Malaysia

The magnificent sunsets of Bangsar

January 11, 2015

I just went through my old Instagram photos and realised I’ve developed a nice collection of sunsets. Since both home and the office are in Bangsar and both are high in the sky, here is a compilation of some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve collected over the past two years.

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The office. Depending on the season, the sunset is around 6:30 – 7:30 pm.

Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 09 Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 08 Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 07 Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 06 Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 05 Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 04

And home:Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 03 Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 02

I’m just so happy to see this beauty now and then, So simple, but so precious.
Sunsets of Bangsar via TinyBlackBird.com 01

Let’s connect over Instagram? I’m @yohansen_v, and you?

Malaysia

2 years in KL

January 7, 2015

Last month Anton and I celebrated two years since we moved to KL, Malaysia. I wrote about why we moved here, what were our very first impressions of Malaysia and have also documented one of our Saturdays living in KL in the earlier posts. Here’s what I feel these two years were great for and not so great.

What I don’t love about life in KL

KL (Kuala Lumpur, Russian speakers, it’s Куала Лумпур, не Куала, ну пожалуйста!) turned out to be a very nice home base for all the travels. It’s close to Cameron Highlands, Tioman, Penang and there’s plenty of fun places to go around the city.

What I don’t really get yet is if the city has any spirit or soul. I really don’t feel it..

2 years living in KL via TinyBlackBird.com

To me, every city has a character, a soul, it speaks through its buildings, people and smells. Some cities are straight forward and clearly defined, like Munich (to me it’s a tall dark handsome young man, very rich, because he inherited a fortune, yet smart and fun to hang out with, likes to eat great food and knows a taste of proper beer, very educated and has many interests – sports, arts, events). Gosh, I miss Munich badly…

Or Kiev, that to me is a very grown up and wise man. Or no, more like 3 brothers – one very young and still arrogant, one grown up and serious, and the oldest, my favourite, the George Clooney kind of guy, with grey hair and a spark at the corner of his eye when he winks at you.

2 years living in KL via TinyBlackBird.com

KL I just don’t get.. To me it’s still a character I can’t understand. That’s one of the things I don’t love about the city. Maybe just yet, we’ll see.

I also don’t love the fact that now, living in Bangsar South, we need to drive everywhere to be safe and comfortable. And the healthy food is expensive. And it’s hard to rely on people because they seem to be little careless oftentimes and they let me down. Like this place we booked for the New Year’s dinner and came there 2 hours before midnight to see a darkness of its shut door.. No one even bothered to call and say they cancelled the event. Duh..

But that’s that. Hopefully I’ll see more of the real KL that will help me understand it. I already accept it as it is, with all its flaws.

2 years living in KL via TinyBlackBird.com

What I love about life in KL

I really love

  • parks and hiking spots in and around KL
  • how everyone is running and there are so many races happening all year round and you don’t need to wait for Summer (yes, the races start at 4:30 because it gets hot and humid by 7:30, but oh well, better sleepy than a heart attack, right?)
  • affordable petrol so we can drive everywhere
  • the expat community I was lucky to become part of – really grateful for all the amazing people here!
  • hidden gems that make my heart fill with joy – places that make you go “oh, THAT’S really nice!” Like the outdoor sports store in Ampang, or the little side streets of Bangsar with really posh houses, or a dim sum place in Gardens… you get the idea
  • there is no winter. No need for winter clothes. No need to freeze your eyeballs when you blink. No fear of slipping on ice. I guess you figured who’s the biggest fan or winter here, haha

2 years living in KL via TinyBlackBird.com 04

There’s probably more, but I just can’t think of much now. Maybe I’m still a bit angry at the New Year’s dinner place. Or maybe this year was not too targeted at discovering KL. I’d love to do more things and maybe eventually understand it.

But I’m very curious now. Do you have a feeling of KL’s character? Do share in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you think of this definitely interesting city.

Happy thoughts

Wrapping up 2014

December 31, 2014

2014 was a great year. I didn’t plan it too well, but the year turned out very fun! Here’s what was going on, both on the blog and in life.

