Kuala Lumpur, My City

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur sometime in 1991 after living in Pahang all of my life. My then-husband applied for a transfer back to the city after he decided a transfer to the backwaters of Rompin, Pahang was out of question.

At that time, I was working for a well known travel agency and had no problem to land another equally exciting job in the city. The office, I remember was located in this building right smack in the middle of the city.

The first day of work was exciting. I was all dressed in my new attire and got to work at 8 am. Come lunch hour, I came down to explore lunch places. As I stepped out from that grey building, I literally stopped dead in my track. I was suddenly consumed with anxiety and shock.

The whole surroundings were full of people rushing left and right! The streets were choked with vehicle and I was in an instant culture shock. Never in my life had ever seen so many people walking so fast. The buildings were standing tall.

I felt like an ant.

The city has changed so much by then. The streets are now busier than ever. There are more tall buildings, apartments, LRTs, MRTs and monorails. New developments are all over the city for at least a couple more years.

The city is divided into 11 districts and covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq miles). The city now can boasts of so many parks, several iconic green buildings, top 10 biggest shopping malls and has about 1.6 million population, and climbing at a rate of 1.1%.

The KL Sentral, Malaysia’s largest transit hub connects many of the inter-city trains connecting points in the Peninsular, Singapore and Thailand. A massive city within a city, this RM1.7billion development is still in its building phases and will only complete sometime in 2015.

Kuala Lumpur city at duskThis pix was taken when I was driving along the Elevated Highway or known as AKLEH, a 7.7km elevated highway from Ampang to Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur cityscapeI always feel awe of the sheer vastness of the city. It is so beautiful when seen at dusk like this. The buildings gleam in the fading sun light as the night creeps in.

Flag pole Dataran Merdeka IloveKL Sultan Abdul Samad building Sungai GombakI love this city for its uniqueness.

But, I think it is time to make a move elsewhere to a quieter place where we dont have to fight with constant traffic jam, gadzillion people and high cost of living……

Lanjut beach, RompinThis…my friends…is looking better and better…..

Remembering India, The Land Of Contrasts

I was talking to my friend, Mohan just days before the recent Deepavali. We met in April at the IFTDO 2013  this year in New Delhi through the President of an association that I belong to. He’s doing well at his new job and have been asking George and I to make that trip over to his place which is Kerala.

The truth is, I do miss India, at least all the good memories I had of this unique country. I miss the unique sights of the buildings, the dusty roads, the exotic historical sites and the street food. The trip was not that long. The team and I spent close to a week enclosed in the hotel attending meetings, workshops and networking sessions. The only time we were able to go out and see the city was in the evening. We hired a taxi and drove to several places. Sarojini market was one of my favourites and so was Delhi Haat or Dilli Haat. The sight, sound and smell of these places are just so unique.

Sarojini Market consists of rows upon rows of buildings with family-owned businesses. Beautifully crafted shoes, garments, household items, sweet shops and many more shops selling exquisite sarees are what I remember this place for. This is not forgetting fresh fruit sold by the roadside.

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(Top)Street food. Those are chicken and lamb meat balls fried in ghee. The smell was just so wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

sarojini

(Top)

These boys called out to me from inside the shop in Bahasa Malaysia! Caught me by surprise that they would recognize a Malaysians among the gadzillion people passing the shop.

The roadsides of the market are really humbling. We saw displaced people setting up their night tents and I wondered what would happened if it rains… 

delhi haat

(Top) The famous Delhi Haat

me and sangeetaMe and Sangeeta…shop, shop, shop, shop, shop…oh did I say shop?

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(Top)In the compound of Country Inn, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh

old ruins

 

(Top)Old ruins in Agra.

local police traffic

 

(Top) Local traffic police

yamuna(Top) By the Yamuna River

…and the piece de resistance…

delegates infront of taj mahal(Top) With the rest of the delegates across the lawn of the beautiful Taj Mahal. My previous entry on this is here.

Do You Remember Your First Road Trip Or Even Your First Trip On A Plane?

PART 1 – The journeys of past

I was inspired to write down my thoughts today after reading a blog by the CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson. He asked a simple question – “Do you remember your first road trip or even your first trip on a plane?”

What a thought provoking question.

