29 October 2009

Westeen InterKissMyAssNet

If you happen to pass by the Kepayan Ridge shop lot area to look for a cyber cafe, avoid coming to this place AT ALL COST!

This place was set up to swindle some money out of your pocket.


I went to this place once to fulfill my itching lust for Facebook (ehem!). I came in and the girl at the counter gave me a lustrous but fishy look. She pouted her mouth seductively and murmured..

 'dua ringgit satu jam bang...' (RM2/hr).

My unsuspecting mind instructed me to pick a seat in the corner, away from a noisy bunch of kids that were playing Counter Strike or something.


I tried to log in but it kept returning to some error pop-up. When I complained to the girl at the counter, again she murmured,

 ' errrr, server memang slow sikit skrg bang.. Cuba lagi..boleh tu...'

so, having that stupidly compromising 'tida-apa-bah' Sabahan mindset in me, I murmured back

'OK bah..'.

I must have been trying to log in for at least 5 minutes when I finally gave up. I said to the girl as I headed for the exit,

'never mind. I think something is wrong with the server.'

and much to my surprise she said, not murmuring anymore but word by word saying,

'OK. You pay 1 ringgit saja la..',

I thought I misheard her..

 'What? One ringgit? I didn’t even get to log in oh'..

And she shouted at me,

'itu saya tida peduli. Yang penting ko suda duduk mesti bayar. This is a time-rated CC!'

And out of nowhere, a baddie-looking big guy with that samseng's looks sprang out with a metal broom in his hands.

'Hey, u want to pay or not? Don't make any trouble here ah!'

I told him,

'I want no trouble here but why should I pay when I didn't even get to access the internet?'...

And his voice rose as he said,

' NO No. You have to pay! It's like u ordered a coffee in a restaurant and you have to pay for that coffee!'

I shot back,

 'But why should I pay when I was only given plain water?'

and he tightened his grip on the metal broom as he came closer to me with a more ferocious look and said

'Then, YOU PAY FOR THAT PLAIN WATER!'.

Well, whether I felt threatened by the metal broom in his hands or I simply didn't want to waste more of my time arguing over ONE RINGGIT, I pushed an RM1 note to him and walked out in disgust.

I just couldn't believe how easy it is for some people to make money nowadays.. Phew!

Borneo International Marathon 2009

As far as I could remember, I had never run a marathon in my entire life before. Not a single one. So when a friend called me up to ask if I was interested in running for this year's Borneo International Marathon, I was quite worried. I mean, despite my lack of physical training due to my tight schedule, I knew I was gonna say YES. After all, it would all be done in the name of charity.
So, YES it was, I was set to run for the 21 KM half-marathon. It seemed to be the only relevant category for me. Wait a minute, 21 KM?? I can’t even run any more than 3 rounds of the standard field track in my once-in-a-blue-moon after-work runs! And that is only like how long? 1 KM..?

28 October 2009

RM 340 for Phuket Aquarium

Riding a motorbike can be the most convenient mean (and the cheapest) of transportation to get around the the island of Phuket. Renting a bike is a hassle-free business. You'll just have to hand in something for which returning the bike is 100% guaranteed - your passport!

24 October 2009

Experiencing 'Bekam' (Cupping Treatment)

When I was called up by a friend offering me to be one of his ‘bekam’ (cupping treatment) experimental subjects, I had some doubts. He was quite new in this traditional medical practice so I couldn’t help but feeling a little bit hesitant.But the more I gave it a thought, the more excited I became about trying it. Thinking that it might be nothing more than doing a ‘blood donation’, I decided to give it a shot.

The operation room was set up– at his place, in one of his guestrooms, visually safe from his wife’s eyes. Believe me, bekam is a ONE DIRTY BUSINESS. It is something that you wouldn't even want your best friend to see being peformed on you.

Starting with what I call the pre-suctioning part, where the cups were attached at 5 points on my upper back, it felt more like a girl giving me a pinch, probably a friendly pinch. The pain was there but I could bear it quite alright.

It lasted for about 5 minutes before he removed those things off my back. There was a relief as he did it.

The second part of the practice was to stick a super-fine needle into those points. I’d like to call it the ‘pricking’ part. To do this one, some special devise is needed. It looks almost like a ball-pen, with the needle that looks like an acupuncture prick sticking out from its central tip. I assumed this part of the practice is to provide fine incisions for all the unwanted toxic blood to be discharged through from your body.

Well, if you ever have a tattoo, it must have felt like it when you were having it done. 

