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Project 365 – Week 39

Week two of our holiday came and went. We spent a good few more days snorkelling in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia (not to be confused with East Malaysia, which is part of Borneo) before we returned to my hometown for yet another family event. The questions that were hovering on everyone’s lips upon seeing me were (1) “Why did you get yourself so tanned?” (Uhmm, there’s no why, just how, and I was enjoying the outdoors for a good bit in the last 2 weeks!”) and (2) “When are you getting married?” (“Honestly, I’m not in any hurry to.”) Nobody seemed to take me seriously on either in any case.

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Ceiling

23 Sep: I have been to Kek Lok Si on multiple occassions and yet somehow, I have never noticed these crystal ceiling lamps before. Not only that, I have also been missing the vibrant colours behind the chandeliers, along with the cobwebs of course. Could it be the (lack of) expectation for decorated ceilings in Asian structures that tend to be unadorned, unlike European palaces and halls that come kitted with extravagant frescoes and decorative elements? If so, I’ve been remissed.

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Postcards: Tirta Gangga (ID)

We kickstarted our (East) Balinese cultural education not with a visit to one of the many temples; instead we went for a walk at the Water Palace of Tirta Gangga. The “Blessed water from the Ganges” is a beautiful complex which incorporates fountains (the centrepiece is an eleven tiered fountain), pools (for swimming, with water from its natural spring), ponds (for lily and koi), stone carvings, statues and a small temple among its lush and meticulously-kept gardens.

The water palace is not very old, built only in the late 1940s by the last King of Karangasem. Following damages caused by the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung, it was rebuilt and restored to its present form, and has been well-maintained since. For visitors who would like to dine with a view, restaurants with balconies adjacent to the water palace offer a premium view and presumably with a premium price tag too.

Tirta Gangga

Tirta Gangga

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First impression: Bali

Honestly, I did not know what to expect of Bali.

So many inviting pictures of rustic charm, clear blue sea and mythic temples from friends, family and around the web. So many articles written of this top destination in Southeast Asia, although it appears the focus in the media of late has been largely unflattering (overcrowding, excessive drinking parties, uncontrolled development, pollution, the lost of Balinese soul, etc). So many advices and tips enough to make one’s head spins.

Bali

Bali

I had to clear the board in order to start creating my own version of Bali. I tacked on solid advices – usually financial (use the ATM and avoid money changers, have sufficient cash in local currency to pay the exit/departure tax, keep small denomination notes to pay for all kind of little things, etc), identified what we wanted to get out of Bali (a relaxing break), listed out our favourite activities (snorkelling for F, cultural visits for me, eating local food for both of us), and most importantly, we knew what we didn’t want: stay in South Bali and run around 14 hours a day.

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Postcards: Locmariaquer and La Roche Bernard (FR)

Our few days of roaming around Morbihan came quickly to a close, and we found ourselves driving back to my in-laws to drop their car back (they had kindly lent us one for the trip). En route, we made a couple more quick stops, in the small towns of Locmariaquer and La Roche Bernard.

Locmariaquer is well-known for the largest menhir to be erected but sadly this broken menhir of Er Grah now lies on the ground in four pieces, adjacent to a famous dolmen, Table des Marchands. We debated visiting the site but given the lacklustre guided tour that morning at Carnac, my fellow road-trippers were less enthusiastic about it. Instead, we wandered around the port area for a little bit, had a very late lunch, and set off again.

Locmariaquer

Locmariaquer

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Project 365 – Week 38

This is week one of our main holiday for the year and we’re in south east Asia! It had been a rather relaxing week, all in all, with considerable time spent in the sea – what can I say? F loves snorkelling – and some other time sightseeing and eating. There would be a lot of eating throughout the trip. Such a shame though I was given wrong info about a certain family function so our time in Bali was cut short. Oh well…

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Funereal offering

16 Sep: There are nine directional temples in Bali and among them, this is the least known to foreigners. Pura Masceti is off the beaten path, the site truly sacred (no watersports or sunbathing on the stretch of the beach adjacent to the temple) with countless purification and funeral ceremonies taking place here. Legend also has it that this was where Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakhsmi came to end their relationship following a fierce argument. Balinese therefore believe that couples in relationship should not visit the temple or risk coming to their own irreconcilable differences.