I cannot really recall my first ever road trip because I grew up in a family who loved travelling whenever we could especially during school holidays. These trips were all extremely exciting because you just did not know where you will end up at! My parents usually did not tell me about all these plans. Our road trips will usually involving them picking me up after school session ended, usually on the last Friday which was the last day of school. I will see the big travelling bag already in place on the back seat. I was supposed to change from the school uniform into something more comfortable at the back seat of the car and all the while excitement just get built up depending on what I saw in the bag….

Plenty of beach towel, swimming suit, slippers meant we will be heading towards somewhere with PLENTY of water, usually the beach. Sweaters and socks meaning were will be heading towards the mountains.

And mind you, these trips will take days and days and days. My dad with his trusty big camera will snap away plenty of pictures (back then they were in black and white). I usually get confused using his camera because the focus frame will show an upside down image. You can now imagine how many years ago was that….

Big trips to the beach will usually see us ended up in Penang, Port Dickson or Kuantan. The drive took forever as there was still no big highways back then. Those long, winding roads that passed through tiny villages and small towns were interesting. Sometimes we had to over night at some of these tiny places as it was already so late at night and Abah was too tired to drive. Remember, in the old days, the cars had no air cond and power steering.

Accommodation was usually something basic such as government rest houses. We could not afford expensive, fancy hotels although sometimes we ended in some Chinese-owned hotels with names such as Ak Keong Hotel, Excelsior Hotel, Champagne Hotel or whatever, where the bathroom is usually located at the end of the corridor. They will provide you with these basic necessities such as a room with a fan, tiny Lux soap bars and tiny guest towels. The room slippers, if provided at all, will have its back-end snipped away to discourage pilferage.

Meals were simple, usually eaten at simple restaurants or rest houses. No fancy fast food outlets back then. Or, my mom will pack some rice and dishes from home and this will be our journey meals where dad will stop at several places. Sometimes we will stop near a river and this became a mini picnic of sort.

Will keep all of you posted on Second Part of this blog. Will talk about my experience travelling on a plane for the first time…..

For those who wants to read Arne’s blog, click below:

Blog by the CEO of Marriott International

This Is Malaysia

The first time George arrived in Kuala Lumpur, he was pleasantly surprised at how modern the airport was. Shiny, stainless steel and glass gleaming. The drive out from the airport towards home was a breeze considering that the KLIA Expressway was a 6-lane carriageway. Some parts of the highway is an 8-lane of dual carriageway too.  There were no donkey carts either…

Malaysians generally are foodie people. They greet people with, “Have you eaten?” and will fuss over whenever guests come to the house by serving whatever they have in the kitchen. The day starts off with a hearty breakfast of nasi lemak, laksa kari or roti canai, whatever that tickles your sleepy taste bud. Come 10 am, you will see half of the office has gone out for their coffee break (and some snacks). 1.00 pm is lunch. Again, there are gadzillion places for you to tuck in depending what you have in mind. Upscale western? Sure…Mid  cost, quick, Western? Yeah got that too? Mexican? Spanish? Japanese, Turkish, Moroccan, French, Italian, South African, South American, Korean, Indonesian, Thai….(I still can go on and on), and of course the local Malaysian food – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Punjab and those are just some of the main group of ethnic food. There are a lot more from the sub ethnic food from the various states.

There is dinner and late supper too. If anyone calls you out for a late kopi (coffee), I can assure you it will come with food as well. It can be another round of nasi lemak, roti canai, burger or a full meal of fried rice and the works. Kinda deceiving huh?

Some of the things that made any true blue Expats feeling jittery are these:

  1. can I get my kind of food? (chips, cheese, soft drinks, meat, vegetable etc etc). George found his Kraft cheese dinner, Nacho Cheese Doritos and Coke Zero easily here
  2. will I miss my Starbucks? (there are 130 Starbucks in Malaysia with 42 in Kuala Lumpur and 41 in Selangor alone)
  3. access to quality, efficient and cheap medical care?
  4. will I be travelling on bad roads? (most highways and expressways in Malaysia are two-lanes)
  5. shoes, under garments, socks…(Ok, we still cant figure out this one yet)
  6. decent public transport (…and this too…)

Being in a Muslim country, George could not believe it when he found out that alcohol are being sold openly. Just walk into any 24-hour convenient store, you can buy beer or wine. Or finding out that mobile phones are cheap as it comes. Or how about buying original DVDs selling at RM12.00 (USD4.50)

Kuala Lumpur is blessed with huge malls and in fact four of the largest malls in the world are right smack in the Klang Valley. You want malls? You got it!

