Friday, November 28, 2008

10 Reasons why 2008 is not so horrid after all Part 2

This is the continuation from Part 1..a personal audit of 2008

5. Teluk Intan

Hold on, I've been in TI for almost 2 years it's not a surprise that I've come to love this place. Yeah, I've finally figure that life here is slow-going, relaxed and 'cheaper'. It's not that eating out here is that economical, but the major point is that I can't go splurge in major shopping centres and eat in high-end restaurants unlike when I was in KL.

So, it's kinder on my coffers comparatively. Not only that, many more 'markers' of civilization has arrived or is arriving and so I feel very comfortable here. The best part is that I'm allowed to do a lot of surgical interventions and procedures here as long as I show competency, responsibility and proper knowlege in handling the equipments.

Therefore, this is a very nice learning ground for me to hone my surgical skills, knowledge and attitude at this stage of my training.

4. New gadgets

When I lost my stuff to burglars, I was very down (ok, ok, fine..I was depressed for a short while). Yet like what they say, the old has to go before the new can arrive. My new laptop is so cute, light and efficient with more memory and more programs to explore. At the same time, my new PDA is doing fine as it is fast becoming indispensable.

3. Wonderful travel places

If you are one of the handful ardent followers of my blog (thanks a lot for your support, CHEERS!) you would realize that I travelled a lot this year. Seriously, I think I broke a personal record for the amount of travelling I did this year and it's all thanks to a wonderful boss, nice colleagues and a lot of great pals whom I travelled with.

The highlights of this year included Kota Kinabalu, Mount Kinabalu, Kudat, Singapore, Penang, Ipoh, Yunnan (my first time in China) and many wonderful events in KL.

2. Wonderful friends
I've met a lot of new friends in this year and some of them will become my life-long buddies. It's amazing how fast we build lasting friendships when we are put in a small town and this is a special tribute to the 'gang' in Teluk Intan, Ipoh and KL. You know who you are...

Not only that, I've learnt that some people go in and out of our lives and although some of my old friends have left my life for better or worse, I know that they played a role in our journey in life. Of course, I'm also very grateful that some 'toxic' friendships have been eliminated. Although it was toxic at that point, if I could recognize the warning signs and lessons learnt, I'll do better in the future. Definitely :-p

1. Walking with God
Through the darkest, stormiest hours of my life, He was there for me. In my solitude and misery, He was my consolation. There is none like Jesus and for that I'm ever grateful. He walked with me through all the tears, fears and joy. He enables me to excel in so many things I choose to focus in.
I grew closer to the Lord amidst all the tribulations in the past 11 months. My life was greatly enriched by the ups and downs. At times, I wonder why is it that a few of my dreams remained dreams, visions still unfulfilled..until I began to surrender it all to the Lord and ask for patience, endurance and peace.

the year is drawing to a close..I reviewed my new year's resolution and discovered that I've actually achieved plenty of it. So, hey, 2008 is not too bad after all!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

10 Reasons why 2008 is not so horrible after all Part 1

I was looking at the calendar the other day and then it dawned upon me.

“Oh my God, I’ve been in Teluk Intan for 2 years now. It’s so fast. What have I done for myself and for God?”

Aside from passing 2 exams in the process and learning a lot of surgical skills, initially I’m not sure whether I’ve achieved anything that’s significant. That’s until I begin to analyze each period of time in my life and list down the good things that happened in my supposedly-horrid year and surprise, surprise..this is a great year after here. So, the top 10 reasons why 2008 is not so horrid after all :

10. Physical activities

The fitness freak in me came to life when my buddies encouraged me to start exercising. As I’m a determined person and normally as stubborn as a mule, I don’t usually give up on things. However, it is also not easy to convince myself to do something unless I can achieve something tangible from it, being a very purpose-oriented person.

I began to run regularly, roller-blade with gusto and hike on occasions. For heaven’s sake, I even ran in three 10-km races, which is a big deal for a previously known couch potato and bookworm like me.

9. Blog and Photography

I love writing! Other than talking (another one of my favourite past-time), I feel that I’m much more eloquent when it comes to the written word. As for the art of taking pictures, I think I’m improving in it as I put in more efforts on taking nicer pictures and taking baby steps in mastering Photoshop.

