Sunday, April 10, 2011

Travelogue Turkey: Up In The Sky of Cappadocia

(I am having too much free time while on stand-by mode at the office, on a weekend. Hence, I’m finally catching up with writing old travel stuff.)

Have you ever look up to the sky, and wonder how does it feel to look down? We, the earthlings, long and sing for the stars and the moon, our idea of the unattainable. If we were to live in the sky, forever floating, will we look down to the earth, and long for something? And what would that something be? What would be the idea of the unattainable for something so securely grounded?


The sun was rising, barely peaking behind the hills. Goreme in Cappadocia under the sunrise was rather romantic, with a touch of pink and gold reflected by the towering formation around us. It was breathtaking. Wonder no more, boys - I can vouch for it now: proposing to your love one while floating a few hundreds feet above the ground, with a gorgeous background as far as the eyes can see, is not such a bad idea.

Not for me, kot. I probably will accidently toss out the ring out of sheer excitement, and upon realizing that, will then jump AFTER the ring (Tiffany ring kan, abang Nuar, kan, kan?)

It was an expensive idea though. 10% of my whole trip budget went to this 45-minutes ride. That 10% could have cover a few days of hostel stays and meals. I’d never been so extravagant while backpacking, but what the heck. It is a once in a lifetime thing. The good thing of working for your own pocket money is that you can spend it anyway you want!

We woke up super early to catch the sunrise hot air balloon tour. You’ll have to book at least a day early, and the cost usually covers the return ground transport to/from your hotel to the balloon launch site. It also depends on the weather and wind – the trip will be cancelled if the weather is bad, so if you really, really want to do this, you’ll have to stay a few days here to ensure you can catch one good flight day.

While the balloons were being puffed up with hot air, we were served with a light breakfast. I took a cup of coffee and a piece of plain bread, and there after, were busy clicking my camera away, in awe of the whole process of inflating a hot air balloon. It was like witnessing the rise of a giant.

After a safety briefing (“We might tip over during landing, so prepare to brace” – gosh!), a dozen or so people fit into one balloon and off we went. Then as soon as I realized my life was hanging on a steel cable attached to a basket, I said my prayer.

It was a serene flight. Thank god, no turbulence of any kind occurred – I’d probably scream like a mad woman. At times we flew so low the bottom of the basket was grazing the top of the trees. Once in a while, we went way up that we could see the top of other balloons, and the canyon below looked more like a tiny crack instead of a wide crevasse. The geology of the Cappadocia was simply breathtaking, which makes it such a perfect place to be viewed from above. Being a geologist, I could not help but to observe the rocks and geological stuff below. Nerd, but man, I would love to fly over Grand Canyon in one of these balloons – must be super awesome!

Would I recommend it to everyone? Considering the price (I paid RM 700 for less than an hour ride – hohoho. You can backpack in India for a whole week with this much money), it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I did it as a once in a lifetime’s thing. But the view was breathtaking and the experience was priceless – in the end, worth the money.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: Born to Run

For many years, "To Kill a Mockingbird" had been my favorite book, like, ever. Late last year, I read a book so freaking-ly unbelievable amazing, it pretty much knocked "Mockingbird" to spot number two.
People, the book is "Born To Run" by Christopher McDougall.

If today was the last day of your life, the last book you should read is this book.
If the civilization were to end tomorrow, you should read the book.
If by tomorrow dusk, all printed matters - newspaper, book, magazine - will cease to exist, you should read this book before it is too late.

(yeah, that was too dramatic)
(but that's how much I love, love, love this book)

It is the kind of book that moved and inspired and amazed you.
It is the kind of book you don't want to end.
It is the kind of book that when it does end, you do not know how to continue on living (eh, over nye).

I don't want to spoil the fun.
You should have the privilege to discover how awesome it is by yourself.

Side effect 1: you will probably have a big urge to put on your running shoes and go for a run after reading this book, even if you never run a kilometer in your life.

Side effect 2: you will probably cry, a few times, while reading this book. Eeheh, I did. But then, maybe because I am a cry-baby.

(Okay, it is not a book review if I don't at least give a short summary and why I love the book.)

The author tracked down the greatest distance runners in the world, members of a reclusive tribe living in the middle of a dangerous canyon in Mexico. The Tarahumara Indians purportedly can run for hundred of miles without rest, and they run barefoot. Like, what?! Gaining their trust, the author then arranged for a race by pitting the primitive athletes against the world best modern long distance-runner. Who will win the race?

The parts I love about the book is not only the engaging narrative of the author’s effort to seek the secret of being a superathlete from the hidden tribe which will thrill the imagination of runners and non-runners alike, or ultimately the epic race between the Tarahumara and a group of modern runners, but introduced in between the narratives are stories of some of the most inspiring athletes and thrilling races that had me jumping with joy and simply becoming amazed with the sheer tenacity of human strength and determination, and intriguing scientific studies on runners, running technique and modern equipment (and why we didn’t really need some of them).