CouchSurfing with Derek and Money

Early this year when I was busy on my routine since many months, during lunch time at office, go preheat my food at pantry, and eat at my working place, surfing internet. Mostly searching info on Xinjiang and China, and among that, finding possible hosts in CouchSurfing. When there’s very few CSer in Xinjiang, there are apparently quite a number from Chengdu, and I actually received a few invitations from Chengdu alone. Pity that Chengdu is not our main destination, and we’re not going to spend long in the city. Although, we might want to have a place to stay and meet people there.

I came across a profile belong to Derek and his wife from Chengdu, and instantly sent message asking if he could host us when we come to China in April. Surprisingly, he replied saying that he was coming to Malaysia first in March! They were coming for a short sightseeing in KL and one week diving in Semporna, Sabah. Derek is awesome guy, when I was hopelessly trying to find a way to get China train tickets (which you cannot book online.. I mean, the website is only in Chinese and does not accept foreign credit card!) Derek came as a savior, and helped us book all the tickets we need to get a ride on a China train. The other alternative is to book at train station itself, yet you cannot be secured with available immediate tickets.

Although we have yet to be a proper CS host (until we move to stay in a proper house, hopefully), it was great to hang out with guests from faraway. We picked them at KL Sentral and went for dinner at Syed Restaurant in PJ (for Az’s favorite mutton biryani). It was so exciting meeting someone whom you’ll visit them later in their place.. it’s so much like an exchange :) We shared alot of things about places in KL (and Sabah, as they’re heading to Semporna the next day) and they shared all the things about traveling in China we had to know. Also, we shared each other wedding photos from each other’s tablet! ^_^

I actually forgot to take photos during the dinner (too busy discussing!) and photos above were actually emailed by Derek when they returned to Chengdu. And this was meant to be published months ago, and the reason suddenly I posted now coz finally I managed the first China episode in our travelogue ;) of course, featuring Derek.

[jbox color=”gray” icon=”http://ilyani.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/P1100401-190×190.jpg” title=”Chengdu with Derek”]Now. We arrived around 11pm in Chengdu Airport, and the moment we got worried that we couldnt get through Derek’s phone when using mobile phone belongs to a girl in the same flight, Derek was right at the arrival hall, smiling and waving at us. We immediately followed him to his car, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly a BMW 3-series, and had a ride directly to his house. And the first thing we noticed when we landed in China other than Chengdu being so cold (brr!!), all the signboards and building signage are in Chinese and we hardly see anything English! (Read more..) [/jbox]

 

I know that first few days in China went pretty dull (long trains and trains) but it took us 3 days to reach our main destination!

Dell XPS 15

I got a new laptop.. it’s Dell XPS 15. A good excuse to make new updates here. It’s been pity that ilyani.net has missed alot of things happening in past few months (or can I say, year?). The anniversary to begin with. I mean THE anniversary. Yes, last 5th February remarked one year of my marriage :-) (I mean, time’s flying so freaking fast!), and since last month, suddenly Az has got a better living with *my* parents in KB with job and business to take care. So I am living independently in KL with my job, and we get to see each other on weekend (me going back to KB or him coming to KL). Details later. I mean the anniversary ;D Oh well. Next is China trip, only one month to go! Or actually, Xinjiang to be precise. Or the historic Silk Road in China. Yeah we’ll be there pretty soon. Again details later.

CouchSurfing!

Yippie! I registered myself on CouchSurfing the other day, after a couple of years having heard about it from Postcrossing friends (if I remember it right, it was the time when the Postcrossing webmasters Ana & Paulo came to see Kuala Lumpur back in 2008 and they mentioned something about staying in someone’s house – or in their correct term – surfing in someone’s couch in KL).

For a curious person like me, I liked the idea just instantly when I heard about it. Some other Postcrossers on forum are also in CS, as they seem to be regular traveler, they make friends when they’re traveling and it seems so fun and convenient! It’s like, you already have friends to expect you as guest at the place you’re going, and you dont have to worry much about getting lost. It’s not actually about finding a free stay whenever you’re traveling abroad, but to me it’s good enough if I could get to know a few local people in the places I’ll be visiting, communicate with them and get as much as idea as possible of what to see, what to expect, where to go, how much to spend, all other things you need to prepare yourself before setting up a journey. Especially it’s your very first independent trip to somewhere abroad. So I wont be a total stranger at the place I’m visiting!

I didnt register to CS two years ago when I first knew about it even though I was already thrilled about the idea, coz it was simply pointless as I was living in a shared apartment and couldnt host anyone (and even worse.. now back to living in hostel, duh!), and I could never travel independently back then. No money, no travel partner. Hopefully, things will change starting next year and I’ll be able to travel freely. (yes, please give me a job that pays me well, amin).

