Friday, July 26, 2019

Of Scotland, Manchester and The Netherlands 10.07.2019 - 24.07.2019

A year passed without me touching my blog. Doubt I would even update it often. But for documenting my latest travelling diaries I think I must

It's been a while since I last took a reasonable long break from work (yeah 2 weeks is reasonable judging the fact I only do it like once every 5 years? (Damn can the next one not be 5 years time?)

This trip is particularly special as it was a trip with someone that holds a special place in my heart.


Jetted back KL after work.


One full day to do last-minute packing. Left for the airport by 11pm.


Jetted off on a red-eye flight and touched down in Edinburgh 14:30 on the same day (yeah time travel mate).

By the time we passed customs and travelled to our airbnb it was 17:00

Our first 2 days in Edinburgh was in a flat on Hillside St, near York Place. Cozy living room and comfy bed. Fantastic host by Estelle and the ever welcoming Tiffin (it's a dog)

The cool living room. Spot the kilt curtains

First stop of the adventure was a hike up Calton Hill. Roughly a 20-minute hike from foot to peak. Nothing serious but some serious pavement walking.

Passed by Greenside Parish Church

Well it was a gloomy day

No kidding folks. Thankfully no rain

Standing on the National Monument

National Monument from far

Nelson Monument

View of Edinburgh city from Calton Hill

The City Observatory atop of Calton Hill

The Dugald Stewart Monument

Little did we know that we spent close to 3 hours walking and taking photos of Calton hill. We had dinner at Leith Walk at a place called Leith Depot. Food was just okay and I wouldn't return for it.


Early morning we lugged our luggage bags to be deposited with a hostel affiliated with Macbackpackers Tour as our next 3 days will be spent at the Isle of Skye. Took our time and energy to find the hostel since it's not situated by the main road. Got off at the nearest bus stop and then went up and down hills and stairs to finally reached Castle Rock hostel.

Walking up a hill

Museum on the Mound

Slight drizzle that morning. But we walked down Royal Mile with bagpipe buskers playing the tune, with tartan and souvenir shops flanking both sides of the roads

Had our breakfast at Vittoria on the Bridge. Excellent coffee by the way!

Greyfriars Bobby restaurant with his memorial

Greyfriar's Kirk. It's a *cough cough* cemetery 
The majestic National Museum of Scotland!

With a T-Rex skeleton. I always love museums with dinosaur fossils

The streets of Edinburgh

St Giles' Cathedral

The stained glass adorning the cathedral's windows

The intricate carvings of the ceilings

The main hall of the cathedral

Thistle chapel inside St Giles' Cathedral

David Hume's statue

The Hub

Earl Haig's Equestrian Statue in Edinburgh Castle

The prison cells inside Edinburgh Castle. This is the modern WW1 cells. There were also medieval prison cells

Interior walls and ramparts of the castle

The Scottish National War Memorial

As all touristy places with ticket admissions closed at 5pm, we head off for a stroll at Princes Street Gardens. Thank God the gardens are not closed at 5!

Bank of Scotland from Princes Street Garden

Scott Monument

After a hard day's walk, dinner thankfully was good. We had dinner at The Dome. I highly recommend coming here

It's called The Dome. Because there is a dome

I had grilled sea bass with mash, while she had duck confit. In the middle shared dish was roasted carrots and parsnips

And that wraps up Day 2!


Day 3. It was our last stay at Hillside St. We bade goodbye to Esther and Tiffin. Off to Castle Rock hostel to catch our 3 day Skye tour!

Thankfully our previous day exploration gave us insight and we reached Castle Rock hostel faster! 

We grabbed breakfast and by 9am we were notified that our tour bus has arrived to carry us off to Skye under The Mackbackpacker's Tour

The first stop on the way to Skye is a small town called Pitlochry. It was our toilet and supplies stop

The tea and scone shop recommended by our guide. Not bad but the staff was a wee bit rude and annoying

We shared one big scone. 

