THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM

I just got back from Bali from a 4 days 3 nights trip.

It’s my third time there – I first went with my college girlfriends (2013), the second time was for a good friend’s wedding last year (2016). And they were all also 4D3N long. I never thought I’d travel to Bali again… this soon, at least, unless I have to be there; as I did not quite fall in love with the island as most of my friends have.

Maybe it’s because I did not do or experience the things they did. But anyway, funny how life works out as I somehow selected Bali as a travel destination in the end. And this time, I think I may have grown pretty fond of it.

I went with a colleague who has also just resigned (yes I did, will blog about it my next post). We were choosing between Sabah, Langkawi, Terengganu… then suddenly, out of nowhere, Bali came through my mind. I suppose we decided on that eventually because “that makes more sense of (/sounds like) a holiday”, my friend said. So much for the weak ringgit, huh?

It was a relaxing trip. We stayed at Legian because I wanted to be near the beach and and food places so we don’t have to hire a driver to take us around to jalan-jalan and makan. No research, no nothing. Take it as it comes. I didn’t quite want to do anything touristy either, as I’ve ‘touched and go’ Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Ubud, Kintamani and the likes previously.

But my, turns out Legian was such a touristy place… Haha. But it’s cool, as that’s what I roughly had in mind – wake up, put on a summer dress, no need make-up, and just find food as we walk along the streets. Only setback was a warung meal [in Legian] costs three times more than, say, a more local place elsewhere, according to the cab driver.

By now you may have deduced that my friend was pretty ‘cincai’ about our itinerary, or lack thereof, actually. That’s true, he’s patient in nature (a trait everyone loves! haha) and had no qualms as all he wanted was to take it easy as well, and jog and swim all day.

Throughout this trip, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself… when traveling, that is. I mean, I already know I possess these traits, but I guess they were amplified when I am making decisions with another being.

I want the best value in things.

I don’t mind at all to pay for goods and services, to enjoy something worthwhile. But they have to be rightly priced. (Then again, who dictates what’s ‘right’ in this regard?)

For example, one would say ‘oh this meal is so cheap. or, this massage is so cheap!’. And in my friend’s case, he wouldn’t negotiate or even think of bargaining. Haha.

Well, I believe whether it’s cheap or expensive, it’s relative — to how much you’re willing and able to pay, to how much you expected to pay, to how much you want it, and most importantly, to the market price of other similar goods and services, at that point in time.

I make it a point to google for taxi rates from the airport to my accommodation prior, as that’s one of the easiest. As we landed, we got rates for 35 USD (like WHAT!?!) to get us to Legian, a 25 minutes drive. I immediately said no. The second offer was 25 USD and my friend was prepared to pay (-.-‘). My previous two trips, a cab ride costs 10 USD, and that’s what I’m willing to accept, maybe a little more, but not that much more.

A massage may cost 120k to 150k rupiah in the hotel, but just outside the hotel, it only costs 80k. Likewise, for clothes, if it’s of good quality and rare, I am willing to pay. But if it’s something I can get from almost any of the stalls down the street, I’ll negotiate.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe sellers and service providers should make a decent profit, but not too exorbitantly at the expense of taking advantage of another. Also, this does not mean I am stingy, perturbed, stressed about expenses. I spend, but I do it consciously.

I thought the meal above was of a pretty good deal – it was at the cafe of a nearby corner-lot hotel.

For 60k rupiah, I got myself a nasi campur and iced lemon tea. (Cheaper than more than 80,000 for just the nasi at nearby restaurants, and compare this to, say, 40k at a hawker-style warung, equally nice food, but the ambience here was many times better…). That said, I too love my hawker-like warungs 🙂

Secondly, I’d spend money on new experiences, something to remember by.  

Not only when I travel, but in general. For example, I’d spend on musicals, a water sport, learning a new skill; more so than shopping for clothes and bags… which I hardly do it, to be honest, save for the few times I shopped online. I actually find it quite a chore to go to malls and try on clothes.

