Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Daily SHOOT! - Kid in Lombok

Kid in Lombok, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

This was taken in Lombok Island, a haven separated from its more popular brother, Bali.

I believe the kid in the photo is one of the Sasaks, who are the local inhabitants in Lombok. We were on a tour then, to visit various hotspots within the island (not many though) including to the Sasak Tribal Village.

Majority of the population in Lombok are Muslims, but as you travel within the island, you know that Hinduism is widespread and is still practiced on the majority Muslim island. Compare this to Big Brother Bali - where majority are Hindus.

And Hinduism made its presence felt and known - when even in a clearly defined Islamic set of rules, the Sasak indigenous people created they own "religion" and beliefs, called the Wetu Telu - which is a unique religion that blends both Islam and Animism and is only found in Northern Lobok, from a village of Bayan.

They consider themselves Muslims but incorporate rituals borrowed from Hinduism, Taoism and Animism where worldly offerings (like clothes, toothbrush, food etc.) are sacrificed for the dead to use in the after-life.

Very interesting indeed...!

My December Savings On KM!

Is a whopping... $144 cold hard coins! Mwahahaha! More than i did the last 3 months... Impressive :)

As usual, i am rolling the $4 over back into my Mentel's tummy and putting aside the rest for my Melbourne trip. I am sooooo... haaaaaapy! With this month's takings, i now have a total of 130 + 130 + 96 + 140 = $496!

That's roughly, AUD 498. Whoa...

Imagine all the new clothes and the new hats and fur-coats (i do synthetics only..) i can be getting in Australia... :D *blink*blink*blink*


Friday, January 23, 2009

The Daily SHOOT! - Rice Paddy Field

Rice Paddy Field, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

Snapped a picture on our long, strenuous climb up to the Sindang Gile Waterfall, which was near Mount Rinjani.

The climb is not for the too old or the too young, because the pathways are tiny, probably only slightly larger than you 2 feet put together. Climbing it on a wet day (which we did) will be dirty and slippery - which not good considering the height between where we're climbing down to the ditch below spell dead-by-then.

But Lombok, just like its famous neighbour, Bali, is where you can find plenty of picturesque landscape of paddy fields that will constantly rapt you in awe.

There's so much that these islands have to offer. We never grew tired of it - always something there for everyone...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Audacity of McDonald's In Food Haven Thailand...


So my time in Bangkok is soon coming to an end (tomorrow) and last night was probably one of the best night i had in days.

After work, i rested on the lovely couch for about 10 minutes before changing into my "teletubby" swimsuit for a good, 45 minutes swim in the hotel pool. I was mislead into thinking that it is one of those wonderful wonderful "infinity edge" pool, but it was just a regular rectangular one that is super quiet. This is of course, a strictly business hotel (Sukhothai Hotel) and only business users patronise it - but even business dudes and dudettes need to unwind, like yours truly!

So off to swim i went... and after working out the arms and the legs and the paws, jumping in the water to entertain myself (yes, i literally did...), it felt good... but i also got hungry. And during the entire swim, my mind was going back and forth on what i should have for dinner. I am definitely not going into the city and one of those bustling shopping arcades like i did the day i arrived, and the next closest civilisation is 20 mins walk from the hotel (Suan Lum Night Bazaar).

I was wet, hungry and slowly turning grouchy... Walk? Its the last thing i wanna do...

So i got creative and decided to order in. I am sick, SUPER DUPER SICK with hotel food, so i asked Concierge if i can call in McDonald's to the hotel to deliver food to me. Being a 5-star class hotel, they said in their sing-song thai accent, "Sure Madame... You call this number (which was 1711 by the way) and you pay charge for the telephone at the hotel and you pay for your food directly to McDonalds.."

Perfect. Just what i needed.

So i dialed 1711 and the greeting was in thai - i thought to myself, "Darn, i don't speak thai... How do i.." and the voice on the other end was saying, "For English, press 1..."

The operator took my order, which was: 1 SUPER-SIZED Double Fillet O' Fish Meal (comes with this SUPER HUGE fries), 4 piece spicy chicken drumlets and 6 piece chicken nuggets. I was hungry and surely, i got greedy.

Then the voice on the other line said, "May i ask how many party is eating?..." So i said just one.

There was complete silence, and then she said, "Moment please..."

I thought she was gonna sell me life insurance in case i collapse and die of heart attack but all she said was: "Your order will arrive at seven, four, five PM. Thank you for calling McDonalds and have a nice day."

It was surprisingly fast and accurate. The meal came knocking at my door at 7:45PM and the entire thing cost me 266 Baht - it was dirt cheap. Back at home, the meal would've cost S$18++ and not even the SUPER SIZE meal. And yet, you see people here a lot slimmer and leaner than those back home.

