Sunday, June 11, 2017

Heart of Borneo - The lost world of Bario

A few months ago, I wanted to set out on a rugged Borneo trip which would encompass the east coast of Sabah - from Tawau, Lahad Datu to Sarawak's Bario.

This came with a graphic plan of having to camp in the forest and sleep in the bus for a 12 hours treacherous ride.

Initially my goal was very simple. To do a Borneo trip. 

My friends from all over the world have expressed big interests to travel to these parts of the world, but every time they ask me anything I am left dumbfounded not knowing much about my own home / backyard but knowing so much more about other places.

It was also very hard to identify / relate myself as a fellow "Borneon" without knowing other roots, history and cultures. I barely even speak my parents heritage language let alone to talk about it.

Its own mysterious Bornean mythical charm enticed me to. 

So I started scribbling on all the possibilities on venturing to these oldest and dense "rainforests". Rainforests were the only thing I knew about Borneo. But annual leaves and time and my busy life did not permit me to do all.

(I am still hoping I could do it next time)

So I had to choose only one, and I chose Bario.

Few things that would leave a void in me sometimes; packing up and bidding goodbye to a place I grow so fond of-- is one of them. I always leave pieces of myself in the places I've visited or I always take pieces of the place along with me back home – however I look at it, I really think I am never the same person after a trip.

Have I become half empty or half full, I can't never tell. 

And Bario, did just that to me. 

For the benefit of everyone, I have attached a map below for you to locate and identify the places I have mentioned. Bario is in the centre of the top part of Borneo island. Credit goes to and the artist RB.

Bario is under Sarawak's administration, a state that shares this island with Sabah, Indonesia (Kalimantan), Brunei and Labuan. For many years we were under the North Borneo British administration until we were negotiated to join Malaysia.......

Why Bario? 

Many have asked us this question, and until today I can't quite say of one certain reason.  I was instigated by a few things; 

1) I've heard many "successful" people at their own leagues from all over the world originate from Bario. Even a Belgian we met at our homestay said the same thing. How would he know?

2) Their rice? It's so famous around Malaysia, but everytime I visualise this place called Bario when people are talking about the rice all I could visualise were ... paddy fields. I mean yes, the paddy fields are iconic ways to describe its famous produce, but surely there's more to it? 

3) It was the closest to my east coast expedition and my lovely Ingrid is based in Miri which is the main and only airplane terminal to go to Bario.

There were plenty of circumstances that made me gravitate towards Bario, but did I know anything prior to coming? No. Not even its exact location, and I'm fairly savvy with Geography. 

Like a white canvas, and an open book Yuen and I were opened to all possibilities in Bario. We didn't even have an itinerary... I wasn't sure whether that was wise, but every turn of event was possible because we didn't have one. 

And boy did I learn. Till next post!

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wedding in the Family

If I had not known my brother and wife Anastasia, I would think that their wedding was the most beautiful I've ever experienced 😍

But because I know them, it became 10x more beautiful 😌

Because I knew their stories, I danced carefree, I revel in their pursuit to start a family, I took part in the process, and because I know I will grow with them.
^Screengrab of the actual day wedding day

We had very little part in it, mostly on invitation, church and basically meeting family and friends because the couple knew exactly what they wanted and had planned everything. And to those who've had anyone in their family / siblings married, you would know how you would be involved in the celebration one way or another.

They hired an excellent wedding planner and decorator Your Wedding Stories Kota Kinabalu which took care most of the entire thing and their requests, while Jessy, mum and myself supported bit by bit in areas needed.

The stress usually begins about a year and a half prior. From engagement settlements and celebration,  to the actual planning (for the couple only) right up to the day itself. So does our stress. Invitation is a crucial part to any celebration and party. And there's so many people you can appease, because at the end of the day as humans we forget and make mistakes. And we made some no less.

Church Wedding

We had to "force" some shut eye around 11pm the night before, just to make sure we don't look like death on the wedding day. Not to mention we were stuck IN THE WORST JAM OF KOTA KINABALU that night before. Luckily, we decided to have dinner in the hotel, of the wedding reception itself which halved the jam. We were expecting family and friends, near and far so the least we could do was to have some energy to meet and greet everyone 💗

We started at 4am. Well, Jessy did since she had some professional makeup done on her. While I fixed my own and managed mum's decisions on what to wear.


