Thursday, 23 August 2007

Malaysia International Fireworks Competition 2007 (MIFC)

Malaysia International Fireworks Competition 2007 Putrajaya International Convention Centre will be the venue for the 1st Malaysia International Fireworks Competition.
The magnificent view across the lake overlooked by the grand Seri Gemilang bridge will be the main focus for two weeks. From 18 August 2007 till 2 September 2007, Nations from Australia, Japan, Italy and Malaysia will be competing for the Merdeka trophy

For more details on the MIFC event, click HERE

I was there for the Team Australia's fireworks yesterday. Both Putrajaya and Cyberjaya were packed with cars and all along the lake, tripods can be seen as well =)
With so much cars, best logical place to see is by the lake. Had some problems with the camera settings, therefore, the pics turn out like shit.

A few pictures can be found HERE

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Bali Trip - 4th Day (20.07.2007)

The last day of the trip was in Ubud town. The Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Palace) is situated at the heart of Ubud and is just opposite the market. By day, the palace welcome visitors to walk around and is transformed into a backdrop for traditional dance performances during the night. The compounds are also been converted into hotel rooms for tourists but still retain the authentic features of the puri.

Just beside the puri is the Ubud Market. The market basically sells everything from clothes to woodcarvings to vegetables. The market is a 2 level building with empty spaces in the middle. It is packed with tourists and the prices here are a bit steep. However, bargaining is always an art for the Balinese. In every shop, you can hear both the buyer and the seller bargaining with different expressions.
In the evening, it was time to catch the flight and head back home. There are still so much to see yet so little time. Hope to make it a longer trip the next time.


Bali Trip - 3rd Day (19.07.2007)

Ubud, sometimes known as the real Bali, which is in contrast with Kuta. The people of Ubud are known for their paint, carve, dance and music, and strict religious practices.

In Batubulan, it’s more of a public-transport interchange for bemos. However, it is the home for the famous Barong troupes and is respected across the whole island for its stonecarvers.

The Barong-Rangda dance represents the conflict between the good and evil. And again, is one of the symbolic episodes in the Mahabhrata story. Rangda(queen of witches) is often called as a character that causes harm, evil and destruction while the Barong is always the defender of the good. The image of Rangda can be seen everywhere in Bali, especially in temples. She has a long hair with flames coming out from her head. Her face is hideous with bulging eyes, a gaping mouth, huge teeth and a long tongue that touches her knees. Her fingernails are long and curled and she has an enormous breast. The Barong shows a more lovable figure, a shaggy-haired creature like a horse and a Chinese dragon. There are a few Barongs such as Barong Ket (lion), Barong Macan (tiger), Barong Bangkal (wild boar) and Barong Celeng (pig).

Next to Batubulan is Celuk, known as the silver village because it’s a major center for jewellery production. Nearly the whole stretch of houses and shops here sells silver, gold and other jewelleries.

The main temple, Pura Desa Puseh, in the north of the village is heavily decorated. It has a five-tiered gateway tower inspired by Indian religious architecture. In this temple, there are some Buddha images, which differs from the other Balinese temple.

There are basically 3 main roads north of UBUD that leads to the Gunung Batur. Upon heading up to the crater rims of Gunung Batur, rice paddies can be seen from above. The terraces are carved from the hillsides of the island.

It has been roughly 20 years since Gunung Batur erupted. It is scary to see the volcano still smoking, but the locals do belief that its better if Batur lets off a little steam regularly rather than saving it all up for a major blow. The view from Penelokan, which means, “place to look” is amazing. Tourists pass through Penelokan everyday, attracting locals selling all sorts of stuffs. It’s really a pain as they will follow and keep pestering you to buy and even offering the cheapest price. This crater rim is also packed with restaurants offering expensive buffet lunches. But it might be worth it – think of having lunch while enjoying the cool breeze and the amazing view of the volcano. It is said that the water surrounding the volcano is suppose to be holy as well.

On the way down, there’s a small coffee plantation along the road. Tourist will go through the plantation with trees labeled before actually arriving at the shop. Resting huts are prepared on the hillsides for tourist to enjoy a cup of 6 different kinds of drinks. It is a relaxation to be able to drink and enjoy the scenery of greens there.

Balinese from every corner of the island make pilgrimages to Tirta Empul, which is somewhere in Kintamani. They locals come here to cleanse themselves and to cure their physical ailments by bathing in the holy springs here. Legend says that the god Indra first tapped the springs during his battle with the evil Mayadanawa, early ruler of the Pejeng kingdom. Mayadanawa then poison the rivers, so Indra pierced the earth to release a spring of pure and sacred water – the elixir of immortality. Hence this new spring is called as Tirta Empul and has been the holiest in Bali. The bathing pools are sunk in the ground of the outer courtyard, fed by water from the springs in the inner sanctuary. Men, women and priests each have their own section of the pool.

The Sacred Monkey Forest Santuary is located in Ubud. Balinese treat monkeys with great respect and is important to the Balinese culture. Therefore, this forest is for the home of these monkeys. This is considered as a holy area and an important ecological preserve. There are 3 holy temples in this forest, the Pura Dalem Agung Temple, the Holy Bathing Temple which a structure of “Three Mandalas” and the Pura Prajapati (the funeral or cremation temple).


Friday, 3 August 2007

Bali Trip - 2nd Day (18.07.2007)

The hotel provided free continental breakfast, which comes with either coffee or tea. It was a wrong move to call for the coffee, as it seems like unfiltered coffee. Every morning, the Balinese women will do the simplest offerings before starting the day. These offerings are called canang, which consist of tiny banana-leaf trays, pinned together and filled rice and 6-7 different types of symbolic flowers with incense. The different colours of flowers represents different Hindu god. When the offering is place down, she will sprinkle a few drops of holy water over the canang and fans the incense smoke heavenwards so that the appropriate god will come down and enjoy it.

