Sunday, October 30, 2011

Making the Birthday Cake for Husband

It's my husband's birthday on the first day of next month. I've been planning to bake a really nice birthday cake for him for weeks. The ideas of what cake I should bake, the number of cake layers I need to bake, frosting decorations and so on have been flying around my mind for the past few weeks. Day and night. Sadly, instead of keeping this idea as a surprise, I slipped this topic out of my mouth to my husband about this few days earlier. I just could not keep this grand idea to myself. In short, it was not a best-kept birthday surprise secret anymore.

My husband's birthday is coming soon!

I consulted my baking buddy in Manila, Joan, about my plan and we managed to discuss a bit about making nice birthday cakes over online chats. I've been telling myself that I must be successful in executing my husband's birthday cake. I just could not afford to fail this time around. Every layer of the cake I bake for him must be nice. No burnt edges. No uncooked part in the middle. The cake end result should at least taste nice. Best if I could do a nice frosting for nice birthday cake presentations. I. Must. Not. Fail.

Although my husband's birthday is still a couple of days from now, I decided to bake his early birthday cake yesterday because I was sure that finding the time baking a big cake on weekdays next week is going to be tough. Moreover, I just had the Saturday baking mood.

I started baking the first layer of my husband's birthday cake at 11am yesterday. I made the rich chocolate cake for the first layer of the cake. I purposely repeated this cake recipe since it's proven that it would not fail me. At this point everything went well. When I took out the cake from the oven, it was perfect. Nothing burnt. All cooked. The only drama I encountered yesterday was the broken water pipes in the neighborhood. No running water in the house or in the kitchen in particular! I was like, "What the heck? Out of so many other times, why now?" Luckily the water tap in the bathroom next to the kitchen is not connected to the public water pipelines but it's from our private water tank instead. I ended up washing all the baking and cooking utensils bit by bit in the bathroom basin. This water pipes disaster definitely slowed the whole baking processes down.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Fairy Orchids

I love capturing photos of blooming flowers in my garden before they wither. I do this, just in case in a month, three months, a year or even years from now; I suddenly would like to reminisce the beautiful companies that I once had when I de-stressed myself in my garden.

The Fairy Orchids: I am not sure of its scientific or real name.

The above is the picture of orchid plant that my Mom-in-Law brought home few months ago from a local plant shop. When she brought this plant home, it had yet to blossom any beautiful flowers. Now that it has, I'm always mesmerized by their pretty petals which are blessed with the fusion of greenish and purple colors. Such a head-turner, don't you think?

Whenever I see them, I imagine looking at four fairies flying from heaven, flapping their colorful butterfly wings.

Hyperbolic, perhaps. But that's how I see blooming flowers. I use my imagination to describe their beauty.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Baking with Kids: Rich Chocolate Cake

Quite sometime ago, I mentioned my intention to bake a really nice cake to my baking buddy in Manila, Joan. She repeatedly told me to try her fail-proof chocolate cake's recipe. She said I would not go wrong with this recipe. Finally, today I followed her advice and spent the whole afternoon baking and preparing the chocolate frosting for this cake. Thanks to Joan, I had a really rich and moist chocolate cake to brighten my rainy Saturday. My nieces loved it and my sister-in-law said the cake tasted so good! *beams*

Rather messy and 'strikingly' decorated homemade "LOVE YOU" chocolate cake.

The baking method of this chocolate cake is rather different from other chocolate cake recipes because it uses boiling water for the cake batter. In the beginning, I was quite concerned with the final results, but in the end, everything turned just fine. *Phew* Joan was right! The cocoa aroma of this chocolate cake when baked was really heavenly.

Oh, by the way, today I had some little helpers in decorating my chocolate cake after I frosted it. My nieces were so kind in helping me separating the sugar stars by their colors and putting them nicely all over the cake. They were so happy doing their simple 'cake decoration' assignment. Baking with kids is fun!

I could not think of better idea in decorating the cake with sugar stars, so I just arranged them to form "LOVE YOU" words. A bit lame, I know. And no, I was not inspired by disco lights in decorating this cake so colorfully.

My cute little helpers today.

This cake's chocolate cream frosting was indeed to die for. This morning, I purposely invested on a box of rather expensive Hershey's cocoa powder (RM 17.99) from supermarket to make this cake but I guess it's really worth it. I caught one of my nieces kept on putting some of the chocolate frosting from the bowl into her mouth using her little finger. It's quite amazing to see her doing this considering that usually she's sort of anti-cake's cream but surprisingly, she could accept the chocolate cream frosting that I made today!

The inside chocolate cake after I cut it! Yum!

I am so making this cake again for someone's birthday in the near future! But in the meantime, I think I need to brush up my frosting skill so I can produce a lot nicer cake presentation. Thanks again, Joan, for sharing your secret!

