Penang Travelogue – (Part 1): Snake Temple, Lee Clan Jetty 姓李桥, Chew Clan Jetty 姓周桥, Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol, Joo Hooi Café and Ming Xiang Tai Pastry 名香泰餅家

Unlike many travel destinations where visiting once is enough, Penang gives me all the reasons to return again and again. A large proportion of population in Penang are made up of Penangite Chinese and this makes it even easier to communicate with the locals and travel around.

When I arrived at Penang airport, my first task was to purchase a local SIM card (1GB for RM$26). Knowing that there would be lots of traveling, transport cost was one of the major factors to take into consideration. With a SIM card, I would be able to get connected to local network and more importantly, explore Penang by Grab service instead of hailing normal taxis which could charge you exorbitant fees. I figured out that using Grab service would end up saving about 50% to 60% in transportation cost.

Snake Temple

My first stop was the Penang Snake Temple. It made sense to have this attraction in my initial itinerary as it was just three km from the airport in Sungai Kluang, Bayan Lepas. Built in honour of Chor Soo Kong at about 1850, legend has it that he was also a healer and sometimes gave shelter to the snakes of jungle.

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Being a tourist attraction, the snake temple has attracted locals to set up shops selling touristy items.

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Penang is well known for its street art. I was given a glimpse of some of the masterpieces at the entrance.

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The temple is filled with the smoke of burning incense and a variety of pit vipers. The vipers are believed to be rendered harmless by the sacred smoke, but as a safety precaution, the snakes have also been de-venomed but still have their fangs intact.

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I skipped the altar section and went straight to the snake exhibit.

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I was encouraged by the staff to feel the python and most probably, he would be asking me to carry the snake and take pictures for a fee which I declined politely.

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The snake farm was situated inside the temple. This was the spot to go if you were looking to get near to any kind of snakes.

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Venomous vipers, huge pythons and different types of cobras were found here.

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It was a worthwhile experience visiting the snake farm. I was a tad surprise that the snakes were quite active instead of coiling at a corner sleeping away.

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Albino pythons which the snake handler told me they do not bite humans.

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A huge python which I was cautioned not to touch it.

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A rare sight of an albino cobra spitting its venom. Did you see the venom on the screen?

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Another active cobra spitting its venom. I learnt that cobras which do not have “eyes” on the back of their hoods are usually able to spit venoms.

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Not a spitting cobra.

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The snake handler invited me inside the King Cobra’s house.

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He said this king cobra only dine on snakes.

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The king cobra was captured in Indonesia.

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Trying to get closer to this 3m long king cobra to snap a picture.

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The king cobra was getting stressed out and started to get aggressive. I am getting out of here..

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Other residents in the snake farm included quails.

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Cats. Shouldn’t they be allowed to roam around?

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An over 100 year old land tortoise.

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And many geckos. I thought the snake temple was worth paying a visit though one should not spend more than an hour inside.

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Outside the snake temple, there were 2 coffeeshops selling Chinese roasted delights and Indian dishes.

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Opening Hours: 06:00 – 19:00

Location: Bayan Lepas

Price Range: For Temple: FREE

Snake Farm: Adults – RM8, Kids – RM6

Lee Clan Jetty (姓李桥) Georgetown

Visiting the clan jetty is one of my checklist items. I have always wanted to visit these waterfront settlement housings located along the main road of Pengkalan Weld.

Clan Jetties map

Image Credit: Penang Discovery

While many visitors chose to flock to Chew Jetty (pretty touristy), I decided to pay Lee Jetty a visit first.

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As I stepped foot onto Lee Jetty, I paused on a corner observing the traditional houses built on stilts that made them looked as if they were forever stuck in a time capsule. Nevermind that I had to battle with the sweltering heat. It was an experience exploring these heritage buildings.

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The Clan Jetties are unique Chinese settlements that have been around since the 19th century. There are eight different clans that still reside here, with each individual jetty named after their surname. Look at the villages on stilts that house the descendants of Chinese immigrants.

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A girl returning to her jetty house after school.

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Various types of houses.

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An elderly resident stood at his gate and beckoned me to try out the ice cream. I did not try though.

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I reckoned if the owner turned this residence which was situated next to the sea into an Airbnb, there would be many bookings.

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Unfinished construction of bridge crossing.

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After Lee Jetty, I moved on. My next destination was the popular Chew Jetty which was about 5 mins walk from the Lee’s. Along the way, I snapped pictures of the streets.

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A Jambul song bird.

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Have you tried Penang white coffee before?

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A local coffeeshop outside the Tan Jetty selling cold beverages. What a perfect respite after soaking in the afternoon heat!

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Another food stall at Tan Jetty but there was nothing much to see there so I continued walking.

