Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Canada Trip Day 1: Arriving Vancouver Intl. Airport

Still 13th June 2010! - Here is the funny part, we left Hong Kong at 1810 hours thinking we would arrived in Vancouver Intl. Airport the next day on 14th June. As the plane was landing, the cabin crew announced the local time and date which left us all puzzled and panicky! It was 1450 hours on 13th June! Cool! We went back in time! But, not cool because we told my aunt to pick us on the 14th! We were tired and unnecessarily frantic. Mum called my aunt's house several times with no answer and left messages. Should we get a cab? What if no one's at home? It turned out we all do not have the mobile numbers of anyone we know in Canada and Mum just realised the home address she had of my aunt's was of her old house! In the first place, our itinerary had clearly stated 13th June without the "plus 1 day". I thought there might have been a mistake to have that part left out and "corrected" it myself. It was no fuss in the end. My aunt came rushing through the sliding doors. Seeing her relieved us of all our apprehensions.

I do not remember having much sleep in the plane although I might have dozed off on several occasions while trying to watch Alice in Wonderland. The in-flight entertainment system of Air Canada planes are different from RBA ones. Theirs do not have remote controls but instead, touch screens, which are cool because we do not have to be fumbling with them wires. But, games were not available. International Air Canada flights supply head phones free of charge while domestic ones sell them for three Canadian dollars or you can bring your own since the entertainment system accepts single pin head phones.

Red hues of the sky during sunrise

For some reason, I'm always sitting next to the wing of the plane

Glittery ice crystals on the airplane window

The glimpse of Richmond as the plane was landing. There were timber logs soaking in the river.

Plane touching down in the city of Richmond where the airport is located

Where all the modern high rise congregated is the City of Glass, Vancouver

Cascade Range

Air Canada's first class seat, stylish and comfy-looking

First steps into Vancouver Intl Airport

Greeted by a large Inuit art piece

I love totem poles! Somehow, they reminded me of New Zealand!

Canada Trip Day 1: Hong Kong Intl. Airport

13th June 2010 - My sister and I spent the entire night of 12th June until two hours just before departure booking accommodations, domestic flights, train and coach rides for our inter-city tour around Canada. We spent 26 amazing days in Canada, traveling between 4 provinces and a day-trip to Seattle for shopping. We had two cozy home-stays, crashed in 4 backpackers hostels and indulged in 4 hotels. It was hectic, yet another wonderful journey for me. How we did we do all these? Well, here is our itinerary.

113/06Surrey/RichmondBritish ColumbiaUncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
Washington (USA)
Uncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
Canadiana Backpackers Hostel
Canadiana Backpackers Hostel
Niagara Falls
Hostelling International (HI)Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
HI – Niagara Falls
Canadiana Backpackers Hostel
Quebec City
HI – Quebec City
Quebec City
HI – Quebec City
Quebec City
HI – Quebec City
HI – Montreal
HI – Montreal
HI – Montreal
Calgary Marriott Hotel
Mount Royal Hotel (Brewster Tour)
British Columbia
Lac Le Jeune Resort (Brewster Tour)
British Columbia
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler (Brewster Tour)
British Columbia (BC)
Uncle's Home
Mum's Friend's Home
Alberta/ BC
Uncle's Home
British Columbia
Uncle's Home
2810/07Above Pacific Ocean
Air Canada
Bandar Seri Begawan

We started our journey, carrying 7 checked-in pieces (3 backpacks - 2 backpacking and 1 normal, 1 trolley luggage - my mum's backpacking one is inside it and 3 boxes) and 5 hand-carry bags, to Hong Kong. We ran into a little trouble at the airport because our checked-in baggage were not transferred automatically for our next flight. RBA does not have an alliance with Air Canada. The ground staff at the Air Canada transit counter would have been pleased to help us get our bags from the belt on to the plane of our next flight. Unfortunately, Air Canada exercises a baggage restriction of 2 check-in baggage for each passenger and we had an excess bag, which would incur us a charge of 100 Canadian dollars.

Mum, having a visa issue, was left behind while my sister and I checked out of immigration to recheck-in our luggage. We were both feeling zombie-fied from having no sleep the previous night. It was hectic and tiring. When it was our turn at the check-in counter, we were peeved that the staff had no prior knowledge of our situation, which should not have been the case since the lady at the transit counter had informed someone earlier. We got a little aggressive inorder to convince the staff our story. I am not sure why many of the people in Hong Kong are aggressive and have irritating foul mannerisms, which can be so rude and off-putting. Well, I was relieved that that little bit of aggressiveness on our part got us our way and after a meal of delicious fried noodles at one of stalls of the food court, we were soon brisking along towards our departure gate.

Busy Hong Kong Airport

Parts of the airport under renovation

Thank God the immigration lines were pretty empty, so we got that part of the tedious procedure out of the way quickly.

The belt where our bags were supposed to be on was empty

My sister heading towards the Baggage Enquiry Desk

We got our bags and are now heading to the right row for rechecking-in.