What a diabetic Saturday today is. *sugaroverdose*

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Traditional Chinese Decoction for Women's Well-Being

Last month, my Mom-in-Law learned that I always suffer from gruesome menstrual abdominal pains when my period comes. She was very concerned and said that this is no good. Soon, she went to a TCM shop in the neighborhood and brought home some Bai Feng Wan capsules plus few packs of Chinese herbs for women's well-being. She planned to make me some decoction from those Chinese herbs to alleviate my monthly problems. 

When my period was over, she indeed made the decoction, named Ba Zhen Tang (八珍汤), for me. She mentions that this decoction, if consumed regularly, is very good for women mainly because it enriches blood, promotes blood circulation, regulates menses, treats pale and dull complexion *some people think I'm too pale*, reduces menstrual cramps, eliminates back/muscle pains during menstruation and even strengthens the womb (to conceive easily). This decoction is best taken twice every month.

Ba Zhen Tang (八珍汤) that my Mom-in-Law prepared for me.

Growing up, my Mom or Grandmas never really made me drink such boiled Chinese herbal soups. I hate drinking soups in general; as such, whenever my Mom cooked soupy things back home, I tend to avoid drinking them. Now that I don't really drink normal soups, I thought I would never have to drink Chinese herbal soups in million years! I mean, I planned to find reasons not to drink them so frequently. 

Few months ago, my Mom-in-Law actually prepared this Ba Zhen Tang decoction for the women in our house and asked me to try. However, after I smelled the strong aroma of this decoction, I ran away from the kitchen and came up with 1001 excuses to skip drinking this. In the end, with the help of my husband, I only managed to drink two sips of it. That's it. Two sips. No more. She understood.

Now that I am married and my next big thing in mind after being married is procreation; I have to reconsider my resistance in consuming decoction. I need to take my Mom-in-Law's advice seriously to start taking care of myself well so I can get pregnant soon, have a smooth pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby (as per written in the #1 item of my bucket list).

Back to my attempts in drinking Ba Zhen Tang decoction, today is my second time in consuming this decoction this month. Although it's already my second attempt in finishing this decoction, I was still struggling in swallowing this smelly decoction into my stomach. Honestly, I once got really scared of this decoction because it's black, smells horribly strong (I'm afraid), tastes bitter and salty and has a tad of oily sensation from the boiled chicken. This decoction was just plain weird to me.

No, this is not a bowl of sumptuous Rawon.

This decoction made me develop a weird system to finish it too. I always drink this decoction in several big gulps. When I drink this, I always stand next to the kitchen sink so I can pour the decoction into the drain because after two big gulps, I literally need to rinse my mouth with a lot of tap water to eliminate the strong smell from my mouth and wash my face with water (seriously!) before I continue drinking another two big gulps. I repeat these methods until I finish the entire decoction from the cooking pot. As a result, my face is always all wet after I finish drinking the whole decoction.

For someone who doesn't really fancy drinking boiled Chinese herbal drinks/soups, finishing a pot of decoction is really a laboring attempt. But again, since I might need this decoction to improve my well-being, I have not much options but to slowly learn accepting it into my body, yes?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Am Not Alone

This whole morning I was on the verge of losing myself. My stuck (work) projects and current estranged relationship with one of my siblings drove me to the wall. The past three days have left me uneasy and hostile. I just felt like I was under enormous amount of stress, the sky was falling down on me and nobody could save me! I do not think I was having PMS but I felt like so. I have been attacked by headaches, neck pain, acne breakout and nightmares. I was in bad mood day and night, and literally reached to the point where I could break down into pieces anytime.

I hit the bottom like this pine cone hit the ground.

I had to finish my work ASAP but this morning I just could not focus. I pointed the cursor on my laptop screen here and there but did not go anywhere nor actually click something useful. I tried to make some work related phone calls but seconds after I started a conversation with an operator in Manila, I ended up being scolded back by her - owing to my bad mood that affected my rude speaking tone to her I guess, although I didn't mean it at all.

I was so emotional and whined to my husband about how unhappy I was with my current life. I wonder why I'm still breathing until this very second and I told him that my life is so meaningless. My ugly statements upset and hurt him. Soon, I quit the conversation my him because I didn't feel like talking to anyone anymore.

I was on my own.

Then, I calmed myself down. I took a long deep breath and vacuumed myself from thinking of my work or my on-going problem with my sister for a while. I made myself think straight. Minutes later, I gathered how I foolish, selfish and unappreciative I was. I had taken my life for granted! I said and thought of the things that I should not say or even dare to think about. I should be grateful and contented with everything in my life.

