Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review

So here we are again, having arrived at the last day of the year. This time, I'm making it a point to blog on my year and what's happened so far. 

Here's a photoblog of my year:

Travel wise:

I've traveled to three countries this year, China, Indonesia and Singapore for various reasons. Our trip to Xi'an, China is one of our (me and hubs) attempt at spending quality time together and make memories that will hopefully enrich our relationship. The trip to Banda Aceh, Indonesia is my mum's birthday gift to my dad, he's been keen on seeing how Banda Aceh has developed after the tsunami. And for Singapore, it wasn't a leisurely trip, instead we went to Singapore just for a short weekend to attend one of Al-Maghrib seminars last January and left right after the seminar ended.

Another one of my aim is to explore as many places as I can in Peninsular Malaysia. Coming from the island of Borneo, we would have to fly to Kuala Lumpur or any other cities in the peninsular, therefore we usually do not explore much of this part of Malaysia as most of our travels/ holidays tend to focus on traveling overseas. This time I've resolved to change all that and I've kinda made a list of places that I hope to visit in the peninsular before I complete my PhD. 

Visited Xi'an, China and the famed terracotta warriors.

Us posing with the terracotta warriors. 

Alexa's growing to be a frequent traveler and she's much more comfortable on long flights and adapted well to traveling, Alhamdulillah.

Us having a stroll on our last day in Xi'an.

Visited Banda Aceh, Indonesia and got to see first hand the after effects of the tsunami.

Lampuuk Beach. Beautiful, but deadly.

Aimed to visit more local destinations in Malaysia. This is Sabah Tea Plantation, Ranau, Sabah.

Slept in a bamboo longhouse at the tea plantation.

The room came with a traditional mosquito netting. Definitely this is one of my most novel and exciting travel experiences.

Visited Sepanggar Island, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. One of the most beautiful and private beach that I've ever been to so far. You can read all about my trip to Sepanggar island [here].

Walked on a canopy walkway at Poring Hotspring, Ranau, Sabah.

I actually went up in my pyjama pants. Haha! There's always a first time for everything =)

Another local destination in Malaysia, Perhentian Islands, Terengganu.

Went snorkelling with the fishes and turtles at Perhentian Islands. [Here's] my blogpost on my trip to Perhentian Islands.

Another local destination, Cameron Highlands, Pahang. Went strawberry picking with my university mates.

And obviously, one shall not miss the Boh Tea Plantations at Cameron Highlands. The breakfast here is one of the best highlights to my year. You can read all about my trip to Cameron Highlands [here].

Another local destination, Colmar Tropicale, Bukit Tinggi, Pahang with the family. trip. [Here's] a photoblog of the trip.

Health Wise:

Like most women, every year my aim is to reduce weight. However, this year, I've stopped making that goal as part of my new year resolutions and instead concentrate on improving my fitness level. So to do that, I've made a list of activities that I want to do and focused on ticking them off my list. Among the activities that I've set out to do is conquer Broga and another hill (which later turned out to be Bukit Gasing), try out Jumpstreet and Skytrex Adventure. Besides that, I've also enrolled myself in a couple of marathons as a way to motivate myself to exercise. 

One of my aims this year is to improve on my health and fitness, so I went on several hiking trips with my friends. This one is our hike to Broga last November. [Here's] a blogpost on my hike at Broga.

And Bukit Gasing just last week. [Here's] a photoblog of the hike up Bukit Gasing.

Went for my first run after giving birth to Alexa, two years ago. This one is the 3.8 km Stroller Run at Kepong Metropolitan Park in November.

Another run just last week, 5km Garfield Run 2015.

Went to the Jumpstreet, the trampoline park in Petaling Jaya. I will definitely come again to improve on my jumping skills. And [here's] my review of Jumpstreet.

And went to Skytrex Adventure for some adrenaline rush and test our fitness levels. You can read all about Skytrex Adventure [here].

Profession Wise:

I am currently on study leave by my institution. Therefore most of my professional achievements will involve my academic performance and my ability to achieve what I've set out to do. So far I've completed all my necessary courses and the huge Comprehensive Exam (CE) this year. And I've been able to publish one of my assignments as an article in an Islamic finance bulletin/ magazine and also present in two conferences this year. Next year I hope to be able to present in a couple more conferences and be published in journals as well, inshaa Allah.

The IIBF - Inceif Student Conference.

Passed my Comprehensive Exam (CE) in November this year. The CE is one of Inceif's requirements prior to embarking on your PhD research and you can only sit for the CE once you have passed at least six out of seven courses, i.e. Islamic Economics, Islamic Banking or Islamic Capital Markets, Corporate Finance, Usul Fiqh and Qawaid Fiqhiyyah, Islamic Law of Contracts and Fiqh Muamalat. 

