Subway Malaysia

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I was pondering what kind of title should I put for this blog? So many came to mind. But, I can tell you this. I was one disappointed customer of Subway Bandar Seri Damansara today. And, they just lost a customer.

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George and I were in Bandar Seri Damansara today and decided to pop in at the Subway Ativo Plaza. We have been there several times before. Whenever we stop at Subway, I dont usually deviate from my usual order – either tuna, tuna or tuna sandwich.

Ok, some deviation might be tuna wrap. Or, Italian meat balls. Sometimes the steak and cheese. Sometimes…but often goes back to tuna as I love my fish. I LOVE the Macadamia white chocolate cookies too.

My Story Today

I wanted the steak and cheese wrap. The guy behind the counter did the usual stuff – heated up the wrap, steak and cheese. I wanted my favourite onion sauce and some vegetable.

The minute I sunk my teeth into my wrap, I was so surprised it did not taste anything that resembles any kind of meat. Tasteless and rubbery. Did I say TASTELESS? I give some of the meat to George. And I told the counter staff that I did not like the wrap and that the meat was tasteless. I could not bring myself to eat it.

This was a personal insult!

If this were a conversation about a rubber and cheese wrap with my husband, the conversation will be like this, “Dear, have some of my rubber and cheese wrap. Guess what? It does indeed tastes like rubber and cheese! Totally tasteless! It is how it should be!” Well done boys and girls.

But noooo…we are not talking about rubber and cheese wrap here. It should be steak and cheese wrap!!

The Service Recovery That Wasn’t

Instead of doing what a proud establishment should do, the staff behind the counter tried to explain to me that they have nothing to do with the meat. That it came from wherever twilight zone they came from. They didnt touch the meat. Nope! Nope! Not their fault!

One of staff, donned a foodservice glove and had a taste of the meat. Then, she looked at me. She said, “Akak (sister), you are right! It is tasteless!” So instead of doing a service recovery, she smiled at me…and so was the rest of the crew.

I was errr….too speechless…I asked for the Manager. At the same time, a young gentleman who looked like a senior came out to the floor and asked me what was wrong.

Wow! I thought…a silver lining of hope! I thought! They actually wanted to do service recovery! I thought…

He asked me whether I wanted to change to another wrap. By that time, my mood to eat was totally hopeless. I was crushed and insulted to no end. To those who knew me, food is a serious business to me. George was trying to coax me to eat something (since no real heavy food since breakfast). Ok, I said, I will have the tuna wrap instead.

Guess what young dude said to me? “Ok, we will give you a tuna wrap but you have the pay some additional Ringgit”. What a half-assed service recovery was that? For the trauma I had to go through eating tasteless food, I was expecting they would:

  • reimburse my wrap, or
  • offer a replacement at no cost

By that time, my heart was totally shattered, mood was as heavy as a 5-tonne concrete and..I wanted to cry. I was hungry, angry and frustrated at the lack of empathy by the crew.

I walked out.

How could someone bungled at their own food? How could you be working at a place and not know how it should taste? How could an establishment not empowered the crew enough to serve the customers properly? How could you not train your crew for service recovery? How could you not train your crew the meaning of taking pride in their work? How could you not take pride in your work? How could you only listen to customer’s complaint but with the intention of only to respond and not to understand?

How could you?

How could you?

How could you?

So, to those in Subway Malaysia who is responsible for training the crew, you may want to look at this aspect. Haul up the entire crew before they do more damage to your reputation by having a blogger like me writing about it

Cats Of Medina And Mecca

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I could not find kibbles in Medina and Mecca. I could not believe it. Something so simple and yet…wow! We encountered many stray cats as we traveled from Jeddah/Medina/Mecca. From the stray cats at the airport to skinny ones at the rest stops along the road to Medina and beautiful ones in Mecca. They tend to be unfriendly towards humans but was very pleased to meet a few new “friends” along the way. Those cats that we met on a daily basis while in Mecca were quite friendly towards me. Several would try to climb on my hijab and allowed themselves to be patted and held up. They get to eat rice with fried fish or chicken.

