Conscientious Traveller, Conserve & Protect Mother Nature

Conscientious Traveller, Conserve & Protect Mother Nature

Let’s admit it, we all jump at the opportunity to get out and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. A stroll in the park. A visit to the neighbourhood playground. A trip to the seaside. A trek with your pet. That all sounds great to me. It’s wonderful seeing glorious blue skies and feeling the sun's warm rays on our arms, wouldn’t you agree?

A little hope, a little prayer,
to see the light.

But as you’ve explored the great outdoors, have you ever noticed the natural beauty of those beautiful places gradually diminishing over time? Have you seen signs of adverse changes or any disturbances to the equilibrium of the ecosystem? If not, then it’s time to pay attention.

Protect the path.
Responsibility to Mother Nature.

Recent catastrophic disasters (hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones) and ruthless deforestation are not only causing the loss of countless lives and wrecking homes but also damaging the natural landscapes that we take for granted.

I am distraught, and that is why I am writing this article as a reminder that all of us need to do something, especially for the ones who cannot speak up for themselves. This article is a follow-up to my post on the Maldives.

Be the voice. Choose to protect.

The fires blazing today are ruthlessly destroying our million-year-old green lungs in the Amazon, Asia, and other parts of the world. Sadly, this form of destruction has become the norm in some parts of the world. Humans are junking more and more items into the sea. We use more plastic today than we did decades ago. We have larger carbon footprints today than anyone in the past. Experts warn that these are some of the causes of global warming.  

We are all witnesses to the disastrous effects of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones. The destruction in the Bahamas, Haiti, and countries affected by the great Asian tsunamis is a reminder of nature’s mighty powers.

A hurricane passing through.  Natures mighty powers. 

We read about the melting glaciers, ice sheets, and general thermal expansion caused by the warming of the sea. It is an inevitable fact that our sea levels are rising, affecting cities like Jakarta, London, Dhaka, Bangkok, New Orleans, and several island-countries like the Maldives. Some of these cities may no longer exist in years to come. If nothing is done today, they will only be text in historical recordings. These effects of global warming are impacting real people with families and friends. The struggles they now face are constant reminders that we are on a fast-track to destroy our four-and-a-half-billion-year-old home. 

Flooded city. No cycling on these roads today.

It is vital to recognise every form of life: Ancient trees and the ones that aren’t so old. Plants. Parasites. Bacteria. Fungi. Coffee beans. Marine life. The creatures that move on the earth, as well as those that don’t move an inch. The creatures that dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean. Birds of all sorts. Insects we haven’t even seen. Oh, yes, and humans. The list doesn’t end. Every life on Earth is essential and equal. 

Every life is equal.

As a traveller and, more importantly, as a fellow citizen of Earth, I am saddened by what I have seen over the years. That is why I am writing this article: to remind ourselves that we too need to do something. When a child like Greta Thunberg speaks up for the earth and challenges world leaders and corporations to stop climate change, I know we too are in a position to lend our hands and voice. Change starts with us. It begins in our homes.

Alone after Hurricane Gaja. 

I have always taken extra time and care to post beautiful pictures of places in this blog because, well, the earth is beautiful! The countries, cities, towns, and villages that exist on it are beautiful! The living beings that dwell here are even more beautiful! This is our place, our Earth. Our Mother Nature. Our home. If we also want future generations to see and experience the pristine surroundings you see here, we must conserve it. Grab your coffee, because what I am going to say next is a dead-serious matter. 

Serious topics, strong coffee. An Otter stares back.
Its a matter of responsibility.

Conservation is a continuous process. The future existence of islands, atolls, and marine and land wildlife is in our hands. Even though we may be miles away from the ocean or the Amazon, you and I today must take some of the many small measures within our means to ensure the equilibrium of the ecosystem:

  • Dispose of waste responsibly. 

  • I'll start with this because we have control over this action. Let’s follow this candy wrapper explore the world:
  • You unwrap a candy. Since no one is watching, you throw the wrapper onto the street. Don’t roll your eyes, because I have seen this plenty of times.

Be responsible. Do the right thing.

