Just a few steps away from the Masjid Jamek LRT station is a waterfront that has been touted as one of the top 10 in the world. The River of Life project is a step in the right direction for the Klang River.Read More
In this #FlashbackFriday post, I reblog the travelogue I wrote about interviewing the cast of Poseidon, and living the high life in Beverly Hills - for just a day or two, that is!Read More
At the foot of Mount Maebongsan in the Mapo-gu district of Seoul sits a unique cultural centre. The stark, minimalistic buildings’ of the Oil Tank Culture Park would look at home in a science-fiction movie.Read More
Japan remains my one of my favourite destinations. In this #FlashbackFriday post, I repost a travelogue of a trip to Kyoto. It was for a fashion assignment.Read More
One of the most fascinating places I’ve visited in Seoul was “Seoullo 7017”, a highway redesigned/recycled to be a pedestrian overpass.Read More
In 2004, I was flown to New York City to interview the cast of Troy. Here is a #FlashbackFriday post of the journey, fished out from my old and quite-dead blog.Read More
I've never been a "shopping person", so I have never felt the urge to visit the heartbeat of shopping in Malaysia - Bukit Bintang. Especially Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, the mall to conquer all malls, because it carried brands that had prices that makes my wallet hurt. The minimalist me couldn't fathom the sheer excessive consumerism of the place.Read More
After spending my twenties and thirties zipping around Europe, United States and various Asian nations, I'm now finding myself more interested in becoming a backyard tourist by visiting Malaysia's various states. And why not, there's so much Malaysia has to offer!Read More
Why travel hundreds of miles and burning so much carbon footprint just to experience something new? There’s value in that, but there’s also value in exploring your own backyard. There’s a reason why I love staycations so much. Read on!Read More
In this first #flashbackfriday post, I dig up an old post when I was sent to Beijing at the height of the SARS epidemic.Read More
I was really lucky that I had a job that allowed me to travel around the world when I was younger. However, one of my biggest regrets was that I did not keep detailed accounts of those trips. Fortunately, since I have been blogging since 1999, I did sometimes blog about the trips. Starting from today, I'll be reblogging some of these posts here.
This 2001 trip to Tokyo, written in 2004, was one of my first overseas assignments as a rookie reporter and the second foreign country I've ever visited besides Australia. (Singapore doesn't quite count!)
April 14, 2004
But reading through her archives and looking at the pictures she snapped of Tokyo just filled me with nostalgia.
I visited Tokyo three years ago. it was just a week, but Tokyo really left an impression on me. The iconic images you see in anime suddenly became real when you see Japanese school girls with leg warmers stroll the streets of Shinjuku or when you see people at the pachinko machines.
Before visiting the metropolis, all I knew about Japan was: a) anime b) they invaded Malaya in the 1940s and c) grandma said that the Japanese soldiers were nasty.
When I got to Japan, I felt as if I was on another planet. They had computerised toilets, for one. I rememer spending quite some time trying to figure out how to flush the toilet in my hotel room because there were literally twenty touch-pad buttons on this stand next to my toilet. Since I can't read Japanese, it was a purely experimental exercise.
Each button produced interesting results - there was this button which produced a "wave-like" effect in the water (I have no idea what for), then there was a deodoriser option, a seat-drying option, a button which warms the seat of the toilet, and even a button which produces air from goodness knows where.
The Japanese were incredibly interested in my namecards. Unfortunately, I must've offended quite a few executives because I quickly ran out of them.
There were way too many people on the streets. Sometimes, young people would jump at you offering you things to buy. Usually mobile phones or something. Unfortunately, the moment I said something in English, they sped off. Once, while crossing a junction in the city, there was suddenly a thousand people crossing the street at once. I nearly went cross-eyed.
The buildings were huge.
Nothing in Japan seems affordable. I spied a pair of shoes being sold for 50,000 yen. I can't even begin to think how much it must be in ringgit. But shopping appears to be a hobby. Isetan had one building for males and another for females to shop in.
They seem to like umbrellas a lot.
And the food. Maybe it is because I was brought to 'upper' establishments. I really wanted to eat the humble sushi, but got gourmet Japanese food instead. They were ... erhm, restrained in flavour. Let's just say that when I got back to Malaysia, I had a big huge hunger for extra-spicy Hokkien mee (noodles in a spicy, prawn-flavoured soup).
The jams were really scary.
They had multi-tiered highways. Like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Men, I swear this, but every woman in Tokyo seems beautiful. And their clothes sense made me want to hide in a corner.
If I wore skirts as short as some of the students in Tokyo were wearing them, my disciplinary teacher would really have a great time with the ruler with me.
Their houses were beautiful. Immaculate, and neat inside and outside. And did I mention the serenity of Japanese gardens? I was walking in a suburb one day, and in the middle of the maze of houses was a serene Japanese garden with lakes, bridges, and trees. Gorgeous.
Wish I could visit Japan one more time, but honestly, I have to strike a lottery first before I go there.
Afterward: I did manage to visit Japan again. I visited Kyoto, Osaka and then Hokkaido.
I haven't had the reason to use Uber in Kuala Lumpur, but many of my friends raved about the car-sharing app and said that they couldn't live without it.
All I know about Uber is that it seems to create ripples everywhere it goes. Uber riders may love it, but governments seem inclined to ban it. There's always some form of protest when it comes to town!