Next, something knocked some senses into my 'troubled' head. I remember that I am not the only one in this world who is battling with issues. I am not alone. There are other people who are battling with more serious issues than me now. For instance, my uncle from Indonesia who had just been diagnosed with last stage of stomach cancer few days ago. He flew all the way to Malaysia to treat his disease but only to find out that the doctors in Penang have given up on curing him. He is facing a life and death matter now but still trying not to think so much about his condition. He is giving his best to live normally and be happy. What is my current problem compared to his now?

Regarding my work issues, I reminded myself that I am not new with my work. I am not a newbie in my field. I have been doing this work over and over again for years, the challenges and pressures I encounter are not novel and I had even managed to pull through bigger and more complex projects before. Why break down now? Work is work and somehow as time goes by, I believe that the universe would conspire to help me finish my work, as long as I do not quit. I should be thankful that I am still employed. There are people who are not so fortunate compared to me out there. Those who are looking for jobs but have difficulty in securing one. Or those who have to physically work really hard under the scorching sun to earn some bucks.

A reflection: How lucky we are, or rather I am, compared to this poor man?

My problem with my sibling is not breaking news either. I have gone through exhaustive on-and-off sibling relationship with her forever; yet, I am unable to resolve this.

In conclusion, I should take my life easy. What I am going through now is normal. I have to live my life like the old man I met in a rural area in China pictured in below photo. He is 77 years old now and makes a living by rowing a bamboo boat in a remote area in China but seems to enjoy his simple life and his job. He is happy and able to share his wide smiles to the world.

Live life peacefully like him!

Stop complaining! Worry not. Fret less. Take life easy and simple.

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you." 
1 Peter 5:6

"God wastes nothing in your life. Every disappointment can be a new appointment. Every stumbling block can be a new starting block. Every tombstone can be a new stepping stone. When you are walking in your purpose, even when bad things happen, they will all work together for your good."
Rome 8: 28

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Happiest Moment

Out of so many happy moments and best years that I have experienced in my 27 years of life, I guess the happiest and most meaningful one was the moment when my then-boyfriend, now-husband, proposed to me. That one moment absolutely changed my life and his life. Forever.

It happened some one and a half years ago but the memory of what I felt when my then-boyfriend got down on one knee, presented me a ring and a bouquet then asked me a nerve-wrecking question; is still so crystal clear until now. The whole thing was so surreal and euphoric to me.

He knelt down. My knees went weak too. Aww.

After the proposal, I was deliriously happy, literally all night long. I could not sleep well that night because I was too excited with everything and was impatient to show off my new status to everyone in the world (via Facebook) immediately. All of sudden, the world seemed to be so beautiful. Life was beautiful. Honestly, then I could not wait to check my Facebook's wall in the next morning because I wanted to know how my family and friends reacted on this.

Here's more story behind my husband's proposal to me:

My then-boyfriend and I had actually developed a mutual feeling of getting married in less than a year after we officially decided to be a couple. Fast and furious, I know! We were so in love (or maybe more like infatuated) and sure that one of us was half-incomplete without each other. We were keen to enter a permanent institution to declare our love and start a family soon but not exactly sure when.

One Saturday in May 2010, my then-boyfriend brought me to Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall in Petaling Jaya to survey some wedding rings to register our marriage (although that time we decided nothing yet for our Registration of Marriage). No confirmed date for registration of marriage.

Back in 15 May 2010: Saturday Stroll at 
Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall, Petaling Jaya.

For Indonesians, it's kind of uncommon for a woman to expect her boyfriend ask for her hand for a marriage. I think it is seldom practiced there and we usually spot proposal moments on western romantic movies on TV. Marriage, proposal or engagement plan usually is more like a family business. We put on that 'engaged' status when the man has formally proposed the girl in a formal (discussion) manner in front of both side families. Thus, I did not expect any romantic proposal at all from my then-boyfriend. Not a single thought.

That night, after we came back from shopping at Sunway Pyramid, I was pretty tired and ready to turn to bed. My then-boyfriend invited me to go for supper and asked me to wear something nice, not just a tee and short pants. I don't really fancy eating at late night e.g. supper because I always think that supper ruins my daily digestion cycle and makes me sleep unwell too at night. Duh! Sleepy, blurred, lazy and somewhat not interested to go out again after a tiring day in the shopping mall, I finally agreed and followed him for supper. I didn't put on any make up. I looked horrible. My eye bags were quite pronounced.

I was shocked when my then-boyfriend drove to the Royal Bintang Resort and Spa, Seremban. I thought "What the heck he was going to do here? Supper here in a hotel's restaurant? Has he lost his mind? Normally he'd pick some cheap restaurants by the street for supper on weekends". Then, he explained that he felt like eating a nice cake that night. I was like "Oh. Okay... Good for me." I believed him. When we were enjoying our drink and a cake suddenly he got a phone call and mentioned that his group of friends were coming over too to join us. I was a little bit upset when he said that because I thought we were having a romantic date. Just the two of us.

