Friday, October 31, 2008

CUTI CUTI ASIA SHENZHEN (HONG KONG) June 19-24, 2008 (Day 6)

June 24, 2008 (Tuesday) - Flight AK5209 Depart Shenzhen at 20:05

All of us woke up early as my family and I would be going back to Lo Wu Commercial City because, among other things, we had to pick up my suit. Tariq, Intan and Ngah decided to stay back and maybe just explore Dongmen for one final round. However we were to early and the Commercial City was still sleeping when we got there so we just killed the time by hanging around. As soon as the fabric shopping area was opened we were the first in and we got our first customer advantage and discounts. I picked out my suit which was a bit disappointment. I was warned by my colleague but I ignored his advice and paid the price. The jacket was ok but the pant was not what I wanted. My advice to anybody cutting a suit there please make sure either you have a sample with you or you spent enough time patiently explaining the exact thing that you want to do.

However, we were not finished with our shopping, I thought we were, and taking the first customer advantage Sam bought few more fabrics and I squeezed in two more for suiting. I’ve learned my lessons. We took the train back to Loajie and since we had couple more hours we stopped at the McD on Dongmen street to eat.

Once back at the hotel the first thing that I did was to ask for late checkout, that I got until 1400, and booked a transport to the airport. After lengthy explanation and translation I was offered a mini van, I thought it was a mini van that could fit 13 of us, at 400 yuan. When it came at 1600 it was actually a mini bus. Thus we had a nice comfortable ride to the airport.

Shenzhen airport was quite a big airport that served as a hub in the south serving other major cities in China. We were dropped by the bus driver at the end of the airport where the International wing was and it was not a small wing serving just few major countries and destination like Taiwan, Bangkok and KL. Actually there was no indication as to where our checkin counter was from the outside. We walked the entire airport we could not see anything until we backtracked to where we were dropped off then only we saw a small handwritten notice stand stating our flight number. I enquired from the staff nearby and was told to come back to lineup at where he was one hour before flight time. Without nothing much to do we just hang around there to wait. One thing I do not like taking a low cost carrier is that most passengers tend to be a little bit kiasu. In fact this what exactly happened when we were outside lining up to enter the checkin counters and inside the waiting area when we were to board. I just could not understand how some people just do not have a brain to give way to mothers with small children and old folks. It was not really a long flight that they had to be too particular to get a seat. When I boarded trying to sit at the isle I politely asked two Chinese nationals if I could sit there and they reacted as if they own the plane. I remarked loudly in English, ‘Why you do not want me to sit here. I do not think I smell and furthermore I paid to be on the plane.’ Obviously they did not know what I was saying and I ignored them the whole flight home.

Obviously everyone were hungry – hungry for rice and anything resemblance to Malaysian food could not wait for the flight attendants to start with their round. I left Baqir to order the lot for most of us and when he did that the flight attendant almost feinted. Yes, Baqir is a big size young man and would tend to eat a lot but what he ordered to the flight attendant could feed an elephant. Only when he passed the food around she realized the situation. The flight attendant joked about it.

We landed safely at LCCT at 0045 on Wednesday.

CUTI CUTI ASIA SHENZHEN (HONG KONG) June 19-24, 2008 (Day 5)

June 23, 2008 (Monday)
Hong Kong

I have been to Hong Kong before and went through the immigration and custom check point to enter Shenzhen so I was confident we could go in easily. Because of that we left the Hotel for Lowu quite late. It was a mistake to do so I found out later.

As I anticipated we did not have any problem at the border check point and passed through easy enough. We rushed to buy our tickets to Lim Shia Shiue and boarded our train that was already on the platform. Actually there were three trains waiting and all were going down the same line. I knew the train was clean and good so we enjoyed our journey down to Hong Kong. We left the hotel around 0630 and was on the train to Hong Kong around 0815. Around 0900 we walked out of the Tsim Sha Tsui underground station into Kowloon air. We headed straight to the ferry but before we crossed we stopped at the McD for breakfast.

While my family was having breakfast I walked out to the tourist center at the ferry terminal to gather some information and maps.

My plan was to take them across to Hong Kong island on the ferry and later back using the train. Once across we used the bridge footpath to walk around and my first destination was the Maybank Centre as I wanted to withdraw some money. While on the way there we stopped at whatever shops that we fancy to either shop or check out the items.

The first time I was in Kong Kong I did not have time to go to the Peak so I decided to take my family there. Looking at my option I could take them on the double decker or just walked to the hill station. I decided to walk and gave Baqir the map and instruction to lead because I knew I would have casualties at the back later. If they did not know it yet they knew then I loved to walk so they persevered. If not no more excursion with Abah, Pak Cu or Tok Cu ever again LOL. With sweat falling like Niagara Falls we reach the Peak Ground station and bought tickets to the very top. The ride to the top was fun and faster compare to Bukit Bendera. The view was also a bit better. Along the way we could see the multimillionaires of Hong Kong building their houses along he way. Once at the top we climbed up to the highest point in the observation deck. There were two types of prices for the Peak the cheaper one was for the Peak area and the slightly expensive one for the rooftop of the observation building. We paid for the rooftop for better viewing and photography. Since we paid that much we stayed as long as it worth the payment that we made. The kids enjoyed themselves there but not Sam as she is phobia with height. We did not go down straight away but lingered on at the Peak to enjoy the place. I would say it was worth paying that much to be there.

It was almost 2pm when we were back at the bottom and my instinct straight away told me to move fast as we do not have much time to do the rest of Hong Kong. I decided to walk again took them along the financial and eventually the shopping zones. All the branded items shopping complex were there that also means a very expensive stuff. But we were tourist and we had to do tourist things by walking along with Hongkies gawking at their malls. Eventually we reached Queen’s Place at Queen’s Road Central. To save time I decided not walked up the Place as well as going to the Escalator but instead decided to turn back and find a Metro station to cross to Kowloon. I however gave them times for them to explore a bit of Queen’s Place. When we turned back I also took them through the alley bazaar to check for things worth buying.

Of course the train crossing to Kowloon would be going through an undersea tunnel the fact that I mentioned to my family but somehow my children did not believe me. I indicated the route on the map to them and ask them a simple question of how then would the train cross the sea. We crossed and came out at a road just before the Kowloon Mosque. The plan was to pray, eat some rice and shopping till night time and we did all three in much gusto and bravado, especially the shopping part. But when we came out at Kowloon everyone were already complaining of being hungry so I had no choice but to find a place to eat rice. Yes, after three days without rice they almost strangled me for not taking them to where the rice was fast enough. Before they decided to picket there in front all the resident of Hong Kong I dragged them to the nice Indian Restaurant that I had eaten before. Unfortunately I made a mistake of thinking it was on Lock Road while the restaurant was actually on the Hankow Road the next road. We turned back and I entered Chungking Mansion to be accosted by touts working for various entities in the buildings. Most of them would be Indian, Pakistanis or even Afghan touting for establishments like restaurants and budget hotels in the upper floor of the building. I decided on one Pakistani Restaurant on the floor. To make life a bit more interesting one of the small lifts was out of order and we had to line up to use just one tiny lift going up.

Thinking the serving was like in Malaysia they ordered aggressively and they realized their mistake when the food arrived. Of course I knew this but I just kept quite. Hey, do you want to argue with hungry mob? They could kill you, you know. Now they had too much rice I just laugh at them. Going down I decided to use the stairs and once on the ground we walked straight to the mosque.

