Monday, July 21, 2008

Drinking Pure Water - Kyoto, japan

Have you ever been to a place where suddenly you feel in awe? You feel a presence of sanctity, a feeling that the place is sacred? A feeling of unspeakable greatness surrounding you or a mysterious presence? And that you feel really small in comparison with your surroundings?

You start to ponder philosophically at your destiny and of those around you. You wonder about your place in this world? Places like the Grand Canyon and the Vatican makes you do things like that.

You also get this feeling when you visit the Kiyomizu-dera temple complex in the eastern hills of Kyoto Japan. There is a pervading sense of holiness, of sacredness and calm in this temple.

is built on a mountain side, with the main hall overhanging a cliff. Several minor temples and shrines are spread over a vast landscape on the mountain. When you enter the complex, notwithstanding the fees and crowds, you will immediately feel that this place is special. It's a feeling which can't be described and must be experienced yourself.

Legend tells of a buddhist priest Enchin, who in year 780, discovered the source of pure water flowing from Mt Otowa. The temple complex you see today is built around this water source.

This is the Otowa-no taki, where 3 streams flow out from the mountain and falls into a pond.

Pilgrims to this shrine drink from these 3 streams which are said to have spiritual and therapeutic properties. The 3 streams are said to confer Wisdom, Health and Longevity. Kiyomizu means pure water.

On a lighter side, this temple complex also contains a shrine dedicated to the God of Love. This is the Jishu Jinja, where supplications and prayers are made for marriages, love and childbirth.

One curiosity in this shrine are 2 large boulders placed about 40 feet apart. If you can walk with your eyes closed from one boulder to the other, you will find love.

Following is a short video of visit to Kiyomizu with some of my colleagues.
They simply can't get enough drink of Pure Water !

By the way, the pictures of Kiyomzu-dera above are not mine but were taken off the Net and enhanced a bit. I don't seem to have a picture of it in clear weather.

It seems every time I visit Kiyomizu, the pure water come from the sky instead! hee hee.

ja neh

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eating pies in the loo!! - Sydney, Australia

When you visit Sydney, Australia, the usual places you'll be taken to would be the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower, Bondi Beach, etc.
But there is one place that will say you've not been to the real Sydney if you don't visit it.

I was introduced to this place by an old friend, Fr. Alban Mitchell ofm, a franciscan friar , who had promised to take me to the finest dining Sydney can offer. Bells were already ringing at that time. A poor humble friar going to the finest dining in Sydney?

Fr Alban Mitchell ofm (1927-2006), taken at Sacred Heart Convent, overlooking Rose Bay, Sydney Harbour, Australia.

This 'fine restaurant' is located in the naval dockyard area of Sydney called Woolloomooloo, affectionately called the 'loo'.

Harry's Cafe de Wheels is a pie cart but not just any 'pie cart'. It's an icon, it's famous, it's australian as koalas, it's unique and it's an institution in Sydney.
The list of celebrities who ate from this pie cart reads like an Oscar night and Fortune 500 put together. Yet this pie cart serves everyone from the curious to the well-heeled, and is literally standing room only. There are no seats at this pie cart. hee hee.

Famed for its Tiger Pies, which personally I felt overrated, but they have truly delicious meat pies.
It has great atmosphere amidst its setting there.
I'll give them a free plug here, .
Maybe they'll read this and send me a coupon for a Tiger Pie?

This is a clip taken on a visit to Harry's Cafe de Wheels with some of my friends in 2004.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Toronto, Canada

I made 2 visits to Toronto, Canada back in 1998. The first time was for a quick look at an upcoming franchise called Shred-it, and the 2nd was for a 3 week stay learning the franchise.

Whenever I think of Toronto, 3 things always pop into my mind.
These are CN Tower, Niagara Falls, and Mississauga.

It was a long journey from Singapore to Toronto. Flew on Cathay Pacific (wonderful choice) via Hong Kong and Anchorage. The aircraft took what is known as the 'Great Circle'. This meant flying over the North Pole. On a flat map, it looks like a long rounded journey but in reality it's the shortest distance between the 2 points.

The CN Tower was the tallest concrete building in the world at that time. Situated in Toronto beside Lake Ontario. It is owned by the Canadian National Railway, hence CN. On a clear day, it is claimed, you can see 100 km distance.

Going up the tower in high speed elevators is literally a ear popping experience. The view from the top, needless to say, is awesome. They even have a panel of flooring made out of tempered glass and your legs go like jelly trying to walk across the glass floor, looking more than 300m down to the bottom!

Niagara Falls.
The most impressive thing you notice about Niagara Falls is the sheer volume of water that constantly pour over the edge! Unless you've seen this yourself, there are simply no words to describe this wonder. It's hard to fathom that there's so much water pouring over the Falls every second for years and years.
And of course, only crazy tourists will ride on that tacky Maid of the Mist boat up to the base of the falls! You will get drenched for sure, that's why they give you a free poncho, haha.

