Saturday, June 21, 2008

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park ( pronounced "yo-se-mi-tee" ) is an Internationally Recognised Park and designated as a World Heritage Site in 1984. Well known for its spectacular granite cliffs, amazing waterfalls, clear gushing streams and ancient giant sequoia trees, this National Park sees over 3.5 million visitors through out the seasons of the year. Like Malaysia's National Park, Yosemite has centuries old trees and biological as well as geological treasures. I have read about and watched quite a few National Geographic episodes, - once upon a time - about those BIG, HUGE trees ( Sequoia, I think ) that could even allow vehicles to pass through them. So, I was on a mission to find those trees! We entered Yosemite National Park through the West Gate since Yosemite View Lodge is just before the entrance. It is quite difficult to get lodging during this time of year since visitors to this area make reservations 6 months ahead of time. We were lucky someone cancelled and made a river-view room available. Or else.. there are many camping sites we could set up tent but it wouldn't be fun with just the 5 of us. I remember around this time last year when we camped at New Hampshire with friends on the East Coast: The family and friends of Laila-Bill & her sister Lina-Dave, Tini & Sabri as well as Isma & Nizam. Every year in July Laila arranges camping activity for her friends, her children and their friends. I cannot forget the tons of food & equipment that she brings along! Terbayang-bayang Laila membakar apam balik, Lina mengipas sate.. Bila time nak balik, habis semua her love ones kena kerah untuk mengemas.. termasuk anak2 'mat salleh' ( her children's friends ) yang ikut sekali. Dengar cakap pulak tuu! Tini & Sabri have gone back to Malaysia. Tini is making her PHD and her experience as a lecturer in Northeastern University, Boston to good use in UKM. Shazmi - her 10 year old - yang bijak tu, I hear masih ber-slang American.. :-) Hassan - the 3 year old - dah besar and mula pandai mengusik his brother. Miss them ! Isma & Nizam came to visit us last week. Nizam has to be in California for a month implementing Nokia's billion dollar project with T-Mobile. Isma & their 10 year old Sara yang paling untung 'sambil menyelam minum air' - they have visited plenty of places in the US. The 20 dollars entrance fee to Yosemite is valid for 7 days - makna nya we can enter as many times as we like within the week. The one-way road circles inside the area, making driving easy without us looking out for on-coming cars. Certain parts the road can get very narrow - like the picture on the left above - which supports only one car each time to tunnel through the granite hill ! The sound of the gushing waters beating against rocks & boulders in the wide river could be heard rushing downstream on to our right. Somehow we could feel the serenity of the park which urged us on to find a good spot to picnic. Banyak picnic spots.. teringat pulak air terjun yang di beri nama Lata something, something di Sungai Seputih, Selama Perak - a few miles after passing my parents house there. During my younger days, we used to see a lot of visitors/ picnic-ers, passing through to go to the air terjun and berkelah. We could see more cars, motorbikes and sometimes busloads of children, kalau cuti sekolah. You'ld know they were going there to mandi-manda & berkelah by the looks of 'striped' towels hanging from the bus windows and also pelampung-pelampung tayar sticking out too! Picture on the right above is a distant view of the Yosemite Falls - Upper & Lower Falls. Every angle at the National Park looks like scenic views in a calendar or postcard ! There are many waterfalls there and visitors have to hike to some of them in order to get a better view. Bridal-Veil Falls on the right - the hike was not too bad though! At that height, we could feel the cool mist spraying all around. Much welcomed in the scorching heat of the day. One could also experience exploring Yosemite by bike, by raft, on an open-air tram or even on a mule or horseback ! Of course, if you go on foot it won't cost you a thing. If you really look at the rock formations, the waterfalls and the scenic views of the national park, you can't help feeling the wonders and blessings of God's gift. Allah pencipta alam... Geologically speaking pulak - about 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada ( range of mountains ) was uplifted... and then tilted to form its relatively gentle and dramatic slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About 1 million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1200 m) during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic landscape today. Located near Yosemite's South Entrance, the Mariposa Grove is the park's largest collection of giant sequoias. We had to park our car at Wawona Store parking area - 30 minutes away - and took a shuttle into Mariposa Grove as the access road to the grove closes intermittently due to limited parking inside. Using this free bus shuttle is encouraged to reduce congestion and parking delays. They want to control the number of cars inside so as not to disturb the condition of the ancient trees. I read somewhere that these trees can grow until 3000 years. The bigger they get, the older they are. Their roots grow very shallow - less than 6 feet ! Very strange I thought of HUGE trees like them. They can even tumble if their roots frequently get trodden upon, nevertheless once fallen they will not rot ( tak reput ! ). It makes sense not to allow cars beyond the grove parking lot. Trailers and private cars longer than 25 feet are prohibited even to enter the gates of Mariposa Grove. It means that we have to either go jungle tracking on foot or take the guided tour on an open-air tram that circles the designated routes inside Mariposa Grove, - costing 16 dollars each ! To save cost, I designated the job of searching for my tunnel tree to my kids during their one and half hour ride on the tram while both of us went back to Wawona Store to get our car. Apparently the sort of tree that I was looking for - Wawona Tunnel Tree - fell during the harsh winters of 1968 & 1969. Between 1881 - 1968, when it was carved, millions of people flocked here to drive through the tree - first in buggies eventually in cars. The other tunnel tree is the California Tree carved in 1895. Despite the huge hole in its trunk and weakened condition, the California Tree is alive and growing. With on-going research on trees and habitat done to this date, damage such as this would not be allowed to occur today. However, both tunnel trees helped to promote Mariposa Grove and has contributed to its inclusion into Yosemite National Park. Itu la some information gathered by my kids... Picture on the left is the Fallen Monarch. Notice the diameter of the roots relative to the height of the couple... Pokok ni tak der akar tunjang, tu sebab senang tumbang... Too bad the tram didn't stop for them to take more pictures.