The streets of Kuta isn’t very wide and the back lanes are extremely narrow. Surprisingly cars are able to maneuver on this 2 way back lane. Even in back lanes, there are small temples. Each Balinese house compound is built within a confining wall with unique architecture for some.

Yes, the beach of Kuta – nice and clean but is often packed with tourist and annoying saleswomen. Needless to say, the wave attracts a lot of surfers. Even our McDoc wants to surf.

About 18km northwest of Denpasar, the small village of Mengwi has a history as a powerful kingdom. Pura Taman Ayun is the state temple of the former kingdom of Mengwi. This temple has inner courtyard, middle courtyard and outer courtyard. The inner courtyard is inaccessible to public except for festival time, therefore, there is a pavement on both sides with low walls for tourist to see the shrines and bale within. Basically, whatever size, status or function of a temple will have similar layout (3 courtyard).

The north and east sides of the compound are lined with a multi-tiered meru (multi-tiered Hindu shrine with odd roofs). The most important of these are the three that honour Bali’s holiest mountains as they occupy positions on Bali in relation to Mengwi. The eleven-roofed structure represents Gunung Batukau, the nine-roofed structure represents Gunung Batur and beside Batur is eleven-roofed Gunung Agung.

Next stop was Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest. The temple within this compound is known as pura dalem (temple of the dead). Feeding the monkeys is option. There’s nothing much to see besides looking at monkeys lazing and playing around.
Please do not get a guide, as they will pester you into visiting their souvenir shop where they won’t easily let you off. But then again, you have no choice because the whole lots of them are sitting there waiting for their prey.

Stop of the day is Tanah Lot. Along the road leading to Pura Tanah Lot, a lot of stalls can be seen selling all sorts of stuffs. Prices here aint that cheap. Tourist area, what do you expect =P

The Pura Tanah Lot does deserve to be named as one of Bali’s top sight. Pura Tanah Lot is also one of Bali’s holiest places; closely related with several others along the coast such as Pura Rambut Siwi and Pura Luhur Uluwatu. The sunset view is beautiful and attracts a lot of tourist. But the view will depend on the weather though. The Pura Tanah Lot is inaccessible by public as only devotees are allowed to climb the temple stairway carved out of the rock face. When the waters are low, we can take a sip of the holy water that rises beneath the temple rock. There is a priest that will give prayers to those that had wash with the holy water. Donation seems like mandatory though.

Dinner time again! This time it was in Seminyak. One of the old and famous warong called Warong Made. It’s so famous that you will need to book a table a day in advance first. Warong Made has been there for years and has 2 branches in Bali itself. Environment is quite cozy and the customers there are mostly mat sallehs. Price here is quite reasonable and the portion is quite big. And they even have satay babi and babi guling in their menu. I wonder how their babi guling looks like. Babi guling will need to be ordered 1 day in advance. So, too bad. There was even belly dancing performance on stage during the dinner, which lasted for…lets see…5 minutes.


Thursday, 2 August 2007

Bali Trip -1st Day (17.07.2007)

Travel and Leisure Magazine named Bali as the World’s Best Island. Sounds interesting? Book a flight and head on there. That’s what I did with the free seats offered by Air Asia last year. Looking out from the plane’s window, the Ngurah Rai Airport - Bali’s only airport (sometimes referred to as being in Denpasar) seems to be built beside the sea! The weather was a mixture of cool and hot due to the strong winds.

Headed to their town called Kuta, the only place in Bali, which you can find Hard Rock, McD’s, KFC and other famous branded outlets. The currency used here is mostly in US Dollar, however, in other places up north, the Indonesia Rp takes over. Didn't really went into Hard Rock though.

In Kuta, there are plenty of hotels along all the main roads with the price ranging roughly between Rp50, 000 till USD 150 and above per night. Needless to say there were a lot of drivers and taxis around honking you and asking if you need a ride. Checked into a mid-budget hotel and called for a driver. First destination was to the Pura Luhur Uluwatu, which is near the Suluban Beach on the far south of Bali.

There’s not much traffic lights in Bali but there’s sure a lot of roundabouts (big and small ones). At each of these roundabouts, you can spot a statue or figurine in the middle of the road, which are being prayed by the locals.

It was a breathtaking sight at Pura Luhur Uluwatu. The Pura (which means temple) is one of Bali’s holiest and most important temples, which is situated on the tip of a rocky cliff roughly 70m above the foaming surf. In the compound of this temple, the locals have built a small stage to perform the Kecak Dance (sometimes called as the monkey dance). The dance represents the main episode of the Ramayana story, where the demon king Rawana kidnapped Sita.

The dance took quite a while (from evening till night). It was time for dinner! The famous seafood dinner by the beach would be in Jimbaran. There were so many seafood restaurants beside the Jimbaran Bay. Looking at the menu, some of the seafood has 2 options – either fresh or live. You will need to choose for example live prawns or fresh prawns and how many kilos and how you want it cooked. The environment there is the perfect picture of a romantic dinner. Imagine, candlelight dinner by the beach, wind blowing gently, stuffing yourself with the amount of seafood and musicians playing beside your table (yes, like it or not, you will need to pay for the musicians as they will go to each table regardless if you call for them or not). Weirdly, there are small carts by the beach as well selling steamed peanuts and roasted corns.

Click Here for more pictures