Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Scotland Road Trip: Isle of Skye, Day 1

Publishing this after 1 million year.

Went on a roadtrip to Isle of Skye with my family, last year after my graduation. This is a blog post on our first day - which mostly consisted of driving and stopping by some attractions for a wee while! In case you ever want to go on a road trip to Skye, I hope this will be useful!

Isle of Skye is dubbed as one of the most beautiful places on earth - a trip to Scotland is never complete without a road trip to Skye. Isle of Skye is known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque lochs and medieval castles.

A drive from Edinburgh to Skye will take roughly around 4.5-5 hours without stopping. However, during my recent trip in June 2017, we took almost 9 hours to get from Edinburgh to Skye - because we just had to stop by so many times by the road side/take a detour as the views were simply too beautiful & breathe-taking! (Refer to above map for the road we took!)

After picking up our rental car from Edinburgh Waverly, we dropped by Mark & Spencer Food at Chesser Avenue to pick up some groceries and ready made meals. If only I have a picture of our car hood: it was packed to the brim with food! Prior research indicated that there are not many grocery store in Skye, and foresaw that by the time we reach Skye it might be late & most stores will be closed.

Hit the roads and stopped by Callander for lunch and Mhor Fish. Mhor Fish is a sit-down and takeaway fish and chip place at the quaint little town of Callendar, a popular stopover place for peeps heading to the highlands 

Prices were reasonable and the fish were fresh! The chips are deep fried in lard oil, which gives the chips some extra "oomph" 
Some really good and creamy seafood chowder, packed with chock full of seafood! Heavily buttered bread mmmmhhh

Also by the same company, Mhor's Bread, is just down the street across the road. I paid a separate visit to Mhor's Bread back in September 2016, and I have to say, they serve some really awesome pies and sourdough bread!

As we continue our journey from Callendar through The Trossachs National Park, you'll start to notice the gradual change in scenery, a switch from bright green landscapes to a shade darker, and loch everywhere. 

A random loch we stopped by just to take five.

A must-go: The Three Sisters Mountain Range at Glencoe.

Things I would have done differently if I get the opportunity to go to the highlands again: Camp a night around the Glen Coe, go for a short hike/highland walk around the area, and proceed the journey to Skye! The Three Sisters are named as one of the finest view in the UK

Next, we made a detour to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. A little off our track but a must-see, especially for Harry Potter fans.
There are only two steam trains that passes by the Viaduct every day. Make sure that you plan the timing of your trip properly to catch the trains! The steam train passes by Glenfinnan Visitor Centre at 10.55 am and 3.00 pm daily.

For more info:

We drove by Eliean Donan castle, but it was tad too late and hunger pangs struck us so we decided to drive straight to Camus Cottage, the AirBnB we rented.

Most people would choose to spend a night at Potree, as it is one of the most "happening" town. (By happening, I meant that it has more restaurants and small grocery shops. Camus cottage is about 30 minutes drive to Potree, at a quieter part of Skye.

But anyway, Camus Cottage was amazing. The kitchen is very complete - you can even use their tupperware and thermos to pack food! We had our own fireplace. Some firewood is provided, but you got to get some more from the gas station if you finish your supply!

Other practical info:
- Mobile network signal in Skye is horrible (Giffgaff & Three). Make sure you download an offline map!
- If you opt to stay out of Potree, stock up on food as most likely there aren't much choices of food available!

Friday, 21 December 2018

The Fourth Quarter of First Year

A fellow once shared to always document your feelings - even if you're in your busiest period of time. And I am glad I did (though just a wee bit). I've forgotten that I felt like these once upon a time.

Wrote this somewhere in early October
I always ponder and wonder about this: How will my students remember me one day in the future?

Will there remember me as the teacher who was always kelam-kabut (all over the place)? Or as the teacher who mengamuk (go on a rampage) in class, shouting their names whenever they are bising (noisy), and (occasionally) throwing a marker pen/eraser across the room.

Did I prepare my students well for the exams?

Did they learn a lot from me?

Was I a good teacher?

But wait, what is the definition of a good teacher? It varies from students to students, no?


To be honest, I thought my first year of teaching was horrible, horrendous, atrocious, (insert any negative adjectives there).

The first three months was a lot of trial and error. Figuring out the level of proficiency of the student, figuring out how to teach and so on..

I remember how I taught during the first three months - it was a lot of guess work. I had to assume their levels

"Let me try this lesson, and figure out if they are good in this!"

What I could have done better: Make the students sit for a diagnostic test

The next three months was figuring out the syllabus, figuring out the lesson planning process
And the next one month was panicking over my students having exams soon.

Was I doing enough?