The hotel's view where we stayed.

It didn't help that my dress WAS SO TIGHT I was like fck how am I gonna breathe. It didn't matter anymore. You thought I'd learn from all those years and events and stuff, but no (also because I've been so busy right up till that day!) I bought the first thing that I thought was decent. OK excuses aside, we reached the hotel around 7am to come together as an entourage to church. The boys had burgers and had some photoshoot in the room. I was like, omg I'm gonna be hungry I HAVE to eat this burger and fit it into my tight dress however way.

^The boys played PlayStation while waiting for the bride. Also part of the photos. So chill (on the outside)

^This was the only full body shot photo I have of me and my girl

My brother assigned me to be the timekeeper of the church wedding, and I was being all bitchy like, GUYS TIME? WE HAVE TO LEAVE.

And when finally the car to escort the bride to church came and it was 💖💖💖💖

A vintage convertible with lots of greens and flowers around it. It was so pinterest and dreamy! I wish I had photos now and we'll share once ready! I drove one of our car with my heels and all, and very tight dress.

And when the ceremony began..............

Maybe it's the priest's sermon, maybe it's the burger, maybe it's my tight dress, maybe it's the fact that I was really tired from a lot of things, I had TONS of emotions mixing through my veins, heart, body that I wanted to just cry then and there being so happy for everyone.

I was like 😀😆😔😒😣😫😢😍😟😭

To see my only brother say I do, and I'm sure everyone thinks like me, to see someone finally settle for something perfectly imperfect is so heartwarming. But my tears just won't let me!! It's probably because of the makeup too I was like, DUDE I'M NOT GONNA MESS YOU UP. So I felt like being punched in the face and wanting to vomit without being able to truly express 😖

👆I have the worst description for holding tears don't I.

Wedding Reception

When we finally wrapped up the church wedding (I was busy being a bitch like - guys guys it's 1200 I think you have to leave now for another session?) I felt so relaxed. We went back to the hotel to eat lunch and have a quick rest before the actual makeup and hair, before the whole thingamajig start again.

I knew we had to start makeup early because I've done with Swee Wei's wedding to start at like what 12?! So ours started at 3pm for a wedding at 6pm.

^My makeup and hair done by my good friend Siti Fatimah Zahra. Affordable and dolled me up exactly the way I wanted!! Thank you for being so patient with me!

The funniest thing happened. While putting on our clothes, we realised JESSY AND I BOUGHT THE EXACT SAME SKIRT JUST DIFFERENT COLOUR 🙆🙆🙆 Like wtf. It wasn't on the same day we went out together just, we bought them on random times wtf. We were laughing so hard....... anyway.

We had to go early to check up on the invitation list only to realise how magical that ballroom / place turned into.... I was like how is this possible.... And yes that time was the only time I truly had the time to explore...... I was equally as excited as everyone that came to explore the place!! Cause I didn't know what to expect!!

And then the dinner started.... I don't remember much, except laughing so hard A LOT of times. Especially the part where my brother danced to Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud. A FULL CHOREOGRAPHED DANCE.

I was like ..

We were like chicken running around headless from registration till about mid end where we finally had the time to meet and say hi to most people. And yes, to those that were out of reach, WE ARE TRULY SORRY. We had done our best to become tentacles / squids for that night but alas there's so much we can reach. Our intentions are the best and happy to receive all the blessings and prayers from everyone that came / sent regards 💖

I felt it that's why I was so happy that night ! 💖

^Some screen grab I took from their actual day video

A wedding seemed like a normal event (or so at least that's what I thought), that you'd have to organise until someone in the family got married. And I was like, omg? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY THINGS TO IT? Like, not even the extra things even the basics are tricky to keep up! MY HATS OFF to those who've pulled out amazing weddings before even the basic ones... ARE A FEAT! And to do it while going by your normal daily life like work, family and stuff - THAT IS AMAZING.


You guys and everyone who did an amazing job organising your wedding / anyone else's for that matter you deserve a CAKE!!

The celebration actually continued to the day after............. Except I wasn't sure to put up the photos since we were more loose... and there were more booze...

But to see families combined 💘💘💘💘

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Walking around Shanghai - Pt 2

Not quite sure how many parts I have to my Shanghai posts 😂😂, because I have lost track of the timeline, and the schedules of my postings. HEHE

Anyway, I combined these posts of the two days that I had the pleasure to walk around Shanghai. First day, after the wedding together with the whole gang. Second when we were going back home.

