Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

A new year will come in just a few minutes. I'm staying in. After all the time spent with feverish companion, I too caught some of the virus.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Holidays

My packs were ready (packs as in backpacks, not as in 6-pack-abs). Annual leave approved. Off I went on the bus to the rendezvous point.

Day 1 (23/12/2008) - Bus ride
Or rather buses rides. Thinking that I could rest in the bus, I decided to leave my car in the office. I was greatly mistaken. What could have been at most two hours drive turned into four hours rides in two buses and a train. That's what would happen if you don't have direct bus to your destination in Malaysia. By the time I reached the rendezvous point, I was too tired to continue traveling.

Day 2 (24/12/2008) - The drive
We left around noon. And three hours later, we reached our destination - Johor Bahru. It would have taken the whole morning and noon to get to Johor Bahru had we chosen the public transport.

We checked in Mutiara Hotel, Johor Bahru. Our room had been upgraded to "Executive Suite"! The room was spacious. The bed was comfy. There were complimentary fruits. A DVD player was also provided. Too bad I forgot to take photos of the room.

We would be spending a night at JB before crossing over to Singapore. But it was not meant to be. At mid night we were awaken by the shivering of a travel companion. We had to send him to the nearest hospital. As fate would have it, he puked in the examination room. He had to be admitted to the ward. And thus, we all spent the night in the hospital on the hard chair - forgoing the comfy bed at the hotel room!

Day 3 (25/12/2008) - Yet another day
I woke up early. Or rather I hardly slept. The chill-to-the-bone centralized air-cond and snoring from other people in the ward didn’t exactly help me to sleep.

I returned to the hotel while the other two remained in the hospital. I passed by the coffee house. The allure of freshly cooked breakfast was too much to bear. I fastened my pace and reached the room in no time. I quickly freshened up and went for a breakfast in the coffee house.

Tiredness caught up with me. Soon after breakfast, I dozed off in the comfy bed. Around noon, I took a taxi to the hospital. Note to travelers in JB, taxi might have meter but the taxi driver hardly use them. Negotiating the price before getting into the taxi is a good idea. For the two days traveling to and fro the hospital, I got fares that ranged from RM 5 to RM 7. One taxi driver asked for RM 8 and wouldn’t budge. Needless to say, I didn’t get into his taxi.

Our traveling companion was to be warded for one more night. His body temperature did not stabilized. So they need to monitor him.

Thanks to the invention of smaller microchips, I was able to bring a laptop and a PSP to kill time. Not to forget, thanks to Celcom 3G, I was able to play online game!

Day 4 (26/12/2008) – Leaving

Finally the doctor allowed our traveling companion to be discharged. However, looking at the hospital bill, I was thinking that it was more of “miss-charged”. Thanks to a thin rectangular plastic called credit card, I settled the bill. We left the hospital after lunch. Actually I ate the lunch since my travel companion had no appetite.

At the hotel, we quickly packed our things and got ready to cross the border. We waited for our taxi at the lobby. After a while the doorman called us. We put our bags in the black Proton Perdana. It wasn’t really a taxi. It was more like a limousine service.

I was glad we decided to take the limo service and not the normal public bus. That saved us from having to get down from the bus to have our passport stamped and luggage checked. We just sat at the back seat and showed our face at the drive-thru’ counter.

It was around 6 pm when we finally checked in the hotel at Balestier Road. Everyone was tired and decided to just stay in. I was tasked into buying dinner. I went for an evening walk along the Balestier Road. I found Shaw Plaza, right next to legendary “Jalan Ampas”. Shaw Brothers were the legendary filmmaker during the heyday of “Jalan Ampas” studio.

Day 5 (27/12/2008) – Staying in and going out

We were joined by fourth travel companion who was flying in from a business trip in Jakarta. Our feverish companion was too weak to travel. Our fourth companion was also tired from the flight. So they decided to stay in and rest.

While they rest, I decided to go for a walk. I went to the “Jalan Ampas”. A few years ago there was a furor over the demolition of historical site “Studio Jalan Ampas”. This studio was were many legendary Malay film actor, actress, and directors was born. I was surprise to find the building in No 8 Jalan Ampas was still very much in tact (even though it was in a sorry state). The lot is now use by a Singaporean company as a storage area.

Next I proceed to “Jalan Boon Teck”. According to the information ‘stone’ in front of No 8 Jalan Ampas, the actor/actress quarters used to be in this road. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the said building.