With just few more hours left for shopping I decided to just make do with what Nathan Road could offer and it offered us plenty. Suddenly everyone was in the mood for shopping and with their stomach full they were demanding at times :). As long as they were happy I was there to oblige. Lucky they did not go berserk shopping like mad cow searching for a drink. Dia orang dengan sopan santun shopping.

Eventually after I extended the shopping hour till 2000 hours we had to leave for Shenzhen. I knew the train service would not end before midnight still I did not want to risk the whole thing. As they say there is always another day for Hong Kong. So went down the subway and walked to Tsim Sha Tsui KDR station to take our train back to Shenzhen.

One minute to 2100 hours we walked out of the train at Lo Wu station and crossed the border without much problem. Few minutes after that we were already strolling Dongmen back to our hotel. Back at the hotel reality started to sink in that our holiday was about to end. I guess everyone went to sleep reluctantly that night hoping the time would stand still.

CUTI CUTI ASIA SHENZHEN (HONG KONG) June 19-24, 2008 (Day 4)

June 22, 2008 (Sunday)

The days in Shenzhen became too long for us as we have found out nothing much else to do. I guess if I had hired a van it would be different but then looking at the surrounding we were better off using the train. The night before I asked the rest what should we be doing the next day and I gave three options.

1. Window of the World
2. Splendid China
3. More endless walking and possibly shopping

The first two were close to one another but you have to pay a separate entrance of Yuan 120 each. I figured two costly to do both and the third option was not feasible as everyone trying to save some money for Hong Kong. We decided to go to the Cultural China. Actually I was thinking of The Windows of the World at first as Windows of the World would showcases famous site in the world in miniature form. But I decided I did not wish to see them as we were in China we should look at things Chinese rather then Eiffel Tower and such.

At 0900 we walked out of the hotel to our home station Laojie and took the train to Hua Qiao Cheng. The Splendid China was just next to the station. When we arrived there around 1030 the heat was really prickly and I was sweating like mad. I could see it would be a challenge to walk the whole place but since we were there already we paid for our tickets and entered the place. We walked slowly trying to absorb the place and an early indication of the place tells us that it was a well done place. However the heat was too much for the kids. After walking a bit half of us abandoned the plan to walk everything took a short cut and rest at the performing area to wait. I did not know it then but we actually broke into three groups. Ngah, Sam and Mar raised a white flag, well at least Sam and Ngah. While Tariq and family went the other way. So it was left to Ghazi, Baqir, Kak Cik and I to make sure our entrance fees were worthwhile. We went around the whole area and enjoyed ourselves. What they did with the place was excellent as they showcased most of the culture of the ethnic groups in China. There were their different abodes and way of life. Within that they included live culture shows as well as acting out some of the major history of China like the great horseback battle. It was really a good work out for me but the heat proved to be a problem. We were just as glad and relieve when we finished touring the whole place. Tariq and family chose to board the tram to see the rest of the area and the rest of us sat at the entrance drinking coconut to cool off and waited for them.

At 1436 we walked up the staircase to exit the area.

We took the train back and I decided to stop- at another shopping complex where there was another Jusco. Again, mainly to buy some foodstuff for the night and the next day. But of course we ended up buying other things as well. One of the things that we found out when you shop in Shenzhen is that they do not provide you with a plastic bag or such for the things that you bought. That was the reason why we saw most Chinese with bags and trolley when we went out shopping. So at the Jusco we had to pay for our plastic bags. To save a little bit we just put everything in our knapsacks. Ngah bought a shoe without a plastics bag meant she would have to carry the box just like that. So she took out the shoe put in a bag and threw away the box. I could survive on bread alone as I was used to it but I did not know how long more the rest of my family could last without rice.

We were home at the hotel on time for our prayers and stayed in the rest of the night because everyone was preparing to explore Hong Kong the next day.

CUTI CUTI ASIA SHENZHEN (HONG KONG) June 19-24, 2008 (Day 3)

June 21, 2008 (Saturday)

I spent quite a bit of my time last night studying the map and searching for Muslim eateries on the Net. I came up with quite a list. To make my life easier I capture the image of the list in my Nikon for easy reference later. So my plan for the day was to take everyone to experience the fashion wholesale market, back to Lowu for my fitting and off on the train to explore a new shopping area where there was a Jusco. My intention of going to Jusco was familiarity and to shop for something familiar to eat and ration.

The Gang minus Yours Truly

We stopped at McD first to have breakfast. Of course we ordered whatever we could eat except for Imah who thought she was in Malaysia by buying a beef petty. She was about to eat it when I saw her packaging looked different so I asked her what she ordered and my instinct was on the dot. We laughed at her and kidded her for a while. She sort of annoyed for awhile by it. We took some pictures there and left immediately after all of us had eaten.

The first stop after breakfast was easy as the fashion wholesale market was at Dongmen and once we were inside it was a maze of wholesale selling in big plastic bags or bundles. Most of the buyers were of course small town sellers from other precincts or districts. We mingled in perfectly but know our different taste we split with the ladies going in one direction and Ghazi, Baqir, Mar and myself to another. You can get most of what you need in a bundle and they do sell you a piece or two but you could not bargain anymore unless you were buying a lot. In terms of quality it depends on what you are buying. Generally they were ok but most not my taste as I found most of them were too tacky for me. Baqir decided he needed a set of fake adidas basketball uniform. Other than that I advise for them not to buy anything unless it is really good and necessary. The ladies were actually enjoying the maze and we had to wait for quite a while until they emerged onto the square. Kakak came out to me saying how amazing the experience was and mentioned to me we should come again the next day. She could not believe what she just saw and experienced. I almost told her, ‘Welcome to China the land of imitation and cheap stuff.’ From there we walked to our Metro station and boarded for Lowu. My only reason for going back there was to fit the suit that I made the previous day and to window shop a bit. For the ladies apart from continuing where they left off they planned to look for brooches and stuff like that. When I was there the first time a year ago a lot of that stuff was on the ground floor. So when we got there that was the first place I took them and I was surprised to find out there were not there anymore. So I concluded they must have moved somewhere and by that time Sam was complaining aloud already. So we proceeded to the top floor. Initially I thought we were going to be very quick there but when I was fitting the suit they were still busy buying fabrics and even more then the day before. I was amazed and tired of waiting I took the kids walking around the complex trying to find something worthwhile to buy. The suit that I made was fine only the pant was not properly tailored and so Sam’s blouse. It was not that the quality was not good but they failed to get our instruction right. So if you were to tailor anything there please make sure they really, really understand what you want. The best is to bring a sample.

The ladies eventfully joined us somewhere on the second floor and while going around we found the trinkets, brooches and stuff bazaar there on the second floor. So we left them there and continued walking the complex with the kids until we were hungry. I bought few things for Mar because she insisted on buying something there but I held off Along and Baqir as I thought what they wanted to buy were not value for money. Furthermore I was getting fedup with all the ‘lookin’, ‘lookin’ and they were so adamant of selling to us at exorbitant price. I decided then it would be better if we were to wait for Hong Kong.