The weather was perfect 😉😉 Aaaaaand I almost broke my neck looking at the buildings. Am I the only one that's appreciating these buildings?? I wanted to lay down face up on the floor looking at these buildings and make stories out of it. Imagining them come alive when everyone else is sleeping.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

That day we saw the Pope by chance

So mum wanted to go to Rome and Vatican since the longest time. You know, being Catholic and stuff. So like all of our itineraries, I planned everything myself. I would usually ask mum for her feedback, like what she'd really like to see, or Jessy what she'd really like to experience. Mum said Rome and Vatican and Jessy said food and also Vatican.

While I was sorting out our itinerary, we don't usually follow the itinerary through and through, there are days when we completely skip the entire thing, and because I am usually the ONLY person who knows exactly what we've planned - both of them wouldn't be able to tell if we had missed anything 🙊🙈🙉

So anyway, we were trying to decide when to go to Vatican, which was supposed to be after Venice. Look, this is crucial because we're buying the tickets online, tip: you should always buy the tickets online, the queue can be a bitch, so any purchases made online are non-refundable and just a matter of claiming it via the kiosk/ counter. So long as you don't change your mind or any shitty things happen on that day you're supposed to go - all should be good.

So we were like, should we go Thursday? or Friday? Or maybe Wednesday, the day after? I usually like to go to all the must see sights the earliest or soonest because I try not to jinx anything that might. So bla bla bla, after a heated but quick discussion, we decided to go to Vatican on that week's Wednesday.

When the day finally came, we looked at the weather and was told to expect light drizzles. There were some clouds, but not drizzles really. Mum is always with her scarves so all good.

Took the bus to the train station, la di da. Beautiful day quite frankly. I'm always with my map, for someone as blur as me, when it comes to travels, I'm quite savvy with my map, soooooo you can give me the benefit of the doubt yes.

By the time we arrive at the train station though...................................................................


We were shocked, I mean I didn't know what to expect, by armies of people going in and out of the station and trains like ants on missions. Our eyes were roving everywhere, looking at everyone, in shocked. Most of them are tourists I reckon, they've got cameras, jackets, scarves. I was busy figuring out the ways to reach Vatican via the terminal, reading the map and stuff, but people kept pushing and shoving me everywhere I couldn't focus and stand still!! Okay *EXHALE* NEVERMIND, going to a holy place, HOLY MIND THEN. Told mum to stay put at one place.

Mum already is having shifty crazy anxiety panic eyes by now. Jessy by her side.

Mum's anxiety is like +100% by now. She kept raising her voice, ISN'T IT THIS ROAD? WHY SO MANY PEOPLE GO THERE? MUST BE THAT WAY? FLINCH FLINCH.

As usual, to keep myself sane, I HAD to ignore mum.

After putting my foot down, and asking mum and Jessy to follow MY LEAD we eventually queued up............................

I mean, that's what we basically did. We were so shocked looking at the crowd, we basically just stood the queue. We couldn't move. We don't know how to move. Watching everyone ran into the trains, PUSHED EVERYONE INTO THE TRAIN. I'm like, how THE F am I gonna bring my 61 year old mum in to this?!

By this time, no Hail Mary could calm me down. I even contemplate taking a cab from Rome to Vatican, like it didn't matter anymore.

But the reality was, it's expensive and we have go through this crowd whether we like it or not. After possibly the 5th train that we let go, we finally had the balls to barge in. Myself and Jessy had to start pushing people in so that mum would be able to slide in and follow our lead.

By this time, mum had already closed her eyes to calm her down 😅😅

Once in, we just slide into the empty cracks of the area, which barely fit 3 stumps like us, and stood like some piece of puzzles in a jigsaw. We couldn't move. There were no other options, I mean we were sandwiched by really tall people or by really bulky windbreakers.

Most people's stop is the Vatican... which is Roma San Pietro.

It's almost 9am by the time we arrive with the sandwich of other people. I could finally exhale. Again. I told mum and Jessy to stay calm and follow my lead... I couldn't believe we couldn't figure out the ways to the St Peter Basilica (the most famous holy place in Vatican) despite the throngs of people.. It felt like people were walking on all sorts of direction for me to figure out exactly where people were going.