In the evening, when our feverish companion’s condition improved, we went out to the shopping district: Orchard Road. With the Christmas sales and abundance of shopping complexes, Orchard Road would most probably be a shopping heaven for shop-aholics. Original branded goods (imagine Gucci, Prada, Bonia etc) were sold at great discount.

Me, being me, didn’t shop at all. I did, however, enjoyed the sight and sound at the area.

There were even buskers along the street. What I enjoyed most was this group of percussionist. These youngsters were performing on the street for charity. They were lively bunch of kids.

Day 6 (28/12/2008) – Adam’s Food court
We took taxi to Adam Road. I was told that there is a famously delicious “Nasi Lemak” sold there. The stall that we bought the “Nasi Lemak” had all sort of certificates displayed to certified that the food were indeed delicious. Unfortunately, my taste buds couldn’t agree with who ever that awarded those certificates. Having tasted far more delicious authentic “kampung style nasi lemak”, the Adam’s “Nasi Lemak” was nothing special to my taste buds.

Later that day, we caught a taxi from the hotel to a taxi station across town. Apparently, the taxies to Johor Bahru are not allowed to pick up passengers at other places except at the station. We had to cut our trip short. Our feverish companion was still feverish.

We spent one more night in Johor Bahru before returning home the next day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I got to see Australia

No, not the country. At least not yet. It's "Australia" the film. And, as usual, I will not write much about it. It is still showing in local cinema.

One thing that really sets this film apart from other "Hollywood" film, is that it tells the story as it is. It lacks the propaganda-like-self-glorification that many "Hollywood" films share ("Black hawk down", "Pearl Harbor" - just to name a few). The story intertwines with real historical events. These historical events were not distorted just for the sake of self-glorification. They even have the 'lost generation' depicted in the film. And all these was done tastefully and skillfully, so much so, the 2hours 45minutes just breezed away!

To sum it all, this is a down to earth film about the land 'Down Under'.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rusa Masuk Kampung

The title of this entry translate to "deer went into a village". No deer was harmed in the making of this entry. It is actually a Malay idiom. A similar idiom in English would be "fish out of water". Again, no fish was harmed in the making of this entry.

Ma Hen asked me to come along to a friend wedding invitation. The wedding was to be held in a house in rural area. The kind where the house have no number on a nameless road. The only address given to Ma Hen was the "kampung". I telephoned a colleague and got the rough direction to the "kampung".

So off we went, driving along the narrow winding road. Turning back wasn't an option. There was no area to make a safe U-turn. So we continued driving. We slowed down when we saw cars parked along the road. I spotted a little yellow signboard "Kampung Juasseh Hilir" on my right. I made a right turn into a small one-lane road. Ma Hen asked if the car being able to fit into the road. Yes, if you are used to driving in those small-barely-fit-one-car "kampung" road.

I drove slowly passed a man. Ma Hen wound down the window and asked:
Ma Hen: Pakcik, tumpang tanya. Ni wedding siapa? (translation: Excuse me, uncle. Whose wedding is this?)
Man: [Gave blank look]
Me: [Trying hard not to laugh my head off, but couldn't think of what the right word]
Ma Hen [repeat]: Ni wedding siapa? (Whose wedding is this?)
Man: [Yet another blank look]
Me [From the driver seat, finally found the word]: Pengantin siapa? (Who is the groom?)
Man [smiling]: Zulkarnain
Me & Ma Hen [Smiling because we found the house]: Terima kasih.
My dear Ma Hen was like 'fish out of water'. Having lived and worked in concrete jungle for many years, and attending lots of hotel-weddings, the "kampung" wedding was a welcomed change for Ma Hen.

The drive back was great. Green trees left and right. We switched off the air-cond and wound down the window. Who needs air-cond when you have fresh air!

Saturday, December 06, 2008


While driving in Perak, I received a phone call. There's a 'job-opening'. It wasn't my first choice (I applied for other places too). Needing some changes, I accept the offer - only to have the other job offered to me a day later. And so with a little regret, I boarded the bus to the main office to collect my offer letter.

Two months had passed since I started my new job. Still adjusting and trying to cope up with the changes. To put it in another words: I traded concrete jungle and traffic jams for a proper jungle and different kind of traffic jam.

The road to my office cuts through a forest reserve area. And best of all, regardless of whether they are hogging the lane or even in the wrong lane, these road users always have the 'right-of-ways' and will not get punish for showing their 'hairy-backside'!