The next phase was the most crucial one – and of course, the most painful. It was like the second round of suctioning, where the vacuum pressure is intensified so that the unwanted toxic blood of your body would be further sucked out. It must have felt like the pinching given by a jealousy-driven wife to her husband when he was found philandering with another girl. It was so painful I could almost visualize my distortedly wincing face like the one that I usually have on when I’m inside the toilet.

But the pain wouldn’t last. It is like going down a roller-coaster. It would gradually be abating.

But you’d be given the surprise of your life when you see how much of the filthy and toxic blood has been running inside your system all this while. You can’t even stand to see it, let alone touch it.

That is the kind of blood that keeps you down every morning and gives you headache and drowsiness every time you need to straight things out. Simply said, they are the UNWANTED. You’d be better off without them.

I had to go through the same process having four more points done up for me – 2 at the back waist, 2 on my calves. But this time, I better-prepared in handling the pain.

Each point would then be wiped dry with some antiseptic, leaving visible reddish marks on it. My friend told me it would take about 2 weeks for them to fade. For a better health, I didn't mind having those ugly marks for 2 weeks though.

Well, I’d say the effect was almost immediate. I came home feeling better and lighter. There was a little bit of dizziness but it was gone by the time I woke up the next morning. Errrr, one thing that I think is worth mentioning is that I felt quite sensitive to the air-conditioner and fans. I couldn’t stand the air-con and full-blast fans but again, it would only be lasting for a couple of days or so.

So, that was how my very first encounter with bekam treatment had turned out to be. Painful? Yes. Worthy? Yes. Yes. Wanna do it again soon? Yes. Yes. Yes. Soon.

14 October 2009

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT - The Air Asia X Story

I grew up as a kid with a head full of dreams and imaginations.

Before this Air Asia X came about, I could only DREAM of flying all the way to London to meet up with Mr. Big Ben.

Or travelling to Stonehenge to see the ancient pieces of rock..

Or crossing over to Paris to climb up the Eiffel Tower..

They would have remained dreams had it not been for the innovative and ambitious ideas of this man.

He is Azran Osman Rani, the CEO of Air Asia X.

The existence of Air Asia X, without a doubt, makes tickets for long-haul flights more affordable to the less-fortunate and struggling people like me.

So, when I was told that Azran Osman Rani was coming to Kota Kinabalu to give a talk on the successful story of Air Asia X, I just made sure my name was in the guest list.

With an American accent he probably picked up during his years of studying at the University of Stanford in the United States, he took to the stage and wowed the crowd with his presentation of the excellent and innovative ideas that had turned Air Asia X from a relatively unknown airline into a world-renown as it is today.

He spoke of how the idea of doing long-haul flights at minimum expenses had initially regarded as either crazy or over-ambitious. People were reasoning out that it had already been done in the past and FAILED.

Nevertheless, they went on with the idea and flew their very first flight from Kuala Lumpur to Gold Coast, Australia on 2 November 2007. The rest was history.

When most airlines were badly hit by the economy crisis last year, Air Asia X has remained afloat.

And is continuing to do well. In fact, Air Asia X is keeping expanding from merely an airline to a brand to a variety of products and services.

Well, it would have been grander if it was Tony Fernandez, but I believed Azran Osman Ranie had played his role BIG TIME.

I could only have three words to say of him.

Respect. Respect. Respect.

I hope Air Asia will add more places in its list of destinations. Then I can fly to more places and countries :-)

10 October 2009

Visiting Sibu, Sarawak

When a friend of mine called to tell he was coming back to Malaysia for the Hari Raya Holiday, I decided to travel down to his hometown Sibu of Sarawak to catch up with him there. A few days after I bought my tickets, he told me he would be on his way back to England by the time I got there. I decided to go on with trip though and discover what the town has to offer. It would be my very first trip to the neighboring state Sarawak and yes, I was really excited.

Sibu is the third largest town in Sarawak after Kuching & Miri (both had claimed their city status). Thanks to Air Asia, I arrived in Sibu on a delayed flight. Quite to my surprise, Sibu airport is almost twice as bigger than Sandakan Airport.