Our next stop is at Clava Cairns, which resembled the great big memorial mounds if you are familiar with Anglo Saxon stories. But over time the rain and wind have weathered down the domes into their current forms

To be honest it looks like a destroyed igloo made out of stone

Our next pit stop was at The National Trust of Scotland in Culloden Moor, Inverness. Amazed by the sprawling green green grass

And then it was time to hunt Nessie. Of course, we weren't that lucky. So it was just spending time taking photos of the humongous Loch Ness

Our tour company had a hostel just beside Loch Ness. So its kinda cool. But we weren't staying there as we were heading straight to Skye

For a lake to have waves.. you know its big. Its bigger than the Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan. Fun fact, Scotland has so much freshwater in its Lochs (lakes) that it's more than all the freshwater in the UK (England + Wales combined)

Our hostel for the night is at a small town called Kyleakin, which is situated in the isle of Skye itself

There was this cute garden with a lot of garden ornaments

Dinner was at a bar called King Haakon. I had my first try of haggis. And I think it tasted awesome!

Too bad I did not take a photo of it.


First stop of the day was at Sligachan waterfall

When it comes to breathtaking sceneries in Scotland, be forewarned that it usually involves some hiking. Rest assured no physical climbing cliffs and stuff. But you need some basic stamina

The rugged path towards the falls

Sligachan Waterfall

Next stop was another sleepy town of Portree. This was a town for our toilet break and meal break

The seaside view of Portree

Our next stop was to hike down a cliff to see the majestic Lealt Falls

All the way down...

Rocky cliffs along the paths

Lealt Falls

-To Be Continued-

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I have always been well aware I wasn't the best. Nor was I competent either.

Perhaps that is the cold hard truth. Or maybe I am just setting the bar very high

Either way, one thing for sure is, I know I am not a wussy. I can be slow. But I don't give up

But sometimes... is giving up the only way of moving forward?

Monday, February 19, 2018


I think the fighting spirit in me is slowly depleting.

Seriously needing a new challenge. Preferably starting my own business...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Unfinished Tales

I recently came across a post on how people describe their failed first time relationship.

First love is when you put you heart and soul into everything. Picture yourself writing a story. But then right as you are about to finish the story, you teacher comes around and rips it off, saying your handwriting is too hideous and demands it in better writings.

You still remember the story. But the thought of re-writing everything just seems to put you off. You just had your energy sapped off.

Almost 2 years and I still have that feeling. In a way I am getting less and less bothered by the complications a relationship comes with, but a part of me still gets anxious whether how am I going to shake this off.

A part of me still wants to finish off that story... 

But I guess the most of me is fed up about writing any more.

Just a small part is anxious that this cannot goes on...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Taiwan Diary 01/12/2017 - 11/12/2017

2 days back from Taiwan (started writing this on the 14th Dec 2017) and still reeling in my memory. Taiwan easily tops the countries I visited and I would really love to visit it again even in the near future.

An assorted array of street food, marauding in the night markets, taken aback by their nature beauty, and a city with convenient public transport for cafe hoping and pastry hunting, Taiwan checks all the checklist of a good country to visit. So let us revisit my memory while they are still fresh

30/11/2017: Prelude
Took half day AL to finish off some last minute packing. The night before I did a rough recon on what to do while waiting for my relatives to arrive (they landed at 9pm while my family landed at 1245pm. Plenty of time to kill). Briefly noted down some key places to visit and to eat food around Xi Men Ding area.

Landed at KLIA 1045pm. Baffled that the lounge is only accessible after checking in. Cashless in Ringgit and with an old Maybank Card, I ended up paying RM30 for Paparich Nasi Lemak with my Singapore UOB credit card. :(

Spent the night sleeping and waking up time to time on the steel benches. Damn KLIA is darn lousy

01/12/2017: Xi Men Ding Awaits
Met up with family at 530am. Plane took off at 7am. Slept through out the whole journey, waking up for food (oh darn Malindo's air meal sucks max).

Landed at Taoyuan airport at 1245pm. Stunned by the crowd. Managed to only clear customs and get luggage and left airport by 2pm. Bought our Easycard (Ezlink or Touch'nGo equivalent card) and caught the subway to head to Taipei.

We took the Bannan line (Blue) which was a mistake but went up since it arrives first. But due to the many stops we got off at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and waited for the next express line (Purple) that brought us straight to the city by 3pm. We changed to the Songshan line Beimen station (Green), which was one stop away from Ximen.

                     Finally arriving at Xi Men Ding!