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You wont miss any of your favourite chocolates here.

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Looking for the perfect chips for your BBQ?

Along the way, he picked up a taste for guava and pickled guava, banana leaf rice, tumeric fried chicken, satay and the thick, sweet ABC soya sauce.

Access to medical is fairly easy. He was pleasantly surprise by the fact that it doesnt take long to see a doctor at the clinics. The plus side in addition to this is that the medicine is dispensed at the same clinic too. There was one time when we had to go to he hospital as George had fractured his ribs after tripping over at a slip at….(where else but) a Starbucks outlet…..He was seen by a doctor at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC). For the consultation and an X-ray it was RM50.00 (USD17). Additionally, a whole whack of high quality medicine was an additional RM60.00 (USD20)

Kuala Lumpur-Kuantan-Tioman-Malacca-Kuala Lumpur

The long awaited album. I had forgotten where I placed the thumb drive to upload the pictures from. Silly me.

This wonderful trip was taken over a long weekend stretching over only 3 days in May 2012 but felt it was longer. Wonderful drive right along the coastal road. We so love the East Coast that we kept on going back again and again.

This time around the journey started (as usual) from Kuala Lumpur with an overnight in Kuantan. The next day, we bantered which direction to go – up north to Terengganu or down south towards Johor. We finally thought that going down south was a fantastic idea as we have gone up towards Terengganu.

We drove past by all these wonderful green, thick forest towards Rompin making the occasional stops at the various small stalls by the roadside. Even saw a huge alpha male monkey by the roadside as we took the road towards Muadzam Shah. He was standing there like a gatekeeper. Did not stop long enough to snap pictures of him…..

Finally, we arrived in Rompin and wanted to catch the ferry to Tioman Island. As usual, this adventurous couple had no prior room booking and planning whatsoever. We just decided to call the list of accommodation we saw at the jetty, booked one for the night at this small resort called The Panuba Inn Resort and went straight to get the ferry tickets.

The ONLY thing we did not do was to ask how long the ferry ride was going to take….

We were still in the ferry after more than an hour later and in pitch black right in the middle of nowhere in South China Sea. We slept, we woke up, and still no sight of the land, or lights from the land. After a while, we saw some flickers of light beyond. But wait! It was not our stop. Ours, as we were told, was the last stop after many stops!

Erk!

Our tummies were hungry, I needed a long shower and George did not like the pitch black outside.

Finally after what seemed like forever, we saw our jetty faintly lighted by tiny lights. As we stepped outside of the ferry, I could smell the salty air and tiny waves lapping the sides of the ferry.

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The next morning, we woke up to this breathtakingly beautiful sight. This was taken at around 7.30 am right outside of our chalet which was built right above the water.

The drive after Tioman Island took us to the scenic inter- state routes passing by Kluang. Took us a while to drive around the town and realized that it was not as small as we thought it was…..we counted there were at least three big shopping malls!

Last stop was Malacca, one of our favourite cities. Again, no hotel booking. We decided to try our luck at the new Marvelux Hotel. Highly recommended. Great service with equally great, clean simple room and at a rate that we did not mind paying.

We explored Malacca’s Jonker Street the next day just as how we did in our previous trips. Even stopped by to eat a bowl of durian cendol with the aromatic brown sugar syrup. Lovely!

One Of Them Trips To Historical Melaka (Post Holiday)

Our room has a balcony with sunlight and shielded away from the noises of the busy street by green plants and tall bamboo trees. Pretty. Check out Pergola Hotel, Melaka.

Part of the alleyways of the famous Jonker Street.

Moi with the famous Malaccan artist, TiTi at his gallery in Jonker Street. We always stop by at his place each time we visit Melaka. He is well known for his contemporary art pieces. I so love his “Cat” series, a series of ink on paper depicting cats of various sizes and positions. A few pieces of his artwork adorned our walls and display cabinets.

A must visit – the Limau Limau Cafe in Hang Jebat Street. Very artsy cafe with old chandeliers adorning the ceiling. Serves simple, hearty meals with good coffee. Funky wall decor, warm and cosy. Owner is a cat lover and a rescuer too, hence the kitty pictures framed prettily on the wall.  

Can’t resist taking picture of this old-school bicycle. Reminds me of an uncle who used to work as a sawmill guard for years. The mill was a good 20 miles and he cycled to work on a similar bicycle like this. His tiffin carrier snugly placed at the back of the seat. My uncle worked for many years with the mill, hardly missing a single working day, ever.