It caters more flights and I was actually surprised because it has direct flights to Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur and even Johor Bahru. No wonder it seems almost as busy as the Air Asia international airport in Kota Kinabalu.
There gotta be something that attracted people to come to Sibu. I got more excited. Out of quite a number of hotels suggested to me by a friend, somehow I got attracted to a hotel called Hotel Bahagia. Well, the name itself radiates some kind of ‘happy aura’ that it seemed to stand out over the others. I was quite surprised when I was placed into a double-bed room. While I didn’t expect anybody to join me for all my 2-night stay in Sibu, it had served well where I can spread my things out on. Well, quite just perfect for my ‘just leave it there’ rushing habit. Situated in one of the most happening areas in town, I was glad I had stayed there. It was just a few minutes of walking from the daily night market. I went to the night market quite too late when most of the stalls were packing up. Still I managed to get something to tapau back to my hotel room. Errr, blaming it to my poor geographical knowledge, I had thought Sibu was a coastal town. Mind to tell you now that Sibu is not anywhere nearby the sea. In fact it is located in one of the interior parts of Sarawak. No wonder all of these had cost me around thirteen bucks! Walaweiii!!
And it might be quite a no-no thing back in Sabah, they do actually sell alcoholic drinks quite openly in their pasar malam stalls! Hotel Bahagia is located in one of the most happening areas in town. Still having some energy left in my groin after the just over an hour flight, I decided to check out the area. While pubs seemed to be scattered all around the area with all kinds of fishy names, I decided to take a seat at one of the restaurants and do a little bit of warming up by ordering 3 cans of Heineken for RM 10, quite of the same price at it is at most restaurants in Sabah.
Ehh, they oso serve beer with ice cubes here kah..? I tot only Thai people do that..?

All of a sudden a car suddenly rammed into another neatly parked car just across the road from where I was sitting. It had instantly drawn quite a number of spectators. Somehow I got reminded of the 2003 car accident where a Sarawakian student couple rammed into a row of tables outside of a restaurant in Section 14 of Petaling Jaya, killing a 19 year old girl and injuring 8 others. Errrr, I kind of wondered if it was a Sarawakian thingy.
I barely had finished my first can of beer when I got approached by a local guy asking if I was interested in buying a pangolin! I decided to take a look. I was led to a white Kancil parked over the side of the road and he opened up the bumper where a baby pangolin was crooked to one of the amplifiers. Looking at it, I was shocked. While I had always considered myself an environmentalist, I couldn’t help but cursing inside. I knew for sure pangolin was a protected animal. I had to brace against the idea of making a phone call to the Forest Department, if they ever cared. Knowing that it would eventually end up being on the dish of some exotic food enthusiast, I really felt sorry for that little creature.

My attention was caught by a fishy night club just across the street from where I was sitting. What seemed to be a massage parlor to me at first turned out to be a dangdut club. Welcome to the Hutan Buluh Bandung!!

I wonder if what they meant was Hutan Bulu Bandung..
While dangdut has almost entirely vanished from the music enthusiasm in Sabah, dangdut is still widely popular among the locals in Sarawak. Dangdut clubs are still making good business and Hutan Buluh Bandung seems to be a running proof. It was quite crowded when I got inside and I just let myself be amused by the scene of scantily dressed ladies dancing and singing dangdut songs – of which all of them I’d never heard in my entire life. I was there for less than an hour before I called it a day. ZZZZZZZZ.. My next day was more on checking out the town of Sibu as a whole. Somehow it reminds me of Tawau where the buildings are quite concentrated within a centralized township area and some satellite towns scattered on the outskirts. Sibu is located on the riverbank of Batang Rajang (misheard it for Batalanjang at first when somebody said to me - Banyak orang mandi batalanjang..) which is at 640km happens to be the longest river in Malaysia. It is like the lifeline of Sibu and it serves as the only mean of transportation to some of the interior parts of Sarawak including the place that I had always wanted to go to – Kapit. Errrrr, probably next time. Traversing along the riverbank of Batang Rajang in Sibu is a must-do thing. The Sibu Council had put in some effort to make it such a worthwhile experience. The most prominent landmark of Sibu is probably the Wisma Sanyan building. Standing at 126 meters, the 26-storey building is simply the tallest building in Sarawak. With Sibu as a hill-less town, I just hope that someday they’d consider opening the top storey of the building to the public so that everybody can have a good aerial view of Sibu from it. Just a few hundred yards away from Wisma Sanyan is another architecturally eye-catching building. It really makes up a good landscape for Sibu that taking a picture with it in the background is not a bad idea at all. I was told that it'd be more worth checking out at night when all the lights are switched on.