Wrapping up 2014, life happened

  • I started running and ran a half marathon
  • Helped build a house for the local family in the village
  • Overcame the driving anxiety and went to Advanced driving classes
  • DIY foods – a project Anton and I started – was doing really well
  • Working at Mindvalley was fun – I changed positions and now am a Product Owner for a few tech platforms
  • Anton and I have also moved to a new place and got a newer car this year
  • Trips in 2014: Cambodia, Thailand, lots of trips around Malaysia (Cameron Highlands, Penang, Tioman, Perhentian Islands), Istanbul.

2014 on Tiny Black Bird

This has been the best year so far for the blog, if you consider what I did in 2009-2013 blogging. That to me, to be very honest with you, was more of a random writing with no intention and feeling guilty about not writing the rest of the time.

Now the blog has a purpose: inspire to travel, share travel stories and tips. I have also re-designed it completely – now there are categories on the homepage and the whole look is much cleaner and has a ‘feel’ to it. At least I hope it does.

Here are some massive changes and highlights for TBB in 2014:

Girls Living In… interview series – discovering cities around the world through their experiences (and their eyes! All pictures are taken by them, so it’s even more exciting).

Girls living in... London_featured Bali_featured Girls living in Melbourne_featured Shanghai_featured

How-to’s were a big thing this year, especially the story of my mom and sister when their money and passports were stolen in Paris. Here are some of the most popular how-to’s:

 Lost passport How to travel light_featured

This year was marked with very personal experiences. They made me learn and grow and brought deep realisations and very grounding feeling of happiness. Here are the most profound ones:

House_build_featured getting_wiser_featured Running story_featured

And, of course, the travel posts:

Istanbul tour_featured Cameron_featured Siem Reap todo_featured pulau weh_featured

Oh, yes, almost forgot, Tiny Black Bird is now on Facebook! The community is amazing, it’s more than 1k people in it already! Join, if you haven’t yet done so, it’s a fun page.

I am so grateful for 2014 – now looking back, flipping memories like a photo album, it does look like an exciting year! Filled with vivid pictures of trips, new experiences, lots of love, caring friends and fulfilling work.

Plans for 2015

This time I used the new method for the New year’s resolutions. Very serious about it. This year just proved that anything you can possibly dream of is possible, because when you have a dream, you’re also getting all the power to achieve it. Cheesy quote moment, sorry.

So here’s what I’m thinking of doing in 2015:

  • run that marathon and a few shorter races
  • hike the Everest Base camp
  • learn how to dance bachata
  • continue experimenting with food, Bulletproof coffee and diet and learn more on how our bodies function
  • write, write, write, oh, I have so much to share here!
  • read at least 30 books (you can follow my progress here)
  • go diving (3 times is the plan – Sipadan, Thailand and somewhere else in Malaysia)
  • Visit: Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Tao), Singapore, Croatia, Ukraine, Nepal and maybe US and HK, who knows?

And of course, 2014 wouldn’t have been so amazing without so many dear people I happened to share it with. Thank you so much for being in it!

(Disclaimer: the people on the pictures are but not limited to dear friends I wanted to thank, if you are a dear friend, and you know who you are, and are not in this festive collage, it simply means I don’t have our picture. The fact that I don’t take pictures of/with  people is a sad fact, I promise to improve in this field in 2015)

Friends-via-TinyBlackBird.com

Thank you! Have a blast in 2015 and may it be filled with joy, smiles, friends and family, exciting events and growth!

Lots of love,

Olya

How-to's

How-to: New Year’s resolutions

December 29, 2014

Here’s the deal. New Year’s resolutions suck. At least most common ones (google ‘new year’s resolutions’ and see for yourself). They’re unrealistic, they can’t be measured and most of the time they don’t come from your true self, but are other people’s goals instead. Think ‘eat healthy’, ‘lose weight’, ‘quit smoking’, ‘save money’, ‘learn Spanish’.. How would you know you achieved it? How much weight, how do you define healthy, what level of Spanish and most importantly, why?

These unmeasurable goals also make you feel underachieved most of the time at the end of the year. Unless you are one of the few people who get fuelled by the feeling of disappointment. I’m the other way around – I would rather under-plan or plan realistically and over-achieve than feel miserable at the end of the year thinking “what has this year been about?”.