  • The wrapper is very light. A gentle breeze blows it away. After a few iterations of this, the candy wrapper ends up in a drain. Imagine 1,000 more candy wrappers ending up in the same drain.
  • The drain gets clogged with candy wrappers, other plastics, and waste. Clogged drains cause drainage systems to fail.
  • Heavy rain! Time to sing ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’. Ohhh! Clogged drains. The excess water cannot flow smoothly. Rain continues. Next thing you know, it’s flooding. Residences need to be evacuated. The tune changes to ‘Rain, Rain, Go Away’.  
Would you want your ‘sweet’ candy wrapper to be the cause of lost possessions, homes, lives, and the spread of disease?
Let’s take it a little further.
  • The wrapper survives the drain clogging. 
  • It makes its way along with other waste-companions to the rivers. The river meets-up with the sea. The wrapper says, ‘I am free! I am free! I am in the deep blue sea! ‘

Conscientious travel: Love the life within. 

  • Look, there is a copepod. Did you know that small fish feed on this important group of animal plankton known as copepod? Well, it thinks the wrapper is a moving plant and nibbles on it. Part of the wrapper is now inside the copepod, but not only in one. In thousands. Oh, boy, oh, boy!
  • A tuna nearby is hungry but extremely happy to see the well-fed copepods and swallows them in. Delicious!
  • Meanwhile, a fisherman at sea pulls up his net. What a whole load of yummy fish, he thinks as he wonders how many bills he could pay with this catch.
  • At dinner, the fish is now a deliciously grilled dish serving on your dinner table.
  • You and your children are enjoying the toxin-filled fish! Your wrapper returns to you.
Think about it!
Care for what you consume. Protect the oceans.

  • So, when you come across someone disposing of something irresponsibly (littering, dumping waste into rivers, leaving rubbish on sidewalks), do the right thing – tell them not to or call the authorities. 

  • Save energy and reduce carbon footprint.

  • Now come on, don't be shy to take public transport, carpool, walk or why not cycle whenever possible. There is nothing wrong with walking a bit or riding a bus or taking a train.
Reduce carbon footprint and keep fit. 

  • Walk to the grocery shop or market to pick up your supplies. Too many things to carry back? How about using a push-cart? Afraid to shop alone? How about organising or joining community walk-shop-talk trips? 
  • Switch-off any electric appliances that are not in use at home, office or in your hotel room. 

Save energy.

  • Switch to solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuel. The use of solar panels to create electricity helps mitigate global warming and urban heat islands by lowering the emission of greenhouse gases.

Switch to solar energy. Do you see the light?

  • Opt for energy-saving alternatives. Examples include using a handheld fan instead of an electric fan or taking the staircase instead of the lift. These are simple ways to save energy while losing a couple unwanted calories. 
  • Eco-friendly hotels are booming. Do support them and their initiatives.

  • Recycle reusable material and reduce the use of plastics.

  • Don’t like that shirt, dress or over-coat? Wait, don’t trash them. Extend their lives by donating them to various organisations or giving them away to other fellow-travellers. 
  • Most of us are guiltily dependent on plastics and overuse them. Reduce your use of plastic as much as possible. Pack your food in recyclable containers and use only recyclable or biodegradable bags. 

  • Spread awareness to protect the oceans.

  • All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. Without the ocean, life would not exist. Period! Protect the rivers, sea and oceans as dearly as you’d protect your life.
Everything is connected. Protect the sea and oceans. 

  • Recycle water around the house by catching rain water. This water can be used for washing clothes, utensils and gardening. Recycling water in large scale brings tremendous benefit to the environment, including  creating or improving wetlands habitats.
 Save water and save on bills.

Encourage your connections to adopt environment saving-measures. Some coffee sure helps. ☕ Educate those around you, at home or when you travel, about the effects of climate change and provide pointers to help them institute positive change.

We have nothing if we don't have this earth. It’s time to step up. It’s time to do something to protect the planet. Every little step forward counts. We may not all have the revenue to tie ourselves to trees to prove a point, but we can start with ourselves, our homes, and our communities.

Enjoy the mild sun.
Say no to global warming.