My meal was satisfying and i was a happy happy camper by the end of my dinner.

I must say though, no fries taste as delicious as the ones i tried in Hong Kong. The ones i had last night was a little on the soggy side, lots of salt though but had that bitter aftertaste, much like what you'll get back home (i think its the oil they fry in). The one in Hong Kong however, man that's like Fries Heaven. It crispy, yellow, just the right consistency and dose of salt, a little oily but its just... Ooooooh.. TO DIE FOR.

As for my maiden experience with McDonald's in Bangkok, pretty exciting. The super large coke is still in my mini-bar though.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Silk Air... Smooth As Silk? Not!


I hate complaining. Oh yes i do... I hate complaining about stuff and just being a grouch over every single thing, like some people can. But a good feedback, is always... you know, good.

My maiden flight into KL on Silk Air, while it was a smooth, almost turbulence-free journey, was as claustrophobic as i expected. Why do i even have expectations? It is a budget carrier flying to "exotic destinations within Asia..." Fine. Fine. Fine.

Since the opening of the skies agreement to enable more competition to one of Asia most restricted air sectors (Singapore-KL route), a lot of budget carriers have been sprouting up air travels that cost as much as a coach ticket into the city - we have Air Asia, Jetstar, Tiger... all benefiting in a way or another, from Asia's most lucrative air destination.

As a result, low fares from these budget carriers have eaten away a large segment of an expensive pie that before this, only Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines get to enjoy. These price wars means Good News to travellers but not so good news to SIA and MAS.

But the giants are not sleeping. SIA and MAS had to react. I mean, the price war is one thing, the recent hike in fuel prices is another big issue. Smaller planes consumes less fuel and therefore, more savings.

So since November 2008, Singapore Airlines (which is the parent of Ms. Exotic Silk Air) has since launched code-sharing flights with Silk Air and MAS. The latter went even further, giving in to the pressure, and have long started this "fly for free" frenzy - which i personally think is one of the dumbest idea MAS ever came up with. I mean come on! You are a full-fledged airline with a reputation. So what if you are priced higher than your competitors? You have an edge that low-cost carriers don't offer, like.. like.. mileage for example! Sheesh...

Speaking of which, i am glad SIA did not follow suit. Its ridiculous.

Ok back to Silk Air, its not that i have an issue with Silk Air. Its just that... its really, really small, and cramped and people with long legs or fat bottom will not have much choice but to sit completely still the next 45 minutes of their flight.

Oh i tell you my experience... When the plane touched down, like in all planes that touched down, ALL pasengers scrambled to get their luggages from the overhead compartment. Your humble savant here was actually pushed aside by this mad-probably-Chinese-Japanese-business man just so he can get to to his luggage out in the front (which he could have easily taken on the way out). Before i could even gather my surprise, i bumped again into another man behind me, and then pushed again by a lady reaching out for her Louis Vitton. Like what in God's name is this world coming to??!!

I looked around me, and i realise, that it wasn't just the people behaving abnoxiously, it was the sheer small size-ness of the plane. It was like... It was like flying on Air Asia, in turquoise blue! BAH!!!!!

While SIA isn't any better in its service, in fact, it sucks even more than Silk Air. But i'd give a one star above Silk Air for the size of the fleet. I always give SIA a star above all other airlines for size. I get to sit comfortably and when i stand, i don't get pushed around like an unwanted teddy bear. I hate people pushing me around!! Bleargh...

The price war is ugly and will get uglier as Tony Fernandez (CEO of Air Asia) buys more fleet and letting people sit on it for free, while inspiring more and more low cost carriers to follow suit. So said the man himself, "Now Everyone Can Fly...".

In fact, SIA is now charging only S$293 each, under 2-to-go promotions and so on - there's no better time to fly to KL than now. These heavily discounted prices are way wayyyyyy below the old S$400 per head for a seat on the plane.

Just... Not Silk Air. I would so love for SIA to remove Silk Air from the code-sharing thing and do what every good parent would do... Let them fly to other exotic, dreamy destinations.


The Daily SHOOT! - The Royal Castle

The Royal Castle, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

There is something about Poland that you cannot put your finger on. Its drab, grey and dull yet filled with something alive from within the spirit of its people.

After Berlin, we headed off on an overnight train to Warsaw, Poland. Totally a different world from its glitzy, wealthy neighbour, Warsaw saw gigantic grey bulidings; ones that were not meant to attract the attention of passer-bys, or what i call "the after-effect of Communism".

Daytime almost seemed like Warsaw was a deep, dangerous city to be walking in daylight (let alone night time!).