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The Megaliths

Our August travel in Bretagne Sud had taken us to the quaint village of Saint Cado, the Bay of Biscay for Barre d’Étel and Gâvres, and the peninsula of Quiberon. However, we simply cannot drive past Erdeven and Carnac without visiting at least one of the several megalithic sites the region is famous for!

We strategically searched for a chambre d’hôte that is close to my friend’s wedding reception yet within reach of interesting spots to sightsee. An online search led me to the B&B of Kerzerho where we were very well looked after by Dominique throughout our stay. Frederic and I were given a room with a balcony where we could have breakfast on sunny mornings, and both ours as well as our friends’ rooms were tastefully decorated and immaculately cleaned. Moreover, Dominique is an active member of the local tourism board and therefore has plenty of tips to offer.

Kerzerho

Kerzerho

Anyway, I digress.

A short walk away from our B&B is the megalithic site of Erdeven itself! Comprised of over 1,000 standing and 5,000 lying stones, this site also known as Kerzerho alignment is the most significant site after the three main ones in Carnac. From the main road passing through Erdeven, some of these standing stones – menhirs – are clearly visible. One needs to only follow the path to enjoy a couple of hours of walk among the menhirs, spot the praying table, and marvel at the rare remaining dolmens.

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When I grow up, I want to be…

… a dance choreographer (I was really young then)
… an explorer (life can get very imaginative indeed)
… a paediatrician (on deciding college application)
… a traveller (at quarter-life crisis)
… a superwoman (no, no, just kidding, maybe?)
… happy.

A prayer

It really shouldn’t be that complicated to figure this out.

Logically, I knew it and have known it for a long time. I am not tied to a career identity, nor should I let it define who I am. And yet, many of us, when asked to complete the sentence of “when I grow up, I want to be…”, we would inevitably try to put ourselves into a mould. One based on family’s expectation, peer’s pressure, society’s dictate, our own ambition and dream that we were encouraged to steep ourselves in.

And yet it was hard to break away. Invisible threads hold me to place, not to mention my Type A personality guilts me into thinking I’d be a failure if I don’t see through any one of the journeys that I have started. It doesn’t want to acknowledge the sunk cost fallacy that is staring back intently. As an emotional being, I remained steadfast to my – perhaps misguided – convictions.

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Project 365 – Week 37

I must be out of my mind. I’ve signed up for online courses that are starting pretty much at the same time as my main vacation this year. Since this is my first dip into such uncharted territory, I am not sure how much commitment would be required of me. Not only that, I have also planned for a fortnight of internet detox, so that’s unlikely going to be helpful either!

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Hôtel de Ville

9 Sep: The parvis of Hôtel de Ville is always busy. Centrally located, it is subject to tens of thousand pairs of footsteps daily, and yet rather curiously, I hardly go anywhere near it unless I’m searching for an ice cream fix. More specifically, when I want some delicious gelato of Pozzetto. I grumbled that the building is too large to be photographed (come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever posted a photo of it in this blog…) but frankly, I should have tried harder. How about starting with just a little part of it for now?

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Postcards: Quiberon (FR)

What a glorious day it was, when we drove our way down to Quiberon. A former island in the Atlantic ocean until the 11th century, when formation of a tombolo changed its landscape and connected the island to the mainland, creating a peninsula with an isthmus that sports a width of mere 22m at its narrowest point.

The key to truly enjoy the coastal front of the Côte Sauvage is to avoid the chock-a-block main road, particularly during the summer holiday season, that goes through St-Pierre-Quiberon down to Quiberon. Instead, on passing the tombolo and immediately on arrival of the former island, take a right turn in the direction of Portivy. From there, it’s a straight drive along the coast. Better still, park the car and take a long, invigorating walk while admiring the wild coast which sees waves after waves crashing in.