There’s no longer a wait-and-see-fix phase. We have passed that stage. The earth is angry at our lack of concern. But it’s not too late to pick up the pieces. Let’s together protect it as we would defend our ourselves. The four-and-a-half-billion-year-old Earth the only real antique we have! It is priceless. Choose to conserve. Choose to protect. Be a responsible and conscientious traveller. Counting stars, Reaching Delphi, for a cleaner and safer tomorrow.

One Earth, One Home. Ours. Protect her!

A Weekend At The 130-Room Bavarian-Styled Munich Residenz

Explore a Bavarian-Styled Residence in Munich, Germany, Europe.

How long do you think it would take a person to visit 130 rooms in a mansion? How many of us get to step into a place this enormous? We are fortunate that we can today, because Babak is going to show us around the massive 130-room Bavarian-style residence. We will explore Munich Residence, also known as The Residenz. 

The Residenz.

I’ll attempt to answer my trivia question using my logic. I live in a relatively modest, three-room apartment. It would take me just four steps each way to reach the corners of each room. Four steps in less than 30 seconds to be exact, and probably add another 60 seconds if I spot a place that needed fixed. Since I’d be seeing these 130 exquisitely furnished rooms for the first time, I’d say I’d need a heck of a lot more time. So, I’ve decided to put up my tent here. 

Outside the The Residenz.

There is no hurry. You can explore the Residenz at your own pace. We know colossal places such as this can be confusing, so we have included many pictures. If you get lost, follow the picture trail to locate us. Do also note our exploration tips embedded here in green. 😊 

First, let us park our bicycle and get a good look at the exterior. We are so excited. Let's go in.

Parking our bikes at the Residenz.

Next, we need to purchase a ticket. There are tickets for each exhibit section. Make sure you get the right one(s).

Here is ours! 

Ticket to the Bavarian-styled residence

It’s a combo ticket for three large sections: Residenz Museum, Treasury, and Cuvilliés Theatre. Now, we are set to go in. By the way, entrance is free for children under 18 years of age. 

But before we enter, here are a few outdoor shots. 

Sunrise over the Residenz.

Do you think that guy is racing with us to get in?

Hurry! Run! Meet you inside the Residenz.

Munich Residenz.

The Munich Residenz was the former royal palace of the Bavarian Monarchs. It stands today as the largest city palace in Germany, in the centre of Munich’s old town. 

The Residenz is rated as one of the top must-visit spots in Munich by both domestic and international visitors. 

Munich Residenz is open daily, except for on major national holidays. Prior reservation is not required to get into the museum section. So, if you wake up feeling like you want to explore this exquisite palace, your answer is here. No reservations required!

We are outside again. The Residenz.

[*** That’s a tip 😊] Looking at the pictures in this post, I think I’d rather take a day off for this visit. That way, I can enjoy the rooms all to myself, or that’s what I think.

Be sure you have sufficient time on your hands. Our trip today took over five educational hours of exploration. For those who wish to know the history in-depth for each item and room,  be prepared to allocate at least one week. 

The Residenz. Quick get in!

Interestingly, this palace was a small castle surrounded by a moat back in 1385. Over time, the Wittelsbachs, who were the rulers of Bavaria between 1180 and 1918, grew wealthier and more powerful, and so did this castle. Damaged severely during the World War II bombings in 1945, the building today has been tastefully restored to reflect its past glory.  

Babak is showing us around this time. See if you can spot our traveler on site in this post. Hint, you have to look at each photo.  

The Residenz. What you are still outdoors?

If you get a little overwhelmed just hearing about the number of rooms, just wait. There is more. There are ten courtyards within this palace. We will show you a few of them, as well. 

Good, now we are inside the complex, but at the courtyard.

Getting to Munich Residenz.

[*** A tip, awesome! 😊] Did I already mention that the Residenz is at the heart of Munich’s tourist attractions, near Marienplatz? Well, if you are taking the train, hop onto either the U-Bahn or S-Bahn lines to Marienplatz. If you live nearby and want to reduce the carbon effect, you could always take a walk or cycle.

