50th National Day in Belgrade, Serbia, 2007

TODAY THE NATION celebrates 56 years of independence.

On this date six years ago, we were in Serbia. After spending four days in the spa resort of Ribarksa Banja (link) and an overnight stay in Budapest, Hungary (link), we returned to the city of Belgrade.

On 31st August, we joined in the celebrations of Malaysia’s 50th National Day hosted by Ambassador Dato’ Saw and Datin Jenny.

The Residence decorated with colours of the nation’s flag; a local dancer helped promote “Visit Malaysia Year 2007”; more advertisement banners put up behind the make-shift stage.

The Residence decorated with colours of the nation’s flag; a local dancer helped promote “Visit Malaysia Year 2007”; more advertisement banners put up behind the make-shift stage.

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(Top) The host and hostess and the usherers; (Bottom, L-R) The food and the foreign guests.

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(Top) The performers; (Bottom, L-R) The Ambassador; the guests; another picture with the Princess.

Belgrade, Serbia, 2007

A SATURDAY OUT (1 Sept 2007) sightseeing around the city. We ended up in Kalemegdan Park which is part of the Belgrade Fortress, located at the confluence of River Sava and the Danube. The former is the largest park in the city and frequent venue for arts and cultural events while the latter was a military fort that holds the history of Belgrade.

We also saw existing bomb-riddled buildings remnants from a long history of war in this country that was once a part of former Yugoslavia (which in 1991-1992 broke into Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, while Montenegro and Serbia maintained the name “Yugoslavia” but separated in 2006 to become independent nations; Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.)

(Top) Around the beautiful Kalemegdan Park; (Bottom L) M stood tall overlooking the confluence of River Sava and the Danube; (Bottom R) The Statue of Victor inside Belgrade Fortress.

(Top) Around the beautiful Kalemegdan Park; (Bottom L) M stood tall overlooking the confluence of River Sava and the Danube; (Bottom R) The Statue of Victor inside Belgrade Fortress.

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Other monuments and sculptures in Kalemegdan Park; (Bottom L) Monument of Gratitude to France.

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An outdoor photography exhibition in Kalemegdan Park.

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Buildings in Belgrade city.

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Buildings in Belgrade city.

Budapest, Hungary, 2007

ON THE DAY we returned from Ribarska Banja, Serbia (link), we took the night train to Budapest, Hungary. During the 8-hour train journey, there were two custom checks. I recall it being rather frightening as it was the middle of the night and there was no prior warning, other than the sudden knocks on your cabin door by the custom officers. In all, the train stopped three times, I know because I hardly slept a wink!

We arrived at 6am, sleepy but eager to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world! Unfortunately, on both days we were there (29th– 30th August 2007), it drizzled/rained quite a bit. We took the 2-hour hop-on-hop-off bus for a quick sightsee of the city and also bought the Danube River cruise tickets for the following day (we got a refund later as it rained and went shopping instead).

Budapest is the capital of Hungary and the largest city in East-Central Europe. It was previously made up of three major settlements – Buda, Pest and Óbuda – which were merged into a city in 1872. Today, Budapest is a combination Buda and Pest, the former is hilly and mostly residential while the latter is flatter and more commercial. Flowing between the two towns is Danube River.

Budapest has been described as an “architecture paradise” with various architectural styles co-existing in the city – there’s Gothic (eg. Buda Castle and Parliament Building); Renaissance (eg. St. Stephen’s Basilica), Baroque (eg. Royal Palace and Church of St. Anna), Classicism (eg. Chain Bridge and Hungarian National Museum), among others (online sources).

(Top) The Buda Castle… the Castle District and the Danube embankments were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites on 11 December 1987; interesting building domes in the city; (Centre) Statue of Hungarian writer and statesman József baron Eötvös, erected in 1879 in a city square.

(Top) The Buda Castle… the Castle District and the Danube embankments were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites on 11 December 1987; interesting building domes in the city; (Centre) Statue of Hungarian writer and statesman József baron Eötvös, erected in 1879 in a city square.

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(Top) At the end of the road is St. Stephen’s Basilica, named after the first King of Hungary; (Bottom, L-R) Dohány Street Synagogue built between 1854 and 1859, is the world’s second largest synagogue; the Hungarian Parliament Building is the world’s third largest parliament building.