In Malaysia, it's the same. Taxi associations have been protesting Uber's encroachment upon its ricebowl, and I've even seen "No Grabcar" (another Uber-like app) spray painted at a bus stop once - as if the taxis could claim sole right to pick up passengers there.
When I had to go to Penang for a holiday, I was recommended Uber to get around. Since I couldn't afford taxi everywhere I went I thought I'd give it a shot.
Using the app is really easy. So you just download the app to your smartphone, and then click on the icon and you're ready to use it. Then, you set your pick up point, and then where you want to be dropped off.
You can also get a fare estimate.
What I love about the app is how it shows you where Uber cabs are in the vicinity. When you book a Uber ride, you will be informed about your driver's Name, car type, plate number and be given his phone number.
Usually you (or the driver) will call the driver to tell him exactly where you want to be picked up.
Wow, I have to say that I am amazed at how cheap it is. RM5 to get to Eastern & Oriental from Times Square, and RM7 to get to Botanic Gardens from Times Square... this is quite affordable, especially to my friends who had the mighty Aussie dollar.
Freelance economy - good or bad?
Still, despite the ease and affordability, I'm not a fan of the freelance economy and what it does to the common man. I feel that Uber drivers had to struggle so much to get decent income.
I told one Uber driver that I actually felt guilty only giving him RM5 for the ride, so I gave him a tip. He was a happy camper.
He said that it was tough to make a living as a full-time Uber driver in Penang as they (Uber, I think) had slashed the rates. Most Uber drivers now have to make do with two jobs.
Of course, people using Uber are worried about safety issues, and I heard a few horror stories from a friend, who said that although there are horror stories, they are rare exceptions.
My first uber ride was not a great one - the man was clearly lost, could barely communicate properly with me, so he actually went round and round my pickup area and we yelled instructions at each other over barely audible smartphone audio. I tried to tell him where I was, but he didn't get me, and I didn't get what he was trying to say so in the end he picked me up after half an hour of waiting.
I was cross by then, but I could see that he was nervous as Uber drivers are rated after every ride, and they have to maintain a high rating. He gave me a discount, probably felt bad for the whole thing too.
Again, not a fan of the freelance economy sometimes, but I guess you gotta buck up if you are a Uber driver.
So would I recommend Uber?
Yup, most certainly!
Of the 10 rides or so my friends and I had in Penang, only one was not up to snuff, but even then it wasn't horrid as the man had a very clean car with great air-conditioning and I got to my destination with limbs and sanity intact.
Yes, you do have horror stories, but taxi rides have as many horror stories too. You will get a receipt of your Uber ride and details of the Uber driver, his car number plate and phone number, so it helps.
Penang folks are rather proud that they are Penang folk. We are proud of the fact that we have the best food in Malaysia, and the Chinese is most certainly proud to speak the genteel Northern Hokkien dialect. Which is why I jokingly refer to the state where I was born as "the motherland".
After an arduous 9 months slogging for the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing, I was super excited to celebrate my emancipation from assignment hell by a trip up north. My goal for the 5-day vacation was simple: Eat, explore, sleep and read.
Is it me, or is it hot??
My family took the speedy 4-hour ETS train from KL Sentral (with me grumbling about waking up at an unholy 6am all the way). It's RM118 for return tickets, and we took the the 9am train. When we finally landed in Butterworth, the extreme heat (thanks to our good friend El Nino) was a shock to the system, especially since the train was soo cold just moments before. After lugging our bags up the very disabled-unfriendly stairs and ramps to the ferry that will take us across to Penang island, we were soaked in sweat.
Penang island was no better. I swear, it must have been a 40 degree Celcius day, because waiting for the bus that would take us to the hotel was so unbearable I threatened to take a taxi to the hotel. Being a stout, thrifty Penangite, Mum was mystified why I would consider paying $20 for a ride when a free bus ride could be had.
But we got to Heliconia hotel's air conditioned confines soon enough!
Below (from left) The ferries that take us from the mainland to Penang island, a refurbished shop house, Chowrasta market and some salted fish at a market.
WHEN IN PENANG, EAT!
I don't care what Singapore says in their tourism brochures, but Penang has the best food in South East Asia. So I did my duty in contributing to the Penang economy. Admittedly we ate at New Lane hawker centre, what most Penangites would consider a tourist trap, but it was very convenient to have all the best hawker dishes under one ... sky?
Actually, the family and I were also there for the annual Qing Ming (tomb-sweeping) festival. My paternal grandparents were enshrined at a collumbrium at Kek Lok Si temple. Because of the heat and an unfortunate and ill-timed bout of food poisoning for yours truly, we took a taxi to Air Itam. RM70 for return. Ouchies.
Five days was over just like that. I achieved my goal of being the laziest tourist ever - that's what I needed, to sleep after months of sleepless nights studying! With food purchases (tau sah peah and hiao pia, which are traditional Chinese biscuits) and nearly a dozen books from the Big Bad Wolf sale, my bag literally burst from the strain. It was a great vacation with the family, eventhough I have to admit I was a bit of a sourpuss from the blazing weather most of the time.
Thinking of visiting Penang? Don't hesitate, it's awesome! But then again, I'm biased. :P