George chilling by the Melaka river. Way behind him is the old water mill.

As The Year Of The Water Dragon Enters

(Hanie blogging from the comfort of her air conditioned room, slowly recovering from a bout of terrible cough and high fever. She has been sick! Ughhhhh!)

The Daughter and I came from Langkawi last 29th January. Between then and now, I lost track of at least a good four days of my life due to high fever, terrible cough, unbelievably painful body aches and mega headaches. I got sick one afternoon and woke up a few days later the following week. That’s it! 4 days was gone! I lost 5kg too. As I drifted slowly in between the high fever induced sleeps, I was hallucinating.

I thought I saw George putting on his favourite black shirt and was standing by the door, telling me he’s going to Thailand.

Huh?

Then, I found myself standing in the metropolis of Jakarta.

Huh???

Somewhere in between reality and hallucination, I thought I saw these ginormous black mosquitoes flying in perfect formation just above our bed. I woke George up alright.

In between of all of these, there’s The Daughter who came in several times to check on me and asking me questions about this and that. At 10.00 pm. At 3 am. At 4 am. I lost track. I think she refused to think that her mama is not a super woman who can’t get sick.

Sigh.

I am recovering and hopefully fast enough to get started on things. I have to get some project papers going, meetings to attend. I got furkids to play with as well.

The trip to Langkawi was great. Met new friends, learn new things, saw new stuff. I will do it again and hopefully soon.

Stay tuned for next pieces. I’ve plenty of pictures to post and stories to tell. There’s the bad, bad dining experience at the seafood restaurant in Langkawi, the island hopping story, our volunteering experience at an animal sanctuary and also my self realization on several things about life. See? Exciting stuff.

Short Get-Away To Cameron Highlands (Again)

Monsoon season.

East Coast? We LOVE the East Coast but the weather has been pretty unpredictable.

Penang? Again, the weather predictions have not been that favourable.

We were looking at using the good old passports for a quick escape outside of the country but looking at the airfare during this festive season….hmmmm….so not feasible.

And there is always Cameron Highlands.

Our dear Bessy-Bruce was not in a great shape to climb the mountainous road leading to Cameron-Highlands so we decided to hire a car for the drive. The drive from KL to Simpang Pulai was easy. We had a pit-stop as usual at the Tapah R&R for a quick snack and a purchase of the pickled guava to munch on the way up to Cameron Highlands.

From Simpang Pulai, I took over from George. The weather was nice, air cooling.

First order of the day upon arrival was to check in Strawberry Park Resort. The resort we picked this time was lovely. Big room with an equally big bathroom. Needed the slippers though to patter around as the weather was quite cool when we arrived.

Dins time came and we decided to check out the Indian restaurant in Tanah Rata that we have been eyeing since our first trip. The food was not disappointing. George had his roti and chicken tikka masala. I ordered the banana leaf rice with mutton curry on the side.

And then, off to pasar malam!

 

 

 

I love small apam balik like this. Owh yes, extra sugar and corn! Crunchy on the outside, warm, moist and sweet on the inside!

A trip to Cameron Highlands will not be complete if you had not tried the local offerings such as the scones, clotted cream and tea.

Like this…..

Did I say, tea and scones?

I had tea and nasi lemak instead!

Here is my RM3.50/pack nasi lemak bungkus. Let me tell you, it was worth it. The sambal was so sedaappppp!

I have never seen flowers on tea bushes before. Have you? Its scents resemble the scent of jasmine flowers. Pretty.

Or the fruit? Tiny bulbous fruits sprouting from the branches.

We had lunch at the Jim Thompson Tea Room. Awesome table service experience.

My Nicoise Salad with grilled warm tuna. You can taste the fresh, quality ingredients used. The aged balsamic vinegar was beautifully captured by the bed of fresh lettuce.

George’s awesome club sandwich.

Au revoir!

On the way down, we stopped by at the local side markets to buy fruits and vegetables. We also stopped by at one of the Orang Asli stalls to buy petai! Mmmmm….I have plans, big plans for the petai…

Keep a look out in my next post on what happened to the petai…..

It’s Just One Of Those Days…..

……when I feel like leaving the hectic life of the city and enjoy the day in the sun.

 

 

…..when I feel like soaking my feet in the warm waters of the ocean

 

….when watching sunset followed a great seafood dinner sounds like a plan

 

It’s just one of those days………..