This time in Bali, I decided to try out surfing. (I mean, since I’m staying at Legian, right?!)

I have tried knee-boarding in Halong Bay, Vietnam (as the sun sets behind me) and it was one of my most memorable experiences to date. I have my good friend Justin to thank for, that one.

Speaking of the value of money, one relative example I mentioned earlier is how much we want it and perhaps already decided to pay for it no matter.  In the case of surfing, the guy (whom I rented the deck chair from…) quoted me 300k rupiah for an hour of surfing class. I told him I didn’t need an hour and at most, maybe 30 to 40 mins. He was okay with 200k rupiah in the end.

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Thing is, I did not even complete half an hour… more like for just 20 to 25 mins, with a few attempts in the sea. After three tries, I managed to stand and ride with the mini wave.

It was when I began to get the hang of it (surfing), that I stopped. While some may say, ‘hey, at least you managed to stand!’. But, I didn’t grasp control of it when I knew I could, given just a few more tries. Why?

Firstly, because I thought time was already up and if I had gone on I’d be charged more. Secondly, because too much sea water had gone into my nostrils and I was suffering. This is quite b***s***t as I know I had more willpower than some discomfort as such.

And because of this, I lost out easily 20 more minutes of surfing (already paid for), and left feeling I did not own it to my best ability. And that feeling’s pretty crappy.

Lesson learnt. Next time, I am going to just enjoy myself and give it my all till I’m satisfied with the outcome.

Side note: As I lay on the surfing board, venturing out into the sea, I realize there’s a lot I can relate to in life. The waves can be hard and against you as you venture out, but whether you like it or not, you have to go through it, to catch the next big wave. You can choose to complain and even try to go against it, or you can just face it head-on. And as you turnaround and prepare to catch the next wave to ride back to the shore, you may fall along the way, or you may surf successfully till the end. Either way, when you do fall, you pick yourself up, and go on attempting until you get it right. 

Now, there was something else I was not pleased with myself during this Bali trip.

When asked by the lead singer of a live band to join her sing Mayang Sari’s ‘Tiada Lagi’ — my ultimate favourite — at Made’s Warung, I declined, twice. I don’t know why I did that. It was the perfect setting, stylish yet modest Balinese setting, accommodating crowd, friendly band. And I mean, hello, I love singing! I sing that song all the time at karaoke. Was utterly disappointed in myself.

She could see I was enjoying myself singing along to almost all of her songs, and when my friend requested two Malaysian Malay songs, she suggested to sing Mayang Sari instead, of which I shouted, Tiada Lagi, please.

Lesson learnt. Next time, just take the chance and do it, don’t think so much! Imagine how cool it would have been to sing an Indonesian song IN Indonesia with Indonesians.

Nonetheless, the meal I had above was everything.

The first night we were at Made’s — it was an accidental stumble as we were walking along Seminyak. We were already done with dinner then and thus went in for desserts as the live band was just about to start. I had read about Made’s online before somewhere.

We went back the next night to have dinner there as friend wanted his Babi Guling. My grilled fish with rice (recommended by the waitress), and margarita (using their local alcohol), accompanied by sweet music (another band), was… *sigh*

Before I end this post, just a random observation I have of service parlours in Bali. You can find a spa at every other footstep, and they are all almost similarly priced. But I wonder how able are they in delivering all of the services.

I mean, I have tried cream bath (their version of hair treatment?) twice at different ‘spas’, and both did not quite deliver to my expectations. One massaged my shoulder with her long thumb nail and it hurts, the other didn’t wash the bottom part of my hair clean while the shower spray splashed across my face while washing. I thought, maybe it’s because these ladies do about everything? I.E. they massage, do ear wax, cream bath, etc etc, so they are not focused on one skill? Could this be the case?

Anyhow, I finished a Murakami book here in Bali. My very first. Norwegian Wood. It was good. So many quotes from the book that I adore.

“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”

“If I have left a wound inside you, it is not just your wound but mine as well.”