So with no possible eating place insight I decided to take everyone to the newly completed shopping area where I knew from my research the night before would be a Jusco shopping complex. With something familiar to us I thought we could get something decent. So we took the train there. Gong Wu Gong Yuan station was our destination and true enough as we exited the station there was Jusco almost in front of us. We went straight in and we found what we need to make a decent lunch and food for the next day. We bought a couple of breads, several can of sardine and tuna as well as several bottle of waters. I did not realize how hungry we were until I saw everyone’s purchases at the checkout counter LOL. The best thing as well I could use my ‘plastic’ that I could save my Yuans for other shopping. I was the last to make payment at the check out counter and once I was outside there was my family having picnic at the seating area inside the mall. We couldn’t careless what the others think we just sat on the floor, opened our cans and bread and made the biggest sandwiches for ourselves. To the Chinese we sure looked like immigrants or runaways that have not eaten for days. But then our mannerism and attire would tell them we were tourist. That day I found out eating a decent acceptable food for our palate could be a problem in China. Indeed they have Halal restaurant but the cooking if you were not familiar could be a problem. I tolerated only for a day and before going back to bread. After we had our lunch we decided, actually I decided and the rest just followed :), to check out the rest of the new shopping complex and cultural centre. Everything were new full with branded items but very expensive. Even the cinema would cost us about RM15 a ticket. So we just enjoyed ourselves walking around until some of our legs went dead. Before heading back we stopped at the Jusco to buy few more things for dinner and ration for the next day.

We took the train back and walked straight to our hotel as most were too tired to explore Dongmen. It was 1815 when we walked through Dongmen. By now Dongmen was nothing to us. What we did not like was that once the darkness crept in a lot of beggars emerged from the crowds. I knew they were really poor but they were very persistent to the point of annoying as well.

CUTI CUTI ASIA SHENZHEN (HONG KONG) June 19-24, 2008 (Day 2)

June 20, 2008 (Friday)
We got Broadband connection and China is pretty advanced in providing broadband access

Suboh was at 0430 and around 0500 I did not know what to do so I put on my shoe and walked out alone. I did not want to disturb Kakcik and told my wife that I was checking out the surrounding if there were anything decent for breakfast. I have no idea where I should be going but my instinct said to follow the main road behind the hotel downwards. By that time it was 0600 and the sun was already out and bright. The streets we mostly empty except for hard labourer pulling heavy carts for the customers. I knew there was a wet market nearby and most of them came out from there. To me that was an indication of a hard live for some of the residents of Shenzhen and I am pretty sure some of them are not locals. What they are wearing also like a uniform with license plat on their back. I guess the have to get a license to do such job.
0600 in the morning

A prove of global world. The bad thing it is creating a world culture at the expense of the ethnic uniqueness But would you ever thought of McD stack below KFC

Going to work

I knew there was a wet market close by and men pushing carts like this are common sight

In two hours this street will be jam packed with activities

Our hotel apartment

Still a lot of bicycles

I walked on until it was already hot, the heat was the kind that I used to experience while I was studying in the US so it was prickly. I worried about the others. In order to get myself familiarize with the streets and how things were in Shenzhen I walked west on the way back with the hope I could find something good to eat. That was when I realized that all the trees beside the roads were actually mango trees. They were quite nice and my only assessment to that was probably Shenzhen was built on top of swarm. On the map indicated that there was a train station close by and I tried to locate it. After a few turns it proved to be illusive and I abandoned the search. I found two bakeries but I was not confident in buying any of them. They looked delightfully suspicious with that I walked back towards Dongmen on my way back to the hotel. When I was about to get to the pedestrian bridge at the hotel I decided to have coffee at the McD there. By then it was only 0752 and it was already really hot. Of course by now there were a lot of people already on the streets including school children in their uniform. I ordered coffee and egg burger and stayed long enough to finish my coffee. By 0830 I was back in the room and ready to roll out with the rest to explore Shenzhen.

You may laugh at this but watch up they are learning fast and soon will conquer the world

Because of the heat I zigzagged in and out of the building sort of to acclimatize everyone with the heat. Once I thought they were ready we headed towards Dongmen for our official visit to Shenzhen. Of course Dongmen is famous for being a shopping zone where at nights the street will be filled with people from all walks of life. Neon lights would shine the street to look like a Chinese New Year day. There was no light of course when we walked the street and the obvious thing was China also was very much colonized by the business chains. Starbucks, McD, Body Glove, KFC and the like were everywhere. However the Chinese now are getting smarter. They made good on their years of being copycat by producing the own quality brands.

Every morning a crew will wash Dongmen

Dongmen coming alive

My target was the Laojie Metro subway station somewhere at the end of Dongmen but with the lack of proper direction we were of target. So with the map I asked several people. The first guy after looking at the map confidently directed to backtrack a lane and turn right but it took us to another lane with no sign or indication of the metro station. So I asked what looked like a street police man and it was even worse as he could not even understand us. Even with the map he asked us to turn back. We went around a bit until we just went with our instinct until we saw the small Metro sign on a wall of a shopping mall. Well, it was not even a mall but a building full with small time traders. We went down the escalator and suddenly the sign went dead and we were pissing off our steam until a guy who must have seen this a few times pointed us to the right direction inside the mall.

Just underneath the bridge was a Muslim restaurant

Their train service was excellent

I still remember when I was small having my hair cut underneath a rambutan tree

Our home base Metro station was Loajie, not sure how to pronounce that but we made do with Laojie, and the fare to Lowu was 2 Yuan per person so it was 14 Yuan for our family. The metro was brand new and efficient. I was told and read in someone’s blog that there was not any English signage then. I was really afraid of that and prepared for the worst. However I had a nice surprise to find Romanized name and English announcement on the train. I was really please and impressed. No doubt they have learned their lesson and learning very well. It was a short ride to Lowu and of course our destination was the Lowu Commercial Complex that was full with cheap, very cheap, fabrics and other stuff. It would be a field day for my wife and other ladies. From Loajie Lowu was just two stations away. If you have been to Shenzhen you know that Lowu Commercial Centre was just outside of the border point to HK. I have been there before. The weather was a bit hot then the usual again and we barely managed. Staying indoor was the best.option and we did not have any problem doing that as the place was full with cheap things especially fabric. What you can get there are cheap quality fabric and silks, all kind of fakes t-shirts, jeans, electronics, handphones and handbags. But I do not advice buying any electronic, well unless you have a lot of money to burn. The t-shirts were mostly top of the line fakes but you have to bargain hard. We were at this one shops selling t-shirts and stuff and we were ready to buy some. We started to cut the prices by half the lady came back with another price and suddenly in the middle of the haggling she started to quote us in US dollar. I was really shocked and stared at her astonished. Then walked in two Caucasians and seems to like another foreigner and the lady started to ignore us after we were ready to conclude the deal. We had selected a few already and we had to wait for her to deal with the other foreigners. Getting fed up with the treatment all of us just walked out. As we were about 20 steps away I heard her running and calling after us. We just ignored her and served her right as we were the ones with the money to spend. Then we just walked around with no particular things in mind. Or course Baqir was relentless with his nagging for handphones. I decided they were not worth it. In the end I just bought a few things and cut a suit at the price of 500 Yuan. I had to come back the next day for fitting.

We arrived at the place around 1115 and we left the place at around 1400 due to two main reasons.

1. The ladies almost bustered their shopping budget in record time, and
2. We need to find a place to have lunch.

We were actually not prepared for the first day and we made the mistake assuming that there would be at least a place to eat at Lowu. We actually went around the place as well as the train station and we did not find any. What we should have done was to pack sandwiches or something. But then the problem was we did not find a decent place to buy bread. People in China hardly eat any bread so another blunder on our part. We had no choice but to head for home and eat at the Muslim restaurant near the hotel. We were there at 1430.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel to rest. I was not that tired but because of the heat I decided we need to really cool off for awhile and maybe go out again after dark.

