Saturday, October 1, 2016

Heaven Lights @ Goa Jomblang

I was very thankful to the bunch of travellers from Malaysia that I encountered at my hostel "Nasi Bungkus". They were the ones who recommended this website www.yogya-backpacker.com, which contains a lot of useful information and useful tips on the not-so-mainstream sights and places of interest. One of them is Goa Jomblang, about 90-minute drive from Yogyakarta, it is situated in Semanu, Gunung Kidul Regency.

To get there, one has to set off pretty early from Yogyakarta around 7-7.30am because you have to get there by 10 am as there is a restriction on the number of people that could go down to the cave per day (around 30 or so). In this case, my friend and I hired a private driver whose name is "Wahyu" which was recommended on the website above, I recommend having him as the driver as he is highly entertaining and very knowledgeable and he speaks pretty good English too! En route to Goa Jomblang, Wahyu would actually stop by some food stalls to buy us some snacks and some seriously delicious pineapples (really really sweet that it's called Honey Pineapple!)



The last stretch of the road going to Goa Jomblang is pretty bumpy, it is literally a dirt road with rocks and no tarmac. And there is a "Jomblang Resort" at the end of the bumpy ride. At the resort, we were given tea or coffee and a bottle of water each, and we had to change into rain boots in preparation for the rough terrain at the cave.

The sinkhole is enormous and it drops 50 metres to the bottom. Never had I imagined myself to be dangling midair 50 metres from the ground! Imagine how nervous I was when I had to rappel down a sinkhole which is 50 metres high!!! Thankfully the staff were pretty well-trained and with all the safety harness and equipment they strapped on me, I felt pretty safe. The moment I let go of my grip and step off the edge into the thin air was one of the most terrifying moments in my life.

My friend and I were lowered down to the bottom of the sinkhole, the whole process was actually pretty quick (a minute or so) and the scenery from above was very beautiful and serene. Once we reached the bottom, we had to wait around until the rest of the group is at the bottom, we then hiked to another cave system via a muddy and slippery trail (due to the rain the day before, it's rainy season in September). In order to get to another cave where you could see the "Heaven Lights" you have to go through a dark tunnel to get to Goa Grubug. I highly recommend to bring a head light or torch light as it is pitch black inside the cave, I had to rely on the spotlight on my phone. The trail was muddy and slippery so one has to be extra careful in the darkness. The tunnel is about 250 metres long, and once you entered Goa Grubug you would be greeted by some lights shined through the roof of Goa Grubug. In order to see the "Heaven Lights", one has to be quite patient, as it's not something that's readily available once you are inside the cave, you need a lil bit of luck depending on weather and condition. We had to wait for about 20 minutes before the clouds finally gave way for the rays of sunlight to shine through the trees which were growing around the mouth of the cave. The result was rays of sunlight hitting the bottom of the sinkhole, the rays of sunlight were sparkling, iridescent and scintillating, its intensity and direction constantly shifting and changing, and sometimes within minutes it's gone out of sight. Therefore time if of the essence to capture such a beautiful sight!

I would highly recommend this adventure to those who are looking for something different, off-the-beaten track kind of trip when in Yogyakarta.

Pricing:
Goa Jomblang (including safety helmet and harness and lunch) - IDR 450,000
Private driver hire (Whole day including other destinations 7am-7pm) - IDR 600,000























Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My first hospital stay and laparoscopic surgery

Those of you who are close to me may have already known that I undertook a laparoscopy surgery last week to remove ovarian cysts and some adhesions due to endometriosis.

For those who don't know what endometriosis is, is a chronic and debilitating condition where the endometrium tissue or implant grows outside of the uterus instead of inside the uterus. These endometrium implants can grow anywhere outside the uterus, most commonly found in ovaries and even the organs surrounding the reproductive organs. During the time of the month, these endometrium implants would bleed as they would inside the uterus, except now they are bleeding and shedding outside of the uterus and causing all sorts of inflammation and pain!

Despite being a 4-bed room, I have plenty of space and privacy!
Anyway, due to the severity of my condition, doctor found adhesions formed between my ovaries as well as the bowel, there were also cysts in my ovaries. According to the surgery plan, doctor is going to make three small incisions on my abdomen about 5cm each, and an incision in my belly button for the camera to be inserted in the abdominal cavity. This form of surgery is less invasive than the traditional open surgery, but it's still considered a major surgery nonetheless with a certain extent of risks involved.

Thanks to the National Health Insurance program in Japan, medical fees were significantly reduced and it had really helped a lot with my finances! Every resident who is working or living in Japan will get a 70% discount on medical services, treatments and medicines. And I was utterly surprised to see my medical bills (inclusive of 1 week of hospital stay, nurse care, meals, medication, surgery, etc) to come slightly under 100,000 yen (about RM 3500 or USD 1,000). It would have cost way more than that amount of money if I'd done it in my home country or anywhere else given the excellent customer service I'd received throughout my stay.