“I’ve never once thought about how I was going to die,” she said. “I can’t think about it. I don’t even know how I’m going to live.”

And more from my instagram post here.

I’ll remember Bali for its warm hospitality, warm smiles; especially at hotels and F&B spots.

Time will tell if I will be back one day. Hopefully, longer than 4D3N the next time around.

WHILE WE….

I was searching for some old files in my old pen drives, and stumbled upon this unpublished draft – some of my observations in my daily life [then] which have spurred me to write this short post.

-November 2015-

WHILE WE get to enjoy a Japanese meal, even a simple one, a waiter from a restaurant nearby was queuing in front of me to get a papaya for RM1 – possibly to save his hunger. If anything, I’m happy for him, least he’s eating healthy.

While we get to walk and run and exercise and dance, some old people are stuck in wheelchairs – needing people to attend to them, even to the simplest needs of consuming food and going to the toilet. Stroke patients have it hard as well.

While we stay in hotels, even just a modest one, the housekeepers (some who are old women enough to be grandmothers) are cleaning our used sheets and toilets. It can be so monotonous.

While we complain about our jobs (this applies to petty complaints), there are some who are slaving away under the heat, or are stuck in a role where it really consumes them (for whatever reasons) with no way out, and yet get paid peanuts.

Some may not even be physically fit to do the job, but they still have to do it, just because they do not possess other skill sets or they need an additional avenue to support their family. Some, have left their families at their home countries, to come here for better employment prospects.

While we rant about the inconvenience of renovation of our home or workplace, construction workers are working day and night to rush to get us what we want.

And the list could go on, and on, and on.

I feel a tad bit guilty writing this, admittedly, knowing I haven’t been thankful enough for what I have and am. I haven’t also been positive enough in my thoughts and actions.

We often get too perturbed with our own lives, that we fail to notice what goes on around us.

Yes, it’s a matter of perspective. These people I mentioned above may be happy doing what they are doing, they could even be happier than us even.  But does that justify our silly complaints and unhappiness?

The universe is so much bigger than us. Things do not just revolve around us.

I suppose, at the end of the day, we should count our blessings (however small we think they are), do good, and treat others well.

And equally as important, we should take good care of ourselves (our mind, body, and soul), so that our loved ones do not have to worry about us.

WHAT’S NEW?

I’m tired. Not of life, but from work. (What’s new with my life? :/)

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. But perhaps, I am a little too invested in it. (Again, what’s new? *cries*)

That, and the need for efficiency.

See, I was thinking – how can I feel drained when I only work a 7-8 hours shift (sometimes less)? And I start at noon. With the news team as well, we rotate and repeat some of the bulletins so it’s technically not all-round-the-clock work.

It then dawned on me – it’s because I try to accomplish my everything, and more, in perhaps… 5 hours? I can’t seem to sit idle doing nothing! It’s a problem.

Each free minute I have is spent ticking off my daily to-do lists (I wished I didn’t have any in one day to come), which ranges from adding new business bulletins, preparing market wrap pointers for the day or days ahead, making analyst calls, transcribing and editing clips, as well as researching and coming up with questions for my current affairs story. Yes, three in one.

Also, with covering the business news bulletins, I am usually desk-bound as I have to update the numbers every half an hour. Which also means my heart (and mind) is always on the lookout five minutes before the clock hits 6 or 12.

Alas, above all, I suppose, it’s the effort I put into everything that I do.

For example with the evening market wrap segment. Yes, it’s only a 5 minutes segment, but there’s a whole lot of preparation behind it. I mean, I can get the script done in an hour, sometimes less, sometimes more, it depends.

Besides identifying a worthy enough topic to talk about on the day, there’s the thought-process of:

  • How I lead the story (it’s not print no more)
  • How do I ensure that all only relevant points are mentioned (while keeping it simple)
  • How can I use other news pieces and research reports I’ve read to add perspective and weight to the story
  • How do I ensure the story and script flows nicely

…all while crafting it into a conversation between two parties.

