Hogwarts' Students

Hogwarts' Students
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Joint Fireworks Night by Singapore & Hongkong Societies

Sunday, 28 September 2008

29th Sept 2008 - Portugal

Time really flies when I’m back in Singapore. It’s not because I’m having a blooded wicked time back here but the education system really pushes one to the brink of insanity! It’s the birthday of one of my best mates today. Happy *HaTcH*DaY Nigel Naumann (aka Kumar)! Like me, he’s now enjoying himself on a year abroad to Damascus, Syria. Hope he’s going to have a blast and a smashing time today =)

I shall now continue to blog about my final leg of my travels i.e. Portugal. College has kept me so preoccupied that I didn't have time to blog till Portugal seems so distant and hazy now. I went to Lisbon and Porto to visit my Portuguese mates since I had promised one of them to visit her in Portugal. I couldn't go back on my word and I'm glad I didn't since I had a lovely time there. Through her, I have gotten to know this group of Portuguese that were really nice and hospitable. They took time off work and their busy schedules to bring me around Lisbon and the outlying areas of Sintra and Cascais. Cascais is a very scenic place that is catered for the rich. Haha, I feel that it's my kind of place, a haven that I wouldn't mind having a humble abode in. It has its own beaches and even a casino there despite it being a small town. It feels like the whole county is landscaped and it reminded me of Singapore. Perhaps that is why I feel a connection to it. I did miss Singapore then when I was being driven around Cascais. Well, the impression that I had was that most of the well-heeled Portuguese work in Lisbon and live in Cascais as it’s only about a half hour drive away. Sintra was nothing short of breathtaking and amazing. I had a picnic there with two lovely Portuguese ladies and after that, I went to the palace at the top of the mountain. The view from above is indescribable; one has to be there to witness the magnificent view. The architecture of the palace was also unique and the windows were the highlight. They were akin to art pieces and not just mere transparent glass to allow sunshine through into the palace. Finally, the last place that I went to in Sintra was the Western most point of Europe in which beyond lies the Atlantic Ocean! It was spectacular being there; the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs, the sun against the horizon and the rustling of the strong winds. It’s such a shame that I don’t have any pictures of Portugal as my trusty camera was stolen =(

Porto was my final destination before returning to Singapore. Porto is a city which is very different from Lisbon. It seems much older and messier as a city although its transport infrastructure is decent and comfortable. The first day that I was there, I spent my time in one of the most luxurious cafes in Porto. It had a lovely ambience despite the heat and I met an Indian couple there. We ended up having a short conversation about India and Singapore, much of which I can’t remember at present. I was also lucky enough to see a filming occurring at the cafe while I was sipping my cup of cooling ice coffee away. No doubt I didn’t understand what they were speaking but nonetheless, it was still interesting. The highlight of my time in Porto would be my first evening there. I went out with a group of American girls, two Spanish birds and two Brazilian guys, all whom I met at the hostel. Haha, in order to save money, we decided to take a risk and boarded the metro without buying tickets. Luckily, we weren’t caught red-handed by the train conductors or else it would surely be such a hassle and embarassment =P After "hitching" a ride, we ended up at this place whereby there was a gig going on to celebrate some music festival of sorts. However, it turned out to be quite boring and we took to drinking instead. Eventually, we landed at a club in an area which looks like an industrial estate. I may be wrong though since it was dark by then but it was a popular hangout as many people were heading towards there as well. I had a pretty decent time that evening considering I was initially alone in Porto. I was so glad to have met this group of people whom I had a wicked time with. It’s a shame that they were leaving Porto the next day. Hence, I had no one to kill time with and ended up walking to the beach. I guess my map reading skills were blunt as I mistook each grid for 1km instead of 2. I ended up walking 12km to the bloody beach! Coupled with that, I alighted at the wrong bus stop on my way back and I had to walk back to the city area. Goodness, I reckon I had walked about 20km that day. It was horrendous!

