Rabu, 29 Juli 2015

Migrating to Wordpress

Hi, I've been migrating to Wordpress to @zahraamalias. This new blog will be dedicated for my travels. It is my photo album slash story book. So you'll find loads of eye candy travel photos and stories. Find me there :)

Jumat, 26 Desember 2014


On 26 December 2004, a series of underwater earthquake occurred just off the Aceh coast, Indonesia.  The 9.3 Richter scale earthquake was one of the worst earthquakes ever to be seen in the history, and Tsunami waves up to 30 metres high, devastating coastal communities in 14 countries as far as the African continent with a 230,000 death toll. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country. Thousands of people in Aceh lost their lives, families and homes, while some are still missing up to this day.

Ten years after the catastrophe, Aceh is still recovering. While some communities never have fully recovered with scars deeply entrenched, they never fail to keep their spirit alive.

PPI Glasgow presents this video as a remembrance to this disastrous event, sending the victims of the disaster hopes for a better tomorrow, deepest sympathy and prayers.

Minggu, 06 Juli 2014

Ollantaytambo Behind the Lens; Peru Beyond Macchu Picchu

Another summer has come, and I have just realised how quickly time has passed! I have no plans yet for this summer but to go back to Indonesia for a few weeks. It will be another summer of sun before getting back to Glasgow's autumn air. Last summer I was in Peru with National Geographic doing Archaeology stuff: having fun in the ruins, doing illustrations and getting a proper tan (if not sun burn). I feel like I owe the internet my photos, I know I'm supposed to do this like months ago, but laziness :)

Peru is not all about Macchu Picchu, even though it has been given the title a 'trip of a lifetime' by many, or Cuzco, the city of gold. In fact, I fell in love with a dusty tiny town. So I flew from Solo to Jakarta, Amsterdam, Panama City, Lima, Cuzco, and took a bus ride to this little town called Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo wasn't all that pretty, buildings with grey stone walls dominated Ollantaytambo town centre and the dust flying in the dry air made a grim first impression to me.

The town was an old Incan settlement and a fort, which explained why most of the buildings looked so grim. Today's Ollantaytambo was built over the ancient Incan stonework foundations and retaining most of the ancient Incan town layout, from the temples, town square to the farms. The town is a perfect playground to any Archaeology geeks out there, but it has that subtle charms that appealed to my wandering eyes.

At that time, my Spanish was very limited to basic phrases and broken sentences, but the locals were so friendly. My attempts to communicate with them were reciprocated with warm welcoming gestures. The locals wore tattered clothes with faces stained with dust, living in their simple houses and smiling at you as you walked past their doors; and so I fell in love with their simplicity.

Ollantaytambo is so grey and so simple, but I saw colours so vibrant and warm when you look closer.

Life is so slow in Ollantaytambo, the sun is the timekeeper. He will tell you when to wake up in the morning, and in the afternoon it will cast its golden rays to the grey alleys of Ollantaytambo. You'll walk down the streets and see no one rushing their way, so you'll feel silly for walking that fast. You'll stop, look at the warm afternoon sunlight reflected on the cobbled street and understand why people live their life here so slowly, because the sun will never forget to keep their time.

Afternoon in Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo, August 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22 mm
77 mm CPL

A man greeting a boy still wearing his school uniform on the streets of Ollantaytambo.

After School
Ollantaytambo, August 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 18-135 mm
67 mm UV

Peruvian Woman
Ollantaytambo, August 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 18-135 mm
67 mm UV

A woman walking down an alley in Ollantaytambo.
The braids, cardigan and skirt are the typical fashion around.

Andean Man
Ollantaytambo, August 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22mm
77 mm CPL

A man in traditional Andean clothing standing in front of a cafĂ© catering for tourists. 

Ollantaytambo, August 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22mm
77 mm CPL

A woman knocking the door of a restaurant,
she waited for a good 15 minutes before someone opened the door.

I spent most of my time in Peru roaming the streets of Ollantaytambo, doing Archaeological researches and making sketches (you'll need an artist even in an Archaeology project, and that'd be me!), talking to the locals and bargaining for 'baby alpaca' sweaters. I began the trip looking as pale as I can be (that's what you'll get from the English weather).

Then boom! Super tanned a few weeks later, and it was not even close to how tanned I was by the end of the trip. I went darker from this and my skin was at the severely burnt stage where the skin on my face actually peeled off.

I love Ollantaytambo's laid back atmosphere but the group has to continue the journey to Macchu Picchu then to Cuzco before the final exhibition of our Archaeological and Photography project in the town centre of Ollantaytambo.

So I bagged a nice tan and a pair of badass boots home (and a long story to tell as well).  So I've made a film about my trip, and it's on YouTube if you fancy listening to me talking for 90 seconds.

Oh, and because no blog posts about Peru is complete without a classic Macchu Picchu shot :)

Macchu Picchu
Peru, August 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22mm
77 mm CPL

Kamis, 16 Januari 2014

Asia in London; a day trip to the Far East and a taste of home.

I always pick Glasgow over London and state how much I hate London, while deep inside I have to admit that London has those little big things Glasgow doesn’t. I was not ready to see Asia laid off in front of my nose . . . in London.