I’m okay with the content, but what I’ve been struggling with is the lead-in, of how to address it to the man on the street.

But yes, these days, I find myself always thinking how can I continuously add strength to my stories. Like I could be buying coffee, or having lunch, or driving in the car, and come across points that I feel should be included in my story.

Because ultimately, I owe it to the listeners and myself – to do a good job. Or at least, to the best of my ability.

See, I always wished I could give a better script. But I have since told myself that this is a daily rolling production, and I’m managing this ON TOP of my core news writing role while also my CA (sometimes), so I’ve to manage my own workflow also lah.

Also, when writing out scripts, I don’t always just copy and paste the numbers that news portals have carried. I usually cross-check the percentage changes, timelines, with charts from the Bloomberg terminal and stock exchange filings – when I have to. When I use different benchmarks and comparisons, or to just shed better light for me on the situation. It’s a trait I think I’ve inherited, coming from a print background.

Though one thing good about market wrap is, I’m given control of what topics to cover, and how I can approach the story. Am so, so grateful I can do this while also able to present now. A special shout-out here to Caroline, Ezra, Uma and Keith for having faith in me, encouraging me, and correcting my phrases/ pronunciations 🙂

Now, thinking back, at several points in my previous two jobs, I felt the same way. Where I would question myself, if this is worth it? I mean, I hope, know, it’s worth it. BUT provided only if I learn to approach it (i.e. work) in a more calm and composed manner.

I want to learn to strike a balance better – between giving my best and not stress unnecessarily. It all boils down to managing my own expectations, not be so hard on myself, and sometimes learning to let go. The last thing I’d want is to lose my health (and my ability to work fast). I’ll always, always remember that health is the greatest wealth.

Sigh, always easy to say. But practicing it? This is to me REALLY putting it to action.

P/S: The past few weeks have been extra tiring because I’m also re-editing from scratch my three infomercial interviews. (Thank you Lawrence for being so patient with me!) Not too late to start re-learning how to use Audition rather than Wavepad (a software I’ve been using from the get-go). Also, I had three back to back contributing articles to write, but as with freelance, I’ll never let that get in the way of my core job.

GRADUATIONS – MORE THAN JUST THAT

My youngest brother Shaun graduated slightly more than two months ago.

An Instagram post of my mom (she has been more tech-forward than me) prompted me to blog about this. It was a picture collage she uploaded, taken at three of our graduations – my two brothers and I.

In the caption she wrote: “My father once told me that the best gift he can give me is education. I am very grateful for that. I have done the same for my children where tertiary education is concerned. But today, as a result of over exposure to the Western culture, we are losing the teachings of good values by our ancient ancestors. I hope my children can and will learn the universal good values from the wisdom of our ancient ancestors and impart to their next generation.”

And it got me thinking for a bit.

Admittedly, the first part (on having provided us the best in education) hit me more than the second part (on values) did. I suspect it’s because my mom has been reminding us on these values – filial piety, respect to all (especially elderly), to stay level-headed and grounded… since the beginning of time.

Both my parents did not manage to study abroad, they were from poor families. But they studied hard and managed to enter University Malaya (which was top at one point). And so, I could see how they were so happy to have given us what their families couldn’t have afforded back then.

Not only did they pay for our education all through till university, my parents also turned up for each and every of our graduation. It’s something I think we do take for granted as well. We tend to assume that they will be there at the ceremony. But that may not always be the case for all, for whatever reasons.

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Mine in Melbourne, Australia; August 2010

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Ken’s in Lucerne, Switzerland; December 2009

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Shaun’s in Oxford, England; July 2016

My parents do not spend a lot, not on material goods anyway. My father does not know (or care) half of the designer brands in Bicester Village, I reckon. They have been telling me since I was young, that it is through their thrifty ways initially that enable them to be slightly more comfortable now. But when it comes to these two things: education and health; they do not stinge, ever.

Now comes to the important part, of what really spurred me to write this post.