Now you’re asking where on earth I’ll be going to? Hehe, I’m not telling now :P Too early, I can say, though actually it’s been secretly well prepared already! XD (I’m excited, yey!)

Unless you’re also on CS and let me know, we can be friends in there :P

Mangrove tour in Langkawi

It’s been a while since I posted something no-nonsense lately.. so here goes one, finally. A report from my last family holiday in Langkawi island. I’m just gonna put some pics on Mangrove tour that we had, since it was pretty unusual, at least to me, apart from the more usual stuff you may find yourself doing on an island holiday.. beaching, snorkeling, shopping (yeah, Langkawi is heaven for shoppers, yay for duty-free price!). I only found out recently that even cars are significantly cheaper in Langkawi than in the rest of Malaysia… which I still cant find myself a good argument why and how, but here’s an excellent proof from Honda’s website. I mean, you can get a CR-V with RM50k cheaper in Langkawi for God’s sake!! O_O But you cannot just go shopping for a car and bring it back instantly, coz a car bought in Langkawi has to stay in Langkawi for at least 5 years (if I’m not mistaken) before can be shipped out to the mainland. Then again, dont you feel like moving to there at once anyway? Not bad okay, buy a small piece of land, build a good small apartment and you’ll be making loads of money by running a busy island resort easily. Tourists keep flooding to there like waterfall. Ah yes, include to that, car-rental service too, and it’s a sure thing you have spent your bucks to something totally worth for business. Az himself used to work as an accountant in a hotel in Langkawi for a couple of years, and God knows how leisure his life was at that time ;P (sorry, I didnt mean to mention Az in this post purposely okay, just something worth sharing that coincidentally he used to work in Langkawi).

Now back to Mangrove expedition. Panjang pulak intro… :P

Mangrove tour takes place around the part I circled with red.. where you can find mangrove forest all around in between swamps and small islands, beautiful eco-systems, that’s it. The boat trip varies according to packages, the one we opted was RM200 (originally RM250) per boat of 3 hours sightseeing all around the hidden part of this magnificent island, plus eagle feeding (yes, believe it!), plus bat cave tour, plus Kilim Geopark, plus dining on a floating restaurant in the middle of ocean (okay, food was separate price).

The birds are eagles okay. Dont play-play. And when I was still having suspicious feeling of how safe it could be to feed eagles, it turned out that we dont actually feed them manually :P rather the boat-driver-cum-narrator would slowly throw pieces of chickens into the water before driving the boat around the area for us watching from afar, witnessing how fast the eagles come out from nowhere, speeding to the water surface to grab the food and fly away eating, and come back to water again for next food available.. real good catch!! *big claps* And there were loads of them. I guess they’re so happy that everyday people come all the way by boat to feed them with chickens here :D

It was rather amusing when we were going through mangrove swamp with river-like water, and shortly later come out into widest view of green-blue ocean.. and suddenly going through another area of mangrove swamp again, and later the sea water again.. and we got to see tiny monkeys and crabs living their quiet life by the swamp and river banks.. well, it’s helluva fun of National Geographic- like eco tours! :D This Kilim Geoforest Park in Langkawi has been listed as Unesco Geopark in 2007. Now anyone wants a postcard from here? ;-)

We passed by many (yes, many!) posh boats and yatches like this being “parked” along the streams.. the boat-driver told us they belong to rich Europeans who sailed long-term to this region, usually for weeks to a couple of months, before heading to the next destinations. And it instantly strikes me of how adventurous the idea is! Really, to think that those people only spend their life going on holiday all the times without the need to go work.. hmm..

We dropped by this Gua Kelawar (cave of bats) for another quirky adventure.. walking through paths built on the swamp into a deadly dark cave.. and you could only see thousands of bats hanging onto the cave wall and ceilings with a help of torch-light. SPOOKY! Though my camera-phone was hopeless to take pics in such darkness even though we could see light and the bats, so no bats pics here, but OH! I prepared a short video of this tour, and you could see some light revealing the bats when I was in this cave, but as usual I cannot access to YouTube with USM internet so there’s no other way to upload it now. Maybe later.

Ahah, so after hours of expedition, it’s good to lunch in this restaurant floating in the middle of ocean.. what do we have here? Fish and lobster and shrimps caught fresh from their nest (well actually we had dropped by the restaurant earlier to order and choose our food before continuing the rest of the tour and as soon as we came back 1.5 hours later, the lunch was ready and we didnt have to wait :)). And the ikan pari (stingray fish) was the most bigass stingray fish exist around, as he’s claimed to be.. weighing over 100kgs! His name is Johhny ^_^

So okay, it was my third trip to Langkawi in my life history (first was 1988, second was 1998) so it’s been ages since the last one which I almost forgotten what we were doing then, and it was good that we did something new this time. Soon I get to access YouTube I’ll upload the short clip :)