When his friends approached our table, I saw one of them was holding a bouquet. "Oh, someone's birthday." I reckoned. A split second later, I saw one of his friends reached our table, handed the bouquet to my then-boyfriend then the man who was sitting across me suddenly got down on one knee in front of me, took a small black box out from his pocket, opened it and said "Would you marry me?"

 He popped that question. I was in awe.

The one moment that changed our lives for good.

I was moonstruck and embarrassed. My mind went blank. Still confused, I forced my head to think fast but I could not process anything. "What the hell is happening now?" "What should I say to this guy in front of his friends?" "Is he serious?" "Is this for real?" "God, what do I do now?" "Somebody help me!" The world surrounded me started spinning. I could not help showing beaming smiles all the time but did not find my voice to reply him. I was speechless. Long, long silence from me. I was simply not ready for all this. Everyone looked at me. Finally, my then-boyfriend asked me again "OK or not?" Frozen, I just nodded my head. Then, he smiled and put on the ring on my finger.

Next, everybody cheered. I was still surprised and didn't know how to react. I still could not think. The happy feeling had not really sunk yet. Way too much shocking episodes in three minutes duration.

Happy! Happy!

Minutes later, after I organized my thoughts and comprehended what had just happened to me, I became completely over the moon. From that moment on, I had a fiancé. I'd be getting married soon! There's a wedding for me to attend. My wedding. Seriously.

Us and the behind-the-scene personnel.

Later on, my then-boyfriend told me that earlier that day, he purposely brought me to Sunway Pyramid to trick me. He wanted to send the message to me as if he had not bought any ring whilst he actually had done so and secretly plotted his proposal scenarios with his friends.

We're so fortunate to have one of our friends snapped the photos and record a video of our happy and such unforgettable moments that night. The captured pictures stored our most memorable moments in both my and my husband's life. They're indeed the evidence of our love celebration that will never fade in time. Those photos speak millions of indescribable feelings that we had in May last year. Every time we both look into them, the happy and loving memories always come back.

Lastly, thanks for taking your time in reading my blog. In return, please enjoy the following short video of my happiest moment shared above. There's a lot of emotions, especially nervousness, shown in this memorable video of ours. We're both indeed really happy but also embarrassed. Again, we're very thankful to our friends who were involved in this particular event. Without them, I guess my then-boyfriend would not have succeeded in launching his "Proposal" master plan.

3-Minutes of happiness cum embarrassment. 
Everything seemed to happen too fast.

This short clip was edited by myself and took me hours to finish. Dang! It's my first time editing short video and I found it quite stressful actually. God bless all of you, video editors out there. Video editing ain't easy task to do. Anyway, happy watching!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Making Butter Cream Chocolate Cupcakes

Global cupcake fever is in the air. These days, almost everyone on planet Earth seems to be baking, buying and eating cupcakes!

I am intrigued to make those cute cupcakes too, thus, my husband bought me a cooking book called The Complete Series of Cupcakes from Hinkler quite a while ago. I have been studying the book for some time. Early on, I had read the introduction and tips as well as analyzed the featured cupcakes' pictures carefully. However, I kept on comparing the book's cupcake recipes and could not make my mind in deciding which one would produce the cutest cupcakes and doable to bake first. Since I am naturally always confused when given few options, in the end I didn't bake anything from this book just yet. Until today.

My cupcake choice today fell on the simple butter cream chocolate cupcakes since the recipe seemed to be possible to follow for a baker beginner like myself and I happened to have all the ingredients at home too. I discarded the idea of baking too cute cupcakes as I realized that my cupcake decorating or frosting skill in general is not there yet. I played safe.

As always, I slightly modified the original recipe and here's the cupcake recipe that I used today.

My first attempt of Butter Cream Chocolate Cupcakes.

Butter Cream Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 80 gr Unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Castor sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 cup Self-rising flour, sifted
  • 1 tbs Cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/3 cup Liquid milk, at room temperature (I added a spoon of Milo)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

  • 80 gr Unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup Icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
  • Vanilla extract
  • Food coloring, as needed

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degree Celsius. Line cupcake pan with cupcake papers,
  2. In a dry bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy using high speed electric mixer. Add the egg and mix well.
  3. Add the sifted flour and cocoa powder, liquid milk and vanilla extract into the batter using slow speed electric mixer until well combined.
  4. Divide evenly the cupcake batter into the cupcake pan. 
  5. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of cupcake pan used. The bigger the size of the cupcake pan, bake longer. Bake until the cupcakes are well risen and firm to touch.
  6. Allow to cool for few minutes and transfer to wire rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool fully before frosting. Set aside.