Formal education, studying hard and getting into superb universities – while important, is not everything.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire those who get admitted into top-tier universities. It’s definitely not easy . It’s not done overnight; it’s months, years of planning and working towards it. It’s a combination of not just smarts, but grit, discipline, hard work, being resourceful etc.

Having graduated and gone into the workforce, today, I admire those who have more than what a top graduate takes (in terms of what’s on paper). I like and am drawn towards those who are open-minded, kind, always striving to improve themselves…

For those who do not know my family and I, you may have easily concluded that my family places very high importance on formal education. On the contrary, if I may, they actually place more importance on wanting us to be good people. That, and for us to look at the bigger picture in life.

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My graduation gift from mummy

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What’s inside…

My mother, of how she is brought up, and being in the industry that she is in now, looks at the the person that you are now – your aspirations, how willing are you to strive to get what you want, rather than your background. She is a very “E.Q.” person – always instilling in us to first think of others, be mindful of our surroundings, be courteous.

On an unrelated note, I can still remember years back when I was still in college and applying for universities, my mom posted me this Q to me: if I would rather have that money to study overseas; or to use the same amount of money, buy a property, and collect rent (all for my own). It’s just something to ponder about, she said. But of course, she will still send my brothers and I overseas, we know.

My father, meanwhile, has been imparting to us the importance of being realistic.

He is very proud of all of us. But he also brought to light this: what’s more important is what happens after you graduate. Not everyone who graduates from the best schools will end up doing great in life thereafter – they may not sail through life as well – for whatever reasons.

One example is if you’re not being cut out for the job that you want – but that’s okay, because not everyone is cut out and meant to be for example, say, an investment banker, or a management consultant. So he always instills in us to go after what we truly want, what we are passionate about.

Then there’s another more crucial part to doing well in life – “life skills”, he calls it – of being adaptive, building a strong mindset and character… and his favourite among all: that we have to first go through challenges and hardships. Well, not to say that we have to go through it, but by having gone through it, it would make us appreciate sweet success better, and not take it for granted. He also says it’s better to first “get our hands dirty”, which means being on the ground learning the ropes, before trying to be top management and all.

And this is why I look up to my peers who have gone through hardship – some I know only got to study abroad because of scholarships, even then, still sent money back home with their part-time job income; and upon graduating, still supported their parents and siblings. My hats off to you.

Anyhow, what made us proud of Shaun is not the fact that he graduated with First Class in an Engineering degree, but rather how his journey has shaped him to be richer with life experiences and more importantly, how he has also shaped those around him.

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Stole this from Shaun’s facebook

He has forged real, good friendships; inspired those around him… be it in studies – not giving up when times are tough (one apparently wanted to leave after the first year, but he has in some ways encouraged the person to fight on), in building fitness through gym-ing… And we know this not just through social media postings of his friends but also of what the parents shared with each other.

The night before the graduation day, all 5 friends AND their/ our families gathered for a dinner. It was nice to hang out and get to know your brother’s good friend’s families. Haha. They were all soo nice!

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All 30 of us

All embarking on different things now

My other brother, Ken, is one of the nicest, purest, kindest souls I’ve ever met. And I’m not saying it just because he’s my brother.

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My grad drinks

But really, he’s never, or hardly ever judging, always sees and believes in the good and best in people, doesn’t blame, patient, giving. He’s also one of the many examples of how you can still be a great and amazing person even when you didn’t graduate from, say, Oxford or Stanford. (And again, not to say that you lag in being a great person when you did graduate from those unis)

To end this post (FINALLY, haha)…

I’d like to dedicate this post to my parents; for giving us your best, for always encouraging us to be and strive for our best selves, for never once giving us doubts of what we are capable to achieve and yet, wise enough to always give us a sense of reality and perspective, for always being there to listen and give your input but eventually still let us decide on our own.

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So thank you, papa and mummy, for all of the above.

We will “stay healthy, happy, and always count your blessings and be grateful”, as what you’ve always reminded us to.