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A bicycle rental shop.

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A local “mama” shop.

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Selling cold beverage is one of the best options in Penang. Here is a lorry conveniently transformed into a drinks stall at a corner of the road.

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Chew Clan Jetty 姓周桥 Georgetown

As I mentioned, Chew Jetty is a touristy spot where you could see some of the wooden houses transformed into shops selling souvenirs and eateries.

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Hey, Ahmah and Ahsoon (Grandma and Grandson) at the entrance of the Chew Jetty. One of the factors contributing to the popularity of the Chew Jetty was due to the movie of Ice Kacang Puppy Love ( 初恋红豆冰).

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Image Credit: mm2

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When you are tired from walking, renting a bicycle is an option.

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A house that is pretty dated.

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More houses were built inside. While these traditional jetty houses were pleasing to the eyes, visitors would need to take note that some of them belonged to the locals and taking pictures of their residence were prohibited.

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As you delved into Chew Jetty, these touristy shops became a common sight.

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Street art souvenir post cards and apparels on sale.

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Note books with street art imprinted on the covers.

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Penang white coffee – I think you can find these in NTUC over in Singapore though you have to pay a premium for them.

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Back to old school days! Have you tried these ice sticks before? 🙂

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A hip café opened by youngsters selling fruity beverages.

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A stall selling durian puffs. Do give it a try if you are feeling peckish.

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A street dog lazing in the afternoon.

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On the right of this picture was a restaurant selling big bowls of ramen.

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It did seem ironic to me that this restaurant was selling Japanese ramen instead of local cuisines. After all, visitors wanted to visit Penang to try its famous local dishes right?

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So huge! Don’t think of trying it if you are not travelling with a food buddy.

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Boats lining up along the Chew jetty. It is a nice place to enjoy the scenery as well.

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As I completed my tour of the Chew Jetty, I popped by the coffeeshop near the entrance to try out their coffee.

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The smell of aroma coffee for RM1.10.

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 Address: Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol & Joo Hooi Cafe

Just directly opposite the Chew Jetty are the streets to spot all kinds of street art. As such, you would not need to travel by car. Just walk across the road will do.

However, I decided to visit Joo Hooi Cafe for my lunch and chendol. The Penang Road Famous Teochew Chedol and Jooi Hooi Café are located at Lebuh Keng Kwee

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I was snapping some pictures and in a matter of few minutes, the queue started to form again. You have the option to dine inside the café (or I called it as a coffeeshop as it was not air-conditioned) instead of standing under the unforgiving heat. I chose the former.

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Joo Hooi Café packed with customers on a typical weekday. If you are intending to visit Joo Hooi Café, you would have the chance to taste most Penang famous dishes such as Assam Laksa, Char Koay Teow, Lor Bak,  famous Chendol and Ice Kacang.

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Whipping up many dishes of irresistible char koay teow, I am sure she had won many fans.

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I ordered these 2 dishes – enough to fill up my empty stomach.

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The prawns tasted juicy and nice!

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Choose to gulp it down or savour at your own pace. On a fair note, I wouldn’t say the best Penang food are found here but Joo Hooi Café certainly provides a one-stop location for you to get a taste of local delights.

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There was this stall also selling char koay teow outside Joo Hooi Café. The owner plied his trade using his left hand.

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Each plate of char koay teow cost RM6, cheaper than that from the stall at Joo Hooi Café which cost RM7. A downside was that you would need to stand on the roadside to eat.

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Address: 475 Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 5pm daily

Ming Xiang Tai Pastry 名香泰餅家 @ Penang Road

Stepped through the old shophouses (just beside Joo Hooi Café) you would find Ming Xiang Tai authentic Cantonese-style pastries.

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Fresh pastries of different flavours on display.

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Some notable pastries on sale include Trishaw Egg Tart, Salted Egg Tart, Salted Egg Pastry, Pandan Kaya Puff, Wife Pastry, Wutaro Yaki and Wedding Cookies.

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The most popular item at Ming Xiang Tai has to be the Ko-Cha Siew Bao which is selling at RM2.20 per piece.

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Take a bite on these Golden Pillows (stuffed with chicken meat). Each piece sells for RM2.20.

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I bought a few pieces and tried. Even after I left them overnight, they still tasted as nice!

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Stuffing inside the Golden Pillow.

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Stuffing inside Ko-Cha Siew Pao.

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Tastefully designed boxes fitting for gift giving.

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More than just eating, this trip to Penang presented the chance for me to explore pictorial worthy ambience. I took my time in Ming Xiang Tai and feasted my eyes on its rich interiors, decorated with traditional household items dating back to 1940s.

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There were many more places I covered which would be shared in subsequent blogs. If you think its good, share it!