Don’t get me wrong, I do dream big. And I set myself a very high bar and my goals are bold. But planning a year is different. I realised that I just can’t go to 20 countries in one year WHILE working full-time and doing other things. I mean, had it been my ultimate goal and priority, I would have done it. But it wasn’t, it was a very un-realistic plan for the year and at the end of it (it’s actually a true story – that’s how 2013 ended), I didn’t feel very accomplished. And it wasn’t really a goal coming from my true self neither – it was a “oh, she travelled to 20 countries, I want that too!” kind of goal. The spark of excitement that airs out the next minute.

On the other hand, thinking that you have progressed compared to yourself one year ago is amazing. This is a completely new way of looking at new year’s resolutions. Don’t you think?

How to do proper New Year’s resolutions

  • wrap up your year (more on that below)
  • see what you did great and what could have been done better
  • open the second bottle of wine and plan the 2015 in detail
  • then have a calendar and actually plan your activities/trips/experiences. Holidays, family celebrations – make them your starting point (things you know will happen no matter what) and plan from there. Literally, book slots in your calendar

Wrapping up the year

A friend introduced me to the emotional map exercise – it’s so simple yet very effective. I was sceptical at first – such a simple thing to do, but it was very rewarding after we all shared our results and could see patterns in the year’s graph.

It’s simple: you basically divide a sheet of paper into 12 segments (months) and have a vertical bar of a positive and negative. Not exactly like this, but to give you an idea:

emotional map

Or whichever other way you like. Then think of how you felt about each month emotionally and give it a score. Then connect the dots into a graph. You can also add events to each month to see what affected the feel of the month. I discovered that having no travels (or no change of environment) and stress at work at the same time made the lowest energy months in 2014. So I’m planning my next year with this in mind – trips evenly distributed throughout the year, very aware of how it will make a year more exciting.

Now plan your next year

This is something we do at Mindvalley every 6 months or so. It’s called the 3 Most Important Questions. It’s very straightforward – you list your goals and dreams in three categories – Growth/Learning, Experiences/Objects and Contribution. This can be a great start if you’ve never done any goal setting. If you have, it’s a good habit to do this exercise regularly, do it before the year ends.

The key to a satisfying year (and life) is planning. Open your calendar and book slots. This is super important. Last year I’ve had a truly inspiring 3 Most Important Questions sheet, but I realised I did nothing to pursue those things.. Well, almost nothing, some things I did check off, but at the end of the day, did I do something EVERY day to get closer to one of the goals? Not really.

So look at the emotional graph – what things put you in great emotional state? Add more of those into your year. Trips, hobbies, fun projects? Add them and commit to do them regularly in the upcoming year.

Having an outline of the year is especially useful when booking airplane tickets and trips – you already know where you are going and when (roughly), so you can watch out for good deals from airlines and hotels!

Start on Monday

And here’s a fun little exercise I just learned from one of the podcasts I’m listening to – it’s about trying out something new and making it a habit. Or quitting something. Anything really, I’m going to apply it to writing, I’ll start next year :-)

For example, I want to make writing a daily habit. This is on my goal list because I have, say, ‘write and publish a book’ on my 3 Most Important Questions list. Now, on the day you start, you have been writing for an hour. Good job! In your notebook or anywhere really, write down a pretty ‘G’.

The next day you also write for an hour and at the end of the day you feel very accomplished and happy with yourself. Good job, well done. Now you add an ‘o’ to your ‘G’. By day 7 you have ‘Good job’ written. You can write it anywhere, in your notebook, on a giant poster, wherever. Just don’t do digital – it’s so easy to erase and it doesn’t feel as rewarding.

Good job exercise

So you did a good job. Now do it one more day just to add an ‘!’ at the end. Continue until you get ‘Good job!’ 3 times. That’s a superb job, an amazingly great triple-good job. But it’s most probably also a habit by now and comes effortlessly. Because you know what you do if you slip? You start all over.

If you don’t write for a day/if you eat that piece of cake and you were cutting down sugar/if you skip that morning stretching (you get the idea) – whatever it is you were trying to do/add/completely eliminate from your life – you start all over again. Next day you succeed, write your first ‘G’ all over again.