Of course I’ve been whining and sighing about how much I long for a dslr and blah, blah, blah but the fact is that I don’t take that much of photographs to really justify owning something that good….except for the fact that I do covet a good camera. Like how I want a particular car which I know that realistically, I will not purchase in this lifetime. Sigh, people do crave for things that they can’t have isn’t it?

8. CG

It’s official. We’ve finally realized our dream of having a small care group in TI for the doctors here. Next week, we are celebrating the first anniversary of our little CG & it’s so exciting to see how God moves in our lives. A fellow co-founder is getting married in Dec while another girl is also tying the knot. It’s great to see such a vibrant and happy community supporting and encouraging each other when we are far away from our family members.

Not only that, PETI and so many of the community events that we have organized were quite beneficial to the local population in many ways unexpectedly. We do look forward to more ideas and fun in the year ahead!

7. Wisdom and wit

I don’t mean to say that I was stupid prior to this but I guess I was very naïve when it comes to certain things and people. This year has been a landmark year for me as I begin to realize that there are mean and cruel people in this world who only love themselves. These people will not care about others unless they can gain something from the person. Although I still choose to believe that there is goodness in everyone, I learn that we must discern wisely and sieve out the bad from the good. Enough said.

6. Courage and sense of adventure

I’ve finally let myself experience something unknown for the first time in my life. I mean, going to another country and learning to work in a totally different environment may be hard in the beginning, but I look forward to the adventure of it all. This is my first venture in working in another country as I intend to travel even further to experience life elsewhere. As I prepare to go sample life elsewhere and it’s a long way to go before I actually pack up, I pray that this is a right move in the right direction and not just a temporary decision made at the spur of the moment.

To be continued….my next 5 bright sparks in 2008 and why I decided that I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, finally!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chinese Odyssey 4: Shangri-La, Expectations of Eden (Unfulfilled)

Well, I’ve been to the hotel many times in different places around the world but this is the first time I’ve visited the ‘real’ place. The Chinese government anointed this little town of Zhongdian and its vicinity as the location of the fictional place described by James Hilton in his book Lost Horizon. I am quite skeptical about its claims as some of my friends warned me not to have high expectations of Shangri-la.

Actually, this is a nice place to relax and unwind. In autumn, the landcape was quite dramatic, with the red and yellow-coated mountains contrasting strongly against the deep blue sky. The scenery was typical of Tibetan countryside and the sun scorching, almost scalding any exposed skin. The high altitude didn’t bother me one bit as we climbed the highland and reached the plateau near central China and Tibet. Some people were seen dragging along their ‘oxygen’ tanks but frankly, I don’t think the altitude was high enough to cause mountain sickness for relatively fit people. I suspect it was mostly human psychology (you know, the herd mentality thingy). Some people hunger for oxygen madly while I was just very hungry for the delicious Tibetan food.

There was a lovely park which has a large grassland and huge lake. We spent the whole afternoon at that place, shuttling between different lakes, with a biggie called Bita-hai Lake. At night, we went to the town square (Du-ke Zong) to see the world’s largest prayer wheel from afar. The reason why we were only seeing it from afar? Apparently hor, the prayer wheel is in a monastery and no females are allowed into the monastery at night wor so we can only snap up a few pictures of something gold glowing in the dark. Anyway, the town square was cool, too as there were a big group of local people doing some sort of public line dancing.

Kinda expected a few cowboys running around the huge grassland. The trees and shrubs are reminiscent of old Western drama like 'Unforgiven' or something like that.

I guess you can see from my short narration (for once!) that there is nothing much at Shangri-la. We flew back to Kunming the next day for some lessons in geology. The caves, rivers and stones at Shih-Lin and Jiu-xiang were a tad more interesting but too touristy as these two places were also given the Unesco World Heritage site status.

I think I'll include pictures of JX (Jiuxiang) and SL (Shih-Lin) in between my next few posts.