Here are a couple of recommendations for getting to the Residenz.
  • S-Bahn(suburban railway) "Marienplatz." 
S-bahn is an abbreviation for the German "Stadtschnellbahn" (meaning "city rapid railway") and was introduced in December 1930 in Berlin.
  • U-Bahn (underground) "Marienplatz" or "Odeonsplatz."
  • Bus "Odeonsplatz."
  • Tram "Nationaltheater."
Bus to Odeonsplatz.

Tea (Coffee) in Royal Elegance.

Hold on, another thing before I forget. Can visitors enjoy their coffee and dine in grand style at the palace, you asked? 

Well, there is no café within the residence complex to get refueled. Instead, why not treat yourself to delicious hot coffee and sweet cake on the way? You showed me your entrance ticket. Oops! I hope you managed to get yourself a cup of coffee before that.

 [*** That’s a life-saver 😊] The residence is located near Munich’s popular tourist centre, Marienplatz. You won’t be disappointed with the many charming cafes around this neighbourhood. If you’d like a drink, remember to pick up your preferred choice before you to start your trip to the exquisite Bavarian treasures. Want to know more about Marienplatz? Explore Seasons Colours , A days walk  in Marienplatz.

Dine in style.
[*** That’s another tip 😊] Food and drinks are not allowed inside, but you can take in drinks in plastic bottles up to 0.5l. If you are carrying a delicious sandwich, finish it before you get in.  

Please join us.

Join us for a snack. It's caffè mocha and an apple pie at a quaint café, specialising in good coffee, in Pestalozzistr, called Aroma Kaffe Bar. The cafe is not only a popular coffee joint but also has several vegan options. Jackpot!  The atmosphere is trendy, relaxing and has great staff. I chatted with Juergen earlier, but we were not able to get a picture with him. What a good refuelling point for a long walk afterwards. 

Caffe Mocha at Aroma Kaffe Bar. Babak is onsite,
and that's me from a few years back outside the Residenz.

Exploring the Rooms inside the Munich Residenz.

[*** You are on a tip roll! 😊] What’s that – too many rooms and your feet are aching? Don’t worry. There is a buggy service, and it’s free! We didn’t catch any today – looks like everyone is in the mood for exploring by foot.

Inside the Bavarian Palace.

Whether you are on a buggy or walking, do look up to see the awesome artwork on the ceiling.

A beautiful ceiling inside the Bavarian Palace.

[*** Got that? 😊] The palace is enormous and has countless exhibits of impressive jewelry, art, furniture, and tapestries. It is easy to lose your way in the maze of interconnected rooms while you admire these exhibits. Make sure you have a floor plan in hand. We have ours.

Let's plan.

[*** Don’t miss this tip 😊] The stunning collections from the past capture the history well. To understand the impressive collections in each room, pick up an audio guide at the entrance. An audio guide is a device similar to a phone, and you can set it to any of the language options provided.  The guide helps you  understand the historic details related to a room and exhibits there. The best part is it’s free. 

Below is one of the three Charlotte Rooms. No matter how comfortable those chairs look, these are not for us to sit on.

See, but no touching!

What are Some of the Highlights We Captured During the Visit?

There is a lot to see at the palace, and you’d agree by just looking at these pictures. 

Lovely artwork everywhere.

The largest and one of the first few rooms you’d see is the Hall of Antiquities (Antiquarium). It was built between 1568 and 1571 to house the antique collection of  Duke Albert V, the Duke of Bavaria. Later, it was remodeled to a banquet hall. Did you notice the magnificent paintings in the two pictures at the Antiquarium?

Awesome sight, I am glued to this spot.

Below is a royal apartment. My thoughts transport me to Goldilocks. ‘Who’s sleeping on my bed?’

Goldilocks says its time to rest.

Here is more from the collection, showing some delicate figurines on display.

Delicate figurine.

Look up again to see beautiful stained window panels. 

Look up, but don't strain your neck.

The Wittelsbach family collected exquisite art and jewelry. We can see some of this fine collection at the Treasury.

Some of the exquisite jewelry.

[*** That’s another excellent tip 😊] If you love classical performances, you also can opt to see a live performance at the palace chapel. Do check out the concert tickets.  

What a beautiful walkway.