Tip: it can be any word or phrase that’s encouraging and has 7 letters. I don’t think there’s any science behind a “Good job’.

Running

My running story

December 13, 2014

Before this year ends, I wanted to write down a few thoughts and realisations while the memories are still fresh. Well, not so fresh anymore to be honest – I wanted to write this since August. I guess it took me a while to write about this because it’s very personal. It’s the story of my running (there’s a lot I’d love to share, so I’ll break this down into a few posts).

Running story_featured

The background

So before running became the next big thing and exploded over the past few years, let’s roll back to 2010 to Kiev. I lived across the street from the park. I had good running shoes that I never wore and a strong commitment to ‘start running’. I didn’t know what it meant, why I should start and how, but I knew I needed to move to be healthier and shed a few pounds of post-Germany sausage and beer weight.

But after one very miserable attempt, I only could run a minute or two and needed to walk the rest of the way back. Sad. There goes my running story.

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The motivation

Now this February, after we moved to the new place with a nice gym I thought “Ok, let’s give it another shot, I NEED to move”. I seriously needed some sport, doctor’s orders. My doctor said I needed to control weight, exercise regularly and cut down sugar, carbs (= all the tasty stuff), alcohol, coffee, mangoes, grapes and durian. Don’t ask.

So exercise. I tried swimming first. Meh – too much effort + not too good for the skin – our pool at that time had way too much chloride. Yoga wasn’t too exciting neither, although I do it maybe a few times now and then on my own. So I gave running another try.

Long story short, I ran my first half marathon this August (2014). In 6 months I trained from not being able to run for more than 5 minutes without slowing down to walk to running 21 km in 2.5 hours.

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It’s not a show-off moment, please don’t get me wrong. It’s about “anything is possible if that’s what you really want” and commitment. It also has a bitter-sweet ending, but that’s a whole different story. I’m going to write a mini-series about running, probably 2 or 3 more posts, so stay tuned if it’s something that interests you.

So that was the motivation and purpose to start running for me. And I timed myself and set a goal – run 5 km without stopping or lowering the pace. I thought I’d reach that in months. I got there in 22 workouts, one month later.

The goal

Hm.. I thought.. That was hard but achievable. Let’s set a bolder goal now – a half marathon. The house build experience made me think about it as something feasible (you can read why here). And the Penang half marathon was booked. And the full marathon in November too. Right. Yeah. Silly silly Olya.. In short, I didn’t run the marathon. But I did run the half.

Why am I writing about it?

I don’t have pretty before and after pictures. I don’t post my runs on social media. But I feel it would be a waste to achieve all this and not mention it anywhere. So I’m writing this down here. And hopefully someone might find it useful/inspiring/helpful. And of course I’m not an expert or anything, I’m just sharing how I did it, humbly and honestly with you guys. So yes, if you’re interested to hear more, stay tuned, I’ll be posting more of this soon (upd: read the second half of the story)

Are you running? How did you get to running and why? I’m very curious to hear more thoughts on this and would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Talk to you soon!

How-to's

What to Do If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen While Traveling

November 26, 2014

Imagine this. It’s Tuesday, it’s getting late, I’m reading in bed before falling asleep (no need to imagine THAT too much :-) and suddenly the phone rings. And it’s my Mom. As someone who’s been living abroad away from family, only getting in touch with home via email or skype, getting a phone call from Mom at midnight is scary. Obviously something happened. With a heavy heart I pick up the phone:

– Mum, what happened?

– Hey! Yes, we are in trouble.

Heart sinks deeper and my sharp autopilot thinking switches on:

– Are you safe? Tell me what it is?

– We are in Paris with your sister, we were on our way to London and on a layover we went to the city center. Sat down at a café on Champs-Élysées and my bag got stolen.

– What was in the bag?

– Money, passport.. Well, everything…

Thank God they are experienced travellers and know exactly what to do in this situation. But do you? Do you know what to do if your passport is lost or stolen while traveling?

Keep calm. It’s just a passport

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Rule #1 – don’t panic. Passport is important, it allows you to travel and cross borders. But that’s it. It’s an important little book of colourful pages, but it’s not your life and not the end on the world if you lose it. Take a deep breath. Good. Now let’s get you a new document so you could continue your journey.