Love,

Lynn, Ken, and Shaun.

CYPRUS JUNKET

I truly, truly enjoyed my Cyprus junket. This was back in November 2014, while I was with The Edge.

It was my first time being assigned to cover a non-Corporate story – this was for the Options section specifically. You’d think that I’d be more relaxed, writing a travel piece, but I think I placed more pressure on myself as it was something out of my core role as a business journo.

A huge, huge thank you to my then company for sending me to this trip, Qatar Airways for flying us to and fro Larnaka (& for hosting us at your kick-ass Al Mourjan business lounge… seriously guys, I can still remember the experience), as well as Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) for arranging the on-the-ground tour.

A special shout-out to Siow May (from Qatar), for not just doing what you do – watching out for us from the media – but also by just being your awesome, sincere and easy-going self. Most of my solo pics during the trip were taken her! And to Zenonas Zenonos (our guide from CTO), for sharing us with us your sparkle and joy for Cyprus and life in general.

My main story that was published:

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If you’ve followed my blogs and posts previously you’ll know that I love writing about my experiences in life, that which includes my travels. But it’s all my own musings. I’m glad I got a non-business story published in print!

For your ease and reading pleasure, I’ve attached below the story I sent in, unedited – got it from my word file as I’m too lazy to correct my grammar mistakes etc in the printed version haha. But it’s by and large similar thankfully. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it 🙂

Have slipped in a picture or two when necessary to give the story more colour.


CYPRUS; the unassuming Eastern Mediterranean gem

**unedited version

MY favourite moment in Cyprus has got to be sitting in a jeep, riding along (rather nastily, but with so much character) bumpy coastal roads of Akamas Peninsula – located in the West of Cyprus – stopping every now and then to take in the Mediterranean sea view. Each time we take a pit stop, I find myself asking: How is it possible for the view to be so breathtaking from all angles?

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Olive, pomegranate, and mandarin trees greeted us throughout the journey.

Along the way, we stopped by St Georges Cathedral, a small Greek Orthodox Church; and Lara Bay Turtle Conservatory Station, said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Cyprus.

As the jeep took us up towards the mountain hills, we visited a farm where I got to taste raw aromatic herbs plucked from trees such as thyme, carob (pic below), bay leaves, and aniseed (used to make ‘ouzo’ or absinthe); as well as witness meandering goats, sheep, and pigs amidst the wilderness.

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A stop at “Vasilikon” winery in Kathikas village for some wine tasting was mandatory, before heading for lunch at “Yiannis” tavern in the same village itself.

The jeep excursion, albeit lasted only a few hours, to me encapsulates what Cyprus has to offer – nature in its best form, the scenic coast, its historical remains, tantalizing food and wine.

A major plus point was that the weather was perfect, sunny in a slight autumn chill of 22-24 degrees.

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Note that Cyprus is almost sunny all year long! It’s no wonder smiles are seen everywhere we go, which I shamelessly attempt to greet people with a ‘yah-sou’, which means ‘hello’ in Greek, prevalently spoken in the South of Cyprus which is the Cyprus today. The Turkish troops still illegally occupy the North of Cyprus.

It did not take me long at all to learn that Cypriots are open-hearted, friendly, and generous people.

I, too, make it a point to wish our tour guide Zenonas Zenonos and the driver ‘Kaliméra’, which means good morning; and thank them with ‘Efharistó.

In the four and a half days spent in Cyprus, organized by the warm hospitality of Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO), I had the privilege of visiting four cities: Lefkosia (Nicosia), Lemesos (Limassol), Larnaka, and Pafos (Paphos).

With the cities inter-connected via the motorway, spanning across 9,250 square metres, the best way to travel in Cyprus is by renting a car. There are no toll charges.

Melting pot of long, rich histories and cultures

Cyprus, the third largest island in Mediterranean – after Sardinia and Sicily – may only house 750,000 in population but its history dates back to as far as the prehistoric age of 8,200 BC or 10,000 years ago.