There are many lovely walkways and corridors along the way. Make sure you know which wing you are in. 

And, more walkways in the Residenz.

[*** Fabulous, keep the tips coming 😊] Did I already mention that we spent over five hours at the residence?  We highly recommend this visit for those who love art, culture, and history. It may be a bit overwhelming for young children, but sometimes kids do surprise you. Even if you are not a history major, it is still a fabulous place to spend a couple of hours. Just look at those lovely paintings!

Paintings on display.

[*** Great, there is more coming 😊] Take short breaks when you need to. Do you still have your water bottle? It comes in handy, right? Again, the seats below are not for the public. I got you there!

So, tired after exploring 130 rooms. It's time to rest.

What, you have a history-overload bug? Need some fresh air to relax? Let’s go out for a short while. We are at the Hofgarten or Court Garden, located on the northern side of the Residenz. You can sit on the grass to rest and to admire the view, just like this visitor here.

Happy to see the sun at Hofgarten.

Did you get all our tips and count the number? Here is a hint: there are ten embedded within this article. 

And, if you had turned your step counter on, I am sure you’d be impressed with the total number you have made for this trip. 

Did you keep track of your step count?

We lost count of the number of rooms and time while tracing the footsteps of the Bavarian rulers in the palace. Luckily, each room is uniquely numbered, so we could find our way around. It was a memorable trip for learning this: counting the steps and the stars to ReachingDelphi. Enjoy the treasures along the way. 

A memorable trip to Munich Residenz.

Traveller on location : BabakDanke schön Babak for the pictures and taking us on a tour of the Residenz. (Virtual traveller, me 😎 )


[DESYM 2019] Direct English Symposium 2019]: Technology, Trends & Education.

[DESYM 2019] Direct English Symposium 2019]: Technology, Trends & Education.

Today we are travelling to a different yet familiar place. We’re venturing into the classrooms that set the foundation for everyone’s tomorrow.


Learning is indeed a lifelong journey, regardless of age. And, that’s why today, we are exploring borderless classrooms and sharing some of the highlights from the DESYM 2019 symposium, a very insightful education-related event.  

What is DESYM 2019?

DESYM2019, the acronym for Direct English SYMposium, was held on 11 September 2019, with the theme English and Education 4.0. Direct English Malaysia organised the event with Melewar Learning Resources and their partner St John’s International School, at St Johns International School in Kuala Lumpur.

DESYM2019 - Direct English SYMposium 2019.

The symposium was Direct English’s second iteration of this annual event, which serves as a platform for English-learning experts, ministry officials, academics, corporate leaders, practitioners, businesses, vendor partners, educational service providers, and English-language enthusiasts to share their views and exchange ideas about bringing the best English-learning experiences to Malaysia.

This year, just as with the previous one, was a huge success and featured a distinguished panel of guest speakers and representatives from the public and private sectors.

What Did You Do at DESYM 2019?

The presentations, seminars and topics discussed centred on English and Education 4.0. Education 4.0 was new to me (as I imagine it might be for some of you), so I spent most of my time learning about Education 4.0, including its main objectives, the framework it uses, some of its critical initiatives, and what Education 4.0 means to Malaysian students. I’ll go into more detail about what I learned, in a bit.

Highlights of DESYM 2019.

Melewar Group’s Executive Chairman, YM Tunku Dato Seri Iskandar Bin Tunku Abdullah, kicked off DESYM2019 with a heartfelt welcome address. It was through his introduction that I realized that the audience in the event hall came from diverse backgrounds but had the same objectives.

DESYM2019 - Melewar Group’s Executive Chairman welcomes all the guests.

Next was another warm welcome from the CEO of Linguaphone Group UK, Mr Derek Price, who later also launched the Direct English Live!

The symposium was officiated by Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Education, YB Teo Nie Ching. She discussed the current education technologies, trends, and the English language reform plan in Malaysia.

I heard the phrase ‘Education 4.0’ mentioned numerous times, and the deputy minister’s speech – along with the speech by Malaysia’s Chair for the English Language Standards and Quality Council, Dr Zuraidah Bt Mohd Don – left me mesmerized and clearer about what Education 4.0 meant.