This brings my ‘travelogue’ on China to a much-awaited close. I can’t wait to talk about something else much closer to home as I look forward to the close of 2008.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On a more personal note...a break from the travelogues

Stuck in the OT waiting for some patients to arrive so that I can chop them up, erm, I mean operate on them. The past few weeks after I came back from China has been the best time of my life. I’ve never felt happier and more hopeful and carefree than currently. It’s amazing how God can work on me while I was on a break and totally rejuvenated my body, mind and spirit in the process.

For the first time, I spent my birthday in a different country which is so near to Malaysia physically and culturally that I felt as if I was still in KL. Although my closest friends weren’t around, at least I got my birthday cake, hehe, and it’s the most chocolatey (is that a legal English word?) cake ever. I justified the calories by running after my hyper-active & extremely cheeky niece and nephew, 2 year-old and 8 year-old respectively. It’s quite hilarious seeing their funny antics and smart retorts. Why are kids so precocious nowadays?

Not only that, I’ve finally gotten my necessity in life..a laptop. Alas, I’m back to the Information Age! No more ‘cyber-squatting’ in front of computers in the hospital or going to my friend’s house to borrow their laptops. At the present moment, yours truly is still lacking an Internet connection but I vowed that I’ll overcome my procrastination and will actually get connected by this year…

Anyway, the weekend up north in Penang was worth all the driving (mostly on Pui San’s part) and we wished that the stay was a lot longer. Do check out PS’s blog at for the funniest commentary on 2 jokers who came to Penang just for a run, rented a relatively expensive hotel room far away from Queensbay Mall and then, drove back to Perak for work on the very next day. The things we do for our obsessions in life!Anyway, the act of keeping fit, pushing up my stamina and building endurance is quite tough considering my hectic schedule back here in DC.

Had many on-calls since then and been lacking a bit on my zzzz. My immediate aim is to be able to run 10km within respectable time before aiming for the half marathon next year, but wah…fat chances of that happening considering that I might need to start studying for the next MRCS exam soon.

So, for once in my life, I think I have to be camera-shy jor…no new photographs of me until my disastrous skin recovers! Till then, I’ll only resort to the position behind instead of in front of the lens. Time to stay low profile until my busy month (December) is over :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Li-jiang, the beautiful city lost in time

I’ve heard of many accolades showered upon Li-jiang and came with high expectations. After all, this place which was also listed in the Unesco World Heritage list (for culture) is also one of the most-visited city in China and mentioned favourably in the Lonely Planet.

I wasn’t disappointed. The moment we wandered into this old city (there are actually three preserved towns), I was captured by the narrow, cobblestone alleyways, clear canals and old wooden shops and houses. I felt lost in time, as if transported to the Ming or Tang Dynasty. Many shops were lined with red paper lanterns and there were many cypresses, willow and elm trees surrounding the squares. The whole city was pedestrianized and within walking distance.

Our journey on foot took us to the Mu-fu, a grand mansion of the Mu family which was heavily destroyed by an earthquake in 1996. The expansive, clean and exquisite piece of architecture reminded me of many Chinese period dramas from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The mansion was connected to the Lion Hill (Shi-zi Shan) which is the line of division between the new and old town. The view from Wang-gu Lou (Looking-into-the-Past Pavillion) was superb as we found out why this city is one of the rare ones in China that doesn’t have a city wall. It was surrounded by grand, stately mountains and one of these mountains keeping guard over this ancient city is the Yu-loong Snow Mountain.

With crisp, icy cold mountain wind blowing in my face, I marveled at the architecture bathed in the fading sun-light. The first day came to an end as we walked past the Old Market Square thronged with mostly Chinese people, mostly Han but with a smattering of Naxi tribal people.

The resort was very comfortable and homely as we were granted a huge living room, maid, Internet access and many clean bath-rooms. Each breakfast was ‘home-cooked’ by our so-called maid before we go out travelling each day.

I was looking forward to the day’s trip around Lijiang and again it was a brilliant day. The morning was very clear with no sight of clouds as we headed towards the Yu-loong Snow Mountain (Yu-loong Xueshan).

