Sunday, September 29, 2013

'Maldives' of Malaysia

13-16 September 2013 ~ Borneo Islands
Right after returning from my work trip to Beijing, I flew straight to Sabah for our family trip. In fact, mom booked the tickets for Tawau back in January and what coincidence that my overseas work trip was scheduled on the same week. Yeah tell me about good timing. I thought I was gonna miss my flight to Tawau when my flight from Beijing delayed for an hour but fortunately, I made it to LCCT just in time after running around like crazy woman from airport to airport. 

Since I only scaled Mt Kinabalu and totally missed out on the beautiful islands during my last trip to Sabah 2 years ago, our destination this time was focused on the islands in the east shore of Sabah. This part of Sabah is generally known as 'Sipadan' by a lot of Malaysians but most people don't know that Sipadan is only one of the many islands in that area and the nice water villas pictures that we see online are actually not in Sipadan island. For poor people like me who can't afford to travel to Maldives or Bora-Bora, look no further for a much cheaper alternative with pretty similar landscape. =P 

Even though we've booked our air tickets 9 months ahead, we didn't plan out our itinerary until 2 weeks before the trip. Thanks to bro's slowness, we didn't get to splurge and stay in the water villas coz it was fully booked but instead we managed to work out another better itinerary that allowed us to have the same experience at a much lower cost. =) OK enough of words, time for lotsa 'blue' pictures! 

13 September 2013 (Friday): KL - Tawau - Semporna - Mataking Island

I arrived Tawau one day later than my family due to my work schedule so bro arranged for this Mataking van to pick me up from the airport to Semporna. I was napping throughout the 1.5 hour journey from Tawau airport to Semporna coz I was too tired from the overnight flight and the mad rush to catch my flight. 

Semporna is the main gateway to get to all the islands in this region. The sky is so clear and blue here!! What a huge contrast to Beijing! I literally traveled from one extreme to the other...from land of pollution to land free of pollution. =P

I was too hyped up and was taking photos non-stop during the 45 minutes boat ride to Mataking Island even though it was all the same sea, sky, and clouds. Too much of influence of 冲上云霄, I'm obsessed with!!

After traveling for 20 hours by flights, cabs, van, and boat, I finally arrived Mataking Island at 5.30pm! Pheww...what a long journey!! We received a warm welcome by the hotel staff playing guitar and singing, wet towel to freshen up, and lemonade as welcoming drink. Haha...felt like I was in the movie set of 夏日嬷嬷茶 or 夏日乐悠悠!!

I arrived just in time to catch the baby turtle release activity...swim turtle swim!!

Wanted to see the sunset but it was too cloudy. I was looking pretty haggard coz I haven't even had time to go into our hotel room yet since I arrived. 

Took some photos from the pier. The water was so clean and clear!! That's mom swimming on the right pic. =P

Our Malay-style chalet. All meals are covered under the 2D1N package that we booked for the Reef Dive Resort. 

14 September 2013 (Saturday): Mataking Island - Semporna 

Breathtaking sea view from the restaurant deck. =)

We had the whole morning free before checking out at 11am so we went for a stroll to Mataking Kecil after breakfast. Love the fact that the resort is so deserted. =)

Adding one more to my jump shots collection! Thanks bro for making me jump only 2 times (not 50 times) to get this perfect pic...haha!! =P

I did a pretty good job with bro's jump shots too!! =P

Mataking Kecil (Small Mataking). We had the whole island for ourselves...even the tree looks lonely. =P

Mom & dad bought a Nikon underwater camera for this trip. Here are some examples of all the wrong ways of using a underwater!! I think we scared all the fishes away. =P

Climbed up this watch tower hoping to get a good aerial view of the island, mana tau the view was all blocked by trees...what a waste!

Can't stop taking pics of the beautiful many different shades of blue!! This is definitely a perfect place for a tranquil and relaxing vacation.

I have no idea where the other tourists are but I'm glad that the beach was deserted! I guess we were the only ones that didn't mind getting tanned under the hot sun. =)

Can't get enough of the clear blue sea. Last glimpse of Mataking before leaving and head back to Semporna.

Goodbye Mataking! 1st round of barbeque completed...more to come tomorrow!

Our hotel for 2 nights in Semporna...Dragon Inn. This hotel is entirely built on stilts and the exterior looks really nice in pictures! =)

We didn't get to stay in the water villas in Mabul but we've got our very own over-the-water family suite bungalow here...not bad huh! =P The exterior of our room looks much better than the interior...haha!! See how we transformed the room to make ourselves at home...we even had our own clothes!! 

Our hotel lookin' picture-perfect at dusk. 

Seafood dinner...must-haves in Semporna.

Night-view of our hotel from where we had our dinner.

15 September 2013 (Sunday): Semporna - Kapalai Island - Mabul Island

Chartered this boat for a day to bring us to Mabul and Kapalai Island.

Scenery along our 1-hour boat ride to Mabul Island.