Mississauga is a suburban town to the east of Toronto. In fact, the reason why I wrote this blog was that just last week in The Straits Times, there was a full page write up about a Singaporean lady who migrated to, and was writing all about her new hometown of Mississauga.

Mississauga was where the headquarters for a franchise called Shred-it was located. In 1998, I was in a partnership to bring this franchise from Canada to Singapore. This involved having to stay in Toronto to learn the business for 3 weeks before qualifying for the franchise.

Mississauga at night.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Aschaffenburg, Bavaria

Even the name Aschaffenburg sounds so romantic - 'City by the flowing Aschaff brook'. This small German town in Northern Bavaria, about 30 km from Frankfurt, holds dear to me as it was here that my friend Karlheinz Kuebert showed me the finer side of Germany.

Karl, an avid mountaineer and entrepreneur, lives in Aschaffenburg and from his base here brought me all over West Germany (at that time, before re-unification).

Karl lives in a picturesque cottage on top of a hill with 6 apple trees in the yard. He makes his own apple wine from his trees.

Aschaffenburg has a mild cool climate and is surrounded by forests and hills. It's one of those fairytale towns that you always have in your mind. The city is still traditionally centered around the old market but, of course, today development in the city makes it look like any other busy city centre.

It is also renowned for it's pork knuckles, a must have delicacy when you are there. There are several castles there, schloss, as it's called in German. The most famous is the Johannisburg schloss, pictured here. built many centuries ago, I can't remember.

By the way, Aschaffenburg is where I also have my only foreign bank account. A German numbered account at that! Last time I checked there was still nothing in it. haha. Still waiting for someone to make a deposit!

These are the German inns where I stayed in Aschaffenburg

Hannover, Germany

Was rummaging through my old stuff when I came across this gem.
A vintage film clip on my very first visit to Hanover, Germany back in March 1996.

CeBit is one of the 3 major computer and IT shows in the world at that time. The other 2 being Computex in Taiwan and COMDEX at Las Vegas. But back in 1996, CeBit was the biggest of the 3 shows held annually in Hannover, Germany. Every major player in the IT industry, and any wannabe who intends to make a name for himself, will and must participate at CeBit.

This clip was also my very first attempt at video editing, using a borrowed Sharp 8mm Viewcam.
The place was Hanover, the provincial capital of Saxony Germany. It was winter and the temperature I remembered was -5 degrees in the morning and was just above freezing during the day.

Watching this clip brings back memories of my time spent in Germany, which I would tell you about in my next write up. Meanwhile enjoy the clip.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back to Bintan - Angsana Spa again

June 27-June 28, 2008.

It's been a while since I was at the Angsana Resort & Spa. The main reason being cost. It's actually cheaper to make a 3D2N trip to Ko Samui or Phuket, or even Bangkok, then to spend 3D2N at Bintan!
For this simple reason of economics and value, it simply doesn't make sense to spend so much and, then again, Bintan has nothing much to offer in comparison to Ko Samui or Phuket.

The only compelling reason is that you can make a day trip there, whereas Thailand would entail staying at least 3 days to make it worthwhile.

I wasn't going to blog about this trip but then someone close to my sis had casually mentioned that perhaps my jaunts to Bintan were not all that altruistic. Is he really going for the spa? hahaha.
So Brad, here are the pictures to prove it. (By the way, my sis lives in Texas)

Click on the pictures for a larger view

The rooftop spa treatment pavillion.

The essential oils used for spa therapy.

The Angsana Spa and the view from the pavillion.

The Angsana Resort

Who's this?
She was the guest on the ground floor. (I stayed on the 4th floor)

The Beach

This is the Pantai Grill, buffet dinner right on the beach

Breakfast at the resort Lotus Cafe

And finally, the ferry home

So in a nutblog, that was my day spa trip to Angsana Spa last week.
The downside to going to Angsana/Banyan Tree is that all the prices are in US$.
The 3 hr spa treatment I had was US$120, dinner US$40, buffet US$28, etc.
The overnight stay cum breakfast and transportation was US$165
The neighboring spas at Bintan like Nirwana Resort, Bintan Lagoon, Mayang Sari or even Club Med are less expensive and charges S$.

Whenever I go to Bintan, there is always at the back of my mind, the tinge of sadness and the irony of the situation there. It seems Bintan Resort was created through commercial lobbying and political manueverings that saw about 10% of the island given over to developers to make it Singapore's beach playground. Sadly, the locals are relegated to being workers and are actually restricted completely from resort area and pristine beaches. They just can't get past the security cordons.

This brings to my mind what I saw happened exactly in Mauritius, the other island resort paradise in the Indian Ocean. There also their world famous pristine white sandy beaches that ring the island have all been sold to major resorts and developers. What remains for the Mauritian general public are the basically the rejects. The islanders are also denied access to the best beaches renowned for its clear waters and deep sea fishing. Sad.

If you want to know a bit more of Bintan, which nevertheless, is still a nice place to spend some quiet time go to

Map copyright of Bintan Resorts