Go to the police office

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If you are ok and you don’t need medical help, go straight to the nearest police office and file a report. With this report you can: a. confirm a loss of your possessions b. be able to claim all claim-able things from your insurance company (you did have a travel insurance, right, riiight?) and c. apply for a new passport/travel card.

Important note: have a passport sized photo on you while travelling. This will help tons in this situation.

Find your embassy

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With the police report you then need to head to your embassy or consulate in the country you’re at (if applicable) and apply for a temporary ID that will allow you to either continue your travels or return home.

In my Mom’s case, they needed one to return to Ukraine because of the visa regulations with the UK and EU – they couldn’t continue their journey without both those visas, so the only way out was to go back home on a direct flight.

If you need money

The reason my Mom called me was to ask if I knew anyone in Paris who could lend them some cash so they could last the day (they only had 2 Euros in cash – all credit cards and the wallet were gone!). Sad situation to be at, but remember step one? Don’t panic.

Be prepared

Better safe than sorry, these things are already a habit in our family. This was not the first emergency we’ve experienced, we travel well prepared. Do these every time you go abroad and thank me later.

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  1. Scan all your passport pages before EVERY trip, your tickets, insurance, birth certificate, hotel bookings and send them to your own email address. In case of emergency, it’s going to save you a lot of time having those scans handy.
  2. Print all of those out in 2 copies and have one in a different bag than your original documents and leave the other one at home with someone who’s going to be on standby as your emergency contact.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t have all your money in one bag. Keep a small sum somewhere close to your body. Inner pockets, hidden wallets, anything that you could feel on yourself at all times. This is seriously important.
  4. If you can, keep your phone and passport there too.
  5. Have a few passport-sized photos somewhere else than your bag. This is useful, don’t ignore this one please.
  6. Have a local sim card or any other means of getting in touch with your emergency contact. Day or night. What really helped in my Mom’s situation was that her phone wasn’t stolen, it was also fully charged, the charger was in my sister’s bag and they had a post-paid sim card so they could call with no limit. That saved a lot of time and stress. A lot.
  7. Be always aware of your personal belongings. Don’t wear your bag on one shoulder, especially to the side of the street (Asian experience – when the motorbikes can snatch it from behind as you walk since it’s a different driving side than at home).

Just be mindful, not paranoid, but mindful. It’s an easy habit to get used to, you won’t notice the effort of thinking about these things after one or two trips, I promise.

How it all ended

So how did it all end in Paris? One hour and one Facebook status update later I found a friend of a friend who happened to be visiting Paris and she was eager to help. Kate, Sasha, you guys are our saviours, thank you!

We found the money, we found some backup options for accommodation (thank you Facebook friends!) and Dad booked them a hotel. 3 people on the line – one in Paris (the ‘keep calm and file the police report’ one), one in Ukraine (the one with the credit card and access to all scans and copies) and one in KL (yours truly, the ‘I have 700 friends on Facebook’) – we managed to get it sorted in a few hours.

Next day they went to the embassy, received their temporary IDs and had their flights booked and at night they both safely arrived to Kiev. Phew! Thanks to the Universe and all the synchronicity that happened along the way! And thank God they were prepared and knew what to do. Now you do too. And hopefully you will never need to use it.

Safe travels!

p.s. A week later the bag was found somewhere in Paris and my Mom was contacted that it is now at the local Lost & Found. We hope to snatch it out of there somehow, but the regulations are, apparently, if the documents found, they send them to the embassy and the embassy destroys them. Because what if someone used them for anything illegal? Sad.. Trying to get hold of people in Paris to give it a try anyway.

p.p.s Lol, the Lost&Found lost the bag.. Eventually someone went there on our behalf to retrieve it, but they couldn’t find it. By that time my sister was already in Germany on a school trip with a new passport and visa and my Mom was with a new passport as well. So all’s good, just very very ironic. Be safe guys!

Turkey

Istanbul free tour

October 16, 2014

Did you know that Turkish Airlines are amazing? They are. They call you a guest and boy they mean it.

