Tuesday, March 15, 2011


My Italian pilgrimage in photos. Let me warn you that these are not in order because I cannot be bothered to move them around. Oink.

So on the 6th of February, my parents, my brother Johann and I took a trip to Italy (along with 33 other people from KK - it was a tour group organised by my brother's company). The 10-day trip was a combination of things: tiring, long, amusing and fascinating. I discovered that my fear of flying is getting worse with age but I'll save that ramble for another entry. In the meantime, these are snapshots taken during my visit to Rome, Florence, Pisa and Assisi. Bellisima!

Yep, i'm going straight to the highlight of the trip: A visit to the Vatican City. St. Paul's Basilica, the biggest church in the world, is - for lack of words - mind-blowing. You see it in photos, movies, postcards but nothing prepares you when you actually step into the building. I found myself silenced at the greatness of it all - i couldn't take photos inside because my camera wouldn't do it justice. I really need a proper DSLR for moments like these, eh? The Basilica is one place I will be returning to.

We managed to be a part of the special audience with the Pope, which takes place on Wednesdays. I thought he was going to be on the balcony waving to people in the square but turns out it was inside a large hall where he addressed everyone in four to five languages! We received a special mention too 'The pilgrims from Malaysia, we welcome you' - wah, so glamour.

Here he is, Pope Benedict XVI.

I'm somewhere in the 15th row from the front. The hall had about 500 people - the atmosphere was electric.

The Swiss Army Guards. Yes, they have weird looking uniforms but a fascinating story. These guards are specially chosen from Switzerland for generations for a reason - There was once an attempted assassination on a Pope (i can't recall which one) and there were these 12 men who just happened to be visiting the Vatican on vacation. During the commotion, they protected and saved the Pope, sacrificing their lives for him. And yes, they happened to be Swiss Army Guards. So since then, the Vatican City exclusively hires Swiss Army Guards for their protection.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa. A major tourist attraction to say the least. You can go inside the tower but I didn't have time. Plus i was worried i might tip it over :P

For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of this church but I was fascinated by the prayer steps. Devotees will say a prayer on each step until they make it all the way up on their knees to the top.

The Vatican Museum was one of my favourites. We only had a couple of hours in here when in fact you'd need a whole day to appreciate everything. Next door was the Sistine Chapel - no photos allowed. I WAS IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL!!! Ya i'm a geek but it really was exciting.

Just to show you how much a typical meal would cost. That's in Euros mind you so that comes up to about 9 Euros a meal and 2 Euros for a cappuccino = RM45.00. Anyone's wallet bleeding yet?

One of the many temples converted into a church. It's like a movie set, I tell you. Too beautiful to comprehend. SO beautiful that I forgot the name of the place.

In Florence, a very vibrant and artsy town. This is a church from the Gothic era, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral (Duomo) of Florence. Unlike Renaissance architecture, the Gothic era is a little more 'cold' and dark, ie no fancy lines. I'm no architecture expert but the difference is obvious. For lack of better word, it just seems a bit more...creepy. Still, another piece of work that you cannot stop ogling at.

The medieval town of Assisi in the distance. Home of St.Francis.

And of course....monks from the Franciscan order!

The visit to Assisi held some significance to me being a St. Francis Convent student all my life. To learn more about his origins and way of life brought special meaning. Very humbling actually. Another place I would definitely come back and spend more time in.

Yes, it's true. Almost everyone rides a Vespa in Rome.

Basilica of St. John Lateran. The scale of the architecture and attention to detail, again, swept me off my feet.

You can see plenty of Egyptian obelisks around the city of Rome. I admire how the people appreciate and conserve their ancient buildings and monuments. It brings such character to a place.

Pasta in Italy? But of course! They go really easy on the spices and flavours, surprisingly. Nothing like what you get here in our local Italian joints. Some of the pasta we had was quite bland for my liking.

Tivoli Gardens - one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. This huge mansion holds the only natural water fountains in the world. All the fountains you see here are not manned by any equipment - only fresh water from the mountains and springs. Sangat amazing.