I actually wrote to a rescue group which is based in Jeddah. I also realized that animal rescue is not a big thing in Saudi as I had difficulties in contacting a few other groups for advise especially on getting cat food. Or could it be a language barrier? I have no idea. But those who are travelling for hajj or umrah, and you are a feeder yourself, please bring along kibbles with you as I can tell you this – you cannot find kibbles in the shops at both places. Even if you ask them about cat food? They will laugh at you…soooo……..;-(

IMG_20151225_040042.jpgA tom cat with his pretty girl friend in the surau of Jeddah hajj/umrah terminal airport.

IMG_20151225_064531.jpgTwo cats we saw (among many…) at one of the rest stops from Jeddah to Medina. The night was cold. Maybe about 15C. These cats were outside looking for food. I felt bad as I did not have anything to give them.

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In Mecca. Cats we met nearby our hotel.

See the black boy at the left side? He is blind on one eye.

We met these two regularly as they were always near our hotel. The one on the right has beautiful Bengal-like spots.

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Handsome Tom

Each time we walk to Masjidil Al Haram, we would bump onto this handsome fella. One of my favourites as he was very friendly. He has many other friends outside of the mosque. Not sure how they survive…

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One of the nights on the way back from our second umrah, we went out to feed the cats. Plenty of hungry cats….big and small.

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As I was preparing for Maghrib prayers at the outer court of Fatima Az-Zahra (The Floating Mosque in Jeddah), I saw a black cat at the upper wall of the mosque.

 

Dates Market In Medina

I like dates especially Medjool dates. We had the opportunity to visit a dates market in Medina. Interesting place as you get to sample all kinds of dates for free. The sellers keep on calling for you to sample their wares. “Halal! Halal!”, they called out. Means? Free…hehehe…

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Frozen dates

 

It Is Scandalous!!

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I was referring to the attire that I wore when travelling to the two Holy Cities.

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On departure day.

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The abaya/robe is just soooooooo pretty and amazingly cool to wear despite the outside heat.

However, travelling from KL to Jeddah is no laughing matter. That’s a good 9 hour flight not including idling time before and after. You need something comfortable to wear underneath that hijab and long flowing abaya. Something snappy to go to airplane’s toilet…

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Medina Al Mukarramah as seen from the plane as it descended.

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My phone camera could not capture the beauty of the moon that I saw that night. It was so beautiful.

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Just outside of the umrah/hajj arrival hall.

What’s in the closet?

Lots of long sleeves inner t shirts, tights, track pants, socks, disposal panties, robes that do not have front opening, head coverings or instant hijab. Malaysian and Indonesian ladies use “telekung” for prayers. I had two sets of this for our 7-day trip. As laundry is pretty expensive in these two cities, you may want to bring a few more if you stay longer. It is comfortable and prayer compliance.

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Instant hijab tutorial

Here’s another link

Abayas with front opening/buttons are pretty too but may distract you when it keeps snapping open as you sit on the floor or take long strides. Unless you are apt at wearing the long scarves around your head, bring instant hijab. Beautiful abayas can be bought at the souk. Some shops are offering SAR40/piece for any design. Grab those for you. Maybe a few more for gifts.

Uniglo should be your best buddy for travel t shirt. They are light, comfortable and reasonably priced. It comes with long sleeves too. I wore track pants underneath the abaya for ease of movement. Tights or casual pants from Marks & Spencer or Zara is good too. Whatever brand that you like, make sure it is breathable and comfortable. I had my leopard print tights underneath the cream coloured abaya as I circled the Kaabah 7 times. My running pair of Sketchers was a real great help to move about, travelling, walking the long airport corridors, climbing the various mountains during the ziarah/visits to holy sites. Try climbing Jabal Rahmah in slippers and you will end up with extra pedicure bills when you come back. You will still need a pair of comfortable sandal/slippers to flip flop around.

On some days, I would have a couple of pairs of socks thrown in the tote bag together with a plastic bag. When the time comes to make a quick dash to the mosque, I could just slip on the socks and place the slippers in the plastic bag for hygiene purposes.