DESYM2019 : Guests of honours.

Here is my take on Education 4.0. It’s a ten-year reform program with the aim of making the English language levels of Malaysian students on par with international standards. To get here, the Ministry of Education is adopting and enhancing the existing European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and delivering  change and implementation plans across the various Malaysian education platforms to achieve its goals. Some of the changes we will see in the next few years include the use of more technology and innovative solutions in classrooms, as well as enhanced learning materials that will take students’ thinking out of the classrooms and into the broader world. By ensuring there are well-trained teachers and practitioners, the implementation plan targets all school levels nationwide. The program is supported by a very dedicated team to oversee its effective implementation.

Dr Zuraidah’s words are still fresh in my mind: “If we teach the way we were taught yesterday, we rob our children of their tomorrow”. That is why there are so many initiatives to bring more modern, state-of-the-art technology and materials to classrooms today.

Dr Zuraidah also emphasised the importance of learning through communicating. Education 4.0 is a holistic plan with integrated programs, target stakeholders, and a set schedule and delivery plan. Everyone is part of this program – students, parents, corporations, practitioners, education providers, sponsors, well-wishers, and you and me. As Dr Zuraidah said, “The heart tells us we care enough to do it. . . . We teach, we support, we listen”.

DESYM2019 - We care!

There were many exciting and entertaining sessions led by well-known speakers from various industries. They shared with us their experiences, touching on topics relevant to today’s educational environment and connecting them back to Education 4.0. The speakers for the day included Dato Steve Day (Founder and CEO of Vision Four Media Group),  Francis Xavier (Co-Founder & CTO Live Tutor Solutions Inc) Dr Bridget Lim Suk Han (Head, Assessment & Evaluation  Department, Institute Aminuddin Baki, Sabah Campus), and Mark Simpson (Business Development Manager, Linguaphone Group UK). 

DESYM2019 - official signing ceremony with partners.

It was not just a day of talks – which were whacky and fun, by the way. (I didn’t want some of those speeches to end!) We also witnessed the official signing ceremony of partnership deals between Direct English and their partners.

DESYM2019 - Getting to know the participants.

Did you know that Direct English is today an interactive learning platform? That’s right – Mark Simpson showed us a demo of Direct English Live!, the learning app available on your mobile. This flexible solution is available everywhere. Students can access Direct English Live! 24/7, at home and around the globe.

DESYM2019 - Presenting certificates.

The event closed with a special three-part presentation showcasing BEST (Be an Excellent STudent) – a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program by Direct English Malaysia in partnership with PINTAR and SMK Kiaramas. This program started in August 2018 to benefit one hundred students and aims to improve the overall English proficiency of participating students, helping them excel in their English SPM examination.

DESYM2019 - BEST: partners and students.

I haven’t forgotten our coffee. We always have one, don’t we? Here is one from at the event and the next few are some shots taken during the breaks.

DESYM2019 - Coffee at the symposium.

DESYM2019 - Lunch break and getting to know more guests.

DESYM2019 - catch-up before the next session.

DESYM2019 - Exchanging views and ideas over lunch.

Every learning mile travelled down the road of learning helps us reach the destination, where there is both knowledge and experience. So, let us all, no matter our walk of life, adopt ways to improve our daily lives and make a positive change for a better tomorrow.  Counting Stars, ReachingDelphi.    

DESYM2019 - students from SMK Kiaramas.

Direct English Malaysia.

Direct English is a well-known education centre with English-language programs and focussed solutions designed for aspirational adults in Malaysia and around the world. Today, Direct English has helped thousands of students worldwide master this global language to achieve their goals. 

The programs at Direct English are specific, target oriented, and skilfully developed by Linguaphone Group, a world-leading language-training provider. 

Direct English Malaysia is under the umbrella of their parent company, Melewar Group, a Malaysian business conglomerate. In Malaysia and the surrounding region, Melewar Learning Resources is at the forefront of delivering English-language training through Direct English. Thousands of learners, from beginners to university students, from young professionals to corporate executives, have benefited from the training conducted by Melewar Learning Resources / Direct English. (1). 

Direct English Malaysia.