But what is enough?

4 October 2018
Pop quiz:

What congratulates you for failing?


A Medical Certificate. "CONGRATULATIONS, your immune system failed you."

I absolutely despise being sick. I mean, who likes being sick? As I am typing this I can feel my chest tightening from the phlegm deposit, and my head feels heavy and clouded. My judgement is suspended, and productivity? Probably at rock-bottom.

A pang of guiltiness hits me for taking a sick day for work today. My students are one week away from their final exams and I have yet to finish up their syllabus.

I woke up at 6am today, telling my housemate/collab Sophie "Ya know what, I'm going to cancel my MC and go to school today!" to which she responds "don't be crazy you look very sick". I'm glad I didn't cancel my MC because I ended up crashing again and waking up at 4pm....

7 October 2018
Do you ever feel so overwhelmed from your never ending to do list, and you just feel like doing nothing?

Well, that's what I am feeling right now.


I am sort of in denial phase right now with the amount of work (x number of books to grade and check, exam paper to set, some event to handle, and oh, DPLI assignments and so on)

It's okay let me kill some time here and I'll hopefully get back to my to-do list soon.

12 October 2018

Have you ever, wake up in the middle of the night, with butterflies in your stomach, unable to sleep back in peace, because of a certain thought, haunting you?

I woke up last night with cold sweat, from a nightmare,

For some reason, I can't seem to forgive myself, for some silly mistake I made.


Truth to be told, I am really afraid of making mistakes. I always feel as though my heart stops for a beat when I am called out for a mistake.

Mistakes are inevitable in life. It is part and parcel of our every day life. Yet, us humans tend to feel uneasy when we make a mistake.

My Leadership Development Officer, Jess, introduced me to the four stages of competency, which is illustrated below in this graph. We always start of doing something new rather incompetence. And sometimes, we are unconsciously incompetence - where we might (unconsciously) deny there's a problem.
Image result for unconscious competence cycle
Some might move on to the next stage which is conscious incompetence, where one will start to realize and be open about the incompetency, but take steps and measure to rectify it. But before one reaches that stage, one has to go through a roller-coaster ride of fear, anger, resistance and so on.

But once you can pass the first two stages, you can slowly make your way to competency.

For teaching, I wish if I am more competent, because what we do affects students greatly. Whatever we say might leave a mark on them.

What I wish I have done better?
Reach out to the teachers more often to understand the teaching process much better. I admit, I am a very new and inexperience teacher. Of course, the best teacher is experience itself, but it takes time, and lots of reflection. And along the way, I feel like my students are the victim/lab rat of my inexperience-ness.


Looking back, there really were times where I felt really down. I'd tell myself "Maybe I just need a good meal!" or "Maybe I just need a drink!" or "Maybe I just need dessert!" or "Maybe I just need a holiday!".

These work, temporarily, but I remember falling into the whole cycle of despair (despair is a strong word, but I can't think of another word now), like, everything just wasn't going well.

I remember reaching out to our seniors, and asking them if this is normal at all, and to my relief, they acknowledge that it was normal. And it is fine to feel like this.

Really, it is alright. There are times where you will feel down. There are days where you feel like you can't pick yourself up.

It's okay.

You will pick yourself up soon. You have to learn to accept, and move on. And perhaps implement something along the way. Improve the situation.

I kept wishing, if I could turn back time, and re-do my first year. Because honestly, there are so many things I feel like I could have done better.

But OK reality check, Doraemon ain't here. And you learn from mistake. Accept that.

Come to think of it, what really helped me picked myself up after all these hoohah was finding a project to work on. Spending time with people. I got enveloped in my students' Running Man project and that gave me the drive, the motivation and the energy. At the same time, I remember being all over the place for the DHL Help a School Programme.

And it also helped that there was the holidays to look forward to :P


Us 2018s will be proceeding to our second year of teaching soon. It'll still be tough, I guarantee it. But it's okay, you'll always find a way. to pick yourself up. Remember that.

And looking back at my entree on 17 October, oh my, that was such a horrible period of time. I couldn't sleep well, I lost my appetite to eat and so on. But now looking back, I can't help but to laugh at myself.

Four more days before I head back to Johor to begin the Cikgu Life...

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Pulau Mawar, Mersing, Johor

So I have relocated to Johor from Selangor early this year because of my, uh, career choice (The 'uh' was totally necessary to emphasis on, uh, certain things). One thing I am grateful of being relocated to a different state is the heightened sense of exploration. My desire to explore got heightened as I am residing in a state that I rarely visited once upon a time. The opportunity to explore places I have never been before also increases as residing in a different part of the country, reduces travel time to certain part of this country.