Upon checking in and unloading some stuffs, it was nearly 430pm. We were so late that we missed visiting some museums I plan to cover. And we were hungry. Darn hungry. So the street food hunt began

Black Pepper Buns. Crispy pastry stuffed with black pepper seasoned pork, bell peppers and chinese pickles. Oh darn they tasted good!

One of the streets in Xi Men Ding filled with street food

Cheesy Potato!

The famous Ay-Chung Vermicelli Soup

Heaven in a bowl!

02/12/2017:Taipei to Taichung via HSR
Early morning after breakfast at Kingshi Hotel, we left to the central to catch our HSR to Taichung

Slightly wet morning on the Shibuya style crossroad crossing in Ximending

Noticed that gaming ads are quite popular in Taiwan

Long story short, we arrived at Taichung at around 11+am

Castle made of cupboard

Taichung was sunny. And yes it was surprisingly hot!

The Tai Chung old train station front entrance

Walking to our hotel for the night

For that day we booked a day tour around Tai Chung. Nothing much though. We visited the theater center and just had a simple walk around.

Buildings around the area

After that we went to the rainbow village

Then the wetlands of Gaomei. This place is beautiful (for wetland standards). We stayed there until sun set

Night time we ventured into Fenjia night market. The pepper buns here are to die for

Scallions rolled with generous portion of seasoned pork

Darn nice!

Ended the night with ice cream at Miyahara

03/12/2017: Alishan awaits
Met up with our driver of the trip, Ah Fu. Before setting off to Alishan, we stopped by Chiayi for lunch, which is famed for its turkey rice.

Turkey Rice omnomnomnom

After that we went to Longyin Temple, which is to enshrines Ji Gong. We were in luck to catch multiple temples coming to pay respects and show of strength.

Not to forget the famed Tian Chang Di Jiu bridge

Walking through the suspension bridge

Ji Gong

The view from top of the hill, which has another shrine

Lovely garden on top of a short hike

After that we travelled on to Fen Chi Hu town, which is one of the nice rustic villages that I really like. There is a bamboo forest, and the small town has a small photogenic train station

Bamboo forest. The bamboo are actually square in girth!

Rustic looking train station

Once the train went off, the tracks are free to be used for photographs. So cool!

Fen Chi Hu Station

My clickpack pro on the tracks. Looking photogenic indeed

Strolling around the small village. Those lanterns look so good indeed

The train station bento. Very satisfying combination of pork chop, drumstick. Taiwan cuisine uses plenty of bamboo shoots and pickles. I grew accustomed to them during the journey. Was not a fan of Chinese pickles.


Rustic looking hotel. In Taiwan hotels are called "Fan Dian" instead of the normal "Jiu Dian". I was wondering how come they are called restaurants when I first arrived.

Rustic and nice

Sakura tree outside the village

We reached Alishan in the evening. It was winter so the days are short. It was dark when we reached

The only parking lot in the village

Chic looking tea shop

Alishan entrance with the moon looming behind

What more better than to have steamboat on a chilly weather? Pair it with some whisky and oh so perfect!

That is a cool looking post office

04/12/2017: Sunrise on Chushan, Sun Moon Lake and Qingjing

Woke up at 4am. We had a train to catch to go up to Chushan to catch the sun rise. Tickets are limited so yeah please wake up early to buy the tix.

Lucky us!

Compared to Kinabalu, this observatory site is rather commercialized. You take a train to Chusan, and there are food and drinks stall here. Weather is cold but a little nibble should be ok to keep you warm. We had to wait for 1.5 hours for the first glimpse of the morning rays

Sunrise loading....


Loading complete

The food stalls up here. Which are still reasonably priced.

Back at Alishan village. That mountain range reminds me of Kinabalu

Alishan train station

The carpark in the morning

Post office in the morning

Cool train model

After that we went to the Shouzhen temple.

Very nice joss paper burner

Nearby lake

Here is also a forest of red cypress trees, which some are few thousand years old. They emit a fragrance said to keep termites away. And they are strong. Some of the buildings posted above use red cypress as building materials

Red cypress forest

Mesmerizing. Beautiful


And then we walked one round back to Shouzen temple to catch a puppet show

After that it was time to leave Alishan for our next stop. Sun Moon Lake beckons!