If you happen to have a layover in Istanbul that’s 6-24 hours, you can get a free city tour organized by Turkish Airlines. My, what a coincidence we booked just this flight! I have so not planned it this way :-)

So we went to the tour desk (after baggage claim go out to the arrivals hall, turn right, go all the way to Starbucks, the tour meeting point is right next to it) and gave our boarding passes for the connecting flight as a way of saying “yes, please, we’d love that free tour of yours, how nice of you, you shouldn’t have really”.

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Disclaimer: the tours start at 9am and 12pm daily. Here’s all the information about the Istanbul free tour by Turkish Airlines.

To sum it up – we have absolutely loved it! This is what we saw on Tour 1 (9am to 3pm).

The Blue Mosque

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Fact: The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) is not blue, at least not from the outside. It does have a lot of blue in the interior elements, which apparently is still not convincing to some.

A lady on our tour asked us at the very end:

– So are they showing us the Blue Mosque or what?

– Ehm, what do you think was the first thing we saw today?

– THAT was it? … But it was so grey…

– …

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I know, it is on the outside, but look:

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Stunning, simply stunning!

Hippodrome, Sultanahmet Square

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Hippodrome square has interesting history, Lonely Planet summed it up best:

“The Hippodrome was the centre of Byzantium’s life for 1000 years and of Ottoman life for another 400 years and has been the scene of countless political dramas. In Byzantine times, the rival chariot teams of ‘Greens’ and ‘Blues’ had separate sectarian connections. Support for a team was akin to membership of a political party and a team victory had important effects on policy. Occasionally, Greens and Blues joined forces against the emperor, as was the case in AD 532 when a chariot race was disturbed by protests against Justinian’s high tax regime – this escalated into the Nika riots (so called after the protesters’ cry of Nika!, or Victory!), which led to tens of thousands of protesters being massacred in the Hippodrome by imperial forces. Not unsurprisingly, chariot races were banned for some time afterwards.”
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Olya’s summary of events: “They were having tournaments on the square, all good until that one time when one guy overtook the other guy on a chariot and the fight started, more people jumped in, then gazillion people were killed, then they stopped doing the races for good and put random things on the square instead – like the Egyptian obelisk, German fountain and a broken metal pillar of green”.
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Yerebatan Cistern

Yerebatan Cistern is hidden under the ground and is a real gem of Istanbul. The underground water storage looks very mysterious and captivating – there’s some true magic to the place.
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The peaceful fish swimming by, casually looking up at people, the maze of the columns and dim light. I fell in love with the place!
Although it does look like the scene from Tomb Raider a bit..

Hagia Sophia

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It is so beautiful and … huge. Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox church, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum. It’s 55 meters high! 55! Just look at it:
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That’s all we saw it 4 hours, we also were taken out to eat. Twice. And now for something completely different (c).

4 random observations of Istanbul

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  • Istanbul has a lot of white cars
  • You can get freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on every corner.

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  • Girls will find it handy to have a travel scarf or a shawl. Bonus points for long skirts or dresses – you are ready to go into the mosque without putting on the robe 6,948,928 people wore before you.
  • Istanbul has around 3,000 mosques (!), I wanted to count if it’s true but gave up on minute 4 after we left the airport, at 23.. or was it 25…

At the end of the tour, after it is all over and you are tired, excited and desperately in love with Istanbul, they take you back to the airport. They feed you breakfast and lunch, they give you all the entrance tickets so you don’t need to queue, they drive you around. They thank you for being their guest at the end. No, I don’t know what the catch is, did I mention Turkish Airlines have me as their most loyal customer now?

Malaysia

KL weekend getaway hotels – back to nature

October 10, 2014

It’s been quite hazy recently and it’s the perfect time to go on a little vacation. Here are 4 KL getaway destinations I found – putting them all on the list. These are all family owned retreat hotels, most have separate houses/villas – are great for a weekend date or a small team retreat or even a birthday outing.

(Anton, I know you’ll read this, please take note ;-)

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The Dusun

Dusun a beautiful nature resort that has a touching story.