You tell me that's not gorgeous.

The historical Tiber River.

The Arch of Constantine, built in 315 and IT'S STILL STANDING. Why lah we cannot even handle a clock tower? Anyhoo, this was built just outside the Coliseum to commemorate Emperor Constantine's victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

The Pantheon - remember Angels and Demons? This was originally a temple for the Sun God and later in Christian times, turned into a church. There is a huge hole in the middle of dome which acts as a sun dial - back in the day, they used this tell the time. So ingenious. This was one of my favourite stops - I even bought a sketching of the Pantheon as remembrance.

Speaking of sketching, you see plenty of artists and students settled in front of the many buildings and monuments with their sketchpad and easels. Made me think of The H and wishing he was there with me.

Aquaducts! I almost leapt out of my seat when I saw this. Being a huge Roman Empire-type game fan, I was super excited to see an actual aquaduct. This babies were used to supply water around the city. Not very easy to construct but another testimony of Roman civilisation at its best (plus they are a bitch to build when expanding your empire).

Just striking a pose in my leopard-print turtleneck and leather boots trying to look local. Of course, my Asian hair and face kinda gave it away.

THIS is what the stylo Italians look like. They dress impeccably 24-7. Completely fell in love with Italian style. They are effortlessly chic.

Our guide for the first 3 days, Eros. Yes, he looks like Pavarotti. No, he wasn't very nice. Maybe it's the way he talks but after two days of, "FASTER FASTER, WHY YOU WALK SO SLOW???!" in our ears, we got tired of him real quick.

These cobbled roads outside the Coliseum are original - yep, over 2,000 years old! Maybe Sabah can learn a thing or two about constructing roads that don't need a patch up every two weeks...

Just outside the Coliseum are these grounds which served as a 'hospital' for injured or dying gladiators. After a battle, those who didn't die would be rushed here and receive medical attention....So that they can fight in the next battle ASAP. Gory stuff.

A cold day in Rome. My only regret is not having enough time to see the inside grounds of the Coliseum. Ah well, gotta save some experiences for my next trip, right?

There you have it. I can happily scratch off Italy on my 'To Visit' list. But I think i've moved it to my, 'Must Return To' list.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


And so Lent rolls around for us. A time of abstinence, sacrifice and reflection. In the past years, I've tried to be a better Catholic by observing lent and giving up some form of indulgence or vice for forty days. I gave up meat one year and although it was hard the first couple of weeks, it gradually became easier - however, when i say 'meat', I mean purely meat and not fish and seafood so I wasn't completely vegetarian. Another year I gave up alcohol and, trust me, this wasn't easy. It was during a time in my life where almost every social gathering took place in a pub and for 40 days I was Miss 'I'll just have an orange juice'. And somehow it's always less fun being the only sober person in a group of tipsy. A couple of years ago, I refused to indulge in gossip or listen to any idle talk about other people for 40 days - i must say, that was actually quite refreshing.

This year, I'm doing something a little different. Since I don't smoke or drink that much anymore, it would be meaningless to give up the usual tobacco and alcohol package, right? So this time around, I've decided to focus on something a little more internal. These days, life is full of 'white noise' - whining, complaining, arguing, gossiping, bla bla bla. And that's just from MY mouth. I do get sick of hearing my own voice, I must admit, and I believe I need to give more thought of what comes out of my mouth and listen more to what the world is trying to tell me.

Therefore, this year for Lent, I am dedicating an hour of silence every day (when I am awake of course - or else that's just pointless). That means no phone calls, no TV, no music, no internet, no distractions for an hour. Just 60 minutes of silence, in reflection or in prayer or simply just pausing for the day to think and gather my thoughts. I'm not expecting to grow a halo at the end of this but it's something I feel strongly about at this point of my life.

May you find a moment to pause in your buzzing life. Have a blessed Lent.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

She lives!

I'm back. I'm alive. I'm just a world-class procrastinator. Updates soon, promise! In the meantime, a sneak peek of my Italian trip:

More photos soon. Ciao!