The city centre (where the main train station is) was buzzing with noise in the rush hour, pollution from public buses... like any metropolitan city.

10 minutes tram ride into another part of the city, the streets seemed deserted - with loose scrap of the daily paper, swooshing around and nothing but the sound of the strong wind blowing across your face.

Walking down to the Old City, is like entering a completely different world. Its cultured, charming... and almost quaint with couples, young and old, rich and middle-class looking out for a place to grab a light bite and a couple of pints later into the night.

The Royal Castle, standing proud at the entrance of Warsaw's famed Old City was the official residence of the Polish monarchs and houses offices of the Kings, Queens as well as the Royal Court.

The castle is set on a plateau overlooking the River Vistula. It was closed when we were there but i heard that the grandeur interior is not to be missed. It is a dramatic historical monument about the rich in Poland. Not to be missed when in Warsaw.

The walk to the Old City is an attraction in itself that you shouldn't miss. It takes 20 minutes to walk in but WALK, its worth it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Luggage Issues


I bleedin' hate packing. I hate packing, i hate unpacking... I hate it i hate it i hate it! But how do you travel without first wrecking your brains out on what you need to bring for your trip.

And this is business travel. Business travel for me (especially to a country i've been upteenth time) is suppose to be the usual. Be there for3 days, bring 3 pairs of business shirts, 1, maybe 2 pants and 1 pair of shoes, my jacket if i'm bothered (otherwise i just leave them behind). I get so lazy sometimes that i don't even bother to take dinner clothes with me - i dine with what i wore to work. I try to pack as light as possible.

And tonight is one such night when i need to pack all the stuff i need for my trip to KL tomorrow. The best part is, i am "luggage-less". The Green Benetton luggage "someone" got me during Christmas tore midway home from my trip, and now its with the importer for a "makeover".

So i have, unwillingly, decided to borrow my parents luggage to fit my clothes and work stuff. It is a small, humble looking luggage, that on any given day, i wouldn't give a second look at. Imagine me dragging around this cheap blue canvas luggage called D-Pak Canadian Knapsack. Errr... No.

For the love of God...

Must get me parents some decent pair of luggages for their next trip.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Pillow Talk...?


And so we have come to the end of the week - the day every working person looks forward to. I was on my "school bus" this morning, feeling just a little groggy because of a viral fever i had the night before and i seriously wondered why everyone else on the bus was in Jeans and Khakis and T-Shirts today... Oh hey, its that day... its casual Friday. So hooray hooray! Its Frrriday!

Anyway, this week has been awfully busy week for me because of several "bear" conventions that i had to attend to, handover of old projects and "welcoming" new ones - I guess the strenuous days this week has finally taken a toll on my beary body. Bleargh... (Didn't even finish my breakfast sandwich this morning! Bah!!).

My groggyness and night fever aside, i will once again have the pleasure of being outstationed in the next couple of weeks, shuffling between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. There are a lot of things that i need to do before my departure and one of them, is "choosing the pillow".

Ahh yes... The pleasure of being put up at a World-Class Hotel. I like it (and am not complaining...) but i just marvelled at the audacity of having you choose the type of pillow you will need during your stay. I always thought the hotels purchased them in bulk, and no choosing - what we give, you take. In fact, we are so used to that concept that having to choose one makes me uncomfortable.

And so i thought i'd give it a shot, so i went this morning looking for the perfect companion, googling the perfect pillow...

There are of course, all kinds... But distinctively, there are only 3 types of sleepers - The Back, The Front and The Side. Cubbies happened to be a side sleeper (and a naughty one too, since i "travel" even in my sleep!). According to a website, "a firm pillow is good for thos who sleeps on their side" and of course went on recommending their whole range of speciality pillows.

"Duck Down" pillows are one of those that was recommended - which i really liked, because feathered pillows are fluffy and ultra-comfortable in an air-conditioned room. It sinks and cradle your head in for the super comfy sleep. Me likes a good night's rest! :)

So that is what i chose, ahh... and it comes with a "sleep inducing" herbal sachets - chamomile or lavender - both of which are perfect for relaxation. While i usually do not have a problem with sleeping, i do have a hard time relaxing (how to when your mind travels at 300km per second!), so chamomile would do this just nicely ;)

Well, i can't wait for my trip then. This is living in the true nature of the Goldilocks...

Except this time, Goldilocks is meee! A Cubbie Bear ;)


Monday, January 5, 2009

The Daily SHOOT! - Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie, originally uploaded by tgtwb.

Check! Point your gun at Charlie! He's the American soldier at the American sector of the border (guardhouse)! Ha! Ha! I swear this is bloody tacky... That photo of the "anonymous" American and on the opposite side, an "anonymous" Ruskie.

