Trip to Hong Kong, December 2011

Hello world, I’ve just returned from a holiday trip with my parents to Hong Kong.

The Golden Bauhinia at Hong Kong

I was there for one week, visiting many places such as Lantau Island, Causeway Bay, Mongkok, etc. We traveled around mostly by using the subway known locally as the MTR.

Photo at Lantau Island

 A Christmas tree at Harbour City. Look closer.

Basically, I wanted to go to Hong Kong to do some toy-hunting. I had the idea that some figures which simply didn’t make it onto the shelves in Singapore, could possibly be on sale in Hong Kong, somewhere.  Before my trip, I had already done my research by reading up the blogs of other collectors who had gone shopping in Hong Kong, so I had a list of locations to check out. These include SOGO, the UML shops, In’s Point, Sino Centre, Richmond Shopping Arcade, CTMA centre, and a couple of toy shops along the streets of Sham Shui Po. There’s even an obscure toy shop way up on the 16th floor of a Causeway Bay commercial building, which has a stock of older more vintage figures. So, I managed to find some, but not all, of what I was looking for.

My awesome haul from Hong Kong. A short summary as follows:
Thor – Sif, King Laufey, King Loki.
Pirates of the Caribbean – Desert Weary Jack Sparrow, Ragetti.
GI Joe – Big Bear (a Soviet soldier whom I thought would fit into a Cold War era Indiana Jones theme).
Two 1:18 scale WWII German Soldiers
A couple of Indiana Jones figures for spares and custom parts.
A Schleich Indian Elephant – one of these days I’ll blog about its purpose.
And a 1:18 scale Mona Lisa painting, along with the other dunno what painting that came along with it.

And it’s just as well that I managed to control my expenses so that I didn’t buy ALL that I was interested in, otherwise I think I would have cleared out my bank account several times over. Rather, some of the above figures were already on clearance sale, so I managed  to buy them cheaply, instead of not being able to find them at all in Singapore.

Merry Christmas!

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To Mount Kinabalu and back

Over the National Day long weekend, I joined my colleagues for an expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia. There were six in our group, five from my office, plus one of my colleague’s friend. The trip was organised by a Malaysian colleague, who last climbed Mount Kinabalu eight years ago and was feeling nostalgic about visiting again, and so he decided to bring along the rest of us to join in the experience.
 
Me at the Kinabalu National Park Headquarters. Mount Kinabalu is at the back.
 
After arriving at Kota Kinabalu on Thursday night, the next morning we proceeded to the Kinabalu National Park, about two hours drive away. And then we started our trek upwards, following along a jungle trail that alternated between walking paths and countless flights of steps. The start point was at altitude 1,585m, and after hiking for about six hours and covering a distance of roughly 6 km, we arrived at the Laban Rata rest house situated at 3,270m. It was about 4pm, and the weather was getting windy. We settled in at the rest house where we had our dinner.
 
    
Steps, steps, and more steps
 
Going all the way up
 
Taking a rest, somewhere along the way
 
The ascent to the summit starts the next morning at 2am, this is so that climbers would arrive at the summit at around the same time as sunrise and can catch the view. Anyway, two of us decided not to continue onwards as they felt too cold and tired. So the remaining four (including me) proceeded on with the climb. It was another 2 km to the summit, this part of the ascent is much more rockier and at times quite steep, we need to pull ourselves up by grapping onto the ropes attached to the slopes. And it was freezing cold and windy. By this point I had to stop after every few steps to catch my breath, my legs were already tired from the earlier climb. But I was able to endure the difficulties, and I arrived at the peak at around 5.30am. The top of Mount Kinabalu is called Low’s Peak, located at 4,095.2m above sea level.
 
Picture of me at Low’s Peak, summit of Mount Kinabalu
 
And then I had to queue up to get my photos taken as there were many other climbers around at the peak, and my hands were starting to freeze even though I was wearing my gloves. After getting my photoshot, I felt that it was simply too cold to hang around any longer and therefore started my descent, meeting my colleagues a short while later after they had also reached the peak.
 
Picture taken on the way down, I was up there earlier.
 
It’s all rocks up here.
 
For our return trip to the rest house, we did not follow the same path down. Instead, we tried out the Via Ferrata route. This involved climbing straight down the sheer mountain rockface while connected to a steel cable with a safety harness. Steps and handles have been fixed into the rockface for easy descent. Personally I felt that this downward route was rather exciting, and it was supposed to be a shorter distance than the walking down path, although all of us felt that we took a longer time coming down, reaching the rest house at 10am.
 
Before climbing down. When you are up there, the clouds are below you.
 
 
 I’m having fun here !
 
After breakfast and a bit of rest, we began our trip down the mountain at 11am, reaching the park headquarters at 3pm. We stayed overnight at the park cabin, returning to Kota Kinabalu the next day, where we had another day of rest and sightseeing, before catching our flight back to Singapore on Monday.

I’ve returned from Vietnam

Hello world, I have just returned from a nine-day vacation in Vietnam. I was travelling with three of my university friends, and we went to three places: Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.
 
 Me at the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
 
Ho Chi Minh City was previously known as Saigon and served as the capital of South Vietnam, before the North successfully reunified the country in 1975, and renamed the city in honour of their great leader Ho Chi Minh. Although nowadays the people here use both names interchangeably.
 
Me at one of the royal tombs in Hue
 
After touring Ho Chi Minh City, we flew to Hue in Central Vietnam. Hue was the ancient capital of Vietnam, and there are many royal tombs in Hue, belonging to Vietnam emperors. Apart from visiting the tombs, we also visited the ancient palace known as the Citadel.
 
 I visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi
 
Lastly, we went to Hanoi. There are many museums in Vietnam, showcasing its rich culture and history, in particular its fight against French colonialism, as well as the Vietnam War against the Americans. Since I am interested in history, it was a real treat for me to visit the museums, as well as the many places of historical interests such as the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, where Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body is displayed for all generations to view.
 
In Hanoi’s Army Museum, this is the famous tank that crashed through Saigon’s Independence Palace.