Two things you must remember when choosing the correct attire here. It must be loose, covering your entire body (not provocative) and comfortable for walking. Trust me, you will have a lot of walking. Either back and forth from hotel to the mosque, or when you want to explore the surrounding vicinity. The building blocks surrounding the Nabawi Mosque are built in grids. The entire grid is made up of various classes of hotels – from 1 star to 5 star. Medina’s weather was a bit cold at the we were there. It was the end of the year so it was considered as winter. The night could be around 15C and the mornings might be a tad chillier than that especially with the wind factor.

One thing glaring about the area where we stayed was the lack of cafes or restaurants. Not even food stalls. There was only one shawarma stall nearby the hotel. We had a meal at the Movenpick cafe. About SAR99 later of two shawarmas, an Americano and a latte later, we were not very happy with choices of eating places.

Ok. I digress.

 

 

 

Please Bring Your Own Wet Tissues And Toilet Rolls

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No kidding.

Toilet experience can be VERY challenging over on this side of the pond especially for women. Try to do your “business” back at the hotel. Big or small business. If you are on medication which is diuretic (like mine), make sure you time the intake well so that you can do your stuff in the hotel.

Be prepared to bring your own supply of wet tissues/wet wipes, hand gel and some supply of dry tissues. To have a bottle of mineral water is always a good idea.

I tell you why.

Toilet in Arafah

Toilet in Arafah

Many ablution places are nearby toilet area. That makes the area to be generally wet. Do not expect toilet rolls to be available to you. Or flush system in some cases. Or someone aiming well into the toilet hole. Which is generally squatting toilet. Unless you walk into the malls’ toilets. Which is, again, generally wet. In some places, women toilets are smaller than men’s. Dont ask me why. So, when prayer times come and you are racing with other women to take your ablution, you will find yourself fighting for that space to do it. Never mind the long, sweeping robe that you have to make sure dry and not sweeping some unthinkables off the floor.

Pressing moments require creative solutions. I generally carry a bottle of mineral water to perform simple ablution. Go to one corner of the toilet compound if you can, and perform the necessary stuff. No point in fighting, pushing and making all the other Sisters (and yourself) annoyed.

The wet tissue is important too as the toilets generally do not come with hand wash basins. I also carry a small bottle of hand gel.

Toilet in Abdul Aziz International Airport (umrah/hajj terminal)

Toilet in Abdul Aziz International Airport (umrah/hajj terminal)

My theory is this.

Medina and Mecca receive millions of people from all over the world on a daily basis. With them, they will carry all kinds of ways and culture when they arrive. And that includes toilet etiquette. Or the lack of it. Some do not even have a proper toilet at home, let alone knowing the difference between a shower cubicle and a toilet cubicle. Or how to use a toilet roll when papers are so scarce?

Aiming properly while doing your business might also be a challenge. I still do not have a proper theory for this…

Get That Food

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Yes, let’s talk about culture shock.

The reason being is that, during umrah course, all they mentioned was – do not get into argument with the locals, be patience, respect the local law, respect other people’s spaces.

We Malaysians are really good bunch of people.

What we were not prepared was in essence, was a lot of things. Food, attire, the officials, weather, toilets, language, ways of doing things…

You can take out a kampung girl from the kampung, but you can’t take the kampung out from her.

By the third day, I was dying for something familiar – my fried fish, sambal and ulam. Ok, second option? Noodles. Try looking for anything that resembles noodles in this part of the holy city? I could not find it. I dreamed of eating fried tuna fish, hot steaming rice accompanied with spicy sambal belacan and ulam. I salivated over the thought of tomyam noodle, laksa curry, mee mamak basah, hokkien mee.

Damn.

Good thing I brought my emergency ration from home (dont laugh!) – noodle in cup, a jar of sambal, soup in sachet and my favourite drinks such as Milo and Aik Cheong coffee. Somewhere in between the days when the caterer served the three-times daily meals at the hotel, that I saw fried fish, sambal and ulam. (grins)

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There were some nights when we just wanted something to nibble on. So, G would go out to buy some Arabic bread and cheese. We had our little picnic in the room by spreading a plastic sheet on the bed and we had our bread, cheese, fruits and mint tea. It was so basic that it felt so romantic and awesome.