It was Friday night and Dongmen was strewn with all sorts of mostly young people. I saw bad influence from the west had already sat in the Shenzhen young generation. Their dressing and the way they handle themselves were westernized in so many ways. I would have loved it if it was a Sunday night market kind atmosphere but Dongmen was different. The smell from the food vendors and the place were something that we were not used to so we were a little bit uncomfortable. Worse when the beggars started to pester us excessively. Actually the place was not that bad as I said we would have enjoyed it. I was expecting it to be like Hong Kong but the mentality is obviously different. There wasn’t anything that attracted me to buy either so we just walked endlessly until we were bored and walked back to the hotel.

CUTI CUTI ASIA SHENZHEN (HONG KONG) June 19-24, 2008 (Day 1)

June 19, 2008 (Thursday)
LCCT – Shenzhen - Flight AK88

We had to rush even with our best effort to be as early as possible. I hate being late and I hate rushing but it happened. Nothing we could do about it as it was Airasia’s checkin counter mess. I knew why we were rushed to the plane because Mr Fenandez recently came out to announce that they will compensate all flyers if they were delayed. With small children how can we move that fast? Luckily, even we did not get seats next to one another at least close enough to each other. I just wanted to read and sleep as soon as I was on board but Mar and hunger distracted me. Both Along and Baqir were fast asleep the minute they were seated. That’s because they had been staying up the whole night. One of my colleagues in the office recently remarked that Airasia is not ready for international flight and having had the first hand experience I guess she has a point. Another thing that disturbed me was the kiasu behaviour of most of the passengers. Yes, we know we did not have our seat assigned but do we have to be like children to board. I am not about to insult them but it was as if that was their first time on a plane. All the decency and courtesy suddenly just went out of the windows when we were ready to board. I hope time will change that.

On a short flight I normally like to have an isle seat so I just settled myself next to two China nationals. When I decided to sit there they sort of made sound complaint and I said to them in English that, ‘I bought my ticket legally as well you know and may picked any seat that I wish because Mr Fanendez decided you all had to fight for them.’ Obviously with their limited English they did not have a clue to what I said and I just smiled at them. My agenda as soon as we boarded was to read and maybe doze off in preparation for the days in China, Mar’s was to order her favourite hotdogs, Baqir and Ghazi their lunch but they were fast asleep already so I let them sleep. It was a short 4 hour flight where the takeoff was lousy.

Since I was in the isle seat I could not see Shenzhen’s bright city lights when we approached to land but by the glimpsed I judged it to be quite a big city. Everyone was excited and we landed safely at around 2030. It was a breeze to get through the immigration where the only small incident was when the immigration lady attending to my travel documents being OA. Of course I had my US visa and just returned from the US and having the Visa does not mean I am a US citizen. Still she found it necessary to notify her superior that I had a US visa. On hearing her explanation her supervisor just gave a dry smile as if just to please her. Maybe she was just that type of person. Of course all these were conducted in Chinese and my guess would not be that far from the truth.

After that was the hard part – how to figure out the best way to go to our hotel. My instinct said taxi but I needed to explore other alternatives, if there was any. I asked the lady at the tourist bus ticket counter and she misunderstood my question. Then I asked one airport security guy he replied to me in Chinese. Well he tried his best to be helpful, I salute him for that, and in the end both of us sort of agreed that the best way is to take taxi. For us it meant three taxis. With that I pull out the small hotel map with the hotel name in Chinese and get everyone to wait at the taxi stand. I showed the first driver our destination and he understood immediately and I asked Ngah, Tariq and family to take the first one. I showed the map to the second driver and he was confused, how could that be the hotel name was in Chinese, and when the first driver saw us struggling with the second driver he came over to explain and he did the same with the third driver. With that off we went into Shenzhen’s night. From inside the taxi I could see Shenzhen was very dry and no sign of rain at all let alone flood as reported in other part of southern China. I was worried that we will end up with a wet holiday but by all indications thus far was encouraging.

Early on we realized that taxi driver would want to rule the road in Shenzhen and their best friend is the horn. As they kept on blaring the horn at every opportunity. The drive was fast and smooth it was just like from KLIA to KL, from the kampong area into the city. Observing the traffic on the highway I could fit in straight away and I will enjoy it as well because in Shenzhen even the trucks and busses were ‘mencilok’, jumping, from lane to lane. Shenzhen as a city began to take shape as we rode in and it was definitely a big city where development had been rapid. It was too early to get my bearing but I did recognize certain areas from my first short visit.

To our surprise our taxi was the first one to arrive and I straight away check ourselves in. We had to wait for a while before the others to arrive. I was worried for a while there and was calling everyone to make sure they were on the way. Tired and smelly we staggered to our room and was surprised to find out that it was actually not a three rooms apartment. I went down to the counter to enquire and with their limited English they said that the apartment that I booked was actually 3 bed apartment not a 3 bedrooms apartment. I just laughed in their face when I heard the explanation. I had no choice as they ddi not have a three rooms actually so we decided, all 13 of us, to squeeze into the two bedroom apartment. After all it is just going to be a place for us to sleep. With our luggage in the room I announced that we were going out for dinner. We were lucky when we came in I saw the word Muslim on one of the restaurant’s door nearby and we walked there. The night was quite humid that should have warned us for the days ahead. But we were too happy to be derailed by things like the weather. The dinner was ok and I could guess we could only last for two days on that kind of food. The taste and the ingredients used were not for our palate. But because we were hungry we just ate. I paid around 200 yuan for the meal that was roughly around RM100. When we came in there was already a Malay family eating and I say Malay because the lady was wearing tudung and they looked Malay. When they were finished they were good enough to come over to our table to say hello and chat. They were actually from Brunei and would be leaving Shenzhen the next day. She shared about her, mostly, shopping experience, and when we said that we will be staying for five days she excitedly exclaimed lamanya! Well that is relative for a shopping mad individuals and it may not be enough he he. And before they left they warned us about pickpockets as well as Yuan conman. If we were to use a 100 yuan bill they will switch it with a fake one and tell us our bill is fake. So my advice is not to use 100 yuan bill in any small outlet and only use them in big shopping complex. Even then please be careful.

I thought we were going to walk to check out the rest of the place there but everyone was tired. Tired? It was only a 4 hour flight and they were tired. Since we were going to have an early morning I relented. All of us accept those watching the EURO 08 went to sleep early. The room came with a free broadband internet and I spent some time surfing and reading my emails.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cuti Cuti Malaysia : Kuala Rompin, Feb 7-9, 2008

3rd Day, Sunday

Since we have nothing else to do in Rompin I decided to check out early and hit the road down south. We skipped breakfast at the resort and stopped to have breakfast at the eateries that we bought our breakfast the day before.

My plan was to drive down to Mersing and cut in towards Kluang at Jemaluang and eventually take the north south highway back to Bandar Seri Putra. However the journey home was about detours and incidences. Just before we reached Mersing town I saw on the left a sign indicating a popular beach area. Instantaneously I gave a signal to turn left and made a turn towards the Air Papan Beach. It was quite a distance getting to the beach, roughly around 5 km, and when we got there, there were already a lot of people and activities on the beach. We maneuvered our cars through the crowds and parked cars and managed to find a good spot park. I knew some of us were tempted to jump inot the sea but looking at the waves and the strong sea breeze I preempted the desire by announcing that we were not staying to bath. We explored the place first by checking out what on sales. There were the usual souvenirs stuff that you can find on any beach resorts. Sadly I could not find a decent t-shirt to buy. I discovered there were quite a few cheap chalets and lodging that could be useful in the future. Later I got to know that every year on May 1st they organize a Pesta Laut or Air at the beach. According to the report on that day the beach would be packed solid with holiday makers and all the chalets would be fully booked. I do not know when we would be there again but then again being me all things is possible.