Nurse care was excellent despite the language barrier, they were really patient in trying to communicate with me! From drawing figures to using an electronic dictionary, I felt taken care of and being attended to. It was never frustrating or annoying because of their patience and dedication. Before the surgery in the operation theatre, the nurses tried to calm me down and they even put some lavender essential oils in my oxygen mask to calm my nerves down! Slowly I drifted into deep unconsciousness. Soon after the surgery is over, they gently woke me up, and the next thing I know I was back in my hospital room. 

Despite the language barrier, the nurses tried their best
 to communicate with me
Post-operative care was pretty impressive too, with nurses coming to check on me every other hour throughout the night, taking my body temperature and blood pressure. 

Due to hospital regulations, every patient has to be hospitalised for a week. That's very different from other countries I know where patients are often discharged 2 to 3 days after the surgery. But here in this hospital (I dunno about other hospitals in Japan so I can't generalise), they really make sure you are well and are fully recovered before you head home. Contrary to what most people would think, hospital meals here are surprisingly not bad. There would be 3 dishes: 1 main (usually meat, fish or tofu) and 2 sides (veges, salad, etc), and they put in a lot of thought and attention to the balance in nutrition, calorie intake and taste of the food. So overall I would give it a 3 out of 5 for the quality of food you get from a 360 yen-meal! 

I am now discharged from the hospital and on my way to recovery. I only felt some discomforts and pain on the first day after surgery but afterwards, as I gained consciousness I felt pretty good after a couple of days. So I must say the doctor did a darned good job at the surgery and the nurses too for nursing me to health, and not to mention my dear mom who flew all the way just to be with me (tears of joy)!

Thank you to those who have supported me and cheered me on! :')



A typical hospital meal, well-balanced and nutritious! I like!

I had to drink 4 packs of arginaid water (kinda like energy drink) before surgery



Monday, June 27, 2016

Unusual Japanese curry @ "SOMA" in Nakatsu, Osaka

I gotta admit, I'm not a big fan of Japanese curry at all. I've always had the impression that Japanese curries too sweet, too creamy and buttery for my liking, and that they do not resemble the real Indian curries in any aspect. 

While browsing through the internet for new eateries around Osaka, I stumbled upon a food review on a restaurant that specialises Japanese curries called "SOMA" in Nakatsu, Osaka.

The link to the food review:
https://battera.co/m00273/

Judging from the rave reviews and pictures, I thought I'd give Japanese curries another chance and decided to find out what's the hype about.

When we got to the restaurant there was already a bee line forming outside the shop. Well, the shop itself is a tad tiny with only a few seats, so people had to wait for quite some time before being seated. We arrived around 1pm and had to wait for about 40-50 minutes. By 2pm, the owner came to tell us they were already running out of curry so the curry might not be enough for some people at the back of the line. 

The interior of the restaurant has a nice and 
laidback ambiance which resembles more of an art gallery/artsy cafe than a curry restaurant. Once we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by aromas of spices and herbs. From the smell of it, things look pretty promising.

Keema curry is their speciality, however it was sold out that day. So we got beef tendon curry and "rum keema" curry, each. 

The curries were beautifully assembled, visually it looks pretty stunning. The rice was topped with pomegranate seeds, the plate was overflowing with glorious curry gravy, garnished with grated desiccated coconut. 

I could really taste a lot of cardamoms and perhaps star anise, it was a tad bitter perhaps the chef was slightly too heavy handed on the spices. To be honest, the curry is a tad too watery and diluted for my liking and has too little meat in it. 

The verdict? It wasn't the best curry I've had, I've definitely had better ones, but it's indeed a refreshing change from the typical Japanese curries. 

Address: 3-18-2, Nakatsu, Kita-ku Osaka-shi, Osaka
Opening hours: From 12pm to whenever the curries are sold out



Friday, May 6, 2016

Random scribblings about my life in Japan so far

From the UK to Japan, it's been a journey filled with highs and low.

When I was offered a job in Japan, I never once hesitated to reject the job offer. I packed my bags and bought a one way ticket to Japan and never looked back.

Working in a Japanese company allows me to have a first-hand experience of Japanese work culture. The structure of the whole company is extremely hierarchical and the treatment an employee receives is based on seniority. Job hopping or changing companies is frowned upon and is still surprisingly rare in Japan. My Japanese boss is extremely old-fashioned especially when it comes to the opposite sex. I had a chat with him the other day and we touched upon the subject of working women in the Japanese society. He still thinks that women were born to raise kids and take care of the household while men's duty is to be the breadwinner of the family, work and earn money for the family. He said even though he gives equal opportunities to women at work but he thinks because many women fail to perform well at their jobs because of duty calls: kids and family. Though his words may sound biased and sexist at first, after some thought, I started to realise there may be some truths in it. It is true that a lot of working women are willing to sacrifice their career for the sake of their families as women tend to prioritise families over their career. The act of balancing between career and family is always a difficult one and requires a compromise between the two and of course an understanding partner to make it happen.