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Address: 475-A , Jalan Penang George Town, Malaysia (beside Joo Hooi Café)

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Interested to visit Penang? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page and stay tune for the next blog post.

All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Finland Travelogue – (Part 2): Airbnb Stay and Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park in Lapland

Travel like a tourist and live like a local. They need not be mutually exclusive and Airbnb has made it possible for us to enjoy a meaningful holiday with authentic, local experiences.

We were really blessed to meet a wonderful host who readily fetched us from Santa Claus Village to his Airbnb abode at no extra cost.

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Our host stayed near to Rovaniemi city. Along the way, he gave us a mini-tour of the city and stopped by a supermarket for us to do some grocery shopping.

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Our Airbnb Stay

Here we are, at our Airbnb and it was freezing cold. An interesting sight was the entrance to the house; in fact, there were 2 doors to access. We were curious why it was so but guess probably could be due to the freezing weather that it needed 2 doors to insulate the house from coldness.

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Some might thought the lighting looked spooky but we felt it was a nice touch.

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It was snowing all day and the cars were covered with snow!

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The size of the house was typical of a 3 room HDB flat and more than sufficient for us.

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The living room with sofa bed.

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Our host prepared coffee powder and cookies for us.

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Mini-kitchen.

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The bedroom with connecting bathroom.

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We were blessed to have a wonderful host. Not forgetting to pen down our appreciation for his great hosting!

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 Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park

Pure snow white provides for many opportunities to have fun. The Arctic Circle has no lack of snow activities to engage in. For the very first time, we got the opportunity to explore snowmobile ride in the snowy forest.

We booked the day activity program from the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park.

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The group sizes are small and the speed and the length of the safari depend on each group. This is why this safari suits for families as well as for those who are looking for a real adrenaline boost.

Our guide first gave us a brief introduction to snowmobiling after which he lead us to the wilderness.

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Getting ready to move out…

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And off we go! The kids really enjoyed the ride which lasted about 15 mins.

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The Lapland is an amazing place to take on a fascinating ride through the winter forest.

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That was not the end. Come second part, we joined a bigger group and snowmobiled for about an hour into the wilderness. This excursion is available for everybody, but a driving license is required to ride a snowmobile for longer distances.

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This time round, Big and Small M had to sit under the blankets on a sledge behind the snowmobile.

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For a moment, we almost couldn’t recognise who she is! That was how freezing cold the Lapland is. Small M’s hair froze and became spider web. Snowmobiling in the wilderness and playing with the snow were already an experience in itself, but this safari would be taking us to meet reindeer and husky dogs in our next blog. Stay tune for more 🙂

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Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park Oy is located in Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Address:
Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park
Santa Claus Village
Joulumaantie 5
96930 Arctic Circle
Finland

Email:
Bookings and safari information
: info@snowmobilepark.com

Interested to visit Finland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 4): Svinafellsjokull, Icelandic Horses and Strokkur Geysir

Iceland had always been one of our dream vacations. Exploring Iceland’s untouched and beautiful landscape has become an educational journey for us. The country is popularly visited during summer due to the mid-night sun effect where it never gets fully dark between mid-May and early August. Come winter, a muted light shines over the island for a few short hours each day. There are lesser visitors and the entire experience was just us and nature.

Svínafellsjökull

On our way to Golden Circle, we passed by beautiful Svínafellsjökull which is a breathtaking outlet glacier of the Vatnajökull glacier and the scenery and views are simply stunning. There are glacier tours available where you get to walk through a wonderland of glacial ice sculptures, meandering through ice ridges and the deep crevasses of the glacier.

There aren’t a lot of trees in Iceland (we only realized after our trip!). Iceland is a volcanic land and it is filled with many glaciers and countless other natural wonders.

The Icelandic Horse

One of the purest breed on earth, the Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that it is descendent from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation.

Do you know that once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland it is not allowed to enter back into the country? All around the country, nearly every field seems to be filled with them, slowing grazing or play-fighting with each other. They are cute in their little own ways.

Icelandic horses have heavy double layer coats to help protect them from the harsh Icelandic climate. They come in many colors and can even appear in up to 42 different color combinations! Some types of Icelandic horses coats even change color by seasons. Best of all, Icelandic horses are super friendly. They will walk towards you readily and allow you to cuddle them. A road trip in Iceland is never completed without experiencing the therapeutic effect of Icelandic horses.

Strokkur Geysir

Strokkur (the churn) is currently the most energetic spouting spring in Iceland. It is a much-visited geothermal geyser that erupts every 8–10 minutes and reaches heights of 20 meters. According to history, it was set off during an earthquake in 1789, having then been quiescent for some time.