One of the giant cones...










Yosemite View Lodge is worth staying ... There are also quite a number of pools & indoor spas in this facility. Ideal for those with small children. Honeymoon-ers pulak would love the view !




Just nice for the 5 of us... anak bujang tidur dalam sleeping bag kat bawah






Equiped with wide screen TV, fireplace, mini fridge, and a small kitchenette - 2 stove burner and a sink. There is a microwave hidden in the cabinet. Provided also are cutlery as well as pots & pans - which are not of much use to me. Kita bawa our own plastic utensils.. one small pot for heating the gravy... and of course the rice cooker is a must! Boss I cannot do without nasi lah...:-)

View of the river from the balcony outside our room... Too bad the rest of my San Jose friends cannot make it this time around. Being here for several years, they have been to Yosemite many-many times. I think the best time to visit this place of Allah's creation would be in Fall/Autumn or in Spring when it'll be a lot cooler. Winter would be beautiful but it'll be much too cold !

Friday, June 20, 2008

BIO2008 in San Diego

In my previous posting on May 7th of last year titled BIO2007 Boston, I mentioned the next BIO International Convention was going to be held in San Diego. Little did I know I would be there... or here in San Diego. Funny how life works ! Next year BIO2009 will be held in Georgia - it would wonderful if I could be there too..! ;-) This year, from 17th till 20th June Bio Techies all over the world gathered in San Diego Convention Center for their conference and exhibition. Compared to the 350+ last year, I hear Malaysia only sent 100 delegates this time, with the Chief Minister of Melaka Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and the current Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation Datuk Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili as the VVIPs. Of course, like last year I was not involved at all with the convention. My husband, on the other hand had to attend and so while he dives I simply took a drink.. - sambil menyelam minum air ! Atiqah tagged along since dia dah cuti sekolah for the summer. Too bad her brother & sister had classes .. San Diego lies just north of the Mexican border. I have included an image of the map of San Diego which shows its location relative to L.A and San Jose. It takes 8 hours driving from San Jose to San Diego. San Diego is situated near the sea.. it has its own bay macam San Francisco. Hence, the mild mediterranean climate. However, during our stay there San Diego experienced a heatwave. Temperature naik sampai 110 degrees F. I don't know berapa dalam deg C but I am sure lebeh panas dari kat KL. In KL it's hot & humid but here its hot & dry... Kadang-kadang tu 'segumpal' awan pun tak dak, clear blue sky allowing hot stinging penetrating rays of the sun directly on to you. I've always felt this condition is more dangerous & people here are likely to get skin cancer than anywhere else. Kita tak pernah dengar orang mati kepanasan kat negara kita, kan ? Tapi kat negara mat salleh ni, ada yang mati kalau sejuk sangat & silap2 ada jugak yang mati kalau panas sangat. Selalu mangsanya orang yang homeless or living alone, old & disabled. It costs a lot to provide heating and air conditioning! No wonder people who runs this country 'craves' and addicted to oil - minyak!. San Diego Convention Center located near the bay is the 21st largest in this country. Makna nya ada lagi yang lebeh besar. With almost 8 or 9 big exhibition halls, to me it's already HUGE! Looking at the pictures here, you know I couldn't