We bought one or two things and had air kelapa muda before we continue our journey towards Mersing. We drove into Mersing town at 1222 hr and with no specific place to go we drove around until we could find a aby to park in front of the building next to the Jeti Penumpang Jabatan Laut Mersing. We stayed there for almost an hour just to absorb the place.

The last and first time I took the Jemaluang route to Kluang was in 1996 or 97 and I remember I drove our Nissan Venette through and across forest reserve, palm plantations and rivers. The road then was narrow and at certain area full with potholes. Now I did not know what to expect so I we reached the junction I just drove fast and fast leaving Tariq behind. Since it was basically a single route and only after awhile only we would reach a small residential area I was not worried for them being lost. I pressed on hard until when we about the reach Kg Kahang Baru that kakak started to cry. Of course we thought it was due to my driving making her dizzy but when I stopped beside a mosque when we almost at Kluang I sensed it was something else. It seemed out of a sudden she just felt sad and started to cry. I asked her to get down and rest at the mosque. Sure enough she ok after that.

My plan was to drive straight on to Kluang, explore the town a bit and find a good place to have lunch. We managed the first part ok but a good place to eat proved to be elusive. After awhile we just chanced upon a mamak restaurant and we settled for that. I thought of sampling Kluang cuisine but what I got was mamak food and to make things worse it was a bad mamak food. It was 1521 hrs then which means a late lunch for us. There was nothing much to do after lunch so we were on the road again. The traffic was quite heavy going out of Kluang indicating people on leave for the Chinese New Year weekend were on their way back. At 1600 hrs the weather was a bit hot in Kluang prompted me to stop at the next Petronas station to say our prayers.

Of course form Kluang the most logical entrance to the North South highway was at Air Hitam interchange and Air Hitam being a famous for shopping area, for Intan’s and Tariq’s sakes (he he he) I was not about to miss it. As we approached Air Hitam immediately we could see a long crawl and with that I decided not to go all the way in town suffice to shop on the outskirt. Even that there were now a lot of new outlets in new buildings selling dry food, fabrics, crafts, potteries and stuff like that. I would say you are not going to miss anything by not going into town proper nowadays. Just like any other times we were in Air Hitam we bought almost the same things.

On the day when we left Bangi for Kuala Rompin I was really praying hard that our Ranger would hold up and last the distance. But by then I should have known the days of our beloved Ranger were coming to an end. As I was pressing for Pagoh and a constant decent speed a familiar sound came out of the hood. I was pretty sure the turbo turbine was busted once again. Not taking any risk we entered Pagoh R&R to pray and rested the Ranger for awhile. Confident that we would be ok if I were to drive slowly, slow means 120 km/hr, I encouraged Traiq to go first and not to wait for us. Furthermore it was the Plus highway what chance was there for them to get lost LOL).Along the way they called us to check if we were ok and I was glad they did as well so that they could tell me they were not lost :)).

We were safely home around 2300 or 2400 and the end of another chapter in our Cuti Cuti Malaysia.

When I took our Ranger to our dear friend the mechanics he diagnosed it to be a busted gasket. I was sure then we need a new ride for our next Cuti Cuti Malaysia

Cuti Cuti Malaysia : Kuala Rompin, Feb 7-9, 2008

2nd Day, Friday

I woke up early as usual and decided to go out to check what morning like in a small town of Kuala Rompin. The rest in the room Sam, Baqir and Mar decided to follow me.

The town was of course small and there were only two major eating places open for breakfast and both were selling varieties. We bought the usual breakfast combination of kueh-kueh, nasi lemak, and roti canai. With that we drove back with a detour towards the Kuala Rompin beach area. They were already several families there but the beach was, although flat like Cherating, not a beach where you want to play on or go for a swim. It was more for just having nice picnic for the families. The water was almost black and the beaches strewn with debris and wastes. I drove further in and discovered an abandoned paddock which was nice. I took several shots of the place with Baqir as model and some of them turned out like a Salem high country advertisement :).

Since it was Friday I decided to just stay in until lunch time before we go out. Lunch was another main decision point while we were in Kuala Rompin because of the Chinese New Year weekend we did not have many options. In the end I decided to go back to the place where we stopped to have lunch the day before. But once we were there I picked another restaurant, Gerai Makan Mak Ngah. However the food were just about the same and you are not going to get wrong here. Even if you just walk in and sit at any table you’ll get the same kind of food and taste.

After lunch, since the turn off to Lanjut Beach was on the way back, I decided to check out the place and we took the road less traveled. It was at 1531 hours that we were on the straight beach front kampong road. I knew that it was the road to Serai Lanjut Beach Resort and Golf Club so I was expecting a decent surrounding. I was not disappointed. From the road the Serai Lanjut Beach Resort and Golf Club looked promising and I thought I wanted to go in to check the place further but when I saw the guards at the gate I drove straight ahead. Not that I was afraid or anything like that I just felt it was a turn off straight away. So we drove further on in until we reached a small kampong, Kampong Pantai Bernas, at the muara. There was a boat jetty there that was more like a tourist and anglers jetty than anything else. Probably it was a low tide that we did not see any boats there. Beside the jetty on the left was a budget hotel Ikhwan Beach Resorts, ` that I have seen while browsing the internet for places to stay in Kuala Rompin. From the description in the Net it was passable place if you do not have any other options. It was cheap within a fisherman kampong environment but too far out from the town if you need anything. Even if you just want to kill the time there the place could be a bit hot during the day. Later when I looked at Google Map the muara was actually close to the Kuala Rompin town where we stayed. Because there was no access road the kampong was cutoff and the only way out was to use the Lanjut road. I guess if ever the place is being developed a bridge would be built across.

There was not much thing to explore there but the jetty was good enough for me to just relax to enjoy the breeze. We Baqir, Kak Cik and I just sat around watching the anglers trying their luck. Over time several other anglers and visitors came to join us at the jetty and the atmosphere changed straight away for us. Gone were the tranquility and feeling good situation as if the newcomers suddenly absorbed them..

Close to 1700 we slowly moved out from the place. But of course being me our way out included detour to another beach area along the way. There, there was a tyre swing being put for kids to play and Mar in seeing that straight away made a beeline for it and there she stayed almost the whole duration. As for us the sea breeze was strong and pleasant enough for us just lazing around and having teh tarik. In the end we stayed there almost an hour.

We had planned to have a family session in the karaoke room that night I rushed back and lucky to get a room booked for 2100 session. Due to that we opted to have dinner at the hotel. It did not matter the dinner was a disappointment as everyone was really looking forward to the karaoke session. So that night we polluted the good air of Rompin with our tone deaf singing that we called music LOL. Bottom line everyone had a nice time. Intan and Tariq having little Khadijah with them decided not to join us but I knew for a fact they were itching to contribute to the pollution of Rompin quite atmosphere. I sang so much my voice croaked, not that my voice was any good in the first place; I guess I croaked even worse. Even the amphibians around Rompin were not even close enough to want to make me their friends. I would not be surprised if some of them actually ran away in shame. We ended our session close to midnight.

Cuti Cuti Malaysia : Kuala Rompin, Feb 7-9, 2008

1st Day, Thursday

I took the Ranger out at 0718 and started to load it. I casted my eyes sideways towards Intan’s house and I did not see any life in it. They must still be sleeping I thought and continued with my chore. Eventually Kak Cik and Imah went over to check on Intan and family and they reported back that they were still sleeping. Once everyone and the Ranger were ready to set out I decided not to wait any longer and drove out after instructing Kak Cik to leave instruction that we will wait for them at Seremban R&R.