Big M was too comfortable resting in the campervan while we were on long road trip. The first thing she did when alighting from the campervan was to take a deep breath and inhale the wonderful and pure Icelandic air.

The Geysir is a popular tourist spot and one of the main attractions in Golden Circle. It was no surprise to see many visitors here.

Take a walk around the area and the smell of sulphur permeates the air. We remembered the time we were in Taiwan at 小油坑 Xiao You Keng experiencing sight of bubbling water and smouldering fumaroles on Yangmingshan which you can read in our blog here.

A bit of geography lesson.

The Strokkur Geysir erupts every few minutes so this is going to be a rewarding trip as we can get to see it erupting many times.

Waiting and waiting…

Picture time while waiting 🙂

Up and away to the heavens!

We waited and we filmed the action 🙂

It is worthwhile to note that most visitors focus on witnessing Strokkur erupting but may have missed out on other geothermal features such as mud pools, fumaroles and other geysers which are located around it. As the sun sets on the horizon, it created a dreamy effect on the landscape.

Geysir Center

Just across Strokkur Geysir is the Geysir Center. It was getting dark and this was probably the only place for us to explore.

A place to shop for souvenirs and clothings.

While we have our brands of winter clothing back in Singapore, we thought Iceland has its own high quality winter wear by 66°NORTH.

Fresh Icelandic Mountain Air on sale!

We had our dinner at the food court in Geysir Center. It looks pretty similar to Ikea’s dining concept.

The menu is special to us as it is uniquely Icelandic.

Traditional Icelandic lambmeat soup.

An idea of what we ordered. So many Icelandic dishes to try but our stomach are limited.

Fish of the Day

Chicken Nuggets.

Delicious chicken wings.

We just love traditional Icelandic lambmeat soup.

Dessert time! How about trying some Icelandic ice cream?

We felt Icelandic dishes are really delicious and what a perfect way to pamper our tastebuds on this road trip. It’s no secret that visiting Iceland could be pricey so be prepared to spend for a trip here. For example, the Fish of the Day cost about SGD $23, chicken wings/nuggets SGD $16 and Icelandic lambmeat soup about SGD $32 (assuming SGD $1 = ISK $56 from the rate at the airport).

There are many reasons to love this small Nordic country and discover why you should visit Iceland once in your lifetime. We found our reason and probably hope that we can be here again.

Click here to read blog post on Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 3): Svartifoss, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls

Click here to read blog post on Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 2): Hvannadalshnukur, Skeioararsandur Bridge Monument and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Click here to read blog post on Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 1): Renting a Campervan and 8 Tips on Self Driving in Iceland

Interested to visit Iceland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
Disclosure: All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

 

Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 3): Svartifoss, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls

A visit to Iceland is not completed without appreciating its water elements. Iceland is full of beautiful waterfalls and they can be found everywhere. Each waterfall is different in its own way and has its own story to tell.

Svartifoss (Black Falls)

As we departed from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, we made our way to visit Svartifoss waterfall. Svartifoss is a waterfall in Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland, and is one of the most popular sights in the park. It is surrounded by dark lava columns, which gave rise to its name.

There are plenty of parking lots when you reached the Vatnajokulspjodgardur national park visitor centre.

You can book glacier walks here.

The visitor centre is open all year round. Over here, you can also buy souvenirs, hot beverages and use its toilet facilities. There are also some interesting exhibits of rock over here.

To reach Svartifoss waterfall, you need to take a walk along the trail. The distance is 1.8km long with slight gradual elevation which will take about 40 min to reach.

The hiking trail to Svartifoss waterfall.

Look at Big and Small M’s flying hair 🙂

It was extremely windy and chilly! Remember to bring along waterproof clothing on your way up to Svartifoss waterfall.

The name of the falls translated into something like “Black Falls” which might be attributable to the darkness of the underlying basalt columns.  The 12m waterfall is breathtaking, with black columnar basalt formations which beautifully frame the waterfall and attribute to its name, Black fall.

Lovely Svartifoss waterfall.

The way back to the visitor centre is a descending path. A lot of walking is required. If you are traveling as adults, it should be fine. However, with kids around remember to ensure they are dressed properly and watch out for loose rocks on your trek up the slopes.

During the road trip, waterfalls are commonly found in tourist attractions and villages. As we delve further, we saw Icelandic people building their houses beside waterfalls. Can you imagine how beautiful it is to wake up every morning with the sight and sound of waterfall in their backyard? So natural, relaxing and enchanting. A perfect retirement place?

Skogafoss Waterfall

The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft). Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. Legend has it that a Viking named Thrasi hid his hoarded gold under the falls.

On the right side of the picture shows the 370 steps that you can climb to the top of Skogafoss waterfall to get a panoramic view of the water flow and out over southern Iceland’s coastline. It would be challenging for Big and Small M to walk up the steps so it was a no-go for us.