Having been through the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods (480 BC – 330 AD), Byzantine period (330 – 1191), Frankish period (1192 – 1489), the Venetians in Cyprus (1489 – 1571), Ottoman Empire (1571 – 1878), British rule (1878 – 1960); all of which has left their marks, Cyprus today as described by many is truly “a real haven for archeology lovers”, and “a place where history seems to be suspended in time”.

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One is able to feast his or her eyes on prehistoric settlements, to Greek temples, Byzantine churches and monasteries, to mosques and British colonial-style buildings.

What I find intriguing is that every historical site we visited had a story behind it, and I’m particularly drawn towards those of ancient Greek world – its myths, Gods, and Goddesses.

In Pafos, you have to visit Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite Rock), where Aphrodite – the Greek Goddess of Love, Beauty and Sexuality – is said to have been born. If you have the chance, drop by both in the morning and evening, as it exudes a different kind of beauty. Magical, nonetheless.

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Meanwhile, at the Pafos Mosaics is where I truly opened my eyes to the ‘basics’ of some of the oldest Greek stories, as we wandered through each ‘room’ and ‘designs’. My favourite is the love story of Pyramos and Thisbe, where both’s love for each other and death is somewhat similar to that of Romeo and Juliet.

Pafos town is part of the official UNESCO list of cultural and world heritage.

On a side note, many of the English words we use today hail from Greek. For example, ‘narcissism’ came from the representation of Narcissus, the son of a river-god and a nymph.

In Limassol, I fell in love with the Kourian ancient site, housing the Kourian Theatre and House of Efstolios.

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The view from the top of the theatre overlooking the sea, and from the bottom of the theatre looking up towards the thousands of seats was a stunning moment stood still in time. Today, the theatre is used as platform for music and theatrical performances during summer.

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There is also the Sanctuary of Apollon Hylates, god of the woodland and the protector of Kourion. These sacred places will satisfy a photographer’s appetite, that’s for sure.

In Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, we visited the Cyprus Archaeological museum, Saint John’s Cathedral and the House of Kornesios, where the rich representatives of the Ottoman Empire lived.

While it helps to read up a little prior to visiting these sites, it is not necessary if you have a knowledgeable tour guide.

Food that awakens and delights taste buds

In Cyprus, most of the meals we had were in taverns, or ‘taverna’; outdoor cafés where people gather to eat and drink.

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The culture practiced while eating in a taverna is: “to think of your neighbour”, where one passes the food around as it’s simply all self-service.

Every meal in Cyprus starts with a generous bowl of fresh salad – with feta cheese in it – and a plate full of warm pitta bread served with various dips that awakens your senses. The dips common served are: Tahini (sesame seed paste), Hummous (mashed chickpeas) and my favourite, Tarama (fish roe).

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These are the ‘constants’ in every meal and enough to make you full. The ‘meze’ is next served – little delicacies or dishes in one platter – ranging from meat, seafood such as octopus, squid, mussels, spoiling us with choices.

Every meal I had in Cyprus was a delight.

However, if I were to name one dish that I’ll remember (possibly forever) from the island, it has to be the goat cheese ‘Halloumi’, best served grilled. The first bite was enough to knock me off my feet. Halloumi tastes good accompanied with grilled aubergines (brinjal) and even on its own.

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Other dishes I’ve got to savour include ‘bulgur’ which tastes like rissoto (Cypriot’s traditional carbohydrate other than bread), baked moussaka (casseroles), sausages, and ‘souvla’ (large chunks of meat cooked on a spit).

Pair these delicacies with red or white wine, or the local ‘Keo’ beer which I like as it’s so light and easy to drink! Or, join the locals to have a tiny glass of ‘ouzo’ (tastes like absinthe), before or after a meal.

Ya mas’, as they call it, which means ‘cheers to your good health’.

Lest not forget ‘Commandaria’, the first wine in the world that had a name and enjoyed by Richard the Lionheart. I was sure to buy a bottle back home!