Completed my final course just two weeks ago. For Inceif, there are two PhD tracks that a student can embark on, PhD by Research or PhD by Coursework and Dissertation. Both tracks require students to sit for a number of courses. My PhD is the one by coursework and dissertation. We are required to sit for at least 13 courses aside from our PhD research. Alhamdulillah I've completed my final two courses this semester. So starting from next semester, I can simply focus on my research. 

Religion Wise:

Since last year, I've tried to make it a point that any improvements that I make for my career/ profession, I should at the same time improve in my religious knowledge as well. With that in mind, I've enrolled myself as a student at Al-Maghrib Institute and this year I've managed to attend three of their courses. Alhamdulillah I've managed to pass their exams as well.

The first course that I attended this year was the Fiqh of Chillin': Entertainment and Recreation in Islam by Shaykh Saad Tasleem.

The second course which I attended in Singapore was Deception: Study of Shaytaan, also by Shaykh Saad Tasleem.

The third course which I attended in October was Lost in Translation: The Art of Contemplating the Quran by Shaykh Ahsan Hanif. All of Al-Maghrib's courses are amazing, but this one is among my favourite.

Finished reading Yasmin Mogahed's book, Reclaim Your Heart and Women Around the Messenger by Muhammad 'Ali Qutb.

Finished reading a book by Fazlur Rahman entitled Major Themes of the Qur'an. Not an easy read, but it does give some pretty good insight on the Qur'an. 

All in all I would have to say it's been quite a productive year. I can't believe I was able to complete all those things but then again, life is pretty amazing, if you really bother to sit down and just make a list of what's important to you. Looking forward to an exciting year ahead, and I do think (from the looks of it) that 2016 might just be one of my most challenging year ever (I know we haven't even started the first day of 2016 yet but I do think it's going to be quite tough for me as I only have 8 more months to go to complete my research before I have to report duty back to my institution).

But then again, it's only with life's challenges that we grow as a person and one thing that I always keep close to my heart is that, "Allah tests those whom He loves." May Allah's love increase for me (and you too), Ameen. 

Happy New Year, everyone!

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fashionista's Escapades: Colmar Tropicale

A few days ago we decided to visit Colmar Tropicale, a tourist spot in Bukit Tinggi, Pahang which was built based on a village in France, called Colmar. Colmar Tropicale is about an hour's drive away from Kuala Lumpur (or about 53 km from where I stay) so we decided to just make it into a day trip instead of an overnight trip. 

And here's a photoblog of our trip:

About 10 km of windy road after you leave the Karak Highway.

We're almost there! We were charged RM13 per adult and RM8 per child for the entrance fee to the resort (although Alexa's fee was waived because I guess she's too small). However, parking is free.

I love the medieval feel that Colmar is projecting. Lucky for us, there weren't that many tourists when we arrived in the afternoon. 

The town square. In terms of temperature, as the resort lies on high ground, the weather is cool and breezy, definitely perfect weather for an afternoon stroll. The ground floors are filled with business establishments, mainly consisting of restaurants and a couple of souvenir shops while the upper floors are hotel rooms for guests.

The resort is definitely picturesque.

Christmas tree. 

Water fountain.

Beautiful blue sky. I kind of regretted not bringing some overnight clothes. It would have been nice to spend the night here. 

I don't have much knowledge on French architecture, but these look pretty French to me =). Anyways, this trip kinda inspired me to visit the actual village in France someday. 

Us. And Alexa, if you're reading this someday, this is one of the best poses of you that I had on camera. 

One of my highlights of the trip (and I hope Alexa's feeling the same way as I do) is that I get to introduce Alexa to swans. Colmar Tropicale have two pairs of swans, one white pair and another black pair. 

Alexa was like, "Hello swan."

There are several attractions nearby Colmar Tropicale. Other than the resort itself, there's an Adventure Park which offers wall climbing, hanging canopy bridge, and flying fox activities. Besides that, there's a Japanese Garden, a horse riding area, golf club and jungle trekking for the hotel guests. As it was quite late in the afternoon, we only had time for the Japanese Garden before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysia that I love. Green trees, blue sky, hills and mountains. 

Moss covered grounds at the Japanese Garden.

A small stream and some koi fishes.

Yes, the sun was shining, but it wasn't that hot. The air was cool and breezy. 

Tatami hut.


The Tatami Hut up close.

Alexa even managed to see a monkey at the Japanese Garden (monkeys are her current favorite animal) which was pretty cool. 

There is an establishment at the Japanese Garden that offers kimono rental for RM20 per person for those who are interested. They have several staffs who'll help you put on the kimono and take photos around the garden. There are kimonos in all sizes, even for kids =). Don't worry, there are no entrance fees for the Japanese Garden. 

I must say that Colmar Tropicale is smaller than I expected. Food wise, I must say that the pizza that we had there was absolutely delicious and in terms of price, it was not too bad. I love the fact that there are a lot of attractions at the resort and we could have easily spent a whole day at the resort just to try out their activities. Inshaa Allah, maybe next time =).

If you're interested to visit the place, you may want to check out their website [here].

xoxo Mrs Fashionista