Wednesday, March 30, 2011


To be honest I don’t know what I think about South Africa. Even after 2 weeks.

I'm going to have to start with the things I see.

South Africa is about soaring mountains and crystal clear oceans. Vineyards and farmlands and mines stretch as far as the horizon. Driving around the countryside takes your breath away - you are in awe of the constant change of view around you. Game reserves are aplenty, you'll be given the rare opportunity to be in the company of elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, kudus, elands, wildebeests and warthogs in the wild. In the cities, the roads are pristine and estates are just filled with beautiful houses with manicured lawns and you sip your wine out near the swimming pool and stare at the shadow of lavender swaying with the wind. Cashiers never fail to give you a big smile and greet you when you line up for your groceries. Everybody's friendly, everybody's warm.

Everybody seems to be happy. Living the life.

But a lot of times, that life is neatly hidden behind electrical fences, barbed wires and thick metal grills. Drive a bit more and there'll be roads heavily potholed with signs that say 'Hijacking Hotspots - for the next 6 km’, nothing more so you just have to take your chances. Very cautiously, you continue driving and shanty towns slowly appear. You lock your doors because it's bloody dangerous. Hide everything. Never wind down the windows when you reach junctions - people come to try sell you trinkets, newspapers; others ask for food, money, or garbage. Never look people in the eyes. Never do anything. Sit put until the light goes green. Because that's what you're told to do.

There's just so much disparity around, so obvious that it's shameful to see. Poverty is prevalent within the black community. This amidst the vast richness of everything else. You will observe the many that are forced to walk for miles and miles to get anywhere because cheap public transport is scarce when 9 out of 10 private cars are only driven by the 10% population of whites - I counted. Whatever image the country's portrayed for, although still holds true to an extent, has deeply hurt it's own reputation and will continue so until things really change. Crime is real, but so is fear mongering – sadly, even among locals. Time will heal, time is needed to put South Africa's sad history behind her but from it too, to welcome and embrace her full potential, slowly, but surely emerging. Many are trying to make a difference for the better and that says a lot about the desire of her people.

All in all, I love the marvellous time I have in South Africa; the scenic tour around Cape Town, the quiet stay in the wine district of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the lovely wedding in the little place called The Moon and Sixpence, the exciting game drives in Thulani and Pilanesburg, the busy weeks in Johannesburg, most of all, the great people I meet.

But at times, my heart sinks.


Security is big business in the cities.


Kids coming home from school at the Malay Quarter in Cape Town.


A view of Cape Town from Table Mountain.


At a vineyard Stellenbosch.


Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of South Africa. The moment we first saw the ocean, Rizwan and I just stopped by the side of the road and sat there in silence. It was one of the most beautiful experiences.


Wildebeests in Pilanesburg Game Reserve

Before signing off, here's a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Little Jen back in Miri. Best wishes and good luck for the exam!

Friday, March 11, 2011


All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go
I'm standing here
outside your door
I hate to wake you up
to say goodbye

Driving up to the Sg Buloh R&R for sate I'll still sing the song.

I'm all set! Passport....check! Ticket....check! Just about what I need!

I'm just hanging around at home with the family today. My final hours in Kuala Lumpur.

- image from
But just as I was having everything ready, there in the news, another earthquake struck, this time north-east Japan at 2.46 p.m., an 8.9 on the Richter scale. I watched in horror at the bird's eye video of a tsunami sweeping inland, the Sendai airport, farmlands, homes, just the sheer force and magnitude unstoppable. I was immediately taken back to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day killing hundreds of thousands, the worst in the last century. 

I got in contact with Wade immediately and I was relieved as he assured me that he's fine; that he's nowhere near the epicentre nor the coast but "the ground is still shaking - I feel hungover!"....More good news; Sebastien too, informed us that he's alright.

I'm excited of leaving but as a tsunami warning is issued for the entire Pacific Coast including Philippines, Russia, Hawaii in my mind I keep thinking....Please, please, please, say that you're OK....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Just before dinner last night, Geraldine, Billy, KC, Sayan and Gary decided that they map the rest of my trip for me, since I only got to Gaborone so far. I agreed, and we got the map of Africa projected on the giant white screen conveniently erected in the middle of the room to distract us from staring at the disorder behind it (Is that MY tent?)

"Is this something Hemant handed down to you?" I asked Sayan. He looked back at me in disgust.

What started as a geography lesson on Africa turned into manic bouts of laughter that went on and on and on and left Geraldine hysterically crying to bits.

And it wasn't even about the route anymore. But if I ever get to Chişinău (Wikitravel it to understand what's behind 1488), they'll know this crazy evening play a big part. 

There will be times when I miss home. Friends.

But if I have this to look back at, I have no doubt melancholy will last but for a second.

Friday, March 4, 2011


"So are you going to miss me when I'm away?"

"Is it just another week to go?!"

That's a sister's secret code for "Darn it, do you really have to leave?!"

There we were sitting at a Chinese coffee shop in PJ devouring on bak chang while waiting for Mom to come out from her electric shock therapy whatever. A busy day at the clinic today it seems, it was quite a wait. I read the Reader's Digest from cover to cover, my lazy ploy to catch up with back issues.

My sister the bedtime storyteller

Earlier today I finally got a call from Cape Town. Riz made it safe albeit the clear exhaustion in his voice, understandably after the 20-hour flight. I barely survived the 14-hour KL-London flight. I'm looking forward to meeting Ian who's kind enough to offer his place for us to stay in Hout Bay, my first host through Couchsurfing. There's also Jos whom was introduced by Hemant, very excited to welcome us in Stellenbosch. Couchsurfing's a great avenue for travellers to get connected with each other no matter where you are around the globe, I myself have started many a great friendship through it, perhaps another reason why I feel strongly and more confidently about travelling. Initial strangers putting you up in their homes and a long-lasting relationship ensues.

I know this to be good start. 
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