IMG_20151229_033253On some days, George just wanted his comfort food. That means having to go to the ginormous malls that surround the Masjidil Al Haram and….visit these places…

KFC in Mecca

KFC in Mecca

Burger King in Mecca

Burger King in Mecca

His regular Americano and muffin cost from Starbucks twice as much than in Kuala Lumpur. Sigh.

Starbucks in Mecca

Starbucks in Mecca

Expensive coffee in Starbucks Mecca

Expensive coffee in Starbucks Mecca

Would have been interesting to try out the Mc Donald’s but the nearest outlet was a tad too far for walking.

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On most days, we ended up at the food court where I tried out strange food to my palate such as liver sandwich which was surprisingly, yummy! (sorry no pix). Otherwise, be prepared to spend about between SAR10 to SAR30 for food. Portions are big though. You can share with at least another football team.

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The Preparation

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Preparation for our umrah was done at the last minute. We were not sure whether we could get all the documentations done before departure date. There was the umrah visa and G’s special clearance from the Home Ministry. Our schedules were pack with back to back meetings and appointments. At the same time, several of our furkids got sick and had to be ferried to the vet. I was also looking for someone to take care of the furkids while we were away. There was the cleaners who needed to be scheduled. Then, I got sick and had to be admitted for observation. The condition mimicked a heart attack and I stayed at the emergency ward for a good long while. That will be another story all together. Never mind that the financial bit was a bit sketchy as the date looms due to the payment structure of our work.

December 2015 was a month I will never forget.

I left it to Allah’s will. If He meant it that we go, we will.

Finally, just days before we departed, we received news that both visa and clearance for G were approved. We promptly paid the balance of fees and fixed the cleaners’ schedules to come to the house. We also had our neighbour/friends to take care of the kids and the house.

The Umrah Course

One weekend.

G and I went for a half day course on umrah.

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Everything was good to go.

With a couple of days to go, we found ourselves scrambling to purchase ihram attire (the attire to perform umrah), my own robes and head scarves as well as other traveling needs.

The next couple of days went by so quickly and felt so surreal. Wont really believe it till we are on the plane!

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Me trying out several style and colours of head scarves.

My Journey To Enlightenment – Pre Amble

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(Departure day – 24th December 2015, KUL/Jeddah)

A good travel is a well planned one. To make it a great travel, you need a great travel partner. G has always been a great travel partner. He plans and does the nitty-gritty things. At the same time we love doing plenty of things together – exploring little places, eateries, coffee tasting and just generally soaking in the atmosphere. Recently we had an opportunity to perform our umrah together and here is the first writing of the journey.

It was a journey full of self reflections, inspirations and aspirations.

Everyone who performs their umrah has their own story to tell. For me, it was a fulfillment of my dreams for many years. “Life Before George” was so different from what I live for now. There was always a big void in my life. I wanted to perform umrah with my then-husband but I guess he was not ready at that time. So, we did not go and we left it at that. I felt empty. When we were divorced, I found myself still looking for some sort of fulfillment for my soul. A lot of soul searching and long drives on the highway.

I prayed and hope that one day, my true soul mate would come, share my life and we could go to Mecca and do our umrah together. Several years past. Garbage in. Garbage out. More soul searching. Longer drives….

Nothing.

One day, we just clicked. While G and I were courting, he said that if we were truly meant to be together and when are married, he would take me for umrah. I took that as a sign. A BIG sign that this is the man. So, when he proposed, I said “Yes!” That was six years ago.

I never told him of the umrah story with the ex until we got married.

 

 

Measurement of Happiness

As I skimmed through my FB memory postings, I saw one article that I posted about a year ago. It was an article written by Richard Branson. His first line was, “How happy are you?”.

Such a simple question, and yet so profound. Reflects on my current state of spirit, mind, body and soul of mine….

I saw that my last post was about 3 months ago. G often told me that I usually blog when my mind is unease and troubled. In actual truth, he is right. I write my best pieces years ago. The yearning to write again is there for months on end. Just that I have been digressing.

Read the full article here.

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