Alishan arrival & departure gate

Being a Taipingite, for almost all of our early years we see the Taiping Lake Gardens almost on a daily basis. Sometimes you come across lakes that re-define your definition on what a lake should be or look like.

Sun Moon Lake, is one of that lakes that opens your eyes

The lake is so big that you have actual ferries on them

It looks more like a sea from some perspective. And it is aquamarine blue! Not green!

Xuan Guang jetty, which you can visit Xuan Guang temple and...

Ah Ma herbal egg!

Sun Moon Lake is also a small township, and since it is in the middle mountainous regions of Taiwan, agriculture products are of importance. You can get "Ai Yu" - jelly made from a small type of corn, tea and tea products.

The type of corn I was referring to

Tea flavored ice cream

Sun Moon Lake's night market

More street food. Boneless chicken wing stuffed with rice

After that it was a drive straight to QingJing.

The famous Star Gazing Villa, sits atop a hill

where you can gaze down to the small town below

05/12/2017: QingJing Green Prarie, First Snow, Taruko Gorge and Seven Star Lake

Morning was pleasant. It was at 4 degrees since we were high up in the mountainous regions of Taiwan. At that moment I was wondering how peaceful Taiwan, particularly QingJing can be. There are farms here, reminds me very much of Harvest Moon game series (maybe the Japanese did actually invented the game after getting a taste of the farming life here?)

To be able to wake up to the cooling weather, overlooking ranges of mountains. I can do this for months!

Star Gazing Villa in the morning

And they have this large space right in front, where you can sit down and sip coffee and tea while enjoying the morning breeze. Plenty of plants and a greenhouse too!

QingJing town from Star Gazing Villa

Hearty breakfast included in our B&B deal

After that we headed to the QingJing farm

Lots and lots of sheeps!

Usually farms are smelly and dull looking. This one looks really like a touristy place with beautiful scenery

Darn pretty

Rays of happiness

Apart from the occasional dung (it is still a farm), this really is a beautiful place

The sheep castle, one of the attractions in the farm

The farm looking side

There is also a part which allows you to ride horses and see horse show performances

Street food vendors

There is also a small bee farm where you can visit

After that it was a journey to the Eastern coast of Taiwan, Hualien City. Before that we have to make our way up to Hehuan mountain to go the other way down

It was a misty journey


At the peak of Hehuanshan, it had previously snowed. It was the very first time I had seen snow.

How it looks like up close

Your mind starts to freeze as you first encounter snow. A sight to behold

Tiny bits of snow still falling down

Winter wonderland

Trust me, get a pair of water proof shoes. Melted snow with soil is no fun

If you are a scenery person, you would definitely want to drive along the roads of Taiwan. Endless breathtaking scenes

After going down Hehuanshan, we reached Taruko National Park. The Swallow's Grotto awaits

Pretty much brings you to a magical world. Natural cliffs carved out by the centuries of wind

Swallow's Grotto plague

The typical water, mountain all in one natural landscape

After bidding goodbye to Swallow's Grotto, we made our journey to Hualien City

The night market of Dongdamen

Large sausage on skewers

Exploding Chive Pancake

Conquered the much shuddered pig blood cake. Easy peasy but filling

The famous coffin box toast

After a hearty meal we reached our hotel. Checked in and after unpacking went for a walk by the beach

Rock stacking at a beach full of pebbles

06/12/2017: Seven Star Lake, Su'ao, Ka Va Lan Distillery nad Jiaoxi

Our hotel has free bicycle borrowing services. So we went for a morning ride along the coasts of Qixingtan.

Lots and lots of stones

Rocky beach. Still has its allure

Bike friendly path along the coast

Simple. But enough to make me fall in love

After bidding goodbye to Hualien, we continue our journey north, along the coast to Yilien. We stopped by a few scenic places for photographs

Qingshui Cliffs

Railway tracks beside the cliffs

I love the blue of the sea. 3 Shades of it

On our way there was a landslide, which impeded our journey. To facilitate clearance of the debris and not impact traffic, there were only a certain time where traffic was allowed to pass by that stretch of road. We were caught waiting 2 hours for the next slot of traffic to pass by. For the guys we got the chance to answer nature's call by doing it with nature

The jam. Standstill jam. Car engines are off

Stretches way back

Where my piss became one with mother nature

Finally! We reached Su'ao, a small fishing village between Hualien and JiaoXi. Had lunch at a shop recommended by our driver, which serves us one of the freshest seafood dishes

Lurou Fan, Minched Pork Rice

Fresh Fish Soup. Never a fan of fish soup but this changed my perspective

Steamed cuttlefish

The humble shop that we had our lunch

Streets of Su'ao. Reminds me of Kuala Sepetang.