For the topping:
  1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy by using high-speed electric mixer. 
  2. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until all combined or until we reach the butter cream consistency that we desire.
  3. Add a tad of food coloring into the butter cream and incorporate well by using spatula (optional).
  4. Spoon the butter cream into a piping bag fitted with star nozzle onto cooled cupcakes to form a point. Lose your imagination. Get creative and start decorating the cupcakes!

I had really nice and soft chocolate cupcakes today which I think was partially due to the additional Milo that I incorporated to the liquid milk for the cupcake batter. However, I think my butter cream today was a little bit too sweet for old folks! I didn't get too creative with my butter cream decorations today because my cupcake's size was kind of big whilst the star nozzles that I had for my piping bag were too tiny.

Lastly, here are some tips for baking nice cupcakes:
  • Since cupcakes are not muffins, we don't want our cupcake final results to have overflowed flat wide tops like mushroom. Hence, don't fill the cupcake pan with too much batter. Just fill the pan until 3/4 full will do the justice.
  • If your oven has developed hot spots, try to change the position of the pan in the oven after the first half of baking time. Try to resist the temptation opening the oven door too early or too often as the cold air will cause the cupcake mixture to sink in the middle.
  • Start frosting the cupcakes when they are completely cooled down. Otherwise, the butter cream would melt after frosting, thus, lose its shape plus produce some oil due to the heat from the cupcakes.
  • Slightly reduce the above mentioned amount of icing sugar for the butter cream frosting if you prefer less sweet butter cream. However, don't use too little of icing sugar for the butter cream mixture as it will make the butter cream final result too runny and difficult to shape. The proportions of icing sugar and butter used should be balanced.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Marriage Two Cents from the Priest: How to Keep A Lasting Marriage

It's really been a while since I went to church, worshiped and listened to preaches. I miss all of them.

When my husband told me that he'd be taking me to attend his friends' Holy Matrimony at Church of the Visitation Seremban this morning, I was happy. I looked forward to attend it.

My husband and I attending Alex and Sabrina's Holy Matrimony.

Alex and Sabrina's Celebration of Holy Matrimony today went smoothly, on-time and was very meaningful. I got sentimental when they exchanged vows and deep inside my heart, I wished my husband and I also had our holy matrimony in church too. But, unfortunately, we could not.

Anyhow, the priest's homily at Alex and Sabrina's Holy Matrimony was about how to keep a lasting marriage. Since I didn't go to any marriage preparation classes before I said "I do" to my husband, I opened my ears and heart to every word the priest said today.

The priest's homily at Alex and Sabrina's Holy Matrimony today.

The priest mentioned that he had counselled many married couples who could not keep their marriage together. He learned that there are basically two key reasons that married couples have to apply to keep their love alive, regardless of their religion or race.

1. Communication

The priest said that married couple must have and maintain good communication with each other. They need to talk to each other often and keep no secret from each other. They must know how to comfort their spouse when he or she is feeling hurt. Little details in the marriage have to be openly discussed with our husband or wife including the number of the children they plan or finance issues, for instance. If there is no good communication between husband and wife, there is possibility that love will drift apart; hence, it is not impossible that he or she finds someone else as a partner. So, communicate as much as possible with our spouse.

2. Interference from Parents or Parents-in-Law

Another thing that commonly creates frictions in marriage is parents (in-law)' involvements in the a couple's marriage. Some couples tend to seek advice from their parents - whilst this might be helpful but it may backfire. Also, parents are not suppose to interfere their children's marriage life nor household. They should leave them alone. If their children really need advice from them then it's wise for the parents to give fair advice; however, when the kids do not need such advice, they better not try to resolve any marriage issues of the children. It is simply because their married children are already grown-ups.

Indeed, parenting has no manuals and everything comes from experience. And so does marriage. Thus, parents must give independence for their children to run their married life and household. Marriage is between a man (husband) and a woman (wife). Marriage is not a husband or wife tying the knot with one of the parents-in-law. After he said this, I came to realize what my best friend, Astrid, once said to me; it is advisable if married couple live under different roof from their parents so they can be independent in solving all the problems in their married life. Makes sense!

When the priest led the Rite of Marriage for Alex and Sabrina, I was so moved by it. Before the Church wedded them, the priest asked them to state their intentions in marriage and promised few things such as: (1) To come to church freely and without reservations in order to give each self to each other in marriage (2) To love and honor each other as husband and wife for the rest of their lives (3) To accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church. And these are the real duties of (Christian) marriage.

After that, Alex and Sabrina exchanged vows and exchange of rings, as the sign of love and fidelity.

The blissful newlyweds: Alex and Sabrina! 
Have a happy marriage ahead.

And now, we got newlyweds in town. Congratulations to Alex and Sabrina!

Group photo (1) with the newlyweds and friends.
Photo credit by Wong Seng Teck.

Group photo (2) with friends.
Photo credit by Wong Seng Teck.

We'll see you both again at your wedding dinner reception tonight.