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(L) Heroes’ Square (another UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002) and the Millennium Monument stands in the centre of the biggest square in Budapest; (R) Museum of Fine Arts.

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(Top) Panoramic view from Gellért Hill where one can see Buda and Pest divided by the Danube; (L) On the hilltop is Liberation Monument, of a woman holding an olive branch, a symbol of peace. It was erected in 1947 after WWII; Outside Citedella fortress, M feeling rather miserable with the constant drizzle; some of the cannons that remained on the hill after the fortress was turned into a tourist centre.

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Meeting of old friends in Indigo Restaurant; made a new one who also kindly took us in.

Note: The return train ticket was 2,106 Dinars (adult) and 1,053 Dinars (child) with a reservation fee of 1,328 Dinars per person. At the conversation rate of US$1 = 57.8 Dinars then, the cost was about US$60 (adult) and US$42 (child). 

Ribarska Banja, Serbia

OUR FIRST REAL vacation away from Moscow (where we were based between 2005-2008) was to Belgrade, Serbia in August 2007.

On this date five years ago, we took a three-hour flight from Moscow to Belgrade. Another half an hour’s drive, we found ourselves in the lovely home of ADS and DJ.

During our 10-day break, we spent some time in Ribarska Banja, a spa resort about two hour’s drive from Belgrade city which was the venue for a “Malaysian Food and Cultural Promotion”; took the train to Budapest, Hungary for a two-day visit; and spent the rest of the days back in Belgrade where we joined Malaysia’s 50th National Day celebrations. During this trip, we met up with old friends and made new ones; met a princess and young M became a “performer”, albeit briefly.

Ribarska Banja, located on the slopes of Jastrebac mountain in central Serbia, is known as a health resort famed for its mineral water springs.

The crazily fun company that we travelled with.

The crazily fun company that we travelled with.

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The stage is set, right next to the swimming pool, for the two-day event over the weekend.

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Food preparations in the kitchen for the first night; Catherine and I turned willing kitchen helpers while Alice and Lyndon prepared the popiahs.

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The dancers getting ready for the night’s performance; M got some help from Douglas and Ashley while Akoq put on the finishing touches on her.

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M all dressed and made up… prior to the performance, took pictures with VIPs of the event, including Ambassador DS and Princess Elizabeth (of former Yugoslavia), mother of actress Catherine Oxenberg.

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M on stage with the performers…

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… along with local dancers.

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(Top, L-R) The VIPs applauding the performances; the ladies in a photo with the dancers; (Bottom, L-R) A picture with Princess Elizabeth; the men looking good in batik.

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Performance on the second night for the public.

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M in numerous photos with fellow dancers and the local children.

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Earlier in the day, DJ personally looked into the food preparations in the kitchen with her cook Richard and I in tow; while the rest helped with decorations of the stalls.

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(Top) A section of the public who came for the food and cultural event; (Bottom, L-R) The Princess cooked up a storm while the Ambassador helped to serve; there was plenty of food to go around.

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Our flag flying high at the resort; M takes a dip in the pool with the rest, the sulfur content in the water is said to be good for the skin.

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On our final day, checked out the surrounding of the spa resort, got a taste of spring water right from the source; a game of gigantic chess.

Sceneries of the countryside on our journey to and from Belgrade city-Ribarska Banja.

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A gated house…

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A corn field…

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Goats outside the house…

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Along came the sheep…

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What wooly sheep!

Hubby’s Travel 2004

AFTER HIS NUMEROUS travels the year before (2003) which continued into 2004, he gave up taking photos! Most of the time, he was cooped up indoors attending the meetings which often went on late into the nights.

1) 4th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and 1st AMMTC + 3, Bangkok, Thailand (7-10 January 2004) (Hotel Plaza Athenee)

Bangkok, Thailand (7-10 January 2004)

2) UN Conference on the Negotiations of a Successor Agreement to the ITTA 94, Geneva, Switzerland (26-30 July 2004) (The Royal Manotel)

3) Legal Issues Working Group Meeting, Canberra, Australia (4-5 August 2004) (Crowne Plaza Hotel)

4) Live Exercise of a Terrorist Incident “Latih-Amal Natex Jerong Emas”, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia (28-30 September 2004) (Grand Palace Hotel)

5) Malaysia-US 2nd Round Negotiations on a Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty, Washington DC, USA (11-15 October 2004) (Willard Intercontinental Hotel)