Thinking back, I had a lovely time in Portugal although one of my closer mates from Portugal wasn’t around to host me. My only gripe would be that of losing my camera as the only pictures I have of Portugal now are memories, which are failing me slowly over time. Even now, I can’t write much about Portugal as I am unable to recollect my moments in Portugal. Due to my hectic schedule in college, all that is on my mind constantly is work and more work. Factoring in the fact that I’m typing this post at two in the morning, it surely doesn’t help me in reliving my memories... Haha, I guess I now have a reason to contact the American girls to ask them for pictures of Portugal!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

12th Aug 2008 - Spain

Nearly two months ago, I was in a land so distant that I would not imagine myself being back in the centre of the equator. The land that I travelled to is a place where a melody runs through the land, and in doing so, unifies all its people. This land is known as Spain. In Spain, the national anthem is wordless as it is just a tune. From what I’ve gathered, there are 5 factions of people living in Spain and all speak different languages or dialects. Therefore, the anthem was conceived wordless to show equality.

My first destination in Spain was Madrid. It was a lovely and beautiful city. One thing that struck me during my stay there was the orderliness of it. The metro, or underground, is certainly much better than that in London or Paris. It is a shame really as both of the cities mentioned above are alpha first world cities. However, although I feel that I’m a person who appreciates cities more than nature, the place which I’m fondest of in Madrid is Park Retiro. To be precise, I adore the rose gardens found inside the park. Haha, all three of us, my mom, younger brother and me, were taking pictures while doing stupid poses! Also, I never really fancied Spanish rice, known as Paella, as I had tried it in Singapore and in the UK. However, even in Madrid, Paella isn’t that fabulous as well unless you dine at a place which specializes in it. I went to one such restaurant and it was both tantalizing and mouth-watering. The fish that my mom ordered was lovely to the palate as well. Unfortunately, we were all so hungry that by the time we wanted to take a picture of our meal, all that were left were the serving plates. It was, indeed, a shame.

Besides Madrid, I made a day trip to a nearby city called Toledo. It was the old Spanish capital if I’m not mistaken. I remembered the day as being really hot, say 30 degrees Celsius. To make matters worse, we were given wrong directions and we ended up walking for nearly two hours before reaching the old city leaving endless conquered crests in our wake. It was such a hilly place but it was splendid. Toledo is like a barren and non-luscious fort or keep that one sees in the “Lord of the Rings” movies. Thankfully, we took a mini tram, lasting about ¾ of an hour, which went around the entire ancient part of Toledo. It was certainly breathtaking and I could imagine myself being a knight then.

Barcelona was our final destination in Spain. It is much messier than Madrid and I was initially irked by the transportation system. In some of the smaller underground stations, there aren't bridges or underpasses in which one could cross over to the other platform. So there we were, three strangers who entered the station on the wrong side and were at a loss of what to do. It would certainly be foolish, if not stupid, to exit the station and buy another three tickets just to get to the other side of the platform. Eventually, we took the train in the wrong direction and alighted at a bigger station before we could cross over back to the correct platform. It was quite infuriating in all honesty. To worsen the situation, their underground systems are not integrated. Imagine if the ticketing in the north-south lines is different from that of the east-west line, one would have to exit the station and purchase another ticket if one needed to transit. In my opinion, I felt it was ludicrous. Coupled with the lack of clarity for the train network system, surely an irate traveler one would be. After lambasting the transport system, Barcelona does have its merits. The city is beautiful, even more so than Madrid and it is a place that appeals more to tourists. The architecture of Gaudi has left me deeply impressed. It is very distinct and unique till I find no words to aptly describe it for his works are really a blessing upon Barcelona. One only has to be there to witness his very work of arts to fathom and grasp the extent of the marvel of his talent. Besides the fabulous architecture, Barcelona’s shopping belt really puts Madrid’s high street to great shame. Although Madrid is the capital, the shopping arena contrasts starkly in comparison to Barcelona’s. It really is a lovely city, bar the metro and suburbs where Madrid has a definite clear advantage over Barcelona.