Plenty of dried sea products can be found in these shops

The pier where all the fishing boats are parked

After buying some dried sea products, we continued our journey to Ka Va Lan Distillery. If you aren't familiar Ka Va Lan was one of the whisky brands that shook the world with their award winning whisky

Large distillery

Reminds me of Nestle factories but this looks very touristy

One of the distilleries

The Whisky Castle

The humble barrel where the flavor explosion generation takes place

Malt barley, the key ingredient in whisky making

Yeast, to breakdown the starch in the malt barley

Copper distillery, where the alcohol is intensified

Barreled whisky in warehouse

Help yourself DIY memorabilia - chop on corrugated paper board

Whisky tasting

After buying loads of whisky, we headed straight to Jiaoxi

Jiaoxi streets

Dinner at Babaodongfen

Small dishes. Black Fungus, shark meat and duck meat

Another street shot of Jiaoxi

Jiaoxi is a town famous for hot springs. According to my driver the Taiwanese government originally wanted to have a geothermal power plant in Jiaoxi. But the heat wasn't effective to generate electricity hence it somehow was converted into a tourist attraction

One of the public hotspring

07/12/2017: Jimmy Park, Meihua Lake and Back To Taipei

This was one of the few mornings that we need not wake up early for sunrise or cycling. We woke up for breakfast and then driver picked us up for a quick stroll at Jimmy Park and the Yilan train station

One of the pre war Japanese themed buildings

Jiaoxi streets in the morning

Yilan Train Station

Part of the Jimmy Park deco

Intriguing old tree

After bidding goodbye to Yilien Jiaoxi, we jetted off to Meihua Lake

Plenty of ducks and carps. Beautiful setting with hilly landscapes against a tranquil lake

The one that posted for solo

Haha. We actually went back to Jiaoxi to grab the famous chive pancake

Customers need to self service to brush on their sauce. That means you add as much as you can for flavor explosion

We had Weng Yao Chicken (甕窯雞) for lunch. It's special as the chicken gets marinated in cumin and spices before roasted in huge earthen ovens

Roasting in action

The chicken. Super hot from the oven

After lunch it was really time to say goodbye to Yilan. Heading back to Taipei!

The first stop back Taipei was the Liberty Square, Unfortunately it was raining

The National Theatre

The National Concert Hall. Ugly tent work in progress

Tried to take an image without the tent works

Since it was raining I think the exploration mood went down significantly. And the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall also had some scaffolding work in progress. We left for some dimsum and Hangzhou Xiaolongbao

The perfectly caramelized golden brown Wotie (pot stickers)

Xiao Long Bao and Dumplings

After checking in our AirBnb, we headed down for dinner

This is a famous hotpot where they start the hotpot by frying stuffs. Then only broth is poured over to make it a flavorsome hotpot

No joke. This was the same pot that the lady was frying stuff with. Must Try!

I ended the night with a too full stomach and had to went to bed early while the others walked around Xi Men Ding

08/12/2017: Shifen, Jiufen and Keelong City

One of the main touristy area of Taipei is the un-missable Jiufen and Shifen. We started our day with a trip to Shifen after a breakfast of Taiwanese Instant Noodles (oh this is a must try)

Used to be a small village with a railway track in the middle. But out of a sudden it became so famous

But yeah it is indeed a beautiful town

After writing our wishes on the lantern, ready to light it off

Up up up it goes

Taking the default photos on railway tracks

Would I visit here again! Definitely. Hopefully with my future girlfriend

The famous ice cream peanut roll dessert

After that we went to the Shifen waterfall

This is just the stream. Not the waterfall

The small but not the big attraction waterfall

Chinese New Year vibe. Actually these are wishes where people tie them onto the trees

The Shifen waterfall

After Shifen we went to Jiufen. Also another touristy place up on a hilly setting