WTF not that easy ka. Okay never mind, holy place, holy mind. After finally figuring out where most of the bulk were actually going, we finally got the jive to head to the direction of St Peter Basilica. Walk, walk, walk.

By the time arrive, there was a MASSIVE queue. Was it always like this, I wondered. By the time we finally manage to get into St Peter.... we were already sorted into barricades, it's like people were queueing to see something...

What's going on, clueless. How come most photos show an empty piazza?? And this is full??

We wandered around trying to find ways to go into the Basilica, without truly knowing.


Whaaaaat. Knowing absolutely nothing about it, and had no intentions to during our planning it was super luck that we chose to come to Vatican on Pope's day out! 💘💘

Mum couldn't believe our wild guess / luck that she kept asking me, really ah? Got Pope?

I told her yea 😄, and to settle down at one corner to finally catch Pope Francis and go through his service. AWESOME

Eventually Pope Francis came out waving hands to the crowd, saw him kissed some children, and then took centre stage to run through the service. The theme of his sermon was humility. Great stuff, and I loved it truly.

I must say it was pretty awesome. To accidentally choose a day date to go to Vatican to have the Pope come out! So learn from us, every Wednesday by 8.30am onwards!

*waves* Hi Pope! 🙌🙏😀
Thank you for always being nice!!

Read more of my Italy Posts: 
A day's out in Venice in Spring / Venice 
Dining in Rome and Venice 
Rome by Foot 
Airbnb at Venice 
Cost of Self planned 10 days / 9 nights - Venice & Rome
That day we saw the Pope by chance 

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A day's out in Venice in Spring Summer

I have hundreds of photos of Venice but very few make it to daylight...............


Anyway, while I was updating my 2016 in pictures and seeing the photos of Venice reminded me of that lovely day out in town with Allesandro, our airbnb's owner's friend. Minus the fact that there were three of us ladies trailing him around, it would probably be a romantic walk for any for that matter. 

Venice in, spring / summer is so beautiful.... 😍😍

We went out sometime around 10am, a habit we cultivated over the years of appreciating what a good holiday meant. Some sleep in. It took us about 20 minutes from the countryside to reach town, and was then welcomed by the young kindred. 

He promised to bring us into the heart of Venice, into the alleys and cobblestones of this small but beautiful canal city. From the main piazza, to the hidden gems of old settlements. Which we did. To the canals, the ever so famous canals, to the esplanade off we went. With the singing gondolas or rather Italian radio (modern now) filling up the air. 

That day's weather was PERFECT. I mean look at it. 

Blue skies, sun out, fresh seas. Just enough breeze and sun, for hats and scarves. For gelatos, or ice creams. For wines or seafood. For skirts and shirts. 

I don't know who needs a cheese cake gelato, but now I do

After about an hour or so walk, we decided to have lunch in one of the small restaurants in the city. So tastefully done, so typical Italian in its ways. Allesandro ordered bolognese, while each of us tried different things separately. Fish, meat, pizza. 

This piece of meat of a 3 course lunch which I forgot what

How do people live in such a touristic city? I feel weird sitting in a restaurant people snapping everything away.. Including you as their subject matter in their pictures. 😒😒 I'll probably know soon, since KK is becoming one. 

We walked into galleries. And walked back out. 

We saw lots of masquerade shops. Had to buy one. Knowing me and my random choices in life. 

We went into the fresh market, and bought lots of prepacked risottos (because mum😂). I bought some fresh tomatoes and asparagus for dinner. I WAS SO HAPPY SHOPPING IN THE FRESH MARKET. I think it's the psychology of being in a holiday. Versus having to grocery shop when you're at home.......... Always rushing.  

Allesandro telling mum about their fresh produce yum

Stumbled upon a corner where all the painters would sit there for hours to paint on Venice ❤️❤️❤️ Some people are so talented. I just stared from behind. 

And then we ended the half day trip with a cruise ride back to where we started. The amount of mental pictures I took. Can't erase them from me, they're mine 😛😛😛

Nearby our stop was a supermarket, and I continued my search. We bought bacon, some butter. The meats in Italy are so awesome I'm just thinking of reasons to try them. Strip bacon, back, belly. Omg. 

By the time we were done for the day, it was already 4pm. Just in time for me to rest in, and start whipping out dinner. 

Except, sunset at that time was 9pm and we were wondering between to eat when hungry or dark 😂