Beautiful day for sightseeing and tanning. Here's a demonstration by bro on how to sunbathe on your private!!

Arriving Mabul Island to get our snorkel equipment. You must be are these the so-called water bungalows that I was talking about earlier...comparable to Maldives??

This is the 'reality' side of Mabul...Mabul village. Seems like tourism hasn't benefited this immigrant village at all. Our boatman decided to bring us to Kapalai island first so keep scrolling down to see the 'fantasy' side of Mabul. 

At least the people there are blessed with such a priceless swimming pool. =P

 This is what I'm talking about...the 'Maldives' of beautiful!! In fact, Kapalai is not quite an 'island' and the only thing on this 'island' is the hotel. It's pretty unique coz all the chalets are built on wooden stilts sitting on the shallow sandbanks of Ligitan Reefs so it looks as if the hotel is just floating in the middle of the ocean. =) 

This is by far the best place I've been for snorkeling! What's better than being surrounded by such amazing landscape while you snorkel?? Haha...apparently I was more interested in what's above the sea than what's in the!!

The water current kept pushing us into the chalet area and we didn't know that we weren't supposed to get on the platforms. But since nobody stopped us and luckily I was holding the underwater camera, I managed to capture these beautiful pics. =P

Honestly, I didn't notice that 'love' in the sky while I was taking this pic. I only realized this when I was editing my pics. proud of!! =P

From one paradise to another...Sipadan Water Village. The name of this hotel is kinda confusing coz this hotel is actually in Mabul island and not Sipadan island. So glad that the weather was perfect allowing me to take so many nice pictures!! Once again, thanks to SIL for borrowing me her camera. =P

Notice those kids in that boat? These Sea Bajau kids are one of the most photographed people at Mabul Island and I bet they don't know that their pictures have gone viral on the internet. We were observing them for awhile and noticed that they were actually begging for money from the tourists. Oh well, this is the sad fact about tourism. 

Mom was enjoying her 'private' pool on the top right pic while bro & I walked around the hotel taking pictures. 

We noticed that majority of the tourists that come to these islands are Chinese tourist. Good thing is most of them come here only for photos, not to snorkel or dive, so even though the hotel is fully booked, you don't really see people around when it's hot and sunny...haha!! Now this explains how we got so 'barbequed'!!

Another interesting hotel near Mabul island is this Seaventures Rig Dive's a converted oil rig. This hotel looks kinda scary...imagine falling off the platform!! =P We didn't go to Sipadan island this trip coz there is a permit system limiting the number of visitors per day and Sipadan is more suitable for people who dives. 

Dinner in Semporna. We were all 'barbequed' from being out in the sun all day.

That's all for my 4D3N Borneo trip. Very satisfied with this trip coz I managed to see the places that I wanted to see and managed to take lotsa nice pics at this paradise. =) For all those who have yet to been to this part of Malaysia, you should totally visit this place  as soon as possible before the serenity, tranquility, and natural beauty is ruined by tourism. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beijing 2.0

5-12 September 2013: Beijing Business Trip
Entering my third year on this job, I've been very fortunate to be given the opportunity to travel overseas for work...this time my destination was Beijing. This was my second trip to Beijing this year coz I didn't know that I would be traveling to Beijing this year for work. Since I've done most of the sightseeing during my visit with bro earlier this year, this trip was mainly just for work. 

Took an overnight flight and arrived Beijing early in the morning. Not a good idea to take an overnight flight and having to work on the next day, I was a zombie at work. =P

Glad that I chose to stay at Crowne Plaza Chaoyang U-Town, which was just right behind our office and connected to a shopping mall. Being able to reach the office within 5 minutes of walking was awesome. =)

My crib for 7 nights...nice & comfortable room!! =)

Spoilt for choice with the wide variety of food to choose for breakfast.

Spent my Saturday morning exploring Shi Cha Hai of the attraction that I missed during my last trip. This place is said to be the most romantic and historic place in Beijing. And guess what...Running Man brought me!! 

Yes I admit I'm a big fan of Running Man. =P

Spent about an hour walking around the lake going through Lotus Market, Yinding Bridge, and the hutong in Yandai Byway...all these places were featured in ep 61 of Running Man. =P 

Yan Dai Xie Jie (Skewed Tabacco Pouch Street) is a narrow street winding its way from the Drum Tower to the Yinding Bridge of Shichahai. It's a road you experience Beijing's old traditions, a place crowded with thousands of locals and tourists where you can find stores with distinctive goods along the streets. Thanks to RM for the description...haha!! 

Sunday was a stay-in day for work and the pollution out there was pretty bad. 

The must-have in Beijing...Peking Duck!! Instead of the famous Dadong Restaurant, we went to Peking Duck Private Kitchen coz the review on trip advisor was pretty good. Indeed, it didn't disappoint us and the price was much cheaper than Dadong. =)

The overnight flight back from Beijing to KL was delayed for an hour causing me to rush like mad from KLIA to LCCT within half an hour to catch my next flight to Tawau.