Sibu for some reason is known as the swan city. I didn’t really get to know as to why swans are so significant to the town of Sibu but replicas and images of swan can be seen just about everywhere.
But then, every town should have something of which it is known for. They even have a giant swan laying her eggs on the most special spot over the Rajang River. I was actually riding in a Sibu friend’s car when some outstanding single-storey building caught my attention. Asking her to stop by, I had come to find out that it was the Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum. Driven by some curiosity, I walked inside the building and felt glad that I did. While I wasn’t really into museums, I found that Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum was quite fascinating. It has some inspiring story to tell to its visitors. Apparently some kind-hearted Samaritan had too much money in his bank account that he decided to give a big portion of it to the then quite poor government so that a hospital could be built out of it. And all it took was this simple letter. You know, JUST LIKE THAT.
And that was how the construction of the hospital got materialized. He really thought it was much more worthy than leaving all the money to his offsprings who he believed might waste them over beer. Errr, literally.So, this is the man who had a place in heaven. I was just so inspired. The museum has quite so many things worth checking out. It is like traversing back through the evolution of medical history in Sarawak. Seriously, it is worth a drop-by. I was lucky to be in Sibu on the eve of the moon cake celebration. Being a pre-dominantly Chinese town, any Chinese celebration is BIG in Sibu.
The whole town seemed to be strapped in long strings of tang-lung, the colorful bulb lanterns. They are even more beautiful at night. I wonder how Sibu would look like during the Chinese New Year. Another place worth checking out in Sibu is its sprawling open market. Believe me, it is so big it makes the Sandakan wet market almost look like a public toilet. But be careful what you take photos. This lady here snarled at me when she saw me taking this picture. I hastily said 'Kitak mauk cuba kamera baru bahhh...' Errr, she seemed to understand my broken Sarawakian Sabahan Malay.Located under a multi-storey parking building (it's not really an open market then), it offers just about everything from the most commonly seen like bambangan in Sabah.. .
to the most unfamiliar ones.. No. They are not apple, nor sunkist, nor kedondong.. Not even tomatoe.. They are... EGGPLANT.. (they call it sweet eggplant).. usually cooked with salted fish..

Ohh, and for the first time in my life, I’d seen chicks wrapped up alive in such a take-away pattern, ready for a quick grab-away. I didn’t know that Sibu people could be so busy.


Another thing that was new to me was the existence of dabai – a fruit that is widely popular among the people in Sarawak but is hardly seen in any other Malaysian state. Errr, as far as I'm concerned.. It has that milky and oily taste of an olive. In order to be edible, it has to be soaked down in hot water, then mixed with salt or a combination of soy sauce and sugar. It wasn’t quite of its season when I was there so it was sold at a quite expensive price of RM15 per kilo. I was told that it is sold at as low as RM6 per kilo during its crop season.

It also makes a good ‘pusas’ for a drinking session. Errrr, anything eaten over alcoholic drinks is called pusas in Sabah..
I was taken to the opening night of a restaurant on my last night in Sibu. Offering a variety of Sarawakian traditional cuisines, the restaurant seems to be just on the right track of the business. The opening had seemed to be a good omen. There was a big turn-up. I got to have a drink with a bunch of Sarawakian people for the first time in so many years. It had been quite awhile I’d almost forgotten that they are just as boisterous as we are in Sabah when it comes to drinking. Or may be more.

After a few rounds of beer, with Barcardi Lemon and Scotch liquor in betweens, I had to brace from humiliating myself by spreading my puke out in front of the whole bunch. While they seemed to be effortlessly enjoying gorging more and more can of beer, there were a few times when the breaking point was almost reached. Seriously, if they were the pros, I was the amateur.
Luckily they were all married and at certain time HAD to go home. I was eventually spared from the humiliation.

While Sibu is a modest town where everything seems to be plain and mellow, they are certain places where you can still get cozy and errrr, classy. Well, if you need one, just head for the Café café.
The restaurant has been designed to bring up the air of privacy and intimacy to its visitors. It’d be great for couples too. It might look small from the outside but as you come in, it is quite a large room inside. There's even a room for group diners on the second floor! Just be careful when you make your order. Foods in Café Café are served in big portions that sharing a single dish can be a good idea. I mean, that was what I did with my friend Lizzie. Before heading back to the airport, somehow I came up with an idea of dropping by a music shop to buy this. Errrr, random pick.
I didn't know him and I didn't even know a single Iban singer. And believe me, there are so many of them that picking a VCD wasn't a simple task. Sarawak seems to be a prolific music producer. errrr, for Iban songs.
And this singer here must be the superstar because he seems to have the most CDs. He probably is like the Jamal Abdillah of Sarawak.
Well, never mind my misses with friends, I'm still glad I travelled down to Sibu. It was quite an eye-opening experience. While Sarawak is just bordered by a single line to Sabah, I've come to find out that there are so many things in Sarawak that are quite unknown to the people of Sabah or probably any other states in Malaysia.
Now an urge of doing another visit to Sarawak is already tugging inside me that I'm already planning my next trip to the neighbouring state, probably this time to its capital city - Kuching!

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