The beautiful scenery of Skogafoss makes a perfect ground for Icelandic people to reside nearby.

Black gravels are a common sight in Iceland.

Waterproof clothing is essential when you take a walk towards Skogafoss waterfall. The water mist promises to drench you in matter of few minutes when you dwell there.

Bringing a good camera during a trip to Iceland is important. Capturing precious moments of the kids against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring Skogafoss…

Aside from the millions of gallons of glacial melt-water cascading over this huge cliff, Skogafoss offers camping and hiking for the adventurous visitor.  The unique thing about Skogafoss is that the waterfall comes directly from two glaciers.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

20km from Skogafoss is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This “do not miss” waterfall is one of the most attractive waterfalls in Iceland. Visitors travel to explore this waterfall all year round.

During the night, lightings are put up around the waterfall. We parked our campervan at Seljalandsfoss waterfall and this is the view from the inside of our “abode”. It was freezing cold and dark at night. The likelihood of slippery ground is important for one to bring a bright touchlight when walking towards the waterfall.

Morning beckons and Seljalandsfoss comes alive. Beside the car park, there are gift shop and cafe for visitors to dine and appreciate the nature. Toilet facilities are available as well.

The waterfall drops 60 m (197 ft) and is part of the Seljalands River that has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. One of the interesting things about this waterfall is that visitors can walk behind it into a small cave.

Falling 65m over an old sea cliff, Seljalandsfoss is waterfall that you can walk behind. As you circle the falls, you can see it from all angles. Rainbows appear when the sun shines, giving it a magical appearance while the thundering sound of the waterfall plays in the background. On the right of the picture is the trek that leads to the small cave. The splashing of Seljalandsfoss waterfall makes it so wet that it is akin to taking a spa bath!

Seljalandsfoss depicts a picture of a romantic story. Relax at Seljalandsfoss waterfall by reading a book, sipping over a cup of hot coffee in the freezing weather or even more romantic, proposing to your partner 🙂

Interested to visit Iceland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
Disclosure: All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 2): Hvannadalshnukur, Skeioararsandur Bridge Monument and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

We started our Iceland journey by taking a Icelandair flight from Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) to Keflavik International Airport (KEF). Icelandair is one of the direct flights which takes 3 hours 10 minutes to reach our destination. Iceland is 8 hours behind Singapore time. During the flight, we were given a treat of “Northern Lights” display.

The entire flight was dreamy and so surreal.

Inflight entertainment and Icelandic snacks (for kids) are provided.

GETTING TO KNOW ICELAND

 During our travel, it becomes an educational trip for us as we get to know more about other countries. We thought it is money well-spent as Big and Small M are able to get first hand experiences and creating our blog becomes a mobile diary for them to remember their growing up years.

  1. Where is Iceland?

Iceland is a North Atlantic island and the westernmost country in Europe, midway between North America and mainland Europe. It is a country of extreme contrasts and widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world’s most active volcanoes, Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with nearly 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only few hours of daylight.

2. What is Iceland’s population?

Iceland has a population of slightly more than 300,000 and 2/3 of them stay in its capital city, Reykjavík.

3. What is Iceland’s currency?

The currency used in Iceland is the Icelandic Krone (pronounced “krona”), ISK. We were told by moneychangers back in Singapore that Euro is used in Iceland, only to learn that Iceland has its own currency. Credit cards are widely used in Iceland and you would not need to use cash most of the time. We exchanged the krona at Keflavik International Airport and immediately fell in love with this beautifully designed currency that we were hesitant to use them.

4. Buying Icelandic Prepaid SIM card

You must know how important it is to get updated on the weather and road conditions in Iceland especially during winter. Staying connected is a must in Iceland! We bought Siminn Prepaid SIM card from the convenience store from Keflavik International Airport arrival hall. Remember to bring along your mobile needle (smallest & most useful item) to change the SIM card if you are using iphone. There are 2 types of prepaid SIM card:

Síminn Prepaid Data – Mobile data only, with easy refill on the go. Included is a SIM card and 1 GB at the start.

Síminn Prepaid Starter Pack – Included is a SIM card, 100 min talk, 100 text messages and 1 GB of data on our network. This is highly recommended as you never know you may need to make emergency phone calls during your road trip.

5. Drinking Icelandic tap water and breathing Icelandic air

Yes, you can drink Icelandic tap water. Not only it’s free of charge, it is one of the purest and most delicious water on earth! Drink as much as you can to detox. Even the pure Icelandic Mountain Air is on sale as souvenirs. We were told by our car rental company that a South Korean couple rented a campervan from them and instead of driving much, they spent most of their time sleeping in Iceland as the air is so pure and therapeutic that they have never experienced that before in their life.