"What God has joined together, men must not divide."

Snippets of Guilin, China: Day Two

On our second day after we arrived to Guilin, China; our tour guide, Xiao Li, took us to a place called Xing'An County of Guilin City, Guangxi Province where we'd be staying fortnight and enjoyed a five-star facility from the resort there. We were going to stay at the best hotel during our whole 8D7N trip in Guilin. Enticing! I could not wait to see the room's clean and big bathroom with bathtub in it.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

7.00am Morning call.

8.00am Checked out from Tao Yuan Hotel, Guilin City.

8.30am Breakfast at Western Hill Hotel, Guilin City. Our tour guide mentioned that whenever we stayed at Guilin City, we'd have to eat the breakfast from Western Hill Hotel because this restaurant's breakfast buffet serves better food variety than other places in town. Otherwise, we'd have to eat the common breakfast in Guilin, the one and only Gulin thick rice vermicelli (Guilin mǐfěn or 桂林米粉), which we, the tour members, didn't really fancy.

9.00am Hopped on the bus and made a move to Xing'An County, which is about 2 hours drive away from Guilin City. Xing'An County hosts #2 Scenic Spot Destination in Guilin, the Merryland Resort and Theme Park (桂林乐满地); one of the first national 5A (five-star) scenic zones and one of the top ten drive tourism destinations in China. 

By the way, on our way to Xing'An County, we made a stop to buy the juiciest and sweetest locally-grown grapes that I have ever tasted. My husband spent only RMB 20 (or equivalent to RM 10)  to treat each of the tour member in the bus a handful of the below Guilin grapes.

Incredibly fleshy, juicy, sweet and single-seed Guilin grapes.

11.00am  Arrived to Xing'An County and had lunch there. It was too early for lunch considering that we just ate breakfast two hours earlier but our tour guide said that since we were going straight to enter the Merryland Theme Park and check in to the hotel in the evening; we had better eaten the early lunch. Or else, it's going to be hard to gather everyone for lunch once all the tour members were scattered in the massive Theme Park. 

In front of the restaurant for lunch in Xing'An.

12.00pm Finally caught the sight of the much buzzed Guilin Merryland Theme Park. Dumped our luggage in the hotel's concierge first since the check-in time only started at around 3.00pm. Then, we immediately made a move from the hotel to the amusement park by foot. On our way to enter the amusement park, we saw the beautiful Yuelao Temple across the Ling Lake

Yuelao Temple across the Ling Lake at Merryland Theme Park.

Boats at Ling Lake for rent.

Also, before we reached the amusement park's gate, our tour leader from Malaysia recommended us to try the cooling jelly dessert that was sold there. This dessert cost about RMB 3 (or equivalent to RM 1.5) per cup. I noticed almost everyone was so interested with the preparation processes of this dessert. However, when my husband and I tried the final product, we both were like blah. This dessert tasted quite funky, not as appealing as it looked. The dessert's syrup tasted funny and the mint drops on it made the dessert tasted even more like cough syrup. (Sorry to say!)

So, this Merryland Theme Park is apparently quite capacious. Buggies for rent are available at RMB 100 (or equivalent to RM 50) for three hours to thoroughly explore this theme park. I was actually tempted to rent one but killed the idea since I learned that all the other tour members who were twice my age didn't need such facility. Hence, we kept on walking to the theme park entrance, which was quite a distance from the hotel lobby.

Once we entered this theme park, my husband and I split from the other tour members and explored the place on our own. The first attraction facility we hit at the theme park was the stalls for funfair games. We tried two out of so many game stalls there because I very much wanted to bring one cute McDull doll home. 

In the end, we didn't win the McDull prize that I wished for but won a petite Daisy Duck hanger and a mini panda doll, instead. We spent about RM 40 in total for the tokens to play the games.

Merryland Theme Park is a large-scale amusement park which hosts 7 thematic parks such as China Kingdom, Wild Western, Pixel's Magic Forest, Pirate Village, South Pacific Area, European Area and Mandala Garden. Since I felt that I was already too old for rides that challenged my adrenaline, I didn't play any amusement rides nor visit the Ghost House there. I might have disappointed my husband on this but my heart is really too weak to enjoy the rides that involve height and speed, like those that swing the passengers up high to the sky or turn the passengers upside down. Thus, we mostly spent our day there by taking lots of photos, sightseeing, watching some performances and chilled. Although, this theme park is quite pale in comparison with Universal Studio Singapore (not too happening) but my husband and I still enjoyed the atmosphere there.

Next, we decided to watch their 4D movie. Unfortunately, the 4D cartoon's quality was not so good and its plot was more suitable for toddler's movie. Again, it was not comparable to Universal Studio Singapore's Shrek 4D movie. Anyway, if we didn't try, we would not know.