One example is Mersing. A drive from Selangor to Mersing would take more than 5 hours. But a drive from Johor Bahru to Mersing would take less than 2 hours. :D

So on a very beautiful morning, we decided to go on a day trip to Mersing. And we stumbled upon this place called Pulau Mawar, which is what this whole blog post is going to be about. So read it or leave it just kidding please read on hahaha.

Pulau Mawar, is a small island located about 20 minutes drive away from Mersing town, that is only accessible during low tide (similar to Cramond Island in Edinburgh!).
I somehow discovered this place while googling about places to visit for a day trip from Johor Bahru  - I came across a photo of "Heaven's Gate", which caught my attention & I knew I have to see it. 

Note: Do check the tidal chart here before you visit Pulau Mawar! Make sure to plan your journey well so that you have ample time to explore Pulau Mawar (& not get stuck there because the tides are high!)

Getting to Pulau Mawar

I followed the instructions on Catherine's blog (a blog I found on Google thank you so much!) to get to Pulau Mawar. Search for "Jalan Penyabong Carpark" on Google Map, park your car there, and start walking along the sandbank, where you'll see a mangrove far forest ahead of you.

The walk on the sandbank should be less than 1km, though the walk might feel like forever if the weather is scorching hot.
You'll arrive at Pulau Mawar after crossing the sandbank. Navigate your way into the Mangrove forest. Walk along the shore so that you won't get lost. Truth to be told I was a little nervous at first - there was no one else but us there. I wasn't really sure if we got the location right. I kept looking back and made sure I can see our car from where we were to make sure we know how to get back!
Jia Qi walking along the mangroves.
Jia Qi posing with the mangroves.
Jia Qi walking in the mangrove forest again.

The path is relatively clear - albeit not clearly marked. (This sounds a little contradicting but please bear with me, you'll understand when you're there) There were two motorcycles that zoomed ahead of us so we followed their track and we walked along the shore so that we won't get lost. We went too far ahead to a rocky beach area, where we could see many anglers fishing, and the two motorcyclist told us to make a U-Turn to the entrance to the hiking trail of "Heaven's Gate" They told us that the entrance should be on the left side (if you're walking from the parking lot) , where you'll see the trees forming a little "arch" on the right side of the trail. The marker is a torn up Pakatan Harapan flag. UPDATE: FLAG IS NOT AROUND ANYMORE. The entrance is BEFORE the rocky beach area. You'll have to try to look for the entrance which is basically an "arch" formed by trees on your left side.
*Entrance as of 30 July 2019*

We made a U-Turn and found the entrance to the trail to "Heaven's Gate":

A little limbo is needed!

The trail is really short and easy - it'll take you less than 5 minutes to reach "Heaven's Gate". Proper hiking shoes are recommended though, because of the rocky terrain. Just keep following the path, and soon you'll reach a small steep inclination, with ropes to help pull yourself up....and volia.
Mersing's "Heaven's Gate" :D 

 Beautiful, innit? Oh you need to haul yourself down a ladder made of wood to approach the beautiful arch. Not challenging, but you got to watch your footing!
Behind "Heaven's Gate" you'll find a beautiful secluded (Okay maybe not so secluded - someone was having a wedding photoshoot there) rocky, pebbled beach, which really reminds me of the beach at Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy!

The water were crystal clear, and strong waves crashed on the rock, sea breeze welcoming us to this little enclave. I wished if we had packed some food to picnic there.

There's a mini cave on the left side of the beach, full of bats and reek of bat urine. Didn't explore it as we didn't want to come out smelling like bat urine!
I've come across some photos of the "Heaven's Gate" with the milky way behind it! However, camping overnight...well, I wouldn't really recommend it after all, the tides will rise and I'm not sure how high it'll be, and I'm not too sure about the terrain for camping overnight there (the beach is full of pebbles). We came across some hikers and had a casual chat about camping overnight and they too, were against the idea of camping overnight at Pulau Mawar.

We hanged around the beach for a short while before turning back as we were starving (and also, the rising tides!). I really do recommend visiting Pulau Mawar in Mersing! It is easily accessible, and the hike is rather short & easy (you can easily reach the arch in 20 minutes from the car park!). And remember, check the tidal chart here before embarking on your journey!


Pulau Mawar
Difficulty: Easy
Duration of hike: 20-30 minutes (from car park)
Check the tidal chart here before embarking on your journey!

Other places to visit near Mersing:
1. Gunung Arong
2. One Day Island Hopping

Other places to visit in Johor:
1. Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai
2. Rainforest Treehouse, Pulai
3. Aw Pottery, Ayer Hitam
Back to Top