RENTING A CAMPERVAN

Coming to Iceland is all about exploring the country. We rented a campervan and it became our “hotel” accommodation. We drive, cook, eat and sleep in our campervan. Click here to read our previous blog post on renting campervan and 8 tips on road driving in Iceland.

We were fetched at Keflavik International Airport by the car rental company personnel after we arrived. At the warehouse, we spent about 2 hours on car inspection and briefing on how to operate the campervan. We also went through the insurance policy and the dos and don’ts in Iceland before hitting the roads.

OUR ROAD TRIP

The Golden Circle covers more than 300 km and the Ring Road (the main national road) covers over 1,300 km. We were ambitious and planned to visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon within the same night after collecting our campervan. By the time we departed from the warehouse, it was 7pm. Recall that night comes early during winter and sky usually gets dark by 3pm.

Image Credit: Guide to Iceland

The distance to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is about 418km or 5 1/2 hours assuming we drive at a speed of 80km/hr (this is also provided that the weather is fine). To give you an idea of how far it is, just remember the distance from Singapore to KL is about 360km and Perth Airport to Margaret River takes about 280km.

And so we hit the roads. The thing about Iceland is the extreme personality – beautiful landscape but yet unpredictable weather. Those not used to Icelandic conditions might be amazed not only how quickly the weather can change but also how much it can differ from one place to another. The weather can be fine and not a snowflake in sight and yet after an hour drive or two conditions might have changed drastically, with even a snow blizzard and strong wind.

Big and Small M were exhausted by all the flight and car thingy that they were soundly asleep. We were trying to get use to driving manual gear and familiarizing with the campervan. The weather was fine for the first hour. However as we departed from Reykjavík and entered into the rural areas, the weather started to get inclement. We were negotiating the blind curves and out came strong wind gust of up to 30m/s slapping against the sides of our campervan so strongly that the campervan interior lights (which were switched off), started to flicker and turned on by themselves. I was grabbing the steering wheel tightly to prevent the vehicle from veering off the tracks. At times, I could feel the tyres did not seem to have a good grip on the road. The best I could do was to drive in the middle lane whenever the road ahead was clear of other cars.

Oblivious to Big and Small M, it was a pretty scary sight. Campervan has a larger surface area which is able to collect winds like blankets compared to smaller cars and it does not have a low centre of gravity. We were kind of regret getting a campervan and not knowing the dangers it may bring now that it is winter period, not to mention being during the night time. We were praying really hard!

 

To give you an idea how crazy the winds that we experienced were, this video is a good example. Accidents are real. In May this year, a caravan was blown off the road due to a powerful gust in Iceland.

We managed to cover about 180km (out of 418km) after more than 2 hours. Along the way, we came across this motel and decided to park here and rest for the night in our campervan as we were too exhausted and needed to recover from the ordeal 😦

The night was really cold due to strong winds. Although there was heater in our campervan, we were curling up like hamsters in midst of coldness. Ensure you have sufficient thick socks and clothings apart from the bed linens provided in the campervan. We slept for about 6 hours and feeling refreshed, continued our journey.

Along our way, we stopped by Skaftárskáli which is a gas station in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur just by the road nr.1. There you can buy most necessites such as gasoline, basic groceries, etc. There is also a Grill-Restaurant selling hot dogs, fish and chips etc.

As the first beam of light appears, we were given a wonderful treat of sighting stunning Icelandic landscapes. It was a far cry from the urban concrete jungle we experienced back in Singapore.

Hvannadalshnukur & Skeiðarársandur Bridge Monument

We were trying to stay on track with our itinerary. However, some attractive spots were too irresistible for us not to stop to take pictures. 

We arrived at the foot of Hvannadalshnukur (pronounced KWANNA-dalsh-nyooker) which is the highest peak in Iceland at 2110 meters. It is actually the highest point on a crater rim of the massive volcano, Oræfajökull, located in extreme southeast Iceland only a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean.

Beneath it is a little-known monument located in the southeastern part of Iceland, made of the remnants of the Skeiðará Bridge. Once the longest span in Iceland, the Skeiðará Bridge comprised a portion of the Icelandic ring road. The bridge carried drivers across the Skeiðarár Sandur, a wide plain of black volcanic sand marbled with creeks of run-off from the Skeiðarárjökull glacier. All that remains of the original bridge today are two twisted girders by the side of the new road. They form a unique monument to the lovely but powerful beauty of Iceland’s natural landscape.

Bridge destroyed by the jökulhlaup on Skeiðarársandur in November 1996

We could only say the sight was breathtaking. From far, it looks like an ocean with strong currents only to realize they are frozen in all stillness. If you are adventurous enough, you can consider doing mountain trekking up Hvannadalshnukur.