Still after we had finished our breakfast no sign of Intan and family and I was tempted to continue but decided to be a nice Uncle and waited for them.

I remembered the first time we drove through to Kuala Rompin I stopped at the R&R at the junction to Seri Menanti to ease myself and then we went to look at the Istana. Looked was the exact word as we did not even get down to go into the Istana area. At 0930 we arrived at the same R&R and I decided to stop to ease myself again and then visit Seri Menanti, Kuala Pilah for real. The last time we were there we just stood outside to take some photograph as I did not want to spend too much time there. This time I had time and really wanted to go and explore the Istana. We parked inside the compound and walked towards the Istana. I was already busy taking photos as we walked and did not realized when my wife actually paid the entrance fees. I saw at one corner of the reception a series of historical as well as local theme books on sale. I bought one of the local dishes hoping that someday someone would cook some for me . We explored the Istana starting with the Balai Rong Sri, Dining room, Resting area and the kitchen. We did not climb to the upper level as I sensed something else was or were there. But I had a field day taking photographs of the place.

We took our leave around 1015 and sped towards Kuala Pilah town and Bahau. My inclination was to speed off and arrive a bit early but since Tariq was not familiar with the route and afraid they’ll get lost I contained myself. In the end I was the one who got lost. Actually I was blindsided by the Rompin signboard. Rompin was actually Rompin, Negeri Sembilan and not Kuala Rompin. My wife was right when she asked me to turn left when we saw the signboard indicating direction to Bandar Muadzam but I kept going until I saw the milestones indicating mileage to Gemas. Both Baqir and I simultaneously acclaimed it was another Rompin. Realising that I still drove on for awhile to see if there was anything interesting. We turned back to the junction that I missed and turn right towards Bandar Muadzam and from there on I could not resist speeding away only to stop waiting at junction to make sure we still had Tariq and family at the back. I thought stopping for lunch at Muadzam but when we got there it was pretty too early and I asked my wife who said we should go on. From there on I really sped off as I knew the next junction would already be in Kuala Rompin.

Exactly at 1300 we reached the Nenasi Kuala Rompin junction where there was a Medan Selara that we used to stop and eat. I jumped out and went to ease myself at the restroom which I had to pay RM0.30. I need to say this as I was surprised that it was that much in Kuala Rompin. When I came out Tariq arrived and looking around at the kedai makan I decided to have lunch there. So what else, it was a Udang Galah field day for Baqir. He actually filled-up his plate with udang galah that I could not see anything else in it. If you still do not know it Kuala Rompin is a place for Udang Galah. All of the eateries in Kuala Rompin would serve Udang Galah and in fact you could buy a bundle of fresh one to take home as well.

From that junction RBR was about 13 kilometers away and we drove in slowly. Slowly because I wanted everyone to absorb the environment as not often that they can experience it. Alas, some of them just let the opportunity went to waste. The resort was actually at the beach area of Rompin town and as soon as we reached the town we decided to go and check-in straight away. To my delight the room was spacious enough and would be comfortable for 7 people to sleep in for a night or two. Baqir, Mar, Sam and myself in one room and the rest, seven of them, in another room. The smell of the room indicated to us that it has not been occupied for quite a while. I blasted both the aircons and the fan and walked out to check the beach with Mar and Sam.

The beach was not suitable for swimming. Not only the high tide area strewn with man made rubbish and the surrounding was pathetic. We did not stay long at the beach as nothing to admire. Had not for two young girls flying kite we would have walked away even earlier.

That evening I just let everyone soaked and rested the traveling fatigue by either staying in or cooling off in the pool. The pool was another story and discovery. Because of full occupancy due to long holidays there were a lot of families and most of them were there in groups to celebrate something. Like the group of family from Melaka that took up the chalets around us having their unofficial family weekend in Kuala Rompin. The pool was full with noisy and almost rowdy kids and young adults who refused to adhere to pool etiquettes. They were jumping off the pool which was dangerous to the smaller ones. At least there was space for us at the deeper end but then later two adults came acting the same way. So I rest my case and concluded that they were having too much fun that they did not want to care. Or maybe they were plain stupid.

I did not have a specific plan for dinner but wanted to explore seafood. From our last stop at Rompin, that was 5 years ago, there was one seafood stall by the roadside that we ate at. I presumed by now it has moved somewhere or out of business already. Whatever the case maybe, the roadside up to Tg Gemuk was devoid of stalls. So I drove on to find a suitable place to eat but we were out of luck with seafood. I purposely crossed the Sg Endau bridge and stopped just before the Johor state line. I walked out with my Nikon to the bridge to take few photos. I already saw the new eating place at the new clock tower next to the bridge on the side of Rompin when I drove by but when I looked through my lens I got interested to stop there for dinner. So after I have done with my photography session on the bridge I turned the Ranger around and entered the eating area.

The place was really new and there were only three stalls in business. We decided on the first one and started to pull three tables together for all of us. There were enough varieties for all of us at the two nearest stalls and we started ordering our favourites right away. Since I was in the mood to explore I ordered mee goreng from the first stall and steak from the second one. While I was sitting waiting for the food my mind wondered around and decided so far I was a bit disappointed with Kuala Rompin as after four years I was expecting a bit more. Sadly they could not offer me that. I could see they were trying to improve things but I think it was not fast enough. We ate our food and enjoyed each other companies and conversation. The boulevard like environment of the place encouraged our behavior to be more opened and relaxed. My favourite past time activity in time like that was of course to tease Imah.

On the way back to the resort at 2031 we stopped at Kuala Rompin (Tanjung Gemok) Pasar Malam. I just loved the small town’s Pasar Malam as most of them would have certain specialties and surprises for us. Sadly not this Pasar Malam and we went back to the Hotel a bit disappointed.

Cuti Cuti Malaysia : Kuala Rompin, Feb 7-9, 2008

The week approaching the CNY was a little bit frustrating for me work wise. A lot of things seemed to be going wrong and near sleepless nights were the normal occurrence for me. But I have to have brave face and smile even more as days passed by. That’s I guess the requirement of the job. I did not think of going anywhere as I just planned to slouch at home but as the CNY week inched closer I realized I needed to get out of town. I just need to get out of town. Another frantic searching for places, nothing new there, and with four-day CNY weekend getting a decent place was really a tall order. I had three options really;

1. To resurrect the abandoned trip around Johor, or
2. Go camping somewhere, or
3. Try Kuala Rompin, as it is the only place that we have not explored enough.

I went for the third option first as I have always the other two to fall back to if I failed. But after searching carefully I was lucky to get two chalets at Rompin Beach Resort. Judging from their website it looked enticing and decent enough for us. I was not sure of the size of each chalet but we invited others to join us anyway. In the end Tariq and family confirmed they were going with us and with them of course Imah.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Busy Weekend, Oct 25-27, 2008

It was a very busy three-day weekend for me. Open houses, wedding, and whatever left of our Syawal celebration. However three things that I want to write about.