Like London’s subway that I really love. Glasgow’s subway runs in a circular track, nothing like London’s spider web underground system. Or the number of theatres in London and my love for performing arts that makes it another +1 for London. Glasgow has theatres too, but London’s Piccadilly district and its theatres is just so gorgeous (apart from the fact that it is almost always packed by tourists). So I have to admit that Glasgow has the miniature of the things I like in London, and as we know that miniatures are like the sample version of the real thing.

But what I cannot accept is the fact that I love London’s Chinatown and having to find Glasgow’s Chinatown is nothing like its sample version. I mean it is huge and pretty. It has everything you can think of about Asia, from chopsticks with fine ornaments to the best baozi steamed buns in the United Kingdom. Asia is just a step off your tube carriage in London’s Leicester Square underground station in the Piccadilly line.

Standing in the streets of London’s Chinatown, I’ve felt like I’m in the Far East with Chinese writings on shop windows and red lantern ornaments hung up above my head. I came back to Glasgow with a heavier bag filled by stuffs I’ve bought in London’s Chinatown  and a growing pride of my Asian roots.

These are the top 5 things I’ve found in London’s Chinatown:

1. Chinese buffet restaurants with more than just mediocre Chinese buffet dishes
Exceptional buffet-class dishes really! Unlike those with soggy wonton pastries in most buffet restaurants.
£ 9.95 for lunch

2. Bakeries
Not just bakeries, they’re the ones that suits my Asian palate with red bean paste bread and super soft chiffon rolls or experimental peanut crusted breads. I like French bakeries, but its Asian sisters are just so irresistible.
£ 1 – 2.50 each

3. Asian kitchen shops
Not just an Asian grocery shop, it’s the shop that sells beautiful Japanese bowls and chopsticks with pretty ornaments on it. They’ve got most of their pretty bowls and teacups imported from the Far East, authentic pieces!
£ 6.95 for a Japanese rice bowl
£ 2.50 for a pair of decorated chopsticks

4. Asian snacks
From authentic Japanese mochi, Indonesian sukro peanuts to Chinese milk candies: diet what? I’ve also found Asian street foods like Taiwanese bubble tea and Chinese baozi steamed bun, the best in England ever.
£ 1.20 for a red bean baozi bun
£ 3.65 for a glass of Taiwanese bubble tea

5. A taste of home
I am an Asian. I am an Indonesian. I’ve found a piece of home.
£ 6.00 nasi gudeg at Warung Indonesia

I cannot believe it, 3 years living in the United Kingdom and I have just found this place a week ago. I am ashamed of the Asian I have became to miss the elephant in front of my nose (P.S. that’s an Indonesian phrase I’ve used J).

Chinatown, London, December 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22mm
128 mm UV

Irassaimase (welcome in English) written in Hiragana stuck on the window, 
and the warm wooden structure indeed welcomed me to take a peek at the busy Japanese restaurant.
Most of the restaurants in the Chinatown are just as inviting as this one,
ranging from Chinese buffets, Dim Sum stalls to Korean grills.

Red Lantern
Chinatown, London, December 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22mm
128 mm UV

A red lantern hund on the sky in the middle on the main street of the Chinatown district.
As I've made my way through the bustling streets,
I've looked up the sky just to be thrown away to the far-flung Hongkong in a short glance.

The Alley
Chinatown, London, December 2013
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF-S 14-22mm
128 mm UV

The smaller alleyways are packed with oriental shops and food stalls.
You can almost find Far East curiousities in these shops from Chinese golden cats, 
silk cheongsams to lacquered chopsticks,
with a hint of aromatic duck aroma lingering around you from takeaway food stalls nearby.

Selasa, 14 Januari 2014

Walking Down the Path; a new year's note, not a resolution.

Sometime you just have to go back down the road. Retrace your footsteps, see things in a different light, and maybe understand a bit more about who you are now. I travelled back to London and spent my winter break there instead of going home. 

London glimmered in Christmas lights and the air was so much colder than I remembered. My memories were rewinded and I've found new corners in the city that I thought I've known before as I piece the stories of how I become how I become who I am now. How much I love the city for the lively air, and how I have never wanted to stay. To me London is like sugar in my cuppa, for a teaspoon is just about enough before it turns bitter.

This film is about my Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London and the paths I've walked down in 2013 as I've counted down to 2014. The rough times (leaving Devon was bitter!) and the sweet times (finally graduated from college and walked down the Inca trail!). This was never an easy path to walk down as things went wrong a hundred times this year, and at the same time good things kept coming down my way. 

Rugged, beaten down, and bruised, you are the ones to decide whether to stop moving forward or keep walking. To choose the path with a clear destination, or to make your own way to an unknown destination. The path still goes on, and I have no intention to ever stop. Which path will I (and you!) walk down this year?

A happy new year for us all :)

Sabtu, 12 Oktober 2013

Indonesian, Football and Food.