Firstly, we hung out around a beautiful clear lake that reflects the brilliant blue sky and the snow-capped Mountain near the Baishui area. This area housed a small museum displaying painting and artworks from the Lijiang area. I also encountered my first lamasery as we went to the Jade Peak Monastery to view the 10,000 blossoms Camellia tree. Too bad it wasn’t spring-time and all we found was a gnarled, artistic-looking tree-bark and a grumpy old guard possessively guarding his cherished tree.

Li-jiang was also famous for it’s temple frescoes from the Dongba culture and we managed to see these frescoes and a salmon fishery before lunch.

Of course the highlight of the day was the very grand ‘Impression Lijiang’ show created and directed by Zhang Yimou, the guy who directed the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. This musical was set in a huge, open-air amphitheatre, with the snow mountain as its natural backdrop. Everyone was handed a red cap as all were exposed to the raw elements. The 500-over performers perform this show twice a day for at least 300 days a year. I higly-recommend this show to anyone who visits Lijiang. It is spectacular and very enjoyable.

The evening got better as we went deeper into the national park and crossed many beautiful rivers, valleys and gorges. The mountain slopes were cloaked in autumnal colours…we were captivated by the trees changing into shades of brown, red, yellow or orange. There were some yaks available for that picture-perfect location as many chuckled at a silly yak stuck in the middle of the cascade of water. It was a very pleasant spot that reminded me of the Alps in Europe.

The daylight hours came to a close and we were bundled back to civilization. As the satisfying day came to a close, we viewed the Hei-Loong Tan (Black dragon pool). This garden was featured in many magazines and being here at night was to me, better than daytime. The nocturnal walk was illuminated by the clear moon-light, free from smog and pollution.

I was also pleased to find out that my friends were up to a walk to the café and clubbing district in the old city. The whole area was transformed to a very hip, happening place resembling most watering holes in major cities. Many young foreigners flocked to the eateries, cafes, pubs and clubs along the most picturesque canals to party the night away. I was impressed by the amount of people partying and the easy-going nature of the people here. As our brief stay came to a close the following day, I vowed that I will come to Li-jiang again and will definitely stay longer.

The next chapter, CO4: Shangri-La, Great Expectations of Eden (unfulfilled)….

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CO 3 : More Pictures from Lijiang

Yunnan is a famous flower exporter..

Interesting pavillions....

Beautiful lights....

Too bad it's too cold to swim....

Dongba Pictograph and a red tree with my red favourite poncho (actually my one and only poncho)...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chinese Odyssey 2 : Dali, the city of incessant rain

Rain, rain go away, come again another day…that seemed to be my mantra as we traveled many long hours to reach the city of Da-li. As we gained mileage and altitude, it seems that the attitudes also became more relaxed and the atmosphere very laidback. Dali, was the ancient capital of the Nanzhao dynasty which was an empire stuck in between the great Indian and Chinese civilizations of the past. On the mountainous highway, we took a toilet stop and I discovered a great truth about toilet habits in China…yup, toilets with no doors.

Oh, I received a bit of a culture shock as I saw many people squatting down to do their business without doors. As I’m used to seeing unmentionable body parts, I guessed I got used to it pretty fast. However, some of my travel-mates were disturbed by it and one lady couldn’t even pass urine!

Anyhow, we reached our destination still in good humour although it was drizzling all the while. We dropped by the major touristy spots in Dali like the Pearl Square, Er-hai Lake and the 3 Pagodas. It was pleasant but not spectacular as I tried to find the silver lining in the grey clouds overhanging above us. Apparently, the Dali old town used to rival those of Li-jiang but I think it’s too touristy and much smaller in scale.

I think I had the most fun in the Tian-Loong Ba-bu Film Set where many great Chinese martial arts movies have been filmed…you know, the Legend of the Condor Heroes, etc. Some of the shops (like those of the sword-smith, noodles shop, restaurant, brothel, etc) looked vaguely familiar. At the grand court of the mini-castle, we rented some costumes and posed cheekily for photographs.

After that, it was more souvenir-shopping and eating before a good rest at the beautiful and huge hotel (that’s to compensate for the lackluster weather and the okay attractions). Of course we went out after dinner….wandering about town at night searching for interesting handicrafts and street food at the Foreigner’s Street. The night ended with a relaxing foot reflexology session at the hotel before we rest the night away for the best part of the journey, Li-jiang, the charming town by the foothills of Yu-Long Snow Mountain.