After at least five months I have decided to seriously rekindle my love for cycling. I said seriously because it was like chipsmore biscuit since the last few months. This time my health was the main factor to my conviction to be consistent. Incidentally, a group of my ex-school buddies planned an outing of slow and easy ride in Putrajya on Sunday which was good start for me. So as early as 0715 I was already at the Putrajaya boulevard waiting for the group to arrive. Yeah, I was that eager. I had all my gears ready when the only lady rider in the group arrived followed by Abedib, Saifuddin, Nadim, Dr Azmi and the rest of the gang. Half of the group was Dr Azmi’s friend and they were doctors. So we joked that we had doctors at hand if anything happen to any of us. Of course I was teased for riding a dusty Trek . After the ceremonial photo taking we set off with Saifuddin as the lead. He took us along the lake and slowly we moved towards the PICC. It was a fun enjoyable ride at first but slowly I felt I need to test my fitness level and as soon as we neared the PICC Bridge I stepped up and sped off towards the PICC. The climbing was not that hard but I knew I would be panting if it was the Bukit Mahkota climb. Still it was a good workout. As I reached the top I looked behind and only Nadim, Shaifuddin and Dr Azmi in sight. I told Nadim I had to go off first as my family will be coming that night and I need to do few things. With that I screamed down with Shaifuddin in pursuit behind me. Shaifuddin stopped at the bridge to wait for others but I sped towards the Putra mosque. I was panting half way through there and not wanting to break anything I eased a bit and maintain a decent speed. When I got to the Putra mosque I straight away put my bike inside the Ranger and waited for somebody to arrive so that I could go off. I knew they would be going for our ceremonial the tarik after the ride so I thank Abedib and those arrived after him and left the place. So next week it will be the Wetland for us. I could not wait. Maybe I’ll just cycle there.

Shaifuddin and Abedib talking bicycle

Shaifuddin and his RM20K Ducati

Nadim ready to roll

The second main event for me was that night my family was coming to visit which mean a feast was on the card. Coincidentally ‘the would be’ chef in the house was planning a do for his friends so I told him to prepare a feast for 30 people. It was one of the memorable nights for me as everyone was having a good time. The family started to arrive as early as 2000. Soon our house was buzzing with all sorts of activities as people started to eat and talk to one another. The chef assistant was super busy at the grill. My only regret for the night was I bought a token of a lamb that I thought not many people would like. How wrong I was. If I’d bought a whole lamb also would not be enough that night. The second lesson learned for the night was my own realization as to the reason why it was so difficult for me to renovate the house. I knew then that the garden was perfect for night family barbecue.

The third and the last over the weekend was the PT Majlis Makan Malam Ramah Mesra. This year the event was organized by Jln 3/1, 3/2 and 3/8 and it was at the corner of Jalan 3/8. As instructed I arrived with a full suit of baju melayu. Comparatively the number of people turned up this year was less and it was understandable due to the last weekend of Syawal and Deepavali.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogging Live On The Train, Oct 24, 2008

I forgot that today is the Friday of the Deepavali three day weekend. The train as usual was late and almost solid pack when it arrived at Bank Negara station. As expected it is worse now at KL Sentral. Remember the embarking and disembarking queues I talked about recently there were barely existed just now when I looked out ha ha ha. So I guess I would be walking home from the Bangi train station today as I would be definitely late now. Well at least I would get to exercise. It is a mad house now at Mid Valley as people pushing in trying to get in. I could hear, despite my ears plugged in with music from my iPod, a lady voice yelling everyone to move in so that they can get on. Immediately the crowd inside yell back protesting as obviously there is no more room even for a child inside. With all the commotion made worse by a child crying I concentrated on the song whre Ebiet G Ade is on.

Crazy, maybe obsess, about books? Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008

I came to know about the MPH Warehouse Booksales through the advertisement in the newspaper. I knew, no I think the correct word is wanted, yes I wanted to straight away go there on the opening day. I was a bit pissed off with myself for not, after browsing four bookstores, buying any book when I was in Singapore last week. As if I had to make amend my friend was good enough to drop me at the MPH warehouse after our meeting in PJ. Without missing a beat I grabbed a basket and started to browse and pick whatever books I like. Not more than half an hour I was there it was announced that the place would be closed at 1900. I thought it was suppose to be closed at 1930. Cursing, at nothing in particular, I hurried on browsing and waited to the very last minute to pay. In the end I paid RM150 for 8 books and was sure I would be there again this weekend with my family.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On The Train (Culture Change), Oct 20, 2008

I knew even before the Eidul Fitri celebration that KTMB was finally going to manage the embarking and disembarking passengers at major stations especially KL Sentral when I saw the lines being painted on the floor just like at the LRT stations. Today I saw the first implementation of that when we approached KL Sentral. I saw commuters neatly lined up on each side to board. Or course I saw a few guards on duty to make sure that happen and I could not help but wonder how long that going to last. I hope all of us would learn and observe the new ‘rule’ even when the guards are not around. I am a bit optimistic but being a Malaysian I have my doubt. We have just to wait for few more weeks if indeed we could change the culture and mindset. If forcing the rules upon us would make it works I am all for it. But I have also seen at LRT station when the guards were not there or when the train approached suddenly the lines went missing and commuters simply rushed in. We have still along way to go. I just got back from Temasek and I did not see any guards at all on the platform. The same thing when I was in Hong Kong. So I guess as far as Malaysian is concern we have to force this rule upon us to make it a success.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On The KTM Komuter, ERL KLIA Express and Plane, Oct 15, 2008

I dragged out my luggage, kissed my wife and walked to the station as usual. This morning I bought a one way ticket to KL Sentral because I wanted to checkin straight away before going to the office. The train as usual was late and I was not bothered anymore. We arrived at KL Sentral around 0730 and straight away I went to the TAM machine to withdraw some cash and since the money changer was just next to the ATM I bought a few Sing dollars. Checking in at KL Sentral was easy I have done a couple of times before but what surprised me was that a lady working for the ERL stopped me to ask whether I have a ERL ticket already. I said why as I would not be boarding until later as my flight was as 1500. She said the KL Sentral checkin counters were meant for ERL customers. Yes! and I had to buy the ERL ticket first before I could approach the counter. Since I do not wish to argue with anybody that early in the morning I just turned back to buy the ticket.

At 1255 I boarded the ERL KLIA Express and managed to get the platform seat . In front on isle on the other side sat a lady ready a book. I did not get the title on the book she was reading but I presumed it was funny as the lady was smiling reading it. It was not about the lady or the book but it was about smiling the book that sometimes I do myself and I always wonder what other think when they see me doing that. Now at least I now how I would feel as I felt happy, a warm feeling happy, and glad looking at the situation. The train departed from KL Sentral at 1300 sharp and arrived at KLIA 28 minutes later. After buying few things that I needed I straight away went into the departure hall. Since it was my first time using Gate G I did not know where the MAS Golden Launch was. I was told it was the MAS Regional Golden Lounge and I was not disappointed when I was there. The atmosphere is good, comparatively the food was better than the other Lounges that I have used. Particularly I loved the hot Herbal noodles soup there.

40 minutes to flight time I unplugged myself form the lounge and walked down to the boarding Gate G6. Jas was already there. I can’t remember whether I have had taken a flight down to Singapore in the evening but I am very sure that I have never been on one that had taken the flight path along the coast of Strait of Melaka. The sky was decently clear half of the journey and I managed to view the coast of PD, Melaka, and Johor from another angle and perspective. Once I saw PD after take off my view was fixed downward and since I have been taking the land route so many times I could identify the building and places immediately and so well. I was hooked and had a ‘feeling good’ feeling through out the flight. I would have followed the whole land route down to JB had not for a bit of raining just after Muar. As I said, it could nothing to anyone, it was a fantastic feeling.