Not forgetting to capture this magnificent moment before moving off.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Icebergs. Beautiful picturesque environment. These spell out what Jökulsárlón-Glacier lagoon is all about. One of Icelands most visited places, Jökulsárlón put up a show with its majestic display of icebergs floating in the waters. It was freezing cold and raining when we arrived.

Jökulsárlón ehf. has been offering boat tours on the lagoon for over 25 years. The boat tours are in operation from April to November (depending on weather) and the café is open all year.

 Visitors were pulling out their tripod and snapping pictures away. Ensure your camera is shielded from the rain during the trip by getting a waterproof casing to wrap over.

The pure natural art and spectacular sight made us forget the coldness for that moment.

It’s freezing cold!

Despite the rain, we strolled along the beach to explore more of the glaciers.

The icebergs are ice chunks falling off the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier. An interesting fact about Jokulsarlon Lagoon is that it is actually the deepest lake in all of Iceland, and the lowest point in the country.

How can we not fall in love with Jökulsárlón-Glacier lagoon?

We guess traveling 418km is all worth it. We hope to visit this place again.

Interested to visit Iceland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
Disclosure: All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 1): Renting a Campervan and 8 Tips on Self Driving in Iceland

Iceland has a story to tell. The beauty of Iceland travels far and wide and we knew in our hearts that it is a must to visit this country – someday. Reality cannot compete with imagination. The beautiful landscapes look so stunning in pictures and they were breathtaking during our trip there.

We kick off our Iceland’s travelogue by introducing the best way to travel. That is self driving. The Golden Circle covers more than 300 km and the Ring Road (the main national road) covers over 1,300 km. By self-driving, we get to travel at your own pace and explore Iceland’s majestic nature, with its national parks, beautiful waterfalls, striking glaciers, magnificent volcanoes and geothermal areas.

RENTING A CAMPERVAN

Driving in Iceland is a different ball game. The driver’s seat is on the left-side and driving is on the right lane. That’s 360 degree different from our driving in Singapore. We scouted many car rental companies and finally managed to rent a Fiat Ducato campervan which the best we could find. As it is winter season, renting any bigger vehicle may not be readily available as Iceland’s weather is erratic and unpredictable posing dangers to bigger vehicles.

Hey, back to driving manual gear after a long time.

After arriving at Keflavik Airport, we were picked up by our car rental company personnel and here we are, at the warehouse going through car inspection and briefing before hitting the roads.

One of the best features we love about renting a campervan is the availability of beds to sleep while we are on the go. For this trip to Iceland, we were adventurous and didn’t book any hotel accommodation before arriving at Keflavik Airport. We have many places to cover and having heard many stories of harsh weather conditions and impassable roads, we have no idea where we will be stopping at the end of each day.  Thus, it doesn’t make sense to book hotel accommodation and realizing that we may not be able to reach the destination due to unforeseen circumstances. So, we take each step as it goes.

The campervan has sleeping facilities for up to four. It has a kitchen with a stove, sink, small fridge with a freezer and basic utilities including heater. Everything is included in the price, toiletries, kitchen appliances, covers for the bed and propan gas for the stove.

There is a toilet with a washing basin. The campervan can fill up to 100 liters of water for usage.

Mum’s little kitchen. We get to cook and eat along our way 🙂

We can also store our luggages at the back of the campervan.

8 TIPS ON DRIVING IN ICELAND

Singaporeans do not need to apply for international driving license to drive in Iceland. Some important tips to know if you decide to self-drive:

  1. Download 112 Iceland App.

The 112 Iceland app can be used for two things, both for added safety on your Iceland trip.

Red Emergency button – When you activate this red button, your location will be sent by text message to the 112 response center. Remember that even though your phone shows no signal there is a possibility that you can send text message.

Green Check In button –  For you to leave your location for Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue if something happens they have more information to worked with. It is able to store your last 5 locations.

2. Apply for Maximum Car Insurance Coverage

Check here for more information on safe travel in Iceland. Better to be safe than sorry. Get the maximum coverage for a peace of mind. The conditions can be dangerous and unpredictable especially during winter. Even the most experienced driver may never know what will happen. We personally experience storms, blizzards, blind hills, blind curves and extremely low road visibility during the night that we need to use high beam for most of the journey. At times, strong winds were slapping the campervan vigorously at both sides that the steering wheel had to be held tightly before the vehicle veered off the tracks.

Accidents are real and can happen anytime. Our campervan almost flipped when the side tyres fell into the slope and couldn’t recover back to the road.

It was raining and we were in the middle of the forest. We thank the Lord for His protection as we met an Icelandic couple who helped us to call the farmers to use a jeep to pull our campervan out of the slope.