Quiberon

Quiberon

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Project 365 – Week 36

May I say just how much I am looking forward to my vacation? All things finalised, booked, printed and nitty-gritty details all updated to my TripIt app, I guess that means we are all set. The only thing that I know I won’t be able to realistically achieve is to schedule blog posts during my absence, so there’s going to be a whole lot of back-dated posts in the next few weeks…

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Afterworks

2 Sep: The first time someone suggested that we go to an “afterworks” I was rather confused, especially since the invitation was issued in French. The explanation that was given to me sounded like a Friday evening blowout party at a club, something not particularly my kind of thing, so I declined. For me, an outing after work is more aligned towards a group at a local pub where we can chill, have a drink or two, chit chat, and maybe then decide if to go on an impromptu dinner together or not. (I sound old and sooo not hip, isn’t it?)

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Bay of Biscay: from Barre d’Étel to Gâvres

The Ria d’Étel empties into the Bay of Biscay, and right at this meeting point, things can get pretty interesting. After our morning detour to Saint Cado, we continued driving westwards to Barre d’Etel, located at the mouth of the estuary.

Along the river, large volumes of water are displaced by the tides and the estuary itself is subject to strong currents – we saw multiple signs warning potential swimmers from committing the folly of mounting a watery challenge. At Barre d’Etel, an ever shifting band of sand is formed by these cross currents. Additionally, on days with strong wind, be prepared for the assault of the sand. (Yes, I was ill-prepared, for I arrived wearing shorts and it was painful being pelted non-stop that I couldn’t go anywhere near the seafront! Everyone else came back with pocketful of sands instead.)

Barre d'Etel

Barre d'Etel

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Postcards: Saint Cado (FR)

Another month, another wedding to attend. While July’s wedding took us to Dijon for a weekend, August saw us heading to Morbihan (southern Brittany) for a handful few days to celebrate the marriage of one of my best friends from my Dublin days. While we were there, as you may have guessed – road trip!

One of our post-wedding sightseeing stops in the region was Saint Cado, a small islet just to the north of Belz. It is such an idyllic village, set with stone and whitewashed houses surrounding a chapel that was built in the 12th century on the site originally founded in the 6th century, and flat green fields that occupy the eastern half of the islet. It is also surrounded by structures that indicate oyster farming as the main economic activity off its immediate bay today. Between the islet and the mainland, a singular stone house is seen to sit on another small rock island in the middle of Ria d’Etel.

St Cado

St Cado

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Weekender: la chouette Dijon

A second wedding invitation this summer saw us heading to Rahon on the weekend of 14 July, and we took the opportunity to visit Dijon too. Probably not the best travel move of the year, since our sightseeing day was not only on a Sunday, it was also the 14 July, and just about everything was shut. We explored the town by foot randomly, and with some tips from the tourist information centres that were, surprisingly, open on a Sunday and a public holiday to boot, we found some activities to do.

Dijon

Dijon

Dijon

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Project 365 – Week 35

Blink, blink. September has just turned up, the French population is gearing up for la rentrée while I, well, dealing with a bunch of paperwork actually. That, and finalising the details of my upcoming holiday. In the mean time, I’m suffering from writer’s block and find it very difficult to put words to paper (or to WordPress, in this case). Please excuse me while I search for my inner wannabe-writer…

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Carved façade

26 Aug: There are the typical Haussmanian buildings, and then there are a whole lot of variations of non-Haussmanian too. I don’t think I was too far away from Pont d’Alma when I took this shot, just because it’s quirky enough to be different from its neighbours. I’ve been trying to search for more information on this architectural style, but haven’t have much luck so far. I may need to dig deeper, or whip up the thick book of Parisian architecture bible that F bought a long time ago. It’s a very interesting book, but just a bit too much French for me to read, so it’s work instead of fun reading.

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