About to watch the 20 minutes 4D movie at Merryland Theme Park's 4D Theater.

After the 4D Theather, my husband and I continued our journey and stopped in front of a photo studio that offered us instant photo taking in ancient Chinese costumes. I was so ON about the idea of taking photos in ancient Chinese King or Queen or Princess's costumes because I found this opportunity very interesting and it's like a once in a life time experience. (I mean, hello?! We were already in China and not sure when we can visit China again. So, why not?)

Passed by this ancient Chinese costume photo studio 
and eventually, took quite some shots there.

In the nick of time, the shopkeepers dragged my husband and I inside their studio, asked us to choose a costume and dressed us with one of the costumes there. They said one photo would only cost about RMB 20 (or equivalent to RM 10). Obviously the photo studio's management had honed their staff's selling skills really well because instead of just paying for one or two photos, my husband ended up paying about RMB 110 (or equivalent to RM 55) for five different 4R photos. And here are some of the scanned results for your virtual entertainment. Anyhow, I think these photos are quite cute. 

 Introducing General SYK to Guilin.

 General SYK and his wife.

Moving on, I guessed it was time for afternoon snack so my husband bought steamed pork sausage and corn. The steamed pork sausage was fine (my husband loved it!) but the corn was really way too hard to eat.

Our afternoon snack: Steamed pork sausage and corn.

3.00pm After wandering around the theme park, we decided to watch one of their shows there. We caught the 30 minutes show called 'Dazzle with You' at Pixel's Magic Forest. This performance showcased some ballet and modern dances plus acrobatic and magic shows. My overall comment about this particular show is - It was not too bad. 

The 'Dazzle with You' Show.

Since we still had about two more hours to kill before the theme park closed, we checked out the souvenirs shops. Then, we bumped into a shop that sold colored glazed glass arts, attracted by the Master who gave live demonstration in making the glass arts and purchased one glass art souvenir for myself. 

Stuck in front of colored glazed glass art shop in Merryland Theme Park not for nothing.

We accidentally met Merryland's mascots nearby the glass art shop and snapped a picture with them before we headed back to the hotel.

The Merryland Theme Park's mascots and us.

5.00pm The closing hour for Merryland Theme Park. Husband and I were supposed to leave the theme park by then but we both got lost! We could not spot any of familiar faces of our tour members around and suddenly had mild panic attack. It seemed that my husband and I had taken the wrong exit and needed to walk all the way back to the entrance gate to get back to the hotel. Mind you, but this was the real adrenaline rush for me! I think should we have not left that place quickly, we both could have been locked up in the theme park for the rest of the night and it's not funny.

Didn't know that we were lost! Still bothered to take photo at the wrong exit.

5.25pm Finally at the right track to the hotel area. After 25 minutes efficient fast-walking (and half running), my husband and I managed to leave the theme park alive and came back to the hotel lobby to check in.

6.15pm Dinner time at the hotel's restaurant. Thanks to the unexpected evening exercise at the theme park, I had a really huge appetite for dinner that night. I gorged most of the food that they served like a cow.

Day 2's food we ate in Guilin.

What a long day!

Day 3 in Guilin - to be continued.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Snippets of Guilin, China: Day One

A few months ago, my husband and I finished 95 DVD series of Three Kingdoms (三国) and after being so engrossed with these Chinese historical drama series, we both were so keen to visit China. Yes, we're so going to China! Needless to say, as our 'official' honeymoon trip, my husband and I traveled to Guilin, China about two weekends ago.

A week after our wedding celebration in Malaysia, we were off to our virgin trip to China. We chose to join a 8D7N guided tour to venture a foreign land, like China for instance, because it is cheaper (e.g. no need to pay most of the entrance tickets for famous tourist spots), safer, more informative and hassle-free (e.g. no need to think about the local famous food, interesting places-to-visit, transports and hotels).

The overall trip was pretty much relaxing and enjoyable. A lot of sightseeing we did, just like what we both had expected. One thing I kind of regretted during the trip was the fact that the guided tour was majorly delivered in Mandarin which I understand little of. As such, I could not really grasp all the stories behind all the scenic and historical places that we visited. Pity! In addition, I think public toilets in China, or Guilin in particular, need more serious attention in improving the toilets' hygiene.

As we had previously learned from the pictures, Guilin was all about scenic mountains, rivers, caves and other historical sites. Sounds boring to some youngsters, perhaps, but I never regret our decision to go to China for our honeymoon.

Middle of September is the beginning of autumn in China. The weather was pretty warm in the first two days in Guilin but we had to start wearing jacket for the next 6 days since the temperature went down and it was quite windy, especially at night.

Now, before I forget the details of my very first vacation to China, I am jotting down the details like a traveler's diary in my blog. It was really memorable!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

1.30am Woke up and got ready because the pick-up van from the tour agent would be fetching us soon and sending us to the LCCT airport. Dizzy, sleepy and moody.