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Image via thedusun.com.my

Rates: MYR 500 – 1,100 per house per night
Drive time from KL: 1:15 hours
Website | Facebook

Awanmulan hotel

Awanmulan is a sanctuary in the hills of Negeri Sembilan. The house on stilts sit on a hill slope overlooking a lush valley and surrounded by hills of green forests.

Awanmulan-2-KL-Getaway-Hotels-via-TinyBlackBird.com

Image via tripadvisor.co.uk

Rates: MYR 500 – 1,100 per house per night
Drive time from KL: ~1 hour
Website | Facebook

Sekeping Serendah

I wrote a whole post about our last year’s team retreat in Sekeping Serendah. Good times.

Sekeping-Warehouse-KL-Getaway-Hotels-via-TinyBlackBird.com
Sekeping-pool-KL-Getaway-Hotels-via-TinyBlackBird.com

Rates: MYR 280 – 1,300 per house per night
Drive time from KL: ~1 hour
Website | Facebook

The Shorea

Shorea is a name for a tree, it’s also a cozy family retreat close to the Berembun Forest Reserve.

Shorea-KL-Getaway-Hotels-via-TinyBlackBird.com

Shorea-2-KL-Getaway-Hotels-via-TinyBlackBird.com

Images via theshorea.com

Rates: MYR 600 – 3,500 per house per night
Drive time from KL: 1:30 hours
Website | Facebook

If you’ve been to any of these beautiful hotels, please comment where and what was your experience! If you know other cool places like these, please share!

How-to's, Malaysia

What souvenirs to buy in Kuala Lumpur

October 7, 2014

This was hard. It’s not my first time playing this riddle and I think I got quite close to a proper “whoa, thank you so much!” expression from friends and family this time when they were unwrapping the souvenirs from KL.

Anton and I hacked it together, but it worked well. Here’s what we packed for friends:

Souvenirs-from-KL-via-TinyBlackBird.com

(picture by Nastya)

What souvenirs to buy in Kuala Lumpur

  • Green tea (you didn’t see it coming, did you?)
  • Pu-erh tea (I got all the tea from China Town, I wrote about it here)
  • Japanese candies from the Shojikiya store
  • Green tea Kit Kat
  • Green tea Oreo (both also available at Shojikiya, but I saw Kit Kat in some grocery stores too)
  • Korean face masks – Tony Moly corner in AEON Big in Midvalley
  • Asian cooking paste (different kinds, they all come with the recipe on the back and are self-sufficient, meaning, you don’t need to add anything super local, just regular ingredients like veggies or chicken) / alternatively you can get sambal paste or any other good paste rare in your home country
  • I wanted to add tiger balm too but it stinked through three layers of food wrap so I gave up on this one

How-to

Buy some fabric from Jalan Masjid India (fabric street in KL) or from Chinatown (Petaling Street) in a local pattern, wrap the goodies into a little furoshiki and violas! Happy friends at home receiving an ‘Asian bundle’.

I know, I know, it’s not really KL souvenirs, but hey, it represents the variety of cultures you get in Malaysia and truly Asia and all that. Plus, all of that you can get in Midvalley. Except for the fabric, but you get creative here, you got the idea.

The truth is, very rarely do people bring really useful souvenirs from abroad. What I think gets really valuable are those little local things that people don’t know exist. Things that have a flavour of the country you’re coming from. Literally.

Depending on who we visited, I added more to the furoshiki – jewellery I got during other Asian travels, incense sticks and Sombai rum from Cambodia, handmade soap from Kinder Soap, Jelly Beans (because we don’t have them in Ukraine), some toys for the kids and Duty Free exclusive booze for adults.

Oh, and since we went to Jalan Masjid India anyway, we got some great pashmina scarves for our grandmothers. They were so happy!

Travel hack

The main idea here is: get creative, think outside the magnets and postcards and look for nice little gifts everywhere you go to bundle them up later when you need them, instead of running around panicking and trying to figure out the presents the weekend before your flight.

If you have cool ideas of what souvenirs souvenirs to buy in Kuala Lumpur and what made your family happy last time you visited, please share in the comments below, I’d love to get more inspiration for the next trip :-)

UPD: someone has recommended Haw flakes as a souvenir. Never tried them, but looks very interesting. Thanks for the tip!