Arrival hall below is just as busy

Kiosks for automated check-in

These are our bags. We had spent hours the previous night packing Bruneian food into boxes, weighing and repacking everything else to fulfill the baggage weight criteria. We also managed to bring along a new portable stove with two burners, which is not available for sale in the whole of Canada, for my aunt!

High escalators full of people

Yayy, finally approaching the departure gates

The hallway leading to the gates are well-lit with the sunlight coming through these massive glass walls.

That's our ride!

Cargoes are lifted up and shifted into the plane using a carrier machine.

There are our baggage and other cargo (maybe plane food) stored in enclosed and semi-caged carts.

In closer view of the carts

Vancouver, here I come!

Electrostatic attraction between my sister's fingers and the blanket (Cheap thrill!)

Natural Fish Spa Treatment in Temburong

Our last place of interest to visit was a waterfall, which unfortunately I cannot recall the name exactly. I am not sure if it is called Sungai Lubok or Labuk or anything that is familiar sounding. While the name may not have made an impression on me, the waterfall itself definitely did. There are fishes in the streams and ponds and a rich vegetation thrived wherever nature supports it. The water is extraordinarily clear and so chilly. We walked along the river until we came upon the waterfall which was gushing out in good volumes. BT and I enjoyed a wonderful natural fish spa, all free of charge and without a strict time limit. The sun that filtered through the thick vegetation embraced us gently. The roar of the waterfall in front of us amazed us. The chill of the water and the bites of the little fishes sent us jolting with a mixture of laughers, chills and thrills.

It was an experience which, in about a decade's time, money will not be able to buy. I am completely amazed by how intimate I was with nature and cannot imagine how much closer I can get with nature. I was completely in my element and almost forgot BT was with me!

BT and I went for a swim in the waterfall pool. We inched our way into the pool to allow our body to acclimatise to its chilly waters. It felt awesome and at the same time, so awfully cold when we went under the falls. Just what a wonderful little jewel of Brunei this place is! This place is unbelievably too sensational!

I saw some common split gills on one of the fallen tree trunk along the river. These were way bigger than the ones found on a rotting log at home.

Sun rays in the water

Wild ginger, which the natives gather and use in their cooking

River path we took to get to the waterfall

Wild inedible fruits that look like Kembayau (Canarium odontophyllum). Our guide said this isn't the Kembayau. Check out this blog to see how similar these wild fruits looked.

Another wild inedible fruit

The waterfall and pond

Water flowing down in enough volumes that could give us a natural massage

This is me enjoying my natural foot spa. I truly felt that I was interacting with nature. It may sound absurd that I was thinking about how great my communication with Mother Earth was going while I was feeding the fishes with my dead cells. I am fascinated beyond words by how pure of nature this experience is. I marveled at how I get to be with the fishes, the falls, the rocks and the jungle. Nothing here is man-made, which made it feels untainted and so brilliant. It was an experience to die for. The water was really cold (I said this a million times) and it was very ticklish with the many fishes attacking my toes and legs. They bit on my hands and arms too. They literally bite on any skin that comes into water. I placed my hands over my legs to make sure the fishes did not swim up to my thighs if they ended up swimming in my pants!

This picture vaguely showed a fish swimming over my left foot. I have to stay very still for the fishes to come. Any movements would sent the little fishes scurrying to other potential feeding sites. When we were in deeper parts of the pond, the fishes would peck on us at our arms or shoulders. BT let out a cry each time this happen and I would be laughing like a crazy cow at how a grown man of six feet over has cowered over the prowess of these little fishes. Unable to withstand the fishes going at him each time he stood still, BT came hurrying out of the pond several times only to find the chilly and fun waters irresistible. So, he would go back in the water again and again.

Alas, it was time to leave the waterfall and I came across a small shoal of tiny fishes in another stream. According to our guide, the fishes in the streams are not attracted to human dead cells like the ones in the waterfall ponds.

BT trying to fight the chills and fear of the fishes

Enjoying the heavy splashes of the waterfall

Monday, 28 June 2010

Canopy Walk in the Ulu Temburong National Park

We took a boat to the Ulu Temburong National Park (ecologyasia.com has a nice webpage on the park) where we registered our names before the hike to the canopy walk towers. This record allows the park to know the visitors who are in the park as visitors who have left the park are required to confirm a log-out.

The chilly morning air was fresh and rejuvenating to the body. The jungle seemed to be teeming with animal activities from the many different sounds coming from it.

This is probably my third time going on the canopy walk and the view of the forest like bunches of brocolli plucked neatly into earth still blows me away. Nature is amazing. I was constantly reminded of the fractals in nature when I recognise different things that are similar but in different scales.

River and jungle with rapids blurred

A view of another bit of jungle and river

Ulu Temburong National Park in the distant

I was reading this signboard at the park and was looking for the taro plant the board is talking about.

When I found the plant, I thought, "Is this not yam?" It turns out that taro is NOT yam. Check out "When is a yam not a yam?" and Wikipedia's yam and taro pages.

Wooden stairs leading to the canopy walk steel towers

Wild orchids, which Ibans extract from the trees to beautify their homes.

BT on a steel tower

A steel tower that outgrew the tallest tree in the rainforest

Hairy, tiny green fruits

Ferns growing on a tree bark