2.30am The pick-up van arrived to our house. Off we went to the airport, together with other tour members.

4.30am Reached to LCCT Airport. Gathered with the rest of tour members who would be joining our Guilin trip for the next 8 days. Both husband and I were a bit surprised in the beginning because we were the youngest amongst the tour members. The rest of them were uncles and aunties at our parents' age and older. For one second, we thought we joined a wrong group of people and might have chosen the wrong destination for our honeymoon. Felt a tad of regret but we quickly moved on. No can do.

5.00am Group checked in at Airasia counter.

6.30am Took off to Guilin. Bye-bye Malaysia. Time to catch some sleep first.

10.30am Landed to Guilin Liangjiang International Aiport. Set foot in China for the first time. Excited!

 Landing to Guilin International Airport soon.

Hello, China: Guilin LiangjiangInternational Airport.

11.00am Met the local tour guide, Xiao Li, who would be assisting all of us for the tour around Guilin. Xiao Li briefed us a little about our tour in general and Guilin of Guangxi, China. The tallest building in Guilin is a 21-storey building. Although Guilin is relatively large in size but the radius of the city itself is only about 5km. The rests are mountainous areas and villages.

 The mini bus that took us around Guilin during our 8D7N tour.

12.00pm Lunch time. First time ever tasted real Chinese food made in China. No funky Chinese dish served, thankfully!

1.00pm Arrived to the #1 Scenic Spot Destination in Guilin, Fubo Hill Park. Fubo Hill Park is actually an integrated park in the city of Guilin, located on the western bank of Li River and acts as a memorial park for General Fubo. This park hosts a beautiful park, mountain caves and a hill called Fubo. A local legend says that this hill is named after General Fubo of Han Dynasty who once passed by Guilin on his southern expedition then poured pearls into the Li River.

At the entrance of Fubo Hill Park.

 The Statue of General Fubo.

The infamous Fubo Hill: A part of this hill was previously cut and covered with concrete to remove 
the words that (not supposedly) addressed a China political leader like an Emperor.

This park has a giant ancient Qing Dynasty iron bell covered with prayers inscriptions. I can't, unfortunately, really remember about the history of this bell now.


Next to this iron bell area is a way down to Huanzhu Cave (Returned Pearl Cave) which is filled with so many relics from Tang Dynasty and rock formations. Our tour guide mentioned that in the olden times, there was a princess (格格) sent to this cave. This princess and the name of the cave inspired a famous Chinese novel writer, Chiung Yao, who wrote a popular romance fiction titled Princess of Pearl or Huan Zhu Ge Ge (還珠格格).

 The entrance of the Huanzhu Cave.

Inside this cave, there are two paths that would lead to the Li River.

 The two paths inside the Huanzhu Cave.

When we moved further inside the cave, we encountered another famous cave called One-Thousand-Buddha Cave which has more than 200 Buddha statues in various sizes from Tang Dynasty.

Some of the Buddha cravings inside the cave.

 It's said if we touch the Buddha feet in this statue, it'd give us good luck.

Moving on, at the bottom of the hill, we witness a popular stalactite near the Li River known as the Sword-Testing Stone. This stalactite column is thick at the top and slim at the bottom but there's an inch gap between the bottom part and the ground. According to the legend, General Fubo was the one who cut this giant rock's bottom part to test his sword, hence created this famous gap.

The gap of Sword-Testing Stone.

After we visited most parts of the caves, we took a short stroll at the park and took some photos by the Li River.

 At the Fubo Park: My background is trees shaped like the Elephant-Trunk Hill, 
another famous scenic icon of Guilin.

Li River as the background here.

4.00pm Checked in to our first hotel in Guilin, Tao Yuan Hotel, and had some rest.

7.00pm Dinner time at Western Hill Hotel, Guilin.

7.45pm Had some walk at the heart of Guilin City and enjoyed the night view.

Night bazaar in Guilin.

 Amazing street violist performing in Guilin.

Before I ended this post, here's the compilation photo of the food that we ate for lunch and dinner in Guilin on our first day there. Beer is served in every meal in China and it is apparently cheaper than soda drinks. A bottle of 630ml beer in China costs less than RMB 10 (or equivalent to RM 5). In China, usually they'd also serve a pot of Chinese tea to accompany the beer. Guilin itself is famous for its thick rice vermicelli (Guilin mǐfěn or 桂林米粉) but too bad, we all didn't really like it.

Food on Day 1.

We were so flat out on our first day in Guilin because we were up since the wee hours to catch the flight to China. I think we crashed to bed quite early that night since we had to rise and shine pretty early for the second day tour in Guilin. Moreover, we needed to check out in the morning since we were switching to another hotel.

Day two in Guilin - to be continued.