I went to another two smaller towns but I reckon they’re not worth mentioning so I guess these three main cities depict my experiences and feelings in the “land of melody”.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

10th Jul 2008 - London & Paris Revisited

One month has just quickly flown by. I reckon this is the result of travelling for nearly a month. I’ve visited several places and I returned to London & Paris for a 2nd time. However, instead of being a carefree tourist in both cities, I was acting as the unofficial tour guide. As mentioned previously, my mom and younger brother flew over to Europe to meet me almost immediately after my examinations.

I remembered London as a huge city which I was fond of. It was one of the first few places I travelled to upon my arrival in Durham. Compared to the other smaller cities which I explored in the north of UK, nothing really comes close to London. In my opinion, even Edinburgh isn’t as awe-inspiring as London which may be an obvious statement haha. Although I did enjoy London, I felt wanting. It was as though an element seem to be missing from the capital of England. A few months later, I finally realized what that element is. Going to Paris was just simply amazing. Everything was extremely majestic and lovely. Surprisingly, I did not encounter any snobbish French people contrary to popular belief. I felt that Paris had a very unique and rustic charm whereby pictures do no justice to the absolutely splendid city. It was so enchanting and romantic being there, something which I didn’t feel when I was in London. Hence, I naturally favoured Paris over London.

A couple of months later, I made my way to both cities again. I knew what to expect as I’ve been there and am pretty familiar with both cities. What was flabbergasting was my paradigm shift of my views on both cities. I honestly grew to like London a lot despite it lacking in charm as compared to Paris. The English are so lovingly polite that it’s hard to fault them. I am impressed that no matter how busy or crowded the underground is, everyone would still queue to get onto the right side of the escalator and keep the left side free from obstruction for any passerby who is in a hurry. If only that happens in Singapore, I would be filled with glee. On my 2nd visit to Paris, I didn’t feel that it was as magical as before. There is no doubt it is still a very lovely city, one which I would highly recommend to others. Nevertheless, I was very disgruntled with a staff in Charles de Gaulle airport which is Paris’ main and international airport. I was asking the staff for directions, in English, to the display panel but she replied to me in French with a contorted expression on her face which screamed “too bad u do not speak French”. I was so annoyed by her condescending attitude and she even had the cheek to turn her back on me and walked away. I was utterly dumbfounded. It seemed ludicrous that I would face such treatment at their international airport and not along the streets of Paris. This isolated incident totally marred my 2nd visit to Paris. Well, English or French, your call =P

Thursday, 15 May 2008

15th May 2008 - Pictures of Switzerland & Italy

It is 2 days to the commencement of my examinations! I’ve decided to write this short post before starting on my daily routine of revision. Well, the pictures of Zurich, Lugano, Schaffhausen, Lucerne & Venice are up! Hope you guys would enjoy them while I study away~

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

14th May 2008 - Birthday Mom =)

Today is a day of utmost importance for without it, I wouldn’t exist in this world so… happy birthday mummy! Hope your celebration later would be lovely and unique. Remember that it’s just a prelude to your main celebration in Europe in 2-3 weeks time! Your dearest second son would bring you on an extravaganza shopping trip in some of the most famous cities in the world i.e. London, Paris and so forth! I’m really looking forward to seeing you soon. It has been 246 days since I last saw you haha. Are you touched that I actually counted the days?

Well, here’s a little gift for you… pictures of Geneva, Bern, Fribourg and Interlaken! It’s nothing much, just a small gesture but I do hope you find them pretty. See you later then!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

11th May 2008 - Summer Holidays

Goodness, examinations are commencing in 6 days! I haven’t updated my blog for about a month, so I thought this would be a good time to do so since I’m done with revision for the day. Oh yes, happy mother’s day, mom! I’m highly anticipating the day I conclude my examinations as my mom and brother would be flying over to Europe. I’ll be acting as their tour guide in both London and Paris and thereafter, we’ll explore a couple of places in Spain together, namely Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo and perhaps Salamanca. I am so totally looking forward to it. It’s a shame that my Dad wouldn’t be joining us as he’s really busy with work. Right now, I’m also trying to finalise my trip to Portugal. Hopefully I can get it done and out of the way soon. Planning for trips is such a hassle unless you’re willing to fork out cold hard cash to the travel agent to do all the planning for you.