3. Credit Card Pin Number is Required

We never know credit card pin number is needed until this trip. The petrol kiosks in Iceland are self-service and you need to key your credit card pin number in order to activate the pump. The cheapest fuel station is Orkan.

4. Speed Limit / Speed Camera

The general speed limit is 50km/hr in urban areas, 80km/hr on gravel roads in rural areas, and  90km/hr on asphalt roads and 70km/hr in tunnels. There are speed cameras located all over the country monitoring the speed.

5. Road Assistance

The Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) uses this website to circulate information about road conditions and the weather. Roads may become impassable the next moment and you may not be able to reach your hotel. No wonder it is more popular to visit Iceland during summer. Check here to get the updated information on road conditions and weather.

6. Local Weather Website

Click here to get updated latest weather forecast. You can plan your itinerary beforehand but always be prepared to change your course during the road trip due to changing weather conditions.

Image Credit: http://www.vedur.is

7. Aurora Forecast

Here’s the real deal. Aurora Borealis season in northern polar latitudes (Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Siberia) runs from August to April. Everyone is chasing the aurora and so are we! There is no guarantee of sighting the aurora but you can still refer to the forecast here to increase your chances. The white shaded part indicates the sky clear from clouds, increasing likelihood of aurora sightings. Green shaded part indicates the sky is covered with clouds, so very low chances of catching Ms. Aurora 🙂

8. Cheapest Grocery Stores

The 3 cheapest supermarkets in Iceland are Bonus, Kronan and Netto. Stock up your supplies in these stores during your road trip.

WE EAT, COOK & SLEEP OUTDOORS

Hey, we experienced brand new adventures everyday in Iceland! Thousands of miles were covered…

And for first time, we get to sleep outdoors in a campervan. No parking fee is required. We can park anywhere that is safe from other traffic. We rested at petrol station, next to motel, waterfalls, volcano, glaciers and many more.

Some say Iceland is the most beautiful country on earth. What do you think? You should be here too! Stay tune for more blog posts on our Iceland travelogue.

Interested to visit Iceland? Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
Disclosure: All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Food Discovery – Chua Kee Seafood Gelang Patah Johor 蔡記海鲜

Let’s talk about food. This topic can arouse the attention of happy food-goers who are willing to travel miles just to taste some of the best local food. We blogged on Star Chef Seafood Restaurant at Gelang Patah previously and after that dining experience, we were hungry for more.

Chua Kee Seafood Gelang Patah Johor 蔡記海鲜

Nestled at Jalan Nusaria 3, Taman Nusantara, 81550 Gelang Patah, Johor, Malaysia is where you can find popular Chua Kee Seafood Gelang Patah Johor 蔡記海鲜.

A quick google check shows the distance of Restoran Chua Kee to Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour is just 11km or 15 min drive.

We were there during lunch time and the sun was scorching hot. There are ceiling fans and we were just glad to find seats around that area.

As you can see, Chua Kee Seafood Gelang Patah Johor 蔡記海鲜 is a restoran selling the usual “zi-char” dishes. The setting is definitely not contemporary but there must be something about their dishes that draw crowds of customers.

What We Ordered

This was what we ordered.

Sin Chew Bee Hoon – RM $9

Fried Rice – RM $8

Mix Vegetables – RM $8

Handmade 3 Slices Assorted Vegetables – RM $12

Dry Fried Prawns – RM $30

Fo-Yong Egg – RM $6

Sambal Kangkong – RM $8

Claypot Porkbelly & Salted Fish – RM $12

A heart-warming 8 course lunch 🙂

Our total bill adds up to RM $101.55 (SGD $35). We thought the price was pretty decent and we had a hearty meal. Guessed we will revisit Gelang Patah again to go for more food discovery.

Durian for Thought

We were in for a treat as durian season is here again. Just across Chua Kee Seafood was a durian stall.

Are you a durian lover? It packed a different feel if you get the chance to try durians in Malaysia. The stall owner grew these durians by himself and called them as “kampung” durians.

3kg for RM $60

Small M, obviously is not a fan for durian …

Although it was not fantastic, these kampung durians come with many seeds and full of flesh 🙂

It was nice that Chua Kee allowed us to eat the durians here provided we cleared them after eating.

Restaurant name: Restoran Chua Kee 蔡記海鲜
Address:  No 1 Jalan Kacang Panjang, Gelang Patah 81550, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
GPS: 1.447108, 103.586133 / 1°26’49.6″N 103°35’10.1″E
Tel: +60 7 510 3198 | Mr Chua +60 12 761 0529 | Lily +60 12 762 8255
Hours: 11:30am to 11:00pm (closed on alternate Weds)

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Disclosure: All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.