I was not feeling homesick or anything at all. I just want to eat an Indonesian dish. Just any Indonesian food. So I woke up at 12 today and just realised that Indonesia will be playing against South Korea now, on Indonesian time. So I rushed to my laptop to watch the game. This was a pain in the ass, literally.

The first 10 minutes of my internet streaming is super smooth, but then the connection went wonky. Luckily the connection was smooth when Indonesia made its first goal and I jumped and screamed like mad, just before the connection went down and what should be a celebration moment turned into an awkward silence between me and the grainy laptop screen. The connection went down until like the first half of the game, and I missed South Korean's penalty kick that turned the game to an awkward balance right after Indonesian's goal celebration. Thanks to Twitter and Livescore, I can follow up with every single detail of the game that I've missed.

So I decided to cook an Indonesian vegetable soup and tempe (soybean cake stuff, super awesome) with rice to complete my truly Indonesian experience. I was struggling for both getting a smooth internet connection and to fix up my lunch. I've never known that cooking is THIS hard. I swear I'll eat everything my mum cook for me next time I'm home. Apparently cooking is harder than doing 10 Sociology essays to me. It was messy and I've burnt my finger, but it was worth it. My food tastes like home, and my internet connection went back just in time to catch the last quarter of the game.

I've watched the rest of the game to see Indonesia defeated South Korea, 2-3. I hope it'll be the beginning for Indonesian Under 19 team to repeat its glory in 1961, the last time they've won the Asian Under 19 Cup. 

I'm laying on my bed while sipping my Indonesian veggie soup and seeing my national team won the match. Indonesians are always proud of their national football team and Indonesians love good food. Our football team may not always be the best, and our food may not be as posh as French gourmet food, but our football team and food is our identity. This is the happiest state an Indonesian can be when they're not in their motherland.

My Indonesian veggie soup and tempe, tastes like home.

The painful buffer, just . . . painful.

Senin, 30 September 2013

Coping with University Life; It's a Trap, Don't Ever Go to University.

I've just moved to my own place in Glasgow and it is nerve racking, literally, and today is my first day as a university student. This just added the pain and suffering of my first week settling in my new place. The hassle of moving to a new place and being a fresher is just kind of overwhelming, I hope I'll settle down well soon.

Unpacking my stuffs. This part was fun, it's like opening christmas present!

My new place is perfect, I just have to make it home by adding stuffs and filling up my refrigerator with food. Proper food, not instant microwave food if it's not too much to ask. I also have to plan my monthly finance, which is also nerve racking as I have to basically start all over as I'm living in a completely new place. This financial planning also comes along with the 'Monthly Shopping List' routine (cupboard foods, toilet paper etc.) in addition to the 'Essentials Shopping List' (broom, trash bag, laundry basket etc. Seriously? I've never thought of these stuffs as I've never live alone in a new place before!). This 'Essentials Shopping List' is just mad, like who thought I'll ever need a broom until I can feel the food crumbs under my feet. Eeew, i need to get a broom ASAP. The 'Monthly Shopping List' in the other hand is pretty cool for me as I like shopping for food and am obsessed with filling up the food cupboard.

My first day at university is pretty exhausting as I have to move around the HUGE university area to get to my classes. I must admit that I need a map and Google Maps to get around, which makes me look ridiculous walking with a phone stuck on my nose, and still I was still late for my classes. I'm blaming it on the size of the university, my classes were all over the place and I don't know my way around at all!

I am already missing 2 weeks of lecture, so I am missing quite a lot. I have to catch up and I just hate this. Plus, I know no one on my classes while everyone else's already having friends. Perfect. If only I could get my visa on time I wouldn't miss the Fresher's Week and my first classes. My classes today were mad as I don't know anything at all and I don't have the necessary books yet. I have also missed homework and assignment things. This makes me like 2 million light years behind my classmates. Yes, perfect.

I have also do freshers stuff like buying new books, registering myself and meeting my Advisors. This includes standing in ridiculously long queues and being on time for my appointments. Plus, I have to do this in different places which means it takes me ages to find the right buildings. Thank god people invented Google Maps!

However, the university is just so pretty I would trade all the pain of settling in my new home and study routine with the uni's gorgeous old buildings. The university is like 550 years old with all the old Harry Potter looking buildings (and yes my university is a Harry Potter set!) and I absolutely love the look of this place. My academic sense is just so heightened by being in one of these old buildings! 

. . . Okay, I'm still that struggling university student.

The Main University Building.

On the evening I tried to cook myself dinner. I succeeded in my first attempt to cook black pepper veggies rice bowl. It was messy, I've spilled millions of unknown substances on my worktop but my food was superb! If you happen to drop by my place I'll cook you stuffs! Oh yes, I'm very proud of my cooking skills as a student and being good enough to be able to not eat microwave foods.

Eat fresh! This is a rare case for students . . .

My black pepper veggie rice bowl. I'm super proud.

And yes, I'm a proud student for being able to survive my first day as university student stress. University is seriously a trap, don't go to university unless you want to feel the satisfaction of being able to survive all this ****. I deserve the good meal and the proud feeling of being a student of one of the most respectable institutions in the world and surviving the day.

My student ID and my assignment PDF. Yes I'm happy with where I am now :)