During Easter break, I went to a number of places which was absolutely lovely. I can’t even count all of the places I’ve been to with my fingers alone. Amsterdam was alright, the tulips there are so pretty but you can get killed by the stupid trams and bicycles there! Switzerland is so picturesque, nothing short of being fabulous! Imagine the snow capped mountains, the clear blue lakes, the beautiful cities… The cuisine in Venice was delightful, nothing less than expected of Italian cuisine! Well, I will definitely upload all the pictures once I finish sorting them out which would be after my exams. It takes a heck of time to do so as I’ve been to so many places then.

After returning from my Easter holidays, I worked under an interior designer for about 2 weeks as part of my curriculum. It was certainly challenging but I learnt that engineering methodologies can also be applied to areas which are so non-engineering! It was overall a good experience although I was so tied up with work during those 2 weeks. After my short stint at the interior design company, it was time to hit the books as the exams were 2 weeks away which explains why I couldn’t upload any pictures. Furthermore, my mom informed me, at such a non-idealized timing, about her wanting to come to Europe. However, being a filial son, I shuffled between studies and planning for her trip and in doing so, I managed to finish planning the 16 days trip in about 3 or 4 days. Guess she should bequeath me with some nice gifts as a reward for my hard work. Haha, I’ve decided to bring lesser clothing for my trip so I would be left with no choice but to shop! Well, I’m really looking forward to seeing my family in London. It will be really lovely… till then, it’s back to studying!

Monday, 21 April 2008

21st Apr 2008 - Gatecrashing

Here I am doing something sinful while typing this blog entry. I’m drinking, and nearly finishing, a bottle (1 litre!) of Belgium chocolate flavoured milk that I bought today at the supermarket. Goodness, it has been so long since I drank such a thick and flavourful bottle of milk. Since arriving in the UK, I have only been drinking skimmed or semi-skimmed milk which is nearly the equivalent of water! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only sinful thing I did.

Upon returning to the UK, I’ve been acting a little queerly, doing things which I’ve never done in the past. I jogged twice in the rain but at least this is excusable for it keeps me healthy and fit! However, my jogs were compromised as I’d finished 2 tubs of Ben & Jerrys ice cream in 4 days and ended up buying another tub on the 5th day. To add on, I’ve never been a fan of sausage rolls but I’ve eaten 7 sausage rolls in a week! My random and peculiar behaviour is rather worrisome… even to myself.

Last Friday, I cooked mussels for my friends. I guessed I bought them on impulse as I happened to be at the supermarket when the price of the mussels was reduced. After buying them, I decided to prepare them for my friends as a form of gratitude for the lovely “birthday” surprise they sprung on me. Thankfully I didn’t screw up while cooking as it would be utterly embarrassing!

What we did after dinner was even more fabulous. We had decided to gatecrash a joint birthday party and we didn’t even know the 2 birthday celebrants haha. It was my first time doing something like this and it turned out to be good fun. The trick is to pretend you know everybody at the party, if not majority of them at least, and then to introduce yourself to the host(s). For the wicked party, good music, free food and drinks, being unabashed and shameless was certainly worthwhile! It was a party that one would be familiar with as it was akin to those portrayed in American film, pretty awesome I would have to admit =P

Alright, my bed is beckoning me over. It’s time to enter my sweet (hopefully) state of slumber as I would have to arise at half six tomorrow and don on a suit as I would be going to an interior design company. Sigh, from dawn to dust, I would be away from the comfort of my room. Needless to say, the sad life of an engineer-to-be tsk tsk.