get the whole building in one frame... panjang sangat! The design is like a ship... cantik ! There is the Convention Center train-stop right in front of it. Very convenient indeed for those who prefers to take the San Diego Transit train to that part of town. There are also many hotels surrounding the area. A few that caught my eye are Grand Hyatt, Marriot Hotel and Marina, Embassy Suites and Hilton Gaslamp. Unfortunately we couldn't get a room in any of those hotels sebab dah penuh! BIO Convention is an annual event so I guess once the next host is known, most of the BioTech companies buat block booking ahead of time. Notice the fog (kabus) creeping in the sky - temperature drops by a few degrees in seconds. San Diego is the BioTech Center of the West Coast like Boston is to the East Coast. San Diego also acts as a host that provides many military facilities to the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corps. It's not surprising that the decommissioned USS Midway - now turned into a muzeum - chose to serve her final duties at San Diego waterfront. Located at the Naval Pier between the Cruise Ship Terminal and the Seaport Village, the USS Midway was the largest ship in the world when commissioned in 1945. She served the United States longer than any other aircraft carrier, covering the surrender of Japan in WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam and Desert Storm during her prime time. Yokosuka, Japan was her homeport for 18 years. Hmmm... itu lah some of the information I got from the audio tour guide on top of the Hop On - Hop Off Double Decker Bus Tour. Atiqah and I took the ride on the city sightseeing bus for the fastest way to visit downtown San Diego. We bought tickets at Visitor Information Center in Old Town San Diego. The ticket costs 25 dollars for a 2-day pass but the operator charged us only 10 dollars each because we wanted only for a day. We went on the Harbor Loop which goes through the Embarcadero, USS Midway, Seaport Village, GasLamp area, Horton Plaza and Little Italy. The other loop goes through several parks and San Diego Zoo. I hear the San Diego Zoo is among the best.. their tagline says : If you don't see an animal there, it probably doesn't exist! Ada banyak lagi city tour buses which could be taken at Old Town but we picked the open top double decker bus sebab Atiqah nak duduk kat atas to have a better view. Hop On - Hop Off means that we could get off at any place within the loop and get back on the next double decker bus that's scheduled to come along. So the map and the bus schedule kita simpan untuk guna as reference to plan our visit. To me the Old Town San Diego is actually a Mexican Cultural Village - banyak crafts, potteries, mexican architectural buildings, restaurants.... like any other cultural village. I think the prices here are a bit cheaper than in downtown.. We didn't stop at USS Midway Muzeum because I thought Seaport Village has a lot more to offer. Rupa-rupa nya just souvenier shops from a few countries, restaurants and a view of the harbour. I heard that on board the USS Midway, you can learn about life on a Navy ship and how aircraft land and take off from an aircraft carrier. Visitors can also tour many of the USS Midway working areas and see more than 15 restored aircraft such as the Skyhawk, Tomcat, Hawkeye, Hornet....dan lain-lain yang sejenis dengan nya... that would be interesting, - to most men ! For me, tak tengok pun tak per...

Kena tunggu the next bus sebab I was too busy looking at other stuff and not the time...




A view of downtown San Diego from the top of the double decker bus...