The hillside area overlooking down to Taipei City

Entrance to Jiufen beside the 7-11


Surprisingly I like the place although it being crowded

Famous Ahpo Taro balls

The famous Grand Tea House that inspired "Spirited Away"

After snacking around, we left Jiufen and headed for Keelong City. Keelong Night Market is one of the night markets I would really recommend

Keelong City streets

Keelong Night Market

Walking into the night market


Pork soup and Luroufan as starters

Sky darkens

Seafood porridge

Guabao and pig intestines soup

After filling our tummies we headed back to Taipei to visit the famous cafe

That night Xi Men Ding was exceptionally busy as there was a procession for Taoist Gods. According to my driver these processions can last a few days and can be merrier than Chinese New Year



09/12/2017: Yehliu, Tamsui & Shilin Night Market

Yehliu is a seaside town just 30 minutes drive from Taipei. It hoses the beautiful rock formation Yeliu National Park.

It was rainy when we went to Yeliu

Strong waves

Intriguing stone formation. All naturally formed

Spot the slipper

Cross the red line at your own peril

Since it was raining and the waves were quite strong, I just timed my photos to capture wave photos

One of the small small coves where sea water flows in

Fishing enthusiasts fishing

It is actually crowded

We had probably one of the best seafood lunch I have ever had

Fresh seafood outside the restaurant

Steamed prawns. Super fresh

Sauteed clams. Super fresh

Steamed abalones. Super fresh

Steamed crabs. Super fresh

Steamed spotted crabs. Super fresh

I love it that the freshest seafood needs no seasoning, According to the chef, the freshest seafood needs no seasoning. Complicated overdoing actually spoils the sweetness of the seafood. Wholly agree. Less is more!

Name of the restaurant

The fishing village at the back of the restaurant. You do not need any assurance on how fresh the seafood are with the sea just behind you

We left Yehliu and headed to Tamshui. On the way there, passed by an interesting arc and went for some photos

It is a rocky beach made up of seashells and rocks. But it is still a pretty beach!
Fishing enthusiasts fishing at the rocky slopes

How did he get there?

Finally arrived at Tamshui

Another ray emitting photo

The bridge at Tamshui Fisherman's wharf

One of the nice shots at Tamshui

The bridge shot from the side

Lucky shot without the people :)

After that, we headed to the Tamsui night market.

Tamsui night market

Tamsui specialty. A-Gei, which is a rice vermicelli covered with tofu and served with sweet sauce

After a breif walk around, we headed to Shilin Night Market

Rows and rows of shops. Food shops

The famous sponge cake laced with molten cheese

Hearty meal yet heavy heart. As going back to reality etched closer ever. Today was the last day our driver Ah Fu will be chauffeuring us around. For those in need of a Taiwan tour guide and driver to hit the link below for my tour guide!

Ah Fu Taiwan Tour Guide

10/12/2017: Maokong Cable Car, Taipei 101 and Raohe Night Market

After yet another breakfast of Taiwan instant noodles, we left for Maokong cable car ride. Without Ah Fu we traveled via the MRT

Maokong is one of the cable car stops on top of a hill. In the middle part before reaching Maokong the Taiwan zoo is accessible. Too bad time was not on our side we decided to give the zoo a pass.

Up up up we go

Maokong station

One of the grassy hillside of Maokong

The fields are planted with lupins. Too bad it was not the blooming season

Lupin field

On the way down we chartered the glass floored cable car

Yes this is how it looks like on my feet

After that we took a bus ride to Taiwan 101, which is quite near to Maokong


At the foot of the tower

One trip up the Taipei 101 tower observatory floor was roughly SGD23 (via KKDAY)

Too bad it was pretty cloudy. Scenery on top was not in its best

Came back down. Streets around the Taipei 101

Raohe night market is just a walkaway from Songshan MRT

Ci You Temple

Entrance to Raohe Night Market

The tasty black pepper buns

Pork rib soup

Shellfish (forgot which kind)

Cool chess set

And that wraps up the last night in Taiwan for me.

11/12/2017: Back to reality

Left for KLIA at 12pm flight. Arrived at 6pm and almost missed my flight back Singapore. Luckily my SG flight got delayed and I boarded flight at 10pm.

Overall Taiwan has been a memorable trip, and definitely one of the places I will visit again!