Actually, the name Charlie derived from the coded letter C the military uses. Checkpoint Charlie, the most popular of all border checkpoints connecting East and West Germany. This was the name given by Western Allies (US is one of them) during the Cold War, and located at the junction of Friedrichstrasse.

A hugely popular landmark and tourist attraction, CC also has various sidewalk cafes that you can rest your feet over a cup of coffee including the famed Cafe Adler, which is right at the checkpoint (so you can look straight into East Berlin while enjoying your poison!).

The attraction also houses a museum for tourists and visitors to learn more about the history of the checkpoints during the cold war, including fantastic souvenirs like t-shirts and postcards for keepsake.

Meebops and I took 2 photos of us from a street booth here (i think it costs us 6 euros per photo). Basically you drop in the coins, select the background (you can choose at least 7 backgrounds / montage squeezed into one photo), stand at the X-sign and SMILE! We sent one to my aunt living in Frankfurt and one, were for the memories! ;)

You can't miss this... I know its a little touristy, but you haven't been to Berlin if you haven't been to The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Best Laid Travel Plans For 2009?


A lot of uncertainties right now, and about the only plans we made for 2009 is Melbourne, Australia - which is a really big deal to me because i still need to save a whole lot for the trip. That's when KM comes into the picture! Hah!

But as far as i'm concerned, my 2009 travel plans for both work and leisure are (subject to changes of course):
  1. Kuala Lumpur (many many manyyyyyy times within the year...)
  2. Bangkok, Thailand
  3. Shanghai, China
  4. Jakarta, Indonesia
  5. Melbourne, Australia (with Meebops)
  6. Abu Dhabi, UAE
  7. New Delhi, India
One of the things The Travelling Teddies said and promised each other on 1st January 2009 was the hope that the New Year will bring us better opportunities in life, a blessed flow of income or "rezeki" (in whatever form it may be), always move towards strengthening our faith in God and to be a better person than we were before.

But in the meantime, we both look forward to spending more journeys and adventures together, exploring Mighty God's given beauty in this planet we call Mother Earth!

Ameen! And cheers to that! :)


New Year, New Resolutions... Or Old Habits Die Hard?


Just fresh from a 5 hour long bus ride from Kuala Lumpur back into little old boring SG!

We bade Bye-Bye to 2008 and Hey Hey 2009 from the grounds of KLCC Park, with a spectacular display of fireworks! The spirit was high and full of optimism, despite the uncertainties we are made to face in the near future. But like i told all my associates, friends and colleagues - May the coming year be better than we anticipated! You never know... :) Life is a mysterious thing.

Anyway, we took a late-night bus from SG to KL and snoozed all the way there in 5 hours, checked in at the Impiana KLCC and slept all the way till noon! Boy, was i tired! I couldn't sleep my little bear self on the bus so i took it all out at the hotel! :) We skipped the showering part and slept in our jeans and t-shirt!

We then went out to lunch at our favourite Tarbush Restaurant along Bukit Bintang and did a little shopping at Pavillion, Lot 10 and BB Plaza. Much well behaved this time, even Meebops didn't shop as much as i would expected her to. He! He!

After a full day of walking around town, we decided to overcome our tired little paws through swimming, back at the hotel. We were glad we decided to swim, because the pool was awesome! We are talking Infinity Edge Pool, like those you see in Bali (except this one overlooks Petronas Towers!) - I truly enjoyed myself swimming and doing a little exercising to get my energy levels up for the night!

We had a little hiccup along the way though...

Little Miss Clever Meebops left her camera on her desk at home and so, for the first time ever, we were camera-less on such an eventful day! I must say that i don't particularly enjoy fireworks (Meebops goes ga-ga over fireworks though!) - won't kill me if i don't watch it, but for someone who enjoys it, the audacity of leaving a precious tool to capture the mood is bewildering! (Yes, i'm talking about you...) Needless to say, the celebrations in KL were the best ever with the spectacular fireworks display and gate-crashing into a semi-private New Year's party at the hotel cafe.

Cubbies is not much of a dancer... but We Sang, We Danced, We Laughed and Be Merry. It was magical :) We even sang the birthday girl (whoever she was...) a birthday song and cheered for her!

And just before we called it a night, Meebops and i were chatting over our hopes and dreams for 2009. And among my new year's resolution is to get fitter through exercising. And since we both liked swimming - why not join a class in Aquarobics? We get to swim, and we get to exercise!

That's one of our long list of resolutions for 2009 - which we came up with every single year; and vowed to keep to for the next 365 Days. Or... will old habits die harder?

Chips, candies, chocolates, ice-creams, savouries, snacks, buffets and late night supper.................. Yumm.

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