About 1700 we were already walking inside the Changi terminal towards the immigration counters and subsequently checkin into our hotel 45 minutes after that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Family Wedding

Over the weekend was the wedding of my cousin Niza. While going the normal motion of a wedding it was not the wedding that got me into thinking mood but the whole clan of my aki Mohamad Nasib and moyang Abdul Jabbar. The strong realization was during the grand reception at the Felda Perdana Hall yesterday. The trigger was during my uncle’s thank you speech and something he said brought down a hard reality unto me. Fact one is that my uncle is the only surviving man in the family and fact two is that after him would be my generation to keep the flag flying for the family and we are in need of a leader to keep going. Symptoms of strain family relations and culturally not suitable behaviour are the order of the day. When I looked around me in the hall I realized if I do not do something the family chain will be broken for good. Whether I like it or not, whether I am ready or not or whether I am the best person to do it or not I have to do it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

First Day at Sekolah Kebangsaan Galing

In 1969 the standard two classes were in the evening session. This means I could sleep a bit late and take a bit of time to prepare for school. Soon it became a familiar routine for me that year. I played out in the backyard with my mum cooking the day’s lunch for us to eat before school. I can tell you the smell of my mum frying the fish was heaven from there. It was just smell nice and enticing for me. Having hot lunch before school was something I looked for. That first day of school my Abah (dad) was to send me as we were not sure of the school bus service yet. Off we went on his Vespa at around 12pm.

I did not expect anything on my first day at Sekolah Kebangsaan Galing but as a shy kid I was ready to be just on my own. But my shyness was compounded by my attire that day. You see I had sore throat for a few days already and my dad decided to put a scarf (US), muffler as they say in UK, covering my neck. It was put on like winter scarf inside my school uniform looking like I am wearing a big tie inside. Of course the entire school did not know what it was. I can’t remember the color but it was a dark color with small dots. Not only I was totally a new kid on the block, I was totally different as well in terms of appearance. I became an instance freak show. Everyone that I came across that day would be eying me in either disbelief or strange. They kept on looking, pointing or laughing at me. They could not make out whether I was a rich kid who had just joined or one fashion crazy dude trying to show off. But I just stood there in one corner quietly looking very embarrassed with the whole thing.

The bell rang eventually signaling for everyone to gather for our first assembly. I was directed by a teacher, I think it was a teacher as it could not be the gardener, to join a row of a rowdy bunch of standard two students, my new classmates or course. I could not remember much about my first assembly but to be honest I did not care as I was anxious to be with my new classmates. The assembly ended and in single file we marched into our classroom.

Ok let me share with you about the layout of the school first before I explain about my classroom. Because of the size of the school the students to be taught and divided into two sessions. The morning session would comprise of standard 4, 5 and 6 and the evening session standard 1, 2 and 3. There were only 6 classrooms in the whole school so naturally there were two classes for each standard. The two classes were named as Puteh (White) and Merah (Red). You do not have to be a brain surgeon to decipher which one is Class A and which one is B. Apart from the canteen, store room and out house (toilet, I’ll share a bit more of this toilet later) there were two block of classrooms. The main block was actually an old kampong style wooden colonial building that was built on stilts housed the school office and three classrooms. If you have been to any old school building you know how high the classroom was of the ground. The second block was a grounded long block on the side that housed the other three classrooms. Because of the flexible partition separating the three classrooms this block was used as well for any events, ceremonies or shows. Of course we loved it when it happened. Can you guess now who got the higher prominent classrooms and who were being honored with the other? Let me just continue from where I left off.

Because of my size I walked in the middle of the row and slowly moved following the leader in front. Knowingly the bunch led us to classroom in the middle of the second block. On nearing the door only I could read Darjah 2 Merah and Darjah 4 Merah. There and then I knew my caste in the school. As a new boy with no academic record the school administration decided to put me there as tryout. I did not complain, in fact, I did not mind at all and after my first week I loved it. I was immediately seated somewhere at the back and being a shy kid I just observed what the others were doing. They were a lot of pranksters in my class and they were very loud as well. I just smiled most of the time and once in a while one or two of them would approach me to get to know me better. The girls we totally among themselves and in terms of ratio there were more boys in our class. From the way they handled themselves they seemed to be coming from different mindset that I used to. One main thing that I immediately realized was that they are a group of them that had this kind of behaviour. Their attires were almost similar with certain obvious identity as well. Later I found out that there were students from the orphanage that happened to be situated across the road of Alor Akar camp, our new home. Knowing that my perception of them totally changed immediately as I understood then why they behaved the way they behaved. In fact from my limited understanding of being an orphan I pity them and wanted to be their friend immediately. One of them, Adnan, became quite close for the rest of my schooling years at SK Galing even after I moved to another class. Adnan was a bit of sportsman and we played in the school football and takraw teams.

The first few hours were totally chaotic where only one or two teachers dropped in to begin our lessons. Of course the teachers familiar with the rest introduced me first and they got to know me a bit more. But I could tell few of them still thought I was a lord’s son, he he he. During our first few lessons I also was aware of their academic limitation. Again I pitied them and wanted to offer my help the best I can.

My first recess came and I followed the rest of my new classmates to the school canteen. It was just a small canteen and the serving counter was packed with students. I joined them. I was given RM0.20 for school and back then it was big value. With RM0.20 I could have a full meal. I am not sure what I had that first day but judging from my old favorite it highly likely a good plate of mee goreng. I was not aware of it first but while eating I realized the boys were actually trying to beat each other in eating their food. Sort of speed eating competition going on. Once they finished throwing their food down their throats they sped out. I just could not keep up with them so much so I was left eating with the girls. Of course at that point the girls were anxious to know more about me. No, not because I was handsome but because I was weird. When I was out of the canteen I could not find the boys any near the school building but I heard a great commotion on the field and I knew instantly the reason for the speed eating contest. In full swing there was a football game in progress. So, what I had in the classroom around me later was a bunch of sweaty, smelly and dirty kids. They were very happy and couldn’t careless how they look like. Soon I was one of them. The other thing that I noticed during recess was that the other students from the other standard two class were a bit detached from us and my first impression on them that they were snobs.

I remember the rest of my first day was more noises and few classes. The end of the school day was an amazing event as most of the boys in my class actually flew out not fast enough for the school bell to end. I just tailed behind them walking anxiously towards the gate for my first ride home on the school bus.

My Bukit Galing Camp

Ever since I got back from the East Coast trip Bukit Galing Camp lingers in my mind. There always something to trigger my thought to go back down the memory lane. While I was reading, on the train – especially while on the train, working and online. I visited my old friend Zaha while in Kuantan and we talked about old times and trying hard to remember and trace everyone. All this while we just rely on other people’s tales about our friends but never really serious in trying to locate everyone and do sort of reunion among us. .I know with this kind of thing I could not wait for somebody to start or do it I know I have to make the first move. Maybe I’ll start a Bukit Galing Camp alumni group in Facebook and announce to the whole world. I had already subscribed to a search on Bukit Galing Camp in the blogsphere and managed to be alerted on two bloggers who used to stay there. I am in communication with one currently who actually had the experience living in the old wooden barracks. You cannot believe how nostalgic I was in my communication with the person.

On The Train, Oct. 10, 2008

Two things close to my heart were reported in the Malay Mail today. One is, yet again, on KTMB and second on the match fixing international football. Both really were not news to me or most of us but extend and severity of them that made me sad.

Since I am on the train almost everyday the first news was something that I am living with everyday. The service was really a disservice most of the time. I thought after the nice experience during the first few weeks of Ramadan things were improving but I was brought back to the ground by the incidences since then. I honestly believe now KTMB do not have the capacity to improve at all. They could put the blame on anybody or everybody but the fact is their service is stink. I deduce that there are only two types of commuters on the train with me everyday. The first are those who do not have any choice and second those who really love the train no matter what. Probably now I am in between.