Friday, September 28, 2012

Is Installing iOS 6.0 a Mistake?

Last night I decided to update the iOS of my iPad 3 from 5.1.1 to 6.0 which was released last week at the same time the new iPhone 5 was launched. Apple announced the features of its latest iOS HERE. In retrospection it was a mistake. I should have waited a few weeks to allow reviews and complaints to spread online before I commit, and having updated I find I cannot retrograde to 5.1.1.

In this latest version that Apple is taking a clear stand against Google, its staunch rival, by removing Google Maps and replacing it with Apple's own Maps, previously driven by Google but now by TomTom. It may be well accepted in the States and UK but over in Asia I find Google Maps a lot more detailed and user friendly.

Secondly YouTube is also no longer available under iOS 6.0 but is accessible only from within Chrome, the world's most popular browser from Google. My concern is Chrome may be one day taken out of App Store to make Apple's own Safari the favoured browser on its devices. Should this happen it will make YouTube totally inaccessible just as Google Maps is now. A real shame to shut out Google supporters who have gone in to support Apple devices. It will surely force them to make a hard choice to buy Android or Apple in future.

Thirdly, iOS 6.0 also deliberately refuses to allow uploading of images to Blogger, a Google blogging service, from within the picture library of the iPhone or iPad. This capability is not surprisingly available on Android devices and will one-up with Blogger users. Blogging without picture and video attachments is bland and I have, whenever I travel, been forced to write text only posts and post pictures when I get a hand on a Windows based PC or laptop. What a shame for Apple to antagonize this category of users. But I won't be surprise if Apple will one day come up with its own blogging app to rival Blogger.

For now it appear I will have to learn to live with an iOS and hope to grow to like it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Passing of a Legend

I missed the news. Driving home this morning I heard songs of a singer whose voice took me back to the early days of black and white television and I had the bad feeling that he is no longer with us. True enough I felt a void inside hearing that Andy Williams have passed away at the age of 84 in his hometown in Branson, Missouri, USA on Tuesday night after battling bladder cancer for a year.

I first heard of Andy's songs on his The Andy Williams Show in the early 1960s. Unlike Ed Sullivan who host upcoming singers and bands but can't sing, Andy did more. He sang and entertained his fans. The AWS was a pure family show and help promote new singers. I remember the Osmonds were a bunch of kids who came on his show. Donny was a little boy who Andy would put him on his lap but he grew up to become a popular singer just as Michael Jackson was making his mark with his older brothers and sisters. Andy would always finish his show with his farewell song, May Each Day.

I love nearly all of Andy's songs and could singalong most of them. Andy would be like an uncle to me. Although he has departed to his eternal home his rich and inimitable voice will always fill my heart and made me wonder how much he has blessed his fans with his clean and meaningful songs.

Goodbye Andy. You're home now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kota Kinabalu City Tour

September 23 (Sunday)
The rain finally came to spoil our holiday. Or looking at things positively and differently I am glad it only came today and not yesterday. Our plan to eat out in Gaya Street was frustrated by the shower so we ate at the Cafe again. Today being Sunday traders set up their stalls along the Gaya Street to sell variety of goods in this traditional Sunday Market. So if you like to see what the locals do please make sure to be in KK on a Sunday.

We checked out at 8.45am and waited in the lounge for Roy to pick us up for the 3 hours city tour. The rain hasn't subsided and we were prepared for something less than what we've paid for (RM65 per person) but no travel agency can promise a good weather. To be honest, finding something to do for under 6 hours is difficult and the city tour is the only reasonable tour we find useful on our last day. Furthermore we really didn't have the time or transportation on our own to see this historic city previously named Jesselton after Sir Charles Jessel during the time of British colonial rule until 1963. On September 30, 1968 the city was officially renamed as Kota Kinabalu which was also called Api Api by the locals.

KK city has a population of under 500,000 with some 25% being foreigners (substantial numbers are Filipinos and Indonesians) followed by the Chinese, Bajau and Kadazandusun, the latter two being natives of Sabah. When I prompted Roy he placed the foreigner population even higher as 40%. No wonders the Sabahans are very unhappy to have their towns and cities invaded by outsiders.