P.S. : An interesting fact about handicrafts and artworks in Da-li is the art of ‘batik’…it seems that the people in Da-li used to tie patterns on white fabric and then put various colours in it in vats of dyes, producing cloth that resembles the batik we have in Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. What a small world indeed!

Coming up next, CO 3 : Li-jiang, Lovely little town nestled under the Jade-Dragon Mountain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Chinese Odyssey Part 1: Kunming, the City of Eternal Spring

Certain travelogues can be very dull. Just like watching paint dry on your walls or waiting for your pet turtle to run 100m, no one would love to read about what you did last summer unless you are scandalously hot like Jessica Alba or Paris Hilton. Truthfully, I was kind of worried that I will bore everyone with my narration on how good Yunnan was, blah, blah, blah. Yet, I couldn’t help but sing praises of this wonderful province and my first excursion into the land of my ‘forefathers’. However, don’t be mistaken, my ancestors are not from Yunnan but I think this province is the closest I can get to Guangdong province this year, so at least I got to experience the real deal in the mainland for now.

As I’ve documented previously, we landed at Kunming just pre-dawn and was whisked immediately to Dian-chi lake. It was the biggest lake in Kunming and housed the longest antithetical couplets in the world. Please don’t ask me to explain what that means as I’m clueless about Chinese literature and history, being a half-banana and all. Thankfully, my wiser friends explained to me what the couplets mean as I tried to grasped the meaning behind the classical Mandarin sayings. Oh, the joy of having Chinese-educated friends..there are priceless if we were to travel in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc :-) Thanks a lot, mates!

Nevertheless, I had sensory overload as we viewed the multi-coloured flowers on display immediately at dawn and sniffed the charming, light aroma from the blooming plants. The rising sun illuminated the water-lilies dramatically and romantically enhanced the older folks who were practising tai-chi, sword-play and other martial arts.

My poor stomach grumbled loudly in hunger (I missed the breakfast on the plane) while we zoomed on to the East/West pavilion in the city centre. These two freestanding towers are very sombre, ancient pagoda-like buildings and ranked as the one of the oldest structures in the city. After a few hours of sight-seeing, I was very pleased to have an early lunch (which was delicious) and took an afternoon nap in the homely hotel before splurging away some cash on the quintessential Pu-Er tea (the world-famous Yunnan product) in the afternoon.

Not long after dinner, yours truly a.k.a Ardent-shopaholic No.2 (AS2) couldn’t resist the nearby shopping malls and thus I grabbed my friends (AS1 & AS2) and we went window-shopping at the Kunming Business district. This eager beaver even witnessed a fashion show in the outdoors square as we soaked up the culture enthusiastically. It was really fun as we whizzed around town, walking on foot everywhere due to the cold and refreshing weather.

Thereafter, I reluctantly took an early rest at night, being post-call and tired from the early-morning flight. We were to depart to Dali, the capital city of the Nanzhao dynasty the following day. So, coming up next…My Chinese Odyssey Part 2 : Dali, the city of incessant rain.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An early preview before the real posts start

My trip to China started with a brief sojourn in the clean and hi-tech Singapore. There are multiple beautiful sculptures strewn all over the gleaming new Changi airport as I snapped pictures of them. After busy surfing on the island-wide free Wi-fi lines, I boarded the China Eastern airplane and we took off to Kunming, China in the wee hours of the morning. The trip was tiring but comfortable as each of us took 3 seats for sleeping!

Without breakfast, I was pretty grumpy as I tried to rouse myself in the cool, refreshing morning air in the city of Eternal Spring, Kunming. Yunnan is tucked away in the southwestern corner of China and as a result, autumn and winter are always pleasantly mild and invigorating. The pleasant climate also resulted in extremely charming flowers and gardens.

As my godmom and I took a morning stroll around the Dianchi Park, I marvelled at how beautiful life is.

Coming up next...more stories on Kunming and Yunnan, the province filled with strange and amazing wonders, together with visits to Unesco Wonders of the World, Li-jiang and JiuXiang-Shilin National Parks.