Anyway, I have definitely learnt a lot thus far from understanding the importance of customer service in businesses to protection of intellectual property. I get an immense sense of achievement and satisfaction working on challenging and many a time complex technologies which requires a lot of thinking outside the box and problem solving skills, all of which I'm still learning till this day. Apart from intellectually stimulating work, the fact that all of the foreign staff come to Japan for the job gives it a collegiate environment, we get solid support from each other and we get to explore Japan on the weekends and during the holidays. However, that's one of the downsides as well, we spend so much time together at work and outside the office, we don't get to experience the real Japan like learning the language, interacting with the locals.

So, now and then, I'd try to participate in some meetup events e.g. social events, sightseeing, etc. Recently, I took up salsa lessons and I've made friends with some Japanese. Most importantly, I have re-discovered my passion and love for dancing. Though difficult it may seem, dancing is one of the activities that I find enjoyable, therapeutic and exhilarating in the sense that it combines musicality and body movements. Through dancing, I also got to meet new people and make new friends who share the same passion and interest in dancing.

One of the biggest perks working in Japan is the opportunity and time to explore and witness some of the most beautiful places on earth. From the breathtaking, awe-inspiring Japan Alps (Kamikochi, Tateyama, etc) to the jaw-dropping Mt Fuji which is known for its iconic, symmetrical cone. Truly, Japan is blessed with beautiful flora and fauna which have been carefully preserved in its pristine state; and its wonderfully effective public transportation system makes travelling around easy and convenient. And I will continue to explore and discover what Japan has to offer and soak in its beautiful sights and sounds.

It's truly been a humbling experience, living and working in a foreign country is never easy, and the language barrier did not make it any easier. My experiences here are some of the most memorable which I will cherish for many years to come, and not to mention the people and friends that I got to know here are some of the loveliest and wonderful people I've come across. Thank you, Japan, for this wonderful experience.




Kamikochi

Kamikochi

Norikura

Matsumoto castle

Magnificent view of Mt Fuji from Kachi Kachi

One of the 8 ponds in Oshino Hakkai


One of the 8 ponds in Oshino Hakkai

Another view of Mt Fuji from Oishi Park

Oishi Park

Oishi Park

Pink moss phlox

Shibazakura festival near Kawaguchiko

One of the top spots in Japan for sakura viewing - Mt Yoshino

Mt. Yoshino

Mt Yoshino






Sunday, April 3, 2016

The truth behind the pain that has been haunting me for most of my life

When you have chronic and persisting pain, your body is telling you something is wrong and it should not be taken lightly.

I had my first period very early on as soon as I hit puberty, at the age of 11. Ever since then, the monthly ritual always put a damper to my mood. I've always had period cramps and I thought it's normal for girls. Sometimes, I would pass out at school if the cramps get too unbearable. As I grew out of puberty, the cramps weren't as serious as it used to be.

However, as far as I remembered my condition seemed to have exacerbated during my time at the university. I started to develop hormonal acnes, and I was hit by excruciating cramps whenever I had period. Like any other girls, I didn't give much thought about it, I resorted to painkillers, warm fluids and some Chinese medications to relive the pain and cramps.

My condition did not seem to improve and persisted from adolescence to my early adulthood. Now at the age of 26, I'm still experiencing moderate hormonal adult acnes and intense pain and cramps during my monthly ritual. Recently, the cramps got so bad that I couldn't do anything at work! Just last week, I took some painkillers and the cramps still persisted. I had to stay in the toilet for more than an hour till the effects of the painkillers started to kick in. The cramps and contractions came in waves and persisted throughout the whole afternoon.

Deep down I always knew something is not right. Something in my body is not right. The pain and the cramps are signs and symptoms, and I should do something about it instead of relying on painkillers which would just relieve the pain temporarily but wouldn't cure the cause of it. So, yesterday I finally mustered up the courage to visit the gynaecologist for the first time in my life.

I described my symptoms to the doctor. Just as I'd expected, she said its endometriosis and I would either take painkillers or contraceptive pills to relieve the symptoms. She also told me she would do a paps smear and ultrasound on me. It was a nerve wrecking experience for me having your nether regions inspected by someone and the nurse kept staring didnt help :/

As the doctor was inspecting my uterus using the ultrasound, she said my uterus wall is unusually thick and it may be due to endometriosis. Then, few seconds later, she detected my left ovary was swollen. "There's a cyst in your left ovary...it's about 8cm in size. Based on the density, I think it's a cyst, most probably due to endometriosis. You definitely need surgery to remove it".

So, there you have it. I have endometriosis and there is a 8cm cyst in my left ovary. That's what has been causing the intense cramps, heavy bleeding and hormonal acnes. I finally got the answers to the problems that have been plaguing most of my formative years.

The doctor explained that usually when the cyst reaches 6cm, surgery is required to remove it as it's considered huge for cysts. Cysts are usually benign and harmless and may disappear after some time. But if it reaches a certain size, e.g. exceeding 6cm, then surgery is needed. The doctor gave me a referral letter to a bigger hospital to get me further examined and hopefully operated on.

What I have learnt thus far from this experience is that do not take our health lightly. Painkillers and over-the-counter drugs may relieve the symptoms temporarily but they do not cure the root of the problems! So, get your body checked regularly and if you detect symptoms (pain etc) go to see a specialist and even several clinic and hospitals to get consultation and opinions.