Our first stop was to the 30 storey Menara Tun Mustapha, formerly the Sabah Foundation building built in 1977 using state government money. Its uniqueness lie in its single column structure. I joked over the safety of those whose office are at the periphery instead of the centre. There wasn't much to do but snap a few pictures and move on to see the City Mosque (also known as Likas Mosque as it is situated in the Likas Bay). This mosque is unique because it is surrounded by a man-made lagoon and tourists can rent boats to paddle around the building.

We went next to the Poh Toh Tze Buddhist Temple but it was under major renovation and being still drizzling we decided to 'swap' with another destination and asked Roy to drive us to the campus of Universiti Malaysia Sabah instead. Founded in 1994 it boast of a huge campus ground. It was very quiet being a Sunday and rainy. So we took some pictures for remembrance and moved on.

The highlight of the tour must be looking at KK from the observatory tower on Signal Hill which is just behind the tall buildings of the city. The drizzle has stopped by then and I was able to take several lovely pictures, some of which I share here. They are of actual size which you may enlarge for better viewing.

The last stop was to check out the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It wasn't in the itinerary but Roy obliged and we still have time left. QEH is a very old hospital now undergoing massive structural renovation. The tour ended at 11am and we asked Roy to drop us off near Gaya Street where we experience for ourselves the ambience of an open market. Discovering the restaurant recommended by our nephew last night we went in for 2 bowls of hot beef noodle. After buying some souvenir tee shirts for the grandkids we strolled back to the hotel to rest before retrieving our bags and get a cab for the airport (fare: RM30).

It has been a quick weekend getaway and compared to Kuching I must say KK is much bigger, more vibrant and perhaps have more to offer. If you are thinking of Kuching don't be put off by my remark because she has what KK don't have, a quietness many travellers actually like. I did.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kinabalu National Park

September 22 (Saturday)
After a buffet breakfast in the hotel G Cafe we waited for our tour van at the lobby. Thinking it must carry the Masenang name or emblem, we waited and waited until a Malay man in red tee shirt approached me, "Are you Mr. Peter Yew?" I replied "Yes" and I could see the relief on his face. Apparently he was waiting for us for the past 15 minutes but wasn't savvy enough to carry a card or ask around. Soon after boarding the 7 seater van I asked who else would he be fetching and he replied, "Nobody, only two of you". And I thought to myself isn't this great, a private tour for the fee of a group tour! The last time we enjoyed this was when we were holidaying in Hanoi last year.

At 8.35 am Roy, that's the driver's name (later he admitted it was his trade name, his real name is Nik) took us on a slow drive north east from the city towards this World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Kinabalu National Park, established in 1964 and covering an area of 754 sq. kilometers. The Park surrounds the Mount Kinabalu which at 4095.2 meters is the highest peak in SE Asia. It is home to more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including 326 bird and around 100 mammal species. The trip will take us near to the mountain but not near enough to climb. It was never our intention, nor our capability or readiness to undertake this challenge. Suffice to say all I wanted is to see it as close as possible. First this is where the Park is.

Although the weather forecast today is cloudy with likelihood of thunderstorm we were glad the skies didn't break at all. It was cloudy but white on blue skies with a good sun. Heading towards Tamparuli, Roy start to point out the famed Mt. Kinabalu in the distance. I asked to find a good vantage point to stop for a photo shoot. As the roads are narrow and windy we didn't manage to do so. The roads were double laned with dividers up till Tamparuli, 38 km outside KK, when they merged into trunk roads and they started to become windy and steepier for the next 52km. All along the drive a strange sight greeted us, at regular intervals of 1-2 km we could see prominent signs of Catholic churches built by the early missionaries to serve the natives who live in these areas. Here is one I managed to capture from inside the van.

There were a few of other denominations such as the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) and Seventh Day Adventist but the majority are by the Catholics whose presence in Sabah make them the majority Christians.

We arrived the Pekan Nabalu at about 10am for a rest stop. It was here that we caught the magnificence of the mountain and took several pictures for remembrance. The sun was bright and the visibility great. There were several stalls selling local souvenirs and fruits but we weren't interested in them.