For desserts, as I’m not so much of a sweet tooth, the ‘glika tou koutaliou’ (preserved fruit in syrup) did not appeal as much to me as the ‘Bourekia’ (traditional baked or fried handheld pies with sweet or savoury fillings inside – including Halloumi!) did.

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Have these with aromatic Cypriot or Turkish coffee, served in small cups.

Each taverna we dined in was unique, but the most memorable ones were: “Stou Kyr Yianni” tavern and “To Hani” tavern in Limassol, as well as “Pelican” fish tavern in Pafos.

Golf, yacht, and diving to drive tourism

Tourism accounts for most of Cyprus gross domestic product or economy. [Yet to include this in when I was drafting my piece]

According to the Statistical Service of the Republic of Cyprus, tourism revenue grew from €1.55 billion in 2010 to €2.08 billion in 2013. Tourist arrivals rose from 2.17 to 2.41 million in the same period.

Up until Sept this year, the number of tourist arrivals stood at 2.05 million, already accounting for 85% in 2013. Most of the tourists hail from Europe, with very minimal – almost negligible – from Asia.

The peak season to travel in Cyprus falls between May to October, with ‘Euro’ used as the main currency, as Cyprus became a member of the European Union in 2004.

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According to Zenonas, the CTO is bumping up efforts to attract more tourists to come forth for golfing, as well as to attract people – who is heading to the Mediterranean – to park their yacht and holiday in Cyprus.

In Pafos, we visited the Aphrodite Hills Golf Club, one of the four international standard 18-hole golf courses in the island. The sunset view from the third hole overlooking the sea was a beauty, while the buggy ride down the seventh hole was steep and thrilling.

Water sports such as diving and windsurfing is also popular in Cyprus.

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We stayed at the Leptos Coral Beach Hotel in Pafos and the Royal Apollonia Hotel in Limassol. While the stay was superbly comfortable, the swimming pools and ocean view sealed the deal. I would not in any normal occasion wake up at 5 30 am to catch the sunrise, but I did so right in Cyprus.

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If you opt not to stay in a hotel, there is the Cyprus Traditional Villages (Ltd) or agro-tourism resorts, which has cosy houses in villages of Tochni, Kalavasos and Psematismenos – centrally located halfway between Larnaka and Limassol – for you to live in.

Concluding words

It is hard not to think of anything but peace, and to experience nothing but delight in Cyprus. The island is unassuming, genuine… truly a gem in Eastern Mediterranean.

As how Zenonas puts it, “There is something for everybody in Cyprus, whether you like nature, history… One minute you are at the coast, and in the next 30 minutes you’re up in the mountains.”

[END]


Take-away thoughts:

Selecting these pictures from my Cyprus album (wished I could have included more!) – I feel so fortunate to have traveled to a place not as commonly-been-to as the island.

Though realistically, what you see from the pictures and words, that’s just one part of the job. What you don’t see is also me transcribing in the plane, airport, ensuring my other corporate stories (core role) are also in good shape. I’d like to think, if I did not put in these prior ‘sweat’ for my other pieces, I would not have been able to see Cyprus, would I?

It’s my first travel piece, and I admittedly don’t read a lot of travel stories, hence I can’t benchmark this story against others. Though, I attempted: I took notes during the trip, consolidated info from brochures, booklets and stuff online; ensuring that I covered aspects that I believe were crucial – from the culture, local delights such as food, and of course, the most commonly used phrases in its local language (what I love the most when I travel!!), etc. I hope I did okay! If not, let me know in what areas I should improve on? Hehe.

I also submitted 2-3 supplementary stories on Qatar Airways, Al-Mourjan Business Lounge and Hamad International Airport; and it’s a pity they were not published (during my time there). I’d like to believe it’s some miscommunication with the editor in charge (despite me arranging for an exclusive interview, and following up with the editor thereafter over and over). I hope the team followed up with the company with a write-up in the end, anyhow.

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