this when I retired. There's a table of various doughnuts, cakes, croissants, breads and pastries. The smell of coffee is so enticing. It feels like heaven to me with such imaginary.

We parcel some foods. The temperature outside dropped too low and it's unbearable to walk with the cold breeze, we then, decided to go back to the hotel. The rest came back at around 2pm, just nice to check out after freshened themselves.

Once the luggage was brought down and secured tight by the porter, we adjourned for lunch across the road, our favourite restaurant now. The shop owner becoming very friendly and nice to us all. Our last meal at her shop :(

The hotel had arranged an Airport coach to pick us up at around 5pm. Before we left, we made a last phone call to Mr Park informing him that we have everything in place and saying our goodbye and gratitude's. We headed to the airport on a busied road and we left with plentiful of sweet memories and the sunset behind. It took about more than hour to reach airport. After check-in, we proceed for shopping at Incheon Airport huge mall. The flight departed at around 11pm.

We reached Kuala Lumpur, Sepang Airport at 5am on 24th March 2012, Thursday. The rented van who dropped us on 16th March was outside the airport, perfect!

Thats the end of my family travellogue of Seoul. Today, I have 3 flights to catch for my business trip to Karachi. 1710 is Air India flight from Vijayawada Airport to Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, 2115 is a light to Dubai via Emirates and the next morning, 0130 is  to Karachi.

Many thanks for reading.

Seoul, Day 7 - Seoul Tower, Namdaemon Market

Day 7 – 22 March 2011, Tuesday

We had planned ahead a tour in Seoul Tower area on day 7, and if if given enough time we shall proceeded to the famous Namsan Park.After a final shopping at Namdaemon Market, we shall treat Mr Park for farewell dinner as a way to say a big thank you for his hospitality and kind assistance extended during our 8 days stay in Seoul.

N Seoul Tower is a Communication and Observation tower located in Namsan Mountain, Seoul, i.e. central South Korea. It was built in 1969, and opened to the public in 1980. The tower has been a symbol of Seoul with its official height measures of 236.7 metre in height (from the base) and tops out at 479.7 metre above sea level. It has also been known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower. After the tower's original owner merged with the CJ Corporation, it was renamed as N Seoul Tower (official name CJ Seoul Tower).

As usual we took city metro and get down at Chungmuro Station (Subway Line 3) from Yoido and decided to take a cab to reach the tower. Many visitors ride the Namsan cable car up to the mountain, and then walk to the tower. Because we were too lazy to walk, we conveniently took a cab from Chungmuro station. It was a beautiful mountain view awaits up there, breath taking.

The kids were excited to witness in life the scene that they use to watch from many of Korean drama filming in this area, including the tower gift shop and restaurants on the ground floor. Visitors may opted to go up to the top of the tower for a fee. There are four observation deck (the 4th observation deck, which is the revolving restaurant, rotates at a rate of one revolution every 48 minutes), as well as gift shops and two restaurants. Most of the city of Seoul can be seen from the top. Close to N Seoul Tower is a second lattice transmission tower.

What else you can find in here? Plentiful, for those who are a fanatic fan of Korea Drama series, i.e. Boys Got Flowers was filming here.. and for those who wish to express loves can engrave theirs at the Love Padlocks Tree! Make sure you brought home souvenirs like we did in the lower ground beautiful gift shop.

For those who love watching Korean Drama, must have not forget the "Teddy Bear Museum" in 1 of the drama. Please take note that an entrance fee of Kr8,000 won/adult & Kr6,000 won/children are chargeable, it's not free.

Our group stopped at observatory area on the 3rd Floor as we decided not to reach the top. Nevertheless, the Seoul's city scenery is simply breathtaking even at this level.

We spent quite a sometime at this place expressing love over hot coffee (hubby, nasrul & me, whilst the rest were busy selecting more souvenirs items at K-pop gift shop. Hubby and I later were engaged in a nice conversation with an old Korean couple who was showing her jade ring to me, while her husband simply nodding and agreeing to whatever she said :) Ouch, how lovely to see the loves that they had for each other!

Don't forget to taste at least 1 of these wide selection of cakes that goes perfectly with a hot coffee...

A korean ancient architecture to compliment the modern surrounding of the towers...

After killing time unproductively, we decided to adjourn to Namdaemon, forgotten about Namsan Park. The kids were excited as there's few shopping list yest to purchased especially souvenirs for relatives and friends back home. We took bus this time using the same metro passage card. The bus driver seems very proud when we showed him our passage card. He gave a thumbs up sign, maybe a way to say that we were so very clever to discover its multiple usage... 

Namdaemon Market is actually a very large traditional market in Seoul, South Korea. The market is located next to Namdaemun, the "Great South Gate," which was the main southern gate to the old city. Namdaemun market dates back to 1414, during the reign of Taejong of Joseon, as a government managed marketplace. In 1608, Seonjo of Joseon set up the office of tribute bureau in the district to manage the tributes of rice, cloth and money. A trading marketplace took its form around that time and commercial activities flourished as traders set up various shops. Trade was active in grains, fish, fruit, and miscellaneous goods.

We found a Turkish stall selling kebab. That was our lunch for the day. We reserved the rest for a steamboat with Mr Park later that night where we planned to eat all out with him around.

The management of the market went over to the Japanese in 1922, but after victory over Japan Day the merchants established the Namdaemun Merchant Organization and took over management. The market, however, turned to ruins during the Korean War and succumbed to fire in 1953. The Seoul Namdaemun Market Co. Ltd. was found in 1954 to rebuild the market, but efforts fell short due to financial troubles. Endeavors for reconstruction continued in the following years, but fires swept the market again in 1968 and 1975.

The city of Seoul announced plans to renovate the market in 2007, and reconstruction and renovations are being continued in 2010. Most of the items selling in Namdaemong were imported thing from mainland China. Syahirah stop carrying her LV handbag when she discovered that mostly everyone we met are wearing branded attire, as if everyone can afford it. 

Both were wearing new stuff! Naim is the only 1 who did not purchased as he run out money. What can he buy with Kr10,000 won?

When we got back to the hotel, I have decided to change Syahirah's ticket so that she can flew back with us instead of spending few days with her friend, Arosha in Seoul. Her ticket was originally extended until 27th March 2011, but there's uncertainty of where to stay and what to do after we left, she finally informed of her wishes to follow us back. Due to short notice, less than 24 hours, Air Asia had charge us RM750.00 to change a trip (her original return ticket was only RM974). No wonder she was down by herself for few days as she has no guts to tell and/or her problems and difficulties. I hope Syahirah will remember and take that as big lesson in a future who to trust in times when she is in trouble. For the record, with Air Asia, it only cost less than RM1,000 when you booked a trip a year in advance. With the additional fee paying for her, the air ticket is still extremely reasonable, RM6,494 for all 6 of us. The last photo taken when they decided what to buy for beloved Tottie, Roger, Lola & Mickey.

With a happy heart, I started to packing slowly that night knowing seriously no one will help as Hubby, Nazhif & Syahirah decided to spent 1 day shopping before we left to airport. But Naim assured me he will assist as he will not follow the rest for shopping on our last day in Korea.

To be continued....