As you can see, it was cloudy but the peak of Mt. Kinabalu is visible. We arrived the entrance to Kinabalu Park at 11am and proceeded to the exhibition centre. I am amazed at the cleanliness of the place and high standard of maintenance and upkeep.

We next drove to the Botanical Garden to get a feel of the various types of flora found inside this national park. After Roy bought the entrance tickets costing RM4 each we went inside. There weren't many tourists there but later after left we saw a larger group arriving.

It is very cooling and peaceful inside the garden with the sound of mountain stream running through it. To the uninitiated this may just pass off as a forest but botanists and nature conservationists will find this a piece of gem as there are hundreds of different species of small plants, especially wild orchids, found inside. I can't name them as this is not my speciality nor interest but I am impressed by the harmony these plants co-exist with each other in a small space of just a few acres. Many trees are homes to saprophytes and parasites that live on each other. I saw orchids growing on tree trunks. Makes me wonder why human beings cannot be like plants. Here are some pictures of these marvellous plants.

It was an educational tour of the garden and I came away deeply appreciative of the Park management for their commitment in preserving this reserve. After a simple lunch we made our way down the hill (1200 meters above sea level) back to KK. On the way down Roy pointed out the clouds that has circled and nearly choked the peak. Here's proof.

As a Christian it is my belief that God has kept His wonder for us to see. Tonight we met up with our nephew for dinner before we went back to the hotel. He showed us a nice Chinese restaurant to have our breakfast tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Waterfront and Seafood Dinner

We made our way to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal on the morning of Sep 21 by cab. We took the Air Asia flight AA5122 outbound to Kota Kinabalu, a flight duration of two and half hour eastward. We arrived at 12.45pm and was picked up by a driver to our Gaya Centre Hotel. The drive to the hotel was a mere 15 minutes and my first impression was KK is it is quite developed judging by the number of high rise buildings, broad roads and general impression of well-being. Today is meant to be restful so after lunch at the hotel cafe we just relaxed in our room. It was a standard twin but very clean and sufficiently appointed for a comfortable stay. I understand the hotel used to be an office block which the owner bought over and converted into a hotel 2 years ago. A good move as Sabah is strong in tourism.

Touch Down at Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Terminal 2

Nice and Clean Toilet with Shower Room

Room 610 is non-smoking and faces the waterfront and the adjacent shopping mall, the Suria Sabah. At the 6th floor height we were above the street noise and commanded quite a good view of the sea and the cluster of islands that collectively formed the Tunku Abdul Raman Park. However a vacant land if developed will surely block off the scenic view. I'm glad to have chosen this 3-star hotel which I recommend to budget conscious travellers. During our 3 days stay I observed the occupancy rate was pretty high with guests mainly from Peninsula Malaysia and China. The selling point must be its location - near to shopping malls, waterfront, the Jesselton Point and the Sunday market and eateries along Gaya Street and the waterfront of course.

View from the Window of Room 610

View of Gaya Centre Hotel with Suria Sabah Shopping Mall. Taken from Water Front.

KK faces westward so enjoy daily sunsets in the horizon. Just before 6pm we strolled to the waterfront and waited to see the evening sun submerged under the sea, and watch speedboats and fishing boats cruise the waters. In the distance I spotted several larger ships anchored off the Sepanggar Port which is the seaport for KK.

Sunset over the South China Sea. Time 6.05pm, September 21, 2012

Waterfront View of Rear of Suria Sabah and Part of the Jetty

From the Boardwalk of Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens.

After the sun has set the the crowd started to build up along the stretch of board walks next to the sea we looked for food and found one stall, Nadirasa Resipi, enticing because of the larger number of people dining there. The operator, Haris, is a pleasant English speaking Malay who help his customers choose the type of seafood to cook. My wife and I decided on stingray and squid to go with white rice and honeydew and pineapple juice. Fortunately we didn't order fish or prawns or else we surely won't be able to finish the food. We took another stroll before calling it a day.

Haris taking order. Notice the table clothes are white? His trademark.

Grilled fish, prawns and other seafood.

Haris says Victory or Visit Us!

Honey Fried Squid (Sotong)

Barbequed Stingray

Burrrrp! A filling dinner for RM52 (USD17) for Two



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