Left picture is the entrance to the Historical Heart of
San Diego...GasLamp area... just across the street to the San Diego Convention Center.. kat sini la the European immigrants first settled..






Can't resist taking a picture of this building... kat sini AT&T pun kena kutuk jugak..!





PETCO PARK ni rupa-rupa nya baseball stadium... home of the San Diego Padres! Kami ingat taman untuk pets.. pergi tanya orang pulak tu... nampak sangat orang luar ! :-)






A souvenier shop at Horton Plaza...






On the right, entrance to Seaport Village... bangunan tu sebenarnya restoran. Nampak macam surau, kan...?





They don't mind me taking their picture dengan syarat share the profit if it sells on e-bay! I told them, nope I won't auction them off.. I'll just blog them !..







Exit of Balboa Park... where many muzeums and parks can be found..








San Diego Airspace Muzeum..








Inside is the International Hall of Fame..








At Aisha's lovely home with Zaleha & Zuaida, friends from home attending BIO Convention ... thank you for Aisha's grand hospitality...





Love this corner ....






$7.99 lunch buffet at Restoran Bismillah... The food there memang sedap.. I see even mat sallehs stop to eat.. ada tempat solat... :-)






Six Flags Theme Park outside of L.A








Kedai jual buah kat tepi Highway 5 ...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gutsy Ladies......


When friends come over, mana la lagi nak bawak melainkan ke San Francisco. Kat sana ada jambatan, laut, pelabuhan, jalan yang krekod - krekod ( orang utara cukup pandai adaptasi bahasa oghang putih 'crooked' jadi 'krekod' ), apa lagi ek? Beautiful architecture, cool lovely weather & roller coaster like roads - jalan turun naik dan menjunam macam roller coaster ! Budak-budak suka sangat but it's a strain on the 'minyak'. Dah la minyak mahal sekarang nie. Berlainan dengan the city of San Jose where there's nothing much to see - except for buildings & offices of famous internet & computer companies. San Jose is not really a touristy city - more for engineers & industrialists. Banyak lagi tempat - tempat di San Francisco tu yang menarik but by just visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, Crooked Street & Pier 39 pun dah cukup for you to spend a day there. Oh, jangan lupa the quaint little town of Sausolito which is at the end of the bridge. Kalau tak pergi sebelah sana, tak dapat la experience crossing the jambatan. Tak kan Penang Bridge jer yang kita nak lalu.., kan? Kalau tak nak jugak, then parking jer kereta kat sebelah San Francisco and jalan kaki melintasi besi buruk tuu.. Tak payah kita bayar tol... kalau nak berbasikal pun boleh. Another place to visit is the Island of Alcatraz - bekas penjara yang di buat jadi tourist attraction. Tempat yang di ceritakan dalam filem The Rock. Kalau nak ke sana kena naik ferry di Pier 33, which is just walking distance from Pier 39. Actually I haven't visited the island myself... peluang belum sampai. Lagi pun tambang ferry rasanya mahal la ... 24 dollar ! Kalau kali 5 dewasa dah berapa tuu... Cukup la dengan ambek gambar dari jauh jer. So, I don't really have anything to story about the place. However, my husband's colleagues who happen to be my friends also: Fauzimah, Zu, Lily and Shira (Zu's niece) dah sampai ke tempat tu.. Bukan saja ke Alcatraz... merata2 tempat di US dan beberapa negara lain dia orang dah sampai. Best betul ! Wanita2 srikandi ... he..he... jangan marah yer. Lesen Malaysia laku untuk beberapa bulan (not sure berapa) jadi bergilir2 la driving ... cool jer..... Kat sini harga sewa kereta masih berpatutan ... but make sure sewa sekali dengan GPS - Garmin or Tom-Tom, kami sekeluarga call it 'makcik'...sebab suara perempuan... dan dia akan bercakap macam 'berleter' whenever kita tersilap jalan... " re-calculating!.. in point 3 miles make a U - turn " Benda yang we can do without - must have ! - whenever travelling these days. Dulu2 kita bawa peta..

Ferry